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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, December 16, 2020

Guests: Irwin Redlener, Simon Mates, Mike Murphy


U.S. nears 17,000,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. FDA may soon approve second COVID vaccine. Joe Biden has named his former Democratic campaign rival, Pete Buttigieg to be his pick to head up the Transportation Department. Buttigieg is the first openly LGBTQ Cabinet pick in U.S. history. California COVID-19 cases soar, over 41,000 new cases. Kelly Loeffler refuses multiple times to accept Biden victory.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Rebekah Jones, the light is shining on you. Don't be scared because the whole country now is watching you and your family and what they do to you. And we'll make sure we're there to report all of it. Rebekah Jones, thank you for joining me today. Rebecca is the former Manager of Data and Surveillance for COVID-19 at the Florida Department of Health, which is not an organization you should trust for information if you live in Florida right now.

That is tonight's LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams begins right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again day 1,427 of the Trump administration, 35 days until the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

Tonight as we move ever closer to a second COVID vaccine, we are also on the threshold of a sad new milestone almost 17 million confirmed coronavirus cases in our country, sadly over just these past 24 hours, we've lost another 3200 people roughly one death now every 27 seconds in America.

The onslaught of the virus has hospitals in this nation under siege as coronavirus admissions are reaching new record levels. Consider this exactly six months ago today, in an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal, do you remember Vice President Mike Pence downplayed what was then the summer surge as we referred to it back when medical experts were warning every one of the risks of not getting the virus under control?

Here's what Pence wrote back then. "The media has tried to scare the American people every step of the way, and these grim predictions of a second wave are no different. The truth is whatever the media says our whole of America approach has been a success. We've slowed the spread. We've cared for the most vulnerable, we've saved lives, and we've created a solid foundation for whatever challenges we may face in the future."

Just a reminder, Mike Pence chairs the Coronavirus Task Force. Tonight a former Pence Aide was asked about that upbeat forecast now 10 months into our uncontrolled pandemic.


OLIVIA TROVE, FORMER AIDE TO VP PENCE ON TRUMP COVID TASK FORCE: I was involved in that often. I was tasked to work on it. And I was told to work on it with a nether staffer who struggled with me to figure out how we were going to do this when we were watching rising cases. And we did push back that we were overruled by the vice president's chief of staff who really was published.


WILLIAMS: Now a bit of good news and that starts tomorrow with an FDA advisory committee meeting to consider the Moderna vaccine for emergency authorization just like the Pfizer version.

Meanwhile, and another happy discovery, hospitals say they've managed to squeeze extra doses out of vials of the already approved Pfizer vaccine expanding the already short supply. It seems it's just this basic the vials contain more volume of liquid than just one shot. One of those Pfizer doses will be going to Joe Biden soon, a transition official tells NBC News he'll get his vaccine sometime early next week.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: I want to make sure that we demonstrate to the American people that it is safe to take, when I do it I'll do it publicly and so you all can actually witness by getting it done.


WILLIAMS: Mike Pence will get his vaccination on television on Friday. Today we learn more disturbing details about the mismanagement of this pandemic. A House subcommittee has released emails from a former Trump appointee Paul Alexander and which here just top health officials to allow millions of Americans to go ahead and become infected in order to develop herd immunity. "Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions et cetera have zero to little risk. So we use them to develop herd. We want them infected. We want them to establish herd immunity."

This is what we were told by the current administration and the President about herd immunity.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And that herd immunity so called theory was something made up in the fanciful minds of the media. That was never something that was ever considered here at the White House.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: With time it goes any deaths and you'll develop -- you'll develop herd, like a herd mentality. It's going to be -- it's going to be herd developed and that's going to happen.

MCENANY: Herd immunity has never been a strategy here at the White House. The President last night was noting herd immunity is over a period of time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Herd immunity is not the strategy of the U.S. government with regard to coronavirus.

TRUMP: You develop immunity over a period of time and I hear we're close to 15%. I'm hearing that and that is terrific. That's a very powerful vaccine in itself.


WILLIAMS: There's also a new report out from the New York Times that quotes two Trump appointees who describe the slow crushing of the CDC by the Trump administration, as one of them puts it, "Damage has been done to the CDC that will take years to undo."

In the meantime, your elected representatives are reported to be closer to a deal for a new round of coronavirus reliefs. The roughly $900 billion package said to include direct aid and enhanced unemployment benefits. Tonight the lame duck president remains holed up in the White House. This afternoon he did manage to hold his 25th cabinet meeting of his presidency close to the press this time and without several key officials from the justice, defense and intelligence agencies that were a couple empty seats.

