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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, November 19, 2020

Guests: Neal Katyal, Jonathan Capehart, David Plouffe, Robert Gibbs


Georgia reaffirms Biden win as Trump legal team founders. Rudy Giuliani sweats and lies his way through chaotic presser. He alleges election fraud with no proof. White House COVID-19 task encourages social distancing and masks ass world awaits vaccine distribution. CDC urges Americans to avoid Thanksgiving travel. Obama doubts Trump's attempts to subvert election. No Trump concession 12 days since Biden declared winner.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 1,400 of the Trump administration, 62 days now until the Inauguration. It's been 16 days since the Presidential Election, 12 days since the race was called for President-elect Joe Biden.

As the incumbent president escalates his campaign to overturn the results of the election, there is new confirmation tonight of Biden's victory and an important state. Tonight Georgia released the results of its six day hand recount of the state's 5 million presidential votes and Biden remains the winner and Georgia. State has until Friday to certify the results, though by law, the Trump campaign can still request another recount.

Trump's effort to subvert the election results has taken on a new and more dangerous and ominous turn. As the Washington Post puts it tonight, "the president is now trying to remain in power with a wholesale assault on the integrity of the vote." That gets us to today and today may be remembered when all the craziness is over. For one thing, and it's this visual, Rudy Giuliani's hair dye started dripping down his face after an outbreak of flop sweat during a press conference, which will only be remembered for conspiracy theories and dark liquid. It was rambling repugnant, reprehensible, hysterical.

And as the man just fired by Trump for protecting the security of our election set on Twitter today, it was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history. Indeed, the dark seepage almost overshadow what we heard at that press conference with the last lawyers left in America willing to defend the President.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Joe Biden is in the lead because of the fraudulent ballot, the illegal ballots that were produced, and that were allowed to be used after the election was over. Give us an opportunity to prove it in court, and we will. You couldn't possibly believe that the company counting our vote with control over our vote is owned by two Venezuelans who were allies of Chavez, are present allies of Maduro, with a company whose chairman is a close associate and business partner of George Soros, the biggest donor to the Democrat Party, the biggest donor to Antifa and the biggest donor of Black Lives Matter. I know crimes. I can smell them.


WILLIAMS: I hope you follow that, there was also this when Giuliani tried to illustrate his debunked allegation that Republican election observers were too forced to stand too far from vote counters.


GIULIANI: Did you all watch my cousin Vinny? You know the movie? It's one of my favorite movies, because he comes from Brooklyn. And when the nice lady who said she saw and then he says to her, how many fingers do I got up? And she says three. Well, she was too far away to see it was only two. These people were further away than my cousin Vinny was from witness. They couldn't see a thing.


WILLIAMS: And Rudy Giuliani, the President's lawyer, ladies and gentlemen, by the way, that event was blessed by the Republican Party was indeed held at their headquarters. So far, the Trump campaign has had multiple opportunities to prove its case of fraud in court they have failed.

Today the Trump campaign on Thursday dropped an election related lawsuit in Michigan. You may recall that earlier this week, Republicans on the Wayne County Michigan Board of canvassers refused to certify the election before backing down.

Well today the Republican chair of that four-person committee, Monica Palmer, said Trump called her after the meeting ended. Then last night both she and her fellow Republican board member William Hartmann, they signed affidavits saying they want to rescind their votes that certified the election in Michigan.

Trump has also invited the Republican leaders of the Michigan House and Senate to meet with him at the White House tomorrow, even as the state prepares to certify Biden as the winner. All of this is going on as Trump continues to block the Biden transition. Today, the President-elect gave his strongest response yet to the current president's actions.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think they're witnessing incredible irresponsibility. Incredibly damaging messages being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions. And I think it is -- Well, I don't know his motive, but I just think it's totally irresponsible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you justify not taking legal action to get the briefings that you say are critical, that you say you need?

BIDEN: Let me take a lot of time, take time. It's not going to speed it up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you haven't ruled it out. You haven't ruled out legal action against the Trump administration against the GSA.

