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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 8/19/21

Guests: Mark McKinnon, Donna Edwards, Vin Gupta, Frank Figliuzzi, Shannon Pettypiece, James Stavridis


Pressure grows to speed up Afghan evacuations. Pentagon says

military can airlift up to 9,000 people daily. Taliban fighters around

airport are slowing evacuations. Pentagon acknowledges tense situation on

the ground. U.S. Capitol has been targeted with bomb threat. Suspect is in

custody after five-hour ordeal. COVID cases spike in Israel as Delta

variant surges. Biden threatens legal action against states with mask

mandate bans.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening, once again, day 212 of the

Biden administration. There is mounting pressure to speed up the airlift to

get people out of Afghanistan, as new reports indicate the White House was

warned about the disaster that will quickly unfold after the official U.S.

withdrawal. Tomorrow, the President will speak to the nation again, about

these evacuations. As the administration tries to ramp up the mission, they

still lack a firm count of the number of Americans in Afghanistan.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We don`t have a precise number.

And the reason is because we ask Americans to register with the U.S.

government when they arrive in country and we build the database. But lots

of Americans don`t deregister. So, a number of people come, they sign up,

and then they leave and never let us know they left. And so we can`t know

for certain exactly how many Americans are in country. We will get any

American who wants to get to the airport and who we get in contact with,

who says I want to get out and get on a plane, we will make that happen.

This is a risky operation. We, right now have established contact with the

Taliban to allow for the safe passage of people to the airport and that is

working at the moment.

One of the contingencies we`re very focused on, laser focused on is the

potential for a terrorist attack by a group like ISIS-K, which of course is

a sworn enemy of the Taliban.


WILLIAMS: So that`s the President`s National Security Adviser. That`s a

heck of a claim he just made that if you`re an American and want to get out

of there, they`ll get you out of there.

Pentagon says the military can airlift 5,000 and 9,000 people a day

currently out of Kabul. So far the U.S. has airlifted about 7,000 people

out of Afghanistan. Not all of them American, which by the way, has been a

Herculean effort by the U.S. Air Force, the 82nd Airborne, the Marines who

are there and others.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan just referred to one of the biggest

obstacles to evacuations, Taliban fighters and their armed checkpoints

surrounding the airport. Today the Pentagon acknowledge the tense

conditions on the ground confirming that jet fighters indeed flew over

Kabul to provide security for the some 5000 troops overseeing the



MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM TAYLOR, U.S. ARMY: F-18s from the Ronald Reagan Carrier

Strike Group flew armed overwatch flights.

The ability to provide close air support is something that needs to be

immediate, if they -- condition on the ground ever required that.


WILLIAMS: Amid all of this, we are learning that there were warnings about

a rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan. NBC News confirming a Wall Street

Journal report that last month two dozen diplomats at the U.S. Embassy

Kabul warned Secretary of State Blinken about the possibility of a Taliban

takeover and indeed urged immediate evacuations. The Wall Street Journal

and other media outlets have reported that officials also advised the

president against a full drawdown of troops.

Journal reporting it this way, the President`s top generals urged Mr. Biden

to keep a force of about 2500 troops while seeking a peace agreement

between warring Afghan factions to maintain stability.

President was asked about that during his interview with ABC News.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: Your top military advisors warned

against withdrawing on this timeline. They wanted you to keep about 2,500


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: No, they didn`t. It was split. That wasn`t true.

That wasn`t true.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They didn`t tell you that they wanted troops to stay?

BIDEN: No. Not at -- not in terms of whether we were going to get out in a

timeframe all troops. They didn`t argue against that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no one told -- your military advisors did not tell you,

"No, we should just keep 2,500 troops. It`s been a stable situation for the

last several years. We can do that. We can continue to do that"?

BIDEN: No. No one said that to me that I can recall. There`s no good time

to leave Afghanistan. Getting out would be messy no matter when it



WILLIAMS: Tomorrow the House will get a briefing from Secretary of State

Blinken, Secretary of Defense Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley.

