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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 6/16/21

Guests: Richard Haass, Eugene Robinson, Mike Murphy


President Joe Biden is back in U.S. after his 8-day foreign trip and Putin summit. Biden confronted Putin on cyberattacks. He warned Putin, U.S. would respond to cyber attacks. Biden focuses on jailed Russian dissident Alexei Navalny. Putin confronted on treatment of political opponents. DOJ ends criminal inquiry and lawsuit over John Bolton book. Biden slams Georgia law as "attack" on voter rights. Senator Joe Manchin opened the door to a compromise on voting legislation with a memo proposing a slew of changes to the Democrats` bills.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: -- Juneteenth commemorates that day. In 1980, Juneteenth became a Texas State holiday when signed into law. It will become the country`s 11th federal holiday. That is Tonight`s Last Word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, day 148 of the Biden administration, Air Force One has indeed touchdown. The President is back on U.S. soil after eight days overseas, his first foreign trip since taking office.

Today in Switzerland, he held that much anticipated summit with Russia`s Vladimir Putin.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: As I said outside, I think it`s always better to meet face to face.


WILLIAMS: That moment was followed by a wild and chaotic scene as reporters from both countries press corps, jockeyed for position before being tossed out. So the actual talks could begin behind closed doors. Meeting was shorter than expected at about three plus hours, both leaders emerge to hold separate back to back news conferences. Putin went first followed by Biden.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: I think there was no hostility, quite the contrary. We don`t share the same positions in many areas. But I think that both of these sides showed a willingness to understand one another. The talks were quite constructive. President Biden is an experienced person.

BIDEN: I told President Putin my agenda is not against Russia, or anyone else. It`s for the American people. It`s not about just going after Russia when they violate human rights. It`s about who we are. We need to have some basic rules of the road that we can all abide by. I did what I came to do. The tone of the entire meetings was good, positive. There wasn`t any strident action taken.


WILLIAMS: The two leaders agreed to open talks on arms control. They said their respective ambassadors would be returning to their posts in Moscow and Washington. Putin defended his nation`s provocative moves in Ukraine, of course, while Biden raised the issue of Paul Whalen and Trevor Reed, those two Americans now imprisoned in Russia. Biden says he also brought up the growing number, the alarming number of cyber attacks here in the U.S. and issue Putin seem to shrug off.


PUTIN: As for cyber security, we reached an agreement. Chiefly, that we will start negotiations on that, most of the cyber attacks in the world are carried out from the cyber realm of the United States. And second place is Canada. Russia is not on the list.

BIDEN: Certain critical infrastructure should be off limits to attack, period, by cyber any other means. I gave them a list. If I`m not mistaken, I don`t have it in front of me, 16 specific entities, 16 defined as critical infrastructure under U.S. policy, from the energy sector to our water systems.

I pointed out to him we have significant cyber capability. And he knows it. He doesn`t know exactly what it is, but it`s significant. And if in fact they violate these basic norms, we will respond with cyber.


WILLIAMS: President Biden also brought up the case of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned with a nerve agent is now serving a two year sentence in a penal colony outside Moscow because he sought treatment for the poisoning in Germany. When asked about Navalny during his news conference, Putin refuse to mention Navalny by name, that`s common for him, dismissing questions about his treatment. And in the spirit of what about ism, he then referred to racial unrest in the U.S. ABC News correspondent Rachel Scott wasn`t having it and would not let it end there.


RACHEL SCOTT, ABC NEWS REPORTER: The list of your political opponents who are dead, imprisoned or jailed is long, Alexei Navalny, the organization calls for free and fair elections and end to corruption, and you have now prevented anyone who supports him to run for office. So my question is, Mr. President, what are you so afraid of?

PUTIN: The organization that you mentioned, has been -- has publicly called for a mass disorder, they have publicly called for breaking the law. America just recently had very severe events, after well-known events, after the killing of an African American. And an entire movement developed, known as Black Lives Matter. What we saw was disordered destruction, violations of the law, et cetera. We feel sympathy for the United States of America, but we don`t want that to happen on our territory.


