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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 9/2/21

Guests: Jeremy Bash, Neal Katyal, Mark McKinnon, Cornell Belcher, Vin Gupta


Extreme weather wreaks havoc across U.S. Ida aftermath brings flood and tornados to northeast. Wildfire threatening Lake Tahoe area expands. Biden vows to protect abortion rights. Supreme Court refuses to block Texas abortion ban. Pelosi vows House vote to ensure abortion access. Hospitals face staff shortages amid COVID surge. Unvaccinated patients overwhelming hospitals.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: The 11th hour with Brian Williams starts now.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening once again, I`m Ali Velshi in for Brian Williams. Day 226 of the Biden administration. And from the northeast to the gulf and to the west, over the past several days, millions of Americans have come under direct assault from extreme weather. The past 24 hours have been devastating for much of the East Coast seems like this, first responders rescuing people who are trapped, have been playing out in states across the region. What remained of Hurricane Ida which slammed into Louisiana Sunday brought unprecedented rain and flooding to the New York area last night.

The storm drenched public transit, highway, streets and homes in just a few hours and brought much of the city to a standstill. Ida`s aftermath wreaks havoc across much of Philadelphia as well swamping roadways and forcing rivers to rise several feet.

In New Jersey, towns were swamped with water while tornadoes rampage across several communities. The storm has now killed at least 43 people from Maryland to Connecticut, and Louisiana four days after Hurricane Ida nearly 1 million homes and businesses remained without electricity as we head into the holiday weekend. Tomorrow, President Biden will be on the ground in Louisiana to see the damage up close. Today the President`s said the storm was an urgent warning about the dangers of climate change.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The past few days of Hurricane Ida and the wildfires in the west and the unprecedented flash floods in New York and New Jersey is yet another reminder that these extreme storms and the climate crisis are here. We need to act. This isn`t about politics. Hurricane Ida didn`t care if you were a Democrat or a Republican, rural or urban. Its destruction is everywhere. It`s a matter of life and death.


VELSHI: Today, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer was more direct making the link between the storm and the need for legislation.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Global warming is upon us and it`s going to get worse and worse and worse unless we do something about it. And that`s why it`s so imperative to pass the two bills. The infrastructure bill and the budget reconciliation bill.


VELSHI: Out west, the Caldor Fire that`s been burning near Lake Tahoe has now expanded to more than 210,000 acres. Part of the area has been evacuated and officials are warning residents to stay away for now.

We`re also following the latest developments stemming from the Texas abortion ban. The Supreme Court has refused to block a Texas law that outlaws abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, raising alarm about the survival of Roe v. Wade. The vote in the Supreme Court was five to four with the three Trump appointed justices joining two other conservative justices. Dissenting words conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, and the courts, three liberal justices.

Today the President slammed the high court`s decision saying it would quote unleash constitutional chaos, and said he plans to launch a whole of government effort to respond to this decision, looking specifically to HHS and DOJ to see what steps the federal government can take to insulate those in Texas from this law, his words.

This afternoon, things became a little tense at the White House briefing when the Press Secretary was asked about the President`s faith and abortion rights.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why does the President support abortion when his own Catholic faith teaches abortion is morally wrong?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He believes that it`s a woman`s right, it`s a woman`s body, and it`s her choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why does the President -- who does he believe, then, should look out for the unborn child?

PSAKI: He believes that it`s up to a woman to make those decisions and up to a woman to make those decisions with her doctor.

I know you`ve never faced those choices, nor have you ever been pregnant. But for women out there who have faced those choices --


PSAKI: -- this is an incredibly difficult thing.


VELSHI: Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to take steps to codify Roe versus Wade.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA HOUSE SPEAKER: When we go back to Washington, we will be putting Roe v. Wade codification on the floor of the House to make sure that women everywhere have the access to the reproductive health that they need. I say that as a mother of five children, and I respect everyone`s decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you expect any Republican support?

PELOSI: I really don`t speak for the Republicans. They like it that way.


So, do I.


VELSHI: There`s also important news about the House Committee that`s investigating January 6, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney has been promoted to Vice Chair that`s the number two position on the panel. Tonight, the New York Times reports at the House Select Committee wants communications and social media accompanies to preserve records of Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy among others for possible use in the inquiry.


McCarthy has said that he did speak to former President Trump during the riot. As for the riot suspects themselves, the one, the guy on the right here known as the QAnon Shaman, whose real name is Jacob Chansley, he is expected to plead guilty tomorrow in connection with the riot.

