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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, December 22, 2020

Guests: Chuck Rosenberg, Celine Gounder, David Plouffe, Tim Miller


President Donald Trump issued a slew of pardons including for some convicted of murder and fraud while he keeps digging in on his election conspiracy theories. Trump blindsides GOP calling for more COVID aid. Dominion voting systems employee sues Trump over debunked election conspiracy theories. V.P. Mike Pence salted to preside over January 6 session of Congress counting 2020 election results. Trump's election theft scheme faces political and legal dead ends. President-elect Joe Biden to push for more coronavirus relief, setting up a clash with GOP.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again.

Day 1,433 of the Trump administration, 29 days until the inauguration of Joe Biden as our 46th President with his time in office running out, Donald Trump has issued his first big wave of pardons and commutations. The list includes convicted liars, murderers and corrupt politicians.

In what appears to be a move to chip away at the Mueller investigation, Trump has given full pardons to George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump 2016 campaign who, by the way, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. He also gave a full pardon to Alex Van Der Zwaan who worked with the Trump former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort also pleaded guilty to lying to Mueller's team.

Then there are three crooked former Republican members of Congress, all three of whom were put away by Trump's own Justice Department. There Steve Stockman of Texas convicted on charges of fraud and money laundering. There's Duncan Hunter of California who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds. And there's Chris Collins of upstate New York, the first Trump supporter in Congress, who pleaded to lying to the FBI and conspiring to commit securities fraud. He was the one who, as a guest at the annual congressional picnic summer of 2017 was caught on camera phoning insider stock tips to his son from the South Lawn of the White House according to the feds.

Also on this initial part and list for military contractors who worked for Blackwater and were all convicted of killing 14 armed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. In '07 the dead included two children. Just minutes after those pardons were announced Trump then posted a video in which he seemed to threatened, to veto the massive $900 billion COVID relief bill that Congress just passed 24 hours ago.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Throughout the summer, Democrats cruelly blocked COVID relief legislation in an effort to advance their extreme left wing agenda and influence the election. The bill they are now planning to send back to my desk is much different than anticipated. It really is a disgrace. It's called the COVID relief bill. But it has almost nothing to do with COVID. I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple.

I'm also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation. And to send me a suitable bill arouse the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package. And maybe that administration will be me and we will get it done.


WILLIAMS: Trump had been expected to sign the nearly 6000 page relief bill before leaving for Mar-a-Lago for the Christmas holiday. He was largely absent for the bipartisan negotiations he never named $1 amount that Americans should receive. The bill passed both houses with veto proof majorities. This will get interesting because it provides aids from -- aid for millions of Americans whose lives have been up ended by this pandemic. Trump later followed that up with another video in which he revisited his falsehoods about the outcome of our election.


TRUMP: We won this election by a magnificent landslide. And the people of the United States know it. All over they're demonstrating, they're angry, they're fearful. We cannot allow a completely fraudulent election to stand.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, Axios is reporting that Trump has been turning on his own advisors. "Targets of his outrage include Vice President Pence, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Trump thinks everyone around him is weak, stupid or disloyal, and increasingly seeks comfort only in people who egged him on to overturn the election results. We cannot stress enough how unnerved Trump officials are by the conversations unfolding inside the White House."

That last sentence from Jonathan Swan should be a wake up call. Those conversations include efforts to spread disinformation about dominion voting systems so called involvement in Biden's win. Today an official with dominion voting systems who has gone into hiding after becoming the subject of conspiracy theories on the right since the election was held, is now suing the Trump campaign a number of campaign surrogates and pro-Trump media networks alleging defamation.

Amid all this, the incoming president today tried to occupy the leadership role that Trump has essentially vacated as he fixates on his campaign to overdo the election. Joe Biden spoke today in a year's and pre-holiday address, offering a sobering look at the challenges ahead in fighting the pandemic while slamming Trump's handling of the latest suspected Russian cyber attack.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: One thing I promise you about my leadership during this crisis, I'm going to tell it to you straight, I'm going to tell you the truth. And here's the simple truth, our darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us. This attack constitutes a grave risk or national security. It certainly fits Russia's long history of reckless, disruptive cyber activities. But the Trump administration needs to make an official attribution. This assault happened on Donald Trump's watch when he wasn't watching.


