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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 8/25/21

Guests: Peter Baker, Mike Murphy, Nahid Bhadelia


U.S., others warn of threat at airport in Kabul and tell citizens to leave immediately. Delta Air Lines will charge employees on the company health plan $200 a month if they fail to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Florida COVID crisis rages out of control. Texas Gov. issues executive order blocking COVID-19 vaccine mandates even if they are fully approved by the FDA. USA TODAY Pfizer, J&J report strong antibody response from booster shots.



GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D), NEW YORK: There`s going to be no drama, no surprises from my administration.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Governor Kathy Hochul gets tonight`s last word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again on this day 218 of the Biden administration and tonight there`s an alarming new warning from U.S. embassy officials in Kabul, Afghanistan, to Americans who are still trying to leave that country.

The alert reads quote, because of security threats outside the gates of Kabul airport, we are advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time. The warning continues U.S. citizens who are at the abbey gate, East Gate or North Gate now should leave immediately.

Just yesterday, President Biden referred to the threat at the airport from this terror group known as ISIS-K. And he detailed his decision to stick with that 31 August deadline to leave Afghanistan that deadline of course, just six days away now, as the scramble to get out intensifies one critical question has been exactly how many Americans remain. This afternoon the Secretary of State put the number at about 1,500. He said officials have been in touch with about 500 of them, but are still reaching out to others.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: For the remaining roughly 1000 contacts that we had, who may be Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan, we`re aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day. There is no deadline on our work to help any remaining American citizens who decide they want to leave to do so along with many Afghans. That effort will continue every day past August 31.


WILLIAMS: Now the Secretary said about 6,000 American citizens were in Afghanistan when the Taliban took control about two weeks ago now. He said over the past 10 days roughly 4,500 of those Americans were evacuated with over 82,000 people in all airlifted out since 14 August.

Pentagon says it will soon start speeding up the process of removing our own service members from the country they all have to get out with all their equipment that will fit on board a C-17. But late tonight and try to wrap your head around this number of New York Times report says new estimates indicate there are at least 250,000 Afghans, quarter of a million of them who once worked with Americans who are still there who very likely won`t be rescued before the Tuesday deadline.

Of course, the evacuation mission dependent on continued Taliban cooperation with our country. NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel had a chance to ask a Taliban official about the U.S. pullout directly. We will air that interview for you plus the spokesman`s controversial take on Osama bin Laden later on in this broadcast.

There was criticism today from the Pentagon, White House and congressional leadership for those two congressmen who took it upon themselves to make a secret bipartisan trip to the Kabul airport. Seth Moulton, Democrat of Massachusetts, Peter Meijer, Republican of Michigan, both Iraq veterans, insist they went there to conduct oversight on the evacuation. Tonight, Congressman Meijer defended the visit responded to concerns that their trip likely interrupted the evacuation effort.


REP. PETER MEIJER (R-MI): And we have not had information we need from the administration and realize that we were being lied to up and down and we needed to see for ourselves. We did not fly in on U.S. military aircraft. We did fly in a military plane on the way out, I think encouragement of individuals who were there. We waited for a plane that had open seats to make sure that we didn`t take away anything from individuals who needed it.


WILLIAMS: Speaker Pelosi as you may imagine, less than pleased with these congressmen. Today warned other members not to make their own similar trips. Meantime, the house investigation into the January 6 insurrection and riot is gaining momentum today. That Select Committee demanded a sweeping list of records and other information from eight different executive branch agencies, including communications involving the former president as well as several of his associates, inside, outside the administration, including the Trump children and other family members.

There were also several key developments today concerning those booster shots. The Wall Street Journal reporting, the White House is likely to sign off on a booster shot for vaccinated adults starting at least six months after the previous dose instead of eight months as we`ve been told. And new data from Johnson and Johnson indicates an extra shot of its vaccine can dramatically raise antibodies against the virus.

Today the GOP Senate leader offered up one of the strongest endorsements for vaccines that we`ve seen yet from a member of the Republican Party.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) MINORITY LEADER: There`s a lot of an untrue, call to what we will, information bouncing around on social media. But let me tell you what is a fact. The fact is that 90 percent of the people in the hospitals in Kentucky and around the country have one thing in common. They`re unvaccinated. So, if you know somebody is not vaccinated, for goodness sake, get vaccinated.


