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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 6/11/21

Guests: Daniel Goldman, Eugene Daniels, Susan Page, Tim Miller, Timothy Snyder


Trump administration and its attorneys general are under scrutiny tonight. Increasing scrutiny at that 24 hours after that blockbuster "New York Times" report about the secret seizure of data from House Democrats in the hunt for sources of leaks in 2017 and `18. Justice Department`s independent internal watchdog has now launched an investigation. Senate Democrats demand Sessions and Barr to testify.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Intelligence Committee alongside the Democrats targeted by the Trump Justice Department and Washington Governor Jay Inslee. That`s eight to 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.

"The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams begins right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 143 of the Biden administration, but it is the Trump administration and its attorneys general that are under scrutiny tonight. Increasing scrutiny at that, 24 hours after that blockbuster "New York Times" report about the secret seizure of data from House Democrats in the hunt for sources of leaks in 2017 and `18.

Justice Department`s independent internal watchdog has now launched an investigation. Senate Majority Leader Schumer, Judiciary Chairman Durbin say the Democrats will open their own inquiry. They intend to subpoena those former Trump attorneys general, Sessions and Barr, to testify before lawmakers.

As of tonight, current House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff, and Committee Member Eric Swalwell, both Democrats from California, have both confirmed their records were seized.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): I think we`ve shown through two impeachments a willingness to hold Donald Trump accountable. Donald Trump thinks he`s going to be reinstated in August. He`s running for reelection in 2024. You have a number of wannabe Donald Trump`s who are just as corrupt and probably more competent.

And so, if we don`t take steps to make sure this doesn`t happen again, we could really see the erosion, the complete erosion of the rule of law in our country.


WILLIAMS: Swalwell says he and other House Intel staffers were notified by Apple last month about the Trump DOJ grand jury subpoenas in February 2018 that forced Apple to turn over the data.

In a statement today Apple revealed, "The subpoena sought customer or subscriber account information for 73 phone numbers, 36 e-mail addresses." And that "The NDO or nondisclosure order was extended three times," that`s a gag order, "each for a year." And that means the company was forbidden to disclose what the government took from them.

Microsoft also said it received a subpoena related to a personal e-mail account back in 2017. And as soon as the two year gag order against them expired, Microsoft says it notified the customer who was indeed a congressional staffer.

In an interview with Politico today, Attorney General Barr is quoted of saying "he didn`t recall getting briefed on the moves and was not aware of any congressman`s records being sought in a leak case." He added Trump never suggested he target Democratic lawmakers.

And a former senior Justice Department official tells NBC News that when Jeff Sessions was A.G. he never approved subpoenas for members of the House Intel Committee in a leak investigation. Whether or not either or both of these former Trump ages are telling the truth, that`ll likely be borne out in public in the investigation.

As the current Justice Department grapples with this latest controversy, it`s also focusing on the continuing efforts to curb voting rights across our country. In his speech today, Attorney General Merrick Garland, who is under fire, make no mistake, made no mention of the seizure of House Democrats data, but did announce plans to significantly expand the department`s Civil Rights Division.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We will use all existing provisions of the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act, the Help America Vote Act, and the Uniform and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act to ensure that we protect every qualified Americans seeking to participate in our democracy.

We are scrutinizing new laws that seek to curb voter access, and where we see violations, we will not hesitate to act.


WILLIAMS: While all this was happening in Washington, President Biden spent the day in the U.K., trying to strengthen our alliances during the G7 summit and taking part in the first of two meetings with Queen Elizabeth. This is Queen Elizabeth 13th American president, by the way. He`ll be meeting with Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

Tonight, in an exclusive interview with NBC News Foreign Correspondent Keir Simmons, the Russian leader offered his views on the current U.S. president and the man Joe Biden defeated.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): I believe that former U.S. president, Mr. Trump, is an extraordinary individual, talented individual, otherwise he would not have become a U.S. president.

He`s a colorful individual. You may like him or not. And -- but he didn`t come from the U.S. establishment. He had not been part of big-time politics.