WILLIAMS: With that, let's bring in our leadoff guests on this Tuesday night, Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney and former Senior FBI official. He has a brand new season of his popular MSNBC podcast called The Oath, A.B. Stoddard, Veteran, a political journalism currently Associate Editor and Columnist at Real Clear Politics. And we welcome back our old friend even though he's a young man, Hans Nichols, former Pentagon Correspondent for us at NBC News, now a political reporter over at Axios.

Good evening, and good to see you all. Chuck, I'm going to begin with you due to the urgency of the matter. And the fact that tonight's lead story really does have to do with the law. Talk about these pardons. Yes, we have three criminal confirmed former members of Congress on the Republican side. But talk about those who were part of the Mueller case, Mueller defendants tonight getting pardons?

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: The president, Brian, continues to do everything he can, by word and by did to undermine the Mueller team, the Mueller findings and the convictions of many people that were caught up in the Mueller investigation.

You know, it shouldn't be surprising that people convicted of crimes get pardons. I mean, after all, that's who it's designed for. What we should be asking ourselves are, is who is getting pardons? Which people are getting pardons? And again, and again, and again, it's the President's friends and allies and his political supporters. And so it's hard for me to imagine that he cares very much about George Papadopoulos or Alexander Van Der Zwaan. Except that they were caught up in the Mueller investigation. And so wait for this president to further try and torment what I think were honorable and decent and noble investigators trying to hold this president accountable for his misdeeds and his attempts to obstruct justice.

You know, pardons are designed for people who have paid their debt, who have expressed remorse who have accepted guilt, who have, by their own deeds after release from sentence shown good works and have contributed to their community. None of that applies to these people who are pardoned today, none of it. It's just an attempt to try and undermine the Mueller investigation.


WILLIAMS: Hans Nichols, the President has come in with the, you'll forgive the phrase and 11th Hour populist turn fighting for more money for working Americans from Congress before Congress leaves town. Talk about what this has done, especially to members of his own party?

HANS NICHOLS, AXIOS POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, it's put them in a jam, right? I mean, members of his own party, including Senator Mitch McConnell, who there's been some friction with from the president knighted states and Senator McConnell, clearly that friction is increased. So Republicans in a jam, the whole entire what they do for next six, seven days before there's another government shutdown, remember this morning, the President signed a six to seven day resolution that just funds the government, has implications for the Georgia Senate race.

But you know, the president sort of didn't do their two main stories, just take a step back. Number one, the pardons and none of I mean, yes, they're shocking, but none of us should really be surprised and been telegraphed that Trump was going to do a variety of pardons. We reported some of this over the weekend. But his comments on the COVID relief really was stunning really did come out of the blue. This seems like there's an easy way to solve this. And maybe I'm being too client share. There's easy way to solve this. And that is just plus up the numbers for the individual checks. That seemed to be the President's red line.

Now, technically, that's going to be difficult to do. You got to bring members of Congress back. You've got to figure out how to get the bill the president. He's going to be down at Mar-a-Lago, but the president allowed for a big space there to plus up the numbers. And remember in that very speech they gave there, that Twitter speech, I don't think I should call it a speech. It is a Twitter message. He said the news crew of Democrats to withhold aid, just can be hard for him to hold the position. Hard is the right words, can be illogical, Brian, for him to hold the position, that it was cruel for Democrats to withhold aid to struggling Americans through no fault of their own, all summer long, while he's threatening to do that right now over the Christmas holidays, and this holiday season. So how he reconciles that is, you know, he can see how he gets there, sort of ideologically, right, just plus up the number, but the technical aspects of this will be challenged.

WILLIAMS: A.B., I've been wanting to talk to you on this very topic, this is nihilism. This is running Republican against Republican in what is oh, by the way, the President's own political party in the last 24 hours. He has trolled McConnell and McConnell's Deputy John Thune, what possible good can come out of this?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST: Right. I mean, you can listen to what Hans lays out and try -- people can try to scramble tonight to think of how all of this will come together technically and mechanically, in the next few days to avert disaster. He didn't necessarily use the word veto, and Donald Trump, but that changes his mind, you know, every 30 seconds, so we don't actually know where this is going.

