1/6 Committee weighs options if GOP Reps stonewall subpoenas. Pence to campaign with GA Gov. Kemp ahead of primary. "Ultra-MAGA" candidate surges in PA GOP Senate race. Baby formula shortage across nation. Elon Musk says deal to buy Twitter on hold.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC HOST: That is tonight`s "LAST WORD." I`m Jonathan Capehart. I`ll see you on the Sunday shows, Sunday morning at 10 a.m. Eastern also right here on MSNBC. THE 11TH HOUR with Stephanie Ruhle starts right now.
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, GOP panic in Pennsylvania over a late surge from a little known Senate candidate, as more Republicans seem to push back on Trump endorsements. The divide within the party deepening tonight.
Plus, the baby formula shortage that could leave parents scrambling for months. How did we get to this point?
And Elon Musk pumping the brakes on his Twitter takeover. So now what? As THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this Friday night.
Good evening, once again, I`m Stephanie Ruhle, 179 days until the midterm elections, and tonight the January 6 committee is under pressure to figure out its next move. Given the very real likelihood none of the five subpoenaed Republican lawmakers will comply. Earlier today, one committee member suggested it`s not over yet.
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REP. JAMIE RASKIN, (D) MARYLAND HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON JANUARY 6: We have all of the options that would be available to us for someone like Steve Bannon, or Mark Meadows and then additional options because they`re members of Congress.
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RUHLE: Of course, Bannon and Meadows were held in contempt. Bannon now facing criminal charges for stonewalling the investigation, as the committee waits to hear from the GOP House members. Politico issue this report a another subpoena has gone out to a former aide to Mark Meadows. Cassidy Hutchinson worked with Meadows during Trump`s final days in the White House. She`s already had two conversations with the committee and the panel now once a third.
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BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN, POLITICO NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There`s no question though, that Hutchinson from her position dealing with Legislative Affairs has information and visibility regarding the relationships between the White House and Capitol Hill that are a key focus for the select committee investigators in these final weeks.
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RUHLE: The 1/6 Committee has also been looking at efforts to pressure Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election. Today, we learned the former Vice President will be campaigning with Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia on the eve of that state`s May 24 primary. That marks a very clear break with Trump who is loudly backing Kemp`s opponent David Perdue and actively attacking Kemp.
And we`re just four days out from the primary and another closely watched state in this year`s midterms, Pennsylvania where the battle for the Republican Senate nomination has suddenly become a three way contest between Trump-backed Dr. Oz, David McCormick, and Kathy Barnette, a new name for many of us, the far right Barnette has recently surged in the polls. This candidate is anti-abortion with no exceptions. She promotes the big lie. And in the past, she has tweeted Islamophobic as well as homophobic comments.
Now many Republicans are taking aim at her, why? They`re worried if she wins the nomination, she will ruin their chances in November. Even Trump issued a statement this week warning she`s never going to win in a general election. NBC`s Dasha Burns sat down with Barnette and asked about those very controversies.
DASHA BURNS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Tweets that people uncovered from your past, targeting Muslims, targeting people who are gay, what do you -- what do you feel about those messages when you look back?
KATHY BARNETTE (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: You don`t know what came after that. You don`t know if I was saying somebody else Islam or not.
BURNS: This tweet says, pedophilia is a cornerstone of Islam.
BARNETTE: Yeah, no, I don`t think that`s me. I would never have said that.
BURNS: President Trump, however, a man you support, endorsed your opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz. Today, the President sent out a message saying Kathy Barnette will never win in the general election. What`s your response to that?
BARNETTE: And then the second paragraph, but when -- but if she should get through -- she`s going to make it, she`ll have a wonderful career. And I will be there to support her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Republicans are so worried about another far right big lie promoter, Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano. He is now running to be the Republican nominee for governor. And I want to share what he said in a recent debate.
STATE SEN. DOUG MASTRIANO, (R) PENNSYLVANIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: But the most important thing is I get to appoint the Secretary of State, and that Secretary of State is going to clean up the election logs, we`re going to reset. In fact, registration, you have to re-register. We`re going to start all over again.
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RUHLE: Tonight Axios reporting, he might also get Trump`s backing in the form of an official endorsement.
