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Transcript: The 11th Hour, 12/16/21

Guests: Yamiche Alcindor, Eugene Daniels, Chuck Rosenberg, Eugene Robinson, Bill Kristol, Vin Gupta

Summary

New York City is experiencing an alarming case spike, spurring city leaders to provide masks and at home tests, in addition to encouraging vaccinations. Dr. Fauci says breakthrough infections from Omicron will be higher than Delta. President Biden held a virtual meeting with several Senate Democrats to push voting rights legislation even as they put his Build Back Better bill on hold until after Christmas.

Transcript

[23:00:00]

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Just nine days until Christmas, we are back waiting in long lines for COVID tests. The nation now facing an alarming new surge in cases just as we head into your three. I`m going to say that again, year three of this pandemic. Meanwhile, are already exhausted healthcare system is now caught between the Delta variant and this new highly transmissible Omicron strain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Omicron is here. It`s going to start to spread much more rapidly beginning of the year, and the only real protection is to get your shots. For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death. We`re going to protect our economic recovery. If we do this, we`re going to keep schools and businesses open.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: Oh, it is already spreading. Tonight the CDC predicts there could be more than a million new COVID cases by the end of Christmas week. The government says this new sprain -- strain is spreading fastest in New York and New Jersey. Some New York City restaurants and even some Broadway shows are having to close back down. And the city plans to offer residents a half a million rapid tests and a million masks.

We`ll get an update from the front lines of COVID later in the hour.

And there`s also news tonight in the investigation into the January 6 insurrection. The House committee has now issued a subpoena to Phil Waldron. Who`s that? He`s the retired Army colonel who circulated a PowerPoint plan. Yes, I said it a PowerPoint plan, on how to overturn the 2020 election.

The Committee obtained that document from former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who insists he had nothing to do with it. January 6, committee member Adam Kinzinger says the panel is now very much focused on what took place in the days before the Capitol riot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): About a year ago now and I can`t believe it`s been a year. It also seems like it`s been 10 years ago and yesterday at the same time. But there was this kind of fever pitch to not accept the fact that a legitimate election had happened. And that`s why the committee is so important, Wolf, it`s not just about the day of January 6. That`s an important point. But it`s about what is the rat that led up to that. We have a clock on us. We need to get to this quickly. Expect to see more lawsuits, more frivolous lawsuits to try to slow this down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: Meanwhile, longtime Trump ally in advisor Roger Stone is supposed to appear before the committee tomorrow. But he has already indicated that he intends to plead the Fifth, which means it`s just going to be a media and press opportunity for Stone. But another committee member has already said tactics like that will not stop investigators from gathering the information they need.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): I think we are making progress, the 300 individuals who we`ve talked to. They continue to give us more information. We`re pulling the thread of the investigation and we`re following every lead. We`re not presupposing where this is going. What we`re doing is preserving an ability to gain information that is helpful to our investigation each and every day. And to turn that over at some point in the public domain, whether it`s through hearings or whether it`s ultimately through a report or a referral. If there are additional details that need to be turned over to authorities, we will do that. We`re not closing any door.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: But that is not the only thing happening in Washington. On the other side of Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats are trying to make sure that voting rights and democracy itself are protected well into the future.

Today, the President and Vice President how they Zoom strategy session with several Democratic senators to figure out a way forward on voting rights legislation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Those agreement on substance on the voting belt the stakes are incredibly high. We can`t wait. So we are simply making the case to get this done, and to allow the Senate to debate the bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: And even though preserving democracy should not be partisan. That`s not the case. So far, Senate Republicans have blocked absolutely all attempts to even debate voting rights.

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Thursday night. Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour and of course, moderator of Washington leak tomorrow night on PBS, Eugene Daniels, White House correspondent for Politico and co-author of Politico`s Playbook and Chuck Rosenberg. So good to have you back. Former U.S. attorney and former senior FBI official.

Yamiche, I turned to you first. Biden that with members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team this evening. Today have a specific strategy to deal with the latest surge or is information changing so quickly. They`re just moving with it?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS NEWSHOUR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it`s definitely clear that science is evolving and that this Omicron spike is definitely getting more intense by the day. That being said the Biden administration says they do have a strategy and strategy is really trying to beef up the messaging on vaccinations, beef up the messaging on boosters, and hope that Americans heed that call and heed that sort of message.

[23:05:00]

We also heard the President today really warned of a winter, that could be very, very scary, winter that really could be another sort of surge and another sort of wave of this pandemic. People are tired, right? The president in some ways, I think, senses the fatigue of Americans who are tired of wearing masks, who want to go to holiday parties, who want to see their family members. But essentially, the Biden administration, the President himself are saying, we have to be even as cautious as we were in the beginning days, and that there is, of course, these vaccines, but there also is still a lot of unknowns out there.

