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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 6/3/21

Guests: Barbara McQuade, Jen Golbeck, David Plouffe, Michael Steele


President Joe Biden is pushing for bipartisan deal with GOP. Senator Joe Manchin wants Biden to keep negotiating with GOP. Biden offers concessions to get GOP support. Congressman Matt Gaetz denies obstruction and sex trafficking. The White House laid out a plan for the United States to share 25 million surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to the world. Former President Donald Trump pushes "big lie" ahead of weekend rally. Former Vice President Mike Pence says he doesn`t know if he and Trump will ever see eye to eye on January 6. Critics say filibuster should not stand in Senate way. United buys supersonic jets that slash travel time.


REP. MIKE LEVIN (D-CA): And my hope is that they can be bipartisan solutions. There`s no reason that spent nuclear fuel should be a Republican or a Democratic issue. So, we`re going to come together, a group of us in Congress, and we`re going to try to work on this and get it done.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: And we now live in a country where the single most important environmental decision, single most important decision ever made by an individual government official will be made by Judge Mitchell Beckloff. Congressman Mike Levin, thank you very much. Go ahead, sorry.

LEVIN: My great hope is that President Biden will lead on this issue. Secretary Granholm will lead on the issue. We want to work with them. We want to figure that out, and we can get it done if we work together.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Mike Levin gets Tonight`s Last Word. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening, once again, day 135 of the Biden administration, the president fighting for a win in Congress that could set the stage for legislation that could transform our country and cement his legacy. But getting there is something else entirely. His COVID Relief Act, remember, passed with just Democratic votes, but now he`s working overtime to get Senate Republicans to sign on to his infrastructure and jobs bill. But the man who appears to hold the key to all of this is a Democrat from a state Donald Trump carried by almost 40 points, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin in a 50/50 Senate, his vote means everything, and he wants Biden to keep talking with those Republicans.


GARRETT HAAKE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: If this negotiation falls apart tomorrow, the President calls you and says, it`s time for Democrats to go in alone on this and try to go reconciliation. Are you ready to do that?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I don`t think basic is going to fall apart. I really don`t.

HAAKE: Are you ready to go it alone with just Democrats?

MANCHIN: I don`t think you should. I really don`t.


WILLIAMS: Our own NBC News colleague, Garrett Haake who you just saw there will join us for more in a moment.

Biden has signaled to Republicans that he could take a proposed corporate tax increase off the table if they accept a trillion in new spending as part of any bipartisan deal. Today, the White House suggested there`s no firm deadline to get this deal done.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does he see Monday as kind of the deadline for any major breakthroughs on where these talks are going?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No. He`s going to continue to have conversations with Democrats and Republicans about what the path forward may look like. We`re not here to set new deadlines. We`re going to continue those conversations.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, the President has weighed in on the fight over the January 6, the independent commission firmly ruling out appointing his own presidential panel. White House issued a statement that reads in part, "Members of Congress swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the President believes they can and must do that by putting politics aside and supporting a full and transparent investigation."

And now Senator Ron Johnson, the Republican from Wisconsin, who is both an intensely loyal Trumper and a conspiracy theorist, the same Ron Johnson, who joined with his colleagues to block the creation of a commission says he started his own inquiry into the insurrection.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I`ve had my investigatory staffs going into the Capitol Hill place, and we are -- we`re looking at a lot of those videos. I`m not ready to release a report on it. The portrayal of January 6 has been highly biased. I don`t think it`s been particularly accurate. I think it`s driven by the very slick video that was produced by the impeachment managers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you not aggressively looking at what happened that day from the perspective of President Trump`s role?

JOHNSON: Because we`ve had we`ve had an impeachment trial. I want to know why we weren`t better prepared to the Capitol. I want to know why there wasn`t a police presence. You know, why we didn`t take the situation seriously.


WILLIAMS: We also heard from Mike Pence tonight about January 6, the day that the President supporters were calling for him to be hanged. You`ll hear what he has to say about Trump just ahead. There`s also news about one of Trumps other acolytes, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, a source telling NBC News that prosecutors are now examining whether Gaetz obstructed justice during the phone call with a witness in the federal sex crimes investigation into the congressman. That witness reportedly close to -- reported to be one of the women alleged connected to Gaetz and his friends so called wing man Joel Greenberg, who pleaded guilty last month to several crimes including the sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl.

