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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 11/29/21

Guests: Yamiche Alcindor, Philip Rucker, Chuck Rosenberg, Juanita Tolliver, Bill Kristol, Vin Gupta


The President urged vaccinations in the face of the omicron variant, but stressed it was "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic. The January 6 Committee is considering a vote on holding former Justice Dept. official Jeffrey Clark in contempt of Congress. And as lawmakers return to Capitol Hill, deadlines loom on government funding, the debt ceiling and Biden`s agenda.




BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, day 314 of the Biden administration as our country braces for yet another new variant in the nearly two-year old pandemic. Now the Centers for Disease Control is strengthening its recommendations for boosters. Now saying all adults should get a booster shot period. More on that just ahead in tonight`s broadcast.

Also this evening, this week that will bring us December brings us on the verge of the next confrontation between that House Committee investigating the Capitol riot and insurrection. And a Trump loyalist who straight up refuses to tell what he knows about the effort to keep Joe Biden out of the White House.

The 1/6 Committee today says it intends to vote day after tomorrow on whether to begin contempt of Congress proceedings against this man former Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark. Committee says he refuses to answer questions about the attempts to use the DOJ to push the big lie. According to a Senate Judiciary report, Clark was instrumental in that effort.

A contemporary furl would make him the second person after Steve Bannon to potentially face criminal charges for defying congressional investigators.

One member of the House leadership says the committee has no choice but to move against witnesses who themselves refuse to cooperate.


REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI) HOUSE DEPUTY WHIP: You have to use every tool we can to get to the truth. There has to be a consequence to the failure to follow the law.


WILLIAMS: The Committee has yet to announce any action against former Trump Chief of Staff former member of Congress, for that matter, Mark Meadows, who has also failed to comply. However, one of the two Republicans serving on the panel predicts he may not have to wait long to find out where these members stand.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (D-IL): I expect that there is going to be movement, particularly on Mark Meadows that we`ll know about shortly in the next day, next two days or so. This Committee is going to get to answers. We`re going to do what we need to do. We`re not going to rush anything. But we`re also going to make sure we`re not allowing, you know, Trump and his folks to drag this out to get to the end of this Congress. We are going to get this done.


WILLIAMS: And back to Steve Bannon here for a second, he`s charged with two counts of contempt of Congress for denying his subpoena. Now the feds are accusing him of trying to turn his trial into a media circus. Imagine that.

They`re asking a judge to prevent him from making public and exploiting documents that he gets from the Justice Department during the trial. Bannon has based his refusal to cooperate with the 1/6 investigation on Trump`s misleading legal claim that executive privilege somehow prevents the release of White House records. Trump is fighting a ruling that would force him in fact to turn over those records to the committee. Tomorrow the federal appeals court in the case will hear arguments from both sides.

Aside from the 1/6 inquiry, the next few weeks are going to be pretty critical for the House and Senate. Democrats are under pressure to pass Biden`s social policy bill. Schumer said again today wants to get it to the President by Christmas.

Federal agencies run out of money at midnight this Friday. And the Treasury Secretary warns the nation`s borrowing limit has to be raised by 15 December.

As if that`s not enough, it appears we`re entering a new phase of the pandemic with the emergence of the fast moving Omicron variant. First dent identified in South Africa several days ago. Cases have been seen in several nations since nothing in this country yet but the President today stressed the U.S. is tracking the new variant and will be prepared for a potential outbreak.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic. We have more tools today to fight the variant than we`ve ever had before. From vaccines to boosters on Thursday, I`ll be putting forward a detailed strategy outline how we`re going to fight COVID this winter, not with shut downs and lockdowns with more widespread vaccinations, boosters testing and more.


WILLIAMS: The White House did move to impose travel restrictions for non- U.S. citizens from eight nations in southern Africa. Biden said the move will help slow the spread of the variant.

As we mentioned CDC just tonight strengthening its COVID booster recommendation saying all adults should get them. And NBC News has confirmed Pfizer reportedly plans to ask the FDA in coming days to authorize its booster shots for 16 and 17 year olds. We`ll have more on the new variant later in this hour.

