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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 6/14/21

Guests: Philip Rucker, Rick Stengel, A.B. Stoddard


President Biden talked with NATO allies about the challenges of fighting the pandemic and the growing security threat of Russia and China. House panel will investigate Trump-era DOJ data seizures. The Trump administration seized records of fellow politicians who were critical of him, as well as journalists` phone records. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson delays lockdown easing by a month, citing Delta variant risk. Democrats are worried about losing House and Senate. McConnell signals he would block Biden SCOTUS pick in 2024 if GOP takes back Senate. Two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, either Pfizer or AstraZeneca, are effective against hospitalization from the Delta variant.



BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 146 of the Biden administration. It`s Tuesday morning in Geneva, Switzerland, which means President Biden is just a day away now from his critical summit with Putin.

It will close out the President`s eight day overseas trip watch, which was in large part a goodwill tour to assure our allies of America support and a show of unity. Let`s not forget, ahead of this Putin meeting.

When Biden sat down today with NATO leaders, he warned them Russia and China are working to split the NATO alliance. You may recall when Trump attacked NATO, same thing. Like today in Brussels, Biden told reporters that during discussions with allies, he laid out what he intends to tell.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will respond, Russia continues its harmful activities. And we will not fail to defend the transatlantic alliance or stand up for democratic values. It`s in our mutual interest in the interest of the world to cooperate and see if we can do that. And areas where we don`t agree make it clear what the red lines are.

I had met with him. He`s bright. He`s tough. And I have found that he is a, as they say, when he used to play ball a worthy adversary. Every world leader here as a member of NATO spoke today and most of them mentioned it thanked me for meeting with Putin now.


WILLIAMS: One issue the White House says definitely will be on the table at their summit the recent ransomware attacks in the U.S. which authorities say originated from Russian based hacking groups. Today, Biden said the U.S. will respond in kind if Russia refuses to cooperate on the cyber security front in his exclusive interview. NBC News foreign correspondent Keir Simmons put this question directly to Putin.


KEIR SIMMONS, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, President, are you waging a cyber war against America?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): There is the evidence? Where is proof? It`s becoming farcical. We know it. Well, we have been accused of all kinds of things election interference, cyber attacks and so on and so forth. And not once, not once, not one time did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof just unfounded accusations.


WILLIAMS: Tonight, Axios reporting the team preparing the president for the Putin meeting includes a group of outside Russia experts including former Trump officials said to be among the dozen or so participants. Fiona Hill, the former Trump National Security Council official who testified at his first impeachment trial. Group reportedly also included two Obama ambassadors to Russia, including our own Michael McFaul.


MICHAEL MCFAUL, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Isn`t it great that the President is preparing for this meeting? Because if you`ll remember the last time Putin met with former president, President Trump, it was clear to me I was at that one as well, working for you, not for the U.S. government. Just to be clear. At that President Trump was not prepared for that meeting.


WILLIAMS: Axios reporting it this way. Quote, the group urged Biden not to hold a joint press conference with Putin or afford him any opportunity to try to upstage the private talks with new public proposals and that the experts broadly agreed on the approach Biden should adopt, blunt talk leaving no doubt for Putin on where Biden stands from hacking to human rights.

Back in Washington, there`s more fallout from revelations that Trump`s Justice Department secretly seized personal data of reporters and Democrats in Congress from phone and tech companies during an investigation in the leaks.

Tonight House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York said he has launched an investigation into this matter. Committee Member Val Demings, who is challenging Marco Rubio for his Florida Senate seat, spoke out tonight about the need for an inquiry.


REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The American people have a right to know the full extent of the abuses of power by the former president of the United States. We shave some serious constitutional concerns when a body who provides oversight is then being surveilled under the guise of a criminal investigation by the administration that that body provides oversight over and then of course, the same thing for the media as well as God knows who else is out there.


WILLIAMS: Yesterday, the New York Times reported Apple also turned over data from an account belonging to Trump`s own White House Counsel Don McGahn. The Times reports it`s not clear if McGahn was the specific focus of any investigation. McGahn, you`ll recall recently testified to House lawmakers about Trump`s efforts to pressure him into firing Muller. NBC has reached out to Apple and McGahn and is yet to receive a response from either.

