New York marks end of most COVID restrictions. E-mails reveal Trump White House pressured DOJ to investigate false election fraud claims. Republican lawmakers have pushed new voting restrictions in nearly every state. President Joe Biden is ready to take on Russia`s Vladimir Putin in far more confrontational talks. A New Hampshire man facing charges for taking part in the January 6th Capitol riot is now hoping to head back to Washington as a member of Congress.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again, day 147 of the Biden administration and tonight a new milestone in the effort to get back to normal around here, even as the administration is hours away from facing this nation`s chief global adversary.
In New York City, once the grisly epicenter of the pandemic in our country, buildings are lit in blue, in gold in honor of the essential workers to mark an end and nearly all of the standing COVID restrictions. But attention tonight is also focused on Geneva, Switzerland, where the President is just eight hours away from sitting down with Vladimir Putin.
We are also following breaking news at home tonight, The New York Times reporting a top executive of the Trump Organization may soon be in deep legal trouble, "The Manhattan District Attorney`s Office appears to have entered the final stages of a criminal tax investigation into Donald Trump`s long serving Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, setting up the possibility he could face charges this summer. A grand jury has been hearing evidence about Mr. Weisselberg who is facing intense scrutiny from prosecutors, as they seek his cooperation with a broader investigation into Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization. The prosecutors have obtained Mr. Weisselberg`s personal tax returns, providing the fullest picture yet of his finances."
As the Times goes on to point out, the Trump family has relied on Weisselberg`s loyalty and service for decades. Weisselberg in fact goes back to when Trump`s father ran the business. So this could get interesting rather quickly.
And as we mentioned, that anticipated face to face meeting between the current, incumbent President and Russia`s leader is now just a few hours away. NBC News reporting it will be divided into at least two sessions and Biden will never be alone with Putin which is standard practice at these sorts of things. There will be no joint news conference. Each will talk to the media separately. Putin will go first. Our colleague, Andrea Mitchell, is in Geneva tonight.
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ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: They hope that they can say that they`ve got an agreement for teams to start working on extending a key nuclear arms treaty that`s going to expire in five years. But in the 80s they were working on missiles and warheads. Now they`ve got new weapons, new disruptive technologies, cyber is a lot more complicated. So as President Biden said last night turning Ronald Reagan`s famous phrase with Vladimir Putin you`ve got to verify first and then trust.
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WILLIAMS: Biden has made the defense of democracy a cornerstone of his eight day trip overseas. Today, his administration unveiled a new strategy to counter domestic terrorist attacks here at home. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the focus will be on analyzing, preventing and disrupting violent extremism.
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MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Our current effort comes on the heels of another large and heinous attack, this time, the January 6 assault on our nation`s capital. Attacks by domestic terrorists are not just attacks on their immediate victims they are attacks on all of us collectively. We are focused on violence, not an ideology. We do not prosecute people for their beliefs.
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WILLIAMS: Just yesterday, the FBI warned that some frustrated QAnon conspiracy believers may try to carry out acts of violence. We`ve also learned more about how the former president and his then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows repeatedly and unsuccessfully pressured the Justice Department to investigate baseless claims of voter fraud weeks before the newly elected president`s inauguration.
This is stunning stuff the House Oversight Committee today released email exchanges detailing the White House pressure campaign, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, "Mark Meadows on January 1 forwarded to the Justice Department a YouTube link referencing unsubstantiated allegations that people in Italy have manipulated the U.S. election results. A then senior justice department official had two words for it, "Pure Insanity." They go on, "The released materials include an email from the White House to acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall that had attacked a draft brief brought by outside attorney Kurt Olsen asking the Supreme Court to overturn election results in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona and Nevada, all states Mr. Biden carried.
The email goes on to say, Trump wanted the documents sent but that neither justice official had responded. Today the art and trumper Ohio Republican Congressman Jim Jordan brought up the emails and the DOJ skepticism during a House Oversight Committee Hearing.
