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Transcript: The 11th Hour, 12/20/21

Guests: Courtney Subramanian, A.B. Stoddard, Joyce Vance, Peter Hotez, Juanita Tolliver, Matthew Dowd


President Biden is expected to address the nation Tuesday as Covid- 19 cases soar ahead of the holidays. The White House also revealed he had a close coronavirus exposure but has tested since negative. And as cases rise, the NHL has decided to pause their season until after Christmas. There is fallout on Capitol Hill from Sen. Manchin`s announcement that he would not vote for the Build Back Better bill.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: So I`ll say, all your Christmas gifts can be sold right there. That is tonight`s "LAST WORD." THE 11TH HOUR starts now.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Evening once again, I`m Ali Velshi. Day 335 of the Biden administration and the White House is grappling with soaring COVID-19 cases ahead of the holidays, all while the President`s domestic agenda has seemingly imploded.

We start tonight with the breaking news that Omicron is now officially the dominant COVID strain in the United States. The Associated Press with this reporting, the CDC numbers showed nearly a six-fold increase in Omicron share of infections in only one week. It`s responsible for an estimated 90 percent of new infections in the New York area, the southeast, the industrial Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest, end quote.

President Biden met with his COVID response team today and has a major address planned for tomorrow.

The White House today revealing that Biden himself has tested negative after coming into contact with a staff member who contracted the virus. In a statement, the White House said on Friday, that staff member had spent approximately 30 minutes in proximity to the President on Air Force One. The staff member is fully vaccinated and boosted and tested negative prior to boarding.

The statement went on to say that the staff member didn`t experience symptoms until Sunday and was tested on Monday.

Now in scenes reminiscent of the early 2020s hours long lines are forming in New York City as people prepare for the holiday gatherings. The TSA bracing for a busy travel season, nearly 30 million passengers are expected between now and the New Year. Dr. Fauci had this advice for celebrations.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Do not do things like go to gatherings where there are people who you do not know what the vaccination status is, if you do that, and some people are even going the extra step or the extra mile of maybe even getting tested when you have people coming over the house.


VELSHI: In the nation`s capitol today, Democrats are scrambling to salvage the President`s agenda after West Virginia`s Joe Manchin announced in the bluntest terms possible that he would not vote for Build Back Better. The White House came out with an uncharacteristically strong statement in response, which read in part, quote, just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments, and be true to his word, end quote. Manchin mentioned was quick to blame the White House staff for the breakdown in negotiations.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I just got to the wit`s end, and they know the real reason what happened. They won`t tell you and I`m not going to discuss. It`s staff driven. I understand staff is not the president, it`s the staff. And they drove some things and they put some things out that were absolutely inexcusable and they know what it is and that`s it.


VELSHI: NBC News confirms that Manchin and Biden did speak on the phone last night. Two sources saying they agreed to keep the door open to continue negotiations. This was Vice President Kamala Harris on those prospects in new interview with CBS News.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you don`t feel betrayed?

KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: No, I don`t feel -- I don`t have any personal feelings about this. This is about let`s get the job done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you do that without Senator Manchin?

HARRIS: You don`t give up. That`s how we do it.


VELSHI: Well, we have updates tonight on the investigation as well into the January 6 attack on the Capitol. The January 6 committee is requesting information from Republican Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. This is the first request from a sitting member of Congress. In a letter to Perry, Chairman Bennie Thompson wrote the committee has received, quote, evidence from multiple witnesses that you had an important role in the efforts to install Jeffrey Clark as acting Attorney General, and that he set communications to the former chief of staff using the encrypted signal app.

Now, if you aren`t familiar with Scott Perry, here`s an idea of what the Pennsylvania congressman has done in his time in Congress. He`s the incoming leader of the Freedom Caucus and led efforts to overturn Pennsylvania`s electoral votes for Joe Biden. He voted against awarding Congressional Gold Medals to the officers who defended the Capitol on January 6, and he was one of 18 House members to vote against a resolution condemning the conspiracy theory group QAnon.

Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting that the January 6 committee is examining if there`s enough evidence to send criminal referrals to the Justice Department for Donald Trump and others. The Times reports quote, investigators for the committee are looking into whether a range of crimes were committed including two in particular, whether there was wire fraud by Republicans who raised millions of dollars off assertions that the election was stolen, despite knowing the claims were not true and whether Mr. Trump and his allies obstructed Congress by trying to stop the certification of electoral votes.