So I think the message today really was to try to be as cautious as possible to try to get those vaccinations. Of course, the thing that`s continuing to complicate this is the politics of this. The people that are vaccinated, they might go get boosters, but there are so many Americans were still looking at the vaccines, and believing false conspiracy theories and all sorts of other things. And that is the sad case about whether it really in some ways complicates how we get out of this pandemic, if at all.

RUHLE: It`s a pandemic by choice. Eugene, let`s talk about what if because back in March, the administration got COVID Relief passed in Congress, the American Rescue Plan. But here`s the thing. Today, the White House has a very, very different relationship with the Hill. What happens now, if the surge continues, if the administration needs more COVID funding as a result of this search?

EUGENE DANIELS, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I think it`s hard to see Congress come back together and do that. However, you know, I think a lot of us were surprised even on the under the Trump administration, when you saw Republicans voting to add money and give people money during COVID. So I think as things change, that might be a possibility.

But like Yamiche said it is what the Biden administration is focusing on now is trying to make sure people have better access to tests that they continue to tell people how bad it`s going to be. We all think about back to earlier this year, when we were told like July 4th was going to be kind of us saying freedom and goodbye to this this disease, this virus. And that has not happened. And it`s continued to get worse. A lot of that is because of the politics of it.

And so I think this administration is continuing in the scientists, more importantly, in the administration, are continuing to kind of move and shake as Omicron changes. You know, there was a time when Omicron first came around that people were talking about it being highly transmissible, but maybe not as bad on for most people. We`re not so sure about that.

So the thing that Americans need to know is that don`t wait on don`t think that if this gets really bad that Congress is going to be able to get back together and pass some kind of funding if the economy has to shut down, because I do think what has really happened is both Republicans and Democrats have realized that we`re probably going to be dealing with COVID in some form and fashion for years, right.

And so you hear doctors talking about COVID boosters over and over and over again, not just this year, not just next year, but maybe for the foreseeable future, which means they know that we`re going to have to figure out how to keep the country going at the same time.

RUHLE: The best way to deal with it get vaccinated. Chuck, let`s talk January 6, the last time we spent a lot of time with you here on MSNBC was back in the Mueller investigation days when it was it`s coming, it`s coming, it`s coming. And then it never really did. There were no consequences.

Give us your assessment of how the committee is doing thus far. We`re seeing varying levels of cooperation from witnesses from total to absolutely none at all.

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, you know, Stephanie, good question. I mean, varying levels of cooperation is par for the course, whether you`re talking about a congressional investigation, or an FBI investigation, not all witnesses cooperate. Not all witnesses tell the truth. Not all witnesses are available.

On the good news side of the ledger, we know the committee and Congress has spoken to about 300 witnesses. They`ve reviewed hundreds of 1000s of documents. You know, we tend to spend a lot of time talking about the Steve Bannon and the Mark Meadows. And of course, they would like to talk to Meadows and of course, he would have pertinent information if he cooperated and told the truth.

They`re still going to have a very robust picture of what happened. You know, and you and I may disagree about the Mueller investigation. In the end, they had a very robust picture of what happened.

RUHLE: Yes.

ROSENBERG: I think we`ll have it again here. Now, whether or not folks are at a very high level or charged, Stephanie, different question.

RUHLE: OK, yes, we got a very robust, detailed picture, a report that said a lot, but that report didn`t result in many consequences. How would you compare that to what we`re seeing here?

ROSENBERG: Yes, so now let`s talk about the criminal justice side of the equation. We know so far, you know, 500, 600 people have been charged. Some of those, frankly, are rather minor trespassing and property damage, some are more significant assaulting law enforcement officers. What I`m waiting for, and what I think is really important is the crime at the heart of the January 6 coup attempt, and that is the attempt I think led by President Trump and those around him and his minions in Congress and in the media, who tried to overthrow a valid election.

[23:10:14]

There are a bunch of federal statutes that would capture that behavior. There`s -- there are a number of ways the charging. So I hope, and we haven`t seen reflections of this yet. But I hope that the FBI and the Justice Department is looking at the folks who lived the coup attempt, and not just the knuckleheads who showed up on January 6, and, you know, damaged property and assaulted our officers. That`s what I`m hoping for. It`s also what I`m waiting for, but I haven`t seen it yet.

RUHLE: Can we just take a minute, though? Are we under representing what happened on January 6 when we call those rioters knuckleheads?

ROSENBERG: Well, yes.

RUHLE: Knuckleheads are my 15-year-old son and his buddies. I wouldn`t call what happened on January 6, those people beating policemen over the head hunting down members of Congress knuckleheads.

