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

Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, November 16, 2020

Guests: Ben Rhodes, Stephen Sample, Dorit Reiss


Donald Trump keeps denying election loss as COVID surges. Brad Raffensperger, Georgia's secretary of state, accused fellow Republicans of trying to undermine the legitimacy of the state's election in an effort to swing the results to President Trump, who narrowly lost the state to President-elect Joe Biden and later demanded the hand recount. Lindsey Graham denies pressuring GA official to toss legal ballots. Moderna says its vaccine is more than 94 percent effective. COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations are on the rise. President-elect Joe Biden called President Trump's refusal to concede an embarrassment. Republicans stand by Trump's refusal to concede. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan urges Trump to concede as he calls for a less divisive GOP.


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Dr. Celine Gounder thank you very much for joining us. I really appreciate it.

CELINE GOUNDER: My pleasure.

O'DONNELL: Dr. Gounder gets Tonight's LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 1,397 of the Trump administration, 65 days to go until Inauguration Day. And one more number, it's been nine days since the 2020 presidential election was called for President-elect Joe Biden.

Tonight with coronavirus, infections and hospitalizations, each setting new records in this country. The New York Times is out with a stunning report concerning the lame duck administration. It says Donald Trump last week was asking about attacking Iran to stop its nuclear program after an international inspection showed an increase in that country's nuclear stockpile.

This was happening you may recall right when so many were expressing alarm and wondering why Trump was replacing the top civilian leadership at the Pentagon. The Times reports that this way, "Trump as senior advisors in an Oval Office meeting on Thursday whether he had options to take action against Iran's main nuclear site in the coming weeks. The advisors including Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Christopher Miller, the acting defense secretary, General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs warned that a strike against Iran's facilities could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of Mr. Trump's presidency."

There was also more reporting today that Trump wants to order a reduction in the number of our troops in Afghanistan from about 4500 down to 2500.

We're now into week two of Trump's effort to stall the Biden transition. Again today Trump falsely declared victory. What he barely mentioned today is the coronavirus now spreading uncontrolled through our country. Trump appears to have abandoned all public efforts to manage the pandemic. He certainly has made no reference to the death toll.

Today the president-elect was asked about the Trump administration's decision to stall a seamless transition.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you see as the biggest threat to your transition right now given President Trump's unprecedented attempt to obstruct and delay a smooth transfer of power?

JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: More people may die, if we don't coordinate, if it has to wait until January 20, to get actually become operational. That's a shame but maybe that's the only way to get it done.


WILLIAMS: Today, there was another sign of hope, though in the battle against this pandemic. Drug maker Moderna announced its vaccine appears to be nearly 95% effective. You recall last week Pfizer announced similar results developments that were well received on Wall Street today where the Dow closed just below 30,000. That's the first new record high in nine months, more on that later.

This morning, Dr. Fauci offered a cautious but optimistic assessment of this vaccines availability.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We project that by the end of December, that there will be doses of vaccines available for individuals in the higher risk category from both companies, we hope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How concerned are you that the White House has still not green lighted the transition?

FAUCI: I mean, obviously, it's something that we're concerned about. I've served in six administrations. So I've seen a number of transitions, you just want things to go very smoothly. The virus is not going to stop and call a timeout while things change. The virus is just going to keep going.


WILLIAMS: As the number of COVID cases and hospitalizations continues to explode, the nation's governors and mayors are again taking steps to try to get a handle on this. They're closing businesses or cutting back hours and other cases and advising and in some cases ordering folks to stay home.

California's governor said today he's pulling the emergency brake on efforts to reopen the economy. New Jersey's lowering the number of people allowed to gather both indoors and out after more than 14,000 new cases over just the past four days.


GOV. PHIL MURPHY, (D) NEW JERSEY: 5% of our entire cumulative total has come in the past four days, which is pretty darn sobering, one in 20, in other words of all of our cases from the first one on March 4.


