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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 5/25/21

Guests: Barbara McQuade, James Carville, Michael Steele, Irwin Redlener


Manhattan D.A. is investigating Trump`s practices from before presidency. New York Attorney General opened civil and criminal Trump probes. New York investigations stemmed from Michael Cohen case. Former President Donald Trump slams investigation as "purely political." Most Senate GOP members oppose January 6 riot commission. Top House Republicans condemned freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene after she spent days comparing vaccine and mask requirements to the Holocaust. George Floyd is remembered one year after his murder. Floyd family urges Congress to pass police reform. CDC warns unvaccinated remain at risk. Memorial Day travel is expected to break pandemic record.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Thank you to Caroline Randall Williams for reading Darnella Frazier`s statement that she released today. Darnella Frazier gets tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again, day 126 of the Biden administration. And there is breaking news tonight about the twice impeached former president. The Washington Post first to report that the Manhattan District Attorney has convened a grand jury that is, "expected to decide whether to indict Trump executives that his company or the business itself should prosecutors present the panel with criminal charges." The report continues to say, "The move indicates that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance`s investigation of the former president and his business has reached an advanced stage after more than two years. It suggests, too, that Vance believes he has found evidence of a crime, if not by Trump then by someone potentially close to him or by his company."

District Attorney Vance has been looking at Trump`s business practices before he was president. Vance fought all the way to the Supreme Court to get the former president`s tax returns into his hands.

New York`s Attorney General Letitia James is also conducting a civil investigation into Trump. She recently joined forces with Vance`s office and the criminal inquiry. These investigations are believed to be largely stemming from cases involving Trump`s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who eventually of course, famously turned on his boss after pleading guilty to making hush money payoffs for Trump and lying to Congress. His latest -- this latest investigation appears to hinge on longtime Trump Organization, CFO Allen Weisselberg, who has been under pressure from the Manhattan DA. One of the post reporters who broke tonight story described Weisselberg`s importance to this case.


DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, THE WASHINGTON POST REPORTER: He`s almost the human equivalent of Trump`s taxes. He`s the guy through which almost all of Trump`s financial transactions, big and small have passed through for 30 years. So he would be a valuable asset if you thought there was financial crime.


WILLIAMS: To no one`s surprise, Trump tonight responded to the Washington Post story with a lengthy statement calling the DA`s investigation, "a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in American history, purely political and an affront to the almost 75 million voters who supported me in the Presidential Election." That echoes defiant comments he made late last year about being a target of law enforcement.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: These same people that failed to get me in Washington have sent every piece of information to New York so that they can try to get me there. It`s all been gone over, over and over again. For $48 million, you go through tax returns, you go through everything. They want to take not me but us down. And we can never let them do that.

All they do is investigate, then they send everything they have into New York when I beat him in the federal, I beat them in federal. They send everything into New York, oh, let them take a crack at it.


WILLIAMS: Trump is also asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit over his role in the 1/6 riot and insurrection claiming he has, "absolute immunity." His lawyer argues that that would put the inflammatory statements he made as president moments before the deadly breach of the Capitol beyond the reach of any court.

Meanwhile, legislation that would create a bipartisan commission to investigate that insurrection still meeting from -- meeting resistance from Senate Republicans. Today Democrats Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Joe Manchin of West Virginia issued a joint statement which reads in part, we implore our Senate Republican colleagues to work with us to find a path forward on a commission to examine the events of January 6.

The Senate could vote on the bill before the end of this week. On the other side of the Capitol, House Republican leaders have finally condemned the QAnon Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene`s remarks comparing vaccine and mask requirements to the Holocaust. It took them five days to do it. We`ll have much more on that development coming up later in the hour.

This was also the day that people across our country remember George Floyd exactly one year after his murder. At the White House President Biden, Vice President Harris met privately with members of the Floyd family who also met with select lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Afterward, the family described their conversation with the President about the delay in passing the Police Reform Act named after George Floyd.


BRANDON WILLIAMS, GEORGE FLOYD`S NEPHEW: They let us know that he supports passing the bill, but he wants to make sure that it`s the right builder, not a rush bill. He also said that -- he said that he`s not happy about it not being made.


WILLIAMS: Late this afternoon, Biden himself was asked about the meeting and about the policing bill now stalled in the U.S. Senate.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: The Floyd family meeting went incredibly well. We spent a long time together. I`ve spoken with the negotiators. I`m hopeful that sometime after Memorial Day we`ll have an agreement.


