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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, September 17, 2020

Guests: Chuck Rosenberg, Steve Schmidt


President Trump slams Biden, defends COVID-19 response and claims he'll deliver safe vaccine "very soon." Ex-Pence aide says she'll vote for Biden and Trump showed "disregard for human life." Trump holds packed Wisconsin rally despite pandemic. Trump sows election doubt saying results may "never be accurately determined." Top drugmakers do not expect vaccine by Election Day.


LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 1,337 of the Trump administration leaving 47 days to go until the election, and just 12 days until that first presidential debate.

As we come on the air tonight, this nation is now just shy of 200,000 Americans lost to this virus. We are very likely to pass that tragic milestone tomorrow. About 5800 people have died this past week alone.

Those confirmed to have been infected with the virus now nearing 6.7 million Americans. As the numbers continue to grow, two new reports are putting the nation's response to this pandemic in some sort of perspective.

The New York Times is out with a report that controversial CDC testing guidance was made public over the objections of the agencies, actual specialists and scientists who did not write the recommendations. And NBC News has confirmed that back in April the White House scrapped an effort to send cloth masks to every American household.

Obviously there's a presidential campaign going on amid all this, both candidates were in battleground states tonight.

Trump just wrapped up a rambling crowded rally in Wisconsin, no social distancing, few if any masks despite a state mandate requiring them he did say that in Biden's America there would be no guns and no religion. He went after Mitt Romney and Canada for good measure. He says he has saved America suburbs, and at one point he was interrupted when the crowd chanted Nobel Prize.

Joe Biden took questions during a CNN driving style Town Hall near his hometown Scranton, PA. Trump ridiculed the COVID designed Biden format then again, talked up his vaccine that he insists is coming soon.


DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: The audience isn't quite like this. Do you see what's in the audience? They've got cars. They've like cars in a parking. It's the weirdest thing I've ever seen. And CNN is going, oh, this is so beautiful. It's not beautiful. They have cars in a parking lot.

This is the greatest economy in the history of the world. And then the virus came in, we closed it down, we save millions and millions of lives, we will deliver a safe and effective vaccine before the end of the year. And it could be very, very soon you've been seeing what's going. It could be very, very soon.


WILLIAMS: Biden was asked about Trump's handling of the virus and suggested the President should consider stepping down.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The idea that you're going to not tell people what you've been told that this virus is incredibly contagious, seven times more contagious than the flu. What presidents say matter, people listen. I will make it clear what is needed to be done, you've got to level with the American people -- shoot from the shoulder. There's not been a time they've not been able to step up. This president should step down.


WILLIAMS: Tonight, the former Vice President has support from one more former Trump staffer who left the White House last month. The former homeland security adviser to Mike Pence, a two year veteran of the White House who served right there on the Coronavirus Task Force says she's backing Joe Biden after witnessing what she calls Trump's disregard for human life during this pandemic.


OLIVIA TROYE, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER TO PENCE AND LEAD STAFFER ON THE WHITE HOUSE'S CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: I'm Olivia Troye. I've been on the COVID task force from day one, which towards the middle of February, we knew it wasn't a matter of if COVID would become a big pandemic here in the United States, it was a matter of when. But the President didn't want to hear that because his biggest concern was that we were in an election year. He doesn't actually care about anyone else but himself.

He made a statement once it was very striking. I never forgot it because it pretty much defined who he was. When we were in a task force meeting president said, maybe this COVID thing is a good thing. I don't like shaking hands with people. I don't have to shake hands with these disgusting people. Those disgusting people are the same people that he claims to care about. These are the people still go into his rallies today who have complete faith in who he is.


WILLIAMS: Ms. Troye, who describes herself as a lifelong Republican is the first Trump official who worked extensively on this very coronavirus response to them forcefully speak out against Trump and the response. Late this afternoon both Pence and Trump were asked about her allegations.


TRUMP: I have no idea who she is. I don't matter. I never met her to the best of my knowledge. Maybe she was in a row. I have no idea who she is. She doesn't know me.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDEN OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't read her comments in any detail, but it reads to me like one more disgruntled employee who's left the White House, and now has decided to play politics during an election year.


WILLIAMS: Earlier today, the President made another attempt to focus the campaign away from the virus to what he calls law in order.

In a dark theme speech at the National Archives within view of our most cherished founding documents, he warned of what he calls a left-wing agenda hostile to America.