Meanwhile, we`re also following developments on the ongoing pandemic. In

Texas, a victory for school districts tonight at least for now, the state

Supreme Court of Texas ruled that school districts can impose their own

mask mandates, despite the governor`s orders, the governor who by the way

has COVID. And today we learn these three senators John Hickenlooper of

Colorado, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Angus King of Maine, all tested

positive for COVID after being vaccinated. Just yesterday, health officials

announced booster shots would be available in the fall. President says he

and First Lady Jill Biden will be ready when they`re eligible.



BIDEN: We`re going to get to booster shots. And it`s something that I

think, you know, because we got our shots all the way back and I think

December, so it`s past time.


WILLIAMS: Also today, the U.S. Capitol Complex once again became a target,

U.S. Capitol Police say it started with a man drove his truck onto a

sidewalk outside the Library of Congress this morning and claimed he had

explosives. Authorities were forced to evacuate much of the Capitol Hill

complex as they negotiated with this guy who communicated with them at one

point using a dry erase board. The suspect live stream the ordeal as one

does, he broadcast an unhinged litany of complaints about Joe Biden and the

federal government before it was taken down finally by Facebook. After five

hours of this, 49-year old Floyd Ray Roseberry of North Carolina crawled

out of his truck, was taken into custody, law enforcement says a search of

the pickup did not turn up any viable explosive devices, but did find some

explosive components apparently.

And with that, let`s bring in our starting line on this busy Thursday

night, Shannon Pettypiece, Veteran Journalist, our Senior White House

Reporter at NBC News Digital, Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant

Director for Counterintelligence, author of the book, The FBI Way and the

Host of the podcast, The Bureau, and Admiral James Stavridis, 30-year Navy

Veteran, retired with four stars on his shoulders. He`s the former Head of

the U.S. Southern Command, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, also

happens to be the co-author of the recent book 2034: A Novel of the Next

World War.

Well, good evening, and welcome to you all. And Admiral, I`d like to begin

with you along with this quote from the Washington Post. "Several people

said Thursday they had received confusing signals from the United States

about how exactly they were supposed to leave, citing emails from the State

Department, urging them to go to the airport only to find there was no one

to receive them or to answer their questions on how to board flights. A 39-

year old librarian, a dual U.S.-Afghan citizen who came with his wife and

two children after receiving an email invitation from the State Department

said he was whipped by a Taliban fighter."

Admiral, I don`t know much, but I do know we got to do a better job. How

would you assess the mission? And is there a fix, a way to make this better

and smoother at this point starting tomorrow morning?

ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS, U.S. NAVY (ret.): Unfortunately, there is no silver

bullet here, Brian, as you well know, you`ve been in many crisis situations

over the years, the U.S. military has control of the interior perimeter of

Kabul International Airport, that`s a good thing. We can get flights in and

out of there. We want to get people out of the airport. The problem is not

getting people out of the airport at this point, it`s getting people into

the airport, which is to say that Taliban controlled the rest of the

country. And as a result of that we are in the unfortunate circumstance of,

I hate to say these words, relying on the Taliban, to allow people to come

into the airport. That`s why you see my friend Jake Sullivan, National

Security Adviser, working through a lot of challenges, saying that Taliban

have said they will provide safe passage.

Unfortunately, many reports indicate that`s not correct, including what you

just read from the Washington Post. So, what can we do? We need to put

pressure on the Taliban where we can, we`ve given up a lot of leverage

since we`ve taken all our combat troops out of the country. So, our

leverage at this point is moral. It is economic, it is perhaps to offer

some carrots if you let people go, we will make things easier in terms of

recognition. But we have a very weak hand of cards at this point. And

unfortunately, we`re going to have to hope and hope is not a good strategy,

but we`re going to have to hope that Taliban will let people into the

airport. Once they`re in the airport, yes, the U.S. military will get them

out. The problem is getting them in.

