IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, November 11, 2020

Guests: Irwin Redlener, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto


Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, announced that his state will conduct a manual hand recount of all ballots cast in the presidential race within Georgia's 159 counties. GOP Senator Lankford says he'll step in if Trump doesn't give Biden access to intel briefing. Local leaders impose restrictions as pandemic worsens. COVID cases, hospitalizations, deaths reach record highs. Four days after Joe Biden wins, Donald Trump refuses to concede. A handful of Republican senators on Tuesday revealed that the vast majority of the Senate GOP caucus has not acknowledged Joe Biden as president-elect out of concern that doing so would damage their prospects in the upcoming Senate runoff elections in Georgia. Trump loyalists have been given top Pentagon roles after several officials resigned following Esper's ouster. The shake-up has prompted Democrats to raise national security concerns as President-elect Joe Biden begins his transition.


RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA), CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE: And I want to take that commitment and their stories and their issues to the United States Senate.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Raphael Warnock, Democratic candidate for Senate in Georgia. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

WARNOCK: Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Raphael Warnock gets tonight's LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again day 1,392 of the Trump administration leaving 70 days until Inauguration Day. It's been four days since the 2020 presidential election was called for President-elect Joe Biden.

Donald Trump's powers as president expire at 12 noon on the 20th of January.

Today again, though, our nation set a new and dark record as the coronavirus is now moving and multiplying and escalating at an alarming and deadly level. The experts many of them on this broadcast warned us for months that we would see exactly this, as the colder weather said in and they were right.

Another one day record for new cases has been shattered over 144,000 of them just today. According to NBC News, we lost over 1500 people in just these last 24 hours. The spread is uncontrolled in virtually every state that's according to data from the COVID exit strategy. And now indeed, the President is surrounded by a two more people at that White House election night party have tested positive, one of them Trump's political director.

President-elect Joe Biden has already taken steps to focus on containing and mitigating the virus and tonight announced his first senior hire will be Ron Klain as Chief of Staff. Klainc is a longtime Biden aide who also worked with the former vice president in the Obama administration on Ebola and other epidemics.

Today, Trump and Biden both took part in separate Veterans Day events, while Trump continues to hold up the transition. And Biden's access to intelligence briefings on the like, one Republican senator today said it's time to move forward.


SENATOR JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): GSA has to certify that election to start turning it around. I'm on a committee of oversight, I've already started engaging in this area. There's nothing wrong with Vice President Biden getting the briefings to be able to prepare himself if that's not occurring by Friday, I will step in as well and to be able to push him to say this needs to occur.

WILLIAMS: So that's one, over at the Washington Post, Phil Rucker, who joins us in a moment and his colleagues report that Trump has no real plan to reverse the election results and is already indeed talking about a 2024 run.

NBC news reporting tonight Trump may accept the elections results but never actually concede. One aid says Trump may something to the -- may say something to the effect of, we can't trust the results, but I'm not contesting them.

NBC News has also learned that aids are still trying to get Trump to actually accept the election results. As Ivanka Trump proved again today races that are officially called by the Associated Press like Alaska, which they call today are fine if they go for her father. The voter fraud is apparently only rampant in those states that went for President-elect Biden.

Meanwhile, Georgia's Republican Secretary of State today ordered a recount by hand of all 5 million ballots cast in that state in the presidential. The move comes amid mounting pressure from fellow Republicans who made unsubstantiated accusations of voter fraud and an apparent attempt to discredit Joe Biden's more than 14,000 vote lead in Georgia.

Well, today Georgia Secretary of State said he saw no evidence of widespread voter fraud, the Trump campaign welcome news of the recount.


TIM MURTAUGH, TRUMP-PENCE COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR: Every time we take a step along this process, we believe we are getting closer to our goal and that is the president winning these states and ultimately being reelected. Today's announcement celebrating the hand recount in Georgia is another step along that path.


