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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, January 4, 2021

Guests: Alexi McCammond, Gabriel Debenedetti, Neal Katyal, Stephen Sample, Bill Kristol, David Plouffe


Trump said tonight, "They're not taking the White House." Trump pressures G.A. election official to "find votes" and overturn Bien victory in phone call. Axios reports that progressive Dems are pushing for second Trump impeachment over G.A. call. Trump pushes false claims of 2020 victory at G.A. rally. Dr. Anthony Fauci said that COVID-19 outbreak will "likely will get worse." CDC said that 15.4 million COVID vaccine doses have been distributed, 4.5 million Americans have been vaccinated. The call to challenge the Electoral College count has split Senate Republicans. U.K. orders strict new lockdown to slow virus spread.


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: We have slammed up against the clock. Lauren Groh-Wargo, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

That is tonight's LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again and Happy New Year. Day 1,446 of the Trump administration, 16 days remain until the inauguration of Joe Biden as our 46th president.

We are less than an hour officially from the start of an election day that will not only decide the balance of power in the United States Senate critically, but also the political capital currently held by the outgoing president and the incoming president. Trump and Biden were both in Georgia campaigning ahead of tomorrow's duel Senate run off.

Incumbent Republican David Perdue facing a challenge from Democrat Jon Ossoff, while Republican senator Kelly Loeffler is up against Reverend Raphael Warnock. These races are tight. That's a story in and of itself in Georgia.

And so far, over 3 million people have cast ballots in early voting. Tonight, at a rally in Dalton, Georgia, Trump spent most of the time on his false claims of having won this election.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no way we lost Georgia, there's no way.

You know, I've had two elections, I won both of them. It's amazing. And I actually did much better on the second one.

Tomorrow, each of you is going to vote in one of the most important runoff elections in the history of our country.

Watch what happens over the next couple of weeks. You watch what's going to come out. Watch what's going to be revealed.

And then I take it this way -- election, we wanted big. I'll be here in about a year and a half campaigning against your governor, I guarantee you that.

You must deliver a Republican victory so big that the Democrats can steal it or cheated away.


WILLIAMS: Different setting, this afternoon Joe Biden reminded voters of his win there in November of the multiple recounts and of the ties between the Republican candidates and one Donald Trump


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT-ELECT: You voted in record numbers in November, the will of people prevailed. We won three times here. We need you to vote again in record numbers, to make your verses where your voice is heard again, and again to change Georgia, to change America again.

You have two senators who think their loyalty is to Trump, not to Georgia. You have two senators who think they've sworn an oath to Donald Trump not to the United States Constitution.


WILLIAMS: This crucial election comes in the wake of the most recent and perhaps most shocking attempt to subvert the 2020 election and stay in power.

An elite two hour long phone call first revealed by "The Washington Post," Donald Trump is heard talking over the weekend with Georgia's chief election official Brad Raffensperger, pressuring him to find enough votes to somehow overturn Mr. Biden's victory.


TRUMP: So look, all I want to do is this, I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have. Because we won the state and flipping the state is a great testament to our country.

The people of Georgia are angry, the people the country are angry. And there's nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you've recalculated, because the 2,036 and absentee ballot.

Even if you cut them in half, cut them in half and cut them in half again, it's more votes than we need.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, GEORGIA, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.

TRUMP: You have a big election coming up. And because of what you've done to the President, you know, the people of Georgia know that this was a scam. And because of what you've done to the President, a lot of people are going out to vote.

So what are we going to do here folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes Give me a break.


WILLIAMS: The guy he was talking to on the phone, Raffensperger, is a Republican notably. Late today he told NBC News that Trump had tried to reach him several times and that he did not leak the phone call himself. It's been reported Trump called him 18 times before they spoke and he again refuted Trump's baseless election fraud allegations and his claim of winning the state.


RAFFENSPERGER: I'm very confident in the results we have here in Georgia. And that's the cold hard truth is President Trump did not carry the state of Georgia. Yes, you can't keep on taking shots from people and people keep putting out stuff. That's not true. And we're going to respond, we're going to respond forcefully.


WILLIAMS: Georgia's voting system manager also came forward today to offer a point by point rebuttal of some of Trump's claims.


