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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, 1/27/21

Guest: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Chris Murphy, Andy Slavitt, Erin Griffith


Today, Joe Biden signed an executive order to supercharge his administration`s ambitious plan to confront the existential threat of climate change and it is an existential threat. The State Department suspends Trump-era sanctions on Houthi rebels. The Biden White House levels with the American public about the state of the COVID fight. People are suddenly making millions of dollars after buying stocks of a video game retailer GameStop.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: You`re great. I endorse that cool Rachel Maddow style haircut that you got there too. Thank you so much for being here. Congrats on the new gig. That is tonight`s REIDOUT. Don`t go anywhere, though, because we just mentioned her. AOC will be on with Chris Hayes. She`s his big first lead up guest. Let`s get right to it. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice over): Tonight on ALL IN.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In my view, we`ve already waited too long to do this climate crisis. We can`t wait any longer.

HAYES: The Biden White House goes big on climate. Tonight, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on what today`s executive orders mean, and how her Green New Deal helped make this moment happen.

Then, major new indictments of organizers of the Capitol Hill riot and major new questions about the members of Congress still doing Trump`s bidding. Plus, straight talk from the COVID Biden team.

ANDY SLAVITT, SENIOR ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE, WHITE HOUSE: Right now, I want to level with the public that we`re facing two constraining factors.

HAYES: My exclusive interview with Senior Biden COVID Advisor Andy Slavitt on the reality facing Americans and why it may not be all that. And The Big Short, why the stock surge by GameStop has the attention of the White House and global markets. When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES(on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. Today, today was a good day and the life the nation. I mean, complicated, obviously. You don`t need me to tell you that this has been a period of unrelenting darkness and crisis between the pandemic which claimed another 4,000 American lives today and the threat to American democracy. And as Joe Biden has rightfully pointed out throughout all this, the looming climate crisis which hangs over everything, over all of it, overall of our collective futures.

But today, we do have some good news for change. This afternoon, Joe Biden announced what is beginning to look like the most sweeping, ambitious climate action agenda ever implemented in this country by far. And the reason that such an agenda is possible is because of three distinct groups of actors that have all come together to create this moment, this source of really incredible hope for me personally, at this moment, three different groups of people all working in different ways.

First, climate activists who have organized and sat in and marched and pushed democratic politicians, all politicians, but specifically, Democratic politicians. Second, there`s the mainline Democratic Party which has figured out how to win an election, an important one, get Joe Biden in the White House and then Democratic control of the Senate, and integrate some of those activist demands. And then there are the unseen and often unheralded engineers and entrepreneurs who are doing the work every day to make technological leaps forward possible.

And now, thanks to all of those different groups all doing their own thing in confluence, we are in a position where something like this can happen.


BIDEN: In my view, we`ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis. We can`t wait any longer. And we see it with our own eyes, we feel it, we know it in our bones. And it`s time to act. That`s why I`m signing today and an executive order to supercharge our administration ambitious plan to confront the existential threat of climate change, and it is an existential threat.

The federal government owns and maintains an enormous fleet of vehicles, as you all know. With today`s executive order, combined with the by American executive order I signed on Monday, we`re going to harness the purchasing power of the federal government to buy clean, zero emission vehicles that are made and sourced by union workers right here in America.


HAYES: People have been talking about doing that very thing, buying, replacing the federal fleet with electric cars for years. But it was never really practical. It was too expensive or there were not enough charging stations. The battery life wasn`t good enough. Now, that`s no longer the case. Those issues have been worked out.

We are, as grim as sometimes things look, we are on the threshold of a world where clean energy and how it powers our homes and our vehicles and industry can exploding growth to become a world-saving industry in very, very rapid amount of time. We can do it. And replacing the 650,000 vehicles in the federal electric fleet with electric vehicles is a fantastic place to start.

I mean, think about this. We have the most perfect use case ever imagined for an electric vehicle with our U.S. Postal Service, and the humble, sturdy, instantly recognizable delivery truck. It usually stays within a 50-mile radius of its post office location. And guess what? It comes back every evening to dock in the same place. It`s not going for road trips mostly. The current fleet containing some 225,000 vehicles is aging. The trucks break down. Sometimes they even burst into flames spontaneously. This one is a no brainer.

The Biden administration has not yet released a concrete timeline for this initiative. It would likely require some cooperation from Congress. But there are a whole bunch of other actions the new president is also taking on climate that can be done through executive action and unilateral with an administration that is focused on climate is a central ordering principle of everything it does.

Here`s a list of the actions the administration is taking just from executive order signed today. They`re elevating climate change is a national security priority, which is a huge one. The Department Defense is one of the world`s biggest, most powerful organizations. It`s the biggest government contractor. And if that organization prioritizes the climate meaningfully, it will change a lot just on its own.

