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

Guests: Lisa Lerer, Irwin Redlener, Jon Meacham, Stuart Stevens, Charles Blow

Summary

With a pandemic still ongoing, Democrats divided over his agenda, Republicans opposing legislation to ensure the financial health of the nation, and his first speech to the United Nation as president, Biden is facing his most critical moment in office yet. The House passed a bill Tuesday that would temporarily fund the government and suspend the debt limit. Democratic leaders stripped funding for Israel`s Iron Dome missile defense system from a bill to keep the government funded and raise the debt ceiling. Former President Donald Trump`s claims of voting machines showing abnormalities were false.

Transcript

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 245 of the Biden administration and tonight for this president and his presidency, there seems to be the realization that these are indeed critical days just ahead of us. The nation`s financial stability for one is at stake, as is his overall agenda. He`s now being forced to navigate a showdown in Congress on a fight among his fellow Democrats who might just be their own worst enemies.

Just a few hours ago, the House passed a bill to keep the U.S. from defaulting on its debt and prevent the government from shutting down. That would be at midnight next Thursday. It passed on a party line vote to 20 to 211. All the Democrats voted yes, all the Republicans voted no.

Senate Republicans have also vowed not to vote for the bill which also provides money for disaster relief, Afghanistan evacuees, the pandemic response. Without 10 Senate Republicans crossing the aisle to vote for it, the bill will die.

California Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier offered this prediction of the consequences for Republicans and indeed for our country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): There`s going to be blood on their hands, you`re going to see the stock market plummet as the increase in interest rates, you`re going to see Social Security recipients not receiving their checks. And we`re going to point to the Republicans and say, This is the reckless behavior of Republicans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The House bill was also the subject of sharp divisions within the Democratic Caucus, some members objected to the inclusion of a billion dollars for Israel`s Iron Dome Defense System, which as you know, shoots down incoming rockets fired at Israel.

The funding was removed and will be voted on in a later bill. But Republicans criticized the change and vowed to stand as allies with Israel. That brings up the Democrats deep divide, which is threatening Biden`s sweeping domestic agenda.

Progressives and moderates the left in the middle are at a standoff over when to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which has already passed in the Senate and the much larger and more expensive budget bill, which expands the social safety net. Right now moderates want to vote on the infrastructure bill on Monday as promised, progressives have threatened not to support it unless the larger bill passes first. Earlier the leader of the Progressive Caucus spoke with Rachel Maddow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA) PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS CHAIR: All of a sudden, the tables get turned on us and we are now finding that people are saying oh, no, just passed the infrastructure bill. And you know what, we`ll get to childcare later. We`ll get to paid leave later. Well, Rachel, we are committed to delivering the entirety of the President`s agenda to the President`s desk, half of our caucus. Over half of our caucus has said that they will not just vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. We have to vote on the reconciliation bill first.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Tomorrow, the President will meet at the White House with a select group of elected Democrats to try to get everybody on the same page on this.

Tonight the White House is keeping a close eye on developments on the pandemic front as you might imagine. Bloomberg reporting that the FDA could make its decision on Pfizer vaccine boosters as early as tomorrow. Last week an FDA panel recommended the additional shots for people 65 and over. In addition, Johnson and Johnson said today its booster shot is 94 percent effective when given two months after their first dose.

Also, NBC News has confirmed a new report out from the Daily Beast that says former President Trump is suing the New York Times, three of its reporters and for good measure his niece Mary Trump over a story about his tax history. The Daily Beast reports that this way, the lawsuit alleges that the newspaper convinced Mary Trump to smuggle records out of her attorney`s office and turn them over to the Times despite her having signed a confidentiality agreement in 2001.

Mary Trump, on her own part released a statement tonight that says quote, I think he is a loser and he is going to throw anything against the wall he can. It`s desperation.