BIDEN: We haven't ruled it out.


WILLIAMS: And amid all this, of course, the coronavirus continues to ravage our country. Another new high today, a single day record of 185,527 cases, and now with well over a quarter of a million Americans gone, and new guidance from the CDC now that Americans should not travel this Thanksgiving, the White House decided it was time to hold a Coronavirus Task Force briefing. The first briefing they have offered the American people since July.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With cases in hospitalizations rising across the country, President Trump directed us to host this briefing.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: And this is really a call to action for every American to increase their vigilance.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We're not talking about shutting down the country. We're not talking about locking down. We're talking about intensifying the simple public health measures. If we do that, we'll be able to hold things off until the vaccine comes.


WILLIAMS: Trump was not in attendance. The briefing ended with this refusal to answer reporters' questions and a subsequent explosion in the briefing room.


PENCE: We will get through this together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Vice President --

PENCE: Thank you all.


JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: All of you need to answer this. What's going on, (inaudible). You're all part of not recognizing democracy. You're all undermining the democratic elections, every one of you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is the federal government not answering questions?

KARL: And you've all work with the transition.


WILLIAMS: It was our friend Jonathan Karl from ABC News, standing and shouting at the officials as they left for the West Wing

With that, let's bring in our leadoff guests here on a Thursday night. Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Reporter for The Washington Post, Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter with The Associated Press who was in attendance at that briefing today, and Neal Katyal, veteran of the Justice Department, Former Acting Solicitor General during the Obama administration, who has argued dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Indeed, Counselor, given the urgency of the real stuff going on much of it or not, do you concur with Mr. Krebs, that today's press conference was the most dangerous hour and 45 minutes of television in recent memory? And secondly, can you assure the folks watching tonight that none of this will result in states not certifying that none of none of this will result in actual electors lying and changing their votes when it comes to cast their votes?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: I can assure you that I think today was really the storm before the calm that is, I know there's a lot of anxiety now with Trump, like potentially trying to interfere with these Michigan electors and all the things, Brian, that you're referencing, but it's going nowhere in the end. Maybe makes him feel good to tear the country apart, but it's going to fail and your viewers should tear themselves up about it.

The fact is that Trump has lost far too much in far too many states for this to matter. So like to take today's action and Giuliani's press conference, which I don't even know why he was sweating. He was reading the same talking points that he used yesterday in court, which I guess didn't go too well. But there's no substance to what he's saying. He's basically saying that the Hugo Chavez who died in 2013, has launched a conspiracy with the democrats to steal the election. This has been widely debunked, including by Krebs, the Department of Homeland Security official that you refer to in your question, as well as by the bipartisan Election Commission and so many others.

And so this is going nowhere. The Michigan stuff in the end will go nowhere. It's a complicated story. We can get into it later, but it doesn't matter in the end. And even if he was able to turn Michigan, this is where the news report at the beginning is so important. Georgia has come out for Biden, those votes will be certified tomorrow. Trump has to win the run the table in so many different states, which is very different than in 2000. I was a lawyer in Bush versus Gore. That was one state 537 votes total difference. Here, you've got multiple states Trump's got to win. And lots and lots of votes, it's just not going to happen. This is about his ego and trying to tear down the election process, but it's not going to matter to him.

WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, looking at these visuals, which again will for right or wrong tell the story of today when we look back either a week or a year or a decade from now, think of the story of one Rudolph Giuliani to this day when you walk in to the Southern District of New York offices in lower Manhattan. His portrait is on the wall as a famous former U.S. Attorney. Of course, we all know about his years as mayor of New York City, being dubbed America's mayor. And now this spectacle this visual today, who close to the president is able to tell him how bad this looks?

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the answer is just about no one. I mean, first Giuliani you sort of mentioned his evolution, so to speak, and it does support the adage that everyone who enters or just about everyone who enters this President's orbit emerges tarnished in some way. But in this case, the Giuliani Trump pairing is much more of sort of a mutual enabling society. If you look at that press conference today, it sort of helps you understand why the President is behaving as he is.

