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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 8/5/21

Guests: Mark Laperouse, Don Calloway, Mark McKinnon


As the delta variant surges, there is major concern over new COVID outbreaks at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. White House applauds uptick in vaccinations. Pediatrics group sees rise in kids with COVID. Biden Education Secretary call out Republicans banning mask mandates.


ANDREA CAMPBELL, BOSTON CANDIDATE FOR MAYOR: And so, my life has always been about the possibilities of our city, the pain of when the city doesn`t work for everyone. And I jumped into this mayor`s race back in September to say that we have the opportunity to change life outcomes by ensuring we are providing every resident with equal and equitable opportunity.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Andrea Campbell, I`ve been looking forward to this moment. I`ve been thinking about your grandfather, who I met when I was a little kid and your father who I met when I was a little kid, and my father, of course, who knew them both. And this is kind of a very special moment for me. Andre Campbell, candidate for mayor of Boston. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

CAMPBELL: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Andrea Campbell gets tonight`s Last Word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, I`m Ali Velshi in for Brian Williams. Day 198 of the Biden administration as the nation searches for a way out of the Delta Variant fueled COVID surge. The Wall Street Journal is out with new reporting about booster shots. The Journal reports the FDA expects to have a strategy for vaccine boosters by early next month, one that would detail when and which vaccinated individuals should get the follow up shots.

Tonight, vaccine maker Moderna also preparing for boosters. The company says people who received two doses of its vaccine will likely need a third dose before winter.


DR. STEPHEN HOGE, MODERNA, INC. PRESIDENT: One of the most important things we need to do is actually bring the Delta variant into the vaccine. And that way we`re teaching the immune system what the Delta variant looks like in our vaccine, just as we did with the prior variants in the virus.


VELSHI: All right, this is all taking place as the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new COVID cases yesterday, numbers that have not been seen since February. Hospital admissions are up 41% over the last week, COVID deaths up 39% over the same period.


JEFFREY ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID RESPONSE COORDINATOR: These cases are concentrated in communities with low vaccination rates. In fact, over the past seven days Florida and Texas have accounted for about 1/3 of new cases.


VELSHI: Health officials in Texas are among those sounding the alarm about the viruses re-surges. They say this outbreak is very different than what we`ve seen before.


DR. JENNIFER SHUFORD, STATE EPIDEMIOLOGIST FOR TEXAS: What you can see is the rise in cases is similar to what we`ve seen in previous waves and might even be steeper, and that really showed how contagious the Delta variant is. It`s spreading much more rapidly among unvaccinated people than the viruses that we saw last year.


VELSHI: In the Houston area where the COVID-19 threat level has been raised to code red, officials paint a stark portrait of the situation.


JUDGE LINA HIDALGO, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: We find ourselves retracing our steps toward the edge of a cliff. It is very conceivable that we could once again be heading toward a public health catastrophe. This is no longer a disease of the old. The average age of the patient being admitted into Texas Medical Center hospitals is 20 years younger than it was before. We`re now having patients on average in their 40s which means there`s people in their 30s.


VELSHI: NBC News reports there`s another troubling sign in this latest surge. The number of nursing home patients and staff infected with COVID-19 is now also on the rise. But there`s some encouraging news in all of this. Administration officials say more people are now choosing to get vaccinated. Over the past 24 hours official say another 864,000 people got the shot. That`s the highest one day number since July 3, and the White House says the most significant increases are happening in states with the highest COVID rates.

However, there is growing concern about infections among kids still too young to be vaccinated. According to a report in Forbes, "The number of children contracting COVID-19 has increased fivefold since the end of June with a substantial 84% jump in the last week alone, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics."

Today, the White House unveiled a new push to get those 12 and older vaccinated as the school year is getting underway in some states. The Secretary of Education also had a pointed message for Republican governors, including Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas about efforts to prevent local officials from following CDC guidance which calls for wearing masks indoors where the virus is spreading rapidly and in schools.


MIGUEL CARDONA, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: We`re also monitoring the decisions that adults are making where politics are getting in the way and it`s putting students at risk. Don`t be the reason why schools are disrupted because of the politicization of this effort to reopen schools.


VELSHI: As for the president, today you seem to shrug off The Florida Governor`s criticism of his efforts to push COVID prevention measures.



KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC NEWS: Governor DeSantis, who is using your words about, "don`t be in the way," and he`s saying, "I am in the way to block too much interference from the federal government." Your response, Mr. President?

JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: Governor who?

O`DONNELL: DeSantis.

BIDEN: That`s my response.