GABE STERLING, G.A. VOTING SYSTEMS MANAGER: There is a claim that 66,248 people below the age of 18 voted, the actual number is zero.

They say that there's 2,423 people who voted without being registered. Let's just be clear about this. You can't do it.

There is no shredding imbalance going on. That's not real. No one is changing parts or pieces out of Dominion voting machines.

Again, this is all easily provably false, yet the President persists.


WILLIAMS: Sterling also accused Trump of misleading the voters about video of ballot counting in Fulton County. Georgia's election board could refer the matter to the district attorney of Fulton County who issued a statement that reads in part and we quote, "I will enforce the law without fear or favor. Anyone who commits a felony violation of Georgia law in my jurisdiction will be held accountable."

House Democrats have now asked the FBI director, Chris Wray, to open a criminal investigation into the Trump phone call, citing possible solicitation or conspiracy to commit election crimes.

Wednesday, the drive to deny Biden's win moves over to Capitol Hill when congressional Republicans will launch their own final challenge to the Electoral College results of our 2020 presidential election. Vice President Mike Pence will preside over the joint session to count and confirm each state's electoral votes. Tonight Trump made it clear he's counting on his guy Pence to do what he wants.


TRUMP: I hope Mike Pence comes through for us, I have to tell you. I hope that our great vice president, our great vice president comes through for us. He's a great guy.

For us if he doesn't come through, I won't like it but as much.


WILLIAMS: Over a dozen Republican senators will join well over 100 of their colleagues in the House in this effort to contest the results of the Electoral College count.

Meanwhile, some 200 of the nation's top business leaders are calling on Congress to certify Biden's win. This comes on the heels of a letter from all 10 living former U.S. Defense secretaries. Published in "The Washington Post" declaring that the U.S. presidential election is over and warning against any involvement of the U.S. military in election disputes.

As for the Biden team's take on all this, here's how the nation's next vice president responded when she was asked about the Wednesday protests planned in Congress.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a lot of people who see what's going on on Wednesday is an attempted active coup attempt of the U.S. government, is that what you see? Is this coup attempt?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, (D) VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: We are going to be inaugurated, period.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you could be inaugurated and when you see what's going on.


WILLIAMS: On that note, let's bring in our leadoff guests on this first Monday night broadcast of the New Year, Alexi McCammond, Political Reporter for Axios. Gabriel Debenedetti, National Correspondent for New York Magazine. And Neal Katyal, former acting Solicitor General during the Obama administration, he has argued dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Good evening, welcome and Happy New Year to you all.

Alexi, you get to go first tonight first official guest here of the New Year. Trump said we just heard him say tonight in Georgia, they're not taking this White House. It is certainly on brand for him. But a question I've asked you before is this when we learn if there are adults around him working in the West Wing?

ALEXI MCCAMMOND, AXIOS POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, have you seen in THE 11TH HOUR as he's facing just a little over two weeks before his presidency ends is these desperate attempts to hang on to power. And we saw that, Brian in the stump speech tonight that was supposed to be for two Republicans, Kelly Loeffler, David Perdue, who are running these really intense run offs tomorrow, really facing the fight of their political lives and it's all about President Donald Trump. It's all about the grievances and institutions and people and places and election results that have done wrong to him.

And that is something that he has maintained no matter what advisors around him have told him. That is something he has maintained even before the November election came up. He told my Axios colleagues and others that he was planning then to claim premature victory which is, of course, against the advice of folks around him.

So now as we're seeing him on his way out, it's much in the way that he came in and much in the way that he has been president over the last four years. He thinks he is his own best spokesperson and strategist. And that's what we're seeing tonight. And this, again, this fateful eve before the run off tomorrow.

WILLIAMS: Gabe, what's the real practical impact of this hour long phone call on the Georgia Senate races?

GABRIEL DEBENEDETTI, NEW YORK MAGAZINE NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, that remains to be seen. But having spoken with a number of people in Georgia over the last few hours last few days, specifically about this question, they keep reminding me that this is really a race, it's going to be determined on the margins.

