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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 7/1/21

Guests: Daniel Goldman, Joyce Vance, Neal Katyal, Michael Steele, Mark McKinnon


Former U.S. President Donald Trump`s namesake company and its chief financial officer were indicted. Trump organization and CFO, Allen Weisselberg, charged were with tax fraud scheme. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that Rep. Liz Cheney, an outspoken critic of former president Donald Trump, will serve on a select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: For the loss that your community is suffering and what this has meant for the people there, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Lawrence, stick with us because we`re going to need (inaudible) every step of the way.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. Thank you very much. That is Tonight`s Last Word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening, once again, this was day 163 of the Biden administration. Big trouble tonight in the form of criminal charges, however, for Donald Trump`s family run company and the longtime head of that company`s finances.

Prosecutors for the Manhattan DA accused the Trump Organization of running a 15-year scheme to help executives, avoid paying taxes by paying them off the books and defrauding federal New York State and New York City tax authorities.

The indictment says, 73-year-old CFO Allen Weisselberg was one of those executives. He is charged with grand larceny, tax fraud after being accused of dodging taxes on $1.7 million in perks that should have been reported as income. Some of those perks include but are not limited to luxury cars, rent free apartment even private school tuition for family members.

Weisselberg surrendered to authorities earlier this morning. Then came the perk walk as he was marched in handcuffs to his booking appearance, where he was ordered to surrender his passport where he pleaded not guilty. Reports indicate he has so far resisted opportunities to cooperate with investigators.

Earlier tonight, Michael Cohen who is cooperating in this investigation pointed out that today is excruciatingly public experience might just push Weisselberg to start talking.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO DONALD TRUMP: I can tell you that the feel of the handcuffs behind your back, it`s not comfortable. Nor is it sitting there and having your photograph taken. Now Allen could be, you know, a tough guy for Donald which is what we all want it to be. That`s when you`re being investigated.


WILLIAMS: This 15 count indictment also noted the Trump Organization kept an internal spreadsheet to track Weisselberg`s fringe benefits. The company pleaded not guilty through its lawyers who say the case is politically motivated.


ALAN FUTERFAS, TRUMP ORGANIZATION ATTORNEY: These charges are unprecedented. In 244 years, we have not had a local prosecutor go after a former president of the United States or his employees or his company. I believe the political forces driving today`s events are just that. It`s politically driven. If the name of the company was something else, I don`t think these charges would have been brought.


WILLIAMS: As to the man whose name is over the door, the ex-president he stuck to his usual messaging today calling the indictment "witch hunt" and blaming radical left prosecutors.

As all this was unfolding in New York, there was significant movement on Capitol Hill toward creating a Select House committee to investigate the January 6, riot and insurrection.

Speaker Pelosi today named eight lawmakers to serve on that committee. One of them happens to be a Republican, Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming who broke with her party famously to be one of only two Republicans who voted for the select committee to investigate the riot.

This afternoon Congresswoman Cheney was asked about reports that Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy warned Republicans they could lose their committee assignments if they accepted an appointment to this committee.


REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) WYOMING CAPITOL RIOT SELECT COMMITTEE: It`s clear to all the people on this committee that our oath to the Constitution, our duty, our dedication to Google law, and a peaceful transfer of power has to come above any concern about partisanship or all about politics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think President Trump should testify? Do you think Leader McCarthy should testify about what he knows?

CHENEY: I think that the Committee will decide the parameters the investigation, and what I know is that it`ll be thorough, it`ll be professional. It`ll be serious and not part of it.


WILLIAMS: And by the way, and importantly, this committee is going to have power to subpoena witnesses. Now the House Republican Leader McCarthy reacted to Cheney`s decision to serve on this Committee by questioning her loyalty to her party.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) CALIFORNIA MINORITY LEADER: I was shocked that she would accept something from Speaker Pelosi, it would seem to me is since I didn`t hear from her maybe she`s closer to her than us. I don`t know.


WILLIAMS: We are also following the reaction to a major Supreme Court ruling today on voting rights. Today the Court upheld Arizona voting restrictions that a lower court had said discriminated against minority voters. We`ll have more on this just a head.

