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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, November 25, 2020

Guests: Jim Himes, John Brennan, Jeff Stein, Erin Banco, Anand Giridharadas, Heather McGhee


President Trump pardons Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia. Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) is interviewed about Trump pardoning Michael Flynn. According to "The Washington Post," 26 million Americans don't have enough to eat. There are now nearly 90,000 people currently hospitalized in the U.S., the 16th straight day record.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: I wish we had -- I wish we had more time but I'm running into the next show. But Melba Wilson, I love you. Thank you so much for being here. That is tonight's REIDOUT. Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. And good night, Lorraine. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice over): Tonight on ALL IN, another Trump gang member escapes. A lame-duck president pardons his coconspirator. Michael Flynn is off the hook.

Tonight, Congressman Jim Himes on what Flynn and Trump got away with. And former CIA Director John Brennan on what it means for the rule of law.

Then, Donald from Queens, what's your question?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, good. Where would I go about voting? I'm sorry. You've already voted. Your ballot is in.

HAYES: The pathetic roadshow by the defeated president and his incredible melting legal team, as America deals with the economic nightmare he's left behind.

Plus, new concerns about a COVID explosion after Thanksgiving, and how Joe Biden can manage these growing catastrophes without Congress, when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I'm Chris Hayes, a day before our first pandemic Thanksgiving, hopefully, our last, and we're staring into the teeth of maybe the most brutal winter we will ever face. And there were two contrasting images on display today, one that represented the promise of national leadership and one that totally represented the absence of national leadership that we have at the moment.

President Joe Biden is finally formally engaged in the transition process preparing to take over as the head of state of a nation in crisis asking for people to stay home this Thanksgiving while offering comfort and prudent public health advice. While the actual sitting president of the United States for another 56 days is calling on a speakerphone to a dimly lit Wyndham Hotel in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for what was essentially a glorified conspiracy theory convention like they have for flat-earthers and people who believe the moon landing was fake.

The President calling in on speakerphone to impotently rant, just an abjectly pathetic display of a man who has been definitively rejected by the American public now in the category of famous American presidential losers.

And rather than provide any tangible aid, or even emotional comfort, or some public health guidance to the millions of Americans who are sick or afraid of getting sick or hungry or scared or out of work, Donald Trump chose to undermine both the election and our legal system. Announcing via tweet, he had pardoned his first national security adviser Michael Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

The lame-duck pardon, sort of a perfect bookend for the Trump presidency. It perfectly touches on so many different scandals and abuses of power over the course last four years. In fact, on Election Day 2016, right, instead of making a last-second push to help Donald Trump get elected, Michael Flynn published an op-ed pushing the Turkish president's personal agenda extraditing an exiled Turkish clerk from the Poconos because, we would later find out, Turkey was paying him to do it.

I mean, Trump really pardoned a man who was unregistered foreign agent for Turkey the day after pardoning a literal Turkey in a ceremony outside the White House. Flynn resigned only four weeks into Trump's presidency after lying to the FBI about conversations he had with the then Russian ambassador before Trump took office when declassified transcripts show Flynn was clearly trying to convince Russia not to respond to the Obama ministration is retaliation, again, for Russia's election sabotage in 2016 that benefited Donald Trump.

Before President Trump took office, Michael Flynn was already abusing his position to help both Trump and Russia dismiss Russia's sabotage of our election. And Trump then tried to get Flynn off, remember, asking then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation. "I hope you can let this go," the President told Comey.

Comey did not drop the FBI's investigation to Flynn and Trump fired him shortly thereafter. When Flynn announced his guilty plea later that year, Trump tweeted, "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies."

Now, Judge Emmet Sullivan who oversaw the case, did not hide his disgust for Flynn telling him "All along, you are unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as a National Security Adviser to the President of the United States. That undermines everything this flag over here stands for. Arguably, you sold out your country."

That's the man Donald Trump just pardoned. Judge Sullivan agreed to let Flynn continue to cooperate with Robert Mueller's team to try to reduce his sentence. Flynn then took full advantage. Flynn hired his lawyers -- he fired his lawyer and he hired instead Trump-supporting crackpot Sidney Powell, seen recently going around spreading all sorts of insanity about electoral fraud.

