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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, August 31, 2020

Guests: Frank Figliuzzi, Murtaza Akhtar


Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden denounced violence and looting and promised a safer nation if he's elected, criticized President Trump for fanning the flames of unrest and failing to protect Americans. President Donald Trump is heading to Kenosha defying local leaders. A federal appeals court ruled Monday against Michael Flynn and the Justice Department in their request to quickly shut down his criminal case. Trump's new coronavirus advice downplays testing asymptomatic patients. FDA head says he is willing to fast-track COVID-19 vaccine.


STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening once again. I'm Steve Kornacki in for Brian Williams who has the night off. Day 1,320 of the Trump administration and 64 days until the presidential election.

Donald Trump is pushing to center stage of this campaign a message of what he calls law and order escalating his efforts to portray his opponent Joe Biden as someone who would preside over a chaotic and lawless America.

Today, Biden fought back. He is blaming Trump for the violence that is broken out in various cities around the country this summer. And that erupted again this weekend in Portland, Oregon.

A caravan of Trump supporters drove through that city on Saturday clashing with demonstrators who are protesting police brutality. Trump supporters in trucks reportedly shot paintball guns at the protesters, who then threw objects back at them. One man affiliated with a right wing group was shot and killed.

The President took to social media in the wake of all this, praising the pro Trump activists as great patriots. The President also retweeted a message supporting the 17 year old charged in connection with two fatal shootings during the unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin last week. Those demonstrations were in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake, who is now said to be paralyzed.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's stroking violence in our cities. I want to make it absolutely clear rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It's lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted right look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters, really? I want to save America safe from COVID, safe from crime and looting, safe from racially motivated violence, safe from bad cops.

Let me be crystal clear, say from four more years of Donald Trump is rooting for chaos and violence. These are not images of some imagined Joe Biden American the future. These are images of Donald Trump's America today. He keeps telling you if only he was president, it wouldn't happen. Well, he is President whether he knows it or not. And it is happening.


KORNACKI: In a few hours later, the President offered this response.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: The rioters and Joe Biden have a side they're both on the side of the radical left and that is so obvious from what I saw I don't believe you mentioned the word Antifa. When you surrendered the Bob, you don't get freedom. You get fascism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your supporters were also in Portland this weekend, firing paintball guns at people, some form of pepper spray. So do you want to also take this chance to condemn what your supporters did in Portland?

TRUMP: Well, I understand they had large numbers of people that were supporters, but that was a peaceful protest. And paint is not -- and paint is a defensive mechanism, paint is not bullets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to condemn the actions of vigilantes like Kyle Rittenhouse?

TRUMP: We're looking at all of it. And that was an interesting situation. You saw the same tape as I saw. And he was trying to get away from them, I guess; it looks like. And he fell, and then they very violently attacked him. And it was something that we're looking at right now and it's under investigation. But I guess he was in very big trouble. He would have been -- I -- he probably would have been killed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But do you think --

TRUMP: It's under investigation.


KORNACKI: The President will be in Kenosha tomorrow. He is scheduled to meet with law enforcement there. As of tonight, there are no plans for him to meet with Jacob Blake's family.

Wisconsin's democratic Governor and the mayor of Kenosha did ask Trump to delay the visit, given the ongoing tensions in that city.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They expressed concerns though that it could exacerbate tensions and increase violence. Do you give any consideration to that?

TRUMP: Well, it could also increase enthusiasm and it could increase love and respect for our country.


KORNACKI: While the President wants Americans to focus on his message of law and order, the pandemic also remains a threat in this country.

Tonight the number of confirmed coronavirus infections is about 6 million and more than 184,000 Americans have now died. There is more on the outbreak coming up.

We are also following significant developments involving key figures from Trump's administration who were central to the Russia investigation. A federal appeals court today ruled against Michael Flynn in the Justice Department and their request to quickly shut down his criminal case.

Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russian officials. In a panel from that same federal court decided that House Democrats have no authority to sue President Trump's former White House Counsel for refusing to testify about the molar inquiry.

And Trump advisor Steve Bannon is facing a May 24 trial day in his fraud case involving donations to build the border wall. The New York Times reports that the feds have seized a trove of emails and other communications in their case against Bannon.

