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Transcript: The 11th Hour, 1/14/22

Guests: Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Susan Del Percio


Oath Keepers leader appears in court on seditious conspiracy charge. Biden`s priorities suffer major setbacks. Jan. 6 committee weighs subpoenas for members of Congress. Pence slams efforts to change or end filibuster. FEMA expands hospital outreach. CDC updates mask guidance. Major winter storm moving across U.S.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Plus, I`m very excited about this one. I`m going to talk to my friends Dean Obeidallah, and former Congressman Joe Walsh about how or whether we should be engaging with the post Trump class of dangerous conspiracy theorists who now walk the halls of Congress. THE 11TH HOUR starts now.

ALICIA MENENDEZ, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, once again, I`m Alicia Menendez. Day 360 of the Biden administration. A Major Winter Storm is barreling through the upper Midwest right now and is on track to hit the south and the east coast this holiday weekend. More than 60 million people are under winter weather alerts. It`s expected to create major travel headaches along the east coast. We`re going to have much more on all of that later in the hour.

Also tonight, the government`s prosecution of the attack on the U.S. Capitol taking a new turn. A Stewart Rhodes, Founder of the Oath Keepers makes his first court appearance on a charge of seditious conspiracy. Rhodes went before a federal judge in Texas. This afternoon, his lawyer spoke to reporters just after the hearing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said, he`s not guilty, must fight the charges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He intends to fight these charges until the very, very end.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We expect some, we`ve got several witnesses we`re going to contact. We`ve been in touch with family and co-workers and things. So, we plan on presenting evidence.


MENENDEZ: Rhodes entered a not guilty plea. Tonight, he remains in custody in Texas. His attorneys say they plan to fight the government`s efforts to keep him in jail until his trial.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s been living free for the past year. He`s been over in Texas. He`s got no criminal history. He`s a Yale Law graduate. He has no passport. So, it`s not a flight risk. We`ll have to hear what the government has to say as to the primary criteria of assuring the safety of the public upon his release.


MENENDEZ: Rhodes will be back in court on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a source tells NBC News that the House January 6 Committee has interviewed former Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who was in that post on the day of the riot. Miller previously said that former President Donald Trump, "encouraged the protesters with his comments." The panel is also weighing whether to subpoena House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, was refused to cooperate. lawmakers want to talk to him about what he discussed with Trump during and after the riot. Here`s what McCarthy said in a radio interview one week after the attack.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I say he has responsibility. He told me personally that he does have some responsibility. I think a lot of people do.


MENENDEZ: The January 6 Committee has also said they want to hear voluntarily from former Vice President Mike Pence, although they haven`t formally asked for his cooperation. Tonight, Pence is out with an op-ed in the Washington Post, calling the insurrection a "power grab," and he uses the same words to describe the removal of the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation.

Today, the White House vowed to continue working on trying to make those voting bills a reality, even though their future looks uncertain. One Democratic House members says voting rights legislation is more important now than ever.


REP. RUBEN GALLEGO, (D) ARIZONA: There is a slow-moving coup that is occurring. And the Voting Rights Act is one of the couple of the bills that we need to pass in order to truly protect our democracy. I think the coup that we`re going to see is going to be staffed by, you know, men and women in very well-dressed suits and our courts running for secretary of states, running for the county board, the electoral boards.


MENENDEZ: The President`s pitch to change the filibuster to pass voting rights has failed to yield any progress. It`s one of several setbacks he`s had this week, including the Supreme Court`s decision to block his vaccine or test mandate for large businesses and escalating inflation. But earlier today, President Biden did take time to highlight his bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last year. The White House says it has no intention of giving up on what he promised voters.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The truth is an agenda doesn`t wrap up in one year. We`re going to continue to fight for every component of his agenda and his plans for his presidency that outline when he was running for president.


MENENDEZ: Next week, Biden will mark his one-year anniversary in office with a news conference. Today, the White House announced that those 500 million free at-home COVID tests would soon be available. Orders can be placed on a federal website starting January 19.

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Friday night, Jonathan Lemire, Veteran White House Reporter and host of MSNBC`s 5 a.m. show aptly named way too early. Carol Leonnig, Pulitzer Prize-winning Investigative Reporter with The Washington Post, co-author of The New York Times bestseller, I Alone Can Fix It. And Professor Melissa Murray of NYU Law School she was a law clerk for Sonia Sotomayor on the federal bench before her nomination to the Supreme Court.

Good to see you all. Carol. I`m going to start with you. The January 6 Committee interviewed Trump`s Former Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller today, why is his testimony important for them?


