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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, December 29, 2020

Guests: Sherrod Brown, Gretchen Whitmer, Luciana Borio, Lawrence Wright, Travis View


Mitch McConnell blocks the $2,000 relief measure from coming to the Senate floor for a vote even though it passed in the House and President Trump is on board with it. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is interviewed about the Democrats' push for a vote on $2,000 checks. President-elect Joe Biden declares next weeks and months will be very tough. New Yorker details the United States' failures in the COVID fight.


NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Senator Harris is going to be sitting in that chamber with them whether the Georgia race goes one way or the other. And after the way the vice-presidential debate went, do you really think the vice president is going to do anything with Kamala Harris in the room?

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC HOST: She will -- she will reclaim her time. Thank you. And I have to reclaim mine. Thank you so much Neil Katyal and Charlie Sykes. That's tonight's REIDOUT. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.


MEHDI HASAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR (voice over): Tonight on ALL IN. The Grim Reaper rides again.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): For the first time in my memory, I agree with Nancy Pelosi. I am indeed the Grim Reaper.

HASAN: Howard Republican millionaires just blocked $2,000 checks for Americans on breadlines. Then, the President-Elect raises the alarm.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Trump administration's plan to distribute vaccines is falling behind, far behind.

HASAN: Tonight, the federal failure on vaccine distribution and new projections of just how awful this winter will get.

And as Donald Trump prepares to leave, how the QAnon conspiracy theory he helped spawn appears like it's here to stay.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much.

HASAN: ALL IN starts now.


HASAN (on camera): Good evening from Washington D.C. I'm Mehdi Hassan in for Chris Hayes. Tonight, we have more dire news on the spread of the coronavirus projection show we are on track for an absolutely hellish January with more than 100,000 new deaths expected next month alone. And officials in Colorado confirming today the first case of a highly contagious COVID-19 variant that was first identified in the U.K.

We also have more news about the failure to get vaccines out to the American public, as the next President of the United States is warning the American people that the current president who was on the golf course again today is not doing enough to save American lives.

We're going to be covering all of that on the show tonight. But we begin in the United States Senate where earlier today, Mitch McConnell and the Republicans had a chance to help 160 million Americans suffering in the midst of the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. In a year when America's billionaires grew their wealth by a trillion dollars, McConnell and his merry band of multi-millionaire GOP colleagues in the Senate denied an attempt to send $2,000 checks to ordinary Americans.

McConnell block the relief measure from coming to the Senate floor for a vote, even though it passed in the House, even though the Republican president is on board with it, even though a majority of Americans, including a majority of Republicans support it. But the majority leader and his super-wealthy friends said no.

And you should know who these people are, our representatives who are making life-altering decisions while living very different lives to the rest of us. These are the top 10 wealthiest Republicans in the Senate, Kelly Loeffler of Georgia along with her husband is estimated to be worth $800 million. The nine richest republicans after her, a list that includes Mitch McConnell and several key committee chairs, like Ron Johnson and Lamar Alexander have a combined net worth of $277 million dollars.

So, that's more than a billion between the 10 of them. They don't need $2,000 checks. And so, they think you don't either. Now to be clear, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue both trapped in tight runoff races in Georgia have followed President Trump's lead and switch their position now supporting $2,000 checks, despite opposing them earlier. How convenient.


SEN. KELLY LOEFFLER (R-GA): The President has fought for our country from day one. He continues to fight for every single American. I've stood by the President 100 percent of the time. I'm proud to do that. And I've said absolutely, we need to get relief to Americans now and I will support that.


HASAN: If the president says jump, Kelly Loeffler asks how high. Whatever the President wants, he gets. That is her whole shtick, her whole reason for existing. But Mitch McConnell, the fifth wealthiest Republican in the Senate, isn't swayed so easily. He and his ridiculously wealthy colleagues claim the country can't afford to give you a one-time $2,000 check in the darkest days of the worst pandemic in a century.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): 600 billionaires got a trillion dollars richer this year. And the question before Senate Republicans is this. Are you willing to spend an amount equal to just half of that windfall to America's billionaires in order to help 160 million Americans? Because right now, the 52 Senate Republicans serving in this chamber are the only thing standing in the way of $2,000 being sent to 160 million of our neediest citizens.