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REP. JIM JORDAN, (R) OHIO OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: When the President -- when the chief of staff to the president United States asked someone in the executive branch to do something, and they basically give him the finger, I think that`s the problem we should be looking into. But that`s not what the Democrats going to look into.
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WILLIAMS: A few moments ago we mentioned growing optimism concerning the coronavirus, yet many doctors are still cautious out there. Today the CDC designated the Delta variant as a, "variant of concern." This version you`ll recall first detected in India, now accounts for almost 10% of all new cases in our country. Even so, more states including California, the first state to impose those strict stay at home regulations are lifting most restrictions now. And in New York, fireworks were set off across the state a few hours ago to celebrate the benchmark, 70% of the population of New York getting vaccinated. The White House is also planning an independence from the virus event for the Fourth of July.
It`s a lot let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Tuesday night, Peter Baker, the Veteran Journalist and Author who is Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Professor Melissa Murray, NYU Law School who was law clerk for Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the federal bench prior to her nomination to the Supreme Court and Dr. Irwin Redlener, Founding Director of Columbia University National Center for Disaster Preparedness, he advises us on public health, also happens to be a Columnist over at The Daily Beast.
Well, good evening to you all and welcome. Peter, let`s start with the President you cover for a living and more than that, let`s start with Lindsey Graham tonight pre-summit advice on Hannity.
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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: He needs to tell Putin if there`s another cyber attack in America, coming from Russian soil, you`re going to pay a price. His policies indicate to me that he doesn`t understand the dangers we face. This would not have happened if Donald Trump were president. We would not be attacked twice from Russia by cyber terrorists if Donald Trump were president. Joe Biden needs to fix this.
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WILLIAMS: Interesting advice there to be tough on Putin. Perhaps the Senator can be forgiven. Perhaps he is forgetting this in Helsinki.
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DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it`s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it`s not Russia. I will say this. I don`t see any reason why it would be.
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WILLIAMS: Tonight, Fiona Hill indeed said that was a humiliating moment for our country. So Peter Baker, doesn`t tomorrow, really begin to normalize up this relationship?
PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, it`s worth remembering what Senator Graham says this wouldn`t have happened under President Trump but this actually did happen under President Trump, not just the election interference, as you know, they`re from the Helsinki summit, but just in the last weeks and months of his administration was the solar winds, cyber attack on the United States, for which President Trump did nothing and said nothing about in public. So they said that Senator Graham was concerned about an American president being tough on Putin this would not be the first mall but when a president has confronted a president in that circumstance. We`ll see what President Biden says tomorrow. We`ll see how he confronts President Putin. What kind of a tone he takes. I think a lot of people are looking to see whether or not he can stand up to President Putin. And if so, how does he do it?
Remember, you know, this is a interesting timing for summit in which Russia has been provoking the West in recent weeks in quite a demonstrative way, both through a repression of its own dissenters at home by embracing Bella Ruse was just forced down a plane in order to capture internal opposition leader through cyber attacks and other, you know, provocations in recent weeks. So, very people even inside the Biden administration to question whether this is the right time to have this meeting. The question is what President Biden will use it for and how he will make that point to President Putin.
WILLIAMS: Professor Murray over to you this is also about the circle around the former president but a big story that came out in Peter`s newspaper tonight. Our friend Neal Katyal was talking about Mr. Weisselberg tonight and raised this prospect.
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NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: If Weisselberg doesn`t cooperate, he`s got to worry that Trump may turn on him. Each of them going to have to worry about that and that becomes a race to get information.
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WILLIAMS: So Professor, Counselor, exactly how much trouble is Weisselberg in potentially and what kind of possible charges are we talking about?
MELISSA MURRAY, NYU LAW PROFESSOR: Well, there`s a wide ranging investigation that`s ongoing here. There`s talk of tax fraud, also claims that there perhaps wasn`t taxes paid on fringe benefits to employees, but again, the biggest issue is going to be whether there have been valuation of assets or the dropping down of liabilities in some of these loans that Weisselberg orchestrated. And all of that could have serious consequences. As Neal says, this really is a prisoner`s dilemma, Mr. Weisselberg and Mr. Trump will both have to decide how they`re going to proceed. And of course, there will be considerable pressure on Mr. Weisselberg, whether there`s an indictment or not to cooperate in order to secure leniency going forward.
