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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 5/4/21

Guests: Denver Riggleman, Irwin Redlener, Harry Reid, Tim Miller, John McWhorter

Summary

President Joe Biden shifts strategy in push to reopen by July 4th. White House looks to stop vaccine hesitancy. Vaccines will go to pediatricians once shot is approved for kids 12-15. House GOP leader, Kevin McCarthy, is heard criticizing Cheney on hot mic. Many Republicans turn on Liz Cheney for blasting Trump. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are expected to try to remove Liz Cheney from their party leadership for denouncing former President Donald Trump`s false claim the election was stolen from him. Senator Hawley says he doesn`t regret raising his fist to capitol rioters.

Transcript

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 105 of the Biden administration, the President says we`ve now entered a new phase of the effort to stop the spread of this virus, with vaccine hesitancy still a hurdle and the pace of reopenings accelerating White House has started a new campaign to convince people to get the shot. The plan is to make it even easier to find a vaccine, offer more incentives for Americans to roll up their sleeves and get it. Today Biden announced a new goal for our country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: Our goal by July 4 is to have 70% of adult Americans at least one shot and 160 million Americans fully vaccinated. That means given close to 100 million shots, some first shots other second shots over the next 60 days. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. While we may not always agree on everything, this is one thing people across the political spectrum can agree on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: One noted health expert praised Biden`s new target but at the same time noted that getting there will come with challenges.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ASHISH JHA, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: I think this is the most ambitious goal the President has set yet because this is now a ground game. We can get to 70% of adults vaccinated by July 4. We`re going to have a terrific summer with very, very, very low levels of infection across the country. It`s a tough goal, but one that`s worth achieving one worth striving for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: This new phase includes closing many mass vaccination sites that have been set up across the country in favor of smaller and localized locations and those doses not ordered by states will go into a kind of Federal Bank to be sent where they`re needed. Right now about 56% of adults have received one dose. Over 40% of our nation`s adults are now fully vaccinated.

Pfizer today said it will soon as the FDA for emergency use authorization for children ages two to 11. They are already waiting for the FDA to sign off on use for kids 12 to 15. President says if that happens, the administration will focus on making as many vaccines as possible, available to teenagers by the fourth of July.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the political aisle increasing numbers of Republicans lining up against Wyoming Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, after she again called out former President Trump for promoting the big lie, the false claim that the 2020 election was somehow stolen from him.

Cheney is the third most powerful Republican in the House. She is formally chair of the party conference. And now some party members want her removed from that leadership post. This morning, the Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy was caught on a hot microphone just before a live appearance on Fox News, folks at the website media I posted the edited sound which does not include the original question he was asked.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I think she`s got real problems, I`ve had it with her. It`s -- you know, I`ve lost confidence. Well, someone just has to bring a motion but I assume that will probably take place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Moments later when he actually appeared on camera, McCarthy gave a very different assessment on television about Cheney starting with whether she was under fire because of her vote to impeach Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCARTHY: No, there`s no concern about how she voted on impeachment that decision has been made. I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message, was more concerned about the job, the ability to do and what`s our best step forward that we could all work together instead of attacking one another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: A spokesman for Liz Cheney later responded with this statement, "This is about whether the Republican Party is going to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash what happened on January 6. Liz will not do that. That is the issue."

House Republicans could vote to remove her from her leadership position as early as May 12. You may recall she survived a similar challenge just earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the former President may soon have a new place to post what he`s thinking. Today he launched what can only be described as a kind of old school blog on the web to get his message out to his followers, something that has become more difficult after his post insurrection bans from social media platforms. Part of that could change tomorrow when an independent oversight board put together by Facebook rules on whether Trump`s account at Facebook should be reinstated that possibility has raised concerns among some House members.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RO KHANNA, (D) CALIFORNIA: I think it would be a mistake to let him back on this early, there`s still a threat in terms of the big lie he`s still promoting that but a few months after the January 6 sensitive just seems too soon to me and I do think it would allow him back on and in a way that could be dangerous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: With that from Congressman Ro Khanna, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Tuesday night, Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, contributor to this network, who just today was named as the new host and moderator of Washington Week on PBS, Dr. Irwin Redlener, the Founding Director of Columbia`s National Center for Disaster Preparedness who advises us on public health, and we welcome to the broadcast tonight, Denver Riggleman, he`s a former Republican Congressman, for the Commonwealth of Virginia, his last day in office was three days before the January 6 riots. He was one of a handful of House Republicans who immediately acknowledged Joe Biden`s 2020 election win.