WILLIAMS: Back to presidential politics, we're also following this ongoing Georgia hand recount of ballots cast in the presidential election. NBC News, of course, declared Joe Biden was the apparent winner there. Tonight, the Washington Post reports, the Georgia Secretary of State says some of his fellow Republicans including Senator Lindsey Graham, are pressuring him to find ways to exclude ballots. Here's what he told CNN on this topic earlier tonight.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You described to The Washington Post a conversation you had with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Friday. You came away with the impression that he essentially wanted you to look for ways to toss out mail in ballots. What exactly did he say to you?

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, GEORGIA, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, he asked if the balance could be matched back to the voters. And then I got the sense it implied that then you can throw those out.


WILLIAMS: Senator Graham, for his part denies pressuring anyone to get rid of ballots. He says he only asked the Secretary of State if he had the power to require bi partisan verification of the signatures. That recount by the way expected to wrap up this week. Georgia officials say so far, about 2,600 previously uncounted ballots were discovered, most of them in a region that went heavily for Trump but not enough to change the outcome of Georgia for Biden.

President and his allies in the Republican Party have filed a number of lawsuits challenging this election, 24 of them in all those cases were filed in six swing states. So far, no voter fraud has been found. Right now a dwindling number of just six cases remain active.

With that, let's bring in our lead guests in this Monday night broadcast, Phil Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post, co-author of the longtime best seller, A Very Stable Genius. Stephanie Ruhle, Senior Business Correspondent for NBC News, Veteran of the Business and Banking World who is of course the anchor of the 9 a.m. hour on this network. And Ben Rhodes, former Deputy National Security Adviser under President Obama.

Good evening, and welcome to you all. Phil Rucker, I'd like to begin with you, your beat and your newspaper, which reports Republicans are saying that Trump is becoming a political burden. This apparently came out of a conference call. Two questions for you, Phil, when are they going to come forward with names and faces? And how could Trump we're seeing they're both Georgia Senate candidates, how could Trump politically adversely affect that Georgia Senate race, which is ballgame for Senate control?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, you're right, Brian, to say it's ballgame because if those two Senate seats were to fall into democratic hand, then Chuck Schumer would become the majority leader of the Senate comes January. So this is an essential contest for Republicans. And there is growing concern within the GOP today, that President Trump's fixation on denying the results of the election on claiming voter fraud that, of course does not exist. And I'm suggesting that, you know, ballots in particular in Georgia cannot be properly counted, and that the system cannot be trusted, that all of that could end up suppressing the turnout of Republican voters in that runoff election, which could help the Democrats. And so there's a great deal of anxiety within the Republican Party, about this president who, as is in keeping with his characteristics over the years is focused solely on his own political situation on his own election campaign, as opposed to trying to do what's in the best interest of the Republican Party and Republican candidates down at Georgia.

WILLIAMS: And Stephanie Ruhle, over to you and where you have basically lived for the past couple of months. That is the intersection of business politics and the pandemic. Joe Biden says he wants to surge PPE, the medical equipment and PPP, the funding resources that's got to be well received, I would imagine.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST, "MSNBC LIVE": Without a doubt, I thought you were talking about where I've been living, meaning Jersey. But yes, in New Jersey, a state of small businesses and small businesses across the country were saying, thank you.

What Joe Biden said today is exactly what they need. President Trump can be saying for months, let's open everything up and you're seeing businesses furious at city leaders, state leaders saying we can't shut down, we're going to go out of business. That's true. Small Business in America is on the brink of devastation. And Joe Biden clearly today saying they need PPE, meaning protective equipment which talk to any restaurant owner they will tell you the price of cleaning equipment, mask, gloves have gone through the roof and PPP, those small business loans.

People can celebrate all day long about the booming stock market based on the vaccine news. But the stock market is forward looking and right now day in and day out, small businesses are suffering. And Brian think about November and December, these are months when restaurants, small retailers must make a lion's share of their business even without more research. Do you know anybody going to a holiday party or a bar on Thanksgiving night? A night when bars are normally packed? The answer is no. Why, because corona is here.