WILLIAMS: Delta Air Lines ratcheting up corporate pressure to get its workers vaccinated starting November 1, any Delta employee who remains unvaccinated will have to pay an additional $200 a month in order to stay on Delta`s health care plan.

With that we bring in our starting line on this Wednesday night Peter Baker, veteran journalist and author who is Chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, Claire McCaskill, former Democratic senator from the great state of Missouri and John Heilemann, author, journalist, our national affairs analyst, co-host and executive producer of the Circus on Showtime, executive editor of the Recount, also host of the podcast Hell and High Water. Good evening, and welcome to you all.

Peter, walk us through what some of the circumstances could be to trigger the kind of alert that went out to Americans remaining behind in Kabul.

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you`ve heard the vitamins ration and even the president itself say in recent days that they are concerned about possible attack on the people who are gathered at the airport by a branch of ISIS that exists in Afghanistan. Right. And that it`s possible, I don`t know this to be a fact, but the alert certainly gives the impression that the administration feels like there`s an imminent possible threat.

WILLIAMS: As we attempt to get Peter`s comms hooked back up. Senator, let me go to you as a former member of Senate Armed Services, give me the review, if you would, from your standpoint of the evacuation as it`s progressing right now. And also give me your review of these two members of Congress who took it upon themselves to go inspect the evacuation effort?

CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI FMR. U.S. SENATOR: Well, I think we`ve got a pause a minute and realize that I`m not sure there are very many countries that could have airlifted almost 100,000 people out of Afghanistan, and remember what a small percentage of those were American citizens. The vast majority of those folks are people that we want to get out of Afghanistan because of their status in that country. So I think they have done a remarkable job. And we`ll continue to do that.

And by the way, Brian, Exhibit A about how the policy in Afghanistan was a failure is how quickly the Taliban took over. I mean, keep in mind, we`ve spent over $2 trillion there and trained over 300,000 Afghans to fight for their country and to fight for the rule of law. And that just all melted away.

So obviously, what we had done there did not work and it wasn`t going to work. And it was always going to be chaos getting out under whatever circumstances, whenever any president said enough already. Now the two congressmen who went over there, I think it was selfish and wrong. And I think they knew it when they did it.

WILLIAMS: John Heilemann to the senator`s point, we have successfully flown tens of thousands of souls out of that country without a single loss of an American life, yet the press coverage remains withering. It`s impossible to go a day without seeing a quotation in the mainstream media of one of the former insurrectionists, one of the big lie purveyors who are treated in their criticism, like their esteemed members of Congress suddenly. What do you think? How will this loom if at all, come say Election Day 2022?

JOHN HEILEMANN, SHOWTIME`S "THE CIRCUS" CO-HOST AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: I don`t know the answer that question, Brian. I wish I did. I think that, you know, you and I think probably share the view that the Congressman, you just cited, the insurrectionists, the supporters of January 6 should not be accorded the kind of respect if they`re accorded any respect whatsoever, given a platform going forward to the future, I`d be perfectly fine never to hear from them again, on a matter of national security.

But I think part of the reason why the administration has continued to receive the kind of press coverage received is because those are the only people who are criticizing the administration. And the reality is, as you know, there been a lot of Democrats who aren`t happy with the way this has been handled. And that is a, we know, when administrations get into trouble, especially in matters on upon the political level, on matters of foreign policy, it`s not when they`re getting attack generally exclusively by the opposing party, it`s when they start hearing it from people on their own side.


And the Biden administration has been attacked by moderate Democrats, has been attacked by progressive Democrats. It`s been attacked by members of its own national security establishment by its from its own intelligence community, they are caught in a crossfire here and the press, you know, which has covered this thing is a conflagration, it`s had flaws in its coverage, and it had strengths.

But the press has had a lot of incoming from a lot of people who said nothing critical about Joe Biden for the first eight months of the presidency, who have all decided to dump on him. And those are the kinds of criticisms that opened the floodgates to what they`ve been experiencing a new for the first time in this administration over the last couple of weeks.