WILLIAMS: There was some classic Putin on display today. He then tried to imply that the arrest and prosecution of the 1/6 rioters and insurrectionists was somehow similar to human rights violations.


PUTIN: As for who is killing whom or are throwing whom in jail, people came to the U.S. Congress with political demands. Over 400 people had criminal charges placed on them. They face prison sentences of up to 28, maybe even 25 years. They`re being called domestic terrorists.

BIDEN: That`s ridiculous comparison. It`s one thing for literally criminals to break through court and go into the capital, kill a police officer and be held accountable. And it is for people objecting marching on a capital one saying, you are not allowing me to speak freely.


WILLIAMS: President Biden later was asked if he discussed the potential consequences, shouldn`t Navalny wind up dead in prison?


BIDEN: I made it clear to him that I believe the consequences of that would be devastating for Russia.


WILLIAMS: There was also an interesting development today concerning the man Joe Biden defeated. The Biden Justice Department announced a major decision concerning Donald Trump and his former National Security Adviser John Bolton. Attorney General Garland has closed a criminal investigation into whether or not Bolton`s tell all book about the Trump White House illegally disclosed classified information. Exactly one year ago, the Trump administration sued Bolton to try to stop publication of the book called, The Room Where It Happened. It was back then we also learned the former president was pressuring investigators to prosecute him. Earlier tonight Bolton celebrated the decision with a swipe at his former boss.


JOHN BOLTON, AUTHOR, "THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED": Trump used the question of classified information purely as a pretext to try and suppress a book he did not want to come out before the November 2020 election. My book did go through a pre-publication review process. It was cleared his decision by the Justice Department is a vindication of the rule of law against what was another abuse of power by Donald Trump.


WILLIAMS: And with that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Wednesday night starting with Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter for The Associated Press. He was among the journalists traveling with the President during this foreign trip, just got off Air Force One and time to join us by phone from the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base, Claire McCaskill also with us, former Democratic Senator from the great State of Missouri and Julia Ioffe, a Russian-born American journalist, Veteran Foreign Correspondent currently working on launching a new media company and currently offering her own newsletter called tomorrow will be worse, knack for naming newsletters to keep with our times.

Jonathan Lemire, we`re guessing you are fresh as a daisy, can`t thank you enough for joining us by telephone from Andrews, knowing something about these trips home from summits, sometimes unnamed senior officials have a way of making their way back in the aircraft to the press compartment to give an assessment of the summit just concluded. What is the assessment from that traveling team tonight?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good evening, Brian. And yes, it`s been a long day. And I`m probably a rough place. You indeed know well, just under the wing here of Air Force One in Andrews Air Force Base. The White House team has certainly conveyed that they are happy with how the week has gone, including today. Like there was never going to be, they set these expectations in advance, major deliverables coming from the President`s summit with Vladimir Putin in Geneva today. But there were some areas of agreement that countries have a group, have agreed to return their respective ambassadors to the other nation`s capital. Some first steps on things like arms control and strategic -- and the strategic future of the nation. Those are good things. For the President himself said, we`ll have to see whether or not Vladimir Putin and Russia`s misbehavior, their disruptive behavior actually changes. Biden welcome the chance behind closed doors to deliver messages to Putin on things like Ukraine and cyber hacking, and election interference, but then we saw Putin and his news conference afterwards, he did not really accept any responsibility for these things. And it certainly did not suggest that his actions would change. But it was a highly anticipated summit that indeed began with, shoving that thing you mentioned trying the two press floors, Russian and American tried to squeeze into a small space to get a better photograph, shout a question to the leaders. I ended up having to put a shoulder into a Russian security guard in order to get in. And sadly, not every member of the U.S. press pool was able to enter that room, which of course, is not the ideal. But that moment there was a tension around it, sort of encapsulated the stakes for this meeting.

WILLIAMS: I`ll go ahead and say not your first throne shoulder and it won`t be your last. Julia, over to you, what did you make of how today went? And did you share our assessment? There were some vintage Putin moments there today.

