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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, August 25, 2020

Guests: Peter Baker, Kimberly Atkins, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Robert Gibbs, David Plouffe, Natalie Azar, Mike Murphy, Eugene Robinson


The Republicans hold their first night of convention in Charlotte, North Carolina where the officially re-nominated Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Protests have broken out in Kenosha, Wisconsin after the point-blank shooting of Jacob Blake by police officers that left him is serious condition. The 2020 Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 RNC. Trump escalates attacks on mail-in voting and sowing doubt about election integrity saying that he will only lose if the election is rigged.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR HOST: Well, good evening once again. As we crossed the top of the hour, meaning, midnight here on the East Coast, so begins day 1,314 of the Trump administration, 70 days until our next presidential election.

Night one of this four night television show brought to us by the Republican Party is now over. The actual convention opened and closed already. It took place earlier today in Charlotte, North Carolina which was where Republican delegates officially re-nominated President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. That was followed by what we saw tonight.

The messaging was largely a warning about the dangers of our country under a President Joe Biden, a nation at risk of slipping into lawlessness, chaos, socialism without the leadership of Donald Trump.


RONNA MCDANIEL, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRWOMAN: Democrats started their convention last week with Eva Longoria. Well, I'm actually a real housewife.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From that moment, he came down that famous escalator, he started a movement. Trump is the bodyguard of western civilization.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel for local businesses across America who are under assault and how facing the terrifying prospect of Joe Biden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They'll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump's quick action and leadership saved thousands of lives during COVID-19.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you President Trump for providing timely access to critical diagnostics and therapeutics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a nursing supervisor, I am so in all of your leadership.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I'm for the nurses and for the doctors. I'm for everybody.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Democrats refuse to denounce the (INAUDIBLE) and their response to the chaos, defund the police, defund Border Patrol, and defund our military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is personal to me. I wouldn't be here without the bravery and heroism of the men and women in law enforcement who saved my life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I truly believe the safety of our kids depends on whether this man is re-elected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joe Biden believes we can't think for ourselves, that the color of someone's skin dictates their political views. We're not Biden allies anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen racism up close. I know what it is, and it isn't Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democratic Party has become infected with a pandemic of intolerance, bigotry, socialism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want to control what you see and think and believe so that they can control how you live.

TRUMP: And I'm very pleased to let everybody know that we brought back over 50 hostages from 22 different countries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump, he's fighting the forces of anarchy and communism.

NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Joe Biden and the Democrats are still blaming America first.

DONALD TRUMP JR., DONALD TRUMP'S SON: Joe Biden is basically the Loch Ness monster of the swamp.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make no mistake. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want a cultural revolution, a fundamentally different America.


WILLIAMS: So that's about the way that went. The first night of this Republican event comes as the nation is once again confronted with issues of race and policing. Officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot 29-year-old Jacob Blake in the back multiple times, seven shots can be heard, point-blank range on Sunday in front of his children. Witnesses said Blake had been trying to break up an argument. The incident was caught on video. We want to warn you it's difficult to watch.

Blake remains hospitalized in serious condition in Wisconsin tonight. And tonight, protests have broken out once again in Kenosha. The officers involved are now on administrative leave while the investigation begins.

It's a lot. Let's talk about what we witnessed on this first night of the week with our lead-off guests for this hour and with thanks to them for staying up with us. Kimberly Atkins, formerly of WBOR and the Boston Herald, now a member of the Boston Globe Editorial Board, Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for the New York Times, and Brittany Packnett Cunningham, a veteran activist on matters of race and social justice and policing, former member of President Obama's 21st century policing task force.

Welcome to you all. Peter, I'd like to begin with your beat and that is the Trump White House. And I want to begin with some comments from the president today in North Carolina, we'll discuss on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want to really drive him crazy, you say 12 more years.

CROWD: Twelve more years! Twelve more years!

