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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, September 3, 2020

Guests: Neal Katyal, Austin Baeth, Dan Balz, Mike Murphy


Presidential candidate Joe Biden visited Kenosha, meeting with community leaders and speaking by phone with Jacob Blake. President Donald Trump is facing more polls showing him trailing Biden in key states, headed to Pennsylvania for a campaign event filled with attacks and falsehoods. President Trump suggested that people in North Carolina should vote twice in the November election, once by mail and once in person, escalating his attempts to cast confusion and doubt on the validity of the results. Trump threatens to cut funding to so-called "anarchist" cities. Iowa is dealing with a surge of coronavirus cases that has turned the state into a hot spot for the disease. Iowa governor urges personal responsibility, rejects white house recommendations to mandate masks. Rochester, N.Y., mayor suspends police officers involved in Black man's suffocation death.


ZERLINA MAXWELL, POLITICAL ANALYST: -- probably would have won the election and the Electoral College. But for the Comey letter, which actually happened in the middle of early voting, so it's critically important that Biden run through the tape all the way through Election Day to ensure that every single person that supports him is able to cast their ballot and it's counted.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Zerlina Maxwell runs out the clock for us tonight. Thank you very much for joining us Zerlina. I really appreciate it.

MAXWELL: Thank you, Laurence.

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

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, once again, I'm Steve Kornacki in for Brian Williams who has the night off. Day 1,323 of the Trump administration and 61 days to go now until the Presidential Election.

Tonight Donald Trump and Joe Biden are exactly two months out from November 3. That means they're about to hit that critical stretch of the campaign that kicks off this Labor Day weekend. And the messaging is becoming more intense as these two candidates try to frame the key issues and arguments against each other.

Today, Biden traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, one of the cities at the center of a renewed push for racial justice and police reforms, and where there was also violence and unrest in the immediate wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake. Biden's trip came two days after the President's visit, the former Vice President met with Jacob Blake's family. He described a conversation he had with Blake himself.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had an opportunity to spend some time with Jacob on the phone. He's out of ICU. He talked about how nothing was going to defeat him. How whether he walked again or not, he was not going to give up. My wife asked to say a prayer. And his mom said a prayer where she said I'm praying for Jacob and I'm praying for the policemen as well.


KORNACKI: Biden also met with Kenosha residents and community leaders and called for an end to violence during protests. And he criticized some of what Donald Trump has had to say.

BIDEN: The words of a president matter no matter if they are good, bad or indifferent, they matter. If I made a mistake about something I thought you could defeat hate. Hate only hides, it only hides. And when someone in authority breathes oxygen under that rock, it legitimizes us folks to come on out. Regardless how angry you are, if you lose, do you burn, you should be held accountable as someone who does anything else, period. Violence in any form is wrong. The idea that this President continues to try to divide us gives succor to the white supremacist, talks in ways that are just absolutely. I have never used this regard to praise me for not only incorrect but immoral to just simply wrong, simply wrong.


KORNACKI: Hours later, the President held a lengthy rally like event on the tarmac in Latrobe, Pennsylvania and he went after Biden.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Before the China virus this election was over now I had to go back to work and we've done a great job on it. We don't get the credit. Biden will never be able to protect your jobs or your family. He is a puppet of the socialists, Marxist and the cop hating extremists and they are cop hating. So Joe Haydn, we have a new one, Joe Haydn. We call him Joe Haydn, and they want to blow up Mount Rushmore. They want to ban straws, but did you ever see a man that likes a mask as much as him? And then he makes his speech and he always has it. Not always but a lot of times he has it hanging down. Because you know what, it gives him a feeling of security.

And then yesterday I read that I had strokes. Mini strokes they called them. I don't know what a mini stroke is, but it's not good. He's mail-in ballots are a disgrace, and they know it. The lists are inaccurate and people are dead. And dogs have gotten ballots. They have, dogs have gotten ballots of Russia or China or these other countries want to cheat. All they have to do is forge ballots. You better elect me.


WILLIAMS: And when it comes to the coronavirus the rate of infection has indeed slowed of late with new case camps this week reaching their lowest levels in two months. At the same time, the U.S. is still recording around 40,000 new cases a day. That level is four times what Dr. Anthony Fauci says we should be aiming for.

