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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 7/29/21

Guests: Michael Steele, Samer Fahmy


President Joe Biden takes more aggressive stance on COVID messaging. Delta variant could cause major setback for U.S. Cities and businesses reinstating masks mandates. Lollapalooza requiring proof of vaccinated. Infrastructure plan faces next procedural vote tomorrow morning. McConnell praises bipartisan infrastructure bill.


CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC HOST: Good evening once again, I`m Chris Jansing in for Brian Williams. Day 191 of the Biden administration. And we begin tonight with breaking news from the Washington Post, critical new information about the Delta variant of the coronavirus. The paper has obtained an internal CDC document which contains urgent new warnings about the virus. The Post reports, "The Delta variant of the coronavirus appears to cause more severe illness than earlier variants and spreads as easily as chickenpox. According to the internal federal health document, that also argues officials must acknowledge the war has changed."

The Post goes on to report, "It cites a combination of recently obtained still unpublished data from outbreak investigations and outside studies showing that vaccinated individuals infected with Delta may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are unvaccinated. Vaccinated people infected with Delta have measurable viral loads similar to those who are unvaccinated and infected with the variant."

This afternoon President Biden took a much more aggressive stance in face of the escalating COVID crisis driven by that Delta variant and continued resistance to vaccines.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This American tragedy, people are dying and will die who don`t have to die. Throughout their unvaccinated, you don`t have to die.


JANSING: The administration is now confronted with the reality that its work to stop the spread of COVID could potentially face a major setback. Today, the President acknowledged that threat and took the first step toward imposing tough new regulations that will affect millions.


BIDEN: It`s time to impose requirements on key groups. Every federal government employee will be asked to attest to their vaccination status. Anyone who does not attest or is not vaccinated will be required to mask no matter where they work. Test one or two times a week. If in fact, you`re unvaccinated, you present a problem to yourself, to your family and to those with whom you work.


JANSING: Tonight, the Pentagon says it will also impose the same rules on all military and civilian personnel. President Biden added that the Justice Department says it is legal for local communities and businesses to require vaccines. Several major companies have already announced their vaccine mandates.

Meanwhile, more mask mandates are being imposed. In Washington D.C., it`ll be masks on starting Saturday. The same rules go into effect tomorrow at all Disney theme parks. In Chicago where the four-day Lollapalooza Music Festival is underway, attendees are being greeted with signs informing them that they assume all risk related to exposure to the virus. Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test is also required.


ZACH WILLIAMS, LOLLAPALOOZA ATTENDEE: I`m going to be doing everything that I possibly can to make sure that I`m keeping the people around me safe. So I`m vaccinated, I will be wearing my mask the entire time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there is COVID in there, you know, he can stop it but.

BISSAN OBAID, LOLLAPALOOZA ATTENDEE: That`s kind of just like being anywhere else. So just like going to a concert or going to work or going to school or wherever you are.

ETHAN KAYINAK, LOLLAPALOOZA ATTENDEE: You just go back you think about the first quarantine we had, and then even just the first strand announced, mutated and, you know, it`s it gets a little nerve wracking.


JANSING: We`re also learning tonight that Israel plans to offer booster shots to people over 60 who have already been given a two-dose vaccine, it will be the first country to offer a third dose on a broad scale.

Meanwhile, there`s no concern about the economy. The Wall Street Journal notes that even though the gross domestic product grew at six and a half percent annual rate in the second quarter of the year, the Delta variant has many wondering if growth will continue.

We`re also keeping an eye on the progress of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The Senate expects to hold its next vote for the measure tomorrow morning. And today, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell who voted last night to move toward debate actually praised the bill.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It`s guaranteed to be the kind of legislation that no member on either side of the aisle will think is perfect. But it`s an important basic duty of government. I`m glad to see these discussions making progress. I was happy to vote to begin moving the Senate toward what ought to be a robust bipartisan floor process or legislation of this magnitude.


JANSING: The Senate is set to begin its recess on August 6, that`s next Friday. But today Majority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated to his caucus that the goal is to pass the infrastructure and budget bills before leaving Washington.



SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Leader Schumer has made it clear we`re staying here this weekend. He said we`re staying here throughout next week and beyond.


JANSING: With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Thursday night, Shannon Pettypiece, veteran journalist and our Senior White House Reporter for NBC News Digital, Julie Pace, Washington Bureau Chief and Assistant Managing Editor for The Associated Press, and Dr. Vin Gupta, a Critical Care Pulmonologist in Seattle who has advised us on public health throughout this pandemic. He`s also on faculty at the University of Washington`s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Great to have all of you here. So Dr. Gupta, the Post`s story, The Washington Post also reports tonight about the CDC document they obtained quoting here, "The document strikes an urgent note revealing the agency knows it must revamp its public messaging to emphasize vaccination as the best defense against a variant so contagious, that it acts almost like a different novel virus leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold." That got my attention, Dr. Gupta, what do you make of this new information? How does it change things?