And Powell then, did what Trump has done in so many cases. He dragged the process out. He dragged it out until Bill Barr's Justice Department stepped in and said they wanted to withdraw Flynn's case, a totally unprecedented move even though he had already pleaded guilty twice.

At every step along the way, Donald Trump and his cronies misuse their power to help Michael Flynn escape justice time and time and time again. He asked Comey he gets Barr to intervene. Trump's lawyer John Dowd even dangled the possibility of a pardon in a voice mail with Flynn's lawyer.

And then after all that, Donald Trump has stepped -- Donald Trump has stepped in on the last days of his presidency and pardon Flynn. Now, the President is still in office for almost two months. And while he has shown no indication he wants to leave the country, or deal with a pandemic that killed 2200 Americans today, today, there is still plenty of time for him to abuse his office to enrich himself and his allies, and make sure nobody pays a price.

I mean, think of it this way. What would it look like -- or what it would have looked like if Richard Nixon had just pardoned everyone on his way out the door? We might soon find out. These kinds of actions are what House Democrats warned Americans about during the President's impeachment.

Congressman Jim Himes is a Connecticut Democrat, sits on the House Intelligence Committee which led those impeachment hearings, and he joins me now. Congressman, I suppose not surprising, but I'm curious of your reaction.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Well, it's -- you can't be shocked by Donald Trump anymore, but obviously very sad. It's sad because the pardon power, it's a -- it's a very unusual power, right. It's completely unchecked. And it's designed to give our system of justice something that it doesn't naturally have, which is mercy, you know. So, somebody who has lived an exemplary life, but made a mistake, somebody who was in prison for life, because they sold crack on the street three times. That's what it's designed to do.

In this case, of course, the president used it at in the very best breeding, to do a favor for somebody who provided the President with a one thing that he understands that it's a loyalty to him. And in the worst case, and this is something we need to look into, this is a reward for not singing.

And, you know, you can imagine -- it's Roger Stone, it's Paul Manafort, it's any one of the half dozen of people very close to the President, who undoubtedly have stories to tell about the President's behavior who are being told, stay quiet, and we will fix this.

HAYES: Yes, it's interesting. You know, even with Bill Barr in his testimony when he was nominated to this position as Attorney General, who had written that infamous memo, saying the whole Mueller thing is a fishing expedition and ridiculous. He said, yes, like, the pardon power is constitutionally unchecked. But even though it's constitutionally on check, there's some legal thinking that it's not -- you couldn't, for instance, pardon yourself or in Barr's terms, offering a pardon to a coconspirators, a reward would plainly be illegal.

But we kind of know that's what the President's lawyer did. I mean, here's -- here is the voicemail back in November 2017 of john Dowd leaving this for Flynn's lawyer. Take a listen.


JOHN DOWD, ATTORNEY: Hey, Rob. This is John again. Maybe I'm sympathetic, I understand your situation, but let me see if I can state it in starker terms. If you have -- it wouldn't surprise me if you're gone on to make a deal with the government. If, on the other hand, there's information that implicates the President, then we've got a national security issue. You know, then we need some kind of heads up.

Remember what we've always said about the President and his feelings towards Flynn and all that still remains.


HAYES: It's not really even that subtle when you listen to it in context.

HIMES: No, no, it's not. And again, sadly, we're going to have this conversation, I think, a lot in the next 56 days in which this president remains president. Because there are any number of people close to a dozen people very close to Donald Trump, all of whom probably have the same kind of information that Michael Cohen had on Donald Trump.

Michael Cohen famously, actually did speak, wrote a book. You can count on the idea that Michael Cohen will not get a pardon, but Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, who already had his sentence commuted, any number of other people. This is all about the president trying to insulate himself from accountability.

And I would point out, Chris, that in some ways the president is probably buttress by President-Elect Biden's approach here which is to say that, you know, we're going to reunite the country. And by the way, I'm not saying that's necessarily the wrong thing to do. I think the country has a lot of re-stitching that needs to happen.

But, you know, it cannot possibly be lost on Donald Trump that Joe Biden is not out for blood on this issue. So, I think we're going to see a more pardons, more blatantly corrupt activity in the coming weeks.