CAROL LEONNIG, THE WASHINGTON POST INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: There could be lots of reasons. But the first two that come to mind, Alicia, are, A, it was him, the Defense Department in the Pentagon on the day of the riot, the storming of the Capitol. He has already testified that he was aware at 1:34 p.m. that the Capitol was under attack and had been -- the police lines had been breached. And he`s also testified that it took him another three hours to authorize, dispatching a real plan for the National Guard to go and help to essentially be the cavalry to save the Capitol Police and also the Metropolitan Police officers who had tried to prevent what happened there.

So that`s really critical. The second thing, of course, is he was with Donald Trump a lot of prior to January 6, including a crucial January 3 Oval Office meeting. In that meeting, the President closed the session, which was really about Iran, to confer with Miller, his new Acting Secretary about how safe his protesters, his fans were going to be on January 6. He just sort of wanted to check in with him. And it`s interesting other witnesses feel like the two of them met at a prior conversation about what exactly did Donald Trump want to happen on January 6.

MENENDEZ: Tough pivot from Iran to your fans, Melissa, what should we be looking for, as we follow the government`s case, against Oath Keeper, Stewart Rhodes and 10 others?

MELISSA MURRAY, NYU LAW PROFESSOR: Well, I think this is the first time we`ll be hearing about sedition since the Adams administration. So, we are going to have a very old statute with prosecutions that date from the 1700s and 1900s, but very few prosecution in recent years, at least successful ones. The last successful prosecution under the conspiracy to commit Sedition Act was the (bland sheet) case up from about 26 years ago. So, there`s very little precedent here. And it`s very hard to prove these cases. And perhaps that is something the prosecution is really going to be looking for. This is going to be an uphill battle for them. But this perhaps more than any other case might be the exemplar that proves the rule.

MENENDEZ: Jonathan, all of this going on with January 6, as Biden is coming off a difficult week in terms of trying to turn his priorities into law. Here`s what former Attorney General Eric Holder said tonight about voting rights, take a listen.


ERIC HOLDER, CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC REDISTRICTING COMMITTEE: We have to get ready for the possibility that these bills are not going to become law. And so, we`re going to continue doing work that I`ve been doing with the National Democratic redistricting committee to fight partisan and racial gerrymandering, we`ve had success there. And we`re going to also have to redouble our efforts when it comes to voter registration and making sure that people have the ability to get to the polls, in spite of these obstacles that Republicans have put in place.


MENENDEZ: Jonathan, how was the White House feeling about where things stand on the domestic policy front? And where do they go from here?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: They`re not giving up hope on voting rights, but they can see where things are at the moment. It doesn`t look great. There`s no sign that Senators Mansion or Sinema will change their views on the filibuster, there are other Democrats who privately share them, have not been as out-spoken Sinema, of course, delivered her verdict on it just moments before the President showed up at the Senate caucus to talk to them.

The fact, the motor key (ph) was warming up when she took to the Senate floor and said that she didn`t want to move. And without the filibuster changing, there doesn`t seem to be much of a path there for voting rights. Certainly, the President is going to continue with the rhetoric, the former Attorney General hit some of those points too, the idea of needs to out organize the other side, to motivate voters to get out there. That`s going to be a tough task with so many voters, including parts of the Democratic base, African American voters are so disenchanted with the idea there hasn`t been much done, further done on voting rights. And it has been a week of setbacks. The partial part of the vaccine mandate, the administration rolled out was struck down by the Supreme Court, Build Back Better Act is certainly in limbo right now to and that`s an optimistic phrasing. And the President heads into his one-year anniversary is a bit of a low mark, even though aides say they still believe he has time to turn around.

MENENDEZ: Jonathan, what do you say -- or what are you hearing from Democrats who say maybe it is time to narrow the scope of what they are fighting for when it comes to voting rights?

LEMIRE: Well, I there is some who believe that look, that they don`t want to let perfectly the enemy of the good and that they should -- if there`s any measures, they can to improve things they should, even just reinstituting part of the -- renewing part of the Voting Rights Act, or perhaps pivoting more towards the John Lewis Act, then H.R. 1, which some have said is too expensive. But right now, even those seem difficult and they`re certainly efforts in various states, states that have seen new laws passed by Republicans controlled legislatures there that have restricted voting rights. But the President is running through a very tough situation here. He took office in time of real crisis and he`s first year sort of a tale of two halves, the first half, a lot of success, the COVID relief bill, distribution of the vaccine, just as a sense of return in normalcy in Washington after four years of tumult on our Donald Trump.