There are now multiple reports that Trump is pushing to appoint special counsels to investigate Hunter Biden and to look at so called election fraud.

Reuters news agency reporting the incoming Attorney General won't say what he plans to do in regard to that. The incoming president today added one more nominated was cabinet choices. Joe Biden introduced his former campaign rival Pete Buttigieg as his secretary, his choice for Transportation Secretary.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION NOMINEE: My view this opportunity is also shaped by being the youngest member so far named to this cabinet and the first millennial invited to a seat at that table. I'm also mindful that the eyes of history are on this appointment, knowing that this is the first time an American president has ever sent an openly LGBTQ cabinet member to the Senate for confirmation.


WILLIAMS: With that, let's bring in our leadoff guests on this Wednesday night, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Dr. Irwin Redlener, the Founding Director of Columbia's National Center for Disaster Preparedness with an expertise in pandemics and former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, who spent a quarter century as a federal prosecutor.

Good evening, and welcome to you all. Peter, in your paper tonight, the former Homeland Security Adviser to this president Tom Bossert writes this in an op-ed, "President Trump is on the verge of leaving behind a federal government and perhaps a large number of major industries compromised by the Russian government. He must use whatever leverage he can muster to protect the United States and severely punish the Russians." Headline, I was the homeland security adviser to Trump. We're being hacked.

So, Peter, to review, we are under an active electronic attack from the Russians. We have over 300,000 of our fellow citizens dead in an as yet uncontrolled pandemic. We have millions in need of relief and waiting on Congress. What's the President been up to?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the answer, of course, Brian, he's been focused still on his election. The fact that he's lost, the fact he doesn't want to admit that he's lost, the fact that he's still trying to punish those who have said that he lost. He's angry at Senate Republicans, particularly Mitch McConnell for having acknowledged that President-elect Biden is the president-elect.

And he is, you know, he is not, in fact, at least publicly any comments about the Russian attack, and much, much like he basically passed over the intelligence reports suggesting that they were Russian bounties on American soldiers, he basically let it go by without any public display of anger or promise of retribution, or any discussion whatsoever about what we should do to harden our defenses or prevent this kind of attack in the future.

And I think that, you know, is complete for years, this president, where he has taken a relatively quiet, you could say friendly, even approach toward Russia overlooking, you know, acts of hostility, even though his administration below him at times has taken very tough action, he himself continues to, you know, seem to court Vladimir Putin's friendship. Vladimir Putin, of course, at this point, as he himself has now recognized President-elect Biden as the next president of United States.

WILLIAMS: And Doctor, a dual question to you considering we now all live at the intersection of politics and medicine. Number one is this spike we're seeing now, the Thanksgiving spike. And number two, can you believe there was an appointed government official in this administration talking seriously about herd immunity among the population?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Hi, Brian. So let's talk about the second question first because it's, you know, very egregious. In fact, there was not only people administration but Donald Trump himself, as we've heard in the clips, talking about herd immunity, which is basically a death sentence for hundreds of 1000s of Americans, if that were allowed to happen, unfortunately, I think that there's been the brakes put on that particular idea, thank goodness. Because, you know, you think about this, even if we don't have that theory, in practice, right now, we're talking about, let's say, by July 4, which is about 200 days from now, if we continue the clip of 2500 fatalities from COVID a day, we're talking about several 100,000 more people succumbing to this to this virus, because I don't know that we're going to have enough vaccinated people to really stop or slow down. I hope we do. And maybe we will. But right now, we're facing a terrible crisis.

Trump's management, of course, has been a disaster. And the dishonest one at that, you know, from day one here, so nothing really should surprise us about what he said and what he's denied about saying. So it we're going to fix here, and it's another 30 plus days, I guess, until we get the new team in town. And I think we're very much looking forward to that.

WILLIAMS: Joyce Vance, over to the intersection of politics and law, we here talk about appointing the special counsels to look into election fraud that doesn't exist to investigate Hunter Biden. That sounds petty, and it sounds small, and it would be both. It's also a chance for Barr to cement his legacy on the way out the door or challenge, the new guy Acting AG Rosen when he takes over on Christmas Eve. Am I correct in assuming that were the special counsels, one or both appointed they would be embedded in shrined cemented into DOJ in a way the President would be unwilling and unable to affect?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: We'll certainly they would be established in a way that would circumvent DOJ's rules a little bit. Let me talk about that in a second. But whether or not they're appointed legally, it would be difficult as a matter of politics to remove them. When I say it's not necessarily legal. I say that because the special counsel provisions are meant to come into play when there's a conflict of interest at DOJ that requires the use of someone from outside of the Justice Department to decide upon cases, to investigate to make prosecuting decisions.