President Biden, of course, is radically different from Trump because President Biden is a career man. He spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics. Just think of the number of years he spent in the Senate, a different kind of person. And it was my great hope that yes, there are some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any impulse based movements on behalf of the sitting U.S. president.


WILLIAMS: With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this last night of the week, Susan Page, Veteran Journalists, best-selling author USA Today Washington Bureau Chief. Eugene Daniels, White House Correspondent for Politico, co-author of each day`s edition of Politico Playbook. And Daniel Goldman, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, notably also served as General Counsel for the House Intelligence Committee during the first Trump impeachment.

Good evening, and welcome to you all.

And indeed, Counselor, it`s because of your resume that we asked you to be on tonight. And I`d like to begin with you. So, you are both a DOJ veteran, and worked closely with Chairman Schiff. For all we know your name is on one of these lists, and your data has been shared. What is your personal reaction to this story? And can you explain to our viewers why this is such a deadly serious matter?

DANIEL GOLDMAN, GENERAL COUNSEL TO HOUSE INTEL DURING FIRST TRUMP IMPEACHMENT: I`m horrified to see this. And it`s not for a lot of the reasons others have said. I think the Department of Justice has every right broadly to investigate crimes. But knowing the people who received these -- who received these subpoenas, or whose records were sought for these subpoenas, I find it very hard to believe that there was any legitimate and real and credible evidence that would have led a objective prosecutor to issue these grand jury subpoenas.

And that means that it was a purely political hatchet job, if that`s accurate. Now, we haven`t seen what the basis was for the investigation for the subpoenas. Apparently, according to reports, Chairman Schiff`s office has requested that information, and the Department of Justice has declined to give it to them thus far.

But I am very suspicious as to what`s behind there. And I`m somewhat suspicious of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle within the House Intelligence Committee, and whether they were part and parcel of providing some of these telephone numbers, some of these e-mail addresses to the Department of Justice, because they would have had access to more of that information than just about anyone as the majority staff for the House Intelligence Committee.

WILLIAMS: Wow, that last bit is certainly food for thought.

Eugene, what is the White House view of this thus far?

EUGENE DANIELS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "POLITICO": Right now, I mean, this is a White House, and you know, we`ve talked about this before, because the Justice Department has been very busy. And in the news over the last few weeks, they are kind of staying out of it, right? This is something that they have talked about.

And the reason is exactly because of what we`re seeing right now, right? They want to make sure that they are not seen as being a political as using the DOJ in any kind of political way. And that is what -- when you talk to people behind the scenes. You talk to them on the record, you talk to them on background.

Off the record, they will tell you the exact same thing, which is that President Biden wants to stay out of the DOJ, he is telling his people to not try to put their thumb on the scale and to let them investigate this. And whatever else pops up, you have this inspector general who`s going to look into this and see what happened, who did what, and who`s -- what was subpoenaed, who were seized.

And they also know in a watching what`s happening on Congress, right? They know that if you see Sessions or Barr or both possibly be subpoenaed and brought in to, you know, in Congress that`s going to be kind of a blockbuster day or so of back and forth between Congress and those two gentlemen. And so, that`s going -- that`s something that they`re watching as well. How this plays out, but definitely trying to stay, you know, as far out of it as they possibly can, though they`re very, very aware of paying a lot of attention.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Susan, exactly 24 hours ago, I tried to warn our audience that people were going to hear the word Nixonian tossed around a great deal. Indeed, over the past 24 hours it has been. And John Dean heard enough of that. He of course, knows from Nixonian. Here`s what he said on CNN, we`ll discuss on the other side.


JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: A lot of people are comparing that with Nixon. Nixon didn`t have that kind of Department of Justice. It is beyond Nixon. Yes. It`s Nixon on stilts and steroids.


WILLIAMS: So, Susan, as you will know Nixon would have killed to have a DOJ that he could operate with a lever that would have performed on a whim for him. Are you as convinced as everybody else that it doesn`t end here, that this may indeed be the tip of the iceberg?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Yes, I think that it`s hard to argue that this is clearly more serious than the -- than abuses of the Watergate era that President Nixon was trying to protect that particular incident and abusing his power to do so. This is a broader assault. I think on our on our democracy. This is seeking subpoenaing records we think without legitimate cause of the representatives from a coequal branch of government.