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Chris. You know, frankly, I don`t think the war has changed at all. And this is an indictment of ineffective confusing messaging from the very top. Let`s just -- let`s call it what it is. And I think your team actually has an image that I shared many months ago that my pulmonary colleagues and I have been trying to share and disseminate out this is on the left for all your viewers out there. Those are healthy lungs on the right, those are lungs ravaged by COVID that my colleagues and I care for in the ICU, that`s acute respiratory distress syndrome. That`s what the vaccine prevents.

That message was never clearly communicated through images, through authentic messengers from the very beginning. So now people are saying, well, what`s changed? Frankly, if you actually look at the CDC data that was presented in slide format, it`s pretty darn clear that the vaccines and they were looking at two dose Pfizer, Chris, two dose Pfizer was protective against hospitalization in Israel, and Canada, and in England, even against symptomatic illness, we saw 88, 87 to 88 percent protection, but against hospitalization seeing somebody like me, you are nearly 100 percent protected. So I don`t think anything has changed. What we are doing -- what we are now dealing with is an indictment of ineffective, confusing messaging, making people think that now we`re dealing with.

JANSING: I want to make sure I understand because my takeaway from this Washington Post article was that even though I`m fully vaccinated, I think everybody on this panel is fully vaccinated, we can still be carrying the variant, and it is so much easier for it to transfer, to transmit. And even though again, and we`ve talked about this, and I think the messaging has been clear, if you`re vaccinated, and you do get this Delta variant, you`re going to have a much more mild case. The idea of transmission and getting it at all sounds scary. So is this information, though, not new?

GUPTA: So that information is new. And so this notion of -- but we have to think about this in context, I think, Chris, we have to take a step back and say, the CDC is likening this to chickenpox, for example. Well, turns out even if you`re fully vaccinated against chickenpox, you can transmit the virus, no vaccines perfect against transmission. So what does this mean? This just basically means yes, there is a potential for transmission of the Delta variant to others. We think that`s different from say, the Alpha variant, it looks like the Delta variants maybe 50 percent more transmissible, even if you`re fully vaccinated. But Chris, ultimately, this adds greater urgency to the notion of getting vaccinated, that Delta variant of itself to those who are fully vaccinated is not harmful. So immediate FDA approval and really broad consideration of a mandate, that those are the things we need to be talking about, in addition to better messaging,

JANSING: And President Biden, Shannon, has been talking about this, but I thought today was marked by an even more urgent tone, is concern in the White House rising day by day over this new variant and how do folks there feel about their messaging on the virus?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBC NEWS.COM SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, their urgency has certainly ticked up. I will say last week, and maybe a little bit into the week prior. I talked to people within the administration, people who were close to the administration, advice the administration, and they raised a lot of these issues, like requiring masks for certain groups, vaccine mandates for some federal employees. But I would say about a week ago, 10 days ago, at this time, nobody was thinking it was going to happen as quickly as it did and as widespread as it has.

There was talk about vaccine mandates for VA employees, for members of the military, maybe TSA screeners, not for the entire federal workforce to have to either be vaccinated or submit to really regular testing. You know, there was talk about requiring mask maybe for certain groups, maybe increasing the urge to nudge people to wear masks more not this sort of about face on mask recommendations and saying that people who live in large swaths of this country, even if they`re vaccinated to be putting their masks back on. So I`ve noticed internally, and people closest White has a real shift in messaging over the past few weeks, which I think speaks to the growing urgency as far as the effectiveness of that messaging. So much of this is being driven by the CDC, and not necessarily by the White House. And that`s where we have seen a bit of fumbling of the handoff of the baton in the messaging.


We had the CDC hold a teleconference to announce this really big change in masks, the White House within itself was trying to figure out how to adapt this policy, even within their own walls as to whether or not people needed to wear masks at a VP event, whether the President was going to wear one at his event the next week, you know, so certainly, they`re still trying to get their foot around the messaging. But, you know, when I talked to people in the White House, they said, you know, part of that is just because of how quickly evolving this virus is, and how rapidly changing the scenario on the ground has been lately.

JANSING: Yeah, the push, clearly, Julie, is hard to get vaccinated. I mean, again, besides the urgency, the other thing I took away from this press conference today was, OK, they`ve decided they need to pull out all the tools in their arsenal that they possibly can?