This news was first reported by Politico spokesperson for Gaetz denies the allegations of obstruction. Gaetz has also repeatedly denied allegations of sex trafficking and being sexually involved with a minor. Tonight, he addressed the report during an interview on the Trump adjacent cable network called Newsmax.


REP. MATT GAETZ, (R) FLORIDA: I have never obstructed justice. I`ve never gotten close to it. I spend my entire career pursuing justice. I don`t obstruct justice.


WILLIAMS: Washington Post reports another Trump ally and appointee Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is also under investigation, FBI looking at campaign fundraising activity involving DeJoy`s former private business. As for Trump himself National Review writes that its sources backup a report from the New York Times` own Maggie Haberman, who reported this week that Trump believes he`ll be reinstated to office this summer after so called audits of the 2020 elections in Arizona and Georgia are done. Just for starters, that`s not possible.

Also, tonight while the nation appears to be on the road back to normalcy after more than a year of this pandemic, we have now lost over 600,000 souls to this virus. As the administration ramps up its vaccination program to get more shots and arms, it is also rushing 25 million doses of surplus vaccine to several nations overseas where doses are in dangerously short supply.

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Thursday night, Garrett Haake, our NBC News Correspondent covering Capitol Hill, who you saw, got a chance to speak with Senator Joe Manchin today. Also with us, Lisa Lerer, National Political Correspondent for The New York Times and Barb McQuade, a Veteran Federal Prosecutor, former US Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She worked with DOJ during the Biden transition. She is a professor at her alma mater, University of Michigan Law School and co-host of the podcast Sisters in Law along with three other friends of ours, Joyce Vance, Jill Wine-Banks and Kimberly Atkins Stohr.

So good evening, and welcome to you all. Garrett, it`s good to see you. Let me start by playing more of your exchange with Senator Manchin. We`ll discuss on the other side.


MANCHIN: My Democratic colleagues have known me for over 10 years. They`ve watched my voting pattern. It`s been the most bipartisan voting pattern in the Senate. OK. So, for them to think I`ve changed my voting pattern, because I want to be in a position of being that one person in the middle. That never happened.

HAAKE: I don`t think --

MANCHIN: Everything changed. I didn`t change. I represent the state of West Virginia. That`s who hired me. I represent the best possible fashion I can. And I am not -- I`m not going to get in a situation where I`m playing to different people that want different things. It`s my state, the more things we do in a partisan fashion and not trying to do it in a bipartisan fashion separates us further, it`s not good for our country.


WILLIAMS: So, Garrett, buddy, to be straight up with you, I`m going to start with two questions, both of which may require just a hint of analysis from the reporter. And here they are, what makes him a Democrat? And is he as so many people believe secretly really enjoying this moment?

HAAKE: Well, I don`t think it`s a secret that Manchin enjoys being in the middle of all of these discussions and being in a position where his politics are driving a lot or driving at least some of what the Semmen (ph) is doing. He has, as he laid out there a very specific idea of how the Senate should function. He wants to see it function in a bipartisan way. That may be a complete anachronism for our modern Senate. Certainly, a lot of his Democratic colleagues in that body think so. But that`s the way he has chosen to operate. And as to what makes him a Democratic, Manchin takes a lot of grief for his position on the filibuster and on the voting rights bill, which he does not support, which are things that separate him from the majority of his party, but he has voted with President Biden on every vote that has mattered so far. The only time he broke with him was on the near attended nomination. We are here in West Virginia because he is touring part of the state with the Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm talking about ways in which West Virginia can participate in a clean energy future.

So, he`s trying in his own way to be a team player. But he is hard core dug in on his idea of how the Senate should work in a bipartisan way. And that will frustrate many, many of his colleagues particularly on those two key issues, the voting rights bill that Democrats want to pass and the filibuster that they would need to remove to do so.

WILLIAMS: So, Lisa, do you care to guess why Biden seems so determined to continuing to pursue bipartisanship?