WILLIAMS: Shannon, I think our reporting is somewhat duty bound on a couple

of fronts. Number one, this reporting on the warnings Biden received, I

think that should be coupled with his assertion that early evacuations

would have triggered great interest perhaps and at worst panic and I think

on the botched evacuation, it is fair to point out that the leadership

structure of Afghanistan is gone. President left town to go, who knows

where, having established that talk about this dynamic right now as moving

target as it is within the West Wing?



criticism that the President is under is not necessarily that we got out,

of course there are people who will criticize that, that Biden withdrew

troops, period. They argue we should have stayed there. There`s that line

of criticism, but the one that the President is really taking the heavy

fire for, particularly from his allies, is how we got out. And that`s this

issue of helping evacuated not only the Americans, but as you mentioned,

the Afghans who helped assist the government who are eligible for these

special visas or who would like to apply for refugee status. The White

House`s response until this point, I would say, has really been focused on

defending the decision to get out. We heard that again, from the President

on Monday. We heard it again on Wednesday, and that ABC News interview, so

much focus on defending the decision and missing the element of criticism

being lobbed at them about how and we know the President is going to make

remarks tomorrow. The public schedule indicates that those remarks are

going to be focused on the process of trying to get these Afghans out. You

know, we`ve heard a number of lines of rationale from the administration

for why they hadn`t gotten more out. You mentioned one of them, that they

were afraid it could trigger a panic, a mass evacuation. There`s also

criticism from the Trump administration, obviously, many, many of these

people did not just start applying for visa today. They have been applying

for years, we`ve talked to people who`ve been applying for 10 years to try

and get a visa in this country. So, this is an issue that stretches beyond

administrations. So, there is an extent that they inherited it. But it was

not like the warning signs weren`t there in April, May and June and July.

Yet there wasn`t the big reaction necessary from this administration, like

critics are saying.

So, I think that`s one of the things to listen for tomorrow. And the

President`s remark is, does he defend himself and try and tackle this issue

of getting these Afghans special visa applicants out? And how does he

defend that? And is there anything new, he`s actually going to say we`re

going to do as a country to help them numbers of personnel or new systems

being put in place? That seems to be what the White House needs to do at

this point.

WILLIAMS: Frank, an emotionally disturbed guy parks his pickup truck in

front of the Library of Congress and livestreams his grievances. His son

later says he wasn`t politically involved or aware until the election of

Donald Trump, all of it refocuses the mind on your life`s work and that is

counterterrorism and especially domestic terrorism. How urgent a threat are

we talking about still?


Well, it played out today. And by that, I mean, what played out was the

warning. We`ve received from the Department of Homeland Security. We just

within the last two weeks that the likelihood of violence arising from the

increased chatter and planning we`re seeing online and extremist and

violent domestic organizations and individual sites with his so-called

perfect storm, that`s converging. What does that consist of, the feeling --

the grievance feeling, the fight for a cause feeling caused by mask

mandates, vaccine mandates, the turning of the country from blue versus red

into vaccinated versus unvaccinated, the feeling that Ashli Babbitt who was

killed inside the Capitol by a police officer, her death needs to be

avenged, she is a martyr. Trump is coming back soon. Well, not today but

maybe tomorrow. Rally is being planned for D.C. in September. This weekend,

Saturday in a small town in Alabama with President Trump, all of this

converging to cause DHS to tell us there`s a warning here that violence can

be on the increase. And sure enough, thankfully, this was not a violent

result today, it was successfully resolved by law enforcement. But we`re

going to see more of this playing out as the polarization and splitting of

America continues.

And what among the grievances we heard from this gentleman today, what was

one of them, he mentioned Afghanistan. What did he mean by that? Was it

coherent? No probably not. But that`s something we need to understand is

that now everything is suddenly being politicized, and everything seems to

be a trigger toward violence.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, we see that every day.

Admiral, if I am taking your first comments correctly, we`re in the

position of asking the Taliban these days and not telling them that

established, what happens if we make up our minds to stay after 31, August

if you do the math as great as the forces we have there are as terrific a

heavy lift vehicle as C-17s, there`s a high likelihood we`re going to need

to stay after 31, August?


STAVRIDIS: There is indeed. And you see the administration, including the

President, essentially foreshadowing that beginning to talk about the

certainty that we will remain to get U.S. citizens out.