TRUMP: Students in our universities are inundated with critical race theory. This is a Marxist doc holding that America is a wicked and racist nation, that even young children are complicit in oppression and that our entire society must be radically transformed.

I will soon sign an executive order establishing a national commission to promote patriotic education. It will be called the 1776 Commission.


WILLIAMS: Tonight, former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice blasted the President's speech as fundamentally at odds with our nation's ideals.


SUSAN RICE, FORMER OBAMA NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: This was one of the most astonishing speeches I've heard him give. He talks about patriotic education. I thought I was listening to mouse a tongue, running communist China. We don't have a system of patriotic education where the dear leader tells the people what they must learn.


WILLIAMS: Hours before the President's bleak warning of insurrection and violence on the left, FBI Director Chris Wray told the house Homeland Security Committee about his agency's conclusions about racially motivated attacks.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The biggest chunk of that are individuals who are motivated by some form of white supremacist ideology. And that's the -- that group the racially motivated violent extremists has been responsible for the most lethal activity in the last few years.


Wray also seemed to break from President Trump when he warned of Russia's ongoing efforts to meddle in our elections, and in particular to harm Joe Biden's candidacy.


WRAY: The intelligence community's consensus is that Russia continues to try to influence our elections. And I think the intelligence community has assessed this publicly to primarily to denigrate Vice President Biden. And what the Russians see is kind of an anti Russian establishment.


WILLIAMS: And of course, you knew this was coming tonight on his way to Wisconsin, the President was yet again, challenging that can conclusions of one of the top people working for him writing this, "Chris, you don't see any activity from China even though it's far greater threat than Russia, Russia, Russia. They will both plus others be able to interfere in our 2020 election with our totally vulnerable unsolicited counterfeit question mark ballot scam." That's our president.

It's a lot to talk about and here for our leadoff discussion on a busy Thursday night. Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize winning White House Reporter for The Washington Post. Alexi McCammond, political reporter for AXIOS, also returning tonight Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. Attorney, former Senior FBI official. Good evening, and welcome to you all.

Ashley, your reaction to tonight's very 2020 split screen of these two very different men, these two very different campaigns, the Biden event, juxtaposed with the Trump event?

ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, it's just two different realities. And the Biden reality is one that is based in the backs of the current endemic. What you showed that clip of the president mocking. Everybody in their cars, spaced out wearing masks is a reflection of what scientists and public health officials say are best practices and a vice president who is following that to a tee. And yes, it means that he doesn't have huge crowds, then he can have huge crowds cut to the president tonight.

He spoke for definitely over an hour and a half. It was close to two hours. I think as I was watching, and this is a president who was sort of reveling in the world as he wishes it was not as it is. Now he wishes it was is a bunch of his supporters, chanted for him shouting Nobel Peace Prize, Nobel Peace Prize, unmasked, not socially distant, behaving as a if the virus does not exist. It just could not have been one after the other, a starker contrast.

WILLIAMS: Alexi, the President does not have that much exposure to people outside his circle humans who don't work for Fox News and a lot of folks said that showed at his town hall meeting in Philadelphia. Talk about Biden's performance tonight visa v the real live voters at the event.

ALEXI MCCAMMOND, AXIOS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah, I mean, it's one thing for Biden could be out on the physical campaign trail. It's another thing for Biden to be out on that campaign trail again, and be able to actually interact with voters in some sort of way. And that's what makes nice so significant to the COVID era when Biden's been doing a lot of virtual events and not really getting that face-to-face time, even if at a distance with voters.

But I think in terms of the contrast that it showed on the human level, it showed again the side of Biden that's really kind of empathetic, human who's been through personal grief and had personal loss himself that he talks about openly with his son Beau, especially when he's talking about a recent report in the Atlantic that, you know, claim that President Trump has referred to American soldiers who have died in war, suckers and losers.

Biden gets really emotional when he's talking about that sort of news of the day issue, referring back to his son, Beau, who of course, died after he served in Iraq. And, you know, it just gives voters a more holistic view of who Biden is. It gives them of course, a chance to see and hear more about his policies and what he would do, especially with the coronavirus if he were president right now, but it gives them a better chance to be who he is as a person and how he would lead in a time when people need an empathetic leader and they're not finding that in president.

WILLIAMS: Chuck, over to your bailiwick and life's work, what have we learned or relearned in the past 24 hours about the Attorney General the legacy he is choosing to leave to children and grandchildren, his respect for the way of doing things at your old employer, the U.S. Department of Justice?