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, in part because of Joe Manchin, right? There`s a real advantage for Biden is continuing to push this at least to a certain point because he even without Republican support cannot get this legislation through the Senate without the support of these moderate Democrats like Joe Manchin, like Kyrsten Sinema who want to see that he made every possible effort to get some kind of bipartisan legislation.

At some point, his patients will run thin. The White House, as we saw in the intro has sort of pushed back on this idea of a Monday timeline, which was floated earlier this week. But, you know, the President and the administration is facing sort of a new push, a little bit of impatience from their left flank, which is also important. So at some point, these negotiations will end and, you know, they will either have a bipartisan deal or the White House will go it alone, and try to push something through with Democratic support and reconciliation. A lot of the money in Washington thinks the latter is the more likely outcome here. But he can`t get to that point without going through a really robust negotiating negotiation process with Republicans.

WILLIAMS: Barb McQuade, let`s turn on the Wayback Machine and it will spit out the name, Don McGahn. He was a star witness for Mueller. He appears before the House Judicial Committee tomorrow, tell the folks watching why we should care about what he may or may not say?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, Brian, I don`t know if he`s going to tell us anything new with the negotiations that have been worked out between the White House and Congress is really just to ask him the same information that is revealed in the Mueller report. So I don`t know that the substance of his testimony will change much of anything. But I do think it`s important that he finally be brought before Congress to testify in hopes that perhaps we can do something to speed up the process. You know, Donald Trump famously vowed to fight all the subpoenas. And although ultimately he didn`t prevent Don McGahn from appearing before Congress, he did successfully delay him from appearing for two years. It passed the election. And I think that is something that is symptomatic of another way that our congressional system is broken. I`d like to see this used as an example of why we need to have processes that include timelines and deadlines, when Congress issues that subpoenas.

WILLIAMS: Garrett, back over to you to a point Lisa made. Biden`s talking to Republicans tomorrow, his left flank and the demonstrably angry flank of the Democratic Party is getting antsy, because it now kind of passes as gospel in Washington that these next three months for him could be ballgame. And you know how politics works and the obsession with the midterms. And then the exception, you know what I mean, with the general election coming up in 2024, before you know it?

HAAKE: Yeah, I think that`s exactly right. And you look at the things that are coming down the pipe for Democrats in Congress, the infrastructure bill, whether or not they can do a deal on police reform, which Tim Scott, the Republican negotiator there, as indicated needs to be settled in June, whether or not there`s a deal to be had on changing gun rules in this country, the voting rights package that I`ve already mentioned, all of these things are teed up for potential success for Democrats and for the administration if they can get there. And I think this goes back to the frustration with Manchin, at least in theory, all of these things are easier to do if you already get rid of the legislative filibuster. But Manchin`s reticence on those issues and on infrastructure tell me that Democrats don`t have 50 votes, much less 60. And that`s the hardball politics of it here. The coalition for Democrats is incredibly small, the 50 in the Senate gets suppress. But they only have a formal vote margin in the House too. And all it takes is for a couple of progressive members there to decide they want to throw their weight around just like Joe Manchin does, and then none of this move.

So yes, time is very short here for Democrats. And we`re getting into a little bit of a traffic jam with all of the things that would need to be done on a timely basis when timely isn`t what the Senate in particular does well, especially without some kind of hard deadline.

WILLIAMS: Lisa, let`s cross the aisle here, remaining unique among former presidents, Donald Trump is about to go back out on the road for what we`re calling the big lie tour. What do you reckon is the percentage of Republicans who are truly psyched to see this and what`s it going to do if they ever care to launch an idea or a policy?

LERER: Well, it`s not a small percentage of Republicans, I can tell you that. About 66% of Republicans have questions about the election, question whether Biden was legitimately elected and I think what all this chatter about a reinstatement, you know, the President`s allies are putting out there that he thinks he can -- he`s going to be reinstate in August. Obviously that`s affection. There`s no reinstatement. There`s no clause in the constitution about reinstatement. It is not something that happens in American democracy or in America at all. But I think what that really shows us is how these really fringe conspiracy theory ideas promulgated by Donald Trump have moved to the mainstream of the Republican Party. And I can tell you that I spent this week making a whole bunch of calls to Republicans running for Congress and the House in the Senate largely challengers. And overwhelmingly they all have questions about the election. They`re all pushing for audits, like the kind of partisan effort we saw in Arizona, even the ones who believe that Joe Biden was legitimately elected, which, of course, he was, will not say that publicly, because they`re worried about alienating the Republican voters that they need to win to be successful in a primary.