But I think it's clear and his attack on Mitch McConnell last night, and his attack on Senator Thune today that he doesn't care what is happening in the Georgia runoff Senate. Mitch McConnell, in recent days was expressing urgency about passing this because he needed to help the two incumbent senators in Georgia campaign on this. He doesn't care about blowing it up. And I think he's really making it clear. He's cutting the cord with Republicans, I think he's going to be happy to say, even if he ends up signing something, look, those establishment Republicans, you know, they weren't with me. They didn't want to help Americans who were struggling as much as I did. And I think, he's really going to turn, you know, I've been trying to talk about this for a while that he is going to destroy the Republican Party because he's not bonded in any kind of commitment or investment to anything beyond himself and his ability to make videos with multiple camera angles and be dramatic on social media and raise money for a following. And for travel and staff in the future where he can pretend he's running for president and not really do so but thereby strangle the party for the next three years.

She exact punishment, he's threatening a primary challenge to John Thune in that tweet, and that's what he's doing. He's threatening everybody, is not trying to be a leader of the Republican Party. He's really making it clear today that he's just trying to hold it hostage.

WILLIAMS: Chuck, it's a lot. We're going to deal a little later in the broadcast in depth with what Bill Kristol theorized today on social media that headline was a theory as to why Barr is leaving office tomorrow. One theory is because Barr knows what's coming. So my question to you is, what kind of fresh hell may be unleashed with acting Attorney General Rosen? And will we officially know that the rules of reality are suspended if and when 29 days from now, we wistfully look back at Bill Barr as one of the human guardrails around the president?

ROSENBERG: Well, I'm not sure I'm going to miss bill Barr, tomorrow, or 29 days from now, Brian, I think he's been a massive disappointment. But I think he's wise in the following sense. The last month is going to be holy hell, and lots of nutty things are going to happen. That's the technical legal term for it. And so, you know, he's obviously fallen out with the President. I wouldn't be surprised if the President was very happy to see him go. And Mr. Barr was equally happy to be gone.

What I hope for the new Acting Attorney General, Mr. Rosen, as of tomorrow, is that he has two things, and they run together, a spine and the ability to say no. Now, that doesn't mean he's necessarily going to halt all of Mr. Trump's worst impulses. And we know he has some awfully bad impulses, but he shouldn't be a party to it. He should have a spine and he should say no, because my guess is that in the next 29 or 30 days, there's going to be a lot of good reasons for the Justice Department to say no. The pardons are not the worst of it, because that's a plenary power that the President has granted to them by Article Two of the Constitution. He certainly can and will abuse it, but it doesn't really fall on the Attorney General to stop him, only to advise him.

But I worry about all the other things that this President may want to do. In addition to imprudent and improvident pardons, what else is the President going to try and do? How is he going to try and further corrupt the Justice Department in doing it? And will the acting Attorney General have the ability to say no, I will not be a party to it.

WILLIAMS: So Hans, it falls on you to describe the kind of sick affine circle environment inside the West Wing and further inside the oval office where I understand this week, the new QAnon Congresswoman from Georgia not yet sworn in, but has already had her first visit with the President in the Oval Office. I'll say this, the circle seems to be getting smaller.

NICHOLS: Yeah, I mean, look at White House, you have concentric circles. At this one, the ripples in the concentric circles are moving further and further out. And it was always this sort of close in folks that really did have the presidency on say, they say something like Castiglione (ph), the White House Counsel, someone like Mark Meadows, the Chief of Staff, they are trying to distance themselves. And no one really wants to be within the president. And this is, you know, Jonathan Swan's reporting. No one wants to be the President's direct line of fire. Now, the implications of that has for governing and for the power that is invested constitutionally, in that office are vast, right, because there can be advisors that are trying to avoid the president that don't want to be, you know, blamed for something or don't want to get a tongue lashing. But at the end of the day, the president of United States still has constitutional powers that he can -- and as we see with the pardon, that he can exercise

So the big question I have for the next 29 days is what is Donald Trump do? And I think we should all have that question. Because tonight, OK, pardons are out there, that a lot of ways and I don't mean to sort of weigh in on the efficacy or the wisdom of these pardons. But the pardons were expected. This sort of 11th Hour to use your, you know, your shows name, the 11th Hour decision on saying no to additional stimulus that wasn't really expected. And I think if there's one thing that we've learned in the last three years now and 11 months is that Donald Trump can surprises, you know, there days that you're walking out of the White House, and he decided to invite the Taliban and then disinvite them to Camp David. I didn't see that, made them a bad reporter, but I just didn't see that one coming.

