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

Guests: Barbara McQuade, Frank Figliuzzi, Cornell Belcher, Stuart Stevens


The search at the site of a collapsed Florida condominium building is shifting from a rescue effort to a recovery operation as the likelihood of finding survivors diminishes. President Joe Biden is continuing his infrastructure push going to an Illinois county of that Trump won to try to build a coalition of support. Haitian President shot and killed at his home. Kevin McCarthy is expected to name GOP reps for riot committee. Former President Donald Trump sues tech giants for "censorship" and "canceling." DOJ faced with sprawling January 6 investigation. Biden is under pressure to respond to Russian hacking. Texas Republicans, heading into special legislative session, file new voting bill.



LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: We are lucky to be able to talk with Eric Holder tomorrow night about that and much more. That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening once again, I`m Ali Velshi in for Brian Williams. Day 169 of the Biden administration. The desperate effort to find survivors at the site of that deadly Surfside, Florida condo collapse has now been underway for some two weeks, but in less than an hour that effort will officially transition from rescue to recovery.

Earlier this evening, the mayor of Miami-Dade County praised the work of the tireless rescuers as she announced the difficult decision.


MAYOR DANIELLA LAVINE CAVA, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: They`ve used every possible strategy. They`ve removed over 7 million pounds of concrete and debris from the mount. They`ve used sonar, cameras, dogs, heavy machinery, they ran into a building, they were told could collapse. And they braved fire smoke, torrential rain, and strong winds in the hopes of finding people alive. At this point we have truly exhausted every option available to us to share this news with the families this evening who are still missing their loved ones was devastating. So the decision to transition from rescue to recovery is an extremely difficult one.


VELSHI: A few hours ago first responders joined rescuers and officials on site to mark the transition with a moment of silence. The number of people killed in the collapse now stands at 54, 86 remain on accounted for. This afternoon the mayor offered this painful reminder.


CAVA: Every single victim uncovered his somebody`s child, somebody`s mother, somebody`s teacher, somebody`s colleague, a classmate, a best friend.


VELSHI: The mayor also noted that President Biden who visited Surfside just last week had called to offer more assistance. The President was back out on the road today trying to sell his American families plan, a sweeping proposal to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds for social programs including child care, health care, and education.

Today he was pitching the plan to voters in Crystal Lake Illinois, a suburban swing district northwest of Chicago and area won by his Republican predecessor, but represented by Democrats in Congress. It was his first visit to Illinois since winning the White House, he urged Congress to pass the plan along with the bipartisan infrastructure agreement.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: What I want to talk to you about today is the human infrastructure to truly build an economy from the bottom up in the middle out, to truly deal everybody in this time. We need to invest in our people. Why American families plan to the other elements of the bill back better agenda, experts in Wall Street, analyst have said that we will create millions of good paying jobs for years and decades to come.


VELSHI: Political reports that bipartisan infrastructure that the bipartisan infrastructure deal could hit the Senate floor as early as the week of July 19. There`s another urgent issue now on the President`s agenda. Biden is under increasing pressure to respond to the latest ransomware attack believed to be the work of a Russia based gang.

This morning he met with senior aides about the hack. The New York Times reports that meeting included officials from the Department of Justice and Homeland Security. The White House also keeping a close eye on the situation in Haiti, overnight unknown assailant stormed the residence of Haiti`s president fatally shooting him and leaving his wife critically wounded. She has been airlifted to a medical facility in Florida.

Haiti`s interim Prime Minister says the nation is now under a "state of siege," and there are increasing fears the assassination could set off a new wave of violence plunging Haiti into chaos.


BIDEN: We need a lot more information but it`s been very worrisome about the state of Haiti.


VELSHI: Tonight Haitian officials say four suspects in the assassination have been killed and two are under arrest. In this country, one of the remaining reminders of the political violence that erupted in Washington six months ago will soon be removed. The United States Capitol Police say temporary fencing installed around the Capitol following the January 6 riot will begin coming down as early as Friday. They add the temporary fencing could be re installed if needed.

On another front House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is said to be speaking to Republican members of his conference about serving on the House Select Committee to investigate the insurrection. He is expected now to appoint five members to the panel, more on that development coming up. But you will recall that after the capital riot the twice impeached ex- president was booted off social media. When the tech company leaders concluded that his posts were increasing the risk of real world violence.

