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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, September 8, 2020

Guests: Barbara McQuade, Steve Schmidt, Irwin Redlener

Summary

President Donald Trump holds North Carolina rally amid the pandemic. Trump ramps up "law and order" rhetoric, attacks Biden at crowded NC rally. Trump says he spends his own cash on campaign. DOJ seeks to defend in E. Jean Carroll lawsuit. Trump warns of violence and mobs on campaign trail. President Trump denies calling U.S. war dead losers and suckers. Drug-company CEOs sign pledge on COVID-19 vaccine.

Transcript

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: John, how much is going to put up personally?

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Oh Lawrence, so I'll let you and I admit that we both are -- like we can say right here that you and I agree that the answer that is the big old goose egg, the big fat donor, a big stinking Harry zero. You're good at picking up Donald Trump's lies, Lawrence, that one was not -- you don't have to be as good as Lawrence O'Donnell as calling the lies of Donald Trump to know that one was a lie.

O'DONNELL: John Heilemann gets tonight's LAST WORD, and once again the LAST WORD is lie. Thank you, John. I really appreciate it. That is tonight's LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, I'm glad to be back with you as we come on the air, day 1,328 of the Trump administration, 56 days remain until the Presidential Election. And tonight the President is driving home that law and order message on the campaign trail he held his 21st campaign rally of the year 2020.

In North Carolina tonight, he mocked the idea of social distancing. He said up Biden victory will crush the economy destroyed the U.S. suburbs. Indeed much of the crowd was unmasked. Seating was free pandemic standard seating, while those behind the president in the curated camera angle crowd were wearing masks for the most part. Here is some of what the President had to say about the pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We built the greatest economy in the history of the world. We were forced to close it because of the China plague that came in and now we've opened it and by the way your state should be open. Your state should be open.

My administration is following the science protecting those at highest risk while allowing those at lower risk to safely return to work, into school, go back to school. Go back to school. You ever see the statistics on young people? I don't know they just -- they have a great immune system. Let's get some of that immune system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Trump again cast doubt on mail-in voting again urged his supporters to vote by mail if they wish but then go to the polls to make sure their vote was recorded. He attacked Kamala Harris saying she could never be the first woman president, had this to say about Joe Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Biden's plan is to appease the domestic terrorists. My plan is to arrest them. So on November 3, America faces a very simple choice. Do what you want. Vote for the candidate back by violent, left wing rioters, if you have to or do what you want to vote for the candidate backed by the selfless heroes of law enforcement and just about everybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: This as the New York Times reports that the Trump campaign has lost its massive cash advantage over the Biden effort. Maggie Haberman, Shane Goldmacher write together, "The 1.1 billion his campaign and the party raised from the beginning of 2019 through July, more than 800 million has already been spent. Now some people inside the campaign are forecasting what was once unthinkable, a cash crunch with less than 60 days until the election."

In the Bloomberg News reporting today the President has discussed spending as much of -- as much as 100 million of his own money on the reelection campaign, more on that in a bit.

Earlier today, the President was asked about funding his own campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We need it anymore. I put it up personally like I did in the primers last time. In the 2016 primers I put up a lot of money. If I have to, I'll do it here but we don't have to because we have double and maybe even triple what we had a number of years ago, four years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, you spent 60 million dollars in that primary. How much are you talking about putting in your campaign now?

TRUMP: Whatever it takes. We have to win. This is the most important election in the history of our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, the President still denying and trying to distance himself from reports that he privately called our veterans suckers and losers as first reported by the Atlantic magazine. Here's what he said earlier this evening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's called disinformation. They give a phony deal out. They did it two days ago with the military. There's nobody loves the military more than me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, today over 24,000 new cases of coronavirus were reported in our country, overall there have been over 6.3 million infections that we're aware of, over 190,000 deaths now.

Today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced a slimmed-down coronavirus economic growth relief bill, but not expected to advance. However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the bill pathetic.

We're also following some legal news related to the President tonight. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion today seeking to take over the President's defense from private lawyers in a defamation suit brought by the New York author E. Jean Carroll. And yes, that would mean you would pay to defend Trump in a case that involved originally and alleged sexual assault. We'll have more on this in just a moment.