There are two other stories that make our radar tonight. This was day one in the federal court criminal trial of Ghislaine Maxwell. She`s accused of procuring underage girls for convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who you`ll recall died in prison two years ago while awaiting trial on Federal sex trafficking charges.


And on Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a closely watched case involving a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. This case is being seen by many as a direct challenge to Roe versus Wade.

And it comes during an interesting time when the talk on the anti-abortion political right is all about body autonomy, at least where vaccines and masks are concerned.

Well, with that, let`s bring in our starting line for a Monday night. Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, moderator of Washington Week also on PBS. Phil Rucker, Pulitzer Prize winning senior Washington correspondent for The Washington Post, co-author with Carol Leonnig of the New York Times bestseller, I alone Can Fix It. And Chuck Rosenberg, a Justice Department veteran, former U.S. attorney and former senior FBI official, good evening, and welcome to you all.

Yamiche, I`d like to begin with you and that building you cover for a living. Let`s talk about the White House responding to this variant amid kind of cat calls from Republicans, especially on social media, that Biden failed to stop the pandemic, some of them the same people calling the pandemic a hoax in earlier time. So amid all the noise and distractions, the Biden administration has to do what they see fit?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS NEWSHOUR WHITE HOSUE CORRESPONDENT: That`s right. And President Biden essentially said today that his administration is focused on this variant doesn`t want people to panic. But it`s also making contingency plans if a new vaccine or more treatments are needed.

The President also took of course this the step that`s being criticized, which is to ban travel from South Africa as well as a number of Southern African countries. Now, of course, the backlash of that has been that those southern African countries, including the president of South Africa, and a number of African scientists have said that this is really the Biden administration and wealthy nations like Europe and the United States, punishing African countries for finding this variant and for developing the science.

Now, of course, the Biden administration has really pushed back on that. I was pressing the White House Press Secretary today because there have been a number of people who`ve said that this is not the right move. But the President is standing firm saying this is the best way to protect Americans.

On that point of the GOP, I think it is very ironic to hear, of course, Republicans who have called the pandemic at one point a hoax who have downplayed the need to be vaccinated to now turn around and try to fight the president.

But also this in some ways is on brand for Republicans because they have been successful in really politicizing the pandemic and really getting a lot of people energized to support the Republican Party by in a lot of times, spreading false information about the vaccines and the pandemic and mass.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, let`s go back to tonight`s other story. And that is the committee action. Remind us by dint of your reporting, for your books, and for the daily journalism in the Washington Post, remind us who Jeffrey Clark is and what his potential 1/6 exposure is.

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brian, Jeffrey Clark is not exactly a household name. He`s not Steve Bannon, somebody we`ve been hearing a lot about the last four years. But he was a very influential figure in the final months of the administration. He was a senior official at the Justice Department, who was in contact directly with President Trump in the months following the election, talking about the so called Big Lie about Trump`s election fraud lie.

And he actually was taking measures to try to pressure state legislators in Georgia to delay certification of Joe Biden`s win in that state as part of a broader scheme with them President Trump and other Trump allies to effectively subvert the election results to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power and to try to keep Trump in power.

He was an official at the Justice Department who was seen as someone who could take over as the acting Attorney General if there were an effort to oust then acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. That, of course, did not come to fruition.

But this is -- these are many of the reasons why the January 6 Committee and Congress wants to question Jeffrey Clark and wants to have access to the documents that they`ve subpoenaed from him.

Clark`s lawyers maintained that Clark had nothing to do with the events of January 6. They have said in a statement to the committee, that Clark was not actually at the Justice Department at his offices that because He`s stayed home to avoid the traffic problems and I`ve tried to present their client as somebody who`s not worth questioning because he just doesn`t know anything about the attack on the Capitol.


But it`s very clear that the committee is interested in Clark for what he knew in the days leading up to the attack on the Capitol, and for his direct personal communications with them, President Trump.

WILLIAMS: Next over to chuck Rosenberg. Counselor, let`s talk about this committee and the levers at their disposal that they can pull the engaged left let`s call it to use a Steve Bannon phrase, want heads on pikes? They want to see action and they want it yesterday. Here is former Senator Claire McCaskill on our network today, not sounding bullish on the ability of the committee to get this done in a timely fashion.