TRUMP: We have to be very careful because they're trying it again with this whole 80 million mail-in ballots that they're working on. Sending them out to people that didn't ask for them. This time, they're trying to do it with a whole post office scam. They'll blame it on the post office. The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election. We're going to win this election.

What they're doing is using COVID to steal an election.



TRUMP: They're using COVID to defraud the American people, all of our people.


WILLIAMS: So Peter, this is the president who promised a positive story, a positive message, criticize the Democrats for their gathering as the darkest in history. And I imagine you're going to tell me this is the way it's going to be for the next 70 days.

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that's right. Look, this is -- you know, this convention is not so much the Republican convention as it is a Trump show, right? We saw the president not once, not twice, but three times a day on the opening day of a convention in which a president typically does not appear in person. That's something we're not used to.

Usually, you see the president at the end of a convention accepting the nomination for his second term. This is the president who doesn't want to leave it until Thursday. He had showed up in that speech you showed earlier today during the roll call down in Charlotte. He showed up twice, again from the White House during the evening program once with coronavirus, first responders and once with hostages as you showed.

And the idea is basically is he's going to dominate this message and the message will be whatever he decides it is at any given moment. Now, broadly speaking, there is a certain unified discipline message to this, that Biden is a captain of the radical left, that the streets are filled with anarchy, and you have something to be afraid of. If the Democratic convention was dark, this is a convention of fear. You have a lot to fear if you elect the other side.

And that's what the president is trying to do here. He's trying to turn it from a referendum on himself which is what it's really been up until now and do a choice between him and unacceptable alternative. And because his (INAUDIBLE) are now finally beginning in the fall campaign season in earnest, we're seeing him starting to make out that choice as he sees it, and we'll see how the Democrats respond.

WILLIAMS: Kim, the pro tip that we've come to know over three and a half years for all those working for the president is always begin your remarks by saying first of all, I want to thank this president for his leadership. I must say the quote tonight from the microphone that got our attention was calling Trump the bodyguard of western civilization. Do they hope that will be the through line for the remaining three nights?

KIMBERLY ATKINS, THE BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Well, I think what that comment was really meant to convey was that Donald Trump is the bodyguard for a very specific part of western civilization, about how they see this. This was really -- Peter is right in the fact that they are painting an idea that Donald Trump needs to protect his supporters from something. That something was clearly black and brown people, immigrants, and everybody who don't look like the McCloskeys who feared protesters walking in broad daylight in their neighborhoods so much that they arm themselves and want to spot in tonight's RNC. So, I think that part was very clear.

The one place that I would disagree with Peter a little bit is that I don't think the message was quite unified at all. Because you have Donald Trump at the top of this, the platform after all, is nothing but just adherence to whatever Donald Trump wants. And that's why you had Senator Tim Scott speaking about racial equality in a way that seemed completely disharmony -- in disharmony with what the McCloskeys was talking -- we're talking about which was in absolute fear that anybody who makes less money and who is browner than them should not belong in their neighborhoods. I think it has left everybody at this convention really fending for themselves, trying to paint a picture of what was promised to be optimism in a Trump administration that makes that all but impossible.

WILLIAMS: Brittany, Jacob Blake, I was thinking about you today knowing there was a good chance you would be on with us tonight. The video is unbelievable to watch and yet, in many ways it shouldn't be. Before we discuss it, I want to play this for you some helpful hints from Nikki Haley tonight on which black lives matter.


HALEY: The black cops who've been shot in the line of duty, they matter. The black small business owners who've watched their life's work go up in flames, they matter. The black kids who've been gunned down on the playground, their lives matter too.


WILLIAMS: Brittany, I'm pretty sure Jacob Blake's life matters. And I'm pretty sure a bunch of people reacted in disbelief that this has happened again during this period.

BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM, FORMER MEMBER OF OBAMA POLICING TASK FORCE: You know, if Nikki Haley really believes that all those black lives matter, then she wouldn't be a part of a party that continues to stand in the way of gun control. You know, we continue to see this hypocrisy come from the GOP over and over and over again. And tonight, it was on full and proud display. This thing was like a Willie Horton ad on steroids quite frankly.

