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Transcript: The 11th Hour, 1/10/22

Guests: Jeremy Bash, Michael Steele


President Biden and Vice President Harris head to Atlanta on Tuesday to shine a brighter light on election reform ahead of Martin Luther King Day. A new sign of trouble for the January 6th committee as they try to convince Republicans like former Vice President Pence and Rep. Jim Jordan to cooperate with the investigation. Chicago teachers return to the classroom after a dispute over COVID safety protocols canceled a week of classes in America`s third-largest school district. It comes as reports show New York may have already hit its peak of omicron cases.



SIDNEY POITIER, BAHAMIAN-AMERICAN ACTOR: I endeavor to solve the Negro question will, will exemplify for me the kind of interest the country as a whole has in doing the things that are necessary for us to be entitled to a future.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Sidney Poitier gets tonight`s "LAST WORD." THE 11TH HOUR starts now.


STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, I`m Stephanie Ruhle. Day 356 of the Biden administration. And tonight, there`s a new sign that the January 6 Committee may be having trouble convincing former Vice President Mike Pence to cooperate. The panel has indicated it`s moving closer to asking pence to appear voluntarily.

But the New York Times now reporting Pence is quote, increasingly disillusioned with the idea of voluntary cooperation. He`s told aides that the committee has taken a sharp partisan turn by openly considering the potential for criminal referrals to the Justice Department about Mr. Trump and others.

The Times adds Pence has grown annoyed that the committee is publicly signaling that it has secured a greater degree of cooperation from his top aides than it actually has, something he sees as part of the pattern of Democrats trying to turn him against former President Trump. Here`s what one member of the committee said about that very report just a few hours ago.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We just like him to come in and share with us what he knows. He knows what`s right for the country. He knows what happened in the election. He knows the pressure campaign he was under and he knows he could do a service the country by talking about it. But he also knows that there`s a political cost that will come with that. I hope he makes the right decision. The Vice President has very material testimony, and we hope you`ll do the right thing.


RUHLE: And the new news that is no surprise Republican Congressman Jim Jordan now signaling he may not comply with the committee`s request for a voluntary interview about what he was doing on the sixth. Late yesterday, Jordan sent the committee a lengthy letter saying in part, quote, this request is far outside the bounds of any legitimate inquiry, and he called it an outrageous abuse of the Select Committee`s authority.

Also happening today, lawyers for Trump himself as a federal judge to toss out lawsuits that to seek to hold him liable for his own role in inspiring the January 6 attack. And then another legal battle for Trump, Rachel Maddow reported tonight that attorneys for the former president have met in person with the Fulton County District Attorney`s Office in Georgia.

And tonight a Georgia prosecutor investigating Trump`s efforts to overturn that state`s results tells the AP that a decision on potential charges could come in the first half of this year, could being the important word. But President Biden and vice president Harris will be headed to Georgia tomorrow for what the White House says we a major push to protect voting rights.

Biden speech is expected to call on Congress to pass bills overhauling election laws. The administration also dealing with a high stakes foreign policy challenge at the very same time.

Today, U.S. diplomats met with Russian officials for the first of several talks to try to defuse the crisis over Ukraine. Russia now has some 100,000 troops stationed along Ukraine`s borders. The White House has threatened severe sanctions if Russia invades.

Today, the Kremlin insisted it has no plans to do so. We`ll get a report from Ukraine`s border early -- later in the hour.

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Monday night. Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize winning White House bureau chief with the Washington Post. Eugene Daniels, White House correspondent for Politico and Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff at the CIA and the Pentagon.

Ashley, I turned to you first, this January 6 committee needs witnesses with first-hand knowledge of what went down on Capitol Hill. Walk us through how critical Mike Pence is. And let`s get real. If Mike Pence doesn`t cooperate, what are the actual consequences? Because thus far, it seems like the consequences to turn on Trump are worse.

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, it`s interesting. Mike Pence is incredibly critical in the run up to January 6, right. He was the critical person who the former president and all of his aides, his attorneys, people in Trump`s orbit, were putting pressure on to as we now know, overturn the results of the election.

So the vice -- former Vice President was in frequent contact, including on January 5th, with a very tough conversation again on the morning of January 6th, when he again told the President and what we know was a from his side at least a very pleasant conversation that was not going to Do it.


Now on the actual day after that compensation, Mike Pence has very little contact with competent. This is one of the things that Republicans puling, in essence are a bit were very upset about that, as Trump supporters are championing hang Mike Pence is they`re coming as the Washington Post reported with just about 60 seconds of obscene and been able to reach the man. Some of them wanted to hang for a reason.