Now, this was always true. And it's always going to be true when you have a race that's this close. But for months now, you've had Democrats essentially trying to push the point that by calling into question the legitimacy of the race, Republicans might be hurting their -- Trump might be hurting the Republican cause here because you might have Republicans out there saying, well, if this isn't going to be a legitimate race, a legitimate election, maybe I shouldn't vote.

In this particular case, what you may be seeing, what Democrats certainly hope to be seeing here, is not necessarily something that's going to energize more Democrats, but in fact, something that's going to take a few, even a few 1000 Republicans or people who want to vote for the Republican senators, even if they don't like Trump that much and have them say essentially, you know what, there's just too much going on. I'm not going to weigh in on this one.

Obviously, it remains to be seen. Republicans are really counting on a very large day of vote tomorrow after Democrats build up a pretty large lead in the early voting period.

WILLIAMS: But Neal, I've been wanting to ask you about the lowering we have seen and witnessed going on. Is this when we find out whether or not all bar associations have been supplanted by the Federalist Society? What about the lawyers around this president? The lawyers giving bad advice, the lawyers passing along bad information, straight up conspiracy theories, is there a mechanism, is real harm being done? Is there any jeopardy left on earth for them?

NEAL KATYAL, FMR. ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Yes, and indeed a federal judge today in Washington, a very respected judge, Judge Boasberg referred and took a complaint from Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, a bunch of other Trump East folks looked at it said, this is basically garbage and referred those lawyers to the professional bars per se and for potential sanctions and disciplinary action.

And, you know, it'd be one thing if these allegations were made in some sort of good faith. But, you know, like just looking at Trump tonight, he keeps repeating this nonsense, and it's been debunked by 16 different federal and state courts, including courts and judges that he nominated himself. Trump's own FBI rejects it. Trump's favorite Attorney General Bill Barr rejects this nonsense. Georgia's Republican governor, Georgia's Republican Secretary of State and then you also talked about the thorough debunking by the Georgia election official today.

I mean, this is all nonsense. And the thing that's the most disheartening, Brian, is that, you know, there's, as you say, a dozen senators and 140 members of Congress who's going on with this nonsense, there are not two sides or both sides of this. This is a serious, simple question. Are you an American? Do you believe in democracy? Or do you believe that a thug like this could install himself in power? It's nothing more complicated than that.

And those people who are siding with Trump on this nonsense and the lawyers, the representatives in the House in the senators are just as guilty of anti-Democratic activity as Donald Trump is.

WILLIAMS: And Alexi, back over to you, because the opposition is growing on the Democratic side. I know your reporting has delved into this, who is pushing with 16 days remaining for a second impeachment? And is anyone listening to these folks?

MCCAMMOND: So Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota came out today encouraging that the President be impeached because of this phone call he had with Georgia as Secretary of State saying that he has committed a crime.

And in the statement when she's calling she mentioned this exact notion of timing, Brian, to your point. They're just a little over two weeks left that the President has in office. So, they're really kind of running up against the clock. But you see Democrats kind of scrambling to figure out how they can really hold President Trump accountable.

So also more progressive members like Congresswoman Omar and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are saying that this is an impeachable offense. Other progressive members are pushing to censure the President.

Others like Tim Ryan, I spoke with Congressman Tim Ryan earlier today from Ohio and he sort of said, look, let's not deal with that. We have other things to deal with like a public health crisis. Let's just let this guy kind of get out of the door and move on with the things that we need to deal with, the tasks at hand.

So, you really see how Democrats are sort of split in their approaches. But the one common factor here, Brian, is that they just want to hold him accountable.

They say that they have seen the President break the law and do dubious things over the last four years and seeing the ways in which some say his belt and become more emboldened because of not being held accountable because of those things. So that's sort of where you're seeing this push from progressives come from.

Now, of course, they're aware of the realities of the timing and the logistics that come from that. But I think that's the big picture right now, Brian. It's progressives and other members of the party wanting to hold the President accountable, even though he's only got two weeks left.

WILLIAMS: So Gabe, I have one for you and be polite because he's standing by to join us later in the broadcast and can hear us.

This is from Bill Kristol. This was 45 minutes ago on Twitter. The headline is "OK, you want it outside the box, one, Pence would prefer not to subvert the constitution on January 6. Two, but Pence feels a strong sense of loyalty to Trump. Three, and Pence wants to avoid a demand that he pardoned Trump upon a Trump resignation January 19. So pence resigns as VP tomorrow.

