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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 6/17/21

Guests: Don Calloway, Mark McKinnon


President Joe Biden sees some bipartisan support for plans. Obamacare survives third Supreme Court challenge. Democrats look to expand Obamacare. Stacey Abrams backs Manchin voting rights proposal. DOJ releases more Capitol riot bodycam video. Biden signs law making Juneteenth a federal holiday. Senator Mitch McConnell rejects Manchin voting right compromise. Biden focused on domestic agenda following first foreign trip. Senator Joe Manchin opened the door to a compromise on voting legislation. China launched the first astronauts to its space station.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again, day 149 of the Biden administration. The President now back on U.S. soil, is now turning his attention back to his towering list of domestic priorities crippled by the math and lack of movement in Congress. President Biden aiming for bipartisan support for at least some of his proposals still, today, as he signed legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday in our country, he invoked that very sentiment.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: I`m especially pleased that we showed the nation that we can come together as Democrats and Republicans to commemorate this day with overwhelming bipartisan support in the Congress. I hope this is the beginning of a change in the way we deal with one.


WILLIAMS: And here`s what he mentioned there, the Juneteenth bill passed with unanimous support in the U.S. Senate, when`s the last time that happened and near unanimous support in the House. We`ll have more on the new holiday just ahead.

Today, the President also got something of an assist from an unlikely source, the conservative majority Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act for a third time. President Obama`s signature legislation has been the target of relentless Republican efforts to repeal it. In this latest ruling, the court decided seven to two that a group of Republican attorneys general lacked the standing to sue to strike it down. 11 years have now passed since it became the law of the land.

The former president issued a statement today that read in part, "This ruling reaffirms what we have long known to be true, the Affordable Care Act is here to stay."

For the Biden administration, the Supreme Court ruling removes the possibility of millions of our fellow citizens losing their insurance amid efforts to repair the economy after the pandemic. It`s also a win for Democratic leaders in Congress working to advance the President`s agenda.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK MAJORITY LEADER: The Affordable Care Act has one and now we`re going to try to make it bigger and better.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA HOUSE SPEAKER: When we pass it, I said this is a pillar of economic and health security. We will never forget how Republican leaders embrace this monstrous way to rip away America`s Health Care in the middle of a deadly pandemic.


WILLIAMS: While the President was overseas work continued on a $1 trillion infrastructure compromise bill of some sort, which is now at the top of Biden`s list. The group is now made up of 21 senators out of 110 Democrats, now 11 Republicans have backed the compromise bill. But even as that effort is underway, Senate Democrats are also talking amongst themselves about a $6 trillion budget package that would include Biden`s proposals and could pass without Republican support.

Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, West Virginia, his proposals for voting rights legislation are getting support from voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, and they have been welcomed by several other Democrats. Manchin`s proposals include making Election Day a public holiday, mandate at least 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections, Ban partisan gerrymandering and require voter I.D. with allowable alternatives to prove identity.

Democrats have been firmly against requiring voter identification of any kind before but even that part of Manchin`s compromise got Stacey Abrams endorsement that was of note. Here is in fact what Abrams had to say about Manchin`s proposal today.


STACEY ABRAMS, FAIR FIGHT POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE: I am endorsing the fact that we now have a list of priorities, and that Joe Manchin is at the table and he`s part of the conversation. I think that he makes common sense opportunities available for compromise. It is only going to be through federal legislation that we can negate or mitigate the harms being created at the state level.


WILLIAMS: And remember, here are the stakes nearly 400 bills that would make it harder for Americans to vote, have been proposed in 48 of our 50 states. Manchin`s proposal still needs support from 10 Senate Republicans to pass. It comes as the Hill and other media outlets report Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to move ahead with a four vote Tuesday on the For the People Act. Also tonight there are new developments in the investigation into the 1/6 riot insurrection and desecration of our Capitol today. The Department of Justice released new police body camera footage from that January 6 assault. It was used in the case against a former marine and retired New York City police officer accused of participating in the attack. Fair warning here just like what we saw on that day. These images are disturbing.