WILLIAMS: Ben Rhodes, to where you live 24/7. And that's the intersection of politics and foreign policy. What does it do to the incoming Biden administration? Now that the world knows, thanks to public reporting tonight, that Trump was Iran curious, that Trump was at least inquiring about, hey, can't we take out that huge nuclear facility in Iran? And I'm tempted, Ben, to ask how many other places are going to be booby trapped for the incoming administration?

BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, Brian, it's incredibly irresponsible. It's astonishing that we're even having this conversation. We've never seen a transition in our history, where the clear President-elect was denied the basic national security briefings to get up to speed on what is the state of the Iranian nuclear program, for instance, never mind scores of other threats. It's never been done before in our history that you might start what could be a major war, in the final days of administration, a war that would largely play out under Biden ministration.

And look, other nations are going to make calculations based on what they're seeing. If you're Iran, is this a time now that you're trying to very rapidly increase your nuclear capability before Joe Biden can get in there and work with allies to try to put in place some diplomatic agreement, the rules that nuclear program back?

This is costing the administration, the precious time it needs to understand the threat picture that it's inheriting on January 20, so that they can hit the ground running, that's already a problem. And if you add on top of it, the risk of Trump doing something that causes an international crisis, or that destabilizes a region of the world, be it in Iran or Afghanistan or anywhere else, then we're really an uncharted territory, Brian. So this is this is a really destabilizing moment, in terms of our national security.

WILLIAMS: And Ben, you invoked Afghanistan, I'd like to take another by way of reading you what Barry McCaffrey wrote about Trump's goal of bringing down the number of our troops bringing a huge component of our limited force home from Afghanistan. General McCaffrey writes this, "Trump political decision throws cold water on the Taliban peace negotiations. We will leave endangered and smaller U.S. forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq. It will then unravel on Biden, who will not politically be able to reintroduce U.S. troops."

Now, Ben, no one needs to remind you this is tricky, because as Americans were conditioned, whenever politics, whenever politicians pledged to bring our men and women home, we applaud that's were conditioned that that is good news that we'd rather have them here instead of an overseas deployment. But you see how if Joe Biden, were maybe a little bit paranoid, all of this would look like a setup and again, a booby trap.

RHODES: That's exactly right, Brian. And look, we all support the goal of bringing the troops home. The fact is, Trump has had four years to do that in Afghanistan, and he hasn't done it. And there are other forces in play. Trump always acts like it's just him and his political interest and nothing else in play. There's a complex negotiation happening with the Taliban and the Afghan government, the key parties to this conflict. There are the Afghan people themselves who suffered under war. There's coalition partners, the United States who supported our efforts. And then there's the U.S. troops who were in Afghanistan. And a lot of the troops that are currently in Afghanistan, are there to provide force protection for the other U.S. troops that are there. They're there to watch their backs.

And so of Trump on nothing other than a completely political timeline, to be able to say that he would do another 2500 troops from Afghanistan, up ends, those negotiations destabilizes the security situation for our troops in Afghanistan, introduces more risk. Joe Biden is the one who's going to have to deal with all that. He's going to have to clean up all these messes. $he's going to have to deal with the outcome and consequences of what are clearly rash decisions that are not being made as part of any process, but that are being rushed against the timeline of Donald Trump's presidency ending on January 20.

This is no way to be responsible for the national security of the United States. That's been a common thread that Trump puts his political interest first. But it's even more irresponsible when the rest of the world knows that this is not the guy who's going to be calling the shots in 65 days.

WILLIAMS: Phil, while we're in this area, let me play for you, Robert O'Brien, this is the National Security Adviser in remarks that were instantly picked apart for reasons that will be obvious.

I'm told we don't have it. Let me give you a dramatic reading, Mr. O'Brien said, "If the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner. And obviously things look that way. Now we'll have a very professional transition from the National Security Council." No question about it. So you see how people are parsing every word of everyone remotely connected with the West Wing. In your reporting, if you had to guess what percentage of West Wing employees have some level of realization that this period is called a transition because their guy lost?

