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

Guests: Philip Rucker, Katie Benner, Irwin Redlener, Neal Katyal, David Plouffe, Mike Murphy

Summary

Biden strongly urged Americans to get vaccinated and announced that the government will provide millions of free at home COVID tests and open thousands of additional testing sites. Plus, Sen. Manchin joined a Democratic Caucus call this evening -- the primary topics were the Build Back Better bill, the filibuster, and voting rights legislation.

Transcript

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: The kids get tonight`s "LAST WORD." THE 11TH HOUR starts now.

[23:00:18]

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening once again, I`m Ali Velshi. Day 336 of the Biden administration. As a new phase of the pandemic tightens its grip on the nation, the White House is unveiling a new plan to fight the new surge in Omicron cases. Today, the President told Americans not to panic, but he did have a stark warning for those who remain non vaccinated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We`ll see some fully vaccinated people get COVID potentially in large numbers. Vaccinated people who get COVID may get ill, but they`re protected from severe illness and death. If you`re not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned. You`re at a high risk of getting sick. And if you get sick, you`re likely to spread it to others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: The administration`s new plan comes just days before the big holiday weekend as millions of Americans are preparing to gather with family and friends. The White House says it will deliver 500 million free rapid tests to homes next month. These have been in short supply for days, several drugstore chains have been struggling to keep them in stock.

1,000 military medical professionals will be deployed to facilities around the country. 20,000 new free testing sites will be established starting this week and some 10,000 pop-up vaccine clinics will be set up across the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Booster shots provide the strongest protection. Unfortunately, we still have tens of millions of people who are eligible for the booster shot who would have not yet gotten it. Just another day, former President Trump announced he had gotten his booster shot. Maybe one of the few things he and I agree on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: And tonight we`re learning about an exciting new development that may help point the way to a post pandemic reality. Defense One reports that scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research expect to announce in a few weeks that they have developed a single shot vaccine that protects against COVID-19 in all of its variants, including Omicron.

Even so the CDC is forecasting a grim scenario for the coming weeks. The Washington Post says the agency today predicted a massive wave of Omicron cases by next month. With new COVID cases now well over 140,000 daily, federal officials are now focusing on moving as quickly as possible to turn things around.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We have a lot of disease out there now. And what we`re working right now to do is to decrease the amount of severe disease and death. If we can decrease the amount of cases, get more and more people vaccinated and boosted and decrease the surge on our hospitals with low rates ultimately of disease, I think that we would come out of this surge successfully.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports at the FDA could soon approve drugs from Merck and Pfizer that are designed to treat COVID. These would be the first at home treatments for the virus. But as we heard last night, there are questions about how soon they could be made available to the public.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. PETER HOTEZ, VACCINE SCIENTIST: We have a good drug out of Pfizer, the PAXLOVID, but we don`t have enough of it. It`s still just -- it just being scaled up. So how much of an impact it`s going to have in time for this wave it`s hard to say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: We`re also keeping a close eye on the latest developments in the House investigation into the January 6 insurrection. The latest legal challenge to the select committee`s authority comes from former President Trump`s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Today, Flynn filed suit against the committee in an effort to block its subpoenas for him. His suit claims that the committee subpoenas for testimony and records violate his rights to free speech and against self- incrimination. His suit also challenges the panel`s legal authority.

Also, Republican Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania said he would not cooperate with the January 6 committee after they requested that he voluntarily provide them with information on Monday. Earlier today, the Pennsylvania lawmaker posted this on Twitter writing, quote, I declined this entity`s request and will continue to fight the failures of the radical left who so desperately seek distraction from their abject failures of crushing inflation of humiliating surrender in Afghanistan and the horrendous crisis that they created at our border, end quote, and tweet.

Tonight, January 6 Committee member Adam Schiff spoke with Chris Hayes about Congressman Perry`s refusal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): There is, you know, precedent certainly for calling members of Congress before an investigatory committee in the Russia investigation. We asked a Republican and a Democratic lawmaker, both to come, in both agreed to do so voluntarily. It is extraordinary for a member of Congress to refuse.

[23:05:00]

And here, you know, you have to ask the question, why is he trying to obstruct the work of the committee? Why is he unwilling to volunteer what he knows. He`s, at this point, you know, been asked to volunteer, but if you refuse as well to consider what comes next.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Kind of amazing think about that. That is a member of Congress refusing an invitation by Congress to talk to them. We`re going to have more on the House investigation later in the hour. I`ll be joined by the former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has already made public his plans for this upcoming January 6 exactly one year after the Capitol riot, he says he`ll hold a news conference at Mar-a-Lago.