But first, we're also hearing much more tonight from the President's former lawyer, Michael Cohen. He spoke with Rachel Maddow about his new book disloyal and offered this theory tonight about what might happen if the president loses this election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP'S FORMER LAWYER: My theory is that if he loses, there's still the time between the election and the time that the next president would take office. And in during that time, my suspicion is that he will resign as president, he will allow Mike Pence to take over and he will then go ahead and have Mike Pence pardon him. It's a very -- let's just say it's a very Nixon type of event. And it was probably discuss between Roger Stone and President Trump at some point, that this is certainly one way to avoid any potential prison talk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Here for our leadoff discussion on that nice note, on a Tuesday night, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize winning White House Reporter for The Washington Post, Alexi McCammond, Political Reporter over at Axios and Barbara McQuade, Veteran Federal Prosecutor, former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Good evening, and welcome to you all. Ashley, I watched that campaign event tonight in North Carolina, linking Biden to China fell flat with the crowd are we to assume it's going to be head on law and order every day from here on out?

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Partially yes, the President has been casting about for a clear message on the former vice president. That's why you see him testing out, still a number of nicknames. But in talking to people in the President orbit, in the White House, law and order is one of the themes that they believe is effective, that they believe resonates and that they believe resonates, most importantly, with suburban women in some of those swing states that they need to win. Now, the President sort of acknowledged it in his own remarks that he can be, as he would say, too tough and go a bit overboard that's something people in his orbit are worried about. You heard the President kind of parody and their concerns, but in the President's mind, he can never be tough enough and you're going to see that dark imagery in what he calls Biden's America, of course, apparently is America as the president, but it's dark, scary shadowy without tough law and order president like President Trump claims to be.

WILLIAMS: Alexi, related question to you because the President is still searching it seems for an effective line of attack against Senator Kamala Harris. I'll play for you what he tried out with the crowd tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Nobody likes her. She could never be the first woman president, she could never be. That would be an insult to our country. By the way, you know who's further left and crazy, Bernie, Kamala, Kamala, Kamala.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So Alexi, there you have it, he's apparently practicing her name and nobody likes her. How's that going to work?

ALEXI MCCAMMOND, AXIOS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, it's laughable. It's like all four of us are laughing right now. I mean, if that's the thing, President Trump doesn't really know how to brand either Joe Biden or Senator Kamala Harris. So you see him in real time trying to perfect these bits by making fun of the way that her name is pronounced by mispronouncing it by saying that nobody likes her, which, you know, is something that many people default to say in particular about women who are running for elected office. Oh, there's just something we don't like about her and at first that's based in sexism.

But that's the thing, President Trump's that what he wants to paint her as this crazy liberal as he says. He wants to paint her as a radical leftist, remind people that she's from California use that as an explanation or evidence to say that she is more liberal than anyone. And we'll be pulling Joe Biden to the left, because he hopes that it'll build on this argument for him and his reelection campaign that Joe Biden simply isn't fit to be president. He's a puppet they say who's controlled by, I think President Trump has said dark forces. You know, they'll make the argument that Kamala Harris is doing that, but that's to say that they're pitching to voters. This idea of America as Ashley was saying, that's scary because they're arguing that Biden isn't tough on crime and the way that Trump says he is.

But also because they're saying that his running mate Senator Harris is too left wing, too radical for, you know, the America that he wants to see the way forward, which, you know, of course, it's just not true that she's more radical than, you know, anyone else.

WILLIAMS: And Barb, here's why we needed an accomplished lawyer on this panel tonight. The DOJ in this motion seems to be saying, Mr. President, let us be your lawyer under Attorney General Barr. Barbara, my question to you is, first of all, remind people where we first heard the name E. Jean Carroll, most of us what linked her now forever to Donald Trump in history, and just how unusual this would be for what was your department of justice?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, Jean Carroll filed a lawsuit for defamation after she accused President Trump of raping her in the dressing room at a department store in the 1990s. He called her a liar said, it didn't happen. It wasn't true, and added insult to injury by saying he wouldn't do it because she's not my type. So she filed a lawsuit for defamation against President Trump for some, his personal statement, what is seems like an egregious use of taxpayer dollars here is today in that case, the Department of Justice filed a motion to substitute the United States as the defendant in that case, on the theory that President Trump was acting within the scope of his employment when he made those allegedly defamatory comments. And I think that is strikes most of us as an insulting use of our taxpayer dollars to pay for his defense of his lawsuit.