They`re also directing the federal government to conserve at least 30 percent of all federal land and water by 2030, suspending new leases from natural gas and oil development on federal lands and waters. There`s a lot of those. Creating commission focused on -- focused on environmental justice and green jobs, directing federal agencies to rely on science in their rulemaking, which would seem to be a no brainer, but there you have it.

Convening a climate summit of world leaders on Earth Day this year, directing U.S. intelligence agencies to consider global warming as they review national security threats, creating new government Commission`s focused on climate, job creation, environmental justice. Directing federal agencies, all of them, to consider climate change in their decision made. Directing federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies at consistent with applicable law, creating the civilian climate corps to "put a new generation of Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands and water."

Now this, along with the Obama administration`s clean power rule, which is still in effect, survived the Trump administration, and it can be further utilized by the Biden administration, together, it`s the most comprehensive aggressive action we`ve ever taken on climate in terms of the devotion of a president and executive branch`s energy and attention. And it`s only day eight of the Biden administration, so this is just the beginning.

Many of those Biden initiatives reflect the ideas and priorities presented in the Green New Deal which Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York introduced back in 2019. And she joins me now.

Great to have you on, Congresswoman. First your -- how are you feeling about this announcement of all these actions today?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Now, I`m feeling extraordinarily encouraged. And I think that the significance of President Biden`s executive orders communicates a lot. One, is that it really communicates that he meant what he said on the campaign trail, that he would make climate change a central priority of his administration, and that he considers it not just a national security threat, but frankly, you know, the global matter that it is.

But it also really -- it also really signifies a good faith openness and relationship to those activist communities that you had mentioned. These grassroots communities and organizations, on the ground workers, etcera, scientists saying we are not going to be resistant to grassroots movements, but we are going to collaborate and work with grassroots movements all across the United States to make sure that we are creating as many jobs and as much justice as possible as we fight to save our planet.

HAYES: It`s A- you know, what strikes me as someone who`s covered the issue for, you know, 14, 15 years at this point, is that the politics seems to have changed a bit in terms of the defensiveness. I mean, there was still -- you even saw it in some of the debates is sort of (INAUDIBLE) defensiveness like, oh, we can`t. You know, if you look at the polling, like, it just is not some issue that Democrats are on the wrong side of 65 -35 in the public polling. It just isn`t. And I felt like I saw that reflected today in terms of how the administration at least is messaging on it.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes. I mean, climate has become a winning issue. And it`s gone from being debated issue, to very squarely in the eyes of voters from Iowa to New York City, realizing that we need to mobilize right now to save our planet, to save our agricultural sectors, and to preserve our future.

And so, you have this broad coalition of people across the country, whether they are farmers that are trying to explore regenerative agriculture and other sorts of methods to sustain our future, you know, in terms of food and produce to young people who want to enjoy a habitable planet, to even Wall Street, frankly, that is increasingly starting to realize the profound economic threat that climate change represents for our future as well.

And so, there is a very unique alignment where we are seeing, you know, as the years go on the incredible amount of damage, and the fact that frankly, you know, climate change is here. And as President Biden said, this is action that should have been taken long ago, but it`s very encouraging that we are -- that we are starting off on this foot.

HAYES: Yes. That last point about banks and the Federal Reserve announced they`re going to start a sort of climate risk Committee, which is a big deal too, that it`s interesting to watch the Political Economy of it too, right? Because you have the politics of it, you have activists, but then you have these sort of amoral actors that are just trying to navigate, you know, in interest of their long-term interest in bottom line, right? And I thought this line --

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes. Some folks are just trying to make a buck.

HAYES: Right. But when you get them acknowledging it, like the New York Times made this point today, I thought in the analysis, they said, you know, automakers are coming to accept that much higher fuel economy standards of their future. Large oil and gas companies have said some curbs on greenhouse pollution lifted by former Donald J. Trump should be reimposed. Shareholders are demanding corporations acknowledge and prepare for a warmer more volatile threat.

There is a -- there`s a locus of momentum, not even in politics, in the economy, in corporate America to just deal with this as a reality independent of justice commitments.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes. Absolutely, yes. And I mean, that that is the beauty of being in alignment with science is that climate change is not a politicized issue, and the existence is not a political debate. This is fact. And this is scientific fact, which means that for-profit corporations, which means that scientists, public policy, we got to get our act together to survive. But also yes, if -- even if folks in the private sector, for example, an automotive company, doesn`t want to get with the program, they`re essentially on track to obsolescence.

And this is where public policy can be powerful. You know, for example, when we talk about converting to an all-electric federal fleet of vehicles, this is something that we pushed for on the Biden unity Task Force where we had green New Deal advocates, along with, you know, more moderate members of the caucus coming together debating how we`re going to push and shape this policy. And this was kind of one of our demands.