On the other hand, you hear our national security adviser say, actually we

don`t know exactly how many U.S. citizens are there, which is

understandable. That`s a hard number to know with precision. But I would

say the likelihood that this mission extends past August 31, is pretty

high. And if we`re going to do that, without turning this back into a major

confrontation with the Taliban, we`re going to have to get buy in from the

Taliban, and get them to continue to move people, as you are showing right

now, using their whips. Unlikely, it seems that they`re going to do that in

a peaceful manner. So, we`ve got a significant challenge here. And by the

way, to Frank`s point, about concern, about violence in the United States,

I`m going to have to add to that as we get to 9/11, just 11 days after the

end of the month, if we have our troops still there, that`s going to be a

rallying cry for Jihad globally, which is going to say, hey, 9/11, we

brought down the World Trade Towers, at 9/11 20 years later, we`ve just

about forced the United States out of Afghanistan. But if we haven`t gone,

that`s going to create yet another significant aspect to potential violence

here in the United States. So, big challenges ahead, and I`ll closed by

saying, as we pull all our troops out, we`ve lost the intelligence. We

don`t know what`s going on, on the ground there. We have a lot of

challenges ahead, not just domestically, as Frank correctly points out, but

from the international side of the House as well.

WILLIAMS: And Frank, right, quick back to you. And then I`ve got to get to

Shannon, but your name was invoked. What will all of this or any of this do

in the business of counterterrorism as we go forward?

FIGLIUZZI: Yeah, real quick, I published a column this week for MSNBC daily

on this topic. Look for the lives of counterterrorism operators, FBI, DHS,

CIA have been made harder. Why? Because we`re fighting -- we we`ve been

successfully fighting the terrorist threat over there in their backyard, so

that we don`t have to fight it in our front yard here. But now we lose that

command and control element that we`re there, with eyes on. We have 5,000

prisoners, hardcore terrorist fighters released by the Taliban from their

prisons, they`re looking for a fight, looking to get back at us. Things

just got harder for folks like the FBI and DHS, and CIA.

WILLIAMS: And Shannon, indeed, you get the last word on this, endlessly

depressing topic playing out in real time on cable news, this is David

Ignatius, part of a very thoughtful piece tonight in the Washington Post,

"Failure can shatter the trust and consensus of any team and that`s a

danger now for the Biden White House. This group has been extraordinarily

close and congenial during Biden`s first seven months. But you can already

see the first cracks in fortress Biden, Liberal Democrats, especially

activist for women`s rights are genuinely angry that Biden didn`t do more

to protect Afghan women and human rights. Those fissures will widen." And

Shannon, what`s your report on moral and cohesion?

PETTYPIECE: You know, it`s not great. I mean, we`ve seen criticism come

from a lot of the President`s typical allies, not just Democrats in

Congress, former Obama administration officials within the administration,

we have seen a lot of finger pointing at each other. I mean, I think this

is still early days. And there is some upside potential here. There is a

sense in the White House that they can turn things around, but certainly an

acknowledgement that this is a fragile, tenuous situation. And no one

really knows what is going to come next if they`re going to control the

airport, what`s going to happen with Taliban, what`s going to happen after

August 31. So, it is a sense as well that we`re only seeing the beginning

of this and a lot can unfold in the coming weeks.

WILLIAMS: So appreciative of our starting line tonight, Shannon Pettypiece,

Frank Figliuzzi, Admiral James Stavridis, I can`t thank you enough for

starting off our conversation.

Coming up for us, our doctor standing by tonight to talk boosters now that

we`re all being told to get them unless of course, you haven`t had your


And later, the shocking political divide that persists in America on issues

like of all things, insurrection, and a deadly pandemic, as per our

discussion. THE 11TH HOUR is just getting under way on this Thursday night.





that the vaccine was affording with regard to infection and mild to

moderate disease was diminishing, it still had very high protection against

severe disease leading to hospitalization and death. But the direction was

going wrong. It`s very clear right now that when you give someone a booster

and we`ve done studies, it increases the level of antibody level that`s

associated with protection to a very, very high level.