And we have to be very clear, Donald Trump is making a clear play for black voters. He knows he's not going to win the majority of us or even a plurality. But what he can do is attempt to peel off a few percentage points of black voters in essential states and do what we now know he was very excited about given that leaked audio coming out of an early meeting when his administration began in 2016. That he was very excited that a lot of these misinformation and disinformation employees had worked in certain spaces.

But we have to be very, very clear and not allow somebody like Nikki Haley or Donald Trump to misrepresent what has been happening to black Americans under this administration. Earlier today at the RNC, Donald Trump said that he was the best president for black Americans since Lincoln. He would, of course, tout those low unemployment numbers for black people before COVID-19. But what he won't tell you is that both the wage gap and the wealth gap between black and white Americans is growing not shrinking under his presidency. He's rolled back the healthcare and environmental protections that we need. His Department of Education does not investigate the civil rights claims and the ways that it needs to. This Department of Justice which he has full control over does not investigate the departments that continue to kill black and brown people wantonly as James Blake almost had done to him just yesterday in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

He has disrespected our country, he has disrespected our heroes, he has failed to meet the moment of a pandemic that is disproportionately killing black people. And he's done all of this while emboldening the white supremacists who threaten our lives every single day. If Donald Trump is the best president for black Americans since Abraham Lincoln, then you can call me the queen of England.

WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, let's talk about this president. And let's talk about the odds that everything else going on is going to affect his words or behavior. His own sister, a retired federal judge, trashing him on audio tape. Steve Bannon arrested on a yacht owned by a Chinese billionaire accused of bilking good faith investors in a southern border wall keeping the money for himself. Mr. Falwell, Trump's bridge to so many evangelicals in a certain amount of wreckage tonight.

How is it all going to manifest itself as a veteran Trump watcher?

BAKER: Yes. I think if you were trying to map out what this week would look like if you're a Republican National Committee organizer, this is not the lead-up you would have chosen, right. Obviously, Steve Bannon being hauled away in handcuffs from a Chinese billionaire's yacht on charges of bilking Trump's own supporters with build the wall scam is hardly the message he wants. Remember, of course, this was Steve Bannon who was the architect of his last campaign that he won. The campaign manager over the last campaign is Kellyanne Conway who said on Sunday night she's going to step down in the White House because she wants to pay more attention to her family.

So this has not been a good lead-up for the president. And yet, he has a history I think we've seen over the last four years, five even as a candidate of sort of bowling through each and every setback, each and every controversy, each and every dispute right through it to the next one. And we kind of tend to lose sight of sometimes are the ones that would have caused, you know, week's worth of conversation in some other era.

Now, he needs to have a good convention this week to kind of get some traction back. He is behind in the polls significantly. You know, he's already done trying to lay out the reason why he might lose as you played earlier. He's saying if he lose it's because it was rigged. That's as even some of his own people say that's just laying out a predicate to explain a possible loss.

But he's only got a few weeks left. It's not very long. In fact, early voting begins even sooner. So the time is running short and each day that he doesn't have, you know, complete command of the conversation each day, that's distracted by all these different setbacks is a day he's not going to get back.

WILLIAMS: Kim, you mentioned this, I want to read what passes for the Republican platform, the part of the platform that announces there's not going to be any platform this year. "The RNC enthusiastically supports President Trump and continues to reject the policy positions of the Obama-Biden administration, as well as those espoused by the DNC. The Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the president's America first agenda. The 2020 Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention."

So they'll give it a whirl the next time around. Kim, what about a re-labeling TNC from RNC?

ATKINS: I think that's exactly what we are seeing. Look, platforms of a party are not binding, it's noteworthy that even portions of the Democratic platform differ from Joe Biden's own agenda. In this case, the fact that there is not a Republican platform isn't the most remarkable part. The most remarkable part is what you just read. The platform is essentially we pledge allegiance to Donald Trump. That is absolutely remarkable for a party who has completely just become the party of Trump.