He wasn't actually behaving this way right after Election Day. He was he was still certainly lying about the vote, sowing distrust but privately, you know, people said he seemed deflated but sort of philosophically understanding he had lost. But then when you look at the fact that Giuliani has taken the lead on his legal team is the lead on his public relations team, if it can be called that, and is out there. This is what the President is hearing. This is a president who is someone very close to him, told me you know, cannot quite come to grips with having fairly lost the election to Joe Biden, which again, is what happened.

And so when someone like Giuliani, all that stuff, he said publicly, that's the exact sort of stuff he is saying, privately to the President. He's ginning him up. This is a president who is already prone to conspiracy theories in the best possible world. It's what he wants to hear. And that's why you're seeing these two men relied so heavily on one another.

WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, want to play you a clip, the following was said not only out loud, but on live television on Fox News today.


SIDNEY POWELL: The entire election frankly, in all the swing states should be overturned, and the legislators should make sure that the electors are selected for Trump.


WILLIAMS: So Jonathan, they're saying it out loud now that was on Fox Business this afternoon with Lou Dobbs the election should be overturned. How long is the weight going to be until more named Republicans come out? And I should show you for fairness, what Mitt Romney put out tonight for Mitt Romney, for anyone with an R after their name in the U.S. Senate chamber. This was powerful. Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy, before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election. It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President." Jonathan.

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, first of all, I'm pretty confident all those swing states aren't going to overturn the results and suddenly award states to Joe Biden one to Donald Trump. That's not how this works. What we saw today, certainly, Brian, was flailing and grasping at straws. Conspiracy theories floated in that press conference attended by Rudy Giuliani, and his hair dye about George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Hugo Chavez playing the very, very long game, where it certainly simply defied any sort of credibility.

And then he -- and the other lawyers there at Republican headquarters, refused to provide any real evidence of any sort of corruption or conspiracy, just repeating the sort of baseless claims that we've heard emanating from the White House now. For more than two weeks, the president remaining out of sight, but his Twitter account very active. Although we do know that he will be holding an event tomorrow press pool, which I'll be part of will be able to lay our eyes on him.

But in terms of Senator Romney, he is pretty much on an island as he often is, in terms of criticizing the president and very few Republicans have been willing to do so, privately they acknowledge that Joe Biden has won, that nothing's going to change. They've been scoffing more and more, sometimes even out in the open about some of these legal challenges. They're not willing to push the president out the door for a variety of reasons.

First, noting, of course, that he did win 70 million plus votes. He remains extremely popular with the Republican Party. They will the senators, will need support from his base at some point in their next election. They are afraid they say privately and off the record, that if the President feels like he has pushed out the door, he may lash out, perhaps with a misguided policy decision, national security staff firings or a troop withdrawal. And of course, more than anything, there is Georgia and the Senate run offs in a matter of weeks, which they will determine the control of the Senate. And they simply at least for now, won't poke the bear. They won't try to push them out, even though we see the dangers of this growing by the day, particularly as the Biden team can't fully engage the transition during a surging pandemic.

WILLIAMS: Counselor, any criminal implications for what the President's doing now, or more than that, Lindsey Graham, a sitting senator from South Carolina, calling in and trying to meddle in the Georgia election result and if there were consequences, who would we see about that kind of thing?

KATYAL: Yeah, these are grave problems. And they may be potentially criminal. They're certainly potentially civil violations as well. It's a crime to interfere with people's right to vote, or to conspire to do so. So the President going and trying to call these Wayne County canvassing board officials on Tuesday pressuring them to change their vote to throw out all of the votes in Detroit, one of the largest most on mass disenfranchisement in our lifetime. Or you have Senator Graham trying to get votes thrown out, according to the reports. If any of that's true, yes, it's potentially criminal, and certainly civil violations that can be brought, even if this Justice Department won't prosecute the new one on January 20. Very well, could the federal one under Joe Biden's administration, and as well, these are state crimes, and so they can be prosecuted there.