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: He gave a very curious speech the other day, Brian, but the Department of Justice is designed by and for and about career people. It has, again by design a very thin political layer.

FBI has 37,000 employees, only one of them is politically appointed. And so we all understand that we are run by an attorney general who is a political appointee and a member of the President's cabinet. But the most important decisions are routinely made by career people.

There are times when we conflict with political leadership, and we understand we have to yield a political leadership. But it's never before, at least in my experience than this unprincipled, this sort of, you know, sort of all norms tossed aside so that the attorney general can give effective favors for the president and his allies, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, it just goes on and on. And so that's what's so different than what's so troubling, Brian, that norms have been cast aside, and the politics have been injected by an attorney general doing favors for a president.

Ashley Parker, no sooner had we read under your byline of painstaking recreation of Trump and the Trump White House in the early days of the virus that another insider has come forward and in effect, confirmed. What you reported was going on the disregard for human life.

Susan Glasser writes this about Olivia Troye tonight, "In the end, this is what struck me most during my conversation with Troye. She is young, only 43 years old with a long career ahead of her and she was willing to put it all on the line publicly. Whereas people like Mattis and Kelly were not." Ashley, your reaction.

PARKER: Well, two things are striking. First is the number of people who have come out. And we've worked in the administration and have come out against the President and expressed regret and alarm and concern and she is certainly one of them. And Mike Pence, when he sort of said it was a little bit of a slip just one more disgruntled employee.

Well, it's not normal to have that many disgruntled of plays in a single White House. But the flip side are all the people who have not publicly come out many of them and far more senior positions than her who might even have more authority than her who could really render an inside look at what they viewed in the Trump White House. And these are people who, according to our party have expressed misgivings privately to friends, sometimes to journalists, little bits and pieces seem to get channeled out in books and there is a real pressure campaign on.

People, the name you hear the most of course is General Kelly, that they really want him to come forward and say what we believe he is saying privately, and explain the real concerns and alarm that he had working for this president. And it's an open question with just 47 days until Election Day. If more people will come out and how high ranking and senior they were in this administration.

WILLIAMS: It is striking to see the photos and the photos alone of her on Air Force two, in the Oval Office, in the VP's. Office, her resume, the scope of her work over two years certainly is illustrated and stands up.

Hey, Alexi, back over to the campaign trail. Trump is doubling down on cultural issues, as we've all heard and seen and as we try to ask many segments per week, is the Biden campaign giving enough of a counter argument do you think?

MCCAMMOND: I think that the Biden campaign is trying to focus on a lot of different things in the last couple of weeks. Of course, Biden has gone out there to forcefully give these kind of rebuttals to the President talking about these different cultural issues saying in the past that the president kind of joke fans of these racial tensions and, you know, really incite violence in this country, especially when the President is trying to blame Joe Biden for the civil unrest and the protests and the rioting and looting that's going on.

Biden gets out there to remind people that President Trump is the president right now and Biden is not. But the other interesting things that side is really getting out there and still talking about the coronavirus. Yesterday he was giving us remarks about a potential vaccine for the coronavirus. Today he was giving remarks about, you know, his vision for tax policy. His campaign was putting out an economic fact sheet that was really contrasting his view for tax policy compared with Donald Trump's view for tax policy, really making this argument as before he was heading to Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Biden is from that Biden is for middle class folks, middle class workers. That's another contrast he's trying to draw with President Trump, saying that President Trump is inviting view kind of an elitist who doesn't really know what it's like to be a middle class American, especially in this time. Biden is saying, I know what your life is like, I know what it's like to be you. Let me help you through this.

WILLIAMS: Chuck, I want to play for you one of the more newsworthy comments that the attorney general has made in the last 24 hours. We have coupled with one of the more newsworthy reactions to Barr. We'll discuss both on the other side.


BILL BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Putting a national lockdown, stay at home orders is like house arrest. It's, you know, other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint. This is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN, (D) SOUTH CAROLINA: That statement by Mr. Barr was the most ridiculous, tone deaf god awful things I've ever heard. It is incredible. The chief law enforcement officer in this country when he prayed human bondage, to expert advice, to save lives, slavery was not about saving lives is about the value in our lives. This pandemic is a threat to human life.


