Prosecutors investigating Trump are focusing on Allen Weisselberg. President Joe Biden orders investigation of COVID`s origin. Gunman kills eight people in San Jose Rail yard. California Governor Gavin Newsom called for more gun control, hours after a gunman fatally shot nine people at a San Jose rail yard. Senate moves forward with January 6 Commission. A majority of Republicans still believe Donald Trump won the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Texas legislators have passed a bill which would allow most people to carry concealed handguns without a permit. Olympic organizers face calls to cancel Tokyo Games.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, day 127 of the Biden administration. And tonight, there are more signs that the former president`s legal jeopardy is real. Over 24 hours after the Washington Post first reported that a special grand jury will indeed decide whether to indict Donald Trump or his company`s executives on criminal charges. There was this today from CNN that "Manhattan prosecutors have told at least one witness to prepare for grand jury testimony." That would indicate a new and crucial phase in the investigation and that came along quickly.
A prosecutor is focused on the Trump`s business practices and his tax returns. They`re also believed to be scrutinizing the finances of the Trump CFO, Allen Weisselberg. He`s been with the Trump Organization for four decades. Weisselberg`s former daughter-in-law who is now cooperating with investigators says the business relationship was no less important after Trump became president.
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JENNIFER WEISSELBERG, TRUMP CFO`S EX-DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: It`s a long family relationship, but also they`re very much in the organization. And it seems like that continued when he became president, so, in terms of finances.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: When`s the last time you spoke to D.A. investigators?
J. WEISSELBERG: Well, my attorney provided additional documents last Friday.
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WILLIAMS: Former Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen, another key witness in this case described Weisselberg`s escalating legal dilemma.
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MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP`S FORMER PERSONAL LAWYER: When they turn around, and they present to Allen, a document or multiple documents that show a criminality attached to it, it`s now either you got to speak out, or you have to accept the consequences. Donald Trump is not going to take responsibility for what`s going on, here because Donald Trump doesn`t take responsibility for anything. And he`s going to turn around say, I pay a lot of money to my accountants. I pay a lot of money to my lawyers. I didn`t know I was told to do this.
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WILLIAMS: Politico has been among those checking in with members of Trump world about the mood among his allies. Concerning this new grand jury reporting, according to one advisor they talked to, "There`s definitely a cloud of nerves in the air of the Weisselberg involvement in the wild card of that makes the particular situation more real. The fact that they`re dealing with a numbers guy who just has plane details makes people more nervous."
Meanwhile, the current President dealing with fallout from report earlier this week raising more questions about the origins of the coronavirus. Today, Biden ordered the U.S. intelligence community to redouble their investigative efforts to determine whether the virus emerged from human contact with an infected animal or was spread from a lab in Wuhan, China and report back to the president in 90 days. Today during a Senate hearing, the Director of the National Institutes of Health echoed the call for a thorough investigation.
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DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH DIRECTOR: It is most likely that this is a virus that arose naturally but we cannot exclude the possibility of some kind of a lab accident.
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WILLIAMS: Tomorrow morning, Republican senators are expected to present Biden with a counteroffer to his sweeping infrastructure and jobs plan. Their counteroffer is said to be worth nearly a trillion dollars last week. The President dropped his $2.3 trillion opening bid to a cheaper 1.7 trillion.
Politico reports the White House is now willing to let talk stretch past its Memorial Day deadline but not much further. They say they`ll shift to focusing on trying to pass a bill in a party line vote if they have to, more on that in a moment.
On another domestic front, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy and Republican John Cornyn are trying to work out a bipartisan bill to strengthen gun background checks. This effort is underway as the nation deals with yet another deadly mass shooting. This time San Jose California, authorities say the suspect 57-year-old Samuel Cassidy shot eight co-workers at a rail yard this morning before taking his own life.