So do you have those mechanisms available, again, in the end, it won't matter because our constitution doesn't permit state legislatures to just swoop in after the election and declare a vaccines principle like, Oh, I get to redo because I don't like the effects of the election. You know, these states have all chosen what to do, which is to have an election on Election Day. They didn't say, oh, we're giving it to state legislatures before the election, they chose to have a popular vote. That is the vote that is going to control. All of this is nonsense. It's a charade. And it's a waste of time.

WILLIAMS: Actually, we're looking at a number of firsts here in the upcoming days and weeks. We could have an inauguration without people. We could have an inauguration without an outgoing incumbent. And just in the space of the next week, president's not going to Florida for Thanksgiving. What do you make of that one?

PARKER: Well, the President in talking to people in his orbit is in an incredibly dark place right now. I think that's evident, frankly, even if you just look at his tweets, his absence of a period in public and what he is sending out his emissaries like Rudy Giuliani to do. And that's one of the reasons he canceled the trip to Florida.

And there's a certain irony embedded in there that the people who know him say, on the one hand, the President is a homebody and someone gave this example of they would be on Air Force One traveling to a rally and the President would be complaining, why are we going? Why do we do this? And on the way back from the rally, he would be energized to talk about why don't we do this more often? Why aren't we out there every day? And so there was a sense that if he would sort of broaden his world go down to his gilded private club where he's sort of king of the of the patio, king of the golf course it might help improve his mood, that's often where he's sometimes most freewheeling but often happiest, but he's just not going there. And people were saying that if he can come out of this funk, they think it is post presidency, he could return to being as someone put it, you know, that sort of hale and hearty, charismatic man that that they claim he is but that's just not where he is now in the whole country is sort of witnessing it and paying for it in real time.

WILLIAMS: With great, thanks to our big three starting us off tonight, Ashley Parker, who thought she could make it through that with a straight face, Jonathan Lemire, and Neal Katyal, greatly appreciate having the three of you start us off tonight.

Coming up, there is good news coming on coronavirus, but first, we very well may have to get through the worst of it. Our next guest gives us a warning about what's around the corner for us but also something to look forward to.

And then later, a president in his own words weighing in on everything from his legacy to our current post electoral stress syndrome, Jonathan Capehart joins us fresh from his big interview with 44. The 11th Hour, just getting underway on this Thursday night.


WILLIAMS: Tonight the University of Washington's key model on coronavirus often quoted seldom wrong is now predicting over 470,000 lives lost by the first of March. Here is how a frequent guest of ours Dr. Michael Osterholm, who's now a task force member for the president-elect, described the situation.


DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, MEMBER OF BIDEN CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: We are going through right now the single most dangerous moment in public health since 1918.


WILLIAMS: And that gets your attention as it does our next guest, Dr. Vin Gupta, back with us, critical care doc specializing in these kinds of illness, Affiliate Assistant Professor at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Doctor, we say here every night that the virus reached its peak today in the United States. And sadly, every night we're correct. We've seen only upward trends. Give us an estimate as to when we can stop saying that?

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Brian, we're looking at about March 1. Unfortunately, we're still looking at a few months away before, hopefully there's some type of relief. And that assumes some action on states, that assumes that states do what say Governor Jay Inslee did or what Governor Pritzker did, what other governors are doing when it comes to leading based on the evidence that if there does need to be some degree of for example, curtailing indoor dining that they do that based on the evidence. That's what the model is premised on, 170,000 deaths if 40 states take action as the evidence demands it to, say don't take actually action as the evidence demands. That number climbs quickly to 660,000 souls lost. So this is serious. This is by far the worst and most dangerous part of the pandemic.

WILLIAMS: About the challenge of getting this vaccine into Americans arms. I'm going to play this for you from Dr. Fauci today. We'll discuss on the other side.


FAUCI: The process of the speed did not compromise at all safety, nor did it compromise scientific integrity. Who looked at the data, was that some force that was maybe trying to put something over on you? No, it was actually an independent body of people who have no allegiance to anyone, not to the administration, not to me, not to the companies.