Well, today Donald Trump announced that he is suing Twitter, Facebook, Google and their respective CEOs as lawsuits threat comes one month after Facebook upheld its temporary ban against him and Twitter, once his favorite platform permanently banned him. Trump argues that those bans imposed by private social media companies amounted to an infringement of his first amendment rights.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Were asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida to order and immediate halt to social media companies` illegal shameful censorship. We`re demanding an end to the shadow banning, a stop to the silencing and a stop to the blacklisting, banishing and canceling. If they can do it to me they can do it to anyone.


VELSHI: Almost immediately, the disgraced former president began fundraising off the threatened lawsuit. There is a new development concerning one of his former lawyers, who`s now barred from practicing law in yet another us jurisdiction. DC`s highest court has suspended Rudy Giuliani`s license, a move that was triggered after New York State suspended Giuliani`s license last month.

Meanwhile, in New York City, the essential workers who remained on the job during the COVID pandemic were honored today with a ticker tape parade down the canyon of heroes. The city was once the epicenter of the outbreak in this country yet even with the recent retreat of the virus, thanks to mass vaccinations, health experts are closely watching the spread of new variants.

Today the CDC confirmed the highly contagious Delta variant is now the dominant strain here in the United States.

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Wednesday night, Peter Baker, the veteran journalist and author, he`s the Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Barbara McQuade, a veteran, federal prosecutor and former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She worked with the Department of Justice during the Biden transition. She is a professor at her alma mater University of Michigan Law School, and co host of the podcast Sisters In Law, along with Joyce Vance, Jill Wine-Banks and Kimberly Atkins Stohr, and Ron Insana, Author, Veteran Business Journalist, and a CNBC, Senior Analysts.

Good evening to all three of you. Thank you for being here. Peter, let`s start with President Biden in Illinois in a district that actually his predecessor, one, but a Democrat represents in Congress, not entirely solid, Democratic ground but his American families plan that he was pitching today. And the JOBS Act, the infrastructure bill, are both much more popular in America than Republicans in Congress would have you believe?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, you`ve got a president here, unlike his predecessor, who is trying to build on his coalition who is trying to go beyond the people who voted for him a few months ago to expand his support base and his approval rating right now is hovering in the 50%, low 50% reign higher than Trump ever got.

Remember, President Trump didn`t actually try to expand his base. He stuck with the people who brought him there, he thought he could reproduce that same, you know, sort of inside straight that won the Electoral College but not the popular vote a second time it didn`t work out. President Biden is taking a more traditional view of politics where he`s trying to reach out to districts where he has a chance of winning over people and he`s trying to appeal them with programs like his social spending, infrastructure plan, the idea of saying that the government is going to take a more active role in improving people`s lives in a way that it hasn`t done in a generation.

VELSHI: It`s appealing, Ron Insana, to Americans all over this country, the idea of more jobs, higher wages, investments in their communities. What we are hearing from a lot of Republicans, however, is that all of this government activity, this assistance to people that stopping them from taking jobs, all of it contributes to an overheating in the economy and inflation. What do you make of that?

RON INSANA, CNBC SENIOR ANALYST: Well, you know, I think that`s an overheated degree of rhetoric among some who suggest that inflation is more than just transitory as the Federal Reserve has described it, we`ve seen some disruptions in the supply chain around the world that were created shortages of various different commodities, partly result of the pandemic and other reasons. I happen to agree with the Fed. I think this inflation pop is temporary. I think the economy is growing at an extraordinarily fast clip, the fastest since Ronald Reagan.

I don`t think it`s yet in danger of overheating though, Ali, because we still have eight and a half million unemployed people. Now we got a number of job openings released this morning, and there are over 9 million jobs available and so until those are filled, and until you see inflation become a more permanent problem, which I actually thought will happen. I don`t think it`s something we ought to be worried about. We ought to worried about getting back to full employment and getting the economy on a sustainable growth path for the long term.

VELSHI: Barbara McQuade on our air you talked about Trump`s chances in this lawsuit against the social media giants. I think you said there were little to none. Since then his lead attorney has been on Fox commenting on your comments, suggesting that the social media companies actually can be subject to first amendment censorship laws, even though they`re private companies. I don`t mean to get you into a tit for tat, but they are private companies. The First Amendment`s it speaks about government censorship.

