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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 7/19/21

Guests: Joyce Vance, Peter Hotez


Resurgent pandemic worries knocked stocks, fueled by fears that a faster-spreading variant of the virus may upend the economy`s strong recovery. Mass vaccination campaign slows as infections rise. There are new questions about infections among the vaccinated. House GOP Leader, Kevin McCarthy names lawmakers to January 6 selection committee. Judge sentences Capitol rioter to eight months. Senators hold "field hearing" on voting rights. Leonnig & Rucker detail Trump`s turbulent final year. Unvaccinated hospitalized patients say they regret not getting the shot. CDC director warns of "pandemic of the unvaccinated" as cases rise. Jeff Bezos is set to be the second billionaire to go to space.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, day 181 of the Biden administration now facing mounting fears that this Delta variant with a big assist from the anti-vax movement in our country is pushing our country in exactly the wrong direction.

In fact, it was anxiety about yet another wave of the illness that hammered the stock market today. The Dow closed down over 700 points, worst one day declined thus far this year. At one point the market was off nearly 900. The biggest concern today was the potential the virus has to once again derail the recovery.


RON INSANA, CNBC SENIOR ANALYST & COMMENTATOR: Anything that adds to the uncertainty about the pace of reopening and the pace of growth is the type of thing that can unmoored the stock market.


WILLIAMS: Now the rapid rise in daily cases has prompted the American Association of Pediatrics to issue new guidance ahead of the coming school year. The doctors advise, "All students older than two years, and all school staff should wear face masks at school."

On the vaccine front, the administration`s campaign has largely stalled about half a million shots are now being given out every day. That is down from more than 3.3 million at our peak. While the CDC describes the current surge as a pandemic of the unvaccinated, there`s growing concern about vaccinated people getting the virus nonetheless so called breakthrough cases. Florida Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan revealed today he`s tested positive for the virus after being fully vaccinated.

Kara Eaker, an alternate on the U.S. women`s gymnastics team also tested positive for the virus just days before the Tokyo Olympics, her coach said she was vaccinated two months ago. Dr. Fauci says even if someone is infected after a vaccination, they are still much more likely to avoid serious illness.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: The vaccines still protects you against infection, but not completely. You are very highly protected against severe disease if you`re vaccinated. Whereas if you`re unvaccinated, then you have, you know, a reasonable chance of getting into trouble.


WILLIAMS: In another closely watched story tonight, five House Republicans have been appointed to serve on the Select Committee investigating the 1/6 riot and insurrection. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has selected these members from his Republican caucus. And they are Indiana`s Jim Banks, Rodney Davis from Illinois, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Kelley Armstrong from North Dakota, Troy Nehls from Texas. Banks, Jordan and Nehls, all voted to overturn the 2020 election results.


KEVIN MCCARTHY: You`ve got a mix from the entire conference, right? Some people who objected, people who didn`t object.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL: Did Donald trump sign off on your picks?

MCCARTHY: I never talked to Donald Trump about this.

WILLIAMS: House Speaker Pelosi still has yet to sign on to these appointments before the committee`s first hearing July 27. Today a federal judge sentenced the first felony defendant in the 1/6 insurrection. He got eight months in prison. Prosecutors have wanted Florida man Paul Hodgkins sentenced to 18 months.

Images from that day show him clearly carrying a red Trump 2020 flag inside the evacuated Senate chamber. Hodgkins pleaded guilty last month to a single count of obstructing an official proceeding.

Also tonight Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is moving forward with a Wednesday vote to start debate at least on the bipartisan infrastructure bill measure still being written as we speak. Senate Democrats also not giving up on a federal voting rights bill. The Rules Committee led by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota is holding the U.S. Senate`s first field hearings in two decades to try to bring voting rights issues to the public`s attention. First stop Atlanta, Georgia where one witness described the obstacles to voting in Georgia.


JOSE SEGARRA, GEORGIA VOTER: These past year, I had to go to extraordinary lengths to accomplish the simple but consequential task of casting my ballot. I, along with 1000s of Georgians had to wait for hours in order to cast my vote. In fact, I had to go to the polls twice in order to vote.