WILLIAMS: I want to return to that exact point with Claire in a moment. Peter, I`m told you`re back in it`s glad to have you back. Indeed, have you any indication in your reporting, that our embrace of the 31 August deadline has any wiggle room at all, as we speculated last night, can we treat the 31st as the day when all of our passengers are out and the military can help them for some slop time to get vehicles, aircraft personnel and all those c seven teams off the ramp?

BAKER: Well, they seem to be pretty firm on saying that`s not going to happen, at least if they have any say in it. It doesn`t mean it`s not going to happen. But that`s what they`re saying right now. Certainly, that`s the message they want to send to the Taliban because they don`t want the Taliban to be taking, you know, shots at Americans or even our Afghan allies as we`re trying to get them out.

The President did say the other day that he had asked the Pentagon for contingency plans in case we hadn`t completed what we need to by August 31. And that tape you showed of Secretary Blinken said there is no deadline for Americans getting out. Remember, he just said Americans and that`s a very key distinction here.

There are many thousands and as you pointed out, are reporting potentially hundreds of thousands of Afghans who will work with us who are not covered by that pledge, who are likely almost certainly to be left behind whether the date be August 31, or a few days after it. You already seen the American military beginning to pull out the troops that they had sent in to effectuate this evacuation. And you`ll see more of that in the days to come, which will limit the number of people who can be getting on planes and getting out of there before next week.

WILLIAMS: Senator McCaskill, to the point John just made, does the Biden administration have enough friends in Washington, enough friends and their party to help them make their kind of basic three points that Trump agreed to this deal, that the president of Afghanistan skip town, and that any earlying (ph) up of this evacuation would have caused absolute panic on in on the ground, you can`t move C-17s in and out and fill them with Americans and Afghans and not gather attention?

MCCASKILL: Yes, it`s kind of ironic people are saying, well, he should have quietly evacuated. You don`t quietly evacuate several 100,000 people without the Taliban and others on the ground knowing what`s going on. The Afghan government knew for a long time that both this president and the previous president wanted to get out. And the lack of planning, the lack of will to fight is not Joe Biden`s fault. There were way more Africans that aren`t Taliban than our Taliban. And they decided they were not going to stand and fight. And that was their decision.

Now, you know, honestly, Brian, there are some criticisms coming from Democrats. But I don`t know how this ever was going to end smoothly. I don`t think it was possible, knowing what Afghanistan is and what it represented. And frankly, I really don`t have any patience listening to people criticize Joe Biden about this when they`re supporting a guy with that when he was president. Not only did he want to do the same thing, he invited the -- he wanted to invite the Taliban to Camp David.

And by the way, all of them hate refugees. They don`t want refugees anywhere near the United States of America. So, I think the Democratic Party needs to stay united around our support for these refugees in Afghanistan and use the leverage of international aid and money to help them get out over time over the coming months.

WILLIAMS: John Heilemann, let`s talk domestic politics and all things pandemic, your digital outfit the Recount which is one of the more entertaining follows on places like Instagram put together a supercut, 49 seconds from an anti-vaccine rally in New York. We`re going to play it despite what people will hear from the first speaker insisting it`s not an X anti-vaccine rally in New York.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not an anti-Vax rally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To force an experimental injection into their body.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`re not vaccines. They`re poisons.

UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: A vaccine. This isn`t a vaccine. This is some kind of a bio pharma injection.


GARRETT RAMIREZ, SOCIALIST: My name is Garrett Ramirez. I am a socialist proudly. Don`t get many of those in this movement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Discrimination based on race, gender, age policies that discriminate against the unvaccinated will do the same thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a trick to get us to have digital IDs. They don`t know science, but they know marketing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You son of bitches. We`re going to not force me to put some vaccine in my kid`s hand.


WILLIAMS: So John, this forces us to ask the question, we are starting to hear on broadcasts like this one, and that is that vaccinated America has been too polite, too cautious around unvaccinated America and more than that the hardcore anti-vaxxers that we saw right there.

HEILEMANN: yes, and Brian, I the only reason I was smiling when you came back is I love my team. They do such a great job every day. And you know, look, that that video shows a sad and stark reality which is that anti- science views are not the concerns -- are not confined to any particular geography. And they`re not confined to any particular party. It is the case that there are more anti science people on the right in the Republican Party, at least on the base of what we can see on climate change. And on this, then there are the Democratic Party, but you will see them in places like New York and Manhattan on the left.

