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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 9/7/21

Guests: Philip Rucker, A.B. Stoddard, Irwin Redlener, Peter Baker, Susan Glasser


Biden tours flood-hit areas, calls climate change existential threat. Texas governor defends abortion law with no rape exceptions. 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed back in court as military commission hits speed bump at Guantanamo. Biden plans to announce a new strategy to fight COVID crisis. 95 percent of US counties now seeing high COVID-19 transmission rate. Texas governor signs new GOP voting restrictions into law. Trump is signaling a heightened interest in reclaiming the White House in 2024. More than 400,000 homes and businesses in Louisiana still don`t have power nine days after Hurricane Ida.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: That is tonight`s last word. "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 231 of the Biden administration and this President`s pledge to unite a divided nation while advancing a huge domestic agenda, might just be about to undergo an extreme stress test.

Joe Biden comes off a tough month of August into what may be an even more challenging month of September, as he pushes a $4 trillion plus plan to rebuild infrastructure, expand the social safety net. And while he tries to avoid a government shutdown in the midst, let`s not forget of a not yet under control pandemic.

He is also dealing with the aftermath of a deadly hurricane that ravaged communities along the Gulf and in the northeast.

Today, Biden traveled to New Jersey and New York to see the devastation from Hurricane Ida and its remnants and meet with families who have survived the storm`s aftermath.

Just four days ago, let`s not forget, he spent time in Louisiana which took a direct hit from Idaho, which then went on to kill almost 30 people in the state of New Jersey alone. This afternoon he linked the storm to the climate while pitching his proposals to protect our country from future disasters.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The evidence clear, climate change poses an existential threat to our lives. We got to listen to the scientist and the economist and the national security experts. They all tell us this is Code Red. The nation and the world are in peril.

I build back better plan with key investments and to fight climate change cutting emissions and make things more resilient. Each dollar we invest.


WILLIAMS: President suggested he may soon head out west to see the damage from the wildfires that`s been burning there for months, most recently threatening Lake Tahoe.

While he was on the road today, the White House sent an urgent funding request for $14 billion to pay for recovery from natural disasters and to avert a government shutdown October 1.

Meanwhile, the Coronavirus maintaining its death grip on parts of our country. The nation now has over 40 million cases. The number of hospitalized COVID patients continues to strain medical resources in many states. There are also growing concerns about the economic recovery as the surge pushes more companies now to delay their plans to bring their employees back into the office. The White House says Biden will lay out a new strategy later this week to curb the virus spread.

Outside of Washington mounting political challenges for the Biden administration, Republican governor of Texas today signed into law that strict new voting rules limiting ballot access. This comes just days after the Supreme Court declined to block the state`s near total ban on abortions after six weeks.

During today`s election bill signing, Governor Greg Abbott was asked about the abortion restrictions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why force a rape or incest victim to carry pregnancy to term?

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), FLORIDA: Let`s make something very clear. Rape is a crime. And Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas. We do want to make sure that we provide support for those who are victims of rape. And we have organizations that we as a state support that other support to make sure that anybody who`s victimized that will get the support they need.


WILLIAMS: Attorney General Merrick Garland says the federal Justice Department is exploring all options to safeguard reproductive rights in Texas. We have much more on that and the latest move to restrict voting rights there just ahead.

We are now one week away from a critical test for the Democratic Party and for the President with the special election on whether or not to recall the governor of California Gavin Newsom. The campaign to remove them has been largely driven by forces on the right who objected to his COVID shutdowns and mandates.

The man who started the recall campaign today confirmed he has COVID.

Today also marks one week since the mission to evacuate Americans from Afghanistan came to an end. Dozens of American citizens and Afghans holding visas to the United States or other countries remain stranded on the tarmac.

They`re said to be stuck on those aircraft sitting at the airport in the northern part of the country awaiting Taliban permission to take off. Today during his visit to Doha, Qatar, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. is working with the Taliban to resolve the problem.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: They said that they will let people with travel documents freely depart, we will hold them to that. It`s my understanding that the Taliban has not denied exit to anyone holding a valid document but they have said that those without valid documents at this point can`t leave.