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Thursday night. Shannon Pettypiece is a veteran journalist and our Senior White House Reporter for NBC News Digital, Jeremy Bash is the former Chief of Staff of the CIA and the Pentagon. He`s also the former Chief Counsel to the House Intelligence Committee. And live tonight from Lake Tahoe, NBC News Correspondent Jacob Ward.

Good evening to all three of you. Jacob, let`s start with you. We have had a rough week in America, almost in all quarters from Hurricane Ida and the Gulf to the battering that it gave the East Coast. And this fire which is just one of many that we have already seen this year, threatening the livelihoods and lives and homes of people in and around the Lake Tahoe area.

JACOB WARD, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Ali, you`re absolutely correct. This was an unforeseeable idea. I mean, even a few years ago, you could not imagine you`d be facing a Labor Day weekend in which 22,000 people are evacuated. And actual -- the mainstay of the economy here is off. Tourism officials telling people to absolutely stay away from Lake Tahoe. But I think what we`re seeing in the larger picture here is just a sort of a cross section across the country of everything that is happening around the world. And you can find parallels between the kinds of terrible scenes we are seeing in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, along with what we`re seeing in Africa, we`re more than a million people have been displaced by floods and heavy rains over the course of 2021. You know, all of this stuff has been in the offing for a while. And now it is suddenly literally pouring through our windows, whether you`re talking about fire and people having to evacuated here, people living in basements on the East Coast, finding themselves trapped flight by floodwaters. All of this is suddenly happening in front of us. And I suppose that the only thing we can really hope to come from that is that it will trigger something ancient, primeval that makes us heroic, makes us do something big. That`s what we`re hoping for.

VELSHI: That is an optimistic outlook, which I appreciate, Jacob.

Shannon, the President didn`t shy away from linking this to climate change, to talking about climate change. We`ve heard what others have said, including Chuck Schumer, he`s going to Louisiana tomorrow. What do we expect?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I don`t know if we can expect much more than your typical hurricane storm, as it were, the president surveys the damage, he shows the people there that this is an issue, he is serious that he cares about that he is not going to forget them, makes some remarks. And then there we could see a bit on the climate change front, you know, this White House has obviously prioritized climate change, have certainly much more than the past administration, to say the least. But even you could say, to some extent, more than the Obama administration, the President has identified this as one of a number of crises the country has faced.

But as the Obama administration officials there, learned as well, there`s only so much they can do without any sort of action from Congress. And there are certainly steps the administration has taken recently, with fuel emission standards. They have named John Kerry as Climate Czar. He`s been traveling around the world, meeting with other world leaders that have re- enter the Paris Climate Agreement. They have set some ambitious goals on carbon. But this really isn`t necessarily a problem that can be solved solely from the executive branch. Despite how many people look to the President and the White House to do big things and solve this.

You know, at the end of the day, a lot of it is going to come from Congress, and there is the nearly $4 trillion in spending that Congress is discussing that they could pass that could have a lot of money to make a dent in this crisis. But that really seems up in the air even more so today than it did yesterday with now Joe Manchin raising questions. So that`s really where we`re at when it comes to the White House. And Washington`s response to this right now.

VELSHI: Jeremy Bash, climate and it`s detrimental effects are our top story tonight. And it`s not the top story to a lot of Republicans in Washington that remains Afghanistan, the exit from Afghanistan and who remains in that country. What`s your take on how the administration is handling this?

JEREMY BASH, FORMER, CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Look, I think we are beginning, Ali, to understand some key lessons from the last month. First, I think Biden got the policy right. Look when Trump said let`s get out of Afghanistan that was Trump`s withdrawal decision. Biden, I think correctly assessed, the Afghans would not fight for their own Capitol, and so it was imprudent. It was improper to ask one more American to die for a war with the Afghans wouldn`t fight themselves. So overall the policy was right.


Second, I think the planning assumptions that DOD and State Department made were reasonable, that Kabul would remain under Afghan government control. That assumption turned out to be totally wrong, but it was reasonable at the time. And the evacuation was a masterstroke tactically. The second airborne, got out 120,000 people in peril.

But I think further, Ali, I would say that our refugee and asylum policy is a total mess. It`s a mess, because we`ve had the legacy of extreme vetting under the Trump administration, and members of Congress, including congressional Republicans have really tied up our refugee and asylum system in knots over some insane fear that Muslims would stream over the border and try to kill us. And I think we need a total revamp of our entire refugee and asylum program. And at this hour, this, I think, is the most important point, Ali, so many veterans of the last 20 years of war are channeling their incredible competence and their incredible patriotism, to help Afghans who remain in peril. And at this hour, there are Africans in transit in Afghanistan and third countries who need to be brought to the United States immediately under humanitarian parole. So, there`s a lot of unfinished business with respect to Afghanistan.

