First U.S. case of Omicron variant discovered in CA. Jan. 6 Committee votes to refer ex-Trump DOJ Official Jeffrey Clark for contempt of Congress. Meadows reveals strategy for 1/6 deposition. Some GOP threaten shutdown over vaccine mandates. Scotus hears arguments over Mississippi abortion law that undermines Roe v. Wade.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: My dear friend Holum Taylor (ph), and all of you K.I.N.D. contributors get tonight`s "LAST WORD." THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening, once again. Day 316 of the Biden administration, the nation has been bracing for the arrival of this new Omicron variant. And this afternoon, the first U.S. case was indeed confirmed in a patient in the San Francisco Bay Area.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: The individual was a traveler who returned from South Africa on November the 22nd. And tested positive on November the 29th. The individual is self-quarantining, and all close contacts have been contacted and all close contacts thus far have tested negative.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Dr. Fauci went on to say, this patient in question had received two shots of the Moderna vaccine but no booster as of yet and is experiencing mild symptoms. Fauci offered this to those who might be holding off on getting that booster shot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: People say, well, if we`re going to have a booster specific vaccine, should we wait? If you are eligible, namely six months with a double mRNA dose or two months with the J&J, get boosted. Now, we may not need a very specific boost. The mistake people would make is to say, let me wait and see if we get one. If you`ve eligible for boosting, get boosted right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Tomorrow, the President lays out his strategy to try to control and contain this variant as we head into the colder months. NBC News among those reporting. He`s going to extend the federal mask mandate for public transportation into mid-March. There`s much more on the potential impact of this new variant just ahead in our hour.
Also tonight, the January six committee is keeping the pressure on witnesses who refuse to comply with their subpoenas. Just a few hours ago, they voted unanimously to refer former Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark for criminal contempt of Congress, but the committee is also giving Clark one last chance to testify.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, (D) MISSISSIPPI JAN.6 SELECT COMMITTEE CHAIR: Around eight o`clock last evening, Mr. Clark`s attorney sent a letter to the committee, another in a long series of long letters stating that Mr. Clark now intends to assert his fifth amendment privilege even though Mr. Clark previously had the opportunity to make these claims on the record. The Select Committee will provide him another chance to do so.
REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) WYOMING VICE CHAIR, JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE: We will not finalize this contempt process if Mr. Clark genuinely cures his failure to comply with the subpoena this Saturday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, former Trump`s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows today revealed how he plans to handle his upcoming appearance before that same committee. Meadows has been resisting, asserting that he was following Trump`s claim of executive privilege. Well, yesterday the panel said he started complying with a subpoena for records and plan to testify but comments from Meadows today raise questions about just how much cooperating he plans to do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The President has made it very clear that he is claiming executive privilege and not because he has anything to hide. I`m going to be honoring his executive privilege, is not something that I have the ability to waive. Even with my interview that potentially is coming up with the House. We`ll be talking about non privileged information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: We`ll see how that goes over. Even as he claims to honor his old boss, The Guardian in Great Britain was first to report this revelation from Meadows forthcoming book he reveals Trump first tested positive for COVID three days before that September 26, 2020 debate against then candidate Joe Biden.
New York Times and NBC News have since confirmed that initial positive test. According to the Guardian, Meadows writes, "Nothing was going to stop Trump from going out there." He ads "Trump received a negative result from a separate test just before the debate. But the public didn`t learn about Trump`s COVID case until the early hours of October 2." Today, the former president in a statement stayed on brand saying, "The story of me having COVID prior to or during the first debate is fake news." Which of course doesn`t answer the question of whether he had received a positive test before the debate.
By the way, tonight we`re just a little more than two days from a potential government shutdown. The deadline to pass a funding bill to keep things open is midnight Friday in the Saturday morning.
Washington Post, among those reporting tonight one faction of Republicans on Capitol Hill is trying to hold up efforts to vote on that bill over federal vaccine and testing mandates. Senate Majority Leader Schumer today urged Republicans to abandon their protest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK MAJORITY LEADER: It`s always easy to shut down, to say you want to shut down the government something I care about, this one cares about that one, everyone did that we`d have chaos. We need to come together and keep the government open.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The House Freedom Caucus today appeal to Mitch McConnell in a letter asking that he helped them out by blocking any temporary funding bill that includes federal dollars to enforce vaccine mandates. McConnell appears to be resisting so far and has said a shutdown is not an option.