WILLIAMS: With that, let`s bring on our leadoff guests on this Monday night, Philip Rucker, a Pulitzer Prize Winning Senior Washington Correspondent for The Washington Post. His highly anticipated new book written with his colleague Carol Leonnig called, I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump`s Catastrophic Final Year, generating a lot of headlines even though it doesn`t come out until tomorrow, Phil`s co-author Carol Leonnig will join us a bit later for a full conversation about it. Also with us tonight, A.B. Stoddard, Veteran Washington Journalist, Associate Editor and Columnist for Real Clear Politics, and former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, who spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor. She also happens to be one of the co-hosts of the podcast, Sisters in Law With Kimberly Atkins Stohr, Jill Wine-Banks, and Barb McQuade.


Well, good evening, and welcome to you all. And Philip, I`d like to begin with you and your beats, this new virus surge, let`s take the political consequences, the disappointment aspect of it out of the conversation and dwell on public health. I am guessing the Biden West Wing is about to address this with some urgency?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Certainly, Brian, and we`ve seen the Biden administration and the health officials throughout the government speak with increasing urgency in recent weeks about what the CDC is calling the pandemic of the unvaccinated, the fact that so many Americans tens of millions of Americans, many of them and red Republican leaning states, unwilling to be vaccinated in part because of misinformation that`s been spreading on social media and in conservative media. This is a growing urgent concern for leaders in Washington. They feel that that the infection rates and, you know, further complications from California to the east coast could be continuing to rise as people resist the vaccines. And so I think we`re going to see in the coming days, the President, as well as others in the administration, step forward with increasing please, to get people vaccinated, get the shots and try to push past this as the Delta variant becomes a really severe threat to the country.

WILLIAMS: A.B., let`s talk politics. I brought something for you. Here is Ari Fleischer on Fox News Tonight. We`ll discuss on the other side.


ARI FLEISCHER, FOX NEWS: He thinks he`s FDR Jr. licensed to go on a massive trillion dollar spending spree, and he`s not that was not what the 2020 election was about. And he`s out of sync with where the American people are.


WILLIAMS: So A.B. tomorrow, mark six months since the inauguration of Joe Biden and one is tempted to ask hearing that how the effort to arrive at an attack line against Biden is fairing these days on the Republican side?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST: Well, Brian, we have watched both parties get concerned about deficits when they are not in power. But President Trump was the first Republican leader to completely abandon any kind of fealty to small government, principals, debt reduction, limited spending, et cetera. And so the party largely gave up on it watching the voters who supported Donald Trump, give up on it. That`s what the Biden ministration is betting on that a lot of the spending on infrastructure and other programs that vaccination distribution, the child tax credit, all the things they`ve done in their first three and six months, are not only popular in their party in the Democratic Party, but with some of the Republicans in the Trump coalition as well.

So you will see, especially among those not Ari Fleischer, but several senators positioning themselves to hopefully run for president in 2024. If Donald Trump does not a lot of talk about filing debt and spending binges by the Democrats, and their socialist programs, no matter what passes, and the final price tag of the reconciliation infrastructure bills, you can count on that.

WILLIAMS: Joyce Vance, staying on brand, it turns out to be a Florida man who receives the first felony sentence for his role in the violin attempt to overturn the election results. On 1/6, what do you make of the eight month sentence and what might it mean for all the others that are pending?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: The eight month sentence was clearly a disappointment to prosecutors. They had asked the court for an 18 month sentence and had argued pretty vigorously about the consequences of January 6. But the judge distinguish this defendant from defendants that we`ll see down the road saying that he didn`t want to burden this particular individual with the conduct of those who may come to him for sentencing later on. Whether the judge is correct or not there, I think the sentence really sends the wrong message. It`s clear that prosecutors are intent on these future cases that involve people who committed property damage, or acts of violence and we`ll watch the sentences actually amp up pretty dramatically for instance, simply for someone involved in property damage, the lowest sentence would be in a range of 41 to 51 months, so I think people who were disappointed today need to suspend judgment a little bit longer and let prosecutors do their job.


WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, I don`t need to tell you, thanks to your reporting. The Democrats on the left would love to see people like Schumer and Biden play rough for a change, especially right now. So with that in mind, what is going on in the U.S. Senate? What do we mean when we say that as early as this week, they may begin debate on infrastructure?

RUCKER: Well, Brian, the bipartisan deal for an infrastructure package that we thought was in the cards a few weeks back appears to be in real serious Jeopardy right now. At this hour, there are some Republican wavering on how to pay for this package, in part because of pressure from outside conservative groups that are against any additional spending increases. And what this has done is forced a decision point for Chuck Schumer and for President Biden to move forward with the vote to begin consideration and debate on this bill. That`s what Schumer has said today. He plans to do later this week. And it speaks to the growing impatience, both at the White House among Biden`s advisors, but also with Democrats in the Senate and progressive liberal leaders who are allied with the Biden administration. And with these key senators, they feel like enough is enough. We`re coming up on the August recess. It is time right now for Schumer to call this vote, to call the Republicans bluff to try to get to that 60 vote margin and push this bill forward. We`re going to see in the next couple of days whether the votes are really there when Schumer begins to debate on this infrastructure bill, but you know, a lot of people on the left feel like they`ve waited far too long now for a bipartisan deal and that it is time to just bulldoze through and try to get this package passed.

WILLIAMS: A.B. also on the Hill, let`s talk about this 1/6 committee and the questions our viewers would be right for wanting answered. Number one, does Pelosi have straight up veto power over the Republican selections? I`m asking this because we learned McCarthy`s choice. The -- to so many people, the unserious name that stood out on the list was Jim Jordan, what happens there? And is it conceivable Jim Jordan could end up on a witness list?

STODDARD: Well, we don`t know what information they have that would bring him to the witness list that is within the realm of the possible but I -- we don`t know. Jim Jordan was always going to be on Kevin McCarthy`s list. And Nancy Pelosi knew that all along. This is a mandate from President Trump, Kevin McCarthy doesn`t even have to consult with the former president to know that he had to put 3 1/6 truthers on this panel, and then throw in some, "credible" people that would stand up that -- would be credible, would be suitable to the majority of people in this country who thought that the insurrection was as severe as it was and are not in the MAGA umbrella.

So he was always going to pick one or two people who voted to certify the election. He`s always going to pick Jim Jordan and several others to be a combat fighter from minute one, trying to discredit this investigation and this committee and to fight for Donald Trump. And the first thing he said when he was named the committee, Jordan said basically this entire thing is to make up, you know, lies about Donald Trump. So this is exactly what we expected. I don`t think Nancy Pelosi knowing this is exactly what McCarthy would do, is going to veto the choices. I think she`s just going to proceed. She has Liz Cheney, her one very credible Republican, and I think she`s just going to go on and let them drive a clown car on this side. But it was never going to be serious. It was always going to be an effort to protect Donald Trump and the narrative that it was just another love fest.

WILLIAMS: Joyce Vance, from a clown car on the side, take us to the intersection of law and public health. And I`m asking because of the excerpted portion I have from Max Boot writing in the Washington Post today. He writes this in part, governors have used their public health powers to mandate mask wearing and social distancing to fight COVID-19. They ought to now take the next logical step and mandate vaccinations for the use of indoor spaces outside the home." Well, first of all, let`s say it together that`ll go over well, but secondly, Joyce, to your life work, talk about the potential thicket of legal issues that opens up?