VELSHI: That was also the day -- this was also the day President Biden honored the law enforcement officers who responded to the January 6 Capital insurrection. He signed legislation that awards them Congressional Gold Medals, the highest honor that Congress can bestow.


BIDEN: While the attack on our values and our vote shocked and saddened the nation our democracy did survive. And that`s because of the women and men of the U.S. Capitol Police, the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and other law enforcement officials. These were tragic hours back then. You stood in the breach. You did your duty, duty to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The events that transpired were surprising but not your character, your courage.


VELSHI: Meanwhile, the House Select Committee investigating January 6 is now taking over the oversight committee`s investigation into Trump`s final months in office. That`s an addition to the Select Committee`s inquiry into the capital insurrection.

And in New York, the committee of state lawmakers handling the impeachment inquiry into Governor Andrew Cuomo says it`s nearing the end of its investigation. Cuomo is facing allegations that he sexually harassed 11 women. He denies those allegations. He hasn`t been charged with any crimes.

Today those lawmakers informed Cuomo`s attorney that any additional evidence or written submissions must be provided to the committee by August 13. That`s a week from tomorrow. The governor is also the subject of criminal investigations by at least four district attorney offices in New York State.

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Thursday night, Susan Page, veteran journalist, best selling author and longtime Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, Sam Stein, a Veteran Journalist who`s now White House Editor for Politico and Dr. Vin Gupta, Critical Care Pulmonologist in Seattle, who has advised us on public health throughout the pandemic. He`s also on faculty at the University of Washington`s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Welcome to all three of you. Thanks for kicking us off tonight. Dr. Gupta, let`s start with you and the discussion of booster shots coming up. On one hand, we`ve got massive spread of coronavirus, numbers that we have not seen for several months. And we`re talking now about getting boosters for those who have been vaccinated?

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Ali. This -- the pharmaceutical companies need to stop leading on messaging on this topic. First, Pfizer did it, now Moderna`s following it`s -- it`s like a -- it`s a habit that they can`t quit. They need to stop doing this because the message I hear from unvaccinated young people is docked right now need three doses of a vaccine to be protected. It`s confusing people and they need to stop it. What`s clear and what I suspect FDA is going to release in the coming weeks. I`m glad they`re doing it, Ali, is that if you`re immunocompromised, if you have cancer chemotherapy, it`s a long list here 4% of America has that condition, you will get a third side of -- you`ll be eligible for a booster shot before the end of the year, over 65 likely you will be in that group as well. For the rest of us, there is no indication you need a booster shot. So let me repeat that. For the rest of us that are otherwise healthy, less than 65 years of age, you receive two shots of the vaccine, you do not necessarily -- you`re likely not going to get a booster shot in this calendar year. Frankly, you may not even need one in 2022. That`s what the data is telling us today. So they need to stop leading with this messaging and defer to public health experts.

VELSHI: It is an interesting time where you get press releases and CEOs of health companies telling us what`s going on as opposed to the government.

Sam, I want to read you something from the Washington Post that was reported tonight. It says the Biden administration considers withholding funds and other measures to spur vaccinations. The Biden administration is considering using federal regulatory powers and the threat of withholding federal funds from institutions to push more Americans to get vaccinated a huge potential shift in the fight against the virus and a far more muscular approach to getting shots into arms. The effort could apply to institutions as varied as long term care facilities, cruise ships and universities potentially impacting millions of Americans. You heard the education secretary taking aim at a couple of governors, were standing in the way of school mask mandates. What`s your sense, Sam of the federal government getting aggressive about this?

SAM STEIN, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE EDITOR: Well, I think something happened a few weeks back where the administration looked at the vaccination rates and statistics and the rise of the Delta variant and decided that they needed to adjust their PR campaign around vaccinations. What you saw early on was a belief that more carrots persuasion, local actors, community leaders would help essentially get us towards that 70% vaccination rate that we wanted by July 4. We missed the goal. We missed that deadline. And then subsequently, we saw the spread of the Delta variant.


I believe the administration said, we need to look at a more sticks heavy approach. Now there is no announcement of a federal mandate, for instance, but Biden has said that he is going to mandate the federal workforce, get vaccinated or subject themselves to regular testing. You`re seeing the use of the Federal purse strings to try to compel vaccinations, you`ve seen them lean on businesses, to say, look, we can`t force you to do this. But you should consider the idea of mandating vaccines for your own workforce. This is all sort of a sticks heavy approach to the administration did not try early on. There are some sort of recognition, I would say that you didn`t need it, that it wouldn`t work. But I think desperation got the best of it. And we`re seeing actually, I think, the results that are an uptick in vaccination rates that are tied to this approach, that are tied to the idea that if you demand it, if you put -- not just incentivize it, you may get people to take the shot.