This afternoon, the President ordered the flag over the White House once again lowered to half staff, just as he`s done after shootings in Georgia, Colorado, South Carolina, Indiana. He also issued a statement that read in part, "I have the solemn duty of yet again ordering the flag to be lowered at half staff. Enough. Once again I urge Congress to take immediate action and heed the call of the American people, including the vast majority of gun owners to help And this epidemic of gun violence in America."
With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Wednesday night, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning Senior Washington Correspondent for The Washington Post, Claire McCaskill, former Democratic Senator from the great State of Missouri, and Professor Melissa Murray of NYU Law School who was law clerk for Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the federal bench prior to her nomination to the Supreme Court.
Well, good evening, and welcome to you all. Claire, I`d like to begin with you, given your background as a prosecutor, what stands out to you? I understand it`s early yet, in this D.A. investigation into Trump?
CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D) MISSOURI FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, first, I would say it`s probably not early, typically, a grand jury is not called until most of the investigation is completed. This is about presenting evidence to the grand jury and taking some testimony in all likelihood. But they`ve hired forensic accountants, Brian. They`ve had his tax returns. They know where the lies are. And the problem the President has is either his bag man, his numbers guy is going to go down or he`s going to go down. Because when you lie about financial transactions, you know what, it`s a felony. It`s a felony. And so we know he`s lied about from financial transactions to one folk, he says, I`m rich, to someone to in order to get loans to another, he says, I`m poor in order to avoid taxes. It`s not that complicated. And I think that the, I`m willing to bet that the prosecutor has the evidence corralled. Now it`s just a matter of presentation, and the grand jury coming to a decision as to who to indict, and for what?
WILLIAMS: Professor Murray, indeed, we`re led to believe it is a lengthy paper trail here. What else beyond the obvious the former president part would make him a unique defendant here?
MELISSA MURRAY, NYU LAW PROFESSOR: Well, we`ve never had a former president who has been charged with a crime. And to be clear, the grand jury has not yet done anything but the fact that this special grand jury has been impaneled and that it`s been the slated for a longer term than usual grand jury suggests that this is a sort of sprawling and complex financial crimes case. The fact that we learned last week that the New York Attorney General has joined forces with the Manhattan D.A. complicates things further, it seems as though they are both working in tandem together, which makes this perhaps even more complicated, more sprawling. But the fact that this grand jury is been in panels suggests that there`s something here that they want to present to the grand jury, they think they have something and the President or someone very close to him is certainly at the center of it.
WILLIAMS: Which brings us to you, Phil, you chronicled the former President, as few others did. What are you hearing, what echoes from his circle? How is it different seeming this time?
PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: You know, Brian, there`s a great deal of concern that the former president has and those around him, and they`ve had it for some time. It`s only in the last few days that we`ve learned just how serious these investigations have reached with the calling of this grand jury. But it`s something that`s been preying on the former president since he left Washington back in January and headed down to Mar-a-Lago. He knew these investigations were ongoing. He knew that his tax returns were going to be scrutinized by prosecutors, by investigators. And he knew that he could be in a heap of trouble and he is no longer the president. So he doesn`t have the power to hold on to. He can`t dangle pardons. He can`t force the Attorney General to do something to intervene. He doesn`t even have a Twitter handle to lead a public relations offensive against the investigators. So he`s in some trouble here. He has not yet been charged with any crime. But the development seemed to indicate that that`s only a matter of time before that happens. And there`s some concern in the President`s orbit about how close it could get to him personally. And keep in mind as well, Brian, that his two oldest sons, Don Jr. and Eric Trump, are executives at the Trump Organization, they have responsibility for the finances of that company. And so they very well could also be entangled in this situation.
WILLIAMS: Indeed, and Claire, that brings us into the world of politics, if that heap of trouble that Phil mentioned, arrives and Donald Trump has the book thrown at him. Do you still expect Republicans to predicate their entire political party on this one guy?