VANCE: It`s a quite a thicket, I think it`ll make AB`s clown car look like it was in the amateur leagues because, of course, we know any effort by the Biden administration to impose some sort of a mandate on a national level will be met with endless litigation. In reality, it`s a tough objective, because governors control so much of this terrain, and there`s little that the administration can do. If governors in red states don`t choose to reimpose mask mandates, don`t choose to require vaccination and take other logical steps to combat Delta, but that`s what happens when we live in a world where public health has become fully politicized, what the administration could do. And Max Boot`s very interesting point is that they could look at federal sort of operations like travel and require vaccination to enter an airplane or federal buildings, that would certainly be something that would help to bring the virus under control. There would be litigation, there`s a little bit of uncertainty right now, Brian, because the vaccines are still approved on an emergency basis, and that puts the administration on a little bit less secure of a footing. Once that approval rate is stepped up to permanent approval, then for instance, we`ll likely see more urgency and requirements that people who are members of the military and federal employees have mandated vaccination like people do for so many other illnesses that are communicable in so many walks of life. The real challenge here is the messaging challenge and whether this administration can overcome what`s certain to be political hurdles with better messaging than then they`ve proven capable of today.

WILLIAMS: Yes, indeed, it`s already out there on display every night, our starting line for a new week, A.B. Stoddard, Joyce Vance, Phil Rucker, our great thanks for starting us off.

Coming up for us, critics are praising Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig`s new book out tomorrow. And apparently detachment from reality is a running theme where the last president is concerned. We`ll ask the authors about the many revelations within.

And later, unvaccinated Americans once again filling hospital beds, battling COVID, fighting to breathe, one of our leading physicians standing by to take our questions tonight. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on this Monday night of a new week.




DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I Alone Can Fix It.


WILLIAMS: Those words now the title of the revealing tell all book documenting the final year of the administration of Donald Trump two months after Biden was sworn into office. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters, Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig sat down for an hour`s long interview with the 45th president at his understated Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, among several alarming admissions in their new book, I Alone Can Fix It, they write this, "Trump regrets his response to protests last summer in Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle and other cities. `I think if I had to do it over again, I would have brought in the military immediately,` he said."

Remaining with us as our friend Philip Rucker joining our conversation is another friend of ours, his Washington Post colleague, Carol Leonnig, Pulitzer Prize-winning Investigative Reporter, as we mentioned, the pair have written yet another book a new one on the Trump presidency, I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump`s Catastrophic Final Year, which comes out tomorrow, wherever fine books are sold.

Well, good evening to you both. And congratulations for the smattering of advanced reviews that I read this afternoon. And tonight, Carol, tell us more about the last thing we raised here. Trump`s regret over not calling out the military, following the murder of George Floyd during the BLM protests, and a subset of that question, who was going to tell him if he wanted the second Marines or the 82nd or the 101 to take positions in the city of Seattle?

CAROL LEONNIG, THE WASHINGTON POST INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Wow, Brian, that`s a two part question. That`s important. Let me deal with the first part first. You know, because you`ve covered this administration, and Chronicle that very well, every night at 11 o`clock, that the President, the former president, rarely regrets anything. And in fact, in our interview with Donald Trump, Phil, and I learned that he really doesn`t regret anything about 2020. Except for one thing, though, it was one of the most catastrophic years we`ve seen in our history, his big regret is that he didn`t unleash active duty military troops on the people who were exercising their first amendment rights to protest the death of George Floyd and the chronic systemic racist system in which many black men and women have been killed at the hands of police. That was his big sadness.

Now, for your second part of your question, what we learned, and what was so chilling to us was that many insiders in the Trump administration felt very strongly that they had to basically band together to keep Donald Trump from seeking active duty troops, on Americans in all sorts of cities, Seattle, Portland, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York, it felt so frequent a demand and a request from the president, that Bill Barr told aides he was tired of going to the White House because he knew what the conversation was going to be. Let`s send troops in. The President wanted to burnish his image and look like a tough law and order guy because he wanted to win reelection. And all of those people inside the administration saw right through that and they worked to stop him.

WILLIAMS: Of course, he made up for a lot of that in Lafayette Park alone.


Phil, as I read it your scheduled interview at Mar-a-Lago was for an hour, it went for two and a half or there abouts. For people who will never get that distinct pleasure of sitting down for that long, A, what`s it like? B, what shocked you the most during that conversation?