VELSHI: Shannon Pettypiece, with respect to the law in Texas and the response by the Supreme Court, in not striking this law down. There has been a response from the administration saying that they will get involved in a whole of government effort. We heard from Nancy Pelosi saying that they want to codify Roe versus Wade, what do we expect on that front?

PETTYPIECE: Well, similar to this issue of climate change, I think oftentimes, a lot of people look to the White House and the executive branch to solve these big problems. It`s unclear what exactly can be done from the White House, from the level of the president when it comes to a state law. The administration put out some very strong words about how much they disagree with this Texas law. The said that they were going to have the White House Counsel`s office working with HHS and DOJ, look into this, they did not put a real high profile senior official in charge of shepherding this sort of like we saw the vice president being put in charge of immigration or addressing the root causes of immigration, they`re going to have the co-chairs of the gender policy council look into it. They did not give any timeline and they didn`t give any specifics.

And the White House also isn`t getting behind any specific legislation. So, if this can`t be handled from the executive branch, what about the legislative branch. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, there`s no actual piece of legislation. They`re getting behind either. And even if they did, there`s already such a crowded legislative agenda and so little time left to get anything done before the midterm elections that that route seems unlikely. So maybe there`s something they can do to nibble around the edges from the DOJ perspective, but I don`t think there`s a lot of expectation that something big is going to be able to come out of the White House on this.

VELSHI: Jacob Ward, from a legislative and leadership perspective, this administration actually has taken big steps with respect to climate change in terms of appointees, in terms of policy, there were stuff in the infrastructure bill that passed that speaks directly to climate. There is stuff in this new bill that is continues to be in peril that speaks about climate change. At this point, you made a point that with the number of Americans witnessing the effects of climate change in the last week, and in the last few years, there may be some wind in the sails of those who actually want to legislate in a way that can help the earth?

WARD: Well, it is possible that it could create the kind of groundswell of support that we would really need to create what experts say would be a trillion-dollar kind of effort. I mean, really, we`re talking about a global reshaping in order to make ourselves not go beyond the 1.5 degrees Celsius increase from the late 1800s that experts say we have to achieve. You know, I think if you look across the world, you can see that there are places where this kind of big societal reorganization has happened. Because people have had firsthand experiences with disaster.

If you look at Japan, they have some of the most sophisticated seismic protective engineering in the world. They pioneered all kinds of things that allow buildings to withstand an earthquake. Why is that? Because lawmakers all over that country have actually physically experienced an earthquake.

In the Netherlands, they pioneer the concept that you can actually have soft defenses when it comes to sea level rise. You can have a sea come in and out of the city as it needs to rather than just trying to hold it back. That is because people in the Netherlands have all experienced the effects of sea level rise. It is possible, Ali, and it`s only possible but it is possible that here in the United States as you have constituents from all across the country, millions of people experiencing these effects directly, perhaps the people that they -- that represent those constituents can now feel this and the way that our brains as humans need to feel is in order to take the very essential action and the very enormous kind of organizational effort that we`re going to have to undertake to really fight this thing.


VELSHI: Again, optimism that we are welcoming. Jeremy, I want to ask you something about comments that we`ve had from your old department, Department of Defense, the defense secretary, the Secretary of State, and the military about what we do about the Taliban, given that they are now in control of things there. What we will do in terms of participating with the Taliban in the fighting off of the ISIS affiliate, if you will, that`s in Afghanistan with whom they are adversaries, and whether the Taliban ever gets recognized by the American government as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

BASH: I wouldn`t argue for that. I don`t think we should trust the Taliban. I think the Taliban stands against everything that we hold dear, our values and our interests. That said, if we have to do a deal with the devil sometimes to protect those interests, and if we have to cooperate with them to get out Afghans in peril, or to fight ISIS-K, or to prevent the resurgence of al Qaeda, I`m all for it. But I don`t think we should have any diplomatic recognition that Taliban, I don`t think they should be welcomed by the rural community. But I think we should redouble our counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan, even if it`s not from inside the country, our intelligence community, and military leaders are going to have to be engage in this for a very long time to come.

VELSHI: Thank you to all three of you for kicking it off this this evening for us, Shannon Pettypiece at the White House, Jeremy Bash, and Jake Ward, thank you to all three of you.

