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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, August 17, 2020

Guests: Philip Rucker, Errin Haines, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Lori Lightfoot, Steve Schmidt, Billy Porter


The first night of the Democratic National Convention will be intended to showcase what a big tent Democrats have built in the age of Trump. Four Republicans were given speaking slots, along with progressive all-star Sen. Bernie Sanders and a party unifier, former First Lady Michelle Obama. President Trump says Democratic mayors wouldn't mind if their cities were blown up by terrorists. Republican John Kasich joins DNC to support Biden.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: But we'll provide a safety net for people facing hard times. And if we want a chance to pursue any of these goals, any of these most basic requirements for a functioning society, we have to vote for Joe Biden in numbers that cannot be ignored. Because right now, folks who know they cannot win fair and square at the ballot box are doing everything they can to stop us from voting. They're closing down polling places in minority neighborhoods. They're purging voter rolls. They're sending people out to intimidate voters, and they're lying about the security of our ballots.

These tactics are not new. But this is not the time to withhold our votes in protest, or play games with candidates who have no chance of winning. We have got to vote like we did in 2008 and 2012 we've got to show up with the same level of passion and hope for Joe Biden. We've got to vote early in person if we can. We've got to request our mail-in ballots right now tonight, and send them back immediately. And follow up to make sure they're received. And then make sure our friends and families do the same. We have got to grab our comfortable shoes, put on our mask, pack, a brown bag, a dinner and maybe breakfast too, because we've got to be willing to stand in line all night if we have to.

Look, we have already sacrificed so much this year. So many of you are already going that extra mile. Even when you're exhausted. You're mustering up unimaginable courage to put on those scrubs and give our loved ones a fighting chance. Even when you're anxious, you're delivering those packages, stocking those shelves, and doing all that essential work so that all of us can keep moving forward. Even when it all feels so overwhelming, working parents are somehow piecing it all together without childcare.

Teachers are getting creative so that our kids can still learn and grow. Our young people are desperately fighting to pursue their dreams. And when the horrors of systemic racism shook our country and our consequences, millions of Americans of every age, every background rose up to march for each other, crying out for justice and progress. This is who we still are. Compassionate, resilient, decent people whose fortunes are bound up with one another. And it is well past time for our leaders to once again reflect our truth.

So, it is up to us to add our voices and our votes to the course of history, echoing heroes like John Lewis, who said, when you see something that is not right, you must say something, you must do something. That is the truest form of empathy, not just feeling, but doing. Not just for ourselves or our kids, but for everyone, for all our kids. And if we want to keep the possibility of progress alive in our time, if we want to be able to look our children in the eye after this election, we have got to reassert our place in American history. And we have got to do everything we can to elect my friend Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.

Thank you all. God bless.

EVA LONGORIA BASTON, ACTRESS & DNC MODERATOR: Wow, wow, wow. Thank you, Michelle Obama, you are, you are what we miss in this country. We need more of that example. Thank you so much for being part of this unconventional convention. Thanks to all of you all who have been tuning in. It's a convention about you and for you, the American people. This is our chance to hear from those who will be leading, leading us out of our nation out of the current crisis on the economy, the pandemic, racial injustice, to listen and to learn about Joe Biden and Kamala Harris's plans to bring about changes we all need. This is our chance to unite across America.

In addition, we'll call the roll and we'll hear from the future First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden. I want to thank you again for joining us. Join us the rest of the week. This is your convention. This is your campaign and we the people are going to save this democracy in November.

Right now Billy Porter and Stephen Stills are going to remind us what it's all worth. Good night.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Billy Porter and Stephen Stills ending a night. The highlight of which was former First Lady Michelle Obama, who was the last speaker wrapping up the first night of this virtual video version of the Democratic National Convention 2020 staying on brand for the 2020 we're having thus far.

And as we welcome you to a special two hour edition of "THE 11TH HOUR." Let's begin with what we have just witnessed my friends Rachel Maddow, Nicole Wallace, Joy Reid, remain in our New York studios.