There was also extraordinary reporting out tonight from the New York Times about the Trump campaign and efforts to prove false claims of election fraud. You may recall Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell insisting the election company Dominion, working with another company Smartmatic to steal the election from Donald Trump. Here`s what they said on November 19 of last year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNEY POWELL, FMR. TRUMP CAMPAIGN LAWYER: What we are really dealing with here and uncovering more by the day is the massive influence of communists money through Venezuela, Cuba, and likely China in the interference with our election here in the United States.

[23:05:02]

RUDY GIULIANI, FMR. PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO DONALD TRUMP: This is not a single voter fraud in one state. This pattern repeats itself in a number of states, almost exactly the same pattern. I think the logical conclusion is, this is a common plan, a common scheme. It comes right directly from the Democrat Party. And it comes from the candidate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Communist money and dripping brown goo. The Times reports the Trump campaign knew that it was a lie before Giuliani and Powell made those allegations. Again, that was on November 19. Paper says the campaign had prepared an internal memo before that date indicating those claims were untrue.

Meanwhile, the actual winner of the 2020 election made his first speech as president before the UN General Assembly today. Even with all the recent challenges to Biden`s foreign policy. His message to the UN was very different from what we had heard from his predecessor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We`ve ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan. And as we close this period of relentless war, we`re opening a new era of relentless diplomacy. We are not seeking a new Cold War, or a world divided into rigid blocks. The United States is ready to work with any nation and steps up and pursues peaceful resolution to share challenges.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Biden continued his focus on foreign policy when he got back to Washington and the Oval Office where he held a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

With that, let`s bring in our frontline guests on this Tuesday night. Lisa Lerer, National Political Correspondent for The New York Times, Dr. Irwin Redlener, Founding Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia, also Professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Jon Meacham is back with us as well, Pulitzer Prize winning author, presidential historian, currently the Rogers Chair and the American Presidency at Vanderbilt. He occasionally advises the President on historical matters and major speeches. His new podcast, by the way, is called It Was Said, and the newest installment, importantly, looks at some of the most important speeches in the history of sports and our society. Good evening, and welcome to you all.

And, Lisa, I`d like to begin with you. We asked a few Democrats today about what they view as Plan B, if indeed, the vote goes down, and the debt ceiling is not raised, and the government is shut down, we`ll sample that and discuss on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP0

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is the plan B?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re not going to let them off the hook.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well the plan B is there`s no plan B. You`ve got to pay your bills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what happens if the Republicans block it? What`s the plan B/

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): And that`s on the Republicans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILILAMS: So Lisa, very direct question. What do they do?

LISA LERER, THE NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there`ll be quite a situation. I mean, this is not the only problem facing the administration and Democrats right now. They of course, have these very deep divides over the centerpiece of Biden`s domestic agenda, which is this very expansive, $3.5 trillion economic package. The infrastructure bill, which be -- the bipartisan infrastructure bill has not been finalized or signed into law. You have issues at the border, you have his immigration agenda was dealt a major setback this week with the Senate parliamentarian saying it couldn`t be included in that economic passage package.

So what you really see is that the Biden administration`s domestic agenda is hanging by a thread right now, in the first year of his administration, of course, his political capital is the highest it`s going to be. And on top of that, you have the issue of the debt ceiling, which could cause catastrophic economic effects. We`ve had shutdowns before. They have not been good for the economy. We have never had a government shutdown in the middle of a pandemic. And I think that`s what`s scaring a lot of people both in Congress and outside of Congress and just sort of normal Americans trying to get through a rather uneven economic situation right now.

WILIAMS: So Jon Meacham, the challenges are many. We`ve just been talking about domestic policy foreign policy was on the President`s agenda today, post botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. And to top it all off using the parlance of diplomacy, we`ve managed to piss off France. What do you make of the state of his presidency right now?

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I think democracies hanging by a thread is not just the President`s agenda. And I don`t mean to be hyperbolic. But let`s just look at the clinical facts of the matter. We have a country that you just reported that the previous president attempted to the why and scheme is way too overreturning the Constitution. That`s one. And that was even your first story, right?