JULIA IOFFE, VETERAN FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely, down to the Tolstoy quote that got everyone`s attention here, right, where he said that happiness doesn`t exist, and that it`s just a mirage on the horizon. I did think, however, that he was a little different today in the sense that he seemed kind of impressed with Biden. He said some very nice things about him. He even mentioned that Biden told him some stories about his mother, which was, you know, vintage Biden. And, you know, Putin made sure to stick it to Biden, right before the meeting when he gave his interview to Keir Simmons at NBC. And he said, yeah, Biden`s fine. He`s a man of the system. But Trump, Trump is so colorful and interesting and so smart. Otherwise, he wouldn`t have won the presidency. And here he can win had to some warm words for President Biden.

Otherwise, yeah, it was vintage Putin, just a lot of word salad, a lot of what about ism, which if your viewers are not familiar with the tournaments when you were asked about something you`ve done wrong, you come back with, well, what about you? It`s something that the Russians have been doing for well over 100 years and clearly have no plans to stop now.

WILLIAMS: Claire McCaskill, trigger warning, your favorite guy was a guest on Hannity tonight. We`ll play a bit and discuss on the other side.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We didn`t get anything. We gave a very big stage to Russia. I think it was a good day for Russia. I don`t see what we got out of it. I got along really well with him. Nobody was tougher on Russia. We had, you know, a great shot at having an unbelievable relationship with Russia.


WILLIAMS: So Claire, we`re just going to overlook the national humiliation we all watched in Helsinki, and go right to the question of how you think President Biden did today?

CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D) MISSOURI FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, it was no Helsinki. And Americans, I think, who are paying attention are relieved tonight, that we have a president on the world stage both at the G7 and in today`s meetings with Putin that firmly put his foot down on behalf of them not on behalf of Putin. I thought it was managed very well. As you know, Brian, a lot of this is how they manage the images, how the images are portrayed, and whoever figured out that they needed to get Putin by himself in front of a free press. That was good. I mean, to see, I mean, Rachel Scott dropped the mic. What a great question. And there were others. And Putin`s not used to that. Now, he didn`t lose his cool or anything. I mean, it`s not like he melted down. But it clearly was one of those days where Putin looked alone on that stage, and he was facing the kind of press, he never has to face, that alone I think made it a big winner for the United States of America.

WILLIAMS: And Julia, indeed, let me bounce right back to you on this point, because I`ve heard Michael McFaul make this point as well that Putin may well be out of practice when it comes to taking fair blunt questions from Western media when you`re used to having kind of handpicked journalists if journalists at all, during the Keir Simmons interview, you can see his little feet tippy tapping on the ground when the subject matter became uncomfortable. Today, he appeared physically uncomfortable was a bit taken aback that a question was re-asked was certainly taken aback that the Wall Street Journal reporter asked him a question in Russian at that forum. So is that possibly a thing that he`s in, for lack of a better word out of practice?

IOFFE: Well, I actually am going to have to disagree with you and Senator McCaskill and with my friend Mike McFaul. Putin has every year he has this big press conference to which hundreds of journalists come, including journalists from independent media that the Kremlin is constantly fighting to shut down, limit and keep marginalized. And they love all kinds of questions at him, including questions about his wealth, about his daughters, and why they oversee billions of dollars and, you know, gotten gains, these weird slush funds. He gets all kinds of questions at these press conferences. And he has learned to really enjoy them.

And what I saw today was Putin reveling in this kind of pairing with journalists who thought they were going to ask him got you questions about Alexei Navalny or about how he is basically disemboweling the opposition. He seemed to me very confident, and like he was actually enjoying it. You could see that his Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov was trying to wrap things up. But Putin said, well, let`s take, you know, two three questions from here. And two, three more questions from here. He clearly was no rush to wrap up that press conference. I thought that was also vintage Putin that he feels, you know, he`s come a long way from what we saw two decades ago when he was this mealy mouthed, caged gray faced, KGB officer who was not used to the public glare and was not used to talking to a camera and didn`t know how to speak publicly. Now he can parry with pretty much anyone and he seems to really enjoy it, and to enjoy showing off the skill that he has grown into over the last two decades.

WILLIAMS: All right, great point disagreement noted. But that`s why I asked. Before we go back to Jonathan Lemire, I`ll play for our audience his exchange with President Biden today. We`ll talk about it with the reporter on the other side.


