White House mounts aggressive Delta variant response. Broadway audiences will need vaccine proof and masks. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis pushes back on school mask mandates. Effort to extend pandemic eviction ban fails.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC HOST: So, watch the Saturday show tomorrow at 10 a.m. Eastern on MSNBC. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts right now.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, once again, I`m Chris Jansing in for Brian Williams. Day 192 of the Biden administration. In this urgent and critical phase of the pandemic, the White House has stepped up its response to the surge doubling efforts to get more vaccinated, and also recommending masks even for those who have gotten their shots. Tonight, there`s a new indication the White House could be weighing even tougher tactics to stop the spread.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should Americans expect more guidelines coming out, more restrictions because of COVID?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In all probability, by the way, we had a good day yesterday. Almost a million people got vaccinated about half a million of those people for the first time and for the second shot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: We`re also learning that an explosive Delta variant outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts pushed the CDC to change math recommendations for people who have been vaccinated. New data showed three quarters of those infected in that outbreak were fully vaccinated. But thankfully, if you required hospitalization, the data also suggested vaccinated people could spread the virus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: The data that we saw in Massachusetts were corroborated in numerous other places, and that`s when we knew we had to take action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: Meanwhile, more businesses are announcing mandates. Broadway theater owners and operators say audiences must be vaccinated and wear masks to attend performances when they resume in the fall. Vaccines will be mandatory for Walmart employees at its headquarters. And Disney says all salaried and non-union employees will be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Meanwhile, Florida`s governor is pushing back on mandates for masks in schools. He has signed an executive order that effectively bans school districts from enacting mask requirements.
And there is also major news tonight about Donald Trump`s efforts to subvert the 2020 election. The New York Times was the first to report that Trump pressured Justice Department officials late last year to declare the election was corrupt even though they had found no evidence of widespread fraud. The Times reports that Trump`s demands were made during a phone call on December 27 with the acting Attorney General at the time, Jeffrey Rosen and his Deputy Richard Donahue.
Donahue`s handwritten notes from that conversation have been released by the House Oversight Committee. One note summarizes Trump is saying, "Just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and they are congressman."
Trumped it named the lawmakers but at other points during the call the Times reports that he did mention Republican Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, and Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. The Times also reports Congressman Jordan and Senator Johnson deny any role in Trump`s efforts to pressure the Justice Department. Congressman Perry did not respond to requests for comment from the Times.
Earlier today, one member of the House Oversight Committee was blunt about the implications of these new revelations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): I frankly think this is a criminal conspiracy. I believe that the contemporaneous notes that were released today by deputy attorney general at the time, Donahue, clearly revealed a lot of Donald Trump`s own mouth, and it`s -- and the illegal attempt to subvert the election results of a free and fair election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: Also tonight, Donald Trump has dealt a major legal blow and the Justice Department issued an opinion saying Congress should get to see the former president`s tax returns. That reverses a decision made in 2019 by Trump administration lawyers.
We`ve also been watching the effort to extend the federal eviction moratorium that expires tomorrow. A last ditch effort to extend the ban has failed in the House and lawmakers will be on recess for the next several weeks. The measure had prevented the removal of renters during the pandemic.
With that let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Friday night, Eugene Daniels, White House Correspondent for Politico and co-author of each day`s edition of political playbook, Barbara McQuade, a federal veteran federal prosecutor and former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She worked with the DOJ during the Biden transition and is a professor at the University of Michigan`s law school. She is also co-host of the podcast, Sisters in Law, along with Joyce Vance, Jill Wine-Banks, and Kimberly Atkins Stohr. And Dr. Kavita Patel, clinical physician and former Senior Policy Aide during the Obama administration, she`s also one of our public health experts and a non-resident Fellow at Brookings.
Great to see all of you. Dr. Patel, what is your view of the threat from Delta right now and what do we need to be watching for over the next couple of months?
DR. KAVITA PATEL, FORMER AIDE TO VALERIE JARRETT IN THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE: Yeah, Chris, exactly what I think was the top of everyone`s the phone inbox and messages today. So we have to separate Delta, which has totally changed the game for vaccinated and unvaccinated people. We know that it has implications for both. But, Chris, just to be clear, we still have incredible vaccine that we need to get to half the country. That statistic you cited with the president kind of optimism, I hope that continues because that`s exactly what we need.
JANSING: Do you find it encouraging?
