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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, December 11, 2020

Guests: Karl Racine, Adam Schiff, Adam Serwer, Olivia Troye, Ofer Levy, Laurie Garrett, Brian Fallon


The Supreme Court rules 9-0 against President Trump's bid to overturn the election. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue final approval for use of the Pfizer Coronavirus vaccine under an Emergency Use Authorization. Democrats are pushing to expand the Supreme Court.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: You're great, Rachel. What an incredible book. Congratulations on Bag Man. It is awesome. No one can borrow my copy because I've destroyed it with yellow mark and things and dog gearing it, but still read it. Thank you, guys very much.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, my friend.

REID: Thank you very much. Have a great show tonight.

MADDOW: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

REID: Bye. Thank you. Tune in tonight -- thank you so much, Rachel. Tune in tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW." You guys do that anyway. That is tonight's REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. It means you have to turn over the election. The Supreme Court of the United States will see it and respectfully -- hopefully, they will do what's right for our country.

HAYES: The Supreme Court did what was right for the country. Donald Trump's latest effort in his assault on Democracy has been defeated. But what about all those Republicans who got on board? Tonight, Congressman Adam Schiff on what the decision means for the country and the grave danger of this moment regardless of the court's findings.

Plus, as the President threatens the FDA, what we know about vaccine authorization with a member of that FDA advisory panel.

Then, more Cabinet picks for the President-Elect, new concerns over his reluctance to use executive power when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I'm Chris Hayes. Tonight, we saw yet another legal defeat for Donald Trump and the Republican Party, this time in the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court. An overwhelming, humiliating rebuke -- we're going to talk about that in just a minute. But of course, that news comes in the midst of the worst humanitarian crisis the U.S. has faced in arguably 100 years.

Now, President Trump and the Republican Party are staging their full-scale attack on democracy, even as they collectively allow a 9/11's worth of COVID deaths every single day. In fact, the head of the CDC warned yesterday, the U.S. will probably see more deaths from COVID than on 9/11 every single day for the next two to three months, a 9/11 every single day for two to three months. That would mean around 180,000 to 270,000 more dead Americans before the end of March.

Today, we set a new case record again and almost 3,000 deaths and yet, and yet, and yet, one of the two major parties has devoted all of its energy and resources to the most brazen frontal assault on American democracy in living memory. And tonight, they got their butts handed to them in the Supreme Court in a clear repudiation as expected.

The court which of course includes six Republican nominated justices basically finding against Trump nine to zero, a little bit of dissent about whether the Supreme Court even had to take up the case or not. But ultimately, as many legal experts predicted, they determined the plaintiffs, and I quote here, "Had not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections." In other words, they had no case. They had no standing. Get out of here.

Now, the thing is, there were at least 20 Republican-led states attorney general, and 126 Republican members of Congress, almost two-thirds of the entire GOP caucus, including the top House Republicans in the House, Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise supporting this lawsuit to overturn the election.

It was a lawsuit, just to remind everyone, right, to basically declare Donald Trump the president despite the fact he lost by 7.5 million votes and multiple states. It is a lawsuit - it was a lawsuit, not to put too fine a point on it, to destroy the union. I'm not being hyperbolic here. The remedy Republicans were asking for was to essentially stay the vote to the electors in four states that voted for Joe Biden, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia, not let those electors vote for Joe Biden, and to have the Republican-controlled state legislators appoint electors to vote for Donald Trump even though Donald Trump lost, he was -- got fewer votes. He didn't win those states.

And that would mean the election would be overturned and Donald Trump would remain the president. And if you live in a country where the state apparatus can successfully overturn an election to keep the ruling regime in power even when it loses, you do not live in a democracy. You live in a dictatorship. And should the Supreme Court have declared the U.S. a dictatorship, what if this had worked? How do you think the American citizenry would react?

And Republicans are the ones who like to wave around the Gadsden flag, the don't tread on me flag, the ones who parade around and try corner hats waving the patriotic stars and bars of our founders who fought against British tyranny for self-rule. How should the American people react to the state government invalidating the people's choice? How do you think they would react? What would have happened in this country if this lawsuit had won?

I think it's pretty clear that if it had won -- and again, it didn't. It lost. Thank goodness, right. But if it had won, it would have represented the worst crisis for the country since secession. And I don't think that's an overstatement. It's not just me. This is part of an impassioned plea that Democratic Senator Chris Murphy made today. And think about the fact that these words needed to be spoken today on the floor of the United States Senate.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Right now, the most serious attempt to overthrow our democracy in the history of this country is underway. Those who are pushing to make Donald Trump president for a second term no matter the outcome of the election are engaged in a treachery against their nation.