With all that, let`s bring in our lead -- leadoff guests on this Monday night. Courtney Subramanian, White House correspondent for USA Today, A.B. Stoddard is a veteran Washington journalist and associate editor and columnist for Real Clear Politics 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 Barbara McQuade Good evening to the three of you. Thank you for joining us.

Courtney, what`s the level of fear and concern inside the White House both for the White House in terms of staff because of exposure to COVID and for the country?

COURTNEY SUBRAMANIAN, USA TODAY WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, it`s really incredible timing for the President. As you mentioned, he`s set to deliver remarks tomorrow about the latest strategy on COVID. You know, as you mentioned, he tested negative yesterday, he tested negative today, will be tested again on Wednesday. But we`ll continue with his daily schedule, because CDC guidance doesn`t require fully vaccinated individuals to quarantine after an exposure.

And I think that underscores a point, we will hear him make tomorrow, which is even if you`re vaccinated, and even if you`re boosted, you could get COVID. But that is the best form of protection against hospitalizations, and deaths.

And, you know, if you are vaccinated, the symptoms are likely to be mild. And that`s a message that he`s going to drive home tomorrow. It`s a shift from earlier this year, when we saw the White House emphasize that breakthrough cases are rare. They`re very much prepared for cases to surge, they already are in some case -- in some areas, as you mentioned. Omicron has now become the more dominant variant.

But the messaging is about emphasizing how to prevent hospitalizations and deaths. And the way to do that is vaccinating the, you know, some 40 million adults who`ve been resistant to it so far, it`s boosters, it`s at home rapid tests, more access to free testing.

And I think we`ll hear the White House address that tomorrow how they plan to step up efforts to make testing more available, and how they plan to help overburden hospitals ahead of this expected winter surge. But I think you`ll also hear him emphasize that we`re not where we were in March 2020. Even though we`re seeing these very familiar images of long lines at testing centers and drive thru testing centers. We`ll hear the President really emphasize that people are vaccinated, and it`s about using the tools that are available to them to prevent the more severe cases as we learn to cope with this pandemic.

VESHI: Yes, it`s interesting, A.B., Courtney`s point. I mean, you look at these images of long lines for testing in March of 2020, you didn`t have long line for testing, because the president at the time was sort of against the idea of testing, he thought the numbers would go up. We certainly didn`t have a vaccine.

And yet, all of this threatens to cast a shadow over a second straight holiday season. And people get frustrated with it. How does the administration manage this, because of the frustration that we`re seeing, and the fears that people have about possible shutdowns?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOC. EDITOR AND COLUMNIST: Well, I think he tomorrow night, he has to calm their fears, speak to their fears, but really, also address those frustrations. It`s critical that he addressed the fact that testing capacity is in terrible shape. He won`t use those words, but the line, the poor access to test the fact that rapid tests are no longer available. These things should have been available to us in June of 2020. And because of Donald Trump`s opposition and contempt for testing, we didn`t. It`s a year and a half later, we`re well into the Biden administration 1/4 of the way into his term, and we have terrible testing capacity.

This is the kind of thing that`s going to help Americans navigate a holiday season, navigate a virus of a -- variant as transmissible as Omicron. This is something he`s going to have to acknowledge that we`re not where we were a year ago, it is not as scary, but that people can avoid spreading this around by taking precautions but also getting tested and he`s -- the government is going to have to act with the private sector to fix the testing situation so that people can be responsible and slow the spread of this incredibly contagious new variant.

VELSHI: To Courtney`s point about some people feeling like it feel -- felt in March 2020. We`ve just had news coming in from the New York Times at the NHL is pausing its games for the remainder of the remainder of the year, not the hockey season. So for Canadian and hockey fans don`t worry there should be hockey season but for the moment it means no games for the remainder of the week.


Joyce Vance, I have to ask you about the progress that the January 6 Committees making. They have subpoenaed now a sitting member of Congress, a lot of people will think Well, wasn`t Mark Meadows one, he was one. But he was the chief of staff to the president during January 6.

But more importantly, when people are disobeying these subpoenas that they`re getting, the committee has started making referrals to the Department of Justice, criminal referrals, and one of them at least has resulted in an arrest. What the thinking around that? The committee is unable to do certain things, but they`re recruiting the Justice Department to do the things that they can`t get done, getting people to come forward and talk.

