IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, 1/19/21

Guests: Nikole Hannah-Jones, Alex Wagner, Jordan Klepper, George Conway, Kristin Urquiza

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Let`s just take this last four years as a warning. And that is tonight`s REIDOUT, the last one with Trump as president. And I will be back at 10:00 p.m. Eastern with my exclusive hour-long interview with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. You don`t want to miss it. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice over): Tonight on ALL IN. The next president has arrived in Washington as the Capitol lights up and the inauguration awaits. Tonight, how America gave itself the chance to end its long national nightmare.

Then, Trump`s last days and what`s next to the party that enabled him. George Conway will be here. Plus, Jordan Klepper of The Daily Show on the Americans still under the spell of Donald Trump.

And national mourning on the National Mall. How Joe Biden and Kamala Harris began the work of processing our national pain after 400,000 Coronavirus deaths when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. The inauguration of the 46th president, the end of Donald Trump`s presidency should be a joyous occasion, but it will be a profoundly solemn one. It`s hard almost impossible to feel any joy or celebration amidst the ruin that Donald Trump has left this country in.

There are 25,000 National Guardsmen in the Capitol after a failed insurrection, and more than 400,000 people are dead from a pandemic. To give one example, in Los Angeles environmental regulations have been relaxed to increase the number of cremations because the bodies of those who have died from COVID are piling up so fast.

Millions of people across the country are unemployed and hungry, and there is the palpable toxicity that continues to emanate from Trump and the faction he has built and the cult he has created. Basically, everything is exactly as bad, if not worse than we feared. The people who warn four years ago this would be a disaster, they were right.

But years before we saw thousands of soldiers marching through our nation`s capital, we saw millions marching and the Women`s March, the day after Trump`s inauguration. It packed the streets in cities and towns across the country. Those people who went to the streets as soon as Trump took office were completely right and everyone else was totally wrong.

A week later, we saw these incredible seats when Trump tried to institute his Muslim ban. And at the drop of the hat, people of all races and ethnicities, lawyers and non-lawyers, rushed to airports and courthouses to offer help and to cheer people and to greet them and to claim a vision of the America they wanted us to be.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The immigration lawyers are raising their fist in the air.


HAYES: I remember that moment. I was outside that courthouse when an injunction was issued. And I thought there`s a lot of fight left. The forces that rallied against Seattle across the ideological spectrum to turn back Trump and Trumpism had the deck stacked against them. The people who protested against the ACA repeal won an incredible and improbable victory that should not have happened.

Republicans have the votes, and then they did it, and Trump had to watch John McCain sink his efforts to take health care for millions. And thank God for the millions of people who got together with their fellow Americans to resist, people who knocked on doors, people gave money, the people who volunteered and went to marches, who had conversations, attended protests against the kidnapping of children. And the people who ran for office you never had before in small towns and big cities, and some people just supported those other people. All of that mattered. Every last drop of labor, all that work tipped the balance. When the fate of our Republic was on the line, we did manage to save it for now.

Four years ago, Republicans controlled the presidency in both houses of Congress. Four years later, the country is in ruins. But Trump lost. He became the first Republican president since Herbert Hoover to leave the House, the Senate, and the White House in just one turn. Swing States were swung, Democrats took the House in 2018 and held on to it in 2020, and then they improbably won the Senate.

Somehow, they do have unified government. None of that was guaranteed at all, that this was accomplished against unbelievable odds. It could have gone a bunch of different ways. Donald Trump could have been reelected, which as we have repeatedly seen from his behavior, particularly recently, really probably would have spelled the end of the current incarnation of what we call American democracy. This is what Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Joy Reid when they spoke earlier today.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Donald Trump was a stain on our country. I don`t think we could have sustained our democracy if he had two terms in office for what he was doing to our institutions, or what he was doing to our Constitution. He dishonored it.


HAYES: You can watch Joy`s whole interview with Speaker Pelosi tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Now, if it`s hard to be too happy about the end of this, about Joe Biden`s inauguration, because of how bad things are. Like, the fact that after everything, the assaults on the Capitol, and the repeated attempts to overturn the election, cheat his way to victory, two impeachments has resulted from that, the failed pandemic response, and the kids kidnapped from their parents, the Muslim ban, and Charlottesville.