FMR. SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO): I think we may be watching the slow moving but inevitable destruction of the ability of Congress to do meaningful oversight. My message is Department of Justice is get on it. Do not act like Feds here, act like state prosecutors, go fast that they don`t get moving. This is all about running out the clock and I say to the January 6 Committee and DOJ get going guys Quit stalling and tread and go.


WILLIAMS: So counselor, when a former senator talks like that it is bound to get attention. Take on her point in chief and to your knowledge. Are there levers open to them that they are not pulling for those people who want to see consequences?

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, Brian, Congress doesn`t have all the authority that Congress might like to have. For instance, it can`t prosecute anyone for anything ever that power, that authority to prosecute, resides wholly within the executive branch, not the legislative branch.

And so Senator McCaskill is making a good point about the fact that some of the witnesses want to run out the clock. I don`t completely agree with her, though, that the feds are slow rolling this or that they have to act like state prosecutors. Maybe I`m just defensive because I was fed.

But before you charge somebody, you better make sure you have everything you need to convict that person. In fact, that`s required of us as federal prosecutors ascertaining that we have a reasonable probability of conviction.

So, if Congress sends a referral to the Department of Justice, it ought to look at it closely. It ought to determine what evidence it has, what`s relevant and what`s admissible.

The Department of Justice didn`t take a long time deciding about Steve battens case, it was several weeks. And that seems appropriate to me. Before you charge somebody with a federal crime, you ought to make sure that you can prove they committed a federal crime.

So, two points in some nation, Congress doesn`t have the authority that it hopes to have because it can`t prosecute anyone for anything. It has to refer it. And the Department of Justice ought to make careful, principled deliberative decisions about who gets charged and who doesn`t.

WILLIAMS: Perhaps the senator should be a guest on your upcoming edition of your podcast, The Oath. Yamiche, Democrats worry about things like the optics of a democratic White House going after the inner circle of the previous president.

Is it enough that given democratic worries, the White House can lay all of that off on the committee and say, you know, not seeing here, not our concern, we got a country to run.

ALCINDOR: In some ways, I think it helps the Biden administration. And when I talk to White House officials, you get the sense that they really want to be seen as being about the business of the American people. We`re in the middle of a pandemic. We have a new variant. There`s inflation. People are paying more for gas and food. There`s also a government shutdown looming. There`s infrastructure to get passed. So there`s a number of things that President Biden really wants to focus on.

And when it comes to really talking about the January 6 investigations and what happened there, in some ways, the President has been very clear that he thinks it`s a very, very serious thing. It`s why you`ve seen him waving executive privilege for these initial documents that have been requested by the lawmakers, but they really can`t in some way, say Congress is going to handle that because we`re so focused on these other things.

I also think Democrats, I get the sense politically, that Democrats want to be able to say we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can have a president who is passing historic bills, who`s getting health care and all sorts of things done while also at the same time, we`re looking at this sort of amazing terrible day, on January 6, where our American democracy was almost brought to its knees. That`s equally as important and also needs to be looked at and we`re not going to let that go.


WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, do you have any intel on other road trips the President has planned both to emphasize what`s coming on infrastructure and help pressure senators on the social spending bill. That`s part one. And part two, is anyone in that White House really expecting to see the President`s signature on this spending bill, let`s call it the Joe Manchin Act, between now and Christmas?

RUCKER: Well, Brian, the President would certainly like that to be able to sign that piece of paper, it would be a Christmas gift to his agenda and his political fortunes. Look, the President is planning to be in Minnesota this week. And we can expect I would imagine to see additional domestic travel between now and Christmas. But he has a lot of pressures right now converging on him.

As you Yamiche mentioned, the economy and inflation is a huge concern. It`s something that a lot of American families are feeling right now, especially with the holidays approaching, and Biden has a political imperative to get out in front of that to show leadership and show that he`s thinking about how much the average family is spending on gas and food and everything else, first and foremost.

And so there`s an optics issue here, if it appears that the White House is focused too much on this spending bill, and not enough on the daily pressures that people are facing at the supermarket and the gas station. He could pay a political price for that. But there`s certainly a lot of candles burning late at night at the White House, so to speak, to try to get Manchin and Senator Sinema on board with this measure.