There`s no outreach from the former president, from the White House to anyone on Pence`s. At some point, finding Mike Pence is at Chief of Staff at the time, basically called the White House saying, Hey, guys, the same now, we`re OK.

So he has a lot of insight in that front up not that much that they are -- would be incredibly important. But to answer your second question, Pence`s calculation is almost never crossed former President Trump except of course on January 6, when he did his constitutional (INAUDIBLE) upheld the election results and it seems unlikely it`s going totally put on him now the way the committee would like to see.

RUHLE: Given how unlikely it is, given that people like Jim Jordan are not going to cooperate. Jeremy, is the committee really able to make these criminal referrals? Because if they don`t, they`re not getting anything?

JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I think the committee`s objective Stephanie is to do several things. First and foremost is to put out all the facts so that the American people can see exactly what happened on January 6, the dimensions that we`re seeing on live television, but also the dimensions that were hidden. The plotting that went on at the White House, the pressure campaign behind the scenes against Vice President Pence, the effort to coordinate with insurrectionists to stage an armed revolt on our democratic process.

And I think if there are criminal referrals to be made, I think the committee is not going to shy away from making them. Now whether or not a prosecutor feels they`ve got all the evidence to bring a case in front of a jury and convict somebody. That`s a different standard. But the committee`s work, the committee standard, I think is going to be to shine a light on these facts.

It`s absolutely critical that people participate and cooperate with this investigation. And if they don`t, I think it just showcases how much the Trump team wants to hide the facts from the American people about exactly what their role was on January 6.

RUHLE: OK, fine, then Jeremy. But yes, it showcases that, but what is showcasing do?

BASH: Well, I think there`s political accountability that I think can emanate from a credible investigation, and this is a credible bipartisan investigation. I think, Stephanie, if what you`re getting at is unless someone goes away in handcuffs, whose last name rhymes with Frump, then this is all a waste of time. I disagree.

I think there`s a very strong political electoral dimension, we have to make sure this never happens again. This is the absolute bare minimum role of this committee in this Congress, which is to ensure the 2022 elections, the 2024 elections are free, fair and open from coercion, the kind of which we saw just one year ago.

RUHLE: All right, well, that same person whose name rhymes with Frump, his lawyers met in person with the Georgia DA, who may or may not do something, by the end of the first half of this year, any chance that sticks to the person whose name rhymes with from? Jeremy.

BASH: You know, I personally don`t put a lot of stock in just the criminal investigations, jurisdiction by jurisdiction. I think what the President did on a grand scale was unconstitutional. It was unlawful, it was criminal, it was an effort to inject voter fraud and to steal the election.

But ultimately, at the end of the day, the American people are going to have to hold him accountable. And they`re going to have to hold political leaders who align themselves with him accountable. You know, again, whether or not a Fulton County DA or some other prosecutor can make a case, I don`t know. But I don`t think that anyone should hold their breath for that and declare it a failure if that`s not the outcome.

RUHLE: Eugene, the White House has a big legislative agenda ahead of them. I mean, voting rights is the whole ball of wax. And then there`s this January 6 investigation, how much focus are they putting on that?

EUGENE DANIELS, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, on January 6, as you saw on the anniversary of President Biden for the first time, really leaning in and talking about January 6, talking about his predecessor, without saying his name painting him as dangerous for democracy, something that he talked about, how do we -- how much does President Biden lean in?

Because for months, you`ve seen Democrats, progressives, activist, historians wanting the president to do so really call out what happened on January 6, and more specifically tie that to President Trump and then tie that to voting right so that is what the White House knows that I can do, right. Use the bully pulpit to raise awareness to talk about these things as they see it to make things plain to the American people.

There are a lot of the American people are in their corners on this, right.


They know that it`s going to be difficult to change the minds of Republicans on what happened on January 6, as the white Washington of that day has already started. But they are focused on the democracy aspect for protecting democracy and talking about it as much as they possibly can, hoping that it`s going to break through. It`s just proving difficult so far.

And with President Biden going tomorrow, and vice president Harris going to monitor Georgia to talk about voting rights, we know that he`s going to do some of that time again from January 6 into protecting voting rights.

So they`re hoping that to make that connection and continue to make that connection. I hope that that helps. But as we all know, January 6 continues to be a day that Democrats and historians and some people that had was it, were able to see and watch that day and see what happened. And Republicans see things really differently.