WILLIAMS: Doctor, over to you, 72 degree nights in midtown Manhattan this evening, if you had windows open, it was almost impossible not to hear fireworks, obviously a major celebration 70% inoculation threshold in New York. Our role, however, is that of joy killers, what worries you even having reached this 70% threshold?
DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Yeah, Brian, so first of all, it needs to be said that compared to a year ago, this has been a remarkable turnaround. However, I think almost everybody in my line of work is saying, OK, for optimism, but how about a little caution thrown in there as well. There`s a couple of problems that we need to face, Brian, one of them is this so called Delta variant, which rosen in Southeast Asia, and has now become a problem in the United Kingdom, and is about 10% of the COVID cases we`re still seeing in the U.S. And this is a particular problem, Brian, because of this fact, that the success we`re getting and vaccinating people is very, very disparate. So in the northeast, we`re doing fine. In the southeast, in places like Mississippi, vaccination rates are very low. And that`s important because the vaccines that are out there, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, these all will really help suppress even the Delta variant. So the fact that we have a patchwork of vaccinations around the United States represents a need to be really cautious. This went from a variant of interest to a variant of concern, just today, and I think we need to pay attention to that.
And I guess the main point, Brian, we are not out of the woods yet. Hopefully, we will be. I see a little twinkling light at the end of the long dark tunnel there. But, you know, we still need to be worried about where this is all going.
WILLIAMS: Waiting for that light to become brighter. Hey, Peter Baker, we`re looking at overseas media for any reports that Joe Biden`s looking at property in Switzerland. He would be forgiven given what is waiting for him back home, give us some idea of the scope of the troubles and the height of the mountain he faces upon landing at Andrews Air Force Base?
BAKER: Yeah, look, he`s got a plethora of problems waiting for him at home. And particularly in terms of his legislative agenda, he`s having a hard time corralling any kind of Republicans in a bipartisan deal on infrastructure, much less on other issues like police reform, immigration, guns, and other priorities. And I think that the patience he`s seeing on the left is going to become even harder once he gets back. His own party is saying to him, OK, enough of this enough, enough the negotiating, we can`t trust the Republicans, they`re not in it for real anyway. Don`t wait for them. But the problem for that is that they don`t have enough of a majority in the Senate in particular, to lose even a single Democrat. And as long as you have Senator Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema saying, wait a second, I`m not there yet. I`m not ready to go along with this. Democrats only approach Biden is kind of in a real, you know, a real problem here. And I think that the question is, where is the patience begin to run out, his patience and the patience of his own party?
WILLIAMS: Professor, back over to you. We`ve all been involved in this kind of national frog boiling experiment where attacks on our democracy are concerned. The emails released today were nothing short of extraordinary. They would be staggering in normal times, if we can recall such a period. What does it reveal to you about the attempt to use the DOJ as a lever of the presidency and the state of the Justice Department itself?
MURRAY: I think it`s very clear that the traditional long standing independence the DOJ had enjoyed under prior administrations, including Republican administrations was utterly absent over the last four years of the Trump administration. And again, it seems like The DOJ was almost being deployed as a kind of public defender for the president itself. So the idea that a chief of staff, the President would be pressuring individuals and the Department of Justice that the President via his assistant would be sending inquiries to the acting Attorney General asking him to investigate charges of fraud in Michigan, or to file a brief before the United States Supreme Court. All of that is very much outside of the norm. There`s always been a long standing separation between the Department of Justice and the White House, particularly in issues resolving -- involving law enforcement and other kinds of priorities of highly sensitive nature. And it was just utterly absent. And that`s what these emails suggest. And again, I think there`s a lot of work to be done to unwind some of this.