A recent NBC News poll showed 87 percent of Republicans still approved Trump. 87 percent, after all, that. What`s even more chilling is it`s pretty clear to me they would still approve of him if he continued to do much, much worse, darker and more terrible things.

Trump did come closer to staying in power that anyone should feel comfortable with. We`ve said it before. When it comes to winning the presidency and the Senate, America`s constitutional structure, Republicans now have a deep structural advantage. Trump lost by seven million votes. He came within 43,000 votes across three states of winning another four years in office thanks to the Electoral College.

To win the Senate Democrats have to overperform nationally by several points. And they did it. They just managed to. For over four years, millions of different Americans of all backgrounds, religions, races, creeds, ideologies, political persuasions, and small towns and large, in rural areas and big cities, came together to save the promise of American democracy in the face of a threat we have not seen in our lifetime.

Speaking today at the Delaware National Guard Center named for his son Beau, our next president, Joe Biden, spoke about the importance of hope especially now.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s deeply personal. And our next journey to Washington starts here. A place that defines the very best of who we are as Americans. I know the -- I know these are dark times, but there`s always light. That`s what makes this state so special. That`s what it taught me. It taught me the most. There`s always light.


HAYES: And tonight, Biden spoke at the reflection pool in the National Mall where he and soon to be Vice President Kamala Harris participated in a long-overdue ceremony for the hundreds of thousands of people that we`ve lost to the Coronavirus.


BIDEN: To heal, we must remember, it`s hard sometimes to remember, but that`s how we heal. It`s important to do that as a nation. That`s why we`re here today.


HAYES: Joe Biden talked about a battle between light and darkness on this campaign. And it`s easy to view all that as overwrought or cliche because, look, life is complicated. And there`s lots of shades of grey and moral nuances and complexities. But this is one of those moments where it really did come down to light versus darkness. And thank goodness, the forces of light prevailed here, at least enough to keep a promise of a better future alive.

Nikole Hannah Jones is a staff writer at New York Times Magazine. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her work on the 1619 Project about the 400-year legacy of slavery in America. And Alex Wagner is a co-host and executive producer of Showtime`s The Circus, a documentary series focused on American politics, also a contributing writer for The Atlantic. And both join me now.

Nikole, let me start with you. I wanted to have you here tonight on this occasion because that essay that is in the 1619 Project talks about kind of the promise and peril of the nation seen through the eyes of your father and the flag that he would hoist over your house, and the sort of movements of progress and then the backlash.

And it does seem like nothing is settled at this moment. Everything feels unsettled. But something -- some force of darkness was temporarily put in place in this political struggle that we`ve seen.

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES, STAFF WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: Yes, thanks for having me on and taking us on that journey. It`s been a long, four years. You know, we are a country that from our founding, have been at war with these two different sides of ourselves. We are a country that was at once founded on these majestic ideals of inalienable rights, of universal freedoms, and also the practice of slavery.

And what we`ve seen, you know, with the election of Obama in 2008, and 2012, followed by the election of a white nationalist President Donald Trump after that are those two warring halves of ourselves. So, yes, a multiracial coalition that was truly reflective of this country managed somehow, despite voter suppression, despite an electoral system that is red towards wider, less populous state, managed to push it back. But for how long?

And I think we should all be very concerned about what happens next, what this reconciliation looked like, and does reconciliation need to come from the party that truly represents the country or those who are willing to support a nationalist demagogue? I think that`s the question that is still to be asked.

HAYES: You know, Alex, I remember the feeling of 2009 was very different. Obviously, there was a tremendous feeling of hope. There was a million of people in the mall, there was no pandemic, people could be physically close to each other, which was a super awesome thing that we used to do.

The feeling that I have right now is like the times in my life that I`ve had a very close scrape with something terrible happening, like a car accident that almost happened and didn`t. It`s like the combination of relief and the vestigial adrenaline of like, replaying the moment of almost hitting the oncoming car over and over is kind of what -- where I think a lot of people in the country are.

ALEX WAGNER, CO-HOST AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, SHOWTIME`S THE CIRCUS: Well, yes. I mean, I think there is perhaps something good about that vestigial adrenaline, and hopefully, people catch on to the feeling of almost having lost all of the ideals they hold dear to themselves in terms of American democracy, right.

