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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 8/10/21

Guests: Susan Del Percio, Irwin Redlener, Robert Gibbs, Michael Steele, Jeanne Marrazzo

Summary

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo resigns after sexual misconduct claims. COVID surge overwhelms hospitals in low-vaccine states. Florida hospitals see growing surge of COVID patients. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis claims not to know ventilators from Feds. Senate passes bipartisan infrastructure bill. Senate is working on $3.5 trillion budget bill. Cuomo again denies sexual allegations in resignation remarks. DeSantis defies CDC guidelines, blocks mandates. COVID cases and hospital stays surge in Alabama. Taliban seizes cities across Afghanistan.

Transcript

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And on this day we watched the three-term Democratic Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation. It came one week after a bombshell report accused him multiple instances of sexual harassment. And it came after he had lost all of his remaining political support. More on that just ahead.

We begin yet again tonight with the alarming situation in hospitals across our country overwhelmed with a crush of COVID patients, the spike in cases driving the uptick in hospitalizations.

In Texas ICU beds have all but disappeared at dozens of facilities. They are importing doctors from other states. Texas State Health Department says over 10,000 Texans are currently hospitalized with the virus. Today one Dallas official warned the situation is particularly dangerous for children who might need intensive care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE CLAY JENKINS, DALLAS COUNTY, TEXAS: We now at this moment have two pediatric ICU beds. These are not just for COVID, car accident, and anything else if your child needs ICU and a ventilator in a 19 County area, we have two. Now is the time that we must all make small sacrifices mask suck, but it`s a small sacrifice to save lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The Dallas school district has started defying Texas Governor Greg Abbott`s ban on mask mandates.

Meanwhile, in Florida, where Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has vowed to stop mask mandates and his schools, over 15,000 of his constituents are in the hospital tonight with COVID, the number in the ICU in just Florida now north of 3000 patients.

NBC news reporting the federal government has sent hundreds of ventilators and other equipment to Florida from the Strategic National Stockpile to help hospitals dealing with the surge in new patients. Earlier today, Governor DeSantis, however, said he was unaware of any of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: I didn`t ask, I don`t know, I did not know about that. So I have not heard about that. We have a lot of stuff that we stockpiled over the last year and a half. I have not had any requests across my desk. I have not been notified of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Other southern states all deep red states on the political map are seeing their health care systems being pushed to the brink right now. In Mississippi officials are warning there are no ICU beds available and some of the state`s top level hospitals. Some Alabama hospitals have started limiting some elective procedures as COVID admissions rise. We`ll have much more on this worsening situation just ahead.

Meanwhile, even as the White House works to get this latest surge under control, the President did score a big win today. The Senate passed the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill at long last a big part of the President`s agenda. The vote was 69 to 30. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and 18 other Republicans actually crossed the aisle to vote yes with the Democrats.

Earlier today vice president Kamala Harris summed the administration`s view up after presiding over the vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALEY TALBOT, NBC NEWS: Madam Vice President, your reaction to the bill passing?

KAMALA HARRIS, (D) U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: It`s a good day. Elections matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: At the White House, the President praised the bipartisan group of senators have worked on the bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: I want to thank the group of senators, Democrats and Republicans, for doing what they told me they would do. After years and years of "Infrastructure Week," we`re on the cusp of an infrastructure decade that I truly believe will transform America.

This bill was declared dead more often than -- anyway. That bipartisanship was a thing of the past. It was characterized as a relic of an earlier age. As you may well remember, I never believed that. I still don`t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Now sadly, if you think this was the hard part, you would be wrong. The Senate is next to work on a $3.5 trillion budget package, which includes the President`s proposal to expand the nation`s social safety net. Today, House Democrats announced they plan to cut short their summer recess come back to Washington by the 23rd of August to take up the infrastructure bill and eventually the budget bill.