Gabe, the playing field is all yours?

DEBENEDETTI: Well, I would say, with all respect to Bill, that that is indeed quite outside the box. I mean, I think if Vice President Pence was going to resign for his displeasure with whatever Trump is doing on a given day might have probably happened at some point over the last four years.

But listen, the overall point here that there's some serious concern among people who are probably around the President, and certainly a lot of people in the Republican Party in the conservative movement more broadly, is obviously a very precedent (ph) one. Question remains what they can actually do about it.

I think by, you know, you saw -- you alluded to earlier the op-ed from the -- all the living defense secretaries, you know, that was spearheaded by Dick Cheney, of all people who obviously is no one's idea of a hero. But is Mike Pence going to be the one to stand up and resign? I doubt it.

You know, it was pretty telling when President Trump tonight threatened Pence essentially by saying, you know, if he doesn't do the right thing I'm not going to like him so much. But what that actually looks like in practice, it's very hard to tell.

You know, the consensus is, of course, that Pence doesn't actually have any power to do anything on Wednesday when this will be certified. There's not really any indication that he's planning to do anything other than say, well, it's certified.

WILLIAMS: So Neal, as the attorney here among us, let's talk about something that we keep hearing about and that is a self-pardon on the part of the President. I'm just a guy who reads history books. I don't think the framers pictured a president with the ability to pull a lever on demand and be above the law. Is it legally possible while quite a bank shot, I would imagine?

KATYAL: It's not legally possible. The Justice Department has an opinion in 1974 that says you can't pardon yourself if you're the president.

And notably, that's the same Justice Department, a paid set of opinions that the President's been relying on to say a sitting president can't be indicted. So he's been using it as good as his get out of jail free card. But they were very clear in saying you can't pardon yourself. And that's because it's a principle going all the way back to 1610 and Anglo American law in Dr. Bonhams case that a person can't be a judge in their own case.

And then just do one word on this whole question of impeachment, you know, because I am someone who does believe that President Trump should face a second impeachment. It's not a two week clock or anything like that, Brian, impeachments in our Constitution, not just to remove existing officials, but to disqualify them from future office holding. And so that process can begin now. But those votes can occur much down the road.

And I think there's a lot of good reasons why that should happen here. President Trump accuses, stands accused of basically the very same thing he was accused of the last time cheating in an election. Last time with a foreign power he tried, this time he's trying with Georgia officials and the like.

And I think we have to send a signal that this kind of behavior is impermissible in a democracy, and that there will be consequences. And you don't just get off from those consequences, because it happens to be the end of your term.

I mean, on that tape, he is flexing the powers of the president. He's threatening these folks with criminal sanctions. And, you know, unless they do his bidding.

And so to me, in the end, it's about principle and principle that America is better than this cheating, losing divisive (ph) president.

WILLIAMS: On top of all the other titles and honors, our lead guests tonight will enjoy as they go through life. They'll always be able to say they were the initial three guests on the first Monday of 2021 on THE 11TH HOUR and it comes with our eternal thanks.

Alexi McCammond, Gabe Debenedetti, Neal Katyal, thank you all three of you for starting us off tonight.

Coming up first there was the Thanksgiving surge, now we brace for the aftermath of whatever happened over Christmas and New Year's. We'll talk to an E.R. doctor in the heartland about what's already here and what may be on the way.

And later, is the President sabotaging the Republican Party on his way out after they just remade themselves in his personal image? THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on this first Monday night of the New Year.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We've got to get the pace up. We're not where we want to be. There's no doubt about it. No excuses.

There is vaccine hesitancy and people who are turning it down. But I think just the logistics of getting it going into the people who want it is really the issue.


WILLIAMS: Dr. Fauci from just tonight, December was this nation's deadliest and most infectious month since the start of this pandemic. And yet despite countless warnings, over 1.3 million of our fellow citizens flew on Sunday alone. The last time our skies were that crowded was March 15.

And with Americans dying at the rate of one every 33 seconds these days, New York confirms now a case of the more contagious coronavirus variant, this new strain the same one that's forced the U.K. into another national lockdown.