WILLIAMS: One more item tonight, the White House has finally officially set a date for the President`s first meeting as president with Vladimir Putin of Russia. They will hold their first summit in 22 days on the 16th of June in Geneva, Switzerland.

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Tuesday night, three friends of this broadcast, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post, A.B. Stoddard, Veteran Washington Journalist, Associate Editor and Columnist for Real Clear Politics, and Barbara McQuade, Veteran Federal Prosecutor and former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She worked with DOJ during the Biden transition. She`s a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, co-host of the podcast, Sisters In Law, along with Joyce Vance, Jill Wine-Banks, and Kimberly Atkins.

Good evening, and welcome to you all. And counselor, indeed, I need to begin with you to go over tonight`s news about this grand jury. The Washington Post, Barb, adds this detail. The panel was convened recently and will sit three days a week for six months. It is likely to hear several matters not just the Trump case during the duration of its term, which is longer than a traditional New York State grand jury assignment. So Barb, what can we glean about this investigation?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think it is a significant step in the investigation of the Trump Organization. We`ve known for a while now that Cy Vance, the Manhattan District Attorney has had his hands on documents, and has been reviewing those documents. If there was no there, there, he would stop. The fact that he has now convened a grand jury to present these documents to those members of the grand jury to call witnesses before the grand jury, especially at this rigorous pace suggests to me that he believes he has found some predication to present a case to the grand jury. So I think it means the case is making progress, and that there is a strong likelihood that it will result in charges.

WILLIAMS: What would a good lawyer, Barb, be advising Donald Trump right about now?

MCQUADE: Well, I think a good lawyer would probably be largely unsuccessful and telling him to not talk, talking about things is usually the death knell because it locks you into stories. But as we`ve seen before, and as you previewed there, President Trump has one playbook. It is always to go on the offensive, and to talk about things that undermines the credibility of the people who are investigating him. You know, here he said that it`s been looked at over and over. Well, these tax records have never been looked at. And that`s because he fought like hell to stop them from being turned over. Now that Cy Vance has them, he is going to present them to a grand jury. And we`ll see where that takes us.

WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, you know, the Trump playbook better than most it certainly wasn`t your typical presidency. It certainly isn`t your typical post presidency. But tell me how might this legal challenge differ from those in the past that he has successfully fouled off?

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, it differs sort of existentially and that he`s not the president. He is, as President Biden said, the former guy. And so it can get very close. There`s a lot of questions. We don`t know yet about this legal challenge, but it can get very close to him, his family members, his business, the people in the organization, but it is just not going to affect the nation the way it would have when he was president. Keep in mind this was a president for whom politics was personal, the personal was political. And so you would be dealing with something like this, which, A, would have often at higher bar when he was president, but it would be chaos in the West Wing, chaos in the decision making and not just the decision making about how to handle this legal challenge. But the decision making on everything from coronavirus, the foreign policy and it could lead him to make rash decisions tweets and now you know he`s weighing in but it just does not have the weight of the office of the president because he`s not the president anymore.

WILLIAMS: And A.B. wouldn`t savvy Republicans see genuine legal trouble for ex-President Donald Trump as an off ramp to freedom for them?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST: Right, Brian, I do think there are a bunch of them possibly who are running for president in 2024, hope to who definitely have been hoping for a long time that President Trump will be indicted and no longer be a problem. I`m sure that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell shares that view. But the mega verse where Donald Trump is still president and raising hundreds of millions of dollars off of this persecution complex is a place where people have to rise up to his defense and all this a witch hunt, he will be keeping up a huge narrative all throughout, he is holding rallies soon. And he will put pressure through the fervent support of his base and all of the small dollar donations and all of his rhetoric about people persecuting him at from the Democrats, to the media, to the judiciary, to law enforcement, he will be giving it up and that puts pressure on the average Republican who either serves in a red district at Trump district, or is a senator looking insightful for his endorsement. And that really means that you`re going to hear a lot of the same kind of comments they make about the big lie, things like well, you know, I`m not saying the judges were wrong about saying there wasn`t fraud, but they`re just a lot of questions. And so as long as he`s keeping up the witch hunt, and there are no indictments, which could go on for a long time. And even if there are indictments, I think Republicans are going to fall in line and just tell us there are too many questions.