As we mentioned earlier, there is also major political news out of the state of New York where Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation today, but in a very Cuomo move, he`s not leaving right away. He`s given himself two more weeks in office, his goal of beating his father`s record of three terms ending early amid nearly a dozen accusations of sexual harassment.

[23:05:09]

The Governor`s resignation came a week after this report detailing those allegations released by New York`s Attorney General and as state lawmakers were in the process of starting impeachment hearings. Right now, it`s unclear if impeachment will continue. Today, the governor again denied any wrongdoing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: The report said I sexually harassed 11 women. That was the headline people heard and saw and reacted to. The reaction was outrage. It should have been. However, it was also false. Now, don`t get me wrong, this is not to say that there are not 11 women who I truly offended. There are. And for that I deeply, deeply apologize.

I have been too familiar with people. My sense of humor can be insensitive and off-putting. I do hug and kiss people casually, women and men. I have done it all my life. And I think that given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing. And, therefore, that`s what I`ll do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: A reminder, the Governor has not been charged with any crime. Lieutenant Governor, former Congresswoman Kathy Hochul will take over August 24. She will be the first woman to hold the state`s highest office.

Today President Biden was asked for his reaction to Cuomo`s resignation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What impact does his resignation have on the Democratic Party?

BIDEN: I think the impact is all on Andrew Cuomo and his decision to make that judgment, and I respect his decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Tuesday night, Phil Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning Senior Washington Correspondent for The Washington Post, his new book, written with his colleague Carol Leonnig, I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump`s Catastrophic Final Year is now a New York Times bestseller, Susan Del Percio, MSNBC Political Analyst, Veteran Political Strategist. She served in fact, for a time as a special adviser to Andrew Cuomo, Dr. Irwin Redlener, Founding Director of Columbia`s National Center for Disaster Preparedness who advises us on public health also Professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Good evening, and welcome to you all. Mr. Rucker, I`d like to begin with you. What are you hearing from the White House deprived as they were of feeling like today was a big victory given all else that`s going on?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Brian, it was a big victory. And you saw President Biden pausing there during the day to celebrate it and note that bipartisanship is alive and well on that one bill. But there is also simultaneously the three and a half trillion dollar budget bill that`s moving through. Notably, without any bipartisanship, the Republican opposition to that spending package is unified and fierce. And it means that Democrats are going to have to push it through using the process known as reconciliation, where they would just have that 50 plus one majority in the Senate to get it passed. There are tensions within the Democratic Party on Capitol Hill, among progressives in the House who refuse, who say they will refuse to pass the bill that just cleared the Senate in a bipartisan fashion for infrastructure, unless the Senate first also passes this reconciliation budget measure.

And so there are a lot of moving pieces here for the Biden White House to be dealing with over the next couple of days, as they hope to get to victories. One on the infrastructure package, the roads, the bridges, the tunnels, and the other on what they`ve promoted as human infrastructure, the expansion of child care, climate initiatives and other key social safety net programs that are so core to the democratic agenda, all the while grappling with the rising number of cases of coronavirus in Florida, in Texas and really across the country.

WILLIAMS: And Susan over we go to the other political story of the day, it`s great to have you back on the broadcast. Talk, if you will about the familiar Cuomo traits that were on display today, even on his way out the door.

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, just look at the way the whole thing was orchestrated, Brian, first he had his attorney lay out his case, which he thought would be the best way to present it to the public, perhaps his swan song, if you will. And then he went on to say, I did nothing wrong. But I`m going to step aside. These women, I didn`t, you know, I may have offended them, but I didn`t mean it. This is typical Andrew Cuomo, but now he`s going to be gone. It`s also not surprising that he asked for an extra 14 days. When you look at what happened with Eliot Spitzer several years ago when he stepped down in disgrace, he left two days later.

[23:10:29]

In some ways, this will be very helpful to the lieutenant governor for transition. But I do wonder what that -- what the governor perhaps will do in the next 14 days.