You cannot at the same time love America and hate democracy. But as we speak, a whole lot of flag-waving Republicans are nakedly trying to invalidate millions of legal votes because that is the only way that they can make Donald Trump president again.


HAYES: Now, of course, legally, the lawsuit was complete garbage, OK, garbage. The suit and all the friends of the court briefs that went along with it that were filed on its behalf, they were filled with lies and bad faith and misreading of the law and like ridiculous, embarrassing typos. I mean, today, New Nevada and New California join the lawsuit. And if you're scratching your head, and you're saying, oh, I don't know those are states, you're not wrong. They aren't real states. Somehow, they got in there.

So, at one level, right -- again, we've been saying this for months. At one level, this is clownish buffoonery. Like, all the haphazard attempts to overturn the election that we have watched get laughed out of court for the last month. But at another level, it is very desperately, desperately dangerous and serious.

I was trying to think about how to characterize it today, because it has both these qualities to it. I mean, to me, it's the constitutional equivalent of someone walking up to someone else, maybe someone they're having an argument with, with a loaded nine-millimeter weapon and the safety on, and drawing the gun and pointing it to someone's head and pulling the trigger.

Nothing happens in the end. The safety is on. But what is that, is that a prank? Is it a bluff? No. It's a threat. They're holding a loaded gun to American democracy with this lawsuit. Just because the safety is on now, it doesn't mean it will not fire the next time.

And at some level, I do think -- and this is, I guess, me going out of my way to be charitable to people that have thrown in with this tawdry, treacherous undertaking. At some level, I do think the vast majority the Republicans see this is political posturing. I think part of the reason so many Republicans have signed on is because they think they aren't playing with live ammunition.

And they joined what Pennsylvania probably correctly characterize, the seditious abuse of the court system because they know they will not face any political backlash. Certainly, not within the party and not with voters, probably. Trump voters certainly will not punish them. And that includes the two Georgia senators who are asking their own voters votes to be thrown out. And it includes the 12 members of the states involved who are Republicans who are elected by the same votes they want to throw out and who now want to go serve in Congress. Figure that one out.

Joe Biden and Barack Obama and many others said that this last election was a referendum on democracy itself. And because the majority of people agreed with them and democracy one, now Republicans want to override the majority. They lost a referendum on democracy. And now the Republican Party has thrown in against democracy itself.

Karl Racine is the Attorney General for Washington D.C. He's the president of the National Association of Attorneys General. He led a coalition of 23 attorneys general opposing the Texas lawsuit trying to overturn the election. First of all, I guess, Mr. Racine, your reaction to the court's ruling.

KARL RACINE, ATTORNEY GENERAL, WASHINGTON D.C.: Chris, I'm not surprised by the ruling of the United States Supreme Court. I think if people have been watching over the last four years, state and federal judges, including the United States Supreme Court, have been the backbone of the American democratic experiment and the checks and balances.

The court did the right thing today resoundingly rejecting what is the biggest threat since the Civil War, which you cited. And now is the time for leaders to as President Lincoln said, try to bind these wounds and move our country forward.

HAYES: There's some thinking -- I think Josh Shapiro who's the A.G. for Pennsylvania in his brief, ask the court -- basically said to the court something along the lines of, you need to rebuke this so strongly that it -- that it makes clear that even just filing this was an offense. And I wonder if you think the kind of 9-0, we're not taking this, there's no, you know, cognizable injury here for us to deal with, does that or would you have preferred some, you know, per curiam writing from the court saying something about the merits.

RACINE: You know, I'm a ping pong player and 7-0 is a skunk, and 9-0 is a profound skunk. And it is a profound statement, the biggest statement the United States Supreme Court can (AUDIO GAP). And let me just say something else. Think about the Congresspeople, you know, and even some of the Republican AGs who are friends of mine who joined in this action. Our country is bigger than winning at any cost. And Donald Trump surely is not worth winning at any cost.

Thank you, judges and the United States Supreme Court for bringing us back to reality, not a reality TV set.

HAYES: Well, how did you understand -- I mean, part of what's been so disturbing -- and I talked to Marc Elias, democratic lawyer, this week. I talked to Dana Nessel who, of course, is the A.G. in the state of Michigan, which was one of the respondents here that was being sued to have their voters votes thrown out for no reason.

You know, anyone, I think with any level of legal sophistication, lawyer or not, saw this suit as preposterous, facially preposterous. It was advancing a theory that's ridiculous, that could never be actually operationalized because every suit can -- state can sue every other state. They didn't sue a bunch of states that did make changes that Trump won like North Carolina, or even the state of Texas where the governor unilaterally expanded early voting. Somehow, they escaped the lawsuit there.