And one of the things that we were talking about was, are we going to set a date for, you know, the day or an aspirational goal for the time that we sell the last combustion vehicle in the United States. And while that was a little bit trickier to figure out, one thing that we can control is when would potentially be the last date that the federal government will purchase a combustible vehicle. And we can do that much more swiftly and much more quickly.

But we are also starting to see that the private sector wants some of these pegs. They want some of these target dates. Because one of the things that we know, and I say this as also a member that sits on the Financial Services Committee, is that for long term growth, corporations do want the stability of goals and deadlines. And if we know 10 years out that we`re going to say we don`t want to purchase any more combustion vehicles, or 15 20 years out on various carbon emissions pegs, we will get a response. And this is something that, as you mentioned, shareholders are asking for as well.

HAYES: Last question on climate, and then I want to ask you a little bit about just the aftermath of working on Capitol Hill after what happened a few weeks ago. But on the legislative side, I mean, that has always been the toughest nut to crack. And I`m someone that covered on the Hill. I was working in an office across the street from the Capitol, Waxman-Markey, and saw it die in the Senate. Just what is your sense of the sort of future there in this in this Congress?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes. You know, I think I truly believe that the politics around climate has changed. And I really caution. Some of my colleagues that, you know -- I believe that some of my colleagues have some battle scars from that Waxman-Markey fight, thinking that that contributed to, you know, Congressional losses, etcetera. We are in a different political world today.

Of course, some of those traditional areas of resistance may still be there. But this is nowhere near politically and with voters as contentious as it used to be. I think, everybody, when you look at massive flooding in the Midwest, these farmers will tell you that things are not developing, they`re not growing, they`re not getting the same ecological signals at the same times and at the same pace that they used to.

And so there`s just -- you know, there are folks with waterfront property that see how the seas are rising for themselves, see how things are changing for themselves. And so, this is a very different political issue now. It`s unfortunate that it has already gotten to the point where we are already starting to see the manifestations and devastation of climate change and that we didn`t act sooner. But now, there`s no denying it.

And, frankly, Republicans have backed themselves into a corner because they have dug themselves into the hole of climate denial and climate delay for decades now. And they have branded themselves two, three generations deep as the party that does not believe in climate change. And so, we as a Democratic Party, have a responsibility to rise to the occasion of the only party in the United States, frankly, currently, that actually advances responsible policy to preserve our planet.

HAYES: Final question for you just about the work environment you find yourselves in. You had -- you had spoken on Instagram about the real fear you had during that day, January 6th. Subsequently, someone was arrested who had called to assassinate AOC. There have been -- Congressman Hakeem Jeffries was on the program last night talking about his family member receiving text saying, we`re coming for you, we`re outside your house.

How do you understand the nature of the caucus of the Republican Party that you serve with right now in the aftermath of this and the vote they took to overturn the election and this desire to turn the page?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes, you know, I actually sense a profound difference between the Republican caucus of last term, the 115th Congress, and the Republican caucus that of this term that we are now what, a few weeks into at this point. And that difference was that it really felt that last term, the Republican caucus was one of extreme fealty to Donald Trump. There were some that were true believers, others that simply remain quiet out of cowardice and out of fear of the President`s retribution.

But this term, there are legitimate white supremacist sympathizers that sit at the heart and at the core of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives. And when you see someone like the -- like the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of the Republican Party respond to white supremacist vitriol coming from his own members, not with censure, like they did with Representative Steve King of Iowa, not with you know, being stripped of committees, not with any consequence, you have to wonder where -- who actually has that power. And increasingly seems, unfortunately, that in the House Republican caucus, Kevin McCarthy answers to these QAnon members of Congress, not the other way around.

And that is something that frankly, needs to be said. You know, he said he was going to pull Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene aside after, you know, her comments to Parkland activists and comments saying that Muslim Americans should not fully and freely serve in the House, that they must be forced to swear on the Bible, etcetera. But I`ve seen Kevin McCarthy pull someone aside before for talking to. And that representative that I last saw him do that to was Representative Ted Yoho, of Florida.

And what Kevin McCarthy did, was that he pulled him aside to essentially excuse his behavior, to allow it and to embed it. And actually, Kevin McCarthy`s lack of holding his own caucus accountable is one major reason why I went to the floor last year to hold Yoho accountable myself. And so when I hear that Representative McCarthy is going to pull a member aside who has made white supremacist sympathizing comments, the thing that I think is what is he going to tell them, keep it up? Because there are no consequences in the Republican caucus for violence. There`s no consequences for racism, no consequences for misogyny, no consequences for insurrection, and no consequences means that they condone it.