HASAN: Senator Chris Murphy is right. The cost of these survival checks, and that's what they are for a lot of Americans, is half of what billionaires made this year. And it's about a quarter of the cost of the Trump tax cuts for the super-rich that senate republicans happily voted for, and for which -- and from which many of them personally benefited.

One of those beneficiaries is Ron Johnson, the fourth wealthiest Republican in the Senate who says he is now worried about leaving our children with debt.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I'm not heartless. I want to help people. I voted to help people. I voted for the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, but I also am concerned about our children's future and the fact that we are mortgaging it. We do not have an unlimited checking account.


HASAN: I'm not heartless. I guess Ron Johnson wasn't so concerned about our children's future when he voted to spend around $2 trillion on the Trump tax cuts, which by the way, increased his own $39 million fortune.

Now, despite GOP opposition, Democrats in the Senate are still pushing hard for this. Chuck Schumer is saying today that the Senate should not adjourn until the bill gets a vote. Bernie Sanders also pledging that he will filibuster a vote to override the President's veto of the defense bill if the checks don't come up for a vote. He tried to bring it to the floor earlier today.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): The leaders of our country President Trump, President-Elect Biden, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi are all in agreement. We have got to raise the direct payment to $2,000. So, that is where we are right now in this historic moment. Do we turn our backs on struggling working families or do we respond to their pain?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there objection to the request for modification?

MCCONNELL: I object.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Objection is heard.

HASAN: And with that, Mitch McConnell shamefully killed it, for now. Senator Sherrod Brown has been calling for $2,000 checks since March and the Democratic senator from Ohio joins me now.

Senator, thank you for coming on the show. Will you be joining with Bernie Sanders to filibuster the defense bill as a way of forcing Mitch McConnell to table a vote on checks and to drag this out and put Loeffler and Perdue on the spot too?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): We're going to do everything. I mean, I'm in Cleveland right now. I will be arriving in Washington by car tomorrow, a little afternoon, and I will -- I will join senator Sanders. I'll be on the floor and make sure this comes to a vote. I mean, this is -- Mitch McConnell -- and the problem -- there are some Republican senators that said they'll vote for this, but they'll never stand up to McConnell any more than they stood up to Trump over the last four years.

They're glad to vote for the tax cut that you mentioned the billions of dollars in tax cuts for the richest Americans. The budget deficit didn't matter then. All of a sudden it does when it comes to trying to help, literally, as Senator Murphy said, over 100 million Americans.

HASAN: Yes. And Mitch McConnell is now saying he'll put $2,000 checks up for a vote if it's paired with the repeal of the section 230 internet law and an investigation into voter fraud, both of which Trump has demanded. But that's not something Democrats are willing to consider, is it?

BROWN: Yes. It's the way McConnell always does things. And it's why people don't like Washington. The American public, overwhelmingly as you pointed out, including Republicans, want to see this $2,000 go out to, you know, to generally middle-class families and people that aspire to be middle class that have less money than that, that it would go out to the majority -- great majority of Americans.

People overwhelmingly want to see this. What Mitch McConnell is doing a sleight of hand playing games and obscuring things and all the way obstructing things. There's always a way to use Senate rules to obstruct. McConnell use a set of rules to fast-track big dollars in tax cuts for his dark money friends, the Koch brothers and others, including many members of the Senate that you pointed out, the wealthiest people in the Senate. But he's unwilling to use Senate rules to help people and all of the -- and government choose on your side and in which side you're on.

And every single time there's a fork in the road for big corporations or for American workers, and he always sides with big corporations every single time.

HASAN: Yes, he does. But there are also some splits on your side, Senator. Tell me this. There are some like your Democratic Senate colleague Joe Manchin of West Virginia who says $2,000 checks are not a good way of getting money to people in need. Not everyone needs them and it'd be better to focus the money on the unemployed. What do you say in response to that argument?

BROWN: Well, I say yes, yes. When we were -- when we were negotiating this package, one of the reasons we didn't go higher than the $600 is Republican safe. You go higher in these -- for these checks to individual Americans to a large -- then we're going to take it out of unemployment compensation. We'll make $300.00 a week even less in unemployment compensation. We'll take it out of the $25 billion we voted, the legislation I worked on to keep people from being evicted.

But this right now is a plus up for everybody. And this is an opportunity to get money in the hands of people. And it shows --- you know, you go back, you had mentioned this, and I've been calling for this since March. What Congress did in March? Because Congress passed the CARES Act in March, 13 million Americans were kept out of poverty until August.