So -- but -- and yet serious people who do this for a living, who are this state's attorneys general, with taxpayer resources, join this. Like, how do you make sense of that?

RACINE: I don't. There's a problem in our country. And obviously, Donald Trump has fueled it. He didn't create it. I think there are a host of issues. Of course, you know, the campaign finance laws in the United States of America mean that sometimes the people who are reelect aren't necessarily the best people. They're just the best spokesman for moneyed interest.

But again, I want to be positive here. I want to focus on a Supreme Court who's going to decide issues that I disagree with. But when it comes to democracy, as a Haitian immigrant -- my family left Haiti because of a dictator called Papa Doc Duvalier who knew nothing of terms of office, knew nothing of human rights. And to even allow Donald Trump to have the dignity of an argument before the United States Supreme Court -- again, I'm really happy that the court skunked Donald Trump 9-0 and stood up for democracy.

Let's heal this country. And then Chris, if we want to talk about democracy from the District of Columbia, let's talk about statehood and allowing the District of Columbia -- and I know I've seen you interview my Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton many times, it's about time to give a city that, yes, has a history of having a majority African-American, and that's relevant here, populace, the right to have a voice in Congress. Statehood, taxation without representation, true democracy is what we should be focused on tonight.

HAYES: Well said, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Karl Racine. Thank you very much.

RACINE: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: During Donald Trump's impeachment trial earlier this year, the lead House Impeachment Manager, Adam Schiff, warned about the danger Trump pose to the country if he was allowed to stay in office. And Congressman Schiff, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee joins me now. Good to have you, Chair.

Your reaction, I guess, first to the to the court as expected dispatching with this attempt.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, it was the only decision they could make. This wasn't a close call. It wasn't a hard call. It was really no call at all. What it was is essentially an effort to overturn our democracy dressed up in shabby legal clothing. So, I don't think the Supreme Court had to work very hard to reach the conclusion it did.

What I find, frankly so astonishing is that the lawsuit was filed to begin with, and that so many of my colleagues in the GOP, including Kevin McCarthy, would lend their names to this effort to overturn our presidential election.

And it makes you wonder, what are these people stand for? I mean, all of the things they profess to believe in, all of the constitutional oath they took apparently are just meaningless to them. The only thing that apparently matters is perpetuation of their power. And that is just such a danger to the country.

And I don't think we can write it off that well, you know, they knew this would fail. It was a face-saving gesture. We've heard enough of that. The damage they're doing continues to be long lasting.

HAYES: There also -- I mean, I think there's a calculation I heard the same. And I think part of that was the calculation for some of them. This is -- again, we're not playing live ammunition here, so who cares, right? It's an easy way to score some loyalty points. You know, but there's s a real question about -- I don't know how -- I guess we're all just going to pretend this didn't happen.

Like, they tried to overturn an American election. They tried to install someone who lost into power. They conspired, essentially, to overturn the rightfully democratically elected government of the United States. I'm not sure how you come back from that and like have a conversation tomorrow about the Defense Authorization Act?

SCHIFF: Well, I think you're right. Look, it's like they're stabbing the body politic and saying we're not aiming for vital organs. They're doing injury to the country as it is. Right now, they are creating a permanent set of aggrieved Americans who feel their election was stolen for that. That is lasting damage.

Whether they win or lose this lawsuit, whether they expected to lose it or not, these continuing false claims about the election, this continuing fallacy that somehow millions of voters improperly, this nonsense, the more that they echo this, the more it sinks in with a large segment of our neighbors and friends.

It's already difficult enough for us to talk with each other these days without poisoning the well further. So, you know, I don't -- I don't know how you look at some of these members the same way when you have seen them for what they are, and that is having no dedication of principle, nothing but ambition.

HAYES: You know, I think one of the deepest debates, institutional democratic debates that will happen and unfold over the next few months is a question about essentially how to save and preserve and expand American democracy and whether that means fighting fire with fighter -- fighting fire with fire, meeting procedural maximalism with procedural maximalism; or fighting fire with water meeting, meeting procedural maximalism with restraint, with stewardship with not pursuing that avenue?

And on that question, Bill Pascrell today, your colleague, said, look, the House controls its own membership. Nancy Pelosi should not seat the people that signed on to this if they are calling their own election into question. That's particularly true of the 12 members of Republican caucus who are in the states that they have signed on to an abacus brief to invalidate the votes of. And I wonder what you think of that.

SCHIFF: Well, you know, to use your metaphor, I don't think when the President of the United States and some of my Republican colleagues are trying to burn the house down around us. When the President tried to burn the house down on his way out the door, that we want to set a new fire. So, I don't think that's the answer.

