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

Guests: Clint Watts, James Carville, Rick Wilson

Summary

FDA panel endorses Moderna's COVID vaccine. Moderna would be 2nd vaccine available in U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says his wife tested positive for COVID-19. Suspected Russian cyberattack started in March targeting critical government agencies and private organizations. Donald Trump was criticized for silence after cyberattack. Trump said that he plans to follow through on his threat to veto the annual defense policy bill that passed with veto-proof majorities in the House and the Senate last week. Joe Biden defends his son amid attacks from Trump allies. Never-Trump movement splinters as its villain heads for the exit. Ten international scientists will travel next month to the city where the coronavirus first emerged.

Transcript

NSE UFOT, NEW GEORGIA PROJECT CEO: So yes, this is another example of disinformation that the Republicans have been peddling in since long before the November general election.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Nse Ufot, thank you for joining me today. Nse is the CEO of the New Georgia Project. And that is Tonight's Last Word. The 11th Hour begins now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, day 1,428 of the Trump administration, 34 days until Joe Biden takes the oath of office and becomes the 46th President of the United States.

Tonight, the FDA his advisory panel has endorsed the Moderna vaccine, the full FDA could grant emergency authorization as soon as tomorrow. This means more protection will soon be on the way for more Americans.

The prospect of two vaccines qualifies as hope in the midst of an uncontrolled pandemic. As we enter this dark winter confirmed cases now topping 17 million about double the cases reported exactly two months ago. Think of that. And again, tonight the daily death toll well above 3000. That means a death about every 30 seconds across our country.

NBC News has confirmed the wife of the Health Secretary Alex Azar has tested positive. Azar himself says he's testing negative. He plans to keep working in his office while social distancing and wearing a mask.

As the health crisis continues to deepen, the nation's also grappling with a broad and active national security threat, as the scale of this suspected Russian cyberattack is just now becoming more clear. U.S. officials now say this attack has been ongoing since March. They warned of a "grave risk." And that's the Trump administration talking not just the President who's not saying anything on this topic. The targets are said to include the nuclear weapons laboratories at the Department of Energy as well as Pentagon, NIH, Department of Commerce, Treasury, State, Homeland Security, it's a lot. Several nongovernmental organizations also came under attack, we're told.

Today in Moscow, and to the surprise of no one, Putin denied any involvement in any hacking of U.S. targets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): Russian hackers have never interfered. And the elections they have never helped Trump get elected. This is all just wild conjecture. This is just a pretext to try to solve the relations between Russia and the U.S.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Still nothing from the outgoing president about any of this, as we said, but President-elect Biden did issue a statement that read in part, "I want to be clear, my administration will make cybersecurity a top priority at every level of government. And we will make dealing with this breach a top priority from the moment we take office, among other things, imposing substantial costs on those responsible for such malicious attacks. Our adversaries should know that as president, I will not stand idly by in the face of cyber assaults on our nation."

The silence from Donald Trump has not gone unnoticed on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): To the President of the United States, this is serious. This is about the security of America. It's about a known adversary of the United States that we have been fighting with for decades. Say something. Let the world know that we are not going to stand by idly and let some country do this sort of invasion.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): A cyber hack of this nature is really the modern equivalent of almost a Russian bomber reportedly flying undetected over the entire country in this setting not to have the White House aggressively speaking out. And protesting and taking a punitive action is really pretty quite extraordinary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: President Trump did take time today to threaten to, "veto the defense bill which will make China very unhappy." If he does that Senate leaders are talking about holding an override vote before the outgoing Congress expires. One senator today noted that measure goes a long way toward protecting our country from cyberattacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This bill is the most significant piece of cyber legislation I believe the Congress has ever passed. The provisions in that bill are critical to protecting us from the kind of hack that we have experienced over the last, well, it's been six or eight months. We just discovered it in the last few days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: And tonight, your elected representatives are indeed still struggling to hammer out a COVID Relief Bill of some sort while also trying to pass a short term spending bill that's to keep the government from shutting down at midnight tomorrow.

