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Transcript: The 11th Hour, 1/4/22

Guests: Joyce Vance, Ashley Parker, Eugene Daniels, David Plouffe, Michael Steele, Irwin Redlener


Jan. 6 committee seeks cooperation from Sean Hannity. 1/6 committee Chair wants to hear from former VP Mike Pence. Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland to speak about 1/6 tomorrow. Testing shortages continue amid COVID rising cases. U.S. under siege from fast-spreading Omicron variant.



LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: And so, you know who`s going to get "THE LAST WORD" in that car tonight on the way home.

CHER, GRAMMY AWARD WINNING SINGER (on the phone): OK. I just want to tell you how much I appreciate you. And I just -- I`m really proud of you.

O`DONNELL: Cher, thank you very much. We really appreciate you`re watching. We really appreciate you joining us tonight.

CHER: Okey doke.

O`DONNELL: Thank you very much. Cher, gets tonight`s "LAST WORD." Let that happen again, please. THE 11TH HOUR starts now.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, once again, I`m Ali Velshi day 350 of the Biden administration. Tonight, the House Committee investigating the Capitol insurrection is now seeking information from Fox News Primetime Host Sean Hannity. The panel sent Hannity a letter asking for his voluntary cooperation and saying that it has information that he had, "advanced knowledge regarding President Trump`s and his legal teams planning for January 6, and that Hannity had relevant communications while the riot was underway. And in the days thereafter."

The committee described Hannity as a fact witness and adds that it`s in possession of dozens of text messages that he sent to and received from the former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and others.

Last month, Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney read out loud one of the texts from Hannity to Mark Meadows sent during the Capitol riot.


REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) WYOMING VICE CHAIR, JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE: According to the records, multiple Fox News hosts knew the president needed to act immediately. They texted Mr. Meadows, and he has turned over those texts. Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol? Sean Hannity urged.


VELSHI: The committee`s letter to Hannity sites, another text to Meadows from December 31, 2020 in which Hannity appears to be referring to Trump, "We can`t lose the entire White House counsels office. I do not see January 6 happening the way he is being told. After the 6th he should announce he will lead the nationwide effort to reform voting integrity. Go to Florida and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks people will listen."

Then, on the night before the insurrection, the committee says Hannity said a stream of texts, including one that read, "I`m very worried about the next 48 hours." The Committee says he texted Mark Meadows, "Pence pressure White House counsel will leave."

The Committee also said it appears Hannity had a conversation with Donald Trump on January 10th, 10 days before Joe Biden`s inauguration. The panel says Hannity also wrote Mark Meadows and Republican Congressman Jim Jordan saying, "Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in nine days. He can`t mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today and worse, I`m not sure what is left to do or say. And I don`t like not knowing if it`s truly understood. Ideas?"

Well, the committee`s letter to Hannity also makes clear that it`s not interested in asking him about his Fox show or his political views.

We`re also learning that the members of the January 6 panel also want to speak with former Vice President Mike Pence, who did certify the results of the 2020 election, despite the reported intense pressure campaign from Trump and his allies to stop the process.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, (D) MISSISSIPPI JAN.6 SELECT COMMITTEE CHAIR: There were people who had gallows erected on the lawn of the Capitol ostensibly to hang the vice president. His life was in danger. I would hope that he would do the right thing and come forward and voluntarily. Talk to the committee. We`d like to know what his security detail told him was going on. And what all went on, I think it`s important that the public needs to know. This was the number two person in government.


VELSHI: Now the select committee tells NBC News that he has not formally asked Mike Pence for an interview, but if he offered it would be gladly accepted. Keep in mind that longtime Pence aide and former Chief of Staff Mark Short has already begun engaging with the panel. President Trump had been planning a press conference for Thursday, which is the first anniversary of the insurrection he`s now cancelled that event and says he`ll hold a rally later this month.

Tomorrow, the Attorney General Merrick Garland is set to give a speech about the January 6 criminal investigation. More than 700 people have been arrested in connection to the events surrounding the insurrection, more than 150 have pleaded guilty. Dozens have been sentenced mostly for misdemeanor crimes. But Arizona Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego says the DOJ and Garland have not done enough.



