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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, November 13, 2020

Guests: Kavita Patel, Baratunde Thurston, Timothy Snyder


The U.S. for the first time reported more than 150,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day, driven by record infection counts in more than a dozen states. As hospitalizations set a new record of 67,096 coronavirus patients, according to the COVID Tracking Project, intensive-care units continued to face pressure. Democrats spent $50 million trying to win control of state legislatures in 2020, but the effort mostly failed, cementing regional power in their more conservative Republican opponents over such issues as abortion, education and criminal justice. Joe Biden is the first Democratic candidate in decades to win Georgia and Arizona, bringing his expected Electoral College vote tally to 306. North Korea and Russia are still trying to hack some of the world's most prominent coronavirus vaccine researchers, cybersecurity researchers said Friday.


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: That is Tonight's Last Word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 1,394 of the Trump administration, leaving 68 days until Inauguration Day. It's been six days since the 2020 presidential election was called for the president-elect Joe Biden.

The number of Americans diagnosed today with coronavirus is now 172,842. That is our one-day total today and it's obviously a grim new record. More than that it's a dire warning about just how rapidly this virus is moving across parts of our country. The outgoing president actually held a briefing on the virus today. His first public remarks since Joe Biden was declared President-elect, he touted the progress of course toward a vaccine which he claimed could be available for some people as soon as next month. However, he was largely silent on the record surge in cases the death toll ignoring the all-time high and hospitalizations, now approaching 70,000 people.

As you watch this next bit, please remember lockdowns are up to governors and mayors. They happen at the local level. They aren't a federal matter. But here is Trump vowing no lock downs, even though he seems to suggest here that this presidency might soon be ending in keeping with the voters' wishes.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I will not go. This administration will not be going to a lockdown. Hopefully the -- whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration will be. I guess time will tell. The lock downs cost lives and they cost a lot of problems to cure. Cannot be -- you got to remember, cannot be worse than the problem itself.


WILLIAMS: Former Vice President Biden also spoke out today about the pandemic in the form of a statement which read in part, "I am the president-elect, but I will not be president until next year. The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar. It is accelerating right now. Urgent action is needed today, now, by the current administration, starting with an acknowledgement of how serious the current situation is."

In the final weeks of the campaign, you'll recall Trump predicted the U.S. was rounding the turn. He further predicted we wouldn't be talking about the virus after Election Day. That of course ran into a harsh reality with his own White House becoming the focus of yet another outbreak.

Washington Post today broke the story that over 130 members of the U.S. Secret Service have recently been ordered to isolate or quarantine because they tested positive for the virus or had close contact with someone who did. Post says the spread is "believed to be partly linked to campaign rallies that President Trump held in the weeks before the November 3 election."

And don't forget here, on top of the Secret Service, needing to go out in advance to protect all those locations. Be around all those people. They were forced to travel, period. They have no choice but to fly all over the country, including states where the virus is now surging.

Joe Biden was the president-elect when we woke up this morning, and if anything, his win was further cemented today, after Arizona was called for Biden on this very broadcast last night Georgia was called for Biden today. North Carolina went for Trump that now fills in the last blanks on the board, final tally Biden 306 electoral votes, Trump 232.

Tonight, we further learned that 16 federal prosecutors assigned by Attorney General Bill Barr to monitor for election irregularities have found none. And so far, Trump's efforts to challenge the election in court have been defeated in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, making for a series of legal setbacks just today but have no fear.

Tonight, the New York Times is reporting that Trump has put his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in charge of his campaign lawsuits. We last saw Rudy at the press conference at four seasons total landscaping the place located between the crematorium and the sex shop prior to that, we saw him lying on a hotel room bed in Borat (ph).

The Times reports that Rudy's return hasn't gone over to well, and we, "A half-dozen other Trump advisors have described Mr. Giuliani's efforts as counterproductive and said he was giving the president unwarranted optimism about what could happen."