Rachel, starting with you with the caveat. Nothing is normal, your observations on night one.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I would just like to see that Michelle Obama's speech all over again. I have a little bit of attention deficit when it comes to tape things and I pay attention to production values. And this is weird, it's off putting and everything. And it's, you know, it's hardness, kind of get in the groove and Michelle Obama started talking and it was like, like a moment pass and it was over. She is absolutely riveting.

As is this format, in some ways, I mean, there's a lot of good moments I thought Kristin Urquiza, who spoke about her father dying of COVID was an unbelievable moment, the 2020 candidates talking about endorsing Biden and what he meant to them, even as they competed against him. Klobuchar, Kasich, Jones, were all very good, but Michelle Obama, just nobody else like her.

There's no other public figure like her in the world. And that 18 some odd minutes that she just spoke about the country, and about President Trump and about Joe Biden. Let me be as honest and as clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong person for our country. Has had more than enough time to prove that he can the job that is clearly in over his head, he cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.

You could imagine those words coming from anybody and they would mean X. Coming from Michelle Obama, it means something qualitatively different. I thought that was just a riveting speech.

WILLIAMS: Nicole Wallace.

NICOLE WALLACE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that she said something that the only thing she said that I'm not sure I buy is she said, I'm a black woman speaking at a Democratic Convention. I know some people might not listen to me. I think she might be wrong. I think every parent in America heard what she said. And it was like being scolded by the good cop parent. Right.

You know, we know she's right. And maybe we'll do something different. And if you slice this evening, this way, if you take Kasich, Meg Whitman and Susan Molinari, they're not the speeches that are going to generate headlines or sound bites. But if you peel off and you remember that everybody's home and Fox News dipped in and out, but they did take John Kasich, I'm pretty sure they did take Michelle Obama.

And if you look at what they are saying you take the substance of what she's said. And you play that in every living room in America. I'm not sure we know what we don't know about what happens next.


JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, I hear here and I just second and third everything said here, riveting. Michelle Obama is riveting, was riveting. One of the best speeches I've heard or given, I've heard of give many speeches. It was brilliant and that it wasn't really personal about Donald Trump. It was simply saying this is a really difficult job being president.

It's hard and he's just not capable of doing it. He's just not up to the job. It is what it is right. I mean, she literally said, this job requires you to, you know, navigate America's image in the world. Look at our image in the world. They're looking at us and wondering what happened to us. Who in the hell are we? They're looking at us and saying, maybe America is incapable. She said, we are underperforming.

You know, this is a business buzzword that's going to get under Donald Trump's skin, but that is what we're doing. We in the world after World War II were the fulcrum of democracy in the world. And now we are a country that is pity. So it wasn't personal. She said, listen, nothing against you, Donald Trump, but this job is too hard for you. That is a great case for an exhaustion election. Because there are a lot of people who may think they like Donald Trump for whatever reason, but maybe he's just not good at this. You know, I mean that's the message (INAUDIBLE).

MADDOW: And when she said, if you think if you take one thing from my words today after she said that you just pointed out Nicole that, you know, maybe there are people who can't hear me who can't listen to me tonight. She said, if you take one thing from my words, tonight, it is this and I thought it was going to be something about like soul of memory, like I don't know, scariest moment of the night. If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me they can and they will. If we don't make a change in this election.

Michelle Obama does not talk like that.

REID: Yes that's it.

MADDOW: And for her to have said that after saying like listen whether or not you can hear me I need to tell you something having seen the presidency up close. In my heart dropped about four inches on my chest. Yes, I mean, it's we did -- we all got scared. We all got very quiet here.

REID: We were very quiet, yes.

WALLACE: But here's the -- she also Brian, and you'll appreciate this. She delivered epic shade.

REID: Yes.

WALLACE: It is what it is.

REID: Yes.

WALLACE: Was the line that Donald Trump had about deaths and every single death, every single American life loss in this pandemic, is the destruction of an entire family unit, of a universe, of a community of a school if it was a teacher of a hospital, if it was a doctor. So for her to throw that back in him was elegant but epic shade.