HAYES: You know, there's a weird irony here that I've been thinking about since the news cross, which is that when you go through the timeline, right, the President took all these extraordinary inappropriate means to put the thumb on the scale for Michael Flynn.

He has everyone leaves the room and says to Comey, can you -- you know, directly ask the FBI Director, like, would you cut the -- cut the guy a break, right? Fires the FBI Director when he doesn't do it, right. He then gets his attorney general at the Department Justice for unprecedented reaching in to withdraw a guilty plea, right. That leads the judge to go through, you know, basically go and get -- hire -- get an outside lawyer to file a brief for the court to say like, is this OK?

And in the end of all that, he just uses the pardon power that he always had, constitutionally. He could have done this day one. He could have done it the day after he fired him instead of all the like corrupt subterfuge.

HIMES: No, no, you're absolutely right. And, you know, this isn't the most competent group -- the most competent gang of people that we've seen. Thank God. If Donald Trump had some competence about him, we might be in a much more serious situation than we are in right now with his demands that this election be overturned.

But the point is, there's only one thing that has ever mattered to Donald Trump, and that is deep, deep loyalty to him and to him only. I mean, from the moment that he talked to Jim Comey and said, I need your loyalty, and Jim Comey said -- whatever you think of Jim Comey, Jim Comey pushed back on that. The President said, no, I need your loyalty.

That is what defines this president. And it has warped our government institutions. Bill Barr, the Attorney General, very early on, not a dumb man, he learned that lesson. He turned the Department of Justice into a defense firm, a legal defense firm for Donald Trump. People like John Radcliffe, people like Richard Grinnell who are Directors of National Intelligence turned our Intelligence Community into a political support mechanism for the President of the United States.

This, of course, is what the new President Joe Biden is going to have to fix when he takes office on January 20th.

HAYES: All right, Congressman Jim Himes, thank you so much for coming on tonight. Have a great Thanksgiving.

HIMES: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: John Brennan served in national security roles for decades, most recently director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Obama administration, and he joins me now. What's your reaction to this?

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA: Well, the saga of Mike Flynn is an unfortunate, sad tale of two men. One was a military officer who honorably served for over 30 years, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, and rose to the rank of three-star general.

The other is civilian, Mike Flynn, who unfortunately, I think, fell under the sway of some unfortunate influences, and decided to opt for cutting corners and forgetting the obligations that he had when he was a military officer in terms of honesty and integrity, and making sure that he lives up to those principles and values that really are supposed to be part of the DNA of any military officer.

And unfortunately, that pardon now that's been granted to Mike Flynn, given that the criminal violations that he was convicted of really are intertwined with Donald Trump's behavior and his activities, I think it really does suggest very strongly that there was corrupt intent there on the part of Donald Trump. And I think it's going to further blemish, I think, both of their reputations in the future.

HAYES: You know, it's interesting. I mean, what Michael Flynn pleaded to was lying to the FBI. But that was what as often happens in pleas, right. Prosecutors have things they could charge you with, they choose not to. You plead to something relatively minor in the face of that as part of the bargaining for your cooperation.

The thing that they pretty clearly could have charged them with and didn't was being an unregistered foreign agent of the Government of Turkey to the tune of $600,000 while working on a campaign in transition, and not disclosing that, while publicly advocating and privately, it appears, advocating for a top foreign policy prerogatives of the Erdogan government. That part of the story is a really remarkable breach, and it's not even touched by the law here.

BRENNAN: Yes, it's beyond credulity to think that Mike Flynn didn't understand that what he was doing was wrong, whether it was being an unregistered foreign agent or whether it was talking to the Russians and undermining, I think, the transition principles that really do are in place when it goes from one administration to the other.

And so, you know, the honorable thing for Mike to do -- and I served as director of CIA when Mike was the director of DIA, and so I worked alongside him. The honorable thing would have been for him to confess to his guilt and to take his punishment. And maybe at some point in the future, you know, a sentence would have been commuted or whatever.

But the way this has been done, the way that Mike, unfortunately, has tried to, you know, avoid these charges and avoid responsibility that he really should take, again, as a former very, very senior member of the U.S. Army, as well as a National Security Advisor, this just sends a very, very bad signal not only to Americans, but also to folks around the globe, that this type of activity and behavior is taking place in our government in 2020.