WILLIAMS: Chuck, indeed, the Attorney General is an educated man and whatever legacy he has decided upon for himself in American history. Of course, he nicely ignores Korematsu among other suspensions of civil liberties in our history. He omits the fact that a stay at home order is for the public health and therefore unique to our time as someone who has had contact with Barr and knows for well, who he is and his background, what do you think he is up to here?

ROSENBERG: Well, I thought I knew Barr because I was one of the fools who said he was a principled institutionalist. Brian, when he first rejoined the Department of Justice, so I didn't know Barr the way he turned out to be. That said, Congressman Clyburn is a spot on, you mentioned Korematsu in 1942. In February of 1942, President Roosevelt issued an executive order, and we removed Japanese Americans, including predominantly American citizens of Japanese descent from their homes and businesses on the west coast.

And you go back further in 1798, the Alien and Sedition Acts to compare precautions that we take because of a pandemic to equate wearing a mask in a grocery store with slavery is nuts. I don't have another word for it, Brian, it's nuts. And so that will be this man's legacy. He's chosen it for himself. There's no way you can equate sort of thoughtful, careful medical and scientific response to a pandemic with slavery and ignore the rest of American history while you do that. The legacy is a sad one, but it's the one he chose and it's one he's going to have to live with.

WILLIAMS: A veteran lawyer throwing down that time tested legal phrase, it's nuts. Our thanks to Ashley Parker, Alexi McCammond, Chuck Rosenberg, greatly appreciate you starting us off tonight, three friends of this broadcast.

Coming up for us, the President says he knows better than the CDC about all things coronavirus. We'll ask a doctor on the front lines of the coronavirus. Why that might be a bad prognosis for American citizens.

And later, in an otherwise suppressed economy fact checkers are doing well. Here's the question though, how does Biden win against an incumbent president in a daily blizzard of misinformation? We'll talk to one of this country's top political strategists and one of his country's top political reporters. We'll ask if Biden is doing enough to win the prize as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Thursday night.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The FDA has made it very clear explicitly that they will not be influenced by political considerations. We at the NIH in the scientific community are very adamant about that. So if in fact, it looks like that vaccine is safe and effective, I can tell the American public that I will take the vaccine when it's available to me, and I will recommend to my family that they take it.


WILLIAMS: He's the guy. He's the nation's top infectious disease expert earlier tonight on this network looking to restore a little public trust in the government run health agencies as we mentioned tonight, The New York Times has this new reporting on recent guidance that was posted on the CDC website for us all to read.

The Time says controversial recommendations that asymptomatic patients do not need testing. Those were not written by CDC scientists. That guidance was said to be, "dropped" onto the website without scientific review, and despite serious objections inside the agency.

So back with us tonight is Dr. Vin Gupta, he's an ER doc specializing in these kinds of illnesses, also an Affiliate Assistant Professor with the University of Washington Department of Health Metric Sciences.

So Doctor, people are exasperated, we're hearing and seeing this every day with our public health institutions under fire. And now that we have reason to question what comes out of the CDC, tell us, please who can we trust?

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: So Dr. Fauci -- Good evening, Brian. What Dr. Fauci said is correct. And let's be clear here, the FDA has been politicized in the past when it comes to a vaccine, and whether it's effective and safe, I have confidence that the vaccine will be deemed safe and effective by their definitions by an independent Advisory Committee. One will be convened on October 22. So I think it's important for the American public for all your viewers to know that there will be a process of independent experts that will be convened.

Now, here's the important thing, Brian, what's effective? How -- what's the goalposts that we have to -- what's the goal lines across here? That's 50% efficacy versus a placebo. So somebody gets it. They're 50% protected from COVID-19 compared to somebody who doesn't get it? How do we define success? That's how we're defining it. Is that actually going to pan itself out? Who knows? We need to -- we need data to determine how this -- how effective this vaccine actually will be once it's deployed.

But here's the other thing there, just one last point on this. A modeling study back in June by investigators at the City University of New York suggested a vaccine had to be 70% effective and 60% of the population needed to get that effective vaccine for the pandemic to be quashed. So this vaccine is not going to end the pandemic. That's critical.

WILLIAMS: I want to talk about the Surgeon General and before we do, I want to be fair and point out that he has not been a profile encouraged during the length and breadth of this illness. One of his first utterances that the American people heard from him on early, early on in COVID, was to talk about the robust health and stamina of the President. He's also the guy our Surgeon General who advised the American people against getting masks. He later explained that away saying he was worried that the medical community would not get masks if they were hoarded by the public.

