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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 6/18/21

Guests: Frank Figliuzzi, Keith Mayes, Al Franken, Jon Meacham>


President Joe Biden is now warning those who remain unvaccinated that they face a real threat of hospitalization and more from the COVID Delta variant that is becoming more and more prominent. U.S. may miss 70 percent by the July 4 vaccination target. Democrats struggle to get GOP support on voting rights. Lawmakers near bipartisan infrastructure deal. Book excerpt reveals former President Donald Trump remark on black voters. Feds release more video of Capitol riot. Democrats rally around Manchin voting rights bill. Heavy rain and tropical-storm-force winds were spreading across parts of the Gulf Coast.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, this was day 150 of the Biden administration. Today the White House issued a new warning to Americans as this COVID-19 Delta variant, now takes hold across the globe and is starting to arrive here at home.

Federal vaccination effort has been going full speed. 300 million shots have been administered in 150 days. Make no mistake that is nothing short of a remarkable public health achievement. But, over the past several weeks, there has been a steady decline in demand for the vaccine. Now the nation may fall short of Biden`s goal of at least one shot for 70% of adults by the Fourth of July. Tonight, about 65% of Americans have received one dose about 55% fully vaccinated.

This afternoon, President Biden noted the danger posed by this new variant and he urged Americans to get that shot.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: The new variant will leave unvaccinated people even more vulnerable than they are a month ago or a month ago. This is a serious concern, especially because of what experts are calling the Delta variant. It`s a variant that is more easily transmissible, potentially deadlier, and particularly dangerous for young people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could the Delta variant force us back into lockdown?

BIDEN: I don`t think so because so many people have already been vaccinated.


WILLIAMS: World Health Organization says this Delta variant is becoming the dominant COVID strain across our world. CDC says it will likely become the dominant strain here within a few months. Experts are particularly worried about what it could mean come fall, what it could mean in parts of the south where vaccination rates have lagged way behind the rest of our country.


DR. VIN GUPTA, PULMONOLOGIST AND CRITICAL CARE DIRECTOR: We`re going to see regional surges in places like the southeast of the United States. Low vaccine uptake rates, once we hit the fall, we`re going to get cold, dry air. That`s what COVID likes is really combating this conception that back in 2020 young people thought well, it`s my parents that are going to end up in intensive care. Now we`re seeing that this is a very different risk benefit calculation when it comes to taking a risk with a virus versus getting the shot.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, next week, the Senate expected to take up work on one of the President`s big list items. Majority Leader Schumer plans to hold the first vote to move forward on the voting rights bill.


SEN. TIM KAINE, (D) VIRGINIA: We`ll get to uniform Democratic support for protecting voting rights in a vote next Tuesday. My strong belief is we are not going to let a strategic Mitch McConnell lead Republican opposition progress block a democratic majority`s ability to do what the American public needs.


WILLIAMS: More on that point straight ahead. Right now it`s highly unlikely any Republicans will crossover and join those Democratic senators. McConnell has pledged they won`t. As for that bipartisan infrastructure deal Biden said today expects to see a plan emerge on Monday. It comes as we`re getting yet another rather astonishing picture of the former president. This comes from Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender, author of the forthcoming book, Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost. And a piece for Politico based on his new book Bender describes how Trump claims he "made June 10 very famous after he was told his administration had put out statements in each of the first years in office commemorating the day."

The book also knows Trump told advisors he wished he`d get a more aggressive response to the protests after George Floyd`s murder and that he regretted supporting his son-in-law Jared Kushner`s push for criminal justice reform.

Bender writes that Trump told one confidant, "I`ve done all this stuff for the blacks -- it`s always Jared telling me to do this. And they all, blank, hate me and none of them are going to vote for me.

Tonight we have yet more new images what happened during the 1/6 insurrection riot desecration at our Capitol, the Justice Department today released more video evidence at the request of NBC News and other news organizations. The Fed say this clip shows a police officer being taunted and assaulted outside the Capitol and our usual fair warning. Just like what we watched on that day in real time, the images are disturbing.