RUHLE: Let`s say Eugene on that speech tomorrow, White House calling it this big speech, big focus on voting rights. It could be an extraordinary speech. The President gave a very strong speech last week, but it doesn`t change legislation and democracy is at risk. Are we going to get anything different tomorrow? Anything different than what we`ve heard before?

DANIELS: I think we`re going to hear the President talk about voting rights differently than he has before, right. This isn`t the first time that he`s called on the Senate to pass these two pieces of legislation that are sitting on their desk. But he is going to come out we`re told full throated in a carve out for the Voting Rights for filibuster for voting rights.

So a plan that is in motion and Democrats in the Senate have been planning on doing something like this, pull -- doing a vote on these pieces of legislation and then possibly doing a vote on this voting rights, filibuster carve out. And he`s going to be full throated about that as what they`re telling us. That`s what we`re going to see.

But he knows, we know there`s still a steep hill to climb. He can only do so much when it comes to the filibuster. He can pressure members of congressmen, excuse me, pressure senators to do that to come get on board with that. We don`t Manchin and Sinema have proven to be a little bit difficult there. But it`s not just them. Right? You have Mark Kelly, Arizona senator who`s up for reelection in November, also kind of keying in on or whether or not he would be on board with a carve out for the filibuster. So it`s not just those two.

And so what civil rights leaders are hoping they`re going to see the marvelous President Biden really lean in, maybe even call out some of these folks by name. We`ve already seen that backfire with Joe Manchin. So I`m not sure that the President is going to do that. But they are hoping to see a completely different shift because this White House knows and has said over and over, that they have reached a different level and different level of interest in in involvement when it comes to voting rights legislation.

RUHLE: Then Ashley, let`s say on that strategy. Does talking to people in Georgia matter, or should he be camped out in Joe Manchin`s driveway and outside Kyrsten Sinema`s apartment?

PARKER: Well, you have mixed attitudes on this, right? You have some activists in Georgia and elsewhere who are saying they`re frustrated with the President. And they`re saying they`re deliberately pointedly not going to go to this speech. They say at this point, a year-end someone who ran stories of my feed, someone who made promises about voting rights, we need to see more than a speech. Unless you are going to come down here and tell us exactly how these two pieces of legislation get through Congress, we don`t want to hear it. The time for talking is over.

The flip side is Eugene was just saying is that there`s also a lot of activists who think simply going to a state where people voting incredibly important for Biden, and then Democrats with the Senate, going to a state that then has some very restrictive voting laws. You know, going GA using the bully pulpit with both him as his vice president, sort of the history and the voice of the places they`re appearing, is meaningful.

And when you have a divided, a very narrow Senate, when you have the Congress you do and there`s only so much by executive order that that the bully pulpit is a good tool. And for those people that are also happy that at the very least, Biden is finally earning full attention to this, right. There`s a sense that Build Back Better may be on the back burner if nothing else is pushing to change the filibuster and that some of that public pressure may help pay those senators. And if it doesn`t go in and sit in in Manchin`s driveway, the driveway of a senator who steep, former President Trump won by about 40 points isn`t frustratingly for many Democrats in the White House isn`t necessarily the best (INAUDIBLE).

RUHLE: Jeremy, we`ve all said it. Voting Rights is hugely important and those activist Ashley are talking about how they have huge influence in the party. But let`s talk about regular voters. How does Joe Biden get them to prioritize voting rights? They`re thinking about putting food on the table and their kids in school.


BASH: They will, Stephanie, I think that`s, of course fair, and America`s families have to prioritize. But you know, quote unquote, regular families, I`m not sure exactly what that means. I mean, people who are disenfranchised, people of color, minority groups in this country, communities of color, they are, quote unquote, regular Americans. So sometimes we sort of, say, regular Americans, and was sort of what we`re really meaning is kind of white folks and people who don`t --

RUHLE: No, I just mean non-politically active people. I mean, people who aren`t thinking about politics, weren`t thinking about voting rights, just people are thinking about living their day to day lives, to many of them voting rights is an abstract.

BASH: Of course, I understand that. But of course, the foundation of your ability to have any power at all, and the ability to change your community, your civic leadership, your neighborhood, your city council, your mayorship, your members of Congress, all the way up to the presidency, the foundation is your right to vote. And we weren`t a democracy in this country until the 1960s, until people actually had the Voting Rights Act that enabled, you know, so many millions of Americans who, up until then had not been able to cast a ballot to do so.