And what's more, if he's successful in that motion, if the judge decides that that motion should prevail, then that would mean that the lawsuit will end because if the United States is the party, it cannot be sued for defamation under the theory of sovereign immunity. So a lot is at stake here, including possibly even just stalling all of the discovery in this case until past the election, even if he's not ultimately successful.

WILLIAMS: And Barb, on a personal level, I know you left behind a lot of friends career types at the Department of Justice. How must they view this one? And two, who do they see about this if they disagree?

MCQUADE: Well, it just seems like another in a long line of abuse by William Barr, to use the Department of Justice to protect Donald Trump and to be more his private law firm than the attorney for the people. And who do they see about this? I don't know. I mean, I think most people who work in the Department of Justice want to do their jobs, want to do them well and effectively, but I think that they care about the interest of justice and every time there is one of these hits and one of these blows, it's a blow to morale because it means that the Justice Department's reputation nationally takes a blow. And when they stand up in court on a different case, the reputation and credibility that they've always enjoyed is a little bit more tarnished tomorrow than it was yesterday.

WILLIAMS: Ashley, the characters around this president, always colorful never disappoint chief among them. Mr. Cohen, who has a new book out fascinating interview preceding our broadcast tonight in primetime with Rachel Maddow, I know you have read the book, is there anything in it that is going to turn voters away from or perhaps freshly toward Donald Trump?

PARKER: It's a great question. And what this book does is it tells you some new information, some new nuggets, but that likely will not demonstrably change anyone's mind toward the President. So for instance, an interesting bit that he writes about is the President saying that basically minorities are not my people. He says, he's not going to get the Hispanic vote or the black vote because they're too stupid to vote for him. He uses some very racist language to describe black leaders racist presumptions, to describe black leaders, is very critical of Nelson Mandela has what Michael Cohen describes is hatred and contempt for former President Obama.

So again, some of the specifics are new. But if you have been following this presidency, not even that closely, you know that the President is someone who uses racially inflammatory language and downright racist language, and it either turns you off, or you have made your peace with it and are going to vote for him in spite of that, so at this point, I think President Trump very much is a known quantity which is why what both campaigns are doing it is such a special sliver of people they can try to feel off.

WILLIAMS: And Alexi, in your world of covering politics something landed like a grenade today and that was new polling out of Florida, showing this and even race. I do note that Kamala Harris is flying down there, rare for the Democrats during a pandemic, i.e. travel at all. What should we glean from that?

MCCAMMOND: Yeah, I mean, so on Thursday, Senator Harris is heading to Florida, as you just mentioned, that's her second visit to a battleground state this week alone. The first was Wisconsin yesterday. Thursday, she's going to Florida where he just said the polls are showing a tide or really tightening race. I mean, the other thing, of course, that we should point out is that there are Florida polls out recently that's doing Biden lagging behind where Hillary Clinton was with Hispanic voters, which of course could be decisive in a state like Florida, which is expected to have a tight race, no matter what. And of course, it's something that's personal to President Trump. He likes to play in Florida as his home state. He wants to invest a lot in there to fight as much as he can to keep a hold of it. But, you know, Harris is signaling that the Biden-Harris ticket really cares about going after that state and meeting with as many voters as they can while they're there.

WILLIAMS: Three of our longtime friends to help us start off our abbreviated workweek. Ashley Parker, Alexi McCammond, Barbara McQuade, our thanks on this Tuesday night.

And coming up, if the Trump campaign were a company, you might think it's going under. Where has all the money gone? Two journalists who've reported extensively on Donald Trump and his money will join us next.

And later the President predicts a coronavirus vaccine just around the corner. But the science doesn't seem to agree we will get a second opinion as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on this back to work Tuesday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Welcome back. And we have more details tonight as to exactly how the Trump campaign squandered its $200 million cash advantage over Joe Biden more specifically, what happened to just under a billion dollars raised? According to The New York Times reporting, "Among the splashiest and perhaps most questionable purchases was a pair of Super Bowl ads the campaign reserved for $11 million. According to Advertising Analytics, more than it has spent on TV and some top battleground states. It was a vanity splurge that allowed Mr. Trump to match the billionaire Mike Bloomberg spy for the big game."

Well, with us tonight, Shane Goldmacher, New York Times National Reporter who shares the byline on that report and back with us Andrea Bernstein, she's a Peabody Award winning, co-host of the podcast, Trump Incorporated, I'll get through this, a joint production of ProPublica and New York's NPR Station WNYC. She was last with us to talk about her book conveniently titled, American Oligarchs: the Kushners, the Trumps and the Marriage of Money and Power. There it is. It's a lot.