WILLIAMS: Yes, you and former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who was wondering that aloud earlier this evening.

Dr. Redlener, to the other topic we`re following tonight, and that is our so far not fully under control pandemic. I want to play for you something Dr. Fauci said on this network earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: We are in a major surge now, as we`re going into the fall into the school season. This is very serious business when you`re talking about local mandates, mandates for schools, for teachers, for universities, for colleges, I`m sorry, I mean, I know people must like to have their individual freedom and not be told to do something. But I think we`re in such a serious situation now that under certain circumstances mandates should be done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So Dr. Redlener, your reaction to what your friend Tony Fauci said there, do you agree or disagree? And how much do these new numbers worry you?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Well, they worried me a lot, Brian. And I think that all of us in the field are concerned that we`re seeing such a huge surge. This is not a minor blip. This is a major unpredicted huge increase in number of cases and the number of hospitalizations. The reports that you cited earlier in the broadcast, Brian, having to deal with what`s going on in Texas, in Florida, in Louisiana are just absolutely shocking. ICU beds filled up in state after state presents a very dangerous situation for people. And as far as mandates are concerned, I`m extremely concerned that we allow any exceptions to people getting vaccinated.

Of course, the federal government can`t issue a mandate in our Federalist Society. But state governments can, cities can as Mayor de Blasio did last week in terms of New York City mandating proof of vaccination to get into restaurants, gyms, indoor events, and so on.

And I think, you know, especially now with children about to return to school 50 to 60 million kids going back into classrooms, we need to absolutely mandate no exceptions. Every single teacher, adult administrator, bus driver must be vaccinated before they walk into a school, period.

And I`m just going to be speaking to some leaders of one of the teachers unions tomorrow night to emphasize that point. But I think we all understand that if kids are going to be going back on mask to school Brian, we need to make sure that the environment is as safe as humanly possible.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker back over to you, the President is still awaiting other wins, your best rate of the situation, what`s the real chance he is going to get what he and other Democrats want on something like voting rights?

RUCKER: You know, Brian, it`s a bit of an open question at this hour. Democrats in the Senate have vowed that they will not be leaving for their August recess until they vote on that measure for voting rights. But it`s unclear what that vote total will be if it will pass that chamber. And then what happens in terms of the ultimate bill that lands on the President`s desk. This has been, as we all know, a top agenda item for Democrats throughout the year. And yet there has been frustration among voting rights advocates and among progressive Democrats in the Congress, that it has not been the top priority, top of mind day in and day out from this White House. They at moments have prioritized infrastructure instead, clearly reaping the rewards of that today with the passage in the Senate of this bipartisan infrastructure bill. But there is a feeling among some in the Democratic Party, that there`s nothing more important than voting rights and nothing more critical to pass legislatively in terms of preserving the integrity of the vote in this country, especially looking ahead to next year`s midterm elections. And so it`s incumbent according to a lot of progressive Democrats, on the president and on his vice president to be out there, advocating as aggressively and forcefully as they can, in these next couple of weeks to try to get something passed through the Congress, but it`s unclear that the numbers are going to be there in terms of the votes among the lawmakers.

[23:15:14]

WILLIAMS: Susan, back to New York politics because it can very often affect national politics and you know it well. Already tonight there`s a piece in tomorrow`s New York Post speculating as to whether or not the Cuomo name in this case, Governor Mario Cuomo should come off what we old timers still refer to as the Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River, a little bit of political grave dancing going on already. Does Andrew Cuomo, in your view, have a political future at all or is it best for his party to go away and do so silently?

DEL PERCIO: Well, Brian, he has $18 million in his campaign war chest. So there`s money there, if he so chooses to use it for a, "comeback." I don`t think that will be possible, mostly because he`s built a career on other people`s backs. And he has not made friends on his way up. And people are very happy to see him on his way down. So I don`t see him moving forward in any meaningful way. Politically, right now, he also has several other investigations, that Mario Cuomo Bridge is one of them. It`s a serious investigation as far as construction and other issues. So he has his hands full. I don`t think he`ll be coming back.

