President Joe Biden rallies nation to get vaccinated before July 4. VP Kamala Harris to lead tour encouraging vaccines, also leads White House effort on voting right and border issues. Biden and GOP keep pushing for infrastructure deal. Mitch McConnell defends opposition to riot commission. Cyberattackers escalate hacks against U.S. target. State Republicans work to restrict voting around U.S. States pass new laws sidelining health officials.
JONATHAN ALTER, THE DAILY BEAST COLUMNIST: And Zerlina makes the key point. Last year the Republicans literally did not have a platform for their campaign for the first time since the invention of political parties in the 1790s. They stand for nothing. That gives the Democrats a big advantage.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Jonathan Alter and Zerlina Maxwell, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
ALTER: Thanks, Lawrence.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, SIRIUSXM, SENIOR DIRECTOR PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, day 134 of the Biden administration, which is now in an all out sprint to get people in this country vaccinated. Today the President announced a new campaign to reach his goal of at least 70% of adults vaccinated by the fourth of July, holiday calling the next four weeks a month of action.
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JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: We`re announcing a month long effort to pull all the stops, all the stops to free ourselves from this virus. We can declare independence from COVID-19 and free ourselves from the grip it has held over our lives for the better part of a year.
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WILLIAMS: Make no mistake our country is closing in on his stated goal just under 63% now of American adults have received at least one vaccine dose. A host of new incentives are being trotted out including longer pharmacy hours, free childcare to allow folks to get vaccinated, shots at barber shops and salons even free beer on Independence Day if our nation meets the President`s goal.
There`s also a role in this for Vice President Harris, she will visit southern states where the vaccination rates have been lagging behind much of the rest of the country. That`s when she isn`t focusing on the border or passing voting rights legislation.
Biden`s also pushing forward toward his goal of bipartisan infrastructure bill. Despite some fellow Democrats, a lot of them actually telling him, it`s a lost cause, a waste of time. Late today he met one on one with the lead Senate Republican Negotiator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. She says they focused on her party`s counter offered, a Biden`s nearly $2 trillion proposal. They plan to meet again on Friday. Biden`s Energy Secretary says the administration is working to get a deal done as soon as possible.
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JENNIFER GRANHOLM, ENERGY SECRETARY: Some of this is just not controversial. Everybody agrees we`ve got to have roads and bridges and basic infrastructure and including electricity that comes into your home. The bottom line is, there is the shape of a bipartisan deal. And that is by far the President`s preference. You know, it`s not going to drag out beyond this summer. So we need to make sure that it happens quickly.
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WILLIAMS: We`re also getting some indication now of the shape of the Democrats next steps toward a commission to investigate the 1/6 riot and insurrection after Senate Republicans, of course, made sure to block it. Speaker Pelosi is considering a couple of options pushing for another Senate vote, naming a select special House Committee allowing inquiries underway to continue or putting a sole committee like Homeland Security in charge of the entire effort. Mitch McConnell who led the charge against the commission continues to insist it`s just not needed.
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SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY MINORITY LEADER: We were all witnesses to it. I was there. We all know exactly what happened. I don`t think we would learn anything further by having yet another level of investigation and that`s why I oppose the January 6 commission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Amid all that, there are new signs of the escalating threat to this country from cyber attacks. New York Times reporting that back in April, New York City`s transit system largest in the country was breached by a hacking group believed to have links to the Chinese government, company that runs ferries to Cape Cod as reported now being the target of a ransomware attack.
JBS, the world`s largest meat processor has resumed some of their production after a weekend cyber attack. FBI says a Russia linked group called REvil was behind it. This comes two weeks ahead of Biden summit with Putin that`ll be interesting. Today Biden was asked how the administration would deal with the attacks.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, will you retaliate against Russia for this latest ransomware attack?
BIDEN: We`re looking closely at that issue.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think Putin is testing you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: White House Press Secretary today made it clear the hacking would definitely be on the agenda at that summit.