With us tonight. Dr. Stephen Sample. He is an E.R. doc at Memorial Hospital and health care center in Jasper, Indiana. Also a volunteer clinical faculty at Indiana University School of Medicine.

Doctor, happy New Year unless it isn't. And my first question speaks to that. What's the situation in your town and at your hospital?


The situation has been pretty dire in my town and in my hospital, my little town of 15,000 people have had 18 deaths recorded in the last eight days and we had nine from Friday until today. That doesn't sound like much with the numbers that we're talking about nationwide with 350,000 dead.

But our city is the size of some neighborhoods in, you know, in the suburbs of some of the bigger cities. So, these people know each other. They live amongst each other. And it's getting pretty -- it's getting pretty dark around here.

WILLIAMS: It's very clear we had a vaccine plan as a country, we didn't have a vaccination plan. So, all this talk about Warp Speed. We're still not getting needles in arms as promised.

There's a snippet going around of a speech, the President made promising 100 million vaccines in arms by the end of the year that just ended. Numerous promises of 40 million, 20 million, we're nowhere near that. I know, you got your first year coming up on your second, have you encountered any vaccine hesitancy where you are?

SAMPLE: For sure. And it goes -- it goes across the spectrum of people, right. I know, physicians who are vaccine skeptics. I know janitors who are vaccine skeptics. There are a lot of skeptics out here in our corner of the world. And I have been banging my head against the wall for the last three months just begging, begging people to get this shot.

All of our slots are not always full. We've got -- we've got the vaccine, we're waiting for it. And now we just need to get it in arms.

WILLIAMS: People are getting enraged by the stories that are kind of necessarily popping up about people jumping the line, the wealthy and the powerful taking a shot that could be going to a frontline worker. But I guess that's a subject for another broadcast, another time.

I want to talk about this new drain this new variant. And I want you to listen and listen to something Dr. Ashish Jha from Harvard said on this network.


DR. ASHISH JHA, BROWN UNIVERSITY DEAN OF SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Most people are under estimating how much of a problem this variant can be. I am -- I am really worried about it. Vax -- sorry, a virus that's 30 percent to 50 percent more contagious will mean things are really going to potentially take off in a lot of communities that have actually managed to bring the virus under control.

WILLIAMS: Now, Doctor, among sentiment, people, when you hear knowing how bad it's already been, that we look at -- we're looking at something 30 percent to 50 percent more contagious, more likely to work its way around our protections, you would think that would get people's attention?

SAMPLE: Managed better. You know, my hope on this vaccine, other than the fact that it just underscores the fact that we need to accelerate our vaccination plan here is that, you know, every story that I've read on our surveillance in the United States is that we're near the bottom of the world and surveilling for it. So I'm really kind of hoping that it's already been here. And it's widespread, because there are so many communities out there right now that cannot take a virus that is 50 percent to 70 percent more infectious.

You know, my colleagues in L.A. and Texas, they can't take any more of this. You know, I was online last night and one of my physician groups, and there was a gentleman from Texas begging for a bed for one of his patient was asking for any open bed in Oklahoma, New Mexico or Texas. We've come to this where we're going online to find beds per patient. And that is suboptimal, to say the least

WILLIAMS: Suboptimal to say the least. Thank you very much. Again, Happy New Year. Be careful in your work and thank you for the work you're doing.

Before I start an Ivy League internecine war, Dr. Shah is from Brown and not Harvard. Glad to clean that up.

Coming up for us, conservative columnist and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson is calling for a kind of anti-monument. He says the Republicans choosing Trump over our democracy should have their names carved in stone forever. It's a good place to start our next discussion as we will when we come back.



TRUMP: So, look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have. Because we want to say --


WILLIAMS: Latest commercial from the folks at the Lincoln project. The fallout over this recorded phone call has not stopped Donald Trump from attacking Republicans he sees as having gone astray, including a big time Trumper just today former arc and after Arkansas Republican senator and situational opportunist Tom Cotton said he wouldn't object to the Electoral College certification. Trump warned him quote, Republicans have pluses and minuses but one thing is sure they never forget.

He also posted this quote, the surrender caucus within the Republican Party will go down in infamy as weak and ineffective guardians of our nation.