It means that that silence is acceptance. And they want it because they know that it is a core animating political energy for them. And this is extremely dangerous and extremely dangerous threshold that we have crossed because we are now away from acting out of fealty to their president that they had in the Oval Office. And now, we are talking about fealty to white supremacist organizations as a political tool.

And for, you know, Republicans that are in that caucus that are unwilling to hold that accountable or to distance themselves from it, we really, really need to ask ourselves what they are evolving into. Because this is no longer about a party of limited government, this is about something much more nefarious.

HAYES: Alexander Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat from New York City who represents in part my home borough of the Bronx, it`s always good to have you on. Thank you so much, Congresswoman.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Of course. Thank you.

HAYES: Ahead, as we were just discussing, unnerving revelations about Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has House members calling for explosion, but her brand of conspiracy theory peddler could very well be the future of the party. I`ll explain next.


HAYES: As Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez just alluded to, there`s new controversy around one of the freshmen Republican members of Congress who`s already notorious before she was elected. Considering she`s brand new to Congress, we have actually talked about Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia a fair amount, because she ran this threatening campaign ad of her holding a gun next to members of the squad, and has said things like "Q, meaning the QAnon source, is a patriot. He is someone that very much loves his country. He`s on the same page as us. He is very pro Trump." There are also videos of her saying this.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): There is an Islamic invasion into our government offices right now, OK. They are -- you saw after midterm election what -- we saw so many Muslims elected. I don`t know -- I don`t know the exact number, but there were quite a few.

The generations of Black and Hispanic men, do you want to know what holds them down? Gangs. Being in gangs and dealing drugs is what holds them down. The gangs are holding them back. It`s not white people.


HAYES: In fact, the first video on Marjorie Taylor Greene`s YouTube page was shot in 2018 just weeks after the massacre in Parkland Florida. Remember that, right? Greene and a private citizen is, for some reason, chasing down a survivor of that shooting, high schooler David Hogg.


GREENE: Look, I`m an American citizen. I`m a gun owner. I have a concealed carry permit. I carry a gun for protection for myself. And you are using your lobby and the money behind it and the kids to try to take away my Second Amendment rights.


HAYES: That`s a teenager who just saw people murdered at his school, and you`re walking behind him filming, telling him I have a concealed carry permit. She was elected to Congress despite all that being public information. Now, a new CNN report reveals Greene indicated support for executing prominent Democrats before running for Congress. It include liking a Facebook comment that said, a bullet to the head would be quicker to remove House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

And when another commenter asked Greene, "Now do we get to hang them? Meaning H and O," referring to Obama and Hillary Clinton, Greene replied, "The stage is being set. Players are being put in place. We must be patient. This must be done perfectly or liberal judges would let them off." Hillary Clinton responded to the report tweeting, "This woman should be on a watch list, not Congress."

You know, so much the last four or five years of Republican politics is all about Donald Trump. People are catering to Donald Trump. This is not about Donald Trump. Trump is gone. This is about Marjorie Taylor Greene who, in many ways, represents the future or the most likely future for the Republican Party.

This is not a person who is pandering to the Trump base when she`s liking a Facebook post that says put a bullet in Nancy Pelosi`s head. No, no. We have every reason to think that she believes this. That`s the problem the country faces. Marjorie Taylor Greene represents the views of a big part of the Republican coalition. Arguably, the majority of GOP members of Congress based on their votes to overturn the election.

And forget the guy who`s golfing at Mar-a-Lago. These people are still in the Capitol. Trump being gone does not change who they are. And the problem is not just in the House. Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville, also a freshman member, mostly escaped the public center that Senator Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz got for their roles in citing the January 6th assault on the Capitol. But Tuberville was actually the first senator or senator-elect to say he would vote against certifying Joe Biden as president.

And he looks to be as more intimately connected to Trump`s push for insurrection than anyone. We already know who was being called as the Capitol was being stormed, because Trump accidentally dialed Senator Mike Lee. We know that Tuberville was called after it was stormed by Rudy Giuliani, who left a voicemail for the wrong senator telling Tuberville to pick up basically where the rioters left off and do his part to continue to delay the proceedings.

And now, despite denying meeting with a who`s who of Trump confidence in a meeting in the Trump D.C. hotel the night before the rally where Trump told the crowd to march the Capitol, there are now literally pictures of Tuberville at Trump`s Hotel in Washington. We are still seeing the result of the rhetoric from these people who say the election was rigged and that Democrats should be executed.

We know one police officer died of his injuries during the attack, another took his own life. We`ve learned today, a second officer has since taken his life. And listen to this. The Capitol Police union released a statement today describing "officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained brain injuries. One officer has to crack ribs and two smashed spinal discs. One officer is going to lose his eye and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake.