LEMIRE: Putin, in his news conference just now, accepted no responsibility for any misbehavior. Your predecessor opted not to demand that Putin stop these disruptions. So what is something concrete, sir, that you achieved today to prevent that from happening again? And what were the consequences you threatened?

BIDEN: Whether I stopped it from happening again -- he knows I will take action, like we did when -- this last time out. We, in fact, made it clear that we were not going to continue to allow this to go on. I`m confidence it matters to him -- confident it matter to him and other world leaders of big nations, his credibility worldwide shrinks.


WILLIAMS: So Jonathan Lemire, minutes away from landing in this country, does it seem based on any of the available notice that indeed, Putin might have at least gotten the message?

LEMIRE: I mean, we will, it does remain to be seen, Brian. Certainly, this is a very different approach than what we saw from Helsinki about three years ago, where President Trump, then President Trump cozied up to Vladimir Putin, sided with him over U.S. intelligence on election interference. And Biden make sure that was not going to be the case. First of all, we didn`t have a joint news conference like we saw and actually did in Finland, both leaders spoke independently. And this was a -- these were stern warnings, and I think it caught attention in President Biden in his in his own news conference, talking about how he had told his Russian counterpart that the need to not have any sort of cyber hacks of critical infrastructure, there`s even a list presented things that need to be off limits, and he let it slip. He said he relayed to Putin like, well, you would understand how bad things would be if, say, gas pipelines in your country went off, which seemed to be both a reasonable question, and perhaps a subtle threat. And he suggested that Vladimir Putin acknowledged that that would indeed matter.

So I think we have seen here U.S., they`re not being specific. They`re not being their chest. That`s something clear to the administration which stress to us all week long, in advance of Geneva. The summit today, sort of overshadowing the rest of this first foreign trip to the President that the Biden was going to deliver these messages, and if needed, there would be consequences, whether Putin change his behavior or not, I don`t think too many aides think it`ll happen, or at least not in a significant matter. But they now -- Moscow now knows that this administration will handle it so much differently than the previous one.

WILLIAMS: So Claire, as we listened to Julia, and we`ve heard the comments today from Putin mentioning Black Lives Matter, mentioning the ill treatment of the 1/6 insurrection as who were trying to overturn the results of a democratic election. How much does it intrigue you? How much does it concern you that his comments sound a whole lot like Republican members of Congress?

MCCASKILL: They were pretty trumpian, weren`t they? He was trying to equate peaceful protests, with his cracking down on any dissent. And probably the most outrageous was him comparing Navalny to the insurrectionists, who physically stormed the Capitol and beat police officers with flagpoles. Obviously, someone who is involved in robust to send to their government is nothing like what those people did on January 6, not any thing like it. And I was encouraged that when Biden had the opportunity, instead of saying, gosh, I should believe Putin and yeah, well, what about, he`s probably right. I mean, Biden just said, it`s ridiculous. It`s ridiculous. And believe me, Putin heard that loud and clear.

And he also said over and over again, we have cyber warfare also. And it was a very clear threat, that if Russia keeps it up, there will be a response from the high capabilities we have in this country to disrupt their country with cyber warfare.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Julia, I have a few seconds left. Just a question on behalf of everybody watching all the things you could have named your new newsletter, why tomorrow will be worse?

IOFFE: It was an observation I made in July of 2016 when things seem to be kind of spiraling downwards, and people laughed at me at the time and said, oh, you`re so dark and pessimistic in Russian. And I said, all right, well, let`s just see what happens. And, you know, that was July 2016 we`ve come along way.

WILLIAMS: Who`s getting the last laugh now? Great thanks to our guests tonight, Jonathan Lemire, for joining us from the tarmac at Andrews, Claire McCaskill, Julia Ioffe, we`ll make an optimist out of her yet. Thank you so much for joining us.

Coming up, the President`s warning to Putin about cyber attacks was a bid like nice pipeline you got there. Russia would be a shame if something ever happened to it. We`ll ask a leading diplomat whether that sort of diplomacy can work on a thug.