I didn't see the president trying to buy Greenland, right? That was something he was contemplating. So for these next days, the question really is, what possibly is he going to do? And what's that going to leave for Joe Biden? Now an interesting tone from Biden today was it Biden wasn't pulling any punches on Trump. And that just may be a calculus that they've made that Joe Biden has made, the President Elect has made and his team has made, but they are, they're not shying away from a fight with Donald Trump. And they're certainly not afraid of antagonizing when you listen to how explicitly he laid the Russia, what's happened with this potential alleged Russian hack directly the feet of Donald Trump. That's another interesting dynamic as we go through this transition that we need to watch. So I don't know if I squared on your circles there, Brian, but I try.

WILLIAMS: You did an excellent job. And you're right about the Russian element of the president-elect speech today.

A.B. a question you've been asked before. And you've spent a bit of time thinking about, is there anyone in the party with the volume authority influence to stand up and say, this madness stops now?

STODDARD: Well, I mean, I have to hand it to Congressman Adam Kinzinger. And Senator Mitt Romney, who are the only non-retiring republicans speaking out right now about the election fraud line, everything, but it is going to have to be, you know, Mitch McConnell is going to have to make a calculation at some point, and accept what the President is doing to him and Senator Thune and others, and it's going to be, it's going to be rough. But I don't know -- I just don't when -- I don't know when they make that, when they make that turn.

And I think that Hans is right. I mean, President Trump is creative. And he's all over the map. And he is thinking it's really important for people to understand from Mitch McConnell on that it isn't just the wreckage domestically that the President views the leaders of Russia and China and Turkey and the Saudi royal family as once in future clients and trying to, you know, line his pockets and set up goodies for people on the way out the door will certainly be on the agenda, in addition to all these pardons for his family and potentially himself.

So it's really important that Mitch McConnell and other people around him think about not only what this election fraud lie is doing, and throwing all the guns funding into peril but what he could be doing with all of his awesome powers that will really, really injure us and cause tremendous damage between now and January 20.

WILLIAMS: Wow, not only a U.S. ally, a client bracing to hear set out loud we're much obliged to our big three tonight, Chuck Rosenberg, A.B. Stoddard, Hans Nichols, great to see you all with our thanks.

Coming up, the pandemic surges across our country. The President-elect warns more dark days are ahead and he's right. Just as new experts say the new strain in the U.K. could already be circulating in our country. We'll talk about it with one of Joe Biden's coronavirus advisors.

And later, what happens if Trump turns on his most loyal sycophant? The 11th Hour is just getting underway on a busy Tuesday night.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: As a symbol to the rest of the country that I feel extreme confidence in the safety and the efficacy of this vaccine, and I want to encourage everyone who has the opportunity to get vaccinated so that we could have a veil of protection over this country that would end this pandemic.


WILLIAMS: Dr. Fauci turns 80 years old on Christmas Eve. So you had Dr. Fauci, you had Health and Human Services Secretary and Ardent Rhapsodic Trump supporter Alex Azar, you have the Director of the National Institutes of Health, all of them received Moderna's coronavirus vaccine this morning.

Tonight the CDC says this coronavirus variant. This new strain found circulating in the U.K. could already indeed be circulating in our country undetected. Pfizer says it's highly likely that its vaccine is effective against the new strain. It'll take roughly two weeks to know for sure, but the company says it could produce a new vaccine to match the new strain in six weeks. Well for more we welcome back to our broadcast Dr. Celine Gounder, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine and Infectious Disease at the NYU School of Medicine in Bellevue Hospital in New York. She was recently named to the president-elect's coronavirus advisory board.