Times Correspondent Michael Schmidt is also reporting that the Justice Department never fully investigated Trump's ties to Russia, and that the department secretly took steps to narrow the scope of Special Counsel Muller's investigation without telling the FBI. That reporting comes just days after John Ratcliffe, Trump's Director of National Intelligence announced his department will no longer provide in-person briefings to Congress on election meddling even though Ratcliffe's office has confirmed Russia is once again interfering to try to help the President.

Tonight House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called that move part of Trump's ongoing effort to appease Russia.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA HOUSE SPEAKER: It's very clear that the President once invites, appreciate it -- appreciates Russia's involvement in our elections, which is not lawful. We don't want Vladimir Putin deciding who the next president is. We want the American people to decide that the president thinks otherwise.


KORNACKI: And here for our leadoff discussion on a Monday night, Kimberly Atkins, a veteran of WBUR in the Boston Herald, now a member of the Boston Globe Editorial Board, Shannon Pettypiece, a veteran journalist and Senior White House Reporter for us at NBC News Digital and Robert Costa, National Political Reporter, also with the Washington Post and Moderator of Washington Week on PBS.

Thanks to all of you for being with us. Robert, that speaks to Joe Biden gave today in Pennsylvania that was preceded by several days worth of rhetoric from Republicans similar to what we played from the president there basically saying they are going to take this theme of law and order. They are going to take the violence that's taken place and played out in some cities across the country, and use that to help get the president reelected, overcome that gap against Joe Biden.

And you were hearing for a few days from some Democrats concerned that that was something they saw as potentially plausible in terms of political strategy inside the Biden campaign in the run up to today's speech. What was the thinking about how this issue is playing? And do they think they achieved something with his speech today?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Steve, it was also preceded by a round of phone calls I made over the weekend to my democratic sources around the Biden campaign and around democratic politics, who are looking for this kind of message from Vice President Biden.

Steve, in your own book, The Red and the Blue book, you write about the 1990s in politics and Democrats were looking back to that a little bit over the weekend as an example coming out of the Republican National Convention, could there be a so called Sister Souljah moment like Bill Clinton had in 1992, taking on his own left flank to try to appeal more to suburban independent voters, white voters in many parts of this country. And they didn't want to see Biden go that far and pick a fight. They wanted to see him pick a fight with President Trump, but also make clear that he does not stand by violence in the streets. And they feel by all accounts calling those same sources later today.

They feel like he succeeded in that project, in that mission today to help Democrats shore up some of those Republican voters middle of the road voters who may have been tempted a little bit by the siren song of the Republican convention, and its law and order message.

KORNACKI: Shannon, in terms of the President, Joe Biden's opponent now in this race, he is scheduled to be in Kenosha tomorrow. We mentioned Democratic leaders in this day telling him please, Mr. President, not right now. By all accounts that's going forward. What can we expect there tomorrow from the president?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBC NEWS.COM SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I mean, it will be nothing short of him going ahead again with this lawn order message he is supposed to visit, businesses that were affected, that were looted. He is supposed to hold a panel on community policing. I'm sorry, on community safety. One thing that we are not anticipating from him is meeting with Jacob Blake's family. And we're not anticipating any talk about this broader issue of police shooting unarmed black man, which is the issue that is behind all these protests that over and over and over again, the president chooses not to talk to. So he has made it very clear. He is on the side of the, you know, "vigilantes" or protesters, whatever you want to call those sort of counter demonstrators that are coming in to the cities now.

Many times armed that had been exacerbating a lot of these clashes. He was very clear today in his remarks he is on their side. He is not on the side of the protesters, and he is going to Kenosha to talk about safety and, "law and order" and not this issue of criminal justice reform, racism, violence against, you know, black individuals that we have seen over and over again by the police.

KORNACKI: Another message that Joe Biden was took pains to try to emphasize in that speech today was on that topic of defunding the police that's gotten so much attention in the last few months. Here's what he had to say about that.


BIDEN: I not only don't want to defund police, I want to add $300 billion to their -- million dollars to their budget, local budgets, to deal with community policing to get police and communities back together. Again, every cop when he puts on that badge has a right to be expect, to be able to go home at night and be able to be safe.


KORNACKI: Kimberly, that that speech today, it is sort of a zooming out from there. There's Joe Biden on the road, going to Pittsburgh delivering a speech. He didn't have a lot of the theatrical aspects I think we're accustomed to in a campaign, but that was closer to a, "normal campaign speech." I think then we've seen a lot in recent months. Is this the start of a more normal, not a completely normal, but a more normal campaign by the former vice president?

