There's enormous security presence in Washington ahead of inauguration. Feds worry of more violence from diehard Trump fans. The FBI is monitoring "concerning online chatter." The state officials are upping security nationwide. President Donald Trump leaves a fractured GOP in his wake. Senate impeachment trial expected to start after inauguration.
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Tristan Harris, thank you very much for joining us, really appreciate it. Always, I wanted to get your perspective on this since the day that it happened. Thank you very much.
TRISTAN HARRIS, COMPUTER SCIENTIST AND BUSINESSPERSON: Thank you for asking such great questions.
O'DONNELL: Thank you. Tristan Harris gets Tonight's Last Word the 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, day 1,456 of the Trump administration that leaves just six days until the inauguration of Joe Biden as our 46th President.
Tonight, there are more U.S. troops in Washington than we currently have deployed in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan combined. The U.S. Capitol and increasingly the nearby mall are armed and campment in effect. Sadly, they need to be, eight days after insurrectionists looted and desecrated the center of our government, and in light of the numerous and serious threats coming into the inauguration.
Tonight, Politico has some disturbing reporting and inauguration rehearsals scheduled for Sunday has been postponed today because of security concerns. Even the President-elect has canceled his plans to take Amtrak to Washington from Wilmington that was planned for Monday.
More seriously, Political also notes this as one of the many reasons for the intense security, "A vast swath of the President's diehard base in MAGA Nation -- the conspiracy theorists, the militia members, the followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory has disregarded Trump's Wednesday remarks, they are dissecting his phrases, using those cues as rallying cries, doubling down on their plans to keep the MAGA movement going after Trump leaves the White House. The absence of a formal Trump concession to President-elect Joe Biden has emboldened their chatter and bolstered their ideology."
Today, we finally heard from the director of the FBI who outlined the threats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We are seeing an extensive amount of concerning online chatter, I guess the best way I would describe it, about a number of events surrounding the inauguration or tracking calls for potential armed protests and activity leading up to the inauguration. And the reason I use the word potential is because one of the real challenges in this space is trying to distinguish what's aspirational versus what's intentional. We're concerned about the potential for violence at multiple protests and rallies planned here in D.C. and its state capitol buildings around the country in the days to come that could bring armed individuals within close proximity to government buildings and officials. We're looking at individuals who may have an eye towards repeating that same kind of violence that we saw last week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Please note, meeting chaired by the Vice-President, the president nowhere to be seen. The FBI Director also said over 200 suspects in the January six attack, have been identified. Over 100 people are under arrest. They include the man seen carrying the confederate flag inside the Capitol building, and a retired firefighter seen on video striking police officers with a fire extinguisher.
Tonight, the Washington Post reports dozens of people on a terrorist watch list, most of them suspected white supremacists are -- were in Washington the day of the rampage. As for the FBI director's warning about potential violence around the country, NBC News adds this. "More than a dozen flyers are circulating online advertising pro-Trump rallies at state Capitols, according to a social and media analysis by the network. 'Freedom is a right," one popular flyer reads, 'Refuse to be silenced,' says another."