January 6th was a really close, very near-miss car accident. But, you know, Chris, it`s a question about whether we do. I mean, I don`t know. When I`ve been in near scrapes, I get a rush, I`m thankful, and then I try and forget about them. And the question is, do we try and forget about this? And that -- I think the answer to that question is, it needs to be most urgently answered by the Republican Party.

To Nikole`s point, are the last four years going to be thought of in Republican circles as something that they need to atone for? Is there going to be reconciliation? Is there going to be a reckoning? Is there going to be a come to Jesus moment about the harboring of white supremacy, and xenophobia? Or are they going to talk about the Trump years as a period where there were low taxes and a lot of conservative justice appointed, and there was a sort of strange, irascible, unpredictable social media fiend in the White House named Donald J. Trump. But don`t think too much about him because what we got done was important in those four years.

And I think it`s an open question as to how the Republicans write the chapter of this part of the book.

HAYES: That is really well said and really true. And I think, you know, Eric Levitz had a great piece in New York Magazine, Nikole, basically saying we`re lucky it wasn`t worse, which again, sort of gets it this theme. And he says the Republican Party was a threat to multiracial democracy in the U.S. before Trump took office and will remain so after he leaves.

And that`s why it just feels like there`s tremendous unfinished business here, which is like this question, this essential question, what kind of country are we? Who are we collectively as a people? What do we stand for? Do we actually stand for making real the promise of multiracial, pluralistic democracy for everyone or not, which is a very brief part window of our history, and we`ve had anything like it? That`s just on the table from day one of the Biden-Harris presidency.

HANNAH-JONES: Absolutely. I mean, we cannot forget, we`re not just talking about something that was created in the last four years. We can look at the previous eight years under Obama where so much of what we`ve seen come to bear under Trump began. And of course, you can go back further than that.

So, our institutions, namely the courts, really held. And voters who came out all across this country, again, multiracial coalition, Black organizers, Native organizers, Latino organizers, came out and save this democracy from itself. But there was no guarantee that the institutions were going to hold. What we saw on January 6th, I think even those of us who study this for a living and know how precarious and fragile and young our democracy truly is, we`re still shocked by that.

And as Alex said, this story is not written. We don`t know what the future holds. And that element that Trump really didn`t create but unleashed, they`re not just going to -- going away because they lost. In fact, they`ll probably be strengthened because they lost.

HAYES: That`s -- I mean, that`s obviously a big concern and -- particularly now as 25,000 armed National Guardsmen are in the Capitol. And Alex, your question about like, how is the story told? How do Republicans tell the story themselves about what happened, right, which is about to be this very big existential question of American politics?

I want to play Mitch McConnell`s speech today, which was interesting, sort of again, repudiating the president but like kind of late. Take a listen to what he had to say.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The last time the Senate convened; we had just reclaimed the Capitol from violent criminals who tried to stop Congress from doing our duty. The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.


HAYES: I mean, that`s true, and I`m glad he`s saying it, but that was true in December when he was refusing to acknowledge Joe Biden had won.

WAGNER: Well, and mendacity has been part of the sort of governing playbook of the Republican Party for a bunch of years now. I mean, I think it`s good that McConnell is saying the things he`s saying, but you know, it`s still an open question. Is he going to vote to impeach the president of the United States? There is a line in the sand.

It is not that hard, and yet, it is that hard for a lot of Republicans in Congress. 85 percent of their party still supports Donald Trump. I mean, that is a number that is daunting when you talk about (AUDIO GAP). And it`s terrifying in terms of the implications for the country, and what it means, by the way, Chris, to have a 50-50 split Senate?

I mean, there is a huge question about what Joe Biden can even do, unless the Republicans wake up and actually reckon with what their party has become.

HAYES: Yes. And your joint air force -- Joint Base Andrews where the President will be departing tomorrow. And to me, this is a perfect snapshot, right? Because Pence is not going to go, all these people are going to go. This is sort of the last second pictorial distancing from Donald Trump. But he`s still got an 85 percent approval rating and the question of like, whether people come out and actually say, like, he should be removed from office hangs over all this.

And then the other question that hangs over at all, Nikole, is this question of active citizenship and mobilization that, you know, we saw the day after inauguration, and we saw at the airports and during child separation, and like whether that continues or not, has a lot to say about what the next chapter looks like.