And so, you know, I think this is foundational. I think this is fundamental. And I`m not sure I agree with the premise that people don`t care about it. I think if people understood that their vote was denied, they would care about it. And they do care about it.

RUHLE: They care about it, are they thinking about it enough? Do you think, Jeremy, people think about it in their day to day life in the exact way that you laid it out? It`s something we all should understand and prioritize. But given all that people are dealing with how to Democrats get people to make it that priority, exactly how you just said?

BASH: You know, I think it`s connecting what`s happening in the political realm to making sure that there`s equal pay for equal work, making sure that the right to make medical decisions on your own behalf are actually connected to your ability to have political power, the ability to have civil rights and human rights in your community, to have a good education for your kids to put it have health care for your family, when those are things that emanate from one place, which is your ability to have political power in a democracy. And I think if Democrats make that clear, and make that plain people do when they will understand that/

RUHLE: They sure will. Ashley, let`s turn now -- let`s talk about the Russia situation. How worried is the White House about it?

PARKER: Well, you know, if you look at just this first day of the security talks, both sides on the one hand were a little bit cautiously optimistic. But this White House is incredibly clear eyed that a number of the things that Russia is asking for are simply non-starters, the idea that Ukraine will never ever, ever join NATO. That`s a non-starter for the United States and NATO allies. The idea that NATO would go back to what sort of 1997 boundaries, that`s a non-starter for the United States.

While they`re having these props, there are boosts amassed on the border. There`s helicopters and other things be would have been. President Biden has been very clear that he does not trust Vladimir Putin. So President Biden is always someone who has also made their first diplomacy if wants talks but of course they`re worried about this.

RUHLE: Jeremy, earlier today, I spoke to Russian political activist Garry Kasparov. And I want to share what he said about Putin.


GARRY KASPAROV, RENEW DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN: These talks was put in this hour hostage negotiation with a terrorist. He invaded Ukraine in 2014. And now he`s using the threat of for the invasion to demand concessions and his concessions about basically destroying the Eastern flank of NATO.

So this is -- this isn`t about geopolitical interest of Russia national security. It`s extortion, in Putin`s interest of causing chaos. It`s expanding his influence and staying in power. And it`s completely backwards. The free world should get making the demands of the terrorists boots, the invader Putin. The man President Biden correctly called a killer.


RUHLE: Is he right? Did the U.S. come away with any concessions today hard to do that if you`re negotiating with a terrorist?

BASH: Well, I think he has a point here. But I think the U.S. posture is appropriate because essentially, Russia table these two draft treaties, that essentially said, NATO should not expand to the east and the United States came forward and said very clearly with our allies, Hey, you, Vladimir Putin, don`t get to tell another country who they can be an ally with. And you have to deescalate the situation by removing your troops from the border. You want to talk about offensive missiles, you want to talk about a nuclear treaty that you abandon, we`ll be happy to talk about those things. Be happy to talk about avoiding this calculation in Europe.

But no, we`re not going to make concessions that slams the door on NATO. And I think the U.S. was very firm tomorrow they`re going to be meeting with NATO ally ship 30 countries being together, that`s an asset the United States enjoys that Russia doesn`t even dream about because they could never have 30 countries in alliance with them.


So I think the United States has a pretty strong hand. And I think to Garry Kasparov`s point the United States is going to be making those demands of Putin. I think at the end of the day, Putin will back down.

RUHLE: Well, we will soon find out Ashley, Eugene, Jeremy, thank you all so much. And Jeremy again, thank you for the important reminder that protecting and preserving our right to vote is everything. When we come back, one of our next guest called the past five years and effective democracy stress test for the country, and why his prognosis is not good.

And later, the stress of Omicron on hospitals on parents and on society. Dr. Vin Gupta will join us. THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on this busy Monday night.



DONNY DEUTSCH, HOST, ON BRAND WITH DONNY DEUTSCH: The Republicans have figured something out that the more free we are, more people are allowed to vote, the more people of color that are allowed to vote. They can`t win elections anymore. The only way they can win now is prevention or lying. That`s it. The number that country is moving away from them. They don`t -- they have -- there`s no game. There`s no answer other than let`s not play fair.


RUHLE: Even as the White House embarks on a serious effort to codify voting rights in Congress state Republicans are remaining hard at work rewriting voting laws, to that very point. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has this warning for all Americans.



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): What the Republicans are doing across the country is really a legislative continuation of what they did on January 6, which is to undermine our democracy and to undermine the integrity of our elections to undermine the voting power, which is the essence of a democracy. So, we have to do that bill. That is no more important bill.