WILLIAMS: As we mentioned, this was also a landmark day. We saw the President signed into law a new federal holiday to commemorate Juneteenth or June 19 of 1865, the day enslaved African Americans were emancipated in Texas. This year Juneteenth falls on Saturday, the new holiday will be observed tomorrow and federal workers as a result, will have the day off.

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Thursday night, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize Winning Senior Washington Correspondent for The Washington Post, Lisa Lerer, National Political Correspondent for The New York Times, former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, who spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor also happens to be one of the co-hosts of the podcast, Sisters in Law with Kimberly Atkins Stohr, Jill Wine-Banks, and Barb McQuade.

Well, good evening, and welcome to you all. And Phil, I`d like to start with you and your beat. Is it us watching from afar up and down the eastern corridor? Or are there signs of movement, be it ever so humble in the President`s domestic agenda?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: You know, Brian, there certainly are signs of movement here in Washington for President Biden, who remember just returned to the United States after a lengthy and eventful foreign trip that concluded with that meeting with President Putin, he got here and suddenly, there were signs of hope. There`s this Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, of course, which is a really significant development for this White House and for the Democratic Party as a whole preserving that health care program. But the bipartisan movement over on Capitol Hill in terms of the infrastructure plan, is a very welcome signed by this White House, which has patiently been working for months now through the spring, to try to bring Republicans together with Democrats to work out some sort of a deal. It`s not done yet, of course, and it does not include some of the climate change, and other initiatives that are so important to say, the progressive base of the Democratic Party, but it is progress towards bipartisanship, nevertheless.

And then Joe Manchin, the West Virginia senator becoming effectively that 50 of the vote for the Voting Rights Act, or voting rights legislation, rather, is a significant it means that Democrats when they bring this to the floor in the Senate next week to begin debate, should have unified support within their caucus, which is a political win for the for the White House, even if it doesn`t necessarily yet mean that that bill is going to be passing the Senate because of course, it`s going to need those 10 Republican votes as well.

WILLIAMS: And Lisa, let`s talk about that very dynamic that Phil raises, Biden has to hold the Democrats and oh, by the way, in his spare time, good luck finding 10 Republicans to pull across?

LISA LERER, THE NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That`s exactly right. Finding 10 Republicans in this sort of polarized political environment is a really heavy lift. And that`s why you see Democrats pursuing this dual track approach to the infrastructure legislation where, on the one hand, there`s a group that`s negotiating this bipartisan infrastructure bill that comes in and about 1.2 trillion. And then Democrats are also working on a $6 trillion infrastructure package that should that bipartisan bill fall apart, they could try to push through using reconciliation, which means they`d only have to, you know, clear a 50 vote hurdle.

You know, there`s political pros and cons to both approaches. Biden certainly wants, as Phil said, this bipartisan achievement. He ran as this bipartisan legislator, this long time line of the Senate and vice president experienced Washington hand who could card across these polarized divisions and get things done. But he also made some pretty big promises to Democratic base, which won`t be fulfilled in that bipartisan package.

On the flip side, there`s the question about the bigger bill whether moderates would get the democratic moderates like Joe Manchin and others in the Senate would get behind such a big proposal and get them to that 50 number. So this still remains a pretty precarious negotiation for both of these potential paths.

WILLIAMS: Joyce Vance, Counselor, over to you and the news that started this day in many ways. How significant was it seven-two ruling, affirming Obamacare, the ACA, can we now assume after 11 years and numerous challenges that it is here to stay?

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I`d like to say we can assume that. I feel good about the security of the Supreme Court`s willing -- ruling, but I suspect we`ll continue to see challenges to other provisions of the bill. The decision today is a very interesting one from a legal point of view. It`s a seven-two decision with Gorsuch and Alito in the dissent. And the court didn`t reach the merits of the case, which would have asked them to decide if the mandate, that requires each of us to obtain medical insurance if that provision was constitutional. Instead, the court stopped before it got to that substantive ruling and said, listen, these plaintiffs don`t have any right to sue here. They don`t have standing. They haven`t brought claims that involve a law that actually damages them. And because they`re not suffering any harm here, we`re not going to let this suit proceed.