With that, let`s bring in our experts, John Micek, a longtime Pennsylvania Reporter, and the Editor-in-Chief of the Pennsylvania Capitol Star. Barbara McQuade, Veteran Federal Prosecutor and former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She worked with the Department of Justice during the Biden Transition Michigan is a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. And Juanita Tolliver joins us, a veteran political strategist to progressive candidates and causes.
John, you are our PA native. So tell us more about Kathy Barnette and Doug Mastriano. They have quickly become lightning rods for Republicans.
JOHN MICEK, PENNSYLVANIA CAPITAL-STAR EDITOR IN CHIEF: Yeah, Stephanie. It`s really extraordinary. The rise of Kathy Barnette, a Republican from Montgomery County, a conservative commentator, just three days ago, no one is really talking about as a serious candidate in this race. He kind of set the stage, she has two front runners, Mehmet Oz and David McCormick have been beating the heck out of each other on the air for weeks now and some of the nastiest says we`ve seen in an awfully long time.
Of course, the one thing that happens there is that when you highlight one guy`s negatives, your own negatives rise as well. And that created a path for somebody to run up the middle. The thought was that that might have been Jeff Bartos, a Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate from 2018, also for Montgomery County, but as it turned out, it was Kathy Barnette, who quite channel, he has been running alongside Doug Mastriano. So much so in fact that some of their campaign signs that read Mastriano, Barnette. She was really hitched her fortunes to him. It`s led to some money, all of a sudden, this late surge, and Republicans are now so worried that they`re chopping opposition research to reporters raising questions about her background and her qualifications.
RUHLE: Juanita, this election in Pennsylvania is causing some problems on the far right favorite TV channel. I want to share with you this disconnect that we saw last night.
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SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I don`t see any scenario where Kathy Barnette can win a general election in Pennsylvania. In recent years, she engaged repeatedly in some pretty disturbing very controversial rhetoric surrounding gays and lesbians and Muslims. And she makes no distinction, for example, between Islam and radical Islam.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A number of doctored videos have been shared in attempt to smear Kathy Barnette, and the Barnett fallout will no doubt continue. But the more salient question is this, with all his fame and with all his celebrity and all the big endorsements, why hasn`t Dr. Oz been able to seal the deal with the Pennsylvania voters? Why is that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Juanita, besides making Democrats very, very happy, what is happening inside the GOP? What are they doing?
JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s a little bit odd, even in that clip, Stephanie, to see that now Islamophobia and homophobia is a problem for them, right? Like they`ve been pedaling in that game for a while I think what Barnette is doing is just taking it to the next level. And they`re getting to this place of, oh, you go a little too far. But when we see her tweets when we hear about what she`s posted in the past, it fully aligns what we see from -- what we see from the extremists right within the GOP today. And so I think that part paired with the fact that Republican voters in Pennsylvania have made it explicitly clear that they do not want anything to do with us, that they are falling in behind her because she is the next level Trump. She is one upping Republicans at their own game, and she is now within reach of securing the Republican nomination.
I do think that Trump is a little bit too dismissive of Republican grassroots organizers and county party leaders who will be going to bat for whoever does win the Republican nomination, but one county chairperson put it this way that she said Trump`s random Pennsylvania is over with this nomination or endorsement of AWS and so they`re not going to go to bat for him but they sure are lining up behind Barnette right now.
RUHLE: John, the Philadelphia Enquirer`s editorial board said they wanted to endorse a primary candidate, but they couldn`t. They put out a list of questions to the candidates for them to answer and all but one were willing to even participate. They said the questions were too slanted. One of those questions was, who won the 2020 presidential election? It was a multiple choice. The choices were Trump or Joe Biden. Only Jeff Bartos agreed to reality that Joe Biden won the election.
What does that say of the state of democracy when none of the rest would answer. One of the front runners David McCormick, he`s a combat veteran. He was a paratrooper. He was a treasury undersecretary, went to West Point, went to Princeton. If these candidates won`t acknowledge that Joe Biden is the President of the United States, do we have a functioning democracy?
MICEK: Yeah, Stephanie, I`ve been covering Pennsylvania politics for 23 years now. It`s been a fascinating to see the slide in the Republican Party in those -- in the intervening two decades, where you`ve gone from the party of Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker, sort of down the middle traditional Republicans to where the party is now working complete thrall to Donald Trump. It`s been exceptionally to get difficult eight answers out of these campaigns. You know, it`s not shit we`ve seen I`m chopping in these baseless claims of election fraud now for better than two years. So, I mean, it`s disappointing but not entirely shocking to learn that none of these candidates decided to comply with the Enquirer`s questionnaire.