So these conspiratorial ideas have taken over the party. And I think there still remains this faction of the Republican Party, who believe that if they just ignore Donald Trump and sort of put their heads in the sand and don`t talk about this stuff, he will go away. And they will be able to focus on the midterms on the type of issues they would like to focus, the midterms on concerns about the economy and inflation, concerns about crime, concerns about how race is being taught in school, things like that, that are a little bit more policy based, as you were alluding to, I think for anyone who`s watched the past six years of American politics, it`s really hard to see how that would happen. It`s just not something we`ve seen for the party. And it`s not something that a large portion the party wants to talk about. They want to talk about Donald Trump, and they want to continue to relitigate 2020.

WILLIAMS: And, Barbara, final question to you and it`s about Matt Gaetz. Feds looking at possible obstruction in this case, it is clear, his former wing man is singing it is clear, witnesses are talking. What`s his level of legal exposure right about now?

MCQUADE: Well, we knew after the guilty plea of Joel Greenberg, the man you referred to as his wing man, that his lawyer said he was cooperating and he was cooperating about Matt Gaetz. It seems that someone like Joe Greenberg is in a position to know about all of the criminal activity that Matt Gaetz may have been involved with regard to sex trafficking.

This newest wrinkle is about obstruction of justice. And, you know, despite what you sometimes hear from people who are accused of obstruction of justice, like Rudy Giuliani and others, it`s not a mere process crime, it is not something that is to be taken lightly. It is a very serious crime because it goes to the heart of the criminal justice system. It`s why Martha Stewart was charged with making false statements at the time that she was. It isn`t the, you know, something that that should be dismissed easily.

And so the key to proving an obstruction of justice charge is not only that a person talked to somebody in this instance, perhaps coaching a witness, but they did so with a corrupt intent and intent to mislead or obstruct the quest for the truth. And so we`ll have to see what the facts show there. But this is just one other front where Matt Gaetz is in some legal trouble.

WILLIAMS: We`re indebted to our big three for starting us off tonight, Garrett Haake, Lisa Lerer, Barb McQuade, thank you all three of you for your contributions to our discussion.

And coming up for us, how Trump`s conspiracy theories and delusions are the stuff of gospel now for the all in QAnon crowd, we`ll talk with an expert who tracks it all for a living and says the appetite for violence sadly, is growing.

And later it`s a low bar but two big name politicians tied to Trump can`t seem to get low enough. All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Thursday night.


WILLIAMS: Washington Post reports, Donald Trump has been fixated on that Republican commission sham audit underway in Arizona and is indeed plotting how to secure other sham audits in other states. The Post reports that according to people familiar with his comments, "Trump remains relentlessly focused on the false claim that the November election was stolen from him and is increasingly consumed with the notion that ballot reviews, why are we still using gentle euphemisms, ballot reviews pushed by his supporters around the country could prove that he won.

Well, back with us again tonight is Jen Golbeck. She`s an expert in malicious online behavior, who was an author and professor at the College of Information Studies, University of Maryland. We greatly appreciate having you tonight, Jen, as we do every time the subject sadly, turns dark. How deep is the Trump`s going to be reinstated in August plotline? And what is the talk on QAnon tonight?

JEN GOLBECK, EXPERT IN MALICIOUS ONLINE BEHAVIOR: So absolutely both QAnon conspiracy adherence and just pro-Trump social media, who didn`t buy into QAnon that much, are very much invested in these audits. Most of the chatter that I see on all of these platforms now is not just about what`s going on in Arizona, but actually getting those in all of the states where we saw a lot of those sham lawsuits after the election.

The idea about whether or not that will actually get Trump reinstated in August is mixed. Some people do feel like that`s going to happen and are buying into that idea that has just kind of popped up. Others don`t necessarily think it is but they think those audits will show that Trump rightly won. And I think frankly, they would be happy just to be like, see our team was right the whole time, and we told you. There`s a real power structure against us attitude, and they want to show that they can win.