And later, the Vice President`s promise to protect voting rights in our country. But is every senator in her own party on board with her effort? All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this consequential Wednesday night looking up at the Truman Balcony.



BIDEN: This is about how we move from here. This is about practical, straightforward, no nonsense decisions that we have to make or not make. We`ll find out within the next six months to a year whether or not we actually have a strategic dialogue that matters.


WILLIAMS: On the tone of the Biden-Putin post summit remarks, our political team writes this, "The upbeat responses did not diminish the long-festering tensions between the two nations that have recently been strained by accusations of election interference, cyber attacks and human rights violations." In other words, any real progress remains to be seen. But don`t we always say that after a summit like this?

Back with us tonight is Richard Haass, Veteran Diplomat under multiple U.S. presidents, longtime president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and an author of several books, his most recent, The World: A Brief Introduction, highly recommended, now available in a recently updated paperback edition because the world is a constantly changing place.

Richard, your takeaway and your measure for success from this kind of thing?

RICHARD HAASS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS PRESIDENT: Look, the President got close to it, Brian, in his last comment, we`ll know in six months or a year, the way you measure this is not based upon today. This is not a price strike where we reach a verdict. This is part of a relationship. And we`ll see, you know, whether Russian behavior gives us pause for good reason whether in any way it changes. And I think that`s the way to look at.

What was good about today, I thought is the President was able in a very direct way to be clear. And what it does is reduces the chance of miscalculation. So Putin now understands that if he were to do certain things, particularly in cyber, it would have consequences. I don`t know, nobody knows whether he`s going to continue to do those things. But if he does them, it`s in full awareness of the consequences that we`ll have.

WILLIAMS: Let`s talk forthrightly about the derailment of the gravy train for Putin. Donald Trump came down the escalator. I think we`re six years to the day. Putin`s wishlist then toy with Brexit, toy with an American presidential election, toy with American social media try to enhance the divisions already in our society. Try to damage the Atlantic Alliance, if possible, find a U.S. president willing to criticize NATO. And if possible, just a fever dream get U.S. troops out of Germany. So as I say, what an attitude adjustment Putin must be undergoing?

HAASS: Yeah, but also what a six years for Mr. Putin, he`s had a great run. For a guy who runs an economy, what roughly the size of Canada, he`s got 140, 145 million people in his country. He`s got, you know, very limited assets. He`s only a great power really, in the sense of nuclear weapons. And he`s both willing and able to use military force, and cyber. So he has a lot to show for the last, however, many years, now though, he`s up against the more traditional American president strengthen alliances, not willing to take them at his word, and is willing to respond in a kind of measured way. I thought, again, President got it about right. We`re not looking for a Cold War. But the free ride is over.

I think the real question for Putin is whether to continue with the cyber attacks. I think the real question for Joe Biden is how hard to press the human rights issues, the Navalny issues, because that`s what Putin cares most about. Put it this way Brian, Putin can survive, if he dials down the cyber attacks against us. That`s not essential to his own continuity as a ruler. But what matters to him most is just that, his own continuity, his maintenance of power. And that`s where the American public statements, the American support for the opposition rhetorically, that`s where that fiction. So for Putin I think it`s easier for him to back off cyber, and it`s been returned, he gets a little bit of a mellowing on the U.S. pressure domestically, both sides could walk away with something of what they want.

WILLIAMS: So Biden apparently went to the meeting with a list of 16 no go, don`t ever think about cyber attack locations and industries. How does this really work though in the room where it happened when the doors are closed? Does Biden indicate to Putin, hey, if you want by dinnertime, we can turn the lights out in St. Petersburg?

HAASS: Joe Biden handed him a public list, I think of 16 realms of critical infrastructure, things like dams, things like energy. And so then the basic stuff of a modern society. And that`s a way of signaling that if you`re going to target what`s central to us to come play that game.

Now the president has to be careful there. We`re vulnerable. We`re more dependent on these systems. And no one is going to benefit from escalation. And that sense, it`s a little bit like nuclear weapons Mutual Assured Destruction, we can each hurt each other. And neither one of us have adequate defenses.