And FBI bullet notes these protests are expected to take place at state capitals starting as early as this weekend. Earlier today, the governor of Kentucky said his administration is bracing for the days ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): We're going to have a much larger presence certainly around our state capitol buildings. We can't play patty cake with so called militias anymore and pretend that they just dressed up for Halloween. These are dangerous folks that want to in many cases, topple our government and are willing to use violence to do it. And we cannot allow this to become the new normal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Meantime, the U.S. Senate is preparing for the trial of the only president in our history to be impeached twice. It could begin right after the inauguration just as Joe Biden is trying to launch his new administration. The outgoing president has caused major ruptures within his own party yesterday as you know. Those 10 house members Republicans all joined with the Democrats crossed over to support impeachment. Democrats in the Senate would need 17 Republicans to cross over to get a conviction. Today, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said the House was right to impeach
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): This President violated his oath of office and I believe there must be consequences to that. I believe that the House in advancing the Articles of Impeachment is entirely appropriate. When the impeachment comes to the Senate, as I assume it will, I will do what I am required and interested to do as a senator, as effectively listening to that trial in that proceeding. And I will make my determination at that time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Trump's Trade Adviser, Peter Navarro, one of the few White House figures still openly publicly supporting his boss. Here's what he had to say this morning about the House vote as you watch this, we ask that you remember, this man has a Ph.D. from Harvard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER NAVARRO, TRUMP'S TRADE ADVISER: The Democratic Party did violence to this country by attacking a President who I believe was legally elected on November 3. I've never been more pissed off in my life at this place. And I think there's 74 million Americans out there who voted for President Trump, who feel exactly the same way. What Congress is doing right now is they're turning a divide between a 50/50 country into a chasm. OK. And the people of this country, the Trump people are not going to stand for this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Bloomberg News reports Trump is having trouble gathering a defense team for this Senate trial apparently because a lot of lawyers would like to find work when this is over. "Lawyers who defended him in the previous impeachment trial, including Jay Sekulow, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, have said no this time, some of the lawyers who don't want a role have privately said what Trump did was indefensible." They go on to add, a number of prominent law firms have refused to engage in any legal representation.
Bloomberg also reporting Trump plans to fly to Mar-a-Lago before Biden's inauguration naturally, and that several current White House staff will work for him or his son-in-law Jared after the presidency.
Bloomberg says Trump will live at his resort despite a local 1993 agreement with Palm Beach barring him from making it his permanent residence.
It's a lot and with that, let's bring in our leadoff guest this Thursday night returning veterans all, Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter with The Associated Press, Jen Golbeck, she's an expert in malicious online behavior much in demand these days, also happens to be an author and Professor at the University of Maryland College of Information Studies, and Norm Eisen, prior to serving as special counsel at the House Judiciary Committee during impeachment, he was our nation's Ambassador to the Czech Republic, ethics lawyer inside the Obama White House. His latest book is, A Case for the American People: The United States versus Donald J. Trump.
Jonathan Lemire, we have to begin with you and your beat. Number one, are you hearing any talk of moving this inauguration indoors? There is precedent for it. Are you hearing any talk of this president ever forming the words of concession to Joe Biden ever admitting that he lost a democratic election fair and square?
JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: First on the President-elect, Brian, at this point, no. He and his team still want to have the traditional outdoor West front of the Capitol inauguration. I say traditional we all know it's going to look very different this year because the COVID-19 pandemic, but they still want the basics to look the same. They don't want it to appear any different. They don't want to be seen bowing to the threat of what's let's call it what it is, domestic terrorism.
Of course, we are still six days away. There is time for that to change with the cancellation of the security, would be the security for security reasons of the rehearsal on Sunday. We know that the President-elect has already scrapped plans to travel down from Delaware on his beloved Amtrak. So this is certainly something they are concerned with. To this point, they're still trying to forge forward.
In terms of the current president, no, I don't think so. What we heard last week was as close to a concession as we're going to get. The video message he put out yesterday was aimed far more at trying to stave off potential litigation being civil cases. If he is indeed found responsible for inciting the riot at the Capitol last week, he was encouraged by step staffers and lawyers to deliver that statement. And his primary concern is his immediate future. He's deeply frustrated to not have his Twitter account or his fundraising list.
He's afraid that his influence over his party is going to wane. We saw 10 Republicans break yesterday and vote of course, for impeachment. He's concerned about his ability to stay relevant to even if whether he runs in 2024 or not, he wants to at least be talked about as a favorite, to be a GOP kingmaker in part so we can make money along. The way the President has real financial concerns. And he's worried about that as well.
Don't expect a greatest concession to Joe Biden here in the next few days. And in fact, expect this president to skip town before the new president starts heading his way up to the Capitol to be sworn in.
WILLIAMS: Professor, back over to you and at the risk of repetition, here's more of the Politico reporting, all of which you already know, "At the root of these extremists continued fervor is a key observation. Trump still has not acknowledged that the election was legitimate and admitted his defeat to Biden and by not doing so the outgoing president is seen as giving tacit approval to his followers' plans to wage war against the political establishment."