Well with us to talk about it tonight as promised Bill Kristol, a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, editor-at-large over at The Bulwark and David Plouffe, former Obama campaign manager, former senior adviser to the former president also on the board of directors of the Obama A foundation.

All right, Bill Kristol, you can't just break Twitter and walk away. Let's talk about your tweet tonight. I know you're going to tell me it was in jest, but you know what they say about jest? OK, you want it outside the box pence would prefer not to subvert the constitution January six, Pence feels a strong sense of loyalty to Trump. Pence wants to avoid a demand that he pardoned Trump upon a Trump resignation January 19. So Pence resigns as VP tomorrow, Bill.

BILL KRISTOL, THE BULWARK EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Brian, the whole point of Twitter is to break Twitter. Too seriously, I'm just so annoyed that everyone's talking about the gut wrenching task Pence faces Wednesday of announcing presumably that Joe Biden will be the next president and Pamela Harris, the next vice president. It's been done by many vice presidents before Mike Pence, including my boss, Dan Quayle in 1993, when he announced the Clinton-Gore ticket had won and of course, famously by Al Gore in 2001, announcing his own defeat, fewer (INAUDIBLE) 1969 chose not to preside for some reason, I'm not sure why and let the President of the Senate preside. That would be Grassley in this case, but he didn't of course, complain or whine about it.

So, Pence is vice president, one point I make is he can't be fired, right? So he can either quit or he can say whatever he wants. And if Mike Pence wanted to say tomorrow, look, I think I've done some good things over these four years. I still respect and love Donald Trump. But this is wrong. What he did with Raffensperger is wrong. What he's saying publicly is wrong. I'm going to do my duty tomorrow, what would happen? What would happen? Trump can't kick him out of the Vice President's residence. Well, even if he did, there's only two weeks left.

For instance, Vice President I say if he feels he can say that he was that's what he believes, he can resign for those two weeks. So this notion of the moral anguish of Mike Pence, I guess, just going to be slightly, slightly annoyed.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Plouffe, let's talk about what Michael Gerson wrote. And for folks who don't know, Michael Gerson as a speechwriter, I think everyone in politics was aware contemporaneously. He was one of those guys who really did have the best words, he writes this, by all means, let's engrave their names into a marble slab or roll call of those who failed the most important test of self-government in our lifetimes. There are a lot of monuments honoring bravery, let's have one dedicated to abject cowardice.

David, I guessing you wouldn't -- you wouldn't work against a monument to Republican cowardice.

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well Brian, what's interesting about this, what Michael Gerson is a beautiful writer. And he proved that, again, that piece of the Post is this, you know, Cruz and Hawley are clearly planning to run for president. So they think three years from now on some stage in South Carolina, Iowa, this is going to help them win the nomination. The rest of the Republicans, some of them, you know, fear primaries, others have just lost their mind.

But I'm not sure at the end of the day, this is even in the Republican Trump base, that two or three years from now, this is going to not have a stench around it. And so, you know, this is historic. And the truth is Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, they clerked in the United States Supreme Court, they know better, they know that this isn't going anywhere Wednesday, but at the end of the day, this is the first attempted coup in the history of the United States. And there surely will be another one.

What if this had Brian come down to one state 10, 11,000 votes clear when based on our history, the signal now is going to be sent at least for a period of years, that it's OK to basically not just challenge but try and ignore election results.

So, yeah, they are going to basically Trump tweeted about Cotton's of the world, this render caucus, kind of going down in infamy. This group of people you expect this from Trump, sadly, but they have this many United States senators, and more than 50 percent of the United States House going along with this. You know, it's tragic. And, you know, I think it's been with us for a long time. And that's my big challenge. They'll fight against Trumpism. To fight to protect our Constitution is just beginning, sadly.

WILLIAMS: And indeed, Bill to David's point between those two senators Cruz and Hawley, I just wrote this down between them. Degrees from Princeton, Stanford, Harvard Law, Yale Law, to quote my late father, both guys know better. Question to you, Bill is what's the role of conservative Republicans correction, the men and women we used to call conservative Republicans in the reformation.