Justice Department Inspector General has already opened an investigation and today, Attorney General Merrick Garland met with news organizations whose reporters have been targeted by the Trump administration. He also issued a statement noting the Justice Department was quote, working on surfacing potentially problematic matters deserving high level review to evaluate and strengthening the department`s existing policies and procedures for obtaining records of the legislative branch, which we think means he was angry about it.

There`s one other story we`re watching closely tonight. Prime Minister Boris Johnson made an announcement today that many in the UK were angry to hear. He is pushing back the next phase of their reopening by another four weeks because of the rising number of cases of the Delta variant of COVID. This first emerged in India. We`ll have much more on the danger of this variant just as things are getting good later on in this broadcast.

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Monday night. Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize winning, senior Washington correspondent for The Washington Post. Barbara McQuade, veteran federal prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, who worked with DOJ during the Biden transition. She is a professor at her alma mater University of Michigan Law School, co-host of the podcast Sisters in Law along with three other friends of ours, Joyce Vance, Jill Wine-Banks, and Kimberly Atkins Stohr. Also back with us tonight, Rick Stengel, former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, former managing editor of Time Magazine.

And Rick, given your history in this area with the summit two days away, does his time with the G7 help Joe Biden going into this summit with Putin? And if so how?

RICK STENGEL, FMR. UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Sure, Brian, I think it gives him some wind at his back. He has a kind of united front with him to both talk to Putin and confront Putin. I noticed in that good Keir Simmons interview with Putin, that Putin kind of turned it around and said, yes, it just shows how important I am and how seriously the American president is about me and Russia is that he conferred with the G7 beforehand.

But I think it empowers Biden, and I think the administration has done a really depth job of telegraphing, what`s going to come up, you know, cyber warfare, Navalny, all these things. It`s much, much easier to raise something in a dialog, if you`ve said in advance that you`re going to raise it. So I think that has all been very smart.

WILLIAMS: Phil, given that Biden`s agenda is right now stalled in the legislature to put it gently, is any of this presupposing he has a good outing against Putin at the summit. It looks like positive reviews from the G7 any of this convertible to the president upon arrival back home.

PHIL RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: You know, Brian, yes and no, I don`t know that his performance on this foreign trip, assuming it continues to be as strong as it has been the last few days will necessarily win him any additional votes for that infrastructure deal, for example, for the new spending package or for changes in the tax law, but it certainly helps build political momentum for him at home.

You know, I think a lot of Americans have been watching this president for the first six months of his presidency, and liking what they see in terms of the calmness and the restoration of normalcy here in Washington, and in the United States. And so to see him abroad at the G7 at NATO, making friends not foes, not shoving the Prime Minister of Montenegro out of the picture, you know, comporting himself in a different way than former President Trump did would be a sign of reassurance. I think for many of the Americans who, you know, polls show a majority of them are supportive of how this President is performing so far.

WILLIAMS: To our viewers, the barking you hear in the background is one Axel Rucker who we`ve decided just doesn`t like when his dad and I have conversations on television, so we`re going to give him that.

Hey, Barb, what do you want to find out about how the Trump DOJ was operating and when people like Barr and Sessions say, Oh, we had nothing to do with this, how procedurally do we find out if they`re telling the truth?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, what I would like to see Brian is what Lisa Monaco, the deputy attorney general has called for, which is an investigation by the Office of Inspector General. It doesn`t sound to me like any laws were broken in these investigations. But because of the sensitive nature, it is required that DOJ lawyers comply with very strict guidelines.

And it sounds at least from these denials by Jeff Sessions, and William Barr, that those guidelines were violated. The guidelines require notice to the Attorney General and in the case of media subpoenas, even approval from the Attorney General. And so I think that irregularity alone begs the question of what happened, did they violate the rules here? Or were they just failing to notify the chain of command? So I`d like to see that number one.

And then number two, if there was a violation, how do we make sure that doesn`t happen again? What are the consequences for a violation? How do we ensure that people are notified of what the correct procedure is, and do those procedures need to get some more teeth in them, so that people can`t abuse these rules in the future?