Coming up, we`re going to talk with our friend Neal Katyal, who`s argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court about the high court`s decision not to block this new abortion law out of Texas.

And later, why new comments from Joe Manchin today have some Democrats worried about a key part of the President`s agenda? The 11th Hour just getting underway on a Thursday night.



VELSHI: All four dissenting judges for justices filed opinions, some scathing against the majority`s refusal to block that Texas law that virtually bans abortion.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who joined the courts, three liberals wrote, "The statutory scheme before the court is not only unusual, but unprecedented."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was much more direct, saying, "a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand." She goes on to say, "It cannot be the case that a state can evade federal judicial scrutiny by outsourcing the enforcement of unconstitutional laws to its citizenry."

With us again tonight, Neal Katyal, Department of Justice Veteran and former Acting Solicitor General during the Obama administration. He has argued dozens of cases before the United States Supreme Court.

Neal, good to see you. Thank you for being with us. We need your clarity on this. What did Chief Justice John Roberts mean in describing this as unusual and unprecedented?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Well, Ali, the bottom line is the Supreme Court basically gave a thumbs up to the overruling of Roe vs. Wade. So, abortion clinics as of yesterday in Texas, are essentially close to all patients. And what the court last for Texas yesterday, can be enacted tomorrow in other states, and indeed will other states like South Dakota are already said they`re going to try and enact such legislation.

And so, what the Chief Justice was referring to was, this is a really weird Texas scheme and outlawed abortion after six weeks effectively, but it said the state isn`t going to enforce it. Instead, it created vigilante justice, any private citizen could sue anyone who`s helping anyone get an abortion. So, if you`d like to take an Uber to the abortion clinic, this law said you could sue the Uber driver and sue them anywhere in Texas, including far away from their homes and save $10,000 in damages against them, plus attorney`s fees who is designed to intimidate. It was designed to create fear. And that`s of course, what`s happened and why abortion clinics are essentially closed now to all patients.

VELSHI: Neal, you wrote in The Washington Post on June 7, when the Supreme Court accepted a major abortion case out of Mississippi. You wrote, "reproductive rights need not depend at all on what the court does with Roe because the Constitution says that federal law reigns supreme over state laws. This insight also means that Congress can sweep away state laws that conflict with federal protections."

This has become unusually important these words of yours from June today. What does this mean in terms of Nancy Pelosi saying that we`re going to codify abortion rights or Roe v. Wade?

KATYAL: Yeah, for more than a year I`ve been saying look, the writing is on the wall about Roe vs. Wade. Like it or not, the Supreme Court is likely to overrule it.

Now, in our constitutional system, there are two ways to guarantee abortion rights. One is the way Roe does, a court decision saying Texas or Louisiana or whatever, you can have that law. it`s unconstitutional. It`s off the table in our democracy. That`s one way but there`s a whole separate way, which is Congress itself can guarantee it. So, if you think about employment discrimination, you know, that`s something Congress guaranteed in Title Seven in 1965. It`s not part of our Constitution. And so, Congress tomorrow by simple majority vote, can pass a bill to codify Roe vs. Wade and I`m so glad to see Speaker Pelosi saying she`s going to take that up right away.

VELSHI: On the other hand, do you have people looking at this Texas example, we have a tweet from the South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, saying following the Supreme Court`s decision to leave the pro-life Texas law in place, I`ve directed the unborn child advocate in my office to immediately review the new Texas law and current South Dakota laws to make sure we have the strongest pro-life laws on the books in South Dakota.

And there were similar comments coming out of Florida`s Governor Ron DeSantis. Tell me the effect of this. Could a bunch of states just start doing this and we could end up having a defacto overcoming of Roe v. Wade in this country?

KATYAL: Yes, that`s the danger of yesterday Supreme Court decision, a green light any state doing the very same thing as Texas. It`s not like specific to Texas or something like that. Ali, I think the most important thing I want to leave our viewers with is this. I know there`s a lot of heartache tonight. My view is one way, or another this decision yesterday will not stand. You know, so the history teaches us that the Supreme Court can`t be out of step with public opinion for too long. It just never works. And so, the Supreme Court always conforms to it.