But with that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Tuesday night Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize winning senior Washington correspondent for The Washington Post, co-author, along with Carol Leonnig of The New York Times bestseller, "I alone Can Fix It." Katie Benner, Justice Department Reporter for the New York Times and Dr. Irwin Redlener, Founding Director of Columbia`s National Centre for Disaster Preparedness, who advises us on public health. He`s a professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Good evening to all of you, friends. Thank you for being with us tonight.

Dr. Redlener, let me start with you. On a normal night, the reporting out of Defense One that the government has not confirmed that there might be a new vaccine that can handle Omicron and is structured in a way that can handle different mutations of the COVID virus. That`d be the biggest news. But we are dealing with an outbreak that is taking root faster than vaccines can fix it.

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Right now, good to see you. Well, you know, this has been a very extraordinary day in that sense, because we now have pretty much Omicron taking over the predominant strain that`s in our environment right now. And that`s -- it`s a dangerous situation, it moves very, very quickly, it replicates our very rapidly, it is not entirely susceptible to the vaccine protection of some of the older strains. And there`s a lot to think about there.

But on the other hand, we have this other news from the defense department that the incredible research team at Walter Reed Research Institute is about to start really unveiling the details of a new vaccine that might cover any at all strains and mutations of the COVID-19 virus.

So, a mixed bag, but I think unfortunately, in terms of the race against time here, were in pretty big trouble for the next few weeks or a couple of months from the rampaging COVID infection, Ali.

VELSHI: And Phil Rucker, from your perspective, give me a sense of how and put some meat on those bones that Irwin just talked about. There is real fear that we are in real trouble. This administration, unlike the prior administration, didn`t really come in on the basis of getting COVID under control. And now they`re worried because they`re seeing these statistics, these numbers, these projections from the CDC about how bad this could become in the next month or so.

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That`s right Ali. This is becoming a political concern, in addition to obviously a public health concern for the administration, in part because of President Biden`s campaign promise that he was going to take control of this pandemic. And he was going to tame it and help America navigate this crisis, but it is getting worse. It`s flaring up by the day. It is of course not President Biden`s fault that this new variant has emerged and that it is so transmissible and is spreading so quickly.

And yet I think the frustration that so many of the American people have over this COVID winter, over the fears about holiday travel, over the shortage of testing equipment at pharmacies and cities all across the country. That is all compounding what has already been a pretty dour political season for President Biden.

VELSHI: Meanwhile, Katie Benner, the work of the January 6 committee and the Justice Department continues, we now have two separate things going on Michael Flynn, whom we all remember as the first national security adviser to the former president has now filed suit against the committee. And Scott Perry, the Republican member of Congress from Pennsylvania. He didn`t get a subpoena. He got an invitation to cooperate with the committee and he said not interested.

KATIE BENNER, THE NEW YORK TIMES JUSTICE DEPT. REPORTER: Absolutely. So the Flynn lawsuit is interesting. He`s claiming that the committee is impairing his freedom of speech. He also makes a statement that he truly does believe that something happened during the election that was wrong. And that was often that that`s absolutely fine for him to believe, which is true.

But this lawsuit is interesting, because the committee is not saying that he has to believe one thing or another. The committee is not trying to say what it is he should tell them. The committee just wants him to come in and ask questions, and he can invoke his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself.

So it`s unclear how successful this lawsuit will be. Because I think it`d be difficult to prove that the committee is in fact in any way infringing on his first amount right to free speech. I know that he wants to stop any data transmission from cellphone providers or telecom providers and that he wants to the committee basically to not ask him any questions.

[23:10:05]

It will be interesting to see where this lawsuit goes. I think in the end, though, we`ll see somewhat of a stalemate because it`s very, very hard to believe that the committee will get any information out of him even if the lawsuit fails.

VELSHI: Irwin Redlener, I want to ask you in your title, you are the founding director of Colombia`s National Center for Disaster Preparedness, the President has made it very clear. While people are thinking about what`s happening today with COVID as resembling March of 2020. Things are very, very different. We have a vaccine, we`ve got a lot of people vaccinated, but there is some strain that we are expecting on the healthcare system. And the White House announced help for the health care system, thousand medical professionals. I don`t know what it is exactly that they`re going to be doing. But they`re deploying medical professionals around the country to deal with some of the shortages and the backlogs that we`ve got.

REDLENER: Right, Ali. So this is a very strange situation, because the fact of the matter is, even before Omicron, the Delta variant was surging like crazy. We`ve had hospital systems across the United States. And by the way, speaking of politics, as Phillip mentioned a while ago, this is a very political situation, because the unvaccinated people in America are pretty much in the red states, in the counties that voted for Trump.