REP. RUBEN GALLEGO, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE (d): I think Merrick Garland has been extremely weak. And I think there should be a lot more of the organizers of January six that should be arrested by now. We have a very obstructionist Republican Party that should be part of, helping us decide how to save democracy instead of trying to cover up for their crimes. And you have again an Attorney General, who is, you know, feckless, and has not been helpful in terms of preserving our democracy.


VELSHI: Also, tonight, the United States has reached an alarming milestone in the pandemic, over 1 million new COVID cases were reported on Monday. The record single day total could reflect delayed reporting from the recent holidays. Testing is still in short supply. The White House says it`s still working on setting up its plan to distribute 500 million free at home tests.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: On testing, I know this remains frustrating, believe me, it`s frustrating to me. But we`re making improvements. In the last two weeks, we`ve stood up federal testing sites all over the country. We`re adding more each and every day. Google, COVID test near me, go there, google -- excuse me, COVID test near me on Google to find the nearest site where you can get a test.


VELSHI: We`ve got a doctor standing by to take all our questions on the latest regarding the pandemic later in the hour. But with that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Tuesday night. Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize Winning White House Bureau Chief with the Washington Post, Eugene Daniels, White House Correspondent for Politico and former United States Attorney Joyce Vance, who spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor. She hosts the podcast Sisters in Law, along with Kimberly Atkins Stohr, Jill Wine-Banks, and Barb McQuade.

Good evening to all of you. Joyce, let`s start with you. And these texts, some of which the January 6 committee has some of which they are asking for between Sean Hannity, Donald Trump, Mark Meadows and others in Trump world. I will say from reading Sean Hannity side of the text, it looks like he might have been the adult in the room trying to call this thing off and indicating to everybody around that this is what he thought was going to happen on January 6, did not look like the right plan?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: These text messages and emails certainly illustrate the proposition that as a prosecutor, as an investigator, if you don`t go looking for evidence, you`re certainly not going to find it. And sometimes when you go looking, you find things that do surprise you. Because the tenor of these communications really makes very concrete, something that we all know that there were plans circulating to try to prevent certification of the election. This shows just how serious they were and that the people who were around the former president appreciated the danger, appreciated that they might not come off. And that there is perhaps this heightened level of awareness that the big lie was in fact, just that a big lie, finding proof to illustrate that point is critical, not just for Congress` work and telling the American people the story of what happened, but also for any potential prosecution that sort of proof looms large.

VELSHI: Ashley Parker on our air on January 6, the committee member Adam Schiff describes Sean Hannity is more than a Fox host when describing his relationship between Hannity and Trump. What are these texts tell you about that relationship? It seems that there was direct conversations. Hannity refers to the minutes texts between him and Donald Trump, phone conversations. We know that Donald Trump was not a big texter or emailer. We know that from Liz Cheney, that Ivanka Trump was trying to get Donald Trump to intervene in what was happening on January 6, but what more have we learned as a result of the release of these texts?

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, from these texts, with Hannity and even previous texts from other Fox News hosts like Laura Ingraham, what we learned is that these hosts are not set. We`re certainly not objective journalists. But we`re even more than primetime host. They were on official advisors in former President Trump`s orbit.

And this was something that was common with him. This would frustrate people, frustrated several chiefs of staff in the White House at the time that former President Trump was as likely to take legal advice, policy advice, political advice from someone like Sean Hannity, from someone like Laura Ingraham as he was from, you know, his policy counsel, from his national security team, from his top political adviser, his chief of staff, this is how the Trump White House operated for those of us that covered it and these facts just sort of show in crystal in detail, the specifics of some of these conversations, and how close former President Trump was to some of these Fox News personalities.


VELSHI: Eugene Daniels, what`s going on in the White House about this? The White House has kept fairly deliberately away from the proceedings of the January six commission and what the Department of Justice is doing in terms of its investigation and prosecution of people who`ve been charged in connection with January 6, but at this point, these revelations make this thing hotter. What does the White House do about it?

EUGENE DANIELS, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean, at this point, I think they continue to do what they`re doing, right? Trying to stay out of it, they want to make sure that they don`t seem -- they`re not able to be seen as putting their finger on the scale. They`re completely knowledgeable of the fact that if they do almost anything, Republicans are going to glom on to that, when this report and when these investigations come out, and are finished, to say that, you know, President Biden did something, and I think they are reticent to lean in on any of this stuff. But they`re obviously talking about it a lot and thinking about it all the time. Because they don`t want this was an election, which they won. So it is, you know, an existential threat to that.