WILLIAMS: Doctor, you get the last word, because I want to go back to your last comment about that life perhaps getting brighter. We`re at what, 64% vaccination penetration American adults, at least one shot, the goal was 70% by July 4, the math looks like we`re going to miss that by a bit. But ultimately, I am guessing your confidence level is high that we will look back on a date certain at some point, and declare our nation at least 70% vaccinated.
REDLENER: I think that`s true. And we also have the people that may not have been vaccinated, but did have a documented case of COVID-19. They will also have immunity. So collectively, hopefully, those who had gotten the disease, and those who get vaccinated will reach a point where the spread of the virus of any variant is going to be limited. But the one thing to keep in mind, Brian, is there are countries in Africa where there are less than 1%, less than 1% of the population that`s gotten any vaccine whatsoever. And like we`ve said many times before, on your show, Brian, we`re not out of the woods unless we`re all out of the woods. So at some point, we`re going to have to remember that Maxim and also remember that the United States government just committed to purchase 500 million doses to help distribute in those parts of the world where the vaccine is so desperately needed. What a great moment for us.
WILLIAMS: What a great moment for us, feels like our former role in the world. Peter Baker, Melissa Murray, Dr. Irwin Redlener, our thanks for starting us off this evening, greatly appreciate having the three of you.
Coming up for us, it`s not hyperbole, it has become a fair question to ask, have we witnessed this nation`s last free and fair election? Truly, our political experts are standing by to weigh in.
And later, President Biden just hours away now from the most important meeting thus far in his presidency. A retired four star general, former member of the National Security Council standing by to give us a preview. All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Tuesday evening, overlooking Geneva, Switzerland sight of tomorrow`s summit.
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REP. RO KHANNA, (D) CALIFORNIA OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Think about this, the President was using the Justice Department as his own lawyer to try to overturn the election. I mean, it is incredibly dangerous. It is a threat to our democracy. And the question is what are we going to do in the future to prevent any president from abusing our democratic system in this way?
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WILLIAMS: That`s Ro Khanna, California Democrat, member of the House Oversight Committee reacting to these emails detailing Trump`s efforts to get the DOJ to overturn the results of a democratic election, nothing short of it. On the timing of the emails, New York Times reports it this way, much of the correspondence occurred during a tense week within the Justice Department when Mr. Rosen and his top deputies realized that one of their peers had plotted with Mr. Trump to first oust Mr. Rosen and then try to use federal law enforcement to force Georgia to overturn its election results.
It`s a lot thankfully, we have two terrific friends at this broadcast to talk about all of it. Jason Johnson, Campaign Veteran Journalist, Contributor at the Grio, Professor of Politics and Journalism at Morgan State University, Go Bears and Matthew Dowd, Founder of Country Over Party, in the past he was Chief Strategist for the Bush-Cheney presidential effort in `04. He is deservedly the most famous man in Wimberley, Texas.
And Matthew, indeed, I would like to start with you. We have been part of a national frog boiling campaign, you could hear it in the congressman`s voice wanting to focus people`s attention, folks, don`t you understand that what we`ve -- what`s been revealed would have made Nixon jealous, it would have made Nixon blush and yet the sound of crickets across the land is mostly what we get. So Matthew explained to the good folks watching how much danger democracy is in?
MATTHEW DOWD, FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST TO BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN: Well, thanks for having me and being the most famous person in Wimberley is being like the thinnest person in fed camp. So thank you for that. I appreciate that. I mean, I think we`re an incredibly dangerous point, I think it`s more dangerous than what happened in Watergate, which is when I got interested in politics, and when I was a very young age got very interested. I think it`s more dangerous than what we faced in World War II, by the attack of two autocratic regimes, because at that point in time, when we were attacked, and they tried to end democracy, we united against it. We`re not united against this today in this country today, even though a majority are with democracy, there`s a large minority, that doesn`t seem to care about it.
