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Transcript: The 11th Hour, 12/14/21

Guests: Carol Leonnig, A.B. Stoddard, Paul Butler, Juanita Tolliver, Stuart Stevens, Irwin Redlener


The Justice Dept. will decide whether or not to charge Meadows with contempt. The former chief of staff maintains that he is covered by executive privilege. Senator Warnock urged his colleagues to treat voting rights with the same urgency as the debt ceiling, bringing up the filibuster debate yet again.



CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, once again, I`m Chris Jansing. Day 329 in the Biden administration, and a pivotal day for the House committee investigating the Capitol insurrection.

The Full House is now voting on whether to hold former Trump White House Chief of Staff and one time Congressman Mark Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress. His case would then go to the Biden Justice Department which will decide whether to prosecute but we`re keeping a close eye on these numbers.

You will remember that when a similar vote was taken in the case of Steve Bannon, nine Republicans voted along with the Democrats. Also taking a little longer tonight there`s a lot of folks who are voting for members of Congress who are not there. We`re keeping our eyes very closely on what`s happening.

But as you know, Mark Meadows has refused to cooperate with the investigation after initially engaging with the committee and after he turned over thousands of pages of records.

Last night, the January 6 committee revealed just a few of those records mostly text messages between Mark Meadows and unnamed Republicans on the Hill, as well as Trump`s family and Fox News hosts all asking Meadows to urge the former president to tell the mob attacking the capitol to stand down.

Tonight the committee made public another text message it was set November 4th, the day after the 2020 election and before all the votes were counted from a lawmaker to Mark Meadows. This is how it reads quote, here`s an aggressive strategy. Why can`t the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and other Republican controlled state houses declare this is BS, where conflicts and election not called that night, and just send their own electors to vote and have it go to the Supreme Court.

One of the two Republicans on the January 6 committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney referred to those texts during the House debate prior to tonight`s contempt vote.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (D-WY): Some of those text messages Madam Speaker came from members in the chamber right now. Members who understood that a violent assault was underway at the Capitol, members who pleaded with the chief of staff to get the president to take action. I read a number of this last night at our hearing. I won`t read them all today, but I will read a few of them. Mark, one member said, he needs to stop this now, in all caps, tell them to go home. POTUS has to come out firmly and tell the protesters to dissipate someone is going to get killed.


JANSING: Now as for the Fox News hosts who pleaded with Meadows to convince Trump to stop the violence at the Capitol, here`s what the January 6 committee says Sean Hannity wrote to Mark Meadows, and then what he said on air that night.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: People who acted violently today, they don`t represent the millions of law abiding hard working taxpaying citizens, responsible American patriots that are worried about election integrity.


JANSING: And then here`s how Hannity responded tonight.


HANNITY: I have always been consistent on January 6, and every other riot. Liz Cheney, have you ever called for a Committee on the riots in the summer of 2020? We`ve condemned January 6, we did it that day. It was it was happening. We did it that night on the show, just like we condemn the 574 left wing riots in the summer of 2020.


JANSING: The January 6 committee has yet to reveal which lawmakers were texting with Meadows. Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked if he was one of them.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) MINORITY LEADER: I was not but I do think we`re all watching as you are what is unfolding on the House side. And it will be interesting to reveal all the participants who were involved.


JANSING: So again, that vote is ongoing. Folks have been coming up to the lectern, giving their votes Full House voting on whether to hold former Trump White House Chief of Staff and of course a member of that body at one time a Congressman Mark Meadows in criminal contempt. And then it would be up to the Biden Justice Department to decide whether to prosecute, we`ll let you know when that vote is finished.

There`s other news though. Meanwhile, conservative lawyer John Eastman is now suing the committee and Verizon over the subpoenas of his phone records. Eastman who is also refusing to cooperate with the committee and is taking the Fifth is the reported architect of a memo outlining how former Vice President Pence might overturn the 2020 election.

Now the committee did hear today from another witness, Dustin Stockton, the organizer of the rally that took place on the ellipse before the Capitol riot. He says he spent several hours in that deposition.



