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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 8/9/21

Guests: Kavita Patel, Neal Katyal, Stuart Stevens, Don Calloway, Andrew Sullivan


COVID crisis deepens across U.S. as cases soar. Hospitalizations are up, forcing some health systems to raise alarms over capacity, as new U.S. daily COVID cases soared over 100,000. Austin, Texas, was reported to have only six ICU beds available Saturday, to serve a city of 2.4 million people. Governor Ron DeSantis threatens salaries of officials who back masks. More public and private sectors imposed vaccine mandates. Washington State is set to require healthcare and state government employees to be vaccinated. GOP senators Scott and Johnson blast military vaccine mandate. New York state lawmakers begin Cuomo impeachment probe. Woman who accused Cuomo of groping her speaks out. Senate moves to pass bipartisan infrastructure deal.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Thank you for being with me tonight, Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse of Colorado. Tonight -- that is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams begins right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once, again day 202 of the Biden administration. It`s good to be back and let`s see where were we? Oh, yes, it seems the news has gotten worse. The nation is now fully in the grip of an escalating health crisis brought on by this relentless new Delta variant. Tonight, the U.S. reached a new milestone in this pandemic, over 36 million cases. We are now averaging over 100,000 new cases a day. If that number sounds familiar, it`s because that`s the rate where we were seeing last winter.

Just over six weeks ago at the beginning of last month, the pandemic as you`ll recall, appeared to be in the rearview mirror for much of our country. And now tonight every state is experiencing an increase in infections. Situation is especially grave, especially acute in the Sunbelt. Florida recorded over 28,000 new cases on Sunday alone. Officials in Austin, Texas were brutally honest about conditions there where people are now getting warnings on their phones. And in Florida people there are being warned with public service announcements.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- situation in Austin is dire. Health care facilities are open. But resources are limited due to a surge in cases.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I encourage everybody to please take this Delta variant very seriously due to the transmissibility, it is incredibly contagious and our children are getting sick. I can`t do this.


WILLIAMS: That`s how that public service announcement goes. This all comes as Florida`s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, staying on brand is threatening to withhold paychecks from those school officials who defy his ban on mask mandates. Now, one former CDC director is slamming those state leaders like DeSantis and others like him, who imposed restrictions on strategies that are meant to stop the spread of COVID -9.


DR. TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: Places that are taking a stance that`s really contrary to science, you have to call that out. There are two ways to fight this pandemic. With science or without science, you save a lot more lives with science.


WILLIAMS: NBC News reporting tonight that increasing numbers of children are becoming infected as Delta outbreaks rip through the U.S. Pediatricians note that household infections are driving the illnesses up among kids. And this is a new dynamic, children`s hospitals around the country reporting dramatic spikes in children needing medical care. Amid all this, the push for vaccine mandates is gaining steam. Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has just announced one of those mandates for most state employees and health care workers.

Earlier today the Pentagon said it would seek to have a vaccine mandate in place for most of our servicemen and women by mid September. Some Republican senators were adamant and objecting to the move.


SEN. RICK SCOTT, (R) FLORIDA: The federal government ought to get the living daylights out of her life and stop telling us how to lead our lives.

SEN. RON JOHNSON, (R) WISCONSIN: We should not be mandating this. I think there`s some legitimate concerns on the part of people not to be forced into participating in the largest drug trial in history, which right now a mandate would be.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, Dr. Fauci had a warning about what could happen if we lose this race to stop this Delta strain from spreading.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: If you allow the virus to freely circulate in 93 million people and give it the opportunity to find vulnerable targets, you give it the opportunity to mutate and form another variant. The more you prevent the spread, the less likelihood that the virus will mutate. If it does mutate to something that does evade the vaccine, then we really got a problem.


WILLIAMS: We`re also following the latest developments involving New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the multi-term democrat now facing impeachment over allegations that he sexually harassed almost a dozen women in all the accusations were detailed in a report from the state attorney general, which was released last week. Members of the state assembly met today to lay the groundwork for impeachment proceedings weeks but not months. They plan to hold hearings throughout the coming month.