PATEL: I do. I do, and I`m getting -- by the way, I`ve broken down kind of where vaccinations have increased. And Chris, they`re actually increasing in these places, Missouri, Arkansas and Nevada, where we have had some of the steepest slope increases in cases. I wish I could say the same about Florida, it`s a large state. But Florida is getting more cases per day than they have had in any previous surge prior and including at the beginning of the winter when we didn`t have vaccines for most people.
So I -- here`s how I would approach Delta for anybody kind of watching and wondering what to do, you really should - the reason we`re wearing a mask is really because of that kind of data from Provincetown and other communities where we could transmit this much more easily than we thought if we were vaccinated to other people. And with half the country unvaccinated we don`t know who`s unvaccinated. And that`s why we`re all, you know, talking about wearing masks. I think the most responsible thing to do is remember, vaccines prevent the bigger disease and death and they`re working. But Delta has changed the game I think and raise everyone`s emotions, including mine, about how we need to take precaution. And it`s also raising awareness, as you mentioned, about the governor`s preventing schools from protecting children and staff. When we know very well, Chris, that masks and children and indoor settings are absolutely required to keep everyone safe, including the staff and they should be masked as well, even if they`re vaccinated, and can transmit this.
JANSING: This great divide is really -- I can feel the temperature going up with a lot of people particularly vaccinated people when they have to deal with these unvaccinated people. So Eugene, give us a sense of how the White House has been operating kind of behind the scenes this week with regard to handling the surge. What is driving Joe Biden`s latest public announcements, and then his statement tonight, that there may be more to unfold in this strategy?
EUGENE DANIELS, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, there`s an urgency, because they know you know -- their one focus walking in was the pandemic. That was number one. And that was the thing no matter what you wanted to talk to them about, they wanted to talk about COVID-19, they wanted to talk about the relief bill. And as time has gone on, they`ve done a good job on vaccinations, right? We have a lot of people vaccinated 164 million, but the last time I checked more than 164 million people. So that part of it is working. But nature is taking its course. And the doctor obviously knows this a lot better than I do. So we have this Delta variant.
And so this week, and last week, they have this kind of renewed urgency to really focus on making sure that people get vaccinated, making sure that the -- whatever the CDC says they follow. And that`s something, I was in the White House briefing today, and asking the Deputy Press Secretary about this, you know, what she made it clear is that their focus is making sure that people get vaccinated, because outside of every other question that we have, they say that`s the one thing, the one thing that`s really going to get us out of this, which we already knew. But it`s starting to scare people around the country, right?
And you look in some of those southern states where people are getting vaccinated all of a sudden, that is because the Delta variant is scarier than people have originally thought with the other variants and with the original COVID-19. So the White House is focused on that. And when it comes to how the president is viewing it, he is seeing this as one following the science that is something that you can hear over and over and over. And I think they mean that, but also more importantly, the issue is that the science changes. So that makes politics a little bit more difficult.
JANSING: Yeah, you could you could tell his frustration, though, yesterday, he wasn`t even trying to hide it when he gave that press conference.
Barbara, I want to turn to these latest revelations about Trump`s efforts to stay in power. A lot of people might say, you know, well, we knew this. But as these kinds of cases go, how blatant, how audacious are Trump`s statements, and what strikes you is maybe different about where -- what we`re hearing today?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think these notes that have been disclosed, that the Justice Department wrote have the conversations with Donald Trump are really explosive. You have Donald Trump saying to the Justice Department, just say that there is corruption in the election and leave the rest to me. You know, that sounds to my ear an awful lot. Like what he asked the president of Ukraine when he asked him about doing us a favor. You may remember at the end it was, we don`t really need a real investigation into Joe Biden. I just need an announcement of an investigation into Joe Biden. That is enough for me to run with. And so this kind of disinformation and discord in the country, perhaps enough to be able to challenge elections throughout the country.
So it is, I think, not the end of the inquiry, but a very important step in the inquiry. I would imagine this is something that the January 6 commission is interested in looking at. I would also imagine that it`s something that the Justice Department who are investigating the origins of the January 6 uprising, are interested in learning as well. I think that is a very damning statement. And I feel very thankful that we had people of integrity at the Justice Department and Jeffrey Rosen and Richard Donahue, who wouldn`t go along with us. Imagine if we had somebody inside who had gone along with it. I shudder to think where we would be in that case.
JANSING: You know, honestly, Eugene, I don`t know how you folks who are working in Washington, how your heads don`t explode. There`s just so much going on all the time. You`ve got this, the January 6 Commission. We talked about COVID. How the White House is trying to deal with that. The bipartisan infrastructure plan is done yet, little movement on voting rights on police reform, all of them really key elements of the Biden agenda. And the House is in recess. The Senate is expected to leave a week from tonight, although Schumer has threatened to keep people here. What is the administration`s strategy for moving things along?