So he has that on his record. With that as background, I know you've gotten into a bit of a dust up with him over the last 24 to 48 hours. What's it been about?

GUPTA: You know, I commented to the Surgeon General that he should have corrected the President yesterday. He is the nation's chief public health spokesperson. He is not entitled to that role. That wall comes with responsibilities. When the President is saying that the vaccine is going to end the pandemic and he is directly questioning the effectiveness of masks, the President was basically making fun of the former Vice President for wearing a mask, saying some people don't believe in it. Who knows if it's effective?

The surgeon general told me on Twitter, hey Doc, there's nothing to respond to there. I don't have to correct the President essentially, is what he said. That's wrong. The surgeon general sort of put his job on the line. His job is to put out information that the public can trust. And he didn't do that. The fact that he's saying he didn't have to do that. Basically it's application of his basic responsibility. So that's a problem here. We can't trust our public health officials, like the Surgeon General.

WILLIAMS: Way too much dear leader type response going on these days. Doctor, it's great to have you. Thank you for standing up with us on a Thursday night. Dr. Vin Gupta, one of our frequent guests on this topic.

Coming up, a night of contrast between the two presidential contenders, as we said was just 47 days left in this campaign. A.B. Stoddard is with us. Steve Schmidt is with us, both of them standing by.



TRUMP: We're doing a great job relative to other countries on the coronavirus. You know how many names we have like 22 different names. I call it the China virus. We're doing a great job. But if you want to really see a great job, take New York and some of these other Democrat run states out of it. You'll see numbers that are unbelievable.


WILLIAMS: Earlier tonight, Joe Biden launched some harsh attacks on the President's coronavirus response.


BIDEN: Go all the way back in March. I was calling for the need for us to have mass cab the president stand and tell us what's going on. But he knew it. He knew it and did nothing is close to criminal.


WILLIAMS: Back with us tonight, two of our returning veteran Steve Schmidt, longtime political strategist who led to McCain's '08 effort and has since left the Republican Party. He is in fact among the founding members of the Lincoln Project dedicated to the defeat of Donald Trump and Trumpism and A.B. Stoddard, a veteran of political journalism currently associate editor and columnist for Real Clear Politics.

A.B., I'd like to begin with you it will forever be bracing to hear a president of the United States do a regional breakdown of death toll based on the political color of a state or city on the map be that as it may.

Just today, an insider comes forward, a woman who we can see in color White House photographs at the seat of power, whether that seat is the Oval Office on Air Force Two with the Vice President and the VPS office, saying the President has disregard for human life cut to tonight's Wisconsin rally. Folks crammed in.

Do they not care? Does the President not care? Is it a combination of both the new kind of political way of thumbing one's nose at the establishment?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOC. EDITOR AND COLUMNIST: It's such an interesting question, Brian, because I think that he did not know that people would be so willing, once he urged states to be liberated and people to come out without mass on open up every business they possibly could jam into gyms or movie theaters or whatever he wanted to make sure the economic engine would get going in late spring.

I don't know that he knew that his supporters especially the night of the Tulsa rally, when a lot of them didn't show up or they sat in the back with mass on or then stayed too long that he would be able to revive these rallies and get people to Joe (ph), sometimes in indoor spaces, like three times this week to share aerosolized virus particles with each other.

So it's pretty amazing that he continues to do this. And that is he remains, you know, to this day so close to Election Day officially anti mass to the point where he would, you know, try hit the CDC director and pick a public fight, but there are willing supporters who come to share the excitement, listen to the same greatest hits over and over again and give him the adulation that he wants.

And it was obviously it's such a stark contrast to the night that he was with George Stephanopoulos and these voters, basing not Trump supporters, but skeptical voters in a town hall setting, much like Joe Biden did tonight and the contrast between a Trump rally at Trump town hall with voters to Joe Biden with voters, and then how far away Joe Biden, you know, respectfully stays from voters.

And only got near Anderson Cooper because he said he had tests negative. It's the contrast that Joe Biden thinks is going to help win the election.

WILLIAMS: Steve Schmidt, a question I try to ask at least one guest once a night on this broadcast. Is Joe Biden doing enough with what they are being handed from this president on a daily basis? Is Biden as the Biden campaign doing enough to win?

STEVE SCHMIDT, FMR. REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He's on track to win the presidency, Brian. I do think that these debates will be critical events, historic events in this country. I think the consequences of this election for the country or profound, I think it's the most important election that the country's had since 1864, which determined whether we remained a country or not.