REID: Well and she also made this case for, you know, back when in 2008, when Barack Obama was running, you know, Republicans tried to accuse her of not loving the country. They are she may be loving case for change. She said, I love the country. And what I love about it is our capacity to be good. You know, so she was the scold him, she was also the good mom, she was like, I'm telling you how you can do better than this. I know you can do better. And that is a message that actually might break through, because the point is, again, that everyone knows it's a catastrophe, right?

Everybody would admit it's a catastrophe. The question is, does the person who's currently president has the capacity to lift us out of it and have the capacity to turn it around? She said, I've been near the president. I've worked with Joe Biden. I've seen people who can do this. This man can't do it. And if he can't do it, it's going to get much worse for all of us. It is a really strong message. It helps Joe Biden, but I have to say the part where she said I don't even like politics.

WALACE: Right.

REID: Because I'm not even here, because I even like politics. I'm here because I'm trying to say this is come with me if you want to live.

MADDOW: And I don't like politics, but let me give you very specific instructions about what needs to happen here.

REID: That's right.

MADDOW: In a way that was very on former First Lady --

REID: Yes.

MADDOW: -- turn in the speech. She said, we've got to grab our comfortable shoes, put on our masks, pack a brown bag, dinner and maybe breakfast too, because we have got to be willing to stand in line all night if we have to. We have got to vote early in person if we can. We've got to request our mail-in ballots right now tonight, and send them back immediately and follow up to make sure they're received. Make sure our friends and families do the same.

I mean, her spelling it out like that. She's literally calling for people to do stuff.


MADDOW: And people are doing it, because that's Michelle Obama saying it.

REID: That is how pastors the Sunday before the election are going to sound. She preached a word tonight. And I'm pretty sure everyone was a silent listening to that in their living rooms and sitting up straight when she began speaking.

MADDOW: Yes. I mean, we are we are all goofballs and the whole night. We're all the whole time and then Michelle, Michelle Obama starts talking we're all like. None of us breathe for 18 minutes.

WALLACE: Well and Brian, the other point is that there's nobody on the Republican side and certainly nobody available to Donald Trump that will do anything close to what she just did. Nobody.

REID: And (INAUDIBLE) one other thing in there that, you know, there was a lot of sort of back and forth about how, you know, how much diversity was going to be there, were there going to be enough Latinx people there, you know, the inclusion factor. Somebody tweeted, it's not an original thought, but just seeing the -- just raw diversity of everyone who spoke tonight, just seeing that and realizing that that is the America that Biden inherits. That's what they're fighting for. That's what people are fighting for. That -- well, this is future America.

It'll be interesting to contrast that when it's the Republicans turn, because they're not going to be able to reproduce that. You know, even the musical performances, the culture was actually part of the convention and the culture is so distant from what Republicans and what Trump has become. They can't reproduce that and they sure as hell don't have a Michelle Obama.

MADDOW: Well they couldn't have Clint Eastwood yell at it. That was a very, that was a deep, don't sell them (INAUDIBLE).

REID: Yes --


REID: They could just roll the tape but someone's got that rack. So.

MADDOW: Brian, we're breaking down here.

WILLIAMS: I just looked up your point about Clint Eastwood, talking to a chair that's been done it turns out.


WILLIAMS: Well, that is -- yes.

MADDOW: Everybody all right.


MADDOW: Everyone we're thinking too far, outside the box, get back in the box.

WILLIAMS: Couple years back, apparently, but you could have Googled it, but the task fell to me. Thank you, friends.


WILLIAMS: We got to do this again tomorrow night. Rachel Maddow, Nicole Wallace, Joy Reid.

And you at home. Good evening, once again. Day 1,306, let's not forget of the Trump administration. Seventy eight days until the presidential election, night one of the Democratic National Convention Because of the pandemic that's still spreading across our country this was as you know, the first ever Zoom meeting of a convention. As of tonight there have been last we need the reminder over 5.4 million cases of coronavirus discovered in our country with over 171,000 of our fellow citizens dead. The pandemic was, of course a major topic and tonight's convention.

Tonight's keynote speaker as you've been hearing, former First Lady Michelle Obama said President Trump downplayed the virus for too long, and she added this.