It`s extraordinary that politics and ideologies entered itself in this public health crisis. But the fact that matter is that we`re going to need help in supplies and personnel and so on in many hospitals that are or will be in the near future, overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases, Ali.

VELSHI: And Phil, it was kind of wild. President Trump talked about how he got a booster, he got booed the other day for it. The President today invoked Donald Trump said he might be the one thing that we agree upon that he got a booster and I got a booster. This, Joe Biden seems frustrated with the inability to convince that percentage of people who either aren`t getting boosters or didn`t get the vaccine in the first place to get on that.

RUCKER: Yes, Ali. And the problem here stems from the end of the Trump presidency in the beginning of the Biden presidency, when Donald Trump refused to sort of fully advocate and become a champion for the vaccine, which would have been such an easy political win for him, because it was his administration to his credit, that had Operation Warp Speed, that put so much pressure on the FDA and various government agencies to speed up the approval process for these vaccines to get the shots into arms as quickly as possible. And yet Trump did not become the face of that campaign.

In fact, he cast doubt on the -- on how worthy the vaccine would be, he allowed a lot of misinformation to spread within his political movement within the MAGA forces around the country. And, you know, it`s a major factor in why tens of millions of Americans continue to this day to be unvaccinated and are resistant to following the public health guidelines.

And you heard from President Biden again today, that those who are unvaccinated are at great risk from this new variant. Those who have vaccinations have much milder cases, milder symptoms, but if you`re unvaccinated it could become deadly.

VELSHI: Katie Benner, I want to ask you about Liz Cheney, the senior Republican on the January 6 committee, she said last week, that there will be public hearings in the New Year. She also talked about a line of inquiry that involves potentially targeting the former President Donald Trump for responsibility. She actually cited legal precedent under which if they are deemed to have done something Donald Trump and his allies were deemed to have done something under contrary to the law, they could actually face consequence for this, what do you know about this?

BENNER: Yes, so her statements are basically applying public pressure and two places. The first is signaling to the public, that there is going to be -- that the investigation is going to become more aggressive in the coming year. And that places pressure on her fellow Republicans, because at the end of the day, it is really up to them to decide whether or not the party is going to continue to support the former president and continue to support people within the party who deny the results of the election, that is going to be a hugely important issue for the midterms, hugely important issue for the 2024 election, where people are worried that this idea that nobody will believe the results of the election could lead to a lot of unrest.

So she`s kind of laying down the gauntlet there for her own party and saying, this is what`s going to happen. We`re going to have a public accounting and where will you stand. And the second place she`s applying pressure is of course, the Justice Department. She`s saying if we find criminal activity, we will deliver it to your doorstep, we will deliver to you a referral and then it`s up to you to act. So far, the Justice Department has been very reluctant to investigate the former president and so we`ll see what happens depending on what the committee actually finds.

VELSHI: We`re going to be talking about that a little later with Nea; Katyal as well. There are there Pressure from some people who say the Justice Department should be doing more about this.

[23:15:02]

Irwin Redlener, it is Tuesday now, it all blends together after a while, but it`s Tuesday. And there are a lot of people who have either wrap things up or are wrapping things up in the next 24 to 48 hours, and they`re heading out to travel. We`ve got a lot of mixed messaging out there about whether people should and how they should handle it, particularly if you`re if you`re vaccinated and boosted. What`s your best advice?

REDLENER: So my best advice in this raging, surging, Omicron situation is this. Unfortunately, this is not going to be a free and open holiday time for us. We need to be particularly careful what the Redleners are doing. We`re not going anywhere where there`s not established that every single person is fully vaccinated.

And by the way, Ali, fully vaccinated now means three shots, forget the two shots, it`s two shots plus the booster that we`re going to need to require now people need to be tested in the day before they go to a party and especially so if there are young children there who are not eligible to be vaccinated. And we`re going to have to wear masks indoors as much as possible when we`re outside the home.

So, a lot of precautions here but really necessary, Ali, there have been issues cited before breakthroughs. And then of course, people not vaccinated have the risk of getting really sick hospitalized and die. So another year of caution, but hopefully we`ll be talking next year, Ali, and things will be a lot better. But for right now. I really implore people, please don`t take chances.

VELSHI: I love talking to three of you. But I would really like to be talking about -- talking to the three of you in a post COVID world. Thanks again for taking your time tonight. Philip Rucker, Katie Benner, also a Pulitzer Prize winner, and Dr. Irwin Redelner, thank you all for being with us.

Coming up. We`re going to talk to former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal about the new efforts from some witnesses to stonewall the January 6 committee. And later what we heard from the President today about the path forward for his agenda after Joe Manchin rejected his nearly $2 trillion spending plan. THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on a Tuesday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:20:41]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): I would support a subpoena for anyone`s testimony that`s relevant to the investigation. We shouldn`t determine whether or not somebody is going to be subpoenaed by what their title or their positioning is. Again, this goes to the issue of justice being blind.

