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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 7/12/21

Guests: Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Kavita Patel, Don Calloway, Matt K. Lewis

Summary

Civil rights leaders are pressuring President Biden to focus more on protecting voting rights as Congress returns from recess. The Senate will work to plot a path forward on Biden`s infrastructure agenda as Biden prepares for a speech on protecting ballot access. Dozens of Texas Democrats left their state denying Republicans in the capitol a quorum needed to vote on that state`s restrictive voting legislation supported by Trump ally, Gov. Greg Abbott. Biden meets with law enforcement on gun violence. DOJ releases more video of capitol riot violence. Trump rewriters history of 1/6 riot he incited. The commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan stepped down, nearly three years after he took over the war. FDA issues new warning on J&J vaccine. Cubans hold biggest anti-government protests in decades.

Transcript

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: President Obama took significant steps to loosen the embargo, which was actually signed into federal law only in 1996 by President Clinton during his reelection campaign in which he won the state of Florida. President Biden does not have the legal authority to simply end the embargo.

But he does have the authority to issue an order on the basis of emergency humanitarian relief to send one of our great hospitals ships to Cuba immediately. Let the U.S. Naval hospitals, Mercy anchor off Havana where Cubans can see it ready to help and then let the Cuban dictatorship make its decision whether Mercy`s medicine can be delivered to the Cuban people.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening, once again, day 174 of the Biden administration, on top of all his efforts to hold his domestic agenda together to hold his own party together for that matter. This is the eve of a major speech the President will deliver tomorrow in Philadelphia. He will go there to talk about voting rights at a time when Republicans are doggedly passing voter suppression measures from coast to coast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don`t accept the notion and he`s an optimist by nature, otherwise, he wouldn`t be sitting in the Oval Office right now that it`s dead. We don`t accept that. We believe there needs to be a path forward. The President sees his role as somebody who can speak from the bully pulpit to elevate and advocate for the need to move forward on voting rights legislation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: President speech comes as most of the Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives have fled Texas and flown to Washington, leaving Texas, leaving their legislative chamber without a quorum was the last best thing they thought they could do to preserve voting rights there and try to defeat the Republican voter suppression bill. They last walked out, you`ll recall back in May. Well, tonight, they landed in Washington where they plan to lobby Democrats in the Senate to pass a voting rights law. In fact, some in the party are hoping these committed Texas Democrats might shame them into showing a little spine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASMINE CROCKETT, (D) TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: What other place could we go to where we could actually seek some relief? We`re still working on behalf of the people of the state of Texas. This isn`t a vacation whatsoever. We`re away from our families. We`re away from our jobs. So the only thing that we can do is now apply a full court press to the Senate. We have a democratically controlled U.S. House, a democratically controlled U.S. Senate. And we also have a democratically controlled White House. All we`re asking is that those that are in charge here in D.C., the Democratic leadership push through something that is good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Earlier tonight, two U.S. senators from different sides of the aisle reacted to the Texas Democrats latest move.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R) TEXAS: I`m unsure why they are coming here other than for publicity purposes. It`s like I said it`s just a stunt.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D) MINNESOTA: You know, the other choice is just to pretend this is OK. It is not okay to take away people`s right to vote and to make it hard for people to vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: At the White House this afternoon, the topic was the spike in gun violence across our country as the president and Attorney General Garland met with federal and local officials to talk strategy. It was also candidly an opportunity for Joe Biden to put some distance between himself and the defund the police movement within his own party. Among the officials present, Eric Adams, the former NYPD police captain, likely the next mayor of New York City.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC ADAMS, (D) NEW YORK NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: It`s time to respond to the underlying causes of violence in our city. We need to put in place real plans in New York City to go after the gun violence. We had a 13 year old child that was assassinated in the Bronx, a 10 year old child that was shot in Rockaway. These parents and families are looking for real relief right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, and on the crime front, the Justice Department has released new body cam footage from January the sixth. The video shows violent hand to hand combat as law enforcement officers tried to defend that building and all those inside. And the usual warning here like all the images from that day, it`s graphic and violent.

(GOVERNMENT VIDEO EVIDENCE)

WILLIAMS: Then there was the interview the former President gave to Fox News over the weekend and while we play you his comments, the staff of the Mehdi Hasan show on Peacock took the liberty of adding the pictures of that day to Donald Trump`s fantasy or Willian description of the crowd on that day.