HAYES: What do you think about this window we're in right now? The period of time now where there's, you know, constitutionally, there's a gap between Election Day and the swearing-in of new president. We have one president at a time. Donald Trump is President of the United States until January 20th. And clearly, he's been unconstrained all along, but would seem to be even more unconstrained now.

BRENNAN: You know, I served in government during several transitions of one administration to the other. I never had a worry that something was happening on the part of the outgoing president that really was going to hurt the incoming administration. But clearly, we have somebody who has acted very abnormally over the last four years in Donald Trump.

And the fact that he is a very lame duck now and has basically less than two months left in position of the presidency, who knows what he might decide to do in addition to handing out pardons like cookies, what he might decide to do on the home front as far as either maybe politicizing the U.S. military.

I'm still rather concerned about why he decided to move Mark Esper and other senior Pentagon officials. Was it just so that he could drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan, or does he have something else up his sleeve that he may decide to do with the U.S. military, including, hopefully not, with some type of military adventure overseas?

So, this is not surprising that Donald Trump is going down this road. What I find appalling is the fact that we have the members of the Republican Party in Congress that continue to turn a blind eye to these types of activities.

HAYES: When you think about the Michael Flynn you knew, you know, it's striking to me as we're watching, you know, Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani the other day in that press conference. I mean, these are people who don't have insubstantial resumes. You know, they both have very august ones, as did Michael Flynn.

I mean, he was highly respected. He was the head of DIA. He ended up getting essentially fired, which I think really angered him. I think partly because of his management. Do you have -- do you have a theory when you look at someone like him that you work with that you know, and look at his trajectory subsequently?

BRENNAN: No, I mean, Mike was always a headstrong individual, and he was convinced of the rightness of his views. But I don't know what it is that leads individuals to go astray. I mean, I've had discussions with many FBI officers agents over the years, and looking at individuals, whether it be in business, finance, or government, who have led stellar lives up until a point where they decide to take that fork in the road, that skirts the law and violates the principles and the ethics and the values that they may have lived by before.

And so I think this is something that really has been, in fact, enhanced as a result of Donald Trump being in the White House, that too many individuals forget the responsibilities they have as government officials, as U.S. citizens to honor the law, to honor honesty and integrity.

And there's just -- I think there needs to be a look back on what has happened now in the last several years as a result of this presidency, and the corrosive effect it has had on what I think really needs to be embedded in our government, which is the trust that the American people can have in the people who are carrying out these very solemn and sacred responsibilities.

HAYES: Yes, that trust has been eroded for many years, exacerbated now. John Brennan, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

BRENNAN: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: Tonight, there are millions of struggling Americans in the midst of a deepening economic crisis headed towards a precipice and they are desperate for help. The ugly reality the president and his friends in Congress are flat out ignoring next.


HAYES: So, it's pretty clear that 2020 has been unlike any year in the history of the American economy because of the pandemic. I mean, when you look at this, the stats don't look like any other year. Financial crisis, recessions, we shut down an enormous part of the economy, nearly all of it for a period of time, leaving some businesses barely hanging on, many Americans and incredibly dire straits.

And then through the Cares Act, the government injected something like $4 trillion back into that economy that we had shut down to deal with the pandemic. And there was a lot about that bill that was really effective. It was flawed in some ways, but a lot was really good. It did a tremendous amount of good for a lot of people, the $1,200 dollar stimulus checks, the additional $600 per week on unemployment benefits above what people would have gotten from their just salary being prorated.

And that gave many American families a desperately needed safety net. In fact, that money, this is crazy, help people both spend and save more during the pandemic than in normal times. The money from that bill alone helped keep 12 million Americans out of poverty, 12 million people, which is obviously pretty significant during a pandemic when people need extra resources to stay safe.

And now, it was obvious from the beginning that we weren't just going to shelter in place during you know, March and April and the virus is going to disappear, and everything go back to normal. That was very clear. We set it on the show night in night out for weeks and then months. We knew from the beginning this will be a long battle, and that the battle against the virus would continue to severely impact the economy and people's livelihoods and the budgets of states and municipalities even when people started to sort of get back out into the world.

