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Transcript: The 11th Hour, 12/30/21

Guests: Peter Baker, Maya Wiley, Ebony Hilton, Don Calloway, Tim Miller, Michael Beschloss


As the pandemic extends into a third year, Omicron is fueling the most dramatic spike in cases yet. In the face of that surge, some governors are warning against crowded New Year`s gatherings. New York City, however, will go ahead with a scaled back celebration in Times Square. And President Biden exchanged warnings with Russian President Putin, ahead of the planned summit in January.


JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC HOST: You can catch me again on Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern on the Sunday show that`s right here on MSNBC. Until then, have a Happy New Year. And thank you so much for watching. THE 11TH HOUR starts now.


ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, once again, I`m Zerlina Maxwell. Day 345 of the Biden administration. We are now on course to enter the third year of the pandemic under an avalanche of COVID infections.

Tonight, another record has been set with over half a million new cases. And the new numbers of children hospitalized with the virus is higher tonight than at any point in the entire pandemic, the overwhelming driver of all of this Omicron, although delta is still very much with us, and one medical expert warns we`re in for a rough road ahead.


MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIR., CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY: We`re into a viral Blizzard right now that`s impacting all 50 states roughly at the same time, some areas are hit harder than others. But in the end, in the next six to eight weeks, we`re all going to see this large surge of cases.

It`s very likely that 20 or more percent of healthcare workers are going to get infected, even though they`ve been vaccinated. Our entire system of and all of our lives are going to be impacted by how many sick people are out, whether it`s at the grocery store, whether it`s at the hospital, whether it`s running your subways, whether it`s doing testing.


MAXWELL: Right now the number of confirmed COVID cases in the United States has reached 54 million. Yet, there are new signs this current outbreak may soon ease. The New York Times reports that in South Africa, the Omicron wave has peaked. And Columbia University researchers tell the Washington Post there are indications infections could peak here by mid-January.

Also, NBC News reports the FDA is expected to authorize Pfizer`s booster shots for children ages 12 to 15 within a matter of days, and a new study shows Johnson and Johnson`s booster shot offers strong protection against the Omicron variant. Yet the relentless spread of Omicron is fueling concerns about safety ahead of tomorrow`s New Year`s Eve celebrations.


GOV. JB PRITZKER (D) ILLINOIS: Omicron and delta are coming to your party. So you need to think twice about how many people will be gathered together.


MAXWELL: Some communities are dialing back and even canceling events. But New York is going ahead with its scaled back celebration in Times Square tomorrow night. And that`s despite the highest number of COVID cases the city has ever seen.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D) NEW YORK CITY: It`s going to be outdoors vaccination only mass required, socially distance. But we want to show that we`re moving forward and we want to show the world that New York City is fighting our way through this, it`s really important to not give up in the face of this.


MAXWELL: Meanwhile, the CDC has an urgent new warning for anyone considering a cruise saying they should be avoided, regardless of vaccination status. The Omicron variant is also being blamed in part for yet another day of major disruptions in the airline industry. NBC News`s Steve Patterson has the latest on what millions of travelers are facing.


STEVE PATTERSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over) Tonight, the great cancellation of holiday air travel now on a collision course with the new year. After four days in a row of more than 1,000 cancellations, airlines are trimming down even more. Delta already announcing a cut back of 200 to 300 flights every day through the New Year`s weekend. Alaska Airlines thinning by 20 percent, strongly urging travelers with nonessential trips before January 2nd to rebook, and JetBlue canceling 1,280 flights from now until mid-January.

BRIAN KELLY, "THE POINTS GUY" FOUNDER AND CEO: We`re going to continue to see staffing shortages at the airlines which are the primary factor of these cancellations. So simply put, there is no clear end in sight.

PATTERSON: The chaos caused by surging Omicron cases impacting airline staff and bands of relentless severe weather lashing the country from coast to coast.


