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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, December 18, 2020

Guests: Shane Goldmacher, Bob Bauer, Ed Yong, Tina Nguyen, Barry McCaffrey, Rebecca Ingber


President Donald Trump rakes in campaign cash on his way out of the White House. Jared Kushner helped create the Trump Campaign shell company that spends $617 million reelection cash. Rupert Murdoch took a convoy of Range Rovers to get his vaccine on Wednesday via the British National Health Service. Just a short time ago, the Food and Drug Administration issued Emergency Use Authorization for the Moderna vaccine. The President's former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn invokes insurrection in the final phase of the stolen election delusion.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Have a great weekend. Cheers. I'm coming with you. And before we go, this week's moment of joy, a clever PSA about wearing masks that even caught Cardi B's attention. Here it is.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now from the hop, it's bop saying wear a mask please. When you go out to the shop, you've got to wear a mask please. You've got to stop stop, stop and just wear a mask please. Don't just hold it like a prop, you've got to bear mask please.


REID: Love that. That is tonight's REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.


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

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We got a lot of rich people here. A lot of money, a lot of money in this first row, a lot of money.

HAYES: Trump raised a quarter of a billion dollars after losing the election, as new details emerge about a shell company set up by Jared Kushner that spent over $600 million of campaign cash.

TRUMP: I live other people's money.

HAYES: Then, Rupert Murdoch gets the vaccine while his own media outlets spew nonsense. Plus --

MIKE FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, UNITED STATES: Within the swing states, if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities, and he could place them in those states and basically rerun an election in each of those states.

HAYES: The former National Security Adviser of the United States advocating the overthrow of American democracy.

And just weeks after Trump fired the top brass and installed his cronies, the Pentagon stops briefing the Biden transition, when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I'm Chris Hayes. In 33 days, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States and that is not for lack of trying by the Trump campaign to overturn the election with the seemingly never-ending series of actions that are at once chilling and clownish.

They have lost nearly 60 lawsuits since the election. They have embarrassed themselves by staging ridiculous spectacles, usually featuring Rudy Giuliani sometimes looking like that. And in almost every level, those efforts have been a complete and total failure, except in one way, one crucial way. In a way, that is something Donald Trump cares about probably more than anything in the world, money, money, money.

This entire exercise has been an abject failure in a legal sense, in a political sense, but it has been an absolute boon to fundraising. The New York Times reporting Trump's largest single-day for online donations actually came after Election Day, raising almost $750,000 per hour on November 6th, so did his second biggest day, and his third.

According to the times, Trump has raised roughly $250 million since Election Day along with the National Party. Now, Trump has been telling supporters the money is funding recounts and legal bills campaign data, and the Georgia Senate races, but that's not entirely true.

E-mail and text solicitations have pitch Trump's supporters to give to a Georgia election fund, for example, even though no funds go directly to either Republican senator on the ballot. Instead, the fine print shows 75 percent of the donations to the Georgia fund go to Mr. Trump's new PAC called Save America.

And Trump's Save America PAC is not really like other campaign finance vehicles. Washington Post explains "The money in the Save America PAC, unlike money contributed to a standard campaign committee, can be used to benefit Trump in innumerable ways, memberships at golf clubs, travel rallies, even payments directly to Trump himself as long as he declares it as income.

That's right. Donald Trump can just keep all that money for himself if he really wants to. I'm not just pulling that idea out of thin air. Back in 2000 when Trump was toying with a run for president, he told Fortune Magazine "It's very possible I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it."

Now, if you view the post-election activities of Donald Trump purely in terms of an attempted lucrative con, well, then, it has been a smashing success, not a total failure. And now, new reporting today suggests maybe that is also the case for his reelection campaign. I mean, I don't think he didn't want to win. He did. But at one obvious level, the campaign was a failure insofar as it failed to secure reelection for an incumbent president for the first time since 1992. He lost.

This failure is made worse by the fact it was the first reelection campaign declared on the first day of the administration. Remember that? It raised more money than any reelection campaign ever. Do you remember when Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale referred to the campaign as the Death Star, right? That was back in the spring. Like, get ready. They bragged about how they were going to use all this money that they had amassed, more money than anyone ever to just destroy the opposition.

But like the Death Star, things quickly unraveled. Brad Parscale was arrested by police outside his Florida house. He ended up stepping down from his role in the campaign. Rumors swirled that maybe Parscale had grifted from the campaign to pay for his $2.4 million waterfront house in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a pair of million-dollar condos, a brand new $400,000 boat, and another half-million dollars and luxury cars, including a Range Rover and a Ferrari. You know, you got to have both, depending on what your mood is.