Consider that the last person to be nominated by Republicans to be president is neither invited nor welcome to this convention. The only living former Republican president is not invited nor welcome to this convention. Four years ago, we saw what was a splintering of the Republican Party in real time with folks like, you know, Ted Cruz at the time having a moment where he actually spoke out against Donald Trump on the convention floor and got booed for it.

Now all those people have been ousted from the party. And we have seen a smaller and more Trumpified party that is on display now. It is really -- I look forward to see what happens in the future because this is unsustainable. Does a new party emerge from this? It's really a party in crisis and this is just one example of that.

WILLIAMS: Brittany, one more question, and I hope I'm asking it correctly. Were you surprised at and we're all going off the same video, innocent until proven guilty, we will learn more about this case. With that as the predicate, were you surprised by the policing on display in that video? In our post-George Floyd era, we now have Jacob Blake in the hospital fighting for his life, shot, you can hear the seven shots there at point-blank range in front of his kids. Just the self-awareness that in a situation go with a less lethal device, go with, you know, avoidance of a situation kind of the de-escalation that is now taught in -- or should be in every police academy in our country.

CUNNINGHAM: I'm not at all surprised by that behavior. You know, we have seen over time that unfortunately even with greater awareness of police violence across the country, there's not been a major decline in police violence across the country. Even with the threat of being caught on video as this was, we know that that has not actually changed officer behavior. If media alone were enough to stop this kind of violence against black people, we would have been done with this a long time ago. Lynching postcards date all the way back to the 1880s. Emmett Till was buried in an open casket funeral in 1955, 65 years ago. Rodney King was beat on video in 1991.

If seeing black bodies destroyed by racism and racist institutions were enough to make it stop, we wouldn't have the movement that we have right now. So unfortunately, these kinds of behaviors will continue until we actually begin to see not only accountability in the system because that hasn't shifted either and we are still in a place where very, very few police are actually ever held accountable for taking someone's life. But we also have to actually fully re-imagine what public safety looks like in our communities. Moving money from departments like the ones in Kenosha, Wisconsin, we're over 30 percent of the municipal budget is poured into that department. Moving it into better housing, better schools, better social services, so that communities are safe from the ground up is not only not too much to ask, it's what the American people deserve.

WILLIAMS: I am reminded that 65 years ago, today, in fact, young Emmett Till walked into Bryant's market. The encounter that would, of course, lead to the end of his life but also lead to a new chapter in the civil rights struggle which has not ended.

Kimberly Atkins, Peter Baker, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, our thanks for staying up late with us and being with us here tonight.

Coming up, Obama veterans Robert Gibbs, David Plouffe join us with their take on night one. Our special coverage continues after this break.



KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE, TRUMP VICTORY FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIR: They want to destroy this country and everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your liberty, your freedom, they want to control what you see and think and believe so that they can control how you live.


WILLIAMS: Kimberly Guilfoyle yelling over the crowd noise though the crowd was not there this year. The Associated Press explains the president's convention strategy this way, quote, Trump is looking to shift his campaign away from being a referendum on a presidency ravaged by a pandemic and economic collapse and toward a choice between vastly different visions of America's future that was written before tonight's night one.

Back with us again tonight, two veterans of the Obama White House, David Plouffe, former Obama campaign manager and senior advisor. His latest work is, "A Citizen's Guide to Beating Donald Trump". And Robert Gibbs, former Obama campaign senior advisor and White House press secretary under one Barack Obama.

Gentlemen, welcome to you. David, first of all, production elements since we critique the Democrats last week, it was mostly by my account, pre-recorded speeches from an empty hall, a lectern, lots of flags, no trick to that. Anything you saw, and again, as someone in your world envied as a production element.