WILLIAMS: And finally, Dr. Redlener, the last word goes to you. I can`t ask you to endorse a third shot for people on a broadcast like this one. But I can`t ask you for your opinion of people who are finding a way to finagle a third shot and affect a booster whether or not they`re going into doctor`s offices or pharmacies. Do you endorse the notion of them? Do you have any problem with people getting that third Pfizer or third Moderna?

REDLENER: Yeah, you know, Brian, this whole issue of COVID and the pandemic, it`s really getting increasingly dangerous to make predictions. But I do predict this, I do predict that we`re going to come down on the side of allowing or permitting or even encouraging people with certain very high risk conditions, immunocompromised, very elderly people, people with certain kinds of ailments that should get a third dose most likely. The contravening issue here, though, too, is what the World Health Organization has been promoting that no wealthy country should be encouraging third doses until all countries on the planet are getting their fair share. We have countries like South Sudan right now, where less than 1% of the population has been vaccinated. Those become breeding grounds for more and more dangerous mutations just on a practical level, but on a moral and ethical level, we really do have to make sure that we`re safeguarding, protecting, taking care of the planet before we, in a sense indulge ourselves, especially for people who might not need a third though. So a little bit of a complicated issue, but I think we`re going to come down somewhere in the middle, Brian.

WILLIAMS: I said last night, I`ll say it again tonight, the shining example in our country remains the Navajo Nation at a 91% vaccinated rate. To our guests, our thanks for starting off our conversation tonight, Phil Rucker, Susan Del Percio, Dr. Irwin Redlener, again, appreciate it very much.

Coming up for us after our first break, if the infrastructure bill is such a big win for this President, why doesn`t it feel more that way, especially among all of his fellow Democrats? I`ll ask our political experts who are standing by.

And later, how bad is it? One Alabama physician warns the health care system in her state is stressed to the max. Some hospitals can`t perform surgeries. Other problems exist. All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Tuesday evening.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:22:46]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: This bill shows that we can work together. I know a lot of people, some sit in the audience here didn`t think this could happen. I just want to thank those senators worked so hard to bring this agreement together. I know it wasn`t easy. For the Republicans who supported this bill, you showed a lot of courage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The Biden administration taking a bit of a victory lap after a huge bipartisan win on infrastructure in the U.S. Senate. But celebrations as we said in the previous segment may be premature.

Our NBC News Political team points out thusly, "There`s already a growing standoff between moderates and progressives, with both factions enjoying significant leverage thanks to slim Democratic margins in both houses. Just one Senator, or just a small handful of House members, can threaten to sink everything."

Speaker Pelosi said again today, she has no intention of holding a vote on the Senate bill until the Senate passes the next bill, that $3.5 trillion companion bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA HOUSE SPEAKER: With all the respect in the world for the Senate Bill, I`m glad it passed. I`m glad it`s bipartisan, strongly so important to job creation and the rest. But it is not the totality of the vision of Joe Biden and the congressional Democrats. So I have said that until we see, no, I`m not taking up that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So it`s a good night to have with us these next two guests, Robert Gibbs, former Obama Campaign Senior Advisor and White House Press Secretary under one Barack Obama and Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, happens to be the host of the Michael Steele podcast.

Good evening, gentlemen, welcome to you both. Mr. Gibbs I`d like to begin with you, put in your own terms, the scope of the victory today in the Senate. And here`s the tougher question. What do you make of the left`s ability to sink the fortunes of a president in their own party?

[23:25:00]

ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I know we`re on cable, Brian, and I`m almost excited to quote Joe Biden on health care. I think it is a big deal. I`ll leave out the middle word. I think it`s a significant achievement for this administration. Joe Biden campaigned on this vision of trying to do things in a bipartisan way. And a lot of people said he was naive or crazy. And I think he took a big step today, Democrats took a big step today and getting all of this past.