So, the Trump campaign raised more than a billion dollars for his reelection, right? We all watched this happened. All the reporting was, wow, no one has ever raised this money. And then, at some point in the campaign, it became clear, like all of a sudden, the money was gone leaving the Trump campaign polling ads in critical states. Remember that?

Just before the election, the Associated Press publish a story about how Trump plowed through the cash writing, "Since 2017, more than $30 million has been paid to firms controlled by Parscale who was ousted as campaign manager over the summer, and additional $319.4 million was paid to American Made Media Consultants, a Delaware limited liability company whose owners are not publicly disclosed."

Well, that's interesting. 300 plus million dollars to Delaware incorporated privately held company whose owners aren't disclosed. I wonder what that's up to. The question of where all those hundreds of million dollars went was never really answered. Today, we got an important clue when we learned, drumroll, don't ever guess who ran American Made Media Consultants. Business Insider reports, in fact, it was Jared Kushner who approved the creation of AMMC.

And when Kushner and others created the company in April 2018, they picked Trump's daughter in law, Lara Trump, to become its president. Not just that, vice President Mike Pence's nephew, John Pence, as its Vice President. That's a nice job for a nephew. Trump Campaign CFO Sean Dollman got chosen to be the treasury and secretary.

Now, according to the report, that same shell company, they spent $617 million, almost half of the campaign's $1.26 billion war chest. That's a lot of money. A lot of money went into that. Now, we should be clear, it's not actually completely irregular for campaign to use a shell company for spending, but this was controlled by Trump's relatives in the most expensive campaign of all time. And right now, we have no way of seeing where all that money went and who it went to. Now, Trump has tens of millions of dollars of campaign funds at his disposal, it's unclear what he plans to do with it.

Shane Goldmacher is a national political reporter from New York Times. His piece today titled "Trump's future: Tons of cash, and plenty of options for spending it." Shane, it's great to have you on. First, before we sort of get into where his financial situation is now, I just want -- this is sort of a basic point, but the $600 million that went into this privately held company, do we know what it was? Is there any recording of like, what -- where the money went?

SHANE GOLDMACHER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Extremely little. So, what we know is that they use this LLC, to reserve all of their media. So, all their television ads, all their digital ads, so there are big payments out of that money to Google, to television stations across the country, to Facebook. But we don't know who else was paid.

And that's one of the advantages for the Trump campaign of using an LLC is you basically obscure the details of your spending. You obscure which companies you paid for text messaging. You obscure which companies you are paying for digital ads. You obscure exactly where you are -- what companies are paying for your media. You see some of it because other companies would do the actual reservations with TV stations. But really, it's a black box.

In our counting, it's more than $700 million flow through this one LLC. And yeah, we learned today that Lara Trump and John Pence, you know, were not only on the board of this LLC until late 2018, but you know, their names were on the incorporation papers. These were the original people designed to oversee what became the single biggest vehicle for spending Trump's campaign money.

HAYES: OK, so again, this is a hypothetical question, but just so I understand the structure is here. Like, let's say I have this LLC and I want to -- and it's set up now, right? And I want to hire an employee at $100,000 a month to make my ad buys. Like, you could do that, right?

GOLDMACHER: Absolutely. I mean, this is one of the broken things in the way our campaign finance system is set up at this point. If you are working on the Trump campaign, and you take an Uber, you have to report that Uber on your campaign filings. The Trump campaign will spend $17.28 on your Uber.

Now, if an employee of AMMC, this American Made Media Consultants has a salary and they expense their Uber to the company, none of that gets disclosed. That's just a really small example, but staff, your consultants. You can stack all kinds of things behind large LLCs. And certainly, Trump is not the first person to do this. But certainly, at this scale, there's never been anything like this.

You know, the total spending that flew -- that flowed through this LLC is basically on the scale of everything he spent in the entire 2016 campaign.

HAYES: Yes. I mean, it's important to make that note, right? That people do use this. They use it for a variety of reasons. But one of the other details we've gotten from some of the reporting, Business Insider and at The Times as well is that it also seems like Stepien and the campaign manager, Parscale, like, this was a black box to people inside the campaign a bit, which is also like, a little weird.