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JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This will certainly be a topic of discussion that harboring criminal entities that are intending to do harm that are doing harm to the critical infrastructure in the United States is not acceptable. We`re not going to stand by that. We will raise that and we are not going to take options off the table.
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WILLIAMS: Also tonight, The New York Times has new reporting on the Trump Justice Department secretly seizing the phone records of New York Times reporters back in 2017. As part of an investigation into a leak that paper reports that Biden ministration, "informed the Times that law enforcement officials had seized phone records from January 14 to April 30 of 2017, for four times reporters." Those would be Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eric Lichtblau and Michael Schmidt.
It`s a lot and with that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests this Wednesday night, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post, Errin Haines, a veteran of the Associated Press, who is now editor-at-large over at the 19th, a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom focused on gender, politics and policy, and Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counter Intelligence. He is also the Host of the new podcast called The Bureau. We`ll let you decide what it`s about.
Hey, Ashley, I`d like to begin with you. Job one of this incoming administration was getting the pandemic under control. Now, it seems like about job number eight, though it`s no less urgent, in this country where everything is upside down currently, what are the politics right now of insisting that as a nation, we are all well, or at least we`ve given it our best effort?
ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, this is the key thing that Biden came into office understanding he needed to get under control. And in some ways, it is a testament to the fact that he can be worrying about other crisis now, right, like what he will say to Putin when he needs him in Geneva. And what to do about his infrastructure bill, it is a sign that this -- the pandemic is somewhat but not entirely under control. But President Biden deeply understands that, that this is the one constant that cannot change, there has to be forward progress that 63% of Americans vaccinated you mentioned in your opening has to get they hope to 70% getting one shot by July 4, and even closer, especially by the fall when they expect the virus to come back even harder among communities that aren`t vaccinated. And if this one thing slips away, everything else infrastructure, foreign policy, the economy, voting rights, criminal justice reform, or police reform rather, that all falls by the wayside is this issue then again, emerges to the forefront. So it`s on the back burner, but it`s boiling, and the administration is very much aware that they need to send it.
WILLIAMS: Errin, let`s talk about the Vice President, my list reads, vaccinations, immigration, voting rights, and I`m hoping she wasn`t hoping to take time off the summer?
ERRIN HAINES, THE 19TH EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, listen, Brian, by the end of June, we may well be saying that the vice president Kamala Harris is the busiest woman in Washington now. She`s headed to Central America to try to, you know, be on the ground floor to address the root causes of immigration. And then she comes back from that and is supposed to be on, you know, this tour through the south, helping people, helping the country get over the hump here, in terms of vaccinations, and maybe while she`s at it, she`ll register some voters as well. It is, indeed a busy schedule, indeed a busy summer for her and her portfolio is quickly expanding. I mean, just in the last 48 hours, she was tasked with both voting rights and, you know, increasing vaccinations among Americans. And you know, she really is just among a growing list of black women in this administration who are tackling some of the country`s hardest problems, which is what I wrote about coming out of Tulsa when he tasked her with voting rights.
HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge was also on the ground in Tulsa, as was Domestic Council Advisor Susan Rice, who is tasked with addressing racial equity across the administration, across agencies. And so really getting into so many of these entrenched systemic, you know, institutional inequalities seems to be falling on people like that, as well as, you know, Kristen Clarke in the Justice Department, who may be confronting, you know, voter suppression from that department, the head of Medicaid and Medicare, also a black woman, the head of the Council of Economic Advisers is going to be confronting racism in the economy and the list just goes on and on.
WILLIAMS: So Frank, as we`ve been discussing here these last couple of nights, especially for those of us with some, with some years, let`s just say how striking it is to hear an American president in his memorial day address at Arlington, declare our democracy in peril. On top of that, now the cyber security risks, now the hacks and the ransom. What should he do about it? What should he say to Putin about it?