RUCKER: A lot, Brian, 75%, 80% I mean, many of the people working for this president, have some understanding of reality, have some assessment of the numbers that we've all been looking at for the last two weeks. And the statement you just read from Robert O'Brien, in normal times, would be totally asinine statement of fact, but because the President has refused to acknowledge that Biden is the projected winner of this race, and because he's refused to allow those working in the government to initiate the formal beginnings of this transition, and to commit to a peaceful transfer of power come January 20, on the date of the inauguration. That statement is so striking because it differs from the position the President has taken. And my colleagues and I reported for The Washington Post today, that Trump is actually digging in here. He's more determined than ever to fight on he believes that his political supporters want to see him contest the results of this election, want to see him refused to concede, want to see him fighting, even as many of his advisors are pleading with him to try to come up with a graceful way to get out of this, to try to at least commit to a peaceful transfer of power, even if he won't actually bring himself to deliver a formal concession to Biden.

WILLIAMS: And finally, to Steph Ruhle, we mentioned the market had a big day, largely on the Moderna news, but we also pay attention when you tell us as you have so many times the market is not the economy. So what will this have, if anything to do with any recovery or are we totally going back to your first answer? Are we totally at the mercy of surges in virus?

RUHLE: We are completely at the mercy of this virus. You cannot have an economic recovery until you have a health recovery. But it's really important to note the market isn't the economy. And guess what, it's great when the market goes up. It's great for investors. It's great for senior citizens and their retirement accounts. But one of the things we have to look at is what's happening on the ground.

Just tonight, Ivanka Trump, who is tweeting about how great it is that Americans savings account, the amount that we're savings has gone up. We're in better shape than we've been in decades. Well, that's a portion of America.

For the four of us right here, you're right. We're all saving more money this year. Because we're not going to gyms, we're not going to restaurants, we're not going to bars, we're not going on vacation and none of us are commuting. We all have the privilege of working from home and with us not spending any money, we're not putting any money in our local economies and Main Street, U.S.A. is going out of business. So while many of us can celebrate the market rising, if we don't take serious action right now, in terms of short term stimulus, we're really going to lose Main Street, U.S.A. right now.

WILLIAMS: We'll go out and reflect those words as we do, to Rucker, Ruhle, and Rhodes, our big three starting guests tonight, our great thanks for starting us off.

And coming up, great news on vaccines, but it's only great news if it gets in enough arms. Should the COVID vaccine be mandatory? There's a trickier question in a country that can't even agree on wearing a mask. Can employers make it mandatory for starters? We'll talk to an E.R. doctor and a lawyer in this area, both on the frontlines of this battle.

And later, he called himself a wartime president than ignored the war, dealing with a lame duck in a period of crisis, as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on this Monday night.



FAUCI: Now we have two vaccines that are really quite effective. So I think this is a really strong step forward to where we want to be about getting control of this outbreak.


WILLIAMS: As we mentioned at the top of the broadcast, more promising news on the vaccine front today, as the U.S. breaks another one day record for hospitalizations out of control now. Moderna says it's COVID-19 vaccine appears to be over 94% effective.

Today's announcement follows similar news from Pfizer last week. Washington Post's Post reports the combination, "raises the prospect that the U.S. could have two coronavirus vaccines available on a limited basis by the end of the year." Both will be given out in what's estimated to be four stages.

We want to welcome to our broadcast, Dorit Reiss, Law Professor at the University of California, Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, among her areas of expertise, policy responses to vaccination. And we welcome back Dr. Stephen Sample, E.R. Doctor Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper, Indiana.

And Doctor, just to set the scene for what we're up against, I'd like to begin with you last time we asked you about local conditions, and this virus, you said your numbers were vertical. What's the situation tonight?

DR. STEPHEN SAMPLE, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN IN JASPER, INDIANA: Good evening, Brian. They're still vertical, just checked my numbers just today. And in my Health District here in southwestern Indiana, about four and five of our ICU beds are full. About 40% of those are COVID. Over the last month or so, I think in November 2, Indiana as a whole was averaging seven day average of 2700 cases per day. We're at 5000 cases per day on a seven day average. But this past Saturday, we recorded the 8000. So I don't know any way to look at it straight up.

