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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 11/30/21

Guests: Ashley Parker, Carol Leonnig, Paul Butler, Irwin Redlener, Jason Johnson, Tim Miller


o-Chairs Thompson and Cheney have said they "will continue to assess" the Trump Chief of Staff`s compliance going forward. Georgia`s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, spent four hours answering the committee`s questions earlier today. And, the White House is redoubling it`s pandemic response in the face of the new Omicron variant.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said Mark Meadows who remember is a former House member himself, has already submitted documents and will soon appear for a deposition.

Thompson added in a statement quote, the Select Committee expects all witnesses including Mr. Meadows to provide all information requested and that the select committee is lawfully entitled to receive. The committee will continue to assess his degree of compliance with our subpoena after the deposition, so a lot could happen there in the middle.

Vice chair of the committee Liz Cheney tells Politico the deposition will likely take place next week. NBC News confirming the 1/6 Committee interviewed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger today for over four hours. He told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he quote spoke at length with members of the House Select Committee about a notorious January phone call with Trump, in which Raffensperger refused the then president`s demands to find enough votes in Georgia to overcome his deficit.

Tomorrow the Committee is expected to begin contempt of Congress proceedings against this guy, Jeffrey Clark, he`s the former DOJ official said had been involved in Trump`s effort to overturn the election.

Clark has already appeared before the committee but refused to answer any questions.

Committee is also awaiting a decision from an appeals court on its request for Trump`s White House documents from January 6. That court heard today from Trump`s lawyers about his claim of executive privilege and why he should be allowed to keep those documents secret from that day.

NBC News reporting the judges seemed skeptical of Trump`s claim. Good many lawyers who were listening in agree. The committee argues those documents are essential for a final report on what led to the insurrection.


REP. PETE AGUILAR, (D-CA) JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE: Ultimately, our goal here is to produce a document to gather as much information as possible both in witness interviews and in those documents from the National Archives that will help tell the story of January 5th and January 6th, the rallies and insurrection from the assault on democracy.


WILLIAMS: Also tonight, the Biden White House is trying to get ahead of this Omicron COVID variant ramping up efforts to detect the new strain in our country. There are still no cases reported here in the United States, but officials are increasing surveillance across the country, especially at all cities with international airports like New York, Atlanta, Newark, San Francisco, but in plain English, it`s a matter of time before it gets here.

White House officials tell NBC News tighter requirements for international travel are also under consideration. That could include stricter testing rules. Today, the President was asked What else might be on the table.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you considering any new vaccine requirements or efforts to try to get more Americans vaccinated? You said that is the key to protecting against Omicron. Is there anything you`re going to do?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I`ll be talking about that on Thursday.


WILLIAMS: Today came word that the Omicron strain may have been detected in Europe days before any other travel restrictions were imposed. The emergence of this new variant is also raising questions about the protection we get from our existing vaccines prompting this from Dr. Fauci.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Vaccines and particularly boosters give a level of antibody that even with variants like delta, give you a degree of price protection, particularly against severe disease.


WILLIAMS: Moderna`s CEO was among those suggesting today that the current vaccines might be less effective in battling the new variant. His comments as well as Fed Chair Jerome Powell`s remarks today during a Senate hearing about potential economic impacts, well, that all helped to shave over 650 points off the Dow. Nice to know Wall Street feels the same way about new variants as the rest of us.

This is also the eve of what is likely to be a history making day before the Supreme Court tomorrow morning. The justices will hear oral arguments in a case involving a Mississippi abortion law that makes it practically impossible to obtain an abortion in that state after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Today, Mississippi`s Governor outlined his state`s case.


TATE REEVES (R) MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: There`s no guarantee to end abortion in our U.S. constitution. But I`d go a step further and tell you that not only is there not a guaranteed right there`s also nothing in our United States Constitution that would prevent a state, a state like Mississippi from implementing and placing reasonable restrictions on abortions.


WILLIAMS: This Mississippi case has been described as the biggest challenge to abortion rights in this country and decades. It`ll be among our topics of discussion here tonight.