MAXWELL: Also tonight, were in sudden wind driven wildfires in Colorado are forcing thousands of people to evacuate from two towns near Boulder. Colorado`s governor has declared a state of emergency and several people have been injured. Hundreds of buildings have also been destroyed.

We`re also following the latest developments in the House committee`s January 6 investigation. In exactly one week, it will be a full year since pro Trump rioters attack the United States Capitol. Today, the panel asked the Supreme Court to reject the former president`s requests to keep his White House Records secret.


The Committee has also asked the High Court to move swiftly in deciding whether to take the case.

This was also a critical day for President Biden. He just spent under an hour speaking on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had requested the call. The White House says the call from -- took the call from his Delaware home and Biden urge Putin to end the crisis on Russia`s border with Ukraine, where some 100,000 Russian troops are now gathered. Officials say Biden also warned Vladimir Putin of the consequences of a Russian invasion.

With all of that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Thursday night, Peter Baker, Chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, Maya Wiley, a civil rights attorney and former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Also with us is Dr. Ebony Hilton, an associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

Dr. Hilton, I want to start with you because as, you know, with so many days in the past three years COVID is the new story that we`re all thinking about right now. Where are we right now in this surge? And what do you see ahead? Do we have what we need to handle it?

I don`t hear Dr. Hilton`s. We may be having trouble with her connection. OK. So I`m going to go to Maya. I`m going to go to Maya, just on where we stand with the pandemic looming ahead of the New Year. I mean, where do you see things with all of the stories, the politics of the COVID mandates, and the Supreme Court considering whether or not to uphold the White House`s vaccine requirements?

MAYA WILEY, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Yes, well, certainly not. One thing that`s so clear, and you will set it at the top, it`s we have a very serious issue with the Omicron variant, we still have the Delta variant, and we`re seeing infections sore

Fortunately, we`re not seeing as high hospitalization rates. But the fact remains that when people are vaccinated, they`re much less likely to be hospitalized. And that`s important, because what we know so far is that one of the things we need is people to be vaccinated in order for our health care system to be able to take care of those who need to be hospitalized, whether it`s because of Omicron, or because they have cancer, or some other very serious life threatening illness that requires hospitalization.

And, you know, what the Department of Justice did today is it made a very powerful case to the Supreme Court that said, Look, you know, there`s no way those were trying to fight, the vaccine mandate that President Biden has put out for employers who have 100 employees or more to have a sensible strategy that protects the public health of its workers, and says very clearly, it`s not a mandate.

What it says is, either you require vaccination, or you can choose to be tested every week and to wear a mask at work, and that that is power that OSHA has from Congress. But as we know, because of what we`re hearing about how Omicron is going to drive hospitalizations, we`re already hearing about exhausted hospital workers, just as we`re talking about flights being cancelled. We`re hearing people who aren`t being able to show up at work or being told to show up at work, despite the fact that they`re ill, which is only going to lead to more infection.

And so I suspect, we`re going to have an argument on January 7th, which is highly unusual in a place like this. But it`s very worrying if those vaccine mandates aren`t allowed to stand.

MAXWELL: Dr. Hilton, I believe we do have you back and as Maya just laid out there, the fight in the courts to uphold these vaccine mandates. That`s all happening as we are currently experiencing this Omicron surge. Where do you see us right now in the surge and what lies ahead?

DR. EBONY HILTON, UNIV. OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Right. And, you know, I apologize. I`m actually in a storm in Belize. But I feel safer here than I do in the United States of America. What we know at this point is that every day, the average is three Americans are testing positive per second. That`s the state that we`re in in America and we don`t have time to wait until January 7 to figure it out.

At this stage, we literally have had tripling of our cases since the beginning of December with 1.9 million new cases last week alone. And we were looking at who`s actually getting infected we know more and more. Not only our hospital starting to fill up.

At this moment, we have 89,000 hospitalized which is the highest since September up about 40,000 in the last seven weeks, but what`s really filling up is literally the pediatric hospitals.