Indeed, Congressman, by welcoming you to the broadcast, I`d like to begin with you tonight and a quote from a Wall Street Journal editorial just written and posted this evening. This gets your attention. This is about Donald Trump losing in 2020. Republicans should find a way to speak this truth to voters in 2022 and quickly turned to running on an agenda for the future. That will check Mr. Biden and his cradle to grave entitlement state. Purging Liz Cheney for honesty would diminish the party. Congressman, is that about speak for you?

DENVER RIGGLEMAN, (R) VIRGINIA FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: It does. I tell you, I don`t think anybody though, is going to run away from Donald Trump right now. If you`re looking at the polling, you`re looking at the fundraising, it seems like he`s still the one that everybody sort of gravitates to, especially when you see the conga line or the pilgrimage down to Mar-a-Lago. But I think right now, Liz did something I think that was crossing the political line, we can talk about polling, we can talk about fundraising, we can guess that the internal polling looks bad for Liz or looks very good for stop the steal our election integrity language. But what she did is she hit them right squarely in the self preservation button. And that was the issue when she opposed or she actually agreed there should be a January six, you know, commission, and she opposed McCarthy on that. And I think that`s where it got personal. Because I think McCarthy tried to protect some of those members, maybe from being subpoenaed, maybe from himself being subpoenaed. And I think that`s when it went sideways, Brian, is when she went against Kevin on the on the January 6 commission.

WILLIAMS: Yamiche, if you can take a baby, step back and tell us how it is that things have reached the stage where a bedrock conservative veteran member of Congress from an incredible Republican political pedigree is now the enemy and her party?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS NEWSHOUR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Will taking that step back, Brian, means really getting to the heart of this, which is that Liz Cheney`s said the reason why Republicans are turning on hers, because she will not lie about an election. She will not say that the President legitimately elected is actually the legitimate leader of this country. Instead, Republicans want to beach to their voters, this lie that that President Trump again, and that they of course took all the way through, and it spread in so many different states.

Kevin McCarthy here, Leader McCarthy here is saying that this is about Liz Cheney, not following the message of the Republican Party. But what he`s not saying in that same message is that the message of the Republican Party is about saying that this election was stolen from President Trump when they know that that`s not true. They know that that`s not true, because Republican Secretary of the states told them it`s not true. They know it`s not true, because the Attorney General said that the former Attorney General, Attorney General Barr, who was a staunch advocate for former President Trump said he did not find any massive voter fraud, but because Liz Cheney, and just standing there and telling the truth is in some ways a contrast every single day to Kevin McCarthy, who is having to lead a Republican Party that has to go in this direction of conspiracy theories down this road with their with their voters, and is not able to really say to their voters, we lost this election, we can win the next one. That is where this -- where we got here. And of course, we`re only 118 days past with a mob stormed into the Capitol because of that lie, though, because that sentiment that got so many people to break into the heart of our democracy is continuing to spread itself all over this country. Liz Cheney found herself in this position where she is at this point, it seems the fix is in it`s what lawmakers are telling reporters and she`s already has contenders calling people around her membership to try to run against her.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, thankfully, you`re here to help us pivot to the pressing need on the subject of vaccines. It is striking news to learn after what we`ve lived through and witnessed that we now have too much supply, does it indicate to you that the hard part is ahead? What`s this next couple of weeks going to look like in terms of trying to get vaccines into arms?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Right, so I think, Brian, that people are now aware of the fact that we`ve gotten the so called low hanging fruit. And we`re now on to the bigger challenges of trying to get the people who are vaccine hesitant and vaccine resistant on board, not to mention what`s going to be, I think, a pretty big challenge in trying to get all of the children in the United States vaccinated as well. And all this represents the whole new stage of vaccinating America against the pandemic COVID-19. And it`s going to be tough, but I do think that the administration is confident. I spoke with the administration officials just today about this, and they`re confident that we`re going to cross the line where we have enough people vaccinated, that sometime in July, we`ll have really tamped down the spread of infection. Hopefully, that`s provided, Brian, that we do not get an uptick in variants of the virus that may be dangerous, more lethal, and more easily spreadable, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Congressman, back to you and sadly, we must return to politics. A question about Republican Leader McCarthy, I take what you said about the conga line down to Mar-a-Lago, at least they own it, they`re open and public about it. But is this a straight up hit job by McCarthy? Is he doing this to please Donald Trump and your view?