When much of this ran out in August, now we have eight million Americans since August that had dropped into poverty. So, we know what to do. You do -- you do these direct payments, you increase unemployment compensation, you help small businesses, keep people on their payroll, you help money for local government, schools and firefighters and sanitation workers and children's service workers.

You help with local, particularly small hospitals and all parts of city or in rural areas. We should be doing all of that. But now all of a sudden, Republicans have gotten religion that the budget deficits are a problem. It didn't matter during tax cuts --

HASAN: Oh, yes.

BROWN: -- the budget deficit. It only matters when (INAUDIBLE).

HASAN: One last quick question. We're almost out of time. You mentioned, you know, money for local governments. The Democrats agreed to drop aid to state and local governments as part of the negotiations. Was that a mistake? Will that come back to haunt you?

BROWN: No. That's one of the first things that -- I think the first thing Joe Biden does when we win the races in Georgia is the first thing we do is pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. One of the next things we do is a good COVID package that helps local communities. I was on the call with a bunch of mayors in Ohio this week talking about their needs and how they've been so squeezed and city services have been compromised, and firefighters and sanitation workers have been laid off.

We need to do all of that. We should do that the first of the year with the new majority Democratic Senate, or even if not, putting pressure on McConnell. McConnell who clearly doesn't trust local governments to deliver. He rather than troll nationally and continue his government for the rich and for the powerful.

HASAN: OK. We'll have to leave it there. Senator Sherrod Brown, thank you so much for your time.

BROWN: Glad to be with you. Thanks.

HASAN: Michigan is among the states hit hardest by the unemployment crisis during the pandemic. The jobless rate there increasing to 6.9 percent last month. Coronavirus cases in the state are now trending down after peaking at over 8,000 per day earlier this month. And yet there's no financial support for states or cities in the COVID Relief Bill that Donald Trump just signed, and that congressional Democrats agreed to.

Gretchen Whitmer is a Democratic governor of the state of Michigan. And she joins me now. Governor, thanks so much for coming on the show. Do you think Congressional Democrats should have allowed Republicans to cut support for state and local governments from the COVID Relief Bill? It feels like it's really going to be a painful decision as the months go forward.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): Well, I can tell you this. Governors across the country have been united, Republicans and Democrats alike, because we know we've been on the front line of this crisis without a lot of help out of Washington, D.C. We've gotten chaos. But we've had to build up the systems to take care of everything from testing, to vaccines, to simply promulgating policies to protect people.

And it's been a tough time. We need some help out of Washington D.C. And the lack of that in this bill is something that means there's a lot more work to be done. And I'm glad that we've gotten an incoming administration that gets that, but time is of the essence.

HASAN: So, how is Michigan? You say time is of the essence. How is Michigan coping right now as we hit the New Year with these twin crises of the economy and the pandemic? And how bad is it going to get from Michigan in the New Year?

WHITMER: Well, I can tell you, it's been -- these have been a couple of tough months. And we know that January is going to be as well. We in Michigan have taken a pause. We've been following the science all along. We've been able to push our curve down. But certainly, it has taken a lot of sacrifice. And we've got small businesses, we've got unemployed population that needs additional assistance.

I'm glad that the President signed the bill. I'm sad that he took a week to go play golf and not get it done quicker. That's going to be money out of people's pockets for a week when people are really in need right now. I would love it if the U.S. Senate would get this $2,000 relief done so that people can get through this tough time.

It's not going to last forever, but right now people are struggling. And the fact that the U.S. Senate is blocking this additional aid for people is horrifying. They -- we all deserve better than then what we're getting out of our U.S. Senate right now. HASAN: Indeed, we do deserve better not just in terms of economic support, but in terms of fighting the pandemic. In terms of vaccine distribution, Donald Trump tweeted this evening, just before we came on air. "He said, it's up to the states to distribute the vaccines once brought to the designated areas by the federal government." It's up to you, he says. What do you say to him?

WHITMER: Well, I'll say this. We have been on the front line from testing to, you know, getting our hands on everything from PPE, to building up the ability to administer vaccines. We've gotten chaos out of Washington D.C., out of the White House in particular. Despite that, we have forged ahead.