The New York Times reports, Cuomo remains defiant amid calls for his resignation and that he hopes to drag out the impeachment process. Brittany Commisso, an executive assistant on Cuomo staff whose accusations appear in the report went public this weekend. She had already filed a criminal complaint with the sheriff of Albany County, New York. She says Cuomo groped her more than once.



BRITTANY COMMISSO, CUOMO ACCUSER: It was not welcomed. And it was certainly not consensual. The Governor needs to be held accountable. What he did to me was a crime. He broke the law.


WILLIAMS: Governor Cuomo has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing. Earlier today his lawyer offered this defense.


RITA GLAVIN, CUOMO ATTORNEY: The governor has made clear in his testimony to the Attorney General`s investigators he doesn`t dispute some of the allegations with respect to Brittany Commisso, it just did not happen.


WILLIAMS: Cuomo`s dwindling circle of supporters continues to shrink this weekend is top aide and most loyal strategist Melissa DeRosa resigned. She was named 187 times in the state Attorney General`s report which said she had attempted to undermine one of the governor`s accusers.

Also tonight we`re getting a more detailed picture of how former President Donald Trump attempted to manipulate the Justice Department in order to stay in power.

New York Times reporting it comes from Trump`s former acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen who "has told the Justice Department watchdog and congressional investigators that one of his deputies tried to help former President Donald J. Trump`s avert the results of the 2020 election." The Times reports Rosen met with the Justice Department watchdog for two hours, Friday, and voluntarily gave closed door testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Saturday.

The paper says, Rosen told investigators about numerous interactions with Jeffrey Clark, a Trump appointed official at the DOJ, including one in December during which Clarke admitted to meeting with former President Trump. Rosen reportedly told investigators, Clark had held unauthorized conversations with the former President about ways to have the Department of Justice publicly cast doubt on Joe Biden`s victory.

With all that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Monday night. Lisa Lerer, National Political Correspondent for The New York Times, Neal Katyal, Department of Justice Veteran, former Acting Solicitor General during the Obama administration who has argued dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Dr. Kavita Patel, Clinical Physician, former Senior Policy Aide during the Obama administration. She`s also one of our public health experts and a non-resident Fellow at Brookings.

Doctor, I`d like to begin with you, where are we do you think, in terms of the scope of this pandemic, there are reports afoot, that we need more substantial masks and not to go without certainly.

DR. KAVITA PATEL, FORMER AIDE TO VALERIE JARRETT IN THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE: Yeah, Brian, that`s absolutely right. So if there could be a theme to what we`re seeing, it`s younger, sicker, quicker. And I think that references, what you`ve noted about more children being affected, we don`t think that this Delta variant is resulting in a more severe disease, a severe version of COVID that is, but we do need to see.

And to your point in order to protect children who are not eligible to be vaccinated, and certainly while we`re getting more people vaccinated, we know that mask can make a difference. And a high quality mask as close as possible to a medical grade, anything that you`ll actually wear over your nose and mouth can make a difference with such a highly contagious variant. And make no mistake, Brian, we want as many people to get shots today. But we know that with over 100,000 cases a day, a shot today is definitely going to save your life. But we need to do that combined with masks and other measures to get that steep decline that we know we can get, other countries have been able to do it, and we have to follow soon.

WILLIAMS: Lisa tried to give us if you could read on the level of concern and surprise, especially among level headed politicians in Washington the same surprise that we`re all dealing with that this latest spike and this pandemic is upon us.

LISA LERER, THE NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think certainly for Democrats, this is being met with some political alarm. The White House has seen the presence numbers drop a little bit as the Delta variant has spread. And, you know, I`m hearing a lot from Democrats and competitive states, competitive districts who are now heading home for that congressional recess. And they wanted to talk about the economy, a Democrat told me back in the spring that the game plan for the midterms was going to be needles and checks. And people don`t want to talk about the economy. They`re worried about the spread of COVID and some Democrats have even told me that they`re frustrated with the CDC. They`re worried about mixed messaging. They feel that the White House`s economic messaging, they don`t have a - isn`t strong enough and they don`t have a good answer on how they`re going to control the spread.