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: No, I thought, you know, on night one, the Democratic Convention was more cohesive, it was more of a story. You know, I thought the first video they played right at the top of hour 10 made a good case for the president. What I found interesting tonight -- so I don't think there was any huge misses there. I think it's hard for some people to project into an empty auditorium, is that clearly they're not comfortable with their base. So most of tonight, I think, was aimed at their base to get them more excited and to make them volunteer, register, and turnout.

There were some speakers that maybe would have some impact with swing voters. Nikki Haley, some of her speech top most of it. Tim Scott. But what's interesting, it's like Donald Trump is the weight. So him this morning, I think even the stilted and illegal episodes he had from the White House, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Don Jr., so anybody with a name of Trump, who's dating a Trump sets it back and that's the question.

Throughout this week, I think you're going to have good videos, I'm sure you will. That's pretty easy to do. And you'll have some speakers make a compelling case on the economy. They seem to be ignoring COVID for the most part. But Trump, if he's going to be this omnipresent, just reminds people that they want to turn the page and I don't think he can help himself.

He wants to be front and center, this is not the Republican convention. This is the cult of Trump, everybody must bow to him and talk about what an awesome leader he is. And I think at the end of the day to win this election where Trump's traveling, he has to find more suburban vote, we're seeing your vote to come home to him not just strengthen his base. I didn't see anything tonight that did that.

And again, I think Trump is the one in the way here, which is (INAUDIBLE) to his convention. But at the end of the day, I think he is going to prevent them from making the progress they need desperately.

WILLIAMS: Robert Gibbs, I was stunned in the video we're showing on the right hand side of the screen. The president had those first responders, frontline workers, White House visitors, he mentions hydroxychloroquine, it gets a laugh. It's not taken seriously by the people in the room. I was amazed the RNC left that reaction in the permanent version that aired.

How would you sum up tonight's broadcast, Robert?

ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, that particular segment that you talked about, it was stunning that Donald Trump just has to be the focus and has to be the funniest and smartest guy in the room. And that's the only way to really try to explain that part of it.

Look, I thought their last hour as David said the lead-in video was strong. The speakers were diverse and their theme is more traditional Republican themes of crime and public safety and taxes are ones that are going to have to be continually answered by the vice president's campaign. I think the challenges they have that same AP that wrote the lead of what you just read, had Trump approval rating at 35 percent this morning which means that the American people are going to have to suspend what they know about his leadership in the coronavirus. And I think that will be hard for him to walk away from regardless of the amount of gauzy videos.

Their strategy is one to lift the base and to find enough disaffected voters that would be their base if they participated. And that's a tall order without turning more people off.

And lastly, I think it's going to be really hard as one of the speakers said to make Joe Biden the usher of this socialist utopia or the powerful speech given by the Cuban-American, but somehow given over to Joe Biden that he's America's Fidel Castro. I think those are leaps just -- that are going to be ultimately too great for most voters who aren't going to picture Joe Biden like that.

WILLIAMS: But Robert, as I said, the sub-theme was darkness on the edge of town, meaning if that's where you live, the bad forces are coming for you.

GIBBS: Absolutely. Donald Trump is positioning himself as the only person protecting America from that chaos, from that fear. And it's a strategy in order to keep that base highly energized and to look for those voters that if they were to participate because they've fallen out of participating to get back into the boat with him. Again, I think it's a tall order because I just don't think that's a growing segment of the electorate. I think he's got to add far more voters to try to do that.

But I expect, you know, despite what you heard on Sunday, on the Sunday shows about hope and optimism and you can give tonight a grandiose theme like the land of opportunity. But I think that the speakers will continue to be dark. I think the tactic will continue to be fear, because they're trying to keep that grievance balloon in the air.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: David, final 45 seconds of wisdom, what should the Democrats be up to this week?

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I think fact checking so you could do that, you know, from now to the end of eternity. Kamala Harris is going to be out doing some events. I think that I do think this argument -- now Trump is hemorrhaging suburban support. So as much as they're trying to say Biden's going to eliminate the suburbs as we know it. These voters already -- they're concerned about Donald Trump. They don't like what he's done to their communities.