WILLIAMS: Wow. Well, Counselor, those are the stakes as no one needs to remind you. My question is, can a well meaning president make any vaccination mandatory in this country and to a lesser extent, can employers, can localities make vaccinations mandatory?

DORIT REISS, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA HASTING COLLEGE OF LAW: So president almost certainly not the power will probably reside with the states, the states may have the power to mandate a vaccine and the president -- so in the United States, the federal government has limited power and it can regulate in the public health only with its constitutional power, for example for interstate commerce and things like that.

States, however, has much broader power and are -- under our jurisprudence states may be able to mandate vaccines. The reason I'm careful about it, is it the decision that this is based on a 1905 decision was focused on a city wide mandate, not a statewide mandate. And we've never tried to stay open minded before. On the other hand, more limited mandates such as health care workers and employers are almost certainly constitutional. And private employers can mandate vaccines as long as they don't run afoul of federal anti-discrimination law.

WILLIAMS: And Doctor, what would happen, if let's call it 40% of Indianans said, no, thanks I'm good checks?

SAMPLE: Well, first of all, I have to correct you. My fellow Hoosiers will kill me if I let you get away with calling it Indianans again. We're hoosiers here in the state.


SAMPLE: But 40% -- that's all right, man -- 40% is not good. You know, the vaccine numbers that they're talking about right now or 90, 94%. We're talking measles vaccine are better. And so we know that with every vaccine, we need X percent of the population to be vaccinated against it. And we get true herd immunity, not the herd immunity that Atlas is talking about the real deal herd immunity, and you can eliminate it completely in communities.

WILLIAMS: OK, first of all, in my own defense, I grew up in New Jersey, and we don't have any cute other names. You're lucky if someone just calls you in New Jerseyans. So I tend to apply to other states, Hoosiers, they will be for the rest of our time together on this broadcast.

And Dorit Reiss, I want to drill down on employees, because just to give people a heads up of what's possible. So it's quite likely that January, February, March, April, and they're talking about this four step process of handing out these vaccines, depending on where you live that would mandate which of these brands you would get. And there are changes between the two formulas. But people who work at a large or moderate size employer can expect to make it a condition of employment that we will allow you back here, if you agree to have this vaccine, and as long as they don't discriminate. That's legal.

REISS: Yes. So employment in the United States is usually at will that means your employer can set condition including health and safety conditions. The question is will the employer want to? And there's a number of things, first, as you said, you can discriminate and that includes against people with disabilities, such as medical conditions with prevent disease and people with, for example, sincere religious belief against vaccine. Sometimes employers will have to give accommodations and just remember that the accommodations don't have to be what the employee wants, which might be going to work without vaccination. It might be that people who have disabilities or religious objections, may have to wear masks, may have to work remotely and so forth.

WILLIAMS: All right, Dorit Reiss. Thank you very much for joining us from California. Doctor, once a Hoosier, always a Hoosier my very best to your fellow Hoosier. Thank you, as always, for joining our broadcast.

SAMPLE: thank you.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, trump is out in 65 days. But Trump ism may not be going anywhere. What that means for the incoming president and the Republican Party, when we come back?



BIDEN: We're moving along knowing what the outcome will be, and as I said earlier and I probably shouldn't repeat it, but I find this more embarrassing for the country than debilitating for my ability to get started.


WILLIAMS: In addition to Joe Biden, former First Lady Michelle Obama spoke out today on the president's refusal to concede. She wrote this in part, and we quote, this isn't a game so I want to urge all Americans especially our nation's leaders regardless of party to honor the electoral process and do your part to encourage a smooth transition of power just as sitting presidents have done throughout our history.

We're pleased to have back with us tonight Jason Johnson, a campaign veteran and journalist, contributor to TheGreo, and a professor of politics at Morgan State University. Go bears. And Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winning author and presidential historian. Happens to be the Rogers Chair in the American Presidency of Vanderbilt, unofficial advisor to president-elect Joe Biden he and his book "The Soul of America," by the way, the subject of superb new HBO documentary of the same name.