RIGGLEMAN: Well, he has to right now, I guess, you know, everything`s about follow the money even in politics. And when you look at the funding lines that the Republicans are, I would say, depending on for 2022 that all leads to Mar-a-Lago and I`ve said that so many times that 2022 is to Mar-a-Lago, especially with the GOP and what they have to do to actually win that they believe that they have to do that based again on election integrity stop this deal. And some of the things that they`ve been following, which are they`re obviously untrue, but you know, and that`s what happening to Liz right now. Brian, Liz is going to probably lose, at least a phonics probably going to be in there somebody like that, who`s shown appropriate loyalty to Trump. But I`m going to say this. I don`t -- I think Liz doesn`t care as much as people think. I think she`s doing the right thing. I think she has a clear conscience. And I think her give a damn is busted right now. I know mine is, I remember when I was speaking on the floor against QAnon, I was the only one down there doing that. I remember walking out and I was incredibly alone. I know what that feels like. But you get to a point where you think that facts have to win over fantasy, and that your service to the people is well over your service to a party or to politics that`s gone completely off the rails. What scares me though, is that this message is working in a lot of America, especially for the GOP in 2022. And my fear is that message will propel them to the majority just on that type of fantasy and again, as somebody who`s who still identifies as a conservative, that`s very difficult for me to get my arms around when fantasy wins over facts. And when politics win over people, it`s just an awful thing.

WILLIAMS: Something that is actually a fact while we were having our conversation one Ted Cruz posted a photo from Mar-a-Lago tonight where he made the pilgrimage, to go down and be with Donald Trump and there they are enjoying coffee at the intimate dinner table in Mar-a-Lago, can`t make this up. He reports Trump is in good spirits.

Yamiche, back to the Biden White House, infrastructure, jobs, American families, how much pressure, how much urgency do they feel? And is the sensation sinking in, this is going to be party line, if they can keep their party together?

ALCINDOR: In talking to White House official, my sense is that they`re really trying to talk to Republicans really trying to see if there`s any sort of bipartisan plan that can be put together on this issue of infrastructure, as well as on this issue of all of the other bill, what the other bill really ends in talks about which is about education and health care, and really helping people survive and thrive in America. That being said, I do get a sense talking to lawmakers on the hill, as well as talking to some Senior White House aide that they are also very clear that they cannot just wait around for Republicans to try to come up with some sort of compromise. They are really understanding of the of the calendar, thinking about Memorial Day and the sort of deadline I`m hearing from lawmakers, as when they have to decide if they`re going to go it alone. And there is this sense that they are going to lean on this new idea of bipartisanship being something out in the country and leaning on the idea that they can say our ideas were very popular with the American people, even if Republicans didn`t want to sign on. Because if history is a guy here, they only have until about 2022, if the House does change hands for them to really get these big policies done, and President Biden ran on this idea that he wanted to be the sort of FDR types figure that was generationally going to change people`s lives. And to do that, that means he`s going to have to beg, he`s going to have to bet really big on his plans and his idea. So that`s why you hear the president saying over and over again, begin to not go too small, we can`t be scared about going too big. We have to just get this done. I`m it`s not in the same urgency, I feel and talking to people as the COVID relief, but they still understand that all the things that they`re trying to do with those other two bills with jobs and family, but it is something that goes straight to the heart of American people and the things that we`ve seen happen in this pandemic, with people really struggling economically and socially.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, you get the last word, your life`s work and training was as a pediatrician. There`s this talk today about Pfizer getting, applying for approval to start vaccinations at age two. I know you`re going to say it`s a matter between parents and their children and their physician. But are there any red flags that you see on the horizon that would put any impediments to that approval?