VELSHI: Susan, let`s talk about the politics of this for a second. Your friend of ours, the columnist Eugene Robinson wrote in The Washington Post tonight, this is the GOP`s pandemic now, cynical and irresponsible Republican politicians have created an environment that is killing Americans who shouldn`t have to die. They are not exhorting their constituents that they have a personal responsibility to get vaccinated, wear masks or take precautions. Their basic message: Your body, your choice, no one else`s business.

This is not where we thought this was going to go. Susan, I think Joe Biden expected that he would take the vaccination and the fighting of coronavirus more seriously than then Donald Trump did. And people would respond well to that. I don`t think anybody was counting on the idea that their whole big chunk of people who are not responding to it at all?

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: You know, it`s been one of the surprises I think of this pandemic is the fact that even the wearing of a mask becomes a partisan statement of where you stand. And, you know, I think that now the administration is facing this kind of balancing act. What kind of tolerance will there be for, as Sam said, for using sticks. You know, there`s a tension I think, between those who needs to see this as a matter of individual liberty, and those who see it as a matter of the common good. And you`ve got to -- the one problem the administration is facing now, the people who need to be vaccinated are those who tend to see this as a matter of individual liberty, they are much harder to persuade to get vaccinated than the millions of Americans who have already gotten there.

VELSHI: Doctor Gupta, I want to ask you about this, you know, that the vaccine hesitancy is not all one thing. There are some people who have historical and cultural reasons for not wanting to take this vaccine and they can be talked to an approach. But there is this politicized part of it. There is a part of it that`s not necessarily politicized, but informed by the internet and by conspiracy theories, hard to get to, regardless of how strenuous the message or the sticks that come from the White House, or even from corporate America might look.

GUPTA: You know what I will say in reference to that and Susan`s absolutely correct and but the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Ali, just came out with a survey suggesting that 60% of those that are unvaccinated are reachable. They`re the movable middle, for example, 40% or not. So what about those 60%? What they want is in plain terms, they want accessible knowledge on safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. They don`t want mass communication. They want the ability to directly engage with a health provider that they trust. Also turns out, I`ve been marching around the country having these conversations with just these individuals. These are individuals that don`t have those trusted relationships, either because obviously, we have inequities in our healthcare system. A lot of people don`t have health care, they don`t have that provider they can access and have this conversation with or they don`t have medical conditions. So they don`t have that interface.

I think we have to recognize that 60% of these unvaccinated are reachable. I`ve seen it myself as my colleagues. We just have to have that direct engagement. And I`ll -- let me just emphasize here, we mandate our way out of this. That`s fine. We`ll kick the can down the road. But we have to rebuild trust in health institutions. We might as well do that now.

VELSHI: Yeah, it`s a valid issue because there may be vaccines and pandemics to come.

Susan Page, a New York State, Andrew Cuomo, what a thing, he has dependent for a long time on a strong network of supporters at every level, local state level and the federal level. They`re all calling for him to resign. He`s got no quarter of support right now. And yet, there is no imminent indication that he will resign.

PAGE: Well, everybody knows he`s not going to last except him. And you know, maybe alternatively, right? There`s if there`s a lesson for modern politics is politicians under fire who you think can`t possibly survive. Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Ralph Northam, the governor of Virginia, they hang on and they do survive and that must what Andrew Cuomo is looking at now. But if you think about it, he`s been elected three times Governor of New York, there is not a person and a senior official in New York today that is standing up and calling for him to stay in office, his own state party chairman has come out and said it`s time for him to resign. And if he doesn`t resign, it is clear that the democratic controlled state assembly is going to move ahead with impeachment proceedings.


VELSHI: Sam, let`s talk about this piece of reporting that we have that the Oversight Committee is handing over responsibility for the Donald Trump investigation to the January 6 committee. This is an interesting story, because the Oversight Committee is a normally constituted standing committee that has a number of Republicans, a number of Democrats, obviously, the select committee for January 6, different formation because Kevin McCarthy didn`t feel like or didn`t want to sort of put a few people on there who would be acceptable to Nancy Pelosi. So what does this mean? Does it mean anything that this the select committee is getting bigger responsibilities?

