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

Guests: Nahid Bhadelia, Edward Snowden, Jon Meacham


U.S. marks 9/11 anniversary as COVID-19 deaths near 200,000. Nora Dannehy, a top aide to John Durham's Trump-Russia investigation, has resigned from the Justice Department. Donald Trump has not ruled out a pardon for Edward Snowden, the American exiled in Russia after he leaked NSA secrets in 2013. Trump in damage control over comments to Bob Woodward and reports he disparaged military. Trump's Michigan rally draws crowds of supports. 20 dead as wildfires scorch millions of acres.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST, "VELSHI": The 11th Hour with Brian Williams begins right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again live pictures tonight of the tribute in lights that puts a lump in the throat of every New Yorker every year on this day, the two blue beams in lower Manhattan, representing the buildings and all the souls lost.

Day 1,331 of the Trump administration, 53 days to go until the Presidential Election. And today indeed, we pause to mark the 19th Anniversary of 9/11. The first such annual remembrance during a pandemic, which let's not forget equals the 9/11 death toll every few days now.

This morning, the President laid a wreath and spoke at the flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Joe Biden starts the day at the September 11 commemoration ceremony Ground Zero, Lower Manhattan. Mike Pence was also there. The two men greeted each other in a rare show of respect amid a bitter campaign otherwise. Biden then traveled to Pennsylvania's flight 93 Memorial himself, where he laid a wreath met with those loved ones from 19 years ago as the nation mourn the losses from the terrorist attacks of 2001. This nation, of course, still dealing with an uncontrolled pandemic, another 46,000 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the U.S. today alone. This was the week we learned the President knew how deadly the virus was back in February.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It goes through air, Bob. That's always tougher than the touch. You know, the touch, you don't have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that's how it's passed. And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than your, you know, your, even your strenuous flus. You know, people don't realize, we lose 25,000, 30,000 people a year here. Who would ever think that, right?


TRUMP: Pretty amazing. And then I say, well, the same thing --

WOODWARD: What are you able to do for --

TRUMP: This is more deadly. This is five per, you know, this is 5% versus 1% and less than 1%, you know, so this is deadly stuff.


WILLIAMS: President knew all that while publicly going out of his way to diminish the virus. Last night, it is packed campaign rally in Michigan. Trump said the country had rounded the turn on the virus. Today, Andrea Mitchell asked Dr. Fauci about that.


ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC: You said, it was time to hunker down because the fall in the winter is, "not going to be easy." The President says we've rounded the final turn. How do you square those two messages?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, you know, I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with that. Because if you look at the thing that you just mentioned, the statistics, Andrea, they're disturbing. You know, we're plateauing at around 40,000 cases a day, and the deaths are around 1,000.


WILLIAMS: Indeed, there have now been over 6.4 million coronavirus infections recorded in our country today the number of souls lost, past 193,000. We've been averaging about 50 deaths per hour over the course of this past week as Dr. Fauci mentioned about 40,000 new cases a day, still being reported across our country.

Tonight, the University of Washington, their Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations, they have yet again increased the number of projected COVID deaths by the end of this year, unless a majority of Americans begin wearing masks.

This latest analysis warns the death toll could more than double to over 415,000 by January 1. If you think about that and what we've lived through for these past six months, that predicts a much faster rate of death over the next three months.

There's also news tonight regarding that investigation into the origins of the Russia case against Donald Trump. Tonight, a top aide to U.S. Attorney John Durham who's running that effort has resigned.

The Hartford Current newspaper reports Nora Dannehy resigned at least partly out of concern. The investigation team is being pressured for political reasons. "Colleague said, Dannehy is not a supporter of President Donald Trump and has been concerned in recent weeks by what she believed was pressure from Barr, who appointed Durham to produce results before the election."

We should note NBC News has not independently verified Dannehy's reasons for resigning. But former U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg told Nicolle Wallace this development raises a red flag.


CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: People leave the Department of Justice all the time for lots of reasons, some retire, some resign, but you don't tend to leave in the middle of a big project. And so when someone does that we haven't heard from Nora directly, but when someone does, Nicolle, that's a red flag.

I would like to know directly from her as we could, why she's leaving? But like I said, you don't leave in the middle of the trial. You don't leave in the middle of a big project, prosecutors and agents see those things through. And so she's leaving now. There's probably something that troubles her. And that thing that probably troubles her seems to be the Attorney General of the United States and his impetus to get something out and put out before the election.