Overall, there have been 6.2 million cases so far, with nearly 188,000 people lost. The Chief Scientific Adviser to the administration's Vaccine Development Program known as Operation Warp Speed tells NPR it's unlikely any effective vaccine will be ready before the end of October and that it will take months longer to begin distribution.

Trump tonight also seemed to repeat advice to supporters in North Carolina to stress test the security of their election systems by trying to vote by mail and then in-person in the same election.

This morning he tweeted, "Go to your polling place to see whether or not your mail-in vote has been tabulated, counted. If it has, you will not be able to vote at the mail-in -- in the mail-in system works properly. If it has not been counted, vote.

North Carolina's Board of Elections stated today that, "It is illegal to vote twice in an election." Tonight Trump again raised the topic.


TRUMP: These mail-in ballots are a disgrace and they know it. Sign your mail-in ballot. OK, you sign it and send it in and then you have to follow it. And if on Election Day or early voting that is not tabulated and counted, you go vote.


KORNACKI: North Carolina will be the first state to begin mail-in ballots. They are going to start going out tomorrow. And the latest Monmouth poll in that battleground state has Biden leading Trump by two points. This is a state that Trump won by three in 2016. And new Quinnipiac polls show Biden leading Trump 52 to 44 in Pennsylvania, and 48 to 45 in Florida. Again, those were Trump's states in 2016.

And there is another new controversy emerging tonight reporting in a new article in The Atlantic that is raising concerns about Trump's view of Americans who have died in battle. The article begins with Trump's decision to abruptly cancel a 2018 visit to a cemetery near Paris, where Americans who were killed in a World War I battle are buried.

The Atlantic quote several sources who say his visit was scrubbed because the President feared the rain would ruin his air. And that he told senior staff, "Why should I go to that cemetery it's filled with losers." The article continues in a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1800 Marines, who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as suckers, "suckers" for getting killed.

Tonight the Associated Press is reporting a Senior Defense Department official with first hand knowledge of events and a senior U.S. Marine Corps officer, who was told about Trump's comments have confirmed some of those remarks.

The White House quickly responded with a statement to NBC News that says in part, "This report is false. President Trump holds the military in the highest regard."

And tonight as he walked off Air Force One, the president himself said he, "swear on anything," that the story is not true.


TRUMP: And think that I would make statements negative to our military and our fallen heroes when nobody's done what I've done with the budgets, with the military budgets, with getting pay raises for our military. It is a disgraceful situation by a magazine that said terrible magazine. I don't read it, but I just heard about it. They made it up. And probably it's a couple of people that have been failures in the administration that I got rid of, and I couldn't get rid of them fast enough. But aura was just made up.

KORNACKI: And here for our leadoff discussion on a Thursday night, Annie Karni, White House Reporter with The New York Times, Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter with The Associated Press and tonight, his AP Colleague James LaPorta says we mentioned here that he spoke to a Senior Defense Department official who confirmed in his words the story in its entirety. Also, with Mara Gay, she's a member of the New York Times Editorial Board, and a former New York City Hall Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal. She's also a COVID-19 survivor. Thanks to all of you for being with us.

We mentioned there at the beginning, Jon Lemire. I'll start with you two candidates for president in two very different settings today, relaying two very different messages in terms of the President. We're getting into the general election homestretch here. There's been a lot of talk that he's had some difficulty finding a specific message to stick with against Joe Biden. Are you seeing one emerge right now? Are there specific points that the President has settled on when it comes to making his case in the final 60 or so days of this campaign?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Steve, you're certainly right that they have struggled with the attacks on Joe Biden's family, his son Hunter, with his highs to China, which is a tough argument to make. It's very how the President has repeatedly praised Chinese leader, Xi Jinping even in the early stages of the pandemic. So what they have settled upon we've heard it during the convention and this appears to be their closing argument is the idea that Joe Biden, though perhaps not a radical leftist himself, is under their control and is powerless to stop those forces. And they're linking that to the President's law and order argument, the condemnation of the scenes of violence that we have seen in places like Portland, Oregon or certainly Kenosha, Wisconsin.

And I think it's important here to take a step back and look at both candidates visit to that Wisconsin city this week. The President closely aligned himself with law enforcement. He praised the police response. He uttered not a word about the underlying cause of those protests, which of course, was police violence on black men.