In fact, at this point, we have one in every 10 children have now tested positive for COVID-19. And so the question is, when are we going to have agencies like the CDC, and when we don`t have statements made by the Surgeon General, and by the White House itself to say, this is not something that can wait, because at this point, we`re literally burning through our population, getting infected with a virus that we don`t know the long term consequences of what an infection does to the body.

It`s not just about the deaths, of which at this point, we 820,000 Americans who are dead. But it`s also the long term consequences, including long COVID that leads to permanent disability for millions of Americans upwards of 50 percent of all who have been infected.

MAXWELL: And Peter, with both the things Maya said about the fight over the vaccine mandates and all of the health consequences that Dr. Hilton alluded to, the White House seems surprised at how rapidly Omicron sped in there, surging people and supplies all over the country to help with the need. But with all this in mind, is there a plan to do more in the year ahead?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, this is not where President Biden and his administration wanted to be, at the end of the year, no question about it. They thought that by this point in his administration, they would have their handle on the pandemic, that it would be, you know, we`d be in a far better place.

Remember, even as far back as July, they were declaring independence from COVID on Independence Day, July 4, we`re nowhere near that, obviously, as we see now. And it`s in it`s affecting so many lives in so many ways, as we just talked about, it`s not even just the people who are sick, it`s the airlines that are canceling, the schools are going back to remote learning. It`s the businesses that don`t have enough staff to stay open.

It`s exactly what the Biden administration did not want at this point. And there are those who say that look, you know, the Biden administration took its eye off the ball to some extent, why are we having shortages of tests? At this point, almost two years into the pandemic, why should this something -- be something that we`re not able to take care of today, I went to a library here in Washington, DC where I live, the city`s giving out free tests they did a very good job with. I was in and out in four minutes.

But why should that be, you know, such a shortage in so many places at this point. You can`t go into a drugstore most places to get one. They -- there`s a lot of people who are wondering what the Biden administration plans do from I want -- their plan -- they have a proposal they talked about getting 500 million tests into Americans hands by January, but people need them now. They need them today. They needed to travel. They need him to get past the holiday, go back to school, go back to work. And it`s, it`s a marvel, it`s remarkable that we are still dealing with something as basic as the testing shortage, again, nearly two years into this.

MAXWELL: It`s really concerning in terms of the long lines we`ve seen throughout the holidays of people online to get tested. And Dr. Hilton, one of the other factors people have been focused on in the last few weeks is the strain on our hospital systems. We heard this earlier from the president of the American Nurses Association.


ERNEST GRANT, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN NURSES ASSOCIATION: Nurses and other members of the healthcare team are experiencing extreme mental fatigue. You know, we hear from nurses on a regular basis. You know, I`m supposed to be working a 12-hour shift, but my 12 hours turns into 14 or 16 hours. I`m only getting one day a week off because my employer is calling, asking if I can work overtime or there`s mandatory overtime.


MAXWELL: Dr. Hilton, what are you seeing in hospitals right now?

HILTON: Right, you know, I feel for our nurses. Our nurses are a critical piece of our team. But we also leave out the respiratory therapists that have been working with these COVID-19 patients and the transporters and the persons within the cafeteria who are now turned into frontline health care workers on a daily basis because they`re coming into contact with patients as they`re coming into the hospital.

And we`re talking about days off, you know, as far as on the physician side, we literally don`t have any laws that say how many hours are you work per week. I have never clocked in ever in my life has been a medical doctor. We are looking at 80 hours, 100 hours a week being the standard now, for many physicians day in and day out.

And the mental fatigue is one thing, but the fatigue of going home and wondering if you`re affecting your family members. That`s a whole other thing and especially when we`re talking about the CDC mandate. Now our guideline now changing from five days to 10 days.

We know that many people are still, even if they`re not necessarily symptomatic, quote unquote, in the idea of up their body showing signs and symptoms. We are afraid as healthcare workers of coming into work prematurely and infecting other members, our patients we have in our hospital that are not COVID-19 positive. It`s not that we only get assigned those patients, we have the entire hospital take care of.