And it is a kind of aggressive pursuit of reporters, who the administration sees, as are their critics that beyond -- I mean, we`ve seen these disputes before on previous administrations and leaks investigations. This is just more serious, more of a weaponization of the powers of their legal authority than I think we have ever seen before in our history.

WILLIAMS: Daniel Goldman, this is where I get you to comment on the sitting attorney general. We have seen enough of Merrick Garland to know that he is a rule follower and law venerator to almost a paralyzing degree. People want to see proof of life, proof of motion from him on this front. What do you want to see in the coming days from DOJ?

GOLDMAN: Well, today`s step of opening an inspector general investigation is the right step. And it`s a good step for the Department of Justice. But Attorney General Garland is an unenviable position of trying to ride a ship that has been very wrong over the last four years. And doing that does not mean that you just continue to do what occurred during the last four years, just the opposite. You actually need to veer on a different course.

But part of the trick and part of the challenge that he has is that in order to move forward, I think there needs to be greater transparency than the department ordinarily would like to give both to Congress and to the American people. And this is just one example. And I`m sure there`s more to this story that will continue to follow. We first learned about reporters` records being subpoenaed.

Now we`re talking about congressman`s records being subpoenaed. And there will be more, this is not the end of it. But I think that Attorney General Garland would do well to try to get out ahead of some of this stuff and be more transparent than perhaps his gut or his instincts or even his understanding of the norms of the Department of Justice, because it`s not a normal time. He`s trying to renormalize things. But we can`t just ignore what happened over the last four years. And I think we need to understand what occurred before we can move forward.

WILLIAMS: Eugene, the President will come back to this country after the Wednesday summit with Putin. Compared to what he faces on his domestic agenda, he may choose to spend more time with Putin. Remind our audience the work that remains once he his wheels down at Andrews?

DANIELS: Yes, at this point, you know, we`ve been talking about infrastructure for a very long time. And we`re kind of almost back at square one, right. He walked away from the table with negotiations with Senator Capito from West Virginia who was negotiating for Republicans. And now you have this group of 10, this caucus gang of 10, Republicans and Democrats who they say they have a deal, they have a deal that they`re going to take to their leadership in the House and the Senate, they`re going to take to the White House and see where they`re at.

But the problem is, and everyone on this panel knows, you know, these -- the gangs of x, you know, in Congress, they haven`t been that successful as of late. That`s probably what we`re going see here. And what we saw from the White House on the deal that it kind of struck was this idea that hey, look, it was very lukewarm to say the least.

And so, what we`re seeing is Joe Biden, when he does come back, he`s coming back to a congress that is at a standstill. His agenda, still at a standstill because of such a slim majority in both the House and the Senate. And more importantly, fighting within the party. And now, you have progressive who were getting more and more verbal about the irritations on waiting on Joe Manchin, on waiting and trying to get Republicans to get on board.

And so, he has to -- he`s going to deal with a lot of the domestic things after he`s been, you know, seven days overseas dealing with all of the foreign policy aspects. And like you said, it might be a little bit more -- a little bit easier, because when you get back here, the types of votes that have that are going to be taken the amount of time they have to actually get a deal done and get him something that he can sign. They are really, really, really running out of time.

WILLIAMS: Susan, let`s talk about Putin. He really laid it on about Trump, calling him an extraordinary individual, talented and colorful. No one has any doubt that it isn`t already Trump`s phone ringtone.

And think about, Putin, the return on investment from this guy, and the KGB should take about for training and well. He spent, what, $7 to meddle in our 2016 election. And now for no cost at all, a few words here and there, he has trolled Biden indirectly as a career guy on the eve of their summit.

PAGE: Yes, I don`t think he meant career politician as a compliment to President Biden. I mean, there was no question how much more he liked President Trump as a -- as an international partner. And you would understand why, why he helped, you know, use the Russian -- forces of Russia to help elect Donald Trump the first -- the first time around.