The defense lawyer for that guy in the Chewbacca mankini with the horns and the six foot spear said tonight, you know, my client just -- he believed every word, Donald Trump said, and it made me think of you and it made me think that the people you track as part of your life's work, have one thing in common, they were lied to and lied to for years.
JEN GOLBECK, EXPERT IN MALICIOUS ONLINE BEHAVIOR: Absolutely, you go into the Trump forums now whether it's the Donald whether it's on 4chan or Achan or telegram, all of these places that they've retreated to as their mainstream platforms have been taken away. And there is no sign there, of them really understanding the truth of what happened. They absolutely believe this election was stolen. They are going through every word that Trump has said and one of the leading discussion points is that he has not conceded. And so even when he comes out and says these things that try to placate them that try to sound a little bit normal for what we would expect from a transition, they ignore all of that. And they recognize, he hasn't conceded this. And a lot of them are still really buying into this QAnon conspiracy, they see these 1000s of troops in D.C., and think that there may be there to arrest all of Congress for running an international child sex trafficking ring. But maybe that storm is coming in the next week.
They're not at all understanding that they were lied to, there may be recognizing that they're not going to win and that Trump won't remain in the presidency, though, it kind of goes both ways. But yeah, certainly they have bought into these lies. And the only realization they're coming to is that they may have really screwed up their lives, their relationships, and their futures by putting a lot on the line for the president, and it's not being delivered.
WILLIAMS: Well, let me ask you a follow up, Professor, is it a case where even the question I asked Jonathan, if we got the sitting president to mouth the words that he concedes that he lost the election fair and square, is this movement already beyond that? Is that going to do enough to tamp down the stuff you read for a living on the web?
GOLBECK: I think it would take us to the point where we don't have to worry quite as much about violence in the lead up, up to inauguration. There's definitely a lot of chaos in this space about what action if any people are going to take. There's a lot of paranoia about if they should show up to any events because they might be arrested, but there's still people talking about violence. If Trump concedes and says don't do anything, Biden is the next president congratulate him on his win. I can't imagine that happening. But if he did that, I think that would -- that would give us a clear week or so.
But I think the MAGA movement is going to continue after Trump's out of office. And if he gets himself a platform, whether he has to build his own, or find some social media site that will attract his followers. I can't imagine that he won't continue egging them on as he has been, and they'll continue feeding into his ego and what he wants to achieve. So I see that movement going on well past Inauguration Day.
WILLIAMS: Well, Norm Eisen, and somehow this brings us to you, nation turns its lonely eyes to the soul lawyer on this panel, and I have a number of questions. Number one, the founders left us no instructions on how to try in the Senate, a president impeached for inciting insurrection. I heard you theorize I think it was last night, while we're used to having the Chief Justice preside over the last trial, there's no instructions for that and it could be the senior Democratic Senator Pat Leahy. Here's a second question. Is there any possibility that someone would approach the president and say, want to avoid a trial, sign this, it takes away your power to ever run again?
NORM EISEN, FORMER COUNSEL TO HOUSE JUDICIARY DURING TRUMP IMPEACHMENT: Brian, thanks for having me back on the program. And in terms of the logistics of this impeachment trial, you're right, there are a number of unanswered questions. I will start by saying that I believe the founders of our country and the framers of the Constitution left us very clear instructions that a president who launches a violent attack, and the professor was so correct, he's been building up the energy for the attack for months with these false claims. That that is impeachable conduct, so there's no question I think, on the law or on the facts, there are questions on the mechanics of it. The Constitution says that impeachment of a president shall be presided over by the Chief Justice. It doesn't make clear whether that encompasses ex presidents, so scholars are debating now they'll need to be a parliamentary ruling. The ruling may be that the Chief Justice presides, or it may revert to the Vice President, the incoming vice president in her role as the President of the Senate, the Presiding Officer, or as you noted, to the most senior Democrat, who we call the President Pro Tem of the Senate, since the Democrats will be in control, Pat Leahy.