WILLIAMS: Dr. Fauci just today on this decision to recommend booster shots

to Americans eight months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna vaccine

shots were completed. Doctor also mentioned the situation in Israel where

infections are surging, we`re going to talk about this, that country saw

cases plummet as you know, after a quick vaccination campaign. But now the

New York Times reports, "A fourth wave of infections is rapidly approaching

the levels of Israel`s worst days of the pandemic last winter. The daily

rate of confirmed new virus cases has more than doubled in the last two


So back with us again tonight, Dr. Vin Gupta, a Critical Care Pulmonologist

out in Seattle who has advised us on this from the start. He`s also on the

faculty at the University of Washington Institute for Health metrics and


And Doctor, let`s start here. I`ve asked you forms of this question before,

how worried should vaccinated Americans be about waning immunity. The

reason we`re being prescribed boosters?


DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Brian. And this is

a consequential, very important and now controversial topic. And this is

what I would say, I`m not in the business of, or nor do I make it a habit

of disagreeing with Dr. Fauci. But with all due respect to him, there is

disagreement here on this issue. And I disagree with what the

administration put out, which is boosters for everybody. There, if you were

under 65 years of age, Brian and otherwise healthy, there is no data right

now to suggest. And I`ve been vaccinated nine months ago was one of the

frontline critical care workers in our country, as many of my colleagues,

there is no data to suggest that many months, folks like ourselves, and

there`s many healthcare workers, again in that boat, are losing any level

of significant protectiveness against being hospitalized from the Delta

variant. There`s just no data to suggest that. Is there -- is our

likelihood of testing positive, Brian, higher than it was, say six months

ago? Sure, but that`s not the purpose of vaccination. The purpose of

vaccination is to keep people away from the hospital. And if you`re

otherwise healthy, less than 65 years of age, there is no indication for

boosters for you.

WILLIAMS: Let`s talk about Israel. People probably wonder why we reference

it so often in these discussions. It`s a nation with the same population as

the New York metropolitan area. But they have been a marker on a one or two

months delay basis for us. So why is the experience they`re going through

now important for us?

GUPTA: Well, they`ve widely deployed the two dose Pfizer regimen, Brian,

and so now, it`s basically an incubator for what is two doses of Pfizer

mean, for a population at large, and what we`re seeing in this reel is

should inform very much what we should be doing here in terms of their

booster shot, that there is waning immunity for those that are older than

65, or have serious underlying conditions like cancer or other

immunocompromising conditions like diabetes, for example, that those

individuals will benefit from a third shot. So, the third booster shot

absolutely, if we are prescriptive and surgical does will benefit a certain

segment of society as evidenced by Israel`s real world experience. But that

does not mean it`s real, as experienced does not augur that everybody needs

a booster shot right now, we should wait and see, we should focus on those

that don`t have one shot, number one. We should focus on kids getting the

vaccine, the vulnerable, as mentioned, and then the rest of the world. The

boosters for all is only going to harm our ability to reach those that are


WILLIAMS: I don`t have to tell you, there are no more ICU beds in Alabama

or Mississippi. If you get deathly ill there, they`ll probably fly you

north to North Carolina if they can. We`re watching field hospitals go up.

Again, we`re seeing refrigerating truck -- or refrigerated trucks coming in

again. Question is, when will you know, when we have hit a spike, or is

this going to be a rolling seasonal spike instead as things move north?

GUPTA: You know, Brian, we`re expecting about 1000 to 1500 deaths a day,

day over day middle of September accounted for largely by the seven states

in the southeastern United States. It`s only going to get worse. Now we`re

going to be entering December to February, non-COVID threats like

influenza, RSV, already rearing its head. So, I expect things unfortunately

will get worse. And it`s only going to compound the challenges of Delta.

Two, I suspect we`re going to reach an endemic status of COVID throughout

the country. Yes, absolutely. So, people will continue unfortunately to die

but at lower levels, hopefully by the end of Q1 2022.

What I will say for everybody out there that is not vaccinated or is high

risk and fully vaccinated, if you`re watching right now, go to combat One utilization, the one thing that you can do if you`re in

that boat and you`ve been exposed to COVID. Again, if you`re not

vaccinated, or if you`re a high risk and fully vaccinated, go to the

website, see if you`re potentially eligible for monoclonal antibody

therapy, could potentially save your life. And so one thing you can do to

keep yourself out of the hospital.