DUSTIN STOCKTON, JAN. 6 RALLY ORGANIZER: The Bucs got to stop President Trump. He knew better. And there`s no excuse for him sending people down into that situation without having the logistics, the security, the stage and sound system to control the crowd. That stuff could have been in place and should have been in place before he ever sent people down there.


JANSING: Also tonight a federal judge has dismissed Trump`s lawsuit to shield his tax returns from the House Ways and Means Committee. The ruling from that Trump appointed judge gives the committee chairman broadly way to request those documents despite Trump`s status as a former president. The judge also gave the former president 14 days to appeal.

Also tonight federal health officials are increasingly concerned about the rapid spread of the new Omicron COVID variant. New CDC data indicates that Omicron could lead to a major surge of infections as soon as January. We have a leading doctor standing by to take our questions on that later in this hour.

And in Kentucky tonight, search efforts continue following those deadly tornadoes that roared through the south this past weekend. There are still more than 100 people unaccounted for. President Biden will visit one of the hardest hit regions in Kentucky tomorrow.

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Tuesday night Carol Leonnig, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter at The Washington Post, co-author with Phillip Rucker of The New York Times bestseller "I alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump`s Catastrophic Final Year," A.B. Stoddard, veteran Washington journalist and associate editor and columnist for Real Clear Politics, and Paul Butler, a former federal corruption prosecutor at the Justice Department, currently a professor at Georgetown Law. Good to have all of you here.

As that vote continues, Carol, Liz Cheney read more tax from lawmakers to Meadows this morning before tonight`s vote. Take a listen.


CHENEY: Here are a few others from Republican members, quote, it is really bad up here on the hill. Another one, the President needs to stop this ASAP. Another one, fix this now. But we know hours passed with no action by the President to defend the Congress of the United States. This brings up another point, did Donald Trump through action or inaction corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress`s official proceeding to count electoral votes?


JANSING: Carol, it seems this is all bringing the investigation closer to the Oval Office before and during the January six riot.

CAROL LEONNIG, THE WASHINGTON POST INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Absolutely, Chris, and I think you get a good sense from Liz Cheney`s question right there. It`s almost as if she is in the U.S. Attorney`s Office and asking, not the question of the Nixon Watergate era, but very similar to what did the President know. And when did he know it?

In this case, her central question is, did the President corruptly engage in trying to obstruct Congress from doing its duty, its constitutional duty to certify an election that Donald Trump`s administration, his national security officials concluded was one of the most carefully and properly monitored and accurate election results that led to Joe Biden being named president.

I think it`s also really important, Chris to keep in mind, what`s going on in terms of this first little dribble of pretty fascinating details we all knew, because we all watched it. We all knew the President didn`t act, additional reporting by lots of good peers and also by wonderful people that I work with at the Washington Post, revealed how long it took the president to act, how many times his own daughter and Mark Meadows were pleading with him to say something to call off the dogs.

But in this case, now, in the last 24 hours, Chris, we`ve seen that members of Fox News, who are essentially a public relations agency for the President, at times, often, were begging with him to do something more dramatic to save lives, that his own White House staff are begging him.

And that finally Republican members who now claim at the rostrum, the January 6 was no big deal were also bagging Meadows to get Trump to help them, to protect them, to save them from what they were going through, which was basically racing through congressional tunnels to save their own skins.

JANSING: We just got to final count there. It has passed 222 to 208, two Republicans. We`ll see if, you know, I think we can make some assumptions about who those two Republicans might be Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. We`ll check on that.


But look, Paul Butler, as you watch what is going on in now this goes to the DOJ is it similar or is it completely different than the consideration of what should happen to Steve Bannon?

PAUL BUTLER, GEORGETOWN LAW PROFESSOR: It`s pretty much the same except that Mark Meadows is even a more compelling witness. He`s already provided the committee with text and documents that suggests he was down and dirty with Donald Trump on January 6, but now Meadows refuses to talk even about the evidence he`s provided the committee.

The committee has heard testimony from more than 300 witnesses and obtain over 35,000 documents, but Meadows testimony could be key to holding the insurrectionist and their congressional enablers, and Oval Office enabler accountable.