And so thinking about the prematurity of drawing these conclusions, we know there was just mentioning about the mask during the fourth of July, why has that not even been reinstated? If they`re looking at the guidelines that say you can test positive and have to quarantine for five days, and then wear your mask for another five days, that tells us that the CDC values the importance of mask and reducing transmission. So why is it when we were having over 500,000 cases positive today? Why hasn`t the CDC said that masks needs to be now mandated for every single American so we can get ahead of this outbreak that we have nationwide?

MAXWELL: It`s such a good point about masking because, Maya, y it feels like a lot of the decisions about the public health are being driven in part by the politics. How much do democratic goals for 2022 in terms of handling this pandemic? You know, have to do with getting it under control getting this surge under control in the next few weeks here?

WILEY: Yes, look, you know, unfortunately, we have politicized the pandemic. We literally saw Republicans, 47 Republican senators, and over 130 Republican members of the House fighting to stop the vaccine mandate. A lot of these are the same politics we`re seeing, interrupting the use of masks, literally going to school board meetings and fighting about students having to wear masks of school, harassing students, or walking into schools wearing masks. I mean, it has become literally a battle line about politics, versus a coming together around what protects public health, what protects our children, what protects our nurses, all the people we`ve been talking about.

And that I think is a fundamental issue with how besieged, and I don`t defend the Biden administration for things that should be doing that it could be doing. But I think we also have to recognize, we`re dealing with an administration that has had a party that has been refusing to do anything other than try to block all these major public health interventions that are so necessary.

And you know, if it weren`t for the Biden administration, we`d be having a conversation about the warming. And the reality is, this is still unfortunately, a conversation we are having about what is effective at stopping the pandemic, and whether in fact, we`re going to listen to the science.

And another thing that Dr. Hilton has raised, that I really want to make sure gets raised here and all credit to Dr. Hilton, when we were discussing this offline, which is vulnerable population, people who have disabilities, people who have healthcare issues, people in communities of color that got hit the hardest with death rates, and infection rates. Where are the N95 masks for these communities? Where and how are we seeing the directed intervention of the federal government of states and cities where they are needed the most, because we have the highest rates of infections and deaths? We do need all that to happen. But it really does take us coming together. We can`t keep politicizing the pandemic.

MAXWELL: It`s so important about making sure that the people have the supplies and resources and support they need in the disability community. Peter, I want to turn to another topic. And that`s the phone call that happened today between President Biden and Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader reportedly warned of a total break in relations. Should the United States sanction him over Ukraine? What was behind Putin`s request for the call? And could Biden find himself having to respond to a Russian invasion of Ukraine?

BAKER: Well, that`s certainly the worst case scenario at this point. Absolutely. Now, this is a second phone call the two of them had this month. This one was requested as the Americans told us by President Putin, we`re still not 100 percent clear why he requested whether there`s part of the Congress that we haven`t heard about what has been read out by the Kremlin and by the White House suggests a tense conversation in which as you say, President Putin warned of a complete rupture of relations with the United States if the United States is to apply sanctions in the event of military action Ukraine.

Of course, be no option for the United States, but to respond to an invasion of Ukraine with economic sanctions and possibly other measures. So that doesn`t seem to be deescalating an already volatile situation at this point.

Now, this is leading up to talks that are scheduled to take place in Geneva between America and Russia negotiators starting January 10. We`ll see whether that begins to pull some, you know, some of the, you know, he added this particular moment, but it`s kind of a manufactured crisis.

I mean, what Putin is saying basically is you guys in the West are trying to get too close to our border you`re putting weapons in Ukraine and we don`t want them to be part of NATO. Well, none of this is actually new or current.


So why is he acting now? I mean, there`s no move this point to make Ukraine a member of NATO. There are no new weapons that the United States or Europe that we know of anyway has put in Ukraine. So why now? What is he trying to accomplish with this the saber rattling? And is he serious about using military force at this point beyond the parts of Ukraine, where he`s already, in fact, used military force? That`s the big question for President Biden in the American administration.