And it`s a huge problem, obviously a huge problem for public health. And it is creating what you`re talking about, which is, you know, we are -- we`ve already had an incredibly politicized response this, a response -- cultural response to this pandemic, the whole debate over masks because of the way Donald Trump handled it became a cultural -- a cultural war, a cultural battle in the larger cultural war.

And now we are seeing it I think and there`s rising hostility on both sides over the vaccine thing. It`s just now I think the vaccinated are almost -- are starting to get almost as angry at the unvaccinated and the ant -- certainly the anti-vaccinated as the anti-vaxxers are at the vaccine -- at the vaccinators. And I think it`s a -- it raises an ugly specter of where we`re going. And I -- I`m not sure how it ends well. But it`s something that we got to get over or else we`re going to be going through more variants into the future ad infinitum.

WILLIAMS: Ladies and gentlemen, our starting line on this Wednesday night, Peter Baker, Claire McCaskill, John Heilemann, great thanks for starting us off here tonight.

Coming up for us, new poll numbers on this withdrawal from Kabul with reaction from no less than James Carville and Mike Murphy. And later, that third vaccine shot could be coming sooner than we all expected. There is news as we said, on the booster front, one of our top public health physicians standing by to talk with us about it all of it as the 11th Hour is, as we say, just getting underway on this Wednesday night.




REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I think he`s ruined our reputation on a world stage. I think he`s allowing the Taliban to direct our reputation, but more importantly, our foreign policy. When you have countries such as the UK and France that are in Afghanistan for only one reason that America was attacked, that are begging us to extend the deadline past the 31st so they can get their citizens out that the President sides with the Taliban because the Taliban told them when, that is a very sad day for America.


WILLIAMS: Nothing like McCarthy when he does that serious thing on the political fallout for Joe Biden, our friend John Allen writes this today, quote, The damage from bipartisan criticism and the potentially long arc of the war`s aftermath could put his fellow Democrats in further jeopardy in next year`s midterm elections and harm his agenda if they see a need to distance themselves from him.

So back with us tonight, James Carville, veteran Democratic strategist who rose to national fame with the Clinton campaign effort. He is co-host of the Politics War Room podcast and Mike Murphy, veteran Republican strategist, co-director of the Center for the Political Future at the University of Southern California. He is co-host of the Hacks on Tap podcast. Gentlemen, good evening to you both.

James Carville, let`s, let`s get right to the politics of that. You heard McCarthy, Biden as embarrass the United States on the world stage. Speaking on a network that has consistently covered this along these lines. Joe Biden has turned his back on these people, but we do not want any of them coming here. James, do midterm voters and 2020 to carry foreign policy along with them when they go to vote?

JAMES CARVILLE, VETERAN DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: First of all, there`s no elegant way to lose a wall. We lost it for 15 years ago, all Joe Biden was doing is telling us what time it is in the hysterical in stupid coverage of the mainstream press is just an awful. Just read New York Magazine, a Josh Marshall on talking point.

What`s hurting Biden to put (INAUDIBLE) now more than anything is just viruses his comeback and people thought that it was not. But it`s kind of hard to know him Admiral Mullen the most courageous people in uniform who said like I was just robbed by this in 2011. One of the few people in this whole establishment that recognized the fact that this was a lawless law environment and I think would tell us the truth.

And the evacuations are actually going much better than a lot of people expected but there`s no good way to lose more. Right? I was, you now, I didn`t serve in Vietnam, but I was the Vietnam era that it will offset war. It looks bad. The country looks bad. You lose a war. You don`t look good. Just while the boss a long time ago, Joe Biden had nothing to do (INAUDIBLE).

WILLIAMS: Mike Murphy, here`s a quote from the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, Mr. Biden is bowing to Taliban demands, reiterated on Tuesday not to extend the deadline. He`s rejecting the advice of such G7 leaders as Britain`s Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron of France to stay longer to get more people out of the country safely. And he is about thousands of Afghans who fought with the US and NATO to the Taliban`s brand of retribution. Mr. Biden has negotiated with the Taliban from a position of weakness.