WILLIAMS: Rick Stengel, I have one for you. Trigger alert to all. I`m going to play for you some of the greatest hits. Here is Donald Trump on the topic of NATO.


DONALD TRUMP, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: We have NATO, and we`re giving countries a free ride, we are really. NATO is obsolete. It`s old, it`s fat, it`s sloppy.

We`re protecting Europe. And we`re paying for almost the entire cost of data. With a piggy bank, it helps them. They`re in Europe. Helps them a lot more than it helps us. We`re very far away. The abuse that was given to our country or NATO, where they wouldn`t pay. And we were paying for everybody.


WILLIAMS: Rick, you worked at the State Department, you don`t need the reminder. But think about Putin`s wish list at the top of the Trump presidency. Get involved in an American presidential election, get involved in American social media trying to divide us drive us apart, drive apart the Atlantic Alliance, and maybe someday a far off fever dream, get American troops out of Germany. Think of it this way Donald Trump delivered?

STENGEL: Brian, you summarized it very well, better than I could have. And it was painful to watch those clips of Trump talking about NATO. I mean, I go back to the interview that Keir did with Putin today. I mean, Putin today said that NATO was obsolete. Why are they -- why are they doing what they`re doing? Why are they adding countries?

But I think what we`re going to see in this summit is something which is kind of a return to normalcy. And if I were still editor of Time, I would caution my reporters to say don`t put this stone construct this like at some great big heavyweight boxing match. It`s not. I mean, Tony Blinken said, this is the first of many meetings. I think it will be a conventional, traditional meeting between countries that sometimes cooperate, sometimes compete, and sometimes confront each other. And both sides have telegraphed that in advance.

And I think we`re going to see a meeting that actually is successful on all those fronts that will have some tension, but will come out where people will say, OK, we know what to expect. We believe in reliability, and stability and predictability. Even Putin said that in his interview with Keir today.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, I have something for you and by extension Axel, here is Mitch McConnell and comments this afternoon we`ll discuss on the other side.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) MINORITY LEADER: Attorney General Barr served our nation with honor and with integrity. These latest attempts to tarnish his name bear the telltale signs of a witch hunt and the making. I`m confident that the existing inquiry will uncover the truth. There`s no need for a partisan circus here in the Congress.


WILLIAMS: Of course, fail when you think of Barr, you think of honor and integrity. Here`s the question, though, knowing how McConnell`s going to be on this. What`s the chance the democrats play this aspect of the investigation wrong, while as we said so much of their agenda is stalled in that very chamber where McConnell spoke.

RUCKER: You know, Brian, there is certainly a chance of that. We`ve seen Democratic leaders in both the Senate and the House become quite exercise the last few days given the revelations about what was going on and surveillance going on at Justice Department. And it`s personal for them.

You know, some of them in Chairman Adam Schiff, for example, we`re the ones being surveilled by the Justice Department. It`s a very personal thing and they want to get answers. They want to investigate this and they want to get to the bottom of it, and they want to hold people accountable for what happened in the Trump administration. And that personal drive could certainly get in the way of the broader legislative progress they`re hoping to make in advancing President Biden`s agenda.

But Senator McConnell obviously they`re having the back of his longtime friend and ally, Bill Barr, the former Attorney General, and it`s interestingly using that phrase witch hunt, which is the word we heard again and again and again from former President Trump, in reference to virtually any investigation into Trump or his administration, he would call it a witch hunt. We`re now seeing the Republicans in the Senate applying the same language to try to discredit the investigation by the Congress into what was going on at the Justice Department.

WILLIAMS: I`m going to chalk it up to coincidence that during our discussion of McConnell, there was lightning over the Capitol dome.

Barb back to your front, the FBI naturally, normally plays a role in something like this when the allegation is electronic spying, forget about journalists, a lot of them are constantly expecting it and keep their communications to that standard, but elected Democratic members of Congress are elected members of the staff and at least one minor child. Do you think we will be hearing more from the FBI on this front? And should we indeed hear more from the FBI on this front?