To your point, Democrats operate in a very closely divided Congress, both in the House and the Senate. I think there`s a challenge on both sides. You could have progressives on the left, you could have still, Joe Manchin and others, on the more conservative side of the Democratic Party, a needle is going to have to be thread for many months on this. And the euphoria is probably somewhat contained, Brian, because this is really the first of many steps, we`re going to be doing this well into the fall. But make no mistake today was an important step. Because I think for Democrats to get that reconciliation built help families and to tackle climate change in a significant way, today had to happen. I think it`s part of a two step process. And it was significant, significant day for this administration.

WILLIAMS: Michael, be honest, were you surprised at the extent of the Republican crossover, starting with McConnell, but then 18 more after that? And is it proof that some of them at least can read opinion polls?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: To your second point, yes. To the first point, no, I wasn`t surprised at all. I mean, McConnell telegraphed what his caucus was going to do. The only question is, was it good 15 or 16, or 17, it would be more than the normal 10 that you would expect to be required. And that`s because yeah, they their internal polling showed something that I still don`t think the Democrats fully appreciate in for the longer term strategy here. And that is the American people like this bill. We have an infrastructure bill that has been passed, it is no longer infrastructure week, it is no longer infrastructure hour or infrastructure month, it`s done. A Chamber of our United States Congress has taken care of that part of the business, now it will flow to the House. And this is where I think it may be unnecessarily gnarly. Because as much as the progresses may want to hold their ground, they can only hold the ground the American people give them and that`s the limit here.

So you may you can draw up a Santa Claus wish list of every, you know, liberal progressive dream you have. But if the American people aren`t going to buy it, they`re not going to be sold it. And that means you`re not going to have the votes there that you need. What worked in this instance, Brian, was the President made the case to the American people for that package. The American people bought it. There has not been a case made for the other three and a half trillion dollars. Now maybe that case will be made. But that`s going to be a tougher sell I think for a lot of Americans. Take the half loaf feed like we saw with the loaves and fishes, feed as many as you can. And then pick up the crumbs after 2022 where you have a larger number of members in the House and Senate to help you complete the agenda.

WILLIAMS: Robert, I can`t quote the Good Book the way Michael can, but I can quote Senator Manchin, whose name you`ve already invoked. I want to play for you a bit of his reaction to today`s bipartisan vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (D) WEST VIRGINIA: I`m not surprised I knew it would happen because I thought when the President took it under his own wing, and knew how important this was, it was one of his missions to make sure he could show that he has those bipartisan stripes. And he really does. So when he went out around the country, I knew that we were in a pretty good zone, if you will, and just said the land is -- the landed plane, that`s all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So Robert, let`s talk turkey here. West Virginia is going to get a lot out of this. And they indeed need a lot and he can take a victory lap back home for bringing home the bacon. Then there is as Michael reminds us the matter of that $3.5 trillion mark, where do you think Mr. Manchin is going to end up on that?

GIBBS: Well, I think probably in a practical sense, he`ll end up supporting something that`s less than 3.5 trillion. But let me pick up on something that Michael said because I think it plays into the motivations of Senator Manchin and others throughout the Democratic Party. The components of the reconciliation bill that holds corporations accountable to the taxes that they owe that helps families with a permanent child tax credit, and Lord knows is the planet in our country feel like it`s on fire every day to invest in clean energy. All those things are enormously popular.

[23:30:13]

Look, I think this is going to always be a tough road because it`s just -- it`s a very evenly divided Congress. But I think the component parts of what are in that reconciliation bill are equally as important and as popular as what passed today. And I think maybe the most important animating thing for Democrats going into 2022 is they need accomplishments, right? The difference between 3.5 and zero is a big deal on the campaign trail in November of 2022. When you`re trying to convince people, there`s a reason Democrats are in control, and they`ve accomplished something. I think that in the end will animate both sides of the party to come together with the pressure of Joe Biden wanted to get something done as well and make significant progress on getting something done in reconciliation. That`s a pretty healthy number.