Remember, this is the bill that passed the House shortly before Thanksgiving. It was a big deal for it to pass there. It is now in the Senate, where it`s being held up. Senator -- Senate Leader Schumer has promised to try to bring it to the floor and get that vote before Christmas, it`s likely that of course the Senate could end up changing the bill. So it then have to go to a conference committee.

But it`s unclear exactly what those changes might be. And this is a really messy and complicated negotiation that we`ve seen play out for months. So it would take a lot to have it come to completion in a few weeks. We have between now and Christmas.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Chuck, let`s back up. I have one more question about the work of the 1/6 committee specifically this kind of side matter between Trump, the Committee and the National Archives. Is it possible for us to say that all claims of executive privilege that aren`t in the realm of national security, these claims that cover potential, the President`s phone log text messages and the like from one six? Is that all outside the bounds of a privilege claim?

ROSENBERG: Very likely so Brian, for simple reason. President Trump is actually former President Trump and the Supreme Court said in the 1977 opinion that former presidents might have some residual executive privilege. But the way we determine that is by asking the current President, Joe Biden, whether he`s going to honor it. If a current President is not going to honor or support a former president`s claim of executive privilege, it really doesn`t exist.

So, I understand why President Trump is litigating it. As Senator McCaskill said earlier, they`d like to run out the clock. I get the strategy. But as a legal matter, there really is no privilege left for a former president.

And so all those types of documents you mentioned really are not privileged. I imagine at the end of the day, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that his hearing argument tomorrow is going to sustain the lower court judge and find that there is no privilege and the documents have to be turned over to the committee.

WILIAMS: Chuck Rosenberg, Phil Rucker, Yamiche Alcindor great thanks to our starting line on this first night of the new week. Coming up for us after our first break. This will be a long week leading up to a long December for Democrats in Congress, as we mentioned, can they get everything done that they want? We`ll ask our political experts what happens if they don`t.

And later the new variant of interest dominates the weekends conversation. We`ll ask Dr. Vin Gupta just how concerned we all need to be. All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Monday night as we look at the white house decorated for the first Christmas for this first family.




SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I think what we need to do is just really look to grow what we have right now what came from the House. That`s what I`ve been doing. I heard an awful lot over the Thanksgiving break that, you know, the prices were high and people were very much upset about that and are concerned about inflation going to get worse. So talking about all that.


WILLIAMS: So it must be Monday, nothing new there from West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin. His party and here`s our weekly reminder that he is a Democrat would very much like to pass the social spending bill.

And along the way, maybe Oh, I don`t know fund the Pentagon and avert a government shutdown. Back with us tonight, our two friends, Juanita Tolliver, veteran political strategist to progressive candidates and causes and Bill Kristol, author, writer, thinker and Politico. He is a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, editor-at-large at The bulwark. Good evening to you both.

Juanita, without trying to spin your modest host, how much pressure are the Democrats under and what percentage of this stuff are they going to get by New Year`s Eve?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: They`re under immense pressure. And I`m not even going to guess at the percentage. How about let me project what they should get done. 100 percent of it. They absolutely have to do basic things like fund the government and raise the debt limit and fun whatever, like other essential budgets, right, like that has to be done as well as the Build Back Better Act because this is what Democrats have promised to voters, the same voters who turned out in mass during the pandemic to give them the House, the Senate and the White House in 2020, right, like this is what they have to deliver on.

And honestly, failure at this point isn`t an option, especially when your only barrier is other Democrats. There is no way to turn that around to voters in district or in states going into the midterms and they absolutely must deliver because I`m sure voters are looking at Democrats like you promised us this for years and years.


You promised that you`ll protect our democracy, you promised that you`ll protect our voting rights, you promise you`ll protect our reproductive rights create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, as well as help us prepare and help us take care of our families, our elders, our children.

So what gives? Right. And these are the same voters that Democrats are going to be relying on to turnout heavily enthusiastically in 2022. So the heat is on right now. And they absolutely have to deliver because we know any type of infighting, the polls show in fighting against false like Manchin and Sinema is bringing the entire Democratic Party down, especially with that`s what we`ve seen with Biden`s approval numbers.