ROSENBERG: Yes, so let me be clear, some of the folks there were knuckleheads, right. They were bystanders who got swept up on it. They trespassed, or they loitered or they damaged property. Some of them were far more dangerous than that. I take your point. You know, assaulting an officer is not the act of a knucklehead. It`s the act of a criminal.

But I still think there`s a more important case out there. I still think there`s a conspiracy to attempt to coup. And whether you call it sedition, or treason, or a coup or an insurrection, that`s the case I care the most about. So, point well taken. But there`s a whole range of people who showed up on January 6 from the stupid to the evil, and we have to focus on the evil.

RUHLE: And one of the biggest issues is that mission is not over. Those people behind that attempt are still driving it forward. Yamiche, let`s turn to voting rights because Kyrsten Sinema is putting the brakes on Senate Democrats efforts to change the filibuster for voting rights. So here`s what I don`t get. Why is Biden focusing on voting rights legislation now when there could be no way of getting it even onto the floor because the Sinema?

ALCINDOR: Well, the White House I should say, first, that the White House`s point of view of this is the President has been talking about voting rights that he said that he`s made it something that`s really important to him. He`s made it a priority throughout his presidency. They would also say that the Vice President focusing on voting rights to all of that was divided administration focusing on voting rights.

Then you get to really angry and I think frustrated Democrats, especially Democratic base voters, who say that the President should have been doing more, that there was not the urgency that we`re seeing now among Democrats back in the earlier part of the administration.

I remember at the beginning of this pressing the president on whether or not he would be OK on having a carve out in the filibuster for voting rights and civil rights. That was something that Jim Clyburn was pushing for months ago. The President back then did not want to push that and did not want to talk about a carve out for civil rights. He`s sort of shifted and said that that might see something that he`s now supporting.

But as you said, it comes down to Senator Sinema. And when I talk to White House officials, they say, Well, the President isn`t a senator, that this is really going to be something for the Senate to decide. But I think when you hear the President say that voting rights is the most important domestic issue. There are a lot of Democrats were saying, well, that`s really true, then why didn`t you do more on it? Why didn`t you talk more about it? Why didn`t you demand from Senator Sinema, from Senator Manchin a car right -- a carved out for this? Why didn`t you use the political capital, frankly, that you used on infrastructure on voting rights, but of course, the Biden administration says we have to walk and chew gum at the same time. That`s their point of view.

I think what this all underscores though, and it connects to January 6, that Republicans have been laser focused on changing the voting laws in this country. We`re seeing legislature after legislature make changes to the -- to voting rights, a lot of them restricting voting rights and making it harder to vote. And Democrats still have not figured out a strategy to push back again. And that really is something that is going to come to a head very quickly in the midterm elections in 2024.

People are going to find out they`re going to look up and say, how are the voting laws different now? And how are people able to make large changes to people`s voting in a way in a way that feels scary.

RUHLE: Then Eugene, can you respond to all of what Yamiche said. The White House might say, President Biden and Vice President Harris have been all over this focus on voting rights. Have you seen any clear evidence of that because ticket niches point? Republicans have been steadily doing more and more to restrict voting across red states?

DANIELS: No, absolutely. And I think the thing that the administration hasn`t doesn`t say out loud, but you can see it in their actions. They know that it`s going to be nearly impossible to pass federal voting rights legislation in this country because of everything Yamiche just laid it out.

But you have Vice President Harris, who I cover extensively. She`s had different lots of different meetings with folks and so they have talked about kind of building out this pressure campaign with civil rights leaders, with advocate, voting rights advocates to try to put pressure on senators, meeting with senators and telling them why they need this and why.

[23:15:08]

And it`s hard for Democrats and for people who love democracy the right to vote is the purest form of anything and that it doesn`t matter about BBB or infrastructure if people can`t vote. And then you also have the administration kind of do workarounds in the around Congress. So trying to figure out what are the levers they can pull in the administration in different agencies that can help trying to use HUD, also trying to use the Bureau of Prisons to let people know if you leave jail, maybe in this state, you can vote and here`s how you get your right to vote. So trying to do it that way. But like Yamiche said --

RUHLE: Hold on, hold on. That seems like a small marginal on the fringe work around compared to the laws that are changing, that are being put in place in red states, I mean, given a wink, wink, nod, nod to those who are in prison. That`s nothing compared to what`s happening on the Republican side.

DANIELS: No it is and it speaks to the fact that there isn`t much that the administration itself can do that. This falls in the hands of members of Congress to actually do something more specifically senators, and even more specifically Manchin and Sinema, right, having to know that if you`re going to put say that it`s important for people to have the right to vote, how do you put that into action? Because the administration can kind of nibble around the edges.