And Chris, if Meadows is ultimately found to be in criminal contempt, he faces a minimum sentence of a month in prison, it could be up to a year. But here`s the thing, the panel would much rather have his testimony. So tonight`s vote could be the ultimate pressure for Meadows to actually cooperate, not the fake cooperation he said he would do and then reneged on and less than a week, and the stakes could not be higher. The chair of the panel said that the evidence reveals that our democracy was inches from ruin on January 6.

JANSING: It also reveals to us, A.B., and of course, he was the chief of staff. But the more we learn, the more Meadows seems to be the set the center of what happened after the November election. From your perspective, how critical is he now to this house investigation?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOC. EDITOR AND COLUMNIST: Oh, he is. He was clearly from the tech that Congresswoman Cheney has revealed the point person, not only for panicked congressional Republicans, and John Jr. and Fox News anchors on January 6 during the rioting, but for the planning of some kind of response to Donald Trump`s defeat, on November 3rd, that they were planning this throughout November and December. He was closely involved with PowerPoints and John Eastman`s arguments anti-constitutional though they were, he seems to be intricately involved in trying to find a way to overturn the election, working with a member of Congress who is working with Jeffrey Clark and Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice on this effort as well.

This was a vast effort crossing in throughout the executive branch and into the Congress. And Mark Meadows appears to be a point person. And I think that Paul is right. His book is not going to sell a bunch. He really is having financial problems. He intended to actually cooperate with the committee and has revealed, you know, this incredible mother load of information, but they still need to talk to him about those key questions about Trump`s state of mind, planning in November and December, what was unfolding on January 6.

And there might be -- because he never wanted to come to this contempt vote and a possible indictment. It might be too much pressure for him and he might have to fold and end up speaking with them. He really has a lot of financial considerations that are that are bearing down upon him. And if Trump is never going to speak to him again, anyway, he might in the end, buck hold.

JANSING: And it is so compelling, Carol, the committee now saying to be willing to let the public say what they`re collecting as evidence. How does this video what do you know about this as part of an overall strategy by the committee?

LEONNIG: The committee`s overall goal, Chris, as we reported a few weeks ago, is to have a final report that is akin to the Mueller report, except I think it`ll be a heck of a lot clearer. The report will have two pieces, one will be a narrative, essentially, the, you know, lit fiction but nonfiction version of what really happened from soup to nuts, you know --

JANSING: Kind of a TikTok.

LEONNIG: -- before the election and after the election -- no, I hope not to Tiktok. I hope not. I hope it`ll be longer than that. And I`m promised it`s a lot longer than it`s awkward tweet.


LEONNIG: So a narrative that`s really going to take us through those days, when the President really was planning to challenge the election if he didn`t win or if he -- if the results didn`t work for him. And then all of the people who gathered round his, you know, coattails to encourage, enable and provide methods for him to challenge that election.

Keep in mind, a really critical part of that narrative is in the late or mid stage of December when the president at the time Donald Trump is getting more and more desperate.


His attorney general has told him there is no proof of any fraud. His assistant attorney general has told him and his White House counsel has told him that nobody is going to be working at the Justice Department if the president tries to force that department to declare the election fraudulent and swing states.

The President is getting more and more nervous that he`s going to have to give over the reins of power he`s fought for so hard. And who comes to his rescue? Some very, very interesting members of Congress, Republican members of Congress, who begin meeting with him, and the committee is zeroing in on its own brethren who were encouraging the president along this path.

I`ll tell you one more thing that committee is going to do at the end of all of this, which is make recommendations so that nothing like this would ever happen again, that our democracy would not come within, you know, a couple of inches of going off the rails.

Keep in mind, one of the things that could have gone so awry, Vice President Pence at the time, insisted on staying in the chamber. He was angry. He had been threatened, his life has been threatened, his children were with him, his wife was with him. And he stayed in that chamber to certify the election. Mitch McConnell insisted that they would clear it no matter whether there were bombs still possibly in the building. He wanted back in primetime to certify.

A lot of things could go wrong, could have gone wrong in terms of the lack of a peaceful transfer of power. And that`s what`s so chilling about this. And one of the elements of the committee`s work, which they`ve devote dedicated themselves to and promised to do is a is a recommendation about all of the ways to stop that from happening again, in case another President determines that he`s not going to go along with 200 years of tradition, and agree that the winner will become the next president.