You know, we had to deal with those kinds of tactics during the campaign, and we fought back, but we didn't sink to their level. We fought back and we won. And now that victory has been upheld in the court and Joe Biden will be sworn in as President of the United States. So, you know, I think our strategy worked. We don't want to become them.

You know, I certainly understand Bill's frustration, and I think the point that he's making is a powerful one. But I think the remedy is to make the case to the American people that they're being betrayed by many of the Republican members who said they stood for something. And as it turns out, don't stand for anything.

Helping the country see that -- helping the country see, you know, just how close we are coming to losing our democracy and why it's worth fighting for. You know, I think we -- up until this point, Chris, we all thought democracy was self-effectuating, that we could count on the moral arc of the universe bending towards justice on its own. And we have learned we need to fight for it every day and every generation has to undertake the same fight.

HAYES: Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I want to bring into the conversation someone who I really admire, a writer I really admire, Adam Serwer, who's a staff writer at the Atlantic where he consistently boils down the essence the Trump administration and the Republican Party. His latest piece is titled, "If you didn't vote for Trump, your vote is fraudulent."

I also want to bring in Olivia Troye, who I admire, a former member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, who did a very difficult thing and just spoke out mid-campaign as someone that people didn't know -- she wasn't a powerful person -- about Donald Trump and his handling of the pandemic.

Olivia Troye, Adam Serwer, it's great to have you both. You know, Adam, first, I want you to respond to Congressman Schiff. I don't have a position on this. I feel torn myself about this sort of fire with fire or fire with water, right? Like, do you ratchet up in response or do you ratchet down in response? But I'm curious your thoughts as you watch this. OK, they lost at the Supreme Court, and yet there is no sanction. There is -- there's no cost that they have paid.

ADAM SERWER, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: So, you know, I don't want to get into the wrong political strategy because I don't -- you know, that's not something I'm good at. That's not something I have expertise in. What I will say is that, you know, as long as there are no political consequences for going against democracy, but there are political rewards for going against democracy, Republicans are going to continue to do that. And that's just a question of incentives.

It has to be some way to -- or, sorry, there has to be some way is a little determinative. Unless the democrats figure out a way to force Republicans to pay for this kind of behavior, they will calculate that they can get away with it. And because it works to their advantage, they will continue to do it. That's just -- you know, that's not about good or evil. That is simply the way that politics works.

HAYES: Olivia, you spent your life as a Republican, Republican staffer. You are on the Coronavirus Task Force. You know, Mike Pence a person that you said you admired, the person that you went to work for, was in Georgia giving a speech touting this lawsuit. And I just wonder like, what you think when you see that?

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER MEMBER, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: You know, I think that's the power of Trumpism, unfortunately. That's something that he's lived under every single day. And all the respect that I've had for people like Mike Pence, and honestly, other congressional people like (INAUDIBLE) though I was shocked on that letter, especially given his military career defending our country. I think that says it all about the world we are living in with all of these Republicans feeling like they need to fall in line because they will be destroyed otherwise.

And I just hope that come January 20th, we will start a new chapter on this mess because thank goodness, you know, it's a good night for our country. The Supreme Court prevailed. Our democracy prevailed. Thank goodness. And let's hope we don't actually face this ridiculous situation again.

HAYES: Let me -- I just want to push back on that a little bit, right, which is -- and I understand the idea that like this is being done to sort of cow to him. You know, they're cowed by him. And to Adams point, I think there's political incentives. But like, it makes me think these people don't actually care about democracy, because if you did, you wouldn't say it.

I mean, let me play this. I want to play Mike Pence saying this. This is him. He's a public person. Whatever he thinks in his mind or heart, it doesn't matter to me. It's what he says. Take a listen.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know if you heard about it. So far, just in the last few days, 18 states have joined the Lone Star State to defend the integrity of our elections before the highest court in the land. President Donald Trump deserves his day in court, the Supreme Court.


HAYES: I just think of you see that, it's like you don't actually care about destroying the country. Because of the suit wins, that's what it would do.

TROYE: That's a prime example of when you care more about perhaps yourself and protecting your own than the country, I would say.

HAYES: Adam, you wrote this, and I thought this was really astute. You said, all this talk about fraud, right, I think a lot of us have been analyzing. Like, people are in this different, sort of, informational universe that are being told all the time there's fraud.

You say, when they say 2020 election was stolen, Trumpists are expressing their view that the votes of rival constituencies should not count even though they understand on some level that they do. They are declaring the nation belongs to them and them alone whether or not they actually comprise a majority because they are the only real Americans to begin with. What do you mean by that?

SERWER: Well, so Chris, I mean, I think we need to remember that the model of authoritarian government historically in the United States is not European fascism, right? It is a form of democracy where some people get to participate and others are excluded from the quality because they are not worthy for whatever reason because of gender, because race.