So we have an array of those little logistics questions here. But the one thing that will matter the most is because it's a unique trial, Brian, as you know, and we've talked about the previous impeachment, and we've talked about the possibility of this one. It's a legal matter that is also a political one. And the big question is, will 17 or so Republicans find the courage in their hearts that those 10 Republicans did to join impeachment in the House and move to convict and disqualify the president? I don't think he's going to get any paper of the kind. And I don't think he would sign it agreeing to go away, but they can sign the paper permanently disqualifying him if they convict him under the Constitution?
WILLIAMS: Norm, do you think there's a realization especially among what we used to call moderate Republicans that this is their Trump off ramp if they don't want to be a party, beholden to him and his followers anymore?
EISEN: They all knew it. They knew it in the last impeachment, Brian, I would talk with them off the record in the back hauls. If that had been a secret ballot, I think we would have handily hit the 67 vote threshold in the previous impeachment. This is their moment of truth. It's -- they're scared because of the political risk of the MAGA mob, but also the physical risk to individuals from these domestic Trump terrorists.
But they face their moment of truth at Washington and Jefferson and Adams faced it. Lincoln faced it, FDR, and Churchill, all the people we admire and revere. This is their chance to be heroes. And now we will have a trial not of law, not a facts alone, there will be law and facts. We will have a trial of courage.
WILLIAMS: Professor, a quick one to you, and then Lemire, I'm headed back to you. Professor, do you -- when you listen to the FBI Director talking, judging from what you're reading, have the feds got this? Because I am guessing anxious members of our audience would like to know this thing is going to be defended after the colossal whiff on January 6?
GOLBECK: Yeah, it seems like they're looking in the right places. I am talking to people in the FBI. They're monitoring the same kinds of forums that I am. It's just hard to figure out what's going to happen at this point. If we look at Sunday, for example, the 17th there was a long planned armed anti-government rally from well before the election, that's not pro-Trump that was going to take place in all the state capitals in D.C. Those organizers are really upset that the Trump people have kind of co-opted their rally, and are now planning to show up and potentially do violence.
But because the President has been deep platformed he hasn't been able to give those clear directives that his followers really want. And so there's a lot of chaos in those communities. I think the FBI, state law enforcement, everywhere is looking for everything they can find. Fortunately taking it seriously this time and sort of coming prepared, assuming all the threats they see are things that actually could come into play. So that makes me feel better. But in terms of what actually is going to happen, I don't think Trump supporters really know at this point, they're figuring it out and hopefully law enforcement comes prepared, even if there's a few that decide to take some action.
WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, the interviews with the police officers who got caught up in it came near death in the melee are bracing. One of them says he thought about saying to the writers, I've got kids after he realized they were getting his gun. Another just assumed they were going to start shooting the police with their own weapons. Obviously, one police officer was beaten to death. Trump was fond of saying we love law enforcement and he would get applause for it in his rallies, I'm not going to allow that anymore from the MAGA crowd because there were people in his name, beating police officers with the American flag. Is that magnitude, do you think, setting in if not to the sitting president, among others in the West Wing?
LEMIRE: Brian, the scenes of course, last Wednesday, were so disturbing. And you're right, so many police officers were the victims of violence. I know there are questions about the behavior of some of the Capitol Police. But for others were showing real heroism and saved a shorter amount of lives. That incident on last Wednesday, as bad as it was almost could have been so much worse if it weren't for a few wrong turns by the rioters, if it weren't for a few acts of heroism by the police officers.
And it's not just that, in terms of the mother crowd republicans claiming they are the party of law enforcement. We've seen this week at the Capitol as they've installed new metal detectors outside the House for a number of Republican congressmen blowing through there, bursting through, even shoving police officers aside because they didn't want to have to submit to that search. They don't have to submit to going through that detector.
