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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, January 11, 2021

Guests: Neal Katyal, Michael Beschloss, Ben Smith


Feds warn against more penitential violence. New video of siege shows brutal mob violence. Trump's Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf resigns. The FBI is warning in an internal memo of the possibility of armed protests at all 50 state capitols. Riots force close examination of social media platforms. Biden receives second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.


EZRA KLEIN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And he brought it to the forefront of the Republican Party. That's always I think where the energy in the Republican Party was, but it had been somehow channeled into plutocratic policies. That's still a little bit true. But he has begun to break that bargain in a way that makes I think the white resentment part very much the pace of the Republican Party's future.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Ezra Klein and Mara Gay get tonight's LAST WORD. Thank you both for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it. Thank you. That is Tonight's Last Word. THE 11TH HOUR with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, as we start a new week, day 1,453 of the Trump administration, nine days remain now until the inauguration of Joe Biden as our 46th president.

This final full week of the Trump administration begins with, let's call it what it is, the nation facing an active and dangerous domestic terror threat, bracing perhaps for even more violence, while the White House this week goes about impeached -- while the House this week goes about impeaching Donald Trump for the second time, the looting of our U.S. Capitol Building, as many have pointed out is that rare event that has grown in importance in the days since it happened?

New pictures and video only make the event more depressing, darker, scarier than it seemed to be even in the moment. And a warning especially for those of you joining us on the west coast where little ones may still be awake.

This video is disturbing. The most powerful new imagery shows members of the mob quite literally under the banner of Donald Trump beating police officers on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

With a week and a half to go until the inauguration officials are trying to harden Washington D.C. The District of Columbia is under a state of emergency, as many as 15,000 National Guard could be on hand by January 20, none of us will be surprised if the number grows higher than that.

The FBI is warning law enforcement agencies across the country about possible armed protests at all 50 state capitals across our country starting Saturday. The bulletin also warns an armed group has threatened to travel to Washington the same day to stage and uprising if Congress removes Donald Trump.

In the middle of all of this, the acting Homeland Security Secretary today abruptly announced his resignation. Chad Wolf leaving with nine days left on the job happens to be the third cabinet member to step down since the riot though his resignation letter made no mention of the siege at the Capitol.

Earlier today, Joe Biden was asked whether he's worried about his inauguration.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: I'm not afraid of taking the oath outside, and we've been getting briefed.


WILLIAMS: As federal officials track down more of the insurrectionists, there's word that at least to Capitol Hill police officers have been suspended 10 others under investigation. Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio who was a guest of ours here last week told reporters one of the suspended cops is the officer seen taking a selfie with the rioters. The other was seen wearing a MAGA hat directing people inside the building.

Meanwhile, House Democrats are ramping up their effort to hold Trump accountable. Tomorrow, the House is expected to vote on a measure that calls on Mike Pence to invoke the 25th amendment against Trump. If that doesn't happen, and it's not likely look for a vote on the article of impeachment charging Trump with incitement of insurrection, on Wednesday, California congressman Ted Lieu one of three Democrats who drafted the article of impeachment.


REP. TED LIEU, (D) CALIFORNIA JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Donald Trump called his support his show up on January 6, because that's when Congress was going to formalize his loss and Joe Biden's when, he then gave a speech telling them that the election was stolen. He told him to stop this deal, marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, go to the Capitol and to fight like hell, and they listened. And the person responsible for inciting this insurrection is Donald Trump. That's why we need to remove him from office as soon as possible.


WILLIAMS: New York Times reports that Democrats as of today are "confident they had the votes to make Mr. Trump the first president ever to be impeached twice."

House Republican leader and loyal Trump ally Kevin McCarthy is now trying to keep that from happening. NBC News reports he's proposed Trump be censured instead.

Sources say during a conference call late today, McCarthy also told his Republican caucus that Trump bears some responsibility for the riot. One freshmen Republican House member Peter Meijer of Michigan was just four days sworn in when the Capitol was attacked. He says he hasn't ruled out voting for impeachment.