JULIE PACE, AP ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: I think that`s right. I mean, they have been trying for weeks to find messages to find gimmicks, in some cases, to find celebrities who can go out there and convince this group of people who are just stubbornly unvaccinated to start to move. And really, none of those numbers have budged in a significant way.

And so now the White House`s taking this step that, you know, I think in some ways they had hoped to avoid. The Biden White House is very conscious of not wanting to be seen as pushing, you know, a definitive mandate. So, they`re not even trying to use that word they`re calling these, you know, these programs other things you have to attest that you`re vaccinated. They`re trying to avoid the idea of a mandate, though, essentially, that is, what it is. It`s a mandate for a vaccine.

And if you`re not vaccinated, then you have to take other steps. They are just trying to pull every lever. Because ultimately, as Biden said, but as really public health officials have said, there is only one way out of this pandemic, and that is to increase the vaccination rate. And until this happens, we`re going to be bouncing back and forth between new mask guidance, a new guidance on how close we can interact with each other. And so Biden is just trying to make that part of the message that vaccinations are the only way out really the centerpiece, I think of what you`re going to hear from him for weeks to come.

JANSING: Yeah. And he does make this clear separation. Dr. Gupta, which is we`ve got the vaccinated, and we`ve got the unvaccinated and among the unvaccinated and, you know, this well, are a lot of health care workers. And so, our Gabe Gutierrez sat down with for them, and it was eye opening, maybe some would think shocking to hear what they had to say. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don`t know what the long-term side effects are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Also, hasn`t been proven to be effective.

GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The CDC and many public health experts say that it`s more than 90 percent effective.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They do say that. That hasn`t proven to me to be true.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not going to just jump on the bandwagon with something that has not been tested.

GUTIERREZ: When you say that it hasn`t been tested, it has been tested, though.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But not to the -- if you look at the normal year span of how long something is tested, it`s usually 12 to 14 years before it comes to humans.


JANSING: The question I guess Dr. Gupta is how many of I think Joe Biden said today 90 million eligible unvaccinated Americans are entrenched? How many minds can be changed? If 1000s of even healthcare workers are still saying no, our mandate is the only answer. I mean, the frustration level that I hear is growing with people who are unvaccinated.

GUPTA: Well, I`m frustrated to hear health care workers take up oxygen on national TV and say that they should be mandated to get the vaccine, or they should lose their job. It`s as simple as that, there`s a Hippocratic Oath they took. So that`s simple. I do think, Chris, I really do believe that people are reachable. I segment of that 90 million is reachable. We`ve been trying to reach folks from factory workers to former members of the military. As a reservist, I interact with them all the time. They haven`t - - they have questions that are deeply rooted, but we can answer them, and they`re willing to get the vaccine.

What else say, if I may, just real quick, President Biden with all due respect on in his press conference today said that he went on mask and -- when he was in Philadelphia yesterday and then Delaware, because he was in areas of high vaccine uptake rates and counties were that had high levels of vaccine uptake. You know, it turns out that that`s actually not what CDC guidance put out. A few days prior, Chris, they said areas of substantial high transmission of the virus we need -- so when the President is actually not aligned on the definition of what is high risk or not, it`s no surprise that most of the country got confused a bit when the CDC put out that messaging. So it`s really important. And I thought the President did a great job of this to have a clear definition of success, low hospitalizations, and deaths, we`re not going to avoid case transmission, that`s just not going to be a thing. We need to get used to COVID being endemic in places like safe Seattle, where I`m at or LA County, low levels of hospitalizations due to COVID overall in the county, even if cases are rising, that`s going to be the reality that I think we`re going to have to get comfortable with, as we proceed to wear some type of normalcy. We need a message on hope, not on anxiety. We need a messenger on hope.


JANSING: Yeah. And Shannon, there`s this ongoing debate about whether one of the ways to get folks vaccinated are these incentives. You know, we heard the President today calling on states to offer 100 bucks to folks to get vaccinated, use those federal dollars. I`ve heard a lot of governors say to me, oh, yeah, our incentives are working, I`ve gone to places where there are incentives and seeing virtually no one show up to get vaccinated. I mean, do folks at the White House think that this is just like one little part that they`re going to try to get, or they really think that incentives can be a major way that they can get people to get vaccinated?