But because all of these people are grouped together, that`s meant that flights have not been allowed to go.


WILLIAMS: The Taliban announced its new leadership today, which appears to lean toward a hard line extremist bent much like the old Taliban regime. This is something of a caretaker government to run the country since there`s no one else to do that.

Several of those named today reportedly listed by the United States and the UN as terrorists. The biggest anti-Taliban protests yet in the capital city of Kabul was brought to a violent and today when the Taliban forces arrived and crackdown on demonstrators, many of them women.

Meanwhile, one of the key figures in the 9/11 attacks was back in a courtroom for a pre-trial hearing today, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the accused mastermind of the terrorist attack. It was his first court appearance at Guantanamo and more than a year. It comes just days before the 20th anniversary of course of 9/11.

Pre-trial hearings in this case have been going on for close to a decade. It is now anyone`s guess when a jury will get to decide this case and his fate.

With that, let`s bring in our starting line on this post-holiday Tuesday night. Philip Rucker, a Pulitzer Prize winning senior Washington correspondent for The Washington Post co-author along with Carol Leonnig of the New York Times bestseller "I Alone Can Fix It, Donald J. Trump`s Catastrophic Final Year," Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The Washington Post, and A.B. Stoddard, veteran Washington journalist and associate editor and columnist for Real Clear Politics. Good evening, and welcome to you all.

Phil, I`d like to begin with you by quoting Ashley Parker`s reporting on the President`s Day. She writes it this way, the President`s handling of such disasters, also lets him push a message that has been central to his appeal, since he was a candidate that government can work for its people. And that bipartisanship at least in moments of crisis still exists.

Phil, I guess the question is, is this viewed as a pivotable -- pivotal time, aka, and more cynically, perhaps a change in subject for the White House at least an opportunity?

PHIL RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, Brian, it`s a pivotal time for President Biden and for his administration, because of all of the crises converging this fall, and because of the increasingly dire political standing that he`s in the Washington Post/ABC News poll that came out a couple of days ago showed his approval rating has actually fallen below 50 percent. It stands now at 44 percent among all Americans approving of his handling as president, his numbers have declined, specifically related to the Coronavirus and to the war in Afghanistan and to the economy.

And that spells trouble for a president who has a razor thin majority in the House that he`s trying to protect, and a 50-50 split in the Senate. He`s trying to muscle through a number of big ticket legislative items. That infrastructure deal where he got the bipartisan support last month in the senate still has not passed the House and is currently sort of at a standstill on Congress. That`s why the President was pushing it so hard during his trip to date in New York and to New Jersey.

But even more importantly for this White House that three and a half trillion dollar domestic agenda plan that would institute really sweeping changes across this country and for our economy is really in trouble on Capitol Hill.

We heard through Axios`s reporting tonight that Senator Joe Manchin, the Democrat from West Virginia is only going to be willing to spend up to $1.5 trillion. That`s trouble for Biden because he cannot afford to lose a single democratic vote on that bill. And say you asked if this is a pivotal time for the president and it certainly is.

WILLIAMS: Eugene to that end, Philip mentioned this. Let me read you the quote from the reporting of our friends -- friend Hans Nichols over at Axios. And you can hear fellow Democrats saying with friends like these, who needs Republicans in this. Senator Joe Manchin has privately warned the White House and congressional leaders that he has specific policy concerns with presidents Biden`s 3.5 trillion social spending dream and he`ll support as little as 1 trillion of it. At most, he`s open to supporting 1.5 trillion, sources familiar with the discussions.


What can the democrats do Democrats about this?

EUGENE ROBISON, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Well, they can try to work out a deal and a way forward. And, you know, what President Biden and the Democrats have going for them in this negotiation, by infrastructure, and human infrastructure, and whether it`s 3.5 trillion or more Manchin`s marker now of 1.5 trillion, is that this is arithmetic.