REP. PETER MEIJER, (R) MICHIGAN: That is something I'm strongly considering. Again, I've had colleagues who are objecting and raising concerns on the timing, raising concerns on the process, raising concerns on the reception. I have not heard anybody raising concerns on the merits, and I believe that the President's actions last Wednesday are disqualifying and leave him unfit for office.


WILLIAMS: Some Senate Republicans are said to be urging the House to keep the articles narrowly focused on Trump's incitement of the insurrection and leave out Trump's efforts to strong arm swing states to move votes in his direction and reverse the election result.

Today the incoming president was preparing for the possibility of a Senate impeachment trial during his first few days of the new administration.


BIDEN: The question is whether or not, for example, if the House moves forward, which they obviously are, with the impeachment and sends it over to the Senate, whether or not we checked with foreign material, as to whether or not you can bifurcate this. Can we go half-day on dealing with the impeachment and half-day getting my people nominated and confirmed in the Senate, as well as moving on the package? So that's my hope and expectation.


WILLIAMS: Earlier this evening, Trump met with Mike Pence for the first time since the riot, when rioters were heard in the capital saying hang Pence. Trump has been holed up in the White House for the past several days, scheduled go to Texas tomorrow to view what exists of his border wall. He has taken time to give out another Medal of Freedom.

Today he gave the nation's highest civilian honor to the ardent Trump defender Jim Jordan, Republican Congressman from Ohio. Trump was also planning to hand one to patriots head coach Bill Belichick. But tonight, the NFL coach declined to accept the honor citing the attack on the Capitol. He wrote in part this, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation's values freedom and democracy.

One other item that caught our attention during today's push to get Trump to resign, a State Department website featuring the President's biography suddenly changed this afternoon to read simply Donald J. Trump's term ended on January 11, 2021. There are reports a disgruntled employee at the State Department was responsible certainly doesn't appear to be the work of the gruntled.

On that note, let's bring in our three terrific leadoff guests on this Monday night as we start this new week. Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Reporter for The Washington Post, Neal Katyal, former Acting Solicitor General during the Obama years, he's argued dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for counterintelligence. Notably, he is the author of a new book, The FBI Way: Inside the Bureau's Code of Excellence.

Good evening, and welcome to you all. Ashley, I want to read back to you your own work with your colleagues, Rucker and Dawsey in the Washington Post tonight. The president safely ensconced in the West Wing, this is during the riot was too busy watching fiery television images of the crisis that was unfolding around them to act or even bothered to hear their cries for help. He was busy enjoying the spectacle, Trump watched with interest, buoyed to see that his supporters were fighting so hard on his behalf. Ashley, has there been an attempt at a Trump cover story for his role, his behavior and his silence since?

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: There hasn't. The story we reported in the Washington Post that just posted this evening with us basically, inside those six hours on the attack on the Capitol Wednesday from when the Capitol was first reached a little before 2 p.m. until when it was finally secured at 8 p.m. And it is sort of a full accounting of what happened conflicted by no White House messaging, or no spin or no attempts at explanation, in part because the President's twitter feed and social media presence has been silenced. But more importantly, because there is no explanation because as we wrote Donald Trump that they're riveted, more like a viewer than a president by what he was witnessing on TV in some ways, even appreciating the service with which his supporters were fighting for him. And the people around him are to a person disgusted.

Now does that mean they are resigning? Not all of them? Are they speaking out by name? Not all of them. But things are falling away for this president in a way that they have not read any other period of his presidency and there's just simply no way you can spin that away.

WILLIAMS: Neal Katyal, of course, after his role in incitement the malpractice compounds itself knowing that he was one of us watching the looting of the Capitol, and chose not to act. I assume you agree with the way House Democrats have gone about this single article of impeachment. And I assume that all of this detail that Ashley and her colleagues have reported, just tonight, in a way, literally and figuratively goes into the record. This becomes the allegation against him.

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Yeah, so Congress is basically like the opposite of Trump right now. Trump is totally AWOL. We don't see from him. He's doing nothing. But Congress is moving really fast and introduced today the single article of impeachment, focusing on inciting the riots. And even Liz Cheney right now is thinking of signing on to that along with other Republicans. So Trump for once has managed to unite Democrats and Republicans alike on this. The question is whether or not to add more than that to deal with the Georgia Secretary of State and the abuses there or elsewhere.