Meanwhile, some loyalists in the Trump White House are busy making the case that the fight is not over.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're moving forward here at the White House on the assumption that there will be a second Trump term. We think he won that election. And any speculation about what Joe Biden might do I think is mood at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you prepared to say that the President will -- President Trump will definitely attend the inauguration?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the President will attend his own inauguration. He would have to be there, in fact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You really think you can turn this around?

MCENANY: Absolutely.


WILLIAMS: So this is all still going on. And then there was this from Geraldo Rivera, who spoke to Trump earlier today and describe the President's mood and his feelings about conceding.


GERALDO RIVERA, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I feel that he's resigned, in some ways to the fact that the playing field is very uneven when it comes to when it concerns the President himself. He's very frustrated. He's flustered. He's disillusion, but he's also realistic. You mentioned, you know, he used that characterization himself about his own chances. He said he'll do the right thing when the time comes, but he wants every legitimate vote counted.


WILLIAMS: Final note here about that electoral vote tally of 306 to 232 while no one on the Biden team is calling it a landslide, Kellyanne Conway did. Now in fairness, this was back in 2016, when it was Trump winning by the same margin 306 to 232.

And back then, as we were reminded, today, Kellyanne Conway said, "306, landslide, blowout, historic."

On that note, let's bring in our leadoff guests on this Friday night after the week we've all had, Susan Page, Veteran Journalist, Best Selling Author and USA Today, Washington Bureau Chief. Jonathan Karl, Chief White House Correspondent for ABC News. You may ask why is it we get to periodically steal him away from the mothership. It's in his capacity as an author. He has written the recent book, Front Row at the Trump Show, and Dr. Kavita Patel, Clinical Physician, Former Senior Aide during the Obama administration, these days a non-resident Fellow at Brookings and among our medical contributors.

Well, good evening, and welcome to you all. Susan, I'd like to begin with you. Do you see a parallel between Trump's kind of original sin denialism of the virus and the ongoing denialism of his rather convincing loss?

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: I do think, Brian, those are the two most striking things that have happened with President Trump since the election. One is that is only now taking very small steps toward acknowledging that this is an election he has lost. And the other is that he continues to ignore this terrible pandemic that just gets worse and worse. And as we head into Thanksgiving, and the holidays in the winter just has every possibility of becoming even more of a catastrophe than it's been. So yes, I think in both cases, the President has been denying the scene right before his eyes.

WILLIAMS: Doctors -- Doctor, we have hospitals filling up. We've lost 1300 people since just our last broadcast last night. So today, I think people greeted with hope the word that they were doing a briefing in the Rose Garden. Secretary, Azar got up for his remarks. It is hard to watch, a grown adult genuflects the way he did again today publicly. There are news anchors in North Korea, who use less flowery language about their dear leader than he used about President Trump today. And this guy has a job. He is the head of a sprawling and hugely important cabinet department. Do we all now have to wait 68 days to get the mitigation plan that we deserve?

DR. KAVITA PATEL, FORMER AIDE TO VALERIE JARRETT IN THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE: Sadly, Brian, I think we will, but the country can't afford it. I mean, in one day, we've had enough cases, equivalent to the size of Knoxville, Tennessee, we'll have enough death soon that approach all the casualties of World War II. And Brian, it just feels like, you know, the between the genuflection and this kind of over rosy language that you heard from the President today, touting vaccines and making the American public think that a shot in the arm is going to annihilate the virus when that's simply not true is just amazing. And yet at the same time, there was no conversation about mitigation measures. There was not even a stern warning about holiday travel, or just being safe, or an acknowledgement of the lack of the administration's response to protect the nation's health care workers. Our nurses and our doctors on the front lines are doing all the heroes work without any expectation of relief, they've all just abandoned hope. And that causes me an incredible amount of fear before January 20.

WILLIAMS: John Karl, our mutual friend and big friend of this broadcast Michael Beschloss, choosing to become the master of the black and white historical photo, in addition to being the master of history in our country.

Today, he tweeted this out a classic photo 1944. This is Sewell Avery, don't make names like that anymore, Chief of Montgomery Ward stores. He refused to leave his office on federal charges. So they sent in the National Guard, and they brought him out seated. Michael knows very well what he's doing and posting that today, as they say, in the airline business. We know you have your choice in air travel. Michael had his choice and photos to tweet out today. So with that as the background, what are these days like to cover at the White House?