But since then, starting in August, with the rise of the Delta variant and the chaotic exit from Afghanistan, he suffered real setbacks. His agenda has taken a hit as well. And part of this is because his margins in Congress were so slim. Sure, Democrats control the White House, the House and the Senate, but the Senate is 50/50 and the House is just a few seats, that`s tough to get big things done.

MENENDEZ: Carol, speaking of those margins, we are in a midterm year, I do not need to remind you of that. The January 6 Committee is weighing a subpoena for House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. What is the cost benefit analysis that they are doing on that?

LEONNIG: So just like prosecutors, anybody who`s trying to investigate and get to the bottom of this, including the committee staff is trying to figure out OK, what do we got? And what do we need? In other words, are there witnesses around McCarthy that they`ve already interviewed? And they have, who give us a good sense of what exactly he said and bid with regard to Donald Trump. I mean, we already know that Kevin McCarthy was calling Donald Trump basically pleading with him to get the January 6 dogs out of the building to protect his own members. But are there witnesses who already can tell you exactly what McCarthy said, what Trump said and are there documents like texts? We`ve seen quite a few of them that help buttress that. If that`s the case, if that narrates the events well enough, then they don`t need McCarthy and they don`t need the long, long drawn-out legal fight and political fight that`s likely to ensue if they press harder legally, for his submission.

MENENDEZ: Melissa, we saw a ruling today from the Ohio Supreme Court in which they rejected the GOP drawn congressional maps, you have a lot of Democrats celebrating this as a major win, your take?

MURRAY: Well, I think it`s a more muted when. I mean, this is certainly something to celebrate. And we know ever since the Supreme Court decided in 2019, that partisan gerrymandering claims could not be heard by federal courts, that this would play out at the state level. And so, this Ohio victory really is booing on that front. We`re seeing states do things. But Ohio is really unusual, in that the voters there just recently passed an amendment preventing partisan gerrymandering. Most states do not have such laws on their books, meaning that there will be limited efforts to try and limit the force of partisan gerrymandering and redistricting in those states without those additional measures. So, some states like Michigan had independent redistricting commissions. That`s something that`s moving forward. But again, it`s not in place in all of the states and certainly is not enough to turn back the tide of what has been a proliferation of redistricting, as well as these ongoing efforts to limit access to the ballot.

MENENDEZ: Jonathan, I want to turn to Pence`s op-ed calling January 6, "a power grab," while also saying the same thing about busting the filibuster for voting rights. What is Pence trying to do here politically? And what sticks out to you about this op-ed?

LEMIRE: Well, let`s be clear, these two things are not equivalent. It`s a real case of what about ism from the former vice president and this is all being done with his eye on 2024. The Vice President, of course, is considering his own presidential campaign. He hasn`t declared it yet. And some wonder if he will go through with it if his former boss, Donald Trump declares his own presidential campaign, but there`s a real divide there between the two men. Pence was, of course, a loyal foot soldier, a loyal vice president for Donald Trump for four years until the very end. He, of course, resisted calls from Trump and other allies to try to not -- to decertify Biden`s win on January 6, to throw that whole process in the chaos. Let`s remember, the pressure that Donald Trump put on Pence, day after day to not adhere to his constitutional duty and Pence, in fact, consulted a number of key allies looking for reassurance that he was doing the right thing. One of them Dan Quayle, another Indiana Vice President and frankly, unlikely hero of the Republic, Quayle told Pence, no, you can`t do this. You have to go ahead with your constitutional duty.

That`s so Pence disappointed Trump and his followers then, but it`s trying to remain in the good graces of the Republican base. Therefore, attacking efforts to expand voting rights, therefore attacking the idea of reforming the filibuster. He has largely adhered to what Trump has -- the Trump agenda since leaving office. The only difference is behavior on January 6, otherwise, he`s trying to appeal to the MAGA base. But it`s hard to see him getting much traction there because so many of them believe he betrayed his former boss by not overturning election even though, of course, there were no signs election fraud.

MENENDEZ: Many has made. What are we going to be looking for in the coming weeks?