Gentlemen, we welcome you both. Jason, keeping in mind things like the Florida recount and how that pushed back the calendar. How much real damage do you reckon is being done by Donald Trump's refusal to concede?

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Brian, here's the most dangerous part. We don't know, right? We have no idea because the problem is when we have these delays you never really know how much of a problem it is until that next person gets into office.

You know, we talk about what happened in 9/11, also remember the first 100 days of the Bush administration you had an airplane go down in China and they had to find information and it came back in a hundred different parts. We have no idea what kind of threats could be building both domestic and international while Donald Trump sort of fiddles with the numbers and the information and doesn't want to share it. So that's the most dangerous thing.

And the best case scenario it is just inconvenient, and best case but if we are facing a potential terror attack, facing some financial crisis, facing some mutation of COVID and the Biden administration can't get their hands on the proper documentation six months from now we can be talking houseboat how this delay was absolutely tragic and really damaged the country.

WILLIAMS: Jon, throw on the pile of questions you get asked as a historian. Have we ever had a true four-yearlong kind of shadow government resistance in waiting that resists all governments not affiliated with Trump and all versions of the Republican Party that have not yet sold out to Trump?

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: No, we are in genuinely uncharted waters here, and that's not a phrase we use much because most waters are charted in some way or another. But the closest analogy there is that Andrew Jackson in 1824 won the popular vote, plurality, did not win the Electoral College, it went to the House of Representatives. The John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay cut a deal that Henry Clay became secretary of state which was the way to become president then.

And Jackson then created a kind of 19th century hashtag. It was called corrupt bargain. But here's what happened. He talked ability a corrupt bargain. He wrote about it, but he went home to Nashville. He followed the rule of law. He went to the White House the night he lost the presidency in what he believed to have been an elite conspiracy. He greeted John Quincy Adams who was to become the president, then he came home to Tennessee.

And that's as close as we get, and that's following the rule of law. And I agree with everything Jason said. I would add simply, too, that there's an erosion of a democratic norm here, lowercase "d." we had an event at Vanderbilt tonight with Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright. And they were talking about our domestic political situation. And I asked if you got a report about another country on your way to the seventh floor of the State Department and the president wasn't leaving, you know, what would your assessment be? And where our conversation ended up is that might be a nation that might need some nation building. That's kind of where we are.


WILLIAMS: And Jason, also to your point this tradition that's so far been all men, the gentlemanly tradition that the departing president will not criticize the sitting presidents. Some of our more recent presidents have been diligent to a fault about that. There's every reason to believe Joe Biden will get trolled every day on social media whether Twitter or parlor or wherever the Trump crowd ends up.

JOHNSON: Yes, and that's going to be I think the challenge for the press, right? There's always a reevaluation of things after every election. I saw this weekend there was a trending hashtag decenter Trump, right? What we're going to eventually have to decide on is how much attention can we pay to someone who's going to be weighed down with lawsuits on dozens of things and corrupt actions he engaged in before he became president of the United States?

Donald Trump will complain, Ivanka Trump will complain, his sons and Jared Kushner will say things about Joe Biden but they'll have no real power at that particular point. They're not political analyst. They're just an angry oligarchy that's out of power.

So I think that's the most important thing. But also what I think is critical is this. You know, in the event that Donald Trump tries to establish himself as an immediate entity, then we'll have to decide how is that covered? If he connects himself to OAN, if he becomes a regular of Fox News, do we treat him as just the angry rantings of somebody who was kicked out by the American people or is he treated as another political voice? And that's going to be the challenge in the months ahead of how we evaluate what he says about the current administration.

WILLIAMS: All you do is leave us with great questions. Thankfully for us both gentlemen have agreed to stick around as we fit in a break.

And coming up, people in search of a Republican profile in courage or something remotely in the ballpark may have found their guy today. We'll explain who this man is and why what he said was so important.



GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R), MARYLAND: More and more Republicans every day are coming out saying, look, we're in the middle of two twin crises. This COVID-19 is spreading all across the country. Hospitals are overflowing people are dying and our economy is collapsing. And the president is tweeting all day and night about beating Joe Biden. We're not going to make up for 5 million votes in all of those states. It was a pretty overwhelming victory at this point.


WILLIAMS: So that's Governor Hogan of Maryland, and as a governor, as a Republican, he's a little bit more insulated than god for bid the Republicans in the U.S. Senate under the command of Mitch McConnell.

As we mentioned earlier, Georgia's secretary of state says fellow Republicans including Senator Lindsey Graham are pressuring him to find ways to toss legal ballots. This news has setoff a few things. Questions about how voters will view the upcoming twin senate races in Georgia. Even questions about Lindsey Graham's own race, which he just won in South Carolina.

Fortunately still with us are Jason Johnson and Jon Meacham. And Jon, I've -- you know you and I, I think it's safe to say have never seen grown adults as intimidated, as fearful and scared to death of a president as anyone with an "r" after their name in Washington certainly at the senate level of play. Does this Georgia secretary of state pass for a profile in courage?

MEACHAM: Well, he's becoming the Margaret Chase Smith of the transition crisis of 2020. Remember Margaret Chase Smith was the senator from Maine who stood up in 1950 and said that McCarthy was using un-American methods. She gave a speech called the Declaration of Conscience. She was four years ahead of all the men. It took them until 1954. She only got six senators to join her and McCarthy dismissed them as Snow White and the Six Dwarves.

But right now you'd rather be talked about as Margaret Chase Smith than as Joe McCarthy. I think a lot what's going on and Jason was just talking about. This is kind of a Republican hedge fund because they don't know how powerful Trump will be. Will he be the "Wizard of Oz"? Will it be all over, or will it continue to be this ambient and fundamental force? They don't know, so they're hedging their bets.

WILLIAMS: And Jason, how would you advise Democrats in Georgia, these two Senate races which as we said are ball game for Senate control, not only how to proceed, how to communicate with the voters -- lessons learned from what we've just been through -- but how to capitalize on what we can see are errors in realtime on the part of republicans especially the guy at the head of the ticket.

JOHNSON: Well, we've already seen the devil go down to Georgia, right? Lindsey Graham being exposed now as this guy who wants to play his fiddle and influence what's going on there, that's the kind of thing that needs to be folks on. I was literally in a conversation with organizers and activists today, and they're concerned. They're concerned about turnout. They're concerned that the message that needs to be hammered in particular to African-American voters is that Joe Biden's election isn't over yet. If you want the Joe Biden that you voted for, then you have to make sure Ossoff and Warnock get into office. There have to be specific policy tailored arguments being made primarily to young voters and African-American voters to turn out.

Now, have there been some successes so far? Yes. You've got over 600,000 people who have absentee ballots and that's great, and that's wonderful. But I've been saying this all long, the focus of the Democratic National Party needs to be pouring money into what people on the ground are doing. In fact, I don't even think it's necessary to hand money to Warnock or Ossoff. You need to get money to the organizations that got people out to vote to begin with because that's the only way they're going to win in Georgia. Trying to turn this into some sort of argument on policy is not going to win. It's got to be about your vote will matter for the presidential election, and that's what's going to get people out and moving.

WILLIAMS: And Jason, one more to you. The Democrats I know did not flip any of the 27 toss ups that Charlie Cooke had on his list. Do you believe that had they done what you just prescribed perhaps that would have turned out differently?

JOHNSON: Yes, Brian. And also I think they need to listen to the people who won. Look, the only state where you flip a Republican into a democrat is in Georgia. Lucy McBath managed to keep her seat. All last week you had -- you sort of mainstreamed Democrats and liberal democrats arguing about defunding the police. Lucy McBath is literally a mother of the movement. She ran for office in Atlanta suburban district because he son -- her unarmed son was shot by a white guy in Florida.