PETTYPIECE: Well, I mean, what they`re saying is, there`s going to be a combination of many, many things. The incentives, though, have been such a big focus of late. We finally saw them this week shifting from the carrot to the stick approach with this vaccine mandate for federal workers. I know they don`t want to call it a mandate, because you can also get testing but they`re really putting the pressure on federal workers to get vaccinated or face consequences of some form. The federal government is hoping that that`s going to set an example for others to follow. And you put up that list of companies there, a lot of those companies requiring some level of vaccination have come just in the past few weeks, it was really only a handful, a couple of weeks ago. So the federal government is trying to set an example of shifting to the stick model and away from the carrot approach. It`s not like the carrots are going to go away. They`re kind of going to still be out there. But they`re, they do believe in it, you know, I`m talking to someone who`s close to this process, you know, that there`s maybe 10, 15 percent of people who if you require vaccination will go out and get vaccinated.

And if they can just get those people, that`s a huge step, you know, there`s going to be another slice that if you offer $100, they`re going to say, oh, OK, fine, I`ll get vaccinated. You know, there`s going to be another group that says, if you need to be vaccinated, go see a concert at Madison Square Garden, they`re going to come up. So they are looking at a combination approach, and certainly not relying on any one tactic at this point. But I do think, I know one of you said a moment ago, they are trying to pull every lever they can know because of this urgency around the Delta variant and the numbers that they`re seeing.

JANSING: So Julie, you know, there obviously, is pushback. Let me play what one member of a government union said today about Joe Biden and vaccines for federal workers.

Oh, here it is. It`s -- there will be a lot of pushback. It`s going to be an avalanche. Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association President Larry Cosmi said, warning that many of the group`s members at the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security would be opposed. Is there a sense yet how much pushback we`re going to see? Does it point to a possible similar reaction in private industry?

PACE: I do think that the White House has expected some level of pushback. They`ve put that though, into the calculation here and basically said, look, there`s almost nothing that Joe Biden could say about anything at this point. But certainly, the pandemic which has become so politicized, that wouldn`t get some amount of pushback. They think that it`s important for them to try to just bust through that they think that there are some people who will argue that this is not fair that this is an American who will ultimately be vaccinated anyways, and again, that is their goal more than anything else, is to have people in this country be vaccinated. And if that means that some segment of the federal workforce walks away from their jobs, I think they are comfortable with that. I think again, they are just at this point, as Shannon said, where they have to feel like they have to just actually get more heavy handed in their enforcement of this actually push people toward getting these vaccines who otherwise have not been willing to do so.

JANSING: Shannon Pettypiece, Julie Pace, and Dr. Vin Gupta, thank you, I appreciate you.

Coming up, what a Democratic senator told me today about the future of America. Why he thinks a three-step approach can accomplish big things for the country and its bridges and roads. We`ll test out his theory.

And later, what happens if you don`t pass the Republican loyalty test in the House. Two prominent members may just find out, the 11th Hour just getting underway on a Thursday night.




SEN. BOB CASEY, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: Rarely can you get this kind of a consensus around something as substantial as this initiative is to begin to rebuild the country.

JANSING: So what`s your confidence level then right now?

CASEY: My confidence level is very high. This process is really three- steps. It`s this bipartisan physical infrastructure bill then you have a budget resolution. And then the third part really is the reconciliation which is just ahead of us.


JANSING: A portion of my discussion earlier today with Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey and then a few hours the infrastructure plan is up for another procedural vote. One is expected to pass. Backers have yet to produce an actual text of an infrastructure bill. But as the senator points out, the proposal did clear the first of many hurdles in that rare show of bipartisanship. Meantime, Senate Democrats are expected to release a revised voting rights bill within days after Republicans blocked a more sweeping proposal. Georgia senator Raphael Warnock says voting protections remain a democratic priority.


SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We have to work on the physical infrastructure of our country. And we have to work on the infrastructure of our democracy. It is the responsibility of Congress to provide baseline federal standards for voting.


JANSING: We welcome back Juanita Tolliver, a Veteran Political Strategist to Progressive Candidates and Causes, and Michael Steele, former Chairman of the National -- Republican National Committee, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland and host of the Michael Steele Podcast.

Good to see you both. So Juanita, NBC News has confirmed that Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer are headed to the White House tomorrow to talk to Joe Biden about voting rights. Can we expect a more aggressive push from the White House on this issue and see that it and Congress can indeed walk and chew gum at this same time?


JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the fact that the Senate is already taking up revised voting rights legislation is a sign that those conversations have been happening behind closed doors, Chris. And so I do expect a full throated effort from the White House to support this new revised legislation. Because what every Democrat needs to do right now is demonstrate to every voter who supported them in 2020, that they are fighting for their rights. And let`s be real fighting for the democracy of this country writ large. And so I completely agree with Senator Raphael Warnock that it is Congress` responsibility to act on this. And I do hope the White House steps up to the plate and backs it all the way because as they`re talking about this revised language, the number one thing in my mind, Chris, is there all of a sudden support for a carve out and the filibuster, what is the pathway to get this legislation through Congress and actually to Biden`s desk, and I`m not looking too far ahead here. I just want to know and make sure because advocates are going to be asking this, they`re going to be asking you for the White House, they`re going to be asking some of their senators and members of Congress. And so they`ve got to have an answer to that whenever they roll out this revised language.

JANSING: Well, to exactly that point, let me read to you from Eugene Robinson`s latest column in the Washington Post, he writes, "Hooray that we have a bipartisan compromise on infrastructure. But to make Biden`s pronouncement that democracy can function true, the right to vote has to be protected. And I don`t see how that happens as long as the filibuster survives. A Congress that can barely touch its meat isn`t likely to eat its vegetables." What do you think about that, Michael Steele?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: My man, Gene Robinson, I love that turner phrase. Oh, my gosh, that`s so sweet. Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, he`s right. What -- well, you know, where do we go with this? What -- tell me what the -- where the lines in the points connect. Because, you know, having the idea that you`ve got something, you know, that you`re crafting is one thing, getting it out in front of the public and then selling it and getting people behind it on infrastructure is something very different. And on voting rights, it is absolutely critical that this meets the baseline fundamental tests, not just for advocates and activists out there who`ve been pushing the administration and states around the country to get this right. But the American people have got to trust that. They`ve got to buy into it. It is got to affirm that this most precious right in our Constitution is safeguarded. And I don`t know how you get there in this environment, Republicans are hell bent, as you know, and keeping their hands off of this. They don`t want to touch this issue. And the way they avoid touching it is holding close to them the filibuster, that threat that, you know, and Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are on their side on this. So you got to got, you have to show me something. I just don`t know what that is yet.

JANSING: Well, one of the things that is showing bipartisanship, and we saw it with the vote, Juanita, is the infrastructure bill. But we still don`t have any specifics. We still don`t have the language. The progressive wing in the House is pushing back, though they argue the proposal needs to be much broader. Let me play a little bit.


REP. ILHAN OMAR, (D) MINNESOTA: We are willing to negotiate the amount of investment that goes in to these priorities, but we`re not willing to negotiate having these priorities not being included in the legislation that passes.


JANSING: How do you think Juanita, that progressives can and will push on this? How secure or tenuous is this bill?

TOLLIVER: Look, I think the fate of the bipartisan bill rests alongside the reconciliation package the budget resolution because Speaker Pelosi has made it clear. She`s not going to have a vote on the bipartisan bill without that budget resolution. And this is explicitly why because she recognizes the power of the Progressive Caucus and the Democrats and the Democrats in the House are going to fight for this every step of the way. And they could potentially sink a bipartisan bill on that. And that`s something that I don`t think anybody wants to see. So I would not ignore these statements from the Progressive Caucus. If anything, this should be motivation to get that budget resolution through the Senate alongside this bipartisan package so that it is successful in the House and that there aren`t any traps that they`re going to have to deal with in terms of the reconciliation process between the two bills.

JANSING: So we`ve got a lot more to talk about. So Juanita and Michael have agreed to stay a bit longer.

Coming up, as rare bipartisanship does break out in the senate over infrastructure, there`s growing division among the GOP on Capitol Hill. We`ve got more on that when the 11th Hour continues.



JANSING: There is more drama tonight among House Republicans. A group of conservative lawmakers is demanding the Minority Leader kick Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger out of the GOP caucus. The AP reports the effort by the hard-right House Freedom Caucus faces uncertain prospects. House Republican leaders have exhibited little interest in acting quickly against the two mavericks, which could fuel a fight that would distract from the party`s preferred focus on issues such as inflation, crime and immigration.

So with us one Juanita Tolliver and Michael Steele. So Michael, I know you`ve been waiting for this a sampling from the Freedom Caucus press conference today. Let`s listen.


REP. ANDY BIGGS (R-AZ): Right now as long as they`re members of the Republican conference, they`re entitled to come to every meeting we have here every strategy, and you know what they chose to leave.

REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): Even our incompetent attending physician has good test these members positive for Trump derangement syndrome. They`re a cancer to our party and to our caucus and they must be expelled from our conference.


JANSING: A cancer to our party Michael, do you see the leadership giving Cheney and Kinzinger the boot what`s going to happen here?