And so, whether that`s -- we`re talking about a change in the composition of the court or the number of justices or a change in the decisions and the votes that they make, or a federal legislation like what we`ve been talking about, which would prevent that South Dakota law from taking effect, one way or another, my view is we will have a way to secure Roe versus Wade, the arc of progress is Dr. King says, bends, but it`ll only bend toward justice if we bend it. And so that means we all have to fight like heck, that`s at the elections, that`s putting pressure on our elected officials to nominate justices who will protect Roe versus Wade. But right now, most importantly, it`s taking up that vote in Congress. And anyone who thinks that can`t be done by simple majority vote is the anti-democracy on something as fundamental is women`s health.


VELSHI: The court likes to point out that it does not bend to public opinion and public will. So, what does that look like? I know you`ve mentioned that this could be something that Nancy Pelosi and Democrats do. We`ve discussed earlier in the show with Shannon Pettypiece what the White House in the administration can do through the Department of Justice and HHS. But what do -- what does public opinion manifest? In what way does it manifest that would influence the outcome of this. You`ve set voting rights? Is that what you`re saying? Get out there and vote?

KATYAL: Well, things that more fundamental that political scientists who studied the Supreme Court over the two centuries have found that the Supreme Court while it may make a decision that`s out of step with the public, eventually it conforms with it, one way or another. So that obvious and most, you know, kind of destructive or, you know, high point example is FDR in the New Deal, when the Supreme Court was striking down New Deal legislation after new deal legislation. He then threatened to pack the court and the Supreme Court some of the justices changed their vote. It`s called the switch and time that save nine.

I`m not necessarily advocating for any of these. I just think this decision yesterday is so important, it goes to the essence of what the Supreme Court`s about, and I think the popular outcry is so dramatic that one of these solutions, I think will take form and shape and remove and hopefully remove the effects. You know, that`s certainly what I`m hoping for. And I think what we should all be fighting for.

VELSHI: Neal, thanks for coming on and helping us out with this, Neal Katyal.

Coming up, abortion rights supporters are turning to Congress for help. How Democrats plan to respond when the 11th Hour continues.




PELOSI: There will be other states and we copy the Texas model, which is not a state action with private actors, which is clever. Very, very dangerous. And so, you know, we expect to see copycats, and that`s why it`s necessary to have the national law passed of Roe v. Wade protecting women`s rights for everyday lives across the country, whatever their economic status was.


VELSHI: Speaker Pelosi his efforts to codify Roe v Wade are certain to face staunch resistance on Capitol Hill. Democrats as you know, hold the narrowest of majorities in both houses and even if every democrat in the Senate voted in favor, the existence of the filibuster means 10 Republicans would still need to join their ranks.

With us for more, Cornell Belcher, democratic pollster and veteran of the Obama campaign and Mark McKinnon, former adviser to both George W. Bush and John McCain. He`s among the CO hosts of the circus on Showtime. Gentlemen, good to see you both. Mark, I have to say I`m a little surprised that Republicans are not taking more of a victory lap because people who are supportive of abortion rights believe that this is a very, very serious development in Texas?

MARK MCKINNON, FORMER ADVISER TO JOHN MCCAIN & GEORGE W. BUSH: Isn`t that interesting, Ali? And I think it`s very telling. It`s hardly been mentioned on Fox News all day today or tonight. And here`s why. It`s obviously a fiendish, illegal strategy that has achieved a policy goal for right now. But I think it`s going to have huge political consequences. This is an animating issue for primary Republican voters, core base voters and the Republican primary, but it`s not, it`s a 70 percent approval for the protections of Roe among all voters, including many, many Republicans. So as Rachel Maddow said earlier, this is like the dog who caught the car. This was animating in a way good for Republican politics until they actually achieved the goal, and at which point, they realized they have -- now captures something that is very unpopular. And by the way, when we when we start talking about Republicans snitches, and does anybody doubt that if men could get pregnant, they be getting free abortions, in locker rooms?

VELSHI: You run on that. Cornell, let`s talk about Susan Collins, Senator Susan Collins, she has called this decision, this Texas law, extreme and hurtful. But she`s getting some kickback on this because she supported the appointment of Justice Kavanaugh with the understanding, she believed, or she conveyed that he wouldn`t work against Roe v. Wade?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST AND POLLSTER FOR OBAMA 2012: Yeah, no, she`s got to own this, right? She was very vocal and out in front about how, you know, what`s happening, wouldn`t happen because of the vote for Kavanaugh, and the votes for some of these others that she`s voted to put on the Supreme Court. She gave us assurances that what is happening would not happen. But in fact, Kavanaugh turns out to be exactly who we thought he was.

But I also have to sort of double down on the point that my friend on the right was making here is that I think Republicans perhaps have woken the sleeping giant. And I say that because, you know, he`s right, this is this has been a primary voting issue for Republicans, but voters in the middle of the electorate, especially women voters have been an energizing voting issue for them.