But also, more importantly, to this White House, they talk about it as something that is existential to democracy, right? They don`t want to be -- I`ve talked to, you know, I and actually, I`m sure has talked to many aides, to talk about how they don`t want to be like the last Democratic President, in presidency in this country`s history. So, they think about it and part of that larger context. And so, they`re going to continue to kind of stay out of it, let that -- hopefully let that play out.

And also, I think we`re going to see President Biden in the White House start to tie threads together from January 6 to other things like voting rights, for example, you have President Biden on January 6, making the statement making doing a speech as possible, he`ll do it there. But I`ve been told that that is something that they`re looking to do making it very clear that the push to for Federal Voting rights legislation in this country is something you need to do because of January 6, so using January 6 as a perfect example of why you need to fix some of the other issues that we have in this country. And that`s kind of where they -- I think where they`re going to stay at this point.

VELSHI: Joyce, let`s talk about Hannity didn`t talk about this on the show this evening, which is interesting, because he doesn`t generally shy away from a topic, any legal reason for him to not cooperate. They the committee has made clear that they don`t really care about a show. They don`t care about his political opinions. They want to know who knew what, and when they knew it?

VANCE: It`s hard to draw that line. And so, I`ll just play media lawyer for a moment and say that there are legitimate First Amendment concerns when a member of the press is subpoenaed for testimony. In this situation, I think the distinction Congress is drawing is less that Hannity is a fact witness, and more that he was wearing two hats with his day job, or I guess, his night job. He was on television, whether that was as a newscaster or as a talk show host. He himself had weighed in, in the past that he wasn`t really a reporter as much as he was a talk show guy.

But there`s a second half that Congress is focusing on here. And that`s his role as an advisor to the President of the United States. It`s hard to characterize it as anything else. It was an informal role. It was from outside of the White House. He certainly is not entitled to any form of executive privilege. But it becomes clear in the course of these communications that Hannity is giving advice to the President of the United States, and Congress wants to know more about that relationship, and those communications.

VELSHI: Ashley, I do want to ask you about this. Joyce does bring out the, you know, the fears and concerns about trampling on First Amendment stuff and Hannity`s got friends and enemies. How do you think about this in terms of going to a media personality and determining what role they may have had in a political activity?

PARKER: Well, that`s -- I believe, that`s what Hannity`s lawyer is arguing, basically, that this would be a violation or a First Amendment rights issue. Which is certainly the argument that his lawyer is able to make. I think the challenge with someone like former President Trump is that as we were discussing, he so did blur these lines. I`m certainly not an expert and can`t, you know, render my opinion on that. But again, the way this White House worked as someone once said to me something that was very frustrating, they said, you know, former President Trump is likely to, you know, have his son`s wife bringing her sorority sisters to the Oval Office, inquiry them on what they should do on Afghanistan and take their advice as he is to take the advice of the general. This was maddening for the people who were actually hired with certain expertise to perform those roles and I think here again, you see the blurring of those lines and in this case, the potential legal complications there up.


VELSHI: Eugene, Bloomberg is reporting that the January 6 Committee is considering holding public hearings. We know that they`re holding public hearings in the New Year. But they are planning on thinking about doing it in prime time. There`s an effort here by this committee. And we heard by Chuck Schumer yesterday to make Americans understand that this thing that we think happened a year ago, is ongoing, that there are still forces, particularly within the Republican Party who are trying to undermine the election, there`s still a very large portion of Americans who doubt the legitimacy of Joe Biden as President, do you think that`s a good strategy for the committee?

DANIELS: I don`t know whether it`s a good or bad strategy, but I know that this committee wants to make sure that people don`t forget about what happened on January 6, right? When you talk to everyday Americans about that day, they don`t -- they -- many of them have kind of moved on, right, during the middle of the pandemic, they`re thinking about their, you know, their kitchen table issues. And so, this has been an attempt by this committee, and from the very first hearing that they did have starting with, you know, officers that were hurt that day, emotional testimony to remind people of how bad this was, I think the idea of putting it in primetime is exactly that making sure that people are home to see these things. And to hear straight from the horse`s mouth, whoever the horses may be, on those given days, what happened that day, and most importantly, why it`s important for this committee to do its work. And try to make sure that something like this doesn`t happen again, and that is at the core of what this committee is working on, not just investigating what happened before January 6, on January 6, but also most importantly, making sure that the people who were a part of it are almost publicly shamed, that people know what happened. So that if anyone else has ideas about that, knowing that there can be possible consequences, whether those consequences are legal, which is a different thing from what the committee is doing, or political because at this point, in the Republican Party, there`s almost no political ramifications for spouting the big lie, participating on January 6, all of those different things. So, this is an attempt at that committee to do some of that.