You know, this is going to be a real test for Joe Biden. He`s gotten a really warm welcome with the leaders of the G7. This is friendly territory. They are relieved to have him back in the -- to have him in the White House replacing Donald Trump. That won`t be the case with Putin.

One of the most extraordinary questions and answers from your credible interview with Putin today was, I think with Keir Simmons, read the list of people who we believe have been assassinated at the order of Putin. He didn`t bat an eye, he didn`t flinch. He also did not deny that he had ordered them killed. He dodged the question. That was pretty chilling, Brian.

WILLIAMS: As I say, the KGB must be proud of this particular graduate. I know it`s been a long week for all of us. That`s why we`re so thankful for Susan Page, for Eugene Daniels, for Daniel Goldman, for starting us off on this Friday night. Thanks gang.

Coming up for us, from an unprecedented use of government power to unprecedented acts of voter suppression, it`s been a busy day for the current Attorney General. Our political experts standing by to weigh in on what he`s facing and the challenge ahead of him.

And later, the man who literally wrote the book on tyranny takes a closer look for us tonight of what may be behind Putin`s stunning praise of the former president, now retired in Florida, in the lead up to his summit with the incumbent president let`s not forget. All of it as The 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Friday night.



GARLAND: The great John Lewis recalled an important lesson taught by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He said "Each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. Democracy is not a state. It is an act."


WILLIAMS: The Attorney General`s commitment to voting rights fueled outrage from at least one elected official in the great state of Arizona. State senator and self-proclaimed Oath Keeper, Wendy Rogers, had this response, "If Attorney General Merrick Garland thinks he has a right to our ballots and machines he should go to court. If he uses force when multiple courts have already authorized this audit, he will be in violation of the law. Lawless thugs is all they will be!"

It`s a lot. For more, we welcome back tonight Juanita Tolliver, Veteran Political Strategist to progressive candidates and causes. And Tim Miller, Contributor to the Bulwark and former comms director for Jeb Bush.

Good evening, friends.

Tim, I`d like to begin with you. The A.G. spoken rather lofty terms on voting rights today. But then there`s this from NPR in Arizona, "Republicans from a growing number of states are traveling to Maricopa County in Arizona," everybody`s doing it, "to witness a controversial election review ordered by GOP leaders in the State Senate, a sign that similar probes may be sought elsewhere across the country."

So Tim, what is your understanding of what the dreadnought DOJ can do as this massive organization now beginning of process of vetting and hiring what 50 more lawyers while Republicans are running around the surface of the country, doing their darndest to restrict voting rights?

TIM MILLER, THE BULWARK CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it`s going to be tough, Brian. I was encouraged by the speech today. But you know, all this stuff takes time. Look, government bureaucracy takes time, staffing up takes time.

And meanwhile, he`s got to play this game of restricting voting rights whack a mole in not just Arizona but Texas and a number of other places. I`m sure in Michigan and Pennsylvania, et cetera, over the course of the next year.

So, look, I mean, I think this is the hand (ph) of the Biden the administration has been dealt. Hopefully this was a -- this was a signal from Garland today that the DOJ is going to be aggressive.

Roberts, who has actually been pretty good as chief justice, you know, his ruling gutting the Voting Rights Act is definitely a black mark. And that`s going to make Garland`s job harder because I know he doesn`t have the standing that he would have had, if it wasn`t for that Supreme Court ruling to take some of these challenges to court. And the Texas law in particular would be one example of that. So, you know, as I said, it`s a big game of whack-a-mole and they`re going to start hiring quick in order to find.

WILLIAMS: Juanita, you`re in the thick of this. And a friend of mine said tonight that of all the members of the Biden cabinet, he was so surprised that it was Merrick Garland, who is proving so controversial, with the Democratic base, he is taciturn, he is deliberative, almost crippled by his desire to follow the rules. He said today Congress should pass voting rights legislation. Who`s going to tell him about Joe Manchin?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, PROGRESSIVE POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Not only who`s going to tell him about Joe Manchin, but who`s going to tell him about an entire Republican party that`s committed to dismantling our democracy, one law, one voter suppression law at a time and not doing anything about it.