WILLIAMS: Feds also released a video allegedly uploaded to Facebook by the man who they say attacked that officer.


SCOTT FAIRLAMB, RIOTER: What Patriots do? We (bleep) disarm them and then we storm the (bleep) Capitol.


WILLIAMS: Investigators have identified the man as Scott Fairlamb, he hails from New Jersey. He has pleaded not guilty to assault. We also heard from the former Vice President Mike Pence today. Pence is the one seen on surveillance video being rushed to safety by the Secret Service on January 6. Remember, rioters could be heard chanting hang Mike Pence. Trump had accused him of being disloyal for following the constitution and refusing to overturn the election results.

Well, today Penn spoke to religious conservatives at the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference. And as he tried to speak, boos and cries of traitor rain down from the crowd.


MIKE PENCE, (R) FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: And I want to thank my friend Ralph Reed for those overly generous words. I`m deeply humbled by them. Ralph Reed knows me well enough to know the introduction I prefer is a little bit shorter. I`m a Christian, conservative and a Republican in that order, and I am honored to stand before you today.


WILLIAMS: With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Friday night, Shannon Pettypiece, veteran journalist and our Senior White House reporter over at NBC News Digital, Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counter Intel, he`s also the host of the new podcast called, The Bureau, and Keith Mayes, Author, Professor of African American Studies at the University of Minnesota.

Welcome back to you all. And Shannon, I`d like to begin with you. It`s a great man once said, some days, it`s like one step up and two steps back on the pandemic front, just when we have a good stretch, along comes a reminder that there`s still work to do, what`s the real level of concern at the institution you cover on this Delta variant?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBC NEWS.COM SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I think the concern is trying to figure out a way to get to the people who still haven`t gotten vaccinated. Obviously, administration officials knew there was this low hanging fruit at the very beginning, the people who weren`t super eager to get vaccinated lining up right away. Then there was a second tier they were talking about, about people who, yeah, they weren`t necessarily opposed to the vaccine, but they just hadn`t gotten around to it. They didn`t have time. They just needed that little nudge. And that`s where you saw things like the, you know, Ohio Lottery Program, or you saw the administration encouraging employers to give people paid time off and free beer and these little incentives to nudge people.

Well, there`s been about a month of people getting nudge and you still see a lot of groups, a demographics, even entire states, where those people are, the vaccination rates are still really low. They`re stuck around 50%. And a number of states in the south, you know, while you have people over 40, with about 74%, having gotten their first shot, you`ve got people 18 to 24, in some places, where it`s just a quarter of that age group have gotten the shot. The administration has kind of deployed all or almost all of the tools in their tool bag to try and drive people out. And they`re still hitting against this wall. And what you are hearing from the president today, and that clip you played earlier, is sort of the next level of this in trying to drive home the fact that there is a new variant out there that is particularly harmful to young people, and that this is no longer just a question about trying to get young people out there to get vaccinated so they don`t infect their grandparents. So they don`t infect someone immunocompromised who can`t get the vaccine. It`s now trying to get the message out there, that this is something that could pose a real serious health risk to young people, which is certainly what the data shows us and what we`re seeing in a number of countries. I think that`s where you`re starting to see things shift now. And the administration is clearly warning that in places where vaccination rates are low, like the South age groups where it`s low, like 18 to 24 year olds, that`s where we`re going to see this virus continuing to find people and spread.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Frank, various Republican members of Congress have been trying to tell us we didn`t see what we saw on 1/6 that it certainly wasn`t an insurrection that it certainly wasn`t violent. Senator Ron Johnson said they stayed within the velvet ropes and remarks that may have been translated from the original Russian that it was no different from tourists visiting the Capitol that day. To that end, what`s your takeaway with each new clip that you see from that day?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Brian, I know watching these clips as they come out is disturbing and I understand why we need to give a warning before viewers see such disturbing content. But here`s the thing, here`s the value in seeing this. When I look at it through a law enforcement lens, I see the depth of anger, the depth to which certain people in our society have bought into this deception and seem willing to harm others and themselves in the process. And I have to keep drawing an analogy to international terrorism and the lessons learned there, which is that when you see people willing to commit to the point of death, or injuring others, demonizing others, willing to martyr themselves for some deceptive cause, you need to be alarmed and we need to be alarmed as a society that these people were committed in this fashion to such a big lie. It`s very disturbing and to hear and see that some of these folks were connected to law enforcement, perhaps some even career former law enforcement is particularly disturbing.