MCCASKILL: Oh, yeah. You know, I mean, frankly, when he started lying about the election months before the election occurred, when he started conditioning his followers to believe and getting the cable news networks that parrot his propaganda to broadcast that if he lost, it was a fraud. And if you look at what McConnell and McCarthy have done since January 6, I mean, they both came out on January 6, and talked about his responsibility and what he had done. And this unbelievable shock to our system that these people attacked police officers in our Capitol, attacked our government, attacked our democracy. And all of these Republicans are still hanging on. I think what he`ll say is, this is a witch hunt. Most of his followers will believe it. And the smart Republicans will try to hide from the media. But the ones that aren`t so smart will be all in.
WILLIAMS: Professor, let`s go to another story in the news that involves your line of work, and that`s police reform. Senator Tim Scott now says the new deadline for getting this done is the end of next month. What will it mean, I hate to ask this as a negative, what will be the cost of not getting a federal bill dealing with police reform in our country?
MURRAY: I think it will certainly be a dent to President Biden`s aim to do something significant on policing. Although to be very clear, the administration has already changed tactics from the Trump administration in ways that are really significant. The DOJ has announced more of an interest in doing pattern and practice policing surveys. And of course, they`ve done more to say about how they`re going to collect data on various police departments. So that`s an encouraging change. But something a large landmark piece of legislation was certainly at the center of the Biden domestic agenda. And the failure to get something passed will certainly be seen as a dent against that. Of course, a lot of policing action is happening at the state and local levels. And there`s been significant movement at the state levels in many places. Washington just passed a very sweeping police reform bill. But we`ve also seen retrenchment in states where there are more conservative state legislators in place. So it`s sort of a mixed bag, but there has been some progress. But of course, a broad federal bill would be incredibly booing.
WILLIAMS: Phil, as you know, as you have picked up as well as anybody in D.C., a lot of Democrats are getting antsy., antsy to use the math while it still benefits them assuming say the midterms don`t go well, how short of fuse in your reporting and understanding does the Biden West Wing have ongoing and alone on things like infrastructure and jobs and so on?
RUCKER: Well, Brian, it`s a little bit to be determined. I don`t think anybody in the Biden White House has a clear sense of when that fuse would run out. They`re committed when it comes to this infrastructure deal to try to get that bipartisan agreement on that deal to get some buy in from Republicans, even though they don`t necessarily have to have it. And yet the clock has been ticking, and they don`t seem to have it.
We`ll find out, of course, tomorrow what the Republican counteroffer is. But then Biden`s going to have to make a real choice about whether to go with that watered down compromise that would leave a lot of funding for climate programs, which is an essential part of his agenda and part of what his progressive base is calling for, to leave that on the cutting room floor and go ahead with this bipartisan deal or to just muscle something through that`s more comprehensive and more in keeping with his agenda, but that only Garner democratic votes. And there`s a determination among those in the White House to try to get something done here. They know that the calendar is not on their side. Senator McCaskill can tell you how things tend to slow down in Washington in the summertime. Members could go home. There`s a lot of recess time, there`s campaigning time. And that momentum that President Biden had coming out of the inauguration and through the spring, could begin to dissipate over the summer, if they don`t take advantage of what they have right now.
WILLIAMS: Well, Senator, you heard the man. Let`s go there. And by doing so I`ll give you the last word. Talk about your party. Talk about what happens say, if the Republicans don`t go along with the 1/6 commission, are the Democrats, Senate and House, doing enough, quickly enough taking enough advantage of their, be it slim majorities?
MCCASKILL: Well, there`s two things going on at once here. There is a very public and important effort to make this bill bipartisan, the infrastructure bill. If that fails, I can assure you work is going on behind the scenes to have a bill ready that will pass soon reconciliation with a bare majority. So if the -- and the Republicans know that and that`s leverage that the Democrats have right now in their discussions, because the Republicans all know that they can fashion a bill, maybe it won`t be as big or have everything in it that Biden wanted, but they can do something big without the Republicans. And if it falls apart, then you`ll see Chuck Schumer moving very quickly to get it through the Senate. And I think you`ll see Nancy Pelosi absolutely cooperating and being ready to do the same thing.