STEIN: I think so. You don`t really don`t see something like this on Capitol Hill, right? People are very protective of their congressional turf. Committees say this is our jurisdiction, but out usually you have head butting in overlapping jurisdictions. In this case, I think Democrats decided, look, we need to synchronize everything. In one Select Committee, we need to have one simple narrative, the January 6 committee is going to get going pretty aggressively than told on subpoenas. They`re not going to, you know, as you know, for Trump officials to turn their documents over willingly. They realize that`s a step that`s worthless to take. So I think the party has just concluded we need to get everything under one umbrella. I tell one story, do one investigation make it comprehensive and move quickly. And so you see a very rare thing happening, which is a member of congress abdicating their turf, essentially to another member.

VELSHI: Thank you to the three of you for kicking us off this evening, Susan Page, Sam Stein and Dr. Vin Gupta, we appreciate that.

Coming up, the Delta variant is now dominating Louisiana. We`re going to check in with an ER doc in one of the nation`s hardest hit hospitals. And later the president today says the tragedy of January 6 deserves the truth. We`ll talk about a significant chunk of Americans who are eager to ignore it, the 11th Hour just getting underway on a Thursday night.




DR. JOSEPH KANTOR, LOUISIANA STATE HEALTH OFFICER: We added about another 100 hospitalized COVID patients today and that number continues to go up. We`ve not yet seen any sign that it`s a bad thing. And that`s really scary, 50 hospitals in Louisiana have reached out to us to ask for help with staffing. 50 hospitals have said they can`t adequately care for all the patients coming in. And that`s a remarkable number.


VELSHI: Tonight Louisiana hospitals are facing a critical staffing shortage as COVID cases continue to surge. The state broke the record for hospitalizations for the third straight day today. And as we just heard there from the top health official in the state, there`s no sign it`s going to slow down anytime soon.

For more we welcome back to the broadcast, Dr. Mark Laperouse. He is the Emergency Department Medical Director at Our Lady of the Lake, a healthcare system based in Baton Rouge, Dr. Laperouse, thank you for joining us again. I`m sorry that you and I have to talk as regularly as we do. What`s the situation right now with your health care system?

DR. MARK LAPEROUSE, LOUISIANA EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: Well, I mean, that`s a lot of the same that we talked about last week. It`s the hospital systems are overwhelmed. Our hospital is no different. You know, we`ve always prided ourselves on being the hospital that can receive all the patients from smaller hospitals and we`re still struggling to do that.

VELSHI: What`s the issue with the people you`re seeing vis-a-vis vaccination are most of the people you`re seeing and treating for COVID unvaccinated?

LAPEROUSE: It does seem like they`re more people that are unvaccinated that are coming into the emergency department. Definitely the number of patients that are being admitted to the hospital are primarily unvaccinated.

VELSHI: And what are you -- what are you anecdotally hearing from them? Are people expressing regret about not getting the vaccination? Are they talking about it a lot?

LAPEROUSE: It does seem to be coming up more, patients that are being admitted to the hospital do seem to regret it. Patients that are coming in that are otherwise well just coming in for a test and find out that they have COVID. They -- it seems like there`s a little bit of a shock factor. And then yeah, I can`t quite tell if they wish they had had the vaccine or not. These are the ones that are going home though.

VELSHI: Let`s talk about this reporting in the New York Times, we`re hearing this across the country. But even in Louisiana, New York Times says that demand for the shots has nearly quadrupled in recent weeks in Louisiana, a promising glimmer that the deadly reality of the virus might be breaking through a logjam of misunderstanding and misinformation, two distinct pieces of information we`re getting, lots and lots of COVID in areas that where people have not been vaccinated, and lots of vaccinations coming from areas where people have not previously been vaccinated?

LAPEROUSE: Yeah, this numbers are exciting for me. And I feel that this message that we`re getting out there is working and feels like it`s working when I see numbers like that, you know, the patients that are coming into the emergency department is not everyone. So hopefully this is resonating with the public, and that they`re getting vaccinated and they`re going to be -- not be the ones that I`m seeing in the emergency department or not being admitted to the hospital. Yeah, I think we still have some work to do. We still have some work to do within the hospitals, you know, the hospitals across the states still don`t have, you know, they`re not -- all healthcare workers are not vaccinated. But we`re getting there.

VELSHI: Yeah, so this was an issue. Obviously, when the vaccine started to come out, we knew that there was hesitancy amongst some health care workers. I think there was some sense that a lot of that would be overcome and the hospital systems were using different approaches. As you know, in Houston, some of the hospital systems there took a much more stringent approach and lost some staff as a result of it but got everybody who remained vaccinated. What -- how does that compare to where you are?