WILLIAMS: And certainly radicalized to your point about the parallels between this and what you`ve seen over the course of your career overseas. Hey Professor, let`s talk about voting rights. I want to gauge either your optimism or pessimism on the way the White House, the way the democrats are going about it, knowing as you do the math is not in their favor?

KEITH MAYES, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA AFRICAN-AMERICAN STUDIES: The math is in their favor, Brian, if we can get Senator Joe Manchin, just to do what he said he was going to do. I think that the counter proposal that he put forward, is something that Democrats could get behind, the Republicans in the Senate said that they would not support it, regardless. But I think that we have to force this vote on the floor. We had to get this vote on the House, on the Senate floor next week to see what happens. And if they will not disavow the filibuster, then I think that the Democrats will have to ask themselves, where do they go from here?

I just can`t understand, Brian, why voting rights is such an issue right now. They pass a law granting Juneteenth, making Juneteenth a federal holiday. It was low hanging fruit. That was the easy one to do. But in many ways, I think it was subterfuge for the bigger fight that Republicans want to engage in. And that`s the issue of voting rights. And that`s the issue of police reform. These are two things they don`t want to do. And they will -- they would rather engage in the symbolic, Brian, then the real and that`s voting rights.

WILLIAMS: Well, Professor, to your very point, these are some of the same Republicans in the Senate, raising this crisis over critical race theory, some of the same Republicans who are voter suppression enthusiasts back in their home states. And our friend Eugene Robinson writes this and it`s powerful. Supporting the Juneteenth holiday is a gesture that lets Republicans pretend to acknowledge the nation`s original sin of slavery, even as they insist that racism is confined to our national past. Do you agree?

MAYES: Yes, indeed, Eugene is spot on with that. And just think about this, so we are willing to pass -- Brian, I remember, I`m old enough to remember the opposition to MLK holiday, the holiday in this. I was too young to remember the opposition in the 70s. But I remember the 80s and the 90s even out the President Reagan signed the MLK holiday into law. And I`m just baffled why they would actually sign this bill without any problem, but would have a problem with having racism taught in American public schools. On the one hand, we will acknowledge that slavery was a bad thing, and that an ended in 1865. But we have a problem with teaching that to our children in school. So it`s very ironic to me that the Republicans would give one hand and take away with the other. And I think that they have a fashion themselves to play politics with black history. We saw this when Trump was President, when it came to Frederick Douglass, when they issued a pardon for Jack Johnson and thought about doing so for Marcus Garvey. I think they use black history as a way to demonstrate to black people that we do care about your concerns, but as always in a back handed sort of way. They don`t care about black history. They want to see the perpetuation of why racism, they don`t want to see this thought, and they really don`t want to do the hard things, which has passed legislation as it pertains to voting rights and police reform.

WILLIAMS: And so Shannon, quick question goes to you. Can you add any reporting on the math on things like the filibuster on things like voting rights?