MURRAY: I think we`re going to see a lot of action in terms of trying to get some of these members of Congress. I think we`ll see a lot more debate about whether the committee actually has the legal authority to do so. Mostly will experts say that there is authority to do so. The speech in a Debate Clause of the Constitution, which has been touted as a limit on the committee`s authority to subpoena its own members. And really only applies in circumstances where legislators and the legislature are being questioned by other branches of government in this circumstance, where it`s simply about the legislature questioning its own members, that would not necessarily seem to be an impediment. So, I think we`re going to see a lot of action in terms of whether or not these subpoenas can proceed. There may even be lawsuits that, of course, will take a lot longer. And time is really of the essence for this committee, because as, you know, once the midterm elections come around, if the house changes hands, this committee will be gone.

MENENDEZ: Carol, what do you think is next from the January 6 committee?

LEONNIG: I think what`s next is going to be some really full-throated public hearings, the hearings that people wanted for the Mueller investigation where there would be wide open kimono and an amazing soap opera on your national television screen every morning, in which firsthand witnesses who were there, some of whom you probably don`t recognize their names. They`re not bold-faced names, but they were there. And I think you`re going to hear them begin to narrate the story of January 6, people inside the White House concerned and disturbed and unsettled by what Donald Trump was doing to try to block Biden and try to encourage chaos and instability in the country. And you`re going to hear from those who are with him, I believe, or at least had information about what he was saying on the day of.

MENENDEZ: Jonathan, coming out of this week, there is new reporting that Democrats want to see a reset from this President, when you talk to the White House. Is there interest? Is there appetite? Is there acknowledgement that the party is craving not.

LEMIRE: I think two things are true at once here, Alicia. On one hand, the Biden administration believes their track record is pretty good. And they`ve actually got a pretty good stories to sell. And they point to just where the nation was a year ago, in the aftermath of January 6, the height of the pandemic, the vaccine barely in the arms of Americans at that point, and how much progress has been made, including just the last couple of weeks, the bipartisan infrastructure bill. So, they`ll say, hey, look, we`ve done a lot in this first year. And they`ll really defend that.

Having said that, they also are aware of the political realities of the moment with their Build Back Better agenda stalled, and the Voting Rights seemingly not going anywhere. They recognize the year mark is one that will attract attention, at least media attention. The President`s having a news conference on the 19th, the day before the one-year mark. He`ll certainly address a lot of this and talk about his accomplishments, but also try to steady nervous Democrats, Democrats who are fearful of his rather poor poll numbers, the moment and what that could mean for the upcoming midterms where at least on paper, they seem likely to lose control the House of Representatives, the Senate is a 50/50 toss up at this point, most observers believe. So, yeah, the president`s going to have to do some calming of nerves, while having some difficulty, and actually much more of his agenda right now. It`ll only get harder. The closer midterms get.

MENENDEZ: And Jonathan, before I let you go the other wild card, of course, the pandemic that we are all living through, how do they see that factoring into their agenda?

LEMIRE: It`s the biggest part of it. The pandemic is the central piece of the Biden administration. He knows he was elected, he has said this repeatedly. He was elected more than anything, to try to tame this pandemic, restore a sense of normalcy, post Trump, but really get the nation through this virus. And it`s been really up and down. The vaccines out there. Boosters are available for anyone who wants it. That`s great news. But so much of America, of course, still not taking those shots, cases going up and Omicron, you know, doesn`t seem as deadly as Delta. But it`s still a real thing. Cases are surging, schools across the country who had closed, businesses shut. Americans have had their lives turned upside down again.

Biden demonstrations going to get tests out. They have a surge in tests, the hundreds of millions of tests out to the Americans, that`s going to start next week. That will help they hope. And they also are encouraged by how quickly this variant seems to be, burning through the populace that may be in a month`s time, it`ll largely have peaked and moved past. But in that month`s time, those are a lot of full hospitals. Those are a lot of people sick. Those are a lot of people dying. And, of course, there`s no sense as to what variant maybe down the road. There are vaccination mandate took a hit this week of the Supreme Court. The Biden -- the President equally frustrated by that when we heard from him this week. They recognize that some of this is out of their control. But this is how they will be judged. The President has said, the buck stops with him and no more so than with the pandemic.

MENENDEZ: Jonathan Lemire, I hope that you get to sleep in tomorrow. Carol Leonnig, Melissa Murray, thank you all so much for being with us.


Coming up, now what, what can Washington get done? Our political experts are here to hash out what the Democrats should do now that so much of the President`s plan is seemingly stuck in cartoon quicksand.

And later, two years into COVID as Omicron washes over America, the CDC is out with timely new mass guidance. One of our top doctors is here what you need to know. 11th Hour just getting underway on a Friday night.



JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: There`s a lot of talk about disappointment and things we haven`t gotten done. We`re going to get a lot of them done, I might add. But this is something we did get done. And so enormous consequence to the country.