Meanwhile, it has been a week since the deadly collapse of that condo building in Surfside, Florida, such a sad scene there tonight. Earlier this evening, rescuers resumed their search efforts after a nearly 15 hour work stoppage. That happened this morning out of concern that the rest of the building could fall down. 18 people have died as many as 145 souls remain on the list of missing.

President Biden, First Lady Jill Biden traveled to Surfside today. They spent three hours in a private meeting with loved ones. They also met with the first responders thank them for their tireless efforts. Toughest part, of course, comforting the families who have no answers, their loved ones still unaccounted for.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: Jill and I want them to know that we`re with them and the country is with them. Our message today is that we`re here for you, as one nation, as one nation.


WILLIAMS: What that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Thursday night, Peter Baker, the veteran journalist and author, he is Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Daniel Goldman, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, also happened to serve as General Counsel for the House Intelligence Committee during the first Trump impeachment. And former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, 25 year-veteran as a federal prosecutor, also one of the co-hosts of the podcast Sisters In Law with Kimberly Atkins Stohr, Jill Wine-Banks, and Barb McQuade.

Good evening and welcome to you all. Daniel, I`d like to begin with you because earlier today you said the indictment was detailed and that it was powerful. For the folks in the viewing audience tonight who won`t have the time or inclination to sit down, read and digest the entire indictment? What do they need to know?

DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, this indictment outlines a 15 year scheme to effectively pay Allen Weisselberg and others off the books through very sort of brazen and blatant means, by creating effectively separate books. Allen Weisselberg sign checks on behalf of the Trump corporation that paid for his rent, that paid for his car, that paid for his children`s tuition. And it was all documented within the Trump Organization because it all went towards his overall salary. But it allowed him to avoid paying income tax, and it allowed the Trump Organization to reduce its tax requirements.

So from a from a very technical perspective, it is clear that the Manhattan DA`s office has overwhelming evidence, documentary evidence, they are clearly in possession of a number of tax records and documents, including that spreadsheet. And so I think that from a, if you`re -- if we`re going to focus narrowly on the charges in this indictment, the Manhattan DA`s office has the goods and it appears as if it`s a very strong case.

WILLIAMS: Joyce Vance for, you know, attention spans being what they are in this day and age for people who want to cut to the chase and get a preview. Please preview what kinds of penalties Weisselberg and the company writ large are looking at if convicted?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Sure, so the company obviously can`t go to prison. So we`re talking about fines in that scenario. Ultimately, perhaps if the New York Attorney General has an appetite to do it, she could go after the company using some of New York State`s blue sky laws, arguing that corporations that operate with a persistent pattern of fraud are deserving of sanction. She`s done that in other cases. The real issue here, I think, you know, everyone sees that there`s a strong case against Weisselberg. Everyone sees that this is not an indictment that can reach the former president. They apparently don`t have proof of his intent, or knowledge of these schemes. And the question is, is there something here that would cause Weisselberg to flip and to cooperate down the road.

The reality is that sentencing here is likely in low single digits, something that Weisselberg would have been aware of going into it. As Michael Cohen says, sometimes the feeling of the handcuffs can cause people to change. Certainly when people find out that their children have exposure to prosecution that can become a bargaining chip. Or it might be as was the case with Michael Cohen that just the mounting pressure of legal bills and perhaps paying vat taxes could cause Weisselberg to ultimately flip.

So, what we don`t know tonight is just how far this goes after Weisselberg and the corporation.

WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, a lot of folks chose to concentrate today on a vague mention of an unindicted co-conspirator but we`re all left with that mystery. The bottom line is Donald Trump himself has not been charged. Can you give us some idea of what this might mean, however, for Donald Trump himself?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we should start by remembering just how unique this event really is. You know, this is not just, one, a company that the President happen to be involved with. This is part and parcel of his entire career. This is his family organization, for no shareholders or no board. This is the Trump family. So while he himself is not indicted, the Trump Organization is in, you know, very, very tightly, you know, associated with the former President himself. It`s not a distant relationship.