And it`s a little amusing to see the Republican establishment throw their hands up in the air and say, oh my goodness, how did we get to this point where they were they have created the conditions under which these candidates can flourish.
Jake Corman, the top Republican in the State Senator dropped out of the governor`s race on Thursday throwing his support to Lou Barletta because he thinks the former congressman from Hazleton has the best chance to win, but it`s only now in this 11th Hour where they`re reaching for the torches and the pitchforks, realizing that it`s kind of too late to stop these monsters that they`ve unleashed.
RUHLE: Tom Ridge must be watching this and just shaking his head.
Juanita, I want to share a tweet that Matt Dowd posted. He said, Bank it here: Fetterman in PA is going to win the Democratic primary by a large margin. He will then win the general election. And at that point, he will become a national voice in the Democratic Party. And that will be good for the Dems.
Should someone like Fetterman be considered the future of the Democratic Party. He is the kind of candidate who can connect with that rural Trump like blue collar voter.
TOLLIVER: He can connect but he also comes with some baggage, Stephanie. And I don`t think that can be ignored at this point. But I will say Matt Dowd hit the nail on the head with Fetterman. I think extending his lead up to above 50% of support in the most recent polls, he`s enjoying that cash cushion right now, as we head into next Tuesday. And I don`t see much changing with that. So I think the prediction is spot on up until the point of him becoming a national voice for the party. Because while he is able to connect with those rural voters, those Trump aligned voters that doesn`t -- that doesn`t fully represent the direction of the party or even the massive tent that the Democratic Party represents.
RUHLE: Democrats have a whole lot of people under that very big tent.
Barb, I want to talk about the Op-Ed, you wrote for The Times yesterday, because it`s a really important one, warning that the most important elections this midterm are the ones for Secretaries of State. Explain to our audience why? Because Secretary of State that`s something not a lot of people think about.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Right. You know, I think we`ve often thought about it as this sort of sleepy bureaucratic job, down ballot raise that people may know the names of the candidates or they may not. This time, we`ve got 27 secretaries of state races on the ballots across the country, 14 of them have formed a coalition they call the America first SOS project. These are people who are election deniers. And that includes five swing states, where it went for Joe Biden in 2020, but could easily swing the other way in 2024. And what makes it so dangerous to put the power in the hands of these people, is that these are the people who make decisions about where and how many polling places are going to be located in democratic strongholds about whether there should be drop boxes in particular neighborhoods, and they make decisions about certifying election results. If you have a group of people who are election deniers, or frankly, even just one that could completely swing the entire outcome of the 2024 presidential race.
RUHLE: Juanita, people always say Donald Trump, he`s the kingmaker. He`s the voice. He`s the leader of the Republican Party, though we should remind our audience, the last big election he was involved in, he was on the ballot and he lost. And I want to share with what the Washington Post wrote about his endorsements, "From Nebraska and Idaho to Pennsylvania and Georgia, Republicans have been actively campaigning or quietly maneuvering against Trump`s picks in a way that could undermine his sway over the party."
Now, I mentioned it earlier, Mike Pence is about to go campaign with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who Donald Trump categorically despises, and other Trump allies, working candidates that Trump hasn`t back, what do you think of all this?
TOLLIVER: I think when you`ll see one trend, especially with Kemp down in Georgia, Kemp said he would have certified the election again, and that immediately turned Trump off. And so I think that is going to be a dividing line, especially among the more traditional Republican sets, because I feel like they at this moment are prioritizing the institutions and our basic election functionality and our democracy over Trump.
Now, will they be successful? Maybe, maybe not. I feel like Kemp is in a unique situation where he`s way ahead of Perdue and fundraising and in the polls, that he could prevail in Georgia if, for the Republican nomination, but Trump is going to still yield his wrath, as Barbara already emphasized, is not only going to be in the endorsements that he`s making up and down the ballot, but it`s also stacking the deck so that he can rig the election so that the next time he does call a Secretary of State to final 11,870 votes, they say, I`m right on it. That`s what he wants and that is the real threat to our democracy.