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's so strange, Brian. I talk all the time with people very close to the President, people in the West Wing, outside advisors also, to top Republicans on Capitol Hill. And to a person just about, they say, look, of course it's over. We know it's over. The President knows it's over. He just has to, you know, go through this process and run through these lawsuits. We'll give him some time to do that.

But look at today. Look at today on these lawsuits. You have the setbacks you mentioned in Arizona, in Michigan, by the way, with some really striking language from the judge in the Michigan case talking about these affidavits presented by the Trump team as being not just baseless but sloppy, directly contradicted by the facts.

And then in Pennsylvania, five separate lawsuits tossed out. You have the Trump team being the purveyor now. It seems of frivolous lawsuits, the kind of frivolous lawsuits that I over the years have heard Republicans including Rudy Giuliani, who I used to cover and sit when he was a mayor in New York. And they talked about going and combating frivolous lawsuits now they are purveying frivolous lawsuits, but not so frivolous in their impact. I mean, they are going at the heart of our democratic process.

And today in Georgia, there were lawsuits filed by a pro-Trump lawyer that actually asked, Brian, to do one of two things, one throws out all absentee ballots. By the way, that includes all the military you find who voted absentee and in the huge number of Georgians who voted absentee or to nullify Georgia's election, its entire election, really quite striking.

And on this day, also, this is just today. Two law firms, two separate law firms working for the Trump team, both said that they were opting out working in the Pennsylvania cases, working in the Arizona cases said that they had had enough which led to this move today. To have Rudy Giuliani take over.

I have to tell you, it's -- as you know, my book starts with interviewing Trump, Donald Trump meeting him for the first time when Rudy -- I was covering City Hall, Rudy Giuliani had just been inducted, you know, just been made mayor. And now you have the guy that was America's mayor and the real estate Titan who pulled off the greatest upset in the history of American politics. Now you have one of them, about to go off, go down in history as perhaps the sorest loser in American politics and the other, the purveyor of frivolous lawsuits aimed at the heart of American democracy. It's very strange.

WILLIAMS: At least we'll always have Borat (ph) and four seasons total landscaping.

Susan, first of all, none of us can wait the 45 minutes until this is no longer Friday the 13th. So I'll put that out there. Just about every night during the campaign, I asked at least one of our guests if Joe Biden was doing enough with the material he had, it's now clear the answer was yes. It's also clear by the way, Democrats had a terrible night down ballot, but that's subject for another time. Tell us about the tools Joe Biden may possess in his toolbox to go to work on a deeply divided country.

PAGE: Well, Joe Biden has a great strength and that is the historic nature of his victory, 306 electoral votes, also more than 5 million votes more than his opponent got big, huge turnout, that kind of turnout we haven't seen in a century that gives him some real standing to do things but he's got a big problem too, as you mentioned, which is it, he had a big win very short sales (inaudible). So, you know, they've lost seats in the House look like they'll have a very narrow minority in the house. It's not clear at all that they're going to win control of the Senate, that's going to be up to those two Georgia, Senate races.

So the first thing that historic victory gives him this mandate to do what he thinks he needs to do and what he wants to do. But the situation on the hill is going to make that really tough for him, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, talk about what you call the medical malpractice that has resulted in 130 members of the U.S. Secret Service, who have the ultimate bottom line on their job descriptions to take a bullet for the President of the United States, in this case, for the glory and honor of working for the President. They are quarantining.

PATEL: Yeah, thank you, Brian. I called it medical malpractice. Because if any of us my colleagues, anybody in a hospital or clinic had allowed that feckless behavior that we knew would engage, and potentially put others at risk, such as not wearing masks, such as asking people to get into a very closed container, like a suburban vehicle, and drive around with someone who is actively infected, Brian, we would be fired or hospital doors would be closed, we would have the Department of Justice investigating us and probably have our state licensure taken away, all because of a risk that was not meant to protect the president from some sort of national threat, but simply to have his moment to say that he's been cured, and that this isn't that bad.