He did not even mention Jacob Blake's name. Joe Biden took an entirely different approach today. It wasn't about law enforcement. It was indeed about the Blake family who we met with at length. The President did not meet with them. And of course, efforts to stamp out hate and bring people put together that sort of idea of compassion and unity that Biden frankly has based his entire campaign upon from its opening word, which remember, his campaign video launched with the word Charlottesville and the denouncement of what the -- how the president approached that crisis. He's doing the same about how the President has approached Kenosha.

And then we saw of course, Donald Trump tonight in Pennsylvania, what was can only be described as a scattershot performance. You played some of the clips earlier railing against mail-in voting, touting the economic comeback, suggesting again that the coronavirus was largely a thing of the past, which is the message they've been trying to send. And I'll leave you with this, on this point, Steve, that this is what the Trump team is trying to say, an advisor told me in the last 72 hours or so that they feel like anytime they can have a day where they're not talking about the coronavirus. It's day they can win. They know public approval polls show the public has largely vehemently disapproved of how the President has handled the COVID-19 crisis. They're trying to talk about anything else. And this effort with lawn order is their latest attempt and when they think they can lean into here in the stretch run.

KORNACKI: Let me continue that line of thought, and Annie with you because we certainly we've heard what Jon's saying there from Republicans, from folks around Trump for the past couple of weeks here. The idea that they think there's an opening on this law in order front. They think the events in Kenosha have given them an opening. We were here about 24 hours ago, looking at all sorts of polls that have come in, in the last couple day. National polls that show this race is basically exactly where it was a month ago. That's a lead of about seven and a half points there for Joe Biden, Wisconsin polls that show Joe Biden continuing polls conducted after Kenosha, Biden continuing to lead in Wisconsin, given the hopes, certainly politically that the Trump folks have in this message, or the polls they're seeing this week, again, after Kenosha after their convention, are those polls giving them any pause?

ANNIE KARNI, THE NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: They're not getting the bump that they would have expected after the convention week. This should be a week where they see a real change. And it's basically the polls are where they have been. It's a bump that wasn't. That being said in some of these states, it's a little too tight for the Biden people to feel completely confident, which is why we see him traveling and going to where the President has gone, going to Kenosha two days after Trump did to kind of try and drive home that these are two very different visions of leadership for this country right now.

So yes, the message of law and order isn't giving them the bump they want. It's a better message. It's a better topic for them than coronavirus. One thing that is helping them is that polls do show that concern over the coronavirus does seem to be lessening than it was back in March and April.

But, again, as Jon said, it is true that any day that they are talking about law and order message. This is a place where there really are two visions. What we saw in Kenosha over the past tow days is a president trying to put the stress on unrest in the streets. Dry fear about what this means and conflate peaceful protesters with violent looters making Joe Biden clarify that he does not support violent looters, which is something he finally did.

This is him sort of driving the conversation making Joe Biden respond to where he's taking the dialogue. If it's about whether or not Trump handled the coronavirus crisis and show leadership there, that's an upper down vote on Trump. That's not what they want in November.

KORNACKI: Mara, to bring in the Joe Biden and his strategy here Wisconsin is complicated political terrain, to put it mildly for Democrats. It had been knocked since 1984 that a Republican had carried that state but Trump picked it off in 2016. You saw that surge support for Trump in Wisconsin from blue collar white voters a lot of rural parts of the state. You also saw much lower African American turnout, particularly in Milwaukee than Democrats had become accustomed to, created a situation where Trump could carry the state.

As Jon mentioned, you've got two very different messages that seemed aimed at, in many ways, different audiences here, in terms of the Biden campaign trying to get Wisconsin back, do you think their message is going to sufficiently appeal to who they needed to appeal to and not alienate who they can't afford to alienate?

MARA GAY, THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Yeah, I mean, Wisconsin's very complicated. My family's from Michigan, just down the way also very complicated swing state. I think the reality is that this is really an election about whether America is for everybody, and can be a democracy that is shared by everybody or whether the is a -- that's really not acceptable to minority of Americans who don't want to share a democracy with black and brown people.

And frankly, I don't think most white Americans feel that way. And I think that the Biden campaign is a real opportunity, as Barack Obama did in 2008, he was very successful in this, to bring the country together, back together, or much of it, at least, by reminding Americans what we have in common, and that there's a place at the table for everybody.