MCQUADE: Absolutely. I think that the public is appropriately alarmed that there appears to be a potential abuse of some very powerful tools that have been used. You know, grand jury, subpoenas are a powerful tool of prosecutors. They are to be used to gather information and protect against leaks of classified information that is a very legitimate use.

But here, I think there`s some real warning signs that there wasn`t just used, but abuse, that these subpoenas were being used not as tools, but as weapons. The sheer number of people who have been included in these subpoenas the number of members of Congress and their family members, I think that number is around 12. We`ve got something like eight reporters who are included, and now we hear about Don McGahn the White House Counsel, being included in all of this, who is of course an attorney, whose communications are protected by attorney client privilege.

And so I think that creates this red flag that although these tools may be used appropriately in some circumstances, there is really, I think, some evidence of abuse here that needs to be investigated.

WILLIAMS: We`re much obliged to our big three on this Monday night as we start a new week together. Philip Rucker, Barbara McQuade, Rick Stengel, our thanks for being with us.

Coming up for us. Staying true to form, McConnell suggests he`s not about to let President Biden pick a Supreme Court justice anytime soon. We`ll ask our two political insiders about the many GOP hurdles that Democrats now face. And later, protesters in the UK may be done with COVID restrictions but a fast spreading variant of the virus is putting people in hospitals. We have one of our best physicians standing by to talk about all of it. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on this Monday night as we look at beautiful Lake Geneva in Switzerland the sight of this week`s summit.


WILLIAMS: Not quite trouble in paradise, but it`s close. There is as they say growing concern among Democrats about the future of the President`s agenda. POLITICO sums up the challenges this way and we quote, Senate Democrats are publicly divided over infrastructure strategy. The caucuses, most conservative senator openly rebelled against the party signature elections bill and two of Chuck Schumer`s members keep clashing on military sexual assault reform. There`s a growing feeling on the hill that Democrats are already running out of time to deliver on years of promises, thought provoking.

Meanwhile, if Democrats lose the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell is signaling he will block any Biden Supreme Court picks in 2024. He told the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, it is quote, highly unlikely he`d allow a confirmation vote in an election year.

Back with us again tonight to talk about all of that Cornell Belcher, Democratic pollster have worked on both of President Obama`s campaigns and with a number of House and Senate Democratic candidates and A.B. Stoddard, veteran Washington journalist and associate editor and columnist for Real Clear Politics. Good evening, and welcome to you both.

A.B., I`ll serve you a kind of question salad to see which one makes you bite. How are the Democrats doing at handling McConnell in the minority leader role? Do the democrats have the right majority leader for these times? And what happens if the republicans win that majority back?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST: Well, Brian, it really doesn`t matter who the majority and minority leaders are when you do not control a majority of the Senate. You preside over it and you control the days. They have been able to get a few things out using this procedure everyone now knows is reconciliation, with 51 votes as the vice president breaking the tie, but it is a chamber where you need 60 votes to get anything through. In the House, they have a four seat majority.

So the Democrats are just going to have a very difficult time looking past the COVID relief bill at passing any of the things that they have promised to progressives and to the voters who turned out who don`t usually turn out in midterm elections, and who are not likely to turn out next year to help them hold on to power.

If the Republicans get the House and I think that they probably will, and possibly the Senate, you`re going to see Mitch McConnell stick to his breaths and warnings that he controls the Supreme Court and he locked down the Senate and not approve any of the President`s picks if he wants to. And on the House side, you will see a push by MAGA world to impeach Joe Biden for any various and sundry reasons in retaliation for the two Trump impeachment. Some of them will want Trump to be speaker because the speaker does not have to be a member of Congress.

And there is quite a hellscape to imagine in terms of what we`re looking at. As we look at the 2024, down the lane at the 2024 election, whether or not you`re going to see majorities of Republicans in Congress refused to certify a Joe Biden reelection, should he legitimately win again.

WILLIAMS: So Cornell as the Democrats watching head for their nearest available window. Do you concur with any or all of that and have you any good news for them?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Well, I`m going to be well, that`s a really frightening scenario that was just laid out, although I don`t think is that far-fetched. But I think there`s a couple of things that are happening that I think are fundamentally different.