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: As dour as, or dire as Biden`s words may have seemed, I was encouraged and bolstered by them, because he`s finally calling it what it is. We are in a battle for our democracy, it`s no longer an exaggeration to say that the fact that we can`t even agree on a commission to investigate what happened on January 6 is just another symptom of a far greater problem. So we need a public reckoning with regard to January 6, the FBI Director Chris Wray, called it domestic terrorism and look, we have experience in terrorism, we have it on the international side, we know that to battle terrorism, what you need to do is not just keep arresting the lower level operators, we`re doing great at that, right? That the numbers are climbing closer and closer to 500. We`re seeing conspiracy charges. But if you`re going to battle what`s called terrorism, you need to dismantle the command and control structure. The command and control structure for what happened on January 6 may well be the orbit around Trump and Trump himself. And if that means sitting members of Congress need to be held accountable, they must be held accountable. That has to happen fast.
On the global front, the hacks keep coming. And look, people say well, Russia always hacked us. Yes, indeed but there`s been a shift, Brian, from hacking government agencies like solar winds, and the American public kind of shrugs. And now what`s being hacked our food supply, our fuel supply. Americans care about that. And Putin knows that. And this arm is like distance of him -- that he has saying, this is an organized crime group. This isn`t me, this isn`t my intelligence service is nonsense. He enables them, he facilitates them, he may be joined at the hip with them. And if so he`s doing it to weaken and destabilize our country. And destabilize Biden. Biden`s got to deal with it head on.
WILLIAMS: You`re so right. Nothing happens there without his awareness of it, if not permission to let it go. Actually, I`m going to play for you, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who appeared on television tonight. We`ll discuss his remarks on the other side.
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REP. ADAM KINZINGER, (R) ILLINOIS: He is instead obsessed with the fact that he lost again at something. And instead of in his post presidency, taking on I don`t know some issue that he cares about, or some thing that we see former presidents do, he`s down there obsessing about the fact that he`s a loser. I`m sorry, you`re a loser, but you lost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So Ashley, this gets us into the former president who you spent so many years covering up. I note that he`s going back on the road this weekend. What is the strategy do you think I guess, down at Mar-a-Lago, where I`m left to assume his chief domestic adviser these days is a manufacturer of chopped foam rubber pillows?
PARKER: There is no strategy. There is what, some people around him would like to be a strategy which would be to have the former president lay a productive and proactive role in helping Republicans take back the House of the Senate and the 2022 midterm elections. But anyone around him no matter what topic they tried to bring up, no matter how they try to engage him. For him, he brings everything back to the 2020 election that he lost. He repeats the, you know, the so called big lie. Now with new tweaks, he is obsessed as we as others have reported in a recount or ballot audit going on in Maricopa County in Arizona. He is now also similarly obsessed with an effort going on in Fulton County, Georgia.
And in this no matter what topic is what he just brings everything back to and so for instance, his speech this weekend, his team is trying to script a speech where he will do it to go after Biden do something that will be helpful to the Republican Party, but they`re simultaneously bracing for him to go on those Trump tangents for which he is so well known. Again, likely criticizing fellow Republicans and talking about the election that he lost.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Errin, listening to Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell this past weekend, they reminded us while perhaps not intentionally of why 1/6 happened in the first place. In your reporting and the reporting on your website, how much self awareness, if any at all, are you picking up from Republicans? They launched this. I`m tempted to use the phrase you break it you buy it, but it could, it could in the end break them
HAINES: Yeah. And Brian this honestly to Frank`s point is why, you know, this 1/6 commission is so important because, yes, Senator McConnell said that, you know, everybody was there on January 6, and yet we do not have as a country a shared set of facts. There is still a significant number of Republicans who are unclear about the origins or the cause of January 6. And so really a full airing of events from an objective panel that can review the events of that day and report the findings. It`s really not so much for the folks who were in that building. It is for the American people who need that to be on the public record, including certainly the voters that I talked to including the black voters who are clear that the events of January 6 were about negating what they did on Election Day in 2020, as illegal and potentially fraudulent.