But like you said, that does nothing that almost does nothing. And it shows how tied the hands of President Biden and Vice President Harris are on this specific issue. And I think what I`ve heard over and over and over, especially from black activist, is they`ve been frustrated for this entire -- this entire year, because you had H.R. 1 and S 1, which is how, you know, Congress says this is what our priority is, but that they didn`t see the White House pushing the President going around like he did with the infrastructure plan before it was a bill, before it was signed, going to different states and talking over and over and over again, about the right to vote.

And that`s something they`re hoping to see come January, but it could be too little too late because of all the political capital spent on infrastructure and on BBB, which is on the backburner again, itself.

RUHLE: Sounds like the Biden`s need to spend Christmas and New Year`s with Sinema and Manchin. Chuck, before we go, I want you to help us understand what are the biggest issues for the Justice Department in the case against Mark Meadows. And compare that to where they are with let`s say Steve Bannon? I mentioned it earlier, Roger Stone expected to show up tomorrow, he`s not going to be afraid. He`s going to be kissing and waving, lining up for all the cameras. It`s going to be a show for him.

ROSENBERG: It will be a show for Roger Stone. It always has been as it has been Stephanie for Steve Bannon. But let`s just compare Bannon and Meadows quickly. Bannon essentially told the committee to buzz off. He never attempted to provide documents or to provide testimony. And so the contempt referral and Bannon made sense. And it made sense to me that the Justice Department charged him with criminal contempt.

The Meadows case is tougher, not impossible, but tougher, Stephanie, and here`s why. First, we know that Meadows provided thousands of documents to the committee, and he negotiated through his attorney to provide testimony. That didn`t happen, but he`s still negotiated. And unlike Bannon, who has some small semblance of an advice of counsel defense, which I think may not work.

Meadows probably has an advice of counsel defense. We may not like what his counsel is saying. We may or may not believe in his assertion of executive privilege. But in terms of charging him as a criminal with contempt of Congress, the Meadows case is tougher than the Bannon case. Again, not impossible, but tougher, but tougher.

RUHLE: A tougher, I`m glad that you agree with me, Chuck. Roger Stone just going to put on a show tomorrow. So we have a decision to make. Do we bring our cameras or not? One might say, don`t bring them. Don`t give him an audience. Yamiche, Eugene, Chuck, always good to see you all. I appreciate you joining us for our leadoff panel tonight.

Coming up next, critics consider him the Grinch who`s holding up Build Back Better. Joe Biden blames the Republicans. Well, two of our best political observers are standing by and tell us who is to blame.

And later, demand for COVID test is soaring right along with virus cases. We`ll talk with Dr. Vin Gupta. The 11th Hour is just getting warmed up on this Thursday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:23:04]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): I mean, we`ve got the past Build Back Better. I think we`ve got to get this thing done in the in the White House need to continue to push. There`s no excuse. This is President Biden signature initiative. It needs to get done and the White House needs the bush in the Senate needs to get online here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: Plenty of frustration today from Democrats over their own failure to push forward the President`s social spending package. With us tonight to discuss Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Washington Post. And Bill Kristol, author, writer and thinker, thinker is a good one, and politico. He`s a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administration`s and editor-at-large at The Bulwark.

Mr. Kristol, I turned to you first. Biden said today he is confident he and Joe Manchin can bridge their differences. Progressive Democrats are saying they want the Senate to stay in session until they Build Bill Back passed. How do you think this thing`s going to play out?

BILL KRISTOL, THE BULWARK EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I don`t think the Senate`s going to stay in session. I think Manchin has feels very little pressure at this point. Republicans were universally opposed what seemed to be some parts of Build Back Better seem to be popular are getting no pressure at all.

I mean, I`d say I was in a White House many years ago. But you know, if you if -- if it`s your number one priority, you are a waste of pressure senators, including senators who oppose you to drop some of the opposition you can bargain and obviously drop parts of the bill, which I think would be wise to do. There are some sensible parts of this bill and some that don`t go to effect for two or three years and some that are not actually that sensible I think. So I think --

RUHLE: Like What?

KRISTOL: -- the strategy has been not very effective. And I don`t think they`re in good shape now.

RUHLE: What`s not sensible in it?

KRISTOL: I mean, well, a lot of it goes into effect at different times. I`d say universal pre-K. They have these slogans when I actually looked at that for a few minutes. I was kind of curious. Well, how does that work exactly? Is every public school in the country suddenly going to offer education to three year olds, a lot of them aren`t set up to do that.