And what we`ve seen from the White House is they`ve been a lot more aggressive about specifically calling out Republican governors for being vaccine hesitant, for refusing to put in mask mandates and taking other measures. But at the end of the day, this pandemic is spreading on President Biden`s watch and the White House will own this if it, you know, continues to escalate.

WILLIAMS: And Counselor, now over to you. I want to play for you something. This is Senator Dick Durbin, who happens to be Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was asked this afternoon by my colleague and friend, Nicolle Wallace, if what we witnessed after the election was an attempted coup. We`ll discuss on the other side.


SEN. DICK BURDIN, (D) ILLINOIS, CHAIRMAN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Look at the progression of events, first, the onslaught of lawsuits going through the judiciary with many of the judges that he appointed, then he went to the Department of Justice, he decided he would manipulate the Attorney General into really initiating an investigation into particular states. And we know what happened then, he turned the mob loose on the United States Capitol. So we shouldn`t dismiss this as just a bad day for Donald Trump. It was a conscious plan strategy that did not work.


WILLIAMS: So Neal, in your view, how close did we come? And do you take the optimistic view that`s out there about your beloved Department of Justice, that the good news is the system held?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: I think we came very close from everything it looks like and yeah, the system held, but it held because of a couple of people. And it looks like, Brian, with each additional fact that we learn that January 6, and what happened before January 6, it looks like Trump really tried to attempt a coup and to corrupt the Justice Department in the process. Unfortunately, he`s Trump and did what he does, which is hire a bunch of incompetence to try and carry out his schemes so they couldn`t pull it off. But for just a couple of those people, this all could have gone the other way. Most particularly we have the revelations that Jeffrey Clark, who`s an environmental and civil lawyer was angling to try and be the acting Attorney General. He writes a cockamamie memo that tries to basically say, we can throw out the election results in Georgia and other places, and even adds to the letter he says, "Personally, I see no valid downsides to signing this letter."

This letter is so crazy. It`s worse than the torture memos in the Bush administration. It`s just atrocious legal judgment. And you want to know how cray, cray this letter was, it was so crazy that even Attorney General and former Attorney General Barr didn`t agree with it. So I think we do need to get to the bottom of what happened. You know, Senator Durbin`s absolutely right.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Patel, back to the subject of our ongoing pandemic, I want to play for you a bit of a video put out today by Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky.


SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: Children are not at any more risk from COVID than they are from the seasonal flu.


WILLIAMS: Doctor, I`m duty bound to point out this is the guy who hand delivered a Trump letter to the Kremlin to Vladimir Putin. This is apparently an eye doctor who is known to traffic in conspiracy theories, and the like, what is the danger of that kind of message?

PATEL: Yeah, it`s incredibly dangerous, irresponsible. And candidly, Brian, any medical board would take away his license. In fact, the Federation of State Medical Boards is asking for that very type of disinformation to lead to revoke of licensure. So I encourage people to think about that. Number one, there is absolutely no basis to compare this to the seasonal flu. For starters, we actually have a vaccine for children for the seasonal flu. Number two, we have never seen these types of long term like impacts months out where we`re still seeing effects of COVID infections, even mild ones in children, and certainly not this degree of severe hospitalization and some of the inflammatory syndrome. I think, number three, something that should be made incredibly clear. The Delta variant has been a game changer in so many ways, because it is so infectious. You`ve heard the analogy that in an unvaccinated person is as infectious as chickenpox. And that is nowhere near what we see with a seasonal flu. And then well, I`ll put a capstone on it, sadly, Brian, something we`re not talking about enough under the age of 12, we really don`t have that many treatments to offer children. Many of those antibody treatments and things we`ve been talking about on the show for months now that President Trump received for example, and Rudy Giuliani and others, those are not even avail to children. So if a child comes in, we have supportive treatment, not much else to offer them very different from anything. And to compare it to the flu is just adding to the lies that have mounted not just from Senator Paul but from others.


WILLIAMS: That`s a line of reasoning. Of course, that was first trotted out by Donald Trump in the White House briefing room.

Lisa, help us bounce back over to politics. Are we going to read accounts after this vote for infrastructure, and possibly the spending bill that bipartisanship despite reports of its early death, might just be working for Joe Biden?