MAXWELL: Peter Baker, Maya Wiley and Dr. Ebony Hilton, thank you for your expert analysis and for starting us off tonight. Thank you so much for being here. Please stay safe.

Coming up, January 6 is exactly one week away. What we`ve learned about the bitter divide in this country over the past year.

And later, and historical look at the political events of 2021. Spoiler Alert, we`re entering the New Year in unchartered territory, THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on this last Thursday of 2021.


MAXWELL: Today marks exactly one week until January 6, and many Americans nearly a year after the insurrection remain split over the attack. As you might guess, Democrats and independents view January 6 much more seriously than Republicans.

Back with us tonight, Democratic strategist Don Calloway decked out and HBCU gear as always, and Tim Miller, a contributor to the bulwark.


Tim, I`ll start with you. What is the short term solution here? How do we hold those people accountable if they were at all participants or affiliated with what happened on January 6?

TIM MILLER, THE BULWARK CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Zerlina, I think this is the big question, particularly the people who are members of Congress and the ringleaders of this effort. You know, I`m happy that the Justice Department, and the justice system seems to be, you know, doing its job with regards to, you know, the rioters themselves, but it doesn`t really feel satisfactory, just to have, you know, the guy with the horns, go to jail, right.

I mean, the January 6 insurrection was something that came out of the mind and out of the actions of the President, United States, several members of Congress and other, you know, very prominent leaders in this country.

So, you know, the January 6 Commission, I feel nothing but positively about what we`ve seen coming out of there already. Obviously, there`s going to be legal court hearings with Bannon coming forth in July. And I think that`s the path forward. The one thing we know is not the path forward is that the, you know, Republican electoral system is going to take care of this. No one is being punished politically within the Republican Party, no one`s going to lose a primary over this, frankly, exactly the opposite. The more sympathetic, you are to 1/6, the better position you are in Republican primaries. So, you know, the Select Committee and that and the Justice Department`s going to have to do their job.

MAXWELL: And Don, given what Tim just said, what should the Democratic message be in 2022, not just about the midterms and about policies like build back better, but about American democracy?

DON CALLOWAY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think that the first democratic message has to be to pass the Right to Vote Act. And you know, we can talk about infrastructure builds. We`re happy that the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed, we`re hoping to see some semblance of build back better.

But the bottom line is that in the first quarter of next year, you`ve got to pass voting rights reform, or else you will not have a free and fair midterm election in 2022. But I don`t want to be doom and gloom here. And I`m not a communications guy. But I do believe that if Republicans win either chamber of the United States Congress in 2022, you will never again see a free and fair presidential election in which a Republican led Congress certifies a free and fairly elected Democratic president, it simply won`t happen.

They tried to take the peaceful transition of power on January 6, and there has been no criminal accountability for members of Congress who basically we need to start making the distinction between insurrectionists like the swami who Tim refers to the shaman, whatever you call themselves.

Let`s stop distinguishing between those insurrectionists and the members of Congress because the insurrectionists were in Congress. They participated in scuttling the proper transition of power, but they`re no different than the insurrectionists, the chargers who were outside of there. And that has to be the Democratic message. Is this takeaway the line because they`re one in the same. And if these people get a hold, you will never see a Democrat certified as President, again, if one of them has the power to obstruct it via a chamber of Congress.

MAXWELL: Tim, do you agree with that? I mean, given what you said about the fact that those folks who have gone along with the big lie haven`t been marginalized. They`ve been essentially boosted by the fact that they are proponents of that lie. I mean, how do you go forward with limiting and trying to mute the influence of those Republicans who participated in a lie that really, as Don put it puts American democracy at risk and future elections?