And, generally speaking, arithmetic is, is on the easier end of the scale in terms of, of complicated things to get worked out in Washington, as opposed to, you know, social policy and, you know, like voting rights, for example. You`re not going to get Republican votes on that. You`re not going to get -- you`re going to have to get around the 12 or somehow.

But I think anybody who sort of writes this off and says, well, you know, there`s $2 trillion gap, and they`ll never close it. I think is potentially wrong, certainly premature. You know, this, that`s a marker. Manchin has put out a marker. And so let`s see how the talks and negotiations progressed from here. But, you know, arithmetic can be worked out. And my hunch is that in the end, it will get worked out, but it won`t be.

WILLIAMS: So A.B., a serious question, especially for those watching tonight who don`t follow the molecular ins and outs of party politics on Capitol Hill. How do Republicans receive remarks like that, from Joe Manchin reporting like this in Axios? Do they view him for the purposes of their transactional existence as a friend of theirs right now?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOC. EDITOR AND COLUMNIST: Well, Joe Manchin is credited with getting an infrastructure deal together, one of the lead negotiators that 19 Republican senators supported, which in this environment is extraordinary. That is the thing that is now on the table as an actual bill that`s been passed by a chamber that has progressives are threatening to hold up if they don`t get what they want in the social spending reconciliation bill.

Joe Manchin was there for the President, on the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that was passed on a partisan basis. I think he`s going to be there for the White House on this bill is just going to be smaller than 3.5 trillion. It will not be what Bernie Sanders wants. He`s the head of the Budget Committee in the Senate. And he literally said 10 days ago, it`s already too small 3.5. And I`m done negotiating, really wanted between six and 10 trillion.

So it will not be 3.5 because the Democrats need a package. They will tailor it in ways as Eugene points out, that involve math. There will be pay fours. There will be revenue streams, and it will be fuzzy federal math, that in the end, none of us understand that we`ll get it across the finishing line, but it will not have the price tag, it appears to have now.

And so it will be something that can be rationalized by the moderate Democrats in Congress, who are the ones that face competitive elections next year, as Biden`s numbers slide. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley and members of the squad. These people are going to be handily reelected in their districts that are bright blue.

It`s the ones who are on the front lines of the majority, who are seeing the president once popular at over 50 percent is fill notes -- a few months ago, slide in popularity, and that makes their midterm campaigns much harder. So I do believe in the end, this will get passed. And I think it`s sliding in the direction right now of the moderates.

WILLIAMS: And Phil Rucker, indeed speaking of a national crisis that requires an enormous national outlay of expenditures. Can you preview for us what we are likely to hear from the President later this week on the pandemic?

RUCKER: Well, Brian, I think we`re going to hear even more urgency from the President about the pandemic. Remember, kids are back in school in many places around the country now, and more and more workers are going to work going into their offices, resuming something of a normal routine even as the Delta variant rages and COVID is still very much alive, hospitals are under siege.


And the President and I think is going to try to get control or at least convince the American public that he and his team have some control over the situation as we head into winter, because nobody wants to go through another winter, like the winter we went through last year.

And so I think you`re going to hear from the President, a more forceful plea to get vaccinated. The White House has been bullied in recent weeks by the number of vaccinations around the country, more and more people seem to be listening. And yet, it`s still not enough to get control of this virus. And I think it`s going to be priority number one for this administration to continue that vaccination push while trying to convince the public that the health team, that the administration have the situation as under control as they possibly can.

WILLIAMS: Eugene, let`s talk about the anti-abortion legislation in Texas and this specifically, the administration is under intense pressure on the subject of choice. Their options federally, as I read them are rather limited. No.