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yeah, the first five words of the First Amendment, Congress shall make no law abridging the right to free speech. It requires government action. It`s about protecting the rights of all of us from government overreach. And so Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, these are all private companies. They don`t have first amendment rights that that can be recovered for on in a lawsuit, is as if, Ali, you had a gathering, it`s your home, and somebody came in, started screaming and inciting violence in your home, you could ask him to leave if he was disrupting your other guests. It`s exactly the same thing when it comes to social media companies. So I think this lawsuit is going nowhere.

VELSHI: But there might be some purposes of this lawsuit. You surmise that this might actually be exactly what happened today, Trump announced a lawsuit. First thing he did after that is he announced fundraising.

MCQUADE: Yeah, I think, you know, there are a couple motives that might be animating this lawsuit. Number one is a district getting the indictment from last week off the headlines out of the newspapers about the statement of the Trump Organization, and Allen Weisselberg, and instead, once again, President Trump using this as an opportunity to express a grievance and raise funds off it. And, you know, the line he used that you played in that clip is just so telling, he has structured this as a class action, not just himself see all others who are similarly situated, other people kicked off of social media, you know, this is his cry of, if they can do this to me they can do this to you. And so that is a manipulation tactic that we see President Trump use constantly. And I think this lawsuit is not going to go anywhere. And I think one of the tells is, if you were to expect this lawsuit to advance, he would have to produce discovery, about his conduct on January 6, the topic of his -- from the social media companies, he most certainly doesn`t want to go there. And he certainly knows you won`t have to because this lawsuit will be dismissed summarily.

VELSHI: But he did. He was asked about that, Peter Baker, today about his role on January 6, listen to what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you do to stop the insurrection as some people call it and why were you not able to stop it?

TRUMP: So that whole event, unfortunate event, just went through Congress and a report was issued and my name wasn`t even mentioned.


VELSHI: So Peter, the report that Donald Trump talks about issued by the Senate last month does mention Donald Trump`s name. In fact, he never mentions it that the report mentions the name more than 40 times. But he, Donald Trump refers to it as an unfortunate event, the unfortunate event of January 6, what does this tell you about how he sees himself in relation to January 6 and the insurrection?

BAKER: Well, first of all, that report, of course, wasn`t examining the actions of the President. That`s one thing that the Congress has been debating, how to do that, how to have a thorough, more fulsome, more comprehensive study of the event of the insurrection or the violence of the riot, whatever word you want to use on January 6, and of course, we saw a partisan those that ended the possibility of select commission, a 9/11 style commission outside of government.

So Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House has created a party line, you know, commission that will be run by Democrats and Republicans who are currently officeholders with Liz Cheney, one of the Republicans voted for impeachment, serving among our Democratic appointees. That may or may not get us to a consensus view of what happened, unfortunately, because it almost certainly will be a partisan exercise, even if Kevin McCarthy does appoint members to that condition.

But the reason why hasn`t Trump hasn`t been scrutinized as much because we haven`t had an instrument to do that. And I think President Trump`s actions remain unexplained that day. The question that was asked to him that day is one that has remained unanswered. What did he do and when did he do it? What did he know? And what did he know? He put when he`s told as far as we understand that there are, his own vice president is in danger. He doesn`t take any action that we saw that he has explained to us to protect or, you know, just rescue his vice president much less than members of Congress who are under threat. He has to be talked into putting out a video by his staff late in the day, one that seems to actually still encouraged the rioters even as he`s saying they should go home, he says, we love you. And so I think that his actions that day of course are up for scrutiny I think of, you know, has not really been fully explained to the public yet because he`s not faced any accountability, kind of, you know, structure either a commission or a legal proceeding of any sort.

VELSHI: And Ron while the concept of a legal commission or something of that occupies a lot of people on Capitol Hill, it does not seem to be occupying the President of the United States who seems uniquely focused on getting this infrastructure bill, what they call the American JOBS Act, and the American family plan that he was talking about in Illinois today. You and I are old enough business reporters remember a day when infrastructure was bipartisan. There got to be some Republicans who`d like to notch this up as a victory to get some money spent on infrastructure in their constituencies. But it`s getting, it`s fighting -- it`s having a hard time getting full bipartisan support.