WILLIAMS: Gentlemen, don`t move I got to fit in a break.

Coming up, the Republican politician staying on brand at all costs, no masks, no lockdowns, no problem, but the problem is truly their constituents are dying. Who do we see about that?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:35:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DESANTIS: Joe Biden all believes that vaccination should be mandated by force of government and that you should have to show vaccination status to be able to participate in society. If you`re trying to restrict people, impose mandates, if you`re trying to ruin their jobs and their livelihoods and their small business, if you are trying to lock people down, I am standing in your way and I`m standing for the people of Florida. So why don`t you do your job? Why don`t you get this border secure? And until you do that, I don`t want to hear a blip about COVID from you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: That was Florida`s governor a week ago. Today, his state`s cases are surging, so badly state and local officials had to ask the Feds for hundreds of ventilators. Of course, the governor himself is one of those red state governors leading the charge against mask and vaccine mandates, as you heard him say.

Thankfully, still with us, Robert Gibbs and Michael Steele. Michael, there`s a risk that we don`t talk often enough about what Fred Wellman of the Lincoln Project tonight, called the ghoulishness of some of these Republican politicians siding with COVID over constituents, Ron DeSantis has a degrees from Harvard and Yale. And yet he seems so concerned that masks are off brand for him and might cost him the love of the MAGA crowd.

STEELE: Not a great ad for Harvard or Yale, if that`s the product at the end of the day when you`re talking about public leadership, which is oxymoronic in this gentleman`s case. He`s not a lever leader. He`s a sycophant. He thinks by his own political calculation, that he`s willing to make the bet that it will set him up nicely in a Republican primary, should Donald Trump just wink and nod to him and give him that sort of juicy look at, you know, to set him on the course to become the nominee of the party in 24 months or so.

The reality of it is people are dying. His state is in a COVID mess. It is a hot mess. If it were a country, it would be leading the globe in the number of deaths and infection rates. So that`s what his Republican leadership is giving him, given the people of Florida and then they have to decide, is it worth it? Because there`s nothing we can do about it here. They have to make that choice. He`s their governor. And if he wants, if he wants to tell a parent, I`m sorry, I don`t give a damn that your child is going to go to a school that may or may not have some kids in there, or teachers or bus drivers who have the COVID. That`s not my problem, because that`s essentially what he`s saying. So they have to decide if they`re OK with that. And if they are, then we need to just stop talking about it and take care of the states that want the help, need the help to make themselves whole because it`s a waste of time, otherwise, Brian, this is just a waste of conversation.

WILLIAMS: Robert, I got about 60 seconds remaining. Talk about the fact that the true political courage we`re about to see on display is going to be local officials, state and local officials, including school boards that have to go against their Republican governors.

GIBBS: Yeah, absolutely, Brian. And some of them in Florida are going against even the threat of losing funding in order to institute mask mandates, because we know kids that are under 12 can`t get vaccinated. And we know all too many, between 12 and 18 in a lot of these states aren`t. It`s -- I will say this, I think that what the governors in Texas and Florida doing, I think from a public health standpoint, it`s deadly. I actually think from a long term political standpoint, it`s also deadly, I don`t see how this is going to work in their advantage if they were to become the Republican nominee. And if I was a parent in this -- in each of these states, I can`t imagine when I would be thinking going to bed at night with school just around the corner. I want my child to be protected. We shouldn`t be having to choose between sending our children to school and making sure they`re safe where they go.

WILLIAMS: I can`t Thank you gentlemen, enough for your comments and thoughts tonight. Our guests have been, Robert Gibbs, Michael Steele, two friends of this broadcast.