WILLIAMS: Well, the audio from today very few people on camera despite that there are a lot of questions about Trump's losing legal strategy in contesting the election. Wall Street Journal reporting that it's mainly to try to block key states legal certification of Biden's when although Trump's aides and election law experts say that's a long shot while over on the journal's op-ed page. Even Karl Rove wrote tonight that, this election result won't be overturned.

With that let's bring in our leadoff guests on this Wednesday night, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Errin Haines, an AP veteran who is now editor at large over at the 19th, a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom focused on gender politics, policy and more and the aforementioned Phil Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief over at the Washington Post, co-author of the longtime best seller, A Very Stable Genius.

Well, good evening to you all. Phil most immediately to start with your beats, we haven't heard from the President this week. We saw him today. What's your reporting on where he is on his personal journey?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Brian, his emotional state is quite fragile. We've not seen or heard from the President in several days, with the exception of this morning on a rainy day in Washington, he went out to Arlington National Cemetery, the Lake Erie in observance of Veterans Day.

But he has not been doing much governing as best we can tell. He's actually fighting hard to keep a job that he doesn't seem content to do at the moment. Rather, he's been lighting up the phones from the White House, he's been calling friends, advisors allies, in what one official describes to my colleagues, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, and myself as a search for good news. He's just passing about for somebody to tell him something good. So he can hold on to hope that he might still win this election. Even though the reality, the numbers are clearly against him. And he's starting to recognize that so much so that he's talking about running again, in 2024, which if he held on to any sense that he was -- that these election results were going to be overturned, and he would be declared the victor, then he would not be talking about a 2024 campaign. But here we are that that is what he's talking about these last few days.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Errin, what are the Republicans really up to with this recount in Georgia do you think?

ERRIN HAINES, THE 19TH EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, you know, I know in Atlanta, they're certainly used to do a recount every four years for the mayoral race, once the margin -- once the margin is within a certain percentage point that they usually will have a recount down in Georgia. And so that is the place in which we now find ourselves but in terms of, you know, Kelly Loeffler, and David Perdue calling for the resignation of the Secretary of State. I mean, that was something that was so alarming that Governor Brian Kemp, the former Secretary of State rejected it, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution didn't above the banner, you know, editorial basically saying that they were undermining democracy, but by calling for that, and so, you know, I think letting this process play out, they are going to count these by hand and say that they're going to do that, you know, as efficiently and quickly as possible to verify this result.

But in the meantime, you know, these campaigns are moving forward with runoff strategies that are going to stretch out over the next several weeks. And Georgia's got this kind of newfound swagger as a battleground state that I think could energize both sides.

WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, I thought of you tonight, and the last piece you wrote on just the pile of norms that have died, and the number of first we're witnessing this CNN report tonight that there's a stack in their words of congratulatory messages over at the State Department that has piled up for Joe Biden. Joe Biden is unable to access it, because he hasn't been granted permission to access any of the levers of government and transition. They normally would come into the State Department and be answered via the president-elect, via the State Department, I guess, throw that on the pile?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, at least some of the embassy officials around the world had been told that they should not be helping to facilitate phone calls between foreign leaders and President-elect Biden.

This is the Trump administration's position at this point. It's basically a position of denial. And it's not a long shot at this point. I mean, is one of the editor that you quoted said, it's a no shot. It's -- I'm a long standing Washington National span, I still would love them to win the World Series, guess what? It's over. Nobody can do it at this point. And this is the problem here for the President. And he hasn't yet come to grips with that. The recount in Georgia is important. Obviously, it's triggered by law, but the margins about 13,000 votes. There hasn't been a single statewide recount in the last half century and probably not before then ever move 13,000 votes, anywhere near 13,000 votes. So no election has ever been overturned under circumstances like this in a single state, much less in the three states that the President would need in order to change the outcome here. So this is not a no shot, I've had not a long shot. It's a no shot. And every Republicans are increasingly squirmy and people pleasing uncomfortable, as the President is sitting there in denial in the White House and hoping that they can kind of get through the next week or two and he comes to do some real that will end this uncertainty.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker as I join you and reminding Mr. Baker that the new owner of the Mets is only going to make it more difficult for him to achieve that dream. Let's quote, shall we from a Reuters report and it says, small dollar donations from Trump's grassroots donors won't be going to legal expenses. A donor would have to give more than $8,000 before any money goes to the recount account, established to finance election challenges. A large portion of the money goes to save America, a Trump leadership PAC and the Republican National Committee. So does that mean, Phil, that people who think they're giving to some gallant recount and election challenge effort are helping to forgive a campaign debt?