I tell you this, the moment that white women, college educated white woman is up in the suburbs, who`ve been helping Republicans hold on to Congress in the Senate over the years, the moment they think that their right to choose is going to be taken away from them by Republicans. I think they do animate these voters and they do wake in a sleeping giant. And they`re doing something that Democrats have not been able to do. And that is make women more of a single issue, voting bloc around choice, which can very much change the dynamics of the of the midterms, but also down ballot as well. If Democrats could connect the dots to this overwhelmingly unpopular piece of legislation that Republicans are pushing to their state ledge, that state legislative bodies as well, I think you`re creating a dynamic for the midterms and handing Democrats. If Democrats are smart, and they`re able to use it, they`re handing Democrats a wedge issue to go right after women voters and energize women voters up and down the ballot.


VELSHI: Mark, let`s talk about what we heard from Kristi Noem, the governor of South Dakota and Ron DeSantis, who are implying or at least messaging to their voters. And I can`t tell whether these are the voters of South Dakota, Republicans in South Dakota and Florida they`re trying to appeal to, or these are two presidential candidates potentially, you know, appealing to the Republican base who might vote for them to be the presidential candidate next time. But both of them are suggesting they want to take a close look at that Texas law and see if they can employ you to apply them in their states.

MCKINNON: No question that they`re going to enact these laws as quickly as possible. Anybody running for president, any Republican governor is going to be appealing to the lowest common denominator in the Republican primary base. And here`s the irony of it all. It`s so hypocritical, because Republican, fundamental messages about limited government freedom. So, in Texas, for example, they give you the freedom to carry a gun without a permit anywhere you want the freedom not to wear a mask or get vaccinated. But can a woman have the freedom to make the choices about her own reproductive health? No way. So, there`s the political problem I see in the future.

VELSHI: Cornell, what do you think the right approaches here for those who want to support abortion rights?

BELCHER: Well, look, you know, you got to campaign hacks, grizzle campaign hats, like we can eye on talk about politics, not policy. So, the policy stuff on the legal side, but I think the politics of it is very clear, and I think I think there`s a way for Democrats to do what Republicans do all the time and sort of nationalized election around one or two big issues. They are giving us a big issue to nationalize this campaign, the midterms around choice, which again, 77 percent of Americans don`t think Roe v. Wade should go away. This is potentially the largest mobilizing issue, especially for women voters, that that we`ve seen in quite a while if in fact, they fear that Roe v. Wade is going away. And that`s what Democrats have to push. That`s the reason why Fox isn`t talking about, and Republicans don`t want to talk about it, because they don`t want to help drive up this sense of this fear among women voters, that they`re the right choice, is that actually going to be going away. Democrats going -- have to play politics here and they have to push for this narrative that your right to choose is going to go away unless you act.

VELSHI: Gentlemen, you`re not so grizzled. And we`re pleased to have you here tonight. Thank you for joining us. Cornell Belcher and Mark McKinnon. Thank you.

All right, coming up, hospitals and health care workers have been overwhelmed by the latest surge in COVID. It`s also resulting in a rationing of resources. We`ll explain when the 11th Hour continues.



VELSHI: Hospitals around the country are buckling under immense strain from an influx of COVID patients. In states like Montana where the Delta variate is spreading rapidly, the number of people hospitalized continues to increase. NBC News Correspondent Gabe Gutierrez brings us more from inside one hospital there.


GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The ICU at Billings Clinic in Montana is nearing 150 percent capacity, and the hospital is asking the National Guard for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn`t wish this on my worst enemy at all.

GUTIERREZ: Patrick Bersia (ph) has been here more than a week. He`s just 24 years old.

(On camera): Do you regret not getting the vaccine?

PATRICK BERSIA (ph): Absolutely, I 100 percent regret it.

GUTIERREZ: During our brief interview, he paused to catch his breath. But he wanted to continue so we could counter what he called misinformation.

BERSIA (ph): That the vaccine was not a real vaccine that it was like a tracking chip the government was trying to use on us.

GUTIERREZ: That`s what`s so frustrating to health care workers here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re here to do our part, but it feels like those choosing to refuse vaccine aren`t helping us.

GUTIERREZ: This is the E.R. They`ve set up overflow beds in the hallways. In just this week, the hospital had to divert nearly 30 ambulances to other facilities in just one day. And for some nurses, it`s personal. Brad von Bergen lost his mother and stepfather to COVID last year.