DANIELS: Yeah, I mean, right now, they`re kind of allowing Congress to do their thing. They`re behind the scenes. They`re having the conversations, you know, President Biden spent a lot of time in Congress, 36 years, eight years is kind of the emissary as Vice President at Capitol Hill. So he knows how to have these conversations. He worked with a lot of these members that are there now, especially some of these senators. And so that is their focus is trying to move all of these things along and ask their people all of the time, all the time. How do you guys keep all of these things going? Because you`re concentrating on one infrastructure bill, you have the $3.5 trillion bill that is causing some friction between House progressives and moderates in the Senate. So what do you do? And they say, we chew and walk -- we walk and chew gum at the same time. It`s easier said than done, because obviously, voting rights doesn`t seem like it`s going anywhere, though. They do have a built tax for this John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Police reform, like you said, is at a standstill, we have June or pass. It`s now August, tomorrow this weekend. And so they`ve missed a couple of deadlines there.
And so a lot going on and they know and this White House knows there`s not a lot of time to get things done. Because when January comes around, all eyes are going to be on 2022. And almost nothing is going to be able to get pushed through Congress.
JANSING: Yeah. And you still have these questions lingering about the other guy, the former guy, Barbara, how critical do you think this DOJ decision on Trump`s taxes is and can Trump drag this out the way he did before?
MCQUADE: I think this is a refreshing example of rectifying something that really should have been done in the first instance, the statute that is at issue here says words to the effect of, if the chair of the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives, seeks the records of any taxpayer, the Secretary of the Treasury shall furnish those records. It is very clear, the language is clear. And so the idea that in the past the Justice Department stonewalled those records was really wrong. And it was nice to see the Justice Department rectify that today by reversing itself and saying the statute is very clear shall mean shall.
Now one of the things that they -- it`s been reported tonight is that the Justice Department, the Treasury Department, and the House have agreed that they will not turn over these documents until Tuesday to give President Trump an opportunity to wage an objection. And so I think we`ve seen this movie before. I do think President Trump will file something and will seek to delay the production of these documents. I think he ultimately will lose, but I think he will fight it until he can fight no more.
JANSING: So, Dr. Patel, I want to go back to the questions that I know you`re hearing a lot from folks about the coronavirus. Let`s start if we can with the whole idea of boosters. Journalist and author Laurie Garrett wrote this in a column today for foreign policy. Waning vaccine efficacy coupled with a stubborn 1/5 of the adult population refusing any immunization has opened the door for the dangerous mutant Delta variant to wreak havoc among the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. That`s why the United States is going to need a third dose of mRNA vaccines for the nation`s older population. The triple play is already overdue.
You know Doctor, Israel is already given these boosters. When do we need to start having a serious conversation? How soon do we need guidance on this?
PATEL: Oh Chris, we`re past the point where we needed to start a serious conversation. It is not only way overdue. Laurie is right. This is something that we have seen data building not over weeks over months. And it`s exactly HIV, organ transplant, people on chronic suppressive medications, steroids. All of us including myself know somebody or have this diagnosis ourselves. So this is not as uncommon as one would think.
Here`s what`s holding it up. Let me just kind of put on my former regulatory hat. These are all emergency use authorization vaccines. And so technically, you are not allowed to even give a third dose. People are getting them illicitly, even at the recommendation of doctors who are smart. And they`re not allowed to because we`re under a EUA. So it brings forward, Chris, we need to get these vaccines approved. They should be done in a safe fashion. The data is overwhelming. It`s hard for me to tell a patient these vaccines are safe, and then constantly saying, well, then why isn`t the FDA approved that? They`ve got a process that they need to do it. And then absolutely, Chris, every academic and clinical physician I know, is clamoring for the ability to do these third doses. But then I also want to turn and just remind people that we can`t lose our sight on getting everyone first and second doses. And we still have 13 million people who got J&J. We need a little guidance on what to do for them as well. I think they need boosters, but which kind in what order are still up. But we`re past the point where we need advice. We need to move forward on action.
JANSING: Really quickly on these breakthrough infections, because a lot of Americans are worried about it, what do we need to know?
PATEL: Yeah, so what we need to know is that the majority of them are mild symptoms. But what is important is that you do need to isolate if you do get a breakthrough infection. And if you are presenting or think you have been in contact with someone, even if you`re vaccinated who has had symptoms, Chris, you do need to get tested. We want to bring as many people forward to get testing. So when in doubt, just check it out and get tested. That`s what I want people to know.