[23:05:16]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: There was such a love at that rally and they were peaceful people. These were great people. The crowd was unbelievable. And I mentioned the word love, the love, the love in the air. I`ve never seen anything like it. You have people with no gun that walked down. And frankly, the doors were open. But there was also a love fest between the police, the Capitol Police, and the people that walk down to the Capitol, people who walked with no guns with no nothing, and they`re tremendous in many cases, tremendous people, tremendous people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The New York Times finds that over six months after the 1/6 riot the U.S. Capitol Police Force is in crisis. NBC News reports the Justice Department is struggling with the volume of evidence as it prosecutes what appears to be the largest single criminal case in the nation`s history.

Meanwhile, there`s another sign that the nation`s war in Afghanistan is almost over. In a symbolic end of the 20 year conflict the commander of U.S. and NATO troops and Afghanistan, U.S. Army General Austin Scott Miller stepped down today. Over 90% of all U.S. troops and military equipment are already out of the country.

We`re also following an important development tonight related to the pandemic. The FDA has now placed a warning on the J&J vaccine over a rare neurological condition. We`ll have more on this story just ahead.

And with that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests for the week on this Monday night, Peter Baker, the Veteran Journalist and Author, who is Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Julie Pace, Washington Bureau Chief Assistant Managing Editor for The Associated Press, and Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Professor and Assistant Dean at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin.

Professor indeed, given the urgency of this Texas matter, I`d like to begin with you. But let`s begin by listening to and playing for our audience the comments tonight of your governor. We`ll discuss on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG ABBOTT, (R) TEXAS GOVERNOR: They`re quitters. That is not the way that Texas, Texans do things. This is not over. I will continue calling special session after special session, because overtime is going to continue until they step up to vote once they step back into the state of Texas they will be arrested and brought to the Texas Capitol and we will be conducting business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So Professor, I wouldn`t be the first to observe that it`s evidently OK to leave Texas if you`re a Texas politician, if you have a little wheelie bag and a boarding pass that says can`t cone. Others have made that point tonight on social media. I will ask you this, what can Texas Democrats teach Senate Democrats in Washington perhaps?

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS LBJ SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS: It`s bringing the issue here at home and Texas in terms of the restricting voting rights that we`ve seen over the last decade happening here in Texas. And they`re taking it Brian, literally to the doorstep of President Biden. You know, I think that for the last couple of months, as we`ve seen all of these different voting restriction bills across the country, weave their way through the political system. We`ve kept them in a way separate from what`s been going on in Washington D.C., or rather, the lack of what`s happening. But I think tonight, we really saw the confluence of what is happening in our different state capitals across the country, and what needs to happen at the federal level. And that whether we like it or not what`s happening at our state level is intertwined with the federal level.

And I think, at no other moment, has the fact that the protections of Section 4 and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act being gone is so dramatic as in this moment. That being said, I do think that there is a positive bent here. You know, I think, at the end of the day, the Republicans in Texas do have the upper hand and Governor Abbott is going to be calling sessions until he can get something that he wants out the door. But keep in mind that 10 years ago today, the Democrats had such a small number in the legislature that they could have all left, and the Republicans could have still passed whatever they wanted.

So the fact that now Republicans don`t have that super majority, Democrats have made up in terms of numbers slowly but surely, is a long term win. You know, they`re losing a couple of battles, regrettably, but I think in the long term, the way that Texas voters are trendy is a bright spot for Democrats here in the state.

[23:10:05]

WILLIAMS: Great point about that, slow decade long change in the State House. So Peter Baker, on the topic of voting rights, the Democratic Party base is getting restless. What does Joe Biden possibly have to say to them?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the fact that he is saying anything to that is part of his reaction to the fact that he`s getting pressure from the left. The progressives in the party are frustrated, the President has done more to lean on Democrats in the Senate to pass the voting rights legislation there.