LERER: Well, I`m not sure we can quite say that quite yet, Brian. We are expecting this infrastructure bill to pass out of the Senate tomorrow, at some point, it will be bipartisan, it could have as much as 70 senators signed on to this thing, which would be quite the accomplishment, given the lack of such legislation that we`ve seen over the past, I don`t know how many years, four or five, six. So this would be a big accomplishment and something the White House will be quite proud of. But then this bill moves over to the House and where it gets in meshed with this much larger 3.5 trillion reconciliation package. And that`s going to be the budget package, that`s going to be a much harder sell. Don`t forget the margin in the house for Democrats remains close. They really can`t afford to have many losses. And while everyone is fairly comfortable with the infrastructure bill, progressives don`t want to pass it unless they have this larger budget that will accomplish a lot of the their goals and things that they feel Biden promised during the campaign, moderates are worried that that price tag is too big. So these are the kind of crosscurrents that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to have to navigate with help from the president. And that`s not going to be easy. So we`ll have to see where this all ends up when everyone comes back from recess in September. But certainly tomorrow will be a very happy day for the White House.

WILLIAMS: And Neal Katyal, the last word goes to you. I can tell you`re revved up about one Jeffrey Clark at DOJ. And we`ll remind everyone his title at the time was acting chief of the Civil Division, kind of a cipher and enigma that even his co-workers at DOJ, tell our viewers just how unusual it would be for a guy like Jeffrey Clark, to have access to and meetings with the President of the United States.

KATYAL: Literally never happened, certainly not without the attorney general or deputy attorney general being there. One of my first things I did at the Justice Department, back when I was a young pup was write -- was draft part of the White House contacts policy, which says you can only reach the president if you`re the attorney general or Deputy Attorney General, and no one else and certainly not someone angling like this guy was.

And you know, if someone was trying to illustrate the banality of evil to me, Brian, I`d say career environmental lawyer decides to facilitate a coup is kind of on the nose. And what disturbs me tonight is that that we know that there`s an inspector general investigation. We know there`s a January 6 Commission, but the Attorney General, Attorney General Garland hasn`t announced any sort of investigation or anything like that. And, you know, every day that just departments investigating and putting in jail, people who sell minor amounts of drugs here, we`ve got accusations from the top of the Justice Department and the White House that they were facilitating a coup and trying to overthrow an election. I can`t imagine why we went to announce an investigation into something of that gravity in seriousness, and I think it`s got to be announced now.

WILLIAMS: I can`t imagine three better guests to help us start off a new week. Lisa Lerer, Neal Katyal, Dr. Kavita Patel, our thanks for being with us tonight.

Coming up for us, a preview of what is being called one of the most important Senate votes of the Biden presidency thus far and perhaps ever.

And later, why the U.N. says we are facing a code red for all of humanity and why a good many people who read their report today wondered if there is any time left to do something about it. THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on this back to work Monday night.




SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK MAJORITY LEADER: We have managed to steer two trains at the same time. There have been some bumps. There have been some delays. But the Senate is on track to finish both tracks. The Democratic budget will be the most significant legislation for American families since the era of the New Deal and the Great Society.


WILLIAMS: The Senate expected to pass the trillion dollar bipartisan infrastructure bill tomorrow morning. The vote scheduled for 11 a.m. And today the Majority Leader told his caucus members that once that happens. The Senate will immediately move to pass a $3.5 trillion spending bill with a simple majority vote. New York Times puts it this way, together, they would secure the remainder of President Biden`s $4 trillion economic agenda but the two step effort will test Mr. Biden`s ability to both work with Republicans and maneuver around them.

So lots to talk about him back with us to do that tonight, Don Calloway, Democratic Strategist, Founder of the National Voter Protection Action Fund, and Stuart Stevens, a Veteran of Mitt Romney and George W. Bush`s presidential campaigns. He is these days with the Lincoln Project.

And Stewart, I`d like to begin with you, how important is tomorrow`s vote for any number of reasons?