With that, it`s a good time to introduce our starting line on this Tuesday evening, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize winning White House bureau chief for The Washington Post. Carol Leonnig, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter also with The Post co-author, with our friend Phil Rucker of The New York Times bestseller, I Alone Can Fix It." And Paul Butler, former federal corruption prosecutor at the Department of Justice, currently a professor at Georgetown Law. Good evening, and welcome to you all.

Ashley, I`d like to begin with you. This is a great headline for the Committee, the potential cooperation of Mark Meadows. They were quick to get out there, the fact that he shared 6,000 emails, but 3,000 of those could be from Wayfair. I guess this story is yet to be told as his cooperation rolls out.

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: That`s exactly right. It`s unclear exactly how cooperative he is going to be. Mark Meadows is one of former President Trump`s staunchest allies do just the other day was floating Trump for Speaker of the House should Republicans regain it.

And what`s fascinating to me is that having covered Mark Meadows when he was in Congress, and then when he was in the Trump White House, Republicans, all Republicans, some who have worked for him, work with him, work on opposing sides of them have almost unilaterally come to believe that his dishonest.

One told me and this is a verbatim quote that he`s a stone cold liar. Several in the White House told me that they believed, and again, these are people who worked with him. Thumb had known him for a long time. He was the worst Chief of Staff in history.

Though it also remains unclear just how forthcoming he will be to the committee if history is any indication, and how the committee deals with a challenge like that, which is something journalists who covered the Trump White has grappled with for a very long time. What do you do when you can`t trust what the chief of staff is telling you?

WILLIAMS: Carol Leonnig, what does it tell us that the committee spent four hours talking to the Georgia Secretary of State?

CAROL LEONNIG, THE WASHINGTON POST INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: I think it`s a pretty important amount of time four hours is not a trifling amount. It means you want to get to the bottom, you want the details, you want the nuances. And let`s keep in mind that this Georgia State officials account of events has been well reported, especially in the pages of The Washington Post, I might add by our colleague, Amy Gardner, a lot of news was broken.

So, much of his story is known the fact that they want to detail what was your conversation like with Donald Trump says to me that they`re fascinated about that line. What was Donald Trump asking of you, we all know what that was fine, me X number of votes, that are my deficit for winning Georgia.

But he also is critical to understanding Jeff Clark. And remember Brian as your network is reported and The Post has reported, and other organizations, Jeff Clark is on the chopping block at the moment because that former DOJ official one of the only department of justice officials under Donald Trump, who was willing to push the lie that Georgia`s election was corrupted, the only one willing to press the Georgia governor to reconvene the legislature secretly so as to stop the certification of Biden`s election.

That individual is being voted on by the committee tomorrow for criminal, forgive me, for contempt. He`ll be the second only held in contempt after Steve Bannon. And presumably that`s a lot what`s going on with Mark Meadows. He wants to do the right legal dance to show he is engaging. He is not just completely blocking the committee because he does not want that pink slip of contempt, either.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Paul, what is to stop a Mark Meadows from claiming privilege on some questions and just not answering them taking the fifth on other questions and just not answering them and the can gets kicked down the road further.

PAUL BUTLER, GEORGETOWN LAW PROFESSOR: Nothing says stop that and that is likely what will happen. So the threat of criminal contempt seems to be lighting a little bit of a fire. So, Steve Bannon might be more scared of Donald Trump, and he is going to prison.

But Mark Meadows has some decisions to make. So the key issue is exactly what cooperation means. Mark Meadows apparently still will assert Trump`s claim of executive privilege, which means that he could testify about January six, except he would still refuse to answer questions about Donald Trump`s involvement. And the committee would have to decide whether that`s good enough.


WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, let`s turn to the intersection of health and politics, where so often our conversation returns. What`s the level of concern you`ve been able to gauge at the White House over this new variant politically, of course, it rolls up in over any of the best laid plans.

PARKER: Well, President Biden said publicly that there is cause for concern and not to panic. And that`s from a health perspective, he was saying. But from a political perspective, there absolutely is reason for panic within this White House, because this is a White House who for months, as I and others on my team have reported out, tried to report the cause behind Biden`s falling polling numbers, the reason why Democrats believe they could likely lose the Senate and the House, just about every White House official says publicly and sometimes privately as well, that it all comes down to COVID. And if they can get COVID, under control, everything will turn around just like that.