Democrats understood that. That is why the House passed another rescue package way back in May, right, to keep the economy afloat during the rest of the pandemic. The Cares was the beginning of it, OK, here's another bill. But you'll remember, Mitch McConnell and the rest Republican Party, their whole line on this was they wanted to pretend everything was fine. Everything was back to normal.

Remember, the Presidents had to get back out there like soldiers on a battlefield? So, they took the position. No, we don't need any more help. In fact, I think they thought that if you gave more help, people wouldn't get out onto the battlefield. They wouldn't go out to work, right. So, we were basically stuck for months. Nothing passed, the Senate under political pressure passed a few symbolic measures. That's essentially been it. McConnell has been totally AWOL from any negotiations. He hasn't had anything to do with it and said his caucus probably wouldn't pass it.

So, now, here we are. It's six months later. It's the day before Thanksgiving. 2,200 Americans died today. 2,000 Americans dying a day, that might get up to 3000 the way things are going. There's 90,000 Americans hospitalized tonight.

The President is currently sitting in the White House apparently just watching T.V. all day, including far-right-wing digital networks, streaming his conspiracy theory shows and perpetuating it his own conspiracy theories to help him feel less like the loser that he is.

And McConnell sent the Senate home for the Thanksgiving recess without helping millions of Americans struggling in the pandemic in the COVID economy. And here's the thing. All that money that was pumped into the economy that did good, it's on its way out now. It is trickling to an end and it is absolutely dire out there right now.

Jeff Stein is the White House economics reporter for Washington Post, giving a front row seat to much of what's going on right now and has been doing some of the best reporting in America on what the economic realities people facing are. And I thought maybe Jeff, because you're reporting on this has been so good. Like, what are people's economic situations? It's a big country. It's a complicated economy. People are in different, you know, different places. But what is the level of need and desperation right now?

JEFF STEIN, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: There are obviously a lot of different ways to measure the economic health of the nation. But I think a very good one and an obvious one is hunger. Are people getting enough? And let me just slow it down and focus on this one statistic for a second. Before the pandemic, the fall of 2019, about four percent of Americans, four percent are reported going hungry. Obviously, too high but four percent.

Now, you're looking at closer to 12 percent, 12 percent. So, you know, basically tripling. That's a little abstract, though. Another way of putting it is about 8 million Americans went hungry before the pandemic, and now we're looking at 26 million Americans reporting going hungry.

And of course, this is a very big country, right. And there are much -- you know, very wealthy parts of it. Parts of it that had been more spared from the pandemic than others. And you're seeing much higher numbers than that in some in some parts of the country.

And Houston, for instance, which has been dealing with an oil shock, in addition to a very, very severe COVID outbreak, 30 percent of families are struggling to get enough to eat, 30 percent in a -- in a major American city. It's a crisis of unbelievable proportions. And perhaps even (AUDIO GAP) still, we're really only in the beginning of the winter, right. We haven't even hit winter.

And if the Cobra crisis intensifies, if the number of faces continues to increase, we are going to see around the same time, a number of economic relief programs authorized by Congress that are only set to go by the end of the year. Those are going to expire. Benefits for the jobless, benefits for homeowners, benefits for renters, benefit for student borrowers, all of that is going to go away. (AUDIO GAP) the pandemic is expected to get worse. So it's a very scary moment, and hunger is a very (AUDIO GAP)

HAYES: You know that -- all those things you said, I mean, there's also a connection between those and the -- and the public health crisis we're in now. And we've been saying this in the program, which is, local and state officials know that people are in dire straits, and there's not more help coming right now. And they are making public health decisions based on that.

So, if you're going to put a bar out of business, you probably should close bars with the amount of community transmission, but that means some people lose their jobs, and there's nothing on the other end for them. Like, they're choosing to keep stuff open that should probably be closed precisely because the economy ramifications are so dire and there's so much desperation as you know.

STEIN: One of the scariest trend that we see according to a lot of economists I talk to on a regular basis is what's happening to single mothers -- you know, when you have young kids at home and your school is shut down, and you are the breadwinner, you are often being faced with a choice of dropping out of the labor market or who knows what you're going to get to the kids during the day. We are seeing a very, very dangerous trend in that regard.