ROBINSON: Yes, I don`t believe again, I`m not a lawyer, much less a constitutional scholar. But I think there`s very little the administration could do. On the other hand, as a political matter that the Texas bill is such, such an overreach and so weird and so unAmerican in its summoning of armies of vigilantes to report on their neighbors if they happen to, you know, give somebody a ride to an abortion clinic.

That just in political terms, I`m not -- I think a lot of Democrats see this as more of a lifeline, just politically, it`s a terrible piece of legislation, and a terrible threat to women in Texas. But just in strict political terms, I think this would be a widely unpopular law in most of the country and seen as going too far. And as a political boost in those suburbs that Joe Biden took away from the Republicans in 2020. And the Democrats need to take again next year, in order to keep those swaying House seats and potentially grow their margin in the Senate.

WILLIAMS: A B, let`s shift our focus overseas by way of Washington, Afghanistan looms large still, I want to play for you these comments from would be defense secretary, Lindsey Graham.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The Taliban are not reformed. They`re not new. They`re going to give safe haven to al Qaeda. We will be going back into Afghanistan as we went back into Iraq and Syria, and you cannot deal with this over the horizon.


WILLIAMS: So A.B. other than proving the point all over again, that the view is much easier from the cheap seats. What is going on here?

STODDARD: Well, Lindsey Graham is a hawk. And there are very few of them left in his party. And he knows that and he tried to convince President Trump, his good friend, to not abandon the Kurds and do a lot of different things. And President Trump one shoe during his four years in office, and Lindsey Graham is, again, just speaking for a small minority of the Republican Party of yesterday here.

As we know from the polling after the debacle of the management of this withdrawal, the withdrawal policy is popular among Americans. Biden and Trump had sold the public on this. It is the -- it`s the management that everyone saw that so unpopular. And it`s giving someone like Lindsey Graham an opportunity to say, this is going to go south.

I think we`ll have to really take the temperature of this, you know, weeks and months from now. It still remains a problem for the administration because Americans are stuck there. And over the 9/11 anniversary, there will be a lot of criticism from Republicans about negotiating with the Taliban.

As long as Americans are there, obviously the White House is going to be negotiating with the Taliban to get them out. But I think we`re going to have to take a look at this issue months from now to see the damage did to President Biden and not take this kind of temperature in the heat of this moment or really worried about what Lindsey Graham is saying?


WILLIAMS: Much obliged to our starting line on this Tuesday night to Phil Rucker, Eugene Robinson, A.B. Stoddard, friends of the broadcast to all our thanks for starting us off.

Coming up for us. Maybe you`re old enough to remember those predictions that September, this month, in fact, was supposed to be when we all filed into work crammed back into the office. Well, now it`s September and not so much. We can thank the Delta variant and the anti-vaxxers. And we`ll ask a doctor when he predicts normal American life or something close to it, making its return.

And later, in Texas, you get to carry a gun, no problem. But if you want to vote or obtain an abortion, not so much. We`ll talk about the politics as Texas stays firmly on brand. All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Tuesday night.



DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, TEXAS CHILDEN`S HOSPTIAL CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT: We`re about to exceed the number of deaths that occurred in the 1918 flu pandemic in the United States. That`s often put at 675,000. And exactly how things go over the next few weeks is unknown. I think we could be in this for at least a few more weeks and maybe for the rest of 2021.


WILLIAMS: A troubling prediction from the noted vaccine scientist Dr. Peter Hotez. CDC data now showing over 95 percent of all of the counties in our country, now experiencing high rates of transmission. While we did just cross a major Rubicon and 75 percent of American adults have now received at least one vaccine dose. As we said, The White House says the President will debut later this week a new six-prong strategy which is meant to work across public and private sectors to curb this variant. Get more shots and more arms.

So we`re happy to have back with us again tonight. Dr. Irwin Redlener, Founding Director of Columbia`s National Center for Disaster Preparedness who advises us on public health also a professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.


Doctor, I want to gauge your level of concern. And maybe it`s regional for the weeks and months ahead.