(On camera): How hard is it to keep doing this?

BRAD VON BERGEN: Oh, man. I never thought we`d be in this situation again.

GUTIERREZ: Joey Traywick didn`t think so either. He worked at another hospital. We visited here in October.

JOEY TRAYWICK: We are broken.

GUTIERREZ: Since then, he came down with COVID and recovered.

TRAYWICK: There`s just something about my brain that has to stay positive.

GUTIERREZ: So, would you say you`re still broken?

TRAYWICK: I would say, I`m healing.

GUTIERREZ: This deep into the pandemic for both nurses and patients.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. You guys are really like heroes.

GUTIERREZ: Healing doesn`t come easy. Gabe Gutierrez, NBC News, Billings, Montana.


VELSHI: All right, back again tonight, Dr. Vin Gupta. He`s a critical care pulmonologist in Seattle who has advised us on public health throughout this pandemic right from the beginning. He`s also on the Faculty at the University of Washington`s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

And Vin like some of those doctors were telling Gabe, it`s impossible to believe that we`re in the situation now. We could believe this for all of 2020 because we didn`t have a vaccine. I know you wouldn`t believe we`d be in this position where we`ve got hospitals overloaded today with patients suffering from serious COVID because they didn`t get vaccinated?

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that`s right. Good evening, Ali. What we`re seeing is we`re seeing transmission peaking in multiple states in the southeast, we think so. Florida, Alabama, Georgia, potentially we`re seeing a temporary peak, let`s hope. Oregon and Kentucky, Ali, we`re seeing peeking as we speak. What`s driving that? Low vaccine rates, of course, same public masking reported rates at 36 percent or lower, of course, the Delta variant. These are the factors here that are driving high transmission rates. And by the way, mobility, people are moving around to pre-pandemic baseline. So that`s where, why we`re out where we`re at in these eight to 10 states and those are driving the majority of the 1400 deaths, we`re losing 1400 Americans. We`re losing our day over day. We`re expected to lose 1400 people day over day through the end of October. And this is not even accounting.

Let me make it clear for all your viewers out here. This is not accounting for the impact of cold and flu season. So respiratory syncytial virus that`s putting kids in hospitals across the country flu, Ali. If we can`t get people to take the COVID vaccine in places like Georgia and Florida, are they going to take the flu vaccine? Are they going to mask obviously, we`re going to see a perfect storm hair of multiple different viral threats impact people, that`s why there`s a lot of concern.

VELSHI: Vin, the testimony that we heard from that COVID patient in Gabe Gutierrez piece, we hear this a lot. You see them every day on TV. I don`t think a lot of our viewers here are in a position where they chose not to get the vaccine. There may be some, does that help, do these testimonies you`re hearing from people who are anti-vaxxers decide that they got this thing, and they wish they`d gotten vaccinated. Do you think that changes anybody`s mind?


GUPTA: I personally seen it. I`ve talked to professional athletes, Seahawks Mariners fellow enlisted and officers in the reserves, just down south of Seattle, a lot of people have questions. And a lot of people are confused by mixed messaging even to this day from our highest health officials, when they hear stories and lead, that`s what they need, they need to feel vulnerable. The threat perception issues, the big issue here for the longest time we said it was grandma and grandpa that was going to end up in the ICU. Now when they recognize when they see that 24-year-old end up in the ICU that changes their threat perception, so it`s vital.

VELSHI: Vin has agreed to stay with us. We`ll be right back in a second. Coming up, an inside look at the importance of a potentially life-saving process, that is the last hope for many people in an ICU with COVID why hospitals need equipment and trained staff for it though, when the 11th Hour continues.


VELSHI: Staffing crisis is one of many issues hospitals are facing right now. Some resources are running low, including a lifesaving oxygenating machine that`s only available inside an ICU setting. Dr. Vin Gupta spoke to a doctor in Oregon who said he`s been forced to ration care.


DAVID ZONIES, OHSU HEALTH CRITICAL CARE DIRECTOR: A national shortage of nurses and even a greater shortage of sub specialized nurses. Even if we had enough machines for everyone, it`s not just about the machine it`s about the expertise and the ability to care for the patient. So, it`s the people. We are rationing care in some respects. We do this every day. When there`s not enough -- when there`s just not enough supply of personnel and equipment and beds, we can`t care for everyone.