So clearly, the president doesn`t want to go down that path. The problem is we still -- we don`t want Putin to continue. And sanctions are not doing the trick making other information public is not doing the trick. I think we`ve essentially run out of tools. But I think again, he was he was putting this out there, that if you`re going to continue doing certain things, you can expect that we`re not going to retaliate, symmetrically, or unkind.

WILLIAMS: Our guest tonight is a globe enthusiast for good reason, the head of the Council on Foreign Relations. We`re happy to have had Richard Haass taking our questions this evening. Always great to have you. Thank you so much.

HAASS: Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us the new compromise on federal voting rights. Wait for it from a potentially critical democratic senator from West Virginia. Two of our experts standing by the way in one week come back.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every generation has to reestablish the basis of this fight for democracy. I mean for real. I`ve never seen including during since the Civil War, such an outward assault.


WILLIAMS: That was just hours ago on the tarmac in Geneva, Switzerland after a long day`s journey and tonight, Marine One has landed. The president back inside the White House. Now this is taped from a few minutes back. He returns, of course, to a stalled domestic agenda.

Tonight, however, there is at least some movement on voting rights legislation. Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia released a compromise that includes changes for both voting bills stalled in Congress.

Among them, folks that NBC News report quote, mansion supports making Election Day a public holiday, offering 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections and automatic voter registration through state department of motor vehicles. He also proposes requiring voter identification but allowing alternatives like utility bills to suffice as proof of identity.

Lot to talk about back with us tonight. Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The Washington Post. And Mike Murphy, veteran Republican strategist, co-director of the Center for the Political Future at USC. He also happens to be co-host of the Hacks on Tap podcast, gentlemen, good evening, and welcome to you both.

Eugene, I just once a week at least like to check in on your Manchin annoyance meter. It`s much more fun when it runs in the red. Because Manchin also let it be known he met tonight with the Texas Democrats and he`s put out this compromise on voting rights. And oh, look, Manchin`s the center of attention again, Eugene.

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: Yes, he is the star of the Joe Manchin show. And so he, you know, he`s trying to get a renewed for another season, I guess. So, look, you know about his compromise proposal on voting rights show me the 10 Republican votes, you know, can he get 10 Republicans to sign on with him to this legislation and or legislation that encompasses these provisions?

And if he does, then that`s something to talk about. I mean, it`s -- there are not -- there certainly are not 10 Republican votes for any stronger and more comprehensive or meaningful voting rights legislation. They just are not.

And if he`s not willing to talk about the filibuster in any way, shape, or form, then show me the votes. I don`t see them right now. I don`t think they exist, but maybe he can find them. So, you know, good luck.

WILLIAMS: Mike Murphy, the same question, especially when you consider that Manchin is the most popular Republican in the Democratic caucus, can he bring over 10 souls?

MIKE MURPHY, VETERAN REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, let`s be fair old Manchin, he`s the best Democrat you`re going to get out of West Virginia. He`s a throwback to the old, wider Democratic coalition. And there`s a lesson there for Democrats. Because if they want to build the party on narrow ideology, they`re going to open the gates for republican growth and success, even with the chucklehead factor we now have.

Look, I don`t think there are 10 votes. But this bill was dead yesterday, should have been dead. In my view, I`m for reformed, but this bill is much too big. Manchin brought it back to life. There`s a faint heartbeat now. But Gene is right. 10 votes is a long road from here.

And I think the important signal in Manchin, besides at least moving it back in the faint heartbeat territory, which is a lot better than dead, is he`s trying to find a compromise on the voter ID issue, which is a big Flashpoint in all this. And that would give some Republicans cover to come over but I predict more progressive backlash at Manchin.

They`ve kind of had it with him because they see this as a team loyalty sport, and it`s going to be a rocky road as my old boss McCain used to say he`s not exactly running for Ms. Congeniality in the Democratic caucus there, but it`s a pragmatic approach that at least put the thing back alive, even if faintly alive.

WILLIAMS: Well, yes, your point like we don`t emphasize that enough. If Trump did carry his state by 40 points. Gene, I can give you about 30 seconds before a break. Go ahead.