Dr. Gounder, first of all, it's great to have you back. Second, what is your level of concern on this new strain? And what's the truth about existing testing? Well, the testing we have if you're lucky enough to get one, expose it?

CELINE GOUNDER, MEMBER OF BIDEN'S COVID-19 TASK FORCE: Well, Brian, there's a lot that we still don't know about this variant. But I do think that we need to take this very seriously as a potential new threat. We don't know if this new variant is in fact more transmissible. We think it may be based on modeling. But we don't have concrete data on that yet. We don't know if this new variant could be more deadly. Most of those who have been infected with it in the U.K. so far had been on the younger side, and they tend to have milder cases of coronavirus to begin with. So it's a little hard to say whether there's going to be a significant difference in severity of illness. And finally, we don't know for sure if the vaccines that have been developed by Pfizer, by Moderna and others will protect against this new variant. We think they probably will but if there are further mutations that accumulate in these variants, where they change even more, it is possible they could evade the vaccines we've developed thus far.

WILLIAMS: I heard someone say today, we can try to use the Defense Production Act to make more vaccine to keep the pipeline full of PPE, we just don't know how to make any more doctors and nurses, that personnel, staffing is becoming the issue. We have ground them all down between spikes of this disease. What are we going to do in these hospitals, these regions that are running above full tilt?

GOUNDER: We really can't Defense Production Act our way out of this one. You can't manufacture doctors and nurses. And while you can play around the margins, by promoting medical students to first year residents or trying to bring people out of retirement, that's not going to make a huge dent in this. What you really need to do. It's a supply and demand problem, right? And we have a major demand across the country. What is driving that is transmission. And really the only way to get ourselves out of this situation is to flatten the curve. It's what we've been talking about for months now, which is reduce the number of cases so that healthcare systems, doctors, nurses can cope with a number of patients they're being asked to care for.

WILLIAMS: Where do you come down on shot shaming? We have a report later in our broadcast that uses as an example, 31 year old member of Congress from New York, in perfect health, got her inoculation before doctors and nurses across the country, some of them who are begging for theirs and putting hands on patients every day. How should people view these lines and the notion of cutting in line?

GOUNDER: You know, I think when you have an elected official who steps up and wants to get vaccinated, I do think there is very important symbolic value in that to show the American people that they trust the process by which this vaccine was developed and fractured, approved by the FDA. And so I think the value of that messaging is worth it for somebody like that to be vaccinated early.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Celine Gounder, thanks for your work. Thank you very much for agreeing to come on and take our questions. We always appreciate having you, thank you very much.

Coming up, more on tonight's breaking news on this relief deal, Trump's latest raft of pardons, plus the ad that apparently set a hook inside Donald Trump's head. We'll play it for you when we come back.



BIDEN: The whole number of electors appointed to vote for president of the United States is 538 of which a majority is 270. Donald Trump of New York has received for President of the United States 304 votes. Hillary Clinton the state of New York has received 227 votes.


WILLIAMS: See the point here is Joe Biden didn't like having that job, but he did it. And if all goes as planned on January 6, Mike Pence will have that very same job and he will make the results of the election official.

Axios reports that date looms large in our President's mind and Trump would view Pence validating the election as the ultimate betrayal. For the same reasons that made narcissism one of the most searched for words this past year.

Jonathan Swan also reports the following quote, a source who spoke to Trump said the President was complaining about pants and brought up a Lincoln project ad that claims that pants is backing away from Trump. This ad has clearly got inside Trump's head the source says. Here is some of that ad which we smartly showed you earlier this month.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's one last thing Donald, on January 6, Mike Pence will put the nail in your political coffin when he presides over the Senate vote to prove Joe Biden won. It's over. And Mike Pence knows it.


WILLIAMS: You could feel that one from here. Back with us again tonight. David Plouffe, former Obama Campaign Manager and Senior Advisor to President Obama also on the Board of Directors of the Obama Foundation and Tim Miller, a contributor to The Bulwark and former communications director for Jeb Bush.

Hey Tim, how does Sorkin write the final scene where pence pulls away from Trump's clutches to get the motorcade to drive down on the hill they both know he has a job to do they both know this may be fair. Well, you have a very creative mind. We've learned around here, take it from there.