WILLIAMS: And Claire, what if there`s no commission? What if the commission is turned down?
MCCASKILL: You know, here`s what -- I think if the commission is turned down, it is a political mistake for the Republican Party. Brian, there were 33 hearings on Benghazi, for these people to tell the American people that somehow this is not important enough that we shouldn`t have a commission. Everyone knows it`s bipartisan. Everyone knows it was negotiated by the Republican in the House. If they turn this down, I think instead of it leaving the scene for midterms, it`s going to be front and center in the scene for midterms.
WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, Claire McCaskill, Melissa Murray, can`t thank you enough for starting us off on this Wednesday night.
Coming up, the attack on the Capitol was just the beginning. It turns out new signs the fringe is moving directly into the mainstream of the GOP. And later, after today`s carnage in San Jose, the California Governor wonders, and to quote him, "What the hell is wrong with us?" We`ll ask a former Big City Police Chief if we`ve become one nation, under the gun. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on this Wednesday evening.
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REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) WYOMING: I anticipate it`s going to be a hard fought race. I anticipate it`s one that there will be a lot of national attention on. And I really do think it`s one that will be a moment where the people of Wyoming can demonstrate to the country, our commitment to the Constitution. It`s a race, it`ll be very important in terms of the future of our party and then the future of our republic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Liz Cheney, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Trump`s grip on this party may become abundantly clear come the midterms, but if a new Quinnipiac poll is any indication, it`s pretty ironclad, 85% of Republicans say they will support candidates who agree with the former president.
Back with us to talk about all of it tonight, Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist for The Washington Post and Tim Miller, Contributor to the Bulwark and the Former Communications Director for Jeb Bush.
Gentlemen, good evening, and welcome. And, Tim, sadly, for you, I was watching you with Nicolle Wallace this afternoon. I say sadly, for you, because I`m going to ask you to repeat two things that that really broke through. Tell the folks watching tonight what you said earlier today about both cognitive dissonance and Vladimir Putin where it refers to the Republican Party in our country.
TIM MILLER, THE BULWARK CONTRIBUTOR: And Thanks, Brian, I guess sounds like unfortunate for you that you`ve got to hear this shtick twice. But, you know, look the cognitive dissonance that is happening is what`s coming from the voters, right? The voters here, there`s a group of voters that kind of are in on the joke, and they`re in on the game is when they`re answering these polls, they`re just saying whatever it is that they think is going to make people like you obsess, frankly, Brian, and they maybe don`t believe everything, but they do. They do know what their tribe is supposed to say, when it comes to what happened to the election and all these other polls.
On the other hand, there`s another group of voters that are like fully in on the cult, and if convinced themselves, no matter what kind of information you provide them, no matter, you know, they might believe that in their state, that red state, the election was perfectly fine. And all the other republican officials down ballot, but it was a problem at the top of the ballot of Donald Trump, and they, you know, there`s no amount of information you can give them that`s going to change that view, because they are truly in a situation where rationality does not matter. They`re going along with anything that Donald Trump wants, and anything that he says and that is the part that is really dangerous. Because when you look at what happened in 2016, I think Vladimir Putin might feel like he got pretty lucky when Donald Trump won. I don`t know that they actually even thought Donald Trump was going to win. But when Russia interfered in our election, what their main goal was to divide us, to make people less competent in our democracy.
Today, people actually not believe that our democracy worked, and has anybody that ever paid off better than that, Vladimir Putin got exactly what he wanted. And you`ve got it one major political party, maybe half the members, maybe a little more than half the members who now believe that our democracy is a farce, that it`s no different than Russia`s. And that is a major geopolitical success for Putin that has tons of negative downstream effects that we can talk about.
WILLIAMS: And we don`t say it often enough and that is why I needed you to repeat your wisdom for our viewers here this evening.