And so, when I -- when I appreciate about Garland saying today that yes, they`re taking the session, they`re not going to wait for Congress to act. But there is very real barrier still in Congress about bench and opposing the For the People Act and expressing support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. But still, that opposition to the For the People Act is a direct barrier to legislation that could remedy a lot of the voter suppression language that`s included in these laws in states like Arizona, Georgia, Florida, and others.

And so, what I see here is yes, it`s great that the DOJ is being empowered to step up and kind of, as Tim mentioned, play this voter suppression whack-a-mole, but more is needed, especially as the 2020 midterms are coming up. And voters are going to start to feel the tension and the reality that comes with these laws that are essentially disenfranchise them and turn them off from voting and create barriers for them to vote. And so, while this action from the DOJ is promising, and is much needed support that we know progressive groups in the states who are already taking the -- presenting court cases against these laws, it`s only the start. There needs to be sweeping systematic change to protect voters and protect voting rights in this country.

WILLIAMS: All right, a quick break here. Thankfully, both of our guests have agreed to stay with us while we do this.

And coming up, as one columnist put it today, Biden can either be a good president or transform America. We`ll ask our guests about that calculus whether or not it`s too cute by half right after this.


WILLIAMS: While the President tries to restore order overseas, "Daily Beast" senior columnist Matt Lewis has some advice for the work awaiting him back home. He puts it this way and we quote, Biden can be a good President or transform America, not both. He goes on to say, Biden can quit trying to be FDR or LBJ, and he can just be Joe Biden. He could reinvent himself and rewrite his own narrative. It could be as simple as that. He can stop pretending that having the tiebreak in a split Senate means he has a mandate for sweeping changes and start acknowledging that he was elected to steady the ship, not rebuild it.

Still with us Juanita Tolliver and Tim Miller. Juanita, here`s the choice. Does he have a point? Or do you doubt the entire premise there?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I fully reject the entire premise, Brian, and I appreciate you offering that option. Because you know that was I was going to pick. Because look, the people who voted for Biden, who voted for him to build back better and I want to emphasize better because it recognizes that systems in this country are broken. And this pandemic merely exacerbated the inequities that people across this country experienced, especially low income people who, people who have always struggled to access health care, black and brown people who`ve been subjected to racial and justices since the foundation of this country.

And so to renege on that promise, to renege on that commitment that Biden stumped on, that members of the Georgia Senate caucus stumped on is essentially going to be the quickest way to lose the confidence of voters who went all in on Biden, and went all in on Democrats in 2020 because we know from every piece of research, every poll that I worked on in the 2020 election cycle, rebuilding better is what people voted on. That`s what excited them because they knew there was no return to normal because normal wasn`t serving them. And for Biden to step away from that is not even an option.

If anything, and Biden rebrands himself, he needs to let go of this notion of bipartisanship and focus all his energy on delivering for the people by any means necessary because the people don`t care about whether it was bipartisan or not. They only care if you deliver for them and if you improve their lives in a substantive way. He did that on COVID. He needs to keep that same energy as it relates to infrastructure, voting rights, policing, and every other thing that impacts the way people live their lives today.

WILLIAMS: All right, Tim, let`s talk about Mr. Manchin just mostly because it`s so much fun. To quote a great book, your father`s house may have many Manchins but there has been one in the U.S. Senate and he is this week`s pinata. Does he have too much power, especially for a guy representing a state with 0.5 of 1 percent of the U.S. population? Or do you buy into the AB Stoddard, James Carville argument that this is all immaterial, it never should have come down to him. What part of 5050 Senate did the Democrats not understand it`s all about math, not Manchin?

TIM MILLER, THE BULWARK CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I might get some fruit thrown at me over this one, Brian. And I`m going to come to Manchin`s defense lightly. Look --

WILLIAMS: Oh, boy.

MILLER: -- if Joe Manchin isn`t the Democratic senator from West Virginia, then you`re going to get Bob and Megan (ph) insurrection in there next time, right? Like they are -- the chance -- the choice isn`t between Joe Manchin and, you know, whoever your favorite senator is. It`s between Joe Manchin and a very far right Republican who`s not going to support any of the, you know, any of the objectives of the Biden administration.