VELSHI: Ashley Parker, there were a lot of Americans who were relieved to hear that Donald Trump won`t be holding an event on January 6, somewhere a little disappointed in a McCobb way, because they wanted to hear what he had to say. What happened to cancel this news conference that he was going to hold at Mar-a-Lago to commemorate or mark or do something having to do with January 6?

PARKER: Well, it`s worth noting in some of those relieved Americans include Republican lawmakers and Trump`s own advisers. This was a news conference, you sort of announced originally, on a lark, he didn`t have a particularly clear message he wanted to drive other than of course, he wanted to kind of reframe as he has been doing all year and basically whitewash the events of January 6, try to highlight his false claims of election fraud, he was likely to take questions from the news media and his -- even his aides here, he was going to try to turn it into the sort of spectacle and circus for which is known, but which, you know, would be beyond inappropriate and out of touch on such a somber day.

And so ultimately, the President had a key to that criticism, you know, he said he`s going to bring out all his grievances again, in an upcoming rally in Arizona in the middle of the month. But I think -- and one of the thing I will say is sometimes advisors were sort of taken aback by how many members of the media are hidden, said they weren`t going to go and there was a sense that it was growing out of control in a way that would not benefit the former president and he ultimately gave to that pressure and it was, yeah.

VELSHI: Thank you to the three of you this evening, Ashley Parker, Eugene Daniels and Joyce Vance, we appreciate you helping us kick off tonight`s 11th Hour.

Well, this time last year, only a handful of people knew what was coming on January 6, why one senator is calling out Republicans by name on the Senate floor for, "dancing on the edge" of overturning democracy.

And later, one of the nation`s leading pediatricians is here to talk about skyrocketing COVID cases and the strain that this latest surge is putting on hospitals and schools around the country. The 11th Hour just getting underway on a Tuesday night.




SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK MAJORITY LEADER: The attack on January 6 was not a one off. It did not materialize out of the blue. On the contrary, January 6 was a symptom of a much broader illness that has now infected the modern Republican Party. An effort to delegitimize our elections rooted in Donald Trump`s big lie.


VELSHI: Democrats are taking their efforts to defend democracy to the Senate floor ahead of Thursday`s January 6 anniversary. Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz is going so far as to call out two of his Republican colleagues by name for their efforts to delegitimize the 2020 election.


SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ, (D) HAWAII: The Electoral College certification is supposed to be the functional equivalent of a swearing in. It`s where the thing gets made official, but it`s not like any decisions are supposed to be made that day. But Senators Hawley and Cruz and others with their unlimited ambition, their big brains, and there`s suppose that expertise in the Constitution were dancing on the edge of overturning democracy itself.


VELSHI: With us tonight, David Plouffe, former Obama Campaign Manager and Senior Adviser to the President and Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. He`s the Host of the Michael Steele podcast.

Good evening to both of you. Thank you for being with us. It`s good to see you, friends.

David, let`s talk about this. There is a split focus in the Senate right now. We`re talking about -- Chuck Schumer is talking about holding a vote by Martin Luther King Day on changing the rules of the Senate, eliminating the filibuster, which seems like a much bigger thing than changing the rules of the Senate. But there`s also -- there are a number of Democrats who are talking about bringing back, Build Back Better and getting this done. We`ve heard from Joe Manchin about it. We`ve heard from the White House about it, where should the focus be right now?

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, there`s no reason that they both can`t get done. I think that the energy right now, because of all the attention around January 6, you know, Schumer`s laid out the deadline, or at least a loose deadline of MLK Day that seems to be next on deck. And it`s essential. I mean, if there`s not a way to carve out the filibuster, and the Manchins and Sinemas and other Democrats and there are other Democratic senators who`ve, you know, profess some concern about that. They have all the permission structure they need to stand up in front of a microphone and say I did not want to do this.