PETTYPIECE: Well, I mean, Joe Manchin, the 50th vote that, you know, Democrats need to get things through either through reconciliation, you know, has been pretty clear that he`s not going to blow up the filibuster or do anything to significantly change the filibuster. So you need 60 votes. They`re not 60 votes right now, on voting rights, at least not on any voting rights bill that currently exists. You know, there might not be 60 votes on police reform, there`s maybe kind of 60 votes on infrastructure, you know, but even just getting 50 votes for Democrats is increasingly looking to be a struggle. You know, we`ve seen more of the progressive sort of speaking out, you know, about their needs, their desires, their demands, as you continue to see the more moderates, the Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema group, hold the line on there. So I mean, there`s a lot of pieces in place right now. They are going to fall in place over the next few weeks and where they fall is really going to set the course for where the rest of President Biden`s first term is going to look like.

WILLIAMS: To our audience, a reminder, Frank Figliuzzi, is the author of a book called, The FBI Way. He is the host of a podcast called, The Bureau. So I`ve been fixing to get his opinion on the following all week. Frank, we`re going to play this clip for you. This was Tucker Carlson on Fox News Tuesday night. We`ll discuss on the other side.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: So FBI operatives were organizing the attack on the Capitol on January 6, according to government documents, and those two are not alone. In all Revolver News reported there are, "upwards of 20 unindicted co-conspirators in the Oath Keeper indictments, all playing various roles in the conspiracy, who have not been charged for virtually the exact same activities, and in some cases, much, much more severe activities as those named alongside them in the indictments." Huh? So it turns out that this white supremacist insurrection was, again by the government`s own admission in these documents organized at least in part by government agents.


WILLIAMS: Frank, it`s all yours, over to you.

FIGLIUZZI: Well, Tucker can pick one or two of two choices. He can plead total ignorance of what unindicted co-conspirator means, or he could admit that he`s trying to deceive the public. It`s one or the other, maybe both. That`s not what unindicted co-conspirator means. And in fact, if there were FBI operatives inside the crowd, and they are -- they would never be charged as unindicted co-conspirators. This makes absolutely no sense. But I`ll tell you, what does make sense, Brian, we`ve learned just today through MSNBC, and NBC News reporting, that at least one of the defendants in the January 6 case has been asked by FBI agents, do you know anyone in Congress? And so now when you put those two things together, there`s some interest in the GOP and Congress spreading this disinformation that, it was the FBI who did all of this on January 6, why? Because just maybe, just maybe the FBI is looking at them.

WILLIAMS: Thank you for that forthright answer. And thanks to our big three on a Friday night, Shannon Pettypiece, Frank Figliuzzi, Professor Keith Mayes, we greatly appreciate having the three of you on board to start us off.

Coming up for us, a former Democratic senator and a leading conservative thinker are here with us. Tonight, we get to hear from Franken and Kristol. And later Jon Meacham weighs in on President Biden`s history making week, another milestone in this presidency. Is there any room in our toxic society to credit the president for an unprecedented return to something closer to national health? All of it as the 11th Hour is now getting underway on this last night of the week beneath the rotors of Marine One.



FORMER SENATOR DOUG JONES, (D) ALABAMA: Joe as well as every other Democrat in the Senate and our few independents have got to make the decision. And that is, Congress of the United States going to be a backstop for what`s going on around the country. All of these voting orders that have come so quickly, so fast. It`s like the California wildfires. If Congress can`t be that backstop to stop that, then I`m not sure anybody`s got any business being up there.


WILLIAMS: There`s a former Democratic Senator, we got another one standing by and let`s state this plainly, there is no sign that Congress will be able to do much to stop the GOP led assault on voting rights. Democrats still face the fact that GOP Minority Leader McConnell can weigh in on all legislation and McConnell is all but promising federal voting rights will not see a single Republican vote.

Back with us again tonight, Former Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken, who`s these days has the good fortune to host a podcast bearing his name. There he is, we`re having some Wi-Fi issues tonight. But we`re dealing with it, and Bill Kristol, Author, Writer, Thinker, Political Veteran of the Reagan and Bush administration`s and editor-at-large at the Bulwark.