The union says, in total, there were nearly 140 officers injured in the attack. There are consequences, very real ones, when people say the kinds of things that Marjorie Taylor Greene says. Joining me now to talk about the ongoing fallout from the Capitol attack is Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut.

I mean, you know, it`s very hard because there`s a lot that America has to do, and there`s a lot the Biden administration has to do. There`s a lot the U.S. Senate under Democratic control finally has to do. But it`s also the case that like to me, the central fact of American public life right now, political life, is that one of the two parties is radicalizing against democracy in front of our eyes and you are serving with some of these people.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Yes. I think you`ve got it right. Listen, I think there`s a struggle to know what to do with somebody like Marjorie Taylor Greene to, you know, give more attention to her just crazy conspiracy theories. Does that do more harm than good? I don`t know that any of us know the answer yet. But what you`re right about is that she, unfortunately, represents a really big portion of the Republican establishment in Washington and across the country.

And, you know, we used to, you know, fight over policy, right? We used to fight over disagreements on immigration policy, what the right tax rates should be. Now, we`re fighting over whether we all believe in democracy any longer. We really are right now arguing over whether or not we think that we should trust the voters to make decisions about who runs the country.

And you know, I guess it`s a miracle that our democracy is survived this long, 240 years. And we, I think, at the same time, have to push back against these wild conspiracy theories and also, you know, try to understand what is broken about democracy, try to actually have a conversation with the country about why so many people seem so willing to give up on it, and transition to something that looks more like despotism, or autocracy.

I think it`s not wise for Mr. Taylor Greene. We actually probably have to sit down and ask why some give up on what we`ve all been invested in for 200 plus years.

HAYES: Yes. You know, my personal theory on this is that there`s just a distinction between the leadership and then the -- our fellow Americans who vote and do whatever. We share the country with them. Democracy means sharing. It means we -- you know, we got to figure out how to do it together.

And it relates to the role that you play in the Senate Majority now which is, it just seems to me the stakes right now of democratic government delivering -- I mean, small D democratic government, and the Democratic Party, delivering tangible improvements to people`s lives are the stakes of whether we slip towards authoritarianism. Like, you have to show a proof of concept. You and your colleagues have to do that to rescue us from the abyss.

MURPHY: No, I think that`s exactly the point that I`m making, right, is that you have this crowd of Americans whose, you know, at least have been watching democracy in operation for the last 20 years as their wages have remained flat, as the planet is lit on fire, as there are more threats posed to the United States than ever before, right?

And so, they`re literally sitting around saying, what`s -- I mean, what has democracy done for me lately? This is our chance, right? We`ve been given a mandate. The president has won by a sizable margin, the voters in Georgia who, you know, clearly decided that they wanted the Senate to be able to deliver an agenda for Joe Biden.

And if we don`t, then, you know, not only are we I think abandoning those voters, but we are going to continue to cause people to wonder in it for them. So, that`s why if we don`t raise the minimum wage, right, if we don`t make tangible progress on bring jobs back from overseas, you know, we`re going to continue to feed these conspiracy theories and these anti- democratic agendas.

Yes, the stakes are super huge for what happens this year, not just for Americans` pocketbooks, but for the future of American democracy.

HAYES: Is that a shared sentiment among your colleagues?

MURPHY: I think in the Senate Republican caucus, I think that they are sort of nearing meltdown, right? I think they know that the direction of their party is unsustainable. I think they understand that they need to deliver in order to give people a reason to come back to supporting democracy. But they have been trained for so long primarily by Mitch McConnell to be obstructionist and obstruction is only that they literally don`t have the muscles available to be able to sit down and compromise.

And so, I think there are a bunch of them that know they probably are better off as better off if they do some middle of the road deals with Democrats, but they just don`t know how to do that, and it`s just so much easier for them to sit on the sidelines. And that`s what I really worry about.

HAYES: I want to ask about -- when you sort of talking about tangible concrete changes and delivering this, this has to do with the war in Yemen, one of the -- arguably the world`s worst humanitarian disaster, backed by U.S. arms sales to the Saudi government, accelerated under the Trump administration, halted by both houses of Congress, and then overridden essentially by the -- by a presidential veto.

Today, there was a big announcement on this. Explain to me what that announcement was and why it matters.

MURPHY: So, what the administration announced is that they are pulling out of the coalition with the Saudis and suspending for the time being arms sales to the two countries that have been leading the war inside Yemen. They also announced that they are going to take some steps to make clear that food assistance can get into Yemen, lifting a designation of one of the contestants as a terrorist group.

These are all really important announcements because one, it removes the United States from our current status of complicity in these war crimes. It was U.S. bomb that were being dropped on schoolchildren riding and buses inside Yemen. But it also paves the way for a political settlement there. It paves the way for us to actually be able to lead a process by which we can end that Civil War.