WILLIAMS: And at the center of that belief system, tell the folks watching tonight, isn`t it also that either Biden is not really the president or kind of a space saver and that the military is really running the country and pulling the levers and it can all be just put back with the flip of a switch?

GOLBECK: Absolutely. This is fractured a little bit since inauguration where they were kind of hoping something would happen whereby it would disappear. But yeah, there`s a strong belief, especially in the QAnon space, that Biden is a puppet that he`s not really there. Some people talk about him being an alien. There`s a lot of talk that he`s not legitimately in office. There`s still people trying to look at video clips and say that they`re fakes that he`s not really there. And there`s a lot of people who believe the military is just waiting for the right time to step in, and maybe reinstall Trump, maybe just take down the government that`s there. And it could be that the military themselves assumes control. I wouldn`t say that`s the majority belief I see at this point. But there are certainly people who are hoping for that and kind of pushing forward whatever breadcrumbs they can find to say that that`s something that will happen.

WILLIAMS: If we all read what you read on the web, saw what you saw, how concerned would we all be about the prospect of violence or after 1/6, should I say further violence?

GOLBECK: For me, what I see is not the big push for what we saw in the insurrection on January 6, that was a really massive organized, very public campaign filled a lot of people in, I don`t see that kind of movement now. But what I do hear a lot of small groups very much talking about military coup is talking about secession, talking about what one actor can do to really start the dominoes falling, and a lot of talk of violence, not the predominant theme but there`s a lot of people pushing for it and a lot of support. And frankly, I think Trump remaining deep platform on social media is the main barrier standing between those groups actually taking violent action, and us preserving democracy at this point. I think if he were to start calling for those groups to march on their state capitals, or to march in Washington that plenty of people would. So it`s very fragile at this point.

WILLIAMS: I want to read you something from the New York Times in the better late than never school of news, Facebook plans to announce on Friday, it will no longer keep post by politicians up on its site by default if their speech breaks its rules, reversing how it is allowed posts from political figures to remain untouched on the social network." Jen, you like us, you get to see the list of, you know, top 10 most shared items on Facebook, I think it would be an eye opener if most people saw that. What do you think the ramifications could be here?

GOLBECK: I mean, I think this is a great move by Facebook absolutely way too late. And frankly, the other platforms need to follow suit, it`s very disappointing that they were allowing things that clearly violated their rules for the past four or five years to stand. So I think it`s important that they`re taking this step. They have finally realized the implications of their calls were full free expression. Bad stuff happens when you do that. So this is good.

At the same time, they have really been reacting against this perception that there`s an anti-conservative bias on social media. And as you said, Brian, most of the top articles every single day that are shared on Facebook are very far right leaning news sources. So that bias is just not something that manifests social media is very popular among conservatives, but this is one positive step that we`re seeing that hopefully is going to maintain that barrier against what Trump`s followers would see as legitimate calls for violence against the government.

WILLIAMS: Jen, your time with us from time to time is so important. I can`t thank you enough for sharing part of what you know with our audience. Our guest tonight has been Jen Golbeck. Thank you again so much.

Coming up for us, remember that chant of having Mike Pence on 1/6? No big deal. We`ll show you what the former vice president is saying tonight about the insurrection that put him in great danger when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Nearly five months after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on threatened to hang Mike Pence, the former vice president broke his silence on the topic tonight. Here`s what he finally had to say.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: January 6 was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol. And that same day we reconvene the Congress and did our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

You know, President Trump and I`ve spoken many times since we left office. And I don`t know if we`ll ever see eye to eye on that day. But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years. And I will not allow Democrats or their allies in the media to use one tragic day to discredit the aspirations of millions of Americans.


WILLIAMS: Let`s not forget while the Capitol siege was underway, and Mike Pence was being rushed from the building by the Secret Service. The former president was calling him a coward for doing that constitutional duty he now talks about. No worry, Mike Pence is perfectly willing to be the conductor of the Trump train to this day.

Back with us again tonight, David Plouffe, former Obama campaign manager, former senior adviser to the President also on the board of directors of the Obama Foundation and Michael Steele, former chairman of Republican National Committee, former lieutenant governor of the great state of Maryland, also the host of the Michael Steele podcast.