TIM MILLER, THE BULWARK CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, this is more Selina Meyer than Sorkin, Brian. So I don't know exactly how it will shake out but I do think that pence has a real tough job ahead of them and in a very Selina Meyer Esque fashion

He was down at Mar-a-Lago yesterday at a MAGA youth rally at the Turning Point USA, where he gave a speech, saying that they were continuing to fight for every legal vote, to make sure every legal vote was counted. Obviously, that's wrong on two counts, they aren't continuing to fight. The campaign's been over quite a while now. And to the extent that they are they wanted to take legal votes away from being counted in the Supreme Court.

So you know, he's getting the message that the boss is mad with him, he might want to run in 2024. And I can't see it any other way, then he's got a real tough choice event January 6. I don't think there's any reason to be certain that he will do what Joe Biden did, and do the right thing for the country and swallow his pride. He may, but I think it's very much an open question right now.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Plouffe, I want to read you what the outgoing president said on Twitter tonight. Republicans in the Senate so quickly forget. Right now they would be down eight seats without my backing them in the last election. Republican in name only John Thune, Mitch's boy, should just let it play out. South Dakota doesn't like weakness. He will be primaried in 2022, political career over.

What did John Thune do or say to deserve that he said that any attempt to challenge the elect doors would go down in the Senate, like a shot dog.

David, I used the word nihilism earlier, so much has been written and said about a cultural Democrat from New York City, deciding to be a Republican, the Republicans deciding they want to be with him. And now this is where we are Republican versus Republican. And these big names in the party are going to go home by dint of their four-year association with this guy, and get primaried in their quest for re election.

DAVID PLOUFFE, FMR. OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Yes, well, loyalty only goes one way with Donald Trump. He demands it doesn't give it back. He doesn't care one whit about John Thune or Governor Kemp or any Republican or the Republican Party, because he might be the biggest narcissist ever to walk the planet Earth, much less serve in this powerful office.

So we have today threatening Republicans who simply say Joe Biden won the Electoral College, we have him pardoning war criminals, corrupt congressmen. So, you know, who knows where we'll be on January 20. But I think at the end of the day, it's going to be fascinating to see the next two years, because we're going to see all this play out, there will be primaries, anybody who wore a mask, anybody who said Joe Biden won the election, anybody who said it shouldn't be stolen. Anybody who says there wasn't fraud is going to be encouraged, you know, by Trump and his family and his core allies, they're going to find primary opponents for him.

My supposition always dangerous to make predictions, Brian, is most of them won't be successful. Because I think the world goes on, but that's what the Republican Party is facing. And you could say they deserve it. Because they basically were cowed by this guy. They were afraid of him. They really, really didn't push back. And that's where we find ourselves right now. And he knows he's cornered. He's been cornered since, you know, we started to get votes in, you know, the morning of November 4th. But I think that that is dawning on him right now. That his ridiculous game that he can still win. He's still fighting. It's coming to a close on January 6.

WILLIAMS: All right, gentlemen, please don't move I'm going to slip in a break. Our conversation continues on the other side. And coming up, by the way, let's not forget about the Georgia runoff elections that will only decide the balance of power in the US Senate.



BIDEN: When employments extended for another 10 weeks, it's going to take a lot longer than that. If Congress did his job this week, and I can and I must ask them to do it again next year.


WILLIAMS: So that was Biden today talking about another bill making that a priority when he's sworn in January. That might take even higher precedence now that it sounds like Trump may not sign off on the version Congress passed yesterday.

Either way, Biden's hoping for a democratic majority when he takes office. That hinges on the Georgia runoff election. Of course, now just two weeks away on track to break voter turnout records. We are so happy and fortunate to have Tim Miller and David Plouffe here with us tonight.

So Tim about what the President did tonight. The Democrats look at it and they say he had never seen a word of that before it came up in the prompter. He conflated the spending bill with the COVID relief bill. They look at it as kind of legislative tourism. He's driving past a car accident saying hey, those victims deserve more money.