If someone refuses to come forth, and voluntarily participate in a lawful process that`s designed to uphold their democracy, then we will subpoena them. And if they fail to comply with the subpoena, then we will refer them for criminal contempt charges to the DOJ.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: That`s Democratic Congressman Jason Crow, making clear that he will back a subpoena for fellow House members Scott Perry for failing to cooperate with the investigation into January 6. The January 6 committee has yet to officially subpoena the Pennsylvania congressman, but the panel spokesperson did say this quote, the Select Committee prefers to gather relevant evidence from members cooperatively, but if members would directly relevant information declined to cooperate and instead endeavor to cover up, the Select Committee will consider seeking such information using other tools, end quote.

With us for more, as Neal Katyal, Department of Justice veteran and former acting Solicitor General during the Obama administration, who has argued dozens of cases before the United States Supreme Court.

Neal, we always turn to you when we have these complicated issues. This shouldn`t be that complicated. Scott Perry is a member of the United States Congress, a committee of the United States Congress, a duly constituted committee has asked him to come forward with information he has. They happened subpoenaed him, and he came back with this wild swinging response that calls them leftist radicals and talks about Afghanistan and all this stuff, but he`s not interested in participating with them.

NEAL KATYAL, FMR. ACTING SOCILITOR GENERAL: Right. This isn`t that hard, Ali, for exactly the reasons you`re saying. So Scott Perry is not to be confused with Rick Perry, who would probably rather abolish the Department of Justice, then co-opted and turn it into the department of insurrection. That`s Scott Perry. And what he`s trying to do. He`s the guy who worked with Jeffrey Clark of the Justice Department to try and plot a coup.

And it`s not surprising in a sense that he`s afraid to cooperate. And you know, the theme of all of these stories is these people are refusing to go and tell the truth under oath, because they`re afraid of what Congress might find. And you have to break every norm in the book to reach where Scott Perry is.

This is his own body saying Congress saying, we want to know what happened. Just tell us what happened. And what does he do, he makes fake argument after fake argument about how the January 6 committee is illegitimate, and all sorts of nonsense about inflation, and the like, has nothing to do with this.

The bottom line is, Look, dude, you were there. Tell the truth about what happened, you know, and if you feel like you did nothing wrong, then you should have nothing to hide.

VELSHI: So, Neal, for my parents who are watching this tonight, I know at some point, they`re going to say, this is the United States Congress, if you get a letter from them a serious invitation, or all the way to a subpoena, and they asked you to come participate, ask you to come forward. Generally speaking, you`d think most people would. What are these other tools that the committee says they have in their toolbox if a guy like Scott Perry says, Forget it?

KATYAL: You`re absolutely right. If it were you or me being called before Congress, of course, we would go and testify. And it should be heightened if you`re a member of Congress, and it`s your own body. The two tools Congress has contempt which you were mentioning before, to formally try and say, you know, a crime is being committed because you`re failing to tell the truth to Congress. And the other is, so that`s a kind of criminal contempt. That`s what`s being used with Steve Bannon right now.

The other mechanism that Congress has is the inherent contempt authority, they could actually jail this member of Congress on their own if they wanted to, and say, Look, you know, that`s the price for not telling the truth. That`s a power that goes all the way back to the founding. I guess the last thing I`d say is they do have the power to expel him under the Constitution, but that would require a supermajority vote by the Congress.

VELSHI: I want to ask you about Liz Cheney. Last week, she said something. I was just talking to Katie Benner about it. She was talking about -- well, let`s play what she said on December 13 about Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Did Donald Trump through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress`s official proceedings to count electoral votes?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Remarkable language that you use there. She thought this through very well, did Donald Trump through action or inaction corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress`s official proceeding to count electoral votes on January 6, that that`s very meaningful.

[23:25:12]

The question that she is saying that the committee wants to look into is very meaningful, because if the answer is yes, she also stated the legal grounds on which one could pursue action against Donald Trump.

KATYAL: Exactly. So Liz Cheney`s an excellent lawyer, she`s making two points, both of which are a little subtle, but they both turn on this statute, 1512. It`s a criminal statute, it makes it a felony to obstruct an official proceeding. And what Cheney is referring to is that now three different federal judges in the DC district court have all said this statute was potentially violated on January by insurrectionists.

And the insurrectionists, the judges found didn`t have to intend violence. They just needed to intend to try and stop the count that would otherwise happen. So that`s Cheney`s point here. And these, by the way, are Trump judges, two of the three, Trump appointed judges who`ve made this determination.