I suspect that they'll probably coalesce around the single article, because it does, you know, it's something that more people can agree on. Having said that, the Senate is still, you know, Mitch McConnell has said, well, I can't start a trial until January 19 because the Senate's in recess. This is the same guy who rammed a Supreme Court appointment through three days before an election. And we know I mean, heaven forbid if something happened to a justice on the Supreme Court tonight, Mitch McConnell will be calling the Senate back into action faster than Donald Trump can utter a lie. And so Trump might be like the anti-George Washington, but Mitch McConnell look like, you know, Usain Bolt in a second if something like that happen. So there's a lot of delay going on, on the Senate Republican side, but I think this thing is headed in the right direction and develop (ph).

WILLIAMS: Terrific point about the Supreme Court.

Now, Frank Figliuzzi, to you and your beloved FBI, I know in your book, you talk about the changes the FBI went through post 9/11. I've heard it said just tonight, this will be the most tense time for the FBI since 9/11. But here's what they can't do, and correct me if I'm wrong. If we've got threats against 50 state houses from Augusta, Maine to Tallahassee, Florida, from Trenton, New Jersey to Sacramento, that's going to end up on police officers, sheriff's deputies, perhaps National Guard times 50, the 15,000 agents of the FBI, it seems to me cannot be used to fortify state capitals. But Frank, talk about this unique setup of what is truly domestic terrorism.

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Not only is it truly domestic terrorism, but we still don't have a law in the United States against domestic terrorism that will give the FBI and the remainder of law enforcement the investigative tools in the toolkit that they need to counter this threat. What they're telling me now, Brian, is this threat is out in front of them. They are not out in front of this threat. And it is all hands on deck and every single one of the 56 field offices in the FBI imagine the triage challenge of prioritizing which threat on social media is aspirational, which is the guy on the couch with a bag of potato chips, and which is the actor who's going to actually travel and execute a plan? This is a monumental task, and it requires everybody to move in one direction with a collective code of core values just like this country needs right now.

And sadly, we're getting reports from numerous police departments across the country that they have opened investigations on their own officers to determine whether they participated in this insurrection in D.C. We understand that as many as 15 Capitol Police officers have been either suspended or are under investigation. And this is the threat facing us. It is an insider threat that -- and the perilous time over the next couple of weeks in this country cannot be overemphasized.

WILLIAMS: Frank, as your friend and someone has known you a long time, the urgency in your voice is worrisome. What's your personal level of worry for this inauguration for your country right about now?

FIGLIUZZI: Well, here's the thing, when you harden the target and we're going to harden the District of Columbia and it is going to have an almost impenetrable perimeter. And every resource in the entire panoply of government agencies is going to be deployed to the district. The problem with that is the bad guys may see that and move to the softer targets hence you see the FBI bulletin warning every state capitol and state house to prepare for violence. They've had intelligence indicating plans. They're going to harden the target in D.C. So I'm good news, bad news. I'm confident about a secure District of Columbia for the inauguration. Not to say there won't be ugly attempts at the perimeter. But I'm less confident about the ability of state houses in individual states to safeguard their buildings.

WILLIAMS: Ashley, that's saying a lot, and over to you on the intersection of terrorism and politics, while the rioters were in the capital, Donald Trump was attacking his vice president on Twitter. We later learned they were chanting, among other things, hang Pence. What reporting can you add tonight to what is left of the relationship between Donald Trump and his loyal to put it lightly Vice President Mike Pence?

PARKER: So the two men did finally speak this morning for the first time in the Oval Office, and it was described as a good conversation. But Mike Pence is really the ultimate cautionary tale. You have to remember that the way all of this violence gets started is Donald Trump addresses a crowd on the mall Wednesday, where he really attacks his vice president against a crowd that he has revved up an urge to fight. He tells them to march down to the Capitol and he says I'm going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue with you. He doesn't, he goes back to the White House. And the first thing he does when he's back to the White House is send out a tweet about how Mike Pence is basically a coward and not doing something which we all know Mike Pence does not have the power to do which is to overturn the results of the election.