And so voters are over it. Voters simply want Democrats to deliver on the agenda they`ve been promising for years.

WILLIAMS: And Bill, that nicely gets us right back to the messaging conversation, the three of us have had a lot. What good is a deliverable if you don`t tell the customer what`s being delivered to their home, their town, their state their country?

BILL KRISTOL, THE BULWARK EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes, and the trouble with this legislation or troubles not fair, but one aspect of it is a lot isn`t delivered for a year or two or three, or it`s delivered indirectly in ways that could well help the country.

I guess I have a slightly different view of all this. I think they obviously need to get the government open they need to raise the debt limit. And then I think actually, they`re not going to get anything else done in my view in this month. I care a lot about the democracy legislation, the election legislation. There`s no real evidence that`s moving this month. I care a lot about immigration. And I don`t -- I personally think the Biden administration should have done much more in that. There`s no evidence that`s moving this month, maybe Build Back Better, I`m dubious about that.

What do people have a sense of urgency about Omicron? I mean, I don`t know where different people were Thanksgiving over the last few days, as the news broke. Every conversation I`ve had from Uber drivers to, you know, friends and politics to relatives, has been about Omicron.

If Biden can show real leadership on this, he can get out ahead more frankly that he -- did a few times in the last several months on testing, if you can make clear that there`ll be money for a new vaccine, if necessary, that he`s willing to make the FDA makes that right, but really push the FDA to go faster over some of these bureaucratic roadblocks.

I think spending $100 billion on vaccines and testing now it would be much more favorably received by the American public, then whatever 100 billion dollars you like in one bite, like in the Build Back Better legislation.

So I guess I would say this other stuff is not going to happen anyway, in the next three or four weeks. You got to do that limit you`ve got to do keep the government open, and then focus 100 percent on COVID.

WILLIAMS: I think indeed, I had an Omicron digital watch in 1970. I will agree with you that it drove a lot of conversation over these past four days in America and there is little to no appetite whatsoever for another top to bottom shutdown. Oh, look at the time.

Hey, Juanita, I`ve got a quote for you here from Politico. With the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law, Democratic lawmakers and party leaders say Biden needs to relentlessly hammer GOP lawmakers for opposing his economic priorities, and hampering progress on the pandemic and inflation.

So a serious question, do you, Juanita, give him hell Joe, is not the Joe Biden, we know it`s not the Joe Biden that ran for president. So, how can he channel the haberdasher from Kansas City by going give them help?

TOLLIVER: I think it`s two-prongs to this Brian, right. He should absolutely hold Republicans accountable, call them out in his own way. Because he has done it in the past, but name and shame as much as it comes out that Republicans are taking credit for what Democrats deliver on their own or largely on their own. And make sure to name that in explicit instances as it happens. That`s something that Biden has done in his first year so far. And he absolutely can do that.

I think the other side that Biden is going to need to do is to highlight the positive impacts here, right, like that is what I think he needs to continue to do every time he`s out on the trail. Every time his Cabinet members are out, every time vice president Harris is out is lay out their positive solutions because we also know Republicans offer none of those.

So drawing that contrast isn`t hard. I think that Biden should fully be empowered to do it in his own way and rely on other campaign committees whether that`s the DNC the D trip (ph), or DFCC to do the additional dirty work in the politics -- in political messaging game that we know and love.

But Biden should absolutely stay true to himself hold Republicans accountable, but also set it up and deliver his positive message. And the impact that his legislation is having.


WILLIAMS: Both of our friends have agreed to stay with us over this break. Coming up. He is among the more outrageous people ever to serve in the leadership of the House. So, how does he deal with his more outrageous members?


WILLIAMS: Shortly after Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene said Kevin McCarthy, quote doesn`t have the votes to be speaker. Greene posted this on social media and we quote, I just got off a good call with GOP Leader McCarthy. We spent time talking about solving problems not only in the conference, but for our country. I like what he has planned ahead.

Still with us thankfully, Juanita Tolliver and Bill Kristol. Bill, I have a reading from the book of Charlie Sykes, your friend and Bulwark colleague, quote, if McCarthy does not appears Greene, she and the other deplorables might withhold their votes from McCarthy denying him once again the dearest object of his ambition. That ambition which has slipped from his grasp before is the passion and obsession of McCarthy`s life. It is the lodestar that guides his every action and utterance.