Welcome to you both. Shane, it's sometimes unfair to ask a journalist to look at their own work dispassionately, but I'd like you to do just that. What are some of the standouts? If you're telling someone in the 62nd version, what you uncovered about how this campaign has spent its money?

SHANE GOLDMACHER, THE NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, I think the first standout is that Donald Trump raised $1.1 billion with Republican parties since the beginning of 2019. And nearly 33 cents of every dollar raised, went to fundraising costs. So an enormous share of the money was just sunk into the act of raising the money. And at this point, really, the story is as you started, he began the general election period with close to a $200 million edge over Joe Biden. And the question that you and others had was, can Joe Biden raise enough money to compete or could Donald Trump bury Joe Biden financially in this race?

Now by mid summer, it was clear that Joe Biden was competitive. And now we're entering the homestretch. And there are some Trump officials who are talking about concerns about a cash crunch and looking at getting dramatically outspent by Joe Biden. And so from the story, I was looking into where exactly did the $800 million that the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee's go? And the answer is, you know, that there are questions along a lot of Republicans as to where it went because Donald Trump is behind a key juncture in this race and looking at getting out spent on the airwaves almost for the duration going forward.

WILLIAMS: Andrea, President loved saying he's willing to drop hundreds of millions of dollars on his campaign, spends some of his personal fortune. Does he have that kind of money?

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, WNYC & PROPUBLICA, TRUMP, INC. PODCAST: Well, according to his disclosures, he does not. His recent financial disclosure forms should between 50 million and 100 and $50 million in assets. So there is a real question about how much money Donald Trump has and he always has a lot of money when he wants it to look like he has a lot of money and then not a lot of money when the tax assessor's and whatnot come calling.

He has a unitary business model. And this reminds me of one of his casinos in Atlantic City went bust because regulator said he renovated it to appeal to high rollers when its market was middle class people. And that looks like what he's done with his campaign that he has spent all of this money on things that most campaigns would not spend money on. And now in the homestretch, he's sort of looking around the couch cushions to make sure that he's got enough money to fund the remainder of the campaign. We shouldn't be surprised because this is the way Donald Trump has run his business with many, many failures. And then when he needs the money, he actually borrows it or asks banks or others to sweep in where he has failed.

WILLIAMS: And Andrea, your inferences on point it's on brand for him to play the billionaire rich guy, even though financial disclosures may show another picture. Andrea, I'm wondering, this may be unanswerable. If you're a donor and you've already given to this effort you can't be psyched by Shane's story in the New York Times because if you are a donor, the one thing you can depend on is they're going to come back to you?

BERNSTEIN: Well, this really shouldn't be a surprise to anybody. I mean, just look what happened with the convention. It was going to be in Charlotte and then it was going to be in Jacksonville and then back it was at the White House and all kinds of money was spent basically indulging Trump's wins as happened with his business as well. So I mean, there are already stories about donor concerns. The question is, are you going to throw good money after bad or maybe you are because you hope that Trump can win.

And one of the things I talk about in my book is how friendly he's been to the kinds of people that donate to his campaign and that he has a real engine going because people pay him money or pay money to his campaign and he gives them favors and that's what we've seen throughout his presidency. So there is a big motivation for them to keep donating, even if they're unhappy with the way their money is being spent.

WILLIAMS: Shane, are the long knives out in plain English for Brad Parscale?

GOLDMACHER: I mean, the long knives are certainly out for him. He's already been removed as the campaign manager and he took on a big outsized personality in the campaign from the start. But look, as Andrea mentioned, a lot of these expenditures were designed for Trump pleasing purposes. That Super Bowl ad, this is a very pricey expenditure and this is something that Donald Trump was pushing for to compete with Mike Bloomberg when he was running for president. It's very hard to compete with one of the richest people in America.

There's millions of dollars in regard to Trump's businesses at Mar-a-Lago at the state house at the Washington DC hotel that he has. There's just a number of places where Donald Trump's campaign has been spending money aimed chiefly at Donald Trump, including on television ads in the Washington DC media market, but they've spent more than a million dollars earlier in this year, despite the fact that it is not considered a key battleground. But there is one very important viewer in Washington DC and that's the president of the White House.