And of course, some of the other things that are bedevilling them politically ended as well hurting actual Americans, the economy, inflation, supply chain issues are all inextricably bound with COVID.

So while that is their theory of the case, and it may even be the reality on the ground that they have to deal with, it is incredibly risky, when your political strategy is sort of based on the eradication of a once in a lifetime, deadly pandemic that has been mutating and giving us new variations ever since it arrived on the scene.

And this is just yet another issue where he wanted to be out promoting infrastructure, other end of the year legislation he needs to get done. And of course, we`ve already seen part of his week devoted to the new variant, and we`re going to see that Thursday and throughout the rest of his week.

WILLIAMS: Indeed we are. Carol, if we can jump back to Capitol Hill for a moment, to Paul`s point that there`s nothing quite like the threat of criminal contempt to focus the mind, depending on whose mind we`re talking about. Mark Meadows may not want that as the last item in his professional resume, whereas a guy like Steve Bannon, it`s a resume burnisher to him. But let`s talk about your contemporary knowledge of the Bannon, does it just keep rolling along?

LEONNIG: While you define the difference between those individuals. Well, remember when Bannon was told that he was going to be held in criminal contempt, or that he was going to be referred for it? It became a advertising marketing opportunity for him. He talked about the revenge he would have on Democrats, and how this moment would be foisted exactly upon them when Republicans were back in control. It was almost like a fundraising letter for, you know, tongue wagging lobbyist.

Meadows situation is quite different. But I`ll tell you this, I don`t see as Paul laid out, I don`t see Meadows giving up the ghost any more quickly than Bannon at this time. His lawyer has telegraphed. And he has a good lawyer, by the way, George Terwilliger, and he has telegraphed to the public that they`re not going to be discussing a host of things that committee absolutely insists on discussing, and that they`re only going in to talk about things under certain limitations.

And it tells me that they`re going to try a more polite and adept stall. And on the course of Bannon, it is going to be, you know, sort of full frontal assault. I think you`re going to see a lot more of that kind of promoting the revenge tour that Bannon has in store for Democrats who insist on getting his answers.

Again, it doesn`t help us in the public understand very much why everyone who says nothing went wrong on January 6 is so cryptonic a subject to discuss before the committee. As the President -- former president said, Hey, this was no big deal. If it was no big deal. Why are we all watching this group of people fight so hard not to discuss it?

WILLIAMS: Paul Butler, take a minute and give us a preview of tomorrow. I`m talking about the oral arguments before the Supreme Court. I`m also interested in your opinion of a little piece of sound we ran in the opening segment from the governor of Mississippi, it strikes me, you always get into trouble when you start listing certain freedoms that aren`t in the constitution where they didn`t have any knowledge of our modern day, cell phone use or GPS ability to track people the list is long, so that`s always kind of problematic.

I was also wondering what Mr. Justice Blackmun where he still with us would make of the Mississippi governor`s argument Blackmun having hung the freedom of choice on the liberty clause to the 14th amendment.


BUTLER: So Brian, as we all know, at this moment, Roe v Wade is good law. The question is, why would the court have accepted this case, but for changing that. So the people I`m going to be looking at our Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Amy Barrett, and justice, Brett Kavanaugh, they are some of the most conservative people ever to sit on the Supreme Court.

But in this court, they actually count as the middle. So if there is any chance for Roe to be upheld, either and letter or in spirit, it`s up to these three justices, for people who champion a woman`s right to choose, there`s not a lot of reason to be optimistic.

And in addition to abortion, if this court overturns well settled Presta (ph) next on the line could be affirmative action to be voting rights could be increasing power to corporations. And so abortion rights are extremely important. And this is just one of the issues that`s on the line with this case trimmer. Brian, I think this is going to be the most important Supreme Court decision in many years.

WILLIAMS: Well, to those watching, you heard the preview for tomorrow`s oral arguments before the court. With great thanks to our front four -- our front three rather on this Tuesday night. I guess I make it for. Ashley Parker, Carol Leonnig, Paul Butler, thanks for starting off our conversation as always.

Coming up for us. We`ve got a top doctor standing by to break down what is and is not known tonight about this new variant. And later, Joe Biden wants to talk infrastructure but Republicans in their way hope COVID will drown that out. We`ll get into the persistent and deadly politics of this nearly two-year long pandemic in our weary nation. All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Tuesday night on the eve of big oral arguments inside that courthouse.




DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: To be crystal clear, we have far more tools to fight the variant today than we had at this time last year. Right now there is no evidence of Omicron in the United States. The Delta very remains the predominant circulating strain. Our variant surveillance system has demonstrated we can reliably detection variants from alpha in the start of 2021 to delta over this past summer.


WILLIAMS: At least 20 countries have now reported cases of this Omicron variant. Just tonight we learned the first case to ourselves in Latin America. The feds insists the U.S. is prepared to identify and contain this new variant. But importantly tonight with us for more Dr. Irwin Redlener, Founding Director of Columbia`s National Center for Disaster Preparedness, he advises us on public health has throughout this pandemic also happens to be a professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Doctor, given the assumption that if it ain`t here yet, it`s about to be, what do you make of the idea of the U.S. doing what admittedly other countries have done and cracking down on all incoming international travel, more aggressive testing and the like.

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: So Brian, there`s a lot that we need to do. But I`m not a big fan, frankly, of the travel bans, because by the time we institute a ban, this disease is already been spreading. It`s probably here in the United States, even though we haven`t documented yet.

I think we need to take a different tact right now. And that would include mandating vaccination proof before you get on an airplane, anywhere and going anywhere. You need to be showing that you you`ve been fully vaccinated. And furthermore, we could do a lot more testing both when you leave, and when you arrive, wherever you`re going.

And I think those are the kinds of things that I think will really start controlling the spread of the virus, including Omicron, this crazy new variant that we`re starting to see now.

WILLIAMS: And right quick here, you just use the phrase that I keep returning to and that is fully vaccinated and a number of us are used to now showing our phones perhaps a picture we took of our vaccine cards, if not the cards themselves. When are we going to define three shots as fully vaccinated? And when perhaps will the word booster fall out of the vocabulary? And this becomes known as a three shot regimen from the get go.

REDLENER: Right, Brian. I think this is exactly where we`re going. We`re going to transition right now. And we`re, you know, seeing the last gasp I think of just talking about a two shot regimen with a, quote unquote, booster shot. I think the sooner we can get to convincing the public that we`re really talking about a three shot regimen, the better because the fact that matter is we`re going to need, still going to need boosters. Those boosters as this becomes endemic or permanently with us. Those boosters might have to come every single year, Brian, at least. And so this is something we`re all expecting. We`re talking about three shots to be fully vaccinated.

WILLIAMS: I have a graphic since we are using the B word for boosters. I have a graphic to show you about booster compliance. Israel, which, you know, admittedly is a kind of a much smaller example, a nation of 10 million people. Chile, Uruguay, Iceland, UK, all of them way above us in delivering boosters.

It is popular to blame so many of the troubles of this pandemic on the previous COVID denier president, the previous administration, but the booster messaging is on the Biden administration and is that do you think or when case where we all passed along too many rules and restrictions and government and health policy gobbly gook when the message should have been, if you`ve had your two shots, if you`ve had your one J and J, go get the second or go get the third without getting bogged down in labels.


REDLENER: Yes, so this is a big problem. It`s been so since the beginning of the administration, which is unfortunate and ironic, because the administration assembled a spectacularly talented and qualified team. The one flaw in this, one fly in this ointment of talent has been the messaging challenges which have repeatedly shown themselves to really undermine a public confidence in government. And they need to figure out a better way to figure out what -- how to message these things.

The other thing that we need to note, Brian, is a country like Israel, like you pointed out, it`s a small country, it`s also not a federalist country. This country does not have the ability to an issue -- to issue an order from the White House about, let`s say, getting vaccinated. Those orders, if they are to be given are only going to come from state and local governments are going to come from individual companies, and so on, other than the federal authorities that the President has most of the authority to mandate something like a vaccine is going to come from much lower levels of government making the entire thing, in some ways, a complicated mess.

But hopefully, we`ll hear what the President has to say on Thursday. And we`ll get some more at least very definitive direction of how we should go forward with vaccinations and in America.

WILLIAMS: And one quick follow-up, if indeed we lose the word booster and streamline the messaging and make this a three shot regimen. Where will that decision originate? Where will that messaging originate? Is that White House? Is that NIH? Is that FDA, CDC or some combination thereof?