KIMBERLY ATKINS, WBUR SENIOR NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was that and it was more than that. Look, after Labor Day, the campaign said that they intend to have more in-person events, socially distance, mask wearing events that will look different than Donald Trump's campaign events.

So this was a preview of that. But what this also was, very importantly, was a point-by-point refute of all of the things that Donald Trump has been trying to tag Joe Biden with. He's tried to tag him as some sort of empty vessel of some crazy unknown radical left wing folks who are controlling him. And nothing that Joe Biden said today sounded radical or left wing. He tried -- Trump is trying to peg Biden as somebody who wants to defund police as you played in that clip. Joe Biden does not want to do that.

In fact, Joe Biden, when it comes to police, policing and reforming criminal justice reform, was known most for prime bills that he supported, that some folks say laying that there's evidence to support led to over criminalization of black people that had to be reversed by efforts over the subsequent years. So he clearly is not someone who wants to remove policing communities or go to the left wing, which is what makes this attempt to paint him that way, by the President. Pretty clearly disingenuous, what the President seems to be doing here is trying to foment the discord and the division which he and members of his campaign have openly said helps them politically.

KORNACKI: Yeah, Robert, that line we played it a minute ago from Joe Biden jumped out at me when he said, do I look like a radical socialist? And I'm thinking back to the Democratic primaries, it took a while for Democrats to land on Biden once they did things went pretty fast and pretty tidy for him. But you think about that he was buried in Iowa. He was buried in New Hampshire. He was buried in Nevada. He pulls out that giant wind in South Carolina and everything changes. But you see the difficulty, Kimberly's talking about it there that Donald Trump seems to be having in coming up with that specific message that will stick to Biden, as opposed to a lot of these other Democrats who ran.

Democrats now, you mentioned seems satisfied with this speech he gave today. Very easily, though, he might not have been their nominee, they might have had a very different message to be defending in this general election?

COSTA: But that's just not the case, Steve. I mean, there is a rising ascendant left in the Democratic Party that if elected Vice President Biden would have to contend with every day. They would be pushing him to sign on to a Green New Deal. They would push him to perhaps move a little bit on health care and try to embrace more of the tenants of Medicare for All.

I've spoken to Senator Bernie Sanders about that. He's ready to go despite being such a staunch ally now with VP Biden on the campaign trail. That left flank is ready to go on a lot of the policy issues. But you don't see the pressure on Vice President Biden in the way that President Trump is characterizing it. This pressure to defund the police, those voices in the Democratic Party are not getting the same currency on law and order issues, as they -- as some of the more liberal voices are having on health care, and other fronts. But so at the moment, this is a Democratic Party that has a lot of fractures that just like the GOP over the last decade, it's going to take issues and leadership to solve a lot of internal debates, but they're all on board with Vice President Biden because they have a common foe.

KORNACKI: And Shannon, we mentioned Republicans coming out of their convention last week. It lots of talk again about law and order and the potential political potency there. What are you hearing from folks around the President, around his team in the wake of Biden's speech today? What are they telling you have a reaction to that is?

PETTYPIECE: There's still a lot of confidence in this message. This law and order message was something I was hearing immediately after the protests began following the George Floyd death that they identified as something I was going to be a winning issue for them. It was a winning issue in 2016. And, you know, President Trump is a real student as a politician of Roger Stone, who is a protege of Richard Nixon.

I know a lot of people have been talking about 1968 but if you look at 1972 it was Nixon's America where there was rising crime, where there was an anti war movement, where there was a, you know, white people nervous about a black power -- emerging black power movement. That was Nixon's America. Nixon was still able to get reelected on his law and order crack down type of messaging, even though those things were on his watch

So a lot of them disregard a lot of this talk that you've heard from Biden about you won't be safe and Donald Trump's America. And they've really solidified about this message. Look at -- we haven't heard about mail-on voting, there's become a lot more message discipline on this one issue. Yes, you'll hear about fracking the economy here and there. But they're zeroing in on this. And they say internally allies of the president in the polling from the campaign outside groups, that they see a shift. Now, and Steve you know, of course, we don't have a lot of great polling until you get out of the convention but at least that's the feeling and the momentum right now inside Trump world.