Bill, what does it say that the House Republican leader might indeed have to suck up to a woman who is both a CrossFit and conspiracy aficionado and has zero committee assignments?

KRISTOL: And does not -- as an election, the truth denier, big lie frauder, an anti-vaccination person. What it says is the Republican Party`s in very bad shape. Not a newsflash there. But reinforcement of that is Charlie Sykes argued. Again, if I could just tie it into the previous discussion.

The anti-vaccine -- vaccination stuff is more startling now, as we face this, unfortunately, this new variant, which let us hope is not more severe, but probably is going to be spread more easily it looks like than the existing ones. Unfortunately, more vaccines, we might need new vaccines, much more testing, to reassure people if it spreads. So we don`t have to shut down a whole classroom or school if one feature comes up with it, hopefully a minor breakthrough kind of situation.

I mean, I think Biden should just go after them on COVID. He should propose more money for testing, more money to develop new vaccines to push the boosters more to make them even more accessible, to promote them, and let them Republicans explain why that`s not a good idea.

I think changing the debate would help Biden and maybe there`d be some splits among Republicans, maybe a few Republicans think that in the face of dangerous new variant, that`s what the federal debt -- that is worth spending money on. And that`s something that it`s a little harder for them to oppose, then more traditional Democratic big spending programs.

WILLIAMS: Juanita, I talk to somebody today who said about largely us in the news media every moment every day we waste saying McCarthy has been silent on Congresswoman Boebert. McCarthy has been silent on Greene and their ilk. We`re just playing by the old rules. It`s a waste of time and breath and effort because of course this is on brand for them. Do you agree?

TOLLIVER: I think it`s on brand for them. I don`t think it`s a waste of time to call it out, especially when these extremist members are now the mainstream of the GOP, right? Like every time that you name that McCarthy was silent about Gosar`s death threats. McCarthy was silent about Marjorie Taylor Greene harassing other members and making her own racist harmful statements. The silence around Boebert and the lack of willingness to hold any of these people accountable.

While, on the flip side, the only person McCarthy does hold accountable is the one Republican who called Trump`s 2020 lies lies for what they were, right. Like, it just shows how far the GOP has gone. I think we can expect even more of it heading into the midterms. And the fact that McCarthy and Republicans refused to rein this in, just shows the direction they`re on. They`re doing this for the same reason McCarthy went down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss Trump`s ring days after the January 6 attack.

His allegiances lie with Trump and doing whatever it takes to appeal to Trump`s base. We know that right now with folks like Representative Boebert telling stand up sets about and lying about other members and spewing dangerous anti-Muslim rhetoric. That is the line that they want to play. And that`s the line they`re going to continue to play.

I think the other thing to emphasize here is that, in saying these things, they`re creating a very dangerous and harmful work environment for all of the members, especially the members of color and the women of color in Congress. And I`m grateful that Democrats are the only one standing up whereas McCarthy has demonstrated he cannot be a leader. He`s incapable of it and unwilling to be the leader that the GOP needs in this moment.

WILLIAMS: Two friends of ours for good reason, Bill Kristol and joined tonight by her beautiful, impeccable Christmas tree, Juanita Tolliver, thank you both. We`ll be talking along the way.

Coming up for us. Dr. Vin Gupta joins our broadcast to tell us what we know, what we need to know more importantly, about this new variant we`ve been talking about that`s already cutting down on travel around the world again.




STEPHANE BANCEL, MODERNA CEO: It would be months before the Omicron specific variants is ready to ship in massive quantities. We might decide on one hand to start getting a higher dose of a current vaccine around the world to better protect people.

ALBERT BOURLA, PFIZER CEO AND CHAIRMAN: Friday, we made our first DNA template which is the first part of the manufacturing -- of the development process. We have made multiple times clear that we will be able to have a vaccine in less than 100 days.