WILLIAMS: All of that brings us to our leadoff discussion on a Friday night after the week we've had, it includes two of the very best from the New York Times, White House Reporter Annie Karni, Pulitzer Prize Winning Washington Correspondent Michael Schmidt, who is importantly the author of the new book, Donald Trump versus the United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President. Also, back with us is Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease physician and the Medical Director of the Special Pathogens Unit up at Boston University, School of Medicine. She worked with the WHO back when we were a member nation during the West African Ebola pandemic, and is among our medical contributors.

Good evening, and welcome to you all. Annie, as much as I hate to do it, I have to begin with something that was all but lost. In the fog of news this afternoon, the President chose this solemn day to toss off and an interview with Jeanine Pirro. He hears Joe Biden is probably using drugs indicated perhaps drugs of the performance enhancing variety. It is a hell of a thing to hear from a sitting president about an opponent. Does this mean we're going to have rapid drug and COVID testing before the first presidential debate? Or, Annie, is it more likely the President is eager to find a deal direction especially for the base?

ANNIE KARNI, THE NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I think it's the latter. The entire campaign he's running against Joe Biden more and more appears to be not based in reality, but based in a kind of running against a straw man of what he wants his opponent to look like from policy, calling him a Trojan horse of the left, it's really been difficult to paint a moderate Democrat who had problems, exciting the progressives in his own party to be seen as basically a shell game for AOC and the squad to these personal attacks that a drug use or other things. Especially, it was a surprising sound bite to come out on 9/11 when Joe Biden who even the president staunchest defenders like Lindsey Graham, admit as a decent man said, today's a day to drop politics. Today is the day I'm not going to talk about the campaign. I'm going to talk to the families. I'm going to go to the memorials and that I pulled out my campaign ads. And that's what I'm getting at my day-to-day. So it was especially surprising sound bite to come out on a day like today.

WILLIAMS: Back to the real news of the day, Mike, talk to us about the importance of the long time veteran and Deputy to Durham, the U.S. attorney from Connecticut, appointed by Barr in this case, her decision to resign.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": This investigation has been something that the President has openly discussed, his attorney general has openly discussed. And because of that, and the way that they have cast it have made this for the folks on the right to be something they are truly counting on coming into the election.

The President has said that the attorney general can make his name by bringing forceful action out of this investigation, essentially advocating for charges. The far right and Fox News is anticipating this being something that will help lift the cloud of the Russia investigation, the goal the President has sought for his entire time in office.

And now here you have the top lieutenant stepping aside, because of the Attorney General's rhetoric and the President's rhetoric, this type of move looks very curious, because these two people Barr and the President have made it seem that there is some there, there and there's some big thing to come. Now, what does this signal? What does this mean? We usually as Chuck Rosenberg was pointing out in the clip that you played, do not see a top prosecutor move aside at the time that an investigation is hitting its apex. So it's an incredibly curious move in a certainly curious investigation.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, I have something for you, here is the director of the NIH. He said this on CNN following the President's packed Michigan rally last night.


FRANCIS COLLINS, NIH DIRECTOR: How did we get here? Imagine you were an alien who landed on planet Earth. And you saw that our planet was afflicted by an infectious disease and that masks were an effective way to prevent the spread. And yet when you went around, you saw some people not wearing them and some people wearing them and you tried to figure out why. And it turned out, it was their political party, and you would scratch your head and think this is just not a planet that has much promise for the future. If something that is so straightforward can somehow get twisted into decision making that really makes no sense.


WILLIAMS: So, Doctor, tonight in describing the reasons underpinning their new forecast of souls lost by January 1, folks at the University of Washington said by their reckoning, about 45% of the U.S. population is wearing a mask when around others. You take that, you take the rest of their projection, which gives us a way higher death rate to come than what we've already experienced. And you take the public involvement that we've seen thus far. What makes you think our society is ready to handle what we're being told is to come?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA, INFECTIOUS DISEASES PHYSICIAN: Yeah, Brian, I thank you for those comments. And also, I appreciate what Dr. Collins said, because I'm going to be honest with you, I think for a lot of public health experts as with the public, without gas lighted, because if you're looking at what's happening, we're losing 1000 of our loved ones, our neighbors, our fellow Americans every single day.