And, you know, every day that you see these state legislators kind of perpetuating these, you know, so called laws that are in response to the threat to election integrity, the insurrection continues, it is prolonged, and now you have the president getting ready to hit the campaign trail again, perpetuating, fomenting, the so called big lie, you know, that just really prolongs the events of January 6, in a way that really requires a counter narrative that is objective and clear eyed and conclusive for the American people.
WILLIAMS: So Frank Figliuzzi, your former bureau does secret stuff all the time, and no one here is trying to engender sympathy for journalists, which is a good thing because we wouldn`t get it anyway. But what is your reaction when you read the latest times reporting that the list is longer and broader than we first thought of reporters who had their phone records entered into by the Trump DOJ?
FIGLIUZZI: Yeah, here`s the thing that your viewers should understand. Leak investigations occur all the time. I bled many a leak investigation. They`re extremely difficult by the way to solve. The investigation is usually not about the reporter, but rather who`s leaking classified to them. And we get that, right? We don`t want top secret, getting out unnecessarily. But here`s the problem with what we`re learning now is DOJ didn`t even follow its own rules. So these reporters are finding out about this now, because DOJ violated their own regulations. In terms of timeframe, they`re required to notify the reporter of what`s happened. That never happened under Trump. And there needs to be accountability for that whether it was William Sessions or Bill Barr as attorney general. They broke their own rules. They came perilously close to infringing on a free press. We need to know why. We need to know how many more we`re going to get surprised with.
WILLIAMS: Much obliged to these three friends of our broadcast tonight, Ashley Parker, Errin Haines, Frank Figliuzzi, our thanks for starting off our conversation tonight as always.
Coming up for us, Mitch McConnell on his party`s push to suppress the vote. And later, the new vaccine target is July 4, but will the herd go along? Will free beer offers make a difference in this country? And why some states have decided public health experts are no longer needed. Thank you very much. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on this Wednesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: I don`t think any of these efforts at the state level are designed to suppress the vote based upon race. I don`t see it and if you read the bills, you wouldn`t see it either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: You heard the man, it`s not about race. Mitch McConnell today as his fellow Republicans around the country work their hardest to restrict voting. In fact, the Brennan Center for Justice says so far this year, "at least 14 states enacted 22 new laws that restrict access to the vote. More restrictions on the vote are likely to become law. At least 61 bills with restrictive provisions are moving through 18 separate state legislatures."
With us again tonight, two friends of ours, 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 the University of Southern California, also co-host of the Hacks on Tap podcast.
Mike, I have a question for you. This is Washington Post reporting on one Donald Trump tonight. Trump has made supporting his claims of a stolen election or at least remaining silent about them, a litmus test of sorts as he decides whom to endorse for state and federal contests in 2022 and 2024. And, Mike, you`re one of the Republicans a whole lot of Democrats have grown to admire because of principled stands over these past four to five years on broadcasts like this and others. What is a guy like you to do? Presumably you`re trying to get good Republican candidates elected around the country. And we have the Washington Post pointing out the obvious and that is this litmus test that makes primary voters just go wild?
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN VOTERS AGAINST TRUMP: Yeah, look, one thank you for the kind words. I have taken on Trump within the party. It`s why I`m now working at Quiznos during days. It`s not lonely war, but there are a bunch of us and we`re growing in strength. To the Trump question, I think that story today and how it`s affected primary voters is really important, because campaigns and politics is kind of a marketplace of sorts. And the vote -- excuse me, the elected go where their primary voters are, because in the House we`ve given almost everybody is safe district all they care about is the primary and a lot of them live in fear. The reason the story is important today is it makes clear something that I`ve always believed, at least allegedly that the President is mentally ill. He is so damaged by losing. He`s created this alternate reality around his little elbow palace season down in Mar-a-Lago with these Kooks and supplicants coming to see him telling him it`s true. There was bamboo on the Arizona, you know ballots. It was stolen. You`re going to be back, sir. It`s complete madness, but it has created an environment in the Republican primary electorate, where a solid half of the primary voters some -- in some regions more are focused their vote on what Trump tells them. And so we have this huge big lie. The big lie being there was a lot of fraud, which is causing politicians to then go down this -- in the Republican Party down this crazy path and supporting these incredibly stupid and in many places harmful pieces of legislation. It is a tragedy.