Al, Senator, I`ve been wanting to ask you, what should the Democrats do? How should they proceed on voting rights? You know, the mass better than most?

AL FRANKEN, (D) MINNESOTA FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, what I think is going on is Chuck Schumer doing exactly the right thing, and that is a brand for evoke. And, you know, Joe Manchin came up with a compromise. And we`re going to -- he`s going to see that Mitch McConnell and Republicans are going to filibuster it. And I -- you know, you heard in the audio that was released the other day by the intercept, that Joe is now talking about being open to a modification of the filibuster. Norm Ornstein and I have proposed a modification that he actually mentioned in that tape, which is that instead of 60 votes and the filibuster that you need 41 Republican senators to take the floor and to sustain it and then they have to stay there and debate. And that`s the talking filibuster. And I think that we`re heading in that direction. Joe was very, very frustrated with the vote on the January 6 commission. And, you know, Mitch -- he thought that was going to go, I believe and Mitch McConnell asked or said he needed it as a favor from his team, from his caucus. And I think that`s some kind of code favor.

WILLIAMS: It is in a lot of Scorsese movies. Hey, Bill Kristol, our mutual friend, A.B. Stoddard was on the broadcast a few days back and paraphrasing said, you know, you guys in the media and a lot of Democrats are getting played, it`s not so much the casting of the votes. That is the issue that`s getting the quiet attention and Republican led legislatures in the states across the country. It`s the counting of the votes, all of it adds up to great danger that we`ve had our last truly free and fair election. Bill, you know, the math to what should happen, what can the Democrats do? What should they do?

BILL KRISTOL, THE BULWARK EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Because I`d say two things, first of all, there`s a lot that can happen outside Congress, Democrats can reelect governors in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, they could win the governorship in Arizona and/or Georgia, they could clip the state legislature to win those states, a lot of those things would just make it harder for the Republicans to steal the election, to overturn the election results after the votes are cast. And harder, in fact, to sustain real restrictions on voting, even before the votes are cast. So businesses can weigh in different states. Texas, the Texas Republicans looked like they were going to pass very restrictive voting rights limitations, but also this kind of beginning to open the door to the legislature overturning the result, appointing a different slate of electors than the House Republicans could go ahead and see that fight and so forth. And there was a lot of pressure the Democrats fought. They fought very hard in Texas. The business community weighed in some quietly, some publicly and now the Republicans seem to be backing off. So there are lots of friends to fight on. And my main advice is to find on the wall.

In Washington, I think what Manchin did this week is pretty important. He finally, he narrowed down the bill in ways that a lot of us have been saying would have to happen took out things like public financing, which Republicans have pretty good arguments against six to one match for donations, $200 that you and I and Al -- Brian, you and Al and I would all be matching every $200 contribution to every Trump`s supporting Republican, which I don`t really want to do. And how -- so they took out some of the stuff that wasn`t as important, I think, and that wasn`t central to voting. And now it`s really becoming a focused voting bill, the John Lewis aspects of it to make sure for the H.R. 1 stuff, I think they could add a little bit to strengthen what`s called the Electoral Account Act, which make it harder for shenanigans to happen on January 6, with the kind of, you know, overturning themselves.

So I actually think there`s a little more movement on this than people realize in a good direction. But I mean, it`s a real fight. And look, it`s important, as you said, it`s dangerous. And so people can`t just say, oh, gee, I`m disappointed and Joe Manchin, they have to fight and push on every front.

WILLIAMS: Both of these gentlemen have agreed to stay with us while we fit in a break here. And coming up, Lindsey Graham today urged America to imagine four more years of Donald Trump policies. Problem is he meant that in a good way.



PENCE: And I want to thank my friend, Ralph Reed, for those overly generous words. I`m deeply humbled by them. Ralph Reed knows me well enough to know, the introduction I prefer is a little bit shorter. I`m a Christian conservative and a Republican in that order, and I am honored to stand before you today.