REDLENER: Well, I think it`s going to be controversial, Brian, because there are some parents who are very anxious to get their children of any age vaccinated. I think that`s a good thing for the country. And it`s a good thing for tamping down the spread of the virus, but on the other hand, there are going to be parents who may be resistant and I think it`s going to be a big communication challenge. I personally feel it kind of is between parents and their docs. But it also is a matter of it very important public policy as we tried to make sure that we have enough people vaccinated in the country, including kids, to make sure that we`ve reduced the spread of the coronavirus to an absolute minimum, Brian, and that`s going to take a lot of children being vaccinated, and hopefully parents will get that point.

WILLIAMS: Our sincere appreciation to our big three on this Tuesday night. To our friend Yamiche Alcindor and again, especially from those of us who knew and worked with the late great Gwen Ifill, we know something about how meaningful today`s news was to you. Our sincere congratulations to you, Yamiche and our thanks for taking our questions after the day you`ve had, to Dr. Irwin Redlener as well and former Congressman Denver Riggleman. Thank you, welcome to the broadcast. I appreciate the three of you starting us off.

Coming up for us, he spent two decades in the U.S. Senate. He battled Mitch McConnell every day for years and live to tell about it. Former Democratic Leader Harry Reid standing by to tell us what he wants to see from his party.

And later, they were just two couples having a visit in the living room. We`ll talk about why this particular photo blew up the internet overnight, THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on this Tuesday evening.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY MINORITY LEADER|: To sum it up, we`re happy to take a look at an infrastructure package that`s what basically both sides agree is infrastructure, and we`re not willing to pay for it by undoing the 2017 tax bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Our next guest spent decades on the opposite side of the aisle negotiating with or trying to Mitch McConnell in the U.S. Senate, former senator a former Democratic Leader Harry Reid says his party should not hold back on an ambitious agenda. He writes in the Las Vegas Sun, "We have to meet this moment and the scale of our country`s crises with transformational investments in clean energy and infrastructure. If Congress goes big, goes bold and goes quickly, the possibilities for progress are immense." We are pleased to welcome to the broadcast former Senate Majority Leader, the proud native of searchlight Nevada, Harry Reid.

Senator, it`s great to have you. I hope we find you in good health. And my first question is, if this isn`t going big on the part of Joe Biden, how would you define going big?

HARRY REID, (D) NEVADA FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, I think Joe Biden has done what needs to be done in this country. We are so far behind and roads, bridges, dams, water systems, sewer systems. And every dollar we spend on getting infrastructure is a correction toward cleaner America.

The number one issue facing America today, no matter the age group is climate change. And it`s changing before our eyes. And what President Biden is done with his jobs bill, he first of all got, did something like coronavirus should have been done years ago, took care of that. Now his jobs bill is something that is really needed in this country. Again, I say the number one issue facing America is the climate change. And his bill dealing with infrastructure is taking a whack at climate change in a big bold way.

WILLIAMS: Well, let`s talk about the possible versus the future. As you know, the Trump base does not share your view or the Democrats view on climate change to take one issue, as you know better than most living Americans, you got to be in the majority to get what you want through Congress. Are you worried that something like the midterms in 2022 may already be baked against the Democrats and it`s going to be a steep road in the House for starters?