Remember, you know, they`re complaining about the filibuster, but the truth is, even if they got rid of the filibuster tomorrow, they don`t have the votes to pass it because they don`t have the all 50 Democrats on board. Senator Manchin, in particular Senator Sinema, I think, expressed reservations about doing anything on voting rights without a board of a bipartisan consensus. And so what you`re going to see for the president is his reach out to his base saying I get it, I agree, this is important. But the question is what he can do to actually change the votes and unless he`s willing to, you know, put more pressure on some of these Democrats is not clear that there`s a path for to getting this legislation passed there.

WILLIAMS: And Julie is kind of bracing to hear a Texas lawmaker who has put her career on the line, in this effort to kind of matter of factly run through democratic control of the White House, House and Senate. And she wonders why there isn`t more movement. Talk about based on your reporting just how antsy the base is getting?

JULIE PACE, AP ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, this is the great frustration of the Democratic base right now. They look to Washington and they say we have the White House. We have control of the Senate. We have control of the House. Why is this so difficult for us to act on our big priorities? The problem is that that democratic coalition that has gotten them that majority across town here is quite diverse, and you don`t have unanimity of opinion on almost any issue. And voting is just one of those issues where we`re seeing those cracks in this democratic coalition here, that expense to infrastructure, it expense pretty much anything else that Joe Biden wants to do here.

And so his challenge going forward, if he`s going to try to really make this a priority, if he`s going to try to put pressure on democratic senators to get a bill across the finish line is, how does he keep far left of his party and the center of his party together? That has proven to be a pretty big challenge. He`s had some early successes when it has come to fiscal policy and COVID relief, certainly, and he`s hoping for success on infrastructure. But voting remains, I think, a very difficult issue for him to keep that party together. And that is going to continue to be a huge source of frustration for progressives.

WILLIAMS: Professor, the noted Republican Bill Kristol of all people said on social media tonight, wanting Biden to get more aggressive on such matters, why isn`t he giving this speech in Austin, but it strikes me we have a great opportunity to ask a Texan, where are the people of Texas, on these moves proposed by the Republicans that viewed through just about any prism, equal voter suppression?

SOTO: So not surprisingly, we see quite a divide based on artisanship. I think in June, the University of Texas, Texas Tribune did a poll and it shows that Republicans in this state, registered Republicans want to see stricter voting laws. So Governor Abbott, Speaker Phelan, they are doing what their base wants them to do. But here is the kicker, and that is that these same registered Republican voters acknowledge that there is not widespread fraud. They disagree with that. But, you know, our own Attorney General said that this last election was one of the most secure elections that the State of Texas had ever had, nevertheless, where the Republican Party. These issues of voting are at the top of the ticket.

And let me just add the political context because policy is enveloped in politics. And Governor Abbott is up for reelection next year. He is drawn two candidates to the right of him Allen West, and another one from key party focus. And so he knows that he needs to keep running right. And also, I`ll put it out that there`s a lot of talk here in Austin, here in Texas, about the presidential aspirations of Governor Abbott. So all of those political motivations together with what the base values is where we are where we are.

WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, we heard from one Donald Trump all weekend. Well, tonight we heard from one George Conway. We`ll play that, discuss afterwards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: As Mitch McConnell said in his floor speech on February 13 Trump love this. He loved what happened on January 6, because it was all about him. These people were fighting for him and were fighting against democracy and against free elections to be sure but they were fighting for him. And that`s what he cares about. And he`s gone right back to that. He`s continuing to lie about the election, lying about the crowd size. He`s now back, you know, there`s no remorse. And there was never any remorse. He`s out there on the loose now, he`s created basically this cultish, you know, adherence to the big lie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[23:15:37]

WILLIAMS: So Peter Baker, the question is, once again, having watched that gathering out at CPAC, for lack of any other leadership, for lack of a better definition, is this the Republican Party now?

BAKER: Well, it is. I mean, look, you know, it is Trump`s Republican Party. And so otherwise, you know, determine, and the moment he remains as popular with his base as any other Republican voter, any other republican who`s out there. Now he, you know, obviously, there are a number of people jockeying for leadership of the party, either if he were to withdraw or pull back or in perhaps in competition with him, but it`s hard to see anybody challenging him. So as long as he is out there, he is defining the terms of the party and what you`re hearing in these interviews and the statements he`s making is, the terms of the party are that January six wasn`t an attraction, it was just a love fest between the police in the -- in these, well, meaning protesters who simply were, you know, outraged at an unfair election that he lost, and doesn`t want to admit that he lost. And he was forcing Republicans to either agree with him or keep silent, or in the case of a very few Republicans, speak out against them and risk the isolation and ostracism of their party. And so in the moment anyway, it continues to be Donald Trump`s party and he is setting the parameters for.