HANNAH-JONES: Absolutely. Of course, the fear is without the boogeyman of Trump in the office, will you still see the same desire and need to fight for these basic rights? I mean, we still have a voting rights act that`s gutted. We still have an immigration policy that is not serving large numbers of people who are in this country right now. I mean, there are still a lot of issues.

And the concern is that particularly for Black voters, that Black voters who once again kind of carry the football across the line like they do almost every election despite all the obstacles. That in the -- in the drive for reconciliation, there`s going to be tremendous pressure to patch this over and move on. But patching that over means that Black people have to just simply sit back and join hands with people who don`t believe that they should have equality and be treated as full citizens.

So, I hope that Joe Biden who has recognized that Black voters are the reason he won the primaries, are the reason that he ultimately took the election, that he won`t forget about that, and the need to really address those issues once he takes it -- takes in office.

HAYES: Nikole Hannah-Jones and Alex Wagner whose footage from the President`s departure I think will probably be on the Circus, and I will be looking for that because that should be pretty interesting. Thank you both. That was great. I really appreciate it.

Next, the Trump administration may be in its final hours, but the masses of his diehard followers aren`t going anywhere. The Daily Show`s Jordan Klepper on what he heard during the attack on the Capitol after this.



JORDAN KLEPPER, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY SHOW: These guys were pumped about America`s values of tolerance, so I knew they`d pass Trump`s test with flying colors. Could a woman be president?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The presidency is a man`s job.

KLEPPER: I have women are qualified to be president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. A female has more hormones. She could start a war in 10 seconds. If she`s hot flashes, whatever, boom.

KLEPPER: Haven`t all wars been started by men?



HAYES: Over the last few years, Jordan Klepper has become pretty well known for his Daily Show`s segments where he goes out and talks to Trump supporters at those kinds of events. And his team have put together some of the smartest, and frankly, some of the most honest election coverage on television was always a bit funny, not funny, because we were watching the lies turned to delusions, which of course turned into a horrifying action on January 6th. Klepper was there at the Trump rally and March the Capitol and he filed one last Daily Show report.


KLEPPER: The one thing you couldn`t help but notice was just how many people look like they were preparing for battle.

So, we`ve been following this protest. We headed to the Capitol and the Trump supporters just broke through the gates and then now heading into the Capitol right now. Are you looking to make an aggressive action right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m looking to make a statement.

KLEPPER: What`s your statement?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The election was stolen. We want free and fair elections. And if we can`t have that in this country, we don`t have anything.

KLEPPER: So, what do you plan on doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re just going to see how it unfolds.

KLEPPER: You`ll see how that unfolds. All right, good luck with the paintball tournament.


HAYES: Joining me now is Jordan Klepper, Contributor of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Jordan, what was it like generally there that day?

KLEPPER: It was tense from the get-go. As we -- as we kind of approach the day. You saw a lot of soldier cosplay wherever you went. People were dressing the part. And in a Trump rally, people often dress the part. You can see the writing was on the wall or at least on the flags and on the T- shirts and it has been for months.

But that day was very tense. And you started to feel that post-election. I went to a few of these rallies. And before the election, there was you know, some combative energies there. But once Donald Trump was not declared victorious in the eyes of the mainstream media, folks were upset. They were looking to start a fight. They were looking to get that win they were promised. And you felt that there that day something could go down.

HAYES: We`re showing video there of someone -- it`s sort of this perfect combination of like prankish and immature and also like, actually violent, which is that someone came behind your cameraman and basically, like intentionally tripped him.

KLEPPER: Yes. We were -- we were doing an interview, and somebody dressed as a soldier came behind, got down on (INAUDIBLE) so our cameraman fell up -- fell upon the under the ground. And then the guy jumped up and claimed that we had pushed him, which was sort of perfect. It does feel like it`s a lot of people pretending to be big top soldiers who then claim victimhood even when they have no right to do so.

HAYES: We saw lots of footage of folks -- I mean, obviously this has become part of the like cult ritual of Trump rallies where they jeer at the press pen. It`s almost like weirdly like sacramental. Like, it`s part of the thing. You do it and then everyone -- you know, everyone knows that`s the part of the service that -- where you jeer at the press pen and look at the cameras, that stuff.