WILLIAMS: So Dr. Gupta, you see what he's doing there. People -- a lot of people did not want having the equivalent of the Trump steaks version of the vaccine, something that had been rushed to market to fulfill the President's reelection goal. Do you think he has now put to bed any suspicion that this has been rushed to market?

GUPTA: Dr. Fauci is absolutely correct, Brian. There is no concern here from anybody in public health that this has been a rushed process. There's independent oversight across all these vaccines in terms of performance and safety. Every American should feel comfortable with that. And those of us in public health, those about this with platforms, elected officials, you name it should lead by example, and publicly get back say to when the time comes to even reassure Americans more that this is the right thing to do.

WILLIAMS: And finally, it strikes me that a week from right now will be on the back end of Thanksgiving Day. Some families will have perhaps made choices that put them in danger. What is your final bit of advice to all those considering it and especially those and we all feel we're being safe? It's the others we have to worry about?

GUPTA: You bet, Brian, I'm glad you asked. I have a few props, if you'll humor me. If you're going to travel in spite of the CDC evidence, let me be clear, non emergent travel, you should not be engaging in anonymous and travel, you should stay home, enjoy the holidays. If you must travel, if you're going to travel anyway, we know Gallup poll says 25% Americans are going to travel, test yourself now, start quarantining right now, get a test, if you can, those tests, get that test right now. Or start quarantining now and then get that test right before you get on a flight or whatever you may do.

When you get on that flight mask, ideally, at least at three ply surgical mask, Brian, I'll demonstrate it. Demonstrated right here, well, this just broke, put right there. And then what you want to do is you want to get some sort of eye protection. So you want to get a some sort of eye protection like this, goggles, I'm going to take my mask off, you want to get maybe these eye shields on your glasses that can get them easily anywhere online. And these are what we see in patient but you can get these online as well. These face shields that go like that, that's also helpful. Eye shield, plus masking, I'll tell you, those that I know have access to an N-95 or a KN95 wear those. On the back end, once you arrive at your destination again, if you must travel, mask with your mask at least 72 hours on the back end, and then try to get tested.

I know Thanksgiving is a short vacation. So for those who are thinking about traveling, don't travel, if you're going to travel stapling.

WILLIAMS: Thank you for all of it. Very helpful, I'm reasonably certain. I'll be talking to you at least once between now and Thanksgiving. So I'll wait until then to wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving. Dr. Vin Gupta, our guest again tonight.

Coming up, the President on what he finds most disappointing about this political moment, that president that is, we'll talk about it with one of his -- with two of his former senior advisors, forgive me, and with the man who secured the big interview with him just tonight.



BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm more trouble that you're seeing a lot of Republican officials go along with it, not because they actually believe it, but because they feel intimidated by it.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING OPINION COLUMNIST: Given your experience with some of those Capitol Hill Republicans. Are you surprised that they are going along with this effort?

OBAMA: Yes, look, at each juncture you're a little more disappointed that basic fairness and norms and habits that Republicans and Democrats traditionally observed aren't being observed.


WILLIAMS: With us tonight is the man you just saw conducting the interview with President Obama today. Jonathan Capehart, Pulitzer Prize winning opinion columnist with the Washington Post also happens to be a member of that papers editorial board.

Also with us to men who know the former president. Well, David Plouffe, former Obama campaign manager, senior advisor to President Obama is also on the board of directors for the Obama Foundation. I think we have Obama covered tonight and Robert Gibbs, former Obama campaign senior advisor and White House press secretary under wait for it, former President Obama.

Gentlemen, good evening. Thank you all for coming on. We're happy to have you all here. Jonathan, congratulations on your interview. What else did you hear from the former President about the damage being done in real time, day to day basis right now?

CAPEHART: Well, one, and thank you very much, Brian, for the congratulations and for being here. What I heard from the President, surprised, not surprisingly, because he's relentlessly optimistic. And he thinks that we will weather this storm, but he is paying attention to what's happening.

I asked him flat out about the fact that what's happening in Michigan, a lot of people are saying that it is a coup. And whether I asked him whether folks were being hyperbolic, or was this a real threat, and his immediate answer was, Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States and Kamala Harris will be the next Vice President of the United States.