REID: I think Joe Biden is going to push very, very hard to get an infrastructure bill before the midterm election. I think that`s extremely important to do. And I think it`s something that we need to take a look at his bill 90% of the jobs who created in his jobs bill will go to people with -- 90% will we go to people without a college education. Here are the people who have been hurt so bad with pandemic. These are jobs that are really important to America. So I think that what Biden is done, and moving forward with this bold plan is something that is long needed, and it`s going to do a great deal for our country and the world doing what dealing with the energy crisis.

WILLIAMS: And the job you once held is Mr. Schumer from New York and it`s going to be a tough slog for him in part because he really can`t count on every member with a D after their name, let alone this talk of bipartisanship, getting Republicans to walk across the aisle. I want to ask you about the Joe Manchin and before I do, I`ll read you this quote from an interview he gave USA Today. He says, I talk to everybody, I have dinner with everybody. If I can find a pathway forward, we`re going to find it. You can`t find it unless you know people and unless you truly want to be a friend, and want to work in an honest way, not a gotcha moment.

Of course, the question is, here`s a Democrat from a state that went for Trump by 40 points. So we get that. And I`m not trying to force you to say something impolite. But how is he still a Democrat if his vote with the Dems can`t be counted on when it`s time for the big stuff?

REID: I think we should look at what`s going to ultimately happen. Senator Schumer is going to do the right thing. And what he`s going to do is he will give the Republicans a little time to see if they`re willing to work with us on reasonable approach. I think the answer to that already, no, but I think he has to do that to the right thing. But if that doesn`t come to be, the Democrats can do this. There are legislative ways this can be done. And I think anything that can be done, will be done to Joe Manchin will be part of that program.

WILLIAMS: Final question to you, Senator about what`s happening in the Republican Party. What does it say when as I`ve been calling her tonight, a bedrock conservative from an unimpeachable Republican political pedigree in the State of Wyoming is now viewed as the enemy and the Republican caucus in the House?

REID: Brian, I believe in a strong two party system, that`s been the strength of our country for generations. We are the envy of the rest of the world. They have two parties with the parliamentary systems around the world, and they can`t form governments. We`ve not had that problem. I believe I repeat in a strong two party system. But I think the Republicans need to find their way. Because the Republican Party that we now have is not the Republican Party of John Chafee, Mark Hatfield, those people who were really stalwarts in moving the country forward. And I think the Republicans need to move forward and get a different Republican Party. And that`s why you have people who want a good Republican Party. Projects like the Lincoln project, doing everything that they can to reestablish the Republican Party, problem, a party of problem solvers, not a party of goofballs, led by our former president.

WILLIAMS: Former leader for the Democrats in the U.S. Senate, veteran long time a senator himself, Harry Reid, of the great state of Nevada. Senator, thank you again, for coming on. We wish you good health.

REID: You`re welcome, Brian, thank you very much.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, following our next break, Liz Cheney wins praise from an unlikely source. We`ll play it for you among other things when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: I do commend Lynne Cheney for her courage, for her patriotism. And I wish her well. Perhaps this challenge will make her stronger. I don`t know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Liz Cheney`s grip on her number three House Republican leadership spod grows more tenuous by the day on a possible replacement. The website Punchbowl news is reporting the consensus is that it has to be a woman. To that point, Speaker Pelosi mock Republicans with this headline today from the GOP leadership help wanted non-threatening female.

By the way, the early money as you`ve heard is on upstate New York republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, 36-year-old ardent Trumper with a Harvard degree back with us tonight, Juanita Tolliver, a veteran political strategist to mostly progressive candidates and causes. And Tim Miller, a contributor over at the Bulwark and the former comms director for Jeb Bush. Good evening, and welcome to you both.

Juanita, let`s start with what`s going on among Republicans. How do you reckon we got to where we are with a, again, a bedrock conservative member of the House like Liz Cheney.

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Years of blind loyalty to Trump and a GOP that doesn`t know how to shake him. And when Pelosi put out her message today, like it really hit the nail on the head with what we know that Rep Cheney has been up against, especially thinking back to the February caucus meeting within the GOP, where they were saying her defiant tone is the issue. She`s not cute. She`s not humble, she -- in the fact that she feels like she`s on the side with the opposition.