JANSING: When in doubt, check it out.
And Eugene, I want to go back to you before we take a break, with a kind of a late breaking tweet from Congresswoman Cori Bush, who tonight is trying to get Congress to extend the eviction moratorium. This is her tweet. Many of my Democratic colleagues chose to go on vacation early today rather than staying to vote to keep people in their homes. I`ll be sleeping outside the Capitol tonight. We`ve still got work to do. And she adds, reminding people that she was unhoused and lived in her car with her two babies for a time. Can something like this help move the needle?
DANIELS: It`s hard to say because a lot of people have already left, right? A lot of people have already moved on and they`re back in their districts. And they will be, you know, following their schedules that are already laid out. I will say though, it was kind of an extraordinary week when it came to the eviction moratorium conversation, because first of all, the Biden administration, when they called on Congress to do something was already a little bit late. And so there`s frustration from members of Congress, especially progressives, who say this should have been worked on before June 29, was when the Supreme Court said that Congress had to do something on eviction moratoriums for the CDC to be able to, and that did not happen. And they tried to let some last ditch efforts to do that. So there`s a lot of frustration with the Biden administration on that. And there`s a lot of frustration on the progressive sides with moderates who were leaving, who were saying they were going to go because, one, it`s not clear that people want to do this, right? If they really want to stay, they would have stayed. And those are the things -- that that`s one of the things that we know about members of Congress, they don`t like things getting in the way of them getting back home, but they will when they absolutely feel the need. And so people like Cori Bush, people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, they are still pushing this, but with everyone gone, there`s not much that can be done. And so that means that people may be getting evicted very soon. And people like Cori Bush, who used to sleep in the car, maybe back to doing just that during a pandemic and that`s something that health experts are very concerned about as the Delta variant, as we`ve been talking about continues to move through the United States.
JANSING: Eugene Daniels, Barbara McQuade, Dr. Kavita Patel, thank you all so much on this Friday.
Coming up, we`re going to talk to a doctor who says his Florida emergency room is getting crushed with a surge of COVID patients. How is this happening? And later, what problems may lay ahead for the only twice impeach Florida man if Congress gets a hold of his tax returns, the 11th Hour just getting underway on a Friday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALENSKY: I continue to be humbled by this virus. I have no interest in continuing mask guidance. And the best way to stop a new variant from spreading is to have less virus out there and the best way to do that is to get people vaccinated and to mask up until they are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: Right now, Florida is at the epicenter of the surge in coronavirus cases, due in large part to the Delta variant. The state reported more than 100,000 cases over the past week. That`s more than a 50% jump in just one week. Florida leads the nation in both COVID infections and hospitalizations.
We welcome back, Dr. Murtaza Akhter. He is an emergency physician at Florida International University and the University of Arizona`s College of Medicine in Phoenix. He joins us tonight from Miami.
Good to see you again, terrible circumstances Doctor. There is a doctor, a Tampa general who described this situation feeling as if we`re being hit by a train that train being COVID. How bad is the situation where you are right now?
DR. MURTAZA AKHTER, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA, COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yeah, that`s actually a great analogy. That`s what it feels like. The last few shifts I`ve had have been wicked stressful. And I`m used to this. I`ve been doing it for years. And I lived through the pandemic, including an Arizona where we`re a hotspot. And I don`t know if I got soft, or just it really is that bad. But we are in rough, rough straits in the emergency department, huge backups, massive delays. And it`s extremely stressful for us to try to see everyone and remember they`re very sick. So I think feeling like you got hit by a train is exactly right. Every day you wake up and get hit again.
JANSING: Wow. And what are you hearing from patients? I mean, a lot of that -- a lot of the things we`ve been hearing from doctors around the country is that they tell them too late. I wish I`d gotten vaccinated, but give us a sense of just sort of what you`re hearing from the folks who come in and they`re clearly sick with COVID?
AKHTER: Yeah, you get the patience to regret. Maybe Miami is a special place because there are a lot of people who don`t have regret at all. I had a patient recently who she would rather die of COVID, then be vaccinated. Imagine the irony of that, you know, begging for help --
JANSING: What do you say to that?