WILLIAMS: Eugene, I note that your paper is also reporting tonight that Democrats are panicked by these efforts at voter suppression around the country? If so, it`s a panic on Xanax, Eugene, when are we going to -- when is somebody going to get angry? When are we going to see or hear evidence of actual panic, which we know when we see it?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, there are a lot of people who are angry. And, you know, the question is not so much getting panic is getting motivated, getting motivated to do what Democrats can do. And so what is available for Democrats to do? Well, how do you stop this madness? Well, if you`re talking about the anti-democratic legislation, the anti-voting legislation that`s being passed in state after state, to basically put obstacles in the path of democratic leaning voters, especially voters of color, in between them, and in the ballot box, make it more difficult for them to vote. You know, what -- these are Republican state legislators and governors that are determined to ram this stuff through, and they`re going to do it. So the two things basically, that Democrats can do, they can use their slimmest of slim majorities in the Senate. And they`re pretty slim majority in the House, to pass federal legislation that would nullify some this, the John Lewis Act, H.R. 4, which would put back on the pre-clearance aspect of the Voting Rights Act, which was struck the Supreme Court, the H.R. 1, which would outlaw a lot of these, these crazy laws.
But as long as the filibuster is still around, and they`re still democratic senators don`t want to get rid of the filibuster, that`s not going to happen. The only other alternative, then, is to defeat Republican candidates under these new skilled, unfair rules that are being imposed. And it`s again, it`s not just it`s not fair. It`s not right, that burden, that extra burden has to fall on Democrats, but we have to live in the world as it is. And that`s how the world is and the Republican Party is not going to change or come back to sanity until it`s -- until it suffers crushing defeats, and that`s what needs to happen.
WILLIAMS: That`s a better explanation than I`ve heard from a lot of elected Democrats. I`ll tell you that. Go ahead, Mike.
MURPHY: Yeah, just quickly, I`m a bit of a contrarian on the net effect of this. I think there`s a little bit as awful as it is morally. The hardest problem that Democrats have had historically is getting younger voters and voters of color to vote in off term elections, they now have a tremendous weapon. So well, the law may change to now require ID with your absentee ballot if you choose to vote that way or more applications. The material difference, I think in lost votes may well be offset by higher turnout. So I don`t by the assumption that people make that this is instantly going to be powerful suppression. I think the bad actors and the GOP are hoping for that. But I think it could be yet another unintended consequences bungle. And it may actually net be better for the Democrats in the midterms.
WILLIAMS: All right, you`ve given us a lot to think about. We`ll do that over the break, both gentlemen staying with us.
And coming up, Republicans are making it abundantly clear issues of race and racism are going to be a big strategy, a big mover for them in 2022 and beyond. We`ll go deeper on that point.
WILLIAMS: We`re back and continuing our conversation as for how the GOP views the issue of race heading into the midterm elections. Axios has this for us today quote, with or without Donald J. Trump atop the party, the Republican strategy for the 2022 elections and beyond virtually assures race and racism will be central to political debate for years to come in case you were worried. In an era when every topic seems to turn quickly to race, Republicans see this most divisive issue as either political necessity or an election winner. So that`s where we are.