So as soon as in -- the crowd, as you said they are chanting, hang Mike Pence, they are furious with him. And so Mike Pence as soon as that first breach occurs, he is whisked away to a secure location. But while he is there he is the one who is reaching out to military leaders and congressional leaders trying to mobilize the National Guard, trying to get information, trying to reassure people, in short, trying to do the job that the president should be doing. And in the president knowing all of this does not once call Mike Pence to check in on him or his family. At one point, Mike Pence, his Chief of Staff, Mark short, calls the White House after there's been no outreach to sort of offer up that don't worry guys you haven't asked but everyone is safe.

So the relationship is not good. People were predicting as early as this morning before we knew they had spoken close allies have both banned that this might be irrevocable, they might never speak again. We now know they have spoken but it is basically four years totally undermined by Mike Pence his adherence, frankly, to the Constitution.

WILLIAMS: Neal Katyal, the D.C. Attorney General is talking about a possible incitement charge against the President of the United States, District of Columbia as a non state and our union as, you know, as a kind of Byzantine way of charging and trying crimes with the feds involved there. I'm not a lawyer or for that matter, a college graduate, tell me how a local incitement charge is going to leave a mark on Donald Trump?

KATYAL: Yeah, so there's a local incitement charge under the D.C. code, or inciting violence that's true in many, many states and local jurisdictions. There's also federal counterpart statutes about incitement, such as ships conspiracy, encouraging people to go and travel across state lines to commit a riot. All of these are different, both federal and D.C. crimes.

For D.C., what the Attorney General Karl Racine is doing is opening an investigation. And, you know, this is something that Donald Trump might be able to try and pardon himself for. You know, there's an argument that that isn't a, "offense against the United States," which is something that is pardonable because D.C. is part of the federal government. Even if he tries that, however, there's a big debate, and most people think you can't pardon yourself, if you're the president, and the Justice Department already has an opinion on that. And even if he could get away with it, and try and pardon himself for D.C., all that would do is put pressure, I think, on the Georgia investigation, the New York investigations into multiple parts, criminal parts of Trump's wrongdoing.

And so, you know, don't worry Donald Trump. You'll still have your day in court. It's just more likely to happen before a New York or Georgia criminal jury then in front of your Supreme Court justices. But either way, you know, I think if you're Donald Trump right now, this is a very, very bad situation.

WILLIAMS: Three really important guests as we start this new week, Ashley Parker, Neal Katyal, Frank Figliuzzi, again, Frank's new book is called, The FBI Way: Inside the Bureau's Code of Excellence. And it arrives just about a time we could use a little bit more of the FBI way around here. Thank you all.

Coming up, what the newly declared state of emergency means for the Biden inauguration, that will, we'll all be watching live on television. We'll be joined by a retired four star general who warns us, it may not nearly be enough security.

And later, imagine you're watching live TV coverage when you spot a former co worker in the rampaging crowd at the Capitol. We'll talk to someone who did and find out what drives a person to attack the heart of American democracy. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on this Monday night.



CLINT WATT, FMR. FBI SPECIAL AGENT: They have to clean up and investigate the mess that has occurred around this tragedy last Wednesday, and they have to prepare for another mobilization potentially going in against the inauguration. And we have 50 states now that all may have different variants of this on Inauguration Day and they're just waiting to get pointed to by one group or another. So I think it's probably the most stressful time for the FBI since 9/11.


WILLIAMS: Clint Watts, another veteran of the FBI. There's evidence all over the internet that far right extremist groups have started to focus on Inauguration Day itself.

Our next guest, General Barry McCaffrey posted this and it caught our eye, "Given the security threat to the inauguration, the ceremony should be moved to a more protected location like the Capitol dome, not a signal of weakness. I've seen a lot of combat. I'm still alive because I react immediately to signs of danger.