So for example, you know, doing things like talking to African American police officers, and having them as surrogate as well, just reminding American that actually there's a place to table for everybody. It's very important.

I think what Donald Trump has unleashed unfortunately, over the past four years is a very old American racism that kind of comes up whenever it is emboldened, just as Joe Biden said. And Donald Trump has done exactly that. It's very hard to put back in the bottle. It's very ugly. It's very toxic. And I don't believe that's the sentiment of most Americans. But that's really what Joe Biden is up against. And I think it should be taken extremely seriously. I think this is an election that's going to be fought by every, you know, every vote is going to have to be fought for by these Democrats.

KORNACKI: Jon, we mentioned ballots about to go out to some folks in North Carolina, the early voting, mail-in voting phase of, of Election Day really is about to begin in some parts of this country, here the president there with this message, he's repeated several times different ways over the last day or so, again, getting that distrust of mail-in voting out there clearly would like his supporters to be voting in-person. I note though, there are a number of Republicans out there in some key states around the country who don't necessarily share that message. Are they going to be on the same page in this stretch drive at all?

LEMIRE: Steve we're about to have votes. That's the most wonderful time of the year. No there is -- there not every Republican is going to be on board with this. Let's think about Senator Cory Gardner, for instance, was in a tough reelection fight. He was elected six years ago in Colorado, in the mail-in ballot election.

There are going to be some Republicans, we have seen them already noting the pandemic, noting that the dangers of perhaps of trying to do in-person poll voting at the ballot boxes November who are encouraging mail-in voting.

In fact, it's a tactic that has been pretty successful for Republicans in the past, but the President continues to rail against it. We heard him tonight now, you know, suggest again, that you mail-in, a voter should mail-in once by mail and then check it and perhaps even try to show up at the polling place and do so again to test the system, which required state officials in North Carolina to say well, that's flat out illegal and even though the Attorney General William Barr yesterday that sort of stunning interview said he wasn't quite sure of the law, we can say safely, you can't vote twice. And that's something that no one should be trying to do.

This is seems to be more than anything, Steve, more the President's plan to just sort of sow confusion just to plant seeds of doubt, frankly, to try to bring chaos to the election day picture. We're probably not going to know who wins that night. It could be days, if not weeks, before we get all of the results, depending how fast these states can count the ballots, this huge volume of mail-in votes much more than we've ever seen before. And I think that he is trying to, perhaps anticipating a tough result, at least for some of the mail-in portions of this to try to sort of suggest they'll be invalid in question, the legitimacy of it, maybe sending this even to the courts. And I think that is clearly their tactic here is just to sort of just to sort of create confusion for Americans as we have barrel towards Election Day, frankly, election season.

KORNACKI: That's the other Annie, I have is Labor Day traditionally the start of the fall campaign presidential election year you'll have giant rallies for each candidate. We see the President having sort of a partial rally, you know, at the at the airplane hangar today, obviously, again, the Biden event. The circumstances were just very unusual today for that. But what is this campaign going to look like in the next two months? Is it going to be a Trump mini rally like we saw today over and over again? Are those going to get larger do you expect? Is Biden going to match them with his own? What's it going to look like?

KARNI: Yes, what we saw tonight is what the Trump side of the equation is going to look like. This is what they've settled on as their rally replacement. He flies in. He uses the airport hangar as the venue with the Air Force One behind him. And a nice visual he kind of liked it even before. He made a passing comments night saying like, this is even better. I fly in. I do my thing. I fly out. But this is basically the game plan right now until they can hold over rally.

On the Biden side of the equation, it's TBD. We've seen him venturing out more than he has been. There is pressure on him to visit some of these Midwestern battleground states where there's concern among Democrats that Hillary Clinton didn't campaign there enough and that he needs to be there. I think him traveling to Wisconsin was an important symbolically and psychologically for Democrats. And also just look where they're spending a lot of money. Biden spending a ton of money on television ads in Florida the Trump campaign is basically saying that they have to win Florida. It's their best. It's their best path to re-election. They don't have a very clear one without Florida to 270.

But I think we'll see a lot of Trump the way we saw him tonight and the Biden he will have to weigh listening to the scientific device and modeling what safe travel and crowds look like during the coronavirus pandemic with how much he needs to be out there to rally the vote because even in these polls where he's leading, he's not leading by that much.