And so you know, what we're seeing here is an expression of that same thing. When Mike Pence says he's defending the integrity of the election -- of the election, and their view what Mars' democracy is not them trying to overturn the election results, it's the fact that these people who don't deserve to be part of the electorate participated in it.

And that is -- that is a flaw in democracy that can be corrected by rejecting the election results in which they comprise as the majority. Look, it's a pretzel logic. It's authoritarian logic, but it is the way historically that authoritarian government has worked in the United States. It comes with the trappings of democracy. It does not imagine itself to be despotism. It presents itself as defending rather than a facing democracy. And that's part of what makes it so frightening.

HAYES: That's a really, really profound and good point. Everyone should read that essay that Adam wrote. That's in the Olivia Troye and Adam Serwer, thank you both.

SERWER: Thank you.

HAYES: Next, there is a lot happening on the vaccine front tonight which could get FDA approval Emergency Use Authorization any minute. Hear from one of the doctors on that advisory panel we saw yesterday who voted to give it the go ahead. Also, Laurie Garrett about what happens next. Stick with us.


HAYES: All right, so at this hour, we are waiting news from the Food and Drug Administration. They are expected soon to be issuing final approval for use of that Pfizer Coronavirus vaccine under an emergency use authorization. That, of course follows the vote yesterday that we covered from that FDA advisory panel that recommended the vaccine be authorized for use in adults 16 and over.

Now, Dr. Ofer Levy is the director of the precision vaccines program at Boston Children's Hospital, also a member of the committee that we saw yesterday, the FDA committee which voted to recommend approval of the Pfizer vaccine yesterday. Doctor, it's great to have you on. First, let me just ask you on how you voted yesterday.

Thank you for that, Chris. I voted yes in favor of FDA issuing an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine.

HAYES: Can you tell me a little bit about the process you went through in the run up to that meeting of just going through the data and working yourself to that decision and that vote?

OFER LEVY, MEMBER, FDA VACCINES AND RELATED BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS ADVISORY COMMITTEE: Yes, Chris. I think the American people can feel pretty good about our process. I think it compares very favorably with other countries around the world. It's transparent. FDA assembles a committee of approximately 20 diverse experts from across the country with different expertise relevant to this subject matter.

There were briefing documents circulated to us. We saw the data. The data were analyzed not just by Pfizer but also by an independent FDA panel. And then of course, each of us formed our own independent opinions. And those documents were also eventually posted online on the FDA Web site for anybody to download and review.

So, after looking at it carefully ourselves, then we convened as you know yesterday. And there was a series of presentations from FDA, from the sponsor -- in this case, Pfizer. There was a public commentary phase where Americans could step forward and make their statement for, against, or somewhere in between. And then there were a series of deliberation meetings in the afternoon culminating in a vote.

HAYES: You know, this is -- I think you would agree, right, that this is a remarkable scientific breakthrough. The ingenuity and innovation in the design itself, in the speed. Can you tell us a little bit about -- I mean, I, as I watched part of the proceedings yesterday, and I couldn't really follow all of it, but there is -- there is something novel here in the mRNA process that was used to produce this, the way that this is going to enter the body compared to some other vaccines. Can you talk a little bit about that and why you're satisfied that this is both safe and effective?

LEVY: Thank you for that. Yes, there's several new things here. One is the fact that there's never before been a Coronavirus vaccine. Number two, as you allude to, there are a whole range of Corona vaccines being developed. But this particular one, as you mentioned, is a messenger RNA or mRNA technology. That involves injecting the code that tells the body to make a protein, which is the spike protein or S protein of Coronavirus.

Your viewers have seen the image of Coronavirus, like a ball with spikes off of it. The antibodies, the body will make antibodies against the spike. And those antibodies, we believe, will defend you against being infected by this virus. And so, this is the first time a vaccine of that nature is moving forward towards general use, potentially.

And that's a new technology, and yet at the same time, we know a good deal about it scientifically. And there's no reason scientifically we would expect any long-term problem with a vaccine like this. One does see some reactogenicity, as we call it. It says, injected intramuscularly. You can get some soreness at the injection site. You might get fever a day or two out, fatigue possibly, headache that goes away.

All of that is much, much better than getting actual COVID. And as you know, at this point in time, we have two and a half to 3,000 Americans dying a day, a day of COVID. So, the committee decided -- the majority of the committee voted that the known benefits and suspected benefits outweighed the known and suspected risks of this product.

HAYES: Final question. There were some dissenting votes and I won't ask for you to speak for your colleagues. But my sense from the proceedings was that the source of their reservations were about this 16 to 17-year-old age group specifically. I know the proceeding spent some time on that. Is it your sense of the area that was of most concern in the -- in the conversation?