ROBINSON: No, I`ll just say every Democrat realizes that you got Joe Manchin, you got Joe Manchin, right. I mean, if he were not there, then a Republican would be in that seat, and Mitch McConnell will be running the Senate. So Joe Manchin is a fact of life and if you want to make him laugh, It`s a fact of life then when a bigger majority in 22 and then he`s not the deciding moment on everything.

So but in the meantime, as I said, show me the 10 votes and I actually think that a lot of Democratic support for it because they`re, believe it or not, there is some realism in the Democratic Party.

WILLIAMS: That`s why I just wanted to check in on the Manchin annoyance meter. Eugene and Mike are going to stay with us. We`ll roll this break. We`ll come back and when we do the Republicans attacking Biden on Russia, they must have just agreed to forget our national humiliation in Helsinki remember the soccer ball.



MARK MEADOWS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: It`s pretty pathetic when Joe Biden is more strenuous and in his arguments with a reporter than he is with Vladimir Putin. You know, we believe that Vladimir Putin is going to change. Here`s what`s going to happen. He`s going to get more and more bold. He saw the weakness of Joe Biden the president the United States. He never saw that when Donald Trump was in the White House.


WILLIAMS: That`s gaslighting. That`s Trump supplicant, Mark Meadows, who knows exactly what he`s doing there. And he remembers this to how humiliating this was. This is Trump-Putin back in 2019.


UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, will you tell Russia not to meddle in the 2020 election?

DONALD TRUMP, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes, of course I will. Don`t ,meddle in the election President, don`t meddle in the election.


WILLIAMS: That`s the definition of humiliating. Still with us Eugene Robinson and Mike Murphy. Mike, where`s the shame meter these days on this act of intentionally forgetting that potent on this guy.

MURPHY: Yes, the shame meter totally exploded years ago. And the problem is, a lot of these Trump folks are flowing in one language moron and there`s no historical context or fact to it. It`s just emotion. Hey, didn`t hit Putin with a chair like in wrestling, like Trump would.

Well, we know Trump was the biggest sucker the Russians have ever shown up. I mean, when Biden showed up today, not wearing or yesterday, not wearing clown shoes, you know that was a huge presidential accomplishment. It wasn`t that hard. It was just the change we need back to normalcy.

And you can believe the Russians understand. That`s why the whole summit was about Biden setting up the rules of the road going forward. And whether they like it or not, it`s a new era there for Putin and his gang.

WILLIAMS: Eugene, if you were writing a column on deadline tonight about this summit for all I know you already did. What`s your assessment of what we were able to see if it from here?

ROBINSON: No, I think by just wrote the lead of the column, really. I mean Biden laid out the rules of the road, this is what it`s going to be like, now. It`s not going to be like it was under Trump. You`re not going to be able to just do whatever the hell you want to us or to other countries.

And, you know, we`re back to being a normal United States with a normal president and normal foreign policy that`s going to stand up to your aggression and your shenanigans. And so just be on notice. Now, whether that what sort of impact that has on Putin? We don`t know. We`re not in control of that. But I think the message was delivered. And that was the purpose of the summit.

WILLIAMS: And Mike, I can give you about 30 seconds, normalizing relations does mean going back to tensions. These guys are adversaries, they`re in our social media. They`re in our presidential elections. They`re in our pipelines.

MURPHY: Yes. Yes, in fact, they`re writing trouble checks that their bank account can cash. These guys are a lemonade stand. They`ve got 1/10 the economy we do it best. So Putin through chicanery and suck up Rita Trump got away with a lot but now I think the sheriff`s back and the Russians know it. They`re not -- their bark is not worse than their bite and if they try biting, we have much bigger teeth.

WILLIAMS: All right, well, I know a quote to end on. Eugene Robinson Mike Murphy, gentlemen, thank you for bringing your A game tonight after the day we`ve all had it.

Coming up for us new warning sadly from health officials on these Delta variants specifically amid a slowdown in vaccinations. There are regions of the country to worry about as well. The story when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Most pandemic restrictions have been lifted across our country with New York and California quite literally celebrating hitting the 70 percent adult vaccination mark just yesterday. But that`s far from the case everywhere. As we keep warning folks, there are Stark new warnings tonight about this dangerous Delta variant especially where folks aren`t getting their shots. Our report tonight from NBC News correspondent Blayne Alexander.