Right now, there's no apparent conflict of interest. We have a sitting U.S. Attorney in Delaware appointed by President Trump pursuing the Hunter Biden matter. No conflict of interest, no need for a special counsel right now. And when you think about the way that we got Bob Mueller that happened only after direct FBI Director Comey was fired.

And Trump in essence bragged about relieving pressure on himself by doing that firing a clear conflict of interest that mandated the need for a special counsel. So when Senator Cotton says that there needs to be a special counsel right now, because Republicans who are prosecutors might be fired down the road. It's a little bit premature. And we should wait and see what happens. There's a lot of precedent for these political investigations, continuing from one administration to another, the John Edwards investigation started under President Bush continued on and was indicted after President Obama took over, same U.S. Attorney stayed in place.

So I think that there's a lot of politics and very craven politics going on here, an effort to stick it to the Biden administration not to see justice done.

WILLIAMS: That is to date, the best explanation I've heard. Peter Baker, you mentioned the President's rage at his fellow Republicans or as we've come to call it Wednesday. How -- what's your reporting on the how long a walk it is from where we are now to getting elected Republicans on the Hill to mouth the words to say the words, President-elect Joe Biden?

BAKER: Well, you see more than do it not a floodgate after the electoral college, but at least the beginning of a trickle, you know, and it's slowly but surely, it's just to me, it's the reality that people are accepting, even if they don't want to go out there and push, you know, Trump off the ledge, in fact, I mean.

Everybody understands this, except basically for the president, his blood relatives and the people out there in the country. He's convinced that something happened. No judge has agreed anything has happened on the scale that the President talks about his own attorney general, has said there was no widespread fraud that would have overturned the election, his own cybersecurity chiefs, it was agreed with it, the statement that was the most secure election in recent times. Basically this is a president railing against the wind and the members on the hill for the most part, at least in the Senate, anyway, or letting him do it even as they begin to do business with the new president-elect. They're calling him. They're talking about his nominees. They're meeting in some cases or discussing some of these nominations. And I think that, you know, they've just basically increasingly ignoring, you know, the guy in the Oval Office. He's only got 30, some days left.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, if memory serves, back in the 1950s, there was a bad batch of the Salk polio vaccine and people died as a result, and this country collectively decided to keep on walking, to get up and keep immunizing people after it was found to be in fact, a bad batch.

Now, the anti-vax movement then was not what it is now. They didn't have social media as we do now. I'm asking this because of this report of anaphylaxis, a bad reaction in Alaska. How do you in public health push people, point people to keep on going through the darkness to get to the other side with all else that's out there?

REDLENER: Yeah, Brian. So this is a really, it's a complicated question as to how we're going to message all this. And if you compare one horrible reaction, and you know, this is not good, to a dose of the vaccine, to - if you compare that to the number of people who are getting sick every day in America, and the number of deaths, we're experiencing this kind of no comparison.

But again, this is not a war of facts. This is a war of words and a war of messaging. We have, as you pointed out a very, very powerful anti-vax movement that's getting stronger by the day, it seems and bolstered by a lot of dishonest messaging that is really from the White House that's really challenged and undermine how Americans feel about their government and messages from the government. This is going to be a messaging contest. And hopefully, you know, cooler heads, smarter heads will prevail and some of the conspiracy theories, the anti-vax movement, et cetera will give way to an understanding of what the reality is and what the comparison is. Yes, it was a bad reaction. But no, it doesn't even come close to the natural realities of a wildly out of control COVID pandemic.

WILLIAMS: Joyce, you get the last word, courtroom lawyers, like yourself are trained in law school, never to ask a question you don't already know the answer to during a trial. I'm going to violate that. I have no idea your answer to this. But I'm going to try anyway. What's on your list of fears in the weeks remaining in this administration in your bailiwick, the area of law, is it pardons, is it any more skullduggery on the part of the Department of Justice and so on?