So that`s an unusual if not unique, in fact, the situation in American history to have a president, a former president United States indicted in effect through his company, and call it a criminal organization. We should not lose sight of that. But there obviously is a political angle to this as well. And you can already see the politics, right? The Republicans are saying, this is just more persecution that this is just more Democrats coming after him.

And of course, Letitia James, who`s the New York State Attorney General, who`s a partner with the Manhattan DA has said very vocally in her campaigns that she wanted to, you know, go after President Trump.

You heard Donald Trump Jr. tonight on Fox compare this if you can believe this to Putin, jailing the dissident Alexei Navalny, which is a fairly ironic comparison, given President Trump`s friendship with President Putin.

On the other side, you hear the left complaining that they didn`t actually go after the President himself, that he personally is not on the hook, wondering where accountability will end up, wondering whether or not this is as far as it will go. Whether wonder a financial charge really gets at the crux of what they would like to see, the former president, you know, scrutinized for. So there`s a real political element here. Will that change anybody`s minds about him? Hard to say, obviously, this is an issue that`s been out there now for a while, people have factored into their equations and their views of the President. But of course, you hear a lot more about it in the days to come.

WILLIAMS: So Daniel Goldman, given your experience, take us behind the scenes Allen Weisselberg is alone with his thoughts. What happened starting tonight? What happened starting over the holiday weekend? If there were mob movie made about this, I`d be compelled to ask. Is there anything barring Donald Trump and Weisselberg from being in touch, either telephonically or in person? Is there anything barring a third party from transmitting a message to Weisselberg?

GOLDMAN: Only the laws against obstruction of justice and witness tampering would appeal -- would bar Donald Trump from trying to influence Allen Weisselberg one way or another. But I think the one thing everyone needs to remember is, this was not a surprise to Allen Weisselberg. It is pretty clear that the DA`s office wanted his cooperation and targeted him as the lit financial linchpin of the Trump Organization as the individual who would know the most about the finances, and the one most likely to know whether former President Trump or any of his children were involved in this scheme, or perhaps some of the other fraud allegations that they`ve been investigating.

But this is not new today, to Allen Weisselberg. When he goes to sleep tonight, he will say, OK, I told, I called their bluff, they threatened they were going to charge me if I didn`t cooperate. I chose not to cooperate. And this is where I`m going to be. Let`s see how this plays out.

And I think that what he`s banking on is that because the New York State sentencing laws for white collar cases, are relatively lenient, he`s not likely to face that much jail time. And I think he`ll wait to see the evidence that the prosecutors have, which they have to turn over within 45 days. And then he`ll start to make some decisions as to what he wants to do, whether there are any motions he can file, or whether he wants to try to work out a guilty plea short of cooperation or perhaps, if he does want to cooperate, but given that he had the opportunity to cooperate, and he likely knew what he was facing, and he chose not to, I don`t think the handcuffs today or tonight when he goes to sleep knowing that he`s been arrested, I don`t think that`s going to change his calculus. What might change his calculus is if there were additional cooperating witnesses and additional charges that would ratchet up the prison time. That`s the leverage that one has a prosecutor has against the defendant to force them to cooperate.

WILLIAMS: Endlessly interesting.

Hey, Joyce Vance, I want to read you a quote from one of our favorite writers, Susan Glasser of The New Yorker, who Peter Baker knows well, mostly because they`re a married couple. She writes, Donald Trump`s critics have harbored a persistent fantasy that there would be one definitive moment when he would finally be subject to the accountability he so richly deserves. Each new Trump crisis, and there were many, offered the hope of some redemptive, indisputable, unambiguous end to Trump. It never happened.

So Joyce, Susan there is describing a group, probably resembles our viewing audience tonight. What`s the chance that this could this event could lead to real consequences for Mr. Trump?

VANCE: I think we`re in a tough spot to evaluate that, Brian. But I think Susan makes a really important point. For one thing, there will, I think be an extraordinarily low ebb of confidence in our justice system, if there`s never accountability for the former president, who engaged in so much wrongdoing in plain sight and always seemed to have a Teflon coating that kept him from having any real consequences. He never really was held accountable.