He said it with certainty without hesitation which to me says that this constitutional scholar, former two-term President of the United States firmly believes that the institutions and the foundations of our democracy will hold despite the incredible damage that's being that's being wrought, as we speak.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Gibbs, the Democrats should hire Rudy to do a national tour of his appearing as his character (INAUDIBLE) a lot at dinner theaters as soon as dinner theaters are back. Lacking that good luck, Jonathan just correctly talked about how relentlessly optimistic your old boss is.

Joe Biden is relentlessly chill, especially in light of all this right now. Do you have any qualms that that shill should give way to a little bit more aggressiveness? Are they should they be counter punching in court? Should they be making a bigger deal about this a whole lot of people's hopes and dreams are being assigned to well, cooler heads will prevail.

ROBERT GIBBS, FMR. OBAMA WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the tone that they're both striking is the correct one. I saw I think you saw in the earlier clips. President Elect Biden restraining himself in some of the answers that he gave almost checking himself on those final answers. I'm not surprised by former President Obama's tone. I think it was strong but also tempered and measured.

Look, I think part of it is to keep people calm and to understand that for all of the shenanigans that we see on our TVs, in reality, as big as anything happened today, we're step closer to getting Georgia certified. And it's going to be certified with a Republican governor and Republican Secretary of State for President Elect Joe Biden.

So I think they're trying to keep everybody call. Real damage though Brian is being done. I mean, we -- you just add a segment about the explosion in coronavirus cases. Today is the 12th day of what should have been the transition. And nothing has happened formally in that transition today.

So the norms of our democracy whether each day that this happens and the Vice President and the president elect get less information that they need each day to do their job when they're inaugurated on the 20th of January.

WILLIAMS: David Plouffe, same question, do you have any concerns that your team is not being aggressive enough during this? Let's call it an interim?

DAVID PLOUFFE, FMR. OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: No, I think the tone from the top spin right. Just because Trump and Giuliani and crew are hapless doesn't make us any more -- less harrowing. I'll come to that in a minute, Brian.

I do think there's, you know, on the hill, some House Democrats, you know, subpoenaing the GSA director who refuses to certify the election. And some of those things that could impede the transition certainly preparations for the Biden ministration tackle the pandemic.

But in terms of giving people confidence that the results stand I think Joe Biden and Barack Obama set the right tone. Well, let's no make no mistake, what we're seeing here. OK, this is a sitting president, trying to turn our democracy into an autocracy. That is what's happening here. And we've never seen it before in American history.

And my concern is what happens next in 22 when there's some Republicans who lose close Senate governors or House races are 24 the next presidential race. Is this simply unique to Trump? I'm not sure it is. Because other than a few notable exceptions tonight, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse spoke out, this is no longer a functioning political party. It's a cult that's afraid of Donald Trump.

And our country is not going to survive a period of time when people who lose elections don't admit that. This entire country, our democracy, rests on that principle. That's never been violated before till right now.

So Joe Biden's going to be president. And I think Joe Biden and Barack Obama have been right to reassure us that, but we cannot mistake the serious threat. It's no fun to live to a right now. But I'm much more concerned about the next four years.

WILLIAMS: All three of these gentlemen have agreed to stick with us while we fit a break in. Coming up more on what the former president had to say to Mr. Capehart tonight about the outgoing president.



OBAMA: I think Joe Biden is right to say that we should all make an effort to do our best to lower the temperature and listen to the other side. But I think when you have a current president who -- whose entire style is to fan division, that's hard while he's on the stage.


WILLIAMS: Still with us, Jonathan Capehart, David Plouffe and Robert Gibbs. Gentlemen, welcome back. And Jonathan, I'm watching you watch him, kind of in amazement, as all people always are, when he speaks that he can conjure the class to limit his comments about his successor, who did so much harm to this president, to his family, their security, consensus, one of the great families to ever live under the roof of the White House that we've ever witnessed as a public. I guess that goes back to your original point about his relentless sunny optimism and his view that we will get through this without knocking down the entire house.