STUART STEVENS, THE LINCOLN PROJECT SENIOR ADVISER: Well, you know, if a child was born during the first Republican infrastructure week, that childhood now I think we hit it into the first grade. So it`s been a long time coming. I think what`s happening here is a larger process of the Biden administration trying to remind the American public that government can be a positive force in something that actually does serve the greater good. I think it`s tremendously important. And, you know, I hate to be optimistic, but I think they`re actually going to get this thing done.

WILLIAMS: Don, how is Biden going to keep the left happy, especially on this spending bill and Hakeem Jeffries has been so interesting in the last couple of days with his assertion that that is not where Democrats are nationally, Democrats nationally in his view, are more of a moderate bloc.


DON CALLOWAY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yeah, Hakeem -- excuse me, leader Jeffries. He`s in leadership, now Chairman Jeffries has a responsibility to say to moderate the party, at least for his position as a member of caucus leadership. So he`s doing what he needs to do as a future Speaker of the House. So we hope, but actually, I think that the House Democrats bill includes a whole lot more of the, "human infrastructure" stuff, and the Republicans who will vote against tomorrow, some of them will like Rick Scott, that`s what they`re saying they`re voting against is the liberal agenda, human infrastructure, which adds another $2 trillion, going from 3.5 to 5.5, in the House version, but I think that Democrats will be made happy overall House and Senate Democrats will be made happy when that bill finds itself in a reconciliation posture. Once the Senate and the House have to come together, you`ll find a small gang of elite leaders who get to a final compromise, and then we`ll be signed on the President`s desk. But I think the main idea here, Brian, is that you`re going to pass these bills tomorrow with 50 votes on a straight up yea or nay vote. And that shows that it can be done when it`s important. We don`t have to have this 60 vote threshold. It`s arbitrary. I know. It`s about reconciliation. I know. It`s about matters of budget. But the reality is that Senate leaders can make it a 50 vote threshold whenever they really feel like it and we need to do that on voting rights.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Stuart helped me out and to do that I`m going to go back to segments to something we did in our opening segment tonight, it was just a Ron Johnson sound bite and as, you know, Ron Johnson is of the drive by anti-vaxxer population he insists he`s not. But that`s in between comments like the one we aired tonight. He called it an experimental drug. What, since when do we listen to politicians, when the subject is vaccines to protect us from potentially fatal illnesses?

STEVENS: Look, I think this is going to be one of the greatest tragedies in American history is going to go down like the Vietnam War, or arguably, the Iraq war, a terrible mistake to politicize this by Republicans. It didn`t have to be this way. You know, in Israel, everybody got behind the vaccine, Ultra-Orthodox supported it. In Canada, it didn`t become a divisive issue. It really, it is the human death toll suffering of this is so unnecessary. I mean, here we have this country where we have the ability to give people the vaccine, you walk into a drugstore and get it for free. And you have lunatics like Ron Johnson saying this stuff for purely partisan game, and I think it`s evil. I don`t know what other word to describe it.

WILLIAMS: We are buoyed by the news this week that there is one American sub population with a 91% vaccination rate that is members of the Navajo Nation. So we have that, at least, to be proud of. Both of these gentlemen have agreed to stay with us through the coming short break.

Coming up, when our conversation continues, some Texas Democrats are beginning to pack up and go home to Texas. We have an update on their month`s long battle to protect voter rights in their home state when we come back.




JASMINE CROCKETT, (D) TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: The Senate is still in and it`s our understanding that there will be a vote on a new voting bill this week. As soon as we get that vote, and hopefully it will be a victorious vote, then we can go home and have to deal with the inevitable which is Republicans that decide that they don`t want to negotiate that they don`t care about the voting rights of the majority. Now we`ll know that we`ve got federal legislation backing us up.


WILLIAMS: So here`s the situation as of tonight, at least 26 Texas House Democrats remain in D.C. this evening, still avoiding home, still far from home and begging their party in Congress to do the right thing and pass voting rights. They have managed to delay Republican efforts to pass restrictive voting bills in their states going on months now. Over the weekend, several of the Democrats did return home to Texas after a judge temporarily blocked their arrest upon arrival for breaking quorum.

Still here with us tonight, our friends Don Calloway and Stuart Stevens. Don, this is a tough question to ask because people fear the answer. Do you think the Texas Democrats have had an impact on D.C. on their fellow Democrats? And what`s the real chance, Don, that we`re going to see federal action on voting rights?