JANSING: What we haven`t seen, Paul, so far is any indication that the committee is sort of gearing in on one particular criminal charge, that they think that the President should face the former president. But do you think they`re gearing up to subpoena Trump? And if so, how would that work?

BUTLER: So last night, Liz Cheney, front the federal obstruction statute to suggest that Donald Trump was guilty of impeding a congressional investigation or progressional proceeding.

If Trump --

JANSING: And that`s a felony, isn`t it Paul?

BUTLER: It is a felony. And if Trump has criminal exposure, if he`s subpoenaed by the panel, he would almost certainly claim the Fifth and refused to testify on those grounds.

JANSING: So A.B., I guess the other question is, and, you know, we watch a little bit of Fox News tonight, because we`re waiting to see what some of those folks who had sent those tweets on that day were saying now about it today.

But what are you hearing about how what we`ve learned over the past couple of days is lining with the Republican Party in general?

STODDARD: Well, I mean, you see from this vote, Chris, it`s the same protection that they gave Steve Bannon. I mean, they`re there. No one is coming to the mic, then speaking to reporters, even on background to disavow the revelations from these texts, to -- there will be no defections.

They are in lockstep protecting the president and his role in January one downplaying this event in history whitewashing the facts of that day, no one after Liz Cheney`s explosive performance in the committee last night, and again, today, has come out and said, that`s it. This is terrible. I came here to, you know, and took an oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. And I`m done.

I mean, you`re just going to continue to see them find a way to make circles in their arguments in order to protect Donald Trump in their own ranks, among whom, as Carol points out, there are people who engage at potentially a criminal level with January -- creating or excusing January 6.

So expect nothing new. I mean, I don`t think no matter how the revelations of bad revelations get, and when the names are named by the panel, I think continue to see a full throated defense and unity on the Republican side.

JANSING: So much more to come and once again tonight that vote to 222 to 208. The two Republicans were indeed as was easy to guess.


Liz Cheney who has really been at the center of this for the last couple of days and reading many of those texts and Adam Kinzinger we will continue to watch this as it develops. Carol Leonnig, A.B. Stoddard, Paul Butler, thanks for being with us tonight.

And coming up, one of our next guests worries we`re witnessing, as he put it, the unimaginable becoming inevitable as some Republicans tried to block the investigation into January 6.

And later, while lawmakers pay tribute to the 800,000 gone from COVID, we`ll hear from one leaning doctor who fears hundreds of thousands more may die soon. THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on a Tuesday night.



REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MI) JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: If you are making excuses to avoid cooperating with our investigation, you`re making excuses to hide the truth from the American people about what happened on January 6.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Executive privilege serves the public interest. It`s for us. It`s for we the people.

CHENEY: The vote on contempt today relates principally to his refusal to testify about messages and other communications that he admits are not privileged.

REP. ANDY BIGGS (R-AZ): Every Democrat has said today is meant to attack one person and that`s Donald Trump.


JANSING: Some of the floor debate before tonight`s vote on Mark Meadows contempt referral. Back with us tonight, Juanita Tolliver, a veteran political strategist to progressive candidates and causes and Stuart Stevens, a veteran of the Mitt Romney and George W. Bush Presidential campaign. He`s now at the Lincoln Project. His latest book is "It Was All A Lie: How The Republican Party Became Donald Trump."


And thanks for being here. Look, Stuart knowing the details we know now, how can Republicans keep up this narrative that the assault on the Capitol was something less than an assault on our democracy that was carried out by Trump`s supporters?

STUART STEVENS, THE LINCOLN PROJECT SENIOR ADVISER: Well, I think you`re getting it the reason I call it my book, it was all a lie. The Republican Party is not a normal political party in American sense that is now advocating a different ideology than the Democratic Party. It`s an autocratic movement, and the autocratic charge is Donald Trump. And if it wasn`t Donald Trump, it would be another autocrat. It`s a complete collapse.

I really think, unlike anything we`ve seen, certainly in modern American history, we`re forgetting the fact that are not talking about it. You know, these Republicans don`t believe that Joe Biden is illegally elected president. So they don`t believe that we live in a democracy. They think we live in an occupied country.