AKHTER: It`s hard to rationalize that because in our minds, we`re thinking, well, what do you want us to do in the ER, if your goal is to die? Obviously, we`re there to help everyone and save everyone. But you`ve got a very effective treatment, you`re using it, it begs the question, what are you doing emergency department in particular, but you`re also taking beds away from other people who`ve been trying to do the right thing? Of course, I`ve always had to treat everyone to the best of our ability. But it is anger inducing, ironic and dangerous.
JANSING: And incredibly sad. I mean, because we know how to deal with this, right? The Miami Herald reported today that South Florida hospitals have seen a rise in younger patients, again, something we`ve seen in some of the other hotspots, is that what you`re experiencing?
AKHTER: Yeah, I mean, as a matter of fact, I think part of that is almost not a surprise, the elderly have been very effectively vaccinated on a lot of parts of the country, including fairly well here. So the people who aren`t vaccinated often are younger, and therefore they`re not immune. And they`re the ones most likely to get the disease and to spread it. Just earlier today, I called a six month old, and then after recalling realize I can`t talk to a baby. I`ve talked to parents, and there`s so many kids who are coming with COVID. There`s so many young adults coming in with COVID. They`re not as believing of conspiracy theories. The worst of it is the middle aged adults who know they`re sick, have families of their own, and are refusing to get vaccinated. Everyone, please get vaccinated not to protect yourself, to protect their loved ones.
JANSING: So even if you`re seeing these cases among the young rise, Governor DeSantis, who we said earlier, isn`t letting schools mandate masks. Also said he`s not going to mask his own three kids. He said, like I want to be able to see them smile. And he said, and this is the important thing, there`s no evidence masks can prevent outbreaks at schools. Is that true? Do masks not work the same way as they do for everybody else?
AKHTER: You know, who`s not smiling? Kids with COVID. They actually look pretty miserable. And their parents aren`t happy either. And they`re really in dire straits when they go to ICU. Now, a grant, kids generally don`t get as sick as adults do but none, none of the kids I`ve seen who`ve been infected with COVID have been happy about it. Absolutely zero of them with a very tight confidence interval, we know from other countries, we know from other school systems, that masks are very effective. Listen, if 100% of the school is vaccinated, you probably don`t need a mask. But I know nobody under age 12 in this country is vaccinated. The only way of preventing transmission of disease if not vaccinated is distancing and masks. I feel like a broken record. But it`s still true.
JANSING: It does seem that well, it doesn`t just seem, we`ve heard about the numbers. And Joe Biden just talked about it today that we`re seeing more people getting vaccinated. There had been this law. We had this big push right at the beginning, then this big law. Now things seem to be picking up, since you`re around patients all the time, and you`re so deeply immersed in this is your sense that maybe what`s happening now, which is this horrific reliving of what everybody went through for a whole year, getting people to get vaccinated. Are you a little bit hopeful?
AKHTER: I hate to sound like a pessimist on national TV. But after the things I`ve seen, the people I`ve heard, I`m not sure that convincing people is exactly going to work. I do think that mandates could work. Remember, we`ve mandated a lot of things over the course of human history, including vaccines. So I think mandating the coronavirus vaccine, and particularly mRNA one, but really any one because they`re also really effective. I think mandating them could go a long way. Wouldn`t make it a crime to not get it, and remember, if you`re a hermit, you don`t need to be vaccinated or if you want a hazmat suit all the time. But if you`re interacting with other people, vaccination is the way to go. And I think that maybe we`re at the point where mandating them is the only way that`s going to significantly increase the rates.
JANSING: I just need to ask you before I let you go and, you know, it does stick with me that getting hit by a train analogy. How are the folks you`re working with doing?
AKHTER: Very fatigued. And the worst part is the residents I`m training are also for one getting infected despite being vaccinated, and two, having to deal with patients who are basically at odds with their treatment plan. As my resident told me just two nights ago, multiple times on shift, I`m beginning to lose empathy. I`m glad he still has some empathy left. I hope he doesn`t lose it. But there`s only so many times you can feel that way before it starts taking a toll on your long term one as well.
JANSING: Well, you just mentioned that some of them even though they`re vaccinated are getting COVID. How worried are you about these breakthrough infections?
AKHTER: While the actual percentage of it is still extremely low, it`s about less than 0.1 percent, not 1 but 0.1. And the ones who are sick enough to be hospitalized are very, very rare. And so none of our physicians who`ve been vaccinated, gotten infected have actually needed to be hospitalized, which is good news.
And remember, that`s the most important thing about the vaccine is not just preventing infection, but especially preventing severe infection and hospitalization. So that`s the good news.