Mind you, taking their frustration out on a Capitol Police force that had just gone through so much the week before, those metal textures been put in place, because some of the Democrats are afraid who side those Republicans would be on if there were another insurrection. And of course, mind you, those Republicans also exposed those Democrats to COVID. Don't expect the President to change his rhetoric any, but this was a real dark moment for the party in a very revealing one in terms of what their priorities really are.
WILLIAMS: You got that right for your closing quote. Jonathan, Professor, Counselor, can't thank you enough for joining us this Thursday night and starting us off.
Coming up for us, Joe Biden says he will move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated. We have a leading infectious disease physician standing by to talk about that lofty goal.
And later, what happens when the final days are really over. Two of the more outspoken observers of this Tumultuous and about to end administration standing by to talk with us as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on another consequential Thursday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: this will be on the most challenging operational efforts we have ever undertaken as a nation. We'll have to move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated, to create more places for them to get vaccinated, to mobilize more medical teams to get shots in people's arms, to increase vaccine supply and to get it out the door as fast as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: President-elect Biden says he knows what he's calling his American rescue plan won't come with a cheap price tag. It is ambitious. The nearly $2 trillion package includes billions for a national vaccination program, imagine that expanded testing and schools. He is proposing it during a horrific surge in this illness. Over 200,000 new cases reported today, along with almost 4000 more deaths. A troubling new CDC forecast predicts about 90,000 of our fellow Americans could die of this virus over the next three weeks.
Let's say that again, while it's good to hear from them, our CDC, that Trump's CDC is predicting we lose 90,000 more souls in just three weeks time.
For more we welcome back Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease physician, medical director of the special pathogens unit up at Boston University School of Medicine during Ebola, she worked with the WHO, went back when we were a member nation.
Doctor, we know we have a lot of vaccines in freezers. And we have a lot of people who would do just about anything to get them in their arms. Joe Biden called it a dismal failure thus far do, you concur?
DR. NAHID BHADELIA, INFECTIOUS DISEASES PHYSICIAN: I do, Brian, we are in the darkest months of this pandemic. And there are parts of a healthcare system that are changing, you know, that are having to compromise care for other patients, because of the load of COVID patients and the presentation of a lot of the new strains that we've discovered, where the rate of transmission is higher. We're looking down the barrel where we might even more cases. And so even though this plan is ambitious, it is what we've needed all along. And what I liked about what was revealed tonight in more detail that sounds like may come tomorrow is that the vaccination, the National Vaccination Plan that was laid out, does three things. It focuses on manufacturing, more doses, by putting resources behind that production, it ensures that there is distribution by -- through new places where people get vaccinated, so not just, you know, one or two sites of administration, but mobile vaccination sites, community health centers, and then it works really on equity.
You know, we cannot allow now the rollout of these vaccines to play out along the same disparities. We've seen everything else in our healthcare system play out along and so really, they've looked at things like supporting the National Guard, they can get out to places more places to get vaccinations done. They've looked at 100% federally funding Medicaid for the vaccinations, and ensuring that there community health centers and those mobile vaccinations in areas that do not have, you know, large centers that just Boston for care.
WILLIAMS: Another member of Congress today, here's a guy from New York who's had both vaccine shots as he should have. He has tested positive, he believes because he was sheltering in place with unmasked Republican members of Congress during the insurrection. This is -- I'm guessing going to happen more and more. And what do you tell people about the possibility of this happening how we should process this?
BHADELIA: Yeah, Brian, it's actually -- you know, this may sound alarming, but it is what we've seen in trials, which is, you know, what the vaccine does is it protects you against symptomatic disease and Congress as they actually had no symptoms as well. The way that he got detected is because he was tested. What the trial testers, tell us is that people are 95% immuno efficacious, have efficacy against developing disease, symptomatic disease.
But even in the trials, we know that there were people who may have gotten the infection and Moderna's trial, for example, showed that there might be people who got the symptoms, who got the infection enough so that there was enough virus replicating in their in their airways, their test came back positive, but they didn't have the disease.