LAPEROUSE: Yeah, that was pretty early on for them to do that. And I think that was a pretty brave move, especially with the national nursing shortage. Our hospital system decided this week to do the same and it`s -- we`re going to have a mandatory vaccinations for all hospital employees. And they given -- you know, they`re giving a runway, giving it a timeline to allow them to have the chance to think through this process through this and then go ahead and get the vaccine.

VELSHI: Are you worried because there is a -- not only nurse shortage but a healthcare worker shortage across America, are you worried about the implication of that? In Houston, they didn`t lose a lot of stuff. They lost some not a lot. But when you`re short of people, you don`t want to lose any.


LAPEROUSE: Sure. I mean, there`s always the concern that we could lose staff, the important thing in a hospital system is to not make decisions out of fear, we`re making the right decision or making the decision that`s -- that puts patients first, patient safety, you know, employee safety. That`s what our primary concerns aren`t. I`m proud to work for a place that that puts that on a pedestal.

VELSHI: What such a trajectory right now that you are seeing, given that we`ve been reporting this, your governor has been talking about it, you have in Louisiana, actually, in some cases, mandated indoor mask mandates. So unlike some states, including some around you, Louisiana is trying to get this under control. Are you seeing a change in the trajectory of the number of people the number of cases and the number of deaths?

LAPEROUSE: I think all the measures that we`re taking -- we`re going to be seeing that of the upcoming weeks. I think we`re still on the upswing. And I think that we`re going to start to hit that peak, hopefully a lot sooner than was anticipated. There initially, were some models out there for mid August, and then it got to mid September. I sure hope this isn`t mid September, where we`re still having these interviews these conversations because we`re still on the up rise. It certainly seems like the measures that we`re taking, the improvements we`re making in vaccination rates, some of the changes we`re making within the hospitals, it seems like we`re going to bring that peak a little closer to current state rather than mid September.

VELSHI: Whenever I talk to, you know, for the last year and a half, when we`ve talked to hospital administrators or chief medical officers or CEOs of hospitals, they`ve tried not to be political. But they you know, they`ve been out there begging for the last year and a half either for supplies or for help or for people to wear their masks or whatever the case is now. Now that we`re up against a very identifiable problem, a highly contagious variant and vaccine resistance, what do you most want from authorities, at the state level and the federal level?

LAPEROUSE: What do I want most from the authorities? I think that mask mandate was a hard but good decision by the governor. I think that we need to continue to enforce those things. I think, you know, making large group settings really go through some strict rules and guidelines in order to have a group setting. It seems like we did such a great job in March and April and May. We started coming back into -- you know, coming out of the lockdowns, with structure. And if we can do the same thing right now, have structure to the decisions that we`re making, not just go full force and have huge open, huge events. I think that we`ll -- we can get there. We just have to remember what did it feel like in March and April and May when we were completely locked down? And how did it feel as we went through each phase opening things back up? We started to really enjoy life, opening it up slowly. So why don`t we do the same thing now.

VELSHI: Dr. Laperouse, our thanks to you and your colleagues for all the hard work that you continue to do 18 months into this thing to keep people healthy and alive. Dr. Mark Laperouse is the Medical Director of Our Lady of the Lakes Emergency Department in Louisiana.

Coming up, the battle over protecting voting rights enters a new phase in both Texas and on Capitol Hill. Two of our favorite political observers weigh in when the 11th Hour continues.



VELSHI: Texas Republicans will make their third attempt to push new voting restrictions as Democratic lawmakers urge Congress to act. Governor Greg Abbott announced a new legislative session will begin on Saturday. Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on democrats in Washington to take action. The Washington Post reports today quote, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has signaled that additional votes on voting rights are likely before the Senate breaks for the summer. Despite the lack of final agreement, Democrats and allied advocacy groups are eager to show progress and return Capitol Hill`s attention to voting rights.

Joining us to talk about it all. Don Calloway, Democratic Strategist and Founder of the National Voter Protection Action Fund and Mark McKinnon, former adviser to both George W. Bush and John McCain. He`s also among the co-hosts of The Circus on Showtime. Good morning. Good morning. Goodness, it`s morning somewhere. Hi to both of you.

Don, let`s start with you. There is a -- there are advocacy groups that are keeping the pressure on it through the so called seller (ph) of action. We continue to see arrests being made demonstrations, members of Congress facing arrest, arrests on Capitol Hill. There is something out there that feels like it hasn`t felt since the late 1960s in terms of pressure as it relates to voting rights. There was even an ad using the words of Martin Luther King, to put pressure on Joe Biden to do something about this. Let`s play this ad and get your take on it on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senators who will use the filibuster to keep the majority of people from even voting and certainly they wouldn`t want the majority of people to vote because they know they do not represent the majority of the American people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Biden, please tell the Senate reformed the filibuster. Everything is at stake.