And these messages are coming at a moment when Cheney is speaking the truth to the American public when the GOP refuses to and instead they`re looking for someone who will again blindly be loyal to Trump, blindly follow his messaging, and be loyal to the party, which Cheney is speaking about principles and about truth in a moment when it`s essential that people understand the 2020 election was stolen. And honestly, this approach by the GOP is a threat to our democracy.

WILLIAMS: So Tim, it might be proof that it`s McCarthy pleasing Trump if indeed the candidate to replace Cheney if she`s toppled is young Congresswoman Stefanik. You know her bio probably as well as anybody, family had a plywood business she was a star student ends up at Harvard, ends up at the Bush 43 White House working on Bolton staff when he was chief of staff. How do you reckon she became such a fawning Trump supplicant, which tells people she has the inside track for this post?

TIM MILLER, FMR. COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR JEB BUSH: It looks shamelessness and ambition, Brian. I mean, look, there`s no bigger contrast. And that describes what`s happening at this point. Then if you look at Liz Cheney and Elise Stefanik, Liz Cheney is a hardline conservative, too conservative for me, frankly, but she`s willing to say the truth about what happened on January 6.

Elise Stefanik was a moderate member. She worked with me at the RNC on that famed autopsy that called for Moderating on Immigration Reform, reaching out towards women and minority communities. And then Donald Trump came along and she saw her path to power was shamelessness, was sucking up to Donald Trump, she recognized there were not a lot of women in the Republican Party. There were not a lot of MAGA women for sure. And that she had a path to leadership if she just shed all of her past and got straight on the Trump train.

And it`s paying off for and I think that shows that this a party that is all about service to Trump and nothing about policy, nothing about conservatism because if so, they would go with Liz Cheney, who is a much more conservative record than Elise Stefanik. And none of that stuff matters anymore. This is about willingness to lie for Donald Trump even though lost his home in Mar-a-Lago.

MILLER: Tim, I will see your shamelessness and ambition and raise you one Josh Hawley. He was did a live interview today with the Washington Post on his book of all things and Senator Hawley, he have raised clenched fist fame was asked about that gesture, among other things, we`ll play that talk about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDOE CLIP)

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): When I walked by that particular group of folks were standing there peacefully behind police barricades well off of the plaza, and I waved to them gave him the thumbs up, bump my fist to them. And it thanked him for being there. And they had every right to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After what happened, do you regret that at all?

HAWLEY: No, because I don`t know which of those protesters if any of them, those demonstrators participated in the criminal riot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

So Tim, apparently the protesters were set up along the lines of the Department of Justice. There was a criminal division and a Civil Division. He was gesturing with a raised fist to the Civil Division. Do you buy it?

MILLER: No, yes, I`ll add anxiousness and mendacity to shamelessness for Josh Hawley. And he`s so greasy and it`s so phony. It`s just unbelievable. No, he knew and look, here`s the problem with this. And you all know this, but everyone who was there was advancing this line that the election was stolen, that Josh Hawley perpetrated even though he knows that and so he is guilty. They are all guilty whether or not they sentence Speaker Pelosi as chair or not. And sadly, it`s only Liz Cheney is going to suffer any consequences while Josh Hawley gets to smugly do a book tour and pretend like he`s being persecuted.

WILLIAMS: And Ted Cruz is having dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Let`s not forget. hey, Juanita, I know this is a downer, but I want to hear your take on it. This is Tom Friedman`s op-ed in the New York Times, we are not OK. America`s democracy is still in real danger. In fact, we are closer to a political civil war more than at any other time in our modern history. Today`s seeming political calm is actually resting on a false bottom that we`re at risk of crashing through at any moment.

And, Juanita, do you think there is something to that argument that kind of centrist and certainly Americans on the left have felt? Well, Joe Biden`s got this they feel a false sense of security at his mere presence?