That`s in large part because he spent the last four years shielded by the presidency. And now that that protection has slipped away, he becomes increasingly vulnerable. There`s this case, there are proceedings down in Georgia, perhaps, involving the call he made soliciting election fraud in Georgia. But it`s a real issue, whether there will be that one big moment or not. The thought that I`ll leave you with in that regard, is we saw something last week from Trump`s lawyers that we`ve seen before, during the Mueller report, we saw this effort to say obstruction of justice is not an important crime. It`s just a process crime. You remember that right? Obstruction, it`s not important.

Well, last week, we heard Trump lawyers saying, this is just fringe benefits stuff, nobody gets charged for fringe benefits, it`s not important. And now it turns out that we can see this indictment and we understand that this is not just fringe benefits crime. This is a definitive pattern, over 15 years of engaging in tax evasion schemes for one thing, for taking people`s direct compensation, instead of paying them with a check, for giving them apartments and cars and other sorts of benefits. And then they cheated on their taxes to avoid doing that.

So, if you`re a business owner, you get just how wrong that is. You don`t get to do that in your business, have your house paid for by your business, and then claim it as a tax deduction. At bottom what the President`s namesake company was doing was a pattern of fraud, a pattern of cheating and having that revealed, whether it`s because he`s prosecuted, or in a trial down the road where the New York Attorney General and the DA put on evidence, that is a come up in some sort for this president ultimately.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, spoken like a former Fed. Tonight`s last word goes to Peter Baker, the other great writer in the two great writer household. Peter, you covered Donald Trump for a long time, what are people about to learn about how the Trump business was run, where they will see obvious and immediate parallels to how the Trump West Wing was run?

BAKER: Well, look, I think there`s been, you know, a long history here and a long record in the business world that was examined before the 2016 election, and obviously, a lot more in the four years since. I mean, we have seen this is a business that has been obviously successful in a lot of ways, but in many other ways, has, you know, cut corners, you know, this is a president who has a businessman didn`t pay his contractors, was sued literally 1000s of times by people who said that he owed them money, who went bankrupt repeatedly, who boasted that when he went bankrupt in Atlantic City, where he had casinos, and a lot of people were hurt by his business collapsed, he came out of it with lots of money. We`ve seen over the last four years and excavation of his taxes, my colleagues at the Times got hold of the tax returns that he`s tried so hard to keep from the public and discovered a pattern of reporting that looks like, you know, evasion of taxes, at the very least, and perhaps even something illegal, depending on how the lawyers will interpret it.

And I think that you can, long before today, we already knew that this is a business that played it on the edge at the very least. What we see today is a more tangible concept, you know, a very concrete example of that, where the rules don`t apply that the rules that apply to other businesses that were not taken seriously, at least for the last 15 years in this one instance, by the person who went on to become our president.

Now, whether the consequences will be, you know, commensurate to that or what will lead to down the road for the President himself or other people connected with his business, those are the real questions at the moment. And I think that, you know, the story of course, is not quite ended.

WILLIAMS: We are indebted to these three terrific guests on a Thursday night, all friends of this broadcast for explaining everything for us in great detail tonight, Peter Baker, Daniel Goldman, Joyce Vance, our thanks.

Coming up for us, the man who was formerly the nation`s lead lawyer before the U.S. Supreme Court, Neal Katyal, standing by to weigh in on what today`s court decision means for the future of voting rights.

And then later why Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is not happy about a member of his own party agreeing to join the Committee that, God forbid, is going to investigate January 6. All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this pre-holiday weekend Thursday night.



COHEN: This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the multitude of illegalities that the district attorney is currently looking at. And I think it`s wrong of us to presume for a moment that this is it, right? This is the big surprise. Hey, everybody, look, we`re going to get Allen Weisselberg. It`s not Allen Weisselberg that they`re looking for.


WILLIAMS: Interesting point there that prediction tonight from former Trump Organization employee and former Trump Personal Lawyer, Michael Cohen. As we mentioned, the Trump Organization and its CFO have pleaded not guilty today to tax charges.