[23:10:06]

You have a significant number of people who call themselves Republicans believing that they would rather put their faith in an authoritarian rather than the Constitution. They are in flight from fact, they are in flight from truth, privileging the will the power over the checks and balances and inherent imperfections and compromises of a constitutional order.

And so I think this is a lot bigger than a political who`s up who`s down. Question, President Biden was elected 81 million people send him to the pinnacle of power to try to see if democracy can deliver, if democracy can work in an era of kind of weaponized propaganda, in a domestic sense, high anti-immigration sentiment, corrosive identity, politics, all of which are perennial forces in American life, but which are flowing at such a pace right now that torture the metaphor a bit, the waters are about to jump the levee.

And so I think that what I hope we`re going to see here is that if you`re out there, and if you want to see democracy work, what you need to do is get on the phone and get on the e-mail and tell Republican senators that you want this financial problem taken care of, and then you can fight about whether you want to spend X amount of money or Y amount of money. But to paraphrase President Kennedy, I really do believe this is democracies hour of maximum danger.

WILLIAMS: Well, with that in mind, Dr. Redlener over to your expertise and the ongoing pandemic. And I want to quote for you, Dr. Leana Wen put it simply, she is to CNN, what you are to us. She`s the former Health Commissioner in the city of Baltimore, and she writes this, just as vaccinated people are making different decisions about their risk tolerance for everyday activities, they should be able to choose whether they want the added protection of the third dose.

So doctor noting that people have means and access are already getting their own third doses, in your view, if we could put government aside for a moment should adults be able to choose?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Well, Brian, I don`t think really it`s a matter of sort of personal choices. This is a matter of what works and what doesn`t work. And what are the -- what is the health community suggesting and recommending. And I just want to say, just listening to Lisa and Jon, I am amazed about this fact, which is that the President and the White House of the country are dealing with massive issues that affect the economy, that affect our foreign relations. And as Jon just said, affect the stability of our democracy, all things considered.

In In that case, I`m looking at the COVID pandemic, as relatively straightforward, nowhere near as complex, as the issues of the other two panelists have just brought up. I mean, the reality is that besides the fact that there are these crazy, unprecedented arguments about how to proceed with a scientific challenge, we`re having governors forbidding people to wear masks and inhibiting the mandate mandated vaccines. It`s just too straightforward to put even in the same category is trying to save our democracy, or rescue the American presidency from the crises that he`s experiencing. domestically and if nationally.

So the long answer to your question is, but look, if the if the scientific community, the Dr. Fauci, CDC, FDA, and your doctors say, yes, get a third dose, which means, especially for older people or people with all kinds of immunocompromised, get the third dose at some point, it may or may not be available and recommended to the general population.

But in the meantime, I don`t know what basis a person who`s not a medical professional is going to make that decision in any case.

WILILAMS: So Lisa, the conversation comes back to you. Jon`s comments alone could be the centerpiece of their own hour long broadcast and his comments on the thread that our democracy is hanging on are thought out and as scary as they are thought out. Given that just microcosm down to tomorrow, President meets with Democrats. The President has nothing left but to plead his case. What`s at stake tomorrow?

[23:15:08]

LERER: Well, his entire as I said earlier, his entire domestic agenda as straightforward as the good doctor was saying the pandemic is getting this massive piece of economic legislation through Congress is exactly the opposite. It`s very, very complex.

And what Biden is trying to do here is really quite ambitious. He`s basically trying to do the New Deal, or the Great Society size program, but not over several years, or piecemeal, but in one fell swoop. The administration sees this as their best shot. They`re looking at his approval ratings, which are, you know, have gone down a bit in the past couple of weeks. They`re looking at their political capital, which they know will grow weaker as we move towards the midterm elections. And they`re aware of the Congressional rules that really make it tough for -- and they`re narrow -- And the constraints of their narrow majorities in Congress.

And what he is going to be arguing is that this is the Democrats best chance to get something done, that this is a popular unifying piece of legislation. And then frankly, Democrats need to do it. So they can have something to run on in midterm elections that are going to be pretty tough for them, and also to make good on their campaign promises.