REDLENER: Well, it`s CDC is where that`s going to happen. And then the President, of course, will reinforce it as well, the other agencies as well, hopefully, state agencies, the parallel agencies in the state. But here`s the problem of Brian, for now a long time, we`ve failed to tell the public this message strongly enough, which is that we don`t know everything, we know very little about the behavior of this of this virus and where it`s going. So prepare yourselves American public, for new data altering, changing, modifying the message here, be ready for it, because that`s the reality of science. And it`s the reality of trying to figure out what to do about a very difficult virus to understand. We`re learning on the go. And we should have been hearing that coming from the CDC a lot more strongly than it has been, Brian.

WILLIAMS: I hope everyone watching tonight heard that last paragraph. Dr. Irwin Redlener our thanks for taking our questions as always. Coming up for us after our next break, the Biden administration said to be well aware of the political risks if they can`t get the pandemic under control. Republicans who are happy to forget the Trump was a COVID denier. See great opportunity in this. That`s our politics in 2021. It`s also part of our conversation, we`ll get to when we come back.



WILLIAMS: As we mentioned earlier, this pandemic continues to loom large over the Biden presidency right about now and might well-proved to be the pivotal issue for him politically. Just today, a federal judge stepped in to block Joe Biden`s vaccine mandate for health care workers. Our friend Jonathan Lemire offers this insight into the challenges facing the administration. As he puts it, quote, within the walls of the West Wing, there was recognition of the political peril that looms along with an implicit recognition that the public may not be willing to stomach the more dramatic measures to combat the new variant, even if Biden asked them to.

Well, back with us tonight, Jason Johnson, campaign veteran and journalist, contributor to the TheGrio and a professor of politics and journalism at Morgan State University, who I happen to see anchor an hour of programming this afternoon on this network. And Tim Miller, a contributor to The Bulwark and the former communications director for Jeb Bush. Gentlemen, it`s a pleasure to have you two friends back with us tonight.

Tim, I`d like to begin with you. There`s this secret to cable news that I would ask you not to share with anybody. People like me have gentlemen like you on and we got all frothed up over the existential issue of that day, that night, the issue that is just so overwhelmingly important.

And then we have these things called weekends, and we watch football, we come back Monday, and we`re always surprised to learn there`s a new issue with the top of the stack, as is the case on this Tuesday evening, where now it`s pandemic all the time. It is the existential issue again, of the Biden presidency.

Tim, the problem with that is, no one has any stomach, no appetite for any more restrictions, everyone is ready to go back to life like it`s 2019.

TIM MILLER, THE BULWARK CONTRIBUTOR: That`s absolutely right. And I think that that was kind of worse than that, Brian, I think that in addition to just a general fatigue with pandemic restrictions throughout the country, for people, I think across the political spectrum, obviously there`s some exceptions to that. I think a strong majority of the country just in their normal behavior doesn`t want to go back to any kind of distancing and the kinds of restrictions. You can just see this watching football stadiums and a weekend or, you know, going out to your local restaurants and bars. You people don`t want to do this anymore.

But the Biden ministration faces an additional problem with that. And that`s it. The opposition party is basically on the side of the virus and on the side of expanding the virus. If you look at the actions, the previous guests, I think made a really astute point about the federal system here.


If you look at the actions of governors in red states and state legislatures in red states, they are doing everything that they can to disincentivize people from taking the vaccine, to disincentivize people from taking even reasonable restrictions.

And so Biden is dealing with just kind of this general human fatigue without how much longer can I do this kind of, you know, social distancing? Can I restrict my own behavior, and a opposition political party that`s not willing to -- that is not only not willing to meet them halfway, that is actively harming and actively working against any efforts to restrict the virus. He`s in a real pickle.

WILLIAMS: And Jason, it says if Tim knew, I had this quote, prepared to read to you this is from Axios, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Tennessee have changed their unemployment insurance rules to allow workers who are fired or quit over vaccine mandates to receive benefits. Republicans see a prime opportunity to rally their base ahead of the midterms, no matter how successful their individual efforts, that campaign is a powerful messaging weapon.