But we saw -- you know, we saw people assaulting reporters. We saw them breaking camera equipment, stuff like that. What was your -- and yet at the same time, like all these people are so obsessed with getting themselves on social media. They have a very weird sort of twisted kind of attention- seeking happening here. What were people`s attitudes towards you and your camera?

KLEPPER: There`s a constant push and pull whenever we`re there. We`re always the bad guys. We`re being called fake news. And Daily Show was sort of the original fake news, so they`re the right about that.

HAYES: Right.

KLEPPER: However, when I approach people, like people still want to be on television. They want to make their point heard. And again, this last rally was no different in that sense. People wanted to engage. They wanted to talk. However, there were thousands and thousands of other people around them, it`s where things get dangerous is people start milling about and they start looking for trouble.

People wanted to start something there. Often these things are also not poorly organized. They often are run by an organization that has ties to say, Donald Trump was not known to be the most organized fellow, which means there`s a lot of people who can`t hear what`s going on. So, you have thousands of people who can`t hear what`s going on, who are milling about looking for a shiny object, and oftentimes a six-foot-four drab-looking guy who`s talking logic to somebody else is that shiny object.

When they start the approach, when they -- when they knock down that barrier, are you thinking at that point -- I mean, I think every -- a lot of people were surprised, right, to see those images. Like, holy crap, they are in the Capitol. They broke into the windows. What is going through your mind? What are you thinking about where this is going when you have that energy, and you watch them breaking through barricades?

KLEPPER: Well, there`s no surprise that they were going to go towards the Capitol to try to do some sort of action. That`s why we were there at the Capitol when they broke through the barricades. We plan that out at the beginning of the day. It was like, there`s going to be this conversation. Donald Trump would talk to folks outside the White House. And then before 1:00, they would head to the Capitol.

So, we knew people were coming. We saw the Proud Boys come by. We saw a whole phalanx of folks head that way. We were utterly surprised at how easy it was for people to get through it. Now, at that point of view, it asked me what`s going to happen. I imagine people would just be milling about outside the Capitol. We had security there. It turns out we had more security than Capitol Hill had security.

So, when the images and the stories of people actually breaking through came on our screens at that point, I was -- I mean, it was -- it was completely shocking. It hadn`t -- it hadn`t crossed our minds that there wasn`t preparation for what was -- what seemed inevitable for everybody I talked to.

HAYES: Having gone to a bunch of these events, and having talked to folks there, did it feel like there was something different here or are kind of lined a trajectory that built towards this moment?

KLEPPER: I mean, it`s always been -- the talk is always been there. Everybody has been talking about this moment of revolution. They`ve been -- they`ve been called patriots for years. They`ve been looking for that one cause, that one thing to push again. So, it has been building and bubbling. They just didn`t know where to put that energy.

More often than not, it was an airplane hangar in the middle of Pennsylvania. Now, you bring everybody on to the mall. It`s a beautiful backdrop. And somebody points to the Capitol and says go. And so, yes, I mean, there were pitchforks. I talked to a guy with a pitchfork and other people are waving flags and say come and take it with images of guns everywhere.

Like, the energy but there. The costumes have been bought for years. Like, they`ve been sartorially prepping for this moment since 2016. Somebody finally said go and then it happened.

HAYES: The President, among others, who said go. Jordan Klepper of The Daily Show, which is back with new episodes this week, thank you so much for making time tonight. I appreciate it.

KLEPPER: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Still to come, we are still expecting the president to announce a wave of pardons in these last few hours of his presidency. George Conway on what comes next after this.


HAYES: Here in pardon watch tonight, waiting to see who else the President will grant clemency to before his term ends tomorrow. Trump has already granted reprieves to among others, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Michael Flynn, along with three former Republican members of Congress, for military contractors involved in the killing of civilians in Iraq.

Trump has also been considering preemptive pardons for himself and his family. Those sources tell NBC News, that is now unlikely to happen. The President was reportedly warned that such pardons could increase his family`s legal exposure, as well as the odds that Trump himself could be convicted in his Senate impeachment trial.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Trump has been going back and forth over whether to pardon former senior adviser Steve Bannon who was charged with defrauding donors to an online campaign to supposedly build a border wall. In other words, bilking Trump supporters.