The other thing she`s saying is, you know, it`s not just the Trump`s action, but his inaction. So Trump is saying against his defenses, look, I didn`t like the match. But by all accounts, what Cheney is saying is, look, at least you sat in front of the fire truck toasting marshmallows, if you didn`t like the match, and whether or not Donald Trump meets the legal definition of obstruction, I`m pretty sure through this Chinese argument, we can all agree that he wasn`t exactly advocating the crowd to march to the capitol and like, count the votes. He was urging them to stop that count.

VELSHI: Right.

KATYAL: And so that brings us squarely into a federal crime. That`s why Cheney`s remarks are so important and why Donald Trump this week has been kind of even by his own standards, more off the rails than usual.

VELSHI: And the issue here, she uses the words corruptly because that`s important, seek to obstruct or impede, if you cannot charge people who were involved in January 6 with obstruction, then it sort of doesn`t -- it stops being a felony, it becomes a misdemeanor, which is disruption, which is more like protest. And that`s the argument.

I guess I`m oversimplifying it here, but that seems to be the legal argument some of these people are making that it was disruption. It was a protest. It was meant to be a protest versus the obstruction of an official proceeding, the impeding of an official proceeding. And that`s what this hangs on.

KATYAL: Exactly. So when she refers to those words corruptly and impeding an official proceeding, that`s the language of the federal felony statute 1512. And that`s different than of course, the criminal misdemeanor statute. I mean, by the way, when a president commits a criminal misdemeanor, that`s a huge thing by itself.

But what I think Cheney is pointing to is that it doesn`t look just like a misdemeanor. It looks like a federal felony. That`s what the investigation in part is designed to do the January 6 committee, and if they find, as I suspect they will, that Donald Trump violated 1512, then I think it`s their obligation to make a referral to the Justice Department for a criminal prosecution of the former president.

I know that`s a very serious thing. I don`t say that lightly. But that`s because what happened on January 6 was deadly serious.

VELSHI: Well, let`s follow that to its natural conclusion. There are a lot of people who say that this January 6 committee is piling up lots of evidence that perhaps Merrick Garland and the Justice Department should do something with now in the case of the criminal referral that they made for Steve Bannon, it resulted in an arrest.

In the case of Mark Meadows, they`re still sitting on it, it`s a little more complicated, because unlike Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows did actually work for the President. So the issue of executive privilege may come up.

But where is Merrick Garland in this? And where do you believe Merrick Garland should be in this?

KATYAL: Well, I think he`s doing things largely right. And that he`s -- he`s silently having an investigation, looking at all this stuff. He`s made the criminal peripheral prosecution, based on the congressional referral of Steve Bannon. He`s now looking at Meadows and, you know, there have been lawsuit after lawsuit trying to stop Garland and others from doing their job.

And so, you know, I think that they`ve done a fairly good job in fending all that off. But at the end of the day, we`re almost a year after the January 6 attacks, and the American people don`t have answers to a lot of basic questions. So that`s really concerning to me. I think Merrick Garland has done things largely right. But I think he could be more forthcoming on certain aspects of this.

So for example, you know, is it -- does garland believe that if the Trump Justice Department falsely closed -- wrongly closed a criminal investigation? Can they reopen? You know, that`s a very simple thing that the editors of lawfare said, you know, that`s something you should be, you know, talking about Garland, but Garland is, you know, a very quiet individual. When he was a judge, he almost never spoke to, you know, gave speeches or anything like that. He`s carried that through, and I understand the reasons for it, but right now, we are in a media world where, you know, jokers like Steve Bannon and Mo Brooks at big microphones and right now we`re not hearing very much from Merric Garland. You hear it from you and me, but you`re not hearing it from the Attorney General the United States.

[23:30:14]

VELSHI: Right, the wheels of justice may be turning, but we might just want to hear some of that machinery, or at least some people may want to hear some of that machinery. Neal, good to see you as always. You make things so much clearer for us. Neal Katyal is a former Department of -- Department of justice veteran and former acting Solicitor General in the Obama Administration. Thank you.

All right, coming up what we know about tonight`s Democratic huddle to plot the path forward on Build Back Better when the 11th Hour continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Some people sleep maybe I`m not Irish, please don`t hold a grudge. But I want to get things done. I still think there`s a possibility to Build Back Better done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Democrats are still searching for a way forward on a signature part of the President`s agenda. Senate Democrats held an emergency virtual caucus meeting a few hours ago to plot their next moves. The big question was, would Joe Manchin make an appearance in fact he did. As for what, if any good it did that remains to be seen.