VANCE: So we know that we have a president who's fundamentally not committed to the rule of law. He's willing to burn things down to protect himself. He's demonstrated that over and over, but we also know the antidote for that, Brian. And in large part, it's the American people staying focused, understanding what's going on demanding better from their government. We saw it over the summer when there were problems at the post office. They were exposed and the public really single handedly is responsible for getting us through that situation by staying attentive by demanding better, along with the media, along with Democrats on the Hill. And the point that I would make is whatever is coming down the road as Americans pulling together we can get through this and to the other side on January 20.

WILLIAMS: A reporter, a doctor, and a lawyer walk into THE 11TH HOUR and we are better for it as a result, our thanks tonight to our starting three, Peter Baker, Dr. Irwin Redlener, and Joyce Vance. We appreciate it very much.

Coming up for us, this country's most populous state home to 40 million Americans is in its own state of emergency tonight.

We're going to talk to an ICU doc on the front lines on the day when California hit a terrible new record high. And later, five weeks to the day until Joe Biden takes the oath of office. We have a necessary reminder tonight as per our discussion with Joyce that a lot can happen in five weeks. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on this snowy Wednesday night here in the northeast.



DR. BARBARA FERRER, LOS ANGELES COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH DIRECTOR: Every hour on average, two of our neighbors, family members, and friends are dying from COVID-19. The surgeon COVID-19 cases in L.A. County continues unabated. And it's a near vertical line over the last several weeks. From November 1 through December 8 average daily cases increased by 656%.


WILLIAMS: What a scary graphic that arrow at the end there. Tonight California, as you heard surging past its single day coronavirus records, adding over 41,000 new cases and sadly 300 new deaths to the totals.

The state has activated what it calls its mass fatality program. That means the order of 1000s of body bags, dozens of refrigerated storage units for temporary morgue use.

We welcome Dr. Simon Mates to the broadcast tonight. He is co director of the ICU at Dignity Health California Hospital and Medical Center in Downtown Los Angeles. And Doctor I note LA County today all time high in terms of deaths and cases, the average wait time for an ambulance now 45 to 75 minutes. Does this feel like the Thanksgiving post Thanksgiving spike to you? Has this been a fast ramp up or a gradual climb?

DR. SIMON MATES, INTERNAL MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: So compared to the past two surges, this has definitely been a rapid surge and that's basically consistent with what we expected.

WILLIAMS: And what have -- what has it been like to be at the center of this, to go from weeks where you thought you may have had handled weeks where you thought maybe we don't have to move to that new ICU ward. Maybe we don't have to do triage in the parking lot. How much margin of error do you have now?

MATES: Well, we've been -- I kind of see the first two surges as a dress rehearsal for what we're doing through now. We are -- we've expected this to come. We've been planning for this and right now we're able to handle it. So we're pretty confident with where we're at honestly.

WILLIAMS: Give us some good news, if I arrive at the ICU presenting with coronavirus symptoms, difficulty breathing and the like, what is my survivability in the hands of your professionals now, as opposed to those first cases through the door, say in March?

MATES: So I think we've learned a lot about this virus over the course of the past nine months. I think we've realized that miracle cures are really not the answer to this. We've got to go back to the basics of ICU care. And we've been focusing on that. And that's really been working for us.

Our mortality rate, our morbidity rate is pretty -- is lower than average, actually in our hospital. And that's what we're focusing on. We know what we need to do for these patients. And we know how to do it. And it's just all about, you know, going back to basics in terms of the ICU care.

WILLIAMS: Is it still true that ventilators in way too many cases result in fatal cases?

MATES: I think that's a big misconception that the public has is that ventilators kill people or that there's something wrong with a ventilator. A ventilator is a great tool, used properly, it allows your patients to rest, it allows the body to heal. The best tool that you have is your own body. And what we're doing is just supporting the healing process of the body really.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think around here, we just heard so many medical professionals at the height of it say the minute you put a patient on a ventilator that reduces the odds that that patient is going to walk out of the hospital just speaking to how sick they were.

Final question, is there a date you carry around in your head where you are hoping through public health and the vaccine finally reaching enough people? Is it summer of 2021 where you expect to see life something closer to normal in Southern California?

MATES: Yeah, I'm definitely hoping that but well, I think in the short term, I'm looking at the end of January, I think that we're going to continue to search through the holidays. And I'm hoping that by the end of January that kind of peeks and then begins to trough and then definitely looking forward to the spring and summer as we will be able to start vaccinating the general public, and hopefully getting this under control.