Calloway: I think there`s a much higher chance that we`ll see federal action on voting rights than there was, had the Texas Democrats not done what they did. This is a sustained act of political courage unseen since the Freedom Summer of 1964. So they should be applauded for what they`ve done. They have certainly raised the specter of the issue, which is step number one in any type of substantive movement, and there is no more substantive, no more important movement than the right to vote. So I think that they have had very real, very serious meetings with Joe Manchin. I think that he`s coming around to a hybrid of the, For The People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights bill. He wants to see that somewhat fair now.

Some of the things included in the For The People Act, such as campaign finance reform, he doesn`t really want to touch but I think that he is getting to a decent place. Unfortunately, I don`t see any Republicans coming on board on the Senate wise, but I think that Joe Manchin is getting to a better place because of compensation to Texas, Democrats have spurred but again, this is up to Chuck Schumer to do away with the filibuster. This is up to Joe Biden to demand the Senate do away with the filibuster. Because what we`re talking about is substantive reform on so many different topics, and we can`t let some arcane Jim Crow than it rules stand in the way of such real change.

WILLIAMS: And Stuart a couple of things here, as I`ve said before, it would take less time to list the Americans who have not met with Joe Manchin on voting rights at this point, you have warned our viewers to watch out for not just the voting, but the counting and what states are doing to get set up for the next election to monkey with the results. Do you think the Texas Democrats at bare minimum have done their part to raise awareness to Don`s point?


STEVENS: Yeah, look, I think a lot of fights you get in not because you think you`re going to win necessarily, but because you have to fight. And I think this was one of those cases. What choices they have, I think they`ve elevated the issue, we`re talking about it, we wouldn`t have been talking about it. And the greatest danger here is to see this is isolated actions by this state or that state. This is part of like a combined arms movement among Republicans and it`s the majority of them, I hate to say they want to limit our voting system. They want to change our voting system. For me, there`s a direct line between what Clark tried to do with an attempted coup and what`s happening in Texas. And that is the limited number of people who can vote because you`re not winning a majority of the votes. And that`s what Republicans are trying to do here and you let them get away with it and you`re going to lose the democracy.

WILLIAMS: As someone who has studied closely your life in politics, Republican politics, these conversations remain extraordinary. Sometimes you have to get a reality check on the fact that we`re actually having them in the year 2021.

To our friends, Don Calloway and Stuart Stevens and to everybody at Spelman, go Jaguars, thank you gentlemen so very, very much.

Coming up for us, controversial author Andrew Sullivan, as he is known, has spent the last three decades going out on a limb out loud out in the open. We`ll talk to him about his newest work when we come back.



WILLIAMS: Our next guest is out with a new book that is sure to ruffle some feathers. But that`s something he`s quite used to, the New York Times offers this headline for its book review. "Andrew Sullivan, no one`s ally, tells it as he sees it." As Sullivan writes himself, "I have been criticized for abandoning the right and for criticizing the left. I have also been assailed as a defender of the right and hater of the left just to keep things fair."

For more we welcome back the author and columnist and dare I say the public intellectual, Andrew Sullivan, his new book, out on a limb selected writing 1989 to 2021 is out tomorrow, readers can expect a tour of our times, a tour of Andrew`s mind, his life, his health, his unique view of what ails us all. He also writes a column the weekly dish available on Substack and hosts his own podcast called the Dishcast. It is always a great pleasure to have you on the broadcast, in reading this I`m reminded you were writing about the Republican Taliban back in 09, you were writing about McConnell and the filibuster before it was a thing. And you write this on plagues, "This is a curious fact about some plagues, but not others. Some seem to shift society profoundly, while others, however intense, are almost instantly forgotten. Let`s name two plagues of the two for this, purposes of this discussion, Trump ism and COVID, which is likely to have more staying power in our society?

ANDREW SULLIVAN, "OUT ON A LIMB" AUTHOR: That`s a good question, Brian, I think Trump ism is here to stay because the issues that propelled it is still here. The issue of immigration, which obviously we`ve seen reaching a new crisis. The issue of trade, America`s role in the world and of the divide between us, between the red and the blue, between the coast and the heartland, those are all there and they`re ripe for exploitation. And that lasts longer than COVID.