RUHLE: But you said something really important, it`s not that bold of a move on Mike Pence`s part, Kemp is way, way, way ahead. John, what should we expect Tuesday night in Pennsylvania, long night?
MICEK: A long night and the unexpected. The Republican races for U.S. Senate and for Governor are wide open. Again, it`s the Barnette, McCormick and Oz are all within the margin. It looks like Doug Mastriano is probably in the Republican race for governor but it`s going to be a long night. And, you know, we`ll be keeping track of things.
RUHLE: Barbara, I want to turn to January 6, before we go, many of us doubt that we`re ever, ever, ever going to see any of these GOP House members show up and answer questions. What are you watching for next?
MCQUADE: Well, I think that they are going to get some pressure to make a decision. They`re going to have a deadline. So they`re going to have to either answer the questions or make the case why not. Unlike some of the other witnesses, they don`t have any attorney client privilege, they can assert, they don`t have any executive privilege, they can assert because of course, they`re in the legislative branch.
The only privilege they really have available to them is the Fifth Amendment, which requires an expression of a well-rounded fear of criminal exposure. And so I imagine they`ll attack the legitimacy of the committee and call this a political witch hunt, as they have so far, but they really are staking a claim here and challenging the authority of a congressional committee. And one day the tables will be turned and members of the Republican Party are going to want to question members of the Democratic Party. And so if they say that these subpoenas are invalid now, I think they`ve really damaged the institution in an important way.
RUHLE: All right then, John Micek, Barbara McQuade, Juanita Tolliver, thank you all for starting us off tonight.
Coming up, what is really behind the empty shelves sending panic into the hearts of parents of hungry babies? We`re going to get the facts on the shortage.
And later, Elon Musk, putting his Twitter takeover on hold. What`s his end game? The 11th Hour just getting underway on this Friday night.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seeing the moms in the store crying in the formula aisle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve gone to pretty much every store and every call at every store to search for it and we can`t find it anywhere. As of this morning, we were down to one can and that was when I got desperate and I reached out to women on Facebook.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: And that frustration is not going to end soon. Retailers and manufacturers warn the nationwide shortage of baby formula could drag on for months. Two House committees are now demanding more information from the four leading baby formula manufacturers in the country. And here`s why. All together, these four control 90% of the entire market for this essential product. So how did we get here?
To answer that I want to bring in Annie Gasparro, Food Reporter for The Wall Street Journal, she has been covering this issue closely. And Dr. Lanre Falusi, Pediatrician at Children`s National Hospital and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. She`s also the co-host of the health and parenting podcast, Hippocratic hosts.
Annie, I want to break this down with how we got here. Because baby formula is clearly an essential product. And Democrats and Republicans alike have allowed basically, two, eat, three, two really companies to be the sole manufacturers producing 90% of baby formula in this country. And we have allowed high tariffs and restrictions to not allow other countries and smaller manufacturers to manufacture formula. And now hear where we are. Walk us through this.
ANNIE GASPARRO, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL FOOD REPORTER: Yeah, so the vast majority, about 80% of the production comes from the makers of Similac and Enfamil. And we started seeing shortages at the end of last year, which were really driven by the pandemic, you know, everything was in short supply, there were problems with trucking and worker shortages. So it wasn`t really that bad or that widespread. But then in February, the makers of Similac had a recall and ended up pausing production at their largest factory. And that caused an extreme situation where now we are seeing baby formula shortages, where there`s an average of 43% out of stock at grocery stores across the country.
RUHLE: But how is it that lawmakers, even Democrats right now are shocked. They can`t believe this could ever happen. They know the agreements they`ve made. They know who produces these products. It`s no different from big agriculture, where the biggest, biggest farms control everything. This isn`t a surprise.
GASPARRO: Right. And, you know, it`s really interesting because it takes a crisis for this situation to really be highlighted. Nobody had ever really looked at the duopoly or looked at who was making all of the baby formula because we weren`t in a situation where there was a shortage and it`s something that, you know, some doctors are saying we should have a national stockpile, but that`s really difficult to do because the product expires.
So over the years, over the decades there hasn`t been a lot of competition that shook up this market and that is the real source of the problem ultimately. And there are some key reasons to that. One being that the market for baby formula hasn`t been growing that fast. So there was no incentive for new companies to come in and start manufacturing their own. And there`s also really high like you mentioned, regulatory hurdles for that. So it`s just not something that disruptors, new companies have really tried to come in and steal market share.