And the reality is, is that Joe Biden is going to have to walk on to that debate stage and he's going to have to confront Donald Trump. He's going to have to confront Trumpism. He's going to have to define it. He's going to have to hold Donald Trump accountable. It has to be a moment where reality collides with the Trumpian alternate reality.

One thing that is true is that I do believe that Donald Trump actually thinks that he's done a good job, when in fact, he's presided over a catastrophe with regard to COVID-19. When he stands up there and lies to the American people about the job that the federal government has done, it bears mentioning that if the United States had the same mortality rates as the Germany, we'd have 140,000 fewer dead Americans tonight than in fact, we do.

The lie that he told the country over and over again, the 109 instances at least, that he downplayed COVID-19, that he downplayed the virus. That lie is responsible for untold human suffering and death. It's not just the biggest lie in the country's history. It's among, its most immoral acts, and certainly the most immoral act by an American president, ever.

And so we sit here tonight watching Joe Biden talk about the issues confronting the country through a prism of reality and facts. And we see Donald Trump at a rally and who is at that rally and I say this wishing these people no harm.

But this is the definition of a cult of personality. These people are putting themselves and their families in mortal danger by being there. Trump's allowing them to be there to celebrate him to take any adulation is definitionally an immoral act a reckless act.

And when you look at the faces there, I just wonder who the first person there that was there tonight is who's going to die from it and it's just, it's beyond tragic, it's unspeakably sad. And it is disgraceful to see the abuse of power that enables this to happen.

WILLIAMS: Both of our guests have agreed to stay with us. And speaking of that very point Steve Schmidt just made. After the break, we'll continue our conversation with the notion the president floated yet again today. We may not be able to trust the results of the coming presidential election.



TRUMP: The left wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left wing indoctrination in our schools. The left is warped, distorted and defile the American story with deceptions falses and lies.


WILLIAMS: The President marked Constitution Day with those remarks just for starters at the National Archives in Washington today. Still with us are Steve Schmidt and A.B. Stoddard.

Steve, that room and the documents it houses beneath that thick glass. You almost can't believe looking at the parchment that you're actually allowed to see the formational documents of our country.

I first walked in there on a trip to Washington with my parents in 1974. And I'll never forget it. So it's against that backdrop that we heard as Susan Rice put it, one of the darkest speeches if not the darkest of his presidency.

SCHMIDT: Well, we heard the undemocratic rantings and musings of our dimestore slurring, Mussolini there behind the presidential seal. The event was a travesty and that it took place in the presence of those documents as a desecration to the ideas and ideals of the country.

The speech was jarring. It was illiberal meaning undemocratic in its essence, and nobody should under sell, under appreciate the radicalness, the extremeness of Trump's statements about if I lose the election, therefore the election is illegitimate, it will have been stolen.

We've never had a president unwilling to lose, to accept the sovereign judgment of the people and a government of the people by the people for the people. Our democracy is sustained by renewed by predicated upon free and fair elections, that an American president would do what he's doing, that he would send a signal to the country that evaporates their faith and belief in the legitimacy of the American form of government from that room isn't just despicable. It's profoundly dangerous for the continuation of the American experiment, which began in 1776.

Testing the proposition whether people could self-govern, whether the people could govern. And so we have a president now, who when he looks at the country and sees that he's behind, sees that he's being rejected, he's repudiated, he is undermining the integrity and most importantly, the faith of the people and the integrity of that system, which has been one of the longest and deepest wishes of so many of this nation's enemies and adversaries. The one thing they could never ever do was shake belief in the American system in the eyes of the American people, but Trump has managed to do it.

WILLIAMS: So A.B., the president of the United States today said the results may not be accurately determined of this coming election. Twitter flagged it, Facebook yond. The comment is now out there. I'm imagining what the folks you know, down ballot, Republicans must be really psyched to see remarks like that.

STODDARD: Well, shame on their silence, Brian. We're not seeing enough of them step up to talk about what Steve just ably described, which is a president delegitimizing the entire process, and of course telling us in advance he's going to question the outcome and might reject it.

So they are very worried about what he's done to dampen enthusiasm among Republican voters for mail and balloting and absentee validate which are essentially the same thing. But they're staying silent on what he's doing, which is outrageous.