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Well, good evening, Brian. So, unfortunately, something like this kind of pandemic with a wildly out of control. Delta variant is not likely to stay anything regional or otherwise, in some ways in the northeast, we`re living in a bubble. And hopefully it doesn`t lead to complacency where we think we`re somehow invulnerable to this spreading virus.

I think all bets are off now. And I don`t want to alarm people, but I think we do need to be cautious. We just had our big Labor Day holiday with a lot of people gathering together as we like to do. And we`re putting 55 million children back in the classrooms. I think that`s together a kind of a dangerous combination of factors that could really cause us to have even a greater surge that we`re currently experiencing, Brian.

I think the good news on the horizon is that hopefully, we may get more people vaccinated, although that`s going to be a pretty uphill road. Merck will come out with its new drug, by oral prescription that will be used to treat the virus. If we don`t do that, I really kind of don`t agree entirely with my friend Peter Hotez. Because I actually think it could be a lot longer than the end of this year, before we`re back to something that we remember as normal, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Well, that gets our attention. Certainly into that end, as you know, when companies the likes of Apple and Google, put out statements pushing return to work, in some cases to 2022, that gets your attention, American workers sit up and take notice. So is the American workforce, is American commerce, already in a new normal, that`s just now going to continue for some time?

REDLENER: Well, that`s highly likely, Brian. And, you know, listen, I think that the companies are really responding to the day-to-day fluctuations and dynamism of this virus. The fact is we don`t know what`s going to be happening in two, three, five weeks from now. And we`re going to have to keep watching the numbers, watching the variants hope that other variants don`t pop up and cause us even more concern.

In the meantime, that companies are doing all that they can do, which is same as happening in my own university, let`s say, which is, you know, a month ago, they said September first will be the reopening. And now they`re backing off of that, but really many, many organizations are and with good reason, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Irwin, I want to play for you some comments from Dr. Fauci earlier today on CNN, we`ll discuss on the other side.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The proper regimen will very likely, as we look back on it months from now, will be that three doses is really what you should be getting an mRNA.


WILLIAMS: First of all, Doc, I assume you have nothing but enduring faith and confidence in your old friend and colleague in this line of work. Dr. Fauci, second of all, is what he is describing the new normal medically where vaccinations are going to be concerned.

REDLENER: I think it is going to be the new normal. You know, there`s been a lot of cause for concern from about, let`s say, data from Israel, which says that, even after the second full dose of the mRNA vaccine, which is Modera or Pfizer, that after some number of months, the immune protection starts to wane, it starts to drop. And we`re worried about that.

And I think that Tony Fauci is saying something that`s entirely valid is that let`s get ahead of this. Let`s not wait for people who have been immune to become non immune. And that means let`s -- let`s give a big boost right now or as soon as we can to everybody that`s been two dose immunized today.

You know, the moral dilemma here, Brian, is if we`ve talked about this before, the World Health Organization, WHO, is also very concerned that we`re indulging ourselves in a manner of speaking in a third dose when there`s so many countries around the world that have don`t even have no vaccine to vaccinate more than one or 2 percent of their entire population with one dose. So we got a lot of variables to weigh here.

But I think the scientific validity of what Fauci was saying is --

WILLIAMS: Irwin Redlener, our guest tonight. Doctor, thank you very much as always, for your time and for taking our questions.

Coming up for us. As of tonight, it`s more difficult for many Texans to vote full stop. We`ll as Susan Glasser and Peter Baker, what happens now?




ABBOTT: It does make it easier than ever before for anybody to go cast a ballot, that does also have wear however, make sure that it is harder for people to cheat at the ballot box in Texas.


WILLIAMS: All spoken with a straight face contrary to what he just said there. Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law today some of the most sweeping voting restrictions in the United States. Five lawsuits already filed in an attempt to strike it down.