I pointed criticism a little bit more towards the Democratic Senate leadership that I think needs to be giving Manchin outs. I think that giving these big, broad bills with a lot of progressive priorities, some of them I agree with, some of them I don`t agree with. But regardless of what the particulars are, they`re not putting him in a position to get to yes, right now.

And so I think they need to look at narrower whether that`s a John Lewis Voting Rights Act on voting, you know, where there`s certain elements of infrastructure and some of these other bills, you know, what are ways that you can get mentioned GTS that flip the script and put the pressure on Republicans, you know, put positive, you know, excuse me, not positive, popular legislative items. The Joe Manchin can support in front of him. Let him get to yes. And then put the onus on Republicans to say, hey, can you guys get to 10 on this.

You know infrastructure is popular. John Lewis Voting Rights Act is popular. I think that`s where the Democrats need to pivot and put Manchin in a better position to be helpful.

WILLIAMS: Sure, would be interesting to see a majority leader Lyndon Johnson right about now at this moment in history and see how it`s done. Well, let others throw the fruit. Thank you both for bringing the fire. Reasoned arguments tonight from our friends Juanita Tolliver and Tim Miller, thank you both for coming on and staying up with us.

Coming up for us, more from our exclusive NBC News interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin just tonight, we`ll show you his response when asked if he`s a killer when we come back.


WILLIAMS: As we mentioned at the top of the hour days before his Summit with President Biden next week, Vladimir Putin sat down with NBC News correspondent Keir Simmons, it is the Russian President`s first American television interview in nearly three years. Here is more from their exclusive conversation.


KEIR SIMMONS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We sat down for a 90- minute interview inside the Kremlin, where I pressed him on accusations he has ordered assassinations of his adversaries.

(on camera): The late John McCain in Congress called you a killer. When President Trump was asked, I was told that you are a killer. He didn`t deny it. When President Biden was asked whether he believes you are a killer, he said I do. Mr. President, are you a killer?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Over my tenure, I`ve gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles and from all kinds of areas under all kinds of pretext and reasons in a different caliber and fierceness, and none of it surprises me. So as far as harsh rhetoric, I think that this is an expression of overall U.S. culture. Of course, in Hollywood, there`s some underlying deep things in Hollywood Macho, which can be treated as cinematic art. But that`s part of U.S. political culture, where it`s considered normal. By the way, not here, it is not considered normal here.

SIMMONS: I don`t think I heard you answer the question, the direct question, Mr. President.

PUTIN (through translator): I did answer. I did answer. I`ll add if you let me. I`ve heard dozens of such accusations, especially during the period of some grave events during our counterterrorism efforts in North Caucasus. And when that happens, I`m always guarded by the interests of the Russian people and Russian state. In sentiments in terms of recall somebody whom what kind of labels, this is not something I worry about in the least.

SIMMONS: Let me give you some names and Anna Politkovskaya shot dead, Alexander Litvinenko poisoned by polonium, Sergey Magnitsky allegedly beaten and died in prison, Boris Nemtsov shot moments from the Kremlin, moments from here, Mikhail Lesin, a died of blunt trauma in Washington, D.C., are all of these a coincidence, Mr. President?

PUTIN (through translator): Look, you know, I don`t want to come across as being rude. But this looks like some kind of indigestion except that it`s verbal indigestion. You`ve mentioned many individuals who indeed suffered and perished at different points in time for various reasons at the hands of different individuals.

SIMMONS: (voice-over): But today, reports that Russia is offering to supply Iran with satellite technology that would help it target the U.S. military in the region, President Putin denying those claims.

PUTIN (through translator): It`s just frightening (ph) at the very least, I don`t know anything about this kind of things.


SIMMONS: And Brian, in our wide-ranging interview, President Putin denied any knowledge of hacking, and called on President Biden to reach an agreement with Russia on cyberspace. Brian?

WILLIAMS: Keir Simmons, our thank you for that. Congratulations on the interview. We want to let our viewers know there will be more of this exclusive interview with Putin on Monday across the networks of NBC News.