KORNACKI: Yes, but you mentioned Florida to wheel every time I look at that map those 29 electoral votes if Trump can't get those, wow, that math becomes, I won't say impossible. Nothing's impossible in this day and age but very close to it from if he can't get Florida.

Annie Karni, Jonathan Lemire, Mara Gay, thank you all for being with us. I really appreciate that.

And coming up a closer look at the President's threat to defend what he calls "anarchistic cities." We're going to ask the former high ranking official from the Justice Department about that and later, we consult with a doctor practicing in the nation's new coronavirus hotspot, the 11th Hour just getting started on a Thursday night.


KORNACKI: Democratic leaders are slamming the President over a threat to cut funding from several cities governed by Democrats. The President issued a memo directing officials to find ways to redirect federal funds from cities determined to be "anarchist jurisdictions." The memo specifically mentions the cities of Portland, Seattle and New York and says, "My administration will not allow federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones. Officials in New York say they will sue the administration if it moves forward with the plan.

And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo posted on Twitter this. "President Trump has actively sought to punish NYC since day one. He let COVID ambush New York. He refuses to provide funds that states and cities must receive to recover. He is not a king. He cannot defund NYC. It's an illegal stunt.

With us for more, Neal Katyal, a veteran of the Justice Department, he's acting Solicitor General. He was the Obama administration's top lawyer before the Supreme Court.

Neal, thank you for joining us, taking a few minutes. You know, I'm seeing this story. I'm remembering that famous old newspaper headline from the 70s when Gerald Ford was president New York City wanted a bailout. He said no, Ford to city dropped dead. That was the story back in the 70s. This is a little different. This isn't a city asking for money. This is a city that already gets federal money, a series of cities that already get federal money. Let me ask you this. What could a president who wanted to defund cities? What could a president do? Is there anything in a situation like this? What would it be?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Well, I don't think -- I mean, I think presidents do have a range of powers, but what they don't have the ability to say label as Trump does a city anarchist, and then defund it. You know, it's ironic because Trump is the true anarchist here. He's the guy who believes no law applies to him. And here he is criticizing cities for anarchy, and it's still ironic since these very cities that he's calling in Arctic are the ones that are investigating his potential illegality with Stormy Daniels and all sorts of stuff in New York and the like.

So, you know, he's made this statement in this memo, which cites nothing, no legal authority whatsoever. No law, no case, nothing. And I think it's going to be struck down faster, Steve, than you can say Covfefe. It is blatantly illegal. And any city like New York that has its funds cut off is going to try and sue. Trump did a version of this a few years ago with sanctuary cities. I represented the city of Philadelphia and challenging that. And there were a bunch of Republican judges who heard those cases. And honestly, they were lay ups, they were easy cases to argue because the law is very clear. Presidents don't get to defund cities just because they don't like the city.

KORNACKI: Let me ask you a very, very layman's question here but what I have seen several times it feels in the last several years of the Trump administration is a subject like this will come up, and then we will find out that there is an obscure law from 1923 or there was a ruling from an appeals court. There was something out there that no layman like me had ever heard of that actually does grant some kind of authority to move in this direction or that direction? If you catch my drift here, are you aware of anything like that here? Something obscure, that could be cited that could be invoked by the administration, if they phrased it a certain way or something like that?

KATYAL: No, Steve, they didn't even -- Trump didn't even try and do that. He has done that with earlier things like the census or DACA and other things and claim there's some obscure law, and even on all those, he's gotten blown out of the water at the U.S. Supreme Court, even though again, it's comprised of justices, majority of whom were nominated by Republican president.

So I don't want your viewers to think that Trump has actually succeeded in finding these obscure laws, he hasn't. So but here he hasn't even bothered to try because the goal here is not to try and actually do anything to make us safer. It's just so he can pretend back tough against cities that he's upset with.

KORNACKI: That's the final question then to write the charge here to from some critics is, hey, this is a stunt. This is a judge shot at getting some headlines for a few hours, a few days. Have you seen any signs of follow through yet?

KATYAL: No. I mean, it's theater and nothing else. And if he did actually try and cut off any funds, which I doubt he will, because it's so illegal, but you know, that's number four. If he doesn't, there'll be sued lawsuits and those lawsuits will be lapse.