One is, I think, look, I think Schumer does have to give this 10 senators who are working on bipartisanship a chance, right. You know, Joe Manchin just praised Senator Schumer for giving bipartisanship a chance, you know, Senator Mitt Romney is talking about, look, just be open to the conversation. So I don`t think he could just shut that off and shut that down. I think you do have to give bipartisanship a chance, but also the clock -- but the clock is very much still ticking.

I do I -- but I will pivot back to the point you made earlier about Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell saying that he`s not going to allow a Supreme Court pick by Biden, because I think it encapsulates what`s wrong with Washington. And a lot of it has to do with Mitch McConnell, right?

You know, Mitch McConnell, who`s basically saying, I don`t care what the Constitution says, I don`t care what the norms and rules, and the President of the Senate says, I`m not going to allow this to happen, because I`m about power more than him about sort of, you know, upholding the constitution and rules and laws.

And this is a consistent pattern. This is more than anything. This is why the Senate is broken. This is the man who said I`m 100 percent against Biden`s moving as agenda. And as someone from the Obama world, I remember very clearly Mitch McConnell saying, you know, my number one priority is make Barack Obama a failed presidency.

So you know, this is a thresholds that Democrats have to try to get over at a time where many Democrats and many voters, Brian, still want Democrats to try to be bipartisan, even in the face of Mitch McConnell, and what he`s in -- what he`s doing in the Senate, really to tear bipartisanship apart.

WILLIAMS: These two friends have agreed to stay with us and it`s a perfect time to work in a break. And coming up when we continue our conversation. A new warning from Vice President Harris today on voting rights as Democrats from Texas bring their fight to protect the vote to Washington. An interesting point on that that we`ll discuss after this.



KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: We`re talking about fundamental rights that are being trampled upon. In many states, and this is not a Democrat or Republican issue, it was literally as an American issue. This issue of free and fair elections are one of the most important pillars of our democracy. And we`re seeing efforts to weaken it.


WILLIAMS: The Vice President is leading the administration`s effort to protect voting rights. So far federal legislation appears DOA in the water in the Senate Democratic state lawmakers who stays that walk out to block that Texas bill restricting voting in Texas. They`ll be in Washington tomorrow to lobby for the passage of the For the People Act. They will meet with the Senate Democratic caucus before a meeting with Vice President Harris on Wednesday.

Still with us, Cornell Belcher and A.B. Stoddard. So Cornell, this is a snarky way to put it. But the Texas Democrats might as well commiserate with the Senate Democrats. They have righteousness and virtue on their side. What both of them lack is the math?

BELCHER: Well, I think that`s right. But I also think there`s something more fundamentally problematic, Brian, that is, how do you get -- and this is something that that that President Obama has talked about all the time, is how do you get the broader swath of Americans to have skin in this game.

Look, in poll after poll shows Americans are the -- majority of Americans, not a 50-50 proposition solid majority of Americans are for the, you know, the voting rights bill and this new legislation to protect the sanctity of our democracy. But can Democrats flip that and turn Republicans obstruction of it into a win for them going into the midterms?

The greatest trick that Mitch McConnell Republicans have done is in fact, you know, we saw -- and we saw it under Obama too. And then many Democrats were saying, you know, Brian, this, this smells like 2010 coming all over again, which was a catastrophe is simply the block everything`s Democrats tried to do.

And to our earlier point, you know, have the base of the Democratic Party deenergize and frustrated and not turnout, the question is, can Democrats finally turn this and use this offensively like what the vast majority of Americans actually want to do? Can we hold Republicans feet to the fire for blocking this, for blocking infrastructure, for blocking voting rights?

And I`ll say this, my last point on this, Brian, is Democrats have to make this not a minority issue. And I think too often the talking points around this are about minorities being blocked from the ballot box. Democrats have to take a page from Republicans and Middle America has to be scared as hell of what the consequences are going to be for them and their children.

If we lose on these fights, it voting access is blocked. And if we have elections overturn that we know our legitimate middle -- the day of Middle America scared as hell about what`s going to happen in this country. That`s the day that Democrats will prevail on this and politically in the midterms.