RUCKER: Well, Brian, it was an entirely bizarre scene for Carol and me. We came to the interview and Trump wanted to hold it in what is effectively the lobby of Mar-a-Lago at the dinner hour. So scores of his dinner guests were parading past us as we were trying to interview him about the serious, substantive matters of his presidency. But, you know, he is so fixated on the 2020 election. He kept reverting back again and again and again to the election, and to the conspiracies that we all know are not true. The falsehoods that he won Arizona, the falsehoods that there was fraud, in Fulton County, Georgia, but in Trump`s mind, it`s so real. And he would tell it to us with a really real sort of animated cadence. He just -- he thought people were going to finally figure out he kept saying, I`m going to -- I`m trying to get the word out here about the election fraud that simply doesn`t exist. So what you have at Mar-a-Lago, or what you had on the day we were there at the end of March is a king of Republican politics, sort of in his Brigadoon with it with an imagined reality all around him. That just doesn`t stack up to the fax or anything else.

And by the way, he`s also filled with grievances. He brought up again and again, people like Bill Barr, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, he even invoked the late Senator John McCain, all people that he made fun of, he said were unintelligent, he blamed them for things that had gone wrong. And he also blamed Mike Pence, his loyal Vice President, for not doing what Trump considered to be the courageous thing on January 6, by trying to overturn those election results, the President, the former President still bitter about that.

WILLIAMS: Carol, back to the subject of the military and Donald Trump and had this been, a full on third world style coup, it is plausible that he would have wanted to call out the military to enforce whatever his election goals were. Tell us what leaders at the Pentagon were willing to do in the event of such an order?

LEONNIG: There were so many things that very senior military officers and officials were in a near panic about, and feared that Donald Trump would do things they felt he would do to basically maintain his grasp on power. And that had been a feeling that had been growing for months. It did start actually June 1 for General Mark Milley, he believed the President would really show no remorse, no regret, not be worried about breaking any laws in order to deploy the military for his own political gain.

And what the Joint Chiefs all agreed was that they would start planning for how to block Donald Trump`s worst impulses, ones in which he might try to create chaos and fear, again, to keep power or indeed engage in a coup. What they wanted to do was basically stop him from using the military. And they decided that maybe they would have to resign one by one, in essence, a reverse Saturday night massacre, to stop the president. And they were talking about this privately as something that really could happen. And they were quite glad when inauguration day came that they had not had to use that that secret plot.

WILLIAMS: Our guests to our audience are both Pulitzer Prize recipients and it strikes me Donald Trump has now come up with the title of their last two books about him. He of a, Very Stable Genius, and now he of, I Alone Can Fix It, we`ll get to our next line of questioning with both of our guests coming up after this break. We`ll talk about why a top official in the Trump administration was worried about sharing good news on the vaccine front with the President of the United States last summer.



WILLIAMS: Welcome back. Two of the three people on the screen right now our Pulitzer Prize recipients who have indeed just authored their second book on our past president Philip Rucker, Carol Leonnig, our guest tonight.

And Carol, this one`s for you. This is about a scene in the book where the Secretary of Defense Esper learns from the general in charge of Operation Warp Speed that the vaccines are coming along. And here`s how you guys write it. Esper was initially delighted when General Perna told him he was authorizing contracts to produce to promising vaccines. But the secretary`s ebullience then turned to concern. If the president learned they have millions of doses produced, would he or a White House adviser start demanding they administer them to the public before the vaccine had been fully vetted by the FDA?

Carol this dovetails with the reporting in this book that the President`s concern over the coming pandemic was more about polling than public health. And it`s clear that people around him were concerned about that.

LEONNIG: You know, everything with Donald Trump, especially so in 2020 is seen through the lens of how it benefits him. And in the year 2020 many of those insiders got kind of too close a shocking look at just what that meant. A callousness towards the lives of Americans, a focus on burnishing his own image for the reelection, to make sure the polls were good. How am I doing in the numbers? Those were his priorities.