RUHLE: Yeah, by design.
Doctor, how critical is the shortage for families? How bad is it?
DR. LANRE FALUSI, PEDIATRICIAN, CHILDREN`S NATIONAL HOSPITAL: This has been a very stressful time for families, something as basic as the nutrition for their infants, being at risk has made families really desperate, we`re definitely getting calls from families, I actually spoke with a mom just today who has a newborn, and they had to drive to a neighboring state to find formula, which as you can imagine, is again, very stressful time. I got a message from another mom who has a baby who is on a specialized formula due to a milk allergy. And they`re trying to figure out how to find this specialized formula and thinking about alternatives. So it`s been really tough for families, something that used to be as simple as going to the store, having a grocery list and being able to grab those cans of formula as their shopping has become something that`s been much more complicated.
RUHLE: And can you fact check this for us, Doctor, all those people out there saying, no big deal? Let`s go the old fashioned way. Just start breastfeeding again. Can you explain to our audience, women aren`t cows, we can`t just turn the spigots on at will?
FALUSI: Yeah, you know, as pediatricians we always support mothers who choose to breastfeed, but we also know that with biology or social supports, it`s not always possible for every parent. We also know that, you know, the way that we support families, you know, could be improved. There are reports of limit, we`re able to read lactate, as we say, who maybe had stopped breastfeeding before and restarted. But again, that is not an option for everyone. And so it`s really critical, that we are able to ease the shortage so that families have those that option that those choices of safe formula that they can buy in the store and not have to worry about how to feed their infant who needs that specialized nutrition, vitamins, protein, and specialized fats that you`d find in breast milk or formula.
RUHLE: And for every guy out there saying just go out there and get a breast pump. I invite you to try a breast pump out and see how that feels.
Annie, before we go, I do want to ask you about WIC, Women and Children in Need. We`ve got over half of the families in America who get formula, get it because they have that government subsidy. Now, the way this is working states have contracts with one specific formula supplier, which again, that is a monopoly a legal monopoly. And if that formula isn`t in stock, you can`t use that card. Democrats are trying to propose maybe they can change that to help the situation.
GASPARRO: Yes, and the White House did call on faith this week to really encourage them to make exceptions right now because of the shortage. And like you said, it`s just really, it`s really sad that some moms can`t just go online and pay double the amount by a reseller. And they are relying on the government subsidies and they can`t use those to buy it online. So it really is having an outsized impact on low income families, and as well as families with children with severe medical needs. And I`ve talked to moms in both cases, and it`s just heartbreaking to hear how they`re having to go to such great lengths driving across the country, paying exorbitant amounts. One family paid $1,000 for their formula for one month because they had to buy it basically on the black market.
RUHLE: No one should have to. It`s a reminder though we all think that regulation, the idea of regulation is good. It`s to protect people. But look closely, smart regulation is good. Big regulation, regulatory capture, not so good. Annie Gasparro, Dr. Lanre Falusi, thank you for joining us this evening.
When we come back, will he or won`t he? The surprising twist in the proposed takeover of Twitter? What is Elon Musk really up to? When THE 11TH HOUR continues?
RUHLE: You`ve seen the headlines, more chaos and the Elon Musk Twitter saga, the world`s richest man said his $44 billion deal to take over Twitter "is temporarily on hold pending details, supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts represent less than 5% of users."
That statement sent Twitter stock stumbling in premarket trading, but a couple hours later, he tweeted this. Still committed to the acquisition.
Here to discuss it, NBC News Tech Correspondent, my dear friend, Jake Ward, he has been covering disinformation and studies the effect of social media platforms on human behavior.
Jake, I`m so happy you`re here. Because here`s the thing, there is absolutely no new material information about fake accounts. Twitter has acknowledged this repeatedly in the past. The only thing that has changed recently is the value of Twitter stock. What Elon Musk agreed to pay and where it`s currently trading. There`s a big disconnect. So tell us what this is really about. Because this whole we`re checking into fake accounts is a whole lot of baloney.