LEVY: Yes. The FDA asked the panel to vote on a question at the end. And the question was along the lines of, you know, 16 years of age and up. The sponsor, Pfizer, the clinical trials did include some 16 and 17-year-olds, not as many as the other age groups. That said, there was no particular safety concern that popped up in that group. And there's no reason to believe the vaccine would not be safe and effective in that group as well.

And so, there were a variety of opinions discussed, but I believe the ultimate vote was 17 to four in favor of recommending the EUA as phrase by the FDA including 16 years of age and up.

HAYES: All right, Dr. Ofer Levy, that was very clarifying. Thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it.

LEVY: Thank you, Chris. And I will add as a Jewish family, we celebrate the Festival of Lights Hanukkah. We're hoping this milestone represents a light at the end of the tunnel we've all been traveling through.

HAYES: Happy Hanukkah. Thank you very much.

We got some disturbing reporting earlier today that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pressure the FDA Commissioner to speed up their approval the Pfizer vaccine, telling him to submit his resignation if the agency does not clear the nation's first Coronavirus vaccine by days end. We're still waiting to see if that approval will come tonight.

Laurie Garrett is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and columnist for Foreign Policy Magazine where she recently wrote a piece titled "The world's wild and crazy vaccine ride is just starting." She's also author of The Coming Plague and Betrayal Of Trust: The Collapse Of Global Public Health.

That news caught my eye today. In the grand scheme of things, we're talking about 24 hours one way or the other. So, it didn't seem like it had any scientific import or any concern about the actual safety, security of the process. But it also seemed like maybe not a great idea. What was -- what was your reaction to that reporting about Meadows? LAURIE GARRETT, COLUMNIST, FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: Oh, it's just more political meddling from the White House. Obviously, they're quite eager for symbolic reasons to be able to do a victory lap and say, see, here it comes. Your Trump administration brought you this vaccine.

But to get to the science of it and what's really going on, I think it's pretty clear sometime this weekend, Steve Hahn, the Commissioner of the FDA will give the green light to this vaccine. And then we'll see how many doses Pfizer has actually truly manufactured.

So, you know, we heard way back in September that the target was 100 million doses so that 50 million people could be vaccinated in December and January. And now, that's been paired way back. Expectations are much lower. Now, we're looking at maybe by May 50 million people can be vaccinated. Maybe a very small number will be available in this month in December.

And there's been a lot of confusion about why this should be. Moderna which will be getting their FDA nod next week, is also an mRNA vaccine. And they're also trying to temper expectations on production. So, what's the problem?

The main thing we're hearing, Chris, is that there's a raw materials issue. No one wants to go any further into explaining it, but the best I can put it together is it's probably linked to the fact that we're doing so much testing. So, we're using up the entire global supply of RNA extraction kits and the key reagents that are necessary to extract nucleic acids from samples in order to tell if you're -- if you're positive for infection with this virus.

Well, you need the same extraction reagent, the same materials in order to make an RNA vaccine. So, the horrible irony is that the pace of our epidemic is so massive now, we have so much testing going on, literally millions of people getting tested every single day now, that we're using up the entire supply of RNA extraction equipment and the basic reagents, particularly something called protein K, that gets used to extract the RNA out.

So, unfortunately, our whole supply chain seems to be slow. Now, you could say, Chris, what about the other vaccines in the pipeline, Laurie? And to which I would say back to you, though, you didn't even ask the question. I'm being a little presumptuous.

HAYES: No, go ahead. I'm just -- I'm wrapped. Keep going, please.

GARRETT: I would say back to you, right, Chris. There are other options in the pipeline, but unfortunately, three of them have taken a big nosedive just in the last few days. An Australian one turned out to yield false-positive results for HIV. Australia pulled it out of the pipeline. A GlaxoSmithKline/Sanofi combined product turns out to also crash and burn. And the AstraZeneca product just has one doubt around it after another. Certainly, it's not ready to be a home run.

That leaves one very close to the front end now, from Johnson and Johnson. They're telling us they may be ready to go to the FDA for emergency approval in January. So -- and it's not an RNA vaccine. It uses a viral vector so it wouldn't face the same shortage issue if indeed that is the fundamental problem with Pfizer and Moderna.

HAYES: Wow. So, you just blew my mind. So, the ingredients to make the vaccine are shared with some of the stuff that we use to test. There's a finite supply of that stuff. It's a supply chain. We're using a ton of it to test. We have to test so much because we have an absolutely out of control pandemic that is, I think, the worst in the world right now in terms of levels of community transmission. And in that we are cannibalizing the resource necessary to produce more of the vaccine. That's that that is what you're saying.