WILLIAMS: Barb, as you well know, the Trump Organization, it was not, is not a vast company of any sort. It`s a glorified family shop. The boardroom existed for the apprentice. It was quite literally scenery at NBC, where it`s in cold storage. That said, Allen Weisselberg was everything to that organization. How do you think he`s feeling in this right about now?

MCQUADE: Well, I`m sure this news is not welcome to him. He is somebody who is very much in the crosshairs. As the Chief Financial Officer for the Trump Organization, he is somebody who is obviously in a position to know an awful lot about the handling the finances. And remember what we know, what we`ve heard from Michael Cohen, is that the Trump Organization would inflate the value of assets for certain purposes, like loan applications, and then deflate those assets for other purposes, like tax returns. And so, you know, it`s very much a paper case, you can look at the documents and see that they can`t both be true. And documents don`t lie, which makes for a very strong case. But I found that when you have even a documents case, it`s very useful to have a cooperator, who`s on the inside, who can play the narrator. So you have all these documents that can corroborate what he`s saying, but to help you connect the dots and explain to a jury, why they did what they did and how it worked can be critically important. And so he may have something that he can sell. But of course, the cost of that may be turning on Trump.

WILLIAMS: Ashley, back over to your beat at the White House, you did some fantastic and extensive reporting this weekend on Joe Biden, who he is, his life and his tastes and his style, and not to ask the reporter to get to Gail Sheehy about it. But what parallels, could you take away from that about his patterns and habits, how he lives his life and his governing style as president?

PARKER: Well, he -- we sort of looked at that because the personal time, the little free time a president has, how they structure their day, how it`s scripted, how it`s unscripted is incredibly revealing. And so what we found is that Joe Biden is a creature of habit, a creature of routine, he spends much of his free time when he has it with his family. There`s an obvious reason for that. This is a man who lost his first wife, his young daughter, and then later his oldest son, Beau, to cancer. So family`s incredibly important. I was told, no matter what he is doing, just about he will drop everything stop in the middle of a conversation stand up to take a call from his wife, his children, his grandchildren. There were some interesting things we found in contrast to his predecessors about what he read, right if Obama read the New Yorker in the Atlantic and Donald Trump basically read Twitter and Breitbart News, Joe Biden is very conversant with car and driver, the auto magazine and also with Apple news, it`s a news product app that is installed on iPhones when you get them, Joe Biden like a lot of older adults. I never took that off and aid said, he would always regale them with little tidbits like, oh, did you see the world`s largest math or oh, there`s this Japanese woman, the oldest woman in the world, who`s 180 and 119 years old. Imagine what she`s seeing. So, just little glimpses here and there. The last thing is Joe Biden. He has the taste of a five year old. It`s PB&J chop salad with grilled chicken. He likes orange Gatorade, and he stocks the Oval Office with homemade chocolate chip cookies and salt water taffy from Dolles in Rehoboth Beach.

WILLIAMS: Sounds like a meal. Hey, A.B. over to the House of Representatives, tell me about the thought process, when a member of the Republican caucus makes a horrendous comparison between the Holocaust and mask mandates. Talk to me about what takes four to five days to respond and denounce that if you`re the leader of the caucus?

STODDARD: Well, Brian, it`s hard to get into the head of Kevin McCarthy. But we know back in February, he tried to have it both ways and forgive Marjorie for her past, embrace conspiracy theories, and not kick her off committees in the way that the leaders are expected to do. But put it on the floor for a vote in which he made his rank and file, walk the plane and make that decision, a decision a leader should be making and not as members. Since then, she has become more popular with the base. She is tweeting her way to a massive war chest and campaign donations, and everyone around her is envying her small dollar game. The more outrageous the more attacks, the more fear you foster in those Snapchat messages that voters are getting, the more money comes in. And so that is a new force that Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene have perfected and it scares the other members because it she knows that the more outrageous she is, the more attention she gets. And so it`s, you know, obviously was reprehensible and beyond the pale. But it`s a big difference between coming out and saying something like that about the comparison to the Holocaust, and then actually doing something, the idea of McCarthy kicking her off out of the conference altogether. I just think is beyond the imagination he`s just demonstrated is too weak to do that. He`s afraid Trump will defend her. So I think we`re just going to continue to watch him squirm.

WILLIAMS: And that`s about where our politics are as spring gets ready to give way to summer here in 2021. With great thanks to three friends of this broadcast, Ashley Parker, A.B. Stoddard, Barb McQuade, greatly appreciate it.