MILLER: Yes, it`s nice to be the downside of communications guy. So he`s pretty good at it. For some it`s not a communications guy. I, look, I basically agree with him. You know, there`s a little bit of doom and gloom, I guess, associated with the never again, will there be an election that, you know. I think that I -- at least speaking for myself, have to have a little more humility as my predictions because I`ve been so poor in the past with some of my predictions.

But I think in the near term, what we can look at is 2024. I think John is -- Don one is exactly right. There`s no reason to believe that a speaker Kevin McCarthy, or you know, a Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, whoever it would be, is going to certify, particularly a close election that is lost by somebody like Donald Trump or somebody of that ilk. You know, the Republicans are systematically going through and eliminating the people like Brad Raffensperger in Georgia and others who did the right thing this last time and replacing them with unapologetic insurrectionist.

So, I think, looking ahead to 2024 that is a definite problem. And that is why I -- my advice to the Democrats is to focus their changes. I think the voter suppression stuff is important, but to make sure that they can try to get something passed that reforms, the way that we count the elections, the Electoral Count Act looking ahead to 2024 because, you know, we should not be in the situation again, where random, you know, Secretaries of State and the Speaker of the House of Michigan or something is determining who won the election in Michigan.


I think there are ways to reform the way that we count the ballots that is, you know, maybe more urgent right now then some of the voter suppression stuff, which obviously, you know, some of the Democrats should do as well, but if they don`t have the votes for it, fixing the counting, I think should be priority number one.

MAXWELL: All of that keeping in mind is the theme of protecting American democracy which is bipartisan. We just did that data. Don and Tim, you`re sticking around and staying with us. Coming up, what it will take to narrow the divide in this country in 2022 when THE 11TH HOUR continues.


MAXWELL: Democrats have a lot on the line heading into the new year. There`s voting rights, there`s whatever can be salvaged from the President`s Build Back Better agenda. And there`s the very identity of the party. Still with us, Don Calloway and Tim Miller. Don, will Democrats get Build Back Better passed and on Biden`s desk despite Joseph Manchin?

CALLOWAY: I don`t know. Hopefully. Possibly. Maybe. Yes. All the above. You know, the President`s got to figure it out what he can pass and that`s probably some pared down version of the bill.


But the President also has to be, and the Vice President, also had to be very aggressive in trying to figure out what they can do from executive orders. Because those executive orders can likely put some real things into place that could make not only the progressive, but the moderate base, if not happy, a little bit more satisfied that they`re making substantial progress.

Joe Biden can wipe out substantial amounts of federal student loan aid without going through the United States Congress. I think that`s well established and people who are thinking about these things, knowing that he has the authority to do so.

And I think it`s really time to examine what they can do through executive fiat. Of course, we know our previous two presidents have had no problem doing so. And he`s got to figure out how we can deliver for the American people, particularly the energy that he needs to come out to vote in November, without necessarily having to worry about Joe Manchin, it`s time to step aside from the clown show that is Joe Manchin, and his assistant Kyrsten Sinema and move on to have the conversation about what serious adults can do to make progress on a lot of important topics in this country.

MAXWELL: Speaking of clown show, Tim, on the right, you have the folks like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gozar, Lauren Boebert, they`ve seemed to be growing in power on the conservative side right now. I mean, do you think that they`re going to be the controlling influence over the Republican caucus going forward? Or do you think it could be more moderate folks, and Kevin McCarthy may become the speaker?

MILLER: Well, look, I think that Kevin McCarthy is actually so weak as a leader that is serving him within the House Caucus. And so, you know, I don`t see, you know, like an overthrow of the House Caucus for Lauren Boebert, or whatever is going to be running for Speaker of the House next time and winning.

I think that what you`ve seen over the past year is the Kevin McCarthy when he needs to just steps aside, lets them, you know, advance their crazy, lets them advance their conspiracy theories, and he demonstrates that he`s not going to try to fight with them, or punish them or control them in the way that Paul Ryan and John Boehner did. That`s what ended up you know, being the death knell of those two former Republican leaders in the House.