WILLIAMS: Julie Pace, you get the last word. I think there`s widespread agreement among most that the phrase defund the police was the most toxic in modern day politics. And of course, that toxicity washes up on one party and one alone, Joe Biden, anxious to rid his party of that label. And along comes a guy like Eric Adams, former NYPD captain, former Republican for that matter, the apparent next mayor of the city of New York, do we expect to see more events like this and perhaps more appearances by Eric Adams?

PACE: I think that Eric Adams is exactly the kind of Democrat that Joe Biden once by his side when he`s talking about crime. When you talk to Democrats coming out of the November election, particularly moderates who are in suburban swing districts, they will argue that the defund the police label hurt them more than almost anything. And they`re really worried going into next year`s midterm elections, particularly given the spike that we have seen in the crime rate in some parts of this country, that that could cause them to lose their majority here.

And so Joe Biden himself is in a much stronger place than some other Democrats when it comes to his, you know, traditional alignment with law enforcement. But he is going to wrap his arms around people like Eric Adams, both from a policy perspective and in trying to look for a solution to some of these crime problems that we`re having in this country, but also certainly from a political perspective to try to make clear to voters and to swing voters that Democrats are not a party that is out looking to try to defend the police.

WILLIAMS: We are so thankful to our starting line this Monday night, Peter Baker, Julie Pace, Professor Victoria DeFrancesco. Soto, hook em horns. And thank you all for coming on.

Coming up for us what you need to know about booster shots. This is all the conversation now as new virus cases surge across our country, one of our top physicians standing by to talk with us.

And later strong words from a democratic lawmaker about the former president`s most recent set of blatant lies about the election, but a lot of Democrats think it`s going to take more than strong words to protect our democracy. All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this return to the work week, Monday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:22:28]

WILLIAMS: The Delta variant is fueling a surge in cases and now there are questions over the need for booster shots. Tonight Pfizer set had had a productive meeting with the Feds about the company`s plans to request emergency use approval for a third dose of the vaccine shortly afterward, and the HHS spokesperson told NBC News, "At this time fully vaccinated Americans do not need a booster shot."

Back with us tonight, thankfully, is Dr. Kavita Patel, Clinical Physician, Former Senior Policy Aide during the Obama administration. She`s for good reason one of our public health experts. She is now a non-resident Fellow at Brookings. So Doctor, I`ll ask it this way, if the Delta variant is not breaking through, why all this talk about boosters?

DR. KAVITA PATEL, FORMER AIDE TO VALERIE JARRETT IN THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE: Yeah, Brian, it`s a great question. And I think it`s because the purpose of the boosters really are to help supplement our immune response to the first two shots. And I think we`re getting very confusing here is that Pfizer, you know, came out with their announcement last week. And it really did imply that we had to have boosters all Americans did, when I think if you really just pause and look at the data. And I think that`s what the U.S. officials did, even looking at Israeli data and other countries, you do see that select populations, Brian, probably do need a boost at some point and, let`s say anywhere from six to 12 months after their first doses. Those are primarily the 5% of Americans who have an immunocompromised condition or under cancer therapies or have had organ transplant. And then we are looking at elderly population France, the U.K. and Israel are moving ahead with these booster doses, same dose that they got in the first and second but a third dose for those special populations and high risk workers. And I think that`s probably what a lot of the context was for the conversation today. But there is no data to support that the majority of Americans who receive vaccines do not develop sufficient immunity to deal with the Delta variant. And I think that`s really the bottom line.

WILLIAMS: And let me ask you about three letters that are the coin of your realm, EUA, Emergency Use Authorization, as you know, a lot of the anti- vaxxers some of them sadly sitting members of Congress are saying that these vaccines we have haven`t been approved by the FDA only for emergency use. This is killing the vaccination effort in some places. People are buying into the misinformation. Is there any move to get the government to move to give the stamp of approval to vaccines that are in what, over 200 million arms?