You know, we are seeing that our schools -- our kids can go to schools, we are seeing that our businesses can stay open the long without causing outbreaks. So the strategy of downplaying the virus hasn't really worked out because what in the end it does is that for some portion of it Americans, this means that they're not taking the measures that they should to keep themselves safe. And for others, they're looking at this and realizing the cognitive dissonance that we have in front of us in this country, where there is a disconnect this dangerous, emerging pathogen that has taken over every aspect of our life. And if you hear Dr. Fauci today, he projects that we're going to not get back to the pre vaccine normal before the end of 2021.

And that's actually a pretty likely timeline, because if everything goes well, and we have an effective vaccine by the end of this year, the thought is the distribution of that vaccine to the general population, as has been predicted by many folks from operation work feed itself may not happen until summer 2021. And then we have the potential vaccine hesitancy that might delay us achieving vaccine induced herd immunity. And so the damage that of playing down this virus, we're looking at a deficit that have already happened, if we're looking at one more year of this, the damage of downplaying this virus, the amount of deaths and illnesses that we'll see in the year coming up is going to shadow what we've already seen. And that's why we need a new plan. We need a new plan. If there's a new administration November, they're going to have to work so hard to turn all this distress around and get us back on the right path.

WILLIAMS: Annie Karni, that coming from one of the public health experts we've relied on, on this broadcast certainly focuses the mind and gets your attention. Yet, I know you've noted that let's just take the Michigan rally last night as an example, from the crowd to the President's remarks at the lectern, it sure sounds like we're on the backside of this.

KARNI: It does. And this is one reason why I think comment that he made to Bob Woodward that it's getting so much attention that he knew how bad this was and didn't tell the public and that's something that happened in the past tense is interesting because he's out there, bringing together thousands of people, 8,000 people were in Michigan at that rally this week, telling them that we've rounded the curve and the worst is behind us. And we're reopening and we're definitely never shutting down again.

He is continuing to try and project this message that we're on the path to recovery and that this is safe. He has done these battleground state rallies in North Carolina and Michigan. He's going out to Nevada this weekend to do two more. These states have -- are not allowing outdoor gatherings of more than 50 people. And they're having trouble dealing with these, because there is an argument to be made that rallies are protected political speech, and that they can't force people not to exercise their first amendment rights, which is why we haven't seen governor Whitmore or Governor Cooper in North Carolina actually try and shut these down.

In Nevada, he -- the President has run into some opposition from the airport authority. But they almost want that fight. They get to them, say the argument, why do you shut down our rallies when you -- no one raised concerns about the protests that broke out across the country this summer in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. So they kind of like that comparison that they, another way to seem like the victim of the playing field is never fair for them. But these rallies have kind of quietly started. The campaign didn't announce like they did with the Tulsa rally. A big announcement, we're back. They kind of quietly just started having them again, as if it's safe to do so.

WILLIAMS: And Mike Schmidt, from your book, because we're on the subject of Donald Trump, there is a story so foundational, so related to what so many Democrats regard as the Original Sin. People have had to read it twice. Tell the good people watching the short version, at least of what appears to be an Olympic version of I thought you were looking into it. No, I thought you were looking into it.

SCHMIDT: Well, the FBI in the May of 2017, opened up a counterintelligence investigation into the President's ties to Russia to understand whether he was compromised, to understand whether there was anything that the Russians had that may give them leverage over the president that could explain his behavior and why he was acting the way that he was towards Russia, and he was so willing to take a move, like firing the former FBI Director, James Comey.

Now, what happens is in the handing off of that investigation from the FBI, the special counsel's office, the counterintelligence part sort of dissipates. And when Robert Muller goes to testify before Congress, two years later, he says that he did not look into these questions. He did not look into these things and that he had deferred back to the FBI on their counterintelligence goals and aims. As recently as a few weeks ago, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee saying in documents that he sees there's no evidence that this investigation had been done.

Now, it was the -- in the handing off of this as Rod Rosenstein appointed Muller that this counterintelligence investigation basically dissipated. And what, you know, the counterintelligence investigation on the president, and the thing to understand about the counterintelligence investigation is that for the FBI officials who opened it, Andy McCabe, Peter Strzok, folks like that.

This was the most important investigation they had opened up in their lives. The counterintelligence threat that they thought that the President pose and the powers that the President had to do and say and execute policy, as he saw it, was enormous and needed to be looked into. But here we are just a few months away from the election with little evidence that that happened.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, I'm going to ask you to close us out tonight referring back to your first answer bring us to present day and beyond, what are the next couple of months going to look like, do you fear in our country?