MENENDEZ: With much of the President`s agenda stalled, he`s taking pains to remind folks what he did get done. Biden today touted his bipartisan infrastructure legislation. But that`s only some of what he promised. Build Back Better still languishing in the U.S. Senate. Politico puts it this way. With little progress on Joe Biden`s signature legislation, elected officials and operatives from across the president`s party are busy plotting how to run midterm campaigns, without the benefit of a bill to bolster the social safety net and make generational investments to address climate change. It`s far from the ideal position.

With us tonight, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, the Dean of the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas, MSNBC Political Analysts, and Susan Del Percio, Veteran Political Strategist and MSNBC Political Analyst.


Vickie, I want to read you this from Senator Dick Durbin to the New York Times about voters. He says, "I`m sure they`re frustrated, I am," said Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the number two Senate Democrat when asked this week about the Chamber`s inability to act on Mr. Biden`s agenda, discussing the impact on voters ahead of the midterm elections, he added, it depends on who they blame for it. Vickie, do you agree with the senators assessment that there will be frustration on the part of voters, but that the question will become at whose feet they lay that frustration?

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So, I have a very technical answer, which is kind of. Because it depends on the emotional connection that the voter has to what they see is going on. So, I think we have to understand that folks respond to politics, both with their heart, and with their mind, some people may be focused on what are the policies getting through? What are the policies that are not getting through? But at the same time, a lot of politics is about? How do I feel? Is this someone who`s fighting for me? Is this someone who`s looking out? Is this the good guy? Is this a protagonist? It`s a lot about narrative. So, in my mind, I see a lot of the problem with Democrats, not necessarily that they`re getting stuff done. It is what it is in terms of the members in Congress. But for me, it`s always been about messaging, really reaching that heart and making sure that connect with voters.

Maybe they`re not getting everything passed, but they`re still fighting for them. They`re doing what they can. So, I think it really comes down as we look at the next nine months, is how the Democratic Party across the nation gets the narrative of we may not be hitting it out of the park, but we are fighting for you. If anything, they could even pass it as being an underdog that yes, there may be a technical majority in the Senate. But because of the filibuster, at the end of the day, we`re basically a minority party. So, I think a lot more work needs to go into the messaging and stop the hand wringing about, well, we didn`t get everything that was promised in the campaign pass, but instead focus on the bigger picture.

MENENDEZ: And I`m going to loop back with you, Vickie on part of that bigger picture. But before I do, Susan, there seem to be genuine surprise that Sinema and Manchin are proving as intractable as they are that they didn`t move with pressure from their own party. What do you make, not just what we saw this week for a Manchin and from Sinema, but the general surprise that they could not be moved?

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don`t know why people are surprised, especially when it comes to Joe Manchin. He`s been saying this for years and years and years that he would not give up the 60-vote threshold for the filibuster.

So, we have known where he stands. He`s been very transparent that way. But the problem is, is that when the President came in, the Democrats were, you know, this is your FDR moment, look at all the things we`re going to achieve. There`s nothing stopping us. But there was it was, it a 50/50 Senate and a majority in the House of like three or four votes. It was not an endorsement of the president -- of Joe Biden as much it was a rejection of Donald Trump. It is time that the Democrats because in a midterm election, it is a referendum on the White House, full stop. That`s what midterms are all about. So, it`s time for Joe Biden, and I hate to say this, but to get out his pen and start doing executive orders and start touting about the good parts of the economy, this is not 2008, you cannot govern that way. You can`t govern the way he saw in this Senate, or as vice president, he`s got to go out there and brag and talk about it. And whether it`s the stock market, whether it`s executive orders on police reform, go and do it and talk about the good.

MENENDEZ: Vickie, do you agree?

DEFRANCESCO SOTO: I do. I do. I think he needs to get out there. I think you need to brand yourself and not let others brand you, not let the Republican Party direct your messaging. So, I mean, I think it is about taking the whims where you can get them.

OK. It`s not the whole package. But maybe it`s a small executive order. Maybe it`s focusing on the fact that, you know, we got the Build Back Better. Part of it of the infrastructure bill, highlighting that at least, yes, it`s about the glass half full, not the glass half empty and at the same time halfway.

MENENDEZ: Susan, I hear you on executive action. I still wonder though, if there is the possibility of smaller pieces of this legislation moving through right if they start to break this legislation apart, which I know there are people who do not want to see that happen, if they can at least claim some pieces of this victory?