JAKE WARD, NBC NEWS TECH CORRESPONDENT: Well, that`s right. I mean, it is certainly no secret, Stephanie, that Twitter has banned bots all over the place, right? They are the frontline of information warfare all over the world on it and other social media platforms. And when Elon Musk announced his intention to acquire Twitter, he mentioned them specifically. So it`s not like he`s surprised by it. So as you say, that`s new -- not a new piece of material adversity. This definitely as we see the stock price slide by about 25% lower today at about 40 bucks from what he is agreeing to pay for it, which is a $54.20 a share. You know, this really smacks of somebody going OK, wait, timeout, timeout. I don`t like how this game is going.
RUHLE: OK. But is he allowed to do that, right? He agreed to buy the company, he had time to do all that due diligence. He didn`t do it. And now here he is. So what happens? There`s this billion dollar breakup fee. So if he doesn`t complete the deal, he pays a billion dollars, which is kind of like you and me paying a parking ticket and walks away? Or can he pay the billion dollars and come back now that the company is seriously wounded since he`s beat the you know, what out of them in the public market. And come back and say, oh, yeah, I`ll buy you, but not at 54 bucks a chair, try 34 bucks. Could he do that?
WARD: Well, that`s right, he could absolutely do these things. I mean, I -- in my experience, the people who run companies like the ones that Elon Musk runs tend to be people that only do things when they have at least two possible outcomes and possibly serve even more purposes than that. So in this case, it definitely feels like somebody`s essentially either giving himself the opportunity to buy the company for a lesser amount of money, or giving himself the opportunity to walk away and perhaps bring the price of Tesla shares up higher than they were before.
Now, you know, the weird part about it. Of course, here is that Twitter, you know, it`s one thing for Elon Musk saying to, I don`t like how this game is going. The game`s going even worse for Twitter, right? They at this point, don`t have any other suitor lined up. It`s not at all clear how they could do anything other than renegotiate with them, they may not want to go into a costly legal battle with them and hurt their own share price, maybe even subject themselves to lawsuits from their shareholders. So they may have even fewer options than he does. But the billions of dollars at stake here, I mean, I get sweaty when I can`t even, you know, when I miss a payment on a credit card. The idea that this guy is playing around with a possible billion dollar fine. It really does make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, Stephanie.
RUHLE: Let`s talk about a whole lot more than a billion dollars. Let`s talk about cryptocurrency. We`ve talked about the markets getting damaged this week. Cryptocurrency is literally in a death spiral. Many people are saying they`re having their march 2008 moment here, talk us through who this is going to hurt because while this may be like the subprime crisis, March 2008, it`s very different. The subprime crisis were lots of individuals who didn`t realize what they got themselves into. And then there were government bailouts. In the case of cryptocurrency, many, many of these individual investors are part of this wide swath of people who are antiestablishment, antigovernment, the whole basis of crypto has been decentralization, we don`t want to guarantee, we don`t want your protection. So if people are really losing their shirts here, what is this going to look like?
WARD: Well, this is the thing, right? I think about it is sort of two categories of people. There are, as you say, the sort of original, you know, pioneers, if that`s the word of crypto, who were, you know, the kind of people who could afford it, right? They were tech entrepreneurs, with a libertarian bent, who wanted to get government out of money, monetary regulation on a decentralized currency. And when those people lose their shirt, it`s hard to be sympathetic. But then I think about, you know, the celebrities that lined up to sell cryptocurrency and its potential to everyday people, let`s say during the Superbowl, right? And you now have those folks, people who maybe cannot afford to lose even a little bit of money having put big money into cryptocurrency because they were told this is the future. And then I think beyond our borders, you`ve got countries like El Salvador that have sunk, you know $150 million of taxpayer money. The citizens of El Salvador just watched their President put another 500 Bitcoins, you know, into the system using their dough. I mean, we`re talking here about people who really may not have been able to afford to lose that money suddenly being on the hook for it. I think that`s the great tragedy of this.
RUHLE: But Jake, one of the things that made cryptocurrency so valuable, is that it is unregulated. They`ve been fighting against regulation and regulation is what protects you. So all those celebrities you`re talking about, Reese Witherspoon, Matt Damon, Kim Kardashian, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paris Hilton, LeBron James, who all were pumping cryptocurrency. NBC News reached out to all of them today and you know what they said about crypto, nothing. If you and I have our life savings in Wells Fargo or Citibank and they go under, the FDIC is there, our money is guaranteed. If Coinbase goes bankrupt, that crypto is gone.