BHADELIA: Brian, we've feared the fall in the winter since this thing started because in the fall respiratory virus, other respiratory virus activities pick up like influenza, like RVSP, other diseases like being transmitted the same way. And the worry is that we're moving indoors and we open schools and colleges and you're seeing, you know, even in communities where colleges are based. Those counties are seeing some of the highest rises in cases. We are starting at a high plateau. We're seeing, you know, as you mentioned, over 40,000 cases and so we're hurtling towards a second peak and you only have to look as far as Spain and France right now, because they're seeing their numbers go up once more. And so we need to take the steps that are necessary because we're going to find ourselves potentially back at the place that we're in the spring, if not worse.

WILLIAMS: Sincere thanks to our big three after the week we've all witnessed, Annie Karni, Michael Schmidt, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia. Thank you all for starting us off.

And coming up for us, the President's floated the idea of a pardon for one Edward Snowden. We'll ask one Edward Snowden about that idea live from Moscow in our exclusive interview just after this break.

And later, we are ending yet another extraordinary week for this presidency. Jon Meacham, his take on all that happened. And what to make of this post 9/11 world we're living in during these waning minutes of the 19th Anniversary, as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Friday night.



EDWARD SNOWDEN, LEAKED NSA SECRETS IN 2013: The United States will always be my home. And I'll be always be willing to come back on a single condition and I've been quite clear about this over the years. This is the government guarantee that I have the right and every whistleblower has the right to tell the jury why they did what they did.


WILLIAMS: That was almost a year ago. Today Ed Snowden is still living in Moscow having left the U.S. following the leak of NSA secrets back in 2013. He joins us live tonight from Russia on what is already Saturday morning there. Edward shared his story in last year's best selling memoir, Permanent Record, which came out in the paperback version just days ago.

Ed, it's good to see you again, though. I suspect, you've been the one working from home before any of us. Let's begin here with what the President said about you most worried recently.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to give Edward Snowden a pardon and bring him back you? You once suggested that he was a traitor and should be executed.

TRUMP: Well, I'm going to look at it. I mean, I'm not that aware of the Snowden situation, but I'm going to start looking at it. There are many, many people, that seems to be a split decision that many people think that he should be somehow treated differently and other people think he did very bad things. And I'm going to take a very good look at it.


WILLIAMS: So, as you know, the Attorney General did not share the rosy view of the idea of a pardon for you and said so to the Associated Press. Couple of questions to start off with the graphic there that Barr is vehemently opposed. Have you had any contact with the administration? Did you initiate any? Have they initiated any? Have you sought a pardon from the United States?

SNOWDEN: I have not and this is something people have actually forgotten. There was a part campaign back during the Obama administration, but I had no point actually asked for pardon myself. It's tremendously gratifying to have this level of support. But as I said, my condition for return is simply a fair trial.

Now, we didn't see the Obama administration talking about a pardon in this way. And I think Trump has commented again, since then that he thought, you know, treatment was very unfair could be, and there's been a lot of speculation that's come from this, but there's been no contact. I was surprised as anybody else to see this. But it's very interesting to see this president thinking about, you know, pardoning what a lot of people would consider one of the big names in this new war on whistleblowers and that's something that I think we should all support seeing come to an end.

WILLIAMS: So no representative for you has done any outreach, no representative for you or yourself have heard anything from the White House, the administration, any government types?

SNOWDEN: No by hook by crook, there's been nothing, no contact or anything like that. I think if that were happening, it would be certainly news that we probably hear through the channels.

WILLIAMS: Let's use plain English. The price for pardons appears to be lavish praise for this president after the fact. Is that something you're willing to do?

SNOWDEN: Certainly not. I don't think a pardon is or should be conditioned on anything. When you look at the pardon power, it's constitutionally derived. I think it's Article Two, Section Two. A pardon is not a contract. A pardon is not something that you accept or reject. And it certainly shouldn't be used as a political tool. And this is why, while I haven't asked for pardon from the President, I will ask for a pardon for others.

Now, when I mentioned the war on whistleblowers, this is an ongoing and continuing thing. The reason pardon is even being considered, even being debated, the fact that comments from the Attorney General are even hitting the news is because everyone who's followed these cases know, being charged under the Espionage Act as a whistleblower means no fair trial is permitted.