KORNACKI: All right. Neal Katyal, thank you for taking a few minutes, appreciate it. And coming up, coronavirus in America's heartland. We're going to talk to a doctor in a state where cases are up 116 percent, that when "The 11th Hour" continues.



GOV. KIM REYNOLDS (R), IOWA: We can open our schools back up, we can open our colleges back up, we can continue to move forward, but we have to have personal responsibility. We have to be aware of what the data is. And then we have to make decisions based on that. So if you have underlying conditions and you're part of a vulnerable population, maybe I wouldn't go to the Iowa State football game next week.


KORNACKI: Just hours after the governor defended Iowa State's plans to host 25,000 fans at their football stadium. The university reversed its decision and now next week season opener will be hosted in an empty stadium as the state experiences a surge in coronavirus cases.

According to a New York Times analysis there are over 2,000 cases stemming from 15 colleges and universities in Iowa. And the issue goes beyond higher education. Reuters reports this quote, Iowa with a population of more than 3.1 million people saw over 8,300 new cases last week, up 116 percent. The state's 14-day average of positive cases stands at 11.2 percent.

As the governor urges personal responsibility earlier this week, the White House Coronavirus Task Force said the state was in the red zone, recommending a mask mandate and bar closures in 61 counties. So far the governor has rejected both.

For more we welcome to the program Dr. Austin Baeth. He's an internal medicine doctor at UnityPoint Health in Des Moines, Iowa. Doctor, thank you for joining us. We put some of the numbers out there, you're saying this is a historic crisis, your words there, historic crisis for Iowa. Give us a sense of what you're seeing that leads you to say that?

DR. AUSTIN BAETH, UNITYPOINT HEALTH INTERNAL AND PALLIATIVE MEDICINE: The numbers really concern me. We are experiencing something that I hope we're prepared for, but I'm concerned we might not be. We don't know what happens next as quickly as these cases have been rising.

And it's clear why. If you walk around town, you'll see that we have a dichotomy within our population. We have quite a large group of people who are taking this seriously and are wearing masks and are avoiding large gatherings.

But there is a large contingent of people who feel confident that they're going to be OK. And I've gotten a sense from I believe the leadership of the state that you must be made of tougher stuff and we must be immune from this disease.

KORNACKI: Well, where are you seeing it? We mentioned some colleges and universities there. Is this spread out throughout the state? Is this evenly distributed? Are there are there particular hotspots, whether it's cities, whether it's type, where are you seeing in particular?

BAETH: We have various counties that are affected gravely, and those tend to be the counties that hold our state universities. They're also the counties that have industries such as meatpacking plants, where the employees are not able to physically distance efficiently. Certainly our higher populated counties such as Polk County, where Des Moines sits is another hot spot.

And then there are counties that are rural and have very low population density where it really isn't as grave of a threat right now. And there's kind of a disconnect with local control where the government is trying to prevent counties that do have these hotspots from enforcing their own mask mandates and other measures that could try to get this pandemic under control.

KORNACKI: Yes, but what specific steps would you like to see the governor take right now?

BAETH: We need a universal mask mandate across the state for people going out into public or at least especially into enclosed indoor areas. We need to stop being reactionary. And even in those counties that aren't experiencing as high of rates right now, we need to act preventively rather than in a reactionary stance.

We need broader testing and contact tracing. It would be nice to have facilities for isolation for those who kind of safely quarantine at home and we need to have the flexibility to avoid opening up our in person classes for those communities and cities are experiencing high rates of spread.

KORNACKI: All right, Dr. Austin Baeth, thank you for taking a few minutes. Appreciate that.

BAETH: Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

KORNACKI: All right and coming up, the polls keep coming in one after another a week now after the end of the Republican Convention, we will look at where the race stands in three critical swing states when The 11th Hour continues.



KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: A week after the conventions. The President will be way ahead.


KORNACKI: The now former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway in a recent interview for The Circus on Showtime. The political picture though a week after the Republican National Convention remains a decidedly challenging one for the President.

Three new polls in states that Trump won in 2016 show him trailing Joe Biden. He's behind by three points in Florida, eight points in Pennsylvania and in North Carolina Trump trails Biden by two.

With us tonight, Dan Balz, Chief Correspondent covering National Politics, the Presidency and Congress for The Washington Post. And Mike Murphy, Republican Strategist and Co-director of the Center for the Future at the University of Southern California. He's also co-host of the Hacks on Tap podcast. Thanks to both of you for being with us.

