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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 9/30/21

Guests: Robert Costa, Shannon Pettypiece, Ashley Parker, Juanita Tolliver, Tim Miller, Matthew Dowd, Vin Gupta


Pelosi had planned to hold infrastructure vote today. Manchin and Sinema oppose Biden`s social spending plan. Matthew Dowd running for TX Lieutenant Governor. U.S. marks 700,000 confirmed COVID deaths.



BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 254 of the Biden administration. And while one crisis was averted tonight when the President signed that bill to keep the government from crashing at midnight eastern time, we are indeed witnessing the midst of another crisis for the Democrats. And it should be noted a crisis entirely of their own making, and it has to do with infrastructure.

What became a running joke during the Trump presidency has become a huge running drama for the Biden presidency. We learned not long ago that there will be no vote in the House tonight on the President`s bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The House was working until late tonight trying to work out a deal that would allow the bill to come to the floor. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had vowed that tonight`s vote would go on, but she famously refuses to bring a bill to the floor unless she is fairly certain it`s going to pass. She spent the day and a large part of tonight trying to get Liberal Democrats to support it. But they refuse to do so until the Senate passed the President`s $3.5 trillion social safety net bill.

The two Democrats over in the Senate will put themselves at the center of this current fight, the aforementioned Manchin and Sinema, aforementioned because their names are used on this broadcast every night, feel that the big social spending bill is too big. They`ve both been criticized for not coming up with a specific counteroffer.

Both senators are again listed as Democrats, hard to tell how many friends they have left among Democrats in the caucus, both could end up playing a huge role in hobbling their own president.

One development today came when Politico reported on a written document from July 2008, in which Manchin outlines his proposals for that giant spending bill. The senator floated a maximum spending amount of 1.5 trillion, by the way, 2 trillion less than what the President wants. That document was signed by both Manchin and the Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. This afternoon Manchin explained his position.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (D) WEST VIRGINIA: I brought the 1.5 as you`ve seen, I think by now. The 1.5 was always done from my heart. Basically, what we could do not jeopardize, not jeopardize our economy. I`ve never been a liberal in any way, shape or form. I have voted pretty consistently all my whole life. I don`t fold any of them who believe that they are much more progressive and much more liberal. God bless them. And all they need to do is we have to elect more I guess for them to get there`s a lot more liberals.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, some House Democrats speaking of liberals say that Manchin spending limit of 1.5 trillion was a surprise to them.


REP. DEBBIE DINGELL, (D) MICHIGAN: I don`t think anybody in the House leadership on down probably knew about this number until this, you know, very recently.


WILLIAMS: Now there is also the stalemate between Democrats and Republicans, the traditional kind over raising the cap on how much our country can borrow.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has told lawmakers they have until October 18 to act. At that point, our country will be unable to pay its bills, no other way to put it.

Today, though, Yellen told House members it was time to abolish this notion of a debt limit entirely because it has become destructive in her view.

We have a lot to talk about tonight. With that, let`s bring in our starting line on this busy Thursday evening first, and from the home team Shannon Pettypiece, veteran journalist, our Senior White House Reporter over at NBC News Digital, we are reunited as well, tonight with two of our friends from the Post Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize Winning White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post, and Robert Costa, National Political Reporter. His latest book co-authored with his friend and colleague Bob Woodward, called Peril is now of course a New York Times bestseller.

And, Robert, I`d like to begin with you, you`re in touch with folks at the Capitol. What`s the reaction going to be with the way Pelosi played this tonight?

ROBERT COSTA, "PERIL" CO-AUTHOR: There`s concern in Democratic ranks that this thing`s on the rocks. But Speaker Pelosi, as you said, only brings a bill to the floor if she`s confident in the votes. And she`s trying to play on different fronts here to make sure that Schumer doesn`t feel like he`s in a corner. She`s working closely with the White House, Brian Deese, and others and Susan Rice are over there at her office talking through this evening to try to come up with a deal.

And they know that Manchin -- Senator Manchin felt burned earlier in the year. And our book shows this about the rescue plan. Mitch McConnell and other Republicans feel. Manchin may have been asked to do too much earlier in the year and maybe he`s going to sit on the sidelines for a while. So, Democrats are dealing with that dynamic, but Speaker Pelosi is trying to balance the reality of the vote with the concerns of her progressive. She`s close to the progressive. She doesn`t want to get too far from them.