KORNACKI: Yeah, we are waiting still for. I thought we would have a bunch of brand new polls today. We've got a few readouts in the last couple days but I think still waiting to see exactly what that convention did or didn't do.

Kimberly too, it strikes me we are talking right now about violence, about police shootings, about order in cities. The topics that get this kind of focus it can be easy to forget how quickly the subject can change. We mentioned the coronavirus, still raging, it's still out there very much at the top of this broadcast, still plenty of time left in this campaign. The focus in a moment like this, it can be hard to appreciate a thing but the focus could very potentially shift off this issue to the coronavirus or to something else altogether between now and Election Day?

ATKINS: Yes, we have seen how quickly the subject changes in politics. I think one thing is different here although President Trump clearly wants to keep the subject on this issue of law and order. It's the reason for this visit to Wisconsin tomorrow.

The difference between shifting away from other issues like say, the impeachment or something else is that Americans every single day are dealing with the coronavirus. There are millions of parents right now who are either once again starting to school their children at home or have some modified schedule to try to slowly send them back to school or to college. There are people still working from home. There are millions of people still unemployed, losing their health care, really unsure of what might -- what stimulus, if any, might be coming to Congress to help them.

This is the biggest kitchen table issue in America right now. So even if the President isn't talking about it, and he's trying to steer the attention away from it, voters really can't get away from it. It's the number one issue according to all recent polling that are -- that is on voters minds right now.

KORNACKI: All right, Kimberly Atkins, Shannon Pettypiece, and Robert Costa, thank you for being with us. Really appreciate that.

And coming up, the FBI has been warning about heavily armed civilian militias for years. Frank Figliuzzi on what he calls the radicalization of Americans.

And later, we check back with one of the doctors working on the front lines in Arizona and get his reaction to herd immunity in other COVID headlines, THE 11TH HOUR just getting started in an August ending, Monday night.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think private citizens should be taking guns (inaudible)?

TRUMP: I'd like to see law enforcement take care of everything. I think everything should be taken care of -- law enforcement.

But again, we have to give our cops back, our police back their dignity, their respect. They're very talented people.


KORNACKI: After recently protests have turned deadly there is growing concern about the presence of armed civilians at demonstrations. The Washington Post reports that police are facing complaints for tolerating vigilantes. "The stated motives of these vigilante actors who are virtually indistinguishable from one another once masked on the streets, ranged from protecting storefronts and free speech to furthering white supremacy and fomenting Civil War."

Back with us tonight, Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence, he is the author of the upcoming book, the FBI Way Inside the Bureau's Code of Excellence.

Frank, thanks for joining us. I think in that the excerpt I just read there we get to an important question here, because you see these videos, read these reports coming out of various cities and you see chaos. You see the camera looking this way, that way, you see dozens of people here, dozens of people there.

To try to tell the difference, somebody who is armed protecting their business because they feel perhaps rightfully so the police can't get to it that night, versus somebody who is part of a militia movement, part of a group that's actively seeking to promote violence. How can you tell the difference in situations like this?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI ASSISTANCE DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Steve, your right to ask the question, because the job of law enforcement and what they're going to face in the next couple of months is perhaps the most difficult challenge they've faced since 9/11.

We are essentially at a kind of 9/11. But an even more complex one, because of the online nature of trying to ferret out who in that chat room, who in that blog, who in that tweet storm, is really meaning to act out on violence and who isn't? And who are the bad guys and the good guys? And it's an incredibly challenging job made even harder by the President of the United States himself, who seems to not only not want it denounce all violence but rather seems to be encouraging it and even perhaps offering a defense for the 17 year old Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha saying that he may have acted in self-defense.

So we've got a problem on our hands. Law enforcement has a great challenge on their hands. And by the way, Steve, law enforcement is not fully equipped with all of the legislative and investigative techniques that they would have if they were facing an international terror threat. Because there are no domestic terrorism laws per se. Law enforcement doesn't want to monitor ideology or thought. They almost have to wait for the violence to be advocated before they can take down a site or take down a group. So it's an incredibly tense time that we're looking at now.

KORNACKI: Yeah, I'm curious too, when you see these various scenes, whether it is in, you know, Kenosha, Portland, some of these other cities, take us through what you are seeing and how you would analyze it in terms of, do you see primarily, do you think you are primarily seeing folks who are parts of these groups? Folks who had some online involvement that led them to go out to the street? You know, folks who say, it's right wing militia, some on the right will say, well, what about Antifa, Antifa on the left? Do you think you're primarily seeing folks who are part of something that's organized? Or do you think there's a large component of this two who are really are just folks from the community who may be think they're defending a business or maybe are just part of a purchase? What do you think the bounce is there? Do you have a way of assessing that?