And so that's expected and that's why we're asking people to wear masks, because we don't yet know that even if you test positive after being symptomatic, can you still transmitted to other people after you're vaccinated to wear those masks. All this to say it is, is what we've seen in the trials, it protects you against disease, but not against transmitting to others and getting asymptomatic infection.
WILLIAMS: Doctor, we consider ourselves so lucky every time we get a chance to talk to you and ask you questions, the very best of Boston University, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, thank you so much again, for coming on.
Coming up for us. In less than 133 hours now, Donald Trump will be a former president. How long the politics of Trump will linger in the air and the capital city and elsewhere. Tougher to predict our panelists will try.
WILLIAMS: I hope you're sitting down. Axios says reporting today the GOP is still very much Donald Trump's party and we quote, House and Senate Republicans strongly believe Trump will remain a force in the party's 2022 and 24 races, even if he were to be convicted in the forthcoming Senate trial and barred from holding federal office himself.
Would you like proof? Here is Ohio senator and profile encourage Rob Portman, formerly a dependable Bush Republican who handed over his senate seat to Donald Trump. He said today, quote, the attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attack on democracy itself. And the President bears some responsibility for what occurred. He goes on. If the senate conducts an impeachment trial, among my considerations will be what is best to help heal our country, rather than deepen our divisions. So says Rob Portman who has voted with Donald Trump close to 90 percent of the time.
Well, back with us tonight. John Heilemann, author, journalist, our national affairs analyst, co-host and executive producer of the circus on Showtime, which is thankfully back on the air, also executive editor over at the recount, and Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, these days, the host of the Michael Steele Podcast, and a senior advisor for the Lincoln project.
So Michael, I was looking at the pictures tonight of viceroy Pence, the head of the Military District of Washington reviewing the National Guard troops outside in the absence of a functioning president.
And I was looking at the Rob Portman quote, and I'm sitting here wondering what Republicans are ready to take the Donald Trump training wheels off, put on their big boy and girl pants and be a political party?
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIRMAN: That doesn't exist. You know, the reality of the Republican Party right now, with respect to Donald Trump is, he owns it, he bought it, he reshaped it, he figured out where, you know, what was in the closet in the you know, he exposed it internally in a way that, you know, people like embarrassed, they don't want to say anything. And that's what -- that's what the Portman statement boils down to.
You cannot in the face of what happened last week, just place the blame squarely where it belongs, and state that and say, as a United States senator, based on what I lived through, and what I saw with my own eyes, and what I heard come out of the President's mouth, and what even some members of this body and the body across the hall and the House said, I can't there's no way that I can do anything other than convict. But that's not where this party is.
And I think we really, Brian, I have to say it, say it again. I've been saying it now for two, three years. Donald Trump figured this out a long time ago. And he is -- and he keeps relying on the fact that people continue to want to treat him like he really was president. Like he really was George Bush or Barack Obama, and would behave accordingly. And that's the point. You know, and that's not how he's behaved.
His superpower is the fact that he doesn't give a damn. And that's what his base loves about him. You talk to them. And one of the first things they will tell you is, I like the fact that he goes into the room and he's willing to break furniture, and he's willing to break glass. They like that about him.
So his running around right now acting like the poor little victim, because he's upset that he lost an election, but it's telling everybody he won, and they're believing it. That's the semiosis, it feeds off itself.
So you know, we got a week left. But it gets worse after this week. It does. And I think the party I think folks outside the party have to get ready for that.
WILLIAMS: John Heilemann, I watched your reporting last night from the melee (ph). One point, there's a boom that goes off near you, and when you flinched, I flinched. You were there. You saw it. You've seen the forces of darkness. Perhaps you heard the professor in our first segment tonight. Talk about the notion of impeachment, as vehicle for martyrdom and the fact that a lot of folks in this mega crowd aren't going away.
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, Brian, I mean it you know, look, it broke my heart. You know, I had started out last Wednesday, I was watching what I thought was going to be a farcical set of proceedings on television in a townhouse over in Georgetown and as soon as the thing started, I ran out and got in the car with my crew and bolted up there to the hill.