WILLIAMS: Shane, Andrea, our thanks to you both with thanks for your continued great reporting on this front and others, I greatly appreciate having you join us tonight.

Coming up for us, one of our next guests, writes Trump's reelection message is nothing more than "undisguised white supremacy" more on that from the author of that quote when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Remember this, if Biden wins the violent mobs, you see these mobs all over the place. They're biting people. They're Biden states and cities that Democrat states. If they win, the mobs win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: As the president yet again pushes his message of fear and violence columnist Eugene Robinson writes the following quote, all of this is nothing less than undisguised white supremacy. Trump wants white voters to fear the Black Lives Matter movement. He wants them just see it not as a demand for justice and fairness, but as a moral threat to white privilege to fear the very concept of white privilege as some kind of attack.

Back with us again tonight, Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The Washington Post. And Steve Schmidt, veteran political strategist who led John McCain's campaign effort has since left the party. He was among the founders in fact of the Lincoln Project dedicated to the defeat of Trump and Trumpism.

Eugene, like you I continue to be amazed at how much ambiguous reporting there is of this president. The line you have authored is unambiguous, undisguised white supremacy. Explain.

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Well, what President Trump is doing is completely disguised look at his first look at his approach to the racial justice protests. Protesters are all moms and anarchists and he's all but called them bad on brace I guess.

And he's completely -- his entire message is law in order, it's that you white Americans who might be made uncomfortable by some of this. You're being persecuted. You're being set upon. Your communities are being put in danger by the protests and not just by the protest but by the very idea that there is such a thing as systemic racism in the United States, and he rejects that, and he wants to -- he wants his photos to reject that too. And to be frightened of it.

He's campaigning on a pledge not to enforce the 1968 Fair Housing Act. He's promising not to enforce that law and saying that if Biden, the Democrats are elected and do enforce the law as every president since 1968, the force of law, the suburbs will be destroyed because they'll move to low income housing next to you and your, frankly, white suburb.

It's barely coded language for black and brown people will be moving next door, and they will bring crime and drugs and we haven't seen as explicitly racist. A national campaign is this one since George Ross's campaign in 1968, with the exception that Ross was perhaps a bit more subtle and sophisticated in his rhetoric than Donald Trump is.

WILLIAMS: And Steve Schmidt every good hearted evolved person likes to think that good hearted evolved people know the truth when they hear this kind of thing from the president when they see him on social media. And now time for some straight talk because out of the blue this weekend, comes a big assist for Donald Trump in the form of a Black Lives Matter protest in Pittsburgh. Perhaps you've seen the video president tweeted about this as well and right on schedule, people are eating outside they're accosted by protesters.

They got in the face of people food was eaten off their plates stuff was broken. People were taunted. This is as intolerant as the worst of the right. I think we can agree. This is a clear favor to Donald Trump and Steve you saw on social media yourself a million references in some form or fashion people saying, this is how Trump wins. So Steve Schmidt, what's the challenge to the left to navigate these waters?

STEVE SCHMIDT, FMR. REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think, good evening, Brian. Good evening, Eugene. I think it's important to remember that when we talk about John Lewis, when we talk about more in Luther King when we talk about that generation of civil rights leaders, they didn't just have great moral authority. They also had very wise political strategy. They were brilliant strategists. They were able to move public opinion, they were able to convince the majority of the country that their cause was infused with righteousness that Bull Connor and all of them were wrong. They were on the wrong side of history. They were on the wrong side of God's grace. They were on the wrong side of morality.

This doesn't do it. Right? So when you see protests like that it fits into the narrative that Donald Trump is trying to deliver to the country. It fits into the propaganda that you see on the Trump supporting right wing networks and the people that are engaged in that are helping Donald Trump be reelected President of the United States and I think it's important to understand that at this point.

You know, Trumpism is an ideology, and it was announced clearly at the Republican Convention. You saw breathtaking dishonesty, utter lawlessness into co-option have all of the symbols of the Republic for a partisan purpose to express authority over the rest of the country by the President who stands behind that podium, who stands behind the steel, but behind the steel the presidency.

And Trumpism needs to be confronted. It needs to be confronted on its merits. You know, when Donald Trump essentially goes out and declares through that convention, I am the truth, I am the law, I am the state, we need to push back on it as a as a country.

But when you see the type of division, the type of intolerance, the type of mob protest, where people are out there, in this pandemic, just trying to eat trying to get away from it all, it feeds into this idea to this division, which I think is a dystopian narrative of the country.