Dan, let me start with you. Reading that introduction there, I think I got some flashbacks probably around this time in 2016. I was in front of that board over there saying, hey, look, Trump's down in Florida, Trump's down in Pennsylvania, Trump's down and all of these key swing state polls.

The fact that Trump trailed so much in 2016, before winning comes up frequently. I'm just curious. Are there some key similarities in key differences? You see, when you look now at the political picture versus that 2016 campaign? What would they be?

DAN BALZ, THE WASHINGTON POST CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Well, I would say that the similarities are that Trump is an unpredictable candidate. And if he finds discipline and a message that actually begins to work, and is consistent about that, then this race could look different in late October than it does today.

He became a more disciplined candidate in 2016, down the stretch, and I know that there are Democrats who are aware of that and worry about that. I think the differences obviously are that he's not running against Secretary Clinton. He's running against Joe Biden. Joe Biden is a different kind of candidate, one who is less unpopular, if you will been Hillary Clinton was.

And I think, harder to demonize in the way that the President likes to demonize an opponent. He's been he's been working very hard at that obviously, starting well before the convention, but at the convention in particular, it is not clear how much effect that has had In the week or so after the convention.

KORNACKI: Yes, Mike, Dan raises an interesting point. We've talked about this sudden those closing days of the 2016 campaign is forgotten now, but Trump wasn't tweeting, was reading from the script at his rallies, not a version of him. We've really seen the last few years.

When you look at the final two months of this campaign, you look at where Trump is right now. Can you see a set of events? Can you see a strategy and approached by Trump that he might realistically take? They could get him to victory?

MIKE MURPHY, CENTER FOR THE POLITICAL FUTURE, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Well, I think it's possible. It's just unlikely, you know, the country wants to fire him. And it's been that way for a while the history of the Trump presidency has been a string of Republican punishment at the ballot box in midterms and special elections. And it's also been a history of Donald Trump never kind of finding that discipline to use the office to help himself politically. Instead, it's his grievance and tweeting and childish behavior.

So what Trump would need to win is for the Republican white college educated suburbs and the independent voters there, strictly women that come back to republican normalcy are better. And is that possible? Yes. Particularly, Biden screws up a lot of things, including the debates. Is that likely? Probably not, you know, in the polling we see now and I would say, I'd give it another week to let the convention kind of impact sink in.

And the current fight they're having over law and order where Biden I think is technically doing well. It probably wants to change the subject, the prosecute Trump and other things another week or so that then I have some indications if there's any real tightening going on in the race for right now, Biden is in a fairly strong position.

KORNACKI: Dan Balz, let me ask you another comparison question here this time in terms of the opposition to Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton as a candidate in the campaign that she ran the strategic choices made by her campaign in 2016. How would you compare what she was doing? As she how she handles her campaign versus what the Biden campaign is doing and how he's handling his campaign?

BALZ: Well, I think one big difference is that in 2016, she simply thought that she could disqualify Donald Trump, and therefore people would not vote for him. And what we found out on Election Day is that there were people who did not think he was qualified to be president, who nonetheless voted for him.

I think the Biden campaign is taking a different tack. I mean, Mike's right, the President is up against stiffer odds right now, because he has a record and he has four years in office and people have made judgments and most people have made firm judgments about what they think about him.

But the other thing that the Biden campaign is doing is they are trying to keep the focus on what they believe is -- are the two overriding issues one, the coronavirus pandemic and Trump's handling of it. And that is, you know, a very significant vulnerability for the President.

The other thing he's trying to do is to say to people but the chaos and the turmoil and I'm not talking about the street violence, just the general chaos in the country at this point is a function of the way this President has handled his job. And if people want a change from that the only way to do it is to elect Biden. So he wants to hammer on those two issues.

But as Mike says, right now, there's a discussion on law and order and that that is playing closer to Trump's turf, whether it's going to be effective. We do have to wait a bit to see.

KORNACKI: Mike, let me ask you about one particular state. We brought this up earlier, Florida. Now it's the President's initial home state. He won that by a point and a half in 2016. The polling another one out today has him trailing in Florida. He's been trailing among senior citizens in particular in Florida. That'd be a major reversal from 2016. 29 electoral votes that Florida has looked to be going one direction in some recent elections, only to end up somewhere else on Election Day. What's your sense of what's happening? If Florida right now.