FIGLIUZZI: Yeah, I think what -- so the facts become really important, especially if you want to counter a threat and identify it. You've got to do your homework and you've got to know what you're dealing with. So the answer Steve is all of the above. What the law enforcement sources I talked to, the private intelligence analysts that I talked to tell me they're seeing the full gamut here, so people are responding to a call to arms. The shooting in Kenosha, by Kyle Rittenhouse has caused him to become a hero online, to extremist groups, radical violent groups, militia groups, Neo-nazi and QAnon. They all think he's some kind of hero. And they are answering call to secret revenge against anybody who would take issue with Kyle.

The same call is going out in the Portland area for the death of a Trump supporter. They think that's, "the first shot fired in a civil war." But, Steve, law enforcement also tells me, the people they're arresting, for crimes, for violence, for property damage, are from all walks of life, and majority of them are out for only one thing, and that's criminality.

And then the people who are organized toward violence, my law enforcement sources tell me, they are by and large on the far right, that they're not exclusively there. But we have a president who seems not to want to acknowledge that and an attorney general who seems not to want to call that out. And so they're going to feel empowered. And what law enforcement sources tell me is they're seeing a kind of radicalization process take place online that is fortunately very similar to the kind of radicalization process we saw in the violent Islamic jihadist movement, and that's a bad recipe that we're looking at.

KORNACKI: Right. And it seems to just listening to you, I'm thinking hopefully there are no more incidences, you know, like Kenosha or anything that might bring this out. But if there is one, it sounds like you've got folks there who are just waiting for it and it gets -- it escalates.

FIGLIUZZI: It seems to feed -- every everything that happens seems to feed the conspiracy theory of the day or the moment. And it's -- it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. And people who are troubled seeking and radicalized now seeking to belong to a cause greater than themselves, seeking to belong to some group that will affirm them, even though they've never met these folks. They will turn out. And what we need is a president to come out and say, this is an unAmerican act. This is not a patriotic act to commit violence in the streets, that's about the only thing that will cause these people to back off if they see that affirmation is not coming from their leader.

KORNACKI: All right, Frank Figliuzzi, thank you for taking a few minutes. I appreciate that.

And coming up, an Arizona doctor in the thick of it, he joins us. We're going to get his take on the controversial concept of herd immunity when THE 11TH HOUR continues.



DR. SCOTT ATLAS, TRUMP COVID-19 ADVISER: Children are very, very low risk. We know how to protect the high risk people. It's very harmful to have schools closed. And so when you start introducing closure of schools because people have positive asymptomatic tests, that's sort of not the purpose of testing. The purpose of testing like everything else we're doing here is to stop people from dying.


KORNACKI: President Trump's new COVID advisor, Dr. Scott Atlas, downplaying the need to test asymptomatic patients and encouraging in school instruction. The Washington Post reports that Atlas is urging the White House to embrace a strategy of herd immunity. That's a concept The World Health Organization has deemed quote, very dangerous.

Although he denies the claim. The Post reports this quote, the administration has already begun to implement some policies along these lines, according to current and former officials, as well as experts particularly with regard to testing, continuing Atlas as advocated the United States adopt the model Sweden is used to respond to the virus outbreak. All this while the U.S. surpasses 6 million confirmed cases, and an average of 900 Americans continue to die from the virus daily.

And for more, we are joined again by Dr. Murtaza Akhtar. He is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Arizona, College of Medicine in Phoenix. Doctor, thank you for joining us. Appreciate you taking the time.

This concept of herd immunity. I think folks have certainly heard plenty come up plenty in the last few months. But again, take us through what that would entail. And we mentioned Sweden there. I know Sweden is trying this strategy. How is it working there?

DR. MURTAZA AKHTAR. UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA, COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Thanks for having me, Steve. I think it's a very important concept to clear up. For one if you look at Sweden and you compare them to other Scandinavian countries, Sweden has done far, far worse than Norway, Finland, Denmark. If you try to compare apples to apples as much as possible, Sweden strategy has not worked to herd immunity.