So how do you meet these people halfway? How do -- you all of this, it`s just out the window, our normal political rules, and it`s not going to change until they`re defeated. It`s absolute truth. That`s the only way you have to crush them.

JANSING: Yes. What do you make of this, Juanita, the vote we mentioned it earlier, when it was for Steve Bannon, nine Republicans voted along with the Democrats. Now it`s the two, the same two who were on the committee, one of whom is not running for reelection. I mean, what we`re learning about January 6, what we`ve seen in these texts, hasn`t moved people.

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hasn`t moved Republicans, let`s say that, because the general public latched on to this and are fully aware. And we can expect more of this type of big details, these bursts of information that are going to be --

JANSING: Do you think the public is latching on to this? Do you think the folks in the middle are watching this and saying, Oh, maybe I need to look at this in a different way.

TOLLIVER: I think the folks in the middle -- I think they`re watching because at this point, it comes down to what this all leads to. And so like, Professor Butler mentioned in your previous segment, if this leads to a criminal referral for criminal charges against Trump, against members of Congress, you can believe that those individuals who`ve been watching this from start to finish, because we all witnessed January 6.

And so there is a group of voters who are out there saying, if Democrats don`t get accountability here, then I`m shutting down, right. So you better believe that people in the middle independent, suburban voters are paying attention to this to see what type of accountability does yield from these investigations. Because without that accountability, a number of voters will be turned off in saying that, hey, this was just an ineffective effort by Democrats to do nothing that ultimately leaves our democracy as vulnerable as it was on January 6.

JANSING: As he`s watching it unfold, I want to play this Axios interview with Congressman Jim Clyburn, take a listen.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): For a product such as the Republican Party, that my parents were members of, for them, to turn the whole party apparatus over to one person means you no longer party, but you now cult. And that`s what is happening. And it`s time for the right thing and people in this country to step away from cult worship.


JANSING: But Stuart, Adam Kinzinger stepped away and he`s not running for reelection. Liz Cheney is a target, constant target tonight on Fox News. So what`s the answer?

STEVENS: Well, look, I have one disagreement with the Congressman there. I don`t think that Donald Trump changed the party. I think Donald Trump revealed the party. These people are what they want to be. The Republican Party is very comfortable being an autocratic movement now.

And that`s hard for a lot of us who worked in the party to come to grips with, but I don`t know any other conclusion to come to in any kind of honest intellectual sense. They are about the business of changing what we`ve always known as American democracy.

There was a plot to end the peaceful transition of power. And Mitch McConnell surely knew about this PowerPoint, he did nothing. You can`t count. It`s just it`s at a point that really is almost unimaginable for us.

JANSING: Well, and what is the motivation, Juanita, if they`re looking at a midterm set of elections that they think they`re going to take back the House and the Senate?

TOLLIVER: That`s the sole motivation align ourselves with Trump to tap into his fervent base right, like that`s why McCarthy just days after the January 6 attack, winning his Trump`s ring down at Mar-a-Lago. That`s why all the Republican campaign committees are fully aligned and on track with whatever Trump wants, Trump aligned candidates, Trump endorsements. They are falling in line because they know that he helps them raise money and he helps him them turn out voters and that`s what this is about. Nothing more.


They`re sold a long time ago to Trump and don`t expect anything to change on that front. And so while Representative Clyburn is saying, hey, we need level heads here, there are none left in the Republican Party. They all are fully aligned with Trump and only expect them to continue this cover up for Trump and to continue to do Trump`s bidding.

JANSING: Juanita and Stuart have kindly agreed to stay with us. Coming up. We`re going to look at what is next in the fight for voting rights legislation as a key senator lays out what`s at stake in a powerful floor speech when the 11th Hour continues.


SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): As we cast that vote to begin addressing the debt ceiling this same chamber is allowing the ceiling of our democracy to crash in around us. I happen to believe that our democracy is at least as important as the economy.


JANSING: Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock on the Senate floor this afternoon ahead of the debt ceiling vote. In a compelling speech, he pointed out that after months of rhetoric about inability to change the filibuster, the Senate did just that but for the debt limit.

Senator Warnock referenced the dozens of restrictive voting laws enacted across the country this year, and he called on the Senate to delay their holiday recess in order to pass voting rights legislation. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin who has been one of the loudest democratic defenders of the filibuster had this to say when reporters asked him about it following Warnock speech.



SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): All my discussions again with bipartisan Republicans, Democrats and rules change should be done to where we all have input in this real shame because we`re going to live with him.


JANSING: Still with this Juanita Tolliver and Stuart Stevens. So Juanita, NAACP President Derek Johnson is set to meet with senators on voting rights tomorrow and he released a statement tonight, I want to read a little part of it. The Senate has failed to make voting rights a priority and that needs to change. We cannot allow 2021 to end without voting rights protections. It would be unconscionable. Our crippling democracy is not waiting around for the Senate to act. If nothing gets done, Juanita, what should Democrats be worried about heading into the midterms?

TOLLIVER: They should be worried about the voters who don`t have the luxury of waiting in line for eight to 10 hours to cast their ballots just staying at home. They should be worried about voters who said you didn`t fight for my rights. So I`m not going to vote for you. They should be worried about - -

JANSING: They should be wait around eight to 10 hours and then get turned away.

TOLLIVER: And then get turned away. Barrier after barrier is disruptive not only to those individual voters and their individual right to vote, but to our broader democracy, which we`ve already discussed is under perpetual threat and attack from the previous president.

And so this is why it should be front and center and it should have been front and center this entire year. But Biden and the White House decided OK, we`re going to put up voting rights legislation for a series of infrastructure and economic bills. I appreciate Senator Reverend Warnock so much for making that statement. And emphasizing the fact that our democracy matters just as much as our economy because it dictates how we live our lives and experience our rights in this country. And failure to recognize that.

Failure to recognize how raising the debt limit and making that quick change to the Senate rules was a slap in the face for every person who`s put their body on the line, who`s risked arrest for voting rights, who is experiencing and participating in hunger strikes like Joe Madison and the students in Arizona right now is to ignore the fact that our basic liberties are under attack. And Democrats have the tools to change that.

So when Senator Manchin calls for bipartisanship, I`ll echo what Senator Warnock said today as well, by partisanship at whose expense because we know these voter suppression bills are targeted to black and brown communities. We know they`re targeted to low income and rural communities, we know their target against people living with disabilities who need extra supports to cast their votes. So no, bipartisanship is not an option right now, especially when it`s clear that the Senate has the power to change the rules and get this done.

JANSING: Stuart, The Washington Post had some terrific analysis on possible scenarios with the filibuster and voting rights least likely they write, go nuclear and get rid of the filibuster entirely. Also not very likely, keep the filibuster as is possible, tweak the filibuster by carving out a one- time exception to voting rights, most likely make the filibuster more painful to execute for the minority party. How do you think this might play out, Stuart?

STEVENS: I don`t know. I think it really goes to the central question of do you believe that there is an existential threat to American democracy? I think it`s pretty obvious. If you give a PowerPoint as a plot to take in the peaceful transition of power, I don`t know how obvious it can be. You know, this isn`t like the Zimmermann telegraph. This is like a PowerPoint.

So I think it is an existential threat. This is sort of like a pandemic. I think what we say at the beginning will sound alarmist but it`s going to prove to be way inadequate at the end. And I can tell you, if somebody knows a lot of these people, this is what they want. They really want to change democracy because they can`t come to grips with a changing America with an increasingly non-white America and their inability to attract those votes. And the tragic reaction to it has been to make it harder for those people to vote.

So it is essential that this get passed, and no one is going to remember what it did to the filibuster. What we`re going to remember if `22 and `24 is the last election in our lifetime that resembles anything that we`ve known as a democracy.

JANSING: Did we stand up for democracy? Stuart Stevens, Juanita Tolliver, thanks to both of you. And coming up. There`s troubling new reporting on why top U.S. health officials fear a worst case scenario in which COVID and the flu overwhelm health systems when the 11th Hour continues.




DR. PETER HOTEZ, CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT TEXAS CHILDREN`S HOSPITAL: This thing is like our fast moving freight train. We are going to see a number of breakthrough hospitalizations among our health care providers who won`t be required hospitalization, they`ll be sick. So we`ll be calling out sick. So I really worry about a instability in our health system, and a lot of people unable to take your patients in the hospital. That`s the weak link right now.