Coming up for us, the Senate top Republican calls that a purely political move and points to one of our next guests something he said as proof where this effort to investigate the insurrection might stand tonight.

And later, with half of Americans now fully vaccinated, how much of this pandemic really is behind us now? We`ll put that question to one of our leading doctors later in the hour.

And as we go to our first break the photo of the day. It shows how the people`s house is supposed to work. A decorated U.S. Marine opens the West Wing door for all visitors. Sometimes it`s a president, sometimes it`s a king, sometimes it`s a seven year old girl. In this case, she happens to be Gianna Floyd, daughter of George Floyd, who today sat on the President`s lap announced that she was hungry and was served a snack fit for a king, Cheetos, ice cream and chocolate milk. THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on this Tuesday night.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY MINORITY LEADER: I think this is a purely political exercise that adds nothing to the sum total of information. It doesn`t allow anyone to get away with anything. All of these aspects of it are being dealt with in one way or another already.


WILLIAMS: Ever wish you could read the mind of the men standing behind them, that`s Mitch McConnell, speaking about this January 6 commission this afternoon. We could as we said see a Senate vote on this as early as this week.

Today, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska became the first Senate Republican to announce support for the commission. Romney and Collins say they support the commission but want changes made to it first. Meanwhile, Politico reports Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is standing by the filibuster, "Manchin reiterated that he won`t lower the 60 vote threshold even if Senate Republicans block an independent commission on January 6, in the coming days."

Back with us again tonight, James Carville, a veteran democratic strategist who rose to fame with the Clinton presidential effort and he is co host of the politics War Room podcast, and Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, former Lieutenant Governor of the great State of Maryland, also the host of the Michael Steele Podcast.

Gentlemen, welcome to you both. Hey, James, we were the news organization that reported that McConnell was so taken by the interview you gave Vox that it was a democratic strategy that he distributed it to his caucus, to our audience. I`ll remind you that here`s some of James comments in that. Democrats have to make the Republicans own that insurrection every day. They have to pound it. They have to call booker`s on cable news shows, picture LSU football. 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 James, I have a dual question for you. Has your party lived up to that challenge you lay down and/or are the Republicans doing it for you through their intransigence?

JAMES CARVILLE, VETERAN DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: So, Brian, as I understand this, this is the largest investigation in the history of the United States Department of Justice. This is an attack on law enforcement. This is an attack that tried to stop a constitutionally mandated act of Congress. And all of a sudden, Mitch McConnell says we can`t do anything because some bony butt Cajun guy in Louisiana might make it political. I mean, it`s so ludicrous on its face. It`s hard to keep a straight face. I mean, my God, Mitch McConnell is just frightened at the thought that anybody would make politics out of anything in the United States. You know, your job was got to watch this and now they tell us it was just some nice tourists that will come in into the Capitol and they just want to participate in American democracy.

It`s really -- it`s going to come out. They can have a commission on that, they 400 indictments already. And there`s going to be more to come. And I think it`s dawned on a lot of these Republicans that there might be people that were inside that building that were aiding and abetting this, maybe one of the largest domestic crimes in the history of the United States. So I`ve been I`m sorry, Senator McConnell, if you`re scared of politics, I know you would never engage in such a dastardly profession as politics. Oh, my God.

WILLIAMS: So Michael Steele, as you and I both get over the shock of learning more about James anatomy than we have bargained for during the course of this broadcast, let me ask you this. If you still had your old job title, how would you advise your fellow Republicans to approach this commission?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, to stand on the side of America. I`m sorry I just don`t get what the obstacle is here. It just makes no sense to me. You know, the fact of the matter is, I mean, James put his finger on it is the fact that you probably have some Republicans who have their behinds exposed on this, and don`t want the heat that comes from that exposure. But if I`m looking at this from a political lens, the idea that you think you`re just going to be able to wash this over, and that if we said nothing and did nothing, that we get into the next election cycle, that the Democrats then won`t play the politics and just remind the American people exactly where the Republican Party stood, you know, with regard to the image that they see on the screen right now, right? I mean, that`s very clear. That hat he`s wearing doesn`t say Antifa. OK. So the back of that cap doesn`t say BLM. So you have to understand what it is we`re watching that we all saw. And don`t think that the politics won`t remind Americans how they felt, in watching what they saw. So my advice would be, get on the side of America on this, do a full throated commission, like we did after we were attacked by foreign aggressors, and understand exactly what may fall from this. And that may be that a number of those people who were fist bumping and high fiving and saying stupid crap, like we here today may have got a text or two that gets exposed. And guess what, that`s on them. That`s not on your party, right? That`s on them. Don`t make it a part of your party. But the tack that they`re taken is that we will forget, we won`t care. We`ll be more interested in where the stock market is, or where a 401(k) is, and the democracy be damned.