And that I think you`ve traced this all the way back to the Civil War. I mean, that`s I think the part we`re in today, though arms haven`t been taken up against each other, per se, though there`s been lots of violence, arms have been taken up, per se, with armies set against each other. We`re in a perilous point. I think all of us made the assumption that people who took the oath of office to defend the constitution from enemies foreign domestic took it seriously. And we now learn that a president did not take his oath of office seriously. We learn an entire political party doesn`t take their oath of office seriously. The Republicans don`t take their office seriously. We learn that Donald Trump surrounded himself with staff who didn`t take that oath seriously. So I think it`s incredibly dangerous situation we`re in and it`s not only what happened in Washington, it`s what`s now, this is a virus that started in Washington, but has now infected many states including my state here in Texas with what`s happening here with the leadership of the GOP here in Texas. So it`s an incredibly perilous point we`re in. Now, I think it`s incumbent upon all of us to speak the truth and all that and do whatever we can, in whatever way we can to defend our country.
WILLIAMS: Jason Johnson, I hate to do it to you, but you`re a thoughtful guy, same question.
JASON JOHNSON, PROFESSOR MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: Why is anyone surprised by this? I`m not surprised. Donald Trump was a terrible person. I mean, this was the whole purpose of the January 6 commission. These are the kinds of additional things that we would have heard of, sort of in a larger context. There is nothing you could tell me that Donald Trump did in the last administration, that would shock me. If you told me that he wanted to personally burn ballots, I would believe you. If you told me that he personally wanted to draw in quarter reference burger that, you know, the Secretary of State, I wouldn`t believe you. The man was an autocrat. My concern, when I hear these kinds of things, just like Ro Khanna, just like other people have said, the Democratic Party is not serious enough about purging the people all the way down, who are complicit and open to this kind of behavior from the federal government.
And it`s like, there`s a context here to understand, right? Like you can, you can be a non sexist person, but that doesn`t mean that you`re an ally. You can be a non racist person. It doesn`t mean you`re anti racist. I don`t care that the Democratic Party is pro-democracy. They don`t seem to be anti fascist. And they have to be anti fascist now to battle the Republican Party. So every time I hear some of this new information, it doesn`t shock me. There is no depth to which this previous administration could go that would surprise me in 2021.
WILLIAMS: I don`t know much but I think we`re at a hell of a place. We`re going to pause this conversation right here. Take a break, a lot to discuss when we come back. Jason Johnson, Matthew Dowd are going to stay with us.
Coming up, something Matthew knows about, Texas democrats bringing their voting rights push to Washington in an effort to ease the gridlock. Problem is, they and the National Democrats have the same damn math, looking right out of.
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A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: 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. 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.
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WILLIAMS: That was the quote of our broadcast last night, put a lump in a lot of throats from a woman not given normally the hyperbole. Our guests, Jason Johnson and Matthew Dowd, remain with us.
And, Matthew, truth be told my question to AB Stoddard last night was motivated by the conversation you had with Nicole Wallace on the air yesterday afternoon. You told the folks watching that we`d left suppression weeks ago that now this is about vote nullification in our country, and please explain to the folks watching tonight what you said.
DOWD: Thank you, Brian. My point was, is that yes, all of these restrictions and impediments that are being put in place are awful. But you can actually overcome many of them through just sheer energy and sheer force of voters turning out in voting and doing all of that. But what is more deleterious and what is more dangerous to our democracy, is the idea that instead of just moving on in trying to take polling places away from people and changing hours of voting, and taking away absentee ballots and ballots by mail, we`re now going to a thing that even if millions of people show up to defeat Republicans, which I am advocating Americans do in the coming elections, overwhelmingly. Even if they show up and win, there are now these laws being written to allow partisans to be involved in the actual process of the balloting, process of the counting process of the voting.
And then, there are laws being written to criminalize and to be able to allow judges in certain jurisdictions to overthrow votes, and their state legislators to throw out the entire campaigns and throw out the entire election results, and install who they want in place. That`s -- I mean, as bad as voters restrictions are, that fundamentally changes the nature of this country from a democracy to an autocracy. And that`s, I think, the biggest fear and the biggest fight.
We spent too much time talking about not being able to give people water in line, which is obviously bad, and sort of completely morally corrupt. But we`re now really shouldn`t be debating the idea that we`re no longer going to have free and fair elections.