CAPEHART: And I think the other thing, Brian, that that is about the president that makes him be this way. What you saw there was a man who is comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. He is comfortable with that. He knows his place in the world and his standing in the world and when you are literally standing on top of the mountain, there's nothing anyone can do or say to you that will knock you off stride.

What was interesting, Brian, about that answer. It was in response to something that I found revelatory in his book. He was writing about when he was writing in the beast from the White House to the Capitol for his inauguration with President George W. Bush. And they rounded the turn. And he saw protesters holding signs indict Bush and war criminal and the President Obama That seeing those signs made him angry, and thought that it was it that this last minute demonstration was a graceless way for this man to end his presidency.

And so I asked him, well, given what you said about President George W. Bush, are you going to be angry when perhaps the same thing will happen to President Donald Trump? And his immediate answer was, that was 2008. This is 2020. And what flowed was the answer that you showed.

WILLIAMS: Oh, man, David Plouffe with your knowledge of numbers and trends and voters? Is Joe Biden ever going to be able to take a significant public approval rating out for a spin as you guys like to say?

PLOUFFE: Well, he is winning this election by over 6 million votes right now he's going to pass 80 million votes when the popular vote by more than we wanted in 2012 against Mitt Romney. So it's a significant one. That's the other thing about all of this attempt to basically blow up our democracy and our constitution and steal the presidency. It wasn't that close of an election.

So I know the American people are hungry for a president to lower the temperature and try and get some meaningful things done. Certainly in the areas of executive action, foreign policy, Joe Biden's going to have wide berth to pursue his agenda. I think the question will be in Congress and the central actor, there is Mitch McConnell.

So yes, there's no doubt, Brian, that right now 70 to 80 percent of the people that voted for Donald Trump. So you know, about 40 percent of the country believes that Donald Trump won the election, believe that they can trust our electoral system. And those dark shadows are going to be with us, both through the Biden presidency in the next couple of elections we have if we're lucky, it'll just be those next couple elections.

But I think Joe Biden's handle this period very well. I think he's growing during this period. He's not taking the bait from Trump. And I think he'll keep his eyes squarely focused on the economy, the pandemic, and that will be a change for people.

So I wouldn't be surprised, you know, when he gets into office, the contrast between how he operates day to day and Donald Trump is going to be so drastic. I think that, you know, that benefit will accrue to him, and might give him the opportunity to get some things done.

WILLIAMS: Robert, any parallel between the Biden team arriving in the White House in the midst of an uncontrolled global pandemic? And the Obama team arriving to a collapsed economy?

GIBBS: Yes, except I think in that equation, Brian, the Obama team was the lucky one. I mean, I think what the President Elect faces is something that no president in nearly a century has faced in coming into office. We dealt with a collapsed and collapsing economy and unemployment picture that was dreadful.

But in the worst week of the Great Recession, weekly unemployment claims were not what they were today. And that's on top of what I presume in the next day or so will be 200,000 new cases a day and probably 2000 dead.

So I think what, what they're looking down the barrel on is, is just remarkable, and it will take every bit of strength that he has, together working with Congress in the cabinet to make significant progress.

WILLIAMS: Great having you all on tonight. Thank you so very much for hanging out with us to Robert Gibbs to David Plouffe and to Jonathan Capehart, congratulations again and belated Happy Birthday --

CAPEHART: Thanks Brian.

WILLIAMS: -- to your beautiful mom, appreciate it --

CAPEHART: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: -- gentlemen. Coming up, we'll take you to a place where they can't wait till January 20th. They see it as proof that a guy from a nice local family made a name for himself as they put it over on the other side.


WILLIAMS: About 35 million of us proudly claimed to have Irish blood in our veins meaning there are about six or seven times more Irish Americans than there are people in all of Ireland and that's OK. Massachusetts is our most Irish state by percentage. Pittsburgh is the most Irish city in our country. And there's a place in Ireland that's very excited for January 20th to arrive because they can lay claim to the Irish blood in the veins of our president-elect and our report tonight from NBC News correspondent Bill Neely in Ireland.