Here with us tonight Peter Baker, veteran journalist and author who is white -- Chief White House correspondent for The New York Times and Susan Glasser, staff writer for The New Yorker, away from journalism if there is such a thing as being away from journalism. They are husband and wife and they are where journalism is concerned. The co-authors of "The Man Who Ran Washington, The Life and Times of James A. Baker III" now out in paperback. Good evening, and welcome to you both.

And Susan, I`d like to begin with you and I`d like to begin with a clip from Nicolle Wallace our mutual friend this afternoon on her broadcast on voting restrictions.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: GOP run states run risk of being slowed down if Washington Democrats remain in a defensive crouch about the sanctity of the filibuster, it might be time to stop talking about if GOP voting restrictions go unchecked and state houses and adjust to the new reality. Democrats appear poised to do nothing as of yet, when it comes to federal voting rights legislation, I want to be wrong about that. Message to any Washington Democrat watching before you tweet at me or text me. Please make me dead wrong about this.


WILLIAMS: So Susan, she lays out the question nicely there it`s a two-part question to you. Is the will there say nothing of the way?

SUSAN GLASSER, THE NEW YORKER STAFF WRITER: You know, Brian, I think the question tonight really is, are we headed to different countries headed in radically different directions, right? You have Texas and a whole host of other states enacting some of the most restrictive legislation we`ve seen when it comes to voting rights.

And I think the question is really do Democrats have enough control over the Houses of Congress to actually be able to steer in the opposite direction? I mean, it really -- it`s not just a question of Washington versus the states. But as Nicolle pointed out, does Biden do the Democrats really have enough leverage with a 50-50 Senate to do anything at the federal level about this?

I mean, right now, it feels to me, like early days of the civil rights movement, when there was pressure on the federal government to do something, but there just wasn`t yet the momentum and the ability to do so.

WILLIAMS: And so, Peter, over to you, speaking of a will and a way, where do you put the chances of seeing the filibuster overturned?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOSUE CORRESPONDENT: I don`t think there`s a great deal of chance of that at the moment. I mean, it because you need to get every single Democrat on board, and at least two or three have made clear that they`re still very skeptical about that.

Now, you know, Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Sinema, and there are some others who haven`t said it out loud, but privately are happy that Manchin and Sinema have resisted this. Now, you could find a way around getting rid of the entire filibuster. You could say, for instance, the filibuster doesn`t apply specifically, in this type of legislation. You could do something more limited like that.

But even there, you`ve seen resistance on the part of the -- at least these couple of moderate senators. And that`s creating, of course, great friction within the party. You hear from, you know, AOC wing of the party very angry at these moderate Democrats for resisting the changes to the filibuster, not just because of voting rights, but because of a number of other legislative priorities that they`d like to push through. So far, it looks like that hasn`t changed, even with the signing of that legislation in Texas today.

WILLIAMS: And, of course, as A.B pointed out earlier in the broadcast, AOC is in what, five to one Democratic district and doesn`t have the same reelection concerns that the moderates have.

Susan, final question in this segment. Why are Texas Republicans specifically so emboldened in that state where we keep hearing the democrat -- demographic clock is ticking against them quickly?

GLASSER: You know, Brian, I asked myself that all the time. I remember publishing a piece more than five years ago, in Politico, is this the year that Texas is finally going to turn from purple back to blue. And, you know, we haven`t seen that yet. If anything, the 2020 election seems to have, as you said, emboldened the Republican, what was it minority, but I think is holding firm here. It`s a backlash in some ways that I think we`re seeing to the prospect of this kind of demographic shift in Texas.

And, you know, the question I have is, is it just going to rip the state even further apart to go and pass abortion legislation like they have at a time when just a couple years ago, even the Republican leadership in Texas would have found that bill to be too extreme. Now they`re seeing it as a national model. And to me, it`s an example of the Republican Party pulling farther and farther away from the mainstream of the country.

WILIAMS: New Yorker, a New York Times well represented tonight, our friend Susan Glasser and Peter Baker, have agreed to stay with us while we fit in a break.