So it`s pretty much a slam on the case that was brought here. But it does stop short of a full merits ruling. So perhaps Republicans or people who are against the Affordable Care Act, we`ll try to find some new way to attack the bill.

WILLIAMS: All right, Phil Rucker, I want to play for you Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt. The justification he has come up with on not joining the Manchin compromise on voting rights. We`ll discuss on the other side.


SEN. ROY BLUNT, (R) MISSOURI: I actually think when Stacey Abrams immediately endorsed Senator Manchin`s proposal it became the Stacey Abrams substitute, not the Joe Manchin substitute.


WILLIAMS: So Phil, forgive me that`s just like a real reason only flimsy is the standard now that anything a Democrat has gone near is tainted in terms of legislation?

RUCKER: Well, Brian, I`m at a loss here to try to explain what the senator meant there, other than to point out that the substance of the proposal is no different whether it was put forward by Senator Manchin, or by Stacey Abrams.

And we should just keep in mind what he`s trying to do there. Stacey Abrams is a well known national figure at this point. She is beloved by the Democratic Party and by progressives, and credited with helping turn Georgia, returning that state into Joe Biden`s column in the 2020 election and getting those two democratic senators over the hurdle in January in a special elections, and yet she`s reviled by the conservative base by the Republican Party, because she`s seen as activists because she`s seen as threatening to the status quo for Republicans into president -- former President Trump in particular. And so I think Blunt was trying to just have something of a dog whistle there to conservative Republican voters out in the country in explaining why Republican senators at this point appear to be united in trying to resist and oppose this voting legislation.

WILLIAMS: And Lisa Lerer, I have one for you, now please this reminder of exactly how popular Obamacare was with the last president. Just a reminder, we`ll discuss on the other side.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Somebody said the other day, what`s the first thing you`re going to do? Well, we`re going to work immediately on repealing Obamacare. The problem with Obamacare, it`s not good. I want to give great health care. Obamacare is a disaster. We want to terminate it. We`re going to cancel that Obamacare if we could win the case.


WILLIAMS: So Lisa, we`re still waiting on that alternative Trump care, health care plan. But let`s say this, to Joyce Vance`s last point, if the Supreme Court decides they`re done with challenges to the ACA, they`re standing or the law itself, and they don`t grant another challenge, another case, can we assume this will disappear as a Republican rallying cry?

LERER: This has been a really long road for Republicans that does feel at this moment that the fight has sort of run out of a little bit of gas. I mean, there were more than 70 attempts in Congress to repeal all are part of the law. They all failed, most famously with that thumbs down from John McCain in 2017. This is the third time the Supreme Court has refused to undermine the law. Republicans lost the midterm elections when Democrats made them a referendum on health care. They lost the 2020 election, obviously they lost the presidency. And what we`ve seen is that the law is more popular now than it`s ever been a majority of Americans approve of the law and certain provisions like maintaining health insurance for people with preexisting conditions, is approved by, you know, margins that are nearly two thirds of Republicans, 75% of Americans.

So, you know, what struck me the most about the Republican reaction to this case was the silence. You simply didn`t hear the level of outrage that you`ve heard that you heard after the Supreme Court rulings on this and 2012 and 2015. I, you know, I don`t think it disappears completely, but I think it becomes sort of a zombie issue that`s trotted out, maybe to rally some primary voters and, you know, tight Republican primaries, but I don`t think Republicans really see this as a winning general election issue moving forward, I think they`re setting their sights on other topics.

WILLIAMS: And the last word goes to Joyce Vance, what may be the most important question of the evening, and it comes from the world of the possible. Joyce, you know, that anything that`s going to get 60 votes on voting rights in the U.S. Senate is not going to be what the Democrats want. It`s going to be something by definition watered down. Here`s the question, will it still be enough in terms of federal protections to counter act all of these voter suppression measures being passed by a Republican controlled state legislatures?