GARRETT: Pretty much.

HAYES: Well, it's another example of the fact that -- you know, this was said to be by Thomas Besser last night which is we got to suppress the virus one way or the other. The idea that we're going to wait for the vaccine to do it for us -- Richard Besser -- we're going to do this -- we're going to wait for it to do it for us is crazy. And this is another example of that. We got to get it under control.

GARRETT: You can't -- you can't just hang your hat on a high-tech solution. We have got to be prepared to continue to sacrifice as a people. It's horrible. It's going to be the worst Christmas. And if you follow what Dr. Redfield predicted yesterday in a talk to the Council on Foreign Relations, he say we're going to have at least a 9/11 a day for 90 days. Do the math. That means we get up to Valentine's Day and we've got 600 to 650,000 dead Americans.

HAYES: I really hope we don't. Laurie Garrett, thank you very much.

GARRETT: You're welcome.

HAYES: Still ahead, will the President-Elect use his executive authority to enact the bold policies progressives are pushing for? What he said in his own words after this.


HAYES: There's a very high stakes debate shaping up among Democrats both outside and within the incoming Biden administration about how aggressive to be in wielding power in this new era. The Biden campaign, of course, centered on this kind of defensive democracy and restoring decency, serious governance, but also kind of, you know, small C conservative stewardship of American democratic institutions and restoration of norms.

And that notion which Biden clearly ran on and won, his intention with pushes for many quarters, pushes I am personally quite sympathetic to, for Biden to use every legal constitutional tool possible to, in the words of Senator Ed Markey, test the outer limits of his powers through administrative action.

It's hard to know exactly what Biden could do with executive power, because his moves will surely be tested in the Trump pact courts. But progressives believes he could do a lot including canceling vast amounts of student loan debt, providing more relief for the unemployed, beefing up climate regulations, enacting new gun safety rules, including background checks for nearly all gun sales all through executive action.

In a meeting with civil rights leaders, which was leaked to the Intercept, Biden laid out where he stands.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Executive authority that my progressive friends talk about is way beyond the bounds. And as one of you said, maybe you Reverend Al, whether it's far left or far right, there is a constitution. It's our only hope, our only hope. And the way to deal with it is where I have executive authority. I will use it to undo every single damn thing this guy has done by executive authority.

But I'm not going to exercise executive authority where it's question, where I can come along and say, I can do away with assault weapons. There's no executive authority to do that. And no one has fought harder to get rid of assault weapons than me, me. But you can't do it by executive order. You do that, the next guy comes along and says, well guess what, by executive order, I guess everybody can own machine guns again.


HAYES: As we've been reporting and exploring on the show, the U.S. has a set of institutional limitations on the wielding of democratic power that are increasingly hamstringing the country and making progressive governance more and more difficult. If people do not start thinking big about how to undo those institutional limitations, then the space for action amidst all these crises, particularly the climate crisis, will continue to shrink.

And there are lots of big ideas out there, getting rid of electoral college, or finding a way around it, adding new states, and with the new senators, expanding the House, and yes, adding more justices to the Supreme Court. So, let's talk about that next.


HAYES: One of the most maddening, and to my mind, stupid as news cycles during the presidential campaign was the great court packing controversy. Will Joe Biden endorse expanding the Supreme Court to add more justices? The reason it was so dumb is that it was completely a science fiction question dependent on a whole bunch of things happening together like flipping the Senate first, and then also ending the filibuster. And we still don't know if those things will happen. Most likely they won't even though we can't get those two weeks or so of our lives back

And yet, there is a substantive issue about the legacy of this right-wing Supreme Court, the lower courts that have been packed by Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. And that's why there is an urgent and concrete argument for Democrats now to think about how to restructure the judiciary.

Someone who radicalized over this issue is Brian Fallon, longtime Democratic operative, Hillary Clinton's former press secretary. Now, perhaps singularly focused on making the courts more progressive. He's the co-founder and executive director of Demand Justice, an organization that is devoted to doing just that.

Brian, first lay out for me, I guess, like the kind of blue sky -- do we have you hearing me?


HAYES: Oh, great. Layout for me just like -- let's get rid of institutional constraints or any sort of constraints. If you had a magic wand, right. Like, what would a plan for restructuring the judiciary or expanding it look like if you could do whatever you wanted to do?

FALLON: Well, I think you'd want to do two things, Chris. I think you'd want to first expand the size of the court by no fewer than four seats in order to undo the injustice that was done with the last two vacancies, or at least two out of the last three, yet unprecedented maneuvers by the Republicans to block any consideration of Barack Obama's nominee in 2016. That was unprecedented. And then just this year, you had another unprecedented move in terms of confirming a justice, rushing to do so right before an election, confirming somebody closer to an election than it's ever happened before in the nation's history.