No matter what Trump does, it won`t change the fact that anyone who served in this administration and who supported it will be marked by that association for the rest of their lives. To talk about that, I`m joined now by conservative attorney George Conway, staunch Trump critic and co-founder of the Lincoln Project.

First, George, let`s start with the sort of logic around preemptive pardons of family which he appears maybe to have been persuaded out of it, although I`ll believe it when I see it. I think the argument there right, is that you`re painting a big red arrow towards those people as targets of local prosecutors, and maybe that is persuasive.

GEORGE CONWAY, CO-FOUNDER, LINCOLN PROJECT: Right. There are a couple of issues as to pardons of his family. One is that blanket pardons, pardons that don`t specify particular offenses that are being pardoned. In other words, any and all offenses, which is what Ford did for Nixon, are questionable validity. There`s a real academic debate as to whether or not you can do that, and it`s not been resolved by the courts.

And in order to make sure that the pardons work, what he`d have to do is actually list some offenses that somebody might say these people, him, or his family may have committed. So, that`s not really an inviting thing to do.

Another aspect of pardon is the fact that accepting a pardon is considered to be some sort of an admission of culpability. You don`t accept the pardon if you`re innocent. And then the other problems he has are, as you mentioned, he`s really on unsolid precarious ground with the United States Senate, and he`s facing a Senate impeachment trial.

And then finally, the one way to test the pardon, if it`s a federal pardon by federal -- in federal court, is for federal prosecutors to actually bring charges. That`s the only way you can really test the validity of a pardon. So, if he pardons himself or, or his family, or friends, that`s almost encouraging prosecutors to bring the case to challenge the pardon.

And as you know, the state prosecutors may be more energized, because they`re not at all prohibited by a pardon -- federal pardon for bringing a prosecution.

HAYES: Yes. I mean, that that that last point strikes me as important as you think about also sort of rebuilding the Department of Justice in the wake of what`s been done to it, right, that, you know, the Department of Justice, the OLC I think doesn`t think you can issue a self-pardon.

CONWAY: That`s right.

HAYES: And so if you -- if you do that, like you`re almost kind of waving a red -- a red cape in front of the Department of Justice because you cannot stand that that`s essentially precedential and untested that a president could do whatever he wants to do, and then 1159 be like, I pardon myself, I`m out.

CONWAY: Right. And as you say, the DOJ in 1974, in the waning hours of Nixon`s presidency just before he resigned issued a very, very short opinion and it was clearly rushed. Somebody at the White House said, hey, he want -- he`s thinking of doing this. Can you get us something? And it basically made the point that under Anglo American jurisprudence going back centuries, a person is not supposed to be the judge in his own case.

HAYES: Right.

CONWAY: There`s also another reason why self-pardons are of questionable validity. And it`s the fact that the constitution talks about the grant of a pardon. And the use of the word grant means typically, that I am granting you something, or you`re granting me something. You can`t grant something to yourself. And that is the other strong argument on self-pardons and one that would appeal, I think, to a conservative court that is focused on the text of the Constitution. And this would go to the Supreme Court ultimately.

HAYES: I want to -- yes, I want to talk about that in a second. One more question on the -- on this point. I mean, it seems to me that the category of Manafort, Stone, and Flynn is already kind of in its own category for presidential pardons. It`s just -- it`s not clear -- I mean, you`ve got -- you`ve got, of course, the Ford pardon of Nixon. You do have the Iran Contra pardons at the end of George H.W. Bush.

But I mean, these are people that essentially cooperated and then didn`t, appear to have kind of dodged deadlines for the president, or at least on behalf of the larger project, and then were rescued by the president with a pardon. It`s hard to come up with precedents of that.

CONWAY: And that`s right. I mean, it`s really abusive to, you know, pardon people who, at least in the case -- particularly in the case of Roger Stone, could be a witness against the president. I mean, if you look at the Senate Select Committee on intelligence report that came out in August, the Republicans basically came to the conclusion that Trump may have perjured himself with regard to the conversations that Stone -- knowing about the conversation that Stone had about WikiLeaks.

And that that brings up another important point about the dangers of pardoning your compatriots. And that is that if you pardon your coconspirator, well, that coconspirator can no longer plead the Fifth Amendment right as to crimes that he hasn`t already been convicted for, to avoid testifying about what you did.