If you're talking to a public health expert, or talking to a physician isn't meant to be, let's just let everybody get sick and see what happens, OK. Herd immunity was meant to imply if you vaccinate people and you vaccinate enough of them, then the herd becomes immune to the disease, even if a few people don't get vaccinated. It was never intended to be let's just say that everybody gets sick, the ones who are elderly or immunocompromised, I suppose they'll die and the survivors will survive.

That's not exactly what we mean when we said herd immunity. That's eugenics. We're not going for eugenics, we're going for herd immunity. And the way of doing that is by vaccination, if anything, not by just letting people rapidly get sick, and let the Darwinists of them win out.

KORNACKI: So you're gearing this towards that question in the vaccine. There's some news on that front as well. I put this up here from the Financial Times, the FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn saying that his agency is prepared to authorize a vaccine before Phase 3 clinical trials are complete, as long as officials believe the benefits outweigh the risks.

So, Phase 3 here in this vaccine development, we've had a number of potential vaccine candidates that are moving to that state right here. I imagine the FDA Commissioner, if you were here would talk about we've never had something like this before the scale of what we're facing with coronavirus. It requires something like this. Does it make sense to you the idea potentially, of not waiting all the way through Phase 3?

AKHTAR: If the only reason for not waiting for Phase 3 or just paperwork, I can see why they'd want to expedite it. But if it's for a political reason, as Donald Trump himself has mentioned that I think they're delaying it because of an election. That's a horrendous reason to expedite it.

Remember, there's a reason we go through Phase 3 trials is to make sure that in a large, large group of people and it requires a very large group of people to test the effectiveness vaccines because not everybody has the disease. That's the point of vaccines.

The whole point of doing it is to make sure that the benefits outweigh the risks and requires a large group of people tested. There are also ethical reasons for doing testing the right way. We've had a history of testing marginalized people. We can't use people of certain races or certain socioeconomic statuses to be our guinea pigs in order to get the vaccine out to people just because we want somebody to potentially be elected, OK.

So we need to do this the right way. There are ways of expediting it legally and ethically. But if you're doing it for political reasons, that's absolutely the wrong way. And remember, if you do it the wrong way, people who are antivaxxers, who I thought had bought into a hole and we're never going to come out, but they're rearing their ugly heads again, if you do it the wrong way and there are harms you have significantly harmed to the effect of the vaccine. Because remember, it's not vaccines that save lives. It's vaccination that saves lives. It's simple.

If you implement it too quickly and incorrectly there might be a lot of people who say, you know what, I don't want the risks. I'm not going to get vaccinated. And then you've more than shot yourself in the foot, you've potentially killed people.

KORNACKI: You said, there are ways to expedite that, what would they be?

AKHTAR: So for example, if you're doing -- your people will talk about adaptive analyses and Bayesian statistics, being better by enrolling people, potentially IRB regulations. But these are very small things as another way the companies are doing it, they're doing it the right way. They're getting consent the right way. They're trying to enroll the right number of patients. You can talk about how you group the different groups and whether you can do some adaptive designs, potentially, maybe not so much with this trial with certain ones to get the data a little bit faster. But expedite and just say we're not going to finish phase three.

Remember here in Arizona, there was a period of time where we're doing a testing foots to be able to see if we could open up the economy. But we opened up before all those data came back. Coincidentally, the president was in town at the same time. We opened up early and then we very quickly became the worst hotspot in the country. If you don't wait for the data to come back, bad things can happen. They have happened and we want to make sure that doesn't happen again.

KORNACKI: All right, Dr. Murtaza Akhtar. Thank you for taking a few minutes. We appreciate that. And coming up a look at where things stand with Election Day, just nine weeks out when THE 11TH HOUR continues.



BIDEN. Now, little over 60 days, we have a decision to make. Will we rid ourselves of this toxin? Or will we make a permanent part we make it a permanent part of our nation's character.


KORNACKI: A warning for the country from former Vice President Joe Biden today and it came during Biden's first in person campaign event since the national convention. In his first instance a new morning console poll showed Trump beginning to cut into that lead that Biden has though. Biden still ahead by six points.

Nationally there are 52 to 44 percent and back with us again tonight. David Plouffe, former Obama, campaign manager, former senior adviser to President Obama. He is also on the board of directors for the Obama Foundation and his latest book is "A Citizens Guide to Beating Donald Trump.