[23:20:00]

Are they going to require that, you know, what the bill does? The bill requires that people get the pre-K teachers get the same salaries as elementary school teachers. They`re right now make about half as much who`s at -- we suddenly going to raise this whole class of people, maybe they should be paid more. But isn`t that something that states and localities have something to say about?

I mean, there are all kinds of sort of regulations in there, big government sort of things. There are some things that are important. The Child Tax Credit, which takes a lot of kids out of poverty immediately separate that out, separate that out and dare the Republicans to vote against that that`s something Republicans have been for. And that`s something Manchin says he`s for, just a bit of being -- they`ve been kind of unimaginative, and the way they`ve done it. And they`ve gotten the worst of both worlds, put it by my colleague, Tim Miller put it well, this morning. It`s something he wrote, they`ve managed to make a very big government big spending bill. So a lot of, you know, in between voters were nervous about democratic expending, are very attracted to it.

And they`ve now disappointed their own progressives. They started off with 3.5 trillion, and now they`re down to 1.75 trillion, and they`re having to give up things to Manchin and Sinema. So they sort of managed on the politics of it. I`m afraid for them to get the worst of both worlds.

RUHLE: I actually pulled a quote from Tim Miller earlier this morning, because it`s a Cringer, where he writes, if the Democrats want to avoid annihilation in 2022, they need a different approach, the current path of depressing the base by not delivering on pie-in-the-sky promises, and simultaneously alienating swing voters who think they`re going overboard is not working. Eugene, what do you think about that?

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Well, let me say this about that, that have the Democrats done a good job trying to sell this bill and to communicate this bill and what`s in it. A lot of which is extremely popular if you look at the individual items in the bill.

One problem is that there are, you know, 875 individual items in the bill. I mean, you can`t talk about all the things in the bill in an elevator speech.

So, I think in terms of communicating the bill, they should, you know, talk about the child tax credit. And yes, talk about universal pre-K. And I think those pre-K teachers probably ought to be paid for, but the selling of this bill has not been done well.

And -- But the bigger problem is that, look, you got to type Senate, it`s 50-50. So every senator can essentially be president, as President Biden said, and just say no. And there are elements of this bill that Joe Manchin is just going to say no about and so if you want to get around him, and you can`t change his mind, then you have to win yourself a bigger majority. And in terms of politics, I`m not sure --

RUHLE: OK. Win yourself a bigger majority, when in 2022? Things aren`t looking good for Democrats.

ROBINSON: Well, yes, I mean, I think it is true that 2022 is coming up. And if the election were tomorrow, I think Democrats probably wouldn`t do that well. But let`s wait until we get to 2022. And let`s see what candidates Republicans put up. Let`s see what`s happening with COVID. At the time, let`s see what`s happening at the economy at the time, there are a lot of things that are going to go into that. And the Senate map is not terribly unfavourable to Democrats this time around.

So, you know, nobody thought they were going to take the Senate in 2020. And they did. You know, could they conceivably add seats? Well, anything`s conceivable in our politics these days. So -- but they`re going to have to get better at the communications part. And the stars are going to have to align. I mean, the big things that people care about COVID and the economy are going to have to get better before people start feeling warm and fuzzy about the Democratic Party.

RUHLE: All right, then we are not there yet. But we are ready for a commercial. Eugene and Bill stay with us. When we come back, we`re going to talk about voting rights. What is next for Democrats and their renewed push for voting rights? The 11th Hour continues. We got a lot more to cover. Don`t go anywhere.

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[23:33:05]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): We got to do this vote right. And we don`t have to destroy the filibuster. So I`m totally against the filibuster. I know what actually for years. I know the history of it. You want to get rid of it. And just remember the moment they get the tank, the Republicans are going to get rid of the filibuster, no matter what they tell you to the contrary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn on voting rights and the filibuster earlier today. Well, Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema say they support voting rights legislation. But right now neither support a rule change to get around the filibuster the one that is blocking those very bills.

Still led us to discuss, Eugene Robinson and Bill Kristol. Eugene to you first. How do we by Sinema and Manchin saying they want to do something on voting rights if they won`t touch the filibuster? You can`t have one without the other?

ROBINSON: No, at this point, doesn`t look like you can`t one without the other because there is only one Republican Senator, Lisa Murkowski, who`s even willing to have the Senate debate the mildest, the least far reaching of the voting rights legislation that Democrats have been proposing, the John Lewis Act only. One Republican Senator, that that bill contains provisions basically restoring provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 that Republicans used to routinely pass that passed unanimously. Last time it was re reauthorized in the Senate.

But today`s Republican Party simply just doesn`t believe in it anymore. It doesn`t believe in voting rights the way that Republicans used to. And so yes, Democrats are not going to have 60 votes in the Senate anytime soon and if you if you can only get more people on one Republican, if you`re going to protect voting rights, you are going to do a carve out around the filibuster, maybe not (INAUDIBLE) for all time, but find some way around it if you`re going to get it done.