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: That`s part of the awkward position Congress is in here. They don`t technically have the ability to enforce their own subpoenas without help from the Justice Department in the courts. But this committee is nonetheless finding a plethora of other ways to signal how serious it is this request to Congressman periods.

As you point out, the first request that`s been made to a sitting member to provide information demonstrates seriousness, both because it comes in in the week of Christmas. And because they`ve asked for the opportunity to meet with him before January 4 indicating that they`re willing the committee staff to travel to his district in order to get his testimony.

And so process was that signals their seriousness, but also the topic itself is one of extreme concern. Perry is the congressman who first brought to the attention of Mark Meadows, this sort of lower level employee at DOJ, a political employment day, who at this point in time had become the acting head of the Civil Division. But it`s Perry who put forward Jeffrey Clark thing. This is someone who`s on our side, essentially who we could have takeover the Justice Department. The committee is very interested in getting the details.

And it signals to me the fact that they`re now talking to principles like Jeffrey Clark and Congressman Perry, that they`ve said enough of the groundwork, talking to other witnesses who are around those conversations, who would have been able to provide them with some of the details, that the committee is far enough in that they`re willing to question the principles, they would not simply take a run straight out them if they didn`t know much what they expected to elicit in that testimony.

VELSHI: You often make that point that prosecutors and the committee think about these things well in advance. It`s not a fishing expedition, despite the fact that a lot of people think it is.

Courtney, we`re talking about President Biden, he`s going to be speaking to the country tomorrow. One of the very successful ways of getting people vaccinated in this country have been the rules that the administration has put out for companies that employ people, but it`s been a lightning rod for the right, it is something that they hate. And I mean, as does Joe Biden go out there celebrate it and talk about it, or does he avoid the topic of shutdowns and mandates altogether?

SUBRAMANIAN: Well, we heard from White House press secretary Jen Psaki today really emphasize that this is a speech that will not be about locking the country back down. She said that today. And I do think we won`t hear the president emphasize restrictions or vaccine mandates or testing mandates. But really try and talk about the tools that are already available right now.

And you`re right, I think that some of those restrictions that he put in place earlier this fall, are going to help the administration, you know, break through the plateau of vaccinating 60 percent of US adults, but, you know, as we see some of the court battles play out with some of those rules, we`re going to see the president try and talk about ways in which Americans can cope with the pandemic.

And, you know, as you mentioned earlier, testing is a big part of that because, you know, this is a country that is very pandemic, weary people are heading home from the holidays, you know, we`re four days out to Christmas. People are crisscrossing the country, and the last thing they want to do is talk about more restrictions and mandates. So I don`t think we`ll hear the President talk about anything in with any regard to restrictions tomorrow.

VELSHI: A.B. Stoddard yesterday morning. Joe Manchin went on Fox News and basically said he`s not voting for the Build Back Better deal. Chuck Schumer has said that he`s going to -- he`s going to hold a vote on this in the Senate, a vote that he is, at this point almost certain to lose. What`s the point?

STODDARD: Well, I think the leader is frustrated with the fact that these negotiations have gone on so long and ultimately seem to have failed.


Everyone`s very disappointed and licking their wounds after this announcement that the senator made on Fox. But the idea of putting people up for -- putting something up for a vote that is going to fail, basically keeps the focus on the fighting between different factions of the Democratic Party and puts vulnerable members who have very tough races next year, both in the House and the Senate, in -- even a worse position than they`re in today.

So maybe he`ll change his mind in the weeks to come over the holidays. But it`s not wise to dig down deeper in the hole in terms of the strategist who are running these campaigns perspective. They are hoping that something that Joe Manchin can agree to will materialize in 2022. And they can call it a win no matter what it is.

But the idea of sort of bringing something up that you know that it`s going to fail to hang the spotlight around Senator Manchin and possibly others like Senator Sinema on different parts of the bill just continues the family and fighting in the Democratic Party increases the tension, and actually impedes the future negotiations they hope to get back to in January.

VELSHI: Joyce Vance, I want to ask you about all the places. You were leading to this, the idea that the January 6 committee has some sense of what they`re going to get when they invite somebody to give them evidence. They kind of know where they`re going with this. What`s the likelihood of something reaching Donald Trump about there being something that might even look like a criminal referral involving the former president?

VANCE: I suppose that`s the ultimate question that we`re all trying to figure out the answer to. You know, on the one hand, this is awfully simple. We all saw the events of January 6 happened in front of us. We watched Trump from really before the election began to suggest that he wouldn`t abide by the results if he lost. We watched the big lie as it was perpetuated. It seems relatively clear that there`s at least sufficient evidence for the Justice Department to have opened an investigation in several areas where criminality may have occurred.