OBAMA: As honest and clear as I possibly can, Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.


WILLIAMS: Here for our leadoff discussion in this very busy Monday night Phil Rucker, Pulitzer Prize winning White House bureau chief for The Washington Post, co-author along with his stable colleague Carol Leonnig of the best seller A Very Stable Genius.

Also with us, Claire McCaskill, former Democratic senator from the great state of Missouri. And Errin Haines, 10 year veteran of the Associated Press where she last covered race in society these days. She is editor-at-large for The 19th a nonprofit nonpartisan newsroom focused on gender, politics and policy. It's up, go look at it. Good evening, and welcome to you all.

Senator, it strikes me that during normal times, I would have made my way down to the Missouri delegation at some point and interviewed one. Claire McCaskill, I would ask you whether or not you think the American people have four nights of this in them. What you thought of the format and what you thought of the former first lady?

CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D) FMR SENATOR: Well, I don't know if America has four nights of this in them, I thought it was pretty effective. I thought that the music was terrific. I think there was an ability to message with the video clips that I think really was quite powerful. And then there's Michelle. Wow. The thing I missed most about not having a convention tonight, a real convention was the response she would have -- her speech would have taken a lot longer. Because there was a, you know, there would have been many interruptions of people expressing a great deal of affirmation about what she said.

And I got to tell you, her speech was so effective because she didn't frontally go after Donald Trump. As Nicole just said, it was epic shade, but it was elegant shade. I mean a couple of the lines that struck me. He has lived, Joe Biden has lived a life the rest of us can recognize. Well, that is really shade for Donald Trump, because we all know he's lived a life that most of us don't recognize. And then she said, he -- that Joe Biden has humility and maturity we long for.

Once again, pointing out that we've got a guy in the White House who wouldn't know humble if it hit him upside the head, and it has the maturity of a 12 year old. So I think that she did a really good job of not only calling everyone to action, but doing the character analysis of the two candidates. And on that score, of course, I think she came in very strong for Joe Biden.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Claire, what do you think of Kasich and his presence at this gathering tonight? When I saw that earlier today, the President called him a loser and when I read that tonight, Chris Christie called him a backstabber and exhausting, I realized that at least it hits hold for target.

MCCASKILL: Yes, I think they're Republicans who support Donald Trump are obviously going to do nothing but rail on him. I think it was courageous for him to do it. It was interesting to me that we had around 15 speakers tonight. And not that many of them were white men and one of the white man was a Republican. So it really was a diverse group of speakers tonight, including ideology, everything from John Kasich, Meg Whitman all the way to Bernie Sanders.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Errin, I think regular citizens would be forgiven for having forgotten. Michelle Obama started life as a Princeton Harvard Law person. That Michelle Obama is the Michelle Obama that showed up tonight talk about the role you think she will play after tonight, perhaps live and not on video as this, whatever this campaign is going to look like, continues.

ERRIN HAINES, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE 19TH: Oh Brian, no, I actually think that you saw a little bit of Michelle LaVaughn Robinson tonight. I mean, yes, she still reiterated that 2016 catchphrase that caught on of when they go low, we go high. But tonight she went in and we're calling the President hardly by name at all. She made the case for why he was not as good as his predecessor and why she thinks I, you know, that the person that she hoped was going to be his successor to be in the White House in November.

He spoke as a black woman who has said things that I hear black women saying, when they are rallying and organizing the votes in their community and their families, the plan that she laid out to people, telling them, you know, get your ballot early. If you have to stand in line, take a snack, be prepared to wait in line. I mean, this is this is what black women do, headed into an election, telling people in their network, you know the importance of casting their ballot. We saw all of that on display tonight.

In addition to this, I mean a program leading after speech that was centered on voters and really laying out the face of this election in terms of the global pandemic of coronavirus and racism, the threat of voter suppression that is happening, you know, through the Post Office. You know, see, I'm thinking about when he said, you know, we know what's going on in this country is just not right. I mean, that was a message, not necessarily meant to speak to the base, but for some of those people who maybe would have read her book or some of her books or right maybe didn't vote for her husband, but resonate with her and believe and trust her.