But what I think the party is confronting is divides that have been really brewing since 2016, or before when you had Hillary Clinton up against Bernie Sanders. And this split between the more modern wing of the party and the more progressive wing of the party that just doesn`t see eye to eye on some pretty significant issues like taxes, like spending, like climate change, and, you know, solving these things and finding consensus in the next week or so seems really tough.

WILLIAMS: So Jon Meacham, let`s switch things up and take a question to you from Irving`s area of expertise. And a question about something that was spotted in Nashville that made the rounds today on social media, electronic sign outside the country store there at the bottom, it says force a shot on us, we force a shot on you. The final frame says the final variant is communism.

To that, the Memphis holler road today, this is not the time to joke about hit me with your best shot. In case you missed it. We have the highest transmission rate of COVID per capita, our hospitals are bursting at the seams 95 percent of folks occupying beds, because they refuse to get the shot. And we have permitless carry here, too.

So Jon, as a proud and loyal Tennessean, who spends part of your time as a coastal elite, is the problem here that the coastal elites aren`t spending enough time in red American country to see this sentiment on a daily basis, and just how thick it is.

MEACHAM: It`s thick, in every sense, right? It`s thick, in that it`s not rational. And it`s not a matter of understanding, red America, going as if, you know, your Margaret Need (ph) going to the South Seas to learn that the country is in the grips of. Again, not unprecedented in kind, but in unprecedented, I would argue in degree since the 1850s. And I use that analogy very, very advisedly, because we know how the 1850s ended. They ended in bloodshed. They ended in Cataclysm. And I`m not predicting armed conflict here.

But I do think we have to take a pretty deep breath here and think about what`s genuinely at stake. You have almost half the country, when that number is proportionally rises in my part of the country that simply don`t believe self-evidently in the given take of a democratic republic. They want their way. And if they don`t have their way, they will deny reality that is in any kind of opposition to what they think, which I would argue to my fellow southerners and others is a historical, it`s not American.

One of the insights of the American founding, however imperfectly was, was that reason would have a chance against passion in the arena. Because otherwise, the order -- wired governments institute, governments are instituted because all of us are basically wired by evolution to take as much as we can. Right. Or we wouldn`t be here because our ancestors would have been killed along the way. We are the products of very successful predators and an evolutionary setting, right.

[23:20:06]

And if you go to a state of nature and that part of political philosophy, there`s a state of nature where the war of all against all where we`re fighting each other for everything we can get. And then what are the processes of civilization was that Liberty under law, you would constrain ourselves in order to preserve a broader sense of security, all the -- all the stuff that`s -- it`s -- the idea, Brian, that we`re sitting here in September of 2021. And I`m giving a potted lecture on Hobbes and Locke, is a really, really terrifying thing. But what you saw in that sign in Nashville is heading toward a state of nature, not heading toward the mediation of differences.

And now just in conclusion here, this is on us. This is on we the people, because democracies are counterintuitive, because we`re driven by appetite and ambition. That`s what we are as human beings. And democracies are about seeing each other not as rivals, but as neighbors. We do not see each other as neighbors in America at this hour.

And if we don`t, maybe we aren`t worthy of this democracy. And maybe that`s a question we really, really need to stare in the face, not worry again about this bill in that bill. But are we in fact, mature enough as a people to govern ourselves? I think we are. But we`re doing everything we can to prove the opposite.

WILLIAMS: And your comments prove the air hangs heavy across our country, as we get together tonight with thanks to our starting frontline. Lisa Lerer, Dr. Irwin Redlener, Jon Meacham, thank you for starting off our conversation.