STEELE: No, no the cancer to our party was standing it behind those that bank of microphones, I`m sorry. I only know what the hell these people are talking about. Just go away. Please, just stop it. The reality of it is the only member that -- of this particular conference that has stood up, the two members that have stood up and made it very clear. Well, you know, this is about our country. This is about our democracy, not about some silly antics standing in front of a bank on microphones are the two members that are currently serving Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.


147 members of my party in the House voted to overturn a national election for the presidency of the United States.

JANSING: Yes, they chose to resign so, as you know, Michael of going away. I mean, that --

STEELE: On, of course they`re not.

JANSING: I mean, we thought today, right? You know, the House Republicans having --


JANSING: -- this public temper Trent tantrum because there`s now a House mask requirement, so they all go marching in without their masks, right. Juanita, as you look at this, I know you`ve been in politics a while on the other side of it, but I don`t think maybe this is a smart strategy for them.

STEELE: That`s pathetic. This is pathetic. All this is, is, you know, is going to juice the donations to their coffers. This isn`t about the health of the people they serve. This isn`t about the health of the people they work with in freaking capital. They don`t give a damn is how do I maximize the PR spectacle? And how do I maximize the cash when I when I send out an e-mail saying, gee, look what I did today.

So, you know, folks back home will buy this filth, and they`ll pay for it. And you know, a lot of these folks that get reelected, but at the end of the day, this is the harm, this is the cancer the virus in our body politic that we have to eradicate. We have to fight against it because this is a better from here.

JANSING: And it`s part of the reason why the House Democrats investigators -- are investigating January 6, right?


STEELE: Exactly.

JANSING: And now we hear Juanita that they`re optimistic about securing testimony from former Trump officials the way Politico put it today, its members score to key when thanks to a legal opinion from President Joe Biden`s justice department that allowed them to freely seek witness statements from former Trump administration officials. That means the likelihood of any resistance from the committee`s work from former Trump employees or current employees is not an impediment, that`s from Representative Bennie Thompson.

So the Select Committee is still in its early stages. But who makes sense to you, Juanita, as witnesses, what do committee members have to be cautious of?

TOLLIVER: I feel like the people who make the most sense are the people who are closest to Trump on the day of the insurrection, his chief of staff, anybody who was in regular contact with him at the rally outside of the White House. Those are the people who should be front and center.

But I do think that the committee should be cautious about how much of a disruption if these people do decide to show up and testify that they`ll create but also the reality that even though they don`t have the protection of the DOJ like they did when Trump was in office, they will still find any and every way to wiggle out of providing testimony I`m appearing before this committee. So don`t pin all of your hopes on getting these individuals in there in front of the January 6 Select Committee, but instead be prepared for when they don`t show up.

Also, I think this is another situation where you`re going to have potential Republicans who are currently serving in Congress brought in whether that`s McCarthy, whether that`s Jim Jordan, anybody who we know has been on the record saying they spoke to Trump that day, they should also be expected to testify and I appreciate Bennie Thompson saying, oh, we`re not going for any written statements or compelling them to appear. We`re actually going straight to subpoenas here, because we know the DOJ has our back on this.

JANSING: Yes. So actually, Leader McCarthy, I think we`ve got this sound for you, Michael, was asked about potentially being subpoenaed. Here`s what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think your position, the conference`s position to fight any subpoena that may be issued against Republican members, including yourself?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I think if they had the five members that we the Republicans want to put on there, we`d gladly go. If this is just going to be a D, triple C, we don`t see we see it just as a sham is not something that`s serious.


JANSING: So I guess that`s a no Michael.

STEELE: Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, if you had taken this seriously, and actually added five reputable Republicans, and there are those who serve in that body, at least two of them are currently on the committee. If you take it seriously, you probably have a different posture, but you didn`t.

And so, you know, Kevin is just doing what Kevin does here. You know, I think Juanita is exactly right, Democrats don`t need to, you know, put a lot of hope on these guys showing up. But here`s the rub. I would enforce any subpoena that`s issued by that committee because they have the authority of enforcing law behind them.


JANSING: And so you know, if you think you just got to, I`m a member Congress, now we`re going, you know, you got the governor of Texas. Tell him Democrats right now. The Republican governor of Texas saying when y`all come back from Washington, I`m going to have your arrested and hauled into the House and Senate chambers to vote.


Guess what turnabout is fair play, baby. Guess what, you`re going to have a Democratic chairman of that committee enforcing those subpoenas and those members, those Republican members, the sergeant of arms going to haul your behind in front of them, you don`t sit down in that chair, you can invoke the fifth, but you can`t be sitting in that chair. So that`s the new play here and we`ll see how it plays out.

JANSING: And I`m going to mark this down at 11:40 p.m. here on the east coast Michael Steele and Juanita Tolliver came to play. Thank you both. Appreciate you.