But again, so much of the media is shaped by the narratives that take place out on the fringes and so we're in a dangerous our, country's in a profound crisis. And Trump is trying to stoke all of this, because of the central fact of the races that we're about to see the 200,000 debt American. They didn't have to be from a pandemic that rage is out of control. And there's just completely wiped out the American way of life over the last nine months is his country.

WILLIAMS: Eugene, I can give you 30 seconds before we have to run to a break but is our aspects elements of the left guilty of tying up with a bow and hand delivering a plotline to Donald Trump that fits beautifully fits his narrative.

ROBINSON: Well, just two quick things. One specifically about that Pittsburgh protests if you read the coverage in the reputable press of that protest, there is a div -- there is another side of that story and this was the -- if you talk to the protesters, there was incoming as well as outgoing in terms of abuse, and sort of jeering, and so it's not quite all contained in that.

But the other thing I would point out is that Dr. King and John Lewis, yes, brilliant political tacticians. Always often, frequently, all the time told you're pushing too hard. You're pushing too far. We have to slow down. The country's not ready yet. And they all I think thought back to the quote from Frederick Douglass in a power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did it, never will.

WILLIAMS: Great points and of course the danger of the clip in Pittsburgh is it's the clip that gets out and gets distributed. Not both sides of the story, no matter how hard good journalists work on said both sides of story.

Both of these gentlemen have agreed to stay with us. As we said, we'll come back after we fit in a break and we'll talk about the President's widely quoted derisive comments about those who serve and those we have lost who rest forever beneath the headstones on hallowed ground.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Let's continue our discussion still with us tonight. Eugene Robinson, Steve Schmidt. Hey, Steve, while the President was denying he ever said anything like the quotes in The Atlantic article about the military, he went on to criticize Pentagon senior leadership and for good measure, attack John McCain. Again, as remarkable as it remains that we are talking about an American president attacking a POW who was tortured to the point of physical disfigurement and spend every living breathing day of his adult life in service to our country, your response?

SCHMIDT: Well, of course Donald Trump said what he is accused of saying because he said it throughout his campaign and throughout his presidency. He has repeatedly attacked the service of some of America's great heroes like John McCain, prisoners of war famously saying he likes the people who weren't captured their heroes because they were captured and that's the only reason. He is disparaged the service through his attacks on Goldstar parents.

Look, we know Donald Trump said these vulgar things because he can't imagine and doesn't have it within him. The ability to conceive of the love, the sacrifice, the commitment to service that so many Americans feel.

So, let's look ahead about a week or a couple days from now, Brian, three days from now to the 19th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. What happened that day? We saw every cop and every fireman in the city of new work -- in the city of New York and the surrounding boroughs go into the towers. If they were off duty they came. Were they suckers? Were they fools?

What about the young men and women who raised their hands and took the oath to serve the country after the country was attacked on September 12? What about that, suckers? Fools, losers. What about the man who landed on Omaha Beach or the Rangers who stormed point to hock.

Our freedoms in this country have been paid for in blood through sacrifice from the battlefields of Lexington and Concord to Gettysburg to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, to the Omaha and Utah Beaches on Normandy. It is a grievous, and it is a fundamental betrayal. This is a faithless man.

This is a man demonstrating one of his great deficiencies as president. We see every day his intellectual deficiencies. He refuses to read, he refuses to prepare. We see every day his mental deficiencies, his attacks, his tweeting through the night, his anger, his rage, his distemper. This an example of his moral deficiency. He has a total incapacity to lead.

And part of the reason the country is in such a profound crisis is because of that last deficiency, which we don't talk nearly enough about, which is that moral failure. No president has ever failed his duties more spectacularly in that moral dimension, a commander in chief who is utterly faithless, to the men and women under his command, and utterly faithless to the ideas and ideals of the country that they are willing to sacrifice their lives for.

It is a despicable moment in this rancid presidency. It is a horrendous hour in the history of this country that we have a president of the United States, who is so contemptuous of the Guardians in the Sentinels of American freedom, our military.

WILLIAMS: Steve Schmidt, our thanks I commend to the attention of our viewers, the latest column by Eugene Robinson. Gentlemen, thank you both very much for joining us tonight. Coming up for us, the new hurdle and the push for a vaccine, the one that would coincide with the most important data on Donald Trump's calendar that and more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: This is big. The top executives of nine drug companies in Europe and the US pledged jointly today they won't try to get vaccine approval until all safety standards have been met. Washington Post calling this quote, an extraordinary effort to bolster public faith in a vaccine amid President Trump's rush to introduce one before election day.