WILLIAMS: Shannon, the lights were on in the West Wing, including the Oval Office until just a short time ago when the press corps was sent home. I guess there was a chance that the President was going to go down to the Hill if his presence was called for no more of that we`re told he`s returned to the residence. What`s going to be said about how the White House has been playing this?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yeah, well, I mean my colleague, Kelly O`Donnell who was working the late shift there said it was at least until 9 p.m., that the President was in the West Wing and White House staffers appeared like they were ready for a late night and continued to work on until there was a vote. We just got a statement a little while ago from Press Secretary Jen Psaki, saying essentially thanking Democrats for trying to work out some sort of deal, saying that they`re just going to need more time. They`re going to continue that work starting tomorrow morning, and then emphasizing as they have increasingly been doing so that while Democrats have some differences, they agree on a lot and on the broader themes and goals that the President is working for here. So, a hint of what the messaging is going to be like coming from the White House. I mean, we do know, the President was behind closed doors. Most of the day he was making phone calls to leadership to other members of Congress staff were coming in and out of the Oval Office bringing him updates. And a lot of his focus, the past few days have been on those two senators you mentioned and have mentioned many times and trying to get them to reach some sort of agreement because without that, there really wouldn`t be any way to move those House progressives forward. And the White House certainly acknowledged that.

WILLIAMS: So, Ashley Parker, Congresswoman Jayapal, Democrat, Washington State, who heads the progressive caucus in the House, send out a tweet tonight, speaking through social media, though, more directly than most people address the House Speaker stick to the plan, pass both bills together.

Ashley, talk about how much of a sea change this is with the liberals palpably splitting off knowing that by doing so, a couple more of these votes go down or aren`t held. You have hobbled the President`s agenda.

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Yeah, what you`re seeing here are the House progressives really coming into their own and flexing their muscle. They have always been a strong voice, but now they have their own internal whip operation. They`re a big group, Representative Jayapal has shown that she can hold that group together. And keep in mind, Leader Pelosi can only lose three votes and their message, there`s a lot of frustration when Manchin`s number of 1.5 trillion came out, because you have to keep in mind it`s not just less than half of the current reconciliation proposal. But that for the progressive started at 6 trillion, so it`s really 1/6 of what they want it, which is simply unacceptable to them. And their argument, which they have also stated quite clearly is this is why Democrats were elected. This is why we won the White House, the Senate and the House because of this build back better agenda, not to do incremental things but to do big, bold, progressive thing. And that is the bet that they are sticking it out tonight, at least.

WILLIAMS: Robert Costa, the reporting is right there in your new book about Joe Manchin, it goes back to the COVID relief bill about what he was like then the kind of phone calls FaceTime with the President. His critics call it handholding that he required before he signed on, probably instructive for all those trying to figure out what`s going on now?

COSTA: They used to call it the treatment with LBJ, the pressure from a president to a senator or a member of Congress to come along. And when you read Peril, we detail vividly how President Biden at times used as curses, he uses pressure to try to get Manchin to come along. And what`s so interesting about this in the book, but in this unfolding story right now on Capitol Hill, is President Biden, the so-called centrist from Delaware has been in lockstep working closely with progressives during his presidency in an ally of Senator Bernie Sanders, of a Congresswoman, Jayapal, and others. And you see, the real tension with the White House in Congress is not necessarily what the progressives even though that`s the fight tonight. It`s with Senator Manchin and at times, Senator Sinema.

Biden is not the Biden of 2011 cutting deals with Mitch McConnell. And this is a real test for his whole presidency, because he`s wanted to work so closely with the left wing, and now he`s really at a crossroads. Can this continue what he started with the Rescue Plan?

WILLIAMS: Shannon Pettypiece, anybody still worried about the debt ceiling?