Michael, I have to confess I`ve been looking forward to this. There is nothing quite like Mike Pence when he gets it. He puts on his pious face and, you know, hang Mike Pence, sure. I don`t think we`ll ever see eye to eye on the events of that day. This was his chance to draw little distance with Trump. But no, he`s just a boy standing in front of New Hampshire asking them to love him.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Oh, that is so well put. He`s just a boy standing next to a man. Look, so if you know, you won`t see eye to eye so tell us what you see differently than Trump about January 6, that`s now I`m curious. OK, you won`t see eye to eye on January 6. So what do you see? What do you think happened on that day?

What does -- what are these images say to you, you were being hustled out to an undisclosed location because you were under direct threat. So what do you see from that day? That`s what I want to know. And it`s very clear, you do the quick pivot. Also the, well, we won`t see that I but we won`t let, you know, anyone discredit that, you know, the events that tragic day discredit the work and the efforts of our administration, dude, really?

I mean, it actually is the culmination of the crap that was flowing out of the administration, certainly from the last six or eight months about the elections. So how do you now look us in the eye and go tell us? Oh, well, the president I have a disagreement about the day, but we stand shoulder to shoulder on everything else. It is fundamental that day, to what happens next in this country. And that I think, was just kind of a shortcoming for the vice president to sort of approach it that way.

WILLIAMS: Yes, if it wasn`t fundamental, it`ll do till fundamental gifts gets here. Hey, David, I got one for you. This is from The Atlantic. Republicans are not blocking a bipartisan January 6 commission because they fear Trump or because they want to move on from 2020. They`re blocking January 6 Commission, because they agree with the underlying ideological claim of the rioters, which is that democratic electoral victories should not be recognized.

David, a general question, it is about your party. It`s about members of your party. Would you like to see a little more urgency, a little more attitude and anger these days?

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Yes, Brian, because it`s all on the line, unless we need to pass an infrastructure bill. We have crumbling roads and bridges, but our democracy is crumbling. It`s teetering on the edge. I think there is a lot of energy in Washington amongst elected officials, amongst activists. But this is the most important question not just to 2021 or Joe Biden`s first term of one of the most important moments in American history.

So first of all, it`s remarkable Pence. I mean, it`s like he said, well, you know, Donald Trump, and I didn`t see eye to eye on the fact that he instigated and assassinations up against me. I mean, it`s an unbelievable thing to say.

But yes, what we`re seeing all around the country on in Washington is most of the Republican Party with some notable exceptions, but most of them getting comfortable with the idea that if they retain power, they win back the house, that the Democrats could win 400 electoral votes, and there`s going to be a lot of Republicans who say that elections should not be certified.

So, you know, you only have to be a casual student of history to understand great powers, great empires don`t last forever. And that`s kind of where we are. This is as serious as anything we`ve seen in this country. And I think you`re exactly right. I think that`s -- they`re hiding behind Trump in a way to achieve this ultimate aim, which is democratic elected victories should not count. And I think that`s where we are in America.

And so as important as it is tax rates, and infrastructure, immigration reform, these are all critically important I hope each of them gets done.

The most important issue now facing the country and politicians in Washington, democratic politicians is saving this democracy and Senator Sinema, I`m glad she won her race, you know, back in 2018, but said today, the filibuster is there to preserve democracy. But if we`re left with a choice between saving the filibuster and ending democracy, let`s just turn the lights out right now, because that`s where we`re headed.

WILLIAMS: Anytime a president regardless of party uses a Memorial Day addressed to tell us all our democracy is in peril, that should get the attention of all of us in my view. Both of these gentlemen have agreed to stick around we`re going to just fit in a short break.

Just ahead, a former GOP congressman warns Republicans would not hesitate to blow up the filibuster. He had one influential Democrat still believes and bipartisanship reaction to all that when we come back.



SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We need to be bipartisan if we can become. I`ve always said this, I`ve never seen a pothole that had a Republican and Democrat name on it, unless you`re tired. I don`t care who you are. I haven`t changed. I`m not changing.