VELSHI: Don, Got thoughts on the movement right now and the effect that it`s having.

DON CALLOWAY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that you said the perfect word, Ali, it`s a movement, not a moment. When the Texas democrats came up here three weeks ago, there was an opportunity to make it a moment and it would have been a cool moment, and they were gone back home and figured out a way to not be arrested.

But this is a movement. I love the summer of 1960, the Freedom Summer of 1964. And which hundreds and thousands of Americans went down to Alabama, Mississippi and fought for voting rights. We are back in that mode, we are back in that movement moment right now. And it`s very exciting to watch here in Washington DC.

My hometown Congresswoman Cori Bush in the fight for to extend the eviction moratorium. People are really sensing that Congress need not go -- they`re sensing a sense of urgency, and they don`t want Congress to break for a month and miss the urgency and miss the moment we have. So I`m so excited to see so many different people activated on so many different things, but particularly voting rights and as a Democrat who does this stuff.

There`s a lot of optimism that Senator Manchin is coming around that members of the more moderate of the Republican Party are coming around to some different voting rights proposals and that we can get some votes on the table.


VELSHI: Right. And people have put out obvious proposals out there that if you also are concerned about your precious filibuster, just carve voting rights out of it, and you can keep the filibuster.

But Mark, I, you know, this is a little -- this is inside and outside the Beltway stuff. The average American doesn`t care about the filibuster. The potential damage that everybody on Capitol Hill is worried about if they get rid of the filibuster, I don`t think it`s a real thing out there in America.

MARK MCKINNON, FMR. ADVISER TO JOHN MCCAIN AND GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, Ali, I`ve done campaigns for over 30 years have probably done more than 100 of them. And not once in 30 years have I ever heard a voter say, Please protect the filibuster. Nobody outside Washington has any idea what is, most inside Washington thing there is. And listen, the practical realities are, Don`s right, I think it is a movement more than a moment.

But there`s some practical realities here. And the practical realities are that there is no way that this is going to pass with 60 votes. It`s doubtful that it could get in a reconciliation package, which would need only 50 votes, legally. And even if it could, right now, I think it`s highly doubtful that you get Manchin and Sinema on the bill anyway. And I don`t think you`re going to get any Republican votes on this.

So listen, I`m a prisoner of hope. I`m radical about this. I think that the greatest fraud in America is the notion there`s any systemic voter fraud. There is zero evidence of that. Absolutely zero. It`s been six months now of Republicans lawsuits, millions of dollars spent, nada, zipped, zero.

VELSHI: So Don, let`s go back to this idea of a moment. There are different people of different walks of life, who are coming around to this idea that, A, we don`t have a voter fraud problem to solve. We can all agree that there should be no voter fraud, but none of these laws, particularly in Texas, that they`re putting through, and many in Georgia, they seem to be geared more around stopping people from voting or overturning results of votes.

Do you feel that people in general, and maybe Democrats more specifically, but people in general are starting to see this movement and seeing people be arrested and see marches and saying, this is really a serious matter. And it`s about democracy. And we`ve got to put our backs in it. My underlying question here is, are people who are not affected by this moved by it?

CALLOWAY: Well, ultimately, I think that everybody`s affected by it. So it`s very difficult to carve out a universe of people who are unaffected. What I have started to see is that people are paying attention who really otherwise would be paying attention to the pennant races heating up and paying attention to the Olympics.

You`re starting to see a convergence around a lot of things that where people might not understand the filibuster, or people might not understand the nuances of voter suppression versus ballot box protection. People are starting to pay attention. When you see the January 6 Commission meeting, when you see preachers and camping out for voting rights, when you see this the Texas Democrats, all here within a span of 30 days, people are aware that there`s some type of alchemy happening around the concept of preserving democracy.

And while all of these individualize issues and causes of the day may not be about the same discrete, C-R-E-T-E, issues, they`re all about the bigger picture of preserving democracy. And if you`re here in Washington, DC, it`s all against the backdrop of four years of Trump culminating in an insurrection on January 6. People didn`t like that. People -- that didn`t sit well with people. And it`s good that we`re now having the voting rights discussions and the overall movement discussion.