PETTYPIECE: That does increasingly seem like a problem we`re going to worry about, like on Monday next week or maybe the second week in October when Janet Yellen is worried that we`re going to run out on that. I mean, they did get one item crossed off the list. And that is we are not going to have a government shutdown. And the next few days, we may still have a government shutdown in the next few months, but at least that one is off the list. And the President tried to use that a bit today to say, look, we can still work together, we can still function, even though it is that kind of one of the most basic levels.

You know, one thing I would just note to what Robert was talking about, and as to how this President has tried to pressure and influence different elements of his party. I think it has been interesting to watch and wonder about what type of leverage he does have over these players right now. What leverage does he actually have over a Senator Joe Manchin? You know, if this was a Trump presidency, you would have heard Trump threatening to primary, someone threatening to go hold a rally in their home district that obviously wasn`t often effective, but it was a tactic that he used. This president is a lot more behind closed doors, keeping those conversations private. But at the end of the day, if you`re in a red state, like Joe Manchin, or a solidly blue district, like some of the House progressives, what leverage does the President have a view and I don`t think that`s clear at this point.

WILLIAMS: Ashley, you recently wrote about the concerns over the return of one Donald Trump possibly in 2024. And as we`re having this conversation, make no mistake, this is where the Democrats come in. This is the part they get to play in this, if it`s going to be a cracked party. It`s through those cracks that the light will come in that they don`t want to admit.

PARKER: That`s exactly right. And sort of the big story is unfolding on Capitol Hill but roiling in the background, again, is the former president, he is increasingly making clear to people close to him, that he plans to run in 2024. Again, the caveat is with Donald Trump, nothing is final until it`s final. And even then, it`s not always really final to be honest. But he was in Perry, Georgia for a rally the other night. This Saturday, he`s going to be in the Des Moines, Iowa for another rally.

And what you`re seeing is Democrats, I talked to experts on democracy and the Constitution are deeply worried about what a second Trump run and potentially a second Trump win would have been. So, you have the Democrats, the progressive, the moderates making their own calculations, right now, intra party, intra caucus, but they are also aware of what a Trump run, the rise of Trump again, could mean. Although one final thing in talking to people in the White House, they actually think that right now, the best thing that could possibly happen for them, which seems unlikely, is Donald Trump suddenly declared he`s running because that takes a lot of the pressure off of them and puts the pressure on the former president`s controversial statement.

WILLIAMS: Interesting, Robert Costa, how do the Republicans play this elected Republicans in Washington? And I`m guess your answer is going to begin with by simply doing nothing and watching it all unfold.

COSTA: They`re watching from the sidelines. And when I talk to Republicans with Woodward for Peril, it`s clear that McConnell and others think Biden`s going to move. They`ve done enough to signal some kind of movement on these issues over the course of the spring and summer, but no interest in any kind of bipartisanship. If it`s a legislative act at the level of spending that`s currently on the table. And there`s a belief inside the Republican Party right now to build on Ashley`s excellent point that even if Trump comes back, they`re going to also run in 2022, against the Biden administration on Afghanistan. And they`re wanting to see, based on my conversations with Republicans for the book, stuff like infrastructure collapse, and that`s what they`re really watching infrastructure at this level of spending, so they can blame the Democrats` party in disarray, and that doesn`t provide on the key issues like infrastructure.

And that`s what -- that`s part of the pressure on Senator Manchin and others. Can they come together to help the Democrats get something done to argue to voters in 2022 that the Biden administration and Democrats achieved what they wanted not only with the early rescue plan, but on the infrastructure, such a vital issue for many swing areas in the country and in areas that are not swinging political districts.

WILLIAMS: And again, for folks just joining us, the vote for tonight is off. All we know is the House may be in session as early as 9 a.m. tomorrow. A whole lot of talking going on in Washington tonight. We`ve been part of it, great thanks to our starting line this evening, to Shannon Pettypiece, to Ashley Parker, and Robert Costa, thank you very much for starting off our conversation and reacting to this breaking news.


Coming up for us, they have been called Simanchin, Mansinema. We`ll talk with our political experts tonight about these two senators, again, both actually Democrats with the ability and maybe the desire somehow to hobble their own President`s agenda beneath that dome.

And later, this was a bad day and the brief history of the pandemic in terms of the staggering loss we have suffered thus far, one of our top doctors standing by to explain why we aren`t giving up anytime soon. The 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Thursday night as we look at one of the most graphic and dramatic depictions yet of the awful toll of this virus.