VANCE: That`s tough work that we have ahead of us as a country to protect voting rights. And of course, it happens in two bills that are currently sitting in the Senate with the Manchin proposal, we`re really talking about the For The People Act, which in many ways prospectively, addresses voting, how do we register? Can we vote absentee? What sort of restrictions like identification do we have to provide in order to exercise our right to vote? And then there`s the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would attempt to restore the protections of Section V of the Voting Rights Act, which gives the Justice Department and private individuals the ability to challenge when states pass these very restrictive measures. But the Manchin plan is really from my point of view, as someone who`s litigated voting rights issues for a couple of decades. It`s extraordinary, it has a 15 day, you know, period for voting in advance of the election. In Alabama, we have one day, so provisions like that would make it very strong. It would certainly not expose anyone to fraud, but Manchin has this interesting notion that he would actually impose or legitimize the voter I.D. Act requirements that many states have, but make the kind of I.D. that you can use more flexible in Alabama and other states that do this.

The restrictions are really strong. In Texas, you can vote with your gun license, but you can`t vote with your college I.D. Manchin would let people use things like utility bills, and other sorts of material that would firmly establish their identity that would make what we know to be the absolutely minimal risk of fraud. Clear after Trump`s big lie in the way he litigated this, that fraud is not impacting elections in America. But Manchin, nonetheless, puts that provision in. And it is something that Democrats and that all Americans can live with, because this proposal would expand the right to vote, still need the John Lewis act to be able to protect things in the long run.

WILLIAMS: And we note it still keeps Manchin at the center of the conversation, but it also shows he may have indeed listen to the parade of voices making their way to his office in the U.S. Senate. We`re much obliged to our big three tonight, Phil Rucker, Lisa Lerer. Joyce Vance, thank you all so much for being with us and starting us off.

Coming up, what`s next for Democrats and the push for voting rights as Mitch McConnell and his caucus remember, are doing everything possible to sync this effort, Manchin or not.

And later, presidential historian Michael Beschloss with us tonight on Joe Biden`s first trip abroad as President, history in the making, no matter your political persuasion. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on this Thursday night beneath the Capitol dome.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY MINORITY LEADER: It still turns the federal election commission from a judge and to a prosecutor equally unacceptable, totally inappropriate. All Republicans I think will oppose that as well.


WILLIAMS: This comes right out of our last conversation. You heard how positive Joyce Vance was about the Manchin compromise, for example. And while Democrats are generally sounding optimistic on voting rights, that was Mitch McConnell quick to quash any hope that Republicans might still get on board and as we know at least 10 of them need to do just that.

Back with us tonight, Don Calloway, Democratic Strategist, a Member of the Advisory Board for the National Voter Protection Fund, also CEO Founder of Pine Street Strategies, a lobbying firm in D.C. and Mark McKinnon, former Adviser to both George W. Bush and John McCain. He is of course, among the co-hosts, the star if you ask us of the Circus on Showtime.

Gentlemen, good evening, and welcome to you both. Don, it should never be lost that Biden did sign not only bipartisan legislation today, but important legislation today and the event was emotional and lovely at the White House. Does this bipartisan legislation have any convert ability into any other bipartisan legislation?

DON CALLOWAY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It absolutely does. First of all, we should not diminish the importance of recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. It is important, yes, I will acknowledge that the critics says they will say that is largely symbolic, but it is important particularly as Republicans across the state legislatures of this country attempt to whitewash no pun intended the very nasty legacy of slavery and through the vehicle of diminishing the study of critical race theory which is actually not being taught in schools but it is what it is. But to your second question, I`m sorry, I`m working audio issue. To your second question, I think that the idea that Juneteenth bill passed today is not -- cannot exist in a vacuum. So black Twitter and the leftist Twitter should claim a major victory because they`ve made enough noise that people like Joe Manchin and the Senate Democratic caucus certainly recognize for the first time that they can`t do this symbolic, somewhat performative stuff and not pass real voting rights reform, and not pass real reform on substantive issues that are going to make a difference in people`s real lives. But particularly in the context of the racial, ongoing racial issues that we still have in America. You cannot pass a Juneteenth bill and look at the American people with a straight face and not do something on voting rights reform.