New unemployment claims show 885,000 more of our fellow citizens have lost their jobs in this pandemic. Meanwhile, the Biden transition is moving forward. New Mexico Democratic Congresswoman Deb Haaland, former guest on this broadcast will be Joe Biden's choice for Secretary of the Interior.

This is interesting if approved, she'd be the first Native American to hold a cabinet position. Indeed, as a 35th generation Native American, a member of the Laguna Pueblo population. She may be the most American member of Congress in U.S. history.

Michael Regan said to be the choice for EPA Administrator similar to his current job for the State of North Carolina. He would be the first African American and that post.

Trump's allies are continuing their focus on the president-elect's son, despite reports that Trump himself is pushing for a special counsel investigation into Hunter Biden. Trump today declared, "I have nothing to do with the potential prosecution of Hunter Biden, or the Biden family. It's just more fake news. Actually, I find it very sad to watch."

Biden himself was asked about the continued controversy during an interview with Stephen Colbert airing tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: We have great confidence in our son. I'm not concerned about any accusations been made against him. It's used to get to me. I think its kind of foul play but look, it is what it is. And he's a grown man. He is the smartest man I know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: With that, let's bring in our leadoff guests on this Thursday night in December, Susan Page, Veteran Journalist, Best Selling Author USA Today, Washington Bureau Chief, Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter with The Associated Press, and Clint Watts, a former FBI Special Agent, Distinguished Research Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. And our National Security Analyst, also is the author of, Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians and Fake News. So you see why he would be an ideal guest for tonight.

However, Susan, I must begin with you and the White House and Washington. I'm going to read from the President's official schedule from today. He spoke with King Salman of Saudi Arabia. He signed bills renaming three post offices, signed a bill for women's suffrage monument, sent three nominations and one withdraw over to the Senate.

Susan, not to be snide, but this does not include his time on Twitter, does not include the time he did not spend criticizing Russia or Putin, does not include any time fighting for the American people to get those resources that they so badly need. We are used to a certain decline in public engagement when presidents are turned out and awaiting the next inauguration. Have you ever, however, seen anything like this?

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: No, never. And we've seen a couple presidents in a similar situation, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter defeated in their efforts for a second term. But we've never seen anything. I think you'd probably have to go back to at least Herbert Hoover defined a president who seems so disconnected from the crisis that engulfing the country, as he's preparing to leave office.

Of course, Hoover had the Great Depression. Even Hoover didn't have the combination of crises. And the things that President Trump did not have on his schedule today, did not talk about on Twitter, which would include record deaths from the pandemic, new unemployment claims going up in this report of this very disturbing cyberattack on our country from our adversary, Russia. It's really quite phenomenal.

And it, you know, even though we see President-elect Biden trying to act, presidential by putting out statements on this, there's no substitute for what the sitting president can do to focus the country's attention, express the country's greed. The sitting president has that role. It is not a role that the President is fulfilling at this moment.

WILLIAMS: Clint Watts, this does leave us the American people feeling uniquely helpless to learn that there's been an ongoing cyberattack for all we know still ongoing, based on your understanding and we don't need to scare people any more than they've been scared by this. How severe, how broad has this attack been?

CLINT WATTS, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: I think it's important to know, Brian, that this is what predominately looks like an espionage attack, meaning they were going in trying to gather secrets. So this wasn't necessarily a cyberattack offensive that was trying to disable systems or maybe change votes. And I think that's important to keep in context here a little bit.

At the same point, it just shows that after we've spent billions of dollars and many years trying to defend our system, the Russians have innovated yet again, and do not feel the turret in terms of what they're doing for cyber action. They have been at this for years against this. And you can bet, Brian, if this was China right now, the President's twitter feed would be lit up with complaints and rants about China and why we need to go at him. But today, we hear nothing about Russia coming from the president. We are nothing about Russia and what we were going to do in response to 2016. We've seen Russian agents going all around Europe, poisoning people like Nibali (ph), people in the U.K., assassination attempts in Germany.