Another break and coming up for us, hospitalizations, soaring right now in one of the nation`s least vaccinated states. We`ll check back in with one of the infectious disease doctors in the thick of the fight right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:42:55]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON ISBELL, GRAMMY AWARD-WINNING MUSICIAN: I`m all for freedom. But I think if you`re dead, you don`t have any freedoms at all. So it`s probably important to stay alive before you start questioning your liberty. It`s life and then it`s liberty and then it`s the pursuit of happiness and those are an order of priority.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: This superbly talented and very thoughtful singer songwriter Jason Isbell has made it clear, fans must show proof of vaccination or a negative test result to attend his shows. In his home state of Alabama, COVID hospitalizations are at their worst level since January in the dead of our COVID winter. Just today, over 3800 new infections were added to the list. Over 2200 people are hospitalized with it. Just a month ago, that number was 267. Some essential surgeries have already been postponed to make room for COVID patients.

For more we welcome back to the broadcast Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo. She`s an infectious disease expert and Professor of Medicine at the University of Alabama Birmingham. She`s also the school`s Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases.

Doc, thank you very much for staying up with us and coming back on. Two weeks ago, in fact, on this broadcast, I was reminded tonight, you said the number of new hospitalizations was really concerning. Tell our audience and just the space of two weeks how your answer to that might change tonight.

DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE: Well, it`s only gotten worse, as you showed with the graph that you just displayed. Things are not just spiking, but we`re seeing an almost vertical rise not just in the number of cases but more worrisome in the number of hospitalizations. And even more concerning we know that hospitalizations follow the case peak, which then are succeeded by deaths. So our fear is that we are just beginning to see the beginning of a surge that could stress our system to the max where we really are facing the kinds of problems that we heard Florida States today with they`re seeking ventilators from out of state. So very, very concerning trends here. Over 90% of our ICU beds in the state are being utilized right now, mostly by COVID. We`re not a state that has a lot of medical facilities, right? We`re not like Miami, we`re not like Philadelphia. We`re not like Boston. So when you hit a state like ours hard, you`re really hitting people hard, who are already very vulnerable to some of the worst effects of something like COVID.

[23:45:31]

WILLIAMS: You mentioned Florida is importing ventilators, even though the Governor says he knows nothing about it. Texas is importing doctors from other states, could you foresee a level of disease in Alabama where you`re forced to do either or both of those things?

MARRAZZO: You know, I think anything can happen. I wish I had a good crystal ball and could reassure people. But the infectiousness of this search is very different than anything we`ve seen before. The other thing that`s different is that we`re seeing more pediatric cases in the hospital than we`ve seen before. And that should really alarm people.

The final thing I will say is that even if healthcare workers are vaccinated fully and many of ours are, which is really good, they can still get infected with the Delta variant, right, these cases are less severe, they`re less likely to be hospitalized, less likely to be really ill. But they still have to stay out of work. And so we`re facing a potential decimation of our workforce, just by virtue of this incredible wave of Delta. So that`s going to really compromise our ability to provide not just COVID care, but here for all the usual stuff that our community really needs to be attended to.

WILLIAMS: And Doctor, just back up to the pediatric cases you mentioned, because I think there`s a belief out there that yes, kids are getting this Delta variant, but they`re not getting really more than cold symptoms. They`re not getting that sick. Tell folks the truth?

MARRAZZO: Well, the truth is that we are seeing the high of inpatient hospitalizations for pediatric cases. We have now 33 kids hospitalized in Alabama. We have never seen that before with COVID. It`s really approaching a level that we might have seen with influenza in a very bad year. But this speaks to what I think is different about the Delta variant, we`re still learning whether it causes more severe disease in general, but it seems to be acting differently in children. These kids are not getting the miscellaneous inflammatory or multi-system inflammatory condition that we saw with the previous strains of COVID. They`re in the hospital getting intubated. About a third of them appear to be intubated, or in the ICU.