But I do think you've got to watch this notion. They played it successfully in the past that no -- and Joe Biden does not want to defund the police. Plenty people in my party want to. He doesn't. So you can't just shrug your shoulders and say no one's going to believe this stuff. And I'm sure they won't. You got to be watching this carefully, be responding. But at the end of the day, Joe Biden leaves his convention with not the race, wider the margin, but people feeling more favorably disposed to him a little more energy. That's great. And so I think you want to build on that, not just this week, but for the rest of the campaign. But you have to watch some of these attacks as much as you can roll your eyes and shrug your shoulders. I've seen plenty of these attacks work in my life. I think we have to be mindful of that.

WILLIAMS: Good advice from two professionals who know David Plouffe, Robert Gibbs, gentlemen, thank you, as always for having us in and staying up with us.

Coming up, more fact checking, as David suggested on this Republican, unique mix of pandemic and politics, we have a doctor standing by who has treated COVID patients now for months. I'll get it out when the 11th Hour continues.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One leader took decisive action to save lives, President Donald Trump banning travel from China and coronavirus epicenters.


WILLIAMS: Tonight's message was all about praising the President's response to the coronavirus conveniently omitting the comparisons he made to the flu, leaving aside the number of times he said the virus would just go away or disappear as recently as today, ignoring the fact that our country lost the month of February as the virus was slowly in circling us, or the President's push to reopen states before they met the requirements from his own administration.

With us tonight, Dr. Natalie Azar, rheumatologist and assistant clinical professor of Rheumatology at NYU Langone Medical Center. She also happens to be an MSNBC Medical Contributor.

Doc, it's great to have you back on the broadcast. We are looking at a projection University of Washington models somewhere north of 300,000 souls gone by December 1. Match what you know against what you heard in that convention tonight. What is the national state of this virus?

DR. NATALIE AZAR, NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER ASSISTANT CLINICAL PROFESSOR: It's not good, Brian. You know, you can think about the administration's response to this pandemic took a number of missteps. There were a lot of deficiencies. But in general, basically, it was a failure of political leadership mixed with a really, really bad distrust of science that the President himself modeled and his, you know, his followers echoed.

And I think probably one of the biggest things that came as a surprise to me is just how ingrained the tension is between civil liberties and civic duty. And I think that all just became really a deadly mix. And we are seeing now is we're heading into flu season that we are ill prepared still after all of these months, and it's going to be a bumpy road ahead.

WILLIAMS: Let's talk about the institutions in your line of work and all of ours as citizens places like CDC, FDA that seem willing from the cheap seats at least to bow to political pressure. Story out of the Financial Times says that the U.S. is interested in bringing a British vaccine here and circumventing the last round of testing. Dr. Fauci said this, "One of the potential dangers if you prematurely lead a vaccine out that it would make it more difficult if not impossible for the other vaccines to enroll people in their trial."

And Doctor, while I'm no public health expert, it seems to me it if a vaccine came to market that had skipped a step rumors about it's not being up to snuff would only further decrease the number of people willing to get it. There's a reason they had Elvis Presley get the Salk vaccine in public. Cameras were there to instill public confidence which is going to be absolutely key.

AZAR: Well, sure, Brian, and you know, just the name alone Operation Warp Speed, which was truly unfortunate, you know, because the speed of it really had nothing to do at this point with omitting steps in the process. The process of making and manufacturing and studying a vaccine is very tedious. As we've talked about multiple times, there are -- the pre-marketing, pre-licensing phase, phase one, phase two, phase three, and then there's a whole post marketing phase with FDA review and non-FDA review and a whole host of other things before a vaccine actually comes to market, but specifically what's taught -- what's being talked about here is the idea of approving or allowing for regulatory approval of a vaccine before it completes a phase three clinical trial, which is the largest of the three phases, the one that's really most critical in establishing safety and efficacy. That's what the Russian vaccine conversation is all about the Sputnik 5, that's something that here in America, we don't anticipate something like that happening.