Coming up for us, why the January 6 Committee says they aren`t wasting any time going straight to subpoenas as the FBI warns about the increasing threat of domestic terrorism. And the pictures from our southern border what might they say about us and our society? It`s one of the things we`ll talk about where they noted New York Times columnist, all of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:25:35]

WILLIAMS: The investigation into the attack on our Capitol the attempt to overturn our election is about to ramp up with subpoenas from the Select Committee expected within a week. They appear to be prepared for pushback, Adam Schiff telling NBC News, in some cases we`re making requests where we think they`ll be complied with. In other cases, we`re going straight to subpoenas where we think we`re dealing with recalcitrant parties.

Well with us tonight to talk about Juanita Tolliver, a veteran political strategist to progressive candidates and causes and Stuart Stevens, veteran of the Mitt Romney and George W. Bush Presidential efforts. He`s now with the Lincoln Project. His latest book, it`s important is, "It Was All Alive, How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump." Well, good evening, and welcome to you both.

And, Stuart, with your past in your party and in politics in mind, do you agree with Liz Cheney, who just this week said that there may not have been any more important congressional investigation than the one underway right now?

STUART STEVENS, THE LINCOLN PROJECT SENIOR ADVISER: Yes, 100 percent. Look, this is an attempt to overthrow the peaceful transition of power, which is the essence of democracy. The key element of democracy is someone has to be willing to lose. And Republicans have decided that they`re for democracy when they win, and they`re not for when they lose. (INAUDIBLE) not for democracy.

If you let this slide, if you don`t get to the truth, if you don`t hold people accountable, it`s a cancer, and it will eat it our democracy. And I think Jon Meacham was absolutely right about the grave state that democracy is hanging. Republicans had a chance to hold Trump responsible, and they didn`t. And I think it`s a moment like the Munich accord, they`ll Chamberlain was a much more well intentioned person. But the ramifications of it are stunning. They have to get to the truth.

WILLIAMS: Do you agree with Jon`s sense of urgency, Stuart?

STEVENS: Yes, I think Jon might even be an optimist here. The Republican Party is an actively anti-democratic, autocratic force in America. And it blows my mind. I`m saying that after all the years I work in the party, but those are the stone cold facts. I mean, Jon laid it out.

The (INAUDIBLE) Republican Party is that Donald Trump was the legally elected president, which means we don`t have a legally elected president, which means we don`t live in a democracy, which means we`re an occupied country. And as Jon pointed out, the last time that happened was around 1860. And how that worked out.

I think that we all have this great desire for normality now. We have a normal president, things sort of look normal. But if we allow ourselves to think that this moment is normal, it`s going to be catastrophic. Because the people who are autocrats in this country, they`re organized. They`re patient. They`re not stupid. They have these buffoonish characters out front, but they`re not buffoonish. And they think they`re going to win.

And if we don`t fight them, we don`t come together and put aside these purity tests. And Democrats have to really challenge themselves here. This is a character test for Democrats. Republicans fail their character test. But Democrats have to be willing to come together and put us out differences and fight for democracy, because they`re really the last best hope we have here.

WILLIAMS: Juanita, I`ve never heard a set up any better for a question to you about whether Democrats can put purity testing aside, we saw it again today. We`ll see it tomorrow. Are they up for the fight, as described by Jon and Stuart?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they`re already demonstrating that they alone are up for the fight, especially in the halls of Congress, where you had both McCarthy and McConnell vote against a commission that was negotiated within their own Republican conference to get to the truth of what happened on January 6. And so Democrats and Speaker Pelosi took it upon herself to launch the select committee, right. Like they`re already doing that.

I think what comes next though is critical to the success of what we can discover in the Select Committee and that`s why Representative Schiff already said we`re jumping straight to subpoenas because we`re not trying to waste time with people who will be resistant to abiding by or responding to the subpoenas and Schiff knows what he`s talking about based on in the response he got to subpoenas issued and previous impeachment trials where Trump administration officials just ignored it essentially.

[23:30:08]

And so now with this White House, with this DOJ that are already encouraging Trump officials to cooperate with congressional inquiries hopefully we get somewhere. And as Chairman Thompson said, this is about getting to not only the truth of January 6, but making sure it never happens again.