WILLIAMS: Thank you very much for making time for us tonight and taking our questions. It's been very instructive, Dr. Simon Mates with us from Los Angeles tonight.

Coming up for us, one of our next guest says getting Donald Trump out of the White House was still not bring back normal, so we'll ask him what will?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, do you plan to join with members in the House to jump to the Joe Biden's electors in January 6th?

SEN. KELLY LOEFFLER (R-GA): Well, like January 6 is a long ways off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you acknowledge that Biden is going to be President?

LOEFFLER: Look the President has a right to every legal recourse. That's what's playing out right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But have you acknowledge that Biden's going to be president?

LOEFFLER: Look that my focus is on winning this race right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you knowledge that Biden will be repressed by the President.

LOEFFLER: Look, there'll be a time for that if that becomes true.


WILLIAMS: So what have we learned there? First of all, she likes answering questions with the word look four and O right there. Second, Senator Kelly Loeffler playing directly to Donald Trump via the news media.

While a growing number of Republicans are publicly acknowledging what we already know, some of the President's staunchest supporters still refuse to call Joe Biden, the President Elect on Trump's refusal to concede Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, writes this, quote, his campaign to comfort his bruised ego and reinforce his precious brand by disputing his election last long past the bitter end means his legacy will poison our politics long past Inauguration Day.

Let's talk about it with two of the best political minds we know including the aforementioned Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the aforementioned Washington Post and Mike Murphy, veteran Republican strategist, strategic advisor to Republican voters against Trump. He is also co-host of the Hacks on Tap podcast a dandy way to spend time.

Hey, Eugene, a dual question for you. Is that a finite list of things that are broken beyond repair and talk for a minute about the responsibility on the news media to remove the oxygen Donald Trump will depend on starting on and thereafter January 21?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, just for the first question, the list of things that are that are broken, is very long, and it will take a long time to repair them. I don't think -- I want to say never, but things do not immediately snap back to the way they were and norm after norm after norm has been just pulverize by this President and this administration, and it's going to take time and effort and patients and to try to reestablish them and probably some of them will never come back.

But yes and answer your second question is absolutely our responsibility to treat it as a problem 1:00 p.m. January 20. It is our responsibility to treat Donald Trump like we treat all former presidents which is basically to pay him not very much attention at all. I mean, because he wouldn't know longer be president, you know, full stop.

I mean, and, you know, I suppose there's a very small chance that that we will end up covering his bodily removal from the White House. But I tend to doubt that I think that's a small chance, I think he will have him left before that becomes necessary.

And then afterwards, you know, as my colleague at the Post, Margaret Solomon are great media columnist writes, no Mar-a-Lago bureaus, no daily reports on President Trump and his family and what they're up to. And yes, there could be legal cases to follow and he will be continued -- can continue to communicate with his many followers through social media or alternative social media or whatever. But we should apply our normal new standard not presenting. It's not a big deal.

WILLIAMS: Mike Murphy, as I keep saying, at the intersection of politics and medicine, I'm going to play for you a public service announcement that went up just tonight.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ): This message isn't for everyone. It's for all those people who refuse to wear a mask, you know, lie in isolation and ICU for seven days, I thought about how wrong I was to remove my mask at the White House.

Today, I think about how wrong it is to let mask wearing divide us, especially as we now know, you're twice as likely to get COVID-19 if you don't wear a mask, because if you don't do the right thing. We could all end up on the wrong side of history. Please, wear a mask.


WILLIAMS: So Mike, there's a Trump Republican, there's a rare plea from a Trump Republican. Is it too late? And if so, what's the crime in that as a political matter?

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN VOTES AGAINST TRUMP: Well, no, I -- excuse me, I give him credit for doing it. It's the right message. And I think he's been slowly trying to turn himself into a former Trump Republican over the last six months or so. So I think politically, he's on a rehab mission. He's a little late, but I applaud him for doing this PSA, it's the right thing to do. And I'm sure he did it for legitimate reasons. His just road to Damascus was at a turtle's pace.

WILLIAMS: Let me ask you, Mike, are Republicans you think starting on January 21 going to contend Hey, we're just Republicans. We've always been Republicans, we're still here. All evidence to the contrary, all of them, having signed away their seats, their votes, their reputations to Donald Trump? Can they just insist it's the same old Republican Party despite the destroyed the GOP chant that that went up at the MAGA rally in DC over the weekend?