And so, I really think as I wrote tonight on The 19th that the becoming vote is the thing that could be activated tonight by one of the most popular people in this country, that being our former First Lady.

WILLIAMS: There is indeed a reason why she was at -- she is always at number one or two most popular women in the world. Hey Phil Rucker. How do we measure the effect of this gathering on Donald Trump?

PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think the next 24 hours are going to tell the story, Brian, we have not seen the President tonight, you know, live tweeting his responses. But we know he's been watching. We know he's going to be consuming the television coverage, as he always does. And he might put on a display of exactly what Michelle Obama was talking about in terms of attacking those who were criticizing him on stage tonight.

And the former first lady has gotten a lot of attention, for which I think she delivered probably the most searing indictment anybody has delivered to the Trump presidency, all of these years. But there was an earlier moment as well, that I think has the potential to really get at Donald Trump and that was the young woman from Arizona who talked about her father 65 years old, who died of COVID after going to a karaoke bar in May after the state of Arizona started to reopen, and she had one quote that I think we're going to hear a lot again.

And it was that his or her father only had one pre existing condition and that was trusting Donald Trump.So, directly blaming his death on the president. And that is something that I suspect the President is not too keen to hear.

WILLIAMS: A great thanks to our guests, especially for your patience as the night drew on and we were waiting to come on to the air. Phil Rucker, Claire McCaskill, Errin Haines, always a pleasure. Thank you.

Coming up for us. They were once rivals on the campaign trail, tonight they came together in a sign of party unity. Senators Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker standing by to talk with us next.

And later he closed night one of the Democratic National Convention in song Emmy Grammy Tony Award winner, actor, musician Billy Porter will join us. We'll play a little bit more for you. The 11th Hour just getting underway this convention Monday night.


WILLIAMS: Unity was the main theme as Democrats, Republicans, former Republicans helped to kick off the first night of the virtual Democratic National Convention. With us tonight, two former presidential contenders Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar and New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker. Good evening and welcome to you both.

Senator Klobuchar, do you think everyone is clear minded about the amount of work that remains between now and the election? There is a tendency that these gatherings even virtual can become feel good pep rallies?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Well, I think they are well aware that work and all you have to do is to listen to Michelle Obama's words right, when she said, if you think things can't get worse they can and then she punctuated with vote like your life depends on it. So, I think she gave a very clear eyed description that people know what we're up against here.

And certainly they know from the last week with the fact that Donald Trump and his henchmen that runs the Postal Service have literally been trying to make it so you can't even get your mail delivered, much less put your ballot in the mailbox.

And I love the part about Michelle's speech and really the unity we saw at the convention where she really got into the nitty gritty. You're going to possibly have to stand in line, so pack your lunch. Get find out all the rules about your absentee ballots and your mail-in ballots. I thought it was amazing. And the other part I loved was Bernie's plead his supporters saying, I need you to vote for him. It was direct.

It was to the point. And then all of us including my friend, Cory, where we gathered together and talked about why we support Joe Biden then it's not just, oh, OK, the campaign ended, so I guess we'll support him. We are enthusiastically supporting him. We are united.

And you saw that with the Republicans as well. That was a topic of my speech. And I really emphasize out of many one, the motto of our nation.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Senator Booker, your colleague from Minnesota has nicely reminded me that I have to talk business with both of you guys, and that is Rome is burning up. Senator Klobuchar mentions the Post Office, mail service is slowing down. Just tonight another story of sorting machines being disassembled in the state of Michigan. This is real and it's happening. And as Claire McCaskill said on this network earlier today, people love the Post Office. This doesn't just hurt Democrats or Republicans. This hurts everybody.

And if you're say an older disabled veteran, waiting on meds to arrive by mail, you're in a world of hurt tonight. What can you tell the good folks watching that members of the U.S. Senate are prepared to do?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): Well, I appreciate you saying that because this is not a crisis waiting to happen. This is a crisis right now. People in this country are living paycheck to paycheck. And when one of those checks in the mail comes late. Food doesn't get put on the table, a rental check is missed or car note is missed. It has real dire consequences. And we know that there are many Americans who get their vital medications through the mail.