GOLDMACHER: Yes. I mean, look, Jared Kushner has played a key role in the Trump campaign for the beginning, whether or not he had a title at the Trump campaign. You know, he was at the White House, but he oversee -- oversaw, excuse me, almost all of the operations. And this is really no different.

And look, there's certainly people at the top of the campaign had insight into this spending vehicle, but not everybody did. Which is why, you know, it wasn't until after the election that we found out the people who were on those first incorporation papers and that family members were on the board overseeing this LLC.

HAYES: So, your piece today raises a sort of interesting specter, right, about what all this money raised post-election day is for. And one of the things, it doesn't quite come out and say, but seems to be suggesting is that like, maybe the thing you could do is just raise money. Like, that could be his next gig. He's just raising money from this list that want to get money to Donald Trump, and then go around and do rallies and pay himself. And that could -- that could be the enterprise.

GOLDMACHER: Yes. I mean, there's been a lot of discussion. Does Trump want to run for reelection or run again in 2024? And he well might. But there's a lot of reasons why he wouldn't want to announce right away. And one of which is that this leadership PAC that he has, is really laxly overseen by the federal authorities who oversee campaigns, and they don't oversee anything particularly aggressively.

But these leadership PACs, they basically are -- this is to get in the weeds a little bit, but they aren't applying the personal benefit rule. So, if you have a campaign committee and you're running for congress, you're running for senator, you're running for president, you are not allowed to personally benefit from your campaign committee. But if you have a PAC, that doesn't apply to you.

There's also financial disclosure requirements that go in place if you now -- if he had to run for president. If he's out of office, he no longer has to file his broad strokes to look at his finances, what things made more money, what things made less money every year. If he announces, he's running for president, again, he does have to file those things.

But, yes, this is -- he absolutely has the potential to be a basically perpetual money machine for himself and for the Republican Party. But this is one of the rubs, right? The RNC, the Republican National Committee, has a deal with Trump that they get a copy of his list after the election. And so, the two sides are working to decouple well, who gets what?

There's never been a former president who's talked about running again. He's kept his own list active, and he certainly been keeping his list active.

HAYES: Yes. I mean, Grover Cleveland Alexander notoriously hung on to his list, but aside -- but aside from him. But I mean, the idea that there's a -- the idea that there's a deep -- they have a deal to get the list, like, all right, good luck RNC. Shane Goldmacher with a great report today in New York Times along with Maggie Haberman, thank you so much.

GOLDMACHER: Thank you.

HAYES: There are few lawyers in the country with as much election campaign law experience as Bob Bauer. He also served as White House Counsel to President Obama as well as co-chair of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. He recently served as senior advisor to the Biden campaign. He's the co-author of the book After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency. And Bob Bauer joins me now.

I guess, first, a kind of tactical question. You know, you have some, I guess, some bias here, but about the sort of arrangement here and how normal or abnormal it is given that you have been the lawyer on a bunch of different campaigns.

BOB BAUER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I just saw the reporting this evening. I didn't really have the chance to absorb the facts as Shane Goldmacher points out, there are all sorts of potential problems with the structure of the administration of the campaign finance laws.

And the way in which this would or would not be potentially legally controversial, is hard to say without understanding more about how this was put together and how it was operated. But it is certainly a very, it's a very interesting story, no question about that.

HAYES: Your book and what you've been writing about is sort of thinking about how to think about the presidency after Trump. And, you know, one of the -- one of the huge variables there is the fact that he's not going to leave. I mean, he's -- I mean, he's going to leave the White House, but I mean, he's going to go out and probably do rallies and raise money and sort of be this kind of strange, you know, opposition leader and exile which we don't really have a model for in recent American history. I wonder how you think that that will contribute to how we reckoned with what he has done to the presidency.

BAUER: Right. He doesn't appear like he's going to vacate political territory. And so, that means that Donald Trump and his administration, that history is going to be continually before the public. Richard Nixon waited a while after the Watergate experience. That's the last time we had a post-presidential reform program that was very extensive.

And Nixon left, of course, from a very different circumstance. He didn't lose the election, he resigned from office. But afterwards, there was a real attention to reform the presidency. And he went through all of that. He sort of hid out for a while, and then he gradually reemerged in public life.

It is correct that in Donald Trump's case, it may be that he doesn't disappear for a period of time. And that only means that the debate about the legacy for the institution of the presidency will be that much more intense, because he'll be there before the public reminding everybody every day of the four years and how he viewed the presidency, which he had very strong views about what he should be entitled to do as president, some of which he acted upon, and some of which he didn't.