And there are people in the United States today, serving time in prison for doing the right thing. And this is why we should see Donald Trump or any president and the war on whistleblowers. He should pardon reality winner for trying to expose election interference. He should pardon Daniel Hale for revealing abuses in the drone program, or Terry Albury for trying to expose systematic racism within the FBI. And these are all people who are deserving of pardon.

But this when we look at pardon, pardon is intended to ameliorate unfairness, to fix fundamental flaws in our system of law for the way they're being applied. And there is no way this is more clear right now than in the prosecution of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act.

WILLIAMS: Do you think you deserve a pardon? And a question I've asked you before, what if a settlement included supervised employment working for the home team trying to harden our computer defenses against those, including but not limited to your present home country trying to interfere in our elections?

SNOWDEN: Look, you know, we wouldn't need supervised conditions or anything like that. If the United States wants me to work for in the government, I've always been happy to do so obviously. I volunteered to do this long before. That's how I got access. That's how we learned about the unlawful and unconstitutional mass surveillance of Americans and everyone else around the world.

So yeah, whenever my country calls I will be there. When we talk about things like election interference, this is a particularly noteworthy topic that we see being debated a lot in the United States. And it's difficult as both someone who is very familiar now with like Russia and the system of disinformation and all of these things that you see from Russian state media, but also the reaction in the United States. This information will always exist. Foreign countries will always seek to actively meddle in our elections. But look at what the goal of it is, if it is to fragment us, if it is to increase partisanship and the fractious nature of our society, the worst thing we can do is get all lathered up and each time somebody posts, you know, a typo filled piece of garbage on Facebook or Twitter or inserted on some Blog site that no one's ever heard of. These things will exist. These attacks will come. The way to respond to them is through strength and resilience. The answer the solution to this information is not to freak out that it exists, but to get your news from reliable sources and think critically about everything that you hear, there's no way to hack logic.

WILLIAMS: Well, I got news for you since you've been away back here at home. It's working for whatever minimal investment the Russians put into it. The driving of us apart from one another, certainly is a giant return on investment. Hey, what's the chance, Putin said to his friend, Donald Trump, can you get this guy out of here?

SNOWDEN: I really doubt that. You know, I'm not even sure that the Russian President remembers that I exist at this point. And honestly, from my perspective, that's for the best. But you mentioned, you know, it's such as a staggering return on investment. And when we look at this day in history, September 11, this is a reminder of the fact that. I was on Fort Meade outside the NSA on 9/11. I tell the story in my book, Permanent Record.

And one of the sad, sad lessons, the tragedies of the day is not only what happened that day, but what has happened in the decades since. And whether you're talking about disinformation and divide in the United States or whether you're talking about a system of endless wars, where we send more and more of our people and our treasure overseas to be buried in a hole.

No one can do as much damage to us as our own domestic discontent. And this is why resilience is so key. Terrorists can't defeat this country, you know, foreign Facebook posts, they cannot destroy our elections. Only we can by playing into it.

WILLIAMS: Give me the one-minute version of the truth about coronavirus in Russia. What haven't we been allowed to see over here?

SNOWDEN: I don't think it's like there's some buried secret. It's bad here as it's bad in many places in the world. What hasn't been reported strictly that I've seen it just how harsh the lockdown was, at the very deepest part when things were out of control.

Nobody was allowed to go out of their apartments if you lived in Moscow, basically, except to take out the trash, to walk your dog, to go to the nearest grocery store, or the nearest pharmacy, not any of them. And if you wanted to go beyond that, you literally had to file basically a form with the mayor's office to the website, put your photo up there where you live, you know, all of these details what you want to do, and you can only do that twice a week through the whole quarantine period. I never did that once because I don't believe in it.

But it's funny and I think ironic, in a sad way to see so many Americans so upset, complaining about the strictness of the quarantine when despite all the restrictions, as serious as they are, it could be much worse.

WILLIAMS: While the book is called Permanent Record and is out in paperback form the story about one Edward Snowden still has every chance of changing greatly as we move on our thanks to Edward Snowden for what has been our third interview joining us live from Russia.

Coming up for us, we say it nearly every Friday, but it's been an exceptional week Pulitzer Prize winning presidential historian Jon Meacham will help us put it all in context when we come back.



MARY TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S NIECE: Donald is a very sick man. He's never going to get better. He's only going to get worse and if it suits his purposes he will take this entire country down with him. And he clearly has a lot of people willing to help him do just that.