RUHLE: We welcome back to the program this evening. Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, and the host of the Michael Steele podcast, also Matthew Dowd, former George W. Bush strategist and founder of Country Over Party.

Michael, here`s what`s scary, Donnie is right. What Republicans are doing is unjust, and it`s unAmerican. But here`s the problem. They`re doing it. And it`s working. What can Democrats do about this right now?

MICHAEL STEEL, FMR. RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, they`ve got to get serious about the threat that`s in front of them. They have to be able to articulate exactly what it is and understand where it`s coming from and wide so animated.

This relates back to your conversation you just had in the opening segment, where, you know, it really does boil down to this simple question. How do you reason someone out of a position that they never reason themselves into? That`s the rub of this. Donald Trump came in and got people who everybody would say, Oh, this was just a regular Joe Republican and, you know, stood for, you know, strong defense, Russia was the bad guy, you grow the economy, et cetera. And now it`s all Trump. And no one has yet really put their finger on. Well, how and why did that happen?

So when you look at the proposals that Democrats have put out on the table, based off of the 2020 election voters going well, I didn`t vote for that. I voted to get rid of Trump, but I didn`t vote for all this other stuff. So that`s the gap right now that you`re seeing playing out what Democrats --

RUHLE: So what do you mean -- hold a second. What do you mean, the other stuff? Do you mean that Democrats need to slim down what they`re trying to put in this new proposal? I don`t follow.

STEELE: Yes, exactly. Listen to what the voters are telling you. I mean, they love the infrastructure plan, Build Back Better, not so much. So you keep trying to force a square peg into a round hole politically, where the voters just aren`t ready to accept that, it doesn`t mean they don`t want Build Back Better at some point. But other things are more pressing to them. And that`s the conversation I think Democrats are not having, which is what is reflected in the polling that you see and why the landscape looks the way it does politically for Republicans, where the country feels with these guys, don`t get me you hear it with black voters, you hear with Hispanic, why it doesn`t matter, the group.

If they don`t understand why I gave them the power in the first place, then maybe these other guys will get it back. And we`ll see what happens. And you don`t want that attitude to set in. You need to speak to what the voters are telling you was driving them right now. And it`s not the things that some of the Democrats out there pushing.

RUHLE: Matt, you conducted what you`ve classified as a stress test on American democracy. What does that mean and what you learn?

MATTHEW DOWD, FMR. CHIEF STRATEGIST TO BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN: Well, it`s I didn`t conduct it, it`s what we`ve been going through, in my view, the last five years. I mean, to stress test is, as your viewers know, and as you know, is what we do, as we advance in age, we want to make sure we`re healthy, not just in rest, but in vigorous activity. And you think you`re fine, you go through a stress test where they put you on an exercise machine or whatever increases your heart rate. And then sometimes you discover what you who you thought were healthy, you`re actually not healthy. And there`s underlying problems, whether it`s cardiac or whatever it`s something`s going on in your organs.

RUHLE: So you`re saying we don`t --

DOWD: Our country has been through the same thing.

RUHLE: You`re saying we don`t realize (INAUDIBLE) we are?

DOWD: Our county -- I think what happened was, is we thought we were OK as a democracy. And this is pre-Trump. You know, we had our ills and we had our pains and we had our aches, and we had certain things, but we thought we were OK. What Donald Trump, his election in the aftermath and January 6, and I believe also COVID and how we -- how it`s been politicized, has shown our democracy is not healthy.

It was not healthy when it led to Trump. It has not been healthy through Trump. And I my fear is all of the prescriptions are like giving people Tylenol or Advil to relieve their headache or relieve their fever. And we`re not dealing with the fundamental problem, which goes and the fundamental problem which led us to here and which my view is endangers our democracy is a -- in my view of three fold.

First is there`s a huge segment of the population that has been lied to and now is propagandize to through both cable networks, and radio and all of that. So we have a segment of our population that no longer shares a common set of facts with us. A democracy can`t survive with that.


The second part of that is that now we have people that are on cable and people that are exacerbating people`s fear and hate and grievance. And so what that then leads to is this one, a rise of white nationalism, or a seeding or fertilizing of what`s already existed here. But it also doesn`t allow us to get to the common good if we no longer share some values with our neighbor or care about our neighbor no longer believe that.