MANCHIN: You know I`ve never linked the two bills together and pray to God that let`s look at each bill on it`s own merits. There`s a lot of good in both of them, we should be able to come to that agreement.


WILLIAMS: Some of what we heard from Senator Joe Manchin tonight as he left the Capitol in the dark. We`ve been looking forward to these two guests and hearing their take about what we`ve witnessed. Juanita Tolliver, Veteran Political Strategist, mostly progressive candidates and causes and Tim Miller, Contributor over at the Bulwark, former Communications Director for Jeb Bush.

OK, Juanita, you`re up, your reaction to what the liberals have pulled off tonight.

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I just think we need to recognize the power and determination from Representative Jayapal, Representative Omar and the entire Progressive Caucus because, yes, they`re holding the line here in a significant way that ultimately will help to deliver Biden`s agenda. And I think we need to recognize that. That was no easy feat when you`re up against moderates, not only the House, but also the Senate.


And it`s something that they`re going to have to keep continuing to do in order to make sure that these essential investments for American people go through because the people who are struggling right now, the people who have benefit from these investments, whether it`s in childcare, climate change, getting vision, and dental added to Medicare, like these are the people they`re fighting for and prioritizing, and we all need to tip our hat to that effort.

WILLIAMS: OK, Mr. Tim Miller, author of a piece over at the Bulwark today that starts with this headline, An Ode to Saint Joe Mansion, Democrats are mad at Joe Manchin, they ought to be grateful for him. Saint Joe is the one man standing between you and Majority Leader Mitch doing everything in his power to tank the Biden agenda. Please share your thinking with the audience, Tim.

TIM MILLER, THE BULWARK CONTRIBUTOR: I know that might not be a popular one, man. Juanita been agreeing too much lately, anyway. So happy you just agree on this one. Look, Joe mentioned -- Joe Biden got 28% of the vote in Joe Manchin state, 28% against Donald Trump after that catastrophe, we saw the last four years. With Joe Manchin is on the table right now is passing an infrastructure bill that`s going to fix every lead pipe in the country and do all kinds of stuff for climate in our roads and bridges and public transportation, another 1.5 trillion that is double the size of the Obama stimulus, by the way, that is going to go to working families and families with kids that need extra assistance. He`s going to pay for that. By getting rid of the carried interest tax loophole and the hedge fund guys and raising the top tax bracket.

The liberals should be running around the country, blowing their horns, having a celebration, throwing confetti on the streets and saying, look at all the great stuff we`re doing for you. That`s what Democrats should be doing today. Like why they`re having this fight, does not make any sense to me either as a political matter, because it makes it seem like what they`re doing is, in the infrastructure bill is not a big deal that will make a difference in the lives of Americans, which it will. And on a policy level.

I heard Juanita saying but I don`t understand what -- how threatening to take the infrastructure bill, is going to motivate Joe Manchin. Who has -- he`s in a state where only 28% of the people voted for Joe Biden to want to spend more money, the best ad Joe Manchin could run in West Virginia is I was the man standing between AOC and the socialist left, you know, that might that might get him elected senator for life there? So, they have no leverage. It doesn`t make sense to me on a political level. It doesn`t make sense to me as a policy and from a policy level.

WILLIAMS: Juanita, please share with our audience some of the affection I know you have for Manchin and Sinema right about now?

TOLLIVER: Look, I --

MILLER: It was a different story by the way, real quick, Sinema is a different story.

TOLLIVER: She is, but here`s the thing, their language is not that far off, because here`s the thing, when Manchin says, I didn`t even think this was necessary. It`s like he doesn`t think that West Virginians are struggling, right, struggling with childcare, struggling with pre-K, struggling with a whole host of things that will be resolved in this reconciliation package until we have to level set.

Look, people can support Trump and still want help. They can support Trump and still know that they`re struggling to secure their basic needs, like housing, struggling to respond to the changing climate in their own communities, they can still want this type of help, even if they support Trump.