JANSING: Big number. This isn`t so great. The number of daily COVID cases in Florida is soaring at a near record rate yet the governor there continues mocking steps that save lives. We`ll talk to one of the doctors experiencing all this firsthand when the 11th Hour continues.



JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: You know want to know how we put this virus behind us. I`ll tell you how we need to get more people vaccinated. The pictures of hospitals in several states overloaded with patients is unnecessary, avoidable and tragic.


JANSING: Among the state thing the biggest COVID surges is Florida. Today, the state reported 17,589 new cases for Wednesday. It is the fourth biggest single day jump since the pandemic started. The state`s governor is refusing to impose any new restrictions but as Politico reports, local officials across Florida are bucking Governor Ron DeSantis and his anti- mandate coronavirus strategy. They`re imposing vaccine and mask requirements for government workers and even declaring states of emergency.

For more, we welcome to the broadcast Dr. Samer Fahmy. He became a chief medical officer at the Boca Raton Regional Hospital last year, just a few weeks before this pandemic began.


Thank you so much for being with us, doctor. These numbers in a single month, your state went from about 1,300 cases a day to now more than 17,000. The Miami Herald did the math, that`s a 12,141 percent increase. What is it like on the ground there?

DR. SAMER FAHMY, BOCA RATON REGIONAL HOSPITAL CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Well, first of all, thank you for having me. The situation in Florida is fairly dire. We`ve seen a significant uptick in our number of patients who are admitted to the hospital with COVID.

Just to give you a sense of it, six weeks ago, throughout Baptist Health, South Florida, where our 10 hospitals, we had about 70 patients hospitalized. Now we`re seeing about 600 patients that are in the hospital and suffering from COVID-19.

Within my own hospital, that number went from five to 70 over a six-week period. So I know folks are skeptical when they hear statistics in the newspapers and on TV. But this is happening. This is happening on the ground, people are getting this infection way faster than they did before.

And unfortunately, the amount of people that are ending up in our ERs is significantly higher and the hospital wards are higher and in our ICUs are significantly higher. So it is concerning. Very concerning.

JANSING: yes, it is being felt all around your state. Just a quick look at different newspapers, 12 Florida hospitals are reporting critical staffing shortages to the federal government. There`s a large hospital system in Jacksonville that said its hospitals are at maximum capacity. In Brevard County, a couple of hospitals began setting up treatment tents and emergency rooms. How worried are you about where this is going, and frankly, hospitals in Florida`s ability to handle it.

FAHMY: Well, this far we`ve been able to manage the surge. And keeping in perspective, the biggest surge that we had was last summer around the same time in July, where compared to the 600 that we have now. We had about a little over 850 patients that were within our hospitals.

Now that said, the rate of rise and the rate of increase in the number of patients getting the infection and getting admitted to the hospital is the most concerning part. Within a couple of weeks, these numbers could match last summer and even exceed them. So there`s no doubt we need some mitigation strategies. We need to limit the spread of this infection. And by far the best way we have to do that is vaccination. We need to encourage more and more folks to get vaccinated not to be reluctant to go get it.

You know, the issues with vaccines is no longer an access issue. It is a -- it is an issue of just persuasion, persuading the people that have yet to get vaccinated to go get it. There`s free rides to vaccine sites, and there`s, you know, free vaccinations throughout the country. That`s what we really need to, you know, push throughout our community is getting more and more people vaccinated.

Because honestly, the vast majority of the patients that are in my hospital today with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Most of these admissions in the hospital could have been prevented if we had just gotten this vaccine earlier. And it`s quite disheartening to talk to folks after they get the infection. And then they tell you I want the vaccine and you have to tell them it`s too late. Or you ask them why they didn`t get the vaccine. And they tell you well, I didn`t want to try anything experimental.

But the minute they get admitted to the hospital, they`re willing to try some of the Emergency Use Authorization drugs like you know, remdesivir or tocilizumab, or some of the other drugs that we`re using that are under the same way that the vaccine is.

I wish folks would take a better look at this, the ones that are resisting the vaccine and really study it and know that the benefits of the vaccine greatly outweigh the risks. And we need everybody to step up and get vaccinate.

JANSING: I mean, one of the things that you`re obviously a man of science and you find yourself caught in the middle of what has been a political argument, and one of the things that we have heard from your governor, is that Floridians should be free to choose, it should be their choice, how they govern their affairs, how they take care of themselves and their families. And he says he does not want them consigned to live in a Faucian dystopia where we`re governed by the whims of bureaucratic authorities.