HAYES: Well, your point about Watergate I think is so crucial, right? Because that -- you know, in the case of Nixon and Watergate, Nixon resigns. There's the extremely controversial pardon that's offered by Gerald Ford. But in the wake of Watergate revelations, in a bunch of different directions, both in the campaign finance direction, and in the direction of surveillance and the activities of the CIA, there are these massive undertakings of huge structural reforms.

I mean, the modern campaign finance system gets stood up. The Church Committee does a whole bunch of reforms to the CIA and the FBI, domestic surveillance. All this stuff flows out of that. It does seem like this would be a moment for some something like that, in the wake of what we've seen Trump be able to kind of get away with.

BAUER: Yes. There was definitely a view that something had gone wrong with the institution of the presidency. And you correctly note any number of major reforms that over time were enacted to address the perceived fissures in the legal constraints on the presidency, the shattering of norms, although not nearly to the extent that we've seen with Donald Trump.

And the question is going to be what reform program post-Trump can be taken up. There's some obvious examples. Some people call them low hanging fruit for which there might be bipartisan support, take the requirements that used to be a norm -- a requirement that once was a norm that presidents produce their tax records. That could very well (INAUDIBLE) successful disregarded that, and obviously survived that politically, could well become the subject of legislation. Similarly, conflict of interest regulation, that would prevent a president from running the government and business concurrently and actually using the government to promote the business.

Then, there's some more complicated reforms but urgent ones that have to do with restoring the integrity to law enforcement, to curbing presidential emergency powers, to reforming the pardon power, a whole list of issues that have been raised in the last four years of that my co-author Jack Goldsmith and I address and were specific in proposing reforms for in the book.

HAYES: Yes. I think this idea that, you know, the lower -- the low hanging fruit, I mean, it is an amazing thing, right, that there is no law that says, you can't be president and also, you know, I don't know, the CEO of the largest company in America. Like, just have both of those, right. That -- whatever -- you know, whatever conflict of interest there would be there is essentially at the discretion of the president to deal with in a way and an expectation that they'll a seed to these expectations.

That hasn't happened. I think it's probably time for some legislative reform there. Bob Bauer, always great to talk to you. Thank you very much.

BAUER: Good night.

HAYES: Ahead, demand getting rich off of spreading deadly misinformation about the pandemic is first in line to get the vaccine. The Fox News virus next.


HAYES: For the past nine months or so, Rupert Murdoch owned media entities have by and large waged a war against public health and the scientific consensus on containing the Coronavirus. On Fox News and elsewhere, they've been playing down the virus and peddling just outright lies and pushing junk science and elevating cranks. All of which has tangibly materially contributed to behavior that has made the pandemic worse.

And what makes it all the more infuriating is that as we have noted, while Fox hosts have been dismissing the experts and suggesting lockdowns don't work and ridiculing people that avoid the office and follow public health guidelines, many Fox us employees have been working remotely, literally at the same time.

And so, now, we arrive at the question of the vaccine. And last night, one of Rupert Murdoch's minions went on air to coyly just ask questions and rail against the offensive pro-vaccine propaganda that's been propagated by all corners of the media and the elite consensus that you should get the vaccine.

"On the question of the Coronavirus vaccine, our leaders are definitely not pro-choice. Their view is do what you're told and don't complain." Of course, no one is actually telling you what to do. The vaccine is voluntary. In fact, that's literally the reason there is a public relations push to get people to vaccinate -- to get vaccinated to persuade them in a free country precisely because it's not legally required.

The notion that there is something nefarious and suspicious about people like Mike Pence encouraging you to get the vaccine is of course nonsense. Of course, this is the same person who questioned whether lockdowns work when literally the reason lockdowns work is the germ theory of disease, which it's safe to say is settled science.

I mean, if you don't believe me, just look at what happened in Europe where the second wave slowed last month after new lockdowns. But of course, all this contrarian posturing is just chum thrown into the water for ratings they can then monetize. It's not meant to be real or serious advice. In fact, Fox News's own lawyers have argued that this particular Rupert Murdoch minion is not a provider of the news as we know it, or facts as we commonly understand them, and his audience knows this. It's just a remarkable thing for your own attorney to say about you.

And so, given all that context, it is not surprising that 89-year-old Rupert Murdoch himself, who of course at that age is high risk, took a convoy of Range Rovers to get his vaccine on Wednesday via the British National Health Service, the socialized medicine provider of the U.K.