So I think that that`s why we`re in a much more optimistic posture as Democrats than we were a week ago. And we`ve gotten Joe Manchin to a decent place, because Democrats would not be able to look at anybody with a straight face by having pass Juneteenth, and not done any kind of voting, right. So I think that everybody should claim a pretty broad victory here. And we`re a lot happier than we were this time last week.

WILLIAMS: So Mark, Don, as usual, raises a terrific point. And that is that some of the senators who were part of the unanimous yes vote on the Juneteenth legislation are big fans of voter suppression back home, they know it. They know, we know it, and we know their names. So what would your advice be to the Democrats, especially given the kind of bubble of hope surrounding what Mr. Manchin has been able to write what Mr. Manchin has been able to get some agreement with? And yes, the story that keeps Mr. Manchin at the center of the story?

MARK MCKINNON, FORMER ADVISER TO JOHN MCCAIN & GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, Joe Manchin is at the center of the story, and he`s proving why he ought to be. He`s come forth with a really reasonable compromise solution. It`s very thoughtful, Brian. It touches on the major sort of tentpole ideas that Democrats have been pushing for, and adds another one, which is a reasonable one on voter I.D. And even though I would argue, and many others would argue that`s a problem. It`s a solution in search of a problem. But the fact is that people most, you know, Americans on the street will say, yeah, you got to have some form of I.D. Manchin saying that he`s just sort of bringing down the level of the I.D. so that it`s a reasonable when we can bring a utility bill or something else that almost all Americans have. So it makes it easier, but it is something that Republicans, they make a big sticking point out of Democrats, don`t even care about I.D., because they want to have fraudulent voters, which is BS as we know it. But the fact is that by space, including this provision in the bill, it gives Democrats cover and it gives Republicans less of a reason to vote against it.

Now, the problem is that Mitch McConnell is going to use the federal overlay over the states. And ultimately, the problem is that this is the acid test. It`s the ultimate test for Republicans. Because if they support this bill, it means they`re sort of denying the big lie and that is the litmus test Republicans today. You must march and step on the big lie. And if you march and step on the big lie, you cannot vote for the Democratic voter rights bill, voter reform bill.

WILLIAMS: That`s right, because absent massive voter fraud, why would you want to fix voter fraud? Both guests are staying right where they are.

Coming up as we fit in a break, it`s the GOP is latest strategy, the politics of spreading fear. We`ll talk about it.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We highlighted the multiple crises under President Joe Biden.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The crisis at our southern border.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The economic crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The border crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The national security crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Biden administration continues to turn a blind eye to this crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s yet another crisis that they refuse to confront.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our energy crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like this border crisis is unfortunately one of many crises.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The budget crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crisis is not in Europe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can tell you we see the crisis clearly.


WILLIAMS: We are dispatching teams to look into all of these crises that are afoot. In case there was any question there about GOP messaging, The New York Times puts it this way, quote, for divided House Republicans, outrage may be the tie that binds at least their leaders hope so still overwhelmingly, in the Thrall of Donald Trump, they have learned over the past four years that grievance, loudly expressed, carries political weight, especially with their core voters.

Still with us, Don Calloway, Mark McKinnon. Mark, anytime we use the word crisis, I think we`re duty bound to use the old Rahm Emanuel phrase never let a crisis go to waste.

But what about crises of your own perception? What if this is indeed absent any ideas or policy if this is how they`re going to go? If this is how they`re going to run back home in 2022?

MCKINNON: Well, that`s become the default for the Republican Party. Brian, it`s all about grievance. And now the catch of the day if you so accurately have captured his crisis, everything`s a crisis, including anything and everything that would have occurred even if Donald Trump has still been present, I mean, hacks on pipelines, all sorts of things natural disaster, climate issues that are happening and drought of course it`s all Joe Biden`s fault that he, you know, he doesn`t control the sun.