So we don`t have a common set of facts, because the propaganda. The way grievances have been done has also given rise to a lack of a common good, which we arrive at Donald Trump. And to me, Donald Trump isn`t the singular cause of this. Donald Trump is a reflection of the sickness of our democracy.

And until we, you know, excise the tumors, or understand there are some fundamental problems in our democracy that need to be fixed, we`re going to keep repeating this and repeating this and repeating this.

RUHLE: So Michael, tomorrow, President Biden will be speaking publicly to the people of Georgia will see those remarks. What does he need to say?

STEELE: You know, I think he just needs to pull back the veil of the curtain, if you will, on how he sees what they`re going through, how he sees their -- their, you know, holding on to this sort of Trumpian notion, where they don`t seem to be that upset about, you know, the Georgia legislature changing the voting laws there.

There were no protests in the streets. They were people calling for the heads of elected officials who dare to change the voting process in the state to make it harder for seniors and African Americans and others to vote. So, I think speaking to that, and contextualizing that, more broadly, is going to be an important first step here.

RUHLE: Michael --

STEELE: Because right now, the Democrat narrative is all wrapped up in a policy debate that is outside of what people are really concerned about. I mean, the whole thing with Manchin over the summer. If voting is the key central thing, then go and go right to the heart of that. You just can`t nail after 11 months ago, oh, well, now voting is important.

DOWD: Let me add something to what Michael just said. I think Joe Biden needs to start connecting the dots.


DOWD: And instead of a theoretical conversation about democracy, which everybody will say, yes, I believe in democracy. They have no idea what actually that means in practical. So I think he needs to say what it practically means to have a democracy or not have a democracy and how that`s going to affect your life, and how lack of voting and lack of ability to vote affects your life, affects your ability to get good roads, affects your ability to get health care affects your ability, ultimately, to hold anybody accountable, whether you`re a Republican or a Democrat, or independent.

Basically, democracy is the only vehicle that allows us to hold leaders accountable. Otherwise, we might as well have just stayed with a monarchy from 250 years ago. This is why and I think Joe Biden needs to connect the dots of why voting rights and democracy matter to somebody`s life, and not some theoretical argument and just get up and say, I love democracy, we need to keep democracy, a third of the country response to that one way, a third another. And the other third is like, what does that mean?

RUHLE: Michael, we need to take a break.

STEELE: Just real quick. OK.

RUHLE: You two gentlemen are both staying with me. Maybe people didn`t protest those restrictive voting laws because they didn`t realize the impact it would have on them. And this is the moment to discuss it. Gentlemen, stay with us. When we come back, the three of us are going to dig deeper by the former president is slamming a fellow Republican senator, for guess what? Telling the truth.

And what it means for GOP candidates around this country ahead of the midterms. We get a lot more to cover when THE 11TH HOUR continues. Don`t move.




SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): While there were some irregularities, there were none of the irregularities, which would have risen to the point where they would have changed the vote outcome in a single state. The election was fair, as fair as we`ve seen. We simply did not win the election as Republicans for the presidency.


RUHLE: There you have it. Republican Senator Mike Rounds public refusal to adhere to Trump`s big lie, causing the former president to call him a jerk and a rhino Republican in name only. But the senator he stood behind his comments again, earlier today.


ROUNDS: I think as Republicans, we owe it to tell the truth. And I think integrity matters. And so, in my opinion, if we want to keep the confidence of our supporters and our voters, then we have to be honest with them.


RUHLE: OK the, still with us, Michael Steele and Matthew Dowd. Michael, maybe a year late but a Republican telling the truth about the last election is this going to catch on?

STEELE: Probably not as much as some would hope. But here`s the rub. And I applaud the senator`s comments, and thank him for saying that, because he`s absolutely right. But here`s the rub when he was asked a little bit later on. So would you vote for Donald Trump if he`s the nominee of the party in 2024. And he said, I will support the nominee of the party. And that`s the rub.

You cannot, on the one hand, say we`ve got to be honest, and integrity matters. But then want to put back into power, the very thing that undermined that integrity and put forth the big lie. And so this is the space that Republicans like the senator, are going to find themselves over the next few months, as they sort of roll out this kind of how emancipation moment were free at last Donald Trump until they`re asked, well, you`re going to vote for him if he`s the nominee. You`re going to support his candidacy for the presidency. When you say no to that, in addition to the first part, ah, baby, now we`ve turned the corner.

RUHLE: I don`t know Mr. Dowd. What is your take? He`s not out there saying that he openly supports Trump. Could this be the opening, where we actually start to see the Republican Party fracture in a meaningful enough way that another Republican could challenge Trump?