RUCKER: You know, Brian, it certainly appears to be the case. But, you know, let's remember all of the all of the things that that donors, grassroots donors money went to over the last couple of years with the Trump campaign, they raised an extraordinary amount of money from big donors, but also from grassroots donors who gave, you know, small amounts monthly, or quarterly or whenever they felt compelled to respond to one of the many fundraising leads that came in through text message or email. And yet it funded, you know, private jets for the campaign manager and for the president's son and his girlfriend to fly around. It funded all sorts of other extravagances for this campaign. And it's one of the reasons why the Trump campaign and the final weeks of the general election was not able to be on television and these battleground states with the same capacity of advertising as Joe Biden had.

Now in terms of the Legal Defense Fund, my understanding is that there are a number of large donors who've been cutting fairly large checks to help fund some of these legal efforts, but not all of them are. And we talked to a couple of the President's longtime donors today, and some of them expressed real skepticism about whether these legal challenges will bear any fruit and are simply not contributing to them because they see it as a last off.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Errin, up in Wilmington, the slogan is slow and steady wins the race. And today, Ron Klain surprising no one was appointed Chief of Staff, but already it seems like a kaleidoscopic difference in competence from the existing administration.

HAINES: You know, I envisioned Joe Biden actually at home looking at one of those home decor posters that say grant me the serenity to change the thing -- except the things I can't change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. He is moving forward, less than a week from having election results with trying to build his administration, trying to transition and prepare for Inauguration Day and prepare to govern.

You have the this announcement of Ron Klain as his Chief of Staff, and you're right, surprising no one. But you also have the announcement of the, you know, the people that are going to be involved in these agency review teams, and that caught our interest over at 19th Because you have a half -- more than half of those people being women, 40% of them being folks from historically underrepresented communities like the LGBTQ community, the disabled community, communities of color, and these were people that both President-elect Biden and vice president-elect Harris acknowledged in their acceptance speeches on Saturday. You know, giving a nod to LGBTQ folks, the disabled, communities of color who the coalition that helped him get elected and it this is definitely an early indication that these people may also have a role in shaping policy and how he plans to govern.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, talk about a kaleidoscopic sea change. And Peter in the in the slow motion change department, so we have Senator Lankford from Oklahoma not yet willing to call Joe Biden the president-elect but willing to say that if Biden doesn't start getting these Intel briefings by say Friday, he Langford is going to step in, and presumably he'd have some influence. Is there a feeling afoot that men and women in Washington are going to get their big boy and girl pants on soon?

BAKER: Well, I can still take a little while here. You know, you've got a normal process written out by law that says that a president elect is supposed to receive a certain amount of resources in terms of office space, compartmentalize office space, we can have a classified briefing, you can have classified information, you have staff and all these kinds of things in the Trump administration, as with hell that and that's just never happened except during the 2000 recount when they were literally just a few hundred votes apart, not tens of thousands of votes are, talking about now and you saw this paper today and Bill's paper today Andy Card and John Podesta who were White House Chief of Staff for Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, write an op-ed basically saying it's important to get this transition underway that the 9/11 condition. In fact, they remind us found that the slow transition for George W. Bush hampered his ability to get his national security team in place, which left the administration short handed when the moment came that, you know, terror was brought through the sky. So there's a consequence to getting a slow start here.