You know, they were seen as too hostile to the, you know, then insurgent Tea Party part of the right -- of the caucus, which is now, you know, a MAGA Tea Party, you know, conspiratorial monster that`s even -- has grown even wilder that since back then.

McCarthy has no interest in a fight with them. And so I think he`ll be able to stay as the leader of the party, but they are going to be the tail that wags the dog in the Congress, if Republicans take over and next year for sure.

MAXWELL: So Don, last question quickly, if Republicans do take over what`s the future of any agenda the President would want to put forward?

CALLOWAY: The only agenda that really matters is voting rights and preservation of democracy. And that is in serious peril. If Republicans take either chamber you won`t see a Democrat certified even after winning in `24. But it will have serious ramifications for cleaning up the patchwork of voter suppression laws we`ve seen in every state legislature throughout the past two years. And we really, democracy is in shambles if the President is not able to put forth substantial democracy and slash voting reform in the next nine months.

MAXWELL: Definitely do not want democracy in shambles in 2022. But our thanks to Don Calloway and Tim Miller for your incredible -- incredibly helpful analysis on the year ahead. Coming up, searching for an historical roadmap of any kind to help us maneuver the politics of 2020 when THE 11TH HOUR continuous.




REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If we allow a president to be above the law, we surely do to the peril of our republic.

HILLRAY CLINTON, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: I think that could be the end of our democracy not to be too, you know, appointed about it. But I want people to understand that this is a make or break point.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Our Constitution, the structure of our institutions and the rule of law, which are at the heart of what makes America great are at stake.


MAXWELL: Democrats have taken pains to sound the alarm. Our democracy is in jeopardy. Back with us tonight, celebrated author and presidential historian Michael Beschloss. And, Michael, this is the first time in American history that we can actually say, this is the year we had an insurrection. We actually did not have a peaceful transfer of power. Has that fact really sunk in you think?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, MSNBC PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think it hasn`t. And I think that is partly because there has been so much happening that people are a little bit numb. Look at the last four years that we went through. And this last year, all sorts of things that perhaps we weren`t prepared for this pandemic continuing and in certain ways, getting worse. The economy being more unpredictable than many had hoped for, you know, even the threat from Russia and China that was not something that many people thought was necessarily in the cards for the year 2021.

But the thing that certainly that I think is really out of history is a couple of things. Number one, you know, you go back in American history to the Constitution 1787. This is a country which has been remarkably unified. You know, we have all sorts of differences. But at moments of crisis, for instance, after Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt put say, let`s fight Hitler and the Japanese, most Americans did. In 1962, when there were missiles in Cuba, John Kennedy said, let`s stand up to the Russians tell them to get them out. Most Americans supported him. And that happened, that would not happen today. Because we`re living in a time of lies and conspiracy theories.

You know, Barack, Obama was supposedly born in Kenya or Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 or Joe Biden supposedly stole the election from Donald Trump. How many Republicans believe that according to one poll, 66 percent, that`s something we haven`t seen before.

But what I love about your whole discussion this whole hour and all of our friends is I agree with all of them, which is, if we don`t stand up for voting rights in 2022, it`s game over. The centerpiece of this democracy is a system of voting that allows us to elect people to office especially presidents, and take them out when they lose.

If you`ve got people refusing to certify someone who`s won in a full and fair election, it`s going to remind me of Mussolini in 1934. Mussolini by 1934 the fascists in Italy and established a one party system. 1934 elections, Mussolini`s party won by 99.84 percent.


Is that what we want? What I would say and I apologize for such a long answer, but it`s absolutely important. What I would say as a lot of Italians in 1934, said, You know, if this was so important, what were we doing in 1933 and 1932, we could have done so much to try to stop or at least slow down Mussolini. Let`s just say to all of our fellow Americans, don`t be someone like that, who gets to 2024 and our democracy is going out the window, and you couldn`t stop that.