[23:25:14]

PATEL: Yeah, it`s a great question. And we know that Pfizer put in for their approval, their application for full approval in early April, you can bet Brian, and I`ve confirmed that the FDA is looking at everything but also takes this process very seriously. Because just as people have argued that a, "emergency use authorization was rushed," that you could make an argument that if the approval is rushed, that you would also give very little confidence to what the agency is doing. So we really -- the world really turns to the FDA in so many ways, including to see what it does with data, with its authorizations, with its approvals. And that can be a big signal. And I don`t think there`s any reason to rush it, having said that, Brian, I do fully expect to see approval for Pfizer, and then possibly other manufacturers to follow as late as early as the end of August, early September, not in time for necessarily dealing with the fact that we`ve got rising cases, especially amongst unvaccinated people, we need people to get vaccinated now.

WILLIAMS: Final question unfair of me, but nothing scares you. Give me the 60 second version of what this J&J warning today was all about?

PATEL: Yeah, very briefly. Guillain-Barre syndrome, something we actually see in about eight in 100,000 Americans over the age of 50. We do see a pattern, these are older Americans, 100 cases, Brian, 12 million doses administered. It`s a very fancy term for an Acute Flaccid Paralysis, that sudden onset an autoimmune, it`s your own immune system attacking your nerves. That`s why a warning is appropriate. But it usually is seen within two weeks of getting the shot, Brian, so if you`re out of that two week period, usually in men older than 50, if you`re out of that two week period, you are by large safe, but this is the right thing to do. This is a proof that our process of bantering is working.

WILLIAMS: As always, our thanks for doing such a forthright job in answering our questions. Our guest tonight, once again has been Dr. Kavita Patel, Doctor, thank you as always.

Coming up for us, what national Democrats could learn from those Texas Democrats who flew into town tonight? They are raising the alarm in the Lone Star State, hoping it can be heard clear across the country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:31:14]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NICOLE COLLIER (D-TX): We took a stand. And we left the state of Texas because that was the best and the right thing to do at the right time.

REP. SENFRONIA THOMPSON (D-TX): I am tired of sitting as a hostage in a house of reps -- Texas House of Representatives. While Republicans strip away the rights of my constituents to vote.

REP. TREY MARTINEZ FISCHER (D-TX): We have courage, conviction and a little bit of defiance. And we`re here today to rally the nation. And we hope that the U.S. Senate will hear us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Texas Democrats arriving in Washington tonight under their Governor`s new threat of arrest in their latest attempt to defend voting rights in their state and lobby for a federal law that would do just that with voting rights legislation stalled in Congress president`s giving a major speech on the issue tomorrow.

On his coming speech, the New York Times puts it this way, behind the brave words are rising concerns among voting rights advocates and Democrats that the counter attack against the aggressive push by Republicans to redistrict -- restrict ballot access is faltering. And add a potentially pivotal moment.

Back again with us tonight, Don Callaway, democratic strategist, founder of the National Voter Protection Action Fund, and Matt K. Lewis, conservative commentator and senior columnist for The Daily Beast. Gentlemen, good evening to you both.

Don, I`m going to serve you the kind of pitch they throw at tonight`s Home Run Derby. What can Senate Democrats learn from Texas Democrats?

DON CALLAWAY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think the first thing that Senate Democrats have to learn is to be willing to show up and make some noise and disrupt proceedings. It`s very difficult to understand as members of the majority, why the Senate Democrats have not shut down Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema with all of the multitude of tools in the toolbox, procedurally that Chuck Schumer and even our president have at their disposal.

But either way, if they`re not willing to do that, the people who are on the left in, the people who are wanting to protect voting rights and see action on some of these pivotal issues have got to be willing to disrupt proceedings. If I were in Cory Booker, if I were a, I don`t know, any number of leftist Democratic senators, I would be intentionally filibustering everything until substantive voting rights legislation comes to the floor. And they have the right to hold up the proceedings. Just as the budget naysayers have the right to hold up proceeding, either both from the center like Manchin and Sinema or on the right.

So I think that first of all, we have to have the courage to use the actual power we have. And even though we know it`s just a waiting game with the Texas House Democrats, what they`ve done is disrupted the proceedings. They brought national attention to a righteous cause. And I applaud them for it.