And recently, we learned that there might be a sonic weapon that's being used against U.S. citizen, diplomats, intelligence officers, and who is the likely suspect for that, it would be Russia.

So the question is, is what would the President stand up against Russia for? Is there anything that he would do that or, and if this is not just another chance where we could do something, why not? It also puts the upcoming Biden administration in a really tough spot. We don't know what secrets have already been posted at this point. It will probably take us one, two, maybe three months to figure out the depth and scope of this hack. So it's a very dangerous situation for the country right now. And we must hope that they did not penetrate into those classified networks in a lot of these government agencies. So far, it doesn't seem that they have. But it's still quite dangerous to know that they were going after individual targets in a lot of these locations from the U.S. government.

WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, no one needs to remind you as White House Correspondent, this president chooses repetition in the face of facts that don't agree with him, and almost comically keeps repeating that no one's been tougher on Russia than he has. I want to play for you this exchange you had with him. This is July 2018, Helsinki, Finland.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. Who do you believe?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He just said it's not Russia. I will say this I don't see any reason why it would be. I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, it's the enduring mystery of this administration. It was the initial mystery of this administration. But does that exchange which still holds up today and the way it lends itself to a jaw dropping reaction, does that exchange say at all?

LEMIRE: We were also much younger than, Brian. It is Groundhog Day, in many ways for this administration. It begins -- it is ending as it began, with the Trump and his team refusing to be tough on Russia, of course, in 2016, it was the election interference, the president came to office, you know, with the aid of Russians efforts there to meddle in our election this time around and paid no price, not from the White House sanctions otherwise, of course, there are moments where Congress got tough with Russia. But this White House did not.

And yes, that moment in Helsinki, sort of was the high watermark or perhaps low watermark of this effort where the President sided with Putin over the U.S. own -- his own U.S. intelligence agencies. And nothing really has changed. You were seeing him in the administration's final days, still refusing to talk tough to challenge Putin, to tell him to knock it off, which is what he refused to with election interference. What he's refusing to do now with this hack, he was briefed on it today, according to our reporting, but silence from the White House.

We did hear from President-elect Joe Biden, but as was just said, those words don't carry the weight of the office not yet. And this is a sitting President who could make a statement here on his way out the door, but he's not and yet another example of he has abandoned his post and derelict of duty. He is seated the leadership of the position, whether it be on the vaccine, whether it be on response to the pandemic, and now this not challenging Russia when the nation needs to.

WILLIAMS: Susan, I want to play for you and our audience, Peter Navarro. This is from Fox News as people watch this, please remember his job title is trade policy and manufacturing policy in this White House as you watch this please remember he has a masters and a PhD from Harvard. Here now, Peter Navarro.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: What I think we need to do tomorrow is appoint a special prosecutor to look at this issue. I think the Georgia race needs to be postponed to February. I need to do something before Inauguration Day. Otherwise, we're going to have a legitimate president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So, Susan, if the President's trade negotiator is talking that way, presumably for an audience of one on cable news, does this give us a window perhaps into why Donald Trump is still playing out the election that's already been decided?

PAGE: Well, President Trump has not considered the election, although he's given some signs that he realizes he's going to have to be moving out of the White House on January 20. And this, of course, I think signals the President's eagerness to dispute the counting of the ballots in Congress, the Electoral College ballots on January 6, all you need is one member of the House and one member of the Senate to do that.

And one thing we saw on the President's twitter feed tonight, is praised by him that Tommy Tuberville, the Senator-elect from Alabama, who has indicated he might be willing to join with Mo Brooks, the Alabama Congressman, in disputed and challenging the counting of the electoral process, you know, that's not going to change the outcome. They're not going to be able to prevent Joe Biden from being elected president, but they can do what Peter Navarro was just doing in that clip, which is fuel questions about whether Joe Biden was legitimately elected, they've already convinced a fair share of Trump supporters that he was not elected to Barentsburg. That's a huge hurdle for the new president to be facing.