WILLIAMS: Our guest tonight has been Dr. Vin Gupta, our thanks with him for

his candor and expertise. As always, thank you, Doctor.

Coming up for us, our political experts, here to weigh in on how the

President can move forward on his agenda as he deals with all this fallout

we`ve been discussing.



BIDEN: There is no good time to leave Afghanistan, 15 years ago would have

been a problem, 15 years from now, the basic choice is, am I going to send

your sons and your daughters to war in Afghanistan, in Afghanistan in



WILLIAMS: President remains defiant in the face of all this criticism of

his strategy in Afghanistan. And here with us tonight to talk more about

it, two friends of this broadcast, Donna Edwards, former Democratic Member

of Congress, now a Washington Post Columnist and Mark McKinnon, former

Adviser to both George W. Bush and John McCain. He is among the co-hosts

thankfully of the Circus on Showtime.

Good evening, and welcome to you both. And, Congresswoman I`d like to begin

with you, I think your total has me beat, if memory serves you made four

trips as part of congressional delegations to Afghanistan. I believe you

had kind words to say about the President`s speech that we started the week

with, we hear from him again tomorrow. What have you made, though, of his

defense of the mission and his tactics and those people around him in the

day since?


think that for -- we`ve known for more than a decade that it`s past -- it

was past time to get out of Afghanistan, and the question was just always

going to be how and I agree with the President that this was never going to

be an easy task, but I do think I share in some of the criticism about the

way that things have unfolded, but I agree that it was going to be messy

all along. And, you know, despite concerns about the plight of Afghan

women, I share those concerns deeply, about what kind of governance the

Taliban is going to bring. But in large part, we`re left with -- what has

to be a diplomatic and a humanitarian mission, but not a military mission.

And we haven`t had a serious military mission there in many years.


And I think the most that the President can do at this time in the

administration, get American citizens out and get our allies and friends

who supported us out of Afghanistan, and just, you know, really shore up

that visa process, which is very convoluted. Some of that is because of

legislation. But it`s also process and we just need to speed that up and

get people to safety.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, Mark McKinnon, and I have a reading for you. This is by

Michael Kazin, the historian and the New York Times. We just showed the

headline of the piece, he writes inside it, "The last time a war blow up in

the face of a democratic president, it derailed his domestic agenda and

stalled the most ambitious social reforms of a generation. Two lessons from

LBJ`s downfall are paramount. First, tell the truth, even if it makes you

look bad temporarily. Second, keep the coalition that elected you united in

its response to the crisis."

Mark, I would only urge everyone interested in the topic to listen,

especially to the recorded phone calls between Johnson and McNamara during

those years as they are very illustrative. But what do you make of the

point he makes in the New York Times?


I think the real point here is that President Biden has been defined about

the decision. Not very many people are questioning the decision, most

people supported and he ran on withdrawing from Afghanistan, that`s

supported by a large majority of Americans. It`s the execution that people

are concerned about. And I agree with the Congressman, the important thing

now is the humanitarian effort. And I believe, listen, I`m just looking at

this politically now. I`m putting on my political hat. And that is that,

you know, a year or two from now looking back, the question will be the

humanitarian angle on this right. In other words, did we get people out

that wanted to get out? Did we leave any Americans behind? Did we leave

Afghanis behind that helped Americans? Did we leave people in mortal

danger? And that`ll be the question.

So, I think, listen, this is a hyper partisan, intense time of their --

there`s certainly a lot of criticism that`s deserved on the execution. But

at the end of the day, I think politically, this may be the lowest moment

for the Biden presidency, because if you flash forward six months to a year

from now, pandemic surge will probably be at least better. And hopefully

the humanitarian crisis will have been addressed in Afghanistan.

WILLIAMS: And with a lot yet to do on his agenda, Donna Edwards, Mark

McKinnon are going to stay with us, while I fit in a break.

Coming up, our conversation will continue. We`ll talk about how far Joe

Biden is really prepared to go against those anti-mask Republican governors

as this virus rages out of control in so many of their states.