And so these are men and women who I've worked with in the past, who do it without even thinking, Brian, and then to have to accompany him to rallies, those pictures made me cringe, the Secret Service personnel who stood there trying to be in the background. But obviously, in between people who are thousands of people at rallies were proud to not wear their masks, as if masks were somehow when the President talks about the cure being worse than the disease. The cure is something so simple as wearing a two ply fabric mask. And that's the medical malpractice that this administration and this President has committed.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, to your point, when I covered the White House, some of the best friendships I made were members of the secret service to this day. Hey, John, before we lose you to the clutches of ABC News, one last question for you, talk us through the point of decapitating your own intelligence community on your way out the door?

KARL: Well, you know, it's really -- it's really something to see the moves that have been made. These are the national security positions that we have been told ever since 911, when the 911 Commission came out and said that presidential transitions are points of vulnerability for American in terms of American national security. And that's why, you know, that's why it's important to have a smooth transition. And instead, we have, as you said, essentially a decapitation of the civilian military leadership of the intelligence community. On the way out the door, it's never a good time to have this kind of upheaval, particularly not at a time of uncertainty when America is clearly you know, at a point of vulnerability.

WILLIAMS: Great thanks to our big three on this Friday night again after the week we've had, Susan Page, Jonathan Karl, Dr. Kavita Patel, great to see you all, greatly appreciate you coming on.

Coming up for us, the poetic justice, some Democrats are finding in the election results. Steve Schmidt and Baratunde Thurston join us to talk about the future of both parties.

And later, the man who wrote the book on tyranny quite literally gives us his take on Trump's futile attempt to rewrite the election even though his powers as president expire at 12 noon on the 20th of January. All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on a Friday night.


WILLIAMS: While Americans were going about their lives today, our election board suddenly got all filled in Steve Kornacki has retired to assisted living, the final tally Joe Biden with 306 electoral votes, Donald Trump with 232 and make no mistake 306 to 232 is a convincing score, a convincing victory, as we have been reminded over these past four years.


TRUMP: We had a massive landslide victory as, you know, in the Electoral College. We won by a landslide. Actually got their ass kicked, 306 to 223 that's a pretty good shellacking.

We won the Electoral College by a lot. That's a tremendous victory. It was really a landslide from the Electoral College standpoint, 306 to 223. That's a slaughter. That's a slaughter. I want decisively, look 306 to 223, that's a lot.


WILLIAMS: That's two friends of this broadcast, join us once again tonight. Steve Schmidt, longtime political strategist who led the McCain '08 campaign has since left the Republican Party after a life spent in politics. He is among the founders of the Lincoln Project which set out to defeat Trump and Trumpism. And Baratunde Thurston, author, activist, comedian, former producer for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, feels the same way about Trump and trumpism as Mr. Schmidt. He is these days the host of the podcast how to citizen.

Gentlemen, welcome to you both. Mr. Schmidt, before you can say a word, I want to roll for our audience, the latest work from the Lincoln Project.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most Republican leaders are refusing to accept the outcome of the democratic process. It's shameful, cowardly, and un-American. Across the globe, our enemies attack America by saying we really aren't a democracy. Now, Republicans are acting like Russia, Iran, North Korea, China, are these Republicans, not Americans?


WILLIAMS: So Steve Schmidt, a dual question for you to start off. What's your battle damage assessment on the effect the Lincoln Project had on this presidential election? And are you on the ground in Georgia? What can you do there that Stacey Abrams isn't doing or hasn't already done?

STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I think that we were part of a coalition that spans from Bernie Sanders to disaffected Republicans that help Joe Biden amass the most votes in American history. I think we took the fight to Donald Trump. I think he spent a lot of time attacking us days that he spent fighting with the Lincoln Project for days he wasn't fighting with the Biden campaign. And so I think we played a key role in the counties that we targeted in the states that were determinative. And we made a stand against Trump and trumpism. We fought for what we believed was the right. And I think that's what you are called to do. As an American citizen, when you see a wrong in front of you. And we all believe that Trump is a profound wrong for the country.