WILLIAMS: Those are two important CEOs right there. Vaccine makers now have to tinker with their weapons in the face of a new incoming threat. But what should we all do? And what can we all due about this? It`s why we are happy and fortunate to have back with us tonight Dr. Vin Gupta, a critical care pulmonologist in Seattle who has advised us on public health throughout this. He`s also on faculty at the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Doctor, let`s start by me playing for you another doctor named Fauci from tonight on this network. We`ll discuss his comments on the other side.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: We need to know if in practical purposes, that that spells out to a really high degree of transmissibility and whether or not when it does infect someone, whether it causes severe disease and those things we`re going to know, Joy, in about a couple of weeks, a week and a half, two weeks, at the most three weeks.


WILLIAMS: So doctor the important questions for you tonight. How should this if at all affect our behavior moving around the world tonight, tomorrow the next day? How worried should we be based on the thin evidence available so far?

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, good evening, Brian. Great to see you. To layer on to what Dr. Fauci said for all your viewers out there. The reason and this comes from a pulmonologist why you get vaccinated against a contagious respiratory virus is to keep you out of the hospital.

Brian, you know, for your family, for my family, for all the viewer`s families out there in addition to themselves, the reason we encourage you to get a flu shot is not to keep you from testing positive but to keep you out of the hospital. It`s well worn. Flu shots against a contagious influenza virus will not prevent you from mild symptoms are testing positive, keep you away from seeing somebody like me.

Same thing now, as we battle this current variant as a sigma or a theta variant arises sometime in late 2022 is inevitable. We need to have clarity on what we`re aiming for here. Vaccines to keep you out of the hospital. There has been no vaccine in history, Brian, against a contagious respiratory virus be a Coronavirus, or something we battled in the past something we`re bound to battle in the future that will prevent you from testing positive or developing mild symptoms, which is why be vigilant enjoy the holidays mask when you`re in an airplane cabin, get a booster soldered that additional third shot as I like to call it if you`re here in the United States since we have the luxury of that but then go about your business.


WILLIAMS: I listened with great interest to your comments with Nicolle Wallace this afternoon and you pointed out with such great clarity. We kind of need to declare this regimen is three shots. And so all these public places that demand proof of vaccination, you and I are not alone and saying hey, wait a minute, what really does that mean now? And I`ll ask you that question. And when we`re all probably headed for our fourth?

GUPTA: Well, it`s your point, definitions matter. I cannot tell you, Brian, how many people, organizations lean on the CDC and the link that was last updated on the CDC website on October 15. Your viewers can check it out. Google CDC fully vaccinated definition, update on October the 15th 2021 says that you`re fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose of the vaccine in most cases, that needs to be updated.

If we`re saying that you need the third dose and that in the setting of this new variant to prevent you from seeing somebody like me, we need to update the definition. Because I`ll tell you right now, those that are unvaccinated that are reachable, are asking me well, Hey, Doc, how does that make any sense? I thought I only needed two. What about three?

If this initial series is intended to keep us away from the hospital, that initial series like the hepatitis series we get when we`re younger requires three shots, well, then that`s OK. We`re learning as we`re going we have to update it to maintain consistency, and sort of a logical train of thought here so people can understand follow along.

WILLIAMS: I`m just a lay person here. But I`m certainly going on the assumption that somewhere tonight, somewhere this past weekend, somebody landed at JFK at LAX at SeaTac. And they`ve got this variant that it`s here. It just hasn`t -- it hasn`t popped up in a measurable way, perhaps a hole in our testing. Do you concur? Is that your assumption?

GUPTA: Absolutely. This variant is already here in the United States, we have to operate under that assumption. We need to let go of these travel bans that are punitive, they send the wrong message. They`re not going to promote data transparency. Lastly, say that early signals, let me emphasize early, we have out of South Africa, Brian, out of the Netherlands where we have that plane go from Johannesburg, to Amsterdam. What we know amongst those that are testing positive with this variant are that they either have mild symptoms if they`re fully vaccinated, or they`re asymptomatic.

So it`s not to say that we don`t need to wait a few weeks to really fully feel confident in that. But it does seem like the vaccines are holding up. And that`s a really good thing. And that emphasizes the initial point that we`re just talking about that the purpose of vaccination against a contagious respiratory virus, be it Omicron now or whatever we`re facing down the road is to keep you out of the hospital.

WILLIAMS: I can`t thank you enough for making the time to take our questions. I know our viewers find your answers in measurably valuable. Dr. Vin Gupta, we remain so grateful for his insight as this pandemic it seems marches on.