As all that was going on in Congress across the street in front of the Supreme Court building this morning, protests were underway as the justices sat down to hear oral arguments on the Mississippi abortion law, banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. For two hours, the justices questioned the legality of the statute and the possibility of letting it stand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Viability, it seems to me, doesn`t have anything to do with choice. But if it really is an issue about choice, why is 15 weeks, not enough time?
JUSTICE BARRETT: It doesn`t seem to me to follow that pregnancy and then parenthood are all part of the same burden.
JUSTICE KAVANAUGH: If you think about some of the most important cases, the most consequential cases in this Court`s history, there`s a string of them where the case is overruled precedent.
JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Now, the sponsors of this bill, the House bill, in Mississippi, said we`re doing it because we have new justices. Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I don`t see how it is possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Most experts who were listening agreed the six conservative members of the court appear to lean toward upholding the Mississippi law. Should Roe versus Wade be overturned abortion could be severely restricted or banned right away in at least 26 states over half of our union.
With that, let`s bring in our starting line on this Wednesday night, Peter Baker, longtime journalist and author, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Sam Stein, Veteran Journalist and White House Editor at Politico, and Barbara McQuade, Veteran Federal Prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She worked with the DOJ during the Biden transition, is a professor at her alma mater University of Michigan Law School, who badly wants you to know they beat Ohio State, she co-hosts the podcast, Sisters in Law along with Kimberly Atkins Stohr, Joyce Vance, Jill Wine-Bank. Good evening, and welcome to you all.
Indeed, Counsellor, I`d like to begin with you, what signals did your trained ears pick up listening to oral arguments this morning?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, Brian, I appreciate the chance for shock, because I think that`s the last left, I`ll be doing for a while in light of the arguments that we heard today. I think, you know, all ears were on some of the justices who might be swing justices, maybe Chief Justice Roberts, maybe justice Kavanaugh, maybe Justice Barrett, but all of them I think signaled very strongly an indication that they would be willing to uphold this Mississippi abortion ban after 15 weeks, which of course, is much more stringent than we had under Roe v. Wade, which is the pre viability standard of 22 to 24 weeks.
It`s not clear whether they`re willing to overturn Roe versus Wade, but I think they can effectively do that in this two-step dance that Chief Justice Roberts often likes to do. You know, we`re not going to overrule Roe v. Wade right now, we`re just going to uphold this Mississippi law. But we`re left without the kind of standard that we`ve had before. So essentially, it`s a -- all is fair game now for states on abortion laws.
WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, let`s talk about where this may be going with the help of something said on this network earlier by a frequent guest of ours NYU Law Professor Melissa Murray who clerked for Sotomayor, at the federal level.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA MURRAY, NYU LAW PROFESSOR: This has been a long game of the conservative legal movement for some years we have never allowed fundamental rights to be subjected to the whims of the Democratic process, to be subject to the whims of the majority. And if you think that gay marriage is not on deck after a day like this, then you are frankly completely delusional because yes, they are coming for that too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So, Peter, if you would put today`s oral arguments and the comments Barbara just added to the conversation in the context of the long game, i.e., Mitch McConnell`s life`s work.
PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, no, that`s exactly right. This is the combination of a half century campaign on the part of conservatives to get to the point where they could overturn Roe v. Wade, or at least, you know, this right, a lot of the tenants of it, right? The big question that of today`s oral argument seems to be as Barbara said, whether or not they actually overturn Roe v. Wade, or simply allow the Mississippi law 50 weeks ago forward, signaling that they`re open to other states that want to restrict, even if not completely ban abortions going forward.
There has been an effort over years to build a court system, to put more conservatives on the bench through Mitch McConnell`s efforts. He obviously worked in tandem with Donald Trump. One of the few things, the two of them really worked well together on was putting conservatives in district courts, in circuit courts, and three seats on the Supreme Court.