WILLIAMS: Senator Manchin often cites the legacy of his predecessor Robert Byrd to defend his staunch support of bipartisanship. But a former counsel to Byrd argues even the late Senator would say times have changed. In a New York Times column, Ira Shapiro writes, quote, the filibuster should not shape the workings of the Senate. But the other way around for Byrd and the other senators of his era, the overriding goal was to ensure not that certain rules were respected above all else, but that the Senate could deliver for the nation, even if it meant reforming rules, like the filibuster.

Still with us are David Plouffe and Michael Steele, lucky for us to inside operators. And, David, to you again, is there a way this could work better? Should a guy like Joe Manchin, be among titular Democrats, arguably the second most important guy in Washington, is there a workaround for Hamlet down the hill?

PLOUFFE: Well, at the end of the day, Brian, there just has to be a recognition. Senator Manchin, Senator Sinema, any others with any concerns that -- we`re not living in reality we talk about, you know, we need to get 60 votes, including 10 Republicans on the infrastructure package, or on changing tax rates or on protecting our democracy, it`s just not going to happen.

So it`s a simple choice. Either you reform the filibuster, and strengthen our economy, save our democracy, make progress on issues like immigration reform, or you don`t, there is no third option. There is not we`re going to do it, you know, just the Democrats, or we can do it with some Republicans on any of these core issues. That`s just not where we are today.

And again, back to our previous discussion, Brian, the stakes could not be higher. So we -- if end up going deep into this year, calendar year, and not passing the For the People Act, but the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, you know, democracies, I think, length of duration in this country can probably be counted down in years, not decades.

And so this could not be more urgent but you`re not going to get 10 Republican votes for that. I didn`t think on the infrastructure package. All you can do try and my goodness Joe Biden, Joe Manchin, everybody`s trying to get enough Republicans on infrastructure. At some point you have to call the question. But that goes for these other issues. But the most important thing in front of us is the effort and the necessity to save democracy. And you don`t live in a world where you`re going to get 10 Republican votes in the Senate for any of that, maybe one or two. So you`re going to have to be willing to get rid of the filibuster to save the country. That`s the choice.

WILLIAMS: Michael, our friend David just said some powerful stuff there. And Michael, you know, the argument as well as anybody else, the argument against touching the filibuster is, be careful what you wish for and wait to see Mitch McConnell driving that train if indeed, power flips in the Senate.


WILLIAMS: So where do you come down on the argument that David just beautifully laid out?

STEELE: That was very well done. And -- But here`s the reality. Harry Reid blew up a little portion of the filibuster and got a President Obama`s, you know, nominees through for the -- for certain judgeships and cabinet appointments, OK. And then guess what happened on the backside of that, McConnell came around and blew it up to get judicial appointments in place.

And so that`s the tit for tat that everyone politically is concerned about. This is not about some historic linchpin to, you know, the honor and glory of the filibuster. This is just raw politics. And, you know, and it`s kind of like, who`s standing that has their finger on that button that can push it one way or the other.

But, you know, David is exactly right. The country is looking for more than that right now. And tell me exactly what happens again, if the filibuster goes away. Because you know, if Mitch McConnell were in Chuck Schumer`s place, oh, baby, he will be blowing up the filibuster from here to Sunday. And they would have all kinds of very good well defined talking points. They`d have people out on the airwaves across the country explaining why it`s important to do it, they would have a political strategy Democrat. This is not rocket science.

And so, you know, McConnell`s downplaying the virtuous politician up in the balcony, saying, Oh, my virtue, my virtue, the filibuster, the filibuster, right, and just sort of, you know, fainting and sort of hemming and hawing.

Meanwhile, you got the Grand Prince below the balcony, gone OK, what should I do? What should I do? Burn that sucker down. How is she going to get to it right?

So look, that`s the reality for the Democrats right now. The Republicans know it. They`re playing them like a deck of cards. Because they -- they see something there. The Democrats do, that just doesn`t exist. At the end of the day, this is expendable now, as it was for Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, at the time, they blew up the filibuster before.

WILLIAMS: To our viewers this is why both of these gentlemen are friends of this broadcast. Michael, I can grant you -- the chair will grant you like 15 extra seconds. What did you have?

