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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 5/7/21

Guests: Susan Page, Peter Baker, Kavita Patel, Jon Meacham, Caroline Randall Williams


Trump loyalists look to purge GOP of those who dare tell the truth about 2020 election. Pfizer seeks full FDA COVID-19 vaccine approval. The fight over Trump`s big lie further divides the GOP. Former first lady of the U.S., Michelle Obama, said that many black Americans live in fear and she also praises Black Lives Matter. U.S. doctors join India`s desperate COVID fight.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: That`s it for me. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams begins right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, day 108 of the Biden administration and the opposition to the Biden administration, A.K.A the Republican Party is not only firmly in the grip of Donald Trump. Tonight, two of his most devoted acolytes are on the road pushing the big lie to a crowd of loyal Trump supporters. Congressman Matt Gaetz, who happens to be currently under federal investigation for possible sex trafficking and Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, a conspiracy theorist and QAnon supporter will join forces tonight to launch an America First tour with a rally at the largest retirement community in our country, the villages in Florida.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): We have never abandoned Trump, and he has never abandoned America. If Liz Cheney could even find Wyoming on a map and went there, she would find a lot of very angry cowboys who are not happy with the fact that she`s sort of for every war, war in Syria for it, war against Trump and his supporters for it, war against the Republican Conference, war against her own voters. And it appears that Liz Cheney may no longer be the chair of the Republican Conference. This might be the first war she`s ever sought to end.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): The Democrats that say they won the presidential race, the Democrats that are working very, very hard and very fast and aggressively to pass their socialist agenda. You are not going to put us down for loving President Trump and what he did for the past four years.


B. WILLIAMS: This comes at the end of a week in which we witnessed Republicans set in motion the removal of Congresswoman Liz Cheney from the leadership bracket in the House for the crime of rejecting the big lie and actually saying Joe Biden won the election.

"Washington Post" out with new reporting on how the ousting of Republicans like Cheney and control of the party are now at the top of Donald Trump`s post White House agenda. They write that Trump is now quote, refashioning himself as the president of the Republican States of America and reshaping the party in ways both micro and macro. He has privately revived his claims that he plans to run for president again in 2024. And is propelled primarily by a thirst for retribution, an insatiable quest for the spotlight and a desire to establish and maintain total dominance and control over the Republican base.

"New York Times" notes that the party now sees reigniting its culture wars, as their way back to the White House and majorities in Congress. The party is focused on quote, polarizing issues that stoke conservative outrage, like the court expansion bill, calls to defund the police, which many Democrats oppose, and efforts to provide legal status to undocumented immigrants and grant statehood to the District of Columbia.

Even as Trump and his allies focus on future elections, "The Washington Post" has another disturbing report about how Donald Trump`s Justice Department secretly obtained the phone records of Washington Post journalists and tried to obtain their email records over reporting they did in the early months of the administration on Russia`s role in our 2016 election. Here is what Trump was saying during those initial months in office.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks. Those are criminal leaks. I want the Attorney General to be much tougher on the leaks.


B. WILLIAMS: So there you have it. Right now Republicans in several states where they control the legislatures are putting all of their efforts into making it harder to vote, bills introduced in the Ohio House would limit mail-in balloting and reduce early voting. This morning Texas lawmakers passed a bill that would rollback access to the ballot. That comes just a day after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed that measure that also restricts voting in his state. He even held it up to show it off just the way Donald Trump used to.

Meanwhile, the President today faced the biggest challenge yet to his strategy to revive the economy. The Labor Department reported 266,000 jobs were added in April. That`s far short of the 1 million that some economists have expected. Republicans took that data as a sign that the generous jobless benefits included in his American rescue plan, the almost $2 trillion aid bill he signed into law back in March. That is causing a labor shortage and risking inflation.