On the other hand, though, the reality of that has been very elusive. The Attorney General has managed to stay silent on this topic, and he`s come in for a lot of disparagement over that. And frankly, there`s absolutely no evidence that the Justice Department is investigating Donald Trump. And similarly, there`s no evidence that the Justice Department isn`t investigating. And the best traditions of the Justice Department, they have remained frustratingly opaque.

But the more evidence that Congress uncovers in its work, the more the situation for DOJ changes and if in fact DOJ is not actively engaged, a referral to DOJ along criminal lines on the former president from a bipartisan committee could do two things, it could both nudge the department if the committee has developed sufficient evidence that makes it really untenable for DOJ to fail to engage no matter how hesitant they are, there could be a little bit of a nudge factor.

And at the same point, getting a referral from a bipartisan committee could also provide DOJ with a little bit of cover. That said though, DOJ certainly is not obligated to follow through on congressional referrals. And often when they have the appearance of being political or just immature requests. DOJ feels completely at ease ignoring them.

VELSHI: Thank you to the three of you. It has been like that satisfying feeling you get when you read the clip notes to a 700-page book that you needed to have read before the exam. We covered a lot of ground there. Courtney Subramanian, A.B. Stoddard and Joyce Vance, I really appreciate your time tonight.

Coming up one of the world`s top vaccine experts is here to answer a key question about Omicron. How long will this surge last? And should we be worried about long COVID?

Later our political experts react to the growing democratic theory against Senator Joe Manchin. But is it really such a big surprise? THE 11TH HOUR getting underway on Monday night.



GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D) NEW YORK: This is not March of 2020. It is not even December of 2020. They`re not comparable to what we went through when we did not have vaccinations and boosters and the knowledge we have now. We have to just meet this moment with action and not fear but also does lean into the strengths we know we have and that we`ll get through this.


VELSHI: New York State reported more than 23,000 new infections today breaking it single day record of new cases for a fourth straight day. Harris County, Texas has reported the first Omicron related death in the United States. Officials there said the patient was in his 50s with underlying health conditions and was unvaccinated.

CDC data show Omicron is now the dominant variant in the United States. Health experts warn the unvaccinated remain at higher risk.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Our hospitals are largely full of people who are unvaccinated. Our vaccinated and boosted people are 20 times less likely to die than our unvaccinated people. Unvaccinated people are dying at 20 times the rate of people who are boosted


VELSHI: Back with us now Dr. Peter Hotez, he`s a vaccine scientist working with a team to develop a low cost COVID-19 vaccine for global distribution. Peter`s been working on COVID vaccine long before the rest of us knew there was COVID. He`s the co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at the Texas Children`s Hospital. And he is the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Peter, thank you for being with us tonight.

I want to ask you about the trends that you`re seeing in other parts of the world, including in South Africa, where we first learned about this rapid uptick, and then there`s been a slowing of it. We`re seeing the number, I mean, all of us know people who have now been infected, who have been vaccinated and boosted you know, in some cases, three injections and they`re still getting this thing. Is there some sense that the speed at which it comes in may indicate the speed at which it slows down?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, VACCINE SCIENTIST: Yes, that would be nice, wouldn`t it Ali because then we could get back to some normal semblance of life. Again, it`s hard really to predict.


For instance, we`ve seen different patterns. So in the southern United States, for instance, with Delta, we had a pretty long uptick, and then it went down rather quickly over the fall. But in the UK, it still continued to remain. Delta continue to -- it went down about halfway. They continue to plateau for a long time. So exactly why certain parts of the world, these peaks behave differently. We don`t entirely understand.

The bottom line, though, is we`re in for a tough few weeks, as Dr. Fauci and others have pointed out, not only because of the Omicron rise in the surge, we still have delta with us as well. And a lot of people are still getting sick with Delta, although that will gradually transition over.

I think, for me, the biggest concern that I`m watching is the fact that these surges are occurring at a time when lots and lots of health care workers are starting to get sick with breakthrough COVID, even after getting boosted if they`re a couple of months out after their boosts. The data from England suggests that that level of protection against symptomatic illness goes down to around 30 to 40 percent.