WILLIAMS: They weren`t buying the pious Mike Pence act at that gathering today but the Trump up sucking was on full display. Fealty was on full display at this Faith and Freedom Conservative Conference today in Florida.


SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: We are going to defeat the woke assault that all of us need to wake up.

REP. ANN WAGNER, (R) MISSOURI: It`s very simple, go back to the remain in Mexico policy and build President Trump`s wall.

SEN. RICK SCOTT, (R) FLORIDA: We`re going to fight against this woke mob and these radical Democrats who are trying to absolutely destroy this country.

SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R) TENNESSEE: Let me ask you something, do you miss President Donald Trump? I do too.


WILLIAMS: Still with us, Al Franken and Bill Kristol. Bill, not even a supplicant can catch a break these days. I heard you Bill on another broadcast tonight make the best point that I`m going to ask you to repeat now. It would have cost Mike Pence, nothing other than a few seconds of his remarks to do what?

KRISTOL: Well, when there`s some people in the crowd started to call him a traitor to say, wait a second, let me explain what happened on January 6. Here`s what I did. Why I did what I did, I upheld the Constitution. This is the role of the vice president, we have no choice. I had no choice, no legitimate choice, legitimate choice on what to do. There was a -- the election votes were counted fairly. He could have spent 90 seconds defending himself, explaining the truth and wouldn`t have mattered -- here`s why I think it would matter slightly because when Al Franken and I say everything we say, there are a lot of people in that Faith & Freedom crowd who listened to us.

But Mike Pence has given us some percentages and perhaps, you know what, maybe that -- maybe Trump`s kind of off the rails here and maybe the Trump people maybe just sucking up to Trump isn`t quite the right thing. They wouldn`t go where we want them to go. The best, we continue to praise all of Trump`s policies and all this kind of stuff. But at least some establishment, some regular Republicans might speak up or after what happens and even if Pence wasn`t going to say it, could someone else stand up this evening on some other show because I will go to the floor of the Senate or the House and say, you know what? Mike Pence is not a traitor. Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, could they defend what he did on January 6, it would be -- I mean, this is where the collapse of the Republican establishment not is almost as damaging as the insane cult-like behavior of the Trump loyalists.

WILLIAMS: Al Franken, the party did not have a platform at all in the last presidential election and the platform of this gathering seems to be we all miss Donald Trump. Can they run on that? Where does your guts stand on the upcoming midterms, for example?

FRANKEN: Well, there`s a lot of time between that and now and what Democrats have to do is accomplish stuff for the American people. I think that`s first and foremost. And that I do think means settling on some modification of the filibuster. But look, this guy was -- is such -- 600,000 people died and not and many of them didn`t have to. This guy abdicated all responsibility. And we have to make that case.

This guy was a disaster for this country. And, you know, he punted everything to the states, ziffs after Pearl Harbor or FDR said, you know, this is kind of Hawaii`s problem. I mean, this was a crime what he did during that time. And, yes, we have disinformation. We have people not taking the vaccine, which is causing people to die unnecessarily. I remember the polio vaccine. We took it because we didn`t want to get polio. And we are now in a very bad time, where you`re seeing the kind of disinformation that you`re seeing from people that I think know better like Tucker Carlson. Some I don`t quite -- Tucker used to work for you, Bill, that he knows better. But this is a -- I don`t know what this is about, as power of profit, or whatever it is, but it`s sick. We`re really, really troubling time I think, and it breaks my heart. We have to win. We have to win. And that`s why we have to pass this stuff. We have to get daycare for people. We have to get infrastructure for people, and people want these things. That`s how we win and in the midterms.

WILLIAMS: Gentlemen, we`re grateful to you both for hanging out with us late on a Friday night at the end of the week we`ve all had, thank you. Have a good weekend, Happy Father`s Day to you both coming.