And that`s really important to us because the wing of al-Qaeda that has the clearest intentions to strike the United States again, is the wing of al- Qaeda inside Yemen. And they`ve done pretty well during the Civil War. They`ve sort of stepped into the vacuum that`s been created. So, these announcements are really important because it`s just going to lead to much less suffering and civilian death inside Yemen. But it also makes us a lot safer because we can get closer to ending that Civil War.

HAYES: All right, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, thanks for making time tonight. I appreciate it.

MURPHY: Thanks.

HAYES: Next, one of our most trusted guests in the pandemic just joined the White House. He`s a senior advisor for COVID response. He`s back to tell us how things look. Andy Slavitt after the break.


HAYES: This has been the deadliest month of the pandemic in the U.S. More than 80,000 Americans lost and January is not over yet. That said, there are some encouraging signs we might be on the other side of the curve. And there`s also reason to think this could be the last big curve we see if we do this right.

Here are the latest numbers from the COVID tracking project one week into the Biden administration. You have daily tests on the left, next to it and pink is the chart of daily cases. See that bending down. We can see there`s been a dramatic drop in daily case numbers. And we`ve gone from an average of nearly 250,000 new cases per day earlier this month, down to around 160,000 today.

Next to that is maybe the most important chart for where we are in blue. It`s the chart of hospitalizations. That data tends to be very reliable. And while more than 100,000 people are still in the hospital, you can see, that is trending down quite quickly. Then, of course, on the right, the chart of deaths from the virus. That has not trended down. We saw more than 4,000 deaths just today.

But that lags behind cases and hospitalizations, and so the expectation, it will start trending down soon. So, that part is encouraging, even if things are still very bad. There`s also looming cause for concern out there which are these new variants you`ve heard about, the virus most notably from the U.K. and Brazil and South Africa. These variants are more contagious, though so far, only those three -- the three, only the U.K. variant appears to have gotten a foothold here.

So, we`re kind of in a race, right? Can we get enough people vaccinated before the more contagious variants potentially spread and drive up case numbers once again? Earlier today, the new White House COVID Response Team held its first briefing where they said the administration was moving to increase the pace of vaccinations, but they also offered this warning.


SLAVITT: Right now, I want to level with the public that we`re facing two constraining factors. The first is getting enough supply quickly enough, and the second is the ability to administer the vaccines quickly once they`re produced and sent out to the sites. We are taking action to increase supply and increase capacity. But even so, it will be months before everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one.


HAYES: You recognize that guy? It could be because he`s been a frequent guest on this program. One of the voices we`ve relied on most throughout the pandemic. Now, President Biden has made him White House Senior Advisor COVID response team.

And Andy Slavitt, thanks for joining me tonight. It`s great to have you on. It`s great to see you in this role. And I`m going to ask you a question that I would ask you even if you weren`t standing outside of the White House which is, just where are we? As you look at that data, as you look at where the curves are, we`ve been through a few of these now, where you see us at this moment in terms of the trajectory of the pandemic?

SLAVITT: Well, Chris, it`s great to be back on the show. And I`d remind your audience that you`ve been talking about this for almost an entire year, which is a lot longer than everybody else back in late January of last year. And there have been many times when people have declared this pandemic over. And there`s been many times when people have declared a miracle right around the corner.


SLAVITT: And I don`t think that`s what the public wants. I think the public wants to be hopeful. And there`s indeed good reason to be hopeful. You pointed to some of those reasons. But there`s also not reason to declare this crisis over. I think we do that at our own peril. And we`re in a -- we`re in a major emergency. It`s a major emergency that`s been going on for a long time. But 4,000 people dying a day is a crisis. And I think we`ve had to come in here and make sure that this is treated like a crisis in every respect.

So, I would say that we are not out of the woods. We have a lot of work to do. But for once, I will say, we actually have a plan. We are going to be real and realistic with the public. There will be setbacks. It won`t be a straight line, but we will get there.

What we do need is we need everybody`s support. We need Congress to do its part and pass the American rescue plan, which contains the resources we need to vaccinate people. And we need the public to hang in there and continue to do the great job that we are doing when we are focused on making sure we`re not spreading COVID.

HAYES: A lot of people have used this sort of model of thinking about kind of race between the new variants and the vaccine, which makes a certain intuitive sense. I just wonder if that`s the way you and folks in the White House see.

SLAVITT: Well, unfortunately, the variants and the virus spreads exponentially, and the vaccine does not get injected exponentially.

HAYES: Right. That`s a good point.

SLAVITT: So, we can actually do a much better job ourselves by getting what we call exponential decay, which is that when we spread the virus at a rate lower than one to one. Then, we get the benefit of something that can be much better at offsetting the virus. So, the vaccine will permanently do this job, but it`s a little bit like the tortoise and the hare. The vaccine will do a million a day, will do million a day. We`ll do more every day we can. We`ll just keep increasing it.