TOLLIVER: No, Brian, I don`t think there`s a false sense of security. I think there`s a reality that Democrats in the White House need to take as much action as possible right now to shore up our democracy that includes patching HR 1 and HR 4, to make sure that voters across this country can cast their ballots safely, because that`s absolutely right. This big lie has transitioned now into a systematic taking down of voter ability to access the polls and voter suppression bills across the country.

So I don`t think anybody has any sense of false sense of comfort just by Biden being in the White House when we know that these laws being sent around the country are going to show up immediately and have a negative impact not only in the midterms, but on our democracy functioning writ large.

WILLIAMS: To our viewers, we don`t make up the times or the topics but thank goodness for two friends of the broadcast like these Juanita Tolliver, Tim Miller, thank you both very much for coming on. We`ll do this again as you know.

Coming up for us, we will dive into the profane with an authorized linguist. We`ll explain all of it when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: In his new book, a longtime friend of this broadcast the noted linguist and author John McWhorter explores the evolution of some of the most notorious profanities in all of the English language. He writes this, in part quote, on that matter of evolution, profanity has known three main eras, when the worst you could say was about religion, when the worst you could say was about the body, and when the worst you could say was about groups of people. The accumulation of those taboos is why just words, respectively harbor such sting.

Back with us again tonight, easily our favorite linguist John McWhorter, arm with a PhD in linguistics from Stanford. He is a professor at Columbia University, contributor at the Atlantic and as we mentioned, his new book is "Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter -- Then Now and Forever, "and a caveat to our friends watching.

Early in the evening on the west coast, your children are in no danger. We are so classy that we can have this conversation without actually mentioning the terrible words.

John how other than what we just read, how have our profanities, migrated and mutated to match sensitivities which are as we see every day a moving target?

JOHN MCWHORTER, "NINE NASTY WORDS" AUTHOR: Well, of course, it used to be that you didn`t even say you are religious, what we think of as religious was just a worldview that was science. And so being profane, meant profaning religious figures, that as time goes by, there`s more of an emphasis upon privacy and propriety. And what becomes profane rather than just kind of Beavis and Butthead is things with sex and excretion and the body. So those are the quote unquote, four letter words that we really think of as hot peppers, but then again, these days, they are I probably use the word F-U-C-K, about 100 times a day and I`m a very starchy person. I think I`m normal.

In that nowadays, what an anthropologist would call our profanity is what we call, because language is arbitrary slurs. And so the N word is the classic example. But then there are other ones referring to, for example, k men or two women. Those are the words that occupy the slot that the grand old exGrecianal (ph) four letter words back in the day once did.

WILLIAMS: Serious question, because last couple times we had you on was obviously to talk about the deleterious effect our former president had on discourse on language in our country, by how much in your view over just the space of four years did he normalize? I`m trying to think of all the words band in my mother`s household as a kid, most of them still hold up pretty well, by how much did he normalize some of the words that would have been on a list 10 years ago?

MCWHORTER: Well, to tell you the truth, I think that he was a symptom, the fact that he could, sometimes on the record, and then off the record, even more, shall we say, colorfully, indulge in certain words. And I think all of us right now thinking about one that begins with E, the fact that that was his essence is because the truth is that those sorts of words, these days qualify less, you know, that you`ve all people know, not pardon him about anything, including him being alive.

But the fact is that those words today are not profane, as much as that they`re salty, and he being, you know, 70 and changes (ph) of just the age where he grew up, when those sorts of things were changing. Notice that what you didn`t hear coming from even him, even him, were certain words such as the N word, and other ones where we don`t hear about those, although, of course, he skirted them. And depending on where you classify these words, he even said them.

And so it`s a matter of what we are hung up upon in our society. And in a way, it`s an advanced that we`re more hung up on slurring groups than on talking about PP, et cetera. But he was a symptom of how things have changed that a president would allow himself to say such things in such a way that anybody even might be recording it and sometimes even when he knew people were.

WILLIAMS: People of a certain age may remember Lenny Bruce was arrested for nine words George Carlin made a living based on seven of them to modernize the form. This new book is called "Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter -- Then, Now and Forever." I can vouch and it`s really author who happens to have the best words. John McWhorter, thank you very much for staying up with us.