The Republicans see an evil kind of populist trick in here where they hope Republican voters in Georgia are going to see, see that's the guy I told you about who's always looking for the forgotten man. He wants us to get out of the swamp and have more money. Tim, how do you think it's going to break and the only two races that count?

MILLER: Yes, well, that last point, I do think that that's right. So that was a good populist message for Donald Trump. And I think that honestly, thank goodness he didn't stick with that message throughout October, November. We met at a much closer election a month ago now.

How does that translate over to David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler? I think as Rumsfeld would say, that's kind of unknown, unknown at this point, you know, and this -- is he going to stick with this message for the next two weeks. Was this just a random video and he's going to go back to his fake coup starting tomorrow morning? Is he just going to go gotten to Mar-a-Lago and golf? I think a lot of that is still unknown.

I, in candor, I'm a little bearish on the Georgia run off races because I'm not exactly sure how much this is going to matter. I think that this is really very much a turnout play. If you look at a run off, historically, you know, half the battles just let people know run off happens.

Well, this is going to be the most famous run off in history, I think, particularly among Republican voters. So while Trump's made it hard on those guys who made it complicated, I do think republican turnout will be juiced in Georgia, and that's going to make things tough for knocking off sauce.

WILLIAMS: And David Plouffe, I want to read you a quote. This is Mitch McConnell on Joe Biden quote, I'm going to treat him a hell of a lot better than Chuck Schumer ever treated Donald Trump.

Please remind our audience David, what McConnell famously said about your former boss?

PLOUFFE: Yes, well, I'd love to see that, Brian, it's not going to happen. And Joe Biden, Mitch McConnell, I witnessed it up close, you know, was in Joe Biden's office and in the Oval Office, and he's on the phone and McConnell when we were able to strike some deals.

But I think McConnell from the very moment Barack Obama entered office, swore to do everything he could to harm him politically, even though we were in an economic recession that almost turned into a great depression.

So I wouldn't count on much there. I think Joe Biden will get as much out of Mitch McConnell as any human being could get. But we're still dealing with Mitch McConnell.

I do think my guess is, who knows, getting inside Donald Trump's tortured adult brain is always an ugly mission. But, you know, my guess is what drove him to you. To the extent he knew he was blowing up the relief package. I think it's because he wanted to stick up McConnell, because McConnell had the temerity once the electoral college made it official to say Joe Biden won, I think that's what's behind it.

I tend to agree with Tim, I think that Republican turnouts can be strong. I think Democratic turnout will also be strong. But I think that those races probably lean Republican but I do think all the attacks on the voting system and can you trust the election may cause a haircut on republican turnout.

And then if you just look at what happened in November, Joe Biden did about 100,000 votes better than Jon Ossoff did. And that also Purdue race was basically a one on one. And that's because Biden really blew out his margins in the suburban areas, and some of that was just drop off.

So both Ossoff and Warnock need to up their game in some of these suburban areas and match Republican turnout. I think they're going to be very close. I don't think Donald Trump's helping things much at all.

I don't think this is going to help Perdue and Loeffler because I don't think yes, Donald Trump saying give people money, but it looks like a cluster. And I don't think that probably helps the two Republican candidates who just today were running around saying what a great deal of was it now Donald Trump is now trying to and it's bizarre bar Brian. Basically Trump is embracing the squad's relief bill. As AOC pointed out in space tonight.

WILLIAMS: Tim, 15 seconds point of personal privilege because I follow you. I learned this week you had your first encounter with graters ice cream, how is it you have lived this long on the planet and not had the graters ice cream experience here to four and second call a friend. I can talk you through it. I could have prepared you for what it does to your body. tastes great. does nothing good health wise but go ahead.

MILLER: It was phenomenal. And I think a viewer viewers Brian as you sent it to me so anybody else out there want to send me any other regional ice creams. I'll take it.

WILLIAMS: Tim Miller with an on air play for regional ice creams. Good luck and good luck to his UPS, FedEx and United -- US Postal Service carrier. Tim Miller, David Plouffe, gentlemen, thank you for what is always a terrific conversation.

Coming up should young perfectly healthy members of Congress for example, get the vaccine before those who need it our report coming up.