But we haven't gotten the additional resources. What we have gotten is inconsistent vaccine deliveries that has really undermined and compromised our ability to get people vaccinated. There's light at the end of the tunnel. We'll have a new administration, and I've got great confidence in their ability to do this in a way that is predictable, so we can live up to all of our potential.

Michigan could be doing 50,000 vaccines a day. The fact of the matter is, we need a partner in Washington D.C. that will get us everything that we need in order for us to fulfill that that goal, and this administration hasn't done it. But I believe the next one will and it's going to serve everyone across the country well when we have all of these supplies that we need to get this done and the resources to make sure we do it well.

HASAN: Yes, indeed. We can only hope. One last thing I wanted to ask you about is the bombing in Nashville and Donald Trump's total silence in response to it. Because it reminded me, Governor, of how he simply refused to take seriously the very real and very serious threat to your life from domestic extremists just a few weeks ago.

WHITMER: Yes. I think that it's just another reminder of how callous their worldview has been. People are hurting. And it is important that leaders show empathy and leadership and acknowledge that these are tough times. But we are tough people and we're going to get through this. And the silence, the golfing in the midst of all of this is just -- sends a message and, you know, it's very sad.

But we have leaders like Joe Biden, we've got leaders, Republican and Democratic governors across the country who are stepping in this void and trying to lead through it. But we all got to get on the same page. And my heart goes out to the people of Nashville. And Michigan stands ready to be of aid if we can be.

HASAN: The golfing is indeed unforgiveable. Governor Gretchen Whitmer, we'll have to leave it there. Thank you so much for your time.

WHITMER: Thank you.

HASAN: Next, we are heading into what will likely be the worst month of the entire pandemic. And the process of getting vaccines to people is taking a lot longer than expected. What that means for January, after this.



BIDEN: We need to be honest; the next few weeks and months are going to be very tough, very tough period for our nation, maybe the toughest during this entire pandemic. I know it's hard to hear, but it's the truth. In September, we passed a grim milestone 200,000 deaths.

At that time in this very room, many remember I warned that we hit 400,000 deaths before the end of the Trump administration in January. Critics said I was being too alarmist and negative. But as I've said all along, I will tell you like it is when it comes to COVID. And the reality is, it looks like that -- we're going to hit that grim milestone.


HASAN: That was President-Elect Joe Biden speaking today sounding tough, sounding scary. And for some of you, he may have sounded over the top. But actually, it's a welcome change to have a president finally tell the truth about this crisis and start listening to the science. And the science says we are in for one of the darkest periods of our lifetime, sadly.

The Institute for Health metrics and evaluation at the University of Washington predicts we could have more than 100,000 COVID deaths in this country in January alone. It's an absolutely wild number to get your head around. Basically, about a quarter of all American deaths from COVID predicted to come in just a single month.

But tragically, this kind of disaster was both predicted and predictable. And so, the vaccines can't come soon enough. Here's the problem. It was warp speed in terms of producing the vaccines, yes, but distributing them, that's a whole other challenge, one that the Trump administration has miserably failed. Remember what they promised us?


MONCEF SLAOUI, ADVISER, OPERATION WARP SPEED: We plan to have enough vaccine doses available for use in the U.S. population to immunize about 20 million individuals in the month of December.

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: We should get 20 million vaccines by the end of December.

BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF HEALTH: We will be able to vaccinate about 20 million people this month.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under Operation Warp Speed, we are poised to have vaccine for 20 million Americans before the end of December.


HASAN: It's just two days from the end of this month. And so far, only 2.1 million Americans have been vaccinated, about a tenth of what the government repeatedly promised us. And then today, on top of that -- on top of that forecast of 100,000 deaths in January, on top of the delayed vaccination rollout, today, the governor of Colorado confirmed that the highly contagious U.K. variant of COVID is now officially in the United States.

Dr. Luciana Borio is an infectious disease physician and a member of the Biden COVID-19 Advisory Board. She's also a former acting chief scientist for the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Borio, thanks for joining us. 100,000 dead in January, that's what one group of experts is predicting. Is that avoidable, preventable at this point, or is it too late, those deaths are baked in now?

LUCIANA BORIO, MEMBER, BIDEN COVID-19 ADVISORY BOARD: That's right. So, you know, sadly the number of cases in the coming weeks and the number death that would fall are fairly baked in because of our behavior up to now. As you know, that last Sunday, more people traveled around the country than they had since March. This is in the middle of this very, very serious pandemic. 1.3 million people cross to TSA screenings on Sunday alone.