WILLAMS: Donald Trump's a strange niece why we had that that, I don't know, summing up this week startling presidential revelations. Back with us again tonight is our friend Jon Meacham, Presidential Historian, Pulitzer Prize winning biographer. His latest, "His Truth is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope." I can tell you is an extraordinary work. It's a revealing portrait of the late congressman.

He's also the host of an excellent new podcast series, as excellent as his last podcast series. This one's called It Was Said. It's focused on some of the most impactful and still relevant speeches in our history.

Jon, what do we get spend the Jeffrey Goldberg work in The Atlantic, a guy whose integrity I will never doubt the toe curling comments attributed to the President on the military. And then we have Bob Woodward's book. Tonight Carl Bernstein repeated something he said last night he said that this is the most explosive thing ever recorded by a president that it pales in comparison what was recorded by Nixon in Watergate my words not his makes it look almost quaint and of its time given that we're talking about 193,000 souls lost, do you concur?

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes. Yes, it's a two vital pieces of information that are wouldn't any ordinary time be dispositive in a presidential election that, as you pointed out is 53 days away. What is different about this moment is that in previous presidential elections, the enlightenment itself was not on the ballot. But reason really is hanging in the balance here. Because for whatever reason, and we can speculate about them 43 to 44 percent of the country is willing to follow the strange dunkel off the cliff.

And, you know, we've talked a lot about structural racism in the country the past six months, and we should, there's also structural partisanship, and we've reached a point where, which Walter Lippmann 100 years ago, warned us about in 1921, he wrote a book called Public Opinion. And he warned that one of the besetting problems of the modern era was going to be that we would define and then see as opposed to seeing and then defining.

And that's one way of talking about the role of reason itself in our public life. Are we willing to take on things like Jeff's piece, things like the Woodward tapes, and actually change our minds about a president and a party, that have devoted themselves to a particular way of being in this country that does not fit in is not in any way commensurate with what we need as we face the challenges that are at hand.

WILLIAMS: I'm glad you made that point. You talked about the president follow -- the President's followers and his ardent base. Listen to these two gentlemen Michiganders both at the rally last night.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPNDENT: Why you're not wearing a mask?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because there's no COVID. It's fake pandemic created to destroy the United States of America.

ACOSTA: Does it worry you guys at all to be in this crowded space with all of these people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not afraid. The good Lord takes care of me. If I die, I die. We got to get this country moving. If you can't (inaudible) wear masks and stay inside for another year, we're not get it.


WILLIAMS: Credit is to -- it was Jim Acosta who got down from the press riser and spoke to the people in the crowd. Jon that right there is that new in our politics.

MEACHAM: It's not new, but it's more widespread and that's one of the most important things to think about historically about the age of Trump, which I hope is coming to a rapid close. The paranoid style in American politics is a phrase that Richard Hofstadter, the Columbia historian, coined in October of 1964, wrote a cover story for Harper's, where he talked about this recurrent tendency in Americans life to believe that the system was rigged against you, that there were insiders who were pulling the strings, and the ordinary person was excluded from genuine power.

He talked about the Bavarian Illuminati. And I like to think that this is the first time we've talked about the Bavarian Illuminati, at least in a while, all the way through the John Birch Society, which is what Hofstadter was really focused on the Goldwater supporters in 1964, who believe that both George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower were and I quote, conscious agents of the Communist conspiracy.

So the paranoid style has been. What is different is I would say it was probably 10 to 15 percent of the country for much of our history, but just ballpark. It is now closer to 40 percent. And my own estimate about why that is, is that globalization and we're seeing so much of it of the terrible, both the positive parts of globalization, but also the really terrifying costs of it. We see it in the fires. We see it in climate change. We see it in the flow of manufacturing jobs and the rise of information jobs for which not enough people are educated.

Globalization has presented this existential challenge to the way so many people live, that instead of reacting to it rationally, and trying to figure out a way forward through this new world, they have instead looked back, they have romanticized the 1950s, which the 1950s were great if you looked like me, if you were a boring white, male Episcopalian from the south, you know, things tended to work out. But if you were a woman, if you were black, if you were an immigrant, things were not so great.