But what`s clear is when we look down the road to January 6, 2025, if we don`t act in the Senate, we`re going to have another insurrection another coup, and that wouldn`t be successful, and democracy lead. So, get that done, protect our democracy, secure that. And then I think they`re likely going to be able to come together to pass. The only thing, it`s much scaled down, but a narrower, maybe slightly less expensive, Build Back Better bill. The important thing there is to begin to talk to the American people about what`s actually in it, and who`s going to benefit, not how much it costs, and whether you can get 50 votes.

So, I think it`s essential to do both of those things. It is an election year. So, Washington, at least from a legislative standpoint, is not going to be supremely busy. So, you`ve got plenty of opportunity over the next 60 or 90 days to get both of those done. But voting rights is next on deck. And again, it`s to make sure it`s not too hard for people to vote. The most important thing is to make sure that half Republican state legislators can`t decide that no matter what voters do in their states. They`re going to decide who wins the election.

Mitch McConnell spoke to that today said he didn`t think that legislators would do that, go against the will of the people. I mean, just look around man, all around the country. That`s what`s happening. They`re preparing to be successful this time in their coup attempt.

VELSHI: Michael, let`s talk about that. Mitch McConnell told reporters earlier today, "We anticipate based on what the Majority Leader has said, meaning Chuck Schumer, that he`s going to try and break the Senate, break the legislative filibuster to make some kind of narrow exception." There is no such thing as a narrow exception. Michael, I would say that many people have not given much thought to what the exception should be to the filibuster, but we`ve come up with a few this year voting rights and abortion. How should the average person, how do you think about it?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Hell, they made an exception with made raised the debt ceiling. They just did that a few weeks ago. And so, I mean, you know, this is such a canard. It`s such a joke, you know, McConnell`s got jokes in the beginning of the New Year. Look, the reality of it is breaking the Senate, the Senate has been broke for some time now. And it`s not because of the filibuster is because no one wants to govern. No one wants to legislate. Everyone wants to do politics 24/7, got you, raise money, stir up the base, win an election and then do nothing again. I mean, this is the cycle we`re in. So, you know, look, if the Democrats can get their collective act together, and focus on the most important thing in front of us, it`s not Build Back Better, it`s not infrastructure, is the damn vote.

And if you figure out, if you figure that part out, and you say, look, for the sake of everything that`s important to this under -- to the underlying, and the underpinnings of this democracy, that we`re going to do this, then do it. You`ll have the American people behind you. Don`t worry about the child, you know, the crazy guy in the corner screaming and talking to himself. Focus on what the American people need right now in front of them to be done. And then once you do that thing, the other pieces will begin to fall in place politically, because today was point, the calendar, the clock, the politics will all dictate what happens after that. And trust me, the Democrats will be in a better position to create the kind of narratives to at least engage in a fight that they can have a chance of winning in terms of keeping the house this November than where they are right now.

VELSHI: And this is an important point. David and Michael are staying with us. When we come back, we`re going to talk about how understanding and getting to the bottom of what happened almost a year ago on January 6 affects what`s going to happen in the midterm elections and in 2024 when the 11th Hour continues.




JIM MARCHANT, (R) CANDIDATE FOR NEVADA SECRETARY OF STATE: We do have a coalition that we formed on May 1. And coalition of America First Secretary of State candidates around the country, we`re getting the word out. The people are excited that there`s somebody doing something behind the scenes to try to fix 2020 like President Trump said.


VELSHI: David Plouffe is back with us. He`s the former President Obama campaign manager, Senior Advisor to President Obama, Michael Steele is with us as well. He`s the Former Chairman of the Republican National Committee and the former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, Host of the Michael Steele podcast.

David Plouffe, that was Jim Marchant, he`s a Secretary of State candidate in Nevada, was talking to Steve Bannon, sounds like a great idea, a coalition of America first secretaries of state. From a naming and branding perspective, it sounds perfect. But he`s actually talking about secretaries of state who are running on a platform to finish the job that he said Donald Trump didn`t do, a job that seems to involve overturning the will of the people and suppressing people`s votes?