Coming up, when our conversation continues, new reporting on what advisors to the only twice impeach Florida retiree are saying about another possible run for the White House when we come back.



WILLIAMS: Donald Trump announced tonight he plans to return to Iowa next month for a rally in the first in the nation caucus state. Politico has new reporting today on the notion of a possible 2024 run, quote, with a flurry of activity from his main political committee and hence dropped in private conversations with confidence and advisors. Donald Trump is signaling a heightened interest in reclaiming the White House and laying the necessary groundwork to do it.

Still with us, thankfully, Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. So Peter trigger warning, we`re going to discuss the guy who just finished covering for so many years. The announcement of the rally in Iowa, the announcement that on the anniversary of 9/11, Trump is going to be guest announcing a prize fight, as so many of our former presidents have chosen to do on 9/11. Is this a not so soft launch for a presidential campaign? The other way to ask that is Do you really think he`s going to go through with it?

BAKER: Well, look, I think he wants us to think he`s going to go through with it right up until the moment he really decides. And, you know, what he wants more than anything is for us to be talking about what he wants more than anything is for us to continue to consider him to be an important force in American politics, which he is. He wants people to be coming to Mar-a-Lago to pay attention to him to ask for his endorsement. He wants money to be contributed to his political apparatus.

And the minute he says he`s not running for president in 2024, a lot of that begins to disappear. So I think that this decision is not necessarily really made, even if he says he is running. That`s not really the final word. I don`t think we`re really going to know until after the midterms and 2022. Whether he`s genuinely running but he wants us to think he has all the way up until the moment he decides for real because otherwise, you know, all this goes away.

WILLIAMS: Susan, when Donald Trump approached the Republican Party, he found no barrier to entry. Ditto as a candidate as a president, no impediment to operating the way he wished.


And it seems we`re in the middle of this new dynamic where Republican candidates across the country feel the need to embrace MAGA fully to get elected. Question regarding your book, The cover I look at, at least once a day in my home, James A. Baker at the height of his power, walking the corridors of power in Washington, could he have had, could any known figure have had the ability to turn away a Donald Trump knowing the effect it would have downstream on the political party he loved so much?

GLASSER: You know, I think a lot of people have asked the question about is it possible even to have a Jim Baker in the context of our almost broken dysfunctional politics today, and especially in a Republican Party that`s turned so far, in a different direction, then made it almost unrecognizable, frankly, to those like Baker who built it up in the 1980s and the 1990s.

To me, the question of Donald Trump and is it`s even the Republican Party, does it bear any resemblance to it? I mean, the bottom line is, it`s much more of a cult of personality that Trump has cultivated over the last few years, and that the Republicans have gone along with.

I mean, after January 6, I think that was really a dividing line. And it`s really hard to see that you could have any figure come in. And after that, after the first term of Donald Trump being what it was, let`s say you runs again, as you were just discussing with Peter, can you imagine a second Trump presidency and the idea that any kind of a figure like a Jim Baker in the White House is going to be able to tell Donald Trump what to do. He already -- the story of his presidency was a story of him feeling less and less constrained, and more and more empowered to do whatever he wanted and seeing Republicans follow after him, even after January 6.

So it`s hard for me to conceive of anyone being able to sort of be a Trump Wrangler, in any conventional sense of the word anymore, you know.

WILLIAMS: To viewers who just joined this scene late, it is true that powerful Washington by lines don`t usually sit nearly this close or get along nearly this well. Thank god they`re married. Susan Glasser and Peter Baker, husband and wife, authors, journalists by day. Our thanks for coming on the broadcast tonight. Greatly appreciate it.

Coming up for us. An update from the state of Louisiana where hundreds of thousands of good people are still struggling without power after a week. It`s been a week since Hurricane Ida batter that state we`ll have our report coming up.