But -- or they believe that he does control the sun I guess. But the fact is that it`s all about grievance. There`s nothing forward looking and, you know, even jumped on Biden over his international trip not being tough enough on Putin and that`s -- how do you pass the laugh test on not being tough enough on Putin and when these guys were licking the boots of the guy who didn`t say one negative word about Putin for four years.

WILLIAMS: Yes, I urge our viewers to stick around to our last segment we may have a word or two on that very topic. Don, I want to go back to the subject matter in our last segment considering it as a large part of your life`s work. We had our very smart mutual friend A.B. Stoddard on a few days back and I`m going to paraphrase her, a great danger.

She said in effect a lot of the Democrats are getting played. They`ve put all their chips all their attention all their noise on the casting of votes. The game being played in state houses more quietly is about the counting of votes and party control. The party ability to draw the curtain while votes are tallied. And, Don, what is the remedy for that if this becomes law at the statehouse level?

CALLOWAY: Well, I think that the first and most important remedy is the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Joyce White Vance, my fellow Institute, excuse me, erudite Alabamian, mentioned a moment ago that the John Lewis Voting Rights Act is perhaps the most important thing because it restores Section 5 of 1965 Voting Rights Act and the preclearance notions so that states can`t do a whole lot of the shenanigans either on a state regulatory level or on a state legislative level without preclearance from the Department of Justice.

That means any substantive procedural change to voting procedures on the state local county municipal level would have to be cleared by the Department of Justice, my mentor and good friend Deval Patrick have the civil rights -- the former director of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice formerly led the preclearance process.

Now Kristin Clark leads the -- would lead the preclearance process if it were restored under Section 5. So I think we have to recognize the interplay here between federal legislation and if Joe Manchin is on board for nothing else, he`s got to be on board for preclearance, which he is in the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

So before states can enact a whole lot of the shenanigans on the back end on the county, on the Arizona audit type stuff, you have to be able to restrict their ability to make the changes from the beginning.

Secondly, I think that before you can even get to the count, you have to open up access to the ballot box. And so I`m not even really worried about the counting procedures on the backend because we have lawyers, we have Sherrilyn Ifill in the Lawyers` Committee for Civil Rights, the NAACP, Legal Defense Fund, to handle things like that, where there is not integrity.

And again, I hate to use the word for the third time this segment, but shenanigans on the counting process, but I think it`s critical that we restore preclearance on the front end. And I think it`s crucial that you really thwart a whole lot of these ballot box contraction bills on the -- which decide who gets the opportunity to vote in the first place.

Because it`s very, very difficult to throw out votes when they`ve actually been properly cast. It`s very, very difficult to mess around on the counting process. But to be clear, that`s what Brian Kemp did in stealing the election from should be governor and hopefully one day governor Stacey Abrams in 2018 in Georgia.

WILLIAMS: Both gentlemen bringing the heat on our broadcast tonight, Mark McKinnon and Don Calloway, Florida and (inaudible) brother and sister HBCUs represented on this broadcast tonight as well. Gentlemen, thank you both.

Coming up, the evolution of presidential diplomacy through the eyes of a celebrated presidential historian who just happens to be another friend of ours, all of it when we come back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now that you`ve talked to him, do you believe you can trust him?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Look, this is not about trust. This is about self-interest and verification self-interest. That`s what it`s about.


WILLIAMS: As analysis pours in on the President`s first foreign trip, Susan Glasser of The New Yorker had this take and we quote, Joe Biden just had a summit was Vladimir Putin and nothing crazy happened. She wrote more than that, but it`s up to you to read it.

Now back with us tonight celebrated author and presidential historian, Michael Beschloss. His latest work is "Presidents of War," and the book he`s working on next. He can`t finish fast enough for our taste, and it`s about our presidents on the topic of race up.