So Jason coming right off Tim`s point, how much are Republicans doing to damage health care, to damage the health of the Red Hat base out there? And will they ever get called on it?

JASON JOHNSON, MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: So one there, they`re doing everything they can, Brian. We`ve seen this from DeSantis in Florida to Kemp in Georgia, to all the things happening in Texas, Republicans have constantly behaved as if COVID wasn`t real, it wasn`t a problem. And they took their lead from Donald Trump last year, who contracted COVID and basically had a giant super spreader event every single time he had some event in Washington. So that part isn`t new.

The consequences for it, I don`t think we can necessarily predict yet. Because look, quite frankly, if you`re the kind of person that gets fired over refusing to take a vaccine and you`re not Aaron Rodgers, a Hall of Famer, you were probably already pro MAGA, right. So it`s going to rally people.

But I don`t think that those kinds of policies, you can still get your insurance, I don`t think they`re going to change anybody over. But ultimately the onus is going to be on Joe Biden. People don`t want to go back to normal. They don`t want to go back to 2019. They want to go back to the freedom of 2019 with the flexibility that some of us have discovered during this pandemic.

So to the degree that the federal government, the degree that Democrats can come up with a message that says, You know what, those of you who want to stay at home, we understand. Those of you who want to operate virtually, we understand. Those of you who want to get vaccinated, we understand. It`s a much more complicated message. But it`s one that the Democrats are going to have to have, because the Republicans will be able to get their people behind them just saying, Ah, the vaccine doesn`t exist. But we still want to get those free vaccines when they`re available in CVS.

WILLIAMS: Tim, I first met you when you were working for Jeb, what if I told you then, wait a few years, and I`m here to tell you that your political party will someday be anti-vaccine? Would you believe me?

MILLER: It was the peep by new people. It was the Berkeley crowd that was anti-vax back in those days, Brian. We`ve had big turn on this issue. And look, it`s not just my party yet, to Jason`s point, it`s Jeb`s (ph) successor in Florida. I mean, Ron DeSantis was against unemployment insurance for people who got COVID through no fault of their own, because the pandemic was out of control. At the beginning, we didn`t have a vaccine.

He was against incentives, financial incentives for people to get the vaccine, but he`s for financial incentives for people to refuse to get the vaccine and put others in his in their community at risk. I mean, look, I - - you could -- there`s no way you could have told me in the Jeb campaign that this is what the party would look like five years from now.

And I think there`s an opportunity here for Democrats to take from that old school Republican messaging and maybe appeal to some of these voters the types of voted for I know, I`m not supposed to say his name in Virginia, Brian Glenn Youngkin, but, look, I mean, this is a vaccine that was developed under a Republican president. that was developed by the free market and the ingenuity of this country that is keeping people safe that has saved thousands and millions, frankly, of lives. And the Democrats are the ones that can champion that.

And I think bring a majority of the country that does want this pandemic to end that is sick of it but is willing to get vaccines on their side if they make that in a positive way, in a way that people can rally behind rather than away that kind of shakes their finger.

WILLIAMS: Thank you for remembering that Youngkin is the Fight Club of this particular broadcast. These gentlemen have agreed to stay with us after our break when we come back, if the president these days sounds like a regional sales guy. Well, that`s part of the job these days.




BIDEN: Rebuilding America, investing in America. That`s what this is about. And we`re doing it as we continue to battle a pandemic. We know about our infrastructure problems we`ve known for a long time. Now we`re finally doing something about it. No more talking time for action.


WILLIAMS: Well, if it`s Tuesday must be Minnesota, the president back on the road. He`s talking infrastructure while grappling with this new variant and of course, uncertainty surrounding the big social spending bill. That is a vital part of his agenda. Lucky for us, Jason Johnson and Tim Miller remain with us.

And Jason, I have something for you here is Mitch McConnell on the future or lack of it for Biden`s big social spending bill.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) MINORITY LEADER: Look, I think we all know the situation where not a single Republican in the Senate is going to vote for this reckless tax and spending spree. We all know it only would take one Democrat tank it. Most of us feel that the single best thing we could do to fight inflation right now would be to kill this bill. And only one Democrat could do that. Are we hopeful that one will step forward? Absolutely.