So what that means is we`re going to have a lot of healthcare workers calling out sick, not getting very sick, but sick enough to be at home. So they`re not in the workforce. And that creates a very dangerous combination, because we`ve seen over and over again these last two years, that punch of a surge on top of depleted healthcare workforces that`s when mortality goes up.

So that this I think is going to be the most important thing I`m looking for in the President`s remarks tomorrow, how he`s going to deal with large absences in the healthcare workforce in light of this surge that`s sure to come over the next few weeks.

VELSHI: You know, you and I were together in February of 2020 when this first started, we were first talking about this, we of course didn`t have therapeutics, and we didn`t have a vaccine. Then you and I were together on December 13 on the day that we first got vaccines. Now we`ve got vaccines. We`ve got some therapeutics, certainly on the horizon. And we`ve got -- we still have test and trace. Tell me how this all shakes down for you over the course of the next month. How do you think we use these things to effectively try and get a handle on this?

HOTEZ: Well, you know, the vaccines are still our mainstay in this. We know that we can largely prevent hospitalization and death if we can get people fully vaccinated and then boosted. And that`s problem number one. We -- While we`re doing about 60 percent of the countries quote, fully immunized, I really don`t consider fully immunized till they`ve also gotten boosted. And only about a third of those have been boosted as well.

So I think really trying to convince people to understand that they need that third immunization, to elevate their virus neutralizing antibodies to keep them out of the hospital in the intensive care unit. That`s got to be a top priority.

The diagnostics, we still talk about diagnostics, like it`s March of 2020. I mean, you see the line snaking around diagnostic testing, whether it`s here in Houston or in New York. We still have not made it easy to get the diagnostic testing.

And then the therapeutics, two steps forward one step back. The monoclonal antibodies we`re pretty excited about but it`s looking like possibly two of the monoclonal antibodies may not be effective against this Omicron variant. And as a consequence, we don`t really -- we`re sort of back to square one. We have, I think, one monoclonal antibody that`ll be effective. We have a good drug out of Pfizer, the PAXLOVID. But we don`t have enough vid. It`s just being scaled up. So how much of an impact is going to have in time for this this wave? It`s hard to say.

So clearly, things are much better than they were a year ago, especially with regard to the vaccines, but we still have a lot of other places that we have to look for. And I`m really, really worried about the depletion of the healthcare workforce.

VELSHI: Yes, and this British study that you cited, and there was another study in out of Germany, that indicates that the antibodies created by the virus drop off fairly significantly after a few months, which means boosters may become a regular thing or new variations of the of the vaccine. Who`s supposed to change the definition of what fully vaccinated sounds like? Because right now in America, fully vaccinated is one shot of Johnson and Johnson are two shots of the mRNA.

HOTEZ: Yes, I still don`t understand why we cling to that antiquated definition, it just doesn`t apply any longer. So one, change the definition. But the other thing I think we have to look for some innovative solutions to keep our healthcare workforce in the workforce. Because if it`s -- if that data from the UK pans out where vaccine effectiveness, even after the third dose in symptomatic illness is still holding up against severe illness, but again, symptomatic infection goes down for about 70 to 75 percent after you get the boost down to half of that 30 to 40 percent, you`re just going to have too many healthcare workers calling out sick.


And so the one question that I`ve asked, and I put this out in the Los Angeles Times over the weekend, should we give them a fourth immunization the second boost, or at least offer it to them, so they have the option in order to raise up their virus neutralizing antibodies again and keep them in the workforce for that short period of time.

And I`ve made that recommendation. And or at least look into it. And let`s see if that that`s mentioned in the President`s remarks tomorrow. I kind of doubt it, but I think it`s something worth considering.

VELSHI: Well, you healthcare workers have been sour frontline and our protectors and our defenders and our savior since the beginning of this thing. So, it would be hard to see losing some of these people just from the workforce, possibly because they`re exhausted by it, because this shouldn`t be happening right now. Peter, thanks as always for joining us. Dr. Peter Hotez is probably one of the smartest people on this topic.

Coming up, progressives have reached a boiling point with Joe Manchin. Our political experts are here to talk about the bumpy road ahead for Democrats in Congress when the 11th Hour continues.



REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): I mean, we all know that Senator Manchin couldn`t be trusted. You know the excuses that he just made I think are complete bullshit. It is really disheartening to hear him say that he has been trying to get there for the people of West Virginia because that`s a complete lie.