BLAYNE ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, experts predict the Delta variant first discovered in India could soon become the dominant COVID strain in the US.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: It is more transmissible and possibly more dangerous in terms of causing severe disease.

ALEXANDER: All of it only accelerating the rush to get Americans vaccinated, but the Biden administration is running out of time to hit its July 4 goal, 70 percent of Americans with at least one shot. So far only about 53 percent of the country is partially vaccinated, but some states are barely hitting a third of their population. The lowest rates in southern states like Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, where only 28 percent of the state is fully vaccinated.

A new poll out today gives some insight into why the rates are lagging. 37 percent of those asked point to vaccine hesitancy but nearly double that number say they faced barriers in trying to get the shot.

And even as scenes like these are becoming more familiar Dodger Stadium hosting the largest sports crowd since the start of the pandemic. Still some setbacks with a Royal Caribbean cruise ship forced to postpone setting sail after eight crew members tested positive for COVID.

(on camera): On one hand, we`re seeing a number of states loosening restrictions, but on the other hand, we`re hearing this dire warning about the Delta variant. Is this a confusing message?

MURTHY: Well, Blaine, I think what you`re hearing is really a message for two different populations, which is that if you are vaccinated, you are still in good shape. But if you are unvaccinated, there`s still reasons to be cautious, to still wear a mask, to still avoid indoor gatherings.

ALEXANDER: And this week, Vice President Harris will travel to Atlanta part of the administration`s focus on boosting vaccinations in the south.


WILLIAMS: And our thanks to Blayne Alexander for that report. Coming up for us it`s one of the opening shots in the battle for 2022 and this one hits its mark.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight. As we`ve established Democrats face an uphill fight to keep control of the House and 2022, off year elections are often a bloodbath for the party that was just awarded the presidency.

The Democrats will not stand a chance without superb recruitment, excellent candidates and they will have to learn how to speak American, not the way people speak on cable news.

To that end, we want to show you the first ad for the man running against Jim Jordan in Ohio. In fairness, Jim Jordan gets his share of cable news airtime. He`s assiduous about his personal brand scorched earth Trump`s supplicant, anti-science, anti-suit jacket for that matter. And here`s his congressional district back home in Ohio, because elections have consequences. It is designed to get Jim Jordan reelected. And here is the guy who wants to defeat Jim Jordan.


JEFF SITES, U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE FOR OHIO`S 4TH DISTRICT: Every morning the clock goes off at 3:00 a.m. and I have to be on the warehouse floor by four. That`s a job I`m grateful to have.

You know, I grew up here in Lima. My dad retired from Dana Corporation. There weren`t many job opportunities back then. So I joined the army. After a while I moved back to Ohio and I found a job.

Then the great recession hit. Job was gone. Healthcare was gone. I had to tell my daughter no all the time simply because we couldn`t afford anything. We lived in an eight by 10 foot room for well over a year. For weeks at a time I couldn`t afford my medications. I can`t even afford a used alternator for my car when it broke down.

I got back on my feet. But too many Ohio families weren`t so lucky. We paid Jim Jordan nearly $180,000 to represent us, but time and again he takes our money and screws people like you and me. He tried to overturn the election and push Trump`s big lie leading directly to the insurrection that killed five people, including cops.

He supported Trump`s plan to kill Obamacare. Now more than 600,000 Americans have died from COVID. And all Jim Jordan wants to do is argue with Dr. Fauci about masks.

Jim Jordan doesn`t give a damn about people like us. What do you expect from a guy who did nothing? And the young men he was coaching were being molested by the team doctor.

I`m an army veteran and a working dad. I`m going to be Jim Jordan. In Congress, we`ll fight for health care for all protect voting rights and hold Jordan and the other traders accountable for attacking our democracy. Jeff Sites for Congress.


WILLIAMS: Gets your attention doesn`t it? We should know Jim Jordan has denied he knew anything about sexual abuse when he was a wrestling coach at The Ohio State University. While we also know that Jim Jordan while in Washington has watched this battle, Ben joined back home in Ohio.

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