Mitch McConnell, of course, was the one who held open that seat that Antonin Scalia vacated when he passed away in 2016, rather than let President Obama fill it in the final year of his presidency, arguing that they should wait until the election. But as a result of that, that seat went to Neil Gorsuch. And if Neil Gorsuch as a more conservative judge, ends up voting to over to uphold the Mississippi rule here or even overturn Roe v. Wade. That`s a startlingly different result than you probably would have had with Merrick Garland, who, of course, was President Obama`s choice for that seat.
If this is six, three takes, it may not make that big of a difference in that one seat, but it`s certainly, as you say, the culmination of a half century of work on the part of conservatives to get to this point where they could overturn or at least, you know, take out a lot of the fundamental tenets of Roe v. Wade.
WILLIAMS: Sam Stein, because so many of these nine justices are at time so nakedly political, I feel less gross asking a nakedly political question. And that is, this we heard the phrase over and over today, a lot of it on social media elections have consequences. Will the Democrats be able to convert this?
SAM STEIN, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE EDITOR: That`s a great question. The conventional wisdom would say, yes. The country, if you look at public opinion polls, still, by and large, supports the right to choose about whether or not you want to have an abortion, usually around a 60/40 percentage.
But you know, you can`t just judge things in that type of vacuum. What we`ve seen time and again, is that conservatives get incredibly more passionate about these types of fights than their liberal counterparts. We also have seen a change in sort of the voting dynamics in this country where what was sort of traditionally suburban women who were Republican voters have already drifted to the Democratic Party. Those are the types of people that would have had a backlash against Republican politicians than a court if they had overturned Roe v. Wade. Already, they are in the Democratic camp. So, I`m not totally convinced that this will rebound to the Democratic favor, we`d have to see, you know, both whether this is eclipsed by other issues like COVID, and the economy entering into the midterms. And of course, we have the decision, it`s up.
WILLIAMS: Barb, I never could have dreamed a switch in topic to 1/6 would be preferable subject but here we are. Let`s talk about Mr. Clark. They voted to hold him in contempt tonight, while also agreeing to bring him back and hear him out, I believe, on Saturday at a session where he may take the Fifth. Opinion seems split on whether this shows weakness or wisdom. Where do you come down?
MCQUADE: I think it`s wisdom, Brian, but you know, I think they have to proceed cautiously here. A Fifth Amendment privilege is a little different from the executive privilege that we saw with Steve Bannon. People have an absolute right under the Constitution to invoke the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
But there are certainly indications that Jeffrey Clark is kind of playing games here. As Chairman Bennie Thompson has pointed out, Jeffrey Clark did not assert the Fifth Amendment right back when he testified before the committee. He at least appeared for a deposition on November 5. And so, if this isn`t said simply a stall tactic, then I think this vote keeps the heat on him. It forces him to at least show up and go through question by question the issues on which he is going to plead the Fifth Amendment.
WILLIAMS: And Peter, back over to your bet, hard as it is to believe life in this White House and for this administration has changed once again in the past 24 to 48 hours with the arrival of this variant forcing the administration to scramble. It throws certainly a wrench in the national works when this nation has zero appetite for new restrictions?
BAKER: No, I think that`s exactly right obviously. President Biden came to office on the promise of getting a hold of this pandemic and getting us past it. Now, whether this Omicron variant is actually going to be as serious as some people fear, we don`t know yet. Obviously, it`s still a little early, there`s not enough data yet to tell us whether the current vaccines will manage to handle it, or whether or not this is something that`s going to require a whole new set of restrictions or responses, as you say. But if it does, it puts this White House once again, back in the position where it was months ago, trying to get hold the Delta variant, and make sure that people can, you know, be healthy, get vaccinated, find ways of avoiding that the changing nature of this pandemic, while not doing anything to hold back the economy that`s just begun to really take off again, after so many, you know, starts and fits. And I think that this for a White House is not what they want heading into the holiday season. We`ve already expecting a winter surge, even of regular COVID Omicron, just as one more, you know, uncertain factor on top of that.