WILLIAMS: It`s been over a week now since Hurricane Ida slammed into southeastern Louisiana and just starting its trail of carnage officials are still assessing the damage in Louisiana. Hundreds of thousands of people are still in the dark and the heat. And today, authorities there started shutting down several nursing homes that housed elderly patients in a warehouse during the worst of the storm that has echoes of Katrina for all those of us who were there. NBC News correspondent Sam Brock has our report.


SAM BROCK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The crises are coming from all angles in New Orleans where lines of car stretch miles per chicken. The need for gas is still gaping and a fresh round of waves slamming in already waterlogged region. But there`s also a crisis of care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The generator went out, so it`s a hotbox. It`s one big hotbox.

BROCK: Tonight a community`s confusion leading to action. Officials revoked the licenses of seven nursing homes after nearly 850 patients were evacuated to this warehouse leading up to at least seven deaths.

STEPHEN RUSSO, LOUISIANA DEPT. OF HEALTH LEGAL AUDIT AND REGULATORY AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: Let`s be clear. There is no emergency preparedness plan that allows for residents to be kept in such an unsafe, unsanitary and unhealthy condition.

BROCK: In New Orleans, an additional 600 senior citizens were rescued from nine assisted living complexes.

DR. JENNIFER AVEGNO, NEW ORLEANS HEALTH DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR: We identified emergent threats to life and health.

Dr. Jennifer Avegno is the city`s health director.

(on camera): What did you see inside of these facilities that gave you deep pause for concern?

AVEGNO: So no power not even emergency generator, no lights no elevators.

BROCK (voice-over): The Archdiocese of New Orleans manages the majority of those nine buildings did not grant a request for an interview. They previously said that management repeatedly requested assistance and resources from civil authorities, assistance that of claims came too late.

AVEGNO: Our Nola ready and 311 have been in contact with them since the beginning. So I`m interested to see what officials they are saying they reached out to who didn`t respond.

BROCK (on camera): You can`t find the documentation --

AVEGNO: I can`t.

BROCK: -- trail of request.

AVEGNO: No, I do not. We don`t have any evidence of that.

BROCK (voice-over): Officials now pledging new laws to protect the most vulnerable. Sam Brock, NBC News, New Orleans.


WILLIAMS: And coming up for us, a word about what we`ll be doing, what we`ll be watching at exactly this time tomorrow evening, when we come back.



WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight is a word about tomorrow night. You won`t find us here and our usual time slot and we`re sorry about that. But as they say it`s for a very good cause. And we want to invite you, urge you, in fact, to watch the documentary that will tomorrow night preempt both The Last Word in the 11th Hour, it`s called Memory Box, that goes back 20 years to 9/11.

Back then witnesses to 9/11 were asked to sit in a private video booth and talk about the trauma what they saw and experienced that day. And for the upcoming anniversary, the filmmakers went back to many of those same people to check in on them today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this point, I looked at my mom and my family and I was like this is crazy. Let`s get out of here. Let`s go, you know, I thought we should just maybe start walking away from the wall. Because what if it fell? And I said that. Everybody started to calm me down. My neighbor said, Oh, honey, don`t get upset. You`re pregnant. You know, you`re really close to your due date. No, it`s not going to fall and I said it is going to fall. They`re going to fall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here we are. 20 years later, yeah.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow. You were very happy baby like so happy. You smiled all the time. And we felt so fortunate that we had you because we were able to just focus on you and even though there was so much death around us at that time, you just brought so much hope to everybody.

GONZALEZ: I think people underestimate you know, the power buying tragedy. I mean, it`s something that is a constant reminder that life is really, really beautiful and special thing. And family is so, so important. It`s everything here.


WILIAMS: The film is called "Memory Box, Echoes of 911" and it premieres here tomorrow night starting at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 p.m. on the west coast, with simultaneous streaming on Peacock.

That is our broadcast for this Tuesday night with our thanks for being here with us.

We will be back with you on Thursday night. My personal thanks to my friends Chris Jansing, Ali Velshi and Alicia Menendez for allowing me to sneak away. On behalf of all our colleagues here at the networks of NBC News, good night.