Still with us, Eugene Robinson and Mike Murphy. And Eugene, I want to start with a quote from my favorite columnist who looks shockingly like you this man, Mr. Robinson writes, there are those who deny that anything called "systemic racism" is a feature of the American landscape. They should be aware that history tells a very different story.
Eugene, I note that this is in the wake of first American president to go to Tulsa to talk about and embrace what happened in Tulsa and the national shame that it should have been all these many decades. But in your view, what should the conversation on race consist of right now?
ROBINSON: Well, first of all, it should just have an acknowledgement of our history of our full history. As I put that in that column, Tulsa was perhaps the worst arguably the worst, but certainly not the only white mob massacre of African American communities across the country in the early decades of the 20th century.
This was a -- this was not a one off. This happened in Atlanta in 1906. It happened in so many cities in 1919, then it was called the Red Summer. And these were white riots aimed at destroying black businesses, which were competing with my businesses at aimed at -- killing and intimidating black workers who were competing against whites successfully for jobs in the growing industrial economy.
And this is part of our history. So, you know, the right wing is all a flutter about, you know, critical race theory and how that should never be. I guarantee that point 000.1 percent of those critics has ever read one of the dry academic journal articles about critical race theory, or even knows what it is. That`s not the point.
It`s the history. It`s learning and acknowledging and come to terms with what happened. And when we do that, then we can understand what the phrase systemic racism means. But Republicans don`t want to go there. And as a matter of the culture wars, they believe that voters don`t want to go there and want to resist it.
And so that`s what this is really about. But history has a way of winning. History has a way of making its effects known, no matter who tries to stop, stop this phenomenon. So we`re going to keep telling the truth.
WILLIAMS: I pointed this out last night, there`s a superb piece in your paper, again, showing the various massacres over the years, you don`t really have to read it if you don`t want to look at the map, the places the dates and the death tolls to learn more about the cycle that also was part of the history Tulsa is part of.
Hey, Mike, there is a poll out from Axios and Ipsos, they could probably partner with Quiznos in the future, and this is whether the nation needs to make changes to give black Americans equal rights. More change needed among white Democrats, if you ask them. Yes, there`s more change needed 87 percent. Enough change already, sounds like the late Jerry Stiller is now writing the questions, among white republicans 79 percent. There`s been just about enough. We`re fine.
So Mike, eight in 10, responding Republicans isn`t that the core that so many politicians are aiming for right now whether they admit it or not?
MURPHY: Well, yes, that`s part of it. But often the key to a good career in politics is to make polls not follow them. Of my old buddy, Governor John Engler who you know, always won from behind always said (inaudible). There, what happened a week ago? The question is the future and what we`re going to do to make it.
So, I do think one of the things we`re struggling with in politics now is this identity groupism we have. Now, look, there is a legacy of systemic racism in our country, we have to talk about our history clearly. But moving forward, when it becomes group versus group and that`s the key lens, then people divide up into tribes and people like Trump show up, and they make it worse.
So the question is, how can we have opportunity for everybody mindful of our history, but hell bent on creating a new, better history. And if you look at the economic stance, there`s no doubt that African Americans and to some extent, Latino Americans, people of color, the largest two groups don`t have the same net wealth as Caucasians do, and that`s a gap we have to close. I want to see a free market Republican argument about that. My progressive friends have other ideas, but we got to have that debate.
We got to have common facts of the problem and a common purpose to unite it but not purely go tribal, where it`s constantly I`m right, you`re evil on both sides, because all that does is burned down democracy and then put us in a worse situation.
WILLIAMS: Much obliged to these two friends of ours Eugene, Mike, gentlemen, thank you both very much for coming on tonight.
And coming up for us. The White House as we said sweetening the deal to get more shots and arms by July 4th. While some troubling things are happening in some state houses on that front, one of our favorite physicians standing by to take our questions.