PLOUFFE: Yeah, Ali, they don`t really hide this at all. So yeah, I guess that`s a better name than like ambassadors for autocracy, which is what it is. So, let`s just, you know, back to our prior discussion, the Republicans and again, there are Republicans who are opposing what is happening at the state level, and want to get to the bottom of January 6. So let`s be clear, but most Republicans right now, elected Republicans are passing laws in the states to make it harder for people to vote and in some cases, take away the responsibility for who wins elections from voters to state legislators, they are putting forward people like that clown, you just showed, we`re running not to, you know, make sure people get registered to vote or process elections, but to basically be the troops on the ground in these states to support an effort to overturn the next election if the Republicans don`t win it, particularly Trump`s the nominee.

So, the Republicans are acting everywhere. And they`re doing it methodically, with great purpose. They are getting ready. It`s kind of like, you know, heads I win, tails you lose. They either win the election in `24 or if they don`t, they`re preparing to basically never see power. And that`s what this is about. I mean, if they are able to successfully prosecute a coup, we could have Donald Trump and then Donald Trump Jr. and then Ivanka Trump, and then Baron Trump, and you can say that`s crazy. I think for a lot of Trumps basically fine with that.


The Democrats in Congress have to act with the same urgency that the Republicans are acting with out in the states. And the entire media ecosystem, which is trying to pretend the January 6 was nothing but a tourist visit. So, it`s very, very dangerous.

And I will tell you this, if the protection of our democracy doesn`t happen in Washington, if what are your a swing voter, a Democrat is not sure they`re going to vote. To me, there`s nothing that could be more demotivating than saying, you know, yes, democracy at risk, and we just couldn`t get it done to save it.

Like, honestly, you would not question why people would sit out the next election. They have to get this done most important subsequently, but also for the politics.

VELSHI: So Michael, this is worrisome on a number of levels, because there were secretaries of state who were the last line of defense in some states in this last election. But more importantly, there are some Democrats who are talking about what David was just talking about, who don`t really think democracy itself is at stake. And there a lot of Republicans who don`t think so either. So, they go to the polls as normal in November of this year, and at some point, they may have contributed to the demise of democracy by re-electing or electing Republicans like this guy we just heard from in Nevada, who will then finish the job, at which point we are further away from democracy than we are today.

STEELE: But, you know, you raise such an important question or point. Well, then what the hell happened on January 6, what did you see? How did you look at that? Were you cheering it on in your living room? Oh, you damn concerned about the direction this country was potentially heading. You had a sitting president, the United States trying to overthrow the government, because he, in his arrogance for power, wanted to stay in power.

And for elected officials, especially elected Republicans who argue constitutional principles and the rule of law to sit there and do a golf clap about it. And pretend it didn`t happen, it was just tourists coming through the building. What the hell do you think happens in 2022, 2023, 2024 for Americans don`t understand and internalize what they saw. I mean, this is the most stressful part of this is trying to get people to appreciate just how dangerously close we are. This is not hyperbole, people. The gentleman you just saw said he wants to finish the work of Donald Trump from 2020. What the hell do you think that means?

VELSHI: Yeah, he`s not -- he`s, he`s saying the quiet parts completely out loud. And I think hopefully, people are coming to the conclusion that democracy itself is going to be on the ballot come November. Thanks to both of you as always. It`s good to see you friends. David Plouffe and Michael Steele.

Coming up, we`re going to put today`s scary big numbers about COVID in context with one of the nation`s top experts when the 11th Hour continues.




GOV. LARRY HOGAN, (R) MARYLAND: Maryland hit a record high of 3057 COVID hospitalizations, which is an increase of more than 500% in the last seven weeks and which is now overwhelming normal operations at hospitals. The truth is that the next four to six weeks will be the most challenging time of the entire pandemic.


VELSHI: Maryland`s Governor Larry Hogan declaring a 30-day state of emergency to combat a surge in COVID infections. So far, the rate of increase in new cases still largely outpaces hospitalizations, but the current increase is straining hospital systems. The Washington Post reports tonight, "More than 112,000 Americans were hospitalized with COVID-19, the highest level since last year`s punishing winter wave. The current figure represents a roughly 25% increase in hospitalizations over last week`s levels."

Back with us is Dr. Irwin Redlener, he`s the Founding Director of Columbia`s National Center for Disaster Preparedness who advises us on public health. He`s also a Professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Dr. Redlener, it is good to see you. You know, we`ve known each other for a long time. I am not a man of science or medicine. I`m a man of numbers. And right now, the numbers speak for themselves. People are getting milder versions of this virus, but they`re not that worried about it. And yet we have a million new cases in the last 24 hours, which tells you that even if a small number of those people are hospitalized, we`re putting pressure on the medical system that we don`t -- we can`t help, we can`t handle.