Well, with us tonight to talk about what we just saw and more. Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale University, a former Marshall scholar, educated in the Ivy League and at Oxford, specializing in Europe on the Holocaust. Among his works, two books particularly relevant to this conversation "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from The Twentieth Century" and "The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America." He also has a newsletter where he comments on current affairs called Thinking About. You can find it at

Professor, your reaction to this interview, you know, he, you don`t need a KGB degree to note a flat or a narcissist. So, he has owned Trump from, hello. He praised Trump, and by doing so trolled Biden on the eve of their Summit. But Keir was the first reporter in memory to confront him by name with this label that he is a killer.

TIMOTHY SNYDER, YALE UNIVERSITY HISTORY PROFESSOR: Yes. I noticed a couple of things here. The first thing I noticed is that Mr. Putin seems to be out of practice in direct engagement with journalists. He`s an intelligent man. He`s a charismatic man. He has many talents. But he`s used now to press events that are entirely staged. He`s used now to being the person who sets the terms. So regardless of the content, which of course was nonexistent, one has to notice that the style of his response was also not very impressive, he was evasive, but he wasn`t evasive in a very interesting way.

The reporter is pressing the basic issues, issues of life and death, issues of free speech, issues of representation. And we`re not getting very much back nothing in content, but also very little in style.

WILLIAMS: He has for very little cost, very little output on his part, way overshot expectations, talk about a return on investment. His impact on American life and society, look at the stories we`re covering tonight has way over indexed beyond investment by Russia.

SNYDER: Well, I mean, we should give credit where credit is due, what the Russian leadership understood were certain kinds of American vulnerabilities. I think, given Mr. Putin`s own KGB background, and given the importance of the secret services in Russia, generally. It`s not surprising that they would have understood that social media provides a way into the mentality, into the psychology, into the society of what they regard as an enemy country.

So, what they were able to do in 2016, and to some extent sense, is play on a vulnerability which we created for ourselves. We think technology works for us, but it doesn`t always. Social media doesn`t work for us. We think technology works for progress, but it doesn`t necessarily work for democracy. So it`s true. Russia has a small economy in terms of traditional notions of influence. Russia shouldn`t be very important. It`s basically as important as we allow it to be. And under Mr. Trump, of course, we allowed it to be very important indeed.

WILLIAMS: Terrific point. Our friend, Professor Snyder and we note in Vienna, Austria is up at 5:44 a.m. in order to speak with us live. He`s going to stay with us a bit longer.

Coming up, we`ll talk about what concerns our distinguished guest has about all that we have witnessed thus far this year.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Today`s report is one of the many reasons I`m confident in the ability of existing investigations to uncover all actionable facts about the events of January 6th. I`ll continue to support these efforts over any that seek to politicize the process. And I would urge my colleagues to do the same.


WILLIAMS: Mitch McConnell struck down the idea of a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th attack on our Capitol. On the events that transpired that day, our guest tonight Professor Timothy Snyder writes this, quote, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 raise questions about foreign policy and airport security. The terrorist attack of 1/6 raised deeper questions about how our country is governed, and who we have become as a people. 9/11 led us to the invasion of Iraq, the foreign policy disaster that marked our century. 1/6 leads us to a catastrophe on that scale, but inside our own country.

Still with us is Professor Timothy Snyder. Professor indeed, this is Peggy Noonan`s latest in "The Journal." If you weren`t appalled by 1/6, then you have given up, throw in the towel, democracy`s done, it`s over. Those who know it`s not done, not over, those who won`t allow it to be done and over, also know that democracy needs friends right now.

In this country, we had the extraordinary event on Memorial Day of hearing the American president referred to our democracy as being in peril. Professor, we deal with this topic every day, but it`s like the frog boiling experiment. It`s not being treated as an emergency. It`s kind of a rolling benign event, should it be treated as an emergency?

SNYDER: It should be treated as a constant challenge. You know, these two segments are connected. When we look at Mr. Putin and we think about the assassination of people like Boris Nemtsov and Anna Politkovskaya. These were people who are trying to find out the truth about basic issues in Russia, the truth about Chechnya, the truth about Ukraine. By the same token, if we want to avoid becoming like that, we have to have leaders who instead of hiding the truth, want the truth to be exposed as clearly and as early and in as many ways as possible.