On the other hand, COVID is not going to disappear entirely very soon, and we learn to live with them. We live with viruses on the same planet. And we have to live with them. I mean, I`ve lived with the HIV virus now for 28 years, and I have stopped wanting to get rid of it. I`ve learned how to just deal with it. The point is not to defeat it, is to get on with your life, which is the whole point of everything. So I think -- I think there`s a place for a sane conservatism to revive, maybe in revulsion to Trump but also maybe understanding that he said things that may be more elite conservatives should have been thinking about and saying before, that can happen. And equally, we can get to a point where COVID is also swiftly put into our past because we just don`t want to think about it. And because even it`s still mutating and even if it`s still cutting a swath through the unvaccinated, it is going to die. It`s going to run out of people to infect eventually, and it will go away. So both can stay for a while, but both can end to.

WILLIAMS: I know you have seen the comments from James Carville speaking of infections on things like woke ism, especially in the Democratic Party, and especially on the left, it makes it so hard to feel like you`re living a proper life. It makes it so hard to feel like you`re saying the right thing, especially given feelings and sensitivities and terminologies that seem to change on a weekly basis, is this a clear and present danger, in your view, to the Democratic Party if they would like to continue winning elections?

SULLIVAN: I think it is. I think it`s to the credit of the Democrats and to the credit of that party. And to the credit of the left in general, that they`re not saying that we should ignore history, we should, we should face up to the worst things that America did. We should look it right in the eyes, and we shouldn`t euthanize it. At the same time, America has been a story of getting past some of the worst things we have done and the real dynamic of America is progressing from them and we have made progress. Americans will look to the future. And Americans don`t want to be told that their country is somehow intrinsically evil at its root, and can never be better. If the Democrats have that attitude, like scolding people, lecturing them, telling them the words they can say and cannot say, treating people they disagree with as if they`re somehow morally wrong, they`re not going to win votes that way.


And what I fear is that by doing that, by alienating especially lots of people in the middle suburbanize people who know that country`s flawed, but still believe in it, and still believe in the future, if they do that, they`re going to throw away a golden opportunity, and they are going to feed the fuel of the far right. Immigration, for example, unless the Democrats get serious about saying we`re going to really control it, they will give them a major issue to win on and it`s something that people really feel and they don`t want their kids either to be in schools and come home and say, mom, am I oppressing my friend, because I`m white and his black. No one wants to hear that kids say that when they come home from high school.

So we can teach accurate history. But we shouldn`t teach people to hate themselves. And we shouldn`t teach people to hate their country. And the politician always looks forward, looks to the future is the one that wins in America. America wants to move forward. It doesn`t like dwelling on its past that`s Europe. And there`s some elements in the left now and in the right in America, but a more like European right and left that American right and left. And that worries me.

WILLIAMS: Even your most ardent fans who have read much of what`s in the book contemporaneously, when it comes out, reading it again now in the light of 2021 your pression is rather unbelievable. I`m deep in the book, page 419, I come across this. A President Clinton will be checked and balanced. A President Trump will be pushing through wide open doors, who can temper or stop him then? You wrote that at or about Election Day, in 2016? How did you know what the rest of us didn`t and remember, winning the presidency, surprised Donald Trump, first and foremost?

SULLIVAN: He was tapping into feelings that were very powerful, feelings about identity, feelings about who you really are as Americans, and also tapping into major fears that people have about their lives, he was able to tell people in the middle of the country, that I`m a member of the elites that hasn`t completely ignored you, and actually hears the troubles that you are experiencing and is prepared to at least take you seriously. And that`s a very potent thing. And also, it`s very potent, very potent, to run on hatred of the other, fear of the other, and fear of the unknown. These are things that most democratic politicians do know and small D, Republican and Democrat, they don`t pull those levers, because they know they`re dangerous levers to pull. They know they tear a country apart. Trump had no compunction, and still has no compunction, no sense of responsibility.