FRANKEN: Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Coming up, we mark 150 days of a Biden administration with the celebrated author and historian Jon Meacham when we come right back.


WILLIAMS: Here we are 150 days into this administration. There`s still new president faces an uphill fight over what he wants, like voting rights, like infrastructure, like our conversation so far tonight on this broadcast.

David Ignatius from the Washington Post has some advice. He writes, Biden should use the same tactics that worked in his trip abroad. Negotiate with his adversaries but remind them of his hard options. Be a pragmatic centrist, not bipartisan. Make them worry about the political dangers of obstruction.

Back with us again tonight, Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning Author, Presidential Historian, the Rogers chair in the American presidency at the Vanderbilt University, he -- at Vanderbilt University, he occasionally advises President Biden on historical matters and major speeches, his new podcast, Fate of Fact, looks back through history at times when fear has conquered truth. All five episodes are now up and available.

Jon, you know, your role here, we`re always asking you to rank this or rank that, compare this, compare that and that`s where I`m going to begin, any comparison to these first 150 days of this presidency?

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It does feel a little bit to me like FDR, and of course, the center writes heads will explode at this point. But think about what Franklin Roosevelt did in those first 100 days, he handled the banking crisis, he restored a level of confidence in the basic efficacy and efficiency of institutions that Americans had come to trust, but which had failed them. And ultimately, what President Biden`s role here is to try to both undergird these institutions, repair these institutions and improve them. It`s not entirely about restoration. It`s not about returning to some golden hour of bipartisanship, which never existed. There`s never been a once upon a time in American history, and there`s never going to be a happily ever after. Because history is about all of us and we`re all fallen, frail and fallible creatures.

And so what I think Joe Biden did this week in particular, is he showed us that he`s a master of what Franklin Roosevelt once called the science of human relationships. He did it with Putin. It is a remarkable thing that Vladimir Putin has come out and commented so forthrightly about Biden`s abilities as a negotiator. I had not seen David Ignatius` point. But one thing he`s got the Biden has, when he negotiates with Putin, and he doesn`t have with Congress, is at least Putin seems to be motivated by an interest where he may in fact, cooperate.

What we`re not seeing right now is the Republicans actually being open to being a partner for peace. And I think that`s one of the tragedies of the era, like Bill and Al a minute ago, I hope that there is in fact a shift there. But there`s very little evidence of it. And so that goes back to this Roosevelt analogy where Biden has been hired by 81 million Americans to make the country work. And I think he`s doing a pretty good job so far, and the jury will be out on whether he has a coherent partner in that, in at least some parts of the Republican Party.

WILLIAMS: I have 60 seconds left before a break. In the world of obstruction, in the history of obstruction, is there a comparison to a guy like McConnell, who says things as if designed to shock and always says the quiet part allowed?

MEACHAM: Allowed, you know, Mitch McConnell will go down as one of the most, if not the most effective legislators, if we measure legislative effectiveness in his capacity to impose his will. And the will of the base of his party, and that base, of course, has taken over the whole party. And so, you know, we think about Lyndon Johnson being a master of the Senate, we look back at Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, people like that. McConnell is in a different category. He really is. And one of the things he has, the opportunity to do here, I don`t think he will, but he has an opportunity to try to use some of that power for actual purposes of governance, as opposed to this relentless partisan will to power.

And I really think, Brian, that`s where things come down, is that the Republican Party has become a vehicle to amass and hold power. They`re not even that sure, it seems to me sometimes why they want it. They just don`t want the other guy that happened. And I think that`s something that separates President Biden. President Biden knows why he wants.

WILLIAMS: To our viewers, the site is unique of Jon Meacham without a tie. This is positively athleisure for him. So don`t adjust your sets. Our friend Jon is going to stay right where he is.

Coming up for us after a break, how to rank what the President called one of the largest logistical challenges in all of American history. Jon has a few thoughts on this front as well.