So, those actions are going to drive the numbers that we're going to see in the coming weeks. But what's not pre-ordained is our behavior tomorrow, and the day after, and the weeks that follow. There's much that we can do still to be able to turn this around. It's our actions today and tomorrow that are going to make a difference in the -- in the weeks that follow in February and March and April, etcetera.

HASAN: Yes. A lot of people are hoping the situation will be turned around by the vaccines. This administration promised 20 million vaccinations by the end of December. There's been just two million. How much of that is -- how much of that failure is just incompetence from the Trump administration? How much as a result of the U.S. not having a government-funded public health care infrastructure having to rely on CVS and Walgreens to get it out to the public?

BORIO: That's right. So, first of all, we are hoping that the vaccines are going to make a very significant difference. But it's going to take time, and they're not going to do it alone. They're still going to have to make sure that we adhere to the public health measures that the CDC and Dr. Fauci have reminded us so dearly that how important they are, right?

But in terms of the vaccine, it's no secret that this administration really focused on producing the doses and then delivering them to the states, but not really focused on how do you get, you know, to the last mile, to the arms of people who are willing to take this vaccine. That is a very complicated process. Most experts have been concerned about this day actually, the situation, the scenario.

It's fully predictable that, you know, it's not enough to just produce the vaccines. It's important to establish the system to be able to get into people's arms. I'll say that, you know, CVS and Walgreens, the drug stores that are now, you know, really doing amazing work to deliver these two very vulnerable facilities, long term care facilities. And they built -- they hired immunizes, they built on their infrastructure, they developed cold chain capabilities to be able to store and distribute the vaccines. That's fantastic. But the work needs to be hand in glove with the public health infrastructure in those states.

What happens after the long-term care facilities -- you know, what happens next, there's so much more vaccines that need to be rolled out. And it's important for the public health system to be working alongside the private sector to be able to deliver to the American people.

HASAN: Yes, that's very true. And one last question, before I let you go. How worried should we be about this new strain of the virus from the U.K., a more contagious strain, we're told which the governor of Colorado today confirmed is in the United States right now?

BORIO: That's right. So, it has -- you know, virus evolve. We know that. This again was fully predictable. That's what viruses do. Unfortunately, our system in the U.S., to be able to monitor and detect the strains, is not really what it should be. We have a very imperfect system.

And, you know, we detected it today thanks to a public health lab in Colorado, the public health lab did that. But we suspected that this strain was here all along for, you know, several weeks by now probably just given the amount of travel that exists and how fast the strain has traveled all over the world.

Now, it does seem to be more contagious. There's still a lot that we don't know about the strain that we're going to have to really evaluate and understand how it may or may not impact our countermeasures. But what I really think is important for the American people to know is that it doesn't change anything for them today or tomorrow because the public health measures that -- the wearing masks, the avoiding social gatherings outside of your household, avoiding indoor congregate settings, all that stays the same. That's how we contain this virus whether it's a new strain or the old strain is to stay in public health measures.

HASAN: That's very true. And I'm glad you made that point. Dr. Luciana Borio, we'll have to leave it there. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.

BORIO: My pleasure.

HASAN: Don't go anywhere. My next guest documented the year-long catastrophe of COVID-19 in the United States, which he says boils down to three failed chances to contain the virus. He explains after the break.


HASAN: We've heard so much about the refusal by Donald Trump and other Republicans to wear masks, even as the President was literally returning from being hospitalized with COVID. But there was one man who tried desperately to get people to wear masks inside the White House. His name is Matthew Pottinger and he's the Deputy National Security Adviser.

And the sweeping new story in the New Yorker lays out Pottinger's struggle to get that urgent message across to his colleagues and to his boss. "Nobody in the White House wore a mask until Pottinger donned one in mid-March. Entering the West Wing, he felt as if you were wearing a clown nose. People gawked. Trump asked if he was ill. Pottinger replied, I just don't want to be a footnote in history, the guy who knocked off a president with COVID."

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright is the New Yorker staff writer who wrote that piece The Plague Year: The Mistakes and the Struggles Behind America's COVID-19 Tragedy. And in it, he details the many opportunities the United States add to stop this pandemic and how sadly this nation failed time and again.