Murdoch even thanked essential workers and the staff of the National Health Service, an institution that has held up as this absolutely demonic specter by Fox News in American health care debates. And Murdoch also strongly encouraged people around the world to get the vaccine, precisely the kind of groupthink tyrannical propaganda his network was railing against.

And while Rupert Murdoch is offering his kind words to the anonymous people on the ground who are doing what they can to fight the disease, well, here's what another one of his media properties is doing. Running a story that exists purely as a form of abuse, bullying, and harassment directed at one of those health care workers who just goes to work every day and tries to help people amidst the worst pandemic in a century.

Lauren Clay is a 23-year-old New York City paramedic, who because of a relatively low pay at her day job, also set up an account on a Web site where she sold nude images of herself. Who cares? There is no news value in that fact. The only news value in that fact is that people on the front lines fighting the pandemic are not getting paid enough to make ends meet.

But that was not the point of the story. The point was to bully and belittle this woman and make her life miserable, for no purpose, no other purpose than some sadistic flex of power and some cruel enjoyment that the audience might get. And this whole thing looks like it was an ambush. In a GoFundMe appeal, Clay described her own life or dreams in a hard work or struggle for living wage, and how the New York Post reporter did not initially reveal his angle on the story.

Once he did, she says, I told him my safety and job were going to be at risk if you posted this article. He truly did not care. He went on to call my employer and my mother. The reporters who wrote the story anyway, despite Clay's appeal, are Dean Balsamini and Susan Edelman. You should know who these people are. Here's Dean Balsamini's sneering article about wearing a MAGA hat in New York City complete with photo of the author.

This person you're seeing there is someone who tried to use his position in the Rupert Murdoch Empire to basically ruin the life of someone who's spending all her time trying to save other people's lives. This man you're seeing there, Dean Balsamini is a disgrace to journalism. But that's not at all surprising because that's the kind of enterprise Rupert Murdoch runs. It's just another day in the life one of the most destructive people on the planet.


HAYES: Well, it is now official. Just a short time ago, the Food and Drug Administration issued Emergency Use Authorization for the Moderna vaccine. In trials, it was 94 percent effective and it can be stored at normal freezer temperature, which is key because that's not true of the Pfizer vaccine which needs to be kept ultra-cold.

Nearly six million Moderna doses have already been earmarked to be shipped across the country. And people should start receiving that vaccine as early as next week. We are 10 months into this pandemic, and we now have two highly effective vaccines, thanks in no small parts of the extraordinary effort of the scientific community which came together in an unprecedented way to fight this thing.

As Ed Yong details in the Atlantic, thousands of researchers dropped whatever intellectual puzzles had previously consumed their curiosity and began working on the pandemic instead. In mere months, science became thoroughly COVID-ized. And Ed Yong joins me now.

I love -- I love this piece, Ed. And part of what it did was just gave expression of just what a remarkable feat this has been, and has been such a bleak year in so many ways, and there's been so much failure all around us. I mean, just complete failure all around us in the policy response. And you know, today we had another 27-2,800 people die, 230,000 cases. This one area of success, how did it happen?

ED YONG, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: It happened through a huge amount of work not just this year, but long, long before in 2020. So, the fact that we have now two effective, very effective vaccines against a virus that we didn't really know about this time last year, is a monumental feat.

It occurred because the U.S. and a lot of other countries had invested specifically in technologies that would allow us to make vaccines more quickly. And those technologies prove their worth with both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. And they herald then this age, hopefully, when new pathogens arise, we should be able to create vaccines against them much more quickly.

This is a huge achievement, it speaks to what science can do when given the right support, when given the right long-term investments. And of course, it also comes at a cost. All this attention on COVID-19, you know, draws attention away from other important health problems and other important puzzles that still need to be solved.

HAYES: Yes. We were just talking about the death star in the earlier block. I mean, it's like, if you take everyone's intellectual firepower, all their research agendas, you concentrated in one place, you know, it turns out you can have remarkable breakthroughs. Of course, there's a cost to that. But it's also, it makes me wonder like what else could we do this on? Is that a fair question to ask?

YONG: I think, absolutely. I mean, the fact that -- the fact that we focus so much in COVID-19, drew resources away from things like HIV and tuberculosis, which are obviously still problems, and we're underfunded even before this had happened. There are other things that we absolutely could do.