There`s a lot there, Mike, including, imagine ignoring the advice of Boris. It`s the same as the flu Johnson. And imagine pointing out that the deal came during the Trump administration. Are Republicans right to weaponize this knowing the pictures of Pompeo, knowing the role the Trump administration play?

MIKE MURPHY, VETERAN REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, you know, the old are they right to weaponize it? And politics question kind of pulls it the thread of the big sweater for either party because parties weaponize moments where the opponent is in trouble. It`s absolutely true that Donald Trump started this. He sent the flowers to the Taliban. They gave him a phony piece in exchange for a slow motion surrender. And Biden is caught it. But the politics are also that the clumsiness of all this is a real problem for Biden, plus, he`s going to own Afghanistan going forward, which is a thorny mess you don`t want to own.

He can debate the larger question of should we be out? I think most people agree with Biden that we had to get out. But that`s not where the debate is. The debate is the status quo.

You know, Biden did a good job earlier in his term of going and starting to repair some of the damage Trump had done with the Europeans. But the way this was conducted where they feel totally mugged, and not like they were in a partnership is a big problem. And I think the optics are terrible. And frankly, the policy is terrible, then send the head of CIA down there to talk to the Taliban and at least have the media framing and you know, maybe it`s fair, maybe it isn`t that they said, boo. And now we`re cutting out even when our European allies. We got to get closer to say we got to play a stronger hand for a little more time to try to do a full evacuation.

Now that said, by the way, the middle level people in the military are doing an incredible job. Biden should be proud of these numbers. I think he`s more recipient of that good news and a cause for it. But you really got to hand it to the military forces Department of State of the amazing numbers they`ve done. And maybe that does give Biden a little bit of cover now. We`ll see.

WILLIAMS: So James, James, same question. I asked Claire, does Biden need more friends and more vocal friends in Washington to point all this out?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, he would be greatly benefited depress the caucus accurately. And yes, you always have mealy mouthed Democrat. And I can`t tell you the number phone combination. I said, Well, Jane Birmingham and you know, to get the right thing by getting a bath, getting out but is going to buy it the wrong way. And I`ve said that they teach a course at West Point, or Annapolis by Johns Hopkins, on how to lose a war.

No. There`s no good way to lose a war. We lost this war. We lost it a long time before Joe Biden became president. All he`s doing is getting us out of that. And I`m sorry, this is not the Battle of Midway. All right. This is a defeat. And we got to understand that as a country, because we plow right into this after we get Vietnam, after we get Iraq. Warren Buffett said the only thing people aren`t from history, people never learn from history. I hope that (INAUDIBLE) images will cause us to take a deep breath before we go off on some of the Wall Street Journal sponsored and venture around the world.

WILLIAMS: Over the door, the National Archives it says past is prologue and it`s written there it`s chiseled there for good reason. Thankfully, both of these gentlemen have agreed to stick around while I fit in a break. Coming up, our conversation with both of them continues. They will indeed help assess the political wisdom of those anti-mask, anti-vaccine mandate GOP governors.




DAVID JOLLY, FMR. US CONGRESSMAN FROM FLORIDA WHO LEFT THE GOP: This is a rare miscalculation by Ron DiSantis at least when you look just at the raw political numbers. It is clear that what we knew was inevitable, right? We`re going to send tens of thousands of floor Floridian children into a classroom unmasked. And now we`re surprised apparently by the outbreak of COVID and the number of people are quarantined. So I think what you`re seeing with Ron DeSantis is a bit of a pivot right now.


WILLIAMS: So Florida`s governor as now -- is now as you may know pushing treatment rather than prevention against this virus even as his state broke the record for new cases today. Once again, Florida leads the way. And to be clear Florida is now recording the highest daily infection rates since the start of the pandemic began higher than the battle days.

His shift could have something to do with his plummeting popularity. A new Quinnipiac poll shows a majority 51 percent as you saw there, Floridians say they disapprove of how DeSantis is handling the virus that could be because an average of 227 people are dying every day in Florida, way more than any other state. Local entities, meanwhile, are ignoring the governor`s own mask mandate ban.

Washington Post reports that half of Florida students now attend schools where masks are required, in defiance of their own governor. Wrap your head around that one. Back with us tonight, James Carville and Mike Murphy.