INSANA: Yeah, there`s a sudden preoccupation with debt and deficits that hasn`t really existed for the last several years. And so, you know, almost immediately, we`ve got this now contentious environment around even something as basic and neglected as the fundamental, hard infrastructure of the United States. We know about roads, tunnels and bridges and the district parent, which we find them. And it is odd that there is a bridge is literally a gap, I should say, between the two parties on this, no matter how much you spend, whether it`s a trillion dollars, only half of which is new money, this should be for everyone, effectively an automatic pass, it is desperately needed. It`s been neglected and even the soft infrastructure that the President has talked about, when you discuss trying to get people back to work mothers, 2 million of whom have left the workforce to oversee, you know, a hybrid or Distance Education during the pandemic, 3 million people have retired, Ali, as you well know, prematurely. We have to do almost everything we can to get people back to work and encourage them to do so whether it`s hard infrastructure, or soft infrastructure, otherwise the economy can`t grow at its fullest potential. And if that`s the case, you know, debt and deficits will be just one of our worries going forward.

VELSHI: And Peter, what`s the sense of it at the White House? It almost seems like the White House is saying congressional Democrats can deal with the January 6, Donald Trump stuff. We`re focused on other stuff.

BAKER: Well, I think that`s right. You`re seeing a remarkably and probably surprisingly disciplined President Biden, that`s not something Joe Biden was known for over his career in the Senate, where he was, you know, known as a gaffe machine at time saying things off script. He has been remarkably, you know, discipline and sticking to his message and his program, his agenda, he has avoided the traps so far for the most part of speaking out on issues that people would like him to speak out on, whether it be on January 6, whether it be on, you know, a lot of the culture war stuff that Republicans would like to hear him speak about and get gauge amount of debate. Instead, he has basically tried to say, look at these are the things I want to get through, I`ve got a limited amount of time. I`ve got a very narrow majority in the Senate and House to work with. There`s no time to waste on, you know, what he considers to be distraction. So you`re right. He stayed very, very focused on getting through the agenda that he wants to get through. He may not get there, but won`t be because he didn`t spend enough time focusing on it.

VELSHI: Thank you to the three of you this evening, Peter Baker, Barbara McQuade and Ron Insana for kicking us off.

Coming up sure looks like Vladimir Putin is ignoring Joe Biden`s warning about cyber attacks. So now what? A former top FBI counterintelligence official is standing by.

And later, the top House Republican is about to make a big decision whether to try and own the libs or help hold insurrectionists accountable. We`ll get into Kevin McCarthy`s 1/6 committee dilemma. THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on a Wednesday night.



MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: This is Vladimir Putin, he`s -- of course, he`s going to test us. Of course, he`s going to listen to that and not respond and tell there is a greater response from our side. And I think now is the moment I think that the President rightly drew some red lines said you have to not do this. President Putin said that you make my day to see if you can stop me. And now I think the administration has to respond more forcefully.


VELSHI: The President met with top national security officials today after reports of two more Russian cyber attacks on Sunday, a Russian based group claimed responsibility for what may be the largest ransomware attack on the United States in history. And there are reports that a Republican National Committee contractor was also targeted.

The New York Times reporting, "It was unclear whether the REvil and R.N.C. attacks were related. But they are a test for Mr. Biden, just three weeks after he held his first meeting as president with Mr. Putin, one in which he demanded that the Russian leader rein in ransomware activities against the United States."

Back with us tonight is Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for counterintelligence. He`s also the host of the new podcast, The Bureau.

Frank, good to see you, my old friend. I want to play for you what President Biden said after meeting with Vladimir Putin in Geneva last month, and let`s talk about it.


BIDEN: I pointed out to him that we have significant cyber capability. And he knows it. He doesn`t know exactly what it is, but it`s significant. And if, in fact, they violate these basic norms, we will respond with cyber. He knows, in the cyber way.


VELSHI: Let`s talk about that. That was pretty clear. You heard Mike McFaul talking about a red line. Does what happened this weekend, the last two events that we`ve heard about, does that constitute crossing that red line?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: I`m going to say probably not, Ali. And here`s why. This is fraught with peril, and we don`t have clear plans for this. The Pentagon for centuries has had, has drawn up war plans. They know what to do if this happens on the battlefield or that happens in terms of an attack. We don`t really have this played out in terms of if they do this, we do that. It`s easy for us to say we need a tougher response. And yes, we do but exactly what that response are and who should be and what the repercussions will be.