At the White House, Biden not only defended his strategy, but made a new pitch for his plan to spend another 4 trillion on infrastructure, job creation, and other measures.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We never thought that after the first 50 or 60 days, everything would be fine. Today, there`s more evidence that our economy is moving in the right direction. But it`s clear we have a long way to go. Some critics said that we didn`t need the American rescue plan, that this economy would just heal itself. Today`s report just underscores in my view, how vital the actions we`re taking are, but that`s not nearly enough. We have to build back better. That`s why we need the American jobs plan.


B. WILLIAMS: With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Friday night. Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, Susan Page, a veteran journalists bestselling author, USA Today Washington bureau chief, her latest is "Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power" just out, and Stephanie Ruhle is with us Host of the 9:00 a.m. Eastern hour on MSNBC reports and the NBC News senior business correspondent, good evening, and welcome to you all.

Susan, I would like to start with you. This roadshow in Florida, one member of Congress under federal investigation, the other a QAnon enthusiast, what does it tell you about the state of the party and the depth of the control by one man?

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, you know, some people thought we were heading into a post Trump era for the Republican Party with his defeat for reelection. That is clearly not true. It is still Trump`s Republican Party, in which Matt Gaetz is welcome and Liz Cheney, daughter of the former vice president herself, a veteran member of the Republican establishment is not welcome.

You know, this is not the way -- this is not the customary treatment of losing presidential candidates. Typically, their party finds them to be persona non grata. Not the case with Donald Trump, who`s control of the party and who`s not just big picture things like what does a party stand for, what this message. But down to small things like who`s going to challenge incumbent Republicans like Liz Cheney, in their home state primaries.

B. WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, our mutual friend, Carl Hulse of your paper, writes that Republicans are reviving the battles over cultural issues. But the White House strategy has been to not engage on that level. Is that sustainable for the Biden White House, as they are kind of putting their heads down and pushing through or trying to?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think they don`t want to get distracted from their agenda. Their agenda, of course, is pretty expansive already. They have these $4 trillion, and spending bills you mentioned to build infrastructure and expand the social safety net. They`ve got an immigration overhaul plan. They would like to push through. They`ve got climate initiatives that they`re focused on.

And they understand that every minute they spend talking about Dr. Seuss or some other, you know, cultural wedge issue, that their focus would like to focus on is a moment lost in terms of pushing through that agenda. So they have a kind of discipline we often don`t see in Washington so far. And we`ll see eventually, at some point, of course, you know, President Biden could be, you know, enticed into that conversation.

But for the most part, he`s shown, especially for a guy who spent a lifetime in Washington, kind of popping off sort of ad hoc, he has shown a remarkable, you know, message discipline that we had not used to, from Joe Biden.

B. WILLIAMS: Steph Ruhle to your beat, the -- I think the conventional wisdom was that the economic figures out today were a setback. Can you tell us once and for all what`s going on also in the once and for all category, how much truth is it to the mostly Republican talking point, that people staying home during a pandemic idol are making so much money from the federal government as to not want to or be incentivized to return to work?

STEPHANIE RUHLE, NBC NEWS SR. BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: OK. Well, why don`t we start with that? Yes, there are some people who are being paid more money by the federal government while they`re on this expanded unemployment than they would out there getting a job, but it doesn`t necessarily mean there`s anything wrong with that. It potentially means that this is another call to action to raise the federal minimum wage, right, Brian?

You know, what are we seeing? We`re seeing restaurants, service industry really struggled to rehire. Well, they`ve lost employee because during the pandemic, a lot of those employees went to go work warehouse jobs that do offer health care, that do pay 15, $16 an hour, a regular schedule. When you go back to where we are, those service jobs and restaurants don`t.

This could actually be the final push we get to increase wages. We`re actually seeing that happen. So yes, on its level, you can point to the Democrats and say, look, people are choosing to stay home, even if they are, it`s only for a few more months. And don`t forget, the American rescue plan was just one month ago, and there`s a lot of money in there meant to help get people back to work. It`s not even in the system yet.