Well, back with us tonight is Neal Katyal, Department of Justice Veteran, former Acting Solicitor General during the Obama administration who has argued, of course, dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Counselor, let`s start with the Trump matter, with that prediction, Michael Cohen just made. What do you make of what came down today?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: I think that Michael Cohen`s absolutely right that the prosecutors here are looking for something bigger than just this. But I think what`s left on -- what people don`t talk about on the discourse is these charges are against the Trump Organization which Donald Trump ran as the president, of course, branded with his name. And they`re not minor charges. I mean, they allege about a million dollars in taxes not being paid. And that`s like a million dollar heist, Brian, and, you know, the Justice Department does, you know, just do a five minute Google search. And you`ll see, the Justice Department goes after and puts people in jail for five years for felony, for tax evasions like that.

So, you know, this isn`t minor, it is something that undoubtedly is probably being used as leverage to try and get Allen Weisselberg flip. But I do think it`s just, you know, it shouldn`t go without saying that today, Donald Trump`s business was labeled a criminal organization, essentially.

WILLIAMS: I want to pivot to the Supreme Court today, this decision upholding voting restrictions in Arizona, came down along party lines, and I know it`s considered gross and undignified to use the phrase party lines when referring to the Supreme Court. But we`ve all seen the confirmation hearings and people aren`t stupid and know the score on the court.

Here is Kagan from her dissent. Justice Kagan writes, in part, What is tragic here is that the court has yet again rewritten, in order to weaken, a statute that stands as a monument to America`s greatness and protects against its basest impulses.

What Neal did the court do today to the Voting Rights Act? And we so often looked at the Supreme Court as the ultimate remedy to societal problems and issues, especially where people`s rights are concerned. I guess not in this case?

KATYAL: Yeah, so they profoundly undermined the Voting Rights Act. So this law has been around since 1965, before I was born, and it had to make big provisions in it. One was called Section Five, and said, if you`re a state that discriminates, then you have to change, and you`re trying to change your voting rules. You`ve got to get that pre-cleared by a court in Washington, D.C., where the Justice Department.

I argued that case in 2010, and the Court upheld that constitution -- that section of the Voting Rights Act only a few years later to reverse course, in a case called Shelby County, and strike it down. So that was the first big assault on the Voting Rights Act by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Today, unfortunately, Brian is the second. They reach Section Two of the Voting Rights Act, which is a section that allows people to sue if they find a voting practice that`s discriminatory. And what the Supreme Court said today. And what Justice Kagan so upset about is, Congress in pretty clear language in terms of trying to expand access to the ballot. And here you`ve got the majority of the Supreme Court, six justices saying no, you`ve got to read it far more narrowly, effectively undoing much of what that provision is about.

WILLIAMS: So final question, where do you look as a remedy if we can agree that anything less than making sure all barriers are cleared? Making sure all Americans can vote? Where do you look for a remedy to all the state laws being passed?

KATYAL: I mean, our founders basically put Congress in the driver`s seat and particularly after the 15th Amendment, which guaranteed the right to vote and gave Congress specific power to enforce that by appropriate legislation. And the Voting Rights Act was most recently reauthorized in 2006 with a 421 to three vote in the House, and then 98 to zero vote in the Senate. This is the essence of what America is. And right now there are bills pending on the floor, like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and HR1 in different, you know, whatever it is, there`s a bunch of different bills out there that would solve this problem. And right now, we`ve got to do something because there`s an unprecedented assault on voting taking place in this country with, you know, dozens of laws passed just since the election to restrict people`s right to vote. So Brian, I look to Congress, they`ve got to do it.

WILLIAMS: 98/0 vote in the U.S. Senate, that I`d like to see in the year 2021, Neal Katyal, as always, thank you for being our guest and taking our questions tonight.

Coming up for us, one Republican member of Congress, the colorful reaction he had to a warning from his party`s leader, about the 1/6 committee, when we come back.


WILLIAMS: The decision to name Republican Liz Cheney to the House 1/6 Commission has the minority leader in something of a spot.