WILLIAMS: Indeed. And Sam, speaking of uncertainty, the deadline for our government shutdown is roughly two days away. As a McConnell watcher, Sam, what`s your bet on McConnell? Does he do the right thing? Or does he joined the GOP nihilism caucus?
STEIN: I think they`ll have a very small shutdown, but to suspect that Joe Biden would sign a government funding bill and restricts his ability to fight the pandemic is ludicrous. Frankly, that won`t happen. And so, you know, this seems to me to be sort of traditional congressional theatrics to throw a stone saying, look, we`re going to stop all funding for the government unless you end these private mandates for vaccination. It`s hard to imagine that McConnell can wrangle 10 Republicans to eventually say, yes, we`ll allow this bill to go through.
WILLIAMS: So, Sam, backup just one second, a closing the seconds of this segment, you feel we will go to the brink and indeed, go officially to a shutdown period before pressure brings both sides together?
STEIN: It`s -- yeah, but I -- it`s possible they cut a deal before then. It`s not likely, but I would not be surprised, honestly, if we had a day or two of a government shutdown after which everyone comes to their senses.
WILLIAMS: Great. Thanks tonight to our starting line, Peter Baker, Barbara McQuade, Sam Stein. Thank you very much. I wish we had happier material to pass along.
Coming up, new, tougher travel restrictions just hours away. We`ll ask one of our leading physicians what more should be done to protect against COVID newest variant.
And later, the man who wants so badly to be Speaker struggling to keep his half of the House in order. While the other party works to avoid a government shutdown. Our political experts will zero in on the Republican dilemmas. All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Wednesday night as a tree driven in from California lights up Capitol Hill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. GRANT COLFAX, SAN FRANCISCO HEALTH DIRECTOR: We knew that Omicron was going to be here. We thought it would -- it was already here. We just haven`t detected it yet. So, this is cause for concern. But is also certainly not a cause for us to panic.
San Francisco is relatively well positioned to respond to variants. Our vaccine rate is high. More boosters are going to arms every day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: In a beautiful place where you can hold a news conference outdoors and December that was San Francisco`s Health Director with assurances today that the city is prepared for this new variant despite being the home to the only known so far U.S. patient.
But medical experts can see a lot is still unknown about the threat here. And to walk us through it all, we welcome back Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an Infectious Disease Physician, Founding Director of Boston University`s Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy and Research.
Doctor, so glad to have you. And I`m afraid, I`m going to launch a very broad question your way, what questions do we still need answers to considering it is so young and the lifespan of this variant just emerging, there will surely be new cases in the United States?
DR. NAHID BHADELIA, INFECTIOUS DISEASES PHYSICIAN: So, Brian, and I should start by saying that we probably will hear about a few more cases over the next few days. But having said that, you know, our sequencing has gotten better compared to a year from now. So even if it`s here, it`s probably not at high rates yet.
So, what do we know, I think the biggest concern is how many mutations this variant has? And that combined with some really concerning epidemiology from South Africa, one of the countries that sort of really sounded the alarm were both the cases have been going up, but actually also they`re seeing about a 65% increase in hospitalizations in the last week or so.
Now, the question here is that, you know, are they just seeing that because South Africa is under vaccinated, only 30% of their population has gotten vaccinated. But there is concern looking at even in the data of the last couple of days, that`s the cases are going up that we may be looking at a more transmissible variant, however, until we see this variant, sort of do the same thing and other communities and other, you know, in other settings, other vaccination rates in other countries, we won`t really know for sure about its true transmissibility.
Over the next few weeks, Brian, I think what we`re going to learn, right, in the next couple of weeks, you`re going to learn a bit more about the laboratory results that tell us a bit more about the effectiveness of these vaccines. And I think most people in my field, feel that based on these mutations, you may see some decrease in infections. And what you`re likely to see is increase in -- decrease in protection against infections, but that protection is probably going to be linked to how many doses of vaccine you had. So, if you had three doses, you had your booster, you`re most likely to be protected. Having said that, everybody, I think most people agree that there might still be very good protection against severe disease in that setting.