Lawrence, thanks so much for coming on the show. What's so fascinating about your piece, which is a brilliant piece, I urge viewers to read it, is how much detail you have from inside the White House. You point out that Matthew Pottinger was wearing a mask inside that building in March, and yet come September, they're still having super spreader events in the White House for Amy Coney Barrett with no masks. It's beyond bizarre.

LAWRENCE WRIGHT, STAFF WRITER, NEW YORKER: Well, and there's a reason for it. I think, Mehdi, I think that early on, Trump decided that he was really running against COVID. And he politicized the issue in that manner. You know, it wasn't that he was -- he wasn't trying to solve the problem of COVID. He was trying to ignore it and hope that it went away.

And that kind of false optimism pervaded those early months, and then it just became a campaign against the disease. And he undermined the whole effort to keep -- have Americans were mass. It was our last chance really to do anything to stop this contagion. But when he decided on April 3rd and announced the guidance for mask-wearing that the CDC recommended, he said that it was voluntary, and he chose not to do it.

And at that very moment, he made mask wearing a political issue and he undermined our response and we never got past that.

HASAN: Yes, he did do that. It was exactly that moment. In fact, you in your piece say there were three moments, three episodes where things could have gone differently, things could have gone better for the U.S. Briefly for our viewers, just say what those three things were.

WRIGHT: Well, the first one was early on, in the first part of January, Robert Redfield, the head of the CDC, called his counterpart in China. And the counterpart George Gao denied that there was human transmission. But another thing that Chinese kept from us was the fact that there was asymptomatic transmission. In other words, people that didn't appear to be sick, were actually infecting people.

And Redfield is convinced that if Chinese had let the CDC specialist go to China, they would have found that out. As it was, it wasn't until mid-March. Think how long that was, in terms of this contagion that we understood that the disease was spreading asymptomatically.

And, of course, the testing fiasco, there's a lot of blame to go around, but it really set us back. We really lost the entire month of February because the CDC made an inept test. And the FDA which could have remedied the situation early on by simply dropping one of the three elements in the test allowed that to fester until the end of February.

And finally, there is a problem that we just discussed. You know, we had three strikes, and we were out.

HASAN: Indeed, we were. And it's a tragedy that is ongoing. You say in your piece, nations and states that have done relatively well during this crisis have been led by strong, compassionate, decisive leaders who speak candidly with their constituents. Trump obviously isn't that leader, a man who referred to the COVID hoax at the start of the crisis. Is Biden that leader, Lawrence? We played a clip earlier in the show of him being pretty blunt today about the threat we still face.

WRIGHT: Well, Mehdi, if Biden had been president, it still would have been a tragedy, you know, catastrophe, as it has been in so many countries. But it didn't need to be at this scale. The United States is an outlier, really, in terms of the tragedy that we've suffered. We've -- you know, as everybody knows, we're, you know, four percent of the world's population and more than 20 percent of the deaths. That didn't have to happen.

And on January 27th, Biden wrote an op-ed for the USA Today. This is a time when there are very few, you know, Americans who are diagnosed with COVID. And he took it very seriously. Had that attitude been in the White House, I'm convinced that we would have -- we still would have had a terrible ride with COVID, but it didn't need to be the awful catastrophe that is -- it has been and continues to be.

HASAN: No, it didn't. That's for sure. It's just too painful to watch all of this. And to read your piece and just see what was going on even behind the scenes. Lawrence, you became famous for a lot of us, I myself included, with your reporting on 9/11 and the attacks on the Twin Towers, your classic book The Looming Tower.

Having covered the failures that led to 9/11 and the failures that led to this COVID crisis to a 9/11 almost every day now, what are the parallels between those two crises, the two governmental failures leading up to them?

WRIGHT: You know, back at 9/11, Mehdi, there was a sense of denial in the government that al-Qaeda was a threat. And I think there was something very akin to that in this particular administration's attitude towards the pandemic. It's not as if they didn't see it coming. It was coming. But this idea that it could -- it could actually affect Americans in the tragic way that it has. You know, there was still this idea it's going to be the flu and everybody -- you know, we get the flu all the time, this is no different.

That sense of denial just honestly is still present in a lot of people in the administration. The other thing, I think, is a lot of animosity between federal agencies, I would cite, especially CDC and FDA, and Health and Human Services has done them no favors, because this is the actual cabinet that administers to both of these agencies. But you know, they have -- they've been in a potato leg race since the very beginning of this outbreak.