WILLIAMS: Clint, back over to your bailiwick. Susan made the point that at least Biden is putting out statements slamming Russia for this, does this necessarily put off retaliation to the new presidency? Is that possibly going to come with the job?

WATTS: I think so, Brian. I think the new administration is going to be boxed into a degree based on these recent actions and still not knowing the depth of it. There's a good chance they won't entirely understand the scope of this half. At the same point, I do worry about the incoming administration, which is they have put diplomacy first. And that is something we've tried in the last two administrations, the Obama administration, the Bush administration, before that, tried to negotiate, tried to reset with Russia and both times was met with more hostility and more aggression.

I tend to see that more sanctions will be rolled out. But we also know that not really a deterrent, the Russians have been sanctioned routinely. They haven't been pushed on the financial front, and it has not slowed them down at all.

If you talk to an oligarch about sanctions, sure, they'll be upset, but they also will say, well, there's Bitcoin to their alternatives now, which leaves what are other solution? Is it military? Is it information countering disinformation, countering propaganda? Is it intelligence, will we finally get more aggressive the way that we fought in the counterterrorism space or we might go to China, when we do that with Russia again.

And then the last part is building partnerships. You hear a lot of this discussion coming from the new national security figures, coming in with the Biden administration. But if you're in Europe right now, and you're hearing about a possible Trump 2024 run, do you really want to put all your eggs back in America's basket, when that basket might get turned over on your head again in four years?

WILLIAMS: And Jonathan Lemire, you get the last word, Daily Beast reporting tonight that Donald Trump has been discussing with friends, perhaps bringing back the apprentice franchise and brand name no word on what network would be willing to air such a thing? It would certainly be on brand.

LEMIRE: That it would, Brian. Although lately it's his go to tack has yet not really been you're fired rather. I will pressure you until you quit, which is less of a catch, less of a perhaps catchy phrase for the trademark of the show. But that's we do with Attorney General Barr, of course. And we do that that was born out of frustration because of Barr's refusal to agree with the President and his baseless claims of election fraud. And as well as his refusal to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hunter Biden, the president was furious that Barr followed DOJ guidelines and did not fast track that investigation into the President-elect son, did not publicize it.

He was following department protocol by doing so. And the President, well, he was less than happy about that. And he has been telling allies, as we've been reporting, that that's what he wants now, that he wants the acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to do it. And if Rosen won't, he very well may fire him and replace him with someone who will. That's at least one of the things he's talking about right now, which of course would be extraordinarily destabilizing here in the final 30 odd days of his administration and really make things difficult for the Biden team as they come in. And that would really be the point here. It's not about justice. It's about trying to sabotage the Biden administration before it even starts. So that is where the President's focus is, at least partially. But now maybe a TV comes back as well.

WILLIAMS: With appreciation to our big three tonight, Jonathan Lemire, Susan Page and as you may have gathered, West Point Graduate Clint Watts, our great thanks for starting us off gang, I appreciate it.

Coming up for us, try containing a raging pandemic when one prominent cable host declares there's been no post Thanksgiving search, questions the vaccines and attacks the doctors trying to save lives. We'll talk to one of those doctors in fact next.

And later, it's being described as nothing less than the dereliction of duty. Rick Wilson, James Carville, talk about the MIA president. The 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Thursday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: At noon, the day before Thanksgiving, there were a total of 6972 commercial aircraft in the skies over America. That is more flights that were in the air on the same day two years before. And as a result, countless millions died a week that didn't happen. In fact, the massive surge the fetcher predicted never came.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: And that was one of several dangerously misleading comments heard tonight about vaccines, about Dr. Fauci and about our next guest. Back with us again tonight is Dr. Vin Gupta, Critical Care Doctor specializing in these kinds of illnesses and Affiliate Assistant Professor University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. As we like to point out, educated at Princeton, Cambridge, Harvard, Columbia Med School, also in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, and just yesterday he not only received the COVID-19 vaccine himself, but did so live before cameras on the Today Show on NBC.

So doctor, I am sorry you've been caught up in this media mess. But let us know is this indeed, the Thanksgiving spike we are living because every day we set a new record hospitalizations and death toll, and is your greatest fear indeed, that we are walking right into a Christmas spike all together?