I think you mentioned it briefly, Brian, the FBI has said there`s been a massive increase in the number of domestic terrorist threats. Let`s be real that stemmed from white supremacist themes that were on display on January 6, and I don`t see that going in the box anytime soon. Because these are folks emboldened by Trump, rallied by Trump and encouraged by Trump to attack the Capitol that day, but to continue to make threats against our democracy in our country every other day.

WILIAMS: Wow. It`s a heavy night but I don`t think our viewers expect a rom com at this hour. Anyway, both of these terrific guests have agreed to stay with us while we fit in a break. When we come back we`re going to talk a little bit more about specifically the Democrats on Capitol Hill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: As we said the President is going to be meeting with House and Senate Democrats tomorrow in an effort to salvage his domestic agenda. But despite Biden`s campaign promises on issues like voting rights gun control, progressives on the left worried they`re going to be left out.

[23:35:02]

New York Times writes at this way, as they look past the final push on $3.5 trillion spending bill, the White House has made its policy priority. They are growing more concerned that Mr. Biden`s actions will not be as bold as his tone, at least when it comes to some of their key issues.

Still with us thankfully, Juanita Tolliver and Stuart Stevens. Juanita, devil`s advocate here, you know the argument. You know that people say to the left the Jayapal`s the world, did you like the Trump years because if you did, you can have four more if you split the party. The margin in the house is so thin, they can`t afford anyone to get the sniffles on vote day, they can`t pass anything in the United States Senate including peach month. And Joe Biden may be the last best hope moderates and liberals in the Democratic Party have.

TOLLIVER: Look, Brian, I`m hesitant to put this on progressives before looking at moderates first because let`s remember, the entire plan for the build back better agenda to be delivered to Biden was a two-bill package that run on parallel tracks. That was the plan. Biden even got in trouble for saying it out loud. But that has always been the internal plan for Democrats.

So my first goes to moderates of is this the road you want to take causing intraparty fighting that could potentially blow up this full agenda. Because I look at progressives at this point and say, OK, they`re only responding with leverage to make sure that essential investments are made and people and the economy and every bit of recovery that we need in an ongoing pandemic.

And so I fully expect by our works for Biden tomorrow when he calls everybody in the huddle. He`s over this. He`s tired of it. He wants it done so they can move on to the other priorities you just mentioned, Brian. And so I fully expect negotiations to come to a head tomorrow.

So Speaker Pelosi already put the word out to progressives to expect some fluctuations in the reconciliation bill. I won`t be surprised if tomorrow ends with some announcements of new agreements. And then all of this can move forward.

WILLIAMS: And Stuart, let`s not forget all of this is up against the threat of the new kind of bromide of the Republican Party, as we discussed before the break this new situational nihilism of which people like McConnell and McCarthy are the leaders.

STEVENS: Yes, I mean, Democrats have to ask themselves, what is this going to be like if they lose in 2022? It`s pretty clear what Republicans do, you know, they want to impeach at least Harris. And if they win both they`ll impeach Biden. This is serious stuff. And if you really believe that the country is at a crisis, if you really believe that we`re at some sort of challenge to democracy, which I deeply believe. And I think a lot of Democrats, a lot of Americans say it but a lot of Democrats say, if you really believe that, you will find a way to come together and to help President Biden pass at least some big bill here and not fight over every last thing that you want in this bill. It`s essential.

At a certain point, good government becomes good politics. And I think it`s critical for Democrats going into this next election to have a series of accomplishments if this is the centerpiece.