Coming up for us. What could happen when the American forces the last of them, leave the people of Afghanistan? Our own Richard Engel is there we will hear from him on that topic next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: A report released just today by the U.S. National Intelligence council warns the Taliban would rollback women`s rights should they regain control of Afghanistan as so many fear. It comes after the president of course announced U.S. forces would leave Afghanistan by September 11. Our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is back in Afghanistan tonight and he`s talking about the uncertainty that lies ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the praise beauty salon in Kabul, all the talk today is about the Taliban and whether the Islamic fanatics will return as U.S. troops leave and make these simple things a crime.

The Taliban banned makeup and hairstyling, women and girls couldn`t go to school or work. The salon owner Allian (ph) says women have now become members of society, doctors and lawyers under American protection.

If the Taliban returned, it will be a disaster she says.

In an undisclosed location in Kabul in hiding, I met a group of former translators for the U.S. military who say they`re marked men, they want to leave with U.S. troops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the final stage. We have to make it now or we will never.

ENGEL (on camera): So it`s now or never?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

ENGEL (on camera): Hilaw (ph) help the U.S. military find fight and kill the Taliban. He received a medal from U.S. troops when he was injured on a combat mission and kept working for five days.

(on camera): You feel like you`re being left behind?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course they have done this with us. We have been forgetting up to now.

ENGEL: Do you think you will survive?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t. I can`t stay anymore right here. I will try my best to be alive and go to the European country. I will leave my family.

ENGEL (voice-over): These men say they`re proud to have helped U.S. forces they were fighting for their country to, but that it could cost them everything.

(on camera): The U.S. has a program to offer asylum to translators. But thousands of interpreters here have joined a petition complaining it`s too slow and they`ve been excluded. The Taliban now controls about half of this country and they`re making a push as U.S. forces leave. Brian.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

WILLIAMS: Richard, thank you for that. Our Richard Engel back in Afghanistan for us tonight.

Coming up for us this evening. What happened inside this graceful home in Georgia? Was it magic or trick photography? We`ll explain the social media dysmorphia surrounding mysterious photo of some very famous people.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, let`s have a frank talk about shrinkage not the Seinfeld the unkind. This is a family broadcast after all, but the kind that visits all of us if we are lucky enough to live a good long life. Shrinkage is in the news because well we`ll let the Washington Post tell the story.

After the internet lost its mind over a photo their headline reads are the Biden`s giants, are the Carters tiny or are ours failing us.

Let`s back up just a moment the Biden`s stopped by the Carter`s decidedly modest home in plains Georgia last week during a visit to Georgia and no, no one`s eyes are failing them. Joe Biden`s slightly over 5`11, the first lady is 5`6. Mrs. Cartser uses a walker from time to time these days. The former president spends some of his time in a wheelchair having survived any number of harrowing cancer scares, tumbles, false scrapes and injuries.

Also Jimmy Carter is 96 and his wife is 93. President Carter was the first president born in a hospital at the time of his birth in 1924,Calvin Coolidge was President Robert, Todd Lincoln and Annie Oakley were still alive. The Carters have been married for 74 years. They were married during the Truman administration. They are old.

Jimmy Carter was only 5`10 at his tallest height. Now medically, people in their 70s and 80s are often already one to two inches shorter than they were at age 30 which is generally considered the time when shrinkage begins and we start slowly getting shorter all of us.

The other thing is the Carters are both shown in that photo sitting sunk deeply in their well-worn living room easy chairs. The Washington Post says one technical reason for the seeming dysmorphia is the type of flash that was used and a wide angle lens that favors the foreground and distorts the Biden`s size.

Let`s also note this the respectful thing to do to avoid asking the Carters to rise for a photo is to take a knee, doesn`t matter if you`re the first lady or the President of the United States because after all, in this picture are half of the living democratic president. So no, the only way the Carters have grown at the ages of 96 and 93 is in the esteem of a grateful nation.

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