And that`s another problem he has about getting -- with respect to giving pardons, is that it could by minimizing the potential for additional criminal exposure, if there is some in the federal court, he could actually reduce the protections that those potential witnesses against him have against -- to resist testimony testifying against him.

HAYES: Final question was a broader one. An interesting piece by David Latte, who`s been writing about, you know, sort of legal culture and federal courts and things like that forever, about the Federalist Society, a sort of conservative legal organization and sort of internal debates beginning for a number of reasons.

One, I think Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, they`re both Federalist Society members, both sort of products of the conservative legal elite, both SCOTUS clerkships -- clerked on the Supreme Court, for conservative Republican- appointed justices, you know, are part of this kind of pipeline that produces conservative legal stars.

And a question of like, there must be something rotten with the process or the culture here if it`s producing two individuals willing to do what they were willing to do and try to seat the man who lost in an election. I wonder whether you think there`s some deep introspection to happen among conservative legal circles right now.

CONWAY: Oh, I think there absolutely is. And in full interest of full disclosure, I`m a member of the Board of Visitors of the Federalist Society. And I`ve been one for a long time. Yes, I think there`s a lot of concern among conservative lawyers. That`s been -- you know, there`s been an undercurrent of it for four years, and the recent events have really brought it to the fore.

I think a lot of people are very, very disappointed and, and shocked at the willingness of Senators Cruz and Hawley, in pursuit of political ambition, to basically disregard the Constitution of the United States that they so - - you know, that they so emphasized in their -- in their speeches and whatnot, that they are the ultimate -- that they are guardians of.

So, yes, I mean, there absolutely is a concern about that. I think the function of what`s going on here is it`s a function of political ambition for these two individuals. I don`t think they have a lot of support among lawyer, conservative lawyers, at least intelligent conservative lawyers, even ones who have been silent about truth.

HAYES: George Conway, it was great to talk to you tonight. I really appreciate you coming on.

CONWAY: Yes, thank you for having me.

HAYES: All right, tonight, incoming President Biden pays tribute to the more than 400,000 Americans we`ve lost a COVID-19. I`ll talk to Kristin Urquiza who lost her father to the virus about what this moment means to her and families around the country right after this.


HAYES: On this day, as we mark 400,000 Americans lost to the Coronavirus, a memorial address the nation by incoming President Joe Biden hit home pretty hard. I`m going to play his words for you in just a moment. But his speech and the sight of those 400 lights along the empty reflecting pool on a closed National Mall tonight also drive home that this didn`t have to happen.

This is a failure of historic proportions. And we can`t lose sight of that as a baton is passed to the next president. Even by the Trump administration`s own standards, 400,000 deaths is a catastrophic failure. You remember back during that week or two around the end of March when the outgoing president was actually at least acting like he took the virus seriously. This was his ominous warning.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Think of the number 2.2 -- potentially 2.2 million people if we did nothing, if we didn`t do the distancing, if we didn`t do all of the things that we`re doing. And so, you`re talking about 2.2 million deaths, 2.2 million people from this.

And so, if we could hold that down as we`re saying to 100,000, that`s a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000. So, we have between 100,000 to 200,000. We altogether have done a very good job.


HAYES: 200,000 deaths. That was the high estimate on March 29th. Now, six months later, Trump himself, of course, contract with a virus. He received top-notch medical care and promised everyone would have access to the same miracle cure he got. And by that point, there were more than 210,000 dead Americans.

But we`ve lost another 190,000 since he made that promise in just over three months. And in Donald Trump`s twisted cult, it has become a matter of polarized partisan affinity whether you can even so much as acknowledge the death. There is an ocean of grief flooding this country. And today, finally a national leader is acknowledging. What he said next.



BIDEN: To heal, we must remember, it`s hard sometimes to remember, but that`s how we heal. It`s important to do that as a nation. That`s why we`re here today between sundown and dusk, to shine the lights the darkness along the sacred pool of reflection and remember all we lost.


HAYES: There`s 400 lights. One for every 1,000 Americans lost to COVID-19 lit up the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. Joe Biden paid homage to the dead, acknowledging the hardship and the toll the pandemic has taken on us all.