Michael, have did this right size summitry, did this put the business of holding a summit back to normal after several aberrant years?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think sit did just ask the question, Brian. No. Would you feel happy with the fate of your family in the hands of Joe Biden dealing in the world after this last week? It`s hard for me to see how anyone would say no. During the last four years, I think we had our hearts in our hands every time Donald Trump left this country and went for a meeting with a foreign leader, especially the leader, Vladimir Putin.

You know, here he went to Europe dealt with Boris Johnson, who had a close relationship with Trump was skeptical of Biden, at least as he gave the impression before this week that he goes to G7 meets with those leaders who have gotten pretty used to not having the U.S. throwing its weight around. It`s as if the clock had been turned back to 2016.

And then meeting with Putin, a president more addicted to popularity than Joe Biden might have had this big, fierce, dramatic showdown and tried to sort of face down Putin to show that he was being different from Trump and could be courageous against him in a way that Trump had never been to put it very mildly.

And instead, he`s a pro. You know, he went in and he basically said to Putin, it reminded me a little bit of what we know that Ronald Reagan said in his first meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev, 1985, Reagan said to Gorbachev, just so we understand each other, there is no way I would ever let the Soviet Union win the Cold War. And you know that American power is preponderance. I would guess the Biden probably said some form of that to Putin. And you looked at Putin at that news conference afterwards? No smirk.

WILLIAMS: Yes, in fact, I was going to share with our audience what those of us who are faithful followers of you on social media saw. This is Mr. Beschloss. His tweet, meeting reporters in Geneva. Putin shows none of the smirk that was visible when he emerged with Trump to face them in Helsinki 2018 that news conference that later became something of a national embarrassment in this country, the soccer ball turned out to be the least of it.


WILLIAMS: Michael, let me put this next question in current terms of having to do with our pandemic. I know a number of people who like myself after their first vaccine shot spike to high fever and the doctors all assured us, Oh, that means the vaccine is working within you.

When we see tensions rise now, between Russia and the United States, as they necessarily must, is that our indication that American foreign policy is working within us again?

BESCHLOSS: Well, I think it is. And, you know, it`s a naturally competitive relationship. But, you know, many of us, I don`t think you made this error, but I`m sure I did, at certain points, to get some framework for that meeting that we saw, you know, just yesterday, we`re thinking of all those American Soviet summits all the way back, maybe even Truman install and Potsdam 1945.

But for most of the Cold War, the U.S. was dealing with a very powerful country, and an economy that might plausibly scare some people with the notion that the Soviets might be number one in the world. Now we`re dealing with a leader who is maybe 17th, in terms of the size of his economy, can certainly commit cyber warfare and has nuclear weapons, but someone who was eager for a summit like this so that he can look as if he is within contention of us to be a superpower. He isn`t.

So what we saw with Biden and Putin yesterday was two leaders who were very unequal. But Putin very grateful to have the spotlight, as if this is the old days of the Cold War. And that is very close to reality, very different from Donald Trump, you know, walking in with a terrible body language, looking as if Putin owned it.

WILLIAMS: Let`s switch to things domestic. And today at the White House, that meant a historic piece of legislation, a unanimous Senate vote, as I said, at the top of the broadcast, you don`t see that on just about anything these days. We have a new national holiday, Juneteenth. Please, as a historian, remind or inform our viewers who don`t know the full story, the searing insult and injustice that gave us Juneteenth in the first place the delay in letting black Americans know, they were no longer enslaved.

BESCHLOSS: People all over the place, especially in the south, were trying to put the brakes on the northern victory in the Civil War and the idea that slavery had been conquered at last. And so it failed, for instance, to the Confederate Army in Texas, you know, to try to resist, which they tried to do and a Union General Gordon Granger, who issued this order on the 19th of June, just as you`re saying, Brian, 1865, that slavery is over in Texas, that spread elsewhere.

If there were adjust world, Brian, we Americans would have begun celebrating Juneteenth in 1865 or 1866. It`s taken until 2021 for Juneteenth to become a federal holiday. And that should make us pause a little bit and ask the question why? Well, many people in the south and elsewhere you were talking about a near unanimous vote for this federal holiday.