I think the other part is, again the harmful language that we`re hearing that it creates this obstructionist posture like Tim said, Sinema is a different issue here when Manchin is actually throwing out a number, a ridiculously low number, but he`s at least providing a framework, providing a number, on the other hand with Sinema we get weird jokes and responses that are completely unproductive and as we know have prompted a pack to be started in Arizona to get a challenge or to primary her in when she`s about for reelection in 2024.

And so, what it comes back to us, I do think most of the people involved in these negotiations want to see this move forward, want to see it successful and want to deliver on Biden`s agenda. And when it comes to Manchin. I think he`s included in that group but Sinema, I`m not so sure what she`s doing these days.

WILLIAMS: Tim here`s the problem, sooner or later, all elected Democrats are going to have to decide and the leadership I`m sure just telling them this tonight in no uncertain terms, are you on the train or not? Are you behind this president succeeding? Because if you`re not, we just had a four-year preview of the alternative.


MILLER: Absolutely. And luckily, we`re still 14 months away from the midterms. So, the Democrats hopefully have some time to, you know, pull this together and get the messaging together on this. When, you know, if the Democrats lose the House, as we all know, next November, someone that literally supported an insurrection against the government to keep Donald Trump in power against the will of the people would be this.

So, it`s so it`s incumbent on the Democrats that they are smart and strategic. And so, I get nervous when I hear things like, wow, well, 1.5 trillion, that`s a little low, or this isn`t going to be that good.

Let`s see some showmanship and some bravado and working together and talking about all the great stuff that people are going to be getting and paid for by tax hikes at the top levels. These are things that the American people support. And I just think the message on this right now is very muddled. And hopefully they`ve got some time to figure it out. Because they have a big job.

WILLIAMS: So, Juanita, would you buy, what I`m getting from Tim is two different messages. Number one, memo to Democrats don`t let great become the enemy of the good, Tim, nod up and down if I`m correct. And message to Democrats, get your messaging apparatus in gear, and try telling Americans from West Virginia to Wyoming, what they`re going to get out of this and who delivered it?

TOLLIVER: Here`s the thing, though, in both of those points, they still need to deliver both of these bills, they still need to deliver Biden`s agenda to be able to have that concrete message for the midterms. Hey, vote for Democrats, we deliver for you, right? Like that still needs to happen first.

WILLIAMS: Tim, how high are your hopes running that that`s all going to happen?

MILLER: My hopes, not that high, I`m being honest, right. I`m hopeful. But I`m not optimistic. Let`s put it that way. Look, I just think that when we`re talking about BIS, and BBD and reconciliation, we need both bills, and we need all this stuff together. And that`s what Juanita talking, what I`m hearing from Democrats. This is confusing to people. And so, you know, what I would like to see is getting these two bills passed, having 123 talking points on what the main takeaways are, the child tax credits, you know, the roads and bridges, the fixing on the left, right, whatever it is that pulling the best, and focusing on that rather than these D.C. games back and forth. You know, between the members with all the acronyms, don`t like that, as much.

WILLIAMS: Big thanks to two friends of this broadcast for coming on, on an important night and having an honest conversation about all of it, Juanita Tolliver, Tim Miller, thank you both, greatly appreciate it.

MILLER: Thanks.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, we`ll talk to Matthew Dowd about his big announcement this week. Big for him, big in the world of Texas politics as well.




MATTHEW DOWD, FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST TO BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN: Enough is enough. We need more officials who tell the truth, who believe in public service and common sense with common decency for the common good. Dan Patrick believes in none of those. And that is why I am running for the powerful Office of Lieutenant Governor of this great state.


WILLIAMS: You probably recognize that man, our next guest as a guest on this network and this broadcast frequently after a lifetime and Republican politics and having watched what is happening in his own State of Texas. He made a major announcement this week, as you saw. We are pleased to have back with us tonight, Matthew Dowd, former Strategist to George W. Bush, among others, now running as a Democrat to be Lieutenant Governor of Texas.

And Matt, I`m curious what one event was that? Because the list as I put it together here just some scratchings, the power grid failure. There are double A batteries with more power capacity than the Texas power grid, the voting restrictions, the abortion restrictions, and oh yeah, the Trump ordered audit of the counties he lost? Was there any one of those that made your toe tap more than the others?