And I think one of the most important is understanding how social factors influence the path of epidemics. We focus so much on vaccines and drugs and these biomedical silver bullets and we ignore the fact that epidemic spread because of historical inequities, because of things like poverty and poor education, and because as you've noticed, political incompetence.

And if -- a lot of scientists used to understand that those social factors were very much a part of medicine. I quoted someone in my piece saying that medicine is a social science, but we've lost sight of that. And as we can reunite that, sure we might be able to make vaccines quickly, but we've already seen this year how many people can die in the space between -- before a vaccine rolls out. Do we want to do that again, with the next pandemic? I really hope we don't.

HAYES: Yes. You have an example. I mean, and this sort of gets, I think, to these inequity questions, right, even example you cite in the piece that as of this writing the biomedical library, PubMed lists more than 74,000 COVID related scientific papers. That's just in a few months. Only 9,700 Ebola-related papers have been published since its discovery in 1976. It's remarkable how much research we've done.

YONG: Absolutely. And, you know, both the best and the worst sides of the scientific enterprise are at play here. We often, you know, characterize science as this steady march towards facts and progress. But of course, it is a very human endeavor. We've seen immense altruism this year with people dropping whatever they were doing and launching their full intellectual might to this problem that consumed all of society.

We also saw opportunism with people rushing into gain extra prestige based on this -- the huge attention page to COVID-19 and pushing out sloppy work that actually didn't help or made things worse. And I think one of the things that science so famous for self-correction can do is to look at how academic incentives could better push for the former type of work rather than the latter, the type of work that has led to these vaccines, this greater understanding of COVID-19 more so than most other viral diseases.

HAYES: We're now at the point with the Moderna announcement. Today, we have two vaccines. They have both been authorized by the FDA. And in some ways, we now go back to these questions of how a society functions, its government, its institutions, its media, its culture, because the science is done as part, it's passing it off now.

And again, we've already seen complaints from states that their orders have been cut. Pfizer is saying that they have vials sitting in warehouses waiting for instruction from the federal government to ship. None of that has gone away. How optimistic are you about the next month in terms of the administration of this?

YONG: I think the next month is going to be difficult. A lot of the experts I've spoken to for another piece I'm working on have noted that they're reasonably hopeful about the next year, the first half of 2021. I think these logistical problems, we'll continue to hear more of them. And partly, that's because this whole bit of it has been grossly underfunded.

We've had maybe a few 100 millions of dollars going into logistics, distribution, allocation information, countering misinformation, that's like a tiny fraction. It's like -- I think it's barely two percent of the total that went into operation warp speed. And that's sort of indicative of America's approach to this this sort of problem, right?

You throw so much money into creating the silver bullet, and nothing into the environment that actually makes it happen. Many people have said, vaccines are nothing without vaccination. And unless we invest in that, then you know, we're going to have this very fancy toy that isn't actually going to do much good.

HAYES: It's a really, really, really good point. Ed Yong who has just been such a stalwart reporter in this period, and we've come to rely on him, thanks so much for your time tonight.

YONG: Thanks, Chris. Take care.

HAYES: Next, the President's former National Security Adviser invokes insurrection in the final phase of the stolen election delusion.



FLYNN: He could order the -- within the swing states, if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities and he could place them in those states and basically rerun an election in each of those states. I mean, it's not impressive. And I mean, there's people out there talking about martial law. It's like it's something that we've never done. We've done -- martial law has been instituted 64 times, Greg. So, I'm not calling for that.

HAYES: He's not calling for it, he's just putting it out there. That was Michael Flynn, of course, Donald Trump's first National Security Adviser, recently given an extremely broad pardon by the president, suggesting well, basically the possibility of just a little fascist coup in the swing states. Like, advocating for the overturning of American democracy.

Even though, as we discussed earlier tonight, for Donald Trump, this whole thing may just be a way to milk as much money as possible from his most gullible supporters. It's not great that people around the president are very explicitly calling for violent insurrection as that kind of go-to final recourse to steal the election. It's not going to happen. But there are people who will take this call to arm seriously and that is worrying for all of us.

Politico White House Reporter Tina Nguyen explored the depth of the sentiment in MAGA world in her latest piece titled MAGA leaders call for the troops to keep Trump in office, and she joins me now.

I've seen this pop up in a bunch of places. Flynn, obviously, the most prominent to say it. He explicitly says well, I'm not calling for it, although he's kind of is. How common does this become among certain parts of the kind of hardcore Trump followers?