I`m not sure have been played out and I`m not sure the American people understand that we are quietly going to war almost every day, almost every holiday weekend, which is when these attacks come by adversaries believe we`re on vacation the I.T. specialists will take time to respond and notice the attack. We`ve had it on Christmas. We`ve had it on Memorial Day. We`ve had it now on July 4. And what`s happening is we`re almost unable to see the difference between a nation state actor like we`ve seen before, for example, with the R.N.C. contracting hack that looks like Russian intelligence service. But then we see this other attack on a software management firm for businesses shut down 800 supermarkets in Sweden, countless other clients that looks more like REvil, which is a Russian based but criminal organization. Very tough to say, let`s do this without understanding what the repercussions.

VELSHI: Well, let`s talk about REvil. There is new reporting out that the computer code behind this massive ransomware attack that we just saw, was designed to bypass computers that principally use the Russian language or the language of countries that are friendly with the Kremlin.

Now, I don`t know what we`re supposed to make of that the reporting by Ken Dilanian suggests that these people are sort of getting away with this, with the sanction of their governments. And if they know they don`t target people in Russia, or friendly countries, they`re more likely to be left alone for a while. What does that mean? Are these people encouraged by the Russian government? Are they part of the Russian government? Or are they just -- the Russian just happy that they`re there needling the West?

FIGLIUZZI: This is about as close as you`re going to get to state sponsored terrorism in the cyber world. Ken Dilanian has this right. The code in these ransomware attacks is written so that it will never attack Russian targets. That seems to be Vladimir Putin telling these organizations, hey, I`m going to give you license to operate here. I`ve got your back. Just don`t ever let this unleash on one of our companies or one of our agencies. That`s essentially state sponsorship. That`s why you`re going to see our entire U.S. intelligence community, NSA, CIA, FBI, directed even at these criminal organizations, because they`re so closely tied to the Russian government. They present a national security concern for the United States.

VELSHI: So what`s the end game for Putin here? Because these ransomware attacks hold people`s information ransom for money, they get that money. Unlike a normal terrorist attack that we`re familiar with, there`s some -- there`s something to be gained from it. What`s the endgame here?

FIGLIUZZI: Well, first, let`s remember Putin simply wants to sow discord and chaos and undermine our democracy. We`ve seen what that looks like in election cycles. Now we`re seeing what it looks like in food, attacks on our food supply with JBS, attacks on our fuel supply with Colonial and you`re going to continue to see this kind of thing. We`ve -- he wants to sow discord, disarray, it`s almost all he`s got left, Ali, his economy is suffering, sanctions have indeed, taken a bite out of him. He`s kind of a second tier country without, you know, without his army, he`s got almost nothing. So he`s got this to play with and may wreak havoc with what we`ve got to do is shore up our defenses in our critical infrastructure. And we`ve got those, have those war plans ready if he does this against our critical infrastructure, we will do this. Let`s think that through quickly, it`s landed on Joe Biden`s desk. Like it or not, he`s the guy who`s going to deal with it. He`s got to confront this.

VELSHI: Frank, always good to see you in front of that beautiful depiction of desert landscape. We will talk again soon. Frank Figliuzzi, he`s a former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence. And he`s the host of the podcast, The Bureau.

Coming up, each day brings new reasons to ask how much outrage Republicans are willing to tolerate in the pursuit of power. We`ll ask two former campaign insiders, where this is all going when THE 11TH HOUR continues.


VELSHI: As we mentioned, NBC News reports House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is expected to appoint Republicans to the Select Committee investigating the January 6 riot. His decision over who to appoint could have major consequences.

As Politico reports, quote, the path he takes could shape his political future as the eyes the speaker`s gavel in 2023. Among McCarthy`s members who have already lived through two Trump impeachment, somewhat the GOP leader to pick fighters, skilled enough to withstand a month long bombardment from Democrats trying to use the Select Committee to spotlight the former president`s role in the deadly capital attack led by his supporters, end quote.