Eugene, I noticed this tonight on Twitter. This is from the author of hiding in plain sight, the invention of Donald Trump and the erosion of America. Garland won`t release the memo on Trump and obstruction. Yellen won`t release Trump`s tax returns. Wray won`t investigate the elites behind the attempted coup. Biden won`t restructure the Postal Service board to get rid of DeJoy. The Democrats won`t pass voting rights. You catching on yet? So Eugene, the question to you is, and we`re hearing more and more of this, are the Democrats doing enough with what they have right now, given the urgency and the exigency?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I would say just plain, no. I don`t think they are and here`s why. I am not quite as optimistic as Tim is about the Republican Party. I mean, I, you know, seeds grow -- don`t grow in barren ground, right? They grow in fertile ground. And so, the seeds of crazy that Donald Trump has been sowing on Republican ground found fertile soil. There was a predisposition there, I fear and I believe for the kind of crazy that Trump brought. And so, yes, it`s the cult of Trump now. But I`m not convinced that if Donald Trump, you know, disappeared from the scene tomorrow, if he, you know, fled to exile in Bella Rose or something, I`m not convinced that that leadership that came after him would be any less crazy or any less anti-democratic or any more committed to the principles and ideas that the Republican Party once stood for. So with that, as a backdrop, I think the Democrats have an obligation to, you know, to just carry on the responsibility of governing this country and doing as much as they can to reestablish the norms that the Republicans no longer care about.
WILLIAMS: Tim, real quick, before we go to a break, take on the first part of Eugene`s point there, if Trump goes to Rikers Island, the next person up is going to try to be his mini-me whether it`s DeSantis or somebody else, correct?
MILLER: Yeah, look, you got to dig pretty deep into the Earth`s crust to be more pessimistic about the Republican Party than me. So I guess congratulations to Gene. I think that that is right, I guess. I think there`s some unique things about Donald Trump. He is uniquely sociopathic, and he`s unique in his lack of shame. But I think that if you had a Ron DeSantis right on the front end of the election, he might try to undermine the democracy in the same way that Trump has. He might try to pass the same laws, but would he be so shameless to go on for a year, two years after telling people that, it`s fake. It`s like Venezuela. The voting machines at, you know, Trump has a sociopath about them that`s unique. But I generally agree with Eugene`s point.
WILLIAMS: I love when our guests get along. Let`s take a quick break. Both gentlemen are staying with us.
Coming up, the mother of a fallen Capitol Police Officer speaks out about creating this January 6 commission. She is asking to talk to Republican senators. How many of them will do it?
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SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): I do hope that we get 10 Republicans. That`s the best case scenario. But that`s not to say that there can`t be a Benghazi style commission even without the Republican votes. There`s no reason why we can`t continue to investigate what happened that day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So the Senate could hold a procedural vote to create this January 6 Commission as early as tomorrow. Politico reports quote, Susan Collins is making a last ditch attempt to broker a bipartisan compromise on the independent January 6 Commission even as Republican leaders rush to quash the panel. The mother and the partner of former -- fallen Capitol Hill police officer Brian Sicknick have requested meetings with all the Republican senators to urge support for the bill.
Sicknick`s mother released this statement reads in part, quote, not having a January 6 Commission to look into exactly what occurred is a slap in the faces of all the officers who did their jobs that day.
Still with us, Eugene Robinson, Tim Miller. So Eugene, this kind of carries forth from our last conversation. What do you do and CNN`s count was that 15 of the Republicans had accepted her invitation thus far. What do you do if this 1/6 Commission fails?
ROBINSON: Well, if it fails, Democrats are on their own and Democrats, since they can do more in the House than they can do in the Senate by themselves will probably and the House will convene all sorts of investigative panels, maybe select committee, maybe through the existing committee structure to do all our comprehensive investigation of what happened on January 6, and that will have to do because, you know.