TINA NGUYEN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: So, the call for using the Insurrection Act as some sort of band aid to solve all of one's problems is sort of floated around the more extremist conspiratorial sections of MAGA world. So, you'll have QAnon people espousing it every once in a while, you'll have a fringe segment saying maybe Trump could use it to get rid of immigrants.

It started becoming a bit more popular broadly over the summer during the Black Lives Matter protest when you had people slightly more in the mainstream such as Senator Tom Cotton caught using it to -- suggesting that Trump uses it to put down protests surrounding that movement.

In this case, though, it's as one of my sources put it, he said, this is a -- this is the last arrow in a quiver pulled out by people who don't know what the law is. It's a sort of desperate move, and it probably can't happen. But it does fulfill a deep-seated fantasy for Trump to stay in office no matter what.

HAYES: Yes, I can't -- I mean, again, I have a hard time figuring out how to take all this. I mean, at one level this, there's a bunch of people who are working through grief. You know, there's denial, and there's anger, and there's bargaining, and we're watching them work through that. And this is a phase that.

And another, it's like the former National Security Adviser gave an interview in which he said he can send the military into swing states and rerun election, which is a shocking thing for that person to say.

NGUYEN: It is until you realize exactly where Michael Flynn is now in the arc of his career. So, he leaves the national security -- he leaves the National Security Council, he kind of fades off, and then he starts emerging in the fringe as a major figure in the QAnon movement. This is the strange extreme right-wing internet cults that believes that Donald Trump is part of an effort to root out satanic elitist in Washington who are also pedophiles. But he's become a major figure in that, sort of, a you know, Jesus Christ type figure who was the guy -- who fall guy (AUDIO GAP).

I'm sorry, this is wild. I understand. But he's -- but he is endorsed the QAnon creed by tweeting things about it. His lawyer Sidney Powell has also espoused QAnon beliefs. So, QAnon at its core believes that there is some sort of deep, militaristic action in order to arrest the satanic elites in Washington.

And for them to jump to the insurrection is act as a means to keep Trump in office in order to get the satanic pedophile out of Washington. It's -- for anyone who's not involved in this world, this makes absolutely no sense. But if you've been buried in conspiratorial right-wing Twitter for some time, this is the obvious step forward.

HAYES: Right. Yes. And I guess, you know, to me, that's the sort of real-life -- the real-life question of the cost here is the extent to which people take a message that they need to take up arms themselves, or they need to, like, carry out missions on behalf of this. We have seen examples of this from people who have sort of fallen down the QAnon rabbit hole.

You know, we know, there are folks who have sort of pledged themselves to Trump. And again, the line between performance or cosplay and real action is very thin, or it seems remote until it's not.

NGUYEN: Exactly. One of the core principles in patriot militaristic-prone Second Amendment movements, not to be clear gun rights, generally, but a very specific militia movement is the idea that sometimes the government is not going to protect you, and you need to take up arms in order to push back.

And the concern here is how much do Trump supporters specifically, this hardcore sect of supporters, think that a Biden presidency, a completely legal, constitutional, verified presidency, how much is that -- how much do they think that it is illegitimate and an insurrection? That's the biggest question here so far, and I think we're going to be in for a wild ride if we can't get -- if that keeps going.

HAYES: Yes. And I think it will. It will continue to be stoked. Tina Nguyen, thanks for sharing that great reporting. I appreciate it.

NGUYEN: Thanks.

HAYES: First, a purge at the Pentagon making room for Trump loyalists, and now they're cutting off access to the Biden transition team. What exactly is going on over there? That's next.


HAYES: Just a month away from the inauguration, and the Department of Defense has stopped briefing the incoming administration. Axios breaking the news that the Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller has ordered a Pentagon-wide halt to cooperation with the transition of President-elect Biden.

The Pentagon then tried to play down the shocking move as some kind of mutually agreed on the holiday break, something the Biden transition flatly denies. This comes just after weeks after Trump just purged basically the entire senior leadership at the Pentagon, replacing them with loyalists and putting hardliners on defense advisory boards.

Retired four-star General Barry McCaffrey is sounding the alarm about this transition decision, warning Trump is up to no good, and Cardozo Law professor at Rebecca Ingber, worked the State Department during the transition from George W. Bush to President Obama. And they both join me tonight.

General, let me start with you. You expressed alarm when you saw this news? Why?