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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEIDCAL ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: The numbers are good, but they`re not where we ultimately want them to be. If you want to reach the goal of the president of 70 percent of adults having at least one dose by July 4 but we want to exceed that. We want to get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So we`re close and the CDC says at least 12 states have reached the President`s vaccination goal and vaccination disparities across the country do remain a major issue. With us again tonight Dr. Nahid Bhadelia and infectious disease physician, medical director of the special pathogens unit up at Boston University School of Medicine.
Doctor, in your view, thank you very much for joining us again, by the way, do incentives work? And do they work at this stage of the game where we`re trying to get, what, seven -- north of 17 million, call them stragglers over the line to join the herd?
DR. NAHID BHADELIA, INFECTIOUS DISEASE PHYSICIAN: I think, Brian, they work for a segment of the population. But what I liked about the ground game that was presented by President Biden this morning is that it`s doing a few different things. One is getting rid of structural barriers to vaccination. So, childcare, paid time off, working with employers to do that, decreasing transportation barriers.
So you`ve taken away the barriers, you`re adding the incentives. And the third that that`s important as part of this ground game is going to where people are having a conversation with them, involving community leaders and trusted community institutions. And I think that was potentially going to get us to the other line of the -- other side of the finish line.
WILLIAMS: I thought about our last conversation about India tonight when I heard the CDC director on this network say that we`re fixing to export 80 million vaccine doses by the end of June and she compared it to putting your own mask in the unlikely event of a loss of cabin pressure, putting your own mask on before helping others that we needed to get the U.S. squared away first we`d had the highest death toll on the planet prior to this.
In your view, and with India in mind, they only have an estimated death toll. We can`t know yet really what the numbers are. Are we doing enough for the wider world?
BHADELIA: No. And Brian, you know, I say that with a with a heavy heart because I work with colleagues in many different countries and what we`re seeing is that many of the countries that we thought escaped the worst because, you know, potentially that they had a younger population now they`re being hit by these variants that are more transmissible and they`re affecting younger populations and the right combination of large group gatherings and, you know, potentially what world travel opening again.
You have this condition where you`re seeing surges in countries in Latin America, Uganda, where I work as seeing new surges. And when we look at 80 million doses with it, it`s a start, but what I`m hoping is that next week that the G7 summit, that high income countries are going to make a real commitment because getting vaccines out there, it`s the humanitarian the right thing to do. It`s the smart thing to do to get the global economy back and it is the fastest way to end the pandemic for all of us.
WILLIAMS: Doctor Bhadelia to our viewers has agreed to stay with us. And coming up after this break of story we want her and we want you to see it`s about the attack on public health and health experts in general in an increasing number of states that apparently want to take their chances during the next outbreak.
WILLIAMS: We`re back and let me show you this story I was talking about because the pandemic from the very start was wrapped up in politics red versus blue. From masks to lockdowns, to anti-vaxxer, some states have doubled down on the anti-science, anti-medicine, anti-expert movement. It leaves the public exposed in matters of public health. Tonight senior Washington correspondent Hallie Jackson reveals exactly what some of those state legislatures are up to.
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HALLIE JACKSON, NBC SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before businesses opened back up and before people put away their masks, protests against those pandemic precautions spread across the country.
Now that backlash against what some saw as overreach seeming to spur a new movement. At least 14 states have introduced or passed bills that would limit the power of state officials in the next public health crisis. According to a new report by a coalition of health leaders. In North Dakota, that`s a ban on mask mandates. In Kansas, a new law would prevent the governor from shutting down schools. And in Ohio, the legislature could overturn any order issued by the governor or state health department in a public health emergency. State Senator Rob McColley co-sponsored it.
SEN. ROB MCCOLLEY (R-OH): This was aimed at putting in place checks and balances in response to an unprecedented set of circumstances and an unprecedented use of executive power at the state level.
JACKSON: But at wolf Ridge brewing in Columbus, Bob Souter, who struggled to keep his business open during the COVID crisis, once public health decisions in the hands of the experts, not politicians.