And so you could - but you could see the strength of it, you can see the appeal of it, you could see people who felt that country was slipping away from them, and he was someone who could bring it back. And I think I`ve always felt that was happening. And I also saw his political genius. It`s so easy to dismiss this man who is a monster in so many ways. But not to realize he`s also politically very gifted. He`s a talented demagogue. They don`t come along like him very often, and that I could see it coming. I could also see, the best way to foil him would be Biden. And the Biden`s ability to neutralize that not to polarize people, is a huge strength. And when you look at the Democratic Party, who else can fill that role right now? He really is the essential man. And he`s an old man, and he`s doing great, but that`s a very fragile position for the Democratic Party to be in. And so we organizing themselves so they appeal to the economic concerns, appeal to people`s ability to make a living, as opposed to lecturing them about what words they can use and whether they should constantly be assessing other people`s race as the most important thing about them when it really isn`t.

WILLIAMS: Andrew Sullivan has been our guest tonight. The book is here in my hand, it is called, "Out on a Limb: Selective Writing 1989-2021. It is out tomorrow. Buyers of it should be ready for the ride. Andrew, always a pleasure, thank you so much.

Coming up, what`s been described as code red for all our humanity?



WILLIAMS: To be perfectly honest, what we learned today might just be the definition of helplessness that came out in the form of the U.N. report on climate change, our report tonight from our Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The signs are all there, with fires raging around the world in Greece and Turkey and in California.

STEVE PATTERSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The Dixie fire is now the second largest wildfire in California history. It`s burned more than 600 structures, displace 30,000 people and still threatens some 13,000 homes.

ENGEL: And where there isn`t fire, there`s water. Once in a century, flash floods killed hundreds in Germany, Belgium and China this summer. The climate is getting more hostile. And today the U.N. said it is already too late to stop some of the devastating impacts of climate change.

HOESUNG LEE, INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE CHAIR: It is indisputable that human activities are causing climate change and making extreme weather events more frequent and severe.

ENGEL: The U.N. report is the world`s largest and most up to date study on climate change. It says rising sea levels and shrinking glaciers and Arctic sea ice are irreversible for centuries, or even millennia, with every region on the planet already impacted by more frequent and dangerous weather swings. But it`s not entirely without hope, finding that temperatures can be stabilized if we act decisively over the next several decades.


ENGEL (on camera): Today`s report laid bare that climate change is happening now on an unprecedented scale. It said we need rapid and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions if we`re going to avoid the worst of climate change. Brian, this was not talking about theoretical problems that future generations are going to have to deal with, it said damage has already been done. The key now is just mitigating future damage, Brian.


WILLIAMS: Richard, thank you for that, though it`s tough news to receive, our thanks to Richard Engel. Coming up for us, what it all means to those out west tonight or those looking toward the sun here in the east?


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, the very serious business of a world that right about now seems to be on fire. And that last segment you saw the report from Richard Engel on this new and dire report just out on climate change. He did not show you this, video shot from a ferry boat the last ferry boat departing the island of Evia in Greece, just as we saw in Greece a few years back the fires have driven people to the sea. Some Greeks could only drag a small suitcase out to the boat. Some seemed to realize they were leaving behind the only life they knew.

The video from Turkey is bizarre beach goers wearily looking up the hillside at the flames knowing their safety in the water in front of them, while perhaps realizing home is or was on the other side of that fire.

Then there`s our country, the suffering going on in California, especially underscoring the often discordant custom of naming Western fires after their place of origin. It`s a fire oddly called Dixie that has done the most damage. It`s already the second largest in California history. It`s burned half a million acres and areas so large, it almost defies tidy description. It is not under control tonight. It is one of 107 Western fires currently burning with a heat wave on the way this week. And because we all inhabit the same planet these fires have already given the skies on the east coast a brown tint as of weeks ago, the government continues to track the smoke as it hops the jet stream east and blots out the sun as it comes east. While Western wildfires are not new, unhinged conflagrations like these seem to be our new normal.

With that, that`s our broadcast on this back to work Monday night with my thanks to Chris Jansing and Ali Velshi for allowing me to thoroughly disappear for a while and with our thanks to you for being here with us. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.