KRISTOL: And let's be clear, the fact that they know better and they surely do, they both clerked for the Chief Justice, different Chief Justices of the United States, the fact that they know better makes their behavior worse, right? People can be diluted and you sort of can forgive them. They shouldn't be, but they've been taken in. It's pure ambition as Mitt Romney suggested pure opportunism, playing with fire with the constitution right there and really a terrible thing.

I love we should all call them on it, we should try to help and reward those who are doing the right thing, even if they haven't done the right thing at other times over the last four years. We'll see how it plays out. As David says over the next months and years, I think it's very hard to predict that it's really a moment though it and depressing amount.

If we were having this conversation in October, and we're saying Trump's win lose by 7 million votes, four and a half percent, three states pretty close, pretty respectable and Republicans pick up seats in the House, al the Senate so Trump could walk away. So, you know, I didn't do too badly that pandemic didn't end but we held the Senate, I may come back again in four years, closest, you know, pretty close to defeat for an incumbent and adverse circumstances that would have seen, I think, possible, despite all of Trump's craziness, the fact that he would have gone a little crazy after losing. Yes, we probably would have expected that.

The fact that 120 or something like that House Republicans, more than a dozen Senate Republicans would vote to overturn an election would play with matches and doused -- the constitution gasoline and start playing with matches, that even I wouldn't have predicted that two or three months ago.

WILLIAMS: Both gentlemen are staying with us will work in a quick break. Our conversation continues on the other side.


WILLIAMS: We are back without delay. As promised we continue our conversation with our guests, Bill Kristol and David Plouffe. David, hopefully there is ample time for optimism. Sadly, this question is laced with negativity but it's urgent and important than that is how ugly, how much uglier Is it about to get let's call it over the next four weeks. How ugly is the U.S. Senate going to be and how ugly is the post-presidency going to be of a man who may feel oxygen slash attention starved?

PLOUFFE: Well, Brian, I think what's behind all of this Trump's desire to stage a coup, and stay at office is he fears what comes next. He doesn't have the legal protections he enjoys. Now, he's got big bills coming due, there's going to be investigations, including the call he had with the Secretary of State of Georgia, which was a criminal act, if you read the United States Code.

So I think that's what he fears. And so he's going to try and stay in the limelight. But the desperation, it just jumps out of him to the extent you can make sense of what he says on that phone call. He doesn't want to leave. So I think it'd be pretty ugly.

Brian, I think at the end of the day, the question will be in the House, clearly, you've got more than half the Republican House members thrown all in with this. You still only about a dozen Republican senators, you got the majority of Republicans in the Senate not throwing this, I think it'd be pretty ugly.

And what happens tomorrow in Georgia, and these two run offs, is obviously going to have an impact there. And the question there, I think is, has Trump committed political malpractice again, by he and the Sydney Powell's and Lynn Wood's of the world, basically suggesting that people their votes aren't going to count. And then voter might ask, why should I go through with it? If ultimately the election is rigged.

So I think they're going to be close tomorrow. But I think what happens tomorrow is going to impact a lot of how people act over the next, you know, weeks and months.

WILLIAMS: Bill, you painted a vivid word picture, because I have covered Republican politics in South Carolina. I've moderated a GOP primary debate down there, which is not for the faint of heart. What if in that scene you lay out of the Republicans to sending two out Republican each other in a very, very red state? What if Trumpism is not in style? How many politicians will have their hopes and dreams ruin? What's the chance of that?

KRISTOL: It would very hard to tell. We've never had a president like Trump. So it's hard to judge what a post-presidency of Donald Trump trying to exert authority and power will look like. And I have good friends and smart observers of politics. Friends, who are smart observers who say, you know, it goes away can go away pretty fast. It's not the same when you're not the president. It's not Air Force One. He's a guy at Mar-a-Lago tweeting out things and desperate for attention.

On the other hand, you know, as I said earlier, if you talked about how much cloudy seems to have now, as a lame duck about to be ruled by finally certified the loser on December on January 6, the opposite loser since November 7, at least, appeared said how much the kowtow into trouble be continuing now. I think one would have been surprised.