But on the flip side, you do have to be concerned, especially in the health care setting, we`re all seeing patients that even if you`re feeling OK, you may be and you probably are able to transmit the disease, very important to wear masks, especially when you`re around people who are vaccinated.
JANSING: Dr. Murtaza Akhter, I can`t even thank you enough. I know how tired you must be. And I think that just getting this message out as often as we can is so important. So we really do appreciate it. Thank you.
AKHTER: Thank you.
JANSING: Coming up. Why to big wins and for Democrats in Congress this week could mean trouble for the former guy when the 11th Hour continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEAL KATYAL, FMR. ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: This was an attempted coup and attempt to steal an election and weaponizing the Justice Department in the process that`s both illegal and pretty much the most unAmerican thing you can come up with in your wild imagination.
JANSING: More reaction tonight to those stunning new details on just how the twice impeached former president tried to overturn an election, including telling the DOJ to quote, just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me.
Bill Kristol put it bluntly, this was the closest we`ve ever come to a genuine presidential usurpation. But that wasn`t the only major development coming from the Attorney General`s Justice Department today. The DOJ reversed an earlier decision and now says the IRS must release six years of Trump`s tax returns to House investigators.
Just a few days ago, the Justice Department said it won`t move to block former Trump officials from testifying to the January 6 Select Committee so plenty to talk about tonight with Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, professor and assistant dean at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin, and the aforementioned Bill Kristol, author, writer, thinker and Politico veteran of the Reagan and bush administration`s and editor-at-large at the Bulwark. Great to see you both.
Bill Kristol put it in perspective for us. How does Trump`s pressure on the DOJ reveal how close we came to usurping the presidency?
BILL KRISTOL, THE BULWARK EDITOR-AT-LARGE: You know, Chris, the events of January 6 are so dramatic and of course brought back into high relief with by the very moving testimony of the of the Capitol Police officers this week.
The one tends to forget a little bit about what happened between November 3 and January 6. What happened behind the scenes where Trump tried to do not in public, with the justice department, with the defense department, with state election officials in Michigan and Georgia, in pretty systematic effort to overturn the election, which is pretty amazing. The sitting president is something we -- have not really happened in the U.S., a sitting president trying to reverse the verb to people and stay in office using the instrumentalities of government. He fires the Secretary of Defense. He forces out basically the Attorney General.
Luckily, the Deputy Attorney General who we thought would be more pliant seems to have resisted him and that call that was released today. He thought about getting rid of him and trying to replace him with a more cooperative person to run the Justice Department came close to replacing the FBI and CIA directors.
I think when you put it all together, and I hope to hear me freely do this in a systematic way. We`ll both be shocked by the incredible irresponsibility and callousness of fostering an attack on the Capitol, obviously, but also by this much more systematic effort to overturn the election and really see the depth of what how, as Neil Katyal said is how unAmerican what Trump tried to do was and then be astounded that one of our two major parties still seems to regard him as leader.
JANSING: Yes, Victoria. So with these revelations of just how much pressure was put on DOJ pushing these baseless claims, we also have the ruling that former Trump officials can be subpoenaed by the January 6 Select Committee. Would you expect not just that committee, potentially others to move maybe quickly? I mean, team Trump, of course, is probably going to push back and once again, is framing it all as a witch hunt, but how do you see it playing out?
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, MNSBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think that what we have seen over the course of this week, Chris, you know, with the testimony from the January 6 Commission, and then what we saw from the DOJ just really highlights how close we came to the edge because this isn`t supposed to happen in the United States.
I think that the other piece of this that you mentioned earlier in Trump giving up his tax returns. Well, this to me, I`m standing way back, maybe three steps back. This to me is about the branch of Congress reasserting checks and balances because what we saw during the whole Trump presidency, and especially during that interim of the election in January 6 was an unbridled president. We`ve seen presidential power grow over the last several decades, and it really ballooned under Trump.
So this is where we see the need for a Congress to come and reassert itself. And even though it may seem minor now because Trump is out of office, and it`s more of about a criminal issue. The fact that they can check his power because he might have been beholden to foreign powers while he was president is crucial to securing our democratic institutions, because really, this is at the end of the day about small d democratic theory.
JANSING: So Bill Kristol, Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal writes this about the January 6 Commission, members of the Republican leadership are making a huge error and how they are responding to the committee. They misunderstand their own position. They should be quietly trying to push away from the disaster by leaving it on Mr. Trump and his White House, not their own party.
And then she went on to criticize Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Is too late do you think Bill for Republicans to change course and as Peggy put it, they all everybody involved.