This morning, Punchbowl News they cover the Hill reported that Kevin McCarthy had warned quote, If any Republican accepts an appointment from Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the January 6 Select Committee, they better be ready to get all their committee assignments from her.

Another GOP House member Adam Kinzinger was unimpressed, telling reporters quote, who gives an expletive, where I`m from, there`s a word choice of maybe two major words to put in their local customs may vary. You can fill in the blank.

We welcome back to the broadcast on that note, Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, former lieutenant governor of the great state of Maryland, also the host of the Michael Steele podcast, and the hat wearing truth talking Mark McKinnon, former adviser to both George W. Bush and John McCain. He is of course, among the co-host the star really of the circus on Showtime.

Gentlemen, good evening to you both.

Mark, here`s Mr. McCarthy, who once said in the well of the House, on live television, we have tape of it that Trump bore responsibility and there should be a fact finding commission now wants us to forget that I guess he thinks we`re stupid. What`s he so scared of right now?

MARK MCKINNON, FMR. ADVISER TO JOHN MCCAIN AND GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, you have to realize that his ultimate goal is to be speaker in 2022. And for the Republicans take the House. He scared of Donald Trump. Ultimately the power that he has in the primaries and the political power he still retains.

Let me remind your viewers Though, Brian, that when this commission was initially proposed, Republicans said, Oh, we don`t want a partisan commission. And we demand the following things, including the power to equal representation on the committee and the power to subpoena witnesses. And then the Democrats said, OK, you can have all the things you asked for. And the Republicans said, No, thank you.

And so now what they`re getting is a committee that will have subpoena power over which they have no say. So they`re going to regret this at the end of the day, and that actually should be happy that they have somebody like Liz Cheney on there, who is doing your constitutional duty and putting the law and our country first. But I think also we`ll draw the line at some really partisan behavior that could go on in that subpoena process.

WILLIAMS: Let me ask a quick follow up because Liz Cheney and the aforementioned congressman Kinzinger, are the Republicans that get Democrats all excited and fill them with hope, often leading to a conclusion of disappointment. Do they still match your working definition, Mark, in the year 2021 of Republicans?

MCKINNON: Well, there`s not many people that meet my definition, my definition of what a Republican is. I was, you know, I`m a compassionate conservative that was drawn in by George W. Bush and that message. So, you know, it looks to me like there are two members of the Republican Party who mirror my kind of politics and as Adam Kinzinger, Liz Cheney, they were the only two that voted for the commission. So that`s kind of tells you where the Republican Party is. I believe it`s clawed its way to the bottom. But, you know, thank God, at least for Cheney and for Kinzinger for hanging in there and ringing the bell.

WILLIAMS: Got another Republican here. So Mr. Chairman, Mr. Lieutenant Governor, I have a reading for you from the book of Max Boot, actually, from an op ed in the Washington Post and Mr. Boot writes, you would think that the shock of being chased through the halls of the Capitol by a lynch mob of Trump supporters might have brought Republican members of Congress to their senses, but it is now nearly six months later, and the party is just as bad as ever to Mark`s point. In fact, it may be worse than ever, also to Mark`s point.

So, Michael, a question I`ve asked you in various forms, no fewer than 25 times over the past several months, can anything shake the party out of this kind of flat earth mindset?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIRMAN: Not at this time. No, it`s sobering. It`s disappointing. It`s hard even to acknowledge that, but not at this time. You know, to Mark`s point, they fear Donald Trump, and Trumpism, probably more so Trumpism, than that mob, that came banging on the doors, looking for the head of the vice president seeking their own blood.

And so I think for a lot of Americans now becomes a very sobering period of reflection, as the process of the 1/6 commission gets underway. And I agree with you, Brian, that Liz Cheney will play a number of roles on that commission, the least of which will be to make sure that it is honest, in his deliberations and this assessment, and its efforts to get to the bottom line.

But also, I think affords the American people a chance to evaluate going into the upcoming elections this fall. And next year, do we really want these guys running the country? Do we really want Kevin McCarthy to be the Speaker of the House after what we`ve witnessed of his leadership, Oh, excuse me, of his actions because baby that ain`t leadership. Right? Do we really want you know, the fecklessness of a Republican Senate. They can`t even honor its own words, its own response to the 1/6 event.