Mike, Governor Greg Abbott in Texas doubled down today on his stance against vaccine mandates. Is this the price of staying on brand with the MAGA crowd and going after the nomination of your party if you`re a Republican lawmaker?

MURPHY: Yes, I mean, these guys are playing republican primary politics where I think over time, it`s going to be proven to be a weaker bet than they think it is. And, you know, the other side of the equation is they get in trouble in the general elections.

I mean, the COVID is bad for incumbents. I don`t care what party they`re in. You`re seeing it all over the country. Gavin Newsom here in California is in serious jeopardy if the recall. There`s Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan seeing low poll numbers. If you`re an incumbent COVID is bad because people are mad and they want this thing to get solved and go away.


But DeSantis, in particular, to some extent, Abbott, is leading with his chin into the meat grinder. And the polling shows that among independents, you know, he`s only holding on to Republicans. But that is not a winning hand in a swing state. I think he`s starting to wiggle a little bit now trying to kind of find a way out of it. But this was the self-inflicted wound. And it`s made the general election for him far more competitive, at least at this point than it was going to be.

WILLIAMS: James has no one needs to remind you, DeSantis first needs to get elected. Secondly, he very much wants the GOP nomination to run for president of the United States. And he, of course, wants the endorsement of the guy just up the interstate from him as someone who holds your party accountable all the time. Are you convinced and Democrats ability to run at him hard in Florida?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, I think we had a good shot the Senate race. I think (INAUDIBLE) is an incredibly good candidate who`d run terrible campaigns down now. We`ve got 67 percent on minimum wage or 64 percent under 15 on a felon right to vote. So without -- if we run a good campaign, we can, but let me just briefly addresses treatment as opposed to prevention.

I probably know 50 people that have had COVID into a person. And I know somebody to die in a person. They say, James, you don`t want to forward to stuff. It`s bad. And this is the most irresponsible thing that I can imagine, where they`re in these hospital you have nurses in Mississippi quitting, you had hospital, the head of the hospital in Baton Rouge said no one is getting quality care here.

And this guy, that`s the most irresponsible thing I can imagine a public official say it that treatment over prevention that you cause and people are not Louisianans, I`m not going to get better because I`m 77 (INAUDIBLE). I have a heart attack, or get in a car accident, I`m done. I can find a hospital bed. It`s just -- it`s the most outrageous thing. Honestly, I`ve heard a public official say so far this year.

WILLIAMS: It is hardly hyperbole when we point out that people die lives are at stake. And this is the intersection between politics and lives and governors that are supposed to protect and serve their constituents. Great thanks to our guest tonight two friends of this broadcast, James Carville, Mike Murphy. Gentlemen, as always, greatly appreciate your time and attention.

When we come back, big news on n this booster front, we`ll ask our doctor about tonight`s headlines when we continue.



WILLIAMS: This is destined to be big news in every household. As we mentioned, federal officials reportedly planned to move up our eligibility for those booster shots from eight months after your original vaccination to six months. That`s a big change. According to The Wall Street Journal, quote approval for boosters of all three COVID-19 shots being administered in the U.S. is expected in mid-September. Biden administration and companies have said there should be enough supply for boosters that they plan to begin distributing more widely on September 20.

It`s a lot to discuss. Thank goodness for us. Back with us again tonight is Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease physician and the founding director of Boston University Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy and Research.

So doctor, this a big deal. I think it`s safe to say that the public might feel a little whipsawed with a lot of numbers and standards coming at them. What goes into the decision making between eight months, which is still new news for most of us, shrinking the six months.

DR. NAHID BHADELIA, INFECTIOUS DISEASES PHYSICIAN: Brian, as we`ve talked about before, I think a lot of this data is based on observation because we don`t have trials or three doses. And so what I would imagine they`re basing this on is that this summer, where a lot of the people who got their earlier vaccines last December, January started to -- you started to see at least high risk populations, nursing home residents, and now cities these release data that healthcare workers potentially saw increased number of breakthrough infections as well, since we were already seeing that right. We`ve been seeing that the last couple of months, because that`s what the data is based on.