And -- but the last thing I would say about it, Mehdi, is just like in the -- you know, our response to 9/11, there are a lot of heroes, and I had the opportunity to talk to many of them. They were lonely voices in both cases. But, you know, there were courageous people who put their lives on the line, many of them lost lives. And I was -- I was very and extremely moved and touched by the sacrifice that so many Americans have made in this effort.

HASAN: That's such a good point. And it's so true about the heroes of this horrible year. Lawrence Wright, thank you for your reporting. Thank you for sharing it with us. We appreciate it.

WRIGHT: It's been my pleasure, Mehdi.

HASAN: Still ahead, why the conspiracy theory of the year isn't going anywhere. The lasting power of Trump and his QAnon cult coming up after the break.


HASAN: There is a line in the 1987 book that Donald Trump wrote -- well, that he kind of wrote -- The Art of the Deal, that goes like this. "You can't con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement. You can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press. And you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don't deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on."

I've been thinking a lot about that quote as Trump's disastrous presidency nears its merciful end, along with one of his tweets, because there's always a tweet, from 2013. If the Republicans need a chief negotiator, I am always available or can recommend some really good ones. Well, they got him as their chief negotiator. Lucky them.

So, let's look at how he's done over these past four years. Remember, Trump's courtship of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un? Trump even said the two leaders fell in love. And after they met, Trump confidently proclaimed there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.

But as someone once said, you can't con people, at least not for long. The North Korean nuclear threat never went away. In fact, Bloomberg reported yesterday that Kim Jong-un's nuclear weapons got more dangerous under Trump. OK, so maybe he failed abroad, but what about home? Remember this?


TRUMP: We'll be terminating ObamaCare and we'll be replacing it with so many different options. But you'll have great health care at a fraction, a fraction of the cost.


HASAN: It sounds great. I don't seem to remember that magical plan ever appearing, though, in actual reality. House Republicans did partially repeal ObamaCare without replacing it. And Trump held a big party in the Rose Garden to celebrate art of the deal. But even that half measure failed, thanks in part to a thumbs down from John McCain in the Senate.

And despite presumably having been at least dimly aware of the wrenching debate over the initial passage of ObamaCare, Trump in 2017 claimed that "nobody knew that health care could be so complicated." Yes, we knew. Which brings us to the new COVID Relief Bill. Trump set out the negotiations over the bill, then intimated after a deal was finally reached that he would veto it before heading to Florida to spend the weekend tweeting and golfing as millions of Americans suffered.

Senator Lindsey Graham had to convince Trump to sign the bill in between drives. Hit a shot, take a phone call, hit a shot, talk about what's a good deal, Graham said. Trump ultimately signed the bill and got nothing out of his tantrum. The bill didn't change. All Trump did was create headaches for his party by belatedly backing a Democratic demand for $2,000 direct payments.

Trump forcing sycophants like Louie Gohmert to choose between their right-wing ideology and their loyalty to the president. Gohmert opposed the $2,000 payments yesterday, which raises the question, Congressman, why don't you support the president you're so desperate to keep in office?

Look, Donald Trump has had four years to prove himself the ultimate dealmaker. What he has proven instead is the truth of a line from his own book that almost certainly came from his ghostwriter. If you don't deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.


HASAN: A lot of Americans have become familiar with a new term this year QAnon which most of us have never heard of a year ago, and which is the most bonkers of all the conspiracy theories in America today. It has something to do with a battle between on one side, Satan-worshipping elite pedophiles who traffic children and take their blood, and on the other Donald J. Trump who any day now will bring them all down. Mad, right? But it's a popular theory on the right.

Two Republicans who have supported QAnon are being sworn into Congress next week, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Lauren Boebert, and disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is a believer and is now selling QAnon merch. Trump seen here partying with infamous pedophile Jeffrey Epstein has repeatedly offered QAnon believers his tacit support.


TRUMP: I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They find it very hard, but I know nothing about it.


HASAN: The QAnon community was ecstatic about that intervention from the president. And they are a dangerous community. At least three q anon supporters have engaged in terror or violence, and the FBI has labeled QAnon a domestic terror threat.

To talk more about QAnon's rise this year and what happens next year, I'm joined now by conspiracy theory researcher and the host of the QAnon Anonymous Podcast, Travis View, whose new story for New York magazine is Trump finally gave QAnon what it always wanted, respect.