And in Georgia, the Senate will hang in the balance and look, you know, at the end of the day, the Lincoln Projects going to go down there. We're going to make the race about Mitch McConnell. He has his vote. And he's going to use his vote in a way to harm the constituencies that just voted in favor of Joe Biden, want to see some progress in this country. And when we look at the Republican Party in this moment, it's not chastened in defeat. It's crazier, and it's crazier in its fidelity to Donald Trump. We've never seen what we're seeing in the entire history of the country. And when we see all the qualifications, Brian around this, when you hear news anchors on Fox, for example, saying to Republican elected officials, well, if he wins, or the Republican says, well, when all the votes are done being counted, votes are done being counted.

Joe Biden's the president-elect. He'll be the president United States, it's what they're doing is poisoning American democracy. American democracy requires, relies on faith and belief in the system, by the people who are governed under it, right, the government of the people, by the people for the people, faith and belief in its legitimacy from the people's essential for it to work. And you just see that being poisoned. It's the worst thing out of a lot of terrible and immoral things that Trump's done over the course of his presidency. But this in the end, this is the worst thing he could do. And we'll live with this for the next generation. This is this is a horrible moment in the life of this country. What we're seeing right now, the refusal of these Radical Republicans to see to reality, which is the Donald Trump has been defeated, turned away from office. And it's time to turn the page and get on with the next chapter of American history.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, Mr. Thurston, if you're an episodic TV writer, and this is true, if so much of what we've just witnessed, if you submitted a script that had Trump, on the southern end of a 306 to 232 electoral vote, the script would get kicked back. Because it doesn't seem like something that would really happen. How are you enjoying the transition thus far, Baratunde?

BARATUNDE THURSTON, AUTHOR, ACTIVIST AND COMEDIAN: Thank you for phrasing the question that way, Brian, getting back with you, I'm enjoying it great. Nice to be here Friday night, got a new blue blazer just for you. And I'm enjoying it nicely. I'm celebrating with the American people, our democracy, our record, setting voter turnout, the electoral officials who did their jobs, despite a lot of madness and confusion around them.

And when I did a little Carnacki (ph) moment that looked at the map very closely, and not only did Joe Biden beat Donald Trump as badly as Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton, it was actually worse, if you look at the three states, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in 2016, Trump won those by 77,000 votes. Biden won those same states by 230,000. That's a 300,000 votes swing in favor of Joe Biden. Any added Georgia in Arizona took those from Trump as well. So I feel great. I feel like this is a resounding and clear result. And like Steve said, we're ready to turn the page to the next chapter of American history.

WILLIAMS: Baratunde, I'm going to follow up on that very same point you just made. Both of these gentlemen are going to stay with us over the break as we've established, Baratunde already has the new blue blazer, and I have expect Hugh Hefner to walk through the background in speech meets living room. They're going to stay there. We'll talk about what lies ahead after this.



BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you are listening to some of the talk radio that Trump voters are listening to, if you're watching Fox News, if you're getting these tweets, those allegations are presented as facts. So you've got millions of people out there who think oh, yes, there must be cheating because the President said so.


WILLIAMS: Former President of the United States, we'll be seeing more of him on television this weekend. His book drops next Tuesday.

Let's continue our conversation with our guests, Steve Schmidt and Baratunde Thurston. Baratunde, as promised, I'm coming to you with the tough love trouble in paradise question. Democrats did really well at the top of the ticket. Down ballot, not so much.

Defund the police almost crushed the party. What was left uncrushed was almost crushed by some of the unserious portions of the Green New Deal. Big conversation needs to be had within that party between the left and the center. Do you think they can work things out because they're back at it again in two years?

THURSTON: I think that when certain Democrats blame their losses on the three-word, slogan defund the police. They reveal a lack of empathy for the actual loss of life that black people in this country have experienced at the hands of police. And they reveal a lack of imagination about what public safety should really be about.

We spend $100 billion a year on police in the U.S., Brian. That number goes up when crime goes up. That number goes up when crime goes down. And in most cities in our country, policing is the number one expenditure. So, most of us live in a police state. That's not liberal propaganda. That's math.