Well, back with us again tonight, two of our very best, the aforementioned General Barry McCaffrey, decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, former battlefield commander in the Persian Gulf, former cabinet member and our military analyst for good reason. Also with us, the celebrated author of NBC News, Presidential Historian, Michael Beschloss, whose latest work is Presidents of War.

Gentlemen, welcome, and good evening. General, I'd like to begin with you. So we saw the Yahoos make it with ease inside the wire. Yes, some of them had horns, but others of them had zip tie handcuffs. Given that, what are your concerns about security for Inauguration Day and talk more about what you're suggesting?

BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Look, I think Frank Figliuzzi made the point that we're capable of securing the inauguration from any threat of any magnitude, but you put 15,000 National Guard, they'll bring in federal law enforcement, there'll be intensive air defense coverage. So 1000 militia members are ambush semi automatic weapons could be dealt with Biden's life will not be placed in danger.

What I'm concerned about as we've just watched this massive failure of intelligence and law enforcement or the Capitol, we narrowly avoided having Vice President Mike Pence for the Speaker of the House harm if not murdered a few days ago. So what I'm concerned about it seems to be if the inauguration is outside, we end up with the likelihood of a provocation of an embarrassment of a demonstration, lasers, drones, firecrackers, snipers on the distant edge of the crowd that will be humiliating and embarrassing globally.

So I think we had to go inside. They had put them in the in the Capitol dome, where we can conduct a dignified ceremony with 30 TV cameras there and key members of the government. Without which, Mark (inaudible) is concerned about what's going to happen. Very small arm thread capable of committing murder, but they are out there. And now they're going to be in 50 state capitals also, where the state police and state investigative bodies and local law enforcement also are prepared to deal with any level of threat if they get the political direction to do so.

WILLIAMS: Michael is chilling to hear that from a man who has shed blood on foreign battlefields for this country. Talk about the potential for combat in Washington, D.C., and I always discuss history with a historian cautiously, but I've been thinking about 1945, the inauguration and it was hardly his first of FDR that he chose to have at the White House. That is the area just below what later became known as the Truman balcony. It was war time and something else we did not know. He was dying. He had just weeks to live after his, what turned out to be his final inaugural. Is there a parallel here, Michael?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, PRESIDENTIAL BIOGRAPHER: I think there is and I think I'd even go further than Barry, I think there is some risk even doing it inside the Capitol in 1945 shows that. Next week, we're going to be in a potential war zone given the threats in this country, 1945 we were in World War Two. And FDR's protectors felt that it was too much to take the risk to have his car go up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, certainly to have him give a speech on the front steps of the Capitol outdoors. The whole thing was done at the White House. He was sworn and gave a speech on the south portico. I think that's an exact parallel here.

The other thing, Brian, and I never thought I'd be talking this way, you know, the FBI intelligence agencies, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of Defense tonight, those are still all in the control of Donald Trump. And they will be until noon on the 20th of January, assuming that he stays in office. We're relying on that guy to protect our new President, Joe Biden, after the performance last week. I say, you know, let's take a warning from what we saw there a discussion of -- their discussions now of President-elect Biden being sworn in outdoors at the Capitol, today it was announced by the Biden Inaugural Committee that he and Vice President Harris will go to Arlington Cemetery to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier with former presidents. It's a lovely symbol, but symbols are much too dangerous right now.

We've got to keep the new vice-president, the new president, as safe as possible if they have to be inaugurated in an underground cavern, that's fine with me safety first.

WILLIAMS: General when you hear that the now former Capitol Police Chief was turned down in his request of the Pentagon, apparently for Guard troops because they didn't like the optics of it. Would you have not preferred the optics of Guard troops and circling the Capitol, as opposed to looters inside the Capitol?

MCCAFFREY: Oh, no question. But look, I think that statement by the police chief, utter nonsense, you know, the National Guard or Reserve Component soldiers, you don't whistle them up in 30 minutes over the Capitol. There was a deliberate collective decision to include by the congressional oversight committee, that none of them wanted to get involved in Lafayette squares.

And I do think the Department of Defense didn't want to have a militarized appearance to that weekend, built in. We got four squirrely lads over in DoD Acting Secretary of Defense sort of OK, they didn't want to incur Trump's disfavor. So that's what set us up for this terrible failure.