And so we have to make sure that we put up full on press on this issue. That was frustrating me and I know, my friend and colleague, Amy, as well, that we are not being called back to the United States Senate to do what the job of Congress is, is to provide oversight check in balance because this is not a partisan issue.

And so the House is moving rightfully to hold hearings to pass legislation. I joined my colleagues and a full throated call for us to get back to Washington and stop this crisis is ongoing, a real challenge of the postal office purposefully being strangled in terms of its ability to handle the mail. Its constitutionally mandated mission is being undermined by this president and the Postmaster General.

Again, two of tonight's speakers. It's virtual, but they both spoke. They are both members of the U.S. Senate on the Democratic side. Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota. Cory Booker from New Jersey. Great states both Thank you, Senators, for being with us tonight.

Coming up for us. The President today compared the city of Chicago to Syria, will talk to the mayor of Chicago when we continue.


WILLIAMS: This election is taking place against the backdrop of a nationwide protest of course for racial injustice in the wake of the death of George Floyd. A lot of people have been taking to the streets in the nation.

Those with democratic mayors have come under special, relentless attack from the president. One of those leaders who you saw if you were watching the telecast earlier tonight is with us now Chicago mayor, Lori Lightfoot.

And Mayor as long as you're having a troubled summer in Chicago, a thought that I know has occurred to you. You're going to keep delivering ammunition to a president who thrives on reputation and the making and breaking of reputations. I know you have staved off the presence of federal storm troops in your city, but update the folks watching tonight on the situation in Chicago, and your hopes for the future near term.

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO, IL: Look, what I think we're seeing manifest in our cities is not just decades of disinvestment, decades of not giving people a seat at the table. But we also seen a manifestation of the last four years of his presidency was focused on division, and not uniting our cities, is focused on making sure that he demonizes everyone who is different. Everyone who is the other instead of reaching out of hand in friendship and region with our cities. This is straight out of Richard Nixon's 1968 playbook, except the demographic and our time to change mightily.

What you saw tonight, and the opening stanzas of this convention, with children from all across our country, singing the Star Spangled Banner, what a powerful testament to who we are and who we must be a complete rejection of everything that Trump is doing, to try to divide us. It gave me chills watching it. And it gave me determination to make sure that we do everything that we can to turn the page on this chart chapter in American history on November 3.

WILLIAMS: Senator, you mentioned '68, those old enough? No, the Chicago was in the news for all the wrong reasons. In '68, it took a democratic senator from Connecticut to accuse the Chicago P.D. and Mayor Daley of Gestapo tactics in the street. That was also the year that gave us the phrase, silent majority.

For a lot of us old timers, we hadn't heard that for decades in this country until Donald Trump. Do you think there is an unmeasured voting bloc for this president out there? Obviously not the first folks watching you and the other Democrats tonight. Do you think I know he's talking to them sometimes coded sometimes out loud? Do you think they're out there?

LIGHTFOOT: Obviously, he's playing a certain constituency in his constituency continues to shrink. When you see, as you saw tonight, independent Republican, people with regrets they voted for him coming out loud and saying, we're done. We need to move in a different direction. We need our country back.

I think the majority that is growing day by day of people and voters all across our country want a return to the greatness of the United States, and not the divisive nastiness that this President rambles in every single day. We're sick and tired of failed leadership. Let's admit it for meeting virtually our schools are closed. Our economy is cratering. I -- clearly failed to manage a federal response to COVID-19 and every single day, the mountain of evidence rose that he is absolutely capable of Michelle Obama got it hundred percent right. This is beyond him and we need a real leader.

WILLIAMS: I just gave you a promotion on the fly to U.S. senator you are for now. In fact the Mayor of the City of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, kind enough to join us tonight after what's already been a long night first night of for the Democratic virtual convention. Mayor, thank you very much for joining us.