DOWD: We could add to it, allowing openly carrying handguns without a permit or a license, they also did at the same time. So, they add that one to the list. I mean, and you`re right, it`s hard to pick one. It`s like when somebody asked me, what`s my, you know, top favorite movie of all time, and I`ll usually named five, it`s hard to pick one, I would say the event that precipitated my beginning to think about this was January 6, and what happened there because I actually think that is a significant event in our nation`s history is any probably the most significant event of what happened to our democracy since the opening shots of the Civil War. And that event began to me to think I need to really get more involved. And I didn`t, hadn`t decided I`m going to run for office at that point. But it basically turned me to the sense that we all have to figure out what we need to do. And then over time, I started to think about it, and I thought, you know, I need to do something, I mean, a place in my life, where I`ve been blessed. And I care about this state. I love this state, but I hate our politics. And you can believe both of those things at the same time.

And then over the course of the sessions, that they had all of this awful stuff that you mentioned, and they`re hurting Texans to just going out of their way cruelly and cravenly to hurt Texans. And I just decided, as I said, enough is enough. And so, I`m going to offer my candidacy, I`m going to spend the next 400 days just telling the truth about Dan Patrick, the Lieutenant Governor, and he`s not going to like it, but I`m just going to tell the -- the Texans the truth, and that we can do better. We can have public service in the Capitol again, where we don`t have it. And we can have truth and facts and science can lead policy and not craving this.

WILLIAMS: I know that you insist upon believing that there still is a rational center out there. And here`s the question, how does a lifelong Texas Republican convince Democrats, convince moderates that as Glinda, the Good Witch said, it`s safe to come out?


DOWD: Well, as you probably know, I started my life as a Democrat, I actually got elected the last Democratic lieutenant governor of Texas, Bob Bullock, I ran his campaigns in 1994, and helped Dan Richards, the last Democratic elected governor of the state of Texas. So, I do have a pedigree in it. I obviously went to work for George W. Bush.

My view is we`re at a crucial point. And really, the teams line up like this. And I`ve had this conversation with you, Brian, before the teams line up, either you`re for democracy and for the Constitution, and for the rule of law, and for basic human values that we teach our children and we were taught as children, or you`re not, those are the two sides in this. And my feeling is that Democrats at this point, are open to the idea of having a big tent and a big table and a large team with a large roster. And it doesn`t matter if you were a red jersey before, or a purple jersey or a green jersey or whatever, you`re on the same team if you share those values. And that`s my expectation and my hope that we`re at that point of time, where there can be a realignment because the Republicans are so out of step with where the majority of the country is. And to me, we need a Republican party that`s reasonable. But my view is the only path to a reasonable Republican Party is they need to be beaten up and down the ballot so that they finally turn away from where they`ve turned to. And back to some sense of reasonableness where Eisenhower was or Teddy Roosevelt was or even Ronald Reagan was, they turned back to that reasonableness. But they`re not going to do it on their own. And the Democratic Party today is the only vehicle available to make that happen.

WILLIAMS: 60 seconds remaining, you know, they`re going to go to the mattresses, and you know about the kind of money they`re going to raise on the other side. So, what`s your tactic to deal with that, that disparity?

DOWD: Well, the incumbent lieutenant governor already has $20 million, mainly funded by large corporations that got what they wanted through the course of the legislative sessions, especially in the electric grid. And one thing real quick to understand is they didn`t fix the grid. They lied about it, they blamed it on the Green New Deal, which had nothing to do with. And then the only legislation they passed in the session was they made it easier to charge ratepayers more. They didn`t fix it, they just made it easier to charge ratepayers more.

I know, I`m going to be up against a large sum. I think there`s a ton of grassroots money out there that people in Texas are just so frustrated and so fed up, but they want an idea that they can win. And I hope in the course of this campaign, the way I fight, the way I push, the way I`ll stand up for all Texans is they`ll see somebody that can actually win this office and take it back from the Republicans. And then we can be back to some normal policy conversations, we can back to a state capitol that actually functions properly. And so, I think there`s enough Texans out there that have been so pushed around in the course of what the Republicans have done. They`re ready to give somebody a shot.