JANSING: Well, that is an alarming warning from a frequent guest here, vaccine scientist Peter Hotez. Early research out of South Africa suggests the newest strain may cause less severe illness. The data also finds well, two doses of the Pfizer vaccine offers 70 percent protection against hospitalization. It`s significantly less effective against infection from Omicron.

The Washington Post reports quote, the worst case scenario has spooked top health officials who fear a fresh wave layered on top of Delta and influenza cases, in what one described as a triple whammy could overwhelm health systems and devastate communities, particularly those with low vaccination rates.

We welcome back Dr. Irwin Redlener, Founding Director of Columbia`s National Centre for Disaster Preparedness, who advises us on public health. He`s also a professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. What do you make of this new South African data? Do we really know yet? How dangerous the Omicron variant is? What`s your analysis of where we are?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Right, Chris. Yes, well, we don`t really know yet. And we have to keep waiting. It`s very difficult to wait. We all want to know the answers. But, you know, the latest reports from South Africa that the cases of Oman might be leveling off. We don`t know where this is going.

We do know it`s going to be rapidly contagious to people, wherever there are unvaccinated people. We do know that it`s probably less protected by the by the vaccines that are currently out there. But we also know and this is on the good news side, Chris, is that if people get two doses, plus a booster of one of the mRNA vaccines, or have had COVID and get two doses, those people will still be quite protected. We think now from being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19.


You put it this way on Twitter to that point, you said we have to Americas, vaxxed and the unvaxxed. The vast majority of triple vaxx will be protected from bad COVID illness or death. The unvaccinated? You`re playing Russian roulette. Why would anyone take such a risk when vaccine is safe and works? Why?

I mean, it was one year ago today, doctor, a nurse in New York became the first person in America to get an authorized COVID shot. Since then the virus has killed half a million more people in the United States. Where did we go wrong?

REDLENER: Well, it`s not -- it`s not really understood well, where we went wrong, Chris. You know, here`s the thing. In medical school, you know, we learned about viruses. We learned about vaccines and virology and everything related to it. We did not learn about political extremism, and ignorance, creating a barrier to getting the country and all of its citizens protected from a deadly virus. I`m befuddled.

And if any of my colleagues say they aren`t, well, then I`d like to talk to them. Because I don`t know that we know how to deal with this. But this is about political messaging. It`s about making people understand what are they putting their lives in their hands for to prove fealty to Donald Trump to demonstrate a particular ideology? Why would anyone do that in the face of a deadly virus? It just is befuddling.

JANSING: You know, there are places where we`re seeing change. You know, Kroger says it`s taking away paid leave for unvaccinated employees who get COVID it`s also requiring unvaccinated employees in the company`s health insurance to pay a $50 monthly surcharge. I mean, is that what it`s going to take? Is that a good idea?

REDLENER: Well, it`s going to take extreme actions where it`s possible to do that. I`ve been promoting the idea of nobody getting on an airplane for a domestic sor international flight. If they can`t prove they`ve been vaccinated if we make it difficult enough for people to live their lives without being vaccinated. I think that may be the kind of thing that we`re going to need. But why does it take such efforts? What really the answer is, you will live, you`ll survive COVID If you get vaccinated.

JANSING: There was another big piece of news today with Pfizer saying its antiviral COVID pill has nearly 90 percent efficacy in preventing hospitalizations and deaths among high risk patients. Here`s what the company CEO said earlier today.


ALBERT BOURLA, PFIZER CEO: What we are expecting that instead of 10 people going to hospital, only one will go and actually no one is dying. So these are very, very good news.


JANSING: Last week, you worried about the risk of over relying on these oral medications to fight this pandemic. Walk us through your concerns.

REDELER: So first of all, I should say that I was calling the idea of these new pills game changers because they would save lives. And there`s no question about that. Although there may be a question about it with the Merck pill because the Merck pill is far less effective than the Pfizer pill. And the Merck pill may have some side effects.

But the Pfizer pill would probably save quite a few lives. But what it does do, it gives actually reason for people who are unpacked to say, why don`t need to get vaccinated because if I get sick, I`ll just go get a prescription, and I`ll be fine. This discouragement of people getting vaccinated, Chris, is a complete problem for efforts to stop the pandemic. In other words, pills save lives. But the vaccines stop the pandemic. And I think that makes sense. It`s a way of people understanding what I`m concerned about here.