MAXWELL: So what is the list of priorities going forward look like? What`s on the roadmap that you think we can and should follow? Because you`ve laid out there the fact that we really don`t -- we don`t have a roadmap, but if we did, what would it look like?

BESCHLOSS: Well, I think what this suggests is that we should look to the best in our country. And we`re going to have to find some way of picking through this, you know, this body guard of lies that I`m talking about, such as Joe Biden supposedly did not win the 2020 election.

If Pearl Harbor, let`s say happen right now, I would say many Americans, maybe even a majority would say, FDR did it to get us involved in World War II, or Roosevelt was operating on behalf of some foreign power, there would be a lot of doubt. And in 1962, people might have said about John Kennedy, and the missiles in Cuba, this was your fault. Therefore, we should turn away from your leadership. We`ve got to get back to that.

But at the same time, what makes democracy work is, you know, when we want one and civil rights, that didn`t happen, because John Kennedy, or Lyndon Johnson was a nice guy and said, you know, let`s give people the rights they deserved. It happened because people pushed on them and said, we demand this, voters had to do this, Americans had to do this.

And all I`m telling you is, if we see a silent generation in 2022, when we Americans do not demand of our leaders that our democracy be preserved, we will ruin it for the rest of our lives in our children`s lives. Voting Rights has to be the paramount issue, the issue of survival in America in 2022. And that`s just two days away.

MAXWELL: So, so important, Michael, thankfully, you have agreed to stay just a little bit longer because we`re going to try to leave everybody with a little bit of hope. Up next, why Michael sees at least some reason to hope in the New Year and that`s ahead.



MAXWELL: Nearly a year since an attempted coup on our capitol, in the midst of a global pandemic and facing down a continued assault on our democracy at the ballot box, one could be forgiven for a sense of hopelessness but still with us as Michael Beschloss. And he says we should have some hope.

Michael, you mentioned before the break, it`s up to voters, ordinary Americans to step forward and try to help American democracy survive. So, let`s go there. How do we do that?

BESCHLOSS: Well, that`s what`s wonderful about our country. And I think there`s a lot of reason for hope, Zerlina. What I don`t want to do is in 2023, after our democracy is going out the window hearing people say, Gee, I was distracted, I was doing other things. Sure. Wish I had lifted a finger to save democracy and elections for our children. That`s the way our system works.

And if you look at American history, and if you study it, and if you love it the way I do, and I know you do, go back to 1787, and all the years since. This is not in any way, a perfect country. But it`s a country that in general tends to improve, because we Americans demanded. We get over economic crises, we get out of war, we get over unfairness, sometimes it`s one step forward, another step back, and we`ve gotten over pandemics, the pandemic of 1918, influenza, saved 675,000 people dead with no help from a President Woodrow Wilson in office who basically tried to hutch (ph) it up.

So all I would say is, as we`re looking to a congressional election, the fall of next year, let`s make it autocracy versus freedom. I think most Americans can make a pretty clear choice if that`s what`s presented to them. And let`s just be absolutely honest about this. There is the chance that 2022 has the capability of being the last full and free election of our lifetimes. I don`t think we want that for the children of this country.

MAXWELL: Well, it is a lot to keep in mind as we end this year and head into the next one. But I love talking to historians because it -- it`s so helpful to have all of it put into the right perspective. Michael Beschloss, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

BESCHLOSS: Thanks Zerlina.

MAXWELL: Wonderful, Happy New Year.

BESCHLOSS: Happy New Year, I think. Thank you.

MAXWELL: Happy New Year, we think. Coming up the memorable images of yet another eventful year when the last 11TH HOUR of 2021 continues.



MAXWELL: Last thing before we go tonight. 2021 was a bit of a roller coaster if I do say so myself. Deep division change hope all in the middle of an unrelenting pandemic. Let`s take a look back at the year in photos chosen by our NBC News photo editors.

That is our broadcast for this Thursday night with our thanks for being with us. On behalf of all of my colleagues at the networks have NBC News, good night and have a very happy and healthy New Year.