For more we`re joined by David Plouffe, former Obama campaign manager and senior advisor to the President. Mike Murphy, veteran Republican strategist and co-director of the Centre for the political future at the University of Southern California. He`s also a co-host of the Hacks on Tap podcast. Good evening to both of you.

David, let`s start with you. We weren`t aren`t sure whether Manchin would show up and I wasn`t -- for everybody who was speculating whether he`d show up this virtual emergency meeting.

[23:35:05]

And my question was, what happens if he actually does show up? Because will people bite their tongues? Are they going to have an airing of grievances? Are they going to look for a way forward? You have any idea what happened in that meeting?

DAVID PLOUFFE, FMR. OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don`t know yet, I`m sure you know, in today`s world, a lot leaks out. So I`m sure by tomorrow morning, a lot of sense. But I think it`s good he attended that. And listen, there`s no guarantees, given what`s happened over the last week, but I still think major elements of Build Back Better have a very good chance of passing. And I think that that will be the work in January, that and making sure we pass voting rights legislation that protects our democracy, and doesn`t turn this country into an autocracy.

But the truth is, Manchin, a lot of Democrats aren`t that far apart. So this ought to be something that can get done. It`s important to get done for the country. Most importantly, but I think it`s also important to get done for political for politics, because I think you`re going to want Democrats to be as excited next year, about the election as possible for turnout.

But also the Republicans have opposed all these things, you know, that we are democracy, child care, tax credit, long term care, the infrastructure bill was a notable exceptions in the Senate by some brave Republican senators.

So I think it`s likely that this gets put back together. It`s not going to be everything every Democrat wants, but it`s still going to be significant. And I`ve mentioned, Ali, it`s important because we don`t know what`s going to happen after `22. I hope this doesn`t happen as a Democrat, but the Republicans could win back, you know, control of one chamber, maybe both. So this is your last chance, perhaps for a while to really take a big swing here, and help out hundreds of millions of Americans.

VELSHI: So Mike, I interesting you don`t disagree with the idea of a big swing? You definitely think there`s a messaging problem here, though, that, on one hand, the Democrats are all in on policies that are known to be popular across the country, amongst voters of both parties. On the other hand, you`re worried about how this is this is looking at how this is going down?

MIKE MURPHY, VETERAN REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, from Biden`s point of view, you know, I`m a conservative. So I`m not a fan of a lot of these spending programs. But he`s got a huge political problem and he needs to reset. The Democrats can no longer make the mistake. They paid a big political price of confusing partisan controlled the Senate with ideological control. They asked Manchin to go into places where Joe Manchin from West Virginia where Joe Biden got under a third of the vote can`t go.

So the question is now can they chop it down to some of the most popular elements past those, and then have a fight over the other elements because it`s an election year and a lot of what the Senate becomes as a platform to try to control the agenda of the election.

So if -- they have to accept Manchin a fact of life. They have to slim it down, and they got to pass something and then go on offence and other things. I think that is the smartest move for them. Can they execute it? You know, I`m still not sure. The problem with Build Back Better is nobody knows what`s in it. If they were to break it up, they could fight on things people do understand, like program one, program two, program three, even if they don`t pass them, they get the issue.

VELSHI: Tell me how that worked, David. First of all, I`m curious as to whether you agree with Mike`s idea. You sort of suggest it yourself, do it and do it in smaller bits. But what -- how does that become reality? At what point does someone say, we`re going to stop talking about this as Build Back Better? Or we`re going to call it something else? Or we`re starting again. You`re hearing it from the President, you heard a little bit from the Vice President yesterday in an interview with CBS News. But what does this actually what happens now? How do you turn this ship around?

PLOUFFE: Well, reality needs to dictate that. So I think it`s whatever, we`ll get 50 votes in the Senate, 218 votes in the House and Joe Biden`s signature. So if that`s Build Back Better 2.0 that`s a little bit smaller, a little more focused, great. If it`s taking individual votes, great.

So I think the reality is going to have to drive it. From a political messaging standpoint, I do think it`s hard enough to sell one bill. It`s really hard in my experience to sell big packages that have multiple parts. So it may be easier to break it up. And you give each one a week and you get on the road and you do a lot of interviews. But the reality will be it`s kind of whatever Joe Manchin, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer say in terms of how do you get this done?

VELSHI: Mike, you`re nodding. You`re agreeing with that.

MURPHY: Yes. No, I think they`ve got the power here. The only thing I`d say from Biden`s point of view politically is he`s in trouble now, because he`s perceived to be weak. He`s a bystander, so Biden not to get in front or whatever Manchin will actually go for and declare victory and move forward. So he gets the starring role again, it looks like he`s in control. But the reality is exactly what David said. Those are the three people driving the legislative ship.