VELSHI: Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar not mincing words with me yesterday when I asked her about Joe Manchin is no on the Build Back Better Act. Manchin reportedly did extend a counter offer proposal that included several of Biden`s priorities but without the Child Tax Credit provision.

The senator was often quoted as saying that he wasn`t sure if he could go back home and explain a vote for Build Back Better. But critics point out that he now has to explain to more than 180,000 West Virginia families why he publicly walked away from talks to extend the popular Child Tax Credit.

We welcome back to the show, Tolliver, veteran political strategist to progressive candidates and causes and Matthew Dowd, former George W. Bush, strategist and founder of Country Over Party. Good evening to both of you.

Juanita, a lot of places I want to start with you, because there`s a lot to cover here. But one of the things is that we have now heard people relate that that Joe Manchin has made comments about paid leaves suggesting that people might go hunting with their time that they`re given him the other every other country in the world, almost every other country in the world recognizes paid family leave and medical leave, and that people with the child credit might use it for drugs. That`s a sort of it`s sort of an 80s trope to me.

TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly right. It`s the welfare queen trope that was targeting black and brown communities that relied on government assistance, just to make ends meet, yet here Manchin is rolling that right on now and plus something about hunting trips, right. Like it just shows his lack of awareness, his lack of empathy, his lack of compassion for people who are in need at the same exact moment when he says he recognizes that people are paying more for basic goods, people are paying more due to inflation. And yet he does not wants to do anything about it.

And I appreciate you emphasizing that reporting from the AP that talks about the 305,000 children that directly benefit from this. So when he`s out here talking about he can`t break that down. He can`t explain why that $200 to $300 a month is helpful, or why elder care or aid for families or universal pre-K is helpful for families and children. It makes no sense, especially if it`s backed up by him privately spewing these harmful racist type of tropes that we know are unproductive and unhelpful.

And honestly, Ali, I look at this entire few days as literally a millionaire Senator having a temper tantrum because someone at the White House made him upset. And this was his move. And if anybody had any questions about his character, you have the last two days to look at this really some of what you should think about Senator Manchin at this point.

VELSHI: Yes, the sort of the widely publicized complaint about someone or staff in some fashion did strike me as a little unusual. But what didn`t strike me as unusual, Matthew, is that this is Joe Manchin. Joe Manchin knows that he has a lot of power right now. And maybe the best way to get what he wants is to continue to say no to people. Are you surprised that this is where we have ended the year with Joe Manchin?

MATTHEW DOWD, FMR. CHIEF STRATEGIST TO BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN: Not at all, not in the least. I mean, we could spend the next three days beating up on Joe Manchin and who fancies himself a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but he`s really more of a Senator Pain in that movie in the character in that movie, oh, who he thinks he is.

But he has to decide for himself, you know, when he looks in the mirror, what his integrity is, and he`s going to have to face the voters of West Virginia. But I think there`s two fundamental problems here that have nothing to do with Joe Manchin. And the problem is, is that you have a coach of a football team, not to give an analogy, a sports analogy, a coach of a football team with a bunch of assistant coaches, and a bunch of other players whose only play, whose only singular play was a post pattern to Joe Manchin, a player who didn`t want to run the pattern, who was reluctant to play the game, who made Moussa he wanted to be in this and they depend that was there only play, their only play of the coach to get this done was somebody that had been telling them, he didn`t really want to run the play.

And so the fault, yes, Joe Manchin, should be held responsible. But in the end is wire is your only play in getting this done dependent on a player who doesn`t want to play? That`s the first problem. The second is, they`re still operating in Washington, DC, too many Democrats in my view, as if we`re still in a functional democracy, as if we`re still operating like we did 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, or 30 years ago.

This is a new world where it and the plays and all of the ways you used to deal with senators and all of that is done. Our democracy is at stake in the moment of this. The fact that one senator can do this as evidence that our democracy is imperiled even though majority one this.


So first the administration that Democrats should be faulted that their only play was this play. And it didn`t turn out when anybody could have probably guessed it was going to turn out this way. And secondly, quit operating on a set of rules and processes that no longer exists.

VELSHI: You make the point that democracy is in parallel in this country. And that is a good place to break this because I want to have that conversation with you on the other side. and Matthew are staying with us. Coming up, the latest twist in the investigation into January 6. Lawmakers now want to question one of their own about efforts to use the Justice Department to support the big lie.



REP. SCOTT PERRY (R-PA): Mr. President, sadly, but resolutely I object to the electoral votes of my beloved Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, on the grounds of multiple constitutional infractions that they were not under all of the known circumstances regularly given.