But I think to add to Michael's point, which I totally support, we don't want an inauguration that looks militarized. We you know, we don't want phalanxes of bayonet carrying soldiers, which again argues for get it inside, get it in a historic place and use a White House because Mr. Trump a lawless rogue is in charge of that building until one minute before the swearing in storage.

So we just, you know, there's -- we need to have an abundance of caution, have a dignified inauguration and get on with the people's business, the criminal actions stop on the 20th at 1201. We just got to get Mr. Biden, Vice President Elect Harris through that needle.

WILLIAMS: We hope our members of our audience listen to these two gentlemen and otherwise, welcome to 2021. This is the America we're living in. General Barry McCaffrey, Michael Beschloss, our thanks for joining us and laying it out for us.

Coming up for us. How easy is it to become radicalized? Well, a New York Times reporter is here to tell us about his former colleague, who was spotted storming the Capitol last week.


WILLIAMS: Twitter's decision to ban Donald Trump is ricocheting across the internet. Parler, that site popular with a lot of right-wing extremists as effectively shut down after Amazon kicked it off its servers and Apple kicked it out of the App Store.

A dozen other platforms have either banned or restricted the president. Wall Street Journal also reporting today Facebook is removing all content mentioning stop the steal. Imagine that because it's a lie.

For more we welcome Ben Smith to the broadcast. He is the former editor-in-chief for BuzzFeed News. These days media columnist for The New York Times.

Ben, longtime reader first time caller, we're thrilled to have you on the broadcast. I want you to tell your story, which you talked about in print. And that is you're watching the looting of our U.S. Capitol on live TV along with the rest of us. You notice something talk about that and the lesson it taught you.

BEN SMITH, THE NEW YORK TIMES MEDIA COLUMNIST: Well, I guess I was watching on live internet and specifically on Twitter and then over on a platform favorite also by the far right called DLive, where this guy was streaming live as he occupied Jeff Merkley's office and sort of messed around with the phone, interviewed other writers. And it was in fact, a guy I used to work with at BuzzFeed who was a social media editor, basically, a guy who had, you know, kind of come to prominence on the old video platform of mine, where he had done things like for bucket gallons of milk on his head.

And, you know, it was somebody who's an I called Sina, some of our old colleagues, I didn't know him, well then to say, you know, what, what was his deal? And really their impression was that he was somebody who would just kind of follow the signal of the internet wherever lead, and he found himself getting engagement by being an anti Semite. He followed that, and let him hear.

WILLIAMS: And what does that tell you?

SMITH: I mean, I'm not sure. I, you know, I think that the thing that kind of I was thinking about was the extent to which we think about sort of, you know, a kid in his bedroom, watching MSNBC and watching, you know, videos on it getting radicalized, watching YouTube videos that push him toward al-Qaeda or toward the alt right.

And, you know, this is different. This is somebody who kind of got radicalized by performing like he was -- he had an audience for this stuff. And he was really reflecting back to this audience what he could feel that they wanted. And that's in some ways what's so horrifying is there was just this huge audience out there of cheering him on in racism and violence.

WILLIAMS: Meantime, Messrs. Dorsey and Zuckerberg for many years have insisted look, we're just small town publishers here in Bedford Falls, we're not responsible for the stuff we post. Suddenly, they've both found religion and they have a lot of help, what do you make of them turning off the spigots now, and you know, a lot of that business is gong to scatter to even darker corners.

SMITH: You know, I'm not sure how much of it will scatter. Donald Trump sure hasn't scattered. He hasn't found a darker corner. It's just kind of gone. It's wild. I think it shows the power that Facebook and Twitter have to and YouTube as well to really kind of control his speech.

I mean, so much damage has been done, so much radicalization, there's so much poison in the air. I don't think it's, you know, they could have instituted a set of moderation policies years ago that prevented some of this stuff from growing. It's too late for that now, and I think it's unpredictable what the consequences of this are.

I think it's right to have discomfort with a couple of executives. You know, making You know, these incredibly important geopolitical decisions unilaterally not clear who else there is to make them.