Moving that deadline up to six months allows those who potentially are, you know, maybe coming up to that point to get those vaccines early so that they don`t enter a period of time where their immunity is declining, where they may get breakthrough infections.

And I think you can make that argument for people who are older, sick, more 65, you can make an argument for those who are healthcare workers that you don`t want to have them, have these breakthrough infections, because they`re taking care of vulnerable people.

I think there`s still a discussion about you know, where anybody who`s below 60. There`s this really data that now shows that, you know, those who got their vaccine six to seven months ago, you still have protection against severe disease in the 90s, 90 percent percentile. And so do you really need to have this broader, you know, increase in boosters for everybody at six months? Because the direct impact of that, Brian, is that more people become eligible, which increases the demand on vaccines at a time where only 25 percent of the world has, you know, has gotten fully vaccinated and only 1.5 percent of the population in low income countries are vaccinated. And that`s why the WHO is asked for that two month moratorium on boosters.

WILLIAMS: And doctor, because I`m a civilian and so are the people watching tonight, I need to run this quote by you. This is Katherine Wu writing in the Atlantic, quote, a more vaccinated world creates a more hostile global environment for SARS-CoV-2. Mutations will still occur, but fewer of them will be of consequence, lineages will still splinter, but they`ll do so less often.

What about mutations? People are going to naturally worry about mutations cutting away at the efficacy of now a third shot.

BHADELIA: Yes, and it`s all tied together, right? I mean, let`s -- let me link that to the booster story. Because let`s say now, every industrialized country and many industrialized countries started doing this six month booster and so we reduce the amount of vaccines, rest of the world is vaccinated and that excellent article will actually encourage everybody to read.

What it discusses, you know, is what we`ve been talking about from the scientific perspective, which is that the more this virus transmits, right, and vaccines seem to protect the at least cut down the infections by two- thirds. Overall, even as you`re seeing this decline.


And so the more this virus transmits, the more people it infects, the more likely it is to mutate. And so even as we get our boosters, while this virus is transmitting more greatly, you are more likely to see this mutinous. However I do want to set people`s minds at ease with is that most people in my field feel that even if you were to get these new variants, it would be pretty unlikely that we go back to square one, immunologically. Yes, we will see, you know, a drop in efficacy. And that`s why we want the world vaccinated because the drop in efficacy is going to particularly impact those who have medical conditions who are high risk who are immunocompromised, and so we don`t want that, but it won`t be how it was in December of 2019, when not many people in this world had any immunity this virus. However, we need to vaccinate the rest of the world as we vaccinate here to make sure that our vaccinations remain effective.

WILLIAMS: Tell you what, because if you`re one of our regular guests, who always brings up the world, the wider world around us take 60 more seconds expand on that point talk about the American responsibility to help vaccinate the wider world.

BHADELIA: Yes, we, you know, the one of the reasons that you`re seeing such a dearth of vaccines is that high income countries basically bought up all this supply. There was supposed to be COVAX utility put together with you, you know, WHO and others to try to buy doses to vaccinate the world. But we reserve those doses because we outbid that utility the COVAX utility and not only that, but you know, as we`re going through, we`re increasing the demand with the boosters. And we`ve made it so that you, for example, right now is blocking, you know, waivers to intellectual property. So other countries can`t produce those doses. And we`re not giving potentially the support that countries need right now to expand and manufacturing.

We need to commit to vaccinate the world because it`s good for us. It`s good for our continued, you know, path out of this pandemic. It`s not just the humanitarian perspective, Brian, it is for us to end this pandemic and get on the other side.

WILLIAMS: That`s what our audience needed to hear. Our guest tonight, once again has been Dr. Nahid Bhadelia. Thank you so much, doctor, for taking our questions again tonight.

Coming up for us. Our focus goes back overseas, what will the Taliban do if America needs more time to get all of our people out of Afghanistan? Well, our own Richard Engel, sat across from them, ask them that question directly. We`ll show you that exchange when we come right back.



WILLIAMS: Less than a week away from the deadline to get every last American out of Afghanistan along with every deserving Afghan on an outbound aircraft, as they were told to expect months ago, the Taliban holds all the cards now. The administration and many Americans have so many questions they want to ask. And as you`ll see in here tonight, our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel asked the Taliban directly in tonight`s report from Kabul.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Taliban is stressing it`s time for the U.S. and its allies to pack up and get out. Transport planes and civilian aircraft from around the world are evacuating vulnerable Afghans. But there`s a huge bottleneck at transit hubs.