BIDEN: Unfortunately, as we`ve seen throughout this pandemic, some

politicians are trying to turn public safety measures, that is, children

wearing masks in school, into political disputes for their own political

gain. Some are even trying to take power away from local educators by

banning masks in school. They`re setting a dangerous tone.


WILLIAMS: So on the President`s threat of legal action against states with

mask mandate bans in schools Jennifer Rubin writes this and The Washington

Post today, "Biden and other Democrats should stick with the underlying

message, Republican crackpots courting MAGA base are willing to do anything

to further their careers. In keeping with a necessary effort to identify

Republicans as extreme, radical, dangerous and anti-American, in their

support of insurrectionists, Biden should not hesitate to hammer his

message when it comes to COVID-19 or a host of other issues."

And thankfully, still with us are Donna Edwards and Mark McKinnon. Hey,

Mark, so we`re coming off four years of scorched earth, no one is calling

for that, no one is calling for another round of memorable but horrible

nicknames that reduced people to tiny school yard phraseology. People, I

think would like to see the president get angrier on this. Are you for that

as a strategy going forward, perhaps naming some names at some point?

MCKINNON: I don`t know, Brian, first of all, I`d say that to your earlier

point about, you know, whether or not Afghanistan is stalling the

President`s domestic agenda. I don`t think Afghanistan has much to do with

the domestic agenda. It was stalling out anyway, because of the

partisanship. He may get the infrastructure both bills through, but not

much else was going to happen between 20 -- between now and the midterms,

not because of Afghanistan, but because of the outrageous behavior and

partisanship we see in this country, and to see Republicans, to Jennifer`s

point, taking on really defending freedom at the risk of our children`s

safety. I mean, if freedom is such an issue for Republicans, why not just

go ahead and say everybody drive drunk without their seatbelts. It`s just

insanity to say all the children can`t breathe. Well, the children that

can`t breathe are going to be the children that end up in an ICU on a

ventilator, not because they have a mask on their face. And I think

Republicans have made a huge and dangerous gamble, Brian, to try and sign

on the side of this theoretical freedom versus the health and safety of our

children. And that`s where I think the future is going to be and we`ve

already seen in so many school districts, where, you know, they say go back

to school, there are these mask mandates. And guess what happens? Two or

three days later, everybody`s in court again. So, I think it`s a huge

political mistake on the part of Republicans. And I think we`re just

beginning to see the consequences, and it`s really going to happen when

kids start getting affected.

WILLIAMS: And Donna those are consequential words and a consequential

prediction from our friend Mark, talk about how big you think the

consequences of COVID policy and let`s not forget our deaths toll rising to

one point last week at 1000 a day. We haven`t seen that since the battle

days last winter. What do you think the consequences are going to be? The

next time Americans go to the polls and congressional and gubernatorial


EDWARDS: Well, I think if you look at where those consequences fall, they

fall in the southern states in red states that have resisted the vaccine

that have politicized the vaccine and the wearing of mask.


You just take a state like Mississippi, for example, where 20,000 students

are now in quarantine. And this is just the beginning of the school year,

five young children have died as a result of COVID and no mask mandate. And

so I think those consequences are going to fall, but they`re going to fall

in a lot of red districts where you see this polarization, where you`ve got

blue states that have low, high vaccination rates and low rates of

infection, and red states that do not and I think that what the President

is going to be judged on is now the task of not just cajoling and

incentivizing people to get the vaccine, but really laying the hammer down

on those states that are refusing to get their folks vaccinated and wearing


WILLIAMS: The number I keep harping on, the number I read last week, the

Florida death toll now exceeds the margin by which DeSantis was originally

elected in the state of Florida. This is going to get very interesting and

perhaps to Mark`s point, very nerve racking for Republicans. Excuse me,

Donna Edwards, Mark MacKinnon, two friends of this broadcast, thank you

both for coming on tonight, greatly appreciate it.

Coming up for us, hand to hand combat at 35,000 feet. Flight attendants

didn`t start it. But they are learning how to finish it.