And literally you can see at my face you know as we got there and watch what was happening this -- the spectacle that was unfolding and, and I'm still I honestly I've been down in Washington all while I just got back up to New York. I've been down there all week this week and my heart's been broken, you know, throughout seeing the city transformed into you know, a kind of a version of the green zone right now. It's like I've never seen even after 9/11, the days after 9/11, Washington did not feel as locked down as militarized, as vacant as scary and on edge as it does right now.
So all of that, you know, paints the picture of where we are right now. And of course, the reality is, you know, that you'd have 25 years ago, in April of 1995, what Oklahoma City happened, I got on a plane and proud of Washington and flew to Oklahoma City where the Murrah Building had just been blown up.
And I keep raising this with people because to me, there's a direct line if you go back to Timothy McVeigh, if you go back to the Michigan militia, if you go back that story, I know you, you remember it vividly, you covered it, you know, that -- this undercurrent has been there throughout it's been goes back further than that, but in our even in our recent past.
And I think it's important to understand that because it tells you that this is not about Donald Trump troubles in a selerant. Michael made the point he pulled stuff out of the closet, he's been gasoline and a match on top of, but the tindering is all -- the tinder was all there, it was there before and it's going to be there after he's gone. And I don't know what's going to happen to Trump.
But I'll tell you that I do think that the impeachment was necessary. But that doesn't mean that it's not going to feed a certain kind of what you just called martyrdom, and that it's not going to do anything, nothing to change the underlying cultural, political, social dynamics that have given rise to this movement on the right, that I fear is driving us towards an era of increasing an increasingly normal unfortunately, acts of political violence in the country.
WILLIAMS: Both of these gentlemen have agreed to stay with us. We're just going to squeeze in a break consider a continue our conversation on the other side.
WILLIAMS: Back with us remaining with us John Heilemann and Michael Steele. John, a quick question to you about the incoming president. He takes the oath amid an impeachment pending trial and uncontrolled pandemic and a cratering economy. And I don't mean to sound politically cynical, does that buy him a little extra goodwill on top of the fact that his name isn't Trump?
HEILEMANN: Well, I think Brian there are two things that are simultaneously true. And you have to hold them both in your head at the same time. I think there is an enormous among a majority of Americans, there's an enormous amount of goodwill for Joe Biden coming in, people recognize the challenges he faces.
In addition to all the things you just mentioned, you know, this, the aftermath of this, of what happened on last Wednesday, and what it represents this chasm, in our politics, in our American civic life, an app for a president who -- an incoming president whose fundamental campaign promise was to unite the country. I think that he has a lot of if not, it's not going to be a honeymoon, but he has a lot of goodwill from nearly 80 million Americans, but the chasm is still there. And the challenge he faces the hill he has to climb is not just steep. I think it is it is close to perpendicular.
So the two things exist side by side. He has -- he will have some -- he'll have a lot of political capital to spend. But man, there is a lot of things that needs to be spent on because the challenges are vast.
WILLIAMS: Michael Steele, any worries about a cornered the president whose phone has been rendered mute who, after all, the business he was in before the presidency was the licensing of his name. There's no boardroom because there's no board. Trump construction doesn't have a shovel. It's a licensing operation.
STEELE: Yes, that -- yes, yes, imagine that. The reality of Donald Trump changes dramatically, at 12:00 noon, on a Wednesday next week, because it's, too -- as john just put out, that vise -- that the incoming president has a lot of capital and but he has a lot of things to spend it on. Trump has no capital and a lot of bills he's got to pay.
And so the reality of it is where does he go, which is why he griffes, he's going to grift (ph) off to the RNC, he's going to create a media platform in which there will be more grifting occurring there. People have already spent $150 million to help him, you know, win an election that he lost after the fact.
So, you know, he knows he can get the cash. The question is those other forces that go past the branding, don't give a damn about his licensing abilities. And say you owe us the state of New York, individuals outside of the state or around the country. So there's a very complex set of landmines waiting for Donald Trump come next Wednesday, and I just say have Adam.