And in this moment that you describe, it was stunning to learn that the Secretary of Defense upon finding that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Upon hearing that they are looking at vaccines with an 80 percent effectiveness rating, his reaction is first happiness, and then panic. What if Donald Trump finds out and what will he do? What will the White House do? What will Trump`s closest aides want? What will the President wants?


Well, they all know what the President wants. He wants a vaccine before the election, because he wants to have delivered on that promise and he wants to get reelected. But actually, Esper is worried that the President may order people to get the vaccine before it is properly vetted. Before it`s safe and before the trials are completed. And he starts wondering if they should try to hide this light under a bushel basket.

WILLIAMS: Phil, talk about the call that Mike Pence made on 1/6 over to the Pentagon, which, according to the body of reporting on that day is one call more than Donald Trump placed on the subject.

RUCKER: That`s exactly right, Brian. This was a moment of national crisis, the Capitol was under siege by violent rioters, and you would expect the President of the United States the commander in chief, to be active, to be calling the Pentagon, to be trying to get control of the situation but are behind the scenes reporting in this book shows that President Trump spent those hours in front of a television set watching what was unfolding at the Capitol and essentially paralyzed from doing his duty as the commander in chief.

Instead you had Vice President Pence, who was in a hideaway effectively. He was under threat physically at the Capitol. His family was in danger. People were chanting hang Mike Pence all around him. And it was Vice President Pence who was calling the Pentagon who was saying get these troops here now, get this building under secure, get this building cleared out of these rioters

And importantly, he refused to be evacuated from the Capitol because the vice president thought it was essential for the American people that he remained in the Capitol to do his job to certify the election whenever the Senate and the House could reconvene. It`s a chilling bit of reporting, and it just speaks to how little President Trump did in that moment. He effectively melted away.

WILLIAMS: Carol, let me ask you a final question about process. There are so many people floating around Washington, who want a little dose of hagiography who want a chance to get the stink of having worked for Trump off there otherwise, stellar resumes, and some of them are vaunted people, you know, as per Barr, Milley, pants for that matter, Ivanka and Jared.

So when author comes along, and how do you guard against becoming their resume burnishing tool in the scope of a massive project you two are involved in?

LEONNIG: I`m really glad you asked that question, Brian, because and I`m really glad you use the word guard because that`s exactly how Phil and I felt in these moments, in these interviews. Sometimes we sat with people for seven hours at a time. And we were on guard for people wanting to make everything a little more gossamer about how they handle the situation, make themselves look a little more brave, or perhaps a little more resolute.

And in fact, you know, I think we all know what the standards for serious journalists are. But I`ll repeat them here. We don`t have anything in our book that we couldn`t corroborate independently, every time that it was possible. We asked our sources for additional people who knew this information, or we sought out those as well. We asked our sources for calendar entries and text messages. And we were pretty pushy and nosy. And they showed them to us to help again, make sure that what they were alleging is something that we could take to the bank. And if we could not find that kind of information, if we could not find trust in what they were alleging we didn`t publish it.

Now, I want to say there`s another reverse element to this. And that is people who want to be associated with Donald Trump for their political benefit. They want to tap into the political base of Donald Trump. Some of those people were running from us as well, because they had raised serious questions about Donald Trump`s ability to lead about the insanity of some of the things that happened in the final month of the presidency, and, in fact, confided to people that they were quite afraid of what Donald Trump would do. And they`ve tried to deny those things to us. And we`ve corroborated them, but they`ve tried to avoid being critical of the president because it`s important to them politically to be aligned with him.

WILLIAMS: Two friends of our broadcast serious journalists both Philip Rucker, Carol Leonnig, our thanks for coming on, on the eve of your books released to our audience. The book is out tomorrow it is, "I Alone Can Fix It, Donald J. Trump`s Catastrophic Final Year."


Best of luck with it to both of you. Thanks for coming on. And coming up for us, a top doctor on what we all need to know about these breakthrough infections we`re hearing about where the fully vaccinated are getting the virus nonetheless.