With me now to talk about all of this is Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster who worked on both the president -- both the President Obama`s campaigns and with a number of House and Senate Democrats and Stuart Stevens, a veteran of Mitt Romney and George W. Bush`s presidential campaigns. He`s now with the Lincoln Project. Good evening to both of you.

Stuart, let me start with you. You know, Kevin McCarthy has gotten full circle on this thing. And in the day, and the day after January 6, he seemed to be in the right place about this understanding the danger that he and his Republican colleagues and Democratic colleagues and staff all faced on that day. Now he is simply an obstructionist. At some point, this is going to come back to bite him.

STUART STEVENS, THE LINCOLN PROJECT SENIOR ADVISER: Yes, I think he`s a lot worse than an obstructionist. I think he`s an anti-democratic autocrat, who is for democracy when they win and not for democracy when they lose, which means he`s not for democracy.

You know, a guy like Kevin McCarthy is an easy guy to dismiss. He`s sort of a buffoon that -- like shouldn`t be part of a perennial rush Chairman at some frat. But that doesn`t mean he`s not dangerous. And history is filled with people who seemed harmless to play dangerous roles in Indian (ph) democracy.

And we should take Kevin McCarthy very seriously and understand that he is does not have the same vision of a Democratic free democracy that most founders have.

VELSHI: Cornell, at some point, though, Nancy Pelosi has got this committee underway or is going to have this committee underway. She had the first move, she brought Liz Cheney in. Kevin McCarthy has a choice. He fills the five seats or he doesn`t fill the five seats.

Does it matter very much how he fills them? Obviously I`d like him to fill it filled with people who will fulfill their duty as members of Congress and investigate January 6, Kevin McCarthy probably doesn`t see it that way.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Well, I think it`s politically tough for them, you know, once you start down the road of lying, it`s kind of hard to get off that got that road. So I think it becomes tough to put serious minded, you know, the few series might have Republicans there that are in the caucus that want to take this seriously, because most of them have, quite frankly, have already sided with Donald Trump, and our -- in our full on and owning the big lie.

So politically, I think it becomes really tough for him to put members on this will take this series, you know, it becomes what Representative Gaetz says it becomes a sort of a Republican hunt committee for them politically, because if you started connecting the dots here, they`re all awful. There`s going to be an awful lot of Republicans here and Congress, who, frankly, went along with this, or at least, you know, gave it cover in a way that most middle Americans are not going to be comfortable with.

So in the end, I think he actually puts in on that committee a lot of folks who are in the end going to make theater of this. And I`m probably going to raise a lot of money from their base by going viral around this committee and is going to do our democracy a great disservice.

VELSHI: Stuart, how does that play out? Because I think Cornell may be right, that can be done. We`ve seen their members of Congress who can make theater out of these things. But in the end, when they go to their districts, has this big lie of permeated enough that they can get away with making theater of this, or are there going to be good, conservative people in this country who say, this is not what we stand for.

STEVENS: Well, I think there are some of those. But when we are looking for Republicans to do something out of principle, which is right for the country, we`ve just been continually disappointed. Listen, I think this is a war. And in any war, that the other side has a voice. And I think it`s really important to Democrats made 2022 a referendum on democracy.

2020 was a referendum on Trump. This is the next step. We have to elevate that to win a national election when you`re in power, you have to nationalize the election. It`s only been done three times in an off year in the last 125 years. I was part of that -- in 2002. And that was a nationalization about the Iraq war. This has to be a nationalization. This is a referendum on democracy. And if you elevate the stakes and get out of the process, and get out of this particular bill or that bill and make it big, I think the democrats can carry the day in 2022.

VELSHI: So Cornell, how does that play out? Because ultimately, you have to make it big. Because ultimately, that`s what`s there. We`re talking about it is about democracy, right? This is not about a little thing, or a little committee, it`s actually about a lie that has perpetuated a bigger lie that has got -- that has led to all sorts of things, rabbit holes that people are going down, including, we`ve got to keep the election secure. The elections in America are secure.

BELCHER: You know, as you say that because, Ali, I`ve been on the other side of them nationalized elections, and they`ve done it very successfully. While on the same side, Democrats have always historically been sort of cautious and about nationalize -- nationalizing elections. Republicans have done very well when they`ve nationalized election, but spot on. Right.