Here`s just one example, the $39 billion Biden put forth for childcare, that`s barely even been implemented. So because it hasn`t been yet, all these parents, mostly mothers who are home, can`t suddenly say, oh, there`s 39 billion. Let me hop back to work. None of that money has been spent yet. So to look at this in one month, and say the Biden program isn`t working, we`re just paying people to stay home is completely exaggerated. We`re absolutely on the road to recovery, but it`s not a straight shot.

B. WILLIAMS: Susan, get us back into politics, specifically the Republican Party. Are you mystified at the speed of the eclipse of Liz Cheney helped along by the public directed groveling of Congresswoman Stefanik right to Trump hoping that Trump through McCarthy, she will get that job?

PAGE: Stefanik who was of course a big critic of Trump at one point and has a much more moderate voting record than Liz Cheney does. Yes, I think it is a sign of exactly where the Republican Party is these days. And, you know, we`re now in a situation where even though Trump is out of office, the people in the Republican Party who held office and oppose Trump are now either not Republicans or they`re no longer in office or they decided to stay silent.

There is almost no voice being raised within the GOP at odds with the debunked claim by President Trump, that he actually won the election last November.

B. WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, how did it go over in the newsroom of "The New York Times" when you learn that the reporters in the newsroom of "The Washington Post" had their phone records looked at? What does it reveal or confirm to you and your colleagues?

BAKER: Well, I think like a lot of things over the last four years, it was very shocking, and not at all surprising. In our newsroom at that time in early 2017, there was an extraordinary sense of concern that our communications could be in some way or another intercepted or, you know, turn up in record someplace. I think that`s why you saw a lot of sources in Washington turn to more, you know, encrypted type of communications like signal and other ways of speaking, that would protect hopefully, the confidentiality of the people who are providing us important information.

But you`re right, it`s simply confirms what we`ve known or believed or suspected or feared, basically, for a number of years, which is that in fact, you know, reporter conversations with sources not necessarily respected by our government. By the way that precedes this last administration. That was true during the Obama administration too. Remember the Obama ministration launched more leak investigations than every other president before them combined.

So this is now becoming a trend that is very concerning. Now, we don`t know enough about the specifics of what happened to these particular Washington Post reporters, but they were some of the best reporters out there, breaking some of the biggest stories on the Russia interference in the 2016 election. And I think that this begs for a whole lot more information to come out about what was going on at the Justice Department at that time of why they were trying to obtain these records and what basis they use to do it.

B. WILLIAMS: Stephanie Ruhle, let`s bump the conversation up to a 102 level econ course, of course, I can say that having taken one of them. And here`s the question, higher taxes and the Biden administration effort to raise taxes on certain individuals in our country on the wealthy side, and corporations who got such a gigantic break during the Trump years. Well, anything about that further, negatively, infect number -- affect numbers like the kind that came out today and talk about the risk and worries that we`re starting to pick up you mentioned on inflation.

RUHLE: Listen, inflation is a real worry. We`ve got shortages across this country from chicken to lumber to furniture. And we are seeing things push forward. And things are starting to cost a whole lot more. These concerns are real. Another concern is yes, the Republicans may have this infighting. They may be causing nonsense culture wars. But at the end of the day in 2022, millions of people vote based on what affects them, not offends them.

And they are going to vote, they`re going to say Joe Biden just spent X trillions of dollars, is my life better or is my life worse? And a lot of that rides on the amount of money he`s spending right now and is it going to work. So he`s in a little bit of a tricky situation here. He has a very ambitious plan.

And yes, at a top level, a headline level, we`re going to make things better. We`re going to help the American people. And we`re going to tax the rich. We`re going to tax corporations. That sounds great. But like anything, the devils in the details, right now you`ve got all sorts of high tax blue-ish states, like New York, New Jersey, California, or a Joe Biden needs those people in every possible election. And if they get taxed too much, they may say this plan doesn`t work for me.

B. WILLIAMS: Already hearing today, California had its first dip in population in the modern era with the new census figures just out so this will get interesting. We are much obliged to our big three at the end of a long week on this Friday night. Peter Baker, Susan Page, Stephanie Ruhle, thank you for starting us off.