When you`re seeing kids under two years old getting a respiratory virus that is causing them to be intubated, that should really wake people up and think very hard about whether they should be wearing masks, whether they should get vaccinated. And I really, really can`t emphasize enough masks right now are the only way we`re going to get out of this. If you get vaccinated tomorrow, you are not going to escape Delta, right, you need two doses of both of those mRNA vaccines and you need some time to make antibodies. So right now, people really have to step up and mask up.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, I love your state and its people as I know you do and we`re hoping for nothing but the very best for the people of Alabama and throughout the South, Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo thank you very much for taking our questions tonight.

Coming up, America`s longest war may be over but the fighting, the suffering is just starting for those left behind.

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[23:52:02]

WILLIAMS: In Afghanistan, the Taliban as predicted sweeping across the country taking key cities in their wake as Afghan security forces essentially collapse. Despite the fortune, the U.S. spent on the years of training for the Afghan fighting forces to prepare for this fight, to prepare for this day. This is in the news, of course because the U.S. has effectively left Afghanistan after our nation`s longest war. And tonight indeed, the Washington Post is reporting the Biden administration is now preparing for the capital city of Kabul to fall sooner than feared, writing, "One official said Tuesday that the U.S. military now assesses a collapse could occur within 90 days. Other say, it could happen within a month. We get our report tonight from Kabul and NBC News Foreign Correspondent Kelly Cobiella.

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KELLY COBIELLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight the Afghan army is trying to hold back the Taliban in the North`s biggest City, Mazar- i-Sharif.

Taliban fighters have taken at least six capitals since Friday. Locals hid then fled. Families who reached the capital of Kabul say the militants are more brutal than ever in forcing women into marriage and killing government workers.

COBIELLA: Do you know of anyone who was killed by the Taliban while you were still there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Foreign Language).

COBIELLA: 28 year olds, court clerk Amina Mohammadi (ph) told me the Taliban took her colleague captive and burned her hair then killed her. The U.S. now three weeks from its deadline to withdraw troops is providing some airstrikes but no backup on the ground, instead sending a special envoy to the region.

NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: He will press the Taliban to stop their military offensive and to negotiate a political settlement.

COBIELLA: Tonight people here are tired of war that have little hope for peace. She says our children have no future.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(On camera): And as the fighting continues, the United Nations said today they`re deeply disturbing reports of Taliban militants executing government troops who`ve surrendered. Brian.

WILLIAMS: Kelly Cobiella from Kabul tonight, thank you for that report.

Another break for us, coming up, a heads up on something coming your way to Morrow, just so you`re not alarmed when it happens.

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[23:58:09]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a test for the next 60 seconds. This station will conduct a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, that right there is one of those tell us how old you are without saying how old you are examples. And if you remember that you`re not young. That was the old Emergency Broadcast System first set up during the Cold War to alert us to a national emergency. It has still thankfully never been used.

These days though. It`s called the Emergency Alert System because there`s a far greater chance you`re going to have your phone with you than the chance that you`re watching TV or listening to the radio were telling you all this. Here`s the news you can use part because of what`s going to happen tomorrow, sometime after around 2:20 p.m. Eastern time, so 11:20 a.m. on the West Coast, all of our phones are going to go off and those phones that are enabled to receive alerts are going to display this message along with the incoming scary tone. It will also be broadcast on television and radio simultaneously.

Tomorrow`s alert is a test by FEMA and our friends at the FCC for that day we hope never comes. On the local level there`s a very good chance your phone has gone off for amber alerts are silver alerts. And it`s a hugely useful warning system for severe thunderstorm, hurricane, flash flood, tornado warnings, wildfires as well. So especially if you have loved ones who are apt to get flustered, when that piercing tone breaks through, this is your warning that it`s coming tomorrow, not an actual warning that is it will only be a test. That is our broadcast for this Tuesday night along with our thanks for being here with us, on behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.