WILLIAMS: We could name some names. Jason, knowing how fond you are of that man, here`s the following question. Given inflation, and the second given is no Americans know what`s in the bill. So they don`t know what they might get. Do the Democrats have real worries that that guy what he just said is right?

JOHNSON: Well, McConnell is only right to the degree that you let him control the narrative. Right? That`s one of the reasons why Joe Biden is wisely running around the country talking about the infrastructure bill now. That`s one of the reasons why he put Mitch Landrieu in charge of it so that he could distribute the money and tell people hey this is going to be flat we`re going to slap Biden`s name on it the same way that, you know, Obama did with a stimulus package years ago.


But this is the fundamental problem that the Democrats have. They can have the most brilliant ideas in the world. But if they let Mitch McConnell dominate the conversation, if they let the unspoken name Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema dominate the conversation, then they don`t spend enough time telling people what`s in the bill.

Joe Biden talking about the infrastructure bill now is great, man, it would have been great if he was doing that in June, would have been great if Vice President Harris was doing that in June. So no, I don`t think Mitch is going to be right about this. I do think some version of Build Back Better will get through, but whether they can sell it depends on if they`re going to be committed to selling it, not just in contrast to what Republicans say, but letting Americans know what`s going to be valuable for.

WILLIAMS: And Tim, here`s the other problem with Biden selling things like infrastructure. You and I both know bridges don`t just happen before the midterms, bridges need surveyors and everything needs an environmental impact statement. Then you need contractors, then you need footings and good luck getting rebar with the supply chain backed up, and everybody wanting rebar and concrete. So it`s tough to sell a notion to a public hungry to replace the rickety bridge they take to work every day.

MILLER: Probably a few too many environmental impact studies to be honest, Brian. Look, I agree with that. And I just -- to nitpick Jason on one thing. The reason that, you know, I guess we don`t want to fight over spilled milk here. But the reason why vide wasn`t selling this in June is because the progressives in the House were blocking him from being able to pass this when they originally passed us in July.

But, you know, here we are where we are right now. So, I`m happy he`s out there selling it. I was also criticizing in July for not selling this better. I think that he`s -- that what he`s doing today in Minnesota is great. And he`s got it -- it`s got to be tangible stuff.

Look, I think that the big picture national message has been, he got the big things done that the former guy wasn`t able to, he needs to have a specific message about what to do about inflation. I`ve been encouraged about his change in town on that over the past couple of weeks.

And then when he is making these trips, there are specific tangible things that can happen. Look, Brian, I was in West Virginia two weeks ago, there`s no broadband, you know, I drove for an hour and a half and I couldn`t get an email, right? This has a real tangible effect on people if kids are having to take -- do school at home, because of the variants. If people are parents are trying to have to work from home, and they can`t work for work on e-mails, if people who live in Washington can`t go to their, you know, can`t go out to West Virginia for a week over the holidays, that that`s money that`s out of those communities.

So there are things that he can sell when he`s going to these places and he`s going to have to keep doing that. While not -- will not lose in the bond COVID unfortunately, he`s got a big job juggling all that.

WILLIAMS: Gentleman, I can`t thank you both enough for coming on and sharing your thoughts with us tonight. Two friends at this broadcast, Jason Johnson, Tim Miller have been our guest tonight. Coming up for us, new reporting on how all those containerships waiting to be unloaded are hurting small businesses during this peak season.



WILLIAMS: If you have ordered a new stove or microwave or a couch or a car then you know about the supply chain. So many Christmas gifts in fact are sitting in shipping containers tonight leaving stores unable to guess at a delivery date.

I want to show you something that just came out. This new cover of The New Yorker nicely illustrates the solution we would all very much like to see. We have a report on this tonight from NBC News correspondent Jo Ling Kent who spoke to the U.S. labor Secretary about how and when this crisis may finally end.


JO LING KENT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the first time labor Secretary Marty Walsh are visiting the clogged Port of Los Angeles filled with idling container ships.

MARTY WALSH, U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: I would say that the ports might not be operating 24/7 but they`re certainly operating at higher capacity.

KENT (on camera): When do you think the supply chain will get back to normal?

WALSH: I don`t think there`s ever a normal in the supply chain. I think it`s always been, you know, ups and downs.