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Brian. And thank you. Let me say this three, about three weeks ago, we had Thanksgiving. We expect to see if there's going to be a Thanksgiving surge or Thanksgiving spike. We expect to see that about three to four weeks after Thanksgiving. What are we seeing right now, Brian? We're seeing 17,000 deaths from COVID-19. Just last week alone, 3600 deaths and just yesterday, that was that's approximately about three weeks after Thanksgiving. So we're very much and that Thanksgiving surge.

COVID-19 is the leading cause of death by a long shot in the United States over a week over week for the last several weeks. But this has been one of the most deadly. And so this is extremely serious. So for everybody out there who's still thinking about traveling for the Christmas holiday, please don't. There is -- I've heard this countless times from patients, and friends and family, you name it, that will be OK. It's everybody else, you know, we can figure this out, and it's everybody else that's vulnerable. Don't think that. I've seen countless times people inadvertently be fine, but expose the loved ones who are vulnerable to COVID-19 because they travel. So please don't travel.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, I've seen some health care professionals get downright emotional on television while receiving this injection. And given what you've all been through, that's completely understandable. I'm also curious as to any after effects? Most people report the same kind of upper arm aches and stiffness we get after a flu shot. Is that correct?

GUPTA: Yes, you know, Brian, so I received the vaccine about 36 hours ago there abouts. I had upper arm soreness in my left arm for about 24 hours. I feel perfectly fine. I didn't have a headache or mild fever, which were cited in some of these studies, Moderna and Pfizer. I feel great.

And so let me be clear to all your viewers out there. This vaccine will save lives. It will keep you and your loved ones out of the ICU. I know there is concern, there's anxiety about the vaccine, the process, which was very science-focused where it was rigorous, and it's a high quality vaccine. It will save your life if you got -- if you if you were unfortunately exposed to an infected with COVID-19 and had an adverse outcome, it will prevent that, it will prevent you from seeing me in the ICU. We can manage unexpected allergic reactions, if they were to happen.

I know there's anxiety about some of these reports out of Alaska and England, we will be able to manage those very easily. That is a -- that is something that we know how to treat readily. But we do not know how to treat readily or as easily rather this COVID-19 in the ICU. It's unexpected. It's long, it's difficult, and it kills a lot of people, Brian, and that's what we're seeing right now. So please get the vaccine when you're up for the vaccine.

WILLIAMS: I know it's important that people get the follow up shot of the same brand that their initial shot was from. After that, though, what are the differences between Pfizer and Moderna?

GUPTA: So Brian, this is the big issue here. And this is sort of the desktop that we've seen in media over the last 24 hours. Moderna published some early data suggesting that not only does it prevent people from ending up in the ICU, which is the outcome we all desperately want, but it also may prevent transmission of the virus. This notion that the virus can prevent the worst effects from COVID-19 but it can't prevent transmission, that there still might be virus in your nose. And if you sneeze you'll expose somebody else. Moderna's data suggests that it stops both of those phenomenon. We don't know the same about Pfizer yet. They haven't presented that data. We don't know any of those outcomes for any of the other vaccine candidates. So it's too early to say.

So, Brian, to all your all your viewers out there, please, if you've gotten the vaccine regimen, 21 days after the Pfizer vaccine 28 days after Moderna, it is too soon to let her guard down. You still should mask, distance, avoid unnecessary travel for the time being. It's not going to be forever, just for the next few months as the rest of America gets vaccinated until we reach that that 70% mark that we're all hoping for. Hopefully by late spring, early summer and then we can really normalize life here. No one wants to live this, the current situation for any longer than absolutely necessary but we want to save lives.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, thank you and thank you for fighting the good fight. Vin Gupta to our guest again tonight greatly appreciate it. Coming up for us, as the commander-in-chief all but ignores this pandemic, not to mention what's being called the biggest electronic attack in U.S. history. Attention intensifies on what kind of party the republicans want to be starting 34 days from now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Just to repeat, we have lost over 300,000 people we're entering the dark winter of the virus the vaccines will save us but not yet. Then we learn we are under active attack from Russia reporting today indicates they've been inside our computer networks with access to the federal government at least since March.