But by itself, if the public isn`t wearing masks, and if the Congress isn`t getting behind the needs that we have to basically fund the vaccine rollout and make it go more quickly, then we will not win the race. And this is not a race we want to lose.

HAYES: Yes. I mean, this is -- I never want this to be the case, but it keeps being the case, right? Like, what I`m hearing from you is, it`s the same thing it`s been. We`re getting towards a vaccine, but it`s like, we 100 percent have it in us to get another surge. Like, we could do it. Together collectively, we could create another huge wave before people are vaccinated.

SLAVITT: There`s no question about it. And then this is a big country. And you know, there are always going to be places where that can happen. Thankfully, we`re starting to see cases decline. But this is not a level that we want to see another curve grow from.


SLAVITT: If you were going to see another wave, you`d far rather be at numbers under 30,000, 20,000 cases a day, and then -- and then have a small curve that you can handle. A curve -- a curve from 150,000 to 200,000 a day is just unmanageable.

HAYES: I want to ask about how -- now that we have -- I have had the experience now where people I know, exclusively healthcare workers and some elderly folks, are getting vaccinated and even getting second shots. So, I`m going through this mental math. Like, all right, can I -- like, my parents, and my parents got their second shot. Wait a few weeks. We can hang, right?

Like, I know, it`s not like, oh, everyone go back to the before times. But that does seem like that`s a reasonable thing for us to start doing, right?

SLAVITT: Absolutely. But six percent of the public has already had its first shot. We`ve had millions of people that have had their second shot. That is very exciting, very promising news. I hope to be able to report in some short period of time, I`m not going to give a date certain, that we have vaccinated large portions of the nursing homes and the eldercare facilities in this country. That itself will do so much to give the seniors in this country and their families peace of mind and reduce the death count.

So, you know, I want us to be making this kind of progress in the background. This is not the kind of administration that`s going to go out and talk about and promised things that are going to happen. We just have to be consistent and solid so we regain the trust of the public. And that`s saying that yes, there is a lot to be hopeful for, but we`ve got to work at it.

HAYES: Final thing. You said something interesting today. You know, I know you don`t want to set out unreasonable expectations but, you know, one of the crises of the last year is insufficient ambition, or government, frankly. You said a million a day -- you know, 100 million in 100 days was a floor, not a ceiling. I thought that was an important comment. What -- just tell us what you mean by that.

SLAVITT: Well, what I mean by that is that the President is very into the details. The President is pushing this extremely hard. And the people in the White House are treating this like a crisis. So, our objective is to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible. And that -- and that means there are a lot of strings and a lot of levers to pull. We`re rolling out 100 new vaccination centers in communities around the country this month.

HAYES: That`s great.

SLAVITT: We`re moving more vaccines into pharmacies. We`re working hand in hand with states. We just are enacting a law that`s going to allow former doctors and nurses to go out and vaccinate people again, which I think it makes all the sense in the world. So, we`re looking for everything we can find and we`re trying to vaccinate as many people as possible in a short amount of time if we can, Chris.

HAYES: All right, Andy Slavitt, great to have you back in your new role. Good luck. I imagine you`re going to be working pretty hard. I appreciate it.

SLAVITT: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Ahead, maybe the most bizarre story of the year or one of them. How are people suddenly making millions of dollars after buying stock of a video game retailer? GameStop, yes, that GameStop. It is a wild ride. I`ll explain after this.


HAYES: All right, so, one of the wildest stories in the news today in the last few days about a company called GameStop. They sell video games in malls. Like almost every other brick and mortar store, they were already losing customers. The pandemic only made it worse. So, there`s no real reason they should be the hottest stock in America right now. And yet they are.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: GameStop`s rally accelerated yesterday, nearly doubling during trading hours and surging even more after a tweet from Elon Musk. The firm is now worth over $10 billion, up about 700 percent year to date.


HAYES: Here`s a video game retailer that`s not doing a lot of business right now just toppled in value. On Friday, GameStop was worth $43.00 a share. And a bunch of people got together on Reddit, on a message board, called Wall Street bets, and they just decided let`s buy up GameStop stock and push prices higher and higher.

Now, a share of GameStop is $347.00. Those Reddit-based investors need lots of money. They have also upended the entire stock market and bled dry a bunch of hedge funds. So much so the White House and Treasury are now monitoring what`s going on.

Erin Griffith is also monitoring what`s going on as reporter for The New York Times, and she joins me now. Erin, can you explain first the origin? There`s -- so, this is -- this is a Reddit thread where people talk about trading and Wall Street stuff called Wall Street bets, is that right?