WILLIAMS: It is essential for us to have smart friends at this broadcast and our viewers have just heard from two of them. Our thanks to Juanita Tolliver and Stuart Stevens, for their contributions tonight. Coming up for us, the president promises he`s going to get the situation along the southern border under control. As a photo of Americans rounding up humans ricochets around the world. It is among the topics we take on next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:42:06]

WILLIAMS: There is more outrage tonight after disturbing images showed Border Patrol agents on horseback swinging what appeared to be horse reins near Haitian migrants. Top members of the President`s own party and civil rights leaders in this country have publicly condemned the treatment of migrants at the border. Administration officials have vowed to thoroughly investigate the incident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: What I saw depicted about those individuals on horseback treating human beings the way they were horrible.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We do not tolerate any mistreatment or abuse of a migrant, period/

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: This is just one of the issues we want to talk to our next guest about. We`re so pleased to welcome back to the broadcast Charles Blow, columnist for The New York Times. His latest book, The Devil You Know, A Black Power Manifesto" was just released today in the paperback version.

And Charles your book, prospective readers are really in for a ride. It is a call to action more than that, it is a call to migration the likes of which at least I have never read. Talk about the reception since it`s been out in hardcover, and talk about the existing in a country where it doesn`t seem like Congress or the feds are going to be able to guarantee voting rights.

CHARLES BLOW, THE NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: Right. So the thesis of the book is the black people should reverse the Great Migration back to the south consolidate power and therefore increased their actual power in the United States of America. And since the book was published in hardcover, events have only kind of stiffen my spine in my belief that this is what is required.

We thought this outpouring of support and pledges of change and aid in the wake of the summer protests, billions of dollars was pledged by corporations. All sorts of promises were made, including police reform. And now what we see is police reform is still stuck in Congress. The there is a new vote, kind of Jim Crow 2.0 underway, as states crack down on voting and try to suppress votes of people, mostly black and brown people and the severest ones are in the states that are seeing these surges in black and brown people was in Georgia where there was there has been a surge in black people. It was in Texas where there is a ongoing surge in Hispanic people, it is in Arizona, but it`s an ongoing surge of Hispanic people.

In addition to that, you know, those corporations plays out those billions of dollars. They only gave him a fraction of that money and many of them gave it to causes that were going to make them money rather than to truly give to causes of equity. We have seen this before.

[23:45:00]

We were here in the wake of the riots that followed the way in the middle 60s. And definitely they follow Dr. King`s assassination. We saw this good faith effort, and then it faded. And then they forgot all about it. And then we drifted into mass incarceration. We cannot go through these cycles where American society says that they have black interests, best interests at heart, and they do not do anything in the end to secure that those freedoms and that the lessening of oppression and black people cannot allow that their liberation to be dependent on whether or not white America wakes up or whether or not white America feels like being sympathetic that day. You have to be in control of that yourself. And that is what this book proposes.

WILLIAMS: That is why to coin a phrase, the prescription is to follow the warmth of the original son to our south. Charles, I want to read this to you this from the NAACP today, the humanitarian crisis happening under this administration on the southern border disgustingly mirror some of the darkest moments in America`s history. If we were to close our eyes, and this was occurring under the Trump administration, what would we do? The inhumane treatment of the Haitian refugees is utterly sickening.

I am tempted Charles to ask if the horse with a man on his back will become the modern symbol of our immigration mess. The way things like the baton and the fire hose came to symbolize the struggle.

BLOW: Right, but it is so big in this as it, you know, we can`t -- it`s tiresome to play this game. But you have to play it and it`s hard to even call it a game, which is imagine that these are white people. Imagine not only that these are white people and being chased and beaten with whatever these reins wherever they look like whips. I don`t know what they were. It wouldn`t happen. And you go back to the Trump administration. Imagine those white children laying on the foil blankets and they wouldn`t turn off the lights and they wouldn`t get them to face because they thought that they didn`t need those sorts of things.

The way that we treat people in America, who are not white, who are not privileged, who do not have power, who do not have wealth, whether they are migrants or whether they are residents of this country is deplorable. And it cannot be disconnected. You cannot disconnect the way they treat George Floyd from the way they treat a Haitian with two bags of food in his hand and just trying to get somewhere and get safe and eat it with chasing him around on a horse with rains or whips or whatever this is.