WARD: It is the craziest thing to watch, you know, the most visible faces in our society push something that really has no protections to it at all. And to see even what we`re calling stable coins, these Bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies that are supposed to be connected to the dollar, even those are in the death spiral now, so yeah, 200 billion raised in a day, we`re talking about a very big loss for a lot of people who cannot afford it, Stephanie.
RUHLE: Jake, thank you. And for our audience right now, if you are shaking your head, I want you to know we were too. My team discuss all, are we going to cover this cryptos complicated, do we care we`re not invested in it? I get it. I`m not many of you might not be either. But this is so big, and the losses could be so huge. The knock on effect could impact our economy. It could impact millions of Americans. And at the very least, we just want to keep an eye on it. Jake Ward, thank you.
Coming up, the stark warning from number three Democrat in the House. Historian Jon Meacham joins us next on the state of our democracy when THE 11TH HOUR continues.
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REP. JAMES CLYBURN, (D) SOUTH CAROLINA: I have been saying for a long time now that this too shall pass. But you know, I grew up in apostasy. And I`m beginning to believe that we may be threatening to really undermine this democracy. And this country really is teetering on the edge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: A stark, stark warning from House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn on the state of our democracy during a discussion about the January 6 investigation.
With us tonight to discuss, we have the honor of bringing on historian Jon Meacham. He is the Rogers Chair in the American presidency at Vanderbilt University, and occasionally advises President Biden on historical matters and major speeches, his newest presidential biography, And Then There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle will be available this October.
Jon, it is always good to see you. I wish I was starting with a better question. What is your reaction to what Congressman Jim Clyburn said?
JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think he`s right. I`ve been in that zip code with him in believing that there are perennial forces in American life that are destructive, and they ebb and they flow and they`ve been flowing. But they would begin to ebb. But they only ebb if enough citizens stand up and say, we are not going to head down the road of authoritarianism and of unreason. And it is a very close run thing at this point.
You asked a minute ago, you know, is this a sign of a functioning democracy? And the answer is no. Right now, it`s a dysfunctional one. At least it`s still functional. But there`s no guarantee about any of this. And there`s no guarantee about any of it, because it`s a human institution. It`s you and me and everybody else. And democracy is the fullest expression of all of us. And so it`s remarkable. We`ve made it this far, in many ways. But I know you don`t want to be part of. I don`t want to be part of the generation of people who let this experiment collapse in the face of forces that are more interested in power than in principle.
RUHLE: But when we look back to last year, January 6, obviously a devastating mark on our country`s history, sort of the silver lining is democracy held. Do you think it will continue to right now, we`re looking at the Pennsylvania primaries with these extreme Republican candidates gaining ground, can you compare where we are right now to anything in recent history? Because I thought January 6 was the worst. And now here we are with loads of candidates who won`t even saying the President is.
MEACHAM: One of the remarkable things about the `20 -- late `20, early `21 period is the Trump forces didn`t do it very well. They sort of stumbled into the whole stop the steel and the undermining of democracy. They won`t screw it up next time. And that`s a very fundamental thing that everyone has to understand, right? That they`ve got time now --
RUHLE: Hold on, you know what, Jon, I need you to back the train up back the chunk up and tell us that one more time.
MEACHAM: OK. I think that when you look at this historically clinically, if you look at late 2020 and early 2021, the Trump forces who were attempting to undermine a popular election, didn`t do it very well. They stumbled into it. They held press conferences that weird places. Rudy Giuliani was running around. It was chaotic. They will not screw it up next time. They have time, they have resources, as you say they are running candidates and this is not alarmism. I`m not a Democrat. I`m not a Republican. I`ve actually voted for more Republicans for president than I have for Democrats. Although that margin is closing pretty fast, I must say.
So take it for what it`s worth. But I really believe that if enough of us don`t stand up and say that, even when you lose, the system is worth your assent, A-S-S-E-N-T, your acceptance of the rules. Because ultimately, the journey toward a more perfect union is worth momentary setbacks. And that`s the great -- I don`t want to be overly grand here. But that`s the great moral crisis.