Coming up for us. Attention holiday shoppers, your biggest fear doesn`t have to be the supply chain shortages. How about the fear of a dozen guys in black hoods laying waste to the store you are shopping in.



WILLIAMS: If you watched any non-pandemic related national news over the break we just had then you saw the pictures and heard the eyewitness accounts. Gangs of thieves, some of them violent, overwhelming, mostly high end stores and several U.S. cities but not all, in some cases, smashing the place up as the shoplifting gangs swoop in and then steal and scatter. We get our report on this tonight from NBC News correspondent Miguel Almaguer.


MIGUEL ALMAGUER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The chaotic and increasingly dangerous crime sprees are now unfolding in more cities, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Minneapolis. On some of the busiest shopping days of the year, flash mobs with upwards of 80 people armed with hammers and crowbars are smashing and grabbing their way through high end retailers as terrified shoppers and employees are threatened with their lives.

DEVONTE PITRE, PRIME 356 OWNER: We built this thing on our hands. This is our baby and just to see a violet is crazy.

ALMAGUER (on camera): While well-known luxury retailers are often targeted, including those here on Rodeo Drive. It`s often small businesses paying the biggest price.

(voice-over): After this min San Francisco`s Union Square, a mom and pop jeweller was robbed of $250,000 in goods in three minutes. Another retailer nearby is now spending $30,000 a month on 24/7 security. The cost of doing business could put many out of business.

BEN DUGAN, NATIONAL COALITION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT PRESIDENT: It is absolutely organized crime. It does look like chaos, but it is really very, very organized and choreographed.

ALMAGUER: In Oakland while a news crew covered smash-and-grab crimes their security guard was shot and killed. To prevent another disaster, some are reducing hours and allowing fewer people inside. For far too many the most joyful time of the year is quickly becoming the most dangerous. Miguel Almaguer, NBC News.


WILLIAMS: Now quickly, this experiment, think about how that story makes you feel about your country or society about your safety while shopping this season. And we`ll talk after the break about those who are banking on you feeling that way.



WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, that last story we aired just before the break about the recent spate of smash-and-grab robberies. While they are isolated, they are also violent and brazen. They are getting a lot of coverage for good reason and think about the effect on our country our psyche, fearing for your safety in a mall or a store, especially over the holidays and on top of everything else there is to fear like the number of guns in our society and this week`s latest COVID strain.

Overtime trends like this and stories like these make us feel bad about our country and that`s where the Russians come in. For little or no money using a network of bots and sympathizers, the Russians are super aggregators. They give a boost to whatever stories or trends make us feel bad from the Rittenhouse verdict to gang robberies at an Apple store in New York or LA. Their goal is anything that drives us apart, anything to turn American against American and that is where Ted Cruz comes in.

The headline and The Bulwark reads as follows. Meet the Texas secessionist movement brought to you by Russia. The article starts off this way. A couple of weeks ago Senator Ted Cruz was speaking at Texas A&M when someone asked him his thoughts on the Texas secessionist movement. He replied that he wasn`t there yet.

It is important to understand that the modern secession movement is not a product of Lone Star pride. It`s an idea that has been force fed into the American conservative movement by Russia. Secession is one of the Kremlin`s active measures campaigns, promote fringe wackos abroad and hope that eventually they break something. This may not sound like much of a plan, but it sometimes works. Putin has been openly building his portfolio of wackos for a while and the wackos have begun breaking things.

Perhaps you`re old enough to remember a time when a U.S. senator any and all U.S. senators would dismiss any talk of succession as crazy and fringe and something a few southerners tried some years back that didn`t end well.

Back when we call them the Soviets the idea of the Russians tinkering with our American society say nothing of interfering in our presidential elections and breaking down the postwar Atlantic Alliance was that was abhorrent 50 years ago, but grievance politics, social media and it`s cheap anonymity, years of gaslighting and frog boiling the fact that so few are left alive who fought in a world war. Add all that up and suddenly fewer people see democracy as worth fighting for.


It`s part of the slow death of both truth and consequences.

And that is our broadcast on this Monday evening as we start a new week together with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.