We need to find better solutions to these problems. And police know as well. I even had guests on my show, How To Citizen" talking about reimagining policing, including Dr. Phil Goff who was frequently on this network, because the police recognized that we need more solutions to public safety problems besides accountable people with guns. We need real public safety with real mental health services, with real homeless services, with real solutions. And I would like to see the Democratic Party focused on the actual challenge, not picking up the mantle of the Republican Party's talking points.

WILLIAMS: I think in the Democratic Party, Baratunde, and I can't speak for them, but I think some of those in tight or losing races really felt resentment that the phrase was hung on them, that it was smeared across the entire Democratic Party.

THURSTON: I hear you on that. And I acknowledge some of the challenge of that. The first thing I say is, policing is not dictated from the top down. These people are running in districts, those districts can do what they want. Policing is a locally determined thing. There's a real opportunity to focus instead on what public safety should be. Because quite, frankly, Brian, we do need to reduce funding for policing and reinvest that funding into communities. And that's a beautiful opportunity for someone seeking the public trust, to show that they have public safety in mind in ways that actually work.

So I say it's a lack of imagination, because I think it's too lazy and simple to blame the slogan of some activists who were on the ground trying to do real work, because you couldn't get your messaging act together to align yourselves with the majority of Americans recognize that there was a much better path to pursuing safety for the public than just relying on armed police officers.

WILLIAMS: And Steve Schmidt, where the rubber meets the road, what happens to guys like Steve Schmidt now?

SCHMIDT: Well, look, we live in this era, Brian, of Democratic rescission all over the world. Certainly, The Lincoln Project, the organization that I was involved in, we're going to be around or keep it together for 22 and 24. These senators, these members that are refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the U.S. election, and the other things that they've done, I think that one of the legacies of Trumpism is that we have a real deal authoritarian movement that has rooted itself in American soil that is faithless, to the traditions of the country, to the highest ideas and ideals of the country. And we're going to be in a long-term fight with that.

You will see the faces of extremism, however, many turned out marching in Trump's Million Mega March in Washington, D.C. This assemblage of militia groups, other extreme groups, the G (ph) has been led out of the bow, and it's in a need to be fought, you know, for a substantial period of time in this country. You know, in the end, there's no accommodation to be made with white nationalist, white supremacists, or all these other people.

Them and their ideas need to be sealed beneath a Chernobyl like sarcophagus. And that's just going to take a long time to do, and it's going to take a lot of fighting, and that first next fight that matters are these George's Senate special elections. And we'll be down there in that fight, along with a lot of the other groups, you know, that are part of a coalition.

And, you know, I'll say about the people who are pointing fingers at each other is that, you know, Joe Biden won this by 5 million plus votes, and it's a huge victory. But when you look at the advantages that Republicans have in the Electoral College, is Democrats need to have a broad coalition and a multi-racial, multi-ethnic country that spans a lot of geography contains a lot of culture and wrestled (ph) on a continent.

You know, it's a it's a big country and, you know, running a running a country being supported by a diverse coalition, takes a lot of finesse, but it takes everybody, I think, to be able to win. When you look at the demographics, you know, as it was pointed out, you know, it's really about 400,000 votes in a country and 330 million people and the other guy running is Donald Trump that's way too close for comfort for me.

WILLIAMS: Thoughtful conversation tonight. My thanks to both of these gentlemen, Steve Schmidt, Baratunde Thurston, thank you very much. Enjoy your weekend, if at all possible.

Coming up for us, the historian Michael Beschloss believes this election was indeed a close call for our democracy. In a moment, we're joined by the prominent author who warned us about tyranny. He has a continuing warning we're guessing about what lies ahead.



TRUMP: And hopefully, the -- whatever happens in the future, who knows, which administration will be, I guess time will tell.


WILLIAMS: The -- Our next guest explains the outgoing President's refusal to concede this way, "What Donald Trump is attempting to do has a name, cou d'etat. Poorly organized though it is, it is not bound to fail. It must be made to fail.