LAUREN SCHILLER, FLORIDA REGISTERED NURSE: If I asked any single patient that`s up in a bed right now, they will tell me that they wish they had gotten the vaccine. 100 percent. They have told me personally that they wish they had gotten it, that they should have gotten it. And they did not.


WILLIAMS: COVID cases now on the rise in every state in our union, 97 percent of those hospitalized are unvaccinated. On the misinformation surrounding the vaccine, our next guest writes this, quote, the monster is much bigger and formidable than Facebook or social media. If the Biden administration is serious about countering anti-vaccine disinformation, it must be willing to take on the Empire and launch a counter offensive.

It`s important to have back with us again tonight, Dr. Peter Hotez, he`s a vaccine scientists who has been hard at work developing a low cost COVID-19 vaccine for global distribution, also happens to serve as co-director of the Center for vaccine development at Texas Children`s and is the Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

And doctor, just take for our audience who may not be familiar with you. Take a brief moment here at the top and tell the good people watching how and why it is in your life you have become so familiar, let`s say with the anti-vaxx crowd.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, VACCINE SCIENTIST: Yes, I wish it were for good reasons, Brian, thanks for asking. You know, I`m a vaccine scientist and pediatrician and devoted my life to developing vaccines mostly for poverty related diseases to gotten Coronavirus vaccines about 10 years ago, but I`m also the parent of four adult -- four adult kids including Rachel who has autism and intellectual disability.


And a few years ago I wrote a book called "Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel`s Autism" to debunk the fake assertions from the anti-vaccine lobby claiming that there`s a link that vaccines cause autism explaining the massive evidence showing there`s no link and the lack of plausibility what we know about the genetics of autism. And unfortunately, that may be public enemy number one with the anti-vaccine groups. And one prominent anti vaccine activist caused me the OG villain, which I had to look up, it means the original gangster villain. So you have the original gangster villain on tonight, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Well, we`re proud of it. And for you, this must be an incredible experience. Because I`m guessing there is a set anti-vaxx playbook, which you`ve lived long enough to see employed in the autism sphere. And now you`ve lived long enough to see it in your other life`s work, and that is suppressing active disease like this.

HOTEZ: Yes, that`s right. So what happened with the anti-vaccine movement is, you know, I like to think maybe in part because I was helped to fuse a little bit the links and between vaccines and autism, and I think to reenergize about six, seven years ago, they -- to reenergize they politicize. They linked themselves on to political extremism on the far right. Initially, the Republican Tea Party organizations, political action committee started forming in Texas and Oklahoma, where I am and now you see it play out nightly, I`m the conservative news outlets.

And you if you listen to the CPAC conference a couple of weeks ago, the horror show that that unfolded there from very conservative members of Congress, discrediting vaccines and claiming it`s nothing more than a political instrument of control. And this is why we`re in this terrible, terrible situation right now, where we have whole regions of the country, not just outbreak areas, but entire regions of the South Central U.S., in the southeastern United States, where people are not getting vaccinated out of defiance.

And we`re seeing this massive surge, all predicted and predictable when you have that combination of delta and low vaccination rates. So it`s totally heartbreaking because all of this could have been prevented.

WILLIAMS: And speaking of heartbreaking, let`s talk about these breakthrough cases. For everyone watching tonight, people who`ve may have been under the assumption that if they`re vaccinated, they are okay period, end of sentence. What is the truth about these breakthrough cases?

HOTEZ: Well, it`s not too far from that actually. So we, you know, no vaccine is perfect. The original lineage, the vaccines that Pfizer, Moderna vaccine over 95 percent, almost as good as the J&J vaccine. We saw out of Israel, in the UK, the numbers were not as robust anywhere from 64 percent to preventing infection in Israel to around 80 percent in the Scotland and in England. So that gave people pause for concern.

But in terms of serious infection, it`s just as robust is just as good. So what you`re not seeing our hospitalizations and deaths any appreciable degree for being vaccinated, but you are seeing some people who are either asymptomatic or have low grade symptoms, and that`s something that we`re going to have to continue to watch for, particularly for those who are immunocompromised and may not respond to the vaccine as well.