KRISTOL: Well, they could do it, I suppose. And maybe they will. And it`s better if they do, then they don`t. But Peggy puts in a tactical way all it`s unwise for them. It`s wrong, what they`re doing, it`s not a matter of oh, they would be better off politically to distance themselves. And so far, they don`t think they`re better off, let it be to just stuff too much. Some of them are distancing themselves a little bit. But this needs to be unequivocally repudiated, it hasn`t.
ANSING: But Bill, here`s what I want -- what do you think? I understand the money part of it, because you put Trump in a fundraising email, and the dollars just come rolling in. But from, again, a strategic tactical point of view he lost The White House, he lost the Senate, he lost the House. And now like we`re seeing in Texas, people who he`s supporting are losing. So I`m just from any kind of perspective, how does this work?
KRISTOL: They don`t see it quite that way. They picked up House seats, they almost won the Senate, they have to lose those two Georgia elections. They`d like to have all the energy of Trump, all the demagoguery that`s successful. Let`s not kid ourselves that Trump engaged in. And so to get rid of the less attractive aspects of it. I don`t think you can do that. They don`t have the courage to repudiate him. They`re scared of course, the primary challenges.
So I think for, you know, one can step back and say, oh, it`s unwise for them to do this. But, you know, they`re not doing so but they will think they`re doing badly. Does Kevin McCarthy think he`s going to lose the House in November 2022? To most pundits, you have on, Chris, you talked to intelligent people think, no, they think Republicans have a decent chance, right? They don`t think that the Republicans have a decent chance in 2024. Unfortunately, I would say honestly, they do despite the lack of repudiation. They have not paid a price in a very fundamental way.
Yes, who`s paid a price? Liz Cheney paid a price. Kevin McCarthy hasn`t the price. Mitch McConnell hasn`t paid a price. The huge number of Republicans who voted to overturn the elections on January 6, they haven`t paid a price.
JANSING: Let`s talk a little bit Victoria about something I hear all the time from Democrats. They want to see Donald Trump`s taxes. The DOJ says the IRS has to release them. Democrats say that`s a victory for congressional oversight and national security. But there`s a little different take from Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDOE CLIP)
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): I don`t see this as a great victory. I see it as a single failure of the system. It took two years to adjudicate this and to get the Department of Justice to finally agree that yes, you`re entitled to see those tax returns. The American people were entitled to know while he was in office, and that might have materially affected by the way, the two impeachments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: So quickly, Victoria, is this a better late than never scenario? How important do you think it is? The Congress could see those returns now?
SOTO: I do. I do think it is better late than never. And going back to what I said earlier, I think that structurally, Congress needs to be able to flex that muscle. Now that being said, we know the playbook that Donald Trump is going to use. It`s the witch hunt is what was very successful in him defending himself in his first impeachments and the second impeachment.
But quickly to one of the points Bill made. I think that the question here isn`t so much what is Trump staying power, but rather, what is the staying power of folks coming after him? Is the Ron DeSantis going to be able to make any headway?
Trump has been slowly but surely losing a little bit of ground. He doesn`t have Twitter. He doesn`t have the bully pulpit. He lost his candidate here in Texas who he endorsed lost. But my question is, what is the larger influence of Trumpism in 2.0, and the folks that come after him, and that`s really what I`m looking at now, instead of just Trump.
JANSING: Victoria and Bill are staying with us. Coming up after a quick break, the push to protect voting rights could gain some crucial traction next week, but one party may still get in the way. We`ll talk about it when the 11th Hour continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENFRONIA THOMPSON (D) TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I love constituents. I love my constituents, children`s children, to be able to enjoy the freedom that has given them.
NICOLE COLLIER (D) TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: We need Congress to act and we need them to act now. We are here in person because that`s how important it is to protect everyone`s freedom to vote. And we will keep fighting with everything we have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: Texas Democrats still pleading for federal protections on voting rights. And here`s yet another reason why Republicans in Georgia are actively trying to take over elections in a crucial Democratic stronghold. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports quote, State Representative john Jones and four other House Republican legislators sent a letter Friday demanding a review of Fulton County`s election management, a critical step in Georgia`s new voting law that must take place before the state election board can overhaul a County`s election board.
Still with us Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Bill Kristol. Victoria, you know this, voting rights activists are capping a four-day march for democracy with a rally where you are at the Texas Capitol tomorrow. The Reverend Barber said look democracies in trouble. If we say this is the worst attack since the Civil War, the answer has to be massive. What needs to happen here?