And Senator Dan Coats the former DNI for President Trump put out an op-ed today in the New York Times calling on people to do a bipartisan come together in a way to sort of oversee the elections, the 50 state elections, to make sure that it has a bipartisan imprimatur of approval. And I don't see any Republicans coming to agree with him, which is really just, you know, I mean, they can be surprised or they can still be shocked.

So the thing is, we're dependent on state election officials, we're dependent on state legislatures, state election officials and governors and essentially 63 in the Rust Belt, Florida, North Carolina and Arizona to be very frank, as soon as possible on election night in the days that follow about their process, which I believe they all you know, will just bend and they're going to have to withstand a lot of pressure from the president.

WILLIAMS: To friends of this broadcast A.B., Steve, thanks very much for coming on tonight. Coming up for us the truth about vaccines


WILLIAMS: Again tonight Donald Trump hinted a vaccine will be ready soon as he's wondered aloud maybe in time for election day, but the company's the leading contenders responsible for actually producing a vaccine. They have a timeline of their own. Our report tonight from NBC News correspondent Tom Costello.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Of the three companies leading the vaccine race, Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca. None expects to have an FDA approved vaccine by election day.

Today, Moderna and Pfizer, which are set to receive billions in taxpayer money became the first to publish their COVID-19 vaccine trial protocols for everyone to see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We care deeply that this vaccine is trusted by the public by clinician and nurses around the country. So it is used up of course it be great if we work so hard to get the vaccine to work, and people don't trust the safety.

COSTELLO: Pfizer hopes to have trial results by the end of October. Moderna is expecting its results in November or December. A final analysis could take until March or even May.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca still hasn't explained why its vaccine trials were paused for safety concerns and why they restarted in the UK but not in the US. The company says it's working with the FDA to facilitate review of the information and the FDA will decide when the US trial can resume.

Vaccine expert Peter Hotez says drug company transparency is critical.

(on camera): Is the public competence in the entire vaccine movement right now on the line.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, VACCINE EXPERT: Not only is the public confidence of the vaccines used in operation warp speed on the line, the public confidence in the entire nation's vaccine program is on the line.

COSTELLO (voice-over): But tens of thousands have signed up as drug trial volunteers. In London Robin Powell is still planning to join the AstraZeneca trial, even after the unexplained safety pause.

ROBIN POWELL, VOLUNTEER: I think the risk to me is relatively small. And the benefits to the state of burn is very great.

COSTELLO (on camera): It's that simple. It's about helping your fellow man.

POWELL: Exactly. So yes.

COSTELLO: Tonight the most optimistic timeline suggests some Americans a very few could start receiving COVID vaccines late this year. But for most Americans, it will extend well into next summer and even next fall.


WILLIAMS: And our thanks to Tom Costello for that coming up. What will they think of next during this pandemic?


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, starting with a quick word about this segment, we realize it's the last thing you hear from us every night in many cases, especially at midnight here on the east right before you turn in for the night.

Every single story we considered for this segment tonight, was judged too depressing and we thought we all needed a break. So here it is. And it comes from the Washington Post. And the headline tells us the story. Growing number of airlines offer flights to nowhere as international travel remains stalled.

And first off here, let's remember the airline industry has been crushed. People are traveling but at a fraction of the normal numbers. International travel is really challenging, very selective with testing standards and quarantine requirements. Most countries are close to us Americans for good reason. Most analysts don't see international travel coming back in a big way until next summer.

So remembering all the jobs and livelihoods the virus affects people are paying good money to get unpacked airplanes and fly around and see stuff and then return to the same airport. Quoting from the Post article, Qantas among the latest to advertise a flight that departs and arrives at the same airport, told Reuters news agency the trip sold out less than 10 minutes after going on sale on Thursday. It's probably the fastest selling flight in Qantas history, a spokesman for the airline said.

So people are paying between 575 and $2,700 a seat. And in the case of Qantas, they do fly low over the Great Barrier Reef and the outback, so passengers feel as if they've seen something on their journey before they land right back where they took off and go home to their lives.

Of course, it makes sense because during a pandemic, when you think pandemic, you naturally think about sealing yourself inside an aluminum tube and sharing the air and personal space with strangers.

Thankfully, face masks are strongly recommended aboard Qantas. And this is all proof that cabin fever is a powerful thing though perhaps slightly less powerful than the coronavirus.

And that is our broadcast on a Thursday night. It comes with our thanks for spending this time with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.


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