Democracies only work if we see each other as neighbors, and not as adversaries, much less as reflexive enemies. And I don`t mean this in a, you know, Mr. Rogers kind of way, you don`t have to love your neighbor. You just have to respect your neighbor. And in respecting your neighbor, you raise the chances that they`re going to respect you. And that`s the social compact. And that`s what`s under immense pressure. And is it unprecedented? Nobody else has ever stormed the Capitol. That`s never happened. In February 1861, the incumbent vice president of the United States who had lost Abraham Lincoln, in the 1860 election, was in charge of reading the electoral votes, was under pressure to not certify the election. And he did his duty, he became a Confederate General. But he`d taken an oath of office as vice president and he followed that.
So even during the Civil War, even during the Civil War, the rule of law predominated, and it did with Vice President Pence as well, as you say. The system did hold. But we can`t -- we have to reaffirm and understand that there`s nothing inevitable about the constitutional order. And of course, it`s imperfect. But as Winston Churchill is reputed to have said, you know, it`s it may be the worst form of government, except for all the others.
RUHLE: But then what is standing up look like? There might not be real consequences for January 6, we haven`t gotten voting rights legislation passed, what does standing up and coming together look like?
MEACHAM: I think it looks like ordinary voters deciding that they`re not going to incentivize this behavior. And that is what`s happening.
Look, politicians are far more often mirrors of who we are rather than makers. So this is not just a leadership class elite problem. This is a broad problem. And they`re -- you know, and this is a country. We`re 51, 49 country. Even we`ve only three times since World War Two as a presidential election been at 60, 40. So this is always a narrow thing.
You get -- I`m making up the number a little bit, but 5, 10 million people to say, you know what, I really don`t believe in everything the Democratic Party wants to do. But I believe in the Constitution. And so I`m going to vote that way. And if the margins are big enough, I think even the Trump forces will have a hard time.
And it`s -- those are the folks that have to be reached chair. And it`s an appeal to patriotism. It`s an appeal to self-interest as well. Because the rule of law protects you. It`s -- that`s what this is for. And I think that it`s deeply familiar. It didn`t occur to me, didn`t occur to me, honestly, wouldn`t have five years ago, just to think that in 2022, you and I on a Friday night would be having a conversation with all these words in it. But this is where we are. And this is the challenge of our time.
RUHLE: And I`m honored to speak with you tonight, Jon Meacham, thank you so much for joining us.
MEACHAM: Thanks, Steph.
RUHLE: Coming up, the inspiring and remarkable commencement address from a valedictorian that might change the way you think tonight, when THE 11TH HOUR continues.
RUHLE: Last thing before we go tonight, life is for service. It`s graduation season, which means lots of speakers are hoping to inspire and motivate students. One last time, but today one speaker and graduate inspired us in a big, big way.
Elizabeth Bunker, she`s the 2022 valedictorian at Rollins College in Florida. She has nonspeaking autism and even before graduating at the top of her class, she accomplished a lot, co-authored a book of poems, participated in a TEDMED Talk and founded a nonprofit. But resume aside Elizabeth`s message to her classmates is what really caught our attention.
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ELIZABETH BUNKER, FLORIDA ROLLINS COLLEGE 2022 VALEDICTORIAN (through translation): Rollins College Class of 2022, today we celebrate our shared achievements. I know something about shared achievements. Because I am affected by a form of autism that doesn`t allow me to speak. My neuro motor issues also prevent me from tying my shoes or buttoning a shirt without assistance. I have typed this speech with one finger with a communication partner holding a keyboard. I am one of the lucky few non-speaking autistics who have been taught to type, that one critical intervention unlocked my mind from its silent cage, enabling me to communicate and to be educated. Like my hero Helen Keller. My situation may be extreme, but I believe Rollins has shown all of us how sharing gives meaning to life. During my freshman year, I remember hearing a story about our favorite alumnus, Mr. Rogers. When he died, a handwritten note was found in his wallet. It said life is for service. You have probably seen it on the plaque by strong hall. Life is for service. So simple yet so profound. Personally, I have struggled my whole life with not being heard or accepted.
A story on the front page of our local newspaper reported how the principal at my high school told a staff member there (bleep) can`t be valedictorian. Yet today, here I stand. There are 31 million non-speakers with autism in the world who are locked in a silent cage. My life will be dedicated to relieving them from suffering in silence. So my call to action today is simple. Tear off a small piece from your commencement program and right life is for service on it. Yes, we gave you the pens to really do it.
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RUHLE: And on that note, I wish you a good night. From all of our colleagues across the networks of NBC News, thanks for staying up late with us. I`ll see you next week.