I mean, it`s great that Susan Collins is trying to come up with compromise but what`s on the table already as a compromise the Democrats went to Republicans they worked out essentially a deal they work -- they gave the Republicans what they said they wanted, and all of a sudden they don`t want it anymore. Because they, you know, they`ve decided that there`s nothing in it for them politically, to find out what happened on the day that our democracy was more severely threatened than at any point since, arguably, census Civil War.
It`s just an astonishing situation that we find ourselves in, but here we are, and right now, you know, I`d have to bet that it`s going to fail.
WILLIAMS: Tim, I need you to take another bite at another round of poll numbers. This is the Ipsos poll. 53 percent of Republicans believe Trump is the true President. 54 percent of Republicans strongly or somewhat agree that the January 6 riot was led by violent left-wing protesters trying to make Trump look bad.
Tim, how permanent is this? You`re still a young man. I`d like to think you have a future in your chosen political party. Is this something that eases over time?
MILLER: Well, I appreciate your optimism that I have a future but I don`t think so. Within the party, I think I`ll be a pretty old man. By the time this thing gets shaken out. Obviously, politics are always changing. You know, the tectonic plates of our politics are shifting. And I think that`s happening right now. And that`s why you see a lot of people like me, college educated suburban, former Republicans who are really, essentially for all effective purposes, Joe Biden and Democrats right now. You know, I think that`s maybe a temporary alliance, but we`ll see how things shake out.
When you look at the problems within the Republican Party, I mentioned the last segment that Trump has some unique pathologies, it`s maybe an understatement. But the bigger problem back to Eugene`s point is a bottom up problem, not a top down problem.
This crazy is what the voters want, you know, and whether all 54 percent of those literally believe that it was Antifa dressed in MAGA hats in the Capitol or whether some of them believe that and others that were just saying it as a big troll on the left, doesn`t really matter. That`s like a distinction without a difference.
Because both of those types of voters, I have a very deep seated hatred towards the elites, that is deriving all of their motivation. And that is what`s, you know, driving the extreme push within the party and politicians are responding to that.
And so that`s why I think we look at Republican candidates who are running for office, in open seats in places all around the country. Right now they`re trying to appeal to that crazy. They`re trying to out crazy, each other out pro wins direction each other. They`re not trying to sound like Liz Cheney, because that`s what the voters want.
And so as long as the voters want that this isn`t getting fixed, right. We can hopefully get rid of Trump permanently, and get rid of some of his unique issues. But these underlying issues aren`t going anywhere. And it`s in that poll, but it`s in the effort. It`s in every poll that you look at, and it`s in the actual results when you go in front of voters for Republican primaries, we`re going to be seeing that for the next 18 months.
WILLIAMS: Eugene, I got 60 seconds left. Have you ever done as a columnist as a journalist at the kind of arson investigation to look back and figure out when the first spark of the burn it all down movement started?
ROBINSON: No, no, I have never tried to do that. That would be an interesting exercise that maybe had been and I probably should try to start figuring it out. Because as Tim said, this is a bottom up problem, essentially. But, you know, the switch metaphor is. I mean, the kindling was all set for the match. Right? It was going to -- it was there and, and it`s probably a combination of things.
Some resentments that built up over time, all -- a lot of these sort of culture war issues that people have coalesced around, of course, the two biggest ones that have been permanent parts of the political landscape are abortion and guns.
But also, you know, all of a sudden, you know, transgender athletics has become like a, you know, a flashpoint issue, and I wouldn`t have predicted that, you know, even a few months ago. So, it`s, you know, I`ll try it, Brian, it`s going to take a while and probably going to take more than me to come up with some definitive answers and see exactly what the sort of, you know, where was the beginning point? Where did this start?
WILLIAMS: All we asked, Tim and I asked that you mentioned us in your Pulitzer acceptance speech for when that column comes out. Eugene Robinson, Tim Miller, two good friends of this broadcast, we could spend hours at this and we will overtime Thank you gentlemen, both for spending time with us tonight.