VELSHI: Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry was in the thick of it January 6, objecting to electors from his own state as part of the effort to keep Donald Trump in office. Now the January 6 committee wants to ask him about reporting plans to elevate Jeffrey Clark to the position of Attorney General.

Perry might be the first elected official to come under public scrutiny from the Select Committee but likely won`t be the last. As we mentioned, the New York Times reports the committee is weighing whether to recommend the Justice Department pursue a criminal case against Donald Trump.

Still with us Juanita Tolliver and Matthew Dowd.

Matthew, there are a lot of people in this country who won`t know Scott Perry. He`s the incoming head of the Freedom Caucus. He voted against giving the Afghan translators funding them in America. He voted against criticizing QAnon. He voted against giving Congressional Medals to the police who defended the Capitol on January 16. He voted against the certification of the election. So no surprise that he was involved in this thing, but he`s actually been subpoenaed at this point. What do you expect to happen?


DOWD: Well, what`s my expectation, what`s my hope? Let me start with my hope. I`m hoping that he`s held accountable. This is a guy that should be put on the same list that Benedict Arnold is put on. And I would add a whole bunch of other representatives and senators to that same list of the Benedict Arnold top 10 list of our country that is basically they`re not patriots, they don`t serve, they should not serve in Congress, Scott Perry should not be a congressman, he should not be allowed to serve because of his disdain for the Constitution of the United States in our democracy in this. So my hope is he`s held accountable.

My expectation, because of what we`ve seen over the last year, I`ve become a little jaded, because we`re almost a year out from January 6, and no person that was instigated this that push this, that was involved in this, that has held some kind of office has been held accountable yet, a bunch of the small fish have been held accountable, none of the big fish have been held accountable.

So as we get closer to the truth, and as we get closer to decisions being made, I hope it happens, but so far, if experience is any leads us forward, I don`t have a lot of expectation that the big fish are going to get held accountable.

VELSHI: Juanita, they haven`t subpoenaed Scott Perry. They have simply -- they`ve actually written him a very nice letter. Bennie Thompson written a nice letter going as far as to say, if you need us to come to your district, we`ll come and talk to you there. Here`s what we think we know about you. We`d like your information.

But the way these things go is that somebody says no, then they issue a subpoena, then somebody says, No, then they vote on whether to make it a criminal referral, then the House votes on it, then it goes to the Justice Department. Sometimes it works and results in an arrest warrant.

Juanita, what`s the way to get Merrick Garland? Because there`s some people who think Merrick Garland probably just needs to take this on himself. He doesn`t want to seem politicized. He doesn`t want to seem like he`s Joe Biden`s Attorney General. But there`s some people who think maybe the justice department needs to use its teeth to get some of these people to testify.

TOLLIVER: Look, I feel like yes, you`re right in describing that escalation, Ali, and Merrick Garland is going to wait for that escalation process to continue. I think that also applies to when the select committee wrap stops its investigation, and makes recommendations for criminal actions and referrals to the DOJ.

Merrick Garland has shown he`s going to stand back as much as people want him to move faster. As much as I want him to move faster with this. He`s going to stand back and allow Congress to continuous investigation before jumping in to get this across the finish line in terms of what the public is looking for, of accountability, what Matt just described in terms of accountability, because that`s what it comes down to.

I think the preview that we saw last week with the text messages with Liz Cheney, asking the question, if there was a violation from Trump to interfere and obstruct congressional business, that`s what it`s going to come down to. And that`s when Merrick Garland is going to get involved because you better believe that even though these folks are obstructing, even though these folks are pleading the Fifth, and filing lawsuits against the select committee, they`re still getting their hands on handwritten notes. They`re still hearing from hundreds of other witnesses who are implicating them, just as you described in the letter from Chairman Thompson. They`re saying, Hey, we know you did all this stuff. We know that you were included in all of this. Now, here`s your chance to speak for yourself before we move forward.

I think that`s the frame that the select committee is coming up this with. And you can expect them to continue to roll out more information and more data to the public as we go into next year in public hearings.

VELSHI: Matthew, a lot of fair minded Republicans, fair minded people who maybe just don`t follow this as closely as, as the three of us do, are wondering to themselves, what`s this for? What`s this January 6 committee for? What are we learning that we didn`t already know? What are we achieving that wasn`t achieved in the second impeachment?