WILLIAMS: A B, that`s a man whose life`s work has been understanding voters and how to tailor the message to certain voters and Democrats at the party level if they`re smart. We`ll listen to those words just spoken. To you, A.B., because I know Joe Manchin is your favorite topic, your reaction to Pelosi saying she`s, quote, not giving up on getting Manchin to support the For the People Act?

STODDARD: Well, I think it`s impressive. That speaker recently said that she wasn`t giving up on Senate Republicans either on getting behind a commission to investigate January 6, and the worst assault on the Capitol since the Civil War. And surely they walked right off the cliff in lockstep and refused to back it, but I I appreciate her sunny optimism.

Joe Manchin aside, as we discussed last week, Cornell is right. This whole problem with the For the People Act, and dealing with all of the voting restriction bills passed around the country, by state legislatures by Republicans is that we really can`t be looking at the vote passing and a lot of Democratic messaging has been on that we have to focus on the vote counting, and how corruptible it will be with the passage of these bills, how partisan and potentially rigged it will be.

There`s a lot of talk about water bottles and a lot of talk about closing windows for requesting an absentee ballot. And how that disenfranchises voters of color and that is true. The problem is that they have allowed this process to be completely partisan, and corruptible. And we might have looked at our last free and fair election as a result. I think Cornell is right. You need to alarm voters about this in that way.

And I agree with Bill Kristol, who told you last week, why don`t the Democrats in a PR campaign just pass a different component of this every week, and just talk to the American people about what the different components are, and how scary it will be. If a bunch of corrupt politicians take over a process and a state and don`t count lawfully past votes. That`s where the focus has to be right now Democrats. Well, the House is on fire. The barn is on fire. The whole farm is letting a flame or fussing about the perfect firefighter.

If they lose the chance to pass a passable voting rights bill, they`ll lose the midterm elections and they won`t have to worry about infrastructure bills from now on because they won`t be back in power.

WILLIAMS: Wow. A lot to react to, a lot to think about from two really smart people. Friends of this broadcast both Cornell Belcher, A.B. Stoddard, can`t thank you enough. We`ll do this exact same thing again.

Coming up. New information on how effective vaccines are against this new Delta variant that devastated India and has had to the UK. More on that when we come back.



ANDY SLAVITT, FMR. WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER TO COVID RESPONSE: The variant of COVID that first started in India is now about 10 percent of all of the cases in the US. And at some point it`s going to become the majority, If you`ve been vaccinated, the vaccines are highly effective and you don`t really need to worry.


WILLIAMS: For the unvaccinated health experts warn this Delta variant is already more contagious and more lethal. New study out of Scotland shows the variant doubles the risk of hospitalization. This is not good at a time when we`re doing so well. But at least there`s this, UK official say two doses of the COVID vaccines have been highly effective against it, as you just heard Andy Slavitt say.

Back again with us tonight, Dr. Vin Gupta, a critical care pulmonologist out in Seattle who specializes in these very illnesses. He`s also on the faculty at the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. And doc again, it`s sad and alarming because otherwise, cities are opening. New York`s about to have a ticker tape parade for its first responders, two weeks from now. And yet all we`re hearing about is this delta variant how much in the real world of the United States 2021 does it worry you?

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Brian. You know, I think it worries us all in public health. And those that are clinical because what we`re seeing in hospitals across the country anecdotally. I saw this just two weeks ago is that unvaccinated young people are requiring intensive care.

I think your team actually if we can do some a brief chest X-ray rounds might actually have a chest image. I want to show all your viewers there. There we go. That is the image of a 33-year-old patient I took care of a few weeks ago. That is something I just didn`t see. My colleagues typically did not see one year prior anything that`s white in the lungs, those lungs, kind of like those pie shaped fingers in the middle of the image. Lung air should look black on a chest X-ray.

The areas that are white in areas that should otherwise look black, that`s pus from COVID-19. That`s what we`re seeing amongst young people coming in on vaccinated and unvaccinated people are peppering hospitals across the country.