Now, look, Vice President Biden or President-elect Biden is more equipped than most to handle the transition even without help with the federal government. He's just four years out of the White House himself. The people he's appointing, like Ron Klain are experts in how a White House works. But there is a consequence to not having that transition begin right away and you're seeing Republican senators like in Langford make that point.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, one question on the way out, are you surprised if not disappointed all together that we have not heard from the President this week?

RUCKER: You know, I am surprised because he's had a lot to say on Twitter. And I sort of figured he would take these opportunities to get out on camera and do what he did. I guess it was Thursday of last week when he went into the briefing room. And, you know, tried to make his case for this alternate reality where whereby he won the election, and there was widespread voter fraud. Of course, that doesn't exist and there's no evidence of it. But I'm surprised that the President hasn't tried to use his bully pulpit and all the tools of his office to command the media spotlight and try to advance the cause that he seems to be focused on Twitter.

WILLIAMS: We keep repeating the president loses his powers of office 12 noon, 20th of January. Great thanks to our big three for starting us off, to Peter Baker, to Phil Rucker, to our friend Errin Haines. Thank you very much all three of you.

Coming up, every night on this broadcast we point out that every new day in our country is a new peak for the coronavirus, and it happened again today. We'll talk with a public health expert tonight on the casual kind of cruelty of having to wait 70 more days for a plan to mitigate this pandemic.

And later, here on THE 11TH HOUR on this 11th day of the 11th months we'll talk to a wounded and decorated veteran who retired with four stars on his shoulders and has a warning for us all based on what he's seeing right now happening inside the Pentagon. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on this Veterans Day, Wednesday night.



DR. EDDIE STENEHJEM, INTERMOUNTAIN HEALTHCARE INFECTIOUS DISEASE PHYSICIAN: We're a large system. We can move patients around. We can find beds for patients. The unsustainable part is the caregivers. We don't have enough caregivers to manage the increasing amount of patients. And we know that even if transmission stopped today, our hospitalizations would continue to rise for weeks.


WILLIAMS: Think of that situation in Salt Lake. Well, tonight coronavirus hospitalizations have set yet another record. Texas first state to surpass 1 million confirmed cases recorded its highest single day spike and hospitalizations. Down in El Paso where multiple mortgages have multiple -- mobile mortgage have multiplied. A shutdown orders been extended to December 1.

In New York, daily cases have jumped to levels not seen since the battle days of April. The state is imposing a new curfew for bars, restaurants and gyms, warning of more restrictions if infections continue to explode.

It's a lot, but luckily with us again tonight is Dr. Irwin Redlener. A pediatrics physician, a senior research scholar at Columbia University's Earth Institute, also happens to be the founding director of Columbia's National Center for Disaster Preparedness with an expertise in pandemics.

Doctor, let's begin by asking you to comment on kind of the casual cruelty of having to live through the next 70 days. With no real national plan, we don't have one. We're not allowed to have one. We have to wait for that. And during the interim, we have to watch this death toll and the hospitalization rates soar.

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: So Brian, this is terrifying. And it's heartbreaking. And it is a stark reminder of how terrible the management of this pandemic has been since the very beginning. It's been chaos, misinformation, untruths, sending terrible messages to people. And it's resulted in this American tragedy. We still lead the world in population fatalities here and it's growing like crazy now in the country, and it's going to not stop for quite a long time. This is going to be a very, very tough window and winter weather under the best of circumstances.

And, you know, I think Americans are going to see something that we haven't seen at all, before around the pandemic, once the Biden team takes over which is honestly evidence based policies and assembling a team of world class experts in infectious disease and pandemics. This doesn't mean that we're going to expect President Biden or vice president Harris, to minimize what we're dealing with. These people are about honesty and directness, but there are going to be very explicit, very well explained reasons for creating a national policy or set of policies that will try to get this pandemic under control, Brian.

WILLIAMS: One of the people on the Biden team is Michael Osterholm. I want to play this for you, comments he made about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.


MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, BIDEN TRANSITION COVID-19 ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER: I personally I've been involved with tragic situations where young healthy adults came home to see mom and dad grandpa and grandma or they brought the grandkids with them. And two to three weeks later, one of the older members of the family are desperately ill or die. The greatest love you may show your family is not having outbreak occur in your home on Thanksgiving Day.

Doctor as a practical matter, this is going to be a tough one because the news media will sound like scolds. We all know what kids like to do and that's come home mostly because they want to see their friends over the break. This is going to be tough to enforce. Also, most families will go into this thinking, we're safe. We have this figured out. It's not going to happen to us.

REDLENER: Yes. So Brian, let me be your surrogate scold for a minute. Because this is really it literally, you know, it's a cliche, this a matter of actually of life and death. And I think this is going to have to be a very different holiday season 2020, you know, my grandson's at Ohio State University is going to be coming home for the holidays. He actually already had the COVID. But there's been 250,000 cases of COVID-19 on college campuses around the country alone. So you think of all those kids coming home to families, and then families really, really wanting to get together for Thanksgiving in particular, and we're going to have to be disciplined. This is happening in my own family, I'm sure in yours. And it's not it's not easy. But people have to understand that we cannot put our family members, our loved ones at risk. And the only way to do that is to recreate thanksgiving for 2020.

And hopefully next year, we'll make up for the last time but for right now, it's got to be all hands on deck. We need to be keeping social distancing. We need to keep whatever groups we're putting together very, very small, and only members of our nuclear family, wear facemasks if you're around other people, and let's just tried to make sure that we can take ourselves through this holiday season without really endangering ironically the people that we love the most, Brian.

WILLIAMS: And doctor, the President is rage tweeting at Pfizer, he's angry at them for as he sees it, delaying their vaccine announcement until after his loss at the polls, is this relationship now going to further jeopardize the distribution of a vaccine? It's not like his heart was in it in any other way, then perhaps a reelection tool? Is this going to slow down the mechanism further?

REDLENER: You know, the development of the vaccine, and its ultimate manufacturer in large quantities, and its distribution and administration that people takes its own course, the vaccine and the virus, do not care who the President is, hopefully, and they don't care, you know about anything other than -- and we're putting our faith in them, making sure that they have a safe and effective vaccine. And it's going to have to take its due course.

And the other thing is I mentioned earlier, we're going to have a team now with President Biden, that will be able to assess and monitor every single step of the way here. And believe me, I entirely convinced that we'll have this vaccine out and ready as soon as humanly possible, but not if it's not yet safe and time will tell but it won't be all that long. I think of the initial studies with the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines actually turned out to be accurate, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, the new projection tonight that we're looking at 400,000 dead by February 1 got everybody's attention. Dr. Irwin Redlener, thank you so much as always for joining us and taking our questions. Another break for us, and when we come back, the politics of presidential petulance.


WILLIAMS: Profiles in courage they are. As of tonight, just eight Republican senators have congratulated Joe Biden or have said he should be allowed to begin his transition as President-elect. But behind the scenes, Republican Senate aides tell Reuters there is a limited time for Trump to make his case. One senior aide with a straight face said, "At some point this has to give. And I give it a week or two".

Back with us again tonight, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Professor and Assistant Dean at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin Hook 'em Horns and Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, former Lieutenant Governor of the Great State of Maryland, these days, the host of the Michael Steele podcast and a Senior Advisor over at the Lincoln Project.

So, Michael, I'd like to begin with you because I have this quote for you from Karl Rove. "The President's efforts are unlikely to move a single state from Mr. Biden's column. Certainly, they're not enough to change the final outcome. Once his days in court are over, the President should do his part to unite the country by leading a peaceful transition and letting grievances go."

First of all, Michael, what's the chance that Karl's ID card when he swipes it in at Fox News is not going to work? And second, who else do you think in your political party is going to have the stones to say something similar and rise up and speak up?