WILLIAMS: I want to see if you agree or disagree with the following. These are the comments this morning on CNBC by former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who full disclosure, is a member of the Board of Pfizer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: There`s a presumption that the growth in cases in South Africa is comprised of this Omicron variant. But the reality is that they were having a mini-Delta surge, we don`t know how brisk before this emerge. We don`t know whether or not the increased number of cases that they`re seeing is this new variant. Think of all the variants that have emerged in the vaccine still demonstrated efficacy is no reason to believe that we`re going to lose them against this one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Doc, do you agree with the central point he`s making there?
BHADELIA: Yes, which is that we still don`t know a lot of others epidemiology, right? A lot of this is observation and gathering up that data. And really, it is seeing what Omicron does in other settings. One other further example I`ll give is that there have been other variants like the Delta variant that haven`t taken foothold, that we were really concerned about a lot of these mutations that could have decreased the effectiveness of vaccines. But it is something to keep watching. But I take that also, as a lesson to see, look, there are multiple states in our union that have less than 50% vaccination, you know, Alabama versus Virginia and Mississippi, when we`re looking at vulnerability in the potentially in the face of a more transmissible, you know, variant. The best thing that we can do, if we`re not panicking and getting ready, right, best thing that we can do is to make sure we get those rates up, and that we continue that vigilance going into this winter surge.
WILLIAMS: Does the variant mean we have to change our behavior or return to our prescribed behavior? And I`m asking in light of, what I`m assuming as your support for an extended mask mandate on public transportation in this country into the spring into next March? Is this a way of not putting something new on us, but extending getting us back into what we know to be best behavior?
BHADELIA: I think we have to realize that, you know, the end of the pandemic is not around the corner, you know, this -- but we always knew this. We knew that before Omicron, we knew that we were going into a winter surge. And even from that perspective, leaving the variant out, Brian, I think, you know, in many parts of this country we`re already seeing in winter surge, and that`s before full-on holiday travel case numbers start to go up again.
And so, from that perspective, I think requiring masks, you know, and I would encourage people to wear a good quality mask as they`re travelling, doing testing and getting, you know, vaccinating and getting boosted before holiday travel is a way that we can ensure that those protections are in place.
I think that what I would say is let`s not panic. Let`s be concerned and let`s go back to what we know protects us. And that`s doubling down on those things that keep us safe from both getting infected and passing that infection on to others.
WILLIAMS: Our medical guest again tonight has been Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, our thanks as always for taking our questions.
Another break for us and coming up whatever the justices say, about choice, about abortion, the political fallout will be immediate and immense in a country where choice has been the law of the land for half a century.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D) MISSOURI FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I was a pro-choice senator that won statewide elections time after time in this state. They are not going to accept the in vitro fertilization is illegal in Missouri, or the morning after pill or exceptions for rape and incest, which they did not put in the Missouri law that is going to be galvanizing to Democrats in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: To that end, one of our next guests writes this, "If Roe is reversed, then the political cold war over abortion will flare immediately into a roaring blaze. As if our politics needed more heat."
With us this evening, two of our friends, the aforementioned Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist for the Washington Post, and Mike Murphy, veteran Republican Strategist, co-Director of the Centre for the Political Future at the University of Southern California, also co-host of the Hacks on Tap podcast.
Eugene, I know you make a point this week that Roe versus Wade has been unifying for this country. But then there are the politics of it. I want to read you this from Ari Berman tonight. "Never forget that Mitch McConnell blocked Merrick Garland eight months before election then confirmed Amy Coney Barrett eight days before an election when 65 million people that already voted so she could take away reproductive rights and voting rights from millions of Americans."
And tonight, on Fox News, we got a glimpse, Eugene from the other side, saying the quiet part out loud on the air that this is the court and effect they have paid for.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we have six Republican appointees on this court, after all the money that`s been raised, the Federalist Society all these big fat cat dinners, I`m sorry, I`m pissed about this, if this court with six justices cannot do the right thing here the constitutional thing, then I think it`s time to do what Robert Bork said we should do, which is to circumscribe the jurisdiction of this court, and they want to blow it up. They will then, that`s the way to change things finally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So, Eugene, you don`t hear many people quoting Bob Bork anymore, but I`m hoping that finds people wide awake in our audience. Will this perhaps be unifying for Democrats?