The President's been silent on the hack perhaps figuring why start criticizing Russia now just as he's been silent on the death toll. The Bulwark put it this way, quote, We have never seen a dereliction of duty at this scale from an American president, with citizens dying by the thousands every single day and the federal government being raided by the intelligence services belonging to his good friend. He pouts and rages and tweets and tries to overturn a free and fair election in order to break our democratic republic.

Back with us again to friends of this broadcast, James Carville, veteran democratic strategist rose to national fame with the Clinton presidential effort, his co host of the politics War Room podcast. And Rick Wilson, veteran Florida man and longtime Republican strategist, co founder of the super PAC that at this point, needs no introduction. That would be the Lincoln project.

Gentlemen, good evening to you both. And, Rick, I'd like to start with you. It is scary enough when you hear that someone dies every 27 to 30 seconds in our country right now, during this conversation. It's scary enough to know that we are under a continuing sustained electronic attack, we're all powerless against that as citizens, are we on our own?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right now the president is checked out completely. He's either apathetic or sport or, frankly, disengaged to the level where he doesn't understand what's happening around him. But we are on our own.

This is a country that for the next 30 some days, it needs to look to its own devices, and not look to this president for leadership. And we are in a moment where the results of 10 months of terrible leadership on the COVID crisis, ranging from ignoring it to pretending it didn't exist, to saying it was going away, to saying hydroxychloroquine was going to get everyone.

We're facing the final countdown of all this concatenating series of stupid decisions by the Trump administration and malicious decisions by the Trump administration. And we're right now at a point where the death bullet has reached a much greater than World War II and we're going to cross at some point, you know, 400,000, before we the vaccine starts to really have a marked effect in the society. It is a tragedy and it is Donald Trump, who is the art author and architect of that tragedy, Brian.

WILLIAMS: James, what do you make of Tommy Tuberville on his third day in the U.S. Senate apparently, planning to raise a ruckus challenge the results of the electoral college and make that his first mark in the US Senate.

JAMES CARVILLE, VETERAN DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Tommy Tuberville is embarrassing to the Southeastern Conference. He didn't even know the three branches of government. You know, back to what you and Rick were talking about Brian, both of your students history. And the simple fact is you and I say today, the commander in chief of the United States Armed Forces has abandoned his post, that's the most serious thing that a person on service can do is abandon one's post and he has abandoned his post.

And I just feel terrible for all of the people in the chain of command. But when you see that the number one person on top of the chain of command, not dereliction duty, walked away from this post. You can't do that. That's a serious thing that you can do. And that's what's happened. So yes, Tommy Tuberville has a food. But we can't do anything about that.

WILLIAMS: James have the two threats you mentioned along the way, making your point about abandoning his post. The computer hack, as I was saying to Rick is more theoretical for most of us. We don't understand the ins and outs of that business, that industry. We feel uniquely helpless. We don't need to feel as helpless on the other threat that is a sustained, daily active, urgent threat on our lives every day. And I don't think we pause often enough to realize how much work isn't being done on that front.

CARVILLE: Oh, I mean, but this is on a continuum. He's got paid attention to this. He's played this down since day one. And now you have these families are not going to be together for during the holidays. It's just awful. But it's consistent with everything else that he's done. And he has been totally silent on this. Some people think we might be in some state of war with Russia now. This attack on the nation's security. And people often don't really understand this stuff that much. But people I know that do. Tell me that this is beyond quite serious. This is this is a real, real issue. The incoming administration will be dealing this is the wrong time to come. I don't know what I don't know that much.