When you hear things like that, but you`re seeing what you`re seeing in your hospital. What even goes through your mind?

FAHMY: Well, what I know is that the mitigation measures that we took last year with mask wearing and social distancing, they worked. They bend the curve. And what we`re seeing now is that the vaccines work. So, you know, politics aside, I would -- I just want to urge everybody to leave that out and just take a look at your health and protect yourself.

Masking does is not perfect, but it is a very effective way to limit the spread of the infection. So regardless of mandates or otherwise, wear a mask when your indoor space whether you`re vaccinated or not, because we`re dealing with something very different with this Delta variant than what we dealt with last year.


This is not the same thing. We need to mask up. We need to avoid crowds again, and we need to go back to, you know, to limiting exposure to these to large venues of people, and at the same time, get vaccinated. Yes, you can still catch and spread the virus when you`re vaccinated. But I`ll tell you nobody in my ICU today in my hospital is vaccinated. Everybody that`s in my ICU is unvaccinated. So all that aside, get the vaccine, wear your masks, socially distance and we really are in desperate need of folks to work with us in the community to help us and to follow these basic mitigation measures.

JANSING: Listen up, folks. Dr. Samer Fahmy, thank you so much. Good luck to you as you continue this fight.

And coming up the inspiring story of how one Olympic couple has power through adversity when the 11th Hour continues.



JANSING: Gold Medal favorite BMX racer Elise Willoughby`s path to Tokyo is an inspiring one to say the very least. It is her third trip to the Olympic Games, but this time, she`s racing for more than herself. Our report tonight from NBC correspondent Kate Snow.


KATE SNOW, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): BMX racing is a very individual sport, but Elise Willoughby isn`t just riding for herself in Tokyo.

ELISE WILLOUGHBY, BMX RACER: Now when I`m out there, it just feels like the ultimate team work.

SNOW: The Minnesota native met Sam, an Australian on the circuit when they were teenagers.

SAM WILLOUGHBY, BMX RACER: I ended up winning the World Championship in China in 2008. And that got our attention.


SNOW: At the London Games, Sam won a silver. They got engaged and at the next Olympics, his and her silver medals.

E. WILLOUGHBY: Yes, I couldn`t let him be the only one, right.

SNOW: But four weeks after Rio, Sam was training when he flew off his bike and landed on his head.


S. WILLOUGHBY: I remember when I sort of came to on the ground and then the next thought, realizing that I couldn`t feel my legs.

SNOW: When Elise got to the hospital, he begged her not to marry him.

S. WILLOUGHBY: I was paralyzed from the neck down and laying in a hospital bed. And all I could see was in on this beautiful girl that I loved, and that had just come off the high of her career, and --

SNOW (on camera): You wanted her to be able to keep pursuing her dream.


SNOW (voice-over): But Elise wasn`t hearing it. She stopped training to care for Sam.

(on camera): And this is test stuff you guys went through?

E. WILLOUGHBY: Yes. Yes. Every day that`s the motivation for me knowing what we`ve done and accomplished together, you know, without anyone watching. That`s the stuff that makes you tough.

SNOW: It was only natural for Sam to become Elise`s coach. And with that new role, he found new purpose.

(on camera): Do you enjoy it?

S. WILLOUGHBY: I do. I love it. Yes, in ways like a more than even racing.

SNOW (voice-over): He still has the determination of an Olympian.

In 2017, he found the strength to walk down the aisle at their wedding.

S. WILLOUGHBY: I want to just show her that I was going to work for.

SNOW: They both think what they`ve been through has only made Elise a stronger competitor.

S. WILLOUGHBY: I think it makes her invincible now to be honest.

E. WILLOUGHBY: I know he`s writing every one of those jumps with me and he`s feeling exactly what I`m feeling out there.

SNOW (on camera): It`s like you`re racing for both of you.

E. WILLOUGHBY: Yes, it`s 100 percent I`m racing for both of us.

SNOW (voice-over): Together an incredible team. Kate Snow, NBC News, Chula Vista, California.


JANSING: Definition of champion. Coming up, the joyous family celebrations for one team USA, the newest and history making gold medalist.


JANSING: The last thing before we go tonight, let`s take a moment to celebrate U.S. Olympian Suni Lee who after a tough few years is now the women`s gymnastics all-around champion.


The first Hmong American to compete in the Olympics. And her family and friends in Minnesota were up early this morning celebrating that gold medal performance. Her dad has supported her gymnastics from the very beginning, when he couldn`t afford a balanced being for Suni. He bought -- he built her a homemade version in the backyard. That`s simple wouldn`t be is still there today.

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