It`s got to kind of tie all this stuff together and say, Hey, whether we like it or not, whether we agree or not, we have a democracy to preserve. And I think that people in Middle America or people who don`t follow this stuff every day are starting to come on board to the overall discussion of democracy preservation.

VELSHI: I hope you`re right about that. Don Calloway and Mark McKinnon, stay with us. Coming up. What the President said today about the violent attempt to overturn the will of the people as some say too much is being made about the January 6th attack when the 11th Hour continues.




JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: It was a violent attempt to overturn the will of the American people to seek power at all cost to replace the ballot with brute force to destroy not to build. Without democracy nothing is possible. With it everything is.


VELSHI: A new Quinnipiac poll finds 57 percent of Americans believe the riot on January 6th was an attack on democracy that should never be forgotten. 38 percent believe too much is being made about the riot and it`s time to move on.

This comes as Max Boot of The Washington Post warns in his latest column quote, yes, Trump tried to stage a coup by denying it, the right is laying the groundwork for another one. He goes on to write, if Republicans gained control of the House and the Senate in 2022 and outcome made more likely by their gerrymandering and voter suppression, they will be in a strong position to return Trump to the White House, even if he loses the 2024 election. Rest assured, even if the worst happens, there will be plenty of intellectuals happy to rationalize the end of our democracy.

Still with us Don Calloway and Mark McKinnon.

An interesting episode is occurring in Hungary and has been for the last several years, Mark, in which it is turning away from democratic institutions without actually necessarily saying so. One of the right wingers most influential characters, Tucker Carlson, he`s broadcasting from Hungary. And he`s praising its leadership and its government.

Jonathan Chait has written a column on this in which he says Tucker Carlson has seen the future and it`s fascist. He writes, Hungary`s democratic, backsliding was slow and gradual, without a single dramatic moment when its character flipped from democracy to dictatorship. Even now, it retains the surface trappings of a democracy without the liberal characteristics that make those processes meaningful. If America ceases to be a democracy, it will likely follow a path similar to Orban`s, speaking about the head of Hungary.

I think it`s interesting, Mark, that people -- if they don`t see us becoming an authoritarian regime, they don`t necessarily see that you can become that and democratic at the same time.

MCKINNON: What`s fascinating is, Ali, and it`s so interesting to Tucker Carlson. So they`re checking out the roadmap. And looking at that poll leads are about 38 percent of people just think we should move on. Those are people who are susceptible to this slow evolution toward authoritarianism.

And, you know, I`m struck by the notion, Ali, that, you know, Republicans didn`t want to have a single commission or have a single hearing on the greatest insurrection on our nation`s capitol in our history, and more Americans died at the Capitol in the United States than died in Benghazi.


And yet the Republicans want -- wanted to and did a whole 33 hearings on Benghazi when fewer Americans died on foreign soil than they did here in America.

VELSHI: John, this seems to be a popular thing, though, amongst right wing people, these trends and these memes and these ideas like Tucker Carlson is putting forward are getting popular. So what happens? What`s your fear if Republicans do take back Congress in 2022?

CALLOWAY: Oh, I mean, you know, my fears at this point are far beyond just the rabid conservative and nonsensical policies, you know, 15, 20 years ago, they`re the destruction of the social safety net. And, you know, further tax cuts for corporate billionaires at this point.

VELSHI: That`s the point.

CALLOWAY: Yes, that`s the easiest stuff. At this point, my fears are the destruction of democracy. I highly recommend that everybody watching us pick up a small book with big ideas called On Tyranny by Timothy D. Snyder, it talks about the little steps along the way that end up in an authoritarian totalitarian system.

But I got to have an honest moment with you, Ali. You know, it`s very tough as a black man to talk about this type of stuff because I understand the history of democracy, and I understand political philosophy. But the reality is that Republicans are dismantling democracy as a response to us becoming a multiracial country where people are educated, black and brown people are educated and standing up and have societal power, have economic power.

And in response to that, we are seeing the dismantling systemic and intentional dismantling of this democracy. So I can`t talk about this purely in terms of political philosophy without recognizing that we are fully moving to a majority non-white nation. And this is the response to that.

VELSHI: How do you fix us in the Republican Party, Mark? How do you go from a party that that like small government and, you know, things that can be can be argued into this? If you look at that poll, we were just talking about the Quinnipiac poll 60 percent say it would be bad for the country of Trump ran in 2024, 32 percent say it would be good, but 73 percent of Republicans say we`d be good if Trump ran again.