SOTO: We need to see a movement. And it`s really very much looking at the playbook of the 1950s. What was that playbook that was pushing against over two dozen Jim Crow laws that restricted voting across the American South. We`re starting to see the same thing, Chris.
So what we`re seeing in the site is folks going to Washington. I`m going to assert my Texas bias here. But I really think that the presence of the Texas Democrats from the legislature here has really helped keep this in the spotlight.
But then at the same time, you see the grassroots marches. This civil disobedience we saw with Sheila Jackson Lee getting arrested yesterday. We see the march going to culminate in Washington, DC a month from now. All of these pieces together are what is causing this movement, because look, at the end of the day, the Republicans and legislatures across the southern states and some other states as well have the number.
But as a result of that you see the pressing need of mobilization from all of these different areas, as we`re seeing right now. But ultimately, it has to be a federal level of protection, just like we saw in 1985.
JANSING: So if that`s the goal, Bill Kristol, for folks who want to do something about voting rights, protecting people`s right to vote. The President met with democratic leadership on passing a narrower voting rights bill. But really, what are the chances that Republicans are going to really negotiate here, be willing to get on board with something?
KRISTOL: I don`t know that the chances of any or so in many Republicans coming on board are at all good. But I will say this, they`ve done what people thought they couldn`t do, which is I think they`re about to come up with a consensus bill, which Senator Manchin has helped write which will be net more narrower and narrower or targeted voting rights bill and an election integrity bill. Preventing the overturning of elections by Republican legislators and with other provisions as well, including voter national voter federal requirements for some voter ID, which conservatives might like.
They`ve come up with a bill. They`ll have it next week. They`re also going to introduce a new version of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act next week. I think they`ll end up being merged. And the meeting this afternoon in the White House was important, I think. The President, the Vice President, the Speaker, and Majority Leader Schumer, hour, I was told went over an hour, and I was told they focused almost entirely on voting rights. They have a lot to talk about.
KRISTOL: Those people going to talk about COVID and infrastructure. So I think they`re serious and I think they`re going to try to get some Republicans once they have the bill next week, but I -- and then they`ll see if they can get any. But if not, I now think the odds are bigger and better than I would have thought --
KRISTOL: -- they going to that they`ll come together to adjust the filibuster on this one issue because I do think they`re convinced as Victoria was saying, how urgent and important this is.
JANSING: We`re going to keep watching it. Bill Kristol, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, great to have both of you tonight. Thanks so much for staying up with us.
And coming up, the destructive weather story that nearly flew under the radar when the 11th Hour continues.
JANSING: A big chunk of our country is recovering tonight after deadly storms tour across five states. At least a dozen tornadoes have touched down just over the past couple of days. Our report tonight from NBC News correspondent Rehema Ellis.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
REHEMA ELLIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Pennsylvania, a path of destruction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got a major building collapse.
ELLIS: After a powerful tornado tore through areas around Philadelphia, ripping the roof off this car dealership injury five.
FRED HARRAN, BENSALEM POLICE DEPARTMENT: But just look at a bomb went off. You know I`ve been doing this for 34 years. I never saw that kind of devastation.
ELLIS: Elsewhere trees uprooted. Power lines down as heavy rain pounded the area. And in New Jersey, at least three tornadoes barreled across the state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We lost power. And then we`re just hearing pop, pop, pop, pop all our back windows were blowing out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It went on for about three, four minutes and then this is what we were left with.
ELLIS: This waterspout formed in nearby Bethany Beach, Delaware. Two other tornadoes striking Ohio. In Virginia, damaging wind and hail. Earlier, a tornado from the same system hit was constantly being one man dead.
Experts say despite this summer severe weather, it might not be related to climate change, as tornadoes typically strike as far north as Canada. Tonight, a perfect storm of violent weather. Rehema Ellis, NBC News.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
JANSING: We`re back with more of the 11th Hour after a quick break.
JANSING: The last thing before we go tonight a quick update on the drama out of Tokyo tonight where right now it is nearly one in the afternoon. American swimmer Katie Ledecky pulled off the three-peat tonight. She won her third gold medal in the 800 meter freestyle, her fourth medal from these Olympics and she says that rumors of her retirement are premature. She has not done swimming yet.
Caeleb Dressel, meanwhile, was expected to dominate in the 100 meter butterfly final and boy did he capturing his third gold medal of these games and setting a world record.
And the U.S. women`s soccer team takes on Canada in the semifinals Monday. But if you saw the game today, it was a nail biter shootout victory over the Netherlands.
That is our broadcast for this Friday night with our thanks for being with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.