WILLIAMS: Matthew Dowd, newly minted candidate for lieutenant governor in the great state of Texas, thank you very much for spending some of your time with us tonight. Always good to see you, Matthew.

Coming up for us, a critical care doctor who has fought through the worst of the pandemic is here to reflect on yet another sad milestone, we just learned about our country.



WILLIAMS: According to our own NBC News count earlier today our country crossed 700,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, right now we`re still averaging, averaging about 2000 deaths every day. On top of that, the CDC`s own data shows over 69 million eligible Americans have yet to receive their first vaccine dose, almost 70 million people.

Back with us again tonight, importantly, Dr. Vin Gupta, Critical Care Pulmonologist out in Seattle who advises us on public health and has throughout this ordeal. He`s on the faculty at the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Doctor, I hate to start with such a grim mark but with 700,000 of our brothers and sisters, our fellow citizens gone, what kind of harbinger might that be? What does that tell you, if anything about the future near or far?

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Brian, great to see you. I`ll say for all your viewers out there that the months ahead, we have a choice. We have projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. I think we might be able to show those whole your viewers perfect. What you`re seeing here is a wide range of possibilities. So, for everybody looking at this, there`s that orange line, which is pretty dramatic. And then there`s what we think might happen, which is about 1000 daily deaths, Brian, day over day well into the wintertime. That worst case scenario though, where we`re seeing a peaking death rates, 3000 daily deaths, that`s within our ability to control. And yet we`re all moving around now more. We`re going to sporting events, we`re going to other concerts indoors under certain guardrails, schools are reopening.

The ability to make sure we have safeguard measures in place in schools that were going out in public, doing all the right things, being fully vaccinated when we`re going to sporting events. That is going to be the difference between the worst-case scenario and what is unfortunately a plateau. But 1000 daily deaths entering cold and flu season, still not acceptable but the better case scenario.

WILLIAMS: Always a terrible thing when Americans lose a job, especially after what folks have been through. But interestingly, United Airlines reports just about everybody came around as the firing deadline. Their vaccine mandate came to fruition, they`ve had to lay off, you see there in the headline, number of unvaccinated staff has dropped from 593 to 320. That`s a tiny fraction of their employees. What does that tell you?

GUPTA: The more -- most people that are unvaccinated, either, Brian, have not filled out the paperwork and submitted it to H.R., which is the case often that they just didn`t document it or more commonly, that they had questions. We need to remember, Kaiser Family Foundation, for example, just came out with a survey suggesting most people to date that are unvaccinated have questions. They`re scared. Most of these people now we`re asking those questions. They`re seeking out information. They`re getting vaccinated in droves once they get those questions answered.


It`s the hardest thing. Direct engagement is the hardest thing to scale. But when we do it, we were met with good results. Brian,

WILLIAMS: Doctor, I saw some British study data that indicates that people in the U.K. getting their second vaccine shot coupled with their seasonal flu shot. The data looks very good. It, there`s no significant risk. So, I want to know how you feel about that. And even people who are -- have the access and means to get that booster, people who are within the limits, within the guidelines, it`s human nature to want to get it all done at once, I guess.

GUPTA: Well, this is good news. So, this study out of Britain looked at whether or not you can combine a regular flu vaccine with either the Pfizer or in this case, the AstraZeneca vaccine, so we don`t have AstraZeneca here in the United States, Johnson & Johnson is the most similar vaccine platform to AstraZeneca.

What does it mean for all your viewers, it basically means that, you know, when you go to your doc, either for that booster shot if you`re eligible, or if you`re unvaccinated for that first dose, you can get the flu shot at the same time as the COVID shot, we`re not worried about it, we`re not worried about your body having adverse events or increased risk of side effects.

And why does this matter, Brian? Just a month ago, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, that key advisory group with the CDC said, you know what, maybe you should space out vaccines by at least two weeks, because we don`t know the answer to the question of whether combining is safe at the same visit. Well, now we have our answer. So, it`s good. It`s good for efficiency, it`s good to save people`s times. It`s good for doctors` offices and other providers to save their time as well.