At the US base in Doha, Qatar, thousands are crowded in holding areas, temperatures well over 100 degree.

SARA FROTAN, AFGHAN REFUGEE: We`re in Qatar because it so hot there. I think that four times here. Everyone thought they`re going to die.

ENGEL: In Kabul, the Taliban are helping speed up the evacuations. Today, keeping crowds away from the airport, handing out food and water. But many Afghans feel they`re being abandoned especially women and girls who were oppressed when the Taliban ruled 20 years ago.

Now, the Taliban promised to be different. But have they changed? Or are they just playing nice until the Americans leave?

Tonight, I met Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman.

(on camera): The United States is evacuating and it is taking out Americans who worked with U.S. forces. But not everyone is going to be able to make it out. Will you let those people leave in the future? Can you guarantee their safety?

ZABIHULLAH MUJAHID, TALIBAN SPOKESMAN (through translator: We don`t want our countrymen to go to America. Whatever they have done in the past, we have given them amnesty. We need young educated professionals for our nation. But what if they want to leave, it`s their choice.

ENGEL: What would you say to women, Afghan women who are terrified?

MUJAHID (through translator): They are sisters, we must show them respect. They should not be frightened. The Taliban are humans and from this country. They have fought for their country. Women should be proud of us not scared.

ENGEL: There are already reports of Taliban fighters taking young women on married women as brides, forced brides. There have been reports of people going into homes.

MUJAHID (through translator): This is propaganda from the old regime. We have no evidence of a single case.

ENGEL: This war started when Osama bin Laden was a guest of the Taliban organized 9/11 attacks. Can you guarantee that this country will never again be a base for terrorism?

MUJAHID (through translator): When Osama bin Laden became an issue for the Americans, he was in Afghanistan. Although there was no proof he was involved. Now we have given promises that Afghan soil won`t be used against anyone.

ENGEL: You still don`t think that Osama Bin Laden carried out 9/11?

MUJAHID (through translator): There is no evidence even after 20 years of war, we have no proof he was involved.

ENGEL: So it sounds like even now after all of this, you`re accepting no responsibility.

MUJAHID (through translator): There was a there was no justification for this war. It was excused for war.

ENGEL: How are you feeling right now after 20 years, and the Americans are leaving?

MUJAHID (through translator): The withdraws almost finished. These are our happiest moments.

ENGEL: I met with several senior Taliban officials, including the spokesman and they all said the Taliban wants to open a new chapter of relations with the United States, including exchanging diplomats and opening embassies. Richard Engel, NBC News, Kabul.


WILLIAMS: A mesmerizing and tense conversation as promised. Coming up, we shift our focus not too fast but not too slow when it comes to speed and the vaccine will show you how Fox News has pulled off the art of having it both ways.



WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, this item we`re going to show you is a compilation done by our friends over at The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. It highlights the dilemma at Fox News. How do you please the patron saint Donald Trump by praising him as the father of the vaccine effort and the driving force behind Operation Warp Speed, while still as you must sowing doubt in the safety of the vaccine? Well, the answer is it`s hard to do it with a straight face, but they`ve managed to pull it off.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The FDA just giving full approval to Pfizer`s COVID vaccine, and in record time to that as critics asking if the process was rushed.

Was it Operation Warp Speed is great. He was the one, Trump, pushing the company saying, yes, five years that`s not good enough for me. I want this done in a year. And then they were able to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: all the sudden, out of nowhere The FDA is going to give full approval to the Pfizer vaccine. Do you believe the timing is curious?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Warp Speed you break it down. It`s one of the President`s finest accomplishments. He got rid of all the paperwork and all the bureaucracy that would have stopped this vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did they not push this FDA approval too fast? Operation Warp Speed, how quickly they got this done the mass dissemination of vaccines across the country. It`s incredible.


WILLIAMS: Having it both ways to take us off the air tonight courtesy again of The Daily Show and that is our broadcast for this Wednesday evening. It comes with our thanks for being here with us and on behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.