Nightly News | February 10, 2011
WILLIAMS: Good evening.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: He's refusing to go. Hundreds of thousands of protesters in Cairo , along with this news organization, the White House , people around the world were expecting to see an aircraft, something, departing Cairo by the close of business today with Hosni Mubarak on board. Instead, this man's photo pretty much sums up the reaction of an entire country. When it came time for his speech to the nation on television, Mubarak seemed defiant instead. He said all regimes make mistakes, and he said he's cheated death before. So even while the protesters were chanting 'Get out, get out, Mubarak ,' even though the Egyptian army had started the transfer of power, Mubarak is still calling himself the president of Egypt though he has passed most of his powers, apparently, to his vice president. And there are now predictions tomorrow's protest will be the largest in Egyptian history . It is a fluid and highly confusing situation tonight -- volatile, in fact. We begin in Cairo once again with our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel . So, Richard , how is it? Again, this news organization, others, the White House , people in America , people in Egypt and around the world thought this day would end with Mubarak 's departure, and it didn't.
RICHARD ENGEL reporting: Sources, Brian , close to President Mubarak tell us this was simply not the plan or their understanding, but that over the course of the day President Mubarak grew more stubborn and changed his intention to step down. The day began with expectation. Protesters gathered in Tahrir Square , mostly planning a major demonstration and a series of work stoppages on Friday. But by late morning, word came that President Mubarak would finally meet the protesters' demands and resign. The Egyptian military made a surprise announcement, signaling that it was throwing its loyalty behind the demonstrators.
ENGEL: A top military council held a rare meeting. A spokesman said the armed forces would defend the Egyptian people and their legitimate demands. Was a coup in the works? Two sources close to President Mubarak told NBC News that Mubarak would resign by the end of the day .
ANN CURRY reporting: Two separate sources told NBC News that Egypt 's president, Hosni Mubarak , will step down tonight.
Unidentified Man #2: Are there risks, in your mind?
ENGEL: Other news organizations, including Arabic media, were told the same, President Mubarak would resign by nightfall...
Unidentified Man #3: Widely expected to resign, at least those protesters there in Tahrir Square think that that's what he's going to do.
ENGEL: ...and make that historic announcement in a speech to the nation . Word quickly traveled to Tahrir Square . Crowds of tens of thousands of protesters swelled to hundreds of thousands. The mood was excited, joyous. The army, they felt, was with them, and Mubarak would step down soon. As the crowds continued to grow, President Mubarak convened his close advisers. State television showed the president meeting Vice President Omar Suleiman and the prime minister. Then at 11 PM , several hours late, Mubarak finally addressed the nation . His tone didn't sound like a man who was leaving. He said he was speaking to Egyptians as someone who understood their desires, like a father. Mubarak promised to change the constitution and said Egypt has a road map and timetable to oversee democratic reforms ahead of elections next fall. The
crowds in Tahrir were silent, waiting to hear two words: "I resign." Instead, Mubarak said he would transfer authority to Vice President Suleiman , a close associate for years. But Mubarak still called himself president. Minutes later Suleiman spoke on television, confirming that he would oversee a transition, and stressed that Mubarak is acting in the interests of the nation . In Tahrir Square , the reaction was utter disappointment.
Unidentified Woman: We were hoping he was going to step down because, like, everyone -- it's obvious, like, that's the only thing that's going to, you know, defuse this bomb.
ENGEL: Mubarak seemed to be looking for a middle ground, transferring authority but remaining president. Egypt seems to be trying to turn President Mubarak into a symbol, a symbolic leader, a grandfather of the nation . But to the protesters, it's clearly not enough.
WILLIAMS: Ominous words from that young woman, the only thing that's going to defuse this bomb. What an unbelievable day there in Cairo , Richard . We'll come back to your reporting later