So, I think this is a sobering moment for a lot of Americans right now. And we as citizens need to get serious about that business. Because right now, the calculation on the Republican side is we got this baby, and you`re not going to stop us. We got the House next year because the numbers work for us. Well, voters still have to vote. And you still have to account for what you did, and failed to do over the course of the last year.

So, sobering is the word for me at this moment. And I think it`s an important time for us to reflect on exactly what kind of leadership we want going forward.

WILLIAMS: Voters have a funny way of making up their own minds again, provided they can get to the polls, they`re free to vote and don`t require water while in line. Both of these gentlemen have agreed to stay with us. I`m going to fit in a break but coming up, it`s been a while instead of name calling complements across party lines, we saw it in that moment in Florida today. Political types on both sides quickly took notes. So did our two guests.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The simple act of everybody doing whatever needs to be done is really makes a difference.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Well, thank you, Mr. President, and you recognize the severity of this tragedy from day one and you`ve been very supportive.


WILLIAMS: Imagine that a rare show of unity during a tragedy in stark contrast to recent years passed, as Michael Steele astutely observed, quote, careful governor, I know someone who won`t like this hashtag gratitude. When Michael Steele and one Mark McKinnon remain with us.

And Michael, indeed, it reminded a lot of folks especially in this part of the world, Chris Christie, his state decimated by Hurricane Sandy made the fatal political error of hugging a democratic president by way of thanking him for visiting and surveying the damage and got dragged for it. Like it was something awful. There was a ton of social media traffic today. So much for dissent as 2024 but serious question can descend us only run if he gets expressed written permission from Mr. Trump?

STEELE: Yes, I`d be telling me how the equation changes unless he`s able to change that equation. You know, some of the polling, you know, sort of the preference polling, if you will, among active Republican, especially Trump Republicans, shows DeSantis has as carved out a very nice little niche for himself and is making the most of it. He`s showing, you know, sort of this bravado and leadership of his state. His very popular in the state.

And so I think that there`s a dynamic here. Since Trump is a resident of the governor state, in which is just rich, it`s just so rich, to watch him sitting there with Joe Biden to his left. And then thank you, Mr. President. There`s no bureaucracy, this is working, you`re responding to our needs. And then people are having flashbacks of images of the president basically throwing paper towels and toilet paper at those who were devastated by, you know, violent hurricanes a few years ago.

So there is this interesting contrast that I think DeSantis is kind of playing a little bit. And so kudos, baby, have fun with it. Because guess what, when the shoe drops, it`s probably going to land on your head.

WILLIAMS: Mark McKinnon, same question. You know, Nikki Haley is also on lists -- this list, someone who badly liked to be president, but has kind of fallen all over herself preemptively with Trump looming in the background. There`s a long list of people who want the job, and one guy they feel they have to go through to get it.

MCKINNON: Well, there`s a fascinating dynamic with DeSantis and Trump. I mean, DeSantis arguably of any of the governors, even senators around the country owes his election to Donald Trump. I mean, he dug his knee as tight as you can to get their net commercials with his kids building the wall. It was pretty obsequious.

And so -- but the interesting dynamic now is that there`s a lot of preference polls, as Mike was pointing out, that had DeSantis ahead of Trump and you know that`s going to be driving Trump absolutely crazy. But Republicans who see the future think that DeSantis is a much better version of Trump. I mean, he`s got the kind of feistiness, he takes on the establishment, but they think he`s Trump with brains. He`s Trump with empathy, as he showed today. He`s more of a guy who can actually govern and get along. So what we saw on the stage today could be the two guys who are running against each other and 2024.

WILLIAMS: What a scenario you lay out for us. Gentlemen, by way of thanking you for coming on tonight, allow me to wish you both a safe, vaccinated celebration of Independence Day, our holiday weekend. We thank you as always for coming on and taking our questions. Michael Steele, Mark McKinnon have been our guests tonight.