WILLIAMS: Wow. Jason Johnson, we have -- my quick here, pivot to solutions. What can you tell the folks watching about remedies about what could pass the current Congress as we know them?
JOHNSON: So this is a sandwich. You`re going to have to put two things together. You have to have this watered down version of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which more or less creates preclearance, which means that when states want to change things about voting, when you have things like Wisconsin, where you go from 180 polling stations to 5. It would mean that you would have to get justification for that. You would have to move that through the Justice Department, although it`s weakening the current John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
Then, you have the For the People Act which would go back and make a legal instead of basic thresholds for voting throughout the country. The passage of both of these bills is necessary. But I have to say this, about this commentary about voting or access to voting or anything else like that. These loans are all terrible. We`ve known they`re always terrible. To say, well, we`re focusing too much on the voting access and not much on the voting count. It`s like saying, you know the bad thing about crack, you`re a crack addict and it ruins your teeth. Guess what, crack is bad.
These laws are bad, which is why the focus on Kyrsten Sinema, and Joe Manchin, and Joe Biden and everyone else in the Senate is so critically important, that Democrats do not have much time to pass the two necessary bills to prevent this from happening. Pass these bills, none of these laws are an issue and then you don`t have to worry about water and light or who`s counting at the end.
WILLIAMS: And, Matthew, if I understand your point, your point has always been, you can throw roadblocks in front of voters. A motivated voter is going to find that further motivation to go to the poll and carry out their democratic duty. But once that vote is cast, if you`re going to start screwing around with the numbers backstage, if you`re going to have the ability to toss out the will of the voters, that is where you draw a distinction, am I correct
DOWD: Well, I agree completely with what you just said and what Jason said. It`s all bad, but when we get to the point is you say where basically people show up and struggle and do all they can to vote. And then their vote isn`t counted, that`s an entirely different level of autocracy that we`ve arrived at, and that`s where Republicans want a country to head.
WILLIAMS: Jason Johnson, back to you. The Texas Democrats came to the Hill this week. They have some commiserating to do with Democrats in the US Senate. And that`s the math. The math that stares them in the face every day they wake up. What do you tell people who get down when they realize the math in Texas, where Matthew lives, the math in Washington, where Senator Schumer is trying to hurt all these cats.
JOHNSON: I talked to Reverend Barber last week, I talked to Stacey Abrams today. I talked to people who are in the field, and they say that the calls and the attention and all of this focus, the kinds of things that the Texas Democrats are doing by going to Washington are the only solution that we have. Pressure has to be put on all of the Democratic Party and the Republicans. Remember, they are still representing constituents to make the kind of changes that people want in voting laws.
But I have to say this, the Sinema and Manchin, they said staffers but didn`t even show up to this meeting with Republican, with Democrats from Texas is indicative of the arrogance of these elected officials that they won`t even meet with members of their own party who are saying, hey, look, we`re starving. We`re drowning out here, can you throw us a lifeline?
WILLIAMS: Gentlemen, thank you both so much. We`ll obviously do this again. These are weighty and to be honest, completely depressing topics but cover them we must. Jason Johnson, Matthew Dowd, greatly appreciate you staying up with us.
Coming up for us, a retired four star US army general on what this President needs to get out of Vladimir Putin come tomorrow.
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MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: It reminds me of older days, Soviet Cold War days, when we met with Soviet leaders but we didn`t check our values at the door. And we agreed to disagree about a lot of things. I think that`s the approach that Biden needs to take tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Former Ambassador Michael McFaul, familiar face at this network, he has been helping President Biden prepare for tomorrow`s big meeting, as McFaul himself has met with Putin as Biden. As POLITICO reports, Biden plans to take a tough line with Putin while maybe even eliciting a concession or two from the Russian leader. Such benefits, his team has calculated are well worth the incoming flak from Republicans that they`re getting for agreeing to the meeting in the first place.
Well, with us again tonight another good friend, General Barry McCaffrey, decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, former battlefield commander in the Persian Gulf, former cabinet member, former member of the National Security Council. He retired as a four star general in the US army.