WILLIAMS: We`re just getting started with these two individuals. We`re going to fit in a break. When we come back, we`re going to talk about Donald Trump`s iron grip over his party what it might mean for our democracy, when we come back.


WILLIAMS: It only took four days give or take but GOP leadership as we said have finally gotten around to condemning Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene for comparing mask wearing mandates to the extermination of Jews in the Holocaust.

In a statement today, Kevin McCarthy said quote, Marjorie is wrong and her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling. Let me be clear, the House Republican Conference condemns this language. It remains to be seen if his words will have any effect on Green`s actions.

Just this morning she once again likened mass mandates to Nazi Germany and we quote, vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazis forced Jewish people to wear a gold star, which for the record was yellow and in effect marked millions of people for death still with us.

James Carville and Michael Steele. And Michael, I`m going to read a quote from something you wrote for our website today as a folks watching at home. Listen to this. Remember, this is a former chairman of the once great Republican Party, quote, Trump has redefined the party. It`s more and more becoming the party of angry white nationalist and foe patriots afraid of their future and stewing in their own victimhood is they dine on a steady diet of GOP cancel culture, conspiracies and lies.

Michael, I`ve asked you this before, I`m going to ask you again. Does it ever get back to its old definition, its roots its identity.

STEELE: That, you know, hope always springs eternal, but reality is cruel. And the cruelty of this I think for more and more Republicans around the country is that it doesn`t. The fact that you know, Kevin McCarthy put out a tappet statement as taken no action with respect to Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Her crazy does goes up exponentially. And so she doubles down, triple downs. She wants to be the female version of Donald Trump and she will do everything she can in her power to do that, because she knows touching. There`s cash at the end of that rainbow.

And so that`s where the party is. They will kick out a Liz Cheney and they will elevate her. And here`s the little dirty secret for you, Kevin. Next year if you get the House and you`re making your bid for Oh, I don`t know speaker of the House. Who do you think Donald Trump is going to support? Sucker.

WILLIAMS: OK, James Carville. I`d like you to riff a little bit even though we are not Vox. Are the Democrats right now being tough enough? Are they taking what they have out for a spin knowing as you do the numbers for them may not get this good again for a good long time.

CARVILLE: Wells, I think the Democrats do need to be tougher, we need to be aggressive. I have a piece coming out in a major publication tomorrow. That`s going to urge the Democratic Party to tackle this crime issue front and center. Trump is the worst president in modern American history on the issue of crime.

And Democrats do need -- they do need to be more aggressive. I really believe that into what Governor Steele said, I thought what they said was brilliant. And the only question that I kind of wanted does the modern Republican Party deserve Marjorie Taylor Greene? I mean, is she a logical outgrowth of the kinds of things that Governor Steele was talking about?

And I don`t know how much that she is out -- how far out of the current and I don`t know, I can`t use word Republican mainstream in the same sentence together. But to the extent that there`s I don`t know how far away she is from the norm. I mean, that that you can name five other people that are these two guys from Arizona by, you know, Louie Gohmert or Matt, I mean, there`s more than one. There`s, there`s a whole nest of them. And that`s just where they are.

But yes, the Democrats have an opportunity here. And they have to do but effective people do they take a chance, they seize on this opportunity. At the moment, they have it, so -- we`ll see where it goes. But I`ll have a lot more to say about this in the weeks ahead.

WILLIAMS: James, generally, do you think Joe Biden is sitting on a perhaps untapped and unmeasured? OK, OK, just a second here. Michael Steele has even the playing field on college hat representation. He has raised your LSU hat with one Hopkins, I just had to note this.

James, do you think Biden is doing better than is being measured? Do you think he gets points for trying to return America to a country where we don`t have to, we`re not forced to think about who the President is every 20 minutes where his polling is quite high. And he`s being rewarded, for example, for how he`s handled the pandemic.