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Right. You know, and the thing is, it`s not actually such a small number. It`s a large enough number, the fact that many hospitals are already overwhelmed. And the prospects for the next few weeks, Ali, are not good. We`re just going to keep seeing a rise in the Omicron version. More Delta is still around as well. But we`re far from done with this current surge, Ali.

VELSHI: What do we do about it, Irwin? What`s the real practical application of straining the healthcare system this way? I mean, I think about it on a personal level that if one needs some kind of emergency treatment and shows up at a hospital or gets into an ambulance, and is taken to a hospital, but the ICU beds are taken up by people who are suffering from COVID that`s going to affect us?

REDLENER: Yes, right. Well, I visited a hospital in New York City just last week, here`s what we found. There was one full floor of COVID patients. They were mostly people who had been unvaxxed, some that vaxxed, the ICU floor, had also COVID patients, every single one of them was unvaxxed, that are in the ICU. The emergency room was filled up. And so, what the point you`re making could not be more important, which is that if you have chest pain, if you`re in a car accident, and you need urgent emergency care, and you`re being crowded out by people who are there because they haven`t gotten vaccinated, that is so unacceptable and so difficult for the healthcare system to accommodate but got to get more people vaccinated. That`s been true since the beginning of this, since we have the vaccines develop. And we have to make sure that people who are not sick are not actually going to the hospital, Ali, it it`s -- if at all possible.

VELSHI: Irwin, you know, Peter Hotez, who`s been working in the vaccine world for a long time, have been saying for the last couple of years. He`s not surprised by the fact that there`s an anti-vaccine movement in the United States. He`s been subjected to it for decades. He was really surprised at the intersection of vaccine hesitancy and politics. You tweeted the same thing on Monday or January 1. You said I`m focused on controlling the pandemic and keeping us all healthy, but I`m deeply concerned about the 1/6 insurrection and what it says about where our country is going. You`re worried about these two things being threats to the way we live?


REDLENER: Yeah, I am. Ali, I don`t think we`ve ever seen anything like this. First of all, we`re seeing a simultaneously extraordinary pair of crises. One of which, of course, is the pandemic. But the other one, which is very threatening, existentially to America, and its democracy is what happened on January 6, and what was behind it. So, we are trying to balance some sense of what to do about two huge crises. And the other thing, Ali, we`ve never seen this before, in American history, the intrusion of politics, partisan politics, crazy politics, from the likes of governors DeSantis, or Abbott, et cetera, that have used political perspectives, to deflect people from doing the one thing we know works, which is to get vaccinated, to get tested, to wear masks in indoor spaces.

It is really in a certain sense, Ali, it`s beyond the kin of scientists and public health experts. It really is in the -- I guess the domain of communicators, and media who need to, do we all need to do a really much better job of explaining to people what`s at stake here, but listening to Governor DeSantis, you want to pull your hair out? It`s absolutely intolerable and dangerous.

VELSHI: He`s still arguing that masking is not necessary.

Irwin, you`re a pediatrician, you`re a an expert on crises and how it affects kids. We are back in a place where we`re not sure. Should kids go to school? Should they stay home? Parents, of course, this is still part of this issue about why people are not fully back at work yet because parents don`t know what they`re supposed to do with their kids. You`re an expert on this. What are we supposed to do?

REDLENER: Well, let`s say the first premise is, every child in America needs to go to school every single day in-person, let`s start with that. What would keep a child from going to school, so have a child test positive, they will need to go out of school for a few days. But we no longer think about trying to shut down the school or even the classroom, we have a policy called test and stay. So, if your child is exposed to somebody in school, who tested positive, your child could get tested. And if he or she is negative, they need to stay in school, Ali. So, in other words, all policies which are right now quite a patchwork among various cities and school districts, policies must be directed to keeping children in the classroom for the reasons that you`re talking about. But also, for the reason that children need to be educated. Many children can`t or won`t be educated remotely. They need to be in their seats in the class, Ali.

VELSHI: Irwin, it`s always good to see you, always great to talk to you. I do hope for a day when we can talk as frequently as we do, but not about this. Irwin Redlener is a Founding Director of Columbia`s National Health Centre, National Centre for Disaster Preparedness, advises us on public health.