But I think, you know, will they be able to find some kind of system of rules or have been imposed on them, but it's transparent and fair and clear. I mean, you know, that's the question.

WILLIAMS: Please promise me you'll come back, I want to have discussion on Fox News, and Newsmax and OAN, all your areas of study. And we'll shift our focus to this business, business of television news and its intersection with politics.

But for now, audience joins me in thanking Ben Smith of the New York Times. Thanks for joining us tonight.

Coming up, we turn to the pandemic that continues to ravage our country as Joe Biden prepares to use the power of his new office to vaccinate 100 million of us in the first 100 days.



JOE BIDEN (D), U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: Number one priority is getting vaccine to people's arms like we just today, as rapidly as we can, and we're working on that program. Now three to 4,000 people a day is just beyond the pale.


WILLIAMS: Joe Biden says he will roll out his new coronavirus vaccination plan on Thursday. Politico is reporting there's rising tension between Biden and his own COVID team over whether he can keep his promise and it's a lofty one, to use the power of his new office to vaccinate 100 million of us in the first 100 days.

That's why we thought of one of our favorite guests Dr. Vin Gupta, critical care doctor specializing in these kinds of illnesses and affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. A young man educated at Princeton, Cambridge, Harvard, Columbia Med School who also happens to serve you The US Air Force Reserve.

Doc, I saw a graphic tweeted tonight by Dr. Tom Frieden, the former CDC director, and it's breathtaking. This is the graphic of new cases per million people in the UK, and Ireland, and it is straight up. This is the new strains, I'm assuming. How scared should we all be by this?

DR. VIN GUPTA, UNIV. OF WASHINGTON HEALTH METRICS SCIENCES DEPT.: Good evening, Brian, you know, it's an extremely urgent situation. And we need to have a disaster mindsets. What does that mean? That means we need to scale up vaccination. I'll get into what I mean by that. And then we need to align Brian public policy with reality as it exists today.

So when vaccination, how do we scale that up once President Biden takes office? He needs to put us on a war footing. And that means mobilizing all four branches of the Armed Forces, in addition to encouraging state governors to mobilize their national guard only seven National Guard stash has been mobilized for COVID response as we speak.

I say this is somebody who gets deployed in that situation. So I have skin in the game here. But we need that because the military can stand up hospital facilities where they don't exist, triage, side effects of vaccination reactions, you name it, we need that here. Right now war funding. We need to also redefine what an immunizers, Brian.

If you're watching this right now, you should be able to be screened in for training to give shots under the supervision of someone who can respond to an emergency, then we also need standardized software at the state level, make sure we can track and provide appointments for people for that one, that first dose. And that second is that that's key.

And then on policy really quickly. I'll say, Brian, we need you desperately to answer the ask the question with this strain now circulating we have to assume it's here. And we know this strain easily transmits a younger -- amongst a younger generation.

And by the way, today, schools were reopening across the country for interesting construction, we have to get real about why are we openly opening up schools right now with 4,000 people dying a day, and teachers not getting vaccinated even though they're vulnerable support staff getting vulnerable.

So really being clear eyed on what we're doing with in person instruction right now while teachers are still waiting that vaccination. That's number one. And then number two, we, you know, again, this has come to the point here of how do we make the movement of healthcare personnel easy.

Brian, I'll say this real quick. My colleague -- a few colleagues of mine try to actually get licensed to help out in the hospital in Southern California, it's going to take six weeks for us to do that. We need to make that time consolidate that time to less than a week. So we could be where the crisis is not in six weeks now.

WILLIAMS: I'm glad you mentioned your experience, because I'm going to do it anyway. The lift capacity of just your branch of the service, the United States Air Force, you haven't lived until you've seen a C-17. On a short takeoff fully loaded. It's a thing of beauty. But he can use the power of office, you're saying he can put 100 million shots in arms and 100 days, all they need to do is work at it.

GUPTA: We will we have to think big, Brian. This is not the time to think small here. We can't say well, you have to have some sort of healthcare training to be immunized. No those days are done. We need to think outside the box here. More immunized as you don't necessarily need health care training, you need to be trained, you need to be under the supervision of somebody else number one, and let's finally use our military assets to help us here at home. Or we readily use military assets for the Ebola response. Let's use them here at home.