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: It may well be Brian. I`ll tell me, you know, it`s a cliche by now but Republicans are the dog that caught the car, right? And so, you know, chased the car, caught the car. Now what are they going to do? Because majority of these people of people or people in this country believe that Roe v. Wade should be upheld, that there should be a right to abortion. They disagree perhaps within that group within the majority on how, you know, viability versus trimesters versus, you know, what`s the line where you draw the line? That`s all up in the air. But the fundamental right people think should be there and should be recognized and I fear that in, you know, later this year it`s -- or next year it`s not going to be very nice it sounded to me like there were at least five justices ready to overturn Roe v. Wade.
And, you know, this is not about originalism or textualism, right? It`s about abortion and issue on which it`s not possible to compromise if you believe abortion, is murder. And most Americans don`t go that far. And so, I think this could be -- I certainly think it`s going to be a huge issue and it`s going to perhaps rebound politically against Republic.
WILLIAMS: So, Mike, I`ll say, again, because members of this court are so nakedly political, I feel less bad asking a nakedly political question of you. And that is, if this court tosses Roe, what about the midterms?
MIKE MURPHY, VETERAN REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, you`re right, it`s going to be a chainsaw fight. This is an issue where there`s never subtlety. And frankly, there`s never much of a discussion of constitutional law of Roe was a rather political decision to try to please the majority of people in the country by creating the trimester system and trying to land a very thorny constitutional question, which has turned into a really hot political war. So, the midterms, it cuts in different ways, the more people in the country are pro-choice than pro-life. And the Roe is very symbolic kind of flag and all that. But in a lot of places, there is a pro-life conservative, more rural working majority. Places like Mississippi, so you have to get down to the fulcrum voters.
It is good for the Democrats wanted to raise a lot of money and people get intense on the pro-choice side, they`re going to be furious if the court totally overturns. On the pro-life side, they`re going to be jubilant. They see it as a human rights victory.
I`m watching the suburbs, which are going to have a lot to do with who wins control of the U.S. Senate? In rural Pennsylvania, overturning Roe will play in the suburban counties around Pennsylvania, around Philadelphia and over on the west, you know, it`s a much tougher issue. And what the Democrats need to do is get the suburbs back. They had him in 2018. They had him against Donald Trump. They lost him in the Virginia governor`s race. So, they`re in play, and net, net, this will help the Democrats there, but the election will be about a lot of other things as big as this will be, including the problems President Biden`s had in his approval ratings, which will help the Republicans in the suburbs. So, you know, it`s another log on the inferno, but it`s a very big log and in the Democratic base constituencies, and potentially in those critical suburbs. It could be a good political weapon for the Dems. If the court totally overturns you might have, you know, the middle thing where they move viability back from 21 or 24 weeks down to 15, still be massively unpopular, but it won`t have quite the same shock impact as quote overturning Roe v. Wade.
WILLIAMS: Look. Luckily for us, these two very smart gentlemen are going to stay with us through this break.
Coming up. When we come back and continue our conversation. At least some Republican lawmakers are attacking each other. Others are plotting a government shutdown. It`s a day in the life of the Republican Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER REP. DAVID JOLLY, THE SERVE AMERICAN MOVEMENT NATIONAL CHAIRMAN: I don`t think Kevin McCarthy has those votes. And what we`re seeing is, is the fish flopping around before he dies. It`s that scenario. Kevin McCarthy`s only shot here, and he is calculating enough to try to do this. He is hoping for a big enough Republican win next November in the congressional midterms that he does not have to worry about the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, the Matt Gaetz and the others whose votes he won`t have for the speakership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Indeed, the Minority Leader is once again trying to quiet trouble from fringe members of his party. We`ll go back to that word in a minute as Democrats talk of punishing another one of them. Politico adds these details about a private meeting McCarthy held today with his caucus writing, "He said, he would not give oxygen to those he suggested we`re seeking attention, thanked the majority of members who haven`t made themselves the spotlight of headlines, and stressed that the House is a serious deliberative body not a junior high."
We should mention McCarthy has yet to publicly condemn any of his members, aside from Liz Cheney, who has expressed an interest in saving democracy.