CARVILLE: You know, Brian, it`s funny, I was talking to a friend of mine in media, and I`d get these reports on my cell phone how much screen time you have. And I`m down 40 percent from October, November. And I`m almost like enjoying the fact that I`m not thinking about this, you know, waking up in the middle of the night, you know, screaming, but it`s time to reengage because we know people are becoming comfortable with Joe Biden being president not been on edge the whole time.

But yesterday, he had this FEMA meeting, and we`re going to have a terrible storm season here in the northern Gulf of Mexico, and I`m going to be a terrible fire season out west. So I sleep at night and at least knowing that we have a president that that`s looking out for the country and I hope we stay on edge because this did -- we could lose a lot in 2022 by just being kind of lethargic and complacent here.

WILLIAMS: By the way, just to bring our viewers up to date, you saw the president walking from Marine One back into the White House. He flew to Wilmington tonight just to attend a wake of a former senate staffer and flew back to the White House again. Again, for those keeping score at home, our score is Hopkins one, LSU one, and I knew I should have gone to college if not just to have a hat.

James Carville, Michael Steele, gentlemen, thank you as always. We`ll keep doing this till we get it right.

Coming up for us, people are saying we have turned the corner on this pandemic. But we`ve also learned to ask is there anything else we need to know about with Oh say a holiday weekend approaching. One of our public health experts standing by to take our questions.



DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: If you are vaccinated, you are protected and you can enjoy your Memorial Day. If you are not vaccinated, our guidance has not changed for you. You remain at risk of infection, you still need to mask and take other precautions.


WILLIAMS: Tonight, the CDC says at least half of our U.S. adult population is now fully vaccinated nothing short of a miracle as the President himself posted this evening. That`s a big deal folks.

Back with us again. Dr. Irwin Redlener, founding director of Columbia`s National Center for Disaster Preparedness who advises us on matters of public health. He`s also a columnist over at The Daily Beast.

And doctor, before we get into more serious matters, holidays in our over a year of learning about this pandemic have subsequently caused spikes. Now, of course, is different. Have you any concerns about what may happen during this coming holiday weekend?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Yes, Brian, and I think we have to pay attention. But on the other hand, we`re in so much better position than we weren`t last Memorial Day, if you`ll remember, every single kind of gathering was a potential danger point for the people who came together.

And now with half of Americans, half adult Americans vaccinated. It`s a safer situation, but not totally so. So I think it`s worth the reminder, Brian, that people still need to be cautious. There still may be people carrying the virus and there may be people that are still vulnerable.

So I think caution and a little bit of temporary of what the CDC is saying and absorbing the full -- the fullness of that message says, let`s still be careful, although we`re much better off than we were last year, Brian.

WILLIAMS: OK, and always choose outdoors if you have the choice. I know you spoke with Dr. Fauci recently, combining what you learn from him with what you`re picking up. What`s the chance do you think we can get kids vaccinated prior to the start of the new school year?

REDLENER: Well, probably some children, Brian, but right now, you know, we`re everybody`s eligible, who`s 12 years old and older. The next step will be the nine to 12 year olds, and that may well happen this summer.

But, you know, under nine years of age, under six years of age, that probably won`t be happening really, realistically until the end of 2021 in the beginning of 2022. And in the meantime, we`re going to have to take appropriate precautions to make sure that those children and those classrooms that they`re in stay safe because, you know, we`re actually opening up schools full time in person in many parts of the country including the nation`s largest school system here in New York City, Brian.

So still there`s hope coming in terms of getting all kids vaccinated. But right now, we`re still going to be cautious for the rest of this academic year.

WILLIAMS: We always have to remind our viewers to make them better news consumers that any negative news about vaccine is instantly amplified, especially on social media by two forces that often have the same intent, the anti-vaxxers, and the Russians, bots and the like.

So I`ll lay that out before I ask you this. The question is, though, the CDC is looking at comparatively very few reports of heart problems in young people that have developed post vaccination, is it enough to catch your eye? And is it enough to concern you noting that you are a pediatrician by trade and training?

REDLENER: Well, actually, Brian, I think it`s really good news that the system is working well. So the way it works is that people are giving vaccines all over the country, obviously. And when there`s a report of any kind of untoward event, in this case, the so called myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart muscle tissue, it gets reported, and we`re keeping a very watchful eye on that, and the officials of the CDC and the FDA said, Oh, look, we seem to have a number of reports now, is it significant, and then they compare the rate of heart disease that occurs after the shots versus what would normally occur.