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: What I think his card will continue to work. The Fox has been coming more and more into the new reality of things sort of speak over the last week or so. So I don't think that'll be an issue.

And Karl spoke truth. I mean, he knows what's going on here. The guy's a numbers guy. He knows the numbers here. This is not rocket science. Math is still math, despite the fact that some of my party don't like to apply it or use the scientific notations that go with it from time to time. But it's still math and the numbers aren't there.

In terms of who now goes to the President and has that conversation, I don't know. Would you want to do that? Just, you know, you can hear from the reporting that you've already done so far, Brian. Folks are like tiptoeing around the White House. He's in a foul mood, he's peeking, sees this. Let him still in it.

I mean, OK, fine. There's nothing you can do about it. A certain point, the, you know, the moving bands will appear at the White House. So, maybe that's the moment. He may not be McConnell just maybe movers are us. And that's what he knows it's over.

WILLIAMS: Professor, this is where we turn our eyes to you as someone in the trenches teaching political science to young minds. Is there any problem or risk or danger in the cooler heads will prevail. Let's wait this guy out. He after all loses. The powers of office at noon on January 20th?

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, LBJ SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: The danger is in the lack of preparation that the new administration is going to have. So, as Michael was saying, eventually, it's going to give -- eventually President Trump is going to leave the White House, whether that's from him doing it willfully or the movers coming.

But what happens in the 70 days, that we are supposed to be having a peaceful transition of power. One, where folks accept the loss and say, all right, we lost, but we have the bigger ideal of keeping our democracy running. Here are the files. Here's the classified information, here are the past codes. That is not happening as long as President Trump is locking down in the White House.

And what's worrisome here is how the country is going to run in every dimension. But what worries me in particular, and I know several people have spoken about this is, God forbid, there is a national security emergency. What happens then if we don't have the preparedness that we should have? Or what if this pandemic continues to spiral in ways we did not imagine?

So that lack of preparation is what worries me. At the end of the day, Trump is going to leave, but we're losing precious time.

WILLIAMS: If that's not enough, Michael, let's talk about the naked politics of this. There's Mitch McConnell, who would like to not have new business cards printed, that's a minority leader. He likes the current title, thank you very much. There's a guy like Pompeo, who just wants to be apparently Donald Trump's best friend, he would probably like to be a U.S. senator from Kansas someday.

There's a guy like Bill Barr, whose reputation by now is toasted for all time. He made that deal, he entered into this. Everyone, I guess, is going to start positioning themselves and some folks are going to hope that we all forget what their role was for four years.

STEELE: Yes, there is. I've heard it already. In some of the folks that I've talked to over the -- since the election is like, you know, OK, yes, you know, we're past Trump now, we can move on. And I'm like, dude, you don't get it. This country is not going to forget what you put it through. It's just not going to forget, it's not going to forget the anguish, and the frustration and the lack of, you know, civility of the administration towards the American people at times.

And so, yes, there are people going to be repositioning themselves, they're going to try to get a new foothold on K Street, or they're going to try to, you know, re-emerge somehow on Capitol Hill. But the reality of it is the American people, and a lot of folks who've been a part of this frustrating process over the last four years won't forget. And I don't know how they square that. I don't know how you, if you're Bill Barr, square what you've done at justice. I don't know how other officials square what they failed to do, in the responsibilities they had to the American people, not to Donald Trump.

And that's the part, Brian, that just galling. I mean, this was in service to the country, not one man. And so, I would recommend they just see if there's a little Chateau down at Mar-a-Lago, they can go all hang out, because that's probably where all the work is going to be.

WILLIAMS: Professor, we have to talk about the Latino vote. And I'll ask the question in an unusual way. When are the Democrats going to learn how to speak to Latino voters and what went wrong, where the vote went wrong for them this year?

DEFRANCESCO SOTO: Right. So, let me start off by, again, stating the obvious. The Latino community is incredibly diverse from country of origin to generation, even within states. So the diversity of the Latino vote within Texas is incredible.