VELSHI: Guys, stay with me. I want to take a quick break and come back and continue with discussion with you. Coming up the dark and disturbing themes of division and political violence right out in the open now in the extreme far right when the 11th Hour continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Now you`d be forgiven for assuming that what you just saw here was some kind of WrestleMania introduction. That was yesterday`s carefully staged an overly elaborate introduction at an event for ultra conservative young people for none other than Kyle Rittenhouse. Then 17-year-old who shot and killed two people and wounded a third last summer at a Black Lives Matter protest after crossing state lines with an AR-15 that was not obtained legally.

Rittenhouse was acquitted by a Wisconsin jury last month, a verdict that the right wing fringe is celebrating while seeming to embrace political violence and vigilantism.

Still with us, David Plouffe and Mike Murphy. Mike, I don`t make it a habit to watch Turning Point USA this event that`s been on. But it`s -- it had a weird tinge to it this week. There`s a lot of gun stuff and a lot of guns as the last stand against the government in protecting your liberty and then there`s this weird Rockstar kind of thing for Kyle. Feels like they might have lost the plot on this one.

MURPHY: Well, look, you know, American politics is a big vital thing. And we`re veering into dangerous territory these days. But there`s plenty of room for kind of this freak show of these, I guess I`ll call them internet celebrities in the political world. And they can have convinces, it`s kind of like the right wing net version of a Star Trek convention. And guys like Rittenhouse are going to -- get attention, but it`s not where the center the debate is.

I would say it is a symptom of kind of a stupid application of politics on the on the far right that they`re -- that they you know start this and voltage hero worship figures like that.

[23:45:04]

VELSHI: David, when Mike puts it that way, I`m a little more relaxed about the whole thing. I do worry though, because when I was listening to it, I was hearing a lot about guns and Sebastian Gorka talking about Second Amendment stuff in a civil war, but not to rush into it. It`s, you know, it`s not here yet. It sounded more scary. What is it? Is it something that`s worth worrying about? Or is it OK, you guys are the fringe of the right wing at this point?

PLOUFFE: Rights. Well, if it sort of stays to use Mike Star Trek example, sort of with the Scotties of the Republican Party, that`s OK. But when it goes Kirk and Spock and Yes, I mean, you`ve got the Christmas cards. We`ve seen with people fully loaded with assault weapons. You`ve got more members of the House, the fringe members of the House talking about it.

So I mean, the notion that we`re not going to see political violence, again, in this country, I think, sadly, is naive. They`re not being subtle about their aims here. And I think as much as Build Back Better, you know, defeating the pandemic, overcoming the next few weeks of Omicron. These are critical issues for the country. But the big issue is the big issue, which is there were violent terrorists who tried to overthrow our government killed police officers, and are sending the message that they are going to basically defend what they believe the country should be, which is for a lot of them, it is an autocracy.

So the real question to Mike`s point about the center, I think we`re at 65 to 70 percent of the country. Sadly, it`s not 95. But who do not want us to become an autocracy, who are firmly in the pro democratic camp, and the question for 22 and 24. And some of those people will need to hold their noses to vote Democrat.

But right now, there`s only one party that`s firmly committed universally to the notion that we should remain a democracy. And then we should keep violence out of our politics. And that`s the Democratic Party. And the Democratic Party is going to have to be super welcoming and open to all comers, to allow us to get through this thread over the next two elections about democracy versus autocracy.

So right now it is fringe but I am worried like you are that we begin to see this bleed a little bit more into the mainstream of the Republican Party.

MURPHY: And let me just add that, you know --

VELSHI: And Mike, I want to know -- I want to --

MURPHY: Yes, go ahead.

VELSHI: Before -- I want to hear your responses before I say it, I just want to say I called Kyle Rittenhouse Kyle Cheney. Kyle Cheney is a well- respected journalist, a friend of ours, he comes on TV a lot. He`s with Politico, it`s called Rittenhouse I`m referring to.

But Mike what what`s your wall to prevent what David is warning about? How do you keep these guys out of the center of the conservative movement?

MURPHY: Well, look, they make a lot of noise, because they`re a freak show. And so in kind of, frankly, the commerce of cable TV, they`re fun to put the spotlight on because they get everybody riled up. The question is, what kind of power do they have in the primaries? And the Republican Party is not on that corner, we`re going to have a civil war.

The question is, will the fringe were easily as defined in the House, but also in some state legislatures going to increase and have real power going forward? And how much is Donald Trump was kind of the tip of the spear, though occasionally embarrassed by these people even got booed when he of course mentioned that naturally, he got a booster shot, you know how it plays out.