So if we don`t have a 9/11 commission, then NGOs have to step in, Congress has to step in because if you miss your own history, if you can`t tell your own story, then your story gets told for you. And our story for a lot of Americans is now being told through the prism of this big lie, the big lie that Trump`s supposedly actually won the election. And that lie leads people to close their minds to other people. And it leads the political party to move away from democracy. So I would say constant challenge, always a challenge.

WILLIAMS: How do you get a basically trusting society hours operating in with a First Amendment to be more skeptical of what they see. If you know what to look for on social media, you know the site`s that the Russians are boosting, it`s any bad news, anything to make us feel bad about our country, the virus, our politics, our divisions, race, how do you make a more educated consumer without entirely turning people off to our politics?

SNYDER: I think I think you have to think very broadly. I mean, I think so democracy isn`t just something which is under threat. Democracy is a project. It doesn`t come naturally. It depends upon civic education. It depends upon history. We need more history so that Americans aren`t surprised by bad news and know where it comes from and can think about a better future. What we really need, and Russia is also a good lesson here is local news.

The crash of liberalism and democracy in Russia begins with the crash of local news there. We`re following that same trajectory. If we want Americans to have a source of information for a common conversation, that information has to be about the places where they live. Right now, America`s a news desert. If you want people to have alternatives to social media, you have to give them those alternatives. You have to give them the facts about their actual life around them. That creates the basis for larger national conversations.

If all of our conversations are just about national politics and ideology, we`re going to be divided. So, I like the question, because you have to think big like the founders did. You have to think about building from the ground up. What kind of education? What kind of factual environment do we need to become better citizens? I think that`s the moonshot which is missing so far from the Biden administration. We can`t just think about this defensively. We have to think about what kind of climate can we create around young Americans for the future so that they`ll be ready for democracy?

WILLIAMS: Here, here and as a 12-year veteran of local news proudly and a viewer of it every night to this day, I couldn`t agree more. Professor Timothy Snyder, please come back on and take our questions. Once again, thank you so much for joining us --

SNYDER: Of course.

WILLIAMS: -- from Vienna, Austria early, early in the morning.

Coming up for us, the people who hand out the Pulitzer Prizes have made history by recognizing someone who changed it.



DARNELLA FRAZIER, FILMED GEORGE FLOYD`S MURDER: I heard George Floyd saying, I can`t breathe, please get off of me. I can`t breathe. He cried for his mom. He was in pain. And it seemed like he knew, it seemed like he knew it was over for him. He was terrified. He was suffering. This was a cry for help.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight. Remember that from the Chauvin trial, that was the voice of Darnella Frazier. On the afternoon of May 25th, 2020, she was taking her nine-year-old cousin to buy snacks at an unremarkable corner store in Minneapolis called Cup Foods, quite literally the definition of minding her own business when she made a quick decision that would change the course of history. She took out her phone. She started recording what became the murder of a man in the street in broad daylight under the knee of a police officer.

She chronicled the departure of life from the body of the man we now know as George Floyd. Today, Darnella Frazier was recognized with a special citation from the board that awards the Pulitzer Prize. As Reuters reported it today quote, the citation at the 2021 Pulitzer Prize ceremony is a rare instance of the board recognizing the journalistic achievement of someone with no professional experience in the field, a striking distinction in the genre sometimes known as citizen journalism. Frazier, 18, was recognized for recording quote, a transformative video that jolted viewers and spurred protests against police brutality around the world.

And no, it is not hyperbole to say that Darnella Frazier`s decision in that moment changed the world. People marched around the world. George Floyd`s name has been spoken in remembrance in the Oval Office. It`s the title of a proposed act of Congress. Indeed, what Darnella Frazier did in that moment was the definition of electronic journalism. As ugly and stomach turning as the video is to watch, the question remains, would we be saying the name George Floyd, were it not for the bravery and presence of mind of a young woman named Darnella Frazier?

And so that is our broadcast for this Friday night and for this week with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.