Let's talk about it tonight with Dr. Irwin Redlener pediatrics physician, senior research scholar at Columbia University's Earth Institute, also happens to be the founding director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness with an expertise in pandemics. So Doctor, How extraordinary is this pledge, these companies saying in effect, we will not be rushed.

IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: So, Brian, good evening. So, you know if this was normal times, this was a normal president. We'd like to see that. But right now we have such an horrendously confusing situation with big time politics, interfering big time and all kinds of medical and public health decisions. Who knows what to make of this pledge?

I'm glad they're making it. But what does it mean actually if they're rushing out the vaccine before it's actually been sufficiently tested? I don't know what this pledge is actually supposed to tell us. Other than I'm glad to hear that they that they'll try not to be dishonest about it.

But the fact of the matter is, we need a really long period of testing this, that any new vaccine in human beings to make sure that it's effective and safe. So we stand sort of confused and glad they did it. But to what end? I don't really know.

WILLIAMS: And let's talk about the other big story in the vaccine business and the vaccine effort tonight. AstraZeneca has paused as I understand it, a vaccine trial because of an illness among one of the participants.

REDLENER: Yes, it might actually be more than one person actually, Brian, this is what people are telling me and I'm concerned. But this is not unusual in the course of vaccine development. But it is the reason why we really do demand long-term testing and administration of the vaccine then waiting to see if complications arise. Because what we don't want to see such complications happening in large numbers once we start distributing the vaccine to, you know, every American, for example.

So we have a lot of reasons to be very careful and cautious and to and the pause is completely justified. We'll see what happens in the next steps of this whole process, Brian, but there's reason for concern, of course.

WILLIAMS: I know you spoke with Dr. Fauci recently. Is he an optimistic man on this front?

REDLENER: You know, I had a really great conversation with Dr. Fauci yesterday and, you know, about Operation Warp Speed, and what does this all mean, and why are we rushing this and he explains it this way. And I think there's validity to what he says and I think the vast one already have some feel to trust him.

So what he says is that, let's say the pandemic is raging with lots of new surges starting, you know, in a couple of months, we might want to take the risk of having a not fully tested vaccine be administered of people because the fact the pandemic, the outbreak may be worse than the potential complications from the virus, from the vaccine rather.

So this is a question of risk versus benefit. Is the situation so bad that we need to take a take a chance on an untested, fully untested vaccine? Or do we wait until we're completely convinced that there won't be complications? It's going to be a judgment call and depends a lot on what the conditions are in the country. In terms of the outbreaks and how severe they are from.

WILLIAMS: The trust Fauci artwork behind you, indeed speaks for you and a whole lot of people watching. Dr. Irwin Redlener, thank you so very much for coming back on our broadcast with us.

Coming up. It's that season meaning. if you can name it, it's happening somewhere in this country a explanation coming up after this.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we leave you tonight, imagine you live in Colorado. You're watching the local news forecast tonight and it goes something like this, freeze advisories in the mountain Northwest elsewhere the forecast is for fire in the West Central and Northeast sections of the state. Snow expected from north to south through the central portion of the state.

As more than one person said today on social media in some form or fashion today, this is the most 2020 forecast imaginable. And where fire is concerned. Here's the graphic for that, it's all eyes to the west. As fire season not yet at its peak, remember, is already a mean one.

This was Stayton, Oregon today during the noon hour. The fires began in the Pacific Northwest. Washington State, in fact, they're burning on through Oregon through the West. California per usual has the worst of it about 40 separate fires burning. One of them in the Sierras trapped camping -- folks who were camping for the holiday weekend, close to 200 people had to be choppered out of there as the roads were all blocked by fire. There was no other way in or out.

California saw another wave of rolling blackouts today they fought 1,000 separate fires just in that state since August 15. A camera at the Wilson Observatory documented the explosive growth of the so called Bobcat fire in Southern California. And while it's early in the season for this benchmark, California has now lost 2 million acres of land. It is a story in a season we will stay on top of for you.

And with that, that's our broadcast for this back to work Tuesday night. My thanks to Steve Kornacki for minding the store and allowing me to slip away for a while. We of course, thank you for being here with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END

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