Coming up for us. You don`t often see states passing laws that allow more people to get a gun. But then there`s Texas.
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GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: What the hell is going on in United States of America? the hell`s wrong with us? And when are we going to come to grips with this? When are we going to put down our arms literally and figuratively our politics, stale rhetoric, finger pointing all the hand wringing consternation that produces nothing except more fury and frustration. More scenes like this repeated over and over and over again. I say that as a governor. I say that as a father of four.
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WILLIAMS: Gavin Newsom today after today`s mass shooting in his state San Jose specifically left nine people dead, including the gunman. His call for gun control comes as different big state is on the verge of dropping most restrictions on handguns.
The Texas bill we`ve been talking about allows virtually any adult to carry a handgun without a permit. Governor Abbott has promised to sign it. So it`s a lot to discuss with our next guest, back with us tonight is Carmen Best, former police chief in the city of Seattle.
Chief, what good can possibly come of a law in a state that is home to 30 million Americans that basically says if you can fog up a mirror, you ought to be able to have a handgun, to carry a handgun, and also talk about how much more difficult it makes the job of law enforcement I imagine.
CARMEN BEST, MSNBC LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Good evening, Brian. I can`t think of any reason why this law would benefit anybody. In fact, I think it`s going to be very dangerous for the public. And I like many other police executives and police officers, again, I retired.
But, you know, we support the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms with some reasonable parameters in place. And so many people have worked so long to close gun loopholes. And now they`re just going to open the door wide for any and all to carry guns, and it`s going to make us less safe, more guns in the public domain, more guns available to criminals, more guns available to people who commit violence in the home doesn`t make any of us more safe at all.
And in fact, we think it will do just the opposite. And I think a number of law enforcement people have weighed in on this and finding that they`re very concerned about the proliferation of guns throughout the state of Texas or any place where there`s absolutely no parameters. What about the folks who are mentally ill? Are you going to allow them to carry guns?
We work really hard in the number of states for the red flag laws to determine people who have mental crisis or propensity for violence, to remove guns from the home, whether on a permanent or temporary basis, through the legal system to make sure that we can ensure the safety of everyone who might be affected. And now this law will undo all of that.
WILLIAMS: Chief, I`m told you`re just back from Memphis, where you did lead police training, what`s the talk in the ranks and how is the pressure, how is the talk of police reform landing among police officers?
BEST: Why they everybody recognizes in this current day and time that we have to evolve, we have to evolve with the time and change. And I don`t think anybody is rejecting police reform out, you know, out of hand. But people do want to make sure that we have a measured and thoughtful response. There`s also a lot of concern around specifics of maybe some qualified immunity questions and other things.
But I think most law enforcement leaders recognize that there needs to be some substantive change. And quite frankly, you know, I am all for advocating for having a national standards. Why would we be against certification of officers or decertification being known to others, so that we don`t bring people into the ranks who have a propensity toward violence of violating our rules and regulations.
So there`s a lot of very good things that can come out of police reform. We just want to make sure that it`s not used as a punitive measure for those who are advocating to abolish the police and things of that nature. But we do believe that it`s, you know, we evolved with time when policing can be made better.
WILLIAMS: Final question has to do with San Jose, large, generally known as a well-trained police department. They had nine fatals in their jurisdiction today. What does that do to law enforcement when one of these mass shootings visits your city or town?
BEST: Well, it`s a tragedy no matter where it is. And unfortunately, many people have described it as an epidemic. But it certainly does feel like an epidemic in these mass shootings. Now, my understanding is that we are in the 145th day of the year. And this is a 232nd, mass shooting evolving for more people in the country today.
So we really have a problem and a crisis in our country, where people whether it`s workplace violence, or at schools or other large, you know, grocery stores, as we see. We have an issue with the mass shootings in this country. We really need to take a look at how we`re going to better defend the places and how we can have some measure of parameters around people who are able to obtain handguns, or rifles or any other kind of weaponry.