David Plouffe, let's begin where your book title suggests you want to beat Donald Trump. Joe Biden's speech today, the speech he delivered today there was a lot of chatter in the last few days leading up to this speech that potentially Democrats had a vulnerability here when it came to this topic of public safety, that potentially Donald Trump was starting to tap into that beginning to show that maybe he could tap into that. Do you see a vulnerability there? And if so, did Biden address it today successfully?

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, Steve, good to be with you. I think Donald Trump's the incumbent. So to the extent he's talking about violence and unrest, it's on his watch we saw today so tale of two speeches. Joe Biden's speech today I thought very important. My hope is we see him more days than not the rest of the campaign out like that. I think it's incredibly important.

Donald Trump, the presidential podium, basically sent a signal by defending the shooter in Kenosha, his supporter defended it. So, you know, one person is saying, you know, protests, yes. Violence, no. The other one's basically rooting for it, because you think it's the only route to reelection.

So, at the end of the day, because Trump's an incumbent, because he owns this mess. I think Joe Biden made a very important point today that, you know, do you feel safer, it's Donald Trump's America right now. So I would be mindful that if you're the Biden campaign, you're going to watch those numbers very carefully below the horse race. We you see movement there, either direction.

But I think at the end of the day, this is different than a challenger making this kind of assertion. And at the end, I think Donald Trump right now every day when he does something like he did it in the White House podium today, I think makes Biden's case for him more than enough people I think in his country Steve have decided they don't want to rehire Trump. Biden's got to continue to seal the deal, but one of the things they don't like is this kind of behavior that incensed violence. That is not answering, I think the concerns that the American people have.

KORNACKI: OK, on that front, we have some new -- this was Donald Trump talking today in an interview, let's take a listen to what he had to say.


TRUMP: We had somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend. And in the plane, it was almost completely loaded with thugs, wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear and this and that they're, they're on a plane. I'll tell you sometime but it's under investigation right now.

But they came from a certain city, and this person was coming to the Republican National Convention. And they were like seven people on the plane, like this person. And then a lot of people are on the plane to do big damage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Planning to Washington.

TRUMP: Yes, this was all -- this is all happening.


KORNACKI: That's a new interview the president gave there to Laura Ingram on Fox a little unclear exactly what he's saying there. But you get the gist, I think of what he's trying to talk around there. The effectiveness of that message from the president, that type of message.

PLOUFFE: What is clear, Steve is he's not well, OK. If your neighbor started saying those things, you know, you'd be deeply concerned. This is the President of the United States talking about people in black clothing in planes, like Joe Biden's secret agents. It's crazy.

Also, I saw a clip in that same interview, when he was talking about the shooting in Kenosha. He basically said, well, the officer maybe shouldn't have shot in the back. It's like a golfer choking on a pot. So this is somebody who's not well, and, you know, he's a genius at marketing at one stage in his life, but right now, the visibility is not helping him. And that's the box. He's interviews, speeches, the tweets, he can do 1000 of those a day. And at the end of the day, right now, it's not helping him, because it's reinforcing.

But that interview you just showed. I mean, it's basically we have a president of the United States who's dangerously unwell. And I think what he's trying to do is embrace QAnon. I mean, he's basically trying to incite violence out there. And he's trying to really stir up this increasingly small base of his, because again, I think that's -- right now his only strategy, the re election is he wants America to burn. And he wants to be able to blame Joe Biden for that.

KORNACKI: We mentioned there is that morning console poll that came out after the Republican Convention, they have it at six points. I'm looking at the poll averages, it's in that six to seven range right now. We haven't gotten quite the number of what you might call sort of brand name polls yet showing the flawed if there is any from these two conventions.

I imagine we're going to get them in the next few days sometimes this week here. What do you expect to see? Do you expect that they'll be movement towards the president here? Do you expect it'll get closer than six points? What are you looking for in the next round of numbers that come out?

PLOUFFE: Well, Steve, the national polls have always been irrelevant to me in a presidential race. So I'm going to be most interested in seeing high quality battleground state polls.

But let's talk about that. So there are states where the Biden poll average, you know, in Wisconsin, or Michigan, or Pennsylvania, Michigan's a little larger, you know, maybe he's up 49-42. So, let's say some of that 49 or some of that 42 can move around, you know that as well as anybody in the country.