So I don't feel confident making predictions people need to do the right thing. People sounds so old fashioned and stupid. And school manager says but so struck by even the conservatives breaking with Trump a little bit the last two, three days after the phone call, after the incredible and breaking with those who want to overturn the election itself. This is a foolish thing to do. This could hurt you down the road, you know, and politically it's not so it's not so smart. And it sets a bad precedent for the Democrats.

It's amazing how leading conservative magazines opinion pages Wall Street Journal will just say, this is wrong. This is wrong. You should not do this. I mean, conservatives used to believe in occasionally making that kind of statement.

WILLIAMS: Gentlemen, stay home, stay close to the phone. We're going to need your advice and counsel in the days ahead. Greatly appreciate you coming on this Monday night. Bill Kristol, David Plouffe, always appreciative.

Coming up, Boris Johnson didn't believe in the pandemic 10 months ago. He seems to understand the pandemic now. We'll get an update from London when we come back.


WILLIAMS: As we mentioned earlier in the hour, the United Kingdom taking drastic new measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus. This promises to be one of the darkest winners in that country since the post war years.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and early COVID denier who wound up in intensive care himself announced a national lockdown in England even as a new vaccine is being rolled out across that country. Our report from London tonight from our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The UK tonight acknowledged it's losing its battle against the new strain of the virus up to 70 percent more contagious and needs to lock down immediately. England is closing schools and universities and banning all but essential movements.

BORIS JOHNSON, UK PRIME MINISTER: You may only leave home for limited reasons permitted in law, such as to shop for essentials, to work if you absolutely cannot work from home, to exercise, to seek medical assistance.

ENGEL: Prime Minister Johnson said the lockdown will last until mid February. By then he said the U.K. will have vaccinated all people over 70 all those in care homes and all frontline medical workers.

As of today, the U.K. began distributing its homegrown Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, doesn't require ultra cold temperatures making it easier to store and distribute.

(on camera): Why do you think this will change things?

JULIE HAMILTON, ROYAL FREE LONDON CHIEF NURSE: This will change things because it is the it's the light at the end of the tunnel.

ENGEL (voice-over): For the rest of Europe, the vaccine rollout has been extremely slow. France only recorded 516 vaccinations in the first week. French officials vowing to speed up what summon France are calling a fiasco.

(on camera): Brian here in London tonight it is the best of times and the worst of times. On the same day that they started rolling out their promising new vaccine with so much hope. England went into lockdown, it shows the power of this new strain and Prime Minister Johnson said the lockdown could extend beyond February if the virus is not under control.

And British health experts are also worried about a South African variant which is even more mutated than the U.K. strain and with more mutations come more possibilities that the virus will be resistant to the existing vaccines. Brian.


WILLIAMS: Richard thank you for that our friend Richard Engel at home tonight in London. Coming up for us tonight's version of the old game which doesn't belong and why that when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, it was long theorized that if and when the players involved in the steroid era in baseball actually made it to the Hall of Fame. There would forever be a kind of an asterisk next to their stats. The argument is this and it's simple.

Hank Aaron played with skill and grit and strength and determination. Those guys were using injections. But I digress. The same basic asterisk argument may someday be applied to the most recent recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. As in it was once considered the highest civilian honor in our country.

The White House points out quote, it was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and is awarded by the President of the United States to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace or to culture or other significant public or private endeavors.

So when you hear the criteria, the mind naturally turns to Devin Nunez and Jim Jordan. Someone will have to explain to historians why Nunez and Jordan just joined a list that includes Rosa Parks and Dr. King Merkel and Mother Teresa, Cronkite and Sinatra, Colin Powell, Margaret Thatcher, Dylan and Springsteen, Thurgood Marshall and John Lewis, Mandela, V. Zell and Ali, Berra and Mais, De Niro and Hank, Streisand and Spielberg and Streep, Stephen Hawking, and Hank Aaron and finally, Tony Fauci and Joe Biden.

A good shrink might theorize about an attempt to soil and honor that others have received. It was telling that when Devin Nunez received his medal today, no media were allowed at the event.

On that note that is our broadcast for this Monday night as we start a new week and a consequential one in our country. Happy New Year to all. My thanks to my friends for filling in over the break. I'll see tomorrow evening starting for our special coverage early in the evening something about two runoff Senate elections in Georgia.

For now, for us, on behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.


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