WILLIAMS: Our guest tonight, Carmen Beth. Chief, thank you very much for taking the time to take our questions this evening. We always appreciate it.
Another break for us and coming up, the Summer Olympics are supposed to start in 58 days. That`s if they happen for the host nation of Japan. The hurdles just keep getting higher.
WILLIAMS: If you`re following this, then you know, Japan is in a state of emergency because rising virus cases and very low vaccination rates. And that`s a problem for a country that is expecting to host the world`s athletes for the Summer Olympic Games in less than two months. And as NBC News correspondent Keir Simmons reports, it`s all adding to uncertainty as to whether the games will go on.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
KEIR SIMMONS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over) As the torch towards Japan and test events are underway, Tokyo organizers say they`re not considering canceling the Olympics. But pressure is growing.
Tonight an influential Japanese newspaper and sponsor for the games writing it`s simply beyond reason to hold the Olympics this summer. While in the New England Journal of Medicine, U.S. scientists say cooling off the games may be the safest option.
DR. ANNIE SPARROW, MOUNT SINAI HOSPITAL: The playbooks are not serious efforts to put in series measures to protect the athletes and the public.
SIMMONS: Even the CDC and U.S. State Department warning Americans not to travel to Japan. Organizers point out they`re putting extensive safety measures in place. The U.S. Olympic committee says it`s confident in those steps and Team USA will go.
The IOC says at least 70 percent of athletes and officials will be vaccinated but so far, only 2 percent of the Japanese public is, and 80 percent or against the games polled say.
NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News owned the U.S. media rights to the Olympics. Tonight the game is facing an unprecedented challenge with the opening ceremony just 58 days away. Keir Simmons, NBC News London.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
WILLIAMS: Coming up it was a natural disaster made worse by a statewide failure and a report out tonight says it was way worse than we first thought.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, BuzzFeed News is out with a piece of journalism this evening the work of three of their reporters and it says the following and we quote, the true number of people killed by the disastrous winter storm and power outages that devastated Texas in February is likely four or five times what the state has acknowledged so far.
A BuzzFeed News data analysis reveals the hidden scale of a catastrophe that trapped millions of people in freezing darkness, cut off access to running water and overwhelmed emergency services for days. The state`s tally currently stands at 151 deaths. But by looking at how many more people died during and immediately after the storm than would have been expected and established method that has been used to count the full toll of other disasters. We estimate that 700 people were killed by the storm during the week with the most power outages.
This astonishing toll exposes the full consequences of officials neglect and preventing the power grids collapse despite repeated warnings of its vulnerability to cold weather, as well as the state`s failure to reckon with the magnitude of the crisis that followed.
Now, as you`ll recall, and as we reported extensively at the time, that winter storm crippled the state of Texas home to 13 million Americans, people had no access to power, somewhere without clean water, no access to propane or gasoline or firewood. As we reported at the time, some Texans resorted to burning their furniture to keep their families warm.
The Texas Governor the Arden Trumper Greg Abbott has been eager to move on and change the subject anything but a further discussion of how it is that the power grid was allowed to fail. Indeed, the Texas Legislature has decided on its priorities. They`ve passed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. They`ve passed a measure restricting the teaching of critical race theory. And as we mentioned earlier, they`ve passed this no permit no problem measure basically meaning any adult in the state who wants a handgun should be able to get one without training or registration. They are in other words, doubling down on the read, fearing that their state is turning purple politically.
Of course, the families of the dead so many of them poor and lacking a political voice. They know the truth, they know how their loved ones died. During the storm, they had no choice but to do what they could to survive and some of them did not make it.
It does make you wonder why they didn`t just believe get out of Texas and fly somewhere warm. I`m being told some left to go somewhere warm but most folks were forced to stay home in Texas, except for the time they spent lining up in the cold for necessities during the storm.
Anyway, spare a thought for the families of the dead in Texas after a natural disaster that brought that big state to its knees.
That is our broadcast for this Wednesday night with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.