Travis, thanks for coming on the show. Why has Trump given QAnon respect? I mean, we know he likes conspiracies, but nothing else out there that he's endorsed or promoted comes close to how bonkers and how dangerous QAnon is, right?

TRAVIS VIEW, HOST, QANON ANONYMOUS PODCAST: Well, it's in part because QAnon followers will follow Trump to the ends of the earth. They are ride or die. They are devoted to him through anything. I mean, this is sort of unlike -- for example, his more powerful allies like Mitch McConnell who recognize President-Elect Joe Biden, or his Supreme Court justices who refuse to hear the Texas case seeking to overturn the election.

I mean, as more people sort of fall away, Trump is going to continue sort of seeking out QAnon followers who are willing to endorse whatever wild theory has.

HASAN: Indeed. And Trump has obviously helped mainstream it with his very public interventions praising and defending them. But the pandemic and the lockdowns, they've also helped them grow online, haven't they?

VIEW: Yes. As a matter of fact, there's a lot of evidence to suggest that as the pandemic spread across the country, more and more people started taking the QAnon. The membership of QAnon groups on Facebook rose dramatically. It seems that as people start struggling with the stress of the pandemic, and the future became more uncertain, more people turn to these kinds of conspiracy theories in order to try and make sense of the world.

HASAN: And so, what happens, Travis, in 2021? Does QAnon go away as Trump goes away, or does it just continue to thrive online in the GOP in Congress?

VIEW: Yes. The research suggests that like wildly disconfirming events like the inauguration of Joe Biden doesn't actually dissuade conspiratorial movements. It actually makes people in those movements even more convinced, and even more assure that they are right. And like you mentioned, we're going to have QAnon be represented in Congress next year. So, this is certainly not something that's going to go away with the end of the Trump administration.

HASAN: You're just talking about how, you know, nothing ever convinces the conspiracy theorists that they're wrong. It just reminded me that if Trump, for example, a former friend of Jeffrey Epstein, were to pardon Ghislaine Maxwell who was accused of crimes connected to Epstein's sex trafficking of children, the QAnon folks would just find a way to say it's all part of the plan, wouldn't they? There was no reasoning with these people. That's the problem.

VIEW: Yes. They whole think that Trump is a five-D chess master, and every single thing he does is part of some grand plan to eventually take down the deep state. They are -- they've waited three years. They're extraordinarily patient. And they'll wait a million years more, I bet.

HASAN: And just to be clear, Travis, how dangerous a group is this?

VIEW: Well, like you mentioned, the FBI does say that they are a possible source of domestic terrorism. There have been multiple cases of violence involving followers. The saving grace though of QAnon followers is that they tend to trust the plan. They tend to basically sit in believe that someone else is going to take care of the violence for them.

I mean, the real worries that that might change when Biden get sworn in and they may become more active. But we're going to have to wait and see. This is a very new phenomenon.

HASAN: It's new, but it seems to be growing fast. It's no longer just an American phenomenon either, is it? I've seen reports of QAnon subgroups popping up in Germany or in England. Why would people in Germany or England care about a CIA deep state Trump coup?

VIEW: Because of the narrative. The belief that the world is controlled by a corrupt elite, and then exposing them will somehow free all of us in interest into a new golden age. That resonates regardless of your political situation, your political environment.

So, yes, it's something that people just -- who are -- you know, want to make sense of the world, are very desperate in a very confusing times latch on to. And this is something that exists across culturally.

HASAN: And has that been examples of people being deradicalized leaving QAnon?

VIEW: Yes. There are examples of people who have -- who fall away from Q, who realize that they are being duped. But they are few and far between. I think it's important to realize is that you can't really reason someone out of position they are never reasoned into. And people don't get into QAnon because they're really convinced by the arguments. Because it fills an emotional need that just isn't getting -- that they aren't getting elsewhere. And so, for that reason, it's very difficult to get out.

HASAN: Very, very difficult indeed, and depressing. Travis View, thanks for being with me tonight and giving us some insights into a weird, weird group.

That is ALL IN for this evening. But don't forget, you can always catch me on Peacock when my new show streams every weeknight at 7:00 p.m. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now with Ali Velshi in for Rachel. Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, friend. You were just talking to Travis about people being duped. You know, in the two months before the election, I traveled around the country and I remember speaking to a woman who was supporting Donald Trump in Kenosha, Wisconsin.


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