And in this case, there`s about 10 to 20 cases of this heart problem, in general, pre-COVID and pre-vaccine tend to 20 cases per 100,000. So the question now is, is the incidents, is the rate of this complication, or this disease occurrence going to be higher than we would expect even absent the vaccines. And so far, I`m not worried. I think it`s going to be actually a very low rate that seems to follow the vaccines and probably not at all related to whether you get the vaccine or not.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Irwin Redlener has been our guest again tonight. We remain so grateful for your insight and your expertise and for taking our questions. Doctor, thank you so much for coming on.

Coming up for us. Americans are on the move again, like it`s 2019, a Memorial Day travel preview when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Well last year most of us opted not to travel for Memorial Day while the virus was spreading uncontrolled across our country. This year not so much. People just can`t stand it anymore. They can`t wait. They`ve decided to head out to that wild blue yonder. Restrictions are dropping, vaccination rates are rising and people are fixing to travel in a big way. We have a preview tonight of what to expect from NBC News correspondent Tom Costello.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the highways to high above expect the biggest explosion and getaway traffic since the start of the pandemic triple

AAA predicts up 60 percent over last year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Incredible numbers of people. I`d never seen the Charlotte airport so crowded.

COSTELLO: This past Sunday, nearly 1.9 million passengers move through the nation`s airports the most since the lockdown began.

With airlines reporting much stronger than expected bookings, the TSA is adding 6,000 more officers this year.

The advice for passengers expect longer lines, fewer empty seats, and with 50 percent of Americans still not yet vaccinated, masks are still required for everyone in airports and on planes. The TSA says there are no plans to change that yet.

Meanwhile, the FAA reports another alarming jump in unruly and dangerous behavior. Fistfights, drinking verbally and physically assaulting flight attendants. 2,500 cases so far this year. 1,900 involving masks disputes.

A Southwest Airlines flight attendant lost two teeth during an assault on Sunday. Southwest CEO says the assaults have reached an intolerable level. 60 TSA officers also assaulted this year, the Homeland Security Secretary today.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We`re not going to tolerate behavior that threatens the well-being of the public. The employees that bravely are on the front lines to facilitate the travel for individuals who want to reunite with friends and family.

COSTELLO (on camera): Interfering with a flight crew is a federal offense. The FBI may arrest you, fines up to $35,000 jail time, and very often banned for life by that airline. Brian.


WILLIAMS: Tom Costello at National Airport tonight. Thank you for that report.

Coming up for us. Another reminder that the guys who insist they`re tough guys usually aren`t.


WILLIAMS: There he is. Last thing before we go tonight, as we have long established around here there`s a Republican senator from Louisiana, John, no relation, Kennedy who works very carefully at his image.

Despite coming up as a gifted student and a young intellectual, despite a first class education at Vanderbilt, UVA law school and Oxford in England. He employs these Mayberry style that dog won`t hunt aphorisms to come across as a root and tooten country guy.

Here is his latest marketing effort designed with the help of his friends at the NRA to trigger the liberals and this one happened to go terribly wrong.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): Folks, I believe that Love is the answer. But you ought to own a handgun just in case.


WILLIAMS: So that`s John, no relation, Kennedy but back up just one second to the word be live and isn`t at all where they go wrong when they`re trying to be too cute by half. They were hoping we`d be so swoony over the sight of him polishing his pistol listening to that porn music that we`d miss the misspelling.

Fred Wellman, a West Pointer, Army veteran with the Lincoln project who actually knows his way around a firearm put it this way.

Imagine going to the effort to get a senator to shoot a video rubbing his gun with some stupid message about love for your plan to trigger the liberals and you misspell a word and are universally mocked, all that effort to smack themselves in the face again, it`s amazing. Fred also added I can`t believe this idiot went to Oxford.

The thing is, people seldom look as cool with a gun as they think they do. And the modern history of the Republican Party is just chock a block full of examples of it. But as we update you on all gun news soon every Texan may get the chance.

The Texas Legislature yesterday approved a bill to allow all adult Texans to carry a handgun without training or a license. No permit. No problem. Governor Abbott eager to remain on brand has pledged to sign it into law.

Now, do they have bigger problems in Texas like a power grid that failed and left millions of their fellow citizens in the cold forcing some of them to resort to burning their furniture to stay warm? Sure. But now at least there will be a gun in every holster if not a couch in every living room.

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