Coming up for us, how much longer will we have to wear masks indoors? One former chief of the FDA says not much longer at all. We`ll get a second opinion next from our doctor who happens to be standing by. And later, does calling out the big lie make it easier for Republicans to ignore it? We`ll ask two of our favorite experts if something a little stronger like the attempt to overthrow a Democratic election would be more effective. All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Friday night.



JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: So to meet the President`s goal of 70 percent of adult Americans with at least one shot, we need to vaccinate at least another 13 percent of adult Americans by July 4. Our wartime effort is mobilized to meet the President`s goal. And we are in all out implementation and execution mode.


B. WILLIAMS: That was clear and understandable information from our government today. Indeed, as of tonight, over 150 million Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine. While the administration as you heard moves to ramp up vaccination rates, Pfizer has applied for full and official FDA approval of its vaccine.

The vaccine is currently being given out under that temporary emergency use authorization we all became so familiar with. The process for full approval could take months but this change could help breach ongoing hesitancy and raise the issue of mandates. We are pleased to have back with us tonight to help explain all this. Dr. Kavita Patel, a clinical physician, former senior policy aide during the Obama administration. She is for good reason among our public health experts. Additionally, she is a nonresident Fellow at Brookings.

Doctor, again, this is your world and not mine, which is exactly why we have you on and regular intervals. But so many of the interviews you hear in the media with the vaccine hesitant including a heck of a lot of young people, I`m going to wait it out. I`m going to see if it`s safe. I`m going to make sure it works.

So this process of giving it official approval, could that be sped up if we`re clear the medicine is good, if we`re clear about the efficacy knowing that we could use that to get to the hesitant.

DR. KAVITA PATEL, FMR. OBAMA WHITE HOUSE AIDE TO VALERIE JARRETT: Yes, Brian, I think it can be a huge green light because the full approval is basically a little bit of the FDA not just stamp of approval, but it shows through data that we`ve had safety and rigorous evaluations passed that kind of time period six months in longer, so that we understand what the adverse effects could be.

And we`ve got a mounting database of what we call real world evidence in the form of tens of millions of Americans who have received the vaccine. I think the bigger issue is really going to be now we can get these into doctor`s offices much easier. And Brian, I have to tell you, they`ve changed those ultra-freezer requirements. I can have this in one of my offices, seven doses in a vial, which also makes it less wasteful, compared to other more, higher multi dose vials.

So this is a big step. But the communication is going to be key because the avalanche of misinformation, Brian, is far greater than even the FDA is kind of approval clarion call from up high.

B. WILLIAMS: Boy, you`re right about that. And I`m thrilled to hear it is so transportable. That was a big problem early on at what 100, negative 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Let`s switch to the topic of masks. I`m going to play for you the comments today from the former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. We`ll discuss on the other side.


SHEPARD SMITH, NBC HOST: Do you think the CDC can have a meaningful conversation about lifting the mask mandates indoors?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, PFIZER & ILLUMINA BOARD MEMBER: I think we can do it right around now. I think --


GOTTLIEB: -- we should started lifting these restrictions as -- I think we should start lifting these restrictions as aggressively as we put them in. We need to preserve the credibility of public health officials to perhaps reimplement some of these provisions as we get into next winter.


B. WILLIAMS: Scott Gottlieb with Shep Smith on CNBC. So Doctor is I want to know if that`s too aggressive or too rosy or just right, and how would any of this have changed if we hadn`t lived through those Trump daily briefings, meaning if we had left this up to science and medicine from the start and never let it touch the politics of mask wearing?

PATEL: Yes, I think that we could have done a lot to kind of prevent what`s happened now with not just mask, Brian, with vaccines, with mandate, the requirements. I mean, it seems like anywhere you turn, if you have a blue state governor saying one thing, you have an immediate kind of visceral opposite reaction on the science.