DEL PERCIO: Well, I think at this point, it`s critical that the White House get into political mode and political mode means wins. And they should just sit down with Joe Manchin find out what he wants to get past and go pass it.


I know it`s not ideal. I know it`s not good governance. But if they want to hold on to the House and the Senate, it`s the only shot they have. And I slightly and I hesitant to do this, disagree with Vickie in the fact that don`t talk about what you didn`t get done. Just talk about what you`re doing and getting done and how hard you`re working for the American public. There`s no reason to talk about, well, we didn`t get this quite done. But we`re trying. Just say we`re trying, just signing an executive order that you can get behind. Again, they need the wind, and the President needs to go out there. And even when it came to infrastructure, they waited three months to actually pass it after the Senate did with the House, so Biden could sign it. Take the wins, become political, and start focusing on 2022 midterms.

MENENDEZ: I heard, correctly I think you were actually violently agreeing, you can tell me if I was wrong on the other side of this break because you`re both staying with me.

Coming up, as the former president prepares for a rally in Arizona tomorrow, we`re going to discuss new reporting or what he is planning for Republicans who don`t back his false claims of election fraud, when the 11th Hour continues.



MENENDEZ: Former President Trump is poised to charge back into the spotlight. He`s headed to Arizona for a rally tomorrow. Politico Reporter Meridith McGraw reporting, an advisor said he plans to hold about two rallies a month leading up to the midterm election.

Trump is lending his support to die hard supporters as for those who refuse to back his 2020 election lies, Axios reports this, "Trump`s goal, his advisors say is to either make life so miserable for them that they quit or end their careers by backing a successful primary challenge. Trump`s efforts are working. His few remaining opponents in the party are mostly either quitting out of exhaustion or choosing to keep their dissent to themselves."

Still with us, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto and Susan Del Percio. Susan, to that point from Axios, upstate New York Congressman John Katko, just became the third Republican who voted for impeachment to retire. Did he have much of a choice here?

DEL PERCIO: Not really, he did not because he`s in -- first of all, New York isn`t a Democratic controlled when it comes to redistricting. His seat was not looking promising for him, especially since New York is in fact losing one congressional seat. Add to that he was a target for conservatives, New York State has conservative party that was actively challenging him, and a primary was sure to happen. The ironic part is, is that CAC is someone who`s seen as a centrist. He actually did better in 2020 in a democratic district than Joe Biden did by one point. So, he is someone who could win strength, a swing district, and yet the Republicans will probably put up a conservative that cannot.

MENENDEZ: Vickie, I think we all understand what Trump`s reemergence means for Republicans, what does it mean for Democrats in 2022?

DEFRANCESCO SOTO: Well, I think let me back up, Alicia, and really remark on how incredible the strategy is, that Donald Trump is putting forward. It`s one in terms of grassroots, in terms of preparing for the campaign, the midterm campaign, and then with his sights on the 2024 presidential campaign. And at the same time getting folks in line for governing.

A lot of talks via folks that run, they`re not thinking about what happens once you win an election, and you govern, but in this sense, we see it happening at the same time. So, I think that that is a really powerful combination, and one that Democrats need to take incredibly, seriously, serious as a heart attack. And I`m going to come back to my favorite theme of narrative. What we see Donald Trump doing in the in the Arizona rally that he`s going to be having is hammering the fact of election fraud. But dig a little deeper, and what there is him is an underdog and Donald Trump, love them or hate them. He is a master at that narrative. And he`s going to be able to build that momentum among his base about him being an underdog, about the Republican Party as branded by Trump being an underdog. So, I think that this is what the Democrats have to watch very carefully, and figure out how to provide their own narrative, or at the same time, build their own narrative.

MENENDEZ: So, Susan, I have to ask, is he preparing for governance or for the appearance of governance? And what impact do you see his return to the trail having on these midterms?

DEL PERCIO: Well, right now, his main agenda is a vengeance to work. All he`s doing is going after people, Republican specifically who voted to impeach him, or who actually believe Joe Biden`s the President of the United States. And he only wants to talk about the past. And that`s the only problem. I agree completely with everything Vickie just said. And she`s right to bring up the combination of the grassroots the underdog and that messaging. I just think to add to it, though, the fact that he`s only looking backwards in his speeches and talking about 2020 puts Republicans in a different -- some Republicans in a difficult situation. Right now, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy want to talk about how bad Joe Biden is, in their opinion and what they can do in 2022. Donald Trump is preventing them from getting the best candidates to run in swing districts because he only wants those who are true Trump believers. So, it`s a little more difficult now for the establishment Republicans who want to win back the majorities.