But it strikes me that we`re learning a great deal more. We sort of knew what was happening on one end of Pennsylvania Avenue. We didn`t know in as much detail what people on the other end were doing, what they knew, who paid for what, what they were actually planning to do, and it`s starting to come into sharper relief now.

DOWD: Yes, I agree with that. And so I think no matter how jaded I might be about my expectations, I actually think that pursuit of the truth in our democracy is a very important part of this. I think there`s a vast group of people out there that are sort of ignoring this worried about the Christmas holidays, wondering about what`s going on. But -- And they also think anytime somebody mentions something awful having a house somebody to blame, they ignore it until evidence, real evidence confronts them in the face, and then they have to deal with it.

And I know, Ali, you`ve made this point ever since we`ve been on -- ever since you`ve been -- we`ve been on this tear on January 6. I think the administration and all of us and every single person has to constantly bring every single issue back to the peril of our democracy. Every single time we talk about anything, the economy, COVID, everything, all of those things are related to whether or not our democracy is healthy in this.

And so I think as we go forward and as these hearings become more public and more evidence than the public will begin to pay more attention to this and understand how their lives will be affected by the loss of this 240 -- 40-year experiment we call democracy.


VELSHI: From your lips to the voters ears, Matthew, thank you. Juanita Tolliver, Matthew Dowd, I really appreciate your time tonight. You are right, democracy is the underlying issue here. All right, coming up at this holiday week as you going places prepare for company lots of company despite the latest surge in COVID, that story when the 11th Hour continues?


VELSHI: As we mentioned, it took just a few weeks for the highly contagious Omicron variant to become the dominant strain in the United States as it is now despite this latest surge tens of millions of us are about to travel to see family and friends for the holidays. NBC News correspondent Tom Costello has a preview of what to expect at the airport.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite long lines and little elbow room, Americans are already packing airports and planes usually shoulder to shoulder.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re not concern at all actually. We felt pretty good every we`ve gone.

COSTELLO: But experts caution only the vaccinated and boosted should feel safe traveling right now.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH DIRECTGOR: If you`re not vaccinated, I would say travel is really not a great idea because you are in a very vulnerable place now with Omicron.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a good day. Thank you.

COSTELLO: Masks still required by law, though Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly told Congress last week a planes air filtration systems do the job.

GARY KELLY, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CEO: I think the case is very strong that mask don`t add much if anything in the air cabin environment.

COSTELLO: The next day, Kelly tested positive for COVID. He now says he misspoke and Southwest fully supports the mask mandate. Nationwide, the TSA expects 30 million passengers between now and January 3 approaching even exceeding 2019 passenger levels at some airports.


(on camera): Already Miami is setting all-time records for holiday passenger traffic at 1,000 flights and 156,000 passengers every day.

JUAN CARLOS LISCANO, AMERICAN AIRLINES MIAMI HUB OPERATIONS VICE PRESIDENT: So we`ve built quite a bit of experience to know that this -- the travel experience can indeed be a safe one if you follow the recommended safety protocols.

COSTELLO (voice-over): The American Airlines ramp tower today juggling more than 700 flights on the ground in Miami.

JESSICA AGUDELO, AMERICAN AIRLINES MIAMI HUB CONTROL CENTER SENIOR PLANNER: Where are they going, do they have enough fuel, do they have enough catering, do they have any air traffic during to keep an eye out on.

COSTELLO: A critical linchpin as a critical week takes off.


VELSHI: Well, our thanks to correspondent Tom Costello for that. Coming up, what you need to know about the newest residents -- resident of the White House.


VELSHI: The last thing before we go tonight, Christmas has come a little early for President Biden. Today a brand new puppy arrived at the White House. Biden tweeted a photo of the new pup today with the caption "Welcome to the White House, Commander." And not long after that. There was this.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Hey, pal. How you doing? How are you?


VELSHI: White House says the three and a half month old puppy was actually a birthday gift from Biden`s brother and sister-in-law. He`s a German Shepherd just like the other two dogs the Biden`s brought to the White House this year. There were 13-year-old Champ, who sadly passed away in June and Major who now lives with family friends in Delaware after a couple of aggressive incidents at the White House.

And for those wondering when the Biden`s will fulfill their promise to bring a cat to the White House. First Lady spokesperson today confirmed that a female cat will be joining the Biden`s in the White House in January but for now a new little puppy with some adorable big ears will be commanding all the attention.


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