So, yes, that would have made a huge difference. The Biden administration is trying to kind of correct that, if you will, regular briefings, transparency. I think so Dr. Gottlieb has been right on so many things. And I think he`s correct in part. I do think that what we need is to give people who were vaccinated a little bit more of that sense of, here`s why you got vaccinated, the data shows us that, Brian, if you get vaccinated, you`re much less likely to get COVID and to give COVID to someone else, but it`s not zero.

And I think what Dr. Gottlieb is really trying to push on is if we can accelerate the incentives to have people have a more normal life, we can also hopefully increase vaccination rate. And I hope that`s what his kind of longer message is. And the reason I`m hesitant, three reasons very quickly, number one, the variant. There an untold -- we just do not know what is coming in around us. And you just have to look at India and Japan and other countries to be scared.

Number two, we still have tens of millions of Americans, Brian, who can`t get vaccinated. Children, they do not have as severe of a form of disease, but they do get hospitalized and they do die. So we do need to be respective of that. But we know that they`ll start to get vaccinated slowly over this year.

And then the third, I think even the most important is that we`re still at about 35,000 cases in a day, coming down 15 to 20 percent each week, Brian. I would love to start seeing cases in the hundreds. That should happen soon. So do I think today take masks off indoors? No. Do I think it`s possible by the end of the summer or kind of around that July 4th period? I think it`s possible.

B. WILLIAMS: Thank you for that explanation and as always for your expertise. Our guest tonight, Dr. Kavita Patel.

Coming up, it`s an all-out attack on the five families not the mob, mind you. It`s the Republican Party we`re talking about. We`ll explain and discuss with two important friends of this broadcast right after this.


B. WILLIAMS: A new piece out in POLITICO today points out that Donald Trump has reserved a special kind of fury for families that helped shape the Republican Party over the years. David Siders writes, quote, whether it`s the Cheneys, the Bushes, the lesser bloodlines such as the Romneys or the Murkowskis, Trump has been relentless in his efforts to force them to bend the knee. Even Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Senator John McCain, who herself has never run for office has been knocked down censured by Trump allies who run the state Republican Party in Arizona. It`s the clearest sign that the modern Republican Party hasn`t just broken with its traditionalist past. It is shredding every vestige of it.

Back with us again tonight, Caroline Randall Williams, author, poet, academic, and observer of all things political, writer-in-residence with the Department of Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winning author, presidential historian on the Rogers chair in the American presidency at the aforementioned Vanderbilt University. Vanderbilt is well represented tonight. He occasionally advises President Biden on historical matters and major speeches. He also has a new podcast Fate of Fact, which looks back through history for times when fear conquered truth. The first two episodes are now up and available.

I hope there are other people left on the payroll while you two are busy with us. Jon, I`d like to begin with you. Mr. Better Angels, can you name a time when there has been such a public and thorough top to bottom shredding of the ideals and ideas of a major Republican Party, a major political party, forgive me.

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Not since 18, the late 1850s and the early 1860s. I will say thankfully, I am not a poet. So I`m glad Caroline is here to do this. The conflicting visions of identity, the conflicting visions of power, and the basis on which those two visions were founded, were most in conflict in the Civil War. But it was two fundamentally different visions.

One, they both had theological components. They both had economic components. They both had political components. And Abraham Lincoln, it felt to him to adjudicate between those two conflicting visions of reality. And my native region, the South -- the white South, decided that they would rather take a stand, secede and preserve and antiquated and the forced labor slavery order.

So that`s the last time you had something as stark as what we`re seeing now. And I think that my own view is that you`re always going to have QAnon people, you know, we`re always going to have John Birch society, you know, there`s always a fringe in American politics.

What is so destabilizing and dispiriting about this moment in American life is that the party of Eisenhower and Reagan and the Bushes, no matter how much you want in Nixon, no matter how much you disagree with those folks, they were part of a coherent conversation that represented reform and reaction conservatism and progressivism. And that`s what the constitution was set up to preserve, to establish that conversation to set its norms and to understanding that we were all fall and frail and fallible, and we were all -- we needed those guardrails in order to adjudicate our interests. The Republican Party, as currently constituted and run is not part of that coherent conversation right now.