And so what I`ll say just as clearly as possible, we need to make clear that those that are unvaccinated that that threat level, the threat has changed. Maybe it`s no longer calling it COVID-19. We call it COVID 21. I don`t know. But remaining unvaccinated on June 14 of 2021 is fundamentally more dangerous than remaining unvaccinated one year prior.

WILLIAMS: Let`s widen our focus. I want to play for you some comments today by the director general of the World Health Organization.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WHO DIRECTOR GENERAL: More than 10,000 people are dying every day. During this press conference alone, more than 420 people will die. These communities need vaccines. And they need them now. Not next year.


WILLIAMS: Doctor, we`ve just been told for over four years that we`re all about America first. And it`s going to take some time to change our focus back to being a member of a global community the way we thought of ourselves. Are we doing our best at vaccinating the world?

GUPTA: I think we`re getting there. So the announcements this weekend by the G7 by President Biden were a tremendous step forward a billion doses by the end of the year vaccines produced in G7 countries. Excellent start. We`re seeing Novavax now in the pipeline with a great vaccine 100 percent effective against some of these variants that was tested keeping people out of the hospital. We need more of that.

We need more intranasal vaccines, Brian, something you stick up into your nose that we think is effective at keeping COVID out of your body. We need more of those types of innovations quickly to vaccinate the world. So yes, we can do more. I`d say and we`ve talked about this in the past, we need to end lotteries here stateside, it`s not a good look. I think it`s a temporary short term play. We should get that excess supply that we`re trying to auction out. Get that to Brazil, get that to Central Asia, get that to India where they need it now.

WILLIAMS: You`re confident that in short order, we will be north of 70 percent of our population vaccinated?

GUPTA: As an aggregate maybe, but if you look at the map right now, Brian, most of the heartland, most of the South there`s counties in Alabama and Tennessee less than 20 percent vaccinated. So we`re going to see two different realities come the fall, winter that scare us here in public health. You`re going to see these emerging variants become more dominant. As Andy Slavitt said, you`re going to see cold dry air, which is a friend of COVID, a friend of flu, they like cold, dry air. You`re going to see these counties that have had, frankly, just really suboptimal uptake get hit hard, because their individuals are not going to be protected from the hospital. There are going to be regional surges, not a national one. We`re not going to hit 70 percent across the country, just in select parts of the country.

WILLIAMS: A friend of this broadcast who`s become vital to our viewer, his viewers in the area of public health. Dr. Vin Gupta has been our guest yet again tonight. Doctor, Thank you for taking our questions as always.

Just ahead, remember all the jokes about infrastructure week. Well, the only thing not funny is all the bridges and highways way below the standard of what is supposed to be a world class nation.


WILLIAMS: With the president overseas as you`ve been hearing those infrastructure talks continue on Capitol Hill. The focus now on this roughly trillion dollar plan, give or take proposed by that bipartisan group of 10 senators, Mitt Romney, among them, discussions over infrastructure spending have been going on for weeks and it`s perfectly in keeping with Washington to forget that there are real people at the other end of their actions and real people, depending on them to act as we see in our report tonight from NBC News correspondent Tom Costello.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are the most glaring examples of underfunded infrastructure, those potholes. Kelly Navarro blew two tires in Texas.

KELLY NAVARRO, TEXAS RESIDENT: We didn`t have to drive on highways like this roads or anything. I mean, it`s just ridiculous.

COSTELLO: And it`s widespread. Civil Engineers give an overall grade of C to the nation`s infrastructure but much lower grades to aviation, dams, mass transit, water systems, and yes roads and bridges. It`s up to individual states to prioritize which bridges to fix when.

(on camera): Here in Rhode Island 16 to 20 percent of the bridges are structurally deficient among the worst in the country. Look at this one held up by wooden cribbing. Because the concrete above is crumbling, the rebar is rusting. The state gets a D minus for its bridges.

(voice-over): Rhode Island has embarked on a massive repair effort, but hundreds of roads and bridges are on the list, which makes the federal infrastructure money critical.

PETER ALVITI, RHODE ISLAND DEPT. OF TRANSPORTATION DIRECTOR: The longer you wait to do it, the less safe it becomes. So certainly people`s lives are in jeopardy over time. The longer you wait, the more costly the repair is.