WILLIAMS: Tonight the vaccines making their way across our country, making their way to the deserving first tier recipients, frontline medical workers and those in nursing homes extended care assisted living, deserving first tier recipients. That also this weekend included AOC age 31 perfect health on the Republican side. Lindsey Graham made sure he got his shot. So did people like Kevin McCarthy and Joni Ernst.

The question is should members of Congress including some coronavirus deniers and conspiracy theorists really be first in line when there are doctors and nurses across the country who have yet to get the vaccine while caring for COVID patients. Our report tonight from NBC News correspondent Garrett Haake.


GARRETT HAAKE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A growing backlash as rank and file lawmakers begin to receive this scarce coronavirus vaccine. Are they cutting the line ahead of frontline workers and the most vulnerable?

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, who in September floated a conspiracy theory that doctors were inflating virus death tolls for money, drew online mockery for tweeting about her vaccination Sunday. She declined to comment to NBC News.

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Every one of those vials that is being used for a congressman and senator that has been doing nothing that hasn't been on the frontlines is another vial of vaccine that isn't going to a nurse.

HAAKE: Former CDC director Tom Frieden agrees.

TOM FRIEDEN, FMR. CDC DIRECTOR: Residents of nursing homes staff of nursing homes and frontline health care workers should be at the front of the line.

HAAKE: At 80 years old and second in line for the presidency. Few question whether speaker Nancy Pelosi qualified as essential for continuity of government so too 78-year-old Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul arguing on Twitter that younger healthier members like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez vaccinated last week should be among the last not first to get a shot.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: I don't want to ask my constituents to take a vaccine if I'm not going to take it.

HAAKE (on camera): More than 40 members of Congress have tested positive for the virus, increasing the sense of urgency among other members to protect themselves here.

REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D), FLORIDA: I also took this vaccine frankly, because some of my colleagues have become super spreaders.

HAAKE (voice-over): Now at least 100 lawmakers have received their first vaccine doses. Garrett Haake, NBC News, the Capitol.


WILLIAMS: Coming up anyone who contends that Zoom calls are on emotional and impersonal hasn't yet seen the clip we're going to show you.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight and emotional moment from earlier today despite an antiseptic atmosphere made necessary by our current pandemic. Here's some background. Kamala Harris is departing her Senate seat from California to go be vice president that leaves a vacancy. Fast forward to this. A Zoom call between California Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.




NEWSOM: By the way my kids are jumping up and down in the background.

PADILLA: Ditto, ditto. They are 13, seven and five.

NEWSOM: Yes, good.

PADILLA: All boys, so roughhousing, roughhousing.

NEWSOM: Hey, just remind me because I remember, I was just thinking, you know, it's a hell of a time when you want to pick up the phone call your mom or dad. I mean, we're all you know, there's been a hell of a time and you lost your mom like, couple years ago, right?

PADILLA: Yes. Two years ago.

NEWSOM: Where your mom and dad came from, remind me they literally came both from Mexico.

PADILLA: Yes,, that's a story I'm proud of. They actually came separately. They met in Los Angeles. But yes, they fell in love and applied for green cards.

NEWSOM: Can you imagine what the mom would be thinking now as I asked you, if you want to be the next U.S. Senator, the United States, the great state of California.

PADILLA: You serious?

NEWSOM: This is the official. This is the ask, brother.

PADILLA: I'm honored, man. And I'm humbled. Because of them. Can't that can tell you how many pancakes my dad flip through eggs he scrambled, kind of provide for us or into the many, many years of my mom cleaning house doing the same thing. So I try so hard to make sure that our democracy is as inclusive in California as we built and to help an important perspective to bring to Washington.

NEWSOM: You're gong to have that chance, Alex, I'm honored. You want to you got to say yes, though, man.

PADILLA: Absolutely, absolutely. I just want to say thank you and please know I will make you proud and make California proud by getting it done in the U.S. and we've got a lot of work to do. And now I'm ready. I'm ready.


WILLIAMS: Alex Padilla will be appointed and sworn in as the next U.S. senator from California serving out the remainder of Senator Harris's term.

That will take us off the air on this Tuesday night of Christmas week with our thanks for spending this time with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.


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