MENENDEZ: Vickie, I`m going to ask you to put on your political scientists hat, which I know you never take off. But what does it mean, for this party if Republicans who would rather distance themselves from Trump instead decide, all right, I`m out, I`m done?

DEFRANCESCO SOTO: You know, I think that what we`ve seen in the arc of history is when the pendulum swings too far to one extreme, it starts to come back. I`m not saying that we reach that one extreme in terms of the Republican Party having been so far to the conservative side, so the Trump brand of conservatism, but I think you`re starting to see pockets of that. I`m thinking of my former state Texas where somebody who was such a diehard Trump supporter, Attorney General Ken Paxton, is starting to get a lot of challengers. They`re still of the Republican from supporting brand.


But, you know, I see signs of discontent. And I think that, that is something when you get too far to an extreme, you start to see snapback. It may not happen in the next cycle in the next few cycles, but it is going to happen in it as a truism of our political history.

MENENDEZ: Susan, is there a way to remain tethered to reality and run as a Republican who is loyal to Donald Trump?

DEL PERCIO: No, absolutely not. Because you have to buy into Trumps reality, which is not real. It`s his authoritative, 13 point of view that he did everything he is in charge, you have to be loyal to him. You know, when we talk about Trump conservatism, I almost laugh because I don`t know what that is, name one principle or value that Donald Trump has that`s not to him that he has used to govern when he was president. There are none, it`s just -- there`s no principles. It`s just loyalty to him whatever he may be doing.

MENENDEZ: I was going to answer your rhetorical question with loyalty to Donald Trump. So, we were on the same page. Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Susan Del Percio, thank you both.

Coming up, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia is here to discuss the pressure hospitals are under as the Omicron continues, and if we`re any better prepared for the next possible variant when the 11th Hour continues.



DEANNE CRISWELL, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: One of the things that we have heard recently is while we do need medical staffing, and there`s a lot of other functions within the hospital that need additional staffing in particular because of the Omicron variant and how it`s taking other staff within the hospital out. And so, we`ve been able to expand our policy in order to make sure that we`re printing whatever type of resources are available to keep those hospitals functioning so an incredible step forward to make sure that they can keep moving.



MENENDEZ: FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, announcing more resources and personnel for states and crisis today, as the Omicron variant continues crowding hospitals. The New York Times reports the data showed that in 18 states and Washington D.C., at least 85% of beds and adult intensive care units were full, with the most acute scarcity of beds in Alabama, Missouri, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Texas. Welcome back. Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease physician, and the Founding Director of Boston University`s Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, Policy and Research.

Doctor, always good to see you. Even as more resources are being sent to states with so many hospitals in crisis, how worried are you about the next few weeks?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA, INFECTIOUS DISEASES PHYSICIAN: Yeah, I think that what we`re seeing is in some states who are reaching the peak, and the modeling in most cases says that by the end of January, a lot of states are not yet at the peak. And what happens is you get the cases that peak and then you see hospitalizations, and then death. So, we`re still under a crunch potentially, of hospitalization stressing out hospitals. And as you just mentioned, with the FEMA Administrator, this is a different kind of wave compared to what we`ve seen before at least, you`re right. An outbreak response, we look at staff, we look at SOPs and space, right? And earlier pandemics, we had issues with getting staff. We didn`t have medications, yet we SOPs in terms of how we take care of these patients. And in this wave, the big part is staff because there`s so much transmission. And so, everybody was working in these hospitals is also living in communities. And so, they`re getting sick. And even if their illness is not severe, that`s keeping them from working within the healthcare system, which is overwhelming the system that we`re seeing currently.

MENENDEZ: The other big news today, the CDC has updated its mass guidance to reflect the need for more protection from Omicron. I think a lot of our viewers have heard all of our doctors speaking for months about the need for better masks. Why did they wait until now to do this?

BHADELIA: Yeah, Alicia, they are behind the public on this one, right? And I think a lot of people have sort of many experts, including myself, I`ve talked about the importance within particularly within indoor crowded spaces, so much greater protection, that N95 OR KN95 can present because there`s just a better blockage, right? Over a longer period of time if you`re around people. The reason I think there`s always been this hesitation is will people use these masks in a way that that would offer them the greatest amount of protection.