But let's say that there's 9 percent of the people who are undecided. Well, how does that nine going to fall someone vote, but Trump's going to get more of that than Biden. I mean, I don't think Joe Biden ceiling is 55.

So yes, I do think this race is going to tighten. And so if you're a Democrat who's committed to beating Joe Biden, I think you should assume the race is going to tighten. You should assume it's tighten a lot. And one of two things are going to happen, either you work really hard, and you help register and turn out voters and persuade swing voters. And Joe Biden wins a race or close election or the Biden lead maintains some strength, and you're able to really win, which would be send a powerful message against Trump, but help Democrats.

But yes, I really do think this is going to tighten and my suspicion is heading into that first debate on September 29. You know, Biden's leading these battlegrounds. So he'll still have them, maybe in all six of the core battlegrounds. We have to start, you know, really paying attention in Minnesota, I think, as well, of, you know, three to five points, which, you know, is larger than we had back in 2012 in a reelection against Mitt Romney.

I still think the most important date in the rest of the campaign is September 29. And if Biden can, you know, have a strong performance given the low bar Trump setting, maybe Biden can widen out again, but I would expect tightening and I think people should act accordingly and not be surprised Trump's in an unnaturally low point right now. He's going to get some of that back that's kind of parked in undecided right now.

KORNACKI: All right, David Plouffe. Thank you for taking a few minutes. Appreciate it.

And coming up, a preview of a red hot primary race in Massachusetts. Could the Kennedys lose in Massachusetts? Back after this.


KORNACKI: All right. Well, we got the countdown here to the general election, Trump versus Biden. We've been talking about that a little bit tonight. But before the general election, there's something else another election, a primary election. How about this? It's tomorrow in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, wouldn't you know, I pressed the wrong button. Let's try it again. Here you go.

Tomorrow the base date, Joe Kennedy versus Ed Markey. It's a Democratic primary. And I got to tell you on paper, this one looked like the mismatch of the century, why? The Kennedy named in Massachusetts in a democratic primary in Massachusetts. That's supposed to be gold.

Let's take you through what we know John F. Kennedy 1946. That was his first campaign. He ran six times in democratic primaries in Massachusetts for the House, for the Senate for the presidency. Undefeated, six wins, no losses for JFK in democratic primaries in Massachusetts.

They said dynasty though it's not just JFK. It's his brother Ted, starting in 1962 going all the way through his last election in 2006. Ted Kennedy was in 10, democratic primaries in Massachusetts did not lose a single one of them.

How about Joe Kennedy, the second Joe Kennedy. The second is one of our RFK's kids. 1986 he runs for the House, the seat that JFK once had, by the way, 1986 he wins that democratic primary, he wins five more democratic primaries. He goes six in 0 in democratic primaries, noticing a pattern here. Then there is the son of Joe Kennedy II, Joe Kennedy III, he's the Kennedy we're talking about right now. He ran for the U.S. House back in 2012. He got elected like all Kennedy's in Massachusetts. It seems he's won four democratic primaries. He hasn't lost one, the total record there for Kennedy's 26 in a row in democratic primaries.

That's what Joe Kennedy III took into this race. His opponent, Ed Markey, 74 years old, lifer in Congress got there in '76, got to the Senate in 2013. Like I said, big mismatch, right? It's looking like, Oh, that's the wrong screen. Let's try that again. It's looking like a mismatch. Markey up 16 in one poll last week, up 12 and another and up 10 in a third. Three double digit leads for Ed Markey going into tomorrow in the polls.

Ed Markey endorsed by AOC. He's run on the green New Deal. He's got a lot of energy from younger voters. He's also he seems to have some support. A lot of support from Warren voters. That's important in Massachusetts. She's endorsed his campaign.

So Ed Markey came into this as the big, big underdog. Huge underdog. He goes into tomorrow as the favorite but still expecting a big turnout for this thing a lot of mail ballots have already been cast. Folks will go out tomorrow. We'll see can that Kennedy, can that Kennedy magic allow Joe Kennedy III to pull a rabbit out of the hat. We'll see, 26 in 0 wins tomorrow.

Another break for us THE 11TH HOUR continues in a moment.


KORNACKI: And before we go tonight a quick reminder you can watch THE 11TH HOUR anytime you please by downloading the MSNBC app or you can listen to us on Sirius XM radio channel 118 or our podcast. And that is our broadcast for tonight. On behalf of all my colleagues at NBC News, good night.


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