WILLIAMS: By now, all the viewers know what exercising common sense means in this and where are the best environments to slip on a mask, it is not as we`ve learned the end of the world. Doctor, please agree to come back on our broadcast whenever you`re on with my friend Nicolle Wallace at 4:00 Eastern time. I stopped what I`m doing and I never missed the conversation. Dr. Peter Hotez has been our guest again tonight. Our thanks for taking our questions on this.

Coming up for us this evening, Mr. Bezos will be out of the office tomorrow. For that matter, he`ll be out of the gravitational pull of planet Earth. That`s if all goes well. About nine hours from now.



WILLIAMS: Just as millions of Americans wake up tomorrow morning we should be hearing about the fate of Jeff Bezos, his brother and two other notable passengers. As the richest man in the world launches the foursome into suborbital space. It`s Amazon prime on steroids. Their ride will be on Blue Origin, the space tourism company that Bezos founded to lift those who can afford it into the wild blue yonder. Our report from the launch site in West Texas tonight from NBC News correspondent Tom Costello.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In remote Van Horn, Texas the anticipation is building. The launch pad 45 miles out in the desert set for billionaire Jeff Bezos lift off. This morning on TODAY, Bezos and his three fellow passengers were giddy with excitement.

JEFF BEZOS, BLUE ORIGIN FOUNDER: People who say they go into space that they come back changed I can`t wait to see what`s going to do to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we have lift off.

COSTELLO: While Blue Origin has flown 15 unmanned test flights, this will be the first to carry passengers. Bezos will take seat number six. The simulator and exact replica of the capsule that will carry all four, 62 miles high for three minutes of weightlessness and six massive windows.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As you`re ascending essentially, it feels like the earth is falling away from you.

COSTELLO (on camera): Watching the whole thing.


COSTELLO: Roll through your window.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Like Richard Branson`s Virgin Galactic, paying passengers are already signing up.

(on camera): Eventually Blue Origin plans to send six passengers at a time into space from this launch pad in the West Texas desert. But unlike a NASA rocket or the Virgin space plane, there are no professional astronauts or pilots on board. It is all controlled from the ground.

(voice-over): Blue Origin insists the ship is loaded with safety backups with the Bezos`s great escape set for 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Tom Costello, NBC News, Van Horn, Texas.


WILLIAMS: Coming up for us tonight, it was a tough choice but they`ve narrowed it down to just four people. The superheroes you might say of virus denialism, the anti-vaxx All Star team when we come back.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you didn`t get a vaccination, that`s your choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 99 percent of the people who are dying from COVID are unvaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s their choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don`t want to die. So they are -- the administration and the government is saying we need the mass mandate to protect the unvaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s not their job. It`s not their job to protect anybody.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, see what they did there interesting mix of candor and denialism this morning on Fox News, where their primetime anchors continue their insidious anti-vaxx campaign, always wrapped in freedom and a smile say nothing of the rising death toll.

And while it was a tough choice, admittedly, the Republican Accountability Project is out with their All Star team of sorts of anti-vaxxers, the superheroes of the effort.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the studios of Fox News and the offices of MAGA, there are assembled for pro COVID Republicans, dedicated to anti-vaccine propaganda. Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: If vaccines work, why are vaccine people still banned from living normal life, so maybe it doesn`t work?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madison Cawthorn.

REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): And now we`re starting to talk about going door to door to be able to take vaccines for the people so you have the mechanisms they would have to build to be able to actually execute that and then go door to door take your guns, they then go door to door take your Bible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marjorie Taylor Greene.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Tell Biden`s little posse that`s going to show up at your door and they come and intimidate you to take the vaccine. You get to tell them to get the hell off of your lawn.


REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): We`re here to tell governments don`t come knocking on my door with your Fauci ouchi. You leave us the hell alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their mission to spread misinformation about vaccine to keep COVID spreading meet COVID friends.


WILLIAMS: With a tip of the hat to Robert Smigel (ph), the Republican Accountability Project to take us off the air on this Monday night as we begin a new week, with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.