I will add that, you know, again, I don't know if I can verify this necessarily, but I believe that AstraZeneca did release a statement saying that it had no intention of doing this. But nonetheless, even the fact that we're talking about it as a remote possibility, is truly concerning.

WILLIAMS: We all want this vaccine, is the end of every sentence when we talk about when life may go back to normal, but all of us have consumers should demand rigor in its testing and selection. Remind the good folks watching what can go wrong?

AZAR: In a vaccine trial, you mean?


AZAR: Yeah, I mean, look, there's a reason that it takes years. The first phase, you're basically just looking for a safety signal. Second phase, you're enrolling more individuals. Again, looking for a possibility that a vaccine is actually going to be doing what you want it to do. And by the way, that's just basically studying people's blood. This is a Petri dish result that you're looking for.

And finally, in the phase three trial, you're taking tens of thousands of people, you're dividing them into two groups, you're giving half the group vaccine, half the group placebo, and then you wait a very long time usually. You wait for the group in the placebo group to get infected unfortunately, naturally, and showed a distinction or a difference between the group that got vaccinated.

And at any point in time in those phases if a safety signal emerges, that is concerning, the trials are halted. It's truly not until you get to the end of it, that you can really say with some assuredness that this is the vaccine that I'm willing to give healthy people. And by the way, there's even something called phase four, which is post-marketing evaluation that continues to monitor safety and efficacy in vaccines even after they are approved and they are on the market.

WILLIAMS: Only thing worse for them, no vaccine would be a bad one, Dr. Natalie Azar, thank you as always for coming on our broadcast.

Coming up for us, our coverage of the first night of the RNC continues.



DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: People of faith are under attack. You're not allowed to go to church. But mass chaos in the streets gets a pass. It's almost like this election is shaping up to be church, work and school versus rioting, looting, and vandalism, or in the words of Biden and the Democrats, peaceful protesting.


WILLIAMS: Our country in the view of DJTJ, the president's son back with us tonight, Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist for The Washington Post, and Mike Murphy, Republican Strategist, co-director of the Center for the Political Future at the University of Southern California. He confirms there will be a political future. He also happens to be co-host of the Raucous Hacks on tap podcast.

Gentlemen, welcome to you both. Mike, since it's been way too long, how did you enjoy the show? And how's your old party looking right about now?

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, it was a show. I did a little experiment. I was able to turn off my TV, open a window and still hear Kimberly Guilfoyle's speech all the way across the country. If volume were votes, they would have wrapped it up.

I think the bottom line is the race hasn't changed. But if I were the Democrats, I would take some of this stuff seriously. I mean, there were kind of greatest hits of kind of the clowny base element of the party that Trump Organization has never tried to widen his appeal. They keep doubling down. That's our big challenge, but some of this culture wars stuff Where they're trying to change the election from a referendum on Trump versus COVID Trump job approval, Trump running the economy to a larger fight between America and the radical woke left that wants to tear down statutes and riot in your suburb. There's some power in that. So as an elegant as it was they lit a message views that does have some power in the Biden campaign should take it seriously.

WILLIAMS: Eugene, take on that point, while contrasting what we saw tonight with the four nights of the Democrats that you and I talked about?

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Well, well, first of all, you're going to contrast with last week the production values were different and not as sophisticated I thought, you know, basically speeches on tape to an empty room, a cavernous empty room at the Mellon Auditorium not far from the White House, and then suited some of the speeches is fine. Others like, you know, Kimberly Guilfoyle sort of getting in touch with her inner Eva Perone. That was -- that didn't work for that speech.

But I do agree with Mike, that that's certainly what the convention is seeking to do. It's seeking not to let this be a referendum on Donald Trump because they're bound to lose that. They're going to lose a referendum election. And that's what they see coming. And so they're trying to make it into a culture war election.