Thankfully still with us two gentlemen interested in the same goal. Eugene Robinson and Mike Murphy. Mike, I picture Kevin McCarthy getting up in the morning putting on the rather bright blue suit. He favors looking in the mirror and saying good morning, Mr. Speaker, is there in your view, a real chance he misses this brass ring?
MURPHY: There`s a decent shot, if they don`t win the majority, which is unlikely, I think he`s toast. He will probably of opposition, but I think he is a very good concierge for the little things that members care about. And if he delivers majority, I think he is in good, but not certain shape, but he`s weak. Even his enemies know that. I mean, looking at these kittens swipes, he`s doing now to try to keep the crazies in line and my day we`d get out the ball-peen hammer and handle it. He`s afraid to do that because he`s terrified of Donald Trump. So, that weakness is working against him, and I think puts them in some jeopardy.
WILLIAMS: Thank you for kitten swipes. We`ve been accused of over representation for dogs on this broadcast. But that`s some great imagery to last us the rest of the evening.
Hey, Eugene, Marjorie Taylor Greene says she is not the fringe. She is the base. Should we believe her?
ROBINSON: Well, she`s a big chunk of the base. I mean, she is a big, a big component of the Republican base, the Trumpist component of the Republican base that people love Donald Trump and will follow him anywhere and will tolerate and even encourage her sort of insane antics. And so, she`s going to keep it up. I mean, that`s to her. This is what being in Congress is about, is drawing attention to herself. It`s not about legislation. It`s not about doing business, people -- I mean, if this were a junior high, she and her fellow crazies would all be in detention if not suspended or expelled. But unfortunately, it`s less than a junior high. It`s the House Republican caucus and that`s kind of where we are.
WILLIAMS: And Mike, take 60 seconds, remind our viewers how Congress works. If you don`t have a lot of these so-called fringe members, we talk about aren`t legislators and if you don`t have committees, that`s really tough to bring bacon home to your district where it helps to be able to brag on what you`ve done when you want their votes again?
MURPHY: Yeah. You`re essentially useless so you spend all your time howling trying to get social media attention and raising money and it`s like Taylor Greene, if you`re from a safe district or an anvil with an ironic and when, you know, you can exist that way, but your district is the big loser because you basically got a nothing burger, member of Congress with no influence doing political stunts.
WILLIAMS: Gentlemen, I can`t thank you enough. We have anvils and kitten swipes enough to get us through the rest of the broadcast. Our thanks to two friends of this broadcast for good reason. Eugene Robinson and Mike Murphy.
Coming up for us after our next break all the stuff that`s handed to us that is currently on a ship or better yet, look at that picture on a rail, on a train. Our supply chain update follows.
WILLIAMS: Again, perhaps you are among those waiting on a microwave or a couch or a Ford F-150, or this year`s latest toy. Tonight, more of our reporting on the supply chain shortages in this country, which have left certain items, big ticket and small just impossible to get for now. The Biden administration moved further today to ease the backlog, things like tinkering with the federal standards and allowing long haul truckers to drive extended hours if they choose to for the next three months. There are many components to this on sea and on land. And tonight, NBC News Correspondent Jacob Soboroff has our report on those who haul the freight by rail.
JACOB SOBOROFF, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you`re waiting for something to arrive that you bought online, there`s a good chance it`s sitting parked in a container right here at The Union Pacific terminal in Joliet Illinois just outside Chicago. But locomotive engineer Tom Moses says, it`s not because his trains are late.
TOM MOSES, LOCOMOTIVE ENGINEER: It`s because the other processes would have us have to slow down or pick up because we always ready, so.
SOBOROFF (on camera): For you to get there on time you need the other pieces to be working?
SOBOROFF (voice-over): Luke Lawson (ph), who runs operations here gave us a tour to explain.
(On camera) Are we looking at more cargo containers in this parking lot than normal?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Current state we`re a little bit above average right now. You want to turn a parking spot just like you would turn a table at a restaurant.
SOBOROFF: And are they being turned as fast as possible these days?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not as fast as possible.
SOBOROFF: Union Pacific`s Kristen South told us, there aren`t enough truck drivers or space in warehouses to get cargo out fast enough.