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, look, you should never just focus on somebody's intentions. You got to look at what your eyes are seeing. When Mr. Trump decapitated the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense -- he fired Mark Esper, who actually was extremely well qualified and his other senior people were very competent. And he put in there, Chris Miller, who's a great combat officer, completely unqualified to be the Secretary of Defense, and he saddled him with four squirrely lads. I don't think Chris Miller is in any way directing Department of Defense Policy. I think it's coming out of the White House. It just group of people.

Now, to some extent, they're just hiding incompetence from four years of the Trump administration. But there's a lot of money over there and there's a lot of chicanery going on. So, we ought to be concerned about it. We don't need to worry about a coup. If he -- if they call for a coup, nobody will come.

We don't need to worry about the day-to-day management of the Armed Forces. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, 25,000 people work in the Pentagon, that's going to work. We do need to be very concerned about the next 30 days.

HAYES: Yes. I take both of those. I agree with both of them, Rebecca. And, you know, part of this is about how important the transition is, how delicate it is. And I guess, one question is, basically like, what's the guidance legally here? Can the administration just say, like, we don't -- there's some reporting today that Trump was mad about something that Biden did. And there was a -- you know, they ordered this shutdown. Like, can outgoing administrations essentially do that?

MCCAFFREY: Chris, I'm not sure if that's directed at me. The answer is yes.

HAYES: No, sorry. That's for -- that's for Rebecca.

MCCAFFREY: Any legal order will be followed by the -- by the uniformed military.

HAYES: Go ahead, Rebecca.

REBECCA INGBER, PROFESSOR, CARDOZO SCHOOL OF LAW: Yes. There was some -- there was some glitches on the WiFi for a moment. But -- so I'm not sure if I can completely cut all of it. But, I mean, look, there's obviously some factual dispute about what's happening here. But transitions are really important, time-consuming, yes, lengthy process that is critical, especially when we're thinking about the national security bureaucracy. It's critical for the continuation of our national security here.

And so, you know, as you mentioned, I lived through the State Department and the transition from the Bush to the Obama administration. I spent a lot of time writing those memos, meeting with the incoming legal adviser to get the incoming team up to speed on what was going on. And particularly in this space, the new administration needs to be able to be ready to work on day one. And yet, much of what they need to understand in order to do their jobs is going to be classified, or even if not classified, simply part of a black box of government decision making that is often opaque to people on the outside.

Even to people such as this team who have worked previously in government, they're still coming in to new facts, and even in some cases, to new internal bureaucratic structures that they need to be wrapped into. So, in order to take the reins, they need to be read into the operations that are underway. And also, and this is particularly relevant today, as we're hearing all this news involving SolarWinds, with the threats that we face.

HAYES: Yes. I mean, you know, we talk about the sort of the facts disputed here. You know, we should just say that the Biden Transition Director Yohannes Abraham, he said, "Let me be clear, there was no mutually agreed-upon holiday break."

And I also have to say that, you know, when I read this at first, I thought, I wonder, is this a mountain out of a molehill or not. But then they keep changing their story, General, about what they're up to. This is from Dave Brown, defense editor at Politico. "All the reasons Pentagon has given for the change so far, the Biden team wants too many meetings, we're not postponing that many meetings. Actually, it's just today's meetings. And we're too busy because the FDA approved a second vaccine." Like at a certain point, they're acting sketchy.

INGBER: No question about that. This is a strange group of people over there who are unqualified for office. They have no clear idea what they're doing. They're salting away people in strange positions, which I hope get fired by the incoming Biden administration. They're sticking people on the Air Force Academy Board of Visitors and in the Business Council, just silly moves.

Though, I'm more worried about the money to be honest. Our contracts are being redirected. I think they're hiding in competencies in the past several years. We got to be very worried about it. Now, I agree. The transition is important. I will tell you that the Biden team that will end up going over there to run the Department of Defense are so experienced and well qualified.

I'm not really worried about they're going to drop the ball -- and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the lieutenant colonels and the one-star flag officers who clearly will operate continuously right to the 20th of January. But it just shows you that in this period of the dying rogue regime, we've never seen anything like this in American history.

HAYES: Yes. General Barry McCaffrey and Rebecca Ingber, thank you both. I appreciate it. Have a good weekend.

That is ALL IN on this Friday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now with Ali Velshi in for Rachel. Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Have yourself an excellent weekend. We shall see you next week. And thank you to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel has got the night off. She'll be back on Monday. But just in the last 90 minutes, the FDA has approved the second vaccine to provide protection against the novel Coronavirus.


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