MURPHY: Well, I think that MAGA rally was kind of the hardcore, the hardcore thing was a bit of a sideshow. I think the bulk of the party, particularly the leadership of the party, is still trying to figure out what to do. They have been most of them in a terrified defensive crouch afraid of about, you know, half to two-thirds of their own primary voters, you saw that in the Kelly Loeffler clip where she's caught in that horrible space between reality and the voter she's going to need and that turned into the habit of having to look, look, lok answer, which is painful to watch.

So what I think they're going to watch is what happens in Georgia, that that is one meter because, you know, politicians, or at least a Republican Party are pretty ruthlessly pragmatic when not being cowardly about Trump. And then they're going to kind of watch Trump. I think we're going to, you know, he'll literally leave the White House kicking and screaming, it won't be a metaphor, probably have to put a falcon hood on him and roll him up in a carpet.

But then it will be over and as Gene you spoke about before, it's critical that the oxygen come down, because he will go build a fake Oval Office in the backyard of Mar-a-Lago by the, you know, by the putt, putt golf course, whatever, and he'll have aides calling him Mr. President, he'll issue proclamations and try to be president in exile, there's going to be up to the media to decide what kind of oxygen to give him.

Then you've got a bunch of ambitious politicians that are probably a party of all stripes, pro-Trump, semi-Trump, anti-Trump, who want him gone because he's in the way of their ambition. So you know, I do think that Trump grip will fade a bit but it's going to be slow. They're going to be very cautious about it, because they've been fear driven on Trump and that fear won't go away overnight. Like much like the damage Gene wrote about.

WILLIAMS: Not a lot gets to me after four years of this, but I got to admit the Falcon hood rolled up in a carpet on putt, putt golf at Mar-a-Lago. He shoots he scores. Both of these gentlemen have agreed to stay with us.

Coming up. It's Democrat against Democrats meeting Democrats being Democrats even before Joe Biden gets to decide on the new drapes for the Oval Office.



PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY NOMINEE: Travel in my mind is synonymous with growth with adventure. Even love so much so that I proposed to my husband Chest and in an airport terminal. Don't let anybody tell you that O'Hare isn't romantic.


WILLIAMS: O'Hare quickly changed their Twitter handle to add the word romantic. Today President Elect Biden's pick for Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Still with us Eugene Robinson, Mike Murphy. Hey, Mike using Secretary designate Buttigieg as our jumping on point. Do you see any showstoppers, any deal breakers among these Biden picks thus far?

MURPHY: Well, General Austin in the Pentagon is going to be a tricky one. Because the system doesn't like generals. Now, when it was Jim Mattis, you know, they have to get a special waiver from Congress. But there's always uneasy about that. And there were other candidates, the democratic foreign policy establishment was, you know, in the Beltway world, which is a big echo chamber, but it talks to the media a lot. We're kind of more comfortable with. I don't think anything anybody has anything against in Austin. He served with great distinction.

But, you know, politically, this one could have some capital. And then there's Neera Tanden, for OMB who a lot of Republicans have been offended by her partisanship and her, you know, pension for tough tweeting. Now I personally think the GOP has lost its ref shared on nasty tweeting for a while, and I actually ideologically Neera is a pretty pro business center -- Democrat was what you wanted OMB watching the budget.

So I think the Republicans and get over the tweets there's a case for but right now she's kind of targeted, and there's a lot of kind of teeth grinding on the Republican senate about pushing back on her nomination. Those are the two that I think are going to most resistance but you know, we'll see.

WILLIAMS: Eugene, I got one for you. I give you a New York Democratic Congresswoman AOC. We'll talk about it on the other side.


JEREMY SCAHILL, THE INTERCEPT: Are you ready to say, Pelosi and Schumer need to go?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-Cortez (D), NEW YORK: I mean, I I think so. I mean, the question is like, this year, for example, the hesitancy that I have is that I'm -- I want to make sure that if we're pointing people in a direction that we have a plan. And my concern, and this I acknowledge as a failing, as something that we need to sort out is that there isn't a plan. How do we fill that vacuum?


WILLIAMS: So Eugene, What is she saying there other than further endearing herself to Democratic Party leadership? And isn't it a tad early for blue on blue fratricide, five weeks before Biden raises his right hand?

ROBINSON: It's not early at all, Brian. This is the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has a long and illustrious history. Some of them, you know, our greatest and most successful presidents come out of the Democratic Party. But this is the Democratic Party. There's -- it's not, you know, as an organized political organization, as Lo Rogers been said, it's -- there's always this push and pull between the more moderate wing and the progressive wing, there's always, you know, questions, you know, AOC has the sort of charisma and star power that adds some spice to this, to what's basically just a very normal situation.