WILLIAMS: Matt, I know that you can enumerate the exceptions to this rule. But let`s agree that the rule is that Republicans and increasing numbers of states brazenly and publicly are passing laws that at the end of the day, restrict the vote. Are you surprised in the zeal of this effort, even though we`re having this conversation in the post-truth era in the Trump era?

MATT K. LEWIS, THE DAILY BEAST SENIOR COLUMNIST: This actually reminds me of a throwback to a bygone era, to be honest with you. And I think that`s kind of the problem. I mean, I feel like Republicans are worried about voter integrity, which is not a bad thing to worry about, but it`s a non- sequitur. We don`t really have a problem with voter integrity. We don`t really have a problem with elections being stolen.

[23:35:00]

I think Democrats are concerned with ballot access. And I also think this is overblown, like in Texas. I mean the reports I`m reading, it seems like the big sticking points. I`m sure there`s more, but the big sticking points are like, should there be 24 hour voting? Should there be drive-through voting? Those are legitimate questions, I think certainly in the year of COVID it was, you know, reasonable to have those reforms, but should they be year in and year out? I think that`s up to Texas. And I think it`s reasonable to say like, No, we don`t necessarily need to have that.

But I think both sides, Republicans who are focused on, you know, voter integrity, Democrats who are focused pretty much primarily on voter access, are really missing like what I think the big problem is. And the big problem actually is a fear that you could have like state legislatures that would refuse to certify elections, that would decide to send a different slate of delegates than the ones that folks and a given state voted for.

I don`t see anybody really talking that much about it. Democrats are, I think, talking about something to rile up their base and to motivate their base. And it`s a legitimate point that they`re making. I just don`t think it`s the biggest problem that we confront, and an era where like, we`re going to have a presidential election and a few years, and I`m not sure we`re fixing the things that might have allowed Donald Trump to actually overthrow the election.

WILLIAMS: Don, I got a minute left in this segment, but this is your life`s work. So I want to hear you out.

CALLOWAY: Matt, I much respect my brother but you couldn`t be more wrong. Ballot box access and important and clearly expansion of the franchise and access to the ballot box with the whole game for Democrats by no means is that being overblown. Since 2013, Shelby County versus Holder, Republicans have inched away and constricted ballot box access on a systematic basis state by state. And I know we`re running out of time here, but by no means are Democrats overblowing that concern here and there`s so many ways that ballot box access has been restricted, and Democrats have to file an aggressive expansion agenda, which unfortunately, we`re not doing but we can talk about that more in the next segment.

WILLIAMS: Both of these gentlemen staying with us through the aforementioned break. When we come back more on that big CPAC conference, which has become the kind of anti-vaxx big lie jamboree, they even heard from the originator of the big lie.

(COMMECIAL BREAK)

[23:40:51]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Unfortunately, this was an election where the person that counts the votes was far more important than the candidate, no matter how many votes that candidate got, and we got record numbers of votes. They deleted in Georgia. Over 100,000 votes, the drop boxes were often very late. Where are they? Where are they? What happened?

Every time the media references the election hoax. They say the fraud is unproven. And while there is no evidence, no evidence, no evidence, there`s so much evidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: On those very election lies the former president keeps talking about, here`s the response from one of the members of Congress who led the effort in his second impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): His speech is dangerous. It`s sickening, frankly. And even more troubling are all of those around him elected leaders, and now many in his base who are complicit in these lies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Still with us, our guests Don Calloway and Matt K. Lewis. Matt, I`m going to lead this segment with something you wrote in The Daily Beast. Democracy works best when we have two sane centrist parties. Right now, we have one half of one party that fits this description. Therefore, it`s in everyone`s best interest to encourage Democrats to reel it in a bit to save themselves, and to help the GOP recover from the cancer that elected Trump.

Matt, folks at home watching who may believe the Democrats are way too sane, way too centrist. In fact, neutered will probably want to know what you mean by reel it in.

LEWIS: Yes. So as you know, I`ve been a big Trump critic. But I think that look, Joe Biden won the election. AOC didn`t win the election. Bernie Sanders didn`t win the election. And there was actually a Pew poll or a Pew survey, I guess it was last week that demonstrated that it actually was white men, believe it or not, that most likely was the difference in electing Joe Biden. He didn`t win the white male vote, but he lost them by a smaller percentage than Hillary Clinton.