And it is about -- the big picture here is Middle America, all those suburban districts, especially, you know, these suburban college educated white women who gave Democrats a chance in 2018, and gave Biden a chance and in 2020, who have historically been breaking more Republican and Democrat.

You know, does, you know, does your future and your children`s future look brighter if Republicans succeed in undermining democracy has to be on the ballot in this upcoming midterm election?

Now, I am with my Republican friend here on this idea that we should nationalize this and make this about democracy. Ali, I`ve got to bring some of my Democratic friends along on this, because they will try to make it about everything except about the big picture of democracy. And I think that`s where Democrats are off on their messaging on this, but I have faith that we can help bring them along on say, more nationalizing this election and making it about democracy because there`s no bigger question before us, then are we going to be a democracy or not.

VELSHI: What an important discussion with two very wise contributors. Thank you to both of you for being part of this. Cornell Belcher and Stuart Stevens, stay with us. We`ve got -- we want to talk next about what is next for President Biden his push for voting rights as state republicans make it harder to vote when THE 11TH HOUR continues.



MARC MORIAL, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE PRESIDENT AND CEO: We`re in a state of emergency when it comes to democracy in this country, as well as policing, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. And I think the American people want to see dramatic action on both of these issues. And so we`ll be talking about that tomorrow with President Biden.


VELSHI: Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League will be one of several leaders from civil rights groups meeting with President Biden tomorrow to focus on voting rights. Back with us, Cornell Belcher and Stuart Stevens.

Cornell, you are a poster. So I want to ask you about this NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. The left side of the poll talks about whether you`re concerned about voter access, the right side is voter eligibility. 85 percent of Democrats are more concerned with voter access. 25 percent of Republicans are concerned about voter access. 72 percent of Republicans are concerned about voter eligibility, meaning people who are not eligible to vote actually voting in elections.

Could you please tell this audience how big a deal that is? How much of an issue people who are ineligible voting in elections in America?

BELCHER: Well, Ali, as you know, because, quite frankly, see, you covered before is that -- we don`t have widespread voter fraud in this country. We don`t have widespread problems with ineligible voters voting in this country. It is all part and parcel of the big lie. And the Republican base has completely bought into that big lie. And that`s part of the problem with what`s going on right now is once you start lying, you can`t get off of that off of that train. So everything you see happening right now has to feed into that lie.

The good news coming out of that poll though is you still do have a majority have independent voters in this country who are more concerned about voter access, and it goes back to the initial point. You know, fighting for democracy is a winning issue for Democrats if they embrace it going into the midterms.

VELSHI: So Stuart, here`s the problem, because I`ve had a number of conservatives say to me, Well, don`t you want elections to be safe? Shouldn`t we make elections absolutely as safe as we can? No way to argue with that. We should have, but our elections are fundamentally safe. People have bought into the idea that there was fraud. And as you know, a number of Republicans, a plurality of Republicans, I think there might have been some shenanigans in this election leading to Joe Biden`s victory and presidency.

STEVENS: Yes, look, this has never happened before that a national party has adopted the position that the president of the United States is not elected legally. And Joe Biden is illegitimate president that means we don`t live in a democracy. We live in an occupied country.

And that`s just at the heart of the danger of the path that these republicans have gone down. I mean, they do -- they are the heirs to legacy the greatest generation who fought fascism, who fought people who had the same views about limiting people vote.

Listen, I went out there and I did these races across the country for years. Republican governors and senators in over half the country, five presidential races. There is not a problem with voter fraud in this country. It simply doesn`t exist.

VELSHI: Cornell, in Texas House, Republicans are heading into a special legislative session. They`re proposing banning drive-through and overnight early voting against again, and as Lawrence was saying earlier tonight, it sort of looks like Texas Republicans have looked at everything that worked to get people out to vote and if decided we`re going to ban this and this is something that`s catching on all across America. Again, the impetus for this is stopping fraud stopping bad things from happening, but in Texas, like in Arizona, like in Michigan, like in Pennsylvania, like in Georgia, bad things didn`t happen. More people just voted.

BELCHER: Well, can we be real here for a moment. The really predicated of this is to stop people who quite frankly, you know, look like me from exercise and political power. And the truth of the matter is you`re going to hear more calls about a stolen election as a country over the next decade and a half moves closer to majority, minority because those playing the zero sum racial game and those playing that tribalism game they think that every political strife that people who look like me make in this country is them losing out.