BILL NEELY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this west of Ireland town, Joe Biden's faces everywhere. His ancestors left Ballina for America in the 19th century.

(on camera): Joe Biden has deep Irish roots on both sides of his family, the most Irish president since John F. Kennedy. And they're convinced here, he will have Ireland's back.

(voice-over): They celebrated the election of a man who's proud of his Irish roots, among them, his cousin.

LAURITA BLEWITT, PRES.-ELECT BIDEN'S THIRD COUSIN: He talks about how his mom continuously reminded him that he was Irish. It's the Irish in your joy. He says that all the time.

NEELY: He visited Ballina and his cousins is vice president beverage. They campaigned with him in the election. Biden fishing for millions of Irish American votes.

UNDENTIFIED MALE: We have met him a few times and really honorable guy, really decent. As you can see, you can see it. That's sorry, man. He is you know, he's got a great man for America. Hopefully we have that met at our site and he'd help us.

NEELY (on camera): You think he will have Ireland's back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or definitely, definitely.

NEELY (voice-over): Hopes are high here that Biden will be a catalyst for change. Mending relations between the US and Europe, damaged after four years of the Trump presidency.

(on camera): Is a reset between the U.S. and Europe likely isn't needed.

MICHAEL MARTIN, IRISH PRIME MINISTER: I think it is likely and I think it is needed. It's vital because we all share common values around freedom of speech, around democracy. And in a world that's becoming very authoritarian.

SIMON COVENEY, IRISH FOREIGN MINISTER: I think we are looking at a an era where the US really is back and speaking the kind of language that so many countries wants to hear coming from Washington. And I think that that we will see a much warmer and closer relationship that's based on partnership rather than friction across the Atlantic coming from a Biden presidency.

NEELY (voice-over): Donald Trump's America first policy nearing its end.

COVENEY: I think it is simply a fact to say that the America first policy was quite an abrasive one in terms of relationships with other parts of the world. It was a global superpower using that power, you know, in a way that was fractious at time.

NEELY (voice-over): 3000 miles from Delaware, Ireland is hoping transatlantic relations will warm and Ballina's man in the White House will stand up for his ancestral home.

(on camera): And Brian, Ireland is hoping that on January 20th, Joe Biden begins his presidency by rejoining the Paris Climate Treaty and the World Health Organization, low-hanging fruit in foreign policy terms, before tackling the more difficult issues of Iran and Russia and China, in what Europe hopes will be a much more cooperative way with the United States. Brian.


WILLIAMS: Bill, thank you for that. Bill Neely for us with proof that Ireland is a great place. Coming up for us the latest from the Lincoln project right after this.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight the folks at the Lincoln project and all the affiliated groups made up of Republicans can justifiably claim proper credit for helping to get the new democratic president elected.

As they see it though their job isn't done. They're airing a new commercial over at the Lincoln project pointing out who some of the Republicans are who so badly want to be president they can taste it. The Lincoln project thinks it's important that we never forget who they are, and how they acted during this era how they sold their souls to Trump and Trumpism.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Washington is full of Republicans with big egos and bigger ambitions. Remember them? Rubio, Cruz, Howley, Cotton, Lee, Hailey. Soon, they'll be running for president. They're planning for it. Even now. They'll tell you they're brave, strong, principled, conservative, but the reality is right in front of you. They're weak, spineless, cowardly, corrupt, shaking in fear of a mean tweeted. Traitors to the ideas and ideals of the country.

When America needed them to stand tall for a peaceful transition of power, they sided with the loser. When called to end abuses, they shrugged. When called to lead, they coward. When called to speak the truth, they lied. Call them whatever you like. But don't call them leaders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Lincoln project is responsible for the content of this advertising.


WILLIAMS: And so the Lincoln project takes us off the air this evening. That is our broadcast for this Thursday night. Thank you so much for spending this time with us. On behalf of all my colleagues up the networks of NBC News, good night.


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