KRISTEN SOUTH, UNION PACIFIC: Almost 50% of international cargo will hit Chicago on his journey at some point.
SOBOROFF: That`s not always how things happened here. A generation ago this area was a manufacturing hub employing 1000s of workers, but the factories closed as manufacturing moved overseas. Now what`s produced their ends up back here.
(On camera) So, this place wouldn`t even exist, where it not for the basically the contraction of domestic manufacturing and the move to international trade?
SOUTH: You`re exactly right.
SOBOROFF: 40% of goods travelling long distances in the U.S. moved by rail, and the Department of Transportation expects total freight demand to grow by 30% by 2040, which is why Union Pacific`s making on new autonomous technology, including this 75-foot-tall crane.
(On camera) This is it, huh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is it.
SOBOROFF: This is going to be 100% humanless operation.
Can you see how tight actually grabbing the railings right now? Wow. So, the trains are going to come in right below here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct. So, it`s all going to continuously, so move around all day long.
SOBOROFF (on camera): And the only humans to work on the crane won`t be anywhere near it.
(On camera) You`re telling me that the potential solution to the supply chain crisis could look a lot like playing a video game?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe not the full solution, but it`ll be a lot more efficient.
SOBOROFF (voice-over): But just as when the factories went overseas and the supply chains lengthened, the changes here have their own consequences. Eric Poole (ph) has been hauling cargo as a truck driver since his grandfather taught him to trade.
(On camera) They want to automate so they -- I mean they want to get you guys in and out as fast as possible?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to hit a bus out about that?
SOBOROFF: Yeah, tell me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You lost your job.
(Voice-over) Inside his Union Pacific locomotive. Tom Moses has faith everything will work out.
(On camera) What do you want the American people to know that are watching me and you right now thinking about their Christmas present showing up on time?
MOSES: I would tell them, they`re on a way as soon as possible. Have no fright.
SOBOROFF: Tom is way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are on our way.
SOBOROFF: Jacob Soboroff, NBC News Joliet, Illinois.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: A lot of good people are working hard to make it happen.
Coming up for us, from the rails, we go to the floor of the U.S. Senate and an effort to hold an entire political party responsible for double talk and a growing death toll.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, Senator Chris Murphy Democrat of Connecticut became a leading voice against gun violence after the Sandy Hook massacre took place in Connecticut. So, after an emotionally disturbed 15-year-old kid walked into his high school and blew away several of his fellow students yesterday, that very same Democratic Senator Chris Murphy did a slow burn. What set him off was stuff like this tweet from the GOP, "life is precious. Republicans will always stand for the sanctity of life." That mirrors what Republican senators have been saying in the run up to today`s abortion argument. But Murphy wasn`t having it. The more he thought about that sanctity of life argument, the angrier he got, he had left work at the Capitol last night. But then found himself turning his car around, drove back and took to the Senate floor.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY, (D) CONNECTICUT: I listened to my Republican colleagues come down here one after another today and talk about the sanctity of life. At the very moment that moms and dads in Michigan were being told that their kids weren`t coming home because they were shot at school due to a country that has accepted gun violence due to Republicans fealty to the gun lobby. Do not lecture us about the sanctity, the importance of life, when 100 people every single day are losing their lives to guns, when kids go to school fearful that they won`t return home because a classmate will turn a gun on them, when it is in our control whether this happens, you care about life, then get these dangerous military style weapons, off the streets, out of our schools.
You care about life, make sure that criminals don`t get guns by making sure that everyone goes through a background check in this country. This only happens to the United States of America. There`s no other nation in the high-income world in which kids worry about being shot when they go to school. It happens here in America because we choose to let it happen. We`re not unlucky. This is purposeful. This is a choice made by the United States Senate to sit on our hands and do nothing while kids die.
It doesn`t even involve any political risk. The changes we`re talking about in order to make our schools safe places they`re supported by the vast majority of Americans, Republicans and Democrats. And yet the gun lobby and the gun industry is more important, to have half of the members of the Senate then is the safety of our kids, and that is infuriating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Senator Murphy of Connecticut to take us off the air tonight. That is our broadcast for this Wednesday evening with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night