WILLIAMS: All right, gentlemen, don't move both of our guests have agreed to stay with us. We're going to fit in a break and coming up, they were a band of Republicans with the sole mission of defeating Donald Trump. Now one year later, some of them aren't even Republicans anymore. We'll talk to Rick Wilson about what may be next for the Lincoln project that never Trump movement. All of it when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: It was one year ago today a group of anti-Trump republicans wrote this op-ed in the New York Times announcing something new called the Lincoln project. After the President's lost, the group is now focused on defeating Trump ism and supporters of the president in Congress.

But a new report in Politico today says the never Trump movement has splintered as the President leaves office. Back with us James Carville and Rick Wilson. And Rick, this one's for you. Your partner, Stuart Stevens is quoted as saying, the reality is, is there a market for an anti-Trump republican party now? I would say no. So that's Stuart Stevens.

Rick, my question to you is, what do you do about the Republicans? You know, their names who are going to say starting January 21? Hey, we're still Republicans, we were never Trumpers. We were never all in with that guy all evidence to the contrary. And what does your mission become Rick for, say, the next year?

WILSON: You know, I'm going to get in trouble for this analogy. But nobody was in the SS after World War II. They were all Where am I? So, you know, the irony here is these people cannot run themselves to the car wash, pretend that the last five years didn't happen, that they didn't empower and enable this

But look, I'm no longer a registered Republican, I'm an independent. Now, I could not be a part of a party that was -- that spent five years pretending that this was normal, and five years pretending that every ideological predicate, every prior belief could be thrown out the window, just because Donald Trump felt a certain way on a certain day. And that they became enamored with both the fear he engendered in them and with trying to hold on to the power of that his cult around him could give them in a Republican primary.

So you know, like many people, we've walked away from that. The party is entangled itself so profoundly with that him that he is going to ride it like a banshee for the next four years while he pretends to run for president holds off all of them until the last minute, that the long term knock on damage of Trump's version of this, from COVID, to corruption, to international affairs, to the economy, it's all going to have a long knock on effect, they're going to own this.

This is like the bad weekend in Tijuana, where you wake up with the tattoo and the dead girl in the trunk. That's a terrible way to lead as a political party going forward. Because they have surrounded themselves with the aura image and brand of Trump, and it's going to be hard to wash it off. And I don't want to be part of that. You know, I think we need to two viable parties in this country. We need a center right party in this country. But the Republican Party today is a personality cult dedicated to Donald Trump. Full stop.

WILLIAMS: James, it must be really weird. Between you and Rick and all the people you know, in politics, all you guys did was try to beat the snot out of each other for decades. And now you have to admit that the Rick Wilson's of the world the so called never-Trumpers played a huge role, especially in public awareness, creating, for starters, the best ads that were on the air in the defeat of Donald Trump.

Politico has a story saying some of the never-Trumpers would like very much to move Joe Biden more toward the center. Despite the problems Joe Biden's going to have on the AOC left. Do you think Joe Biden owes them that?

CARVILLE: I don't think they want Joe Biden owe the United States and I would like to take that at my party what down some kind of path at their party went, then I would act with the honor nobility that Rick and Stuart and the whole novels guys, all activists, I think they will they're real patriots. And I think that they really love the United States and I think they pull in that President-Elect Biden you can try to pull this country together.

I wish the Democrats would pull together and put snipe in Washington complaining about every little thing I'll see in the papers that he's the president. We going to post with this guy and we got to get behind. We got to get behind the country. He, you know, this can be really, really tough job here so he doesn't need me or Rick Wilson anybody second guessing him for the moment we get around this country together.

WILLIAMS: It is great to see you guys getting along. And to our viewers, please know what these two backdrops have in common. Both gentlemen have an American flag behind them. James Carville, Rick Wilson, a pleasure as always, thank you both for coming back on. Coming up for us. A mission to be sure we know where this virus got its start.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: A group of international experts is going to soon get to travel to China to investigate the origins of the coronavirus. This is something of a breakthrough allowing Westerners to see what became ground zero for themselves. It won't surprise you to learn there is concern over how much access they're going to be given from Beijing. NBC News correspondent Keir Simmons has our report from London tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

KEIR SIMMONS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Within weeks, these 10 international scientists will travel to China to investigate the origins of the coronavirus. But tonight's NBC News understands many details of the politically delicate trip are unclear to the team. We've spoken to three of them.