And, you know, America is popular, right? The idea of America is popular now, nothing the Democrats said or did last week, in any way, shape, or form, negated the idea of America but Republicans are going to tell us for three more nights that everything that Democrats said, negated the idea of America and so on that's going to have to be responded to, in some way because, again, the Democrats want it to be a referendum. If it's a referendum, they win going away.

WILLIAMS: Mike, one question that I got to hit a break. To Lawrence O'Donnell's point, who are the undecideds watching tonight who are going to be convinced that they are coming for you in the suburbs?

MURPHY: Well, the -- there's a chunk of them. They're probably three to 4% of the electorate and a couple of key places like Florida and the industrial Midwest. They don't like Trump, but they have Republican wallets, and a lot of them are either suburban, often female College Educated Republicans, and independents, who often vote Republican, but don't brag about it. So on one hand, they're worried about Biden's agenda from the AOC wing. And on the other hand, they're turned off by Trump's thuggishness and his incompetence in office.

Trump is still perceived. We've done some that Republican voters against Trump, we've done some polling of these people. Trump is still perceived with an edge over Biden on managing the economy. So if the Trump campaign can wish the coronavirus away with vaccine leaks or whatever, in the psychology, then that opens up the economic front where maybe with all these liberal attacks, Biden could be vulnerable. Anyway, those are the suburbanites account.

WILLIAMS: Eugene and Michael are -- have agreed to stay with us. I will fit in a quick break here.

Coming up, the racial tensions that aren't going away through these final months and weeks of a presidential campaign, quite the opposite when we come back.



MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP'S FORMER FIXER: I was complicit in helping conceal the real Donald Trump. I was part of creating an illusion. Later this week, he's going to stand up and blatantly lied to you. I'm here to tell you, he can't be trusted, and you shouldn't believe a word he utters.


WILLIAMS: The American Bridge PAC put together and paid for that ad. Still with us for our final moments, our guests, Eugene Robinson and Mike Murphy. Mike, this is from your side of the political world. Part of a longer ad, will it be effective to hear from a guy who has now done jail time and paid a dear price for being a part of that inner circle?

MURPHY: You know, I think it's a single not a home run anything and I Trump I'm for but people know he has bad character and he's a liar that's cooked in. The rates, is going to be about who do they think their personal interest? Their, you know, healthcare costs, taxes, things like that is better served by Trump or Biden. And because Trump is better defined by Biden, at this point in the race, that's a jump ball.

WILLIAMS: But Mike, Trump has that new health care plan that's probably only two weeks away from being unveiled?

MURPHY: I hear it's a doozy. I think Clorox tablets are part of it and I'm sure it'll be the miracle plan does solve all. I'm waiting to read it.

WILLIAMS: One for every American, as I understand it. Eugene, because we're polite people, let's just say this. We may see a study in contrasts tomorrow night for people who watched the former First Lady, address the democratic gathering. We have the contrast to that Mrs. Trump tomorrow night. This is how I'm able to toss it over to you and let you say things about this.

ROBINSON: Well, let me see what I could say about that. Brian, yes, it will be a contrast. And no, I don't expect the kind of speech we heard from Michelle Obama. I don't expect a lawyer's argument that builds to -- build some argument and makes a point at the end and then calls for everybody, everybody to vote. If anything, I expect kind of a softer version perhaps, of what we heard tonight, which is, you know, you should be afraid of those evil Democrats and you should vote for Donald. I think that's kind of going to be -- I think to yours the way that we're going to play this whole convention.

WILLIAMS: I will end here with an advertisement for the latest column by my friend Eugene, on the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, and all that has followed and just where we are as a society.

So with that, our thanks to Eugene Robinson and Mike Murphy, greatly appreciate it, gentlemen, every time you're on. That is our special edition tonight of the 11th Hour. Thank you for being here with us as always.

MSNBC live political coverage of this night, one of the GOP continues right after this quick break at the top of the hour.



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