DOWD: I think the real answer is probably not. I mean, the problem is the Republican Party is very unified people like what Mike Brown said, what Mitt Romney said earlier today, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger are unicorns. I mean, they`re unicorns in the party. And then some of them couldn`t, can`t win reelection. And some of them left, some of them -- Mike Brown`s if he goes any much further, could lose a Republican primary in South Dakota. He`s got a governor that completely on the opposite side of him on this issue, who praises, and you know, follows around Donald Trump whenever she can.

And so I think the problem isn`t Donald Trump, as I keep saying, even though Donald Trump is it signifies the ailments we have. The problem is 75 to 80 percent of the Republican primary voters are not aligned with the idea that integrity matters, and that the truth matters. They`re not there. They don`t believe. They believe the election was stolen. They believe that the majority believes that Joe Biden isn`t the legitimate president of the United States. They don`t believe in COVID science. They don`t believe in all these things. That`s the Republican voting base today.

And so Donald Trump can be here or not be here. The problem Republicans have is when they run in those primaries, they`re facing voters that believe exactly what Donald Trump says, and whether or not Trump is saying it today, tomorrow or never. That`s the party. And that`s the problem.

RUHLE: OK, then, Michael, take us to the midterms, because the big lie is an absolute lie. And Americans know that. The majority of sthe American people know that Joe Biden, whether you like him or not, won in a secure election last year. People say, Oh, Democrats are going to get killed in the midterms. But are they given the big lie that keeps getting pushed, which is nonsense. If COVID does peak this spring, if inflation slows, we have a strong underlying economy, are we writing off the fact that Democrats could win in the midterms?

STEELE: Well, now you`re going back to how we started the conversation, because that`s exactly the point. All those things that you matter are the threads that kind of roll beneath the surface, right. And people are tapped into the inflation thing, because gas prices went up and the cost of bread went up, and a gallon of milk is now, you know, 30 cents, or $1, more than it was.

So yes, that piece is there. And it goes back to what Matt was saying about how you talk about this stuff in a way that people kind of see themselves reflected in it. And so, yes, you`re absolutely right. That, you know, you can we can be in that position, where we see the Democrats make the case, but, again, to what Matt just said, when you`ve got a significant portion of the base, and not just Republican base voters, by the way, let`s be clear about who`s part of this mix here. There`s simply, you know, conservative or center right, you know, independent and other types of voters that are in that mix. If they believe the big lie, how do you help them turn that corner, which then gets back to the point I was making with the senator.

You begin to turn that part that corner when the leadership is consistent from point one to point end in their discussion. You cannot tell me that thing was bad. But then on the back end of it say, Well, I think I`m going to be with the thing that`s bad. And that`s the problem. You don`t turn that with the voters because the leadership is coming across as duplicitous. They`re trying to have it both ways.

And what I`m saying is, you don`t get to have it both ways. Donald Trump is that existential threat from beginning to end. And if you don`t state that clearly, you`ll see 70 percent of the voters go, they are all lying.

RUHLE: And a reminder, Donald Trump lost the last election. Michael Steele, Matthew Dowd, every time I speak to, you makes us smarter. Thank you for joining.

Coming up. As the Omicron surge continues really take a deeper look into rising hospitalization numbers. Dr. Vin Gupta is here when THE 11TH HOUR continues.



RUHLE: COVID is not over. Health experts are pleading with parents to get their kids vaccinated as schools are struggling to stay open. In the city of Chicago after a standoff over COVID safety protocols force classes to be canceled for several days. City Schools are expected to resume in person classes by Wednesday.

Back with us tonight to discuss Dr. Van Gupta, a critical care pulmonologist in Seattle. He`s also on faculty at the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Dr. Gupta, you make us feel safer and definitely smarter on all things COVID when you`re here. York Times is reporting that in some hospitals, as many as half of the people who are testing positives, were actually brought into the hospital for something else testing positive after they were admitted.

So when we look at these soaring numbers about the Omicron variant, are they even close? What should we believe about how serious the hospitalizations are?

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Stephanie, good evening, good to see you. What I will say for all your viewers out there is, the hospitalization numbers, the case numbers, we all have to take them into context. But by January 23rd, the University of Washington`s Institute for Health Metrics is predicting that we`re going to see a peak in daily deaths from this virus about 2,000 daily deaths at that point January 23rd.