Coming up, we`re going to hear from some of the travelers who are still stranded overnight in standstill traffic on I-95 in Virginia, when the 11th Hour continues.



SEN. TIM KAINE, (D) VIRGINIA: That was 26 hours and the only thing I ate was one orange and the only liquid I had was one 16-ounce Dr Pepper.


VELSHI: Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia finally returning to the Capitol this afternoon after he along with 1000s of drivers were stuck overnight in standstill traffic on I-95 in Virginia. Our local affiliate and Washington reports "snow, rain and sleep were falling early Monday and traffic was moving along on southbound I-95 until several tractor trailers jackknifed in Stafford at about 8:20 a.m."

The interstate reopened earlier tonight after crews cleared vehicles off the roadway. Our report tonight from NBC Correspondent Tom Costello in Virginia.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: An epic traffic disaster playing out over the last 36 hours in Virginia, 1000s of cars brought to a standstill by that massive storm dropping a foot of snow on the D.C. region. Overwhelming road crews and trapping 1000s of people, the elderly kids and pets in their cars. It started last night a sea of static red taillights in freezing temps. By morning through most of the day, they barely budged, overhead embassy Washington`s News chopper.

BRAD FREITAS, WRC AERIAL REPORTER: Some folks stuck in their vehicles overnight with little food or water.

COSTELLO: And no restrooms. The effected highway, a 50 mile stretch of I-95 from Caroline County, Virginia to Dumfries with few off ramps drivers had no escape. But even the side roads are clogged.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have little kids and we`re doing the best we can. But, of course, there`s other people who need assistance more than we do.

COSTELLO: Among the 1000s trapped for 20 hours or longer, the save on family driving from Boston to Florida, watching the sunrise at 7 a.m. The kids asleep in the backseat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got here about nine o`clock last night. We haven`t moved so that`s kind of how it`s been.

COSTELLO: Also stuck for more than 26 hours, Senator Tim Kaine.

KAINE: There`s families with kids, there`s families that have seniors in the car, people with medical issues. People are running out of gas.

COSTELLO: Sisters Gabrielle (ph) and Noel (ph) bumbled up and blankets to save their limited gas and playing video games to pass the time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone over here is sharing food. They`re walking down through all the lanes and offering snacks up.

COSTELLO: Finally, through the afternoon slow movement on the roads and a slow go in the skies too. Another 1400 flight cancellations today after 3000 yesterday. January 4, and families are still trying to get home from the holidays.


VELSHI: Tom Costello, thank you for that.

Coming up, it is the end of an era for some groundbreaking devices that many of us used to rely on when the 11th Hour continues.




BARACK OBAMA, (D) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I was this cool high-tech guy when I got there, right?


OBAMA: And I was the first presence of a BlackBerry. And so, years pass and no one else has BlackBerry. And, you know, I got the clip (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my goodness.


VELSHI: Last thing before we go tonight, former President Obama sure loved his BlackBerry. He used it on the campaign trail in 2008. And he won a hard-fought battle with his age to bring it with him to the White House. From celebrities to CEOs, anyone who was anyone had a BlackBerry back then, there were 80 million blackberry users at its peak in 2012. Texting and emailing became so convenient, people had a hard time putting their Blackberry`s down, earning them the nickname CrackBerry.

The founders of the vaunted Canadian company that made the revolutionary device were famously dismissive of the iPhone when it was launched. And they bet heavily on the fact that users wouldn`t abandon the hard keys in favor of a keyboardless touchscreen, but they were wrong, very wrong.

So as of today, BlackBerry has discontinued service for its once beloved classic devices. The Washington Post explains, "devices running on BlackBerry`s legacy operating systems and software will no longer reliably function. The company which has since pivoted to enterprise software and cybersecurity reminded users in a news release in late December. Old devices won`t be able to send a text message or dial 911, placing them firmly in the realm of the arcane, in the company of floppy disks and rotary phones."

You might still be able to play brick breaker though. I myself remain a loyal BlackBerry user. I enjoy using the keyboard and I`m famously proud of the company because it comes from Canada just like me. The good news if your BlackBerry runs on Android software like this one does you can still use it. But today we say rest in peace to the original BlackBerry phones 2002 to 2022.

That is our broadcast for this Tuesday night with our thanks for being with us. On behalf of all of my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.