General, look at it this way, if Putin reported to a Board of Directors, he`d get straight up bonuses every year. Because think of what their wish list would have been six, seven years ago, get involved in Brexit, get involved in an American presidential election. If you possibly can, weaken the Atlantic Alliance that has kept the peace for decades. If you possibly can, find an American president willing to criticize NATO. And if you`re really lucky, get rid of some of those American troops in Germany because they bother us. So think about that a straight flush. And I am guessing your hope and your expectation is that era ends tomorrow.
BARRY MCCAFFREY, RETIRED US ARMY: Look, Brian, I`ve spent a lot of time doing the Russians in Moscow and elsewhere. First of all, I think without question, President Biden and his senior team were right to engage with the Russians. And to me, there`s no question we have to have an ongoing dialogue with Putin.
Biden arrives to deal is a Mr. Putin, with the backing of the G7, European Union, 30 nations of NATO. He comes in as the head of state with the most powerful economic, military and value-based state in the history of mankind. He is dealing with a guy whose economy is smaller than that of California, who`s corrupt, who`s an autocrat, who`s ended democracy in Russia within during and growing opposition to them internally. And Putin has a state that is hostile to American interests.
But we`ve actually fought and killed a couple of hundred Russian mercenaries in Syria. They interfered with our election. They`re using hackers, surrogate hackers to attack our economic system. So I think Mr. Biden will do just fine to show up, engage him and leave a marker on the table. But then we must take action, or this daring, clever kleptocrat Putin will not change his behavior.
WILLIAMS: It`s such a vast return on investment, such a minimal investment on the part of the Russians, you and I could go through social media tonight and pick out the stories that have been helped along by the sites we know are backed by Russian interests. Anything that tears us apart, anything that casts our country in a bad light. And think about it, the segment before this, we`re talking about the possibility of voting nullification in our already torn up country. That`s a pretty significant return on investment if you asked me.
MCCAFFREY: Oh sure, no question. Look, when you look at Russia`s military power, they`re actually from a strategic perspective, not much of a threat to either Western Europe nor the United States, who couldn`t get a lot of oil and nuclear weapons and neither one of them was a particularly powerful tool at this time.
Our strategic threat long term is China. So when we do with Putin, again, he`s batting way above his average. He doesn`t have much going for him. But what he does have is daring and a lack of respect for the law. I look at this with almost amazement at how far he got with Trump.
By the way, Mr. Trump today put out a statement, a very insulting one, the great relationship he and Putin had in Helsinki, and for Joe Biden to not fall asleep at the summit. This is such -- an enduring question will be eventually the Russians will leak what they had to control Mr. Trump, with his anti-American activities. Those days are over, Biden and his team are in charge. We don`t need military operations against the Russians.
But we do need to directly confront them on cyber hacking, interference with our election, Arctic operations, their mischief in the Middle East. Biden`s got to follow through on this short conference with direct action against the threat.
WILLIAMS: We always find out after the fact don`t wait, just as you can pick up on the auction market all the pieces and detritus of the early Soviet space program of bugging mechanisms. All the stuff they used to spend their GDP on, we always do find out years later, don`t we?
MCCAFFREY: Oh, yes. No question then. By the way, I assume it`s not that, you know, Black Arts with sex tapes or whatever. But for some reason, clearly, Mr. Trump was an active agent without guidance of Russian foreign policy. So Mr. Biden, all he`s got to do is act like the Democrat, the public official, the man of honor. He`s got great people with him. Tony Blinken and Lloyd Austin, and State, and Defense, though we`re going to come out of this just fine but we need now to push back directly against Mr. Putin.
WILLIAMS: General Barry McCaffrey, thank you so much for taking our questions tonight. We`ll be watching with great interest tomorrow along with you.
Coming up for us, it is a work of art that has brought people to tears and now someone has figured out to bring it to those same people.