With us to talk about it, Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale University. Professor Snyder was a Marshall scholar educated in the Ivy League and over at Oxford specializing in Europe and the Holocaust. He's the author of two books of note to our discussion, "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From The 20th Century" and "The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America".

Professor, thank you very much for coming on. You're in Vienna, Austria, where it's unbelievably early. We appreciate that. So a duel question. How do we look over there right about now? And to all those people who think the danger to democracy has passed with the election of Biden, are they right or wrong?

TIMOTHY SNYDER, YALE UNIVERSITY HISTORY PROFESSOR: Well, as to the first question, how do we look? In general, the leaders of European democracies are quite relieved. The four years of President Trump have been a test for Europeans and their institutions. Europeans have become more independent and, in some ways more, powerful. I think they, in general, greeted by the administration not as a chance to go back to the past, but as a chance to try to now address the real challenges of the future.

As to Mr. Trump, we have to remember that this is an authoritarian minded leader who's in a typical authoritarian situation. In other words, if he leaves office, he faces a billion dollars in debt, which there's no sign he can repay. He also faces criminal investigations at the level of the city in the state of New York. So like authoritarians around the world, he fears leaving office, he has very strong reasons not to leave office.

So, we should take the threat, the threat of his lie about the election outcomes but also future possible threats between now and January very seriously. Democracy doesn't win. It's the people who win when they support democracy.

WILLIAMS: As you look at home from there, and when you come home on your next visit, do you view it as a changed country because millions of people decided maybe over time, like the frog boiling experiment, to become at least tyranny curious?

SNYDER: It is a process. I mean, you're kind enough to mention my book, "On Tyranny", which I wrote about four years ago. And I've noticed over time that the correspondence of people who support Trump to me has changed. At the beginning, it was about 50-50, civil and angry. And now after four years, it's all angry, something has changed in the country and if things continue to change.

So, when we think about Mr. Trump's threat to democracy, it's not just that he's trying to stay in power, although that, of course, is horrible enough. It's also that he's injecting a big lie into the system. The idea that he won this election is a big lie. And insofar as he gets people to believe this lie, he's transforming democratic politics, which is about facts and interests and values into authoritarian politics, which is about faith, faith in a leader believing what the leader says, despite everything.

And it's dangerous at the particular form the big lie takes is the idea of a stab in the back. That somehow we didn't win when we should have won. And whose fault is this? Well, it's the fault of the other side, it's the fault of the left. The problem with the stab in the back myth is that it says the other side doesn't really belong to the nation.

And the other problem is that if you believe that you were stabbed in the back, if you believe that there was cheating that you really won, that means that you're justified in cheating, it means you're justifying and using authoritarian means next time. So, what we have to deal with is not just the next few weeks, it's the next few years. And the sooner this nonsense can be cleared up by responsible people who stand up to Mr. Trump, the better the next few years are going to be, not just for the country as a whole, but I think also for both of the political parties.

WILLIAMS: Please accept our thanks for being so coherent and cogent on television at 5:46 a.m. local time. And here's hoping the Austrians are better at virus mitigation than the Americans. Please stay safe, Professor Timothy Snyder. It's always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you so very much.

Coming up for us, Richard Engel, our Chief Foreign Correspondent takes us behind the curtain in the global race for a coronavirus vaccine. And it includes now electronic espionage.


WILLIAMS: Cyber security experts said today North Korea and Russia are still trying to hack some of the world's most promising vaccine research. Vice President for Customer Security at Microsoft confirms that indeed, hackers have successfully breached their target in more ways than one.

For more, we want to turn to our Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel. Richard's new report "On Assignment with Richard Engel Race for the Vaccine" airs this Sunday 10:00 Eastern Time on this very network. He is also up insanely early to talk to us. Thank you, my friend, for doing this. Tell us about this hour and especially the aspect of this that has to do with electronic espionage.

RICHARD ENGEL, CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Brian, you know why I'm up and why Professor Snyder is up? Because this stuff is important. Democracy is important. And the race for the vaccine is important. And all of it is getting muddled. All of it is getting full of lies and disinformation.