And that's really key here. But then, let's get vaccinations in the arms of teachers before we expect them to go for in-person instruction. I've heard from teachers unions across the country, outrageous that they're being expected to go into the classroom without still not perfect PPE and yet teaching in a place where they could get the virus. We need to protect all frontline workers before we expect them to go into in-person instruction. They could still do a virtual learning environment while they're awaiting that vaccine. So let's get real on public policy as well.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Vin Gupta as always, we thank you for your passion. We thank you for your expertise and thank you for taking our questions. Good luck in your day job these days. Coming up for us. This mutating virus is getting better and spreading than we are at stopping it. Our report that might be a preview of what we can expect it comes from overseas. We'll have it for you after this.


WILLIAMS: For all the reasons we just warned you about the World Health Organization is warning these new strains could further stress hospitals. Now as this new mutation has been found in Japan, the consensus seems to be this pandemic will get worse before it gets better. These new strains will pose a huge risk. As we hear in this report from our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The UK today rolled out mass vaccination centers in racetracks and convention halls. Health officials say the next few weeks here will be the worst of the pandemic so far.

A new strain up to 70 percent more contagious has taken over. London's Mayor warns one in 30 people in the city may now have the virus.

A South African strain just as highly transmissible as the U.K. variant is now dominant there and already jumped to nearly a dozen countries.

A Japanese strain was just confirmed today.

SHABIR MADHI, UNIVERSITY OF WITWATERSRAND VACCINOLOGY PROFESSOR: It just got much more efficient in terms of being able to infect people.

ENGEL: Shabir Madhi leads vaccine trials in South Africa.

(on camera): Do you think the South African variant is already in the United States?

MADHI: So I would be highly surprised if this variant hasn't been exported to the United States. And I think it's just a matter of days, if not weeks.

ENGEL (voice-over): Both the South African and UK variants are genetic mutations of the original coronavirus. It's mutating more now because the virus is so widespread evolution sped up by the pandemic.

DEVI SRIDHAR, THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSOR: The larger issues we're going to see more and more mutations. This is just the start. Unfortunately, I think the worst might still be ahead of us.

ENGEL (on camera): British officials believe the current vaccines work against the U.K. variant. A Pfizer study showed its vaccine appears to be effective against the South African strain. But this virus is now a moving target. Richard Engel, NBC News, London.


WILLIAMS: Wish we had better news for you. Coming up there were more villains than heroes during the looting of our Capitol Building. But at least one hero is being singled out his story when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, the search for something anything someone to celebrate and hold up as an example after one of the worst and darkest days in our modern history.

When our Capitol, our Capitol building was ransacked and looted by rioters, insurrectionists, QAnon Trumpers, militia members, military veterans would be military members, Confederates, anti-Semites, and other people who have been lied to about the election being stolen.

Two Capitol Police officers are dead, two suspended. One officer though is being praised for heroic actions under threat to his life. He has now asked if you can believe it for the safety and that of his family, that we no longer use his name. But here's what he did.

He'd been separated from his baton which he bent over to pick up and while radioing his movements in real time, he determined the mob wasn't stopping. And he realized in the moment his choice was moved back or get beaten like his fellow officers were getting beaten.

But this officers key move came at the top of the stairs. He knew and luckily the rapidly approaching Yahoo's did not that the Senate chamber was to the left. He saw no one standing post and so he led them the other way the Senate was in session.

So we are lucky that officer worked that shift on that side of the Capitol that day. Just as we are lucky the Trump inspired mob didn't bring long guns. But even without them the mob having erected a noose on the Capitol grounds. Our Capitol grounds. Still found a way to beat police officers with an American flag, with crutches, baseball bats and a hockey stick.

Among the senators who were protected by that officer in that brave moment, those who returned to the chamber after the looting was over and still voted to overturn the results of our election.

That is our broadcast for this Monday night. As we start this new week, it comes with our thanks for spending this time with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.


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