In fact, I find it comforting. It's like getting back the normal balance, exactly what you expect from an incoming democratic administration. We've seen it every single time, and we'll see it again in the future. And I don't think it's anything to write home about.

WILLIAMS: I'm sure Nancy Pelosi finds just as comforting as well, wherever she is tonight. One note to our audience, she knows that if you ever have to have a center -- if you ever have to have a center seat on an airline flight, you better hope that Murphy's got the window and Robinson's got the aisle because you know, you'll have a good flight with these two guys. We always do.

Our thanks to our friends Eugene Robinson, Mike Murphy for joining us for tonight's conversation, greatly appreciate it guys.

Coming up when a Trump pet peeve turns into actual national policy, because it's something Trump talks about all the time. It has happened. We'll explain it after the break.


WILLIAMS: Over 300,000 dead Americans yet as we head into the holidays on the final days of the Trump White House don't say Donald Trump hasn't tried to do something to improve the quality of your life.

Just today, his Department of Energy loosened up the water flow standards for showerheads, dishwashers and washing machines. The standards will just be put back when Biden takes office. But you still have to admire Trump's determination. And you have to wonder, would we have 300,000 dead if he'd been this diligent, this persistent about our uncontrolled pandemic? Also note as you watch the following. Once the President believes something is true, it becomes a kind of repetition tick, and no amount of exaggeration is enough.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a situation where we're looking very strongly at sinks and showers.

You turn it on, no water comes out, right?

The water is like, you got soap, you can't get it off.

They take a shower and the water comes dripping out his clipping air very quietly dripping out.

Drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip.

It's no good for me. And me, I want that here to be so beautiful.

Sinks, right, showers and what goes with a sink and a shower.

CROWD: Toilets!

TRUMP: People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times. 10, 15, 10 times, right, 10 times. Wow. Not me, of course not me. But you, him.

Remember the dishwasher you press is full. They'd be like an explosion. Now you press it 12 times. Women tell me, again, you know, they give you four drops of water.

Ten times, four, five, six, seven, eight, eight, 10.

So they'll you know, scoff and say, oh, who cares about that very big stuff. You know, these are big things.

It's an easy word. God is a very complicated word. When you think of it, it's called water.

But these are things that no other president would be doing. No other president frankly, would be even thinking about.


WILLIAMS: Donald Trump on water pressure and an actual action his administration actually took today.

When we come back after a break, an unusual letter to parents and children during an unusual time reminding them what normal is.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, there is a great place called Charles Town, West Virginia not far from Harpers Ferry. It's in the far northeast corner of the state. Charles town was named after its founder Charles Washington, little brother of George Washington.

Charles Town is the headquarters of the County School District in that part of West Virginia and we are highlighting them tonight. Because of this, a letter sent out anticipating today's snow day, it was sent to parents and children from the Superintendent Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson and it reads, dear Jefferson County Schools community, for generations families have greeted the first note day of the year with joy. It is a time of renewed wonder at all the beautiful things that each season holds a reminder of how fleeting a childhood can be, an opportunity to make some memories with your family you can hold on to for life.

For all these reasons and many more Jefferson County schools will be completely closed for tomorrow, December 16th in honor of the first snow day of the year, close for students, close for virtual, close for staff. It has been a year of seemingly endless loss and the stress of trying to make up for that loss.

For just a moment, we can all let go of the worry of making up for the many things we missed by making sure this is one thing our kids won't lose this year. So please enjoy a day of sledding and hot chocolate and cozy fires. Take pictures of your kids in snow hats they will outgrow by next year and read books that you have wanted to lose yourself in but haven't had the time.

We will return to the serious and urgent business of growing up on Thursday but for tomorrow, go build a snowman. Sincerely, Bondy Shay Gibson, superintendent.

Well thank you Dr. Gibson for stressing all the right things in a snowstorm that happens to coincide with an uncontrolled pandemic. I am guessing Dr. Gibson is a former child and was a better than average student. And we hope today has been a cozy family day in that small but snowy corner of West Virginia and wherever you live.

For us, that's our broadcast on this snowy Wednesday night here in the northeast. Thank you so much for being here with us. On behalf of all the men and women at the network's of NBC News, good night.


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