VELSHI: Back with us, Dr. Vin Gupta. Vin, we`ve known about a shortage of healthcare workers in this country for a long time. This is a big issue for America, particularly with an aging population. But it came into sharp relief with COVID. Tell me a little bit more about this, these oxygenating machines that the doctor was not suggesting that are in short supply themselves but matching them with people who can actually administer them?

GUPTA: You know, that`s absolutely right. These machines, the long form is extra corporeal membrane oxygenation, so extra corporeal outside the body, what are these machines do? We have trained staff, ICU Docs, nurses, respiratory therapists that go through additional training, really highly specialized providers that basically operate machines, that where the blood is physically removed through large IVs and sent to a machine and oxygenator where the blood is oxygenated and then transferred back into the body, we go here, when the ventilator is not enough, it`s a last resort option. This is high risk, it`s labor intensive, but it can be lifesaving. And yet, there`s only so many of these machines that we can deploy because of shortages. Because we only have enough only so many of these machines. And you can only access them generally speaking in large urban areas where you have coronary care, academic medical centers and other large medical centers. So, there`s limitations to accessing this advanced therapy.

What we`re seeing in places like Oregon, for example, is that demand has spiked to 100 percent. In a typical flu season, one or two patients, according to Dr. Zonies over at Oregon, health and Sciences University, one or two patients, maybe in a typical flu season need this. They`re seeing multiple requests for this four to five a day in some cases, for this machine, they can only ask for four at a given time right now in their medical ICU demand for exceeding supply not necessarily able to get the therapy you need if you`re critically ill right now.

VELSHI: So, one of the arguments about not good about being vaccinated over not being vaccinated is you may suffer less when or if you get COVID. There are also people who say look, I get it, I get it, I get over it. Most people don`t die from it. But there`s a study out of the UK that suggests that if you`re vaccinated, you have a lower chance of getting what we call long COVID symptoms that that extend far beyond the illness itself. What do we know about this?

GUPTA: Well, exactly that, that if even if you were to test positive, and be otherwise asymptomatic, or maybe just have a mild cough, that the chance that maybe 28 days later or a few months later, you`ll have lingering brain fog, or shortness of breath is long COVID syndrome that we`re learning more about day over day, the chances you`ll develop that are infinitesimally low relative to if you remain unvaccinated. So that testing positive if you`re fully vaccinated, the risk of developing this long COVID syndrome of debilitating chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms is very, very low. And that`s really, really important because a lot of people worrying about that specific issue.

VELSHI: Vin, thank you again, I always say I can`t believe we`re still talking about this, but we`re still talking about this, and I appreciate that you make the time to do that. Vin Gupta is critical care pulmonologist. And he`s on the faculty at the University of Washington`s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Coming up, what we heard from people in the northeast today after devastating flooding and tornadoes hit the region when the 11th Hour continuous.



VELSHI: Last thing before we go tonight, we want to take a moment to highlight the heroic work being done by rescue workers throughout the Northeast with just a sampling of the many stories of survival from last night`s historic storm in this part of the country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see the teams here, Michael, the rescue workers were getting out, and other boats going back in, and this has been nonstop, we`re told this morning, as these teams go back to take folks out of their house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was laid out the whole night. We couldn`t even sleep or anything. Especially with the kids, my son just broke his leg. Because that has passed off so it`s scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m left nothing. We`re homeless right now. But it`s all going to come together. And we`re going to figure out a solution. And we`ll go from there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at that water level. Look at how high up crack the water got in this building, the entire ceiling of this entire garage area completely collapsing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are OK. All right and great camaraderie. And it was wonderful to be together through this process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was pretty quick, wind, maybe five minutes, and then just everything was decimated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, turn off the radio and just heard everything there like the roof everything collapsing. So, we all jumped onto the sets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The water came up to here at any point. Did you start to get scared?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yeah. Yeah, we got scared. We wondered about the foundation. And if this is -- this house was built in 1927.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This nursing homes were evacuated all of its residents. Well, it looks like rapids racing past the front doors.

How quickly did the water rise?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very quick. By the time we got here, we put marks on the ground to know where the water levels were. And by the time we got the first patient out of the facility, that mark was already gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get your stuff. I`m here, I`ll hold you. Yeah, it`s a .

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Firefighters and police officers have spent the night rescuing hundreds of people. We have the high school facility open for people to go and evacuated. The Red Cross has been great. I can`t give enough credit to our emergency responding.


VELSHI: Of course, this week began with countless displays of heroism in the south where first responders are still helping to save lives after the destruction of Hurricane Ida. That is our broadcast for this Thursday night with our thanks for being with us. On behalf of all of my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.