MCKINNON: Well, I think there`s hope in that. And I`m a prisoner of hope, as Cory Booker would say. And, you know, I`m encouraged by people like Liz Cheney, you know, who as one of the few with a remaining backbone.

You know, listen, I think that the attachment to Trump is a very short sighted and short term strategy and people are bending to his knee and to his power, nobody who really likes him or is particularly attracted to any ideology because he doesn`t really have anything other than power.

And I think that we will see -- it`s not going to happen as quick as I`d like to have happen. But I think that if Donald Trump does get nominated again somehow for the presidency in 2024, I think he`ll get beat. I think he`ll get beat badly this time. It could be worse than he did before. But again, to Don`s, you know, concerns and yours we`ve raised all night, I think that`s part of the reason the Republicans are doing all that they can to overturn whatever could happen in 2024.

VELSHI: Guys, thanks for great conversation today. Don Calloway and Mark McKinnon, I appreciate your time.

Coming up. But update on one of the largest wildfires in California`s history that`s already burdened much of one Northern California town to the ground when the 11th Hour continues.



VELSHI: Massive wildfire that destroyed in historic California town overnight continues burning out of control tonight. The Dixie Fire tore through the town of Greenville yesterday. A new evacuation orders have now been issued for the surrounding area. NBC News correspondent Steve Patterson has the latest on the devastation.


STEVE PATTERSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight a wildfires wrath leaving another California town in ash. Greenville, California destroyed. A town of about 800 that stood since the gold rush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was scary. It was like you know one of those apocalyptic movies you see with fire and wind and people going everywhere.

PATTERSON (on camera): Overnight those powerful red flag wind send Dixie Fire tearing through town. You can see the scope of the devastation. Residents were told to evacuate. But not everybody did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have firefighters are getting guns pulled out on them because people don`t want to evacuate.

PATTERSON (voice-over): At 322,000 acres, the Dixie Fire is now the size of Los Angeles and the sixth largest fire in California history. More than 60 structures burned with the number expected to rise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were a couple of towers of flame twice as tall as the trees just huge towers of flame.

PATTERSON: And tonight, firefighters on the front lines every new threat the growing river fire is burning in an area that hasn`t seen flames in 100 years with drought brittle brush ready to ignite, a plea for those in the past to evacuate should the time come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they get allowed back in there and it`s either standing or as a pile ash. That`s one of the hitters.

PATTERSON: With the fire at the doorstep of another community, another tense in uncertain night lies ahead. Steve Patterson, NBC News, Greenville, California.


VELSHI: Coming up, we remember the leader known as the lion of the labor movement when the 11th Hour continues.




BIDEN: A close friend of mine and I think of many of you as well. Rich Trumka died today from a heart attack. He was an American worker, always fighting for working people protecting their wages, their safety, their pensions, and their ability to build a middle class life.

I`ve also believed that the middle class build America and I know who built the middle class unions, unions both class. There`s no doubt that Rich Trumka helped build us all across this country.


VELSHI: Last thing before we go tonight is the death of a true stalwart in the American labor movement. Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, died today at the age of 72. It`s hard to overstate the outsized role that he had in the labor movement.

The AFL-CIO was made up of 56 unions representing over 12 million workers and he led them for 12 years.

Trumka became the organization secretary treasurer in 1995, holding that post until he was elected president in 2009, a role he held until his death today. But his days as a union boss go way back.

Trumka grew up in Nemacolin, a mining town in western Pennsylvania. He was born into a family of coal miners. He worked the mind starting at the age of 19, while attending Penn State and then Villanova Law School. When he was just 33 years old, he was elected President of the United Mine Workers of America, becoming its youngest leader ever.

During his years as the head of the AFL-CIO, he definitely navigated an ever changing political landscape. Organized labor had long been a world dominated by white men, but Trumka oversaw a period when this nation and the unions he represented became increasingly diverse.

He worked with the Obama White House advising the former president on jobs and competitiveness. But it wasn`t just Democrats. Trumka supported some Trump tariffs and praise the deal that Donald Trump negotiated to replace NAFTA. He`s also been openly critical of presidents on both sides of the aisle and made sure he was at the table to discuss worker safety during the pandemic.

After all, the Coronavirus made this nation appreciate workers in a way that was long overdue, with people literally cheering out their windows to thank nurses, grocery store clerks, mail carriers and beyond.

Beyond the accolades though that`s where Trumka came in covering labor and business for years. I got to know the man interviewing him many times. He spent his life making sure workers got a living wage, good health care, childcare, and retirement they could depend on.

Richard Trumka works to keep the American dream alive for millions of people whom he`d never even met.

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