MURPHY: Well, you're absolutely right because of the Electoral College map, Florida is the big hammer because if Joe Biden can win Florida he only needs one other state in kind of the current map, you know, he doesn't have to sweep the entire Great Lakes region.

So it's a huge opportunity for Biden and the polling is showed a Biden lead almost non stop. There have been two months where Trump's they hadn't the average since you know, last October, so it's definitely a competitive state but the Republicans will say they've won the last six governor races down there. They have perfected control all three elected branches since 2011. It's my own political stomping ground.

And I think when you look at Florida what people forget as big as it is the last two presidential races there. Even though there were almost, you know, 14 million registered voters in Florida, the last two have been decided by less than 115,000 votes.

So Florida is always kind of on the on the properties there. Excuse me. And so you know the and that's why it Republican voters against Trump we've launched a big campaign we call Orange Crush there because we believe those 300,000 or so voters will really decide the presidential race.

KORNACKI: And there's a little dust out the old Tim Russert clip there Florida, Florida, Florida from 20 years ago. Mike Murphy, Dan Balz, thank you both for joining us. Appreciate that.

And coming up, in update on a tense situation in upstate New York where another black man has died under controversial circumstances when The 11th Hour continues.


KORNACKI: The mayor of Rochester, New York is taking action today following the death of a 41-year-old black man after an encounter with police. Daniel Prude died back in March. And just a warning disturbing video of the incident has been released. It's in our report tonight. That report from NBC News correspondent Kathy Park. She is in Rochester


KATHY PARK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight the mayor of Rochester, New York suspending with pay all seven officers involved in the controversial arrest of Daniel Prude.

MAYOR LOVELY WARREN, ROCHESTER, NEW YORK: Institutional and structural racism led to Daniel Prude's death. I won't deny it

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the ground. Put your hands on your back.

PARK: The footage from March but released this week by his family's attorney and Black Lives Matter activists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And don't move all right man.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please don't move.

PRUDE: Yes, sir.

PARK: Shows prude naked, shouting and being restrained with handcuffs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One male in custody.

PARK: Police had proved smashed some windows on a street before they arrived. An officer say they put a spit hood improves head because he was spitting and said he had COVID-19.

PRUDE: Give me that gun. I mean it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you're going to stay down. You're going to stay down.

PRUDE: All right. Take this off of me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I got him. I got him. I'm already--

PRUDE: Trying to kill me.

PARK: Officers restrained Prude on this snowy street. Later he becomes unresponsive. One officer notices that Prude has thrown up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This all water.


PARK: EMTs later rendered aid. Prude's family says a 41-year-old died seven days later. His brother says he had initially called 911, fearing that Prude was having a mental health breakdown.

JOE PRUDE, DANIEL PRUDE'S BROTHER: They could now show type of respect for human life.

PARK: Prude's family is now demanding justice.

J. PRUDE: I would like to see people prosecuted for their actions. And that's it.

PARK: The police chief says the department immediately launched an internal and criminal investigation in March.

LA'RON SINGLETARY, ROCHESTER POLICE CHIEF: This is not a cover up. Let me be clear when I say that. There is no cover whatsoever. We're going to take a look at this.

PARK: The police declined to provide a cause of death, citing the ongoing investigation and a possible lawsuit. In an autopsy report provided by the Prude family attorney, the medical examiner said his death was caused by complications of asphyxia in the setting of a physical restraint, excited delirium and acute PCPs intoxication.

The case is also under review by New York's Attorney General.

(on camera): Before the suspensions were announced the Rochester Police Union said it had concerns about the incident and would gather all relevant information but so many here in the community still want to know why it took nearly six months for the suspensions to happen.


KORNACKI: Our own Kathy Park reporting. We're going to have more 11th Hour after a short break.


KORNACKI: We'd like to point out at the top of this broadcast the number of days remaining until Election Day but worth noting that tomorrow ballots begin going out in the state of North Carolina. Voting will soon be underway in North Carolina and other states will join shortly thereafter.

By the end of September, the start of October, really, this election will be in full swing. And then on election day, in November, the rest of the country those who haven't already voted by mail or in early person voting will then cast their balance as well. Election season beginning right now. That's our broadcast for tonight on behalf of all of my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.


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