[23:35:20]

RUHLE: Then given that Bill, do you see any path right now for voting rights legislation in the near future?

KRISTOL: I do. They`ve had no strategy on this. They build up, they brought up the first stage or one bill that failed, and they narrowed it down some which was good. They had a vote on it, it went away, they had a vote on the John Lewis Act, it went away, that wasn`t a heck of a lot of laying the groundwork or explaining why those were so important.

I think people who watch MSNBC know what`s been happening at the state level, a lot of Americans that live in those states and Georgia or Texas aren`t focused on it, they think their states are OK. And you know, there haven`t been huge restrictions and a lot of swing states, which had Democratic governors in many cases.

So, you know, they`re just -- they think, OK, maybe it`s not that important. What happened between November 3rd and January 6 last year? What happened was we saw that the whole system we have of courting the votes at the state level. And then of course, what happened on January 6 in Congress is rickety leftover 1887, that could be fixed. That`s the crisis, right?

The crisis is reversing the election results. I`m for a lot of the voting rights changes that are in the two bills. But the real crisis is state legislatures are going to get rid of the election, the impartial election observers, pressure them that overturn the results at the state level, and then the House might sustain that overturning that state legislatures. And that`s the Republican plot, right.

And you know what, there is legislation that has been drafted that has not been introduced to deal with the Electoral Count Act. And if you talk to Democrats that complicated reasons why they`re holding that back, they think they can get support for that, they wanted to go with the other acts first. I think it looks weird to people.

I mean, we had a crisis, let`s deal with the thing that clearly had to be dealt with. So we don`t have state legislatures and members of the House of Representatives overturning the election results, and that hasn`t even been introduced. So I just think the whole strategic thinking has been -- we have a list of things we`re for were introducing those first, not what is the actual crisis we`re facing right now. Let`s deal with that first build support for that. Once that passes, then you know, you`ve laid the groundwork for doing war and other things.

I`d say the same and other issues, as well. And they`re, you know, tested. I mean, people now are (INAUDIBLE) about COVID and focus a little more, getting a heck of a lot more tests out there very cheap, rapid tests. And we`re focused a lot more about getting more people boosted that having some debate about whether teachers (INAUDIBLE), whether the federal government should regulate the salaries of pre-K teachers. I just think there`s been a lack of focus on what`s first and foremost right now for voters.

RUHLE: And while this is happening, progressive advocacy groups are revving up their pressure campaigns, worrying that something might not get done. Here`s the issue with that. Progressive advocacy groups influence progressives, they`re already on board. Centrist and Republicans, they don`t care what those groups have to say. It`s one of the big problems there.

Eugene Robinson, Bill Kristol, thank you both for joining us on this Thursday evening. Coming up, Dr. Vin Gupta is here. He has a lot to say about the recent surge in cases and what we`re learning about this new variant. Here`s a hint for those who are unvaccinated. He says you are in big, big trouble. We`ll have that more when the 11th Hour continues.

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23:41:39]

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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Given its doubling time of about three days, we can expect in the next few weeks as we come to the end of December in the beginning of January that we likely will have Omicron as the dominant variant in our country.

When you do get breakthrough infections of vaccinated people where there was good clinical experience that in general they are mild infections. But the breakthrough rate will be higher than with Delta.

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RUHLE: Dr. Anthony Fauci warning Americans to expect more of those breakthrough infections. But his biggest concern the millions of Americans who choose to still be unvaccinated. And I want you to look at this image right now. See that? That is not from the worst of the pandemic last year. That right there is from today long testing lines in Miami, Miami, Florida. The state which has a governor who`s been fighting against vaccine and mask mandates.

Back with us now to discuss Dr. Vin Gupta. He`s a critical care pulmonologist in Seattle. He`s also a faculty member at the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Dr. Gupta, I have to tell you, I was reading through your notes before the show and what stuck out to me was where you said for the unvaccinated this new variant will suck. Elaborate.

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Stephanie. If we can, I think your team actually has a schematic of a lung of the respiratory tract I`d like your viewers to look at. OK, so there`s the upper respiratory tract and the lower respiratory tract, otherwise known as the lungs.

Let`s talk about if you are fully vaccinated for the definition today with that schematic there. Your nose has some antibodies in it and the lining of the nostrils, and of your source -- of your throat. But then leading down to the lungs, there`s actually a lot more antibodies, there`s a lot more something called T cells, there`s a lot more immune fighting cells that protect against infection.