Kristin Urquiza lost her father, Mark, to COVID last June. In his obituary, she directly linked his death to politicians who refuse to accept the depth of this crisis and take appropriate measures. She said about not only memorializing his -- him in his life, but also helping other people to do the same for their loved ones by co-founding of the group Marked by COVID.

It`s great to have you on, Kristen. I wonder just as someone who lost her father and has now been working with folks that have lost people to COVID, what it was like to watch the first real kind of national memorialization to happen this evening.

KRISTIN URQUIZA, CO-FOUNDER, MARKED BY COVID: It was monumental indeed. I`ve been talking to folks over the course of the last couple of weeks. I organized an online vigil where we have several hundred people in attendance. And here`s the -- here`s the feeling for us. We need to be acknowledged. This was finally a line in the sand to the ongoing gaslighting that we`ve experienced from the Trump administration about this virus, about its impacts about our loved ones. And it gave us -- it gave me a sense of hope.

But it also I think, underscored that this is just a welcome beginning. We have so much more we need to do at the local state and federal level to ensure ongoing memorialization, but also to ensure that we really think about and encapsulate what got us here and who has borne the greatest impact of this pandemic.

HAYES: When you talk to folks, and I`ve been -- I`ve been talking to people too on this topic, you know, one of the really awful aspects here is people are isolated. So, all the rituals of grief that we normally deal with, you know, a packed house sitting Shiva for days or, you know, a crowded wake where there`s a bunch of people inside and you get the kind of warmth of human beings and all of that, like that`s been taken from people.

And then there`s the weirdness that the President -- the sick weirdness of like it is an insult to Donald Trump to talk about the COVID debt. It is an insult to him. And the Republican Party can`t talk about it to the point where a 41-year-old incoming congressman passes away from COVID, it`s like, no one says anything.

And I wonder how much that weird oppressive silence has played among the people that you`re in contact with who are in grief and mourning.

URQUIZA: It is harmful. It is traumatic. And I think it goes back to this point of it`s been an ongoing gaslighting campaign to try to downplay this virus. And who has borne the mental and emotional anguish are people like myself and our Marked by COVID community who have loved ones that have passed.

And to have lived over the course of the last year in this environment, we are going to be seeing and needing much more and the days and weeks going ahead of us to not only attempt to unite and heal, but to really make sure that we build back better and make right the incredible wrong forced upon our loved ones who had to make the ultimate sacrifice.

HAYES: You talk about memorialization. My understanding is your view of this and the people that you`re working with who are mourning is that it`s more than just the sort of fact of the loss and human dignity and paying homage. There`s a nexus there between that and what the society says about what happened here and what we will tolerate and what we shouldn`t.

URQUIZA: That`s exactly right. From day one, it has been about the larger picture. COVID has taken so many lives. But also, COVID has exposed systems of injustice that have been around that has create health disparities so that more people are getting sticker and passing away at higher rates. So, that people for example, in my family, I`ve had five people pass away.

Unfortunately, that is not uncommon that some of us are bearing this more than others. And so, part of what we have been advocating and coming together, one is to witness and acknowledge that we`re not alone in this, but also to call for ongoing recognition, for restitution, and to ensure that these solutions are made in partnership with people who have been most impacted to ensure that our needs are met, not just right now, but ongoing into the future.

HAYES: You just said that there are five people in your family that have that have passed?

URQUIZA: There are five people in my direct family who have passed from COVID. All on my dad`s side, all of Latin descent, folks who were important to us, who are important to our community.

I was on a call earlier today with a woman who launched a group called Not Just A Black Body. She`s a doctor. She lost both of her parents. This is not uncommon for people of color to lose multiple people in their family. And one of the things that we`re bringing to the forefront is that when we think about memorialization, when we think about, you know, how do we honor those that are lost, we need to think about how we got here, and why. Who was at fault?

One of the things I`m not interested in passing on to future generations is this Christopher Columbus version of the Coronavirus. And what I mean by that is that we need to tell the unvarnished truth, bear witness to that, so that we never forget, so that we also never make the same mistakes twice.

And I think that starts with a commission such as we saw at 9/11, that means families having a decision-making table and so much more.

HAYES: Kristin Urquiza who`s doing really a phenomenal and important work with Marked by COVID, thank you so much for coming on tonight.

URQUIZA: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: That is ALL IN on this Tuesday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.