STEELE: And we`re still here. All right. The country didn`t dissolve because the filibuster went away.

WILLIAMS: Thank you. I`ll submit your comments to the record. David Bluff, Michael Steele, guys, thank you. We`ll do this again.

Coming up for us, imagine a flight to London so fast you barely have time to really enjoy a good meal. Is supersonic travel really coming back into our lives one big airline just placed a big bet.


WILLIAMS: Have you ever thought about this passenger jet aircraft fly at the same speed they did when Eisenhower was President. Except for the years when the Concorde was flying. The technology and speed have pretty much remained stagnant for over 60 years.

Well, now United Airlines is planning to bring back supersonic commercial flights and a move that could drastically cut our time in the air, our report on this tonight from NBC News Correspondent Tom Costello.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It`s a big bet that the future of aviation is retro back to the Concorde. United Airlines buying 15 supersonic jets from a small upstart aviation company in Denver called Boom.

It was 2003 when the Concorde last flew New York to London in three hours, but the plane was loud, outdated and expensive. Concorde only crashed put an end to the program.

18 years later, Boom is rolling out the next generation of supersonic CEO Blake Scholl gave us an exclusive look at the prototype. The bigger plane could seat up to 88 people.

As a passenger what will it be like?

BLAKE SCHOLL, BOOM SUPERSONIC CEO: So every seat you`re going to have a large window where you can see the view from 60,000 feet the curvature of the earth, the sky a deeper blue.

COSTELLO: And flying at 60,000 feet flight times cut in half, Boston to Madrid in three and a half hours, Seattle to Tokyo in four and a half.

(on camera): The first test flight coming later this year or early next year then the passenger version of the plane with United Airlines hoping that passengers will be on board by 2029.

(voice-over): Tickets likely five to $7,000.

MIKE LESKINEN, UNITED AIRLINES: Particularly we see strong demand between London Heathrow and New York as soon as this product is available.

COSTELLO: Lots of people want to go.

LESKINEN: Lots of people want to go.

COSTELLO: Even travel across the USA could go supersonic back to the future. Tom Costello, NBC News, Denver.


WILLIAMS: Coming up for us two men who apparently believe pride is overrated.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight to guys with no rock bottom first off the former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, former mayor of the city of New York ladies and gentlemen, here`s Rudy Giuliani for MyPillow.


RUDY GIULIANI, FMR. PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO DONALD TRUMP: I`ve been sleeping on my pillows for some time. I love them. They`re simply the very best pillows ever made. But I just found out that they also have a wide assortment of other incredible products like a mattress topper sheets, towels and slippers and more.


WILLIAMS: Submitted without further comment. Next we move on to George P. Bush. He is the Texas Land Commissioner. And he`s running for attorney general of Texas against the incumbent Ken Paxton and Arden Trumper who is under indictment.

George P. Bush, the P naturally stands for Prescott is importantly the son of Jeb Bush, which makes this interesting the new keepsake campaign swag from George P. It`s a beer koozie which has this scene on the back below which it quotes Donald Trump as saying this is the only Bush that likes me. This is the Bush that got it right. I like him.

In fact, George P talked to Trump to get his blessing. Remarkable when you remember that that Trump trashed George P`s father, here is a brief reminder in case you forgot.


DONALD TRUMP, FMR. U.S. PRESIDNET: Jeb Bush, I`m not a fan of Jeb Bush. We call them low energy, low energy. Jeb Bush is a low energy person. Hello, I`m Jeb.

You fall asleep looking at them. Jeb, I can`t call him Bush. He doesn`t use his last name. He`s afraid to use his last name. Can you believe it? I`m Jeb with an exclamation point. He`s a low energy stiff. His campaigns a disaster. That`s because I came along. I`m proud of it.


WILLIAMS: In fact, Donald Trump has trashed the Bush family name and repeatedly the same Bush family name that gave us two U.S. presidents, the same Bush family name that gives George P. Bush the name recognition to run for office. Would he even appear on a ballot if his name was George P bag of doughnuts? Probably not but no matter.

So Trump savaged his dad and his family name, his grandfather, the President, his uncle, the President, no big deal. At least he`s got Donald Trump`s endorsement.

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