So until we have that real conversation about we`re all one America, you know, is not, you know, you don`t lose if in fact, the black man is elected, you know, President your tribe isn`t losing. We`re going to have real problems. I only see this accelerating as we come closer to that moment in this country where we begin to tilt toward a majority minority country and politically, those tried to stop minorities and progressives from exercising their political power.

VELSHI: I hope you`re wrong, Cornell, problem with you is that you`re not often wrong. Cornell Belcher, Stuart Stevens, thank you guys for being with us tonight. Coming up, an inside look at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan just hours after us troops left the base when THE 11TH HOUR continues.


VELSHI: President Biden is meeting tomorrow with his national security team in the White House says he`ll then give remarks on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The President said a September 11th deadline to pull out all U.S. forces but most have already left. NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel got a rare look at what remains at the now vacated Bagram Airfield.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The only sign of the Afghan army now in charge of Bagram Air Base is at the entrance. Inside there are miles of unguarded roads and barracks. And the relics of the U.S. troops who just left a chill out area, Christmas ornaments, care packages, and hundreds of very usable vehicles nearly all white, some fire trucks to and the heart of the base, the runways.

I borrowed a bike soldiers left behind and pedaled down what was one of the most active runways for strikes against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

(on camera): Doesn`t just feel like a ghost town. It almost feels post- apocalyptic.

(voice-over): No tumbleweed, a can have energy drink, Bob DeLonge.

Not long ago, Bagram was the epicenter of America`s longest war, up to 100,000 troops planned and executed counterterrorism missions here.

(on camera): So this was the command center. So there`s no there`s no light.

(voice-over): When U.S. troops left, they cut the power. The Afghan soldier told me can`t get it working.

(on camera): How do you feel about the way the Americans left this space?

I don`t want to talk about it, he said. Everywhere on Bagram we visited was dark.

They hand over a base. They can`t turn on the power. Not too useful.

(voice-over): The main battle planning room is offline.

(on camera): Here are the racks that had all of the computers and servers the brain behind this operation center. That`s all been stripped out.

The Americans say that they handed over this base to the Afghans in an orderly way so that they could continue the fight against extremists. They left them a base that the Americans it looks like they looted themselves.

(voice-over): But the hospital on base is still well stocked. Plenty of drugs and valuable equipment.

(on camera): So this is good. This is very useful for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready for patient.

ENGEL (voice-over): Many Afghan soldiers are angry and how American troops left. But they don`t seem to be making the most of what they have. You`d hardly know there`s a war outside and that the Taliban are making rapid advances now that the Americans have left here.

(on camera): Ali, Bagram feels vulnerable. And there are also thousands of Taliban prisoners inside including some top leaders. And now that the Americans are gone, the power is cut, the base defenses are disrupted. If the Taliban were able to break them out, it would amass a huge fighting force, right on the doorstep of Kabul.


VELSHI: Richard, thank you. Great reporting from Richard Engel in Afghanistan. Coming up, it`s a presidential love story for the ages.


VELSHI: Last thing before we go tonight, today marks 75 years of marriage for former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. The couple went on their first date back in 1945 when Jimmy Carter was a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy. They married the following year in 1946.

The Carters are the longest married first couple in American history. The Washington Post puts it this way quote, Eleanor Rosalynn Smith and James Earl Carter Jr. have known each other virtually since birth. Their love story blossomed in World War II and survived the searing scrutiny of political life.

Two years ago, the length of their marriage surpassed that of George H.W. and Barbara Bush. Jimmy is also the longest living president in history, end quote.

During a recent interview with Judy Woodruff of PBS, the Carters offered some advice after seven and a half decades of marriage.


JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS ANCHOR: What`s the secret when you don`t see eye to eye on something for how you patch it back together?

JIMMY CARTER, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: At the end of the day we try to become reconciled and overcome all the differences that arose during the day. We also make up and give each other before we go to sleep still in bed. And we always heard about everyday, which is a different aspects of your life. So we really try to become completely reconciled each night before we go to sleep.


VELSHI: We try to become completely reconciled each night before we go to sleep. A bit of marital advice to end the night and that is our broadcast for this Wednesday night with our thanks to you for being with us. On behalf of all of my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.