Professor Snyder talked about the big lie about the election being stolen. We just heard another big lie tonight that President Trump has somehow miraculously found the vaccine. That is not the case. Over the last several months, I and as you know, television is a team sports, so the team of producers that I've been working with have been following the race for the vaccine. And it has been going on from around the world in different laboratories at different companies with dedicated scientists who sometimes collaborate and often compete. And it has become, I think, the greatest journey of scientific explorations of our lifetime.

The entire world is trying to end a pandemic so that people can go outside again, get economies going and stop all of the death. And there has also been a geopolitical aspect to this. Because while many people have been striving toward one goal, some countries have been trying to cheat. And according to British intelligence, where I am, and U.S. intelligence, Russia and China in particular, have been trying to hack and steal information so that they can get ahead in this medical arms race. Because whoever gets the vaccine first and could distribute it and can claim credit for it, has the possibility of gaining enormous international prestige.

And think about how important it would be for China, in particular. China is blamed in many capitals in the world for having accidentally or otherwise, then a lot of people think otherwise, although there's no evidence, that this virus was spread by China. So, China has a great incentive to try and say it's solved the problem.

And I spoke to the top spy catcher in the U.S., the U.S. government's Chief Counterterrorism official -- Counterintelligence Official, excuse me. And I asked him, are these hacking efforts successful?


WILLIAM EVANINA, U.S. CHIEF COUNTERINTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL: I really can't get into what they've potentially stolen or what their operational success is, but let's just say they've been super aggressive. There's some in our community, I would say, a lot of the work being done in Russia and China has already been predicated upon stolen research here in the U.S.

ENGEL: How do you know that?

EVANINA: We see a lot of the same, I say, signatures on our vaccines, as we see on their vaccine. There's only one place they could have got it from.


WILLIAMS: I'll put it this way. A lot of the folks who work at this network who have seen parts of this hour, if not all of it, are very excited for the airing of this hour because it's so thoroughly researched and so thought provoking. Richard Engel's new report, it's called, "Race for the Vaccine" airs this Sunday 10:00 p.m. Eastern on this very network.

To our Chief Foreign Correspondent, my friend of long-standing, Richard Engel, our thanks. We realize it's important work. We thank you, nonetheless, for getting up early in London to join us tonight. Have a good weekend.

And coming up for us, a story we thought would make the right way to end the week.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, hearing no objection, we have chosen to end the week with some good news. The story of an American military veteran in need with a cameo appearance by none other than Lieutenant Dan, and we get to watch as lives are changed in real time. The story tonight from NBC News Correspondent Joe Fryer.


JOE FRYER, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS (voice-over): When Navy veteran Bill Day was asked to appear in a Veterans Day commercial, he had no idea a co-star was waiting in the wings.


BILL DAY, NAVY VETERAN: Gary (ph), holy crap. Hi, how are you doing?

SINISE: Well, this is not --

FRYER (voice-over): Actor Gary Sinise.

SINISE: -- we're going to get your entire mortgage and your loan paid off by Veterans United.

DAY: What?

SINISE: You're not -- you don't have to worry about any of that, Bill.

DAY: Me?

SINISE: Yes, you.

DAY: No, I don't deserve that.

FRYER (voice-over): At that moment, it all sunk in for this Desert Storm veteran, a single father of four.

DAY: It was just amazing. I mean, just changes my life.

FRYER (on-camera): It's still emotional, isn't it?

DAY: Yes, because it still doesn't feel real.

FRYER (voice-over): It was all made possible by Veterans United. The mortgage lender put $25 toward paying off mortgages for vets every time someone tweeted, thank you for your service. And all they raised 11 mortgages totaling more than $2.2 million.

DAY: I still feel like it's a dream.

FRYER (voice-over): This means Bill can focus on college for his daughter. She is stepped up to help care for her brother who has autism.

DAY: Can you put into words the things that she sacrificed for him. So, you know, she deserves something.

FRYER (voice-over): And yes, Bill deserves it too. Joe Fryer, NBC News.


WILLIAMS: So how about that good news to close out our broadcast on this Friday night. With our thanks for being here with us as always, have a good weekend unless you have other plans. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.


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