WILLIAMS: I was just thinking as we might have to edit the words of ML Lazarus (ph) to fit this era. This is a perfect time for the French to probably want the whole statue back. Charles Blow has been our guest again tonight. Again to members of our audience, the book is "The Devil You Know, A Black Power Manifesto" out now in paperback. Charles, thank you as always. Coming up for us.

BLOW: Thank you so much Brian.

WILLIAMS: The desperate race to save a 2,000 year old towering national treasure.

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[23:51:40]

WILLIAMS: Just this year alone, over 2 million acres in California has been burned by wildfires. The smoke has reached New York and New England and blotted out the sun on many otherwise sunny days. Lives and homes have been destroyed in California now the flames have threatened to destroy some giants that belonged to all of us at the Sequoia National Park, where we get our reports tonight from NBC News correspondent Erin McLaughlin.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nestled inside the so called Giant Forest, the largest tree in the world and the race to save it from encroaching flames. The iconic tree known as General Sherman is over 2,000 years old stands a towering 275 feet high. Almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty. Sequoia has attracted tourists from around the world.

With flames creeping closer, crews cover the base of its massive trunk with fire resistant wrapping and an effort to protect it.

CHRISTY BRIGHAM, SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS: There are so many reasons to protect these trees. For tree lovers, they are so special.

MCLAUGHLIN: One massive blaze torching over 23,000 acres, the burn area visible from space.

JON WALLACE, US FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICES: We`ve got crews working all through the giant forest looking for those new spot fires and extinguishing them.

MCLAUGHLIN (on camera): Redwoods like these and giant Sequoias have adapted to fire so even if the flames reach them, they could still survive. Fire officials say it`s really down to the intensity of the flames and forest management.

(voice-over): Concerned visitors sharing their fond memories of adventures to see the tree.

SAM HODDER, SAVE THE REDWOODS LEAGUE CEO AND PRESIDENT: Sequoia National Park is an absolute gem it`s a national treasure. We`ve seen real material mortality in the giant sequoia as a result of climate driven fire.

MCLAUGHLIN: The race is on to protect the Great General Sherman and the surrounding towering treasures. Erin McLaughlin, NBC News.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

WILLIAMS: As I said, this ain`t no rom com tonight but coming up for us, if you want to witness the conversion from vaccine skeptic to vaccine believer, you`d have to visit your local ICU.

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[23:57:22]

WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, no one no single death of the over 660,000 deaths during this pandemic thus far has a lock on our sympathy or our sadness by consensus. They are all sad. They`re all a loss to their individual loved ones as the president so frequently says they all mean an empty seat at the table.

The small flags on the grounds of the Washington Monument are the most recent attempt to illustrate what we mean when we say we`ve now lost one in every 500 of our fellow citizens during this pandemic. We have a good idea how many of them could have been prevented had there not been such rancid government malpractice and denialism. It gave rise to the anti-vaxx movement, which is now killing our people.

And for any and all of your friends who get their news from the crazy side of Facebook, those who say it`s experimental, that it`s a government trap or a tracking device. Those who say they`re still doing their research, by the way, ask to see their home research laboratories. All those folks should see the following.

This is 24-year-old Patrick Burshia, who was interviewed three weeks ago by NBC News correspondent Gabe Gutierrez while hospitalized with COVID in Billings, Montana. He admits he was a consumer of misinformation. He admits he was anti vaccine before he got sick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK BURSHIA, COVID-19 PATIENT: That was here a lot of propaganda like the vaccine wasn`t really effective. It wasn`t real. There was just a whole bunch of crap that I was hearing from close friends and family members who did really trusted. Hey, that wasn`t really out, try to get proper information about it.

But after experiencing what I`ve experienced, as soon as I can get the vaccine, and I highly recommend anyone who has it to do it because this is a very scary situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: That was Patrick in the hospital there in Billings, Montana. That was three weeks ago. He`s gone now. He died this weekend at the age of 24. Another vaccine skeptic who underwent an ICU conversion to vaccine proponent right before he lost his life.

That is our broadcast for this Tuesday night with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.