And now Republicans say, hey, that's fair game. That's within the rules. That's not unconstitutional. To which I say fine, but neither is expanding the size of the Supreme Court. That's happened seven times in our history. During the 1860s, it happened three times in that decade alone, during a period where the nation was undergoing a big political shift. We were entertaining big questions of what it means to be a citizen, what is entailed by the right to vote, not unlike the debates we're having now.

And so, I think that people need to be imaginative, open themselves up to this possibility. Adding to this size of the Supreme Court will restore balance. 6-3, the margin that we have in the court now, it's something that when you pull average people, they do think that sounds out of whack. So, we're starting to see support for this. This is pushing majority level support with the public.

The other thing I would add, Chris, is term limits. I think you can do both in combinations. We should bring a sense of regularity to when these vacancies arise on the Supreme Court. If you get elected as president to a four-year term, you should have some certainty that you're going to be able to appoint at least two justices in that four-year window.

Jimmy Carter won one term for President, didn't get to name anybody at the Supreme Court. Donald Trump won a similar four-year term, and he picked three justices. And that's how we end up with randomness of, you know, Democrats winning the popular vote and seven out of the last eight elections, and yet, Republicans picking 15 out of the last 19 supreme court justices.

So, I put everybody on an 18-year fixed term so that seats are expiring every two years, and expand the overall number to 13.

HAYES: That's -- I mean, that's --that latter point is such an important and good one. It is -- there is nothing like it in American politics, the McCobb death watch for Supreme Court justices. I mean, it's sick and bizarre. You know, everyone -- it's like buzzard circling overhead. There's just nothing like it.

It's a lifetime appointment, obviously. Justices can choose when they retire. But if they don't, as we saw with Ruth Bader Ginsburg who battled against various illnesses with incredible fortitude for so long, that's the situation you end up with just the spin of fates wheel. You're saying get rid of that. Have some regularity to it. I think it's a good idea.

FALLON: If you added to the number of seats on the court and in combination to that added fixed terms, the death or the retirement, the timing of a retirement would be less of a stop the presses triggering of an all-out war, because each individual seat is less high stakes if you have more than nine seats.

And if there's some rules set in so that every president is fixed in terms of the number that they can appoint in any four year window, then it prevents the incentive for Mitch McConnell to try to keep a seat open to create an extra seat for the next president to fill. It would restore sanity to the process. It would truly depoliticize things.

And people as -- you know, there's bipartisan support for this certain note. Nobody less than John Roberts himself when he was a Reagan Administration lawyer in the 1980s, penned a memo for the Reagan administration suggesting that there should be term limits for Supreme Court Justices.

So, this is an idea that has appeal. Term limits has 70 percent support with the public. I think there's going to be a more robust conversation here, not least because the Biden administration is committed to appointing a Court Reform Commission in 2021 that I think is going to look at both of these proposals and then some.

And so, I think it's very important that that commission include voices like Eric Holder, Heather McGhee, the former head of Demos, Professor Michael Claremont of Harvard. These are all people that have been out there making the case for particular reforms. I think they would be valuable voices on that commission.

HAYES: Yes. And my understanding is there's some conservatives -- I believe Stephen Calabrese, who is a law professor and one of the co-founders of the Federal Society has written about term limits as well. I mean, the idea of regularizing -- I didn't say that right, but we'll keep moving -- of these terms such that everyone has a kind of democratic transparency going into election. I mean, that's part of what's so crazy, right?

You then know, OK, well, we're voting for a person who's going to appoint X many seats, as opposed to a veil of ignorance and, you know, depending on the luck. And there's no like -- there's no conservative or liberal valence to that question. That's just a question about us as democratic citizens knowing what we're getting.

FALLON: Right. And I think that we should also approach this with a goal in mind of trying to undo vestiges of our system that lend themselves to minority rule. The Supreme Court as it's set up now is really the outcome -- the 6-3 majority that we have on the court now is really the outcome of sort of two counter-majoritarian factors that have compounded into this 6-3 court which is woefully out of step with the public on everything from health care, to gun safety, to climate change.

And that's because you Have in Donald Trump somebody that lost the popular vote by almost three million votes, who made three selections to the Supreme Court that were confirmed by Senate Republican majorities that represent, you know, less than a majority of the public in the country. And I think that all these proposals go together, the idea of rethinking the Electoral College, eliminating the filibuster in the Senate and states so that we increase the size of that chamber and reforming the Supreme Court.

HAYES: Democracy is the North Star here. Brian Fallon, thanks so much for making time tonight. That is ALL IN for this week. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.


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