WILLIAMS: Our thanks to these two gentlemen to John Heilemann and to Coach Steele. There's a good reason Leslie Jones has fallen hard for our friend Michaels Steele inferred upon him the nickname coach and invited him on Twitter today to text her. I mean, that's pretty special. Gentlemen, thank you.
Coming up for us. What a leading physician in China has told our correspondent about the origins of the coronavirus despite what the President calls it.
WILLIAMS: In something of a victory for public health researchers from the World Health Organization are in China trying to track down the source and origin of the Coronavirus NBC News correspondent Janis Mackey Frayer, who has covered it from the start sat down for an exclusive interview with China's top disease official.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
JANIS MACKEY FRAYER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight one year after the virus emerged a World Health Organization team is in Wuhan, though two scientists were denied entry after testing positive for antibodies. The latest hurdle with China wary of blame the country's chief epidemiologist telling NBC News, the WHO should look elsewhere.
(on camera): Do you believe the virus started in Wuhan?
DR. WU ZUNYOU, CHINA CDC CHIEF EPIDEMIOLOGIST: No.
FRAYER: Do you believe it started in China?
FRAYER: Then where?
ZUNYOU: I do not have answered yet.
FRAYER (voice-over): Chinese officials have long tried to recast the virus's history.
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, FMR. U.S. CDC DIRECTOR: We need a commitment to transparency and openness.
FRAYER: The stakes are high and tracing the origin could take months or longer.
PETER DASZAK, ECOHEALTH ALLIANCE PRESIDENT: I don't think we're going to get an answer quickly.
FRAYER: Theories have included Wuhan high security lab, where NBC News was granted rare access last year.
Dr. Shi Zhengli known here as bat woman for her virus research tells NBC News by e-mail there was no way it leaked from here. And according to lab directors, the WHO will not investigate the Wuhan lab as a possible source.
It isn't clear what the WHO experts can gather. The epidemic in Wuhan now just to showcase the viruses trail presumably gone cold. Janis Mackey Frayer for NBC News, Beijing.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
WILLIAMS: Coming up for us the final days on the job for a couple of advisors to the President of the United States these would be named Jared and Ivanka.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight as a consumer warning of sorts because if you're watching us that makes you a consumer of news. We mentioned this last night, be on the lookout for sympathetic coverage of Jared and Ivanka that will cast them in heroic terms.
As they slink out of town, they have just enough friends in our industry to get a handful of people to print stories akin to you wouldn't believe how bad it almost was had we not been there. Heroic stuff including but not limited to saving the country. That's on top of the heroic work Jared has done in the Middle East.
Two points to make here first, remember their titles. They're not just daughter and son-in-law to the president. Ivanka has titles are Advisor to the President and Director of the Office of Economic Initiatives and Entrepreneurship. Jared is straight up Senior Advisor to the President. Those are real titles. They bring real responsibility or in this case culpability.
The second point is this. The young couple is also looking for positive coverage. They didn't get it today. A reporter for Business Insider just tweeted out a story that Jared has been making calls to Hollywood types to find jobs for his communication staff. Sources tell Claire Atkinson there's zero interest, perhaps because actions have consequences.
Then there's the Washington Post story that our friend Carol Leonnig contributed to it says that Jared and Ivanka wouldn't let their Secret Service detail use any of the six bathrooms in their home. The Post reports the agents were forced to use a porta potty and local businesses at times. At other times they use the bathroom reserve for Secret Service use over at the Obama's house nearby and at the Vice President's residence.
You'll be happy to know that your money has been used to find a solution. The Secret Service using taxpayer dollars rented a nearby basement studio apartment with bathroom. Denials all around from the White House though law enforcement sources confirm the story to the Post.
Oh, if anyone needs a good basement apartment in a better than average neighborhood close to the Obamas, close to fine dining. Your taxpayer dollars have already rented the place through September of this year. Starting next week it's going to be sitting there empty.
That is our broadcast for this Thursday night with our thanks for spending this time with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the network of NBC News, good night.
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