We mentioned this next moment with Claire McCaskill because it was unusual it is not every day. You see a member of the opposition party at the convention of the other party, but we want to talk about on of the more unusual moments we saw tonight.


FMR. GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH): I'm a lifelong Republican, but that attachment holds second place to my response. That's why I've chosen to appear at this convention. In normal times, something like this would probably never happened. But these are not normal times.


WILLIAMS: Former Congressman, former governor of Ohio John Kasich, one of several Republican speaking at tonight's convention. Back with us again tonight to talk about this and other topics Steve Schmidt, veteran political strategist who led John McCain's '08 effort and has since left the Republican Party. He was among in fact the founders of the Lincoln Project dedicated to the defeat of Donald Trump and Trumpism. Steve, what did you make of the appearance of John Kasich among other Republicans and former Republicans at the virtual Democratic Convention night one?

STEVE SCHMIDT, VETERAN POLITICAL STRATEGIS: It speaks to the sighs and the diversity of the coalition that Joe Biden is putting together to begin an era of renewal and recovery after the wreckage of the Trump presidency. Brian when George Washington left office after eight years becoming the first human being in 2000 years to voluntarily give up power a man who could have been a king, could have been an emperor, who instead decided to retire his warning to the country that he was the father of was about faction, was about the danger of what political parties were in the day.

He worried about the subordination of national interest to parochial interests to partisan interest. And that's what we have today as we gather to watch the Democratic National Convention. This quadrennial gathering of the oldest political party in the world. The Republican Party is the third oldest in the world.

We've come to this moment in American life where we only have one political party in this country that is Fidelist (ph) to democracy to small l liberal democratic values, to small r republicanism. The other political party, the one that John Kasich has spent his life in, has become an autocratic party. It has become a vessel to venerate a cult of personality built around Donald Trump, who's the most incompetent leader this country has ever had.

So John Kasich and Meg Whitman and the other Republicans today stood up and they said, our country is more important to us than our vesicle attachments to our former political party. And that is a good thing for Joe Biden as he seeks to bring a message that can unify the country and remind the entirety of the country. That whatever differences we have, we have much more in common together than we do in difference.

WILLIAMS: Steve, the President is going after no less than American institution than the constitutionally enshrined post office. As we have this conversation, they are going after the post office and the delivery of U.S. mail, a sacred trust a right of citizenship is being slowed down.

You have talked often about the dissolution of trust in our national traditions. And you have -- we've talked about trust in our elections. The President said today, if he loses, it means the election is rigged. Talk about how pernicious a statement that is, you know, it's not the last time he will say it,

SCHMIDT: It's the most pernicious type of statement that any political leader could ever make in this country because in a democracy, what it requires is one group, one party, one group of candidates being willing to lose, to say, hey, we hear the voters they've spoken. We'll get you next time.

I personally been on both sides of the concession phone call. I've been at the highest level of two presidential campaigns. It's more fun to win than to lose. But I remember being with John McCain as we placed a phone call to Barack Obama, the President elect and the first person who mattered in America that address Barack Obama, the Illinois junior senator is Mr. President Elect was John McCain. It's the loser through his concession that gives legitimacy to the victor.

And what Donald Trump is doing is assaulting the tradition of the peaceful transition of power in this country that has gone on uninterrupted since 1797, and he is assaulting the tradition of free and fair elections in this in this country that have gone on since 1788. And it is appalling. It is disgraceful and the only thing more disgraceful than his liberal pronouncements about the election.

His assault on Americans right to vote is the silent, cowardly collaboration of the Republican Party's elected membership in the Congress, in the House and the Senate, who with few exceptions, have not condemned that.

We vote in this country Brian, we pick our leaders. Free and fair elections are the keystone to American democracy. We are a government of the people by the people for the people and it is an emergency in the United States of America, when the President of the United States is no longer faithful to that core idea, that we settle our differences peacefully in elections, and nobody should have any doubt about this.