ERIN GRIFFITH, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. And it has about two million users, I think. And it`s not just on Reddit. There are also lots of other places on social media where people are gathering to talk about stocks. Obviously, they`re on Twitter, they`re on a Discord channel, which actually just got shut down today for reasons they say are unrelated.

But yes, it`s about people getting together and talking about stocks. And it`s become extremely popular in the pandemic because, well, there`s no sports, very little source, there`s not a lot of gambling, people are bored. And so, Robinhood, which is a stock trading app that has a mission of you know, democratizing investing has become extremely popular in over the last year. And so a lot of people are day trading now.

HAYES: Right, right. So Robin Hood --

GRIFFITH: So, yes -- so, basically, that`s where this started.

HAYES: Right. So, you can get another Robinhood app. And you know, if you have $1,000, or $500, or you know, you don`t have to have some huge amount of money, right, you go on this board. Now, the origin of this, as I understand it, was it was kind of a troll. And it was a troll directed at a bunch of hedge funds that had made what`s called shorts. They were betting the GameStop stock would go down because its business looked in parallel. Is that -- is that how it started?

GRIFFITH: Yes. Yes, basically. A lot of the Reddit investors have some kind of vendetta against short sellers. Part of this comes from Elon Musk. Tesla is one of the most shorted, most bet against stocks. And he has this kind of crusade. He`s very anti short selling. And so, there`s a kind of manipulation that you can do where if the stock goes way up, the short sellers, the hedge funds that are betting against a company, betting on its stock to go down, they get squeezed.

And the higher the stock goes, the more -- you know, the more -- the more money they`re losing, and it can become really ugly for them. And so they have -- the Reddit traders know this and they kind of turned it into a game. This is not the first time it`s happened before. Tilray, which is the cannabis stock had that happened to them before. But it`s definitely the first time it`s happened at this scale.

HAYES: Right. So, they saw -- like, that`s interesting. I don`t think I realize this. Elon Musk doesn`t like shorts. And a lot of people that run companies don`t like shorts. Because what short-sellers do is they say, we bet on you`re going to -- you`re doing bad. And our benefit cells can drive your stock down.

So, they go and they look at this stock GameStop that a lot of Wall Street hedge funds and said, you`re in trouble, we`re going to bet against you. And they were like, we`ll take the other side of the bet. We`ll rally to rescue this GameStop stock. And am I right that there`s like multiple hedge funds that have now lost billions of dollars on this?

GRIFFITH: I don`t know how many have lost and how much but there`s definitely at least one hedge fund, Melvin Capital that had to take a $3 billion bailout from a fellow fund over it. There are rumors that they might be going out of business. They denied that. Anyone who is short on this stock -- shorting a stock is extremely risky. And so, anyone who had that position is definitely hurting right now.

And Elon Musk tweeted about it, drawing more attention to it, and now all this news coverage. The fact that the stock was halted nine times yesterday, the trading was, because of so much volatility, it`s just drawing more attention to it and getting more people sort of rallying in this like, very absurd, mysterious game.

HAYES: So, here`s what I don`t quite get it. Like, at a certain point, I guess, this started to get momentum of its own because it doesn`t seem like the number of people who downloaded the Robinhood app and are on this Reddit thread can it possibly account for the volume that is pouring into this stock.

GRIFFITH: Yes. I think that`s a good point. And I think a lot of people are sort of framing this as like, oh, this is -- you know, the little guys rising up against the evil hedge funds. And I mean, one thing that is worth noting is that the hedge funds are also in Wall Street bets. They`re following this. They`re looking at what people are doing.

And there are definitely enough people who are day trading on Robinhood to kind of move the market share significant or move the market cap significantly of small or thinly traded companies. And so, big investors are following this now too. I mean, you saw Chamath Palihapitiya, who`s a very prominent Silicon Valley investor tweet that he was following it too. So, there`s probably some big money playing in this alongside the Reddit -- the Reddit crusade.

HAYES: You know, obviously, you know, manias and panics and bubbles and all these things that are literally as old as financial instruments. What seems novel here is that like, to me, it`s like the financial version of digital viral culture and like memefying. Like, something goes viral on Twitter or on social media, we all see it. This is that but for billions and billions of dollars in the most -- in the largest equity market in the world.

GRIFFITH: Totally. And that`s exactly what I was thinking when I saw this too. I`m like, this is -- this is a little bit different than something going viral as a meme because it is real-life and it`s real money. And so, you know, I think it`s a little concerning. It`s a little concerning to see what`s going to happen when the stock goes down because it will go down. I can`t say if it`s stable. And I mean -- and so people could be hurting quite a bit.

HAYES: If there`s a lesson here that we`ve learned is that online does not stay online. Just look at the last four of American life. Erin Griffith, thank you very much.

GRIFFITH: Thanks for having me. That is ALL IN on this Wednesday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.