BOB SOUTER, BUSINESSMAN: Now, it`s scary to be in Ohio and think that if this does happen, again, our legislative body is going to be the ones that decide, you know, essentially what we do to keep each other safe. And I think it`s a bad idea.
JACKSON: Other opponents of these laws describe them as downright dangerous.
LORI FREEMAN, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF COUNTY AND CITY HEALTH OFFICIALS CEO: We don`t want to risk anybody unnecessarily being hospitalized or worse yet dying when we could have prevented that from happening through some simple mitigation public health measures.
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WILLIAMS: So that was Hallie Jackson, our thanks for that report. Dr. Nahid Bhadelia remains with us. Doctor, is this where we are now that we`d rather Oh, I don`t know take a chance on death and, and quiet down those over educated public health types.
BHADELIA: Brian, my real concern is that, you know, when you`ve faced these types of emergencies, and we now live in the age of epidemics from novel pathogens, we`re learning about how they`re jumping from animals into humans, and that`s happening at an increasing rate.
You have a new disease and what`s happening and the challenge with these is that you learn about the disease as you respond to them. And so you need somebody -- nobody bats 100 percent because you`re making public policy in the setting of changing science. And you want somebody who has prior experience and background in dealing with this.
My concern is what these laws is that they`re saying that they`re putting in checks and balances. I see that is actually getting rid of checks and balances because there are periods of times where political expediency it does not match what is required from a public health perspective. And we also live in an age of disinformation and some concern about what`s going to happen when that next outbreak or epidemic shows up on our on our shores.
WILLIAMS: Our thanks tonight to a dedicated physician and public health expert we have found essential around here. Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, thank you as always for joining us staying up with us and taking our questions.
Another break for us and coming up, the high school valedictorian who gave the wrong speech at graduation. That was exactly her plan all along.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, a young woman in Texas who showed more bravery than we see from our elected representatives these days. Her name is Paxton Smith, and she was valedictorian of her class at Lake Highlands High School in the Dallas suburbs.
She submitted her valedictory speech, it was on the subject of the media she. Submitted the school administrators and it was pre-approved, but she didn`t deliver that speech. Instead, she pulled what is called in academia a switcheroo and spoke about a new anti-abortion law in Texas, which is the most severe in the United States.
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PAXTON SMITH, DALLAS HIGH SCHOOL VALEDICTORIAN: Recently, the heartbeat bill was passed in Texas. Starting in September, there will be a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy regardless of whether the pregnancy was a result of rape, or incest, six weeks, that`s all women get.
And so before they realize most of them don`t realize that they`re pregnant by six weeks. So before they have a chance to decide if they are emotionally, physically and financially stable enough to carry out a full term pregnancy, before they have the chance to decide if they can take on the responsibility of bringing another human being into the world, that decision is made for them by a stranger. A decision that will affect the rest of their lives is made by a stranger.
I have dreams and hopes and ambitions every girl graduating today does. And we have spent our entire lives working towards our future. And without our input and without our consent, our control over that future has been stripped away from us.
I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail, I am terrified that if I am raped, then my hopes and aspirations and dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter. I hope that you can feel how gut wrenching that is. I hope you can feel how dehumanizing it is to have the autonomy over your own body taken away from you.
And I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace. When there was a war on my body and a war on my rights. A war on the rights of your mothers. A war on the rights of your sisters. A war on the rights of your daughter`s. We cannot stay silent. Thank you.
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WILLIAMS: It is unlikely the class of `21 will forget their graduation. For her part, Paxton Smith is headed to the University of Texas, specifically UT Austin. And then who knows maybe she`ll run for something. And perhaps she knows the story of another Texan. A former professor at UT Austin named Sarah Weddington, who as a young lawyer four years out of UT Law School, successfully argued Roe versus Wade before the U.S. Supreme Court, which made the right to an abortion the law of the land back in 1973.
That for us is our broadcast for this Wednesday night with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.