So what we`re noticing with those that have just two doses of the vaccine, yes, they might test positive because our defenses and our noses aren`t that strong, as robust as they are in the lungs. So you might test positive, and you might actually have a sore throat, which we`re seeing in some cases, but by the time that that virus tries to travel down to the lung, Stephanie, there`s no luck here in terms of creating an infection and ammonia because there`s so many rigorous defenses downstream that are able to kill the virus.

If you get triple vaccinated, you have more defenses in those lungs downstream, which is why we`re saying get a booster, because the chances you`re going to end up in the hospital are even more, more, more and more slim. If you`re unvaccinated though, to your point earlier, you have none of those defenses. Not only do you lack some of those antibodies in the lining of your nostrils and in your throat, you have none of those powerful defenses in your lungs.

So that`s why if you aren`t vaccinated in the setting of Omicron and more contagious version of the virus than anything we`ve dealt with for the last 20 months, you`re in serious trouble. But for those that are double vaccinated, triple vaccinated, you have a series of defenses here that may not protect a positive test. That`s not the goal of vaccination against a contagious respiratory virus, but it`s going to keep you away from folks like me.

RUHLE: But let`s talk about those who will be in trouble the unvaccinated when in if they then have to go to hospitals. What is this going to do to our hospitals systems that are already stressed?

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GUPTA: Mostly problematic. We know that there`s 10,000 weekly deaths, Stephanie, forecasts largely amongst the unvaccinated overwhelmingly so week over week well into March, that coincides with flu season. It`s completely independent of any flu related deaths because of seasonality, because we have colder, drier air, a lot of people are still in vaccinated. That means tough decisions and zip codes across the United States.

For a crisis standards of care rationing of resources. We talked about it during the delta wave, we`re going to be talking about it again in the weeks ahead. But that`s not going to be the case for the vaccinated.

So two things are going to be true, the vaccinated will be largely protected from Omicron. They might get vaccine breakthrough cases, not a big deal, the vaccine are going to have a really tough time for the next four months, at least.

RUHLE: Help me understand this. Many people who are unvaccinated say they don`t trust Big Pharma. They don`t trust the vaccine, it was developed to quickly, there`s not enough approvals. If those people get COVID, and they go to the hospital, what treatments do they receive in the hospital? Because to me, one would guess those treatments are just as new, not tested very long and come from those same big pharmaceutical companies.

GUPTA: Well, I`ll say this, let`s take the case of somebody who says you know what, no thanks to the vaccine, because I know there`s a monoclonal antibody or this new oral pill. Those are in some cases developed by the same companies like say Pfizer, they just come out -- came out with that really, really compelling oral antiviral pills, Stephanie. 90 percent effective at keeping high risk people out of the hospital if they test positive for COVID.

Pfizer developed one of the most effective vaccines against COVID. So this really makes sense. To your point, why would you take your chance for the therapy when you can lean on prevention?

Honestly, once we get into the hospital, and you`re dealing with folks like myself and my colleagues and ICUs, we don`t have great therapies. We have steroids, dexamethasone, which has been around for decades. We have tender loving care, respiratory therapists, nurses actually flipping patients from their back to their belly, waiting, hoping for weeks that maybe just rest on the ventilator, or using advanced techniques like ECMO, where we take a blood out of your body oxygenated outside, put it back into the body, maybe that`s going to help.

Our techniques or treatments, once you have critical illness, they`re not that great. And there`s a lot of just chanted uncertainty at that point. But you bring up a really good point about those that might end up in the hospital. They`re relying on the same pharmaceutical companies that have developed the vaccines.

RUHLE: That makes absolutely no sense. You work in a hospital. Are you frustrated? Are you angry when these sick, sick unvaccinated people come for treatment and put you at risk?

GUPTA: You know, our first credo as Docs is to one to do no harm number one, but then two, to do our job, which is to care for those that are sick, and to provide them everything that we can do for them at that moment. I will say, you know, Stephanie, in September, I was deployed as a CCATT doc with the Air Force Reserve, Critical Carrier Transport Team, we are literally using C 130s and resources that were in Bagram, in Kabul, just months prior to literally militarized our response to this pandemic.

So what I`ve seen, what my colleagues have seen is extraordinary is unprecedented. And I think it leaves us wondering what this looks like for the next four months. Then for the next pandemic, how do we actually build resilience in our healthcare workforce? So we`re not militarizing our response.

RUHLE: Not just what you`ve seen, how about what you`ve done? Also extraordinary and we are grateful for it. Dr. Vin Gupta, thank you for joining us tonight. I appreciate it.

Coming up, an exclusive new look at the wreckage from this past weekend`s tornado outbreak what it left behind. We`ll have that when the 11th Hour continues.