BIDEN: Together, we build an unparallel vaccination program and manage one of the biggest, the most complicated logistical challenges in American history. We`ve gotten 300 million shots in the arms of Americans and 150 days, months ahead of what most anyone felt was possible when we started.


WILLIAMS: Our guest, Jon Meacham remains with us. Jon, I`ve said on this broadcast before, at the depth of the pandemic, I listened to your podcast series, hope through history, and the episode on the Salk vaccine, quite literally delivered hope through history at a low point in modern America, very different years in the making, they lost what a dozen souls after a bad batch. We were America, after all, we kept going, we kept plugging right through it. How does that effort compare with this incredibly fast Herculean effort of getting 300 million shots out in 150 days?

MEACHAM: You know, it`s a great example of America at its best, right? Because it`s not just the public sector, it`s not just one party. It`s the private sector. It`s our medical science. It`s the government delivery since January, it was launched in the last administration of, you know, let`s be intellectual honesty requires us to step back and say, who were the players? Who were the people in this Symphony that created this remarkable achievement? And it`s a reminder, and what I would hope people would take away from this is it`s a reminder that our familiar ideological categories, government bad is just good, vice versa, don`t really apply when you put that up against, you put that in the light of history and experience. It takes two wings to fly. It`s one of the biggest debates about the infrastructure bill now, the interstates, our government, what`s on the interstates? Commerce. You know, it requires, always has from the very beginning.

When we had huge debates in the country about infrastructure and the role of government and the general welfare clause of the Constitution and what that meant and what it could be, you know, Hamilton and Jefferson were fighting about this. So it`s no wonder really, that we`re still fighting about it.

But the lesson, it seems to me, of the logistical achievement of the administration, and the development of the vaccine before that, and as it continues, is that -- it takes two wings for the country to fly. And so why can`t we take a deep breath? Why can`t we put our phones down for a few minutes? And instead of reflexively reacting to everything that happens through a preexisting prism, why can`t we let reason dictate some of this, at least guide some of this? And I would hope that, you know, we can get to some point where, in fact, data will drive us, at least on occasion, as opposed to ideology.

WILLIAMS: And, of course, those dark forces in our politics that you reference have given us a pretty substantial anti-vaccine movement, which is now what we`re fighting what we`re chasing across the country. Jon, it is always such a great pleasure. Thank you, as always for coming on. Have a good weekend, Happy Father`s Day to you too.

MEACHAM: You too.

WILLIAMS: Jon Meacham has been our guest tonight.

Coming up for us, we have a late live update on a developing situation in the Gulf that might just knock those structures over.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, I hate to do this but we have to put our public service hats on, a new season is arriving and with it the need for emergency preparedness for millions of our fellow citizens. There is a storm coming in the Gulf hardly the biggest they`ve ever seen. Nothing they can`t handle. But we`re looking at Father`s Day weekend after all, meaning a whole lot of people around the move, a whole lot of people heading to beaches, coming together in ways that they haven`t for over a year now.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards acted early. He declared a state of emergency along the coastline in Louisiana over 24 hours ago. This system spent the evening on the edge of being declared Tropical Storm Claudette. Coastal flood warnings are up as it`s expected to come on land early Saturday bringing a foot of rain or more, inundation along the immediate coastline as possible, high winds, probable, tornadoes possible. Clouds from this system already cover all of Florida and are as far north as Nashville and it`s not yet officially on land. Once it is, it`ll go on a run. It will make a right turn for the Atlantic coast. Birmingham and Atlanta are going to get all the rain they can handle. You know the drill. Stay informed. Follow the comb. Hopefully nobody gets hurt. Nobody`s -- everybody has been warned. The good news is, it`s moving so fast. Father`s Day should be beautiful in New Orleans, if not a little squishy underfoot.

So for us and for now, that is our broadcast on this Friday night with our thanks for being here with us. Happy Father`s Day to all the dads out there. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.