Coming up for us after another break, sadly, the numbers in this country are beginning to confirm the fears about this COVID variant, now surging in other parts of the world, and the concern is for the unvaccinated across the US.


WILLIAMS: As previously mentioned, the July 4 holiday weekend is suddenly upon us and for all the millions of Americans who are so eager with good reason to celebrate a fourth of July weekend, like we used to pre pandemic style. For the President, there is likely some disappointment as we are going to miss his target of having 70 percent of adults in our country vaccinated fully by this weekend. And it`s a public health issue because of the spread of this delta variant among the unvaccinated. Our report on all of it tonight from NBC News correspondent Tom Costello.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After months of progress in dramatically slowing the spread of COVID, tonight signs of trouble. The CDC reports a 10 percent increase in new cases in just one week. 25 percent of those linked to the new Delta variant which the CDC director says is highly transmissible and will likely soon be the dominant variant.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: It is clear that communities where people remain unvaccinated are communities that remain vulnerable.

COSTELLO: While 67 percent of Americans 18 and older have now received at least one shot. Many states in the South and Midwest are well below that mark. Those with the lowest vaccination rates at or below 50 percent Alabama, Wyoming, the Virgin Islands, Louisiana at 48 percent and Mississippi at just 46 percent.

In 1,000 counties where the new COVID variant is spreading, vaccination rates are under 30 percent. 43-year-old Joshua Garza has decision not to get vaccinated nearly killed him. A diabetic he soon contracted COVID was rushed to a hospital in Houston and eventually required a double lung transplant to save his life.

JOSHUA GARZA, COVID-19 SURVIVOR: Is the worst decision I`ve ever made in my life. I had to say goodbye to my parents and my family and my son, and that`s something you never should have to do.

COSTELLO: He was released after nearly four months in the hospital. The CDC reports 99.5 percent of all COVID-19 deaths involve people who have not been vaccinated.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES DIRECTOR: The science is clear. The best way to protect yourself against the virus and its variants is to be fully vaccinated.

COSTELLO (on camera): Vaccination rates are especially low among 18 to 26 year olds, a very big reason so many colleges are requiring students get the shots.


WILLIAMS: Tom Costello, our thanks for that report tonight and again, it turns out not getting vaccinated brings consequences. Coming up for us. This statue was unveiled in the UK today. The news had to do with the two men who did the unveiling.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight is easily the most scrutinized piece of video in the world today. The scene in England this morning that turned the whole world briefly into voyeurs wanting to see what it was like the dynamic when William and Harry were together and on public view in front of the cameras for a solemn occasion. The unveiling of a statue of their mother on what would have been Diana`s 60th birthday.

This is what it looked like as they entered. One of them the heir to the throne, the other set apart now living his life in California with his new and very American family all but cut off entirely by choice from the royal family he was born into. As you watch will read you the New York Times account of the day quote, bonded by childhood grief, sundered by adult quarrels, Prince William and Prince Harry came together briefly on Thursday.

For a few fleeting minutes in the sunken garden at Kensington Palace the two brothers set aside a season of acrimony, the anguish charges and angry denials of racism and callous treatment to pay tribute to a woman whose sudden death 24 years ago ended their her own turbulent history in the royal family.

And Mark Landler of The New York Times goes on to say, but this was no cathartic reconciliation. William and Harry by all accounts are still barely on speaking terms. The elder brother William royal watcher say, is still deeply aggrieved at his younger brother Harry for a series of interviews in which he and his wife Megan described royal life as a kind of gilded prison and said family members held retrograde views on mental health and racial issues.

And with that, after the 30-minute ceremony, it was all over. Harry made his way to Heathrow to fly west all the way west, in this case to his new home in Montecito, California. Leaving behind the kingdom of his birth presided over by his grandmother until it gets passed to his father. It`s way too early to know if all this hurt, will, in the end, help to somehow modernize what so many people see as a hidebound anachronistic institution. One that is still though the subject of so much interest and curiosity around our world.

And that is our broadcast on this Thursday night with our thanks for being here with us and our very best for a safe holiday weekend. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.