If Donald Trump could lock up his political opponents, would he? He would we know that. If he could shutter newspapers and close down broadcast networks, who were critical of him, would he? He would. This is an autocratic personality, who was assaulting all of our institutions and our most fundamental democratic traditions for the purposes of retaining political power. He is losing the election, because he is the most incompetent and inept leader this country has ever had is turned the most scientifically advanced nation in the world to the epicenter of coronavirus, death and suffering. We have a shattered economy.

Everywhere we look across the country, we see the vision and broken dreams. And Donald Trump knows his only hope of victory is to try to steal an election. And you think, from Lexington and Concord, the shot heard round the world, to the beaches of Normandy, to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. This generation of Americans was given an inheritance. And that inherent parent that inheritance was a four in blood, in blood by American patriots, for our long history, and that's what Donald Trump is assaulting and attacking with his illiberal undemocratic statements, talking about ending the free and fair election process in the country.

WILLIAMS: Steve Schmidt, thank you very much for being a part of our broadcast tonight as always.

SCHMIDT: Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS: A break for us coming up. He helped wrap up day one of the DNC, the multiple award winning Billy Porter standing by to talk with us when we continue.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked me when others are going so low, does going high still really work? My answer, going high, is the only thing that works. Because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanizing others, we just become part of the ugly noise that's drowning out everything else. We degrade ourselves, we degrade the very causes for which we fight.



WILLIAMS: Joining us following his performance at the Democratic Convention tonight is Billy Porter and we're happy about it. He's a Tony, Grammy, Emmy Award winning actor, director and artist also happens to be an outspoken advocate and activist for racial and LGBTQ equality.

Billy I suppose if you have to record a cast album from a Broadway cast, they put you in a sterile studio without an audience and you have to conjure all that energy and I'm guessing this was no different. Let's talk about your choice of the song I am old enough to remember when it came out. The song is called For What It's Worth, but a lot of people associated with the first lyric, there's something happening here what it is ain't exactly clear, please, the floor is yours.

BILLY PORTER, AWARD WINNING ACTOR AND ACTIVIST: Yes, I've always been a political person as a first generation post civil rights movement. And then when I was 15 years old, I came out as gay, we went straight to the frontlines to fight for our lives during the AIDS crisis. Activism is in my DNA. We have been terrorized for the last three plus years. And I knew that I wanted to get involved in a conversation. So I recorded for what it's worth, all the way back in September, knowing that I wanted to have something in the markets when the election came along.

WILLIAMS: Talk about the clear and present danger to your country as you see it.

PORTER: Yes, I, you know, I've never seen anything like it. You know, Michelle Obama said it best in her speech tonight and it was so refreshing to hear somebody talk about it in plain truth. You know, we have been double speaking for three years. Everybody's been afraid to say exactly what the truth is. And the truth is, Donald Trump has destroyed our country. And we have one decision to make. And it is to get it back.

And the way that we do that is to participate. I loved the thing tonight we the people, it really engaged me it really inspired me. It made me feel like we have a shot. We got to keep on getting in good trouble. I'm excited. It really, really, you know, spoke to me tonight.

WILLIAMS: It's tough in a pandemic, isn't it?


WILLIAMS: I mean, if you were asked to go on the campaign trail to perform to rile up crowds, you simply you can't do. You've been prevented from spreading your energy.

PORTER: Right. But what I think is really special about this time is that I found myself listening differently. I found myself being present in a different way. Because there was no audience, because there was no pomp and circumstance, I really focused in, I felt for myself in a different way than I ever have before. And I really feel like it's reaching us in a different way it has to, you know, so we show up and we do what we do.

WILLIAMS: Loved your remake of the song and for me, I learned something tonight, and that is the reigning king of the red carpet has the most beautiful high gloss French blue fireplace metal I think I've ever seen.

PORTER: Well, you're very sweet. Thank you very much,

WILLIAMS: Billy, thanks for having us, and we appreciate it.

PORTER: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: At the end of a long night spending a few minutes with us, the terrifically talented performer Billy Porter has been our guest tonight.

Coming up. We have more special coverage of night one. Let's not forget of the Democratic National Convention virtual edition when the second hour of "THE 11th HOUR" continues.


WILLIAMS: Welcome back once again as we cross the top of the midnight hour here on the East Coast.