And then a pretty precipitous decline, Stephanie, to less than 1000, by say Valentine`s Day, so middle of February, and then it`s going to be potentially a spring of renewal here by March 1st, that number is going to continue to come lower. And then by April 1, which is the date I want everybody to imprint their minds, we`re talking even estimated infections might be 80 to 100,000, that`s estimated not confirmed, that`s what we think is happening in communities across the country. And that`s the total across the country. But estimated deaths, we`re thinking might be less than 50.

So this is going to be a pretty quick peak, and then maybe two to three weeks of sustained deaths over 1,000. And then hopefully, we`re really going to see sustained relief here that we`ve been waiting for the last two and a half years. So there`s hope here on the horizon.

RUHLE: That is excellent news. I mean, just hearing that going through that timeline, amazing news. But how do we prepare for that? Because thus far we keep looking at COVID like it`s an on or an off switch? We`re home or out masks or no masks. Given that timeline, how should we be living our lives?

GUPTA: Well, I think this is we`re going to be entering a pace pretty rapidly of individual risk assessments. So I`m going to take this moment when personal privilege to speak to everybody who considers themselves high risk because they`re over 65 because of an underlying condition, that you`re probably going to want to upgrade your mask.

I actually would say this for anybody Stephanie across the country regardless of what you believe in, regardless of how you`ve been approaching this pandemic, we live in a time of wildfires of -- I think respiratory epidemics and pandemics are the big threat of our generation of our time.


So upgrade your mask, have a respirator at home just in case you need it. But for those that are high risk, go to And then in the search engine, type in therapeutics, and then what you`re going to see Stephanie, and this is for everybody here to hopefully mitigate the loss of life of the next six to eight weeks, you`re going to see places across the country where you can get access to monoclonal antibodies that are active against Omicron that might be helpful for pre exposure prophylaxis.

So before you get exposed for high risk, or for these oral antivirals that I know a lot of people are struggling finding access to. That`s how we think about these next six, eight weeks, protecting those at highest risk as the rest of us really see a glide path towards normal.

RUHLE: Wow. That is such important information. I`m so glad you joined us tonight. I really appreciate it. Dr. Vin Gupta.

GUPTA: Thank you.

RUHLE: We are not done here on the 11th Hour. Coming up, tensions still running high in Ukraine. Despite today`s hours and hours of diplomatic discussions, our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is there with a lot -- with an update on the 11th Hour continues.


RUHLE: As we mentioned earlier, the U.S. began formal talks with Russia today to try to prevent the Kremlin from invading Ukraine but with no visible progress after hours of discussion. Ukrainian troops along the border are preparing for the worst. And NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is there as well and filed this report.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): You can see how confident Ukrainians are in diplomacy with Russia with every scrape and swing of their shovels. Today, troops are digging new defensive trenches in the frozen ground close to Russian forces.

(on camera): Ukrainian troops are preparing for the worst because they worry that Russia is not negotiating in good faith and it`s just going through the motions of diplomacy so it can say it gave peace a chance and then invade anyway.


(voiceover): In Geneva today, senior American and Russian diplomats met for nearly eight hours. No breakthroughs. Though, Russia`s lead diplomat today insisted it has no plans to invade. He added a warning.

SERGEI RYABKOV, RUSSIAN DEPURTY FOREIGN MINISTER: After every mistake, every miscalculation with respect to what should be done in Euro Atlantic`s security of countries to the west of Russia suffers.

ENGEL: Russia has more than 100,000 troops position near Ukraine`s borders. It is demanding Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO and that NATO shrink back to what it was in 1997, dismantling much of the alliances presence across Eastern Europe and the Baltics.

U.S. officials say it`s such an unrealistic demand. They worry Vladimir Putin is building a case for the talks to fail, creating a pretext to invade Ukraine. At the front, soldiers told us they`ll stand their ground as long as they can.

Olesky (ph) says we all want to return to our families. But this is our land, and we`ll defend it.

Troops here told us they hope Putin is bluffing. But they`re not counting on diplomacy. Suspecting that may be just a trick.

(on camera): The only good news out of today`s deadlock is that the U.S., Russia and NATO have all agreed to keep talking with two more rounds of negotiations later this week. Richard Engel, NBC News, Eastern Ukraine.


RUHLE: There`s more of the 11th Hour just ahead. Stay with us.


RUHLE: It has been a privilege to be here with you this evening.


That is our broadcast for this Monday night with our special thanks to all of you for joining us. You can catch me right back here tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern on MSNBC. And on behalf of all of my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.