If she can keep her seat in Atlanta maybe she's got a message for people. If Georgia a place where you can flip the Republican seat, maybe they've got a message. I think too many times people want to listen to the consultant class in the Democratic Party instead of listening to the people who can actually win. When you listen to people who have actually won, you tend to be more successful on election day.

WILLIAMS: We are much obliged to both of these gentlemen for making time tonight. To Jason Johnson, to John Meacham, our sincere thanks.

Coming up for us, with Thanksgiving now 10 days away we have a look what to expect if the pandemic causes you or those you love a last minute change of plans.



GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D), NEW JERSEY: It's gotten worse and it's going to get worse, so we've got to be honest with folks particularly with the cold weather as you rightfully point out with the holidays this is going to get worse. Please, god, it doesn't get to the levels it got to in the spring.


WILLIAMS: Well, it finally happened. Thanksgiving has become politicized. It now joins football watching and mask wearing and depending on where you're watching and where you live. The decision to gather family and friends indoors at Thanksgiving is being regarded by too many people as a red state issue versus a blue state issue. Either way a lot of thanksgiving plans are changing, and for those who have thought better of traveling tonight NBC News correspondent Tom Costello has our look at the cost of changing plans.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just a week before the traditional Thanksgiving rush an urgent plea from many mayors and governors. The family tradition isn't worth the risk of someone contracting COVID.

GOV. GRETECHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: As hard as it is not seeing them this Thanksgiving imagine how much harder it would be if you weren't able to see them for a future holiday ever again.

COSTELLO: So what happens if you change your travel plans? The good news, all airlines are waiving ticket change fees but canceling your nonrefundal ticket doesn't mean you'll get your money back. American, Delta, United, Jet Blue, Southwest and Alaska will instead give you a credit voucher. That voucher could be good for 12 to 24 months depending on the airline and when you bought the ticket.

But the airlines will hold on to your money.

(on camera): The nation's airlines are desperately trying to conserve cash. Over the last two quarters the biggest airlines have lost more than $20 million.

(voice-over): That's forced them to be flexible than ever before.

BRIAN KELLY, THE POINTS GUY CEO AND FOUNDER: You get validity of your ticket for future use and the waive change fee. So, you can keep it until you actually feel comfortable traveling again.

COSTELLO: Whether that's next year or the year after. Tom Costello, NBC News, Washington.


WILLIAMS: And coming up for us, the number gnat has become so numbing it is difficult to comprehend even though it's with us every hour of every day.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go. Tonight is a moment that took place on live TV earlier this evening. It's an attempt to illustrate a number that many people have become so aneured to, so numb to. A number so big it's indeed hard to conceptualize. That number is a quarter million dead from the coronavirus. That's what the death toll will be likely in the next 24 to 48 hours. Tonight our friend Nicolle Wallace set to put it into context.


NICOLLE WALLACE, NBC NEWS HOST: Think about that. A quarter of a million people gone. A number that big, that abstract can be difficult to wrap your head around to visualize. So in an effort to grasp the catastrophic enormity of this pandemic let's talk about what the number 250,000 looks like. Maybe this will help.

250,000 is greater than the entire population of Richmond, Virginia, by about 20,000 people. If you're more spatially inclined picture this. So say you wrote the name of an American COVID victim on a post it note and then you stuck it at the base of the Statue of Liberty, after that another post it note with another name, repeat that 250,000 times and you'd go from lady liberty's toe to her torch 20 times over.

Take a step further. Let's say we read all those post-it notes three seconds a name. We'd be reading names until Wednesday morning, as in next Wednesday. Nine days from right now.

And if we continue on with our lives well lived segment one person every day even on weekends we'd be reading obituaries until October 22nd in the year 2705. That's more than 680 years. For perspective going the other way 680 year in the past that was a century before Joan of Arc was even born. That's what we're up against.


WILLIAMS: Nicolle Wallace and the grim calculus it requires to illustrate the death of a quarter million souls, a quarter million of our fellow citizens. That is our broadcast on this Monday night as we together begin a new week. Our thanks 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.