So I think what is important is to continue to hone those targeted skills. Joe Biden actually did what he needed to do. He got 70 percent of the Latino vote. And in some of those key states like Arizona and Nevada, he got in the mid 70s, high 70s. But in some of these larger states that have very diverse Latino populations amongst the state borders, such as Texas and Florida, that's where that lack of nuance was problematic. So, I'm talking about the border region here in Texas, and Miami Dade in Florida.

So, it's about doing more of that micro targeting. And another issue here, Brian, was one of the lack of grassroots outreach. We know that in the Latino community, grassroots outreach is very important. Culturally, it's very important.

But as a result of the pandemic, public health concerns, Democrats were not able to do what they traditionally do, was going knock on doors, go into houses, have got a seat, those have that personal contact. So that was problematic. And the hope is that once were past the pandemic, Democrats can drill down on that and continue to fine tune the micro targeting.

WILLIAMS: Our thanks to the Professor and the Chairman, two terrific guests on a Wednesday night after all we've been through. We'll have you back. We'll do it again. Greatly appreciate it.

Coming up for us, when a retired four-star general sends up a distress signal about what he's seeing at the Pentagon, it compels our interest. We will hear from him live after this.



GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: I've been shot at a lot. I've been nearly killed a bunch of times. I'm not an alarmist. I try to stay cool under pressure. Mark me down as alarmed.


WILLIAMS: That's a stark warning from our next guest tonight as the President appoints more loyalists to top jobs inside the Pentagon with just 70 days left in office.

With us to talk about it, General Barry McCaffrey, Decorated Combat Veteran of Vietnam, former Battlefield Commander in the Persian Gulf, former Cabinet Member in the Clinton Administration. And for good reason, our Military Analyst. General, share with the folks watching exactly what has you alarm from inside the Pentagon?

MCCAFFREY: Well, look, Brian, I've got a highly developed sense of danger from four combat tours. Mark me down as alarm over this whole thing. Replacing the Secretary of Defense with an unqualified but good soldier Chris Miller, a retired Special Operations Lieutenant Colonel. He's got a great standing among the Armed Forces, but he's completely unqualified to be the Secretary of Defense.

Then to follow that, by putting three other sort of marginal characters into these sensitive posts, policy, intelligence, chief of staff, says to me was 70 days to go remaining an office, these people are setting up a continuing enterprise, which is part of a plot in the White House that we might be able to declare this election null and void. By the way, I don't think it's going to work. And I'm 100 percent convinced that there is zero chance of the service chiefs, the uniform chiefs or the Armed Forces playing any role in the transfer of power.

They're actually taking over the wrong agency. We need to worry about the Attorney General, the Homeland Security Department, the FBI, federal law enforcement, who could be a tool of oppression, the American people if they get what they think are legal orders.

WILLIAMS: How do you fear this looks overseas to either or both of our allies if we still have any and adversaries?

MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, if I was a case officer in the CIA, and I spent most of my life studying third world countries, and I looked at the pattern of behavior here, you'd have to conclude that the strong man is about to take control of the government and ignore an election. And, again, I don't think this is remotely possible. I think the Republican senators and congressmen and governors, certainly the Supreme Court are going to defend the Constitution of the United States.

But right now, we have a rogue lawless President who won't acknowledge the foundation of our democracy. I think this is -- when Secretary Pompeo yesterday said in front of the international news media, that the transition will be to a second White House term for Mr. Trump. That was a showing and shameful statement.

WILLIAMS: General, final question is personal, being that we are here in the 11th day of the 11th months. Who do you think about on this day every year, is it your father? Is it your brothers in Vietnam who didn't come home? Is it all the men who have served under your command? Is it a combination of all of them?

MCCAFFREY: Well, that's such a good question. You know, there's $18 million for veterans that serve for this country out there, 7 percent of the adult population. Still, fortunately, 300,000 of the World War II veterans. The biggest group now, I might add, Brian, are the Gulf War cohorts.