B. WILLIAMS: Professor Williams indeed, the CNN polling this week that has garnered so much attention says that 70 percent of Republican respondents believe the election was indeed stolen. Tom Friedman wrote a bracing column this week that actually echoes things I have heard you say, it`s his opinion that our democracy is still very much in real danger with everything coming out of the big lie.

My question to you Professor has to do with the phrase I just used. And this in a way calls artillery in -- on our own business. Are we diminishing it by using a kind of jargon, a toss off phrase, the big lie? Would it do a better service to the attacked democracy was under and is under to say things like the attempt to violently overthrow a Democratic election?

CAROLINE RANDALL WILLIAMS, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY WRITER-IN-RESIDENCE: I`m so grateful for that question actually, Brian, because I think it hadn`t occurred to me to think about reframing the big lie. But I think, yes, I think that we are doing a disservice. But I think that we can only reframe it and change our language, if we`re prepared to back up our articulation of what`s actually going on with some kind of ordered action in terms of, you know, shoring up people`s voting rights, shoring up people`s capacity to have access to an education about what this country has been.

I live in a state where there are bills on the floor that would defund schools that teach critical race theory, that teach what`s actually going on, the extraordinary exchange that happened on the floor in Texas where that, you know, moron didn`t know what the purity, you know, what the what -- what the purity the language around purity of the vote was about, right?

So I think, if we are actually going to say democracy is under attack, and we`re actually in danger, and that when Benjamin Franklin said, this is Republic, if we can keep it and that if is underscored, you know, infinite times right now. If, if, if we can keep it, if we are prepared to acknowledge that that`s where we are. Because Jon is right, this is deeply reminiscent in some terrifying and complicated ways of a pre-Civil War America.

It`s also in my mind, deeply reminiscent, you know, this sort of disenfranchisement of the Republican elite in America right now feels like, you know, the fall of the Kaiser like, I feel like we`re in 1919 Germany right now, too. Like, there`s echoes of that as well. Stephen Miller is like gobbles to be, I shouldn`t say that but it`s just, it`s true. We`re having this conversation.

We`re in danger. We have to figure out how to preserve decency. And we have to also acknowledge that there are Americans in this country that aren`t actually interested in preserving the unalienable rights of all Americans. That`s what the America first caucus is about. And we just have to name that and figure out what to do with it if we`re brave enough to name it.

B. WILLIAMS: Both of our guests thankfully staying with us as I fit in a break. When we come back, Michelle Obama`s candid take on the Chauvin verdict and all related matters.



MICHELLE OBAMA, FMR. FIRST LADY: We know that while we`re all breathing a sigh of relief over the verdict, there`s still work to be done. And so we can`t sort of say, great that happened. Let`s move on. I know that people in the black community don`t feel that way because they -- many of us still live in fear as we go to the grocery store or worry about our --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Walking our dogs.

OBAMA: Walking our dogs or allowing our children to get a license. I like so many parents of black kids have to -- that the innocent act of getting a license puts fear in our hearts.


B. WILLIAMS: Some very candid comments from the former first lady that will ring true for so many of our fellow citizens just over two weeks after a jury convicted Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd. He is now facing federal charges. Grand jury indicted Chauvin and three other Minneapolis officers for violating George Floyd civil rights during the arrest that led to his death. Chauvin also facing an additional separate civil rights charge for a 2017 incident where he struck a 14-year-old boy in the head with a flashlight before holding his knee on the boy`s back for 17 minutes.

In that incident, our guests remain with us, Professor Williams to you about what the former first lady had to say. Most popular woman in the world and opinion poll after opinion poll, no matter, arguably among the most powerful in the world, no matter, Princeton undergrad Harvard Law School, immaterial. For the purposes of this conversation, she`s the mom of two black children in the United States of America in 2021. Your thoughts?