And what Trump promised in 2016 when he said Make America Great Again, it's what he was really saying is let's make America like we think 1955 was again. And that politics of nostalgia has turned incredibly he's become incredibly generalized. And it's also turned very ugly. And the two folks you said there I hope the Lord takes care of that man. But you know, the Lord also back they gave us brains for a reason. And we should be using them.

WILLIAMS: Jon, don't move. I got another question to you about the meaning of today. Let me fit a break in we'll continue right after this.


WILLIAMS: The most beautiful thing has taken place at one of the saddest places in the world a line of clouds just above the two blue beams representing the Twin Towers live pictures from lower Manhattan on this sad Friday night which brings the topic around to our discussion with Jon Meacham, who remains with us.

Jon, about the meaning the enduring meaning of 9/11. I don't mean to sound course, when I say that these days, we bury the same number as were killed in 9/11, every couple of days from an out of control virus. These days, if 9/11 is mentioned, more often than not, it's the starting point of our so called endless wars, even though one of which was an elective, having absolutely nothing to do with the people who knocked those buildings down, tell me 9/11 in meaning and impact will endure.

MEACHAM: It will endure because in many ways, the attacks of September 11 signaled the true beginning of the 21st century and interestingly, the 21st century the first 20 years have seen a resurgence and a new centrality for really ancient forces.

The 20th century was largely defined by the kinds of struggles. We understood, at least the first half, right? We understood great power wars, we understood nationalism. The second half, certainly through the fall of the Berlin Wall was shaped by the Cold War, the new possibility of global Armageddon. But that was managed so well by temperate American presidents and temperate American populaces, that when there was a certain balance.

What's happened -- what happened and what September 11, they signaled was the return of asymmetrical threats, pandemic, the role of terrorism, the, as I say, globalization, which was which it shifts power that has less attention to borders than then we were accustomed to in the 20th century. And so what September 11 means beyond the remarkable and sad human loss of innocence on that day was a beginning of a resurgent era of threats that are ever harder to combat. Because they are asymmetrical, it's disease. It's terrorism. It's populism. There are forces that shape us and are very hard to manage.

WILLIAMS: While we're thinking of the loved ones of all those lost on what was still the worst day in modern times, Jon Meacham, thank you very much for filling this role after the week we've had good to see you. Thank you for coming on.

Coming up for us. After days of silence the President tonight finally mentioned the Herculean effort to fight the wildfires in the West. It was just this tweet, but it's a mention and update on the fight when we come back.


WILLIAMS: We could easily have devoted our entire hour tonight to the fire consuming the American West from Washington State through Oregon, and to California where an estimated 28 separate major fires are burning, including some record setters. It has turned day into night in so many places. Here is the California governor from earlier today telling the rest of us take a good look. Get used to this.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): California folks is America fast forward. What we're experiencing right here is coming to community all across the United States of America unless we get our act together on climate change, unless we disabuse ourselves of all the BS that's being spewed by a very small group of people that have an ideological reason to advance the cause of a 19th century spraying work and solution. We're not going back to the 19th century. We're not apologists to that status quo.


WILLIAMS: An angry Gavin Newsome in a smoky forest in California. Another break for us and coming up what the U.S. is sending out to the world tonight. That is not among our proudest exports.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight and send you on your way for your weekend takes us back out west to the state of California where at their height, the fires that are burning been destroying land at the rate of 1,000 acres every 30 seconds. 10 percent of the total population of Oregon poised to evacuate if not already on the run. We're witnessing some of the biggest fires ever in our country states like Oregon and Washington, witnessing the loss of entire communities that they never dreamed would be touched by fire.

Now it's one thing to say the area on fire tonight is twice the size of Delaware and it is it's another to show it this way. The smoke has now been pulled over 1000 miles out to the west, out into the Pacific, where it's been drawn into a cyclone. And from California to the east, you can see the smoke layer there over Arizona.

And while meteorologists say there's a chance our east coast cities will see the orange tint in the air that they've witnessed in California. This is already bigger than that. There's something even more dramatic to show you. The smoke from our west coast has made its way to Europe and even past their into the Asian continent, heading west to east.

Satellite imagery has tracked it all the way across the Atlantic across the UK, and Denmark, Germany, Poland, and now well into Russia. So anytime you hear someone say America hasn't given as much to the world in these recent years. Tell them about the smoke we're sending to our friends overseas.

That's how we end the week. That is our broadcast for this Friday night. Thank you for being here with us. Please have a good and safe weekend on behalf of all of our colleagues here at the networks of NBC News, good night.


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