WILLIAMS: Let us please all agree that flight attendants work hard at a

tough job somewhere between adult daycare and server in a bad crowded

restaurant that smells of feet inside and aluminum tube hurtling through

the air. And now they work under physical threat to top it all off, because

of things like mask mandates, flyers have become belligerent and violence

so much so, the FAA has handed out a million dollars in fines just so far

this year. Tonight, Correspondent Tom Costello reports on how flight

attendants are learning to protect themselves.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At an Air Marshal

Training Center in Chicago, right up close and personal self-defense

tactics. A dozen flight attendants here on their own time has the FAA today

reports nearly 3,900 cases of unruly behavior onboard passenger planes just

this year. Passengers attacking crew members often drinking or angry about

mask mandates. One flight attendant even losing two teeth after being

punched. The FAA now detailing dozens of cases, passengers fined up to

$45,000 each under a zero-tolerance policy with total fines already

surpassing a million dollars.


single day when flight attendants are putting on their uniforms, they`re

saying is this the day that somebody punches me in the face?

COSTELLO: The voluntary self-defense training suspended during the pandemic

now in high demand. Flight attendants don`t sign up to get into a job for a

fistfight. But if it becomes physical, they`re being told, don`t be timid.


myself or anybody on the plane, it`s you or me, right? So, I`m going to

protect myself.

COSTELLO: If I`m a passenger, and I`m coming at you with a fist, you`re

going to block, right? And sometimes it`s going to be a very quick blog,

glancing blow.

What did they taught you that you didn`t know before?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, so hand and self-defense just as this step, pivot,

bring it back, turn, making sure you`re bringing the hand back into your

face, protect yourself.

COSTELLO: Defending against a new reality in the skies. Tom Costello, NBC

News, Chicago.


WILLIAMS: And coming up for us, after January the sixth terrorist

sympathizers are popping up in the most unlikely places.




REP. MO BROOKS, (R) ALABAMA: Today is the day American patriots start

taking down names and kicking ass. Louder, are you willing to do what it

takes to fight for America? Louder, will you fight for America?


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, that was Mo Brooks Republican

Alabama Congressman, trumper, big lie believer, insurrection enthusiast,

that was hand wiping up the crowd on 1/6. He later admitted he was wearing

body armor that day appearing before all those nice people and tourists who

were interested in exploring the history and wonders of our Capitol


Staying on insurrection brand, Brooks put out a statement today about that

would be bomber and pickup truck terrorists who shut down most of Capitol

Hill this morning. And after all the boilerplate language that he had to

say about how happy he was everybody was safe. Brooks was sympathetic and

the statement, "I understand citizenry anger directed at dictatorial

Socialism and its threat to liberty, freedom and the very fabric of

American society. The way to stop Socialism`s march is for patriotic

Americans to fight back in the 2022 and 2024 elections. I strongly

encourage patriotic Americans to do exactly that more so now than ever

before, bluntly stated America`s future is at risk."

That`s pretty much everything you need to know about Mo Brooks, educated by

the way at Duke University and the University of Alabama Law School. It is

also why Mo Brooks has a cameo in the following video by the Republican

accountability project.


REP. MATT GAETZ, (R) FLORIDA: We are in a battle for the soul of the

Republican Party and I intend to win it, to win it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Matt Gaetz and other Trump ultra-loyalists are

fighting for a Republican Party that promotes lies.

REP. JIM JORDAN, (R) OHIO: The election was stolen.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY, (R) MISSOURI: There was fraud.


this election.


REP. MADISON CAWTHORN, (R) NORTH CAROLINA: Call your congressmen, you can

lightly threaten them.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT, (R) TEXAS: You got to go to the streets and be violent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And promotes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene speculated at

the fire which killed 85 people was sparked by a Jewish space laser.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now they want to exile Republicans like Liz Cheney

in Adam Kinzinger for standing up to a president that caused an

insurrection on the United States Capitol. To save the soul of the

Republican Party, we must stand up for those who act with integrity and

against the ones that lie.


WILLIAMS: Mo Brooks and his esteemed colleagues to take us off the air

tonight and that`ll do it for our broadcast on a Thursday evening, along

with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all our colleagues at

these networks of NBC News, good night.