This current generation people in uniform have had 60,000 killed and wounded. The country owes them a lot. So I think all of us are proud of our service.

My company from Vietnam, be company second to the 7th Cavalry 68, 69. We're still close. We're still taking care of each other. We've all been calling each other, emailing all day. There's a lot of strong memories in the part of our veterans.

WILLIAMS: General, thank you very much. We think of you every year on this day, among others. General Barry McCaffrey with us tonight.

Coming up, a COVID survivor's story. She almost lost her life to this virus and has a message for the rest of us.


WILLIAMS: We've been reporting on how hospitals are filling up across our country and we wanted to show you this tonight. NBC News Correspondent Gabe Gutierrez was granted access inside a coronavirus ICU in Minnesota, a state right now struggling with rapid infection.


GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Gabe Gutierrez in Minneapolis with this COVID ICU is busier than ever.

(on-camera): What most worries you over the next couple of months?


KELLY MEEKER, COVID PATIENT: I was around September.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Among those patients, 36-year-old Kelly Meeker hospitalized a month and a half, now in recovery and out of isolation. She wasn't on ventilator less than a week ago,

MEEKER: I just feeling miserable. I knew something was wrong. I knew I had COVID from the very first day that I had symptoms, but I just kept getting worse and worse and I just kept feeling sicker and sicker.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Kelly coaches gymnastics, loves her family, including her cats.

MEEKER: I've never been more grateful to be alive.

GUTIERREZ (on-camera): As a mother, how hard is it to not be able to see your daughter in person when she's that sick?

BRENDA FICK, MOTHER OF KELLY MEEKER: It's really can't describe it. It's -- you want to be there, that's your job. But you can't so you're just so helpless.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): In just the last two weeks, Minnesota has seen new COVID cases spiked by more than 125 percent. But that statistic doesn't come close to capturing what nurse Katie O'Neill (ph) sees every shift.

KATIE O'NEILL, NURSE: I don't really think of numbers. I just think of my patients.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Abbott Northwestern Hospital granted as rare access to show the pandemic's deadly impact.

(on-camera): This hospital has 30 COVID ICU beds and right now about three-fourths of them are full. As we head into the winter, the concern here is not just space, but staffing.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): For Kelly Meeker, each day bring small victories. Today, she walked for the first time since her coma.

(on-camera): What would you say to people who are skeptical that COVID is really that serious?

MEEKER: I'd say wear a mask because I almost died from it. It's more serious some people think.

GUTIERREZ (on-camera): And today, Minnesota reported a record number of COVID deaths.


WILLIAMS: Well, God bless her and our thanks to Gabe Gutierrez for that report.

Coming up for us, what graciousness looks like when our Presidents pass on command as they leave office.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, is an intentionally wistful look back at gracious presidents and gracious first families. Our friend, the historian Michael Beschloss has been posting images of the letters that are departing presidents have left for their successors. Ronald Reagan, to begin with, chose to write to Bush 41 on his, don't let the turkeys get you down stationery. We checked that was not official White House letterhead. At any rate, he ends the note, "You'll be in my prayers. God bless you and Barbara. I will miss our Thursday lunches".

41 write to Bill Clinton, "You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success is our country's success. I am rooting hard for you". 43 writes to Obama. "You have just begun a fantastic chapter in your life. You will have an almighty God to comfort you, a family who loves you, and a country that is pulling for you including me. God bless you."

So, that's what effortless class and graciousness look like and sound like. It also looks like this. The Bush women showing the Obama women around the White House where Sasha and Malia learned the trick that White House kids have learned for decades. That happens to be the hallway to the solarium, the ramp was carpeted for FDR's wheelchair. And on either side, the bare wood floor makes for a great slide. As the Bush girls taught the Obama girls as the Biden grandkids. We'll pass on to the next occupants, because that's how graciousness works.

And that is our broadcast on this Wednesday night. Thank you so much for being here with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.


Content and programming copyright 2020 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2020 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.