WILLIAMS: And we`ll go ahead and say what doctors have been warning folks about the, say the second or third shot, especially combined with the flu shot. Your arm is going to hurt, you may become briefly symptomatic, but both of those outcomes sure beat seeing a doctor as nice as Dr. Gupta is in the middle of the ICU. We have too much of that already. And again, we`re losing just north of 2000 souls a day.

Our guest tonight once again has been Dr. Vin Gupta. Thank you so much for taking our questions tonight, Doc.

Coming up for us, what happens to our kids over time when the people they see on social media seem wealthier, better looking, generally better off than they are? The story when we come back.



WILLIAMS: This week, Facebook was forced to delay its plans for a kid`s only version of Instagram, its subsidiary. What could go wrong? If you`re a regular on Instagram then you know, everyone on there seems to be just a little more fabulous than the rest of us. People`s lives seem pretty perfect. They tend to be better looking than most. Facebook is facing scrutiny over company data that showed Instagram can have a harmful effect on the mental health of young people. And as we learned today, Washington is now watching as well. Our reports tonight from NBC News Correspondent Tom Costello.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Capitol Hill, Facebook and its Instagram app under blistering bipartisan condemnation.

SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN, (R) TENNESSEE: Facebook knows that it services are actively harming young children.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT: How can we, or parents or anyone trust Facebook?

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: Have you quantified how many children have taken their own lives because of your products?

COSTELLO: Facebook`s head of global safety appearing remotely and on the defense ship. After the Wall Street Journal revealed internal Facebook research found one in three teenage users said Instagram has contributed to their own body image issues, eating disorders, anxiety and depression. Among teens who had suicidal thoughts 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced those thoughts to Instagram use. Though Facebook insists far more teens benefit from the social connections.

ANTIGONE DAVIS, FACEBOOK DIRECTOR GLOBAL HEAD SAFETY: More of them found their engagement on Instagram helpful than then harmful.

COSTELLO: But 20-year-old Grace Park (ph) believes that constant Instagram posts contributed to her own anxiety and eating disorder in high school.

GRACE PARK (ph): Everyone else is way skinnier and way prettier and have nicer clothes. And that also sort of hurt my own self confidence about my own body, which led to me, practically starving myself for like a year.

KIM BURGESS, PEDIATRIC PSYCHOLOGIST: It makes them feel like they`re on shaky ground and that they can`t possibly keep up with their peers or anyone else. And it just makes their insecurity snowball at a time when they`re very vulnerable.

COSTELLO (on camera): Facebook has paused a plan to roll on Instagram to even younger kids eight to 12 as Congress considers legislation to limit their ability to target kids.


WILLIAMS: Our thanks to Tom Costello for that report. Before we go, tonight, we`re going to talk again about Joe Manchin, the Senator from West Virginia who is not popular in Washington right now, apparently immune to outside pressure. But does parody ever get to him even a little bit? We`ll test that theory after this break.



WILLIAMS: Hey, the last thing before we go tonight comes from our friends over at The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and its word of a new board game that`s apparently fun for the whole family.


TREVOR NOAH, THE DAILY SHOW: Looking for a fun family game night that`s guaranteed to end in frustration? Introducing Manchin. The politics game where everyone works together. Almost.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re going to pass an infrastructure bill.

NOAH: You play is the Democratic majority in the senate, but watch out, one player is the Manchin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have concerns over the partisan nature of this legislation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Looks like someone`s the Manchin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But, Kyle, we`re on the same team. You know, America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This bill cannot move forward without the support of at least one Republican colleague.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But there are no Republicans here, they didn`t want to play.

NOAH: With Manchin, you can feel the excitement of a narrow majority held hostage by one sanctimonious dickhead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let`s at least do voting rights.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people of West Virginia sent me here to compromise.

NOAH: But watch out for that legislative calendar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time is about to run out. Come on, let`s just pass something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve written a compromise bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Great. Let`s pass it, all in favor say, aye.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I decided that my bill is too partisan.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hate this game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m so disappointed in you all, you should all learn to work together with people the way I do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need a drink. Are you sure this boy`s mine?


NOAH: Manchin squander the opportunity.


WILLIAMS: The nice family from the Daily Show to take us off the air tonight. That is our broadcast on this Thursday night with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.