COSTELLO: More road projects also mean more jobs.

(on camera): But it`s not just roads and bridges. The Mississippi River is a 2,300 mile interstate of water with aging locks and levees and dams that require constant work just to keep critical barge and ship traffic moving.

(voice-over): 500 million tons of cargo move on this massive river, including half of all U.S. grain exports. The Army Corps of Engineers is constantly dredging the river to keep it moving. But some dams and levees are now decades old and need replacing. Inland waterways get a D plus but the country`s dams and levees get a D.

(on camera): Meanwhile, further down river, the Port of New Orleans is the country`s sixth busiest but it can`t accommodate the world`s newest biggest ships.

(voice-over): With 90 percent of international goods arriving on ships, the port is spending one and a half billion dollars on a second terminal to handle ships that carry twice the cargo.

BRANDY CHRISTIAN, PORT OF NEW ORLEANS PRESIDENT AND CEO: But really we`re only as efficient and have capacity that the roads, in the railways, in the bridges have that connect to our ports.

COSTELLO: To compete with the world, it all has to connect and work.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: The more we free people up to think about the things they actually care about instead of worrying about whether they`re going to hit a hole in the road, the better off they`re going to be.

COSTELLO: For drivers like Kelly --

NAVARRO: They actually have to come out of my pocket because they don`t want to fix the street.

COSTELLO: That pothole is personal. Tom Costello, NBC News, Warwick, Rhode Island.


WILLIAMS: And coming up now that you`ve seen the situation and Warrick, speaking of infrastructure, what has happened to Texas when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, allow us to introduce you to the state of Texas and while I know you know Texas that kind of rootin-tootin Texas the everything`s bigger in Texas, the don`t mess with Texas, the voter suppression is bigger in Texas, you know that Texas, but lately and under their Trumper Governor Greg Abbott, Texas is way more like a contestant on the bachelorette sensitive, putting itself out there being all vulnerable.

First, there was the winter storm. A new investigation by BuzzFeed showed the death toll from that storm revised up at around 700 souls. The entire Texas power grid failed. Ted Cruz flew the coop for Cancun until he was reminded he represented Texas and the Senate.

Well, there`s trouble in Texas once again. Texans are being warned right there in big oil country, the energy cradle of America that they must cut back on electricity this week or the lights are going to go out again. By the way the utility provider there is called ERCOT. And to prove the Texans have a sense of humor, ERCOT stands for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

But because the electricity is not reliable in Texas, people they are being told to set thermostats to 78, turn off lights and pool pumps, God forbid, because of the power plants that are offline, and the grid that remains endangered.

And then just tonight, enter Blaire Erskine, if you don`t know her stuff, you should. She`s a writer and a comedian who usually within hours of a major news story, especially there if there are officials to be parodied. She is up with a new video and then tonight, she did not disappoint. So here now, Blaire Erskine, fake spokesperson for the Texas power grid.


BLAIRE ERSKINE, WRITER AND COMEDIAN: That`s right. And thank you so much for having me. You know, we got a hot little grid out there. And we got to take care of it or it`s gone bust. OK, we can`t be having that. There`ll be a mess. So we`re just asking the people of Texas to make small sacrifices, just little sacrifices, no blood or anything like that.

You know, there`s that old saying, you can`t have the rainbow without the rain. Right? Well, you can`t have lot without until we figure out what`s going on out there. OK. Because Texas is set up on a power grid. And what power grid does -- what a power grid is, is -- something different to everybody. And that`s what you got to understand. I mean, would you rather have AC or would you rather have AOC and think about that for a little bit and I`ll start make sense.

So really, all we`re asking the people of Texas to do is to unplug, just unplug, just relax, you know, everybody`s got to unplug sometimes. And if you don`t unplug, God`s going to find a way to make you unplug and, you know, in this scenario we are God (ph).


WILLIAMS: Sadly a ton of people tonight thought that was real. The essential Blaire Erskine to take us off the air tonight as we start a new week. That`s our broadcast for this Monday evening with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.