DR. PETER DASZAK, ECOHEALTH ALLIANCE: This is an historic moment.

SIMMONS: An early theory, but COVID jumped from bats to another animal to humans at the wet market in Wu Han. We verified this image of a menu from they're offering wild animals for sale like live wolf cubs and civets. But there are many missing pieces. The scientists tell us.

(on camera): Are you looking for a ground zero? And how confident are you that you'll find one?

DR. MARION KOOPMANS, Erasmus University Medical Center: There's no guarantees. This is not a one time visit.

SIMMONS (voice-over): Their work will depend on cooperation from Chinese scientists and China, a country that has denied initially covering COVID up. Officially the Chinese say the first patient got sick on December 1 2019. By January 2, 41 people were hospitalized with confirmed COVID. Many had no link to the market.

DR. FABIAN LEENDERTZ, ROBERT KOCH INSTITUTE: It will follow the traces wherever they take us.

SIMMONS: The World Health Organization which appointed the team rejects criticism. It's too close to China.

(on camera): Are you confident that Chinese scientists are able to speak openly?

UNDENTIFIED MALE: They're talking to us. We're talking openly about all the different hypotheses on the table. Politics are clearly there. And we don't know that.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SIMMONS: And Peter Daszak, Brian, who you saw speaking at the end of my report, there has himself been accused of being too close to Chinese scientists, Brian, he told me that he rejects that that those connections will actually help the investigation.

WILLIAMS: And Keir, if not promises do they at least go in with assurances that they're going to get to move around and see what they need to see?

SIMMONS: Well, they told me that they are talking now to Chinese scientists and that so far, they feel confident that those talks are going the way they should. It is about not just where they're going to be allowed to go, Brian, but whether they're going to get access to medical data to samples. They say that this is not about apportioning blame to any one country, it's just about trying to help medical science if you like and protect the world from coronaviruses in the future. Inevitably though, this is going to be seen as political around the world, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Our viewers will please note 4:53am London time our friend Keir Simmons cared enough to get up to talk to us and Keir we certainly appreciate your reporting tonight. Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, an appearance by Rudy Giuliani during which he does not mention Hugo Chavez or George Soros but he is selling something other than conspiracy theories.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SEBASTIAN GORKA, FMR. DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sebastian Gorka here for Relief Factor. And first of all, let me say that I have never before endorsed a pain reliever. But when people say target the father and son owners of Relief Factor asked me to endorse that 100 percent drug free product. I absolutely couldn't say no. There are simply too many people like me who are struggling day after day, night after night with pain due to aging, exercise or just everyday living. And of course, I only said yes, because after years of my personal lower back pain, I am now pain free.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So last thing before we go tonight, that was Sebastian Gorka pitching fish oil or as he's called on Fox News, because his name is Jill Biden, Dr. Sebastian Gorka. He's a Trump hanger on turn fish oil enthusiast, but for the purposes of this segment, he's just the amuse Gorka, a setup for the main course and that would be Rudy Giuliani.

Rudy has given us reason to worry about him lately. There was the brown goo incident at that press conference followed just days later by his admission to the hospital for the coronavirus, but that's apparently all in the past because I don't know about you, but when you're recovering from a potentially fatal respiratory disease, you crave two things, a good cigar and some gold coins.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP PERSONAL LAWYER: If you want a good cigar, go to a good cigar shop. You want the best go to famous smoke shop. Check out with the promo code Rudy20. That's Rudy, R-U-D-Y20 and get $20 off your order.

I accomplished a lot in 2020 exposing the truth establishing the relationship with you working tirelessly for American and I came to know the work and value of the people at American Hartford gold. Give them a call and tell them Rudy sent you. Text Rudy 265532.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: That's what you call pure TV gold right there. Smoke them if you've got them and for all your cigars and gold coin needs, tell them Rudy sent you.

That's also our broadcast for this Thursday night with our thanks for joining us on behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END

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