Can you imagine if there had been a vote for Juneteenth as a federal holiday, let`s say in 1950 or 1900, would have been very far from unanimous. It shows that American is -- America has come far enough that an overwhelming majority of Americans understand the evil of slavery and how central the evil of slavery was to our history. But it`s taken much too long.

The best thing we can hope now is that Juneteenth is going to give all of us an opportunity to teach our children and everyone else the evils of slavery and essentially say America must never ever come close to doing anything remotely like that ever again.

WILLIAMS: In ways big and small we sometimes surprise ourselves and grow and advance it`s uneven but we do grow and advance at least we help.

BESCHLOSS: We sure do.

WILLIAMS: Well put. Thank you my friend. Michael Beschloss has been our guest on this eventful night.

BESCHLOSS: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, the gains China just made in the space race with the United States. Wrap your head around that one the story when we come back.


WILLIAMS: China`s space program and that`s a phrase you never heard just a few decades ago has just launched three astronauts into space you might wonder about their destination. They are orbiting the Earth inside China`s own space station. NBC News foreign correspondent Janis Mackey Frayer has an inside look from the launch pad in China. In fact, it`s hard to get closer than she got to the launch pad.


JANIS MACKEY FRAYER, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, a first China`s sending astronauts to with new space station blasting off from the Gobi Desert, six and a half hours later, docking 242 miles above the Earth.

(on camera): This is a milestone for China. It`s poured billions into becoming a space power and it`s getting there fast.

(voice-over): The Chinese station called Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace is a quarter of the size of the International Space Station but arrival. China frozen out of the ISS by U.S. security concerns. But with the ISS getting old, China could have the only space outpost.

JONATHAN MCDOWELL, HARVARD SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS: This phase of the Chinese space program is something they`ve been chomping at the bit to do for a decade now.

FRAYER: The unusually public fanfare times for the Communist Party`s 100th anniversary next month shows China`s growing confidence having also just landed a rover on Mars.

(on camera): Are China and the U.S. now technically equals?

The U.S. sis more advanced says the missions chief designer, but China develops space programs for its own needs.

Despite a ban on cooperation, NASA sent congratulations while tonight high above the earth, Chinese astronauts smiled waved and took their place in history. Janis Mackey Frayer, NBC News, Jiochwen (ph), China.


WILLIAMS: Remarkable story. And coming up for us something the folks have one TV network noticed about what`s going on at another TV network.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight our friends over at The Daily Show with Trevor Noah have noticed something the withering criticism of President Biden`s summit with Putin. It`s been led by Fox News and it`s knowing gaslighting. If that`s not redundant, it seems to knowingly forget something critical the influence Russians have had in our politics, our social divisions, our national conversation over these past few years, the influence potent had on the Trump presidency and our national humiliation in Helsinki. So here`s their take on it.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: The entire world seeing firsthand how weak, how frail, how confused. I don`t know what to even tell you that he`s trying to say here.

DONALD TRUMP, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Most importantly, we have a lot of good things to talk about and things to talk about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was asked if he trusted, Putin and he said yes. How can you trust a former KGB agent.

TRUMP: 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.

HANNITY: Completely confused mid-sentence during a meeting.

TRUMP: And a key sentence in my remarks. I said the word would instead of wouldn`t.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody`s getting along. And that`s what his goal is consensus, everyone to get along. It`s not about what America -- what`s best for America.

TRUMP: Getting along with Russia is a good thing. Not a bad thing. And I really think the world wants to see us get along.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He gave that stage to Vladimir Putin. The world watched and maybe believed.

TRUMP: I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He let Vladimir Putin runs circles around him.

TRUMP: He offered to have the people working on the case, come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that`s an incredible offer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was always America first. And candidly, that`s not the message that Putin got tonight.

TRUMP: I think that the United States has been foolish. And I think we`re all to blame.

HANNITY: His trip has been an utter train wreck. Frankly, I find it embarrassing.


WILLIAMS: The Daily Show to play us off the air tonight for us for now. That`s our broadcast on a Thursday with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.