And so it wasn`t so much, you know, juicing the Democratic base that put Joe Biden over the top. It was an appeal to a constituency that that normally would be considered a Republican or a conservative constituency. And this is me. This is according to the Pew. Maybe they`re wrong.

The point is, Joe Biden, I think, was able to win the presidency. And I feel like, you know, the talk about things like defunding the police, for example, is a bad idea. And that`s the kind of rhetoric that I think, probably needs to be toned down if Democrats want to continue to win.

WILLIAMS: Don Calloway, your broad smile means I get to toss you a little bit of time for rebuttal.

CALLOWAY: Again, much respect, man. And I know you`re quoting the Pew poll there, but I just don`t know how we can say white men made the difference in on electing Donald Trump and electing Joe Biden. 93 percent of black women, 90 percent of black men, and we always even if it`s Pew will find a way to create a white male saviors (ph). That simply wasn`t the case this time.

And when we call for the Democratic Party to reel it in, I`m assuming we`re talking about the left this half of the Democratic Party you refer to in your piece. What are they supposed to do? The Supreme Court has told us for generations now that justice delayed is justice denied. And while I don`t agree with everything on the leftist wing of my party, I certainly do respect and applaud the zeal with which they are trying to move toward a more perfect union, a more just need some more inclusive (ph) nation that gives opportunity for everybody.

[23:45:03]

So I wonder what we`re talking about when we say we want to reel it in, and what part of an inclusive just bear agenda should be relegated to the back seat should be? And should we ask that no slow down, we don`t need police reform, we don`t need gun reform, we don`t need action on climate change.

So I just don`t know what part we can legitimately call on leftist Democrats to slow down because I don`t see any part of their agenda, which is, A, unreasonable, or B, not trying to push us all toward a more just a more inclusive, a more wholesome and loving society for everybody.

But we always get these, you know, it would be more reasonable for all of us to just slow down. And that never really holds Republicans responsible for embracing a broad white supremacist ideology, which elected Donald Trump to begin with.

WILLIAMS: Just to close by -- Matt, I can give you a few seconds and then I got a break.

LEWIS: OK. OK, totally good. So one thing I would say is I totally would give the African American community a ton of credit. They made Joe Biden the nominee. And I think that`s, that was the right move, obviously, but I think both -- it was both politically the right move, and I think it was also substantively the right move. It wasn`t for James Clyburn if it wasn`t for North Carolina, you would probably have President Donald Trump.

So I`m just saying, you know, according to this Pew survey, and also my piece was premised on a blog post by Kevin Drom, who was a progressive. He was at Mother Jones, he was at Washington Monthly, who cited data showing that actually, the left has, he says, stoke the cultural war by moving farther to the left, believe it or not, in the last 20 years, then Republicans have moved to the right, which I found interesting.

WILLIAMS: Reasonable people can disagree. The rest of us can merely end this segment by saying go Hornets Delaware State on the board tonight, thanks to our guest, Don Calloway, Matt K. Lewis as well. Thank you, gentlemen, both of you for coming on.

Coming up for us why you`re about to hear a lot about Cuba, where protests rarely hit the streets, but they have now. Big change could be afoot 90 miles from Key West.

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[23:50:34]

WILLIAMS: The Associated Press reporting large contingents of Cuban police patrolling the streets of Havana today after anti-government protests erupted in Cuba for the first time in decades. It says a lot about the government that they`ve turned off the internet. The reasons for the revolt are obvious, lines for everything from food to vaccines, while cases are spiking, add to that regular blackouts, very little tourism money and a poor quality of life overall. It has become simply too much for some Cubans. Our reports tonight from our chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL, MNSBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thousands of demonstrators spilling into the streets of Cuba this weekend, calling for an end of the 62-year communist regime. Chants of we want freedom echoing through the streets. Protesters dumping trash and throwing rocks. Demonstrations sparked by chronic food shortages and blackouts.

In Miami, protests in solidarity with Havana.

MARIA FIGAROA, CUBAN RESIDENT: We`ve been waiting for change for so long.

MITCHELL: Maria Figaroa has family in Cuba.