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RUHLE: Tonight another part of the country is recovering after an outbreak of severe weather. The storm system that tore through the upper Midwest spun off the very first December tornadoes to ever hit the state of Minnesota. Nearly a week ago, tornadoes left hundreds and hundreds of miles of damage in the South. Today our colleague NBC News correspondent Gabe Gutierrez got an exclusive look at the widespread destruction across the state of Kentucky.

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GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today we boarded a Blackhawk helicopter for an exclusive look at the historic damage.

GEN. DANIEL HOKANSON, NATIONAL GUARD BUREAU: When I look at previous responses to tornados this is one of our most significant.

GUTIERREZ: General Daniel Hokanson leads the National Guard

HOKANSON: This is utter devastation. The scope of the scale from this altitude is just terrible.

GUTIERREZ (on camera): So we`re over Mayfield right now. You can see the destruction extends for miles. Neighborhood after neighborhood. What`s truly remarkable to see from the air is just how long the largest tornado was on the ground, more than hours. The National Weather Service is still surveying the damage. But it could potentially be the longer track tornado in American history.

(voice-over): The monster tornado just classified as an EF4 with winds of up to 109 miles an hour. Today, Kentucky`s governor announced the number of those missing has dropped dramatically from more than 100 but now --

ANDY BESHEAR, KENTUCKY GOVERNOR: The missing appears to be down to 16. And that is good news.

GUTIERREZ: On the ground almost 700 Army and Air National Guard members are distributing supplies, removing debris and searching for the missing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That dynamic is that everybody knows everybody. So you know some of our soldiers who live right here, they all know somebody who`s been killed in the storm.

GUTIERREZ: It`s a lot to take in

HOKANSON: That`s just the remainder of the foundation where the candle factory was.

GUTIERREZ: In a place where recovery will be measured in years, not months.

(on camera): And sadly today`s searchers announced that they just found the body of another tornado victim, a 13-year-old girl who`d been missing since the storm.

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RUHLE: A 13-year-old girl, nine days before Christmas. Our thanks to our colleague Gabe Gutierrez in Kentucky for that report. Coming up, it is the nation`s highest and most prestigious military recognition. The stories behind the three newest recipients of the Medal of Honor, when the 11th Hour continues.

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RUHLE: The last thing before we go tonight an important one. President Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to three soldiers earlier today. Army Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe, Army Sergeant First Class Christopher Celiz, and Army Master Sergeant Earl Plumlee, each of whom put themselves at great risk to save the lives of others. Sadly, Sergeant Cashe and Sergeant Celiz did not survive the injuries they suffered in combat. Today the President shared their great stories of heroism.

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BIDEN: Sergeant Cashe was commanding and Bradley fighting vehicle and night patrol in Iraq. They came under enemy fire. An Improvised Explosive Device detonated, igniting the vehicles fuel and engulfing in flames. Patrol was still taking enemy fire but Cashe thought only of his fellow soldiers trapped in the troop compartment.

So he pushed his own pain aside or returned to the burning vehicle and got everyone out of that inferno. That was his code, a warrior who literally walked through fire for his troops.

Sergeant Celiz was leading an operation in the particular province of Afghanistan, to clear the area of enemy forces, attacked and pinned down by a large force. Sergeant exposed himself that the enemy fire in order to retrieve a heavy weapon system that allowed his team to fight back and reach a secure location.

During the firefight, a member of his team was critically wounded, as they call for medical evacuation. But as the rescue helicopter arrived and began taking fire as well, the sergeant knew it was time was critical to get his wounded teammate loaded and treated. He put himself directly between the cockpit and the enemy, ensuring the aircraft could depart and sustaining what would prove to be a mortal wound. In the face of extreme danger he placed the safety of his team and his crew above his own.

Then Staff Sergeant Earl Plumlee was spent snapping a quick photo with members of his unit at Forward Operation Base (INAUDIBLE) Afghanistan. Then insurgents turned out detonated a 400 pound car bomb that blew open a 60 foot wide breach in a perimeter wall.

They encountered insurgents coming through the wall, all wearing an explosive vest multiple occasions during the fight. The insurgents detonated their vest right in front of him.

[00:00:00]

When a fellow soldier was severely wounded, Plumlee immediately ran to the soldiers position, carried him to safety and administered tactical combat casualty care before returning to the fight. Ultimately, Staff Sergeant Plumlee was able to organize three police (ph) soldiers to mount an effective defense of the base. No one, no one will ever forget how you sprang into action. When our -- when the enemy attacked our base.

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RUHLE: Those are American heroes. Don`t ever get confused when provocateurs call themselves patriots, those three soldiers, they were patriots. They are patriots.

That is our broadcast for this Thursday night. Thank you for staying up with us. And on behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.