C. WILLIAMS: -- is on trial right now. Our capacity to imagine the legitimate fears of our fellow Americans is on trial, our capacity to especially when it comes to white Americans imagining the legitimate fear of black lives in the face of police. The capacity of white police officers to harness their -- not harness, to manage and understand their own bias before they make decisions is on trial right now.

I think this is a question of us figuring out what it means when we ask someone to trust us. And I think that everyone in America has to take a very serious look at why on earth. Given the legacy of this country, you know, from its inception, to the present to George Ford`s trial, why on earth should people of color be the first ones to, you know, lay down, lay down their grievances and say we trust you back.

We need trustworthiness to be fortified and restored from the side of the people in positions of power in this country. I think about I don`t have any children yet. But my children will be black Americans too. And I -- this climate is making me change my mind about my hopes for the future. It`s complicating the way that I make choices because I don`t -- I`m terrified of the idea of giving birth to people who I know will be in danger by virtue of where I chose to give birth to them.

And this country owes my future children, better than that it owed my family who fought and died for this country while still drinking out of colored water fountains better than that. I don`t know what else to say except for that we`ve got to do better faster.

B. WILLIAMS: This is why when we have these two guests on their words often echoes for days later. Jon Meacham coming off, those powerful words, something I almost don`t want to ask you, what`s the chance we`re going to see something more volatile than what we just live with?

MEACHAM: Oh, huge, you know, the forces that Caroline is talking about, the forces that gave us the last five years, the forces that gave us our worst moments, which are not simply moments, they are also structural and unfolding, those forces are perennial. And the test of a democracy, the test of a civilization is how do you push the forces that are evil, that cause pain, that are fundamentally divisive and deny common humanity? How do those forces ebb instead of flow? And right now they`re flowing.

They will never be, you know, John Lewis and I argued about this for 30 years. He`s John Lewis, so believe him. He believed that if our dispositions of heart and mind were all oriented in the right direction. That in fact, the beloved community, the kingdom of heaven, could come into being on Earth. I`m more of a tragic sensibility than that.

But again, he`s John Lewis. So he`s probably right. My sense is that if we can, and I`m not even going to say recover, because I don`t think we`ve ever been right been where we should be, right? This is not about recovering some mythic past where everything was great. It wasn`t. There wasn`t a once upon a time in American history, there`s not going to be a happily ever after in American history, because we`re human.

And a Republic is the fullest expression, the fullest manifestation of who we are. And when people -- when something happens, like George Floyd, when people say, oh, this isn`t who we are, the hell it`s not who we are. Of course, it is. Caroline and I are sitting in a state that, you know, fundamentally denied human rights until the day before yesterday. And so -- and continues to try to do it.

So let`s be honest, let`s be straightforward about what we have to confront. And let`s figure out a way for America to be a covenant, as opposed to arena of perpetual contention for self-advantage for the people who are doing the fighting. That`s what the Republican Party`s doing right now. They`re not interested in enacting a philosophy. They`re interested in the will to power.

They`re about the marshaling, and then the maintenance of that power. And the left could go crazy and do that too, tomorrow. But they`re not doing it today. And so that`s why I`m not going to say, oh, well, on both sides, you have this because that that`s not fair. That`s a false equivalence right now.

And so in a covenant, to go to Caroline`s point, we see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors. That`s what citizenship should be. And I will say this. I think we`re in a better place today because Joe Biden is President than we were X number of months ago when he wasn`t. But that`s not the singular solution. He is not Fortinbras who can simply descend and put everything into order. That depends on all of us.

B. WILLIAMS: Two of Vanderbilt`s finest. We`re lucky to have them despite the contents of our world and our conversation tonight. Professors Caroline Randall Williams, Jon Meacham, our thanks as always.

Coming up for us, the virus disaster crushing India, the helplessness among all of us watching it unfold and a couple from this country who have found a way to help.


B. WILLIAMS: The virus has overrun hospitals in India where these days the most valuable currency is an oxygen bottle. They need doctors as well. NBC News correspondent Dasha Burns spoke with a couple in New Jersey who are doing what they can to help.