FIGAROA: I don`t even know what their situation is right now.

MITCHELL: An economic crisis exacerbated by the pandemic and no access to approved COVID vaccines.

A perfect storm for anti-regime anger that spread rapidly as more Cubans recently gained access to the internet.

Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel today blaming the unrest on U.S. sanctions.

MIGUEL DIAZ-CANEL, CUBAN PRESIDENT (via translator): The lack of medicine and food all those topics that are embedded in our society as dissatisfaction, what is the origin. It`s a blockade.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: They simply are not hearing the voices and will of the Cuban people. People deeply, deeply, deeply tired of the repression.

MITCHELL: President Obama established diplomatic relations with Cuba and removed it from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. But the Trump administration put Cuba back on that list, imposing tougher sanctions which President Biden has not lifted.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We call on the government from Cuba refrained from violence their attempts to silence the voice of the people in Cuba.

MITCHELL (on camera): So far, Biden has been much tougher on Cuba than President Obama was. A senior official telling NBC News when people protest for human rights, the administration will stand with them. Brian.0

(END VIDEO TAPE)

WILLIAMS: Andrea Mitchell, our thanks for that report tonight.

Coming up for us and after the break, how could anyone have predicted 25 years ago, the kind of nation we have become today? Well, it helps that he was really smart.

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[23:56:27]

WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight is a new appreciation of Carl Sagan that so many people find way overdue, armed with four degrees from the University of Chicago try that in your spare time. Sagan was an astronomer, scientist, astrophysicist, a genuine public intellectual he taught at Harvard and Cornell and was ahead of his time almost by definition,

Jason Johnson called our attention to this clip on social media. Today, here is Carl Sagan on Johnny Carson, calling out a new movie called Star Wars for its faulty assumptions and lack of diversity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARL SAGAN, AMERICAN STRONOMER: Star Wars starts out saying it`s on some other galaxy.

JOHNNY CARLSON, "THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARLSON" HOST: Right.

SAGAN: And then you see there`s people and seeing starting and seeing one. There`s a problem because human beings are the result of a unique evolutionary sequence based --

CARLSON: Right.

SAGAN: -- so many individually unlikely random events on the earth. In fact, I think most evolutionary biologists would agree that if you started the earth out again, and just let those random factors operate, you might wind up with beings that are as smart as us, as ethical and artistic and all the rest, but they would not be human beings, that`s for the earth.

So another planet different environment --

CARLSON: Yes.

SAGAN: -- very likely, though human being.

CARLSON: Are you sitting on another galaxy. It`s not possible that there could be --

SAGAN: It`s extremely unlikely that there would be creatures as similar to us as the dominant ones in Star Wars and a whole bunch of other things. They`re all white. The skin of all the humans and in Star Wars, oddly enough, is sort of like, like this.

CARLSON: Right.

SAGAN: And not even the other colors represented on the earth are present much less greens and blues and purples and oranges.

CARLSON: They did have a scene in Star Wars with a lot of strange characters.

SAGAN: Yes, but none of them seem to be in charge of the galaxy. Everybody in charge of the galaxies into look like us.

And I thought there was a large amount of human chauvinism and also I felt very bad that at the end of the Wookiee, he didn`t get a medal also. All the people got medals and the Wookiee would been in there fighting all the time. He didn`t get any medal, and I thought that was example of anti- Wookiee discrimination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: How about that Carl Sagan advocate for Wookiees everywhere. As the noted astrophysicist Ron Popeil would say but wait, there`s more. Carl Sagan could not have predicted 2021 but he did see it coming. He wrote the following back in 1995, and we quote, I have a foreboding of an America and my children`s or grandchildren`s time when the United States is a service and information economy when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues, when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority, when clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes are critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what`s true. We slide almost without noticing back into superstition and darkness.

The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media. The 30 second sound bites now down to 10 seconds or less lowest common denominator programming credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.

Roll that around for a while. Those were among his final published words. He died 10 months later. Here we are 25 years later realizing just what he was trying to tell us back then.

That is our broadcast for this Monday night with our thanks for being here with us. With my thanks to Chris Jansing and Ali Velshi for allowing me to sneak away to the Jersey Shore. On behalf of all our colleagues here at the networks of NBC News, good night.