JANSING: Yes, you can`t let up. Dr. Irwin Redlener, it`s always great to see you, always great to have your expertise. Thank you so much for being with us on the program tonight.

And coming up. How weather that was a lot more like April than December`s spawn up one of the most destructive storm systems ever when the 11th Hour continues.



JANSING: Days after a series of deadly tornadoes rip through six states, a new storm system is threatening to spin off strong winds and possibly more rare tornadoes in parts of Iowa and Minnesota tomorrow. All of this prompts the question what is causing these powerful devastating December storms. Our report tonight from NBC News correspondent Dasha Burns.


DASHA BURNS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Bowling Green, Kentucky, no words can describe the devastation.

RONNIE WARD, BOWLING GREEN POLICE DEPARTMENT: You can see that these two houses are gone and then the houses in front of them are gone. So you can directly see the path moving right straight through there.

BURNS: As the community grieves many are asking why.

JOHN GORDON, NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE LOUISVILLE METEOROLOGIST: This is the largest event ever in December in terms of severe weather and tornadoes.

BURNS: Experts are working to understand what fueled these monster storms.


BURNS: Josh Durkee is a meteorology professor at Western Kentucky University.

(on camera): What happened here?

DURKEE: There was a widespread area conducive to severe weather. There was warm air ushering in, a lot of moisture in the lower levels of the atmosphere. And the winch here set up an environment for storms to tap into that environment and thrive.

BURNS (voice-over): The unusual nature of the storms have many wondering if this is a result of climate change.

DURKEE: Climate change is a very complex discussion.

BURNS: While Durkee can`t definitively say climate change is the cause of these storms, he says they may be a consequence. One of the main causes spring like temperatures in December, 20 to 30 degrees above the average for this time of year.

(on camera): Could we see more of these storms because of these warming temperatures?

DURKEE: There are changes in the spatial distributions of tornadoes, as well as the tornado frequencies. We are seeing more and more of these types of events that are related to things like climate change.

BURNS (voice-over): There may also be a change to what`s traditionally deemed Tornado Alley. Experts say it`s moving east.

(on camera): Can we see tornadoes start to impact new places, different places?

DURKEE: Absolutely.

BURNS (voice-over): That means more people should get prepared.

GORDON: I`m going to be working tirelessly to help people find ways to protect themselves, to get the warning, to have a plan, to get low and save your family`s life.

BURNS (on camera): Bowling Green never expected to experience anything like this. But experts say as the storms become more frequent, more and more communities are going to have to make plans to keep themselves safe.


JANSING: Our thanks to Dasha Burns for that report. Coming up, nine years ago tonight, the nation was reeling after the tragedy of Sandy Hook, a presidential plea for long delayed action when the 11th Hour continues.



JANSING: The last thing before we go tonight, today our nation marks a devastating but important anniversary to remember. It`s been nine years since the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In a video message today President Biden remembered the victims and called for action on gun violence prevention.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Folks nine years ago today, the families in Newtown were hit especially hard. No matter how long it`s been. Every one of those families relives the news they got that day. 20 precious first graders, six ROIC educators, a lone gunman and an unconscionable act of violence. Everything changed that morning for you. And the nation was shocked.

In countless communities across the country there`s these horrific shootings and make national headlines and embarrasses as a nation. And for many others, every day, particularly in black and brown communities, there`s the equivalent of a mass shooting we don`t even hear about.

As a nation, we owe all these families more than our prayers. We owe them action.

Again, I know our policies is frustrating can be frustrating, particularly frustrating now, but we can`t give up hope. We can`t stop. I help beat the NRA with your help twice, twice. It can be done again. We have to keep up the pressure. And God bless all those innocent lives in Newtown and all across the country. And all of you who have been the victims of gun violence in your families have suffered from it. My heart breaks for you but we have to act. We can`t give up. We got to get it done. God bless you all. And God bless the loved ones who have left behind.



JANSING: Some powerful words from the President to take us off the air. That is our broadcast for this Tuesday night with our thanks for being with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.