And if the Republican Party wants to lose votes and lose elections to the left, this is a perfect way to go do it. And a lot of us who are, you know, against that stuff in the party, we want to have the civil war over the next two election cycles and see what the Republican Party really decides to be.

The very fact it`s being tested about this as bad news, and a sad sign of where we are. But that`s the fight that is happening now. And it has to happen.

VELSHI: Yes, David, Mike makes this point that there`s this weird overlap on the fringes of the right now with this stuff, with Second Amendment stuff with liberty, and then it`s the same stuff that`s happened with vaccines. I mean, we knew there`d be some vaccine hesitancy in this country, there is all over the world. But -- So how this has become a mainstay of this group.

PLOUFFE: Yes, well, of course, almost all the maybe the exception of Sarah Palin have two shots and have been boosted so it`s not on the level sadly. The only thing on the level in my opinion, by the way, is their desire to get rid of our democracy. I think a lot of them really believe that. But that`s going to be the question. I just wonder about primaries in competitive House districts, Senate districts, gubernatorial races in `22. And then the big enchilada and `24 the Republican presidential primary, which gates do people have to go through.

And if it is people who are going to, you know, love Kyle Rittenhouse and love Louie Gohmert, you know, love Marjorie Taylor Greene, I think the Republican Party is going to have a hard time doing well and so much of `22 by the way, is it going to come down to that. Do they nominate some people who aren`t like Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, kind of, you know, I was like Mitt Romney 2.0 to a lot of voters in Virginia. But if it is the freak show that comes through these primaries, they`re going to lose most of those seats in swing districts for the House and Senate.

MURPHY: I think it`ll be a good year for the sales because oh, sorry, Ali, I didn`t mean to interrupt. But just you`re going to have to choose between --

VELSHI: No, go head finish it up, Mike.

[23:50:03]

MURPHY: You know, you`re going to have to choose -- voters are going to have to choose between lives to the polls are accurate and the frustration with the Biden administration versus in some cases wackjob Republican candidates who are nominated in the Senate, in the suburbs is where that`ll play out.

VELSHI: Guys, I could talk to you all night. Thanks very much for your time tonight, David Plouffe and Mike Murphy, I appreciate it. Well, you never know what you might find at the back of the office after months of work from home. We`ll tell you about that when the 11th Hour continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: A physics professor in Harlem got a big surprise while sifting through his office mail. Nearly $200,000 in cash was sent to him in an ordinary cardboard box. And the unusual donation is going to good use. Our report tonight from NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Physics professor Vinod Menon is all about solving mysteries of the universe. But who sent him in City College in New York this box filled with cash is tonight a mystery unsolved.

(on camera): You see this money and you`re not sure how much it is. But what are you thinking?

VINOD MENON, PHYSICS PROFESSOR: I`m thinking, Wow, I`ve never seen this kind of money ever in my life.

SANDERS (voice-over): 180,000 unexpected dollars a letter with a cash set in part. Assuming that you`re a bit curious as to why I`m doing this, the reason is straightforward. A Bachelor and Master`s degree in physics from City College resulted in a long, productive, immensely rewarding career.

Adding to the improbable story the box with $90 in postage was mailed in late 2020. But because of the pandemic it sat unopened for 10 months.

MENON: Somebody trusted the post office, somebody trusted the mailroom, somebody trusted everyone the whole system. And that`s another great part of the story.

SANDERS: The FBI investigated agents told administrators the money`s legit.

[23:55:03]

The name on the letter and address label. Kyle Paisley. But there`s no city college graduates with that name.

(on camera): Is the name and anagram?

MENON: At some point, it dawned on to me that, you know, the person doesn`t want to be found. Why should I do it?

SANDERS: A physics professor with newfound scholarship money, and a mystery he now chooses not to solve. Kerry Sanders, NBC News.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

VELSHI: And coming up even more good news tonight about the days ahead when the 11th Hour continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: The last thing before we go tonight, are you tired of the sudden going down so early. You had enough for the short days and the long cold nights? Well, some good news for you. Today we marked the winter solstice the official start of winter. The word Solstice means in Latin that the sun is standing still. That`s because Solstice marks the very moment where the northern hemisphere is tilted farthest from the Sun. This results in the shortest day in the longest night of the year.

Now that might not sound like good news at first. But what`s important to know here is that every day after today, the days will get a little bit longer. The sun will set a little bit later and we will inch closer and closer back to summer.

That may be why so many traditions have celebrations around the winter solstice. One of the largest is held every year in England at the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge. It`s believed that the stones were shaped to frame the sunset on the day of the winter solstice and the sunrise on the day of the summer solstice.

Now many see the winter solstice as an opportunity for renewal and embracing hope amid the darkness. So, let`s go with that.

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