WILLIAMS: This next story is unusual, given all we`ve covered tonight. As stories go, it`s more of a nice idea and a calming respite that we could all use. And yes, it`s related to all that we`ve just lived through. Specifically the aspect of the pandemic that ban traveled to Europe for millions of people. There is a place in Illinois that has figured out a way to bring the world`s treasures to you. We get our report on it tonight from NBC News correspondent, Kevin Tibbles.
KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michelangelo`s masterpiece in the Midwest Mall, the Sistine Chapel not on the Vatican ceiling, but a reproduction in a vacant former Sears Store, where visitors get up close and personal with the creation of Adam or the iconic Last Judgement. And not strain their necks looking up.
The idea of touring replicas of the 33 frescoes came to Martin Bialis when he too was straining his neck.
MARTIN BIALIS, SISTINE CHAPEL EXHIBITION: We`re focusing on basically break bringing artwork to you to see up close from a perspective that no pope has ever seen it.
TIBBLES: Outside Chicago`s Oakbrook Center, they line up, not for bargains but to escape to Italy, all part of a new strategy transforming empty retail space into public attractions.
TIM GEIGES, BROOKFIELD PROPERTIES RETAIL: We have to continue to evolve and I think Oakbrook Center is a perfect example of what the modern day shopping center will look like.
TIBBLES: If you can`t get to Rome, Rome will come to your suburb.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can get a little preview here.
TIBBLES: Renaissance painter pointing the way to a renaissance in retail. Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Oak Brook, Illinois.
WILLIAMS: So how about that? And when we come back after this final break, if you were part of a 1-6 insurrection and riot, naturally the next step is running for office even if you`re not totally sure what office it is you`re fixing to run for.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight. This is a local news story from our station up in Boston with a twist, a literal twist. So we`re just going to roll the story for you.
This is from reporter Katherine Underwood from Channel 10 in Boston, NBC affiliate, and it features a man who played a memorable and prominent role in the riot and desecration of our Capitol. And his plan is to run for office based on his newfound notoriety.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHERINE UNDERWOOD, CHANNEL 10 CORRESPONDENT: Jason Riddle is still working on the details of his campaign.
JASON RIDDLE, TOOK PART CAPITOL RIOT: I guess, let`s get back to work. I guess that should be the slogan I`m going to go with.
UNDERWOOD: You might remember Riddle after seeing this photo. He`s the man from Keene, New Hampshire who admitted to entering the Capitol building on January 6th, and chugging from a bottle of wine he found in a lawmakers office.
RIDDLE: In the long run. If you`re running for office, I guess, I mean, attention is good attention. So I think it`ll help me.
UNDERWOOD: Riddle says he received death threats after his involvement in the riots was made public. But he says he`s also heard from a lot of people asking him to run for an elected position. What does being at the riots do for your campaign?
RIDDLE: Tell them I show up. I`m actually going to keep my promises and make some changes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: OK, so it`s not over. We`ve just chosen to stop it here for a second to prepare you for the good part. And so here`s the payoff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNDERWOOD: He says he`s running against Democrat Annie Kuster in the 2022 midterm elections. Kuster is currently in her fifth term as a US Congresswoman representing New Hampshire`s 2nd District.
RIDDLE: I thought Annie was a state representative.
UNDERWOOD: No. A state rep is in State House in Concord.
RIDDLE: Yes, that`s what Annie.
UNDERWOOD: No, no. She`s in Washington.
RIDDLE: Oh, well, I guess I got to run against that then.
UNDERWOOD: So Washington it is. The problem right now, though, is that Riddle is prohibited from DC while he faces several misdemeanor charges for his alleged role in the riots.
RIDDLE: Despite my ongoing legal problems, I`m supposed to live my life how I want to live it and it`s something I want to do. So why not do it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Katherine Underwood to take us off the air tonight. Here`s the takeaway. If you have one of these insurrection enthusiasts near you in your community, prompted by their newfound fame to run for office, they may need your help. Please assist them by directing them to the correct race, maybe also explain the branches of government, both federal and while you`re at it probably state government as well.
That is our broadcast for this Tuesday night with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.