And it`s interesting, even as they release this guidance, where they clearly say, look, both masks provide some protection, but the highest range of productions, you have is N95 or KN95, they also cautioned that a lot of this is, you know, will you keep that mask on. Is the mask comfortable enough to give you that protection? It only gives you that protection if you can keep it on. And now we do have a lot of options on the market. There are many, many different fits. And I urge people to check out project that does provide a huge range of these validated, certified N95 and KN95.

The other a couple of just pros I want to throw out there is you want to make sure that the mask that you are this higher quality mask have good seals so that there is no air going out from around them. And you want to make sure that they`re not ones that have isolation where they air valves where the air goes out so you`re not breathing on others while you`re protected. So, I think that that delays, maybe it has to go hand in hand with education. But I welcome this guidance.

MENENDEZ: Education, and as you and I have often talked about who has access to those masks, who can afford those masks? I want to ask you about something Dr. Fauci said on the subject of possible universal vaccines this week, take a listen.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: A lot of work, as I mentioned in my opening statement, about looking at using the tools of fundamental basic and applied science to develop next generation of vaccines, particularly universal coronavirus vaccines, or at least universal SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. So, we won`t be chasing after the next variant.

MENENDEZ: How likely is such a universal vaccine?

BHADELIA: I think that a huge part of this has always been funding, you know. So let me let me walk people through what we`re talking about. One of the reasons why we`re so dependent on these vaccines, with the with the change in variants and changing the vaccines is that our current vaccines, our aimed against the part of the virus that evolves the most, the spike protein, which is also the business end of the virus that it uses to get into human cells. And that`s also the part that actually goes through the most evolution and mutates the most, right? And so, the new variant comes along. And what you see is exactly what Moderna and Pfizer are now doing which is they`re working on a vaccine that`s as thought to be coming out in March or so that`s very specific.

In the future, there`s a conversation that, you know, at least you might have multi-variant vaccines where you might put a bunch of different variants that are circulating similar to what we do with the flu but the Holy Grail here, Alicia, just so we`re not chasing our tail with these new variants are two other types of vaccines, ones that actually look at the part of the virus that are not part of this highly mutating part of the virus, but another part that still blocks the virus function.


So that`s something that you know, looks at the entire SARS-CoV-2, blocks it. And there`s early really promising data from Walter Reed, that there might be such a vaccine. And then the biggest part of this is if we could develop a vaccine that just attacks every single virus in this family of pandemic prone viruses, the beta coronavirus, and organizations such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation have actually already funded this. So, we may see some great progress in the next year.

MENENDEZ: All right Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, as always, thank you.

Coming up, what you need to know about the major winter storm sweeping across the country when the 11th Hour continues.


MENENDEZ: As we mentioned, a major winter storm hitting the upper Midwest night and it`s set to impact much of the East Coast over the weekend. From Georgia to Maine, millions could be impacted by snow, ice and rain in the coming days. NBC News Correspondent Dasha Burns has a report.


DASHA BURNS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, the monster winter storm already hitting North Dakota. Drivers battling near whiteout conditions. In Minnesota cars skidding off icy roads, the Cedar River now frozen over, 64 million Americans now under winter weather alerts across 26 states. The storm is set to get even more intense with up to 10 inches of snow across the plains and sections of the Midwest. In New England wind chills could plummet to a frigid minus 40.

BILL KARINS, MSNBC METEOROLOGIST: Heavy snow tonight moves south through Iowa into Missouri. Not a lot of snow Saturday morning but watch out Saturday afternoon, especially through areas like Memphis, the Tennessee and then on Sunday a big, huge snowstorm moves into West Virginia in the Appalachian and ice storm for the Carolinas and then Monday morning, watch out southern New England. High gusty winds could knock out power and a coastal flood threat for New York City.


BURNS: In North Carolina crews prepping to handle ice buildup on powerlines with fears of worker shortages because of COVID.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re doing everything we can humanly possible based on our limited resources of trucks.

BURNS: And after last week`s nightmare in Virginia on I95, traffic drivers for more than 24 hours, the governor today declaring a state of emergency crews pre-treating the interstate for ice.

(On camera): As well travel delays this weekend as the airlines face worker shortages due to COVID in addition to the storm, some airlines already waiting change things.


MENENDEZ: All right, thanks to Dasha Burns for that report.

Coming up, we`re back with more of the 11th Hour after a quick break.


MENENDEZ: That is our broadcast for this Friday night with our thanks for being with us. You can catch me tomorrow and every Saturday and Sunday on American Voices where we`ll be focusing on the push for voting rights with Congressman Mondaire Jones of New York. He`s going to explain why now is the time for Democrats to act. American Voices gets underway 6 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC. On behalf of all of my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.