KENT (voice-over): The Port of LA says the number of containers waiting to be unloaded has dropped 37 percent since late October, but Fed Chief Jerome Powell today laying out new fears brought on by the Omicron variants.

JEROME POWELL, CHAIR OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE OF THE UNITED STATES: Greater concerns about the virus could reduce people`s willingness to work in person, which would slow progress in the labor market and intensify supply chain disruptions.

KENT (on camera): How are you as labor Secretary going to incentivize people to keep going back to work?

WALSH: I think the biggest thing is as we figure out the new variants, we just need to continue to do it and stress people getting vaccinated getting boosted, wearing masks being careful.

KENT: (voice-over): But it`s more than that for small business owner, Keewa Nurullah, hiring at her Chicago boutique Kido is very expensive because she has to compete for workers with major retailers.

KEEWA NURULLAH, KIDO OWBER: Unfortunately, if we are short staffed that affects everything.

KENT: On top of that. she`s only been able to get 60 percent of what she needs to stock her shelves this holiday season.

NURULLAH: We have at least a dozen of our best sellers that we`ve always leaned on during this time just haven`t been available.

KENT (on camera): How do you make sure that small businesses are properly served in this pandemic when they tried to get their stuff in holiday season?

WALSH: Actually we look at the unloading and delivery of goods and services to our country, goods to our country. I don`t look through the lens of the big companies and then the small companies look to everybody`s company at the same time.

KENT (voice-over): Companies large and small desperate for supply chain solutions. Jo Ling Kent, NBC News, Los Angeles.


WILLIAMS: When we come back after our final break, can`t we just say no to the new variant? Can`t we just say we`re busy it`s the holidays and we`re sick of the fear of getting sick?



WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, I know I am not alone in saying this that the new variant the Omicron in addition to sounding like a 1970 digital watch brand is a highly unwelcome development because we fear what this may mean. Nobody wants this. In fact, it caused an unusual highly personal moment during a recent newscast. Oh wait, I`m being told. It wasn`t a newscast at all. But it was the Daily Show.


ROY WOOD, AMERICAN HUMORIST: I`ve been talking to the top scientists at the CDC, and everyone seems to agree. Oh, man, just stop. Stop, man. Chill, man. Just variant after variant after variant. Damn. Stop, bro.

TREVOR NOAH, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH" HOST: I`m sorry, Roy. This is what the scientists are saying?

WOOD: Oh, no, of course not. I`m paraphrasing, Trevor. The actual scientific consensus on the Omicron is, shit. Fuck, I got to cancel this damn vacation and pushed it back to three times to St. John`s. Now they`re going to shut everything down. Then the next thing you know you`re going to have strange people delivering your food, and you got to wonder whether or not they`ve been eating some of your French fries. And then I got to be cooped up with the boy, and I got to homeschool and figure out which button is the Zoom button, and how to print the homework on the printer that has no ink. And then that`s just another whole last day.

And then we`re in a two-bedroom apartment. It`s three of us. It`s just not enough space. I can hear her phone calls through the wall. I can hear him playing a Nintendo Switch. I`m trying to be on a conference call. And God forbid, I actually get a little bit of silence in this house so I can enjoy my PlayStation that I set online for fucking Cyber Monday to fucking buy. I actually got a goddamn PlayStation that I can`t even fucking play now. Because everybody`s going to be in the house. Because you can`t play violent video games around the boy.

We don`t want him learning about violence. Well, what other good games are there to play on a PlayStation other than violent games. You got to pretend violence in this country to keep from doing violence in real life. And that`s what she doesn`t understand. She doesn`t understand that that`s what the video games do for me.

And I just think if I just had -- just a third bedroom, a third bedroom.

NOAH: All right.

WOOD: That`s all we need is a third bedroom. And that would give me the space that I need. But then we would have to move uptown and that`s too far.

NOAH: All right. All right.

WOOD: A 40-minute train ride.

NOAH: Well, thank you, thank you.

WOOD: And I`m on a train ride, and everybody`s got Omicron on the train.

NOAH: All right, thank you so much, Roy. Thank you so much Roy. Thank you for keeping us updated on your developments. Thank you so much for that.


WILLIAMS: In a way Roy speaks for all of us as the Daily Show takes us off the air tonight and that is our effort for this Tuesday evening with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.