DASHA BURNS, NBC NEWS REPORTER (voice-over): Doctors Avinash and Geeta Gupta just finished a 10 hour hospital shift at Monmouth Medical Center in New Jersey. Now at home, they`re gearing up for a different kind of shift, triage seeing and treating COVID patients in India.

DR. GEETA GUPTA, MONMOUTH MEDICAL CENTER: Twenty milligrams twice daily.

BURNS (voice-over): The country is in the throes of a COVID catastrophe, India`s healthcare system past its breaking point. I.V.s hang from trees as sick patients are treated on the ground.

G. GUPTA: There is no hospital beds and no oxygen, no base -- even basic things.

BURNS (voice-over): For more than two weeks, there have been over 300,000 new cases every single day. The Guptas both from India sprang into action, launching a growing coalition of Indian American doctors in the U.S. using telemedicine to help.

DR. AVINASH GUPTA, MONMOUTH MEDICAL CENTER: This way we can, not clog the hospitals and leave the beds open for patients who are really sick.

BURNS (voice-over): They answer questions from patients and frightened family members.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I keep both mother and son in the same room?

BURNS (voice-over): They look over test results and recommend treatments.

G. GUPTA: Let me know if you get worse.

BURNS (on camera): How significant could this kind of intervention be?

A. GUPTA: It can save lives.

BURNS (voice-over): And it`s personal for the Guptas.

G. GUPTA: My worst nightmare came true.

BURNS (voice-over): Geeta`s 87-year-old mother just tested positive for the virus. And Avinash is trying to spare others the pain he`s experiencing.

A. GUPTA: I lost my brother in law. And I lost one sister also to this COVID.

BURNS (on camera): You are processing your own grief. At the same time, you`re actually taking action to help.

A. GUPTA: The best way to be happy is to go out and help other people.

BURNS (voice-over): Doing everything they can to be on the front line even from a world away.

A. GUPTA: We thought it was (Speaking Foreign Language). That means the whole world is a family and we cannot isolate ourselves.

BURNS (voice-over): Dasha Burns, NBC News.


B. WILLIAMS: Incredible story.

When we come back, an update on a certain Republican member of the Senate.



SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Don`t try to censor, cancel, and silence me here. You raised the issue. So if you raised the issue, you got to listen to the truth.


B. WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight that was the insurrection enthusiast Josh Hawley, the man with the righteous clenched fist, hawking his book to "The Washington Post" trotting out his don`t cancel me bro talking points even though they were talking to him during an interview he was invited to, to sell his book which he is having to do because Simon and Schuster dropped it despite the blurb from Tucker Carlson.

His book, by the way is called "The Tyranny of Big Tech." This is where it gets interesting and downright delicious. Apparently the title gas lighting for idiots was taken so let`s just take this in roll this around for a moment.

With this tweet he put out Josh Hawley is using an iPhone, going onto Twitter to beg people to buy his book on Amazon. His book called "The Tyranny of Big Tech," which he`s asking us on Twitter to buy on Amazon. Josh Hawley isn`t stupid but he apparently thinks we are.

He`s a former prep school valedictorian Stanford undergrad, Yale Law School, his bonafides put him squarely in the feet intellectual Republicans sweet spot but then along came Trump and MAGA. And Senator Hawley he of the clenched fists on one-six apparently always yearn for the image of a rough and tough route rootin` tootin` Missourian who`s in it for the little guy unless they happen to be Capitol police officers and whatever Trump says.

Criticize the senator for anything from his role in the insurrection to the falsehoods that critics say they have found in his book and you`re guilty of cancellation. The problem is he gave his true self away just a few years back when he wrote his first book, which was on Teddy Roosevelt. It was proof he was capable of writing a serious book as he was taught to at Stanford and Yale Law School before he discovered the book of Trump.

That is our broadcast on this Friday night and for this week with our thanks for being here with us. Have a good weekend unless you have other plans. Happy Mother`s Day to all the moms out there. And on behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.