Just on the restaurants (AUDIO GAP) one of the numbers that I was so shocked by, I think everyone needs to know, 40 percent have restaurants face closure without aid IN THE -- by the end of February. 40 percent. I mean, just think about how many bars, restaurants, diners, and the massive impact that will have allowed to happen.

You're going to face real headwinds. And I think it's incumbent -- you know, it's worth pointing out that McConnell, you know, did not put on the table what Democrats wanted, but he did put forward a bill that was $500 billion. That would ameliorate at least some of the suffering we're seeing now. And Democrats have rejected it.

Nancy Pelosi called the White House's $1.8 trillion offer not a half below, but a (AUDIO GAP) below. And now we're seeing a lot of Americans suffering desperately. I mean, obviously, Democrats say that they were not willing to sacrifice anyone and that they wanted a bigger package. But Republicans put something out there, and it's not clear if that's the one that people liked though.

HAYES: Well, that's -- my final question for you Jeff is this, right. Like there's $500 billion from McConnell, although it's unclear whether he could get his own caucus to pass it. The White House sort of checked out since Election Day. We know the Democrats want $2 trillion or more. Are there negotiations happening? And is there a number that you could walk into the Capitol and drop right now and get a vote on tomorrow?

STEIN: I don't think they would listen to me. But, you know -- and the question of are there talk happening right now, not really. I mean, we're hearing rumors of different senators pulling each other and being like, hey, this is a real problem, we should probably figure out something to do. But ultimately in the nation's capital right now, power is held by a very small number of people, Pelosi, McConnell, incoming President Joe Biden, and the President. And that, you know, right now there are no negotiations happening as we're looking at this.

HAYES: All right, Jeff Stein, who's been doing great reporting on this for the Washington Post, thank you so much.

STEIN: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: Still ahead, was the CDC's Thanksgiving guidance too little too late? New reporting on how people are playing to celebrate, what hospitals are doing to prepare for the worst, just ahead.


HAYES: As we sit down for Thanksgiving this week, a lot of us, thanks to the pandemic, are farther from our families than we would like. But while we prepare smaller meals this year, it is important to remember where all that food comes from. Farmworkers, many of them are poorly paid and relatively unprotected from the Coronavirus, have kept food on grocery store shelves for months and in our nation's food banks which are more critical this year than just about ever before.

And to help recognize those workers, United Farm Workers Labor Union ask people to tweet their favorite Thanksgiving dish and find out how it got to their table. And it is really worth taking a look at these workers and their stories and the work they do.

Like Amadeo, a farmworker in Oxnard, California, who shared this video showing out he and his coworkers harvest beats, like the ones your family might roast or put in a potato salad. Or if your salad has radishes instead, here's Patricia, a farm worker pulling up and bunching radishes together. Look at that. She earns $1.86 per crate. Each crate contains 60 bundles of radishes.

If you eat brussel sprouts this holiday, here's how they were harvested. Because brussel sprouts grown a tough woody stem, the UFW says workers need strength and precision to avoid serious injury if they chop down the sprout points. Other workers then need to put the stocks into processors that separate out the individual sprouts.

If you enjoy turnips, they also take a lot of skill to harvest without chopping off a finger. Check this out. This is Charlie. He earns about $0.75 per bucket of cut turnips. As the fastest worker in his crew, and you can see it there, he clears about 25 buckets an hour. Do you enjoy onions in your Thanksgiving meal? Well, here's onions being harvested in Indiana. That's a state that doesn't have heat or shade requirements, according to UFW. It's a 12-hour a day job.

There are a ton more of these videos and worker stories on the United Farm Workers' Twitter feed. I really highly recommend that you and your families with your kids, if you got them around, take a look to get a sense of where this all this food comes from. And while you're sitting down to dinner, maybe getting into Zoom discussions about what workplaces or schools are going to open next year, what you're going to do, remember, this, what you're seeing there, cutting the turnips, this is what essential work looks like.

As we start to plan for who gets first crack at a vaccine, keep these farmworkers in mind. Much like meatpacking plant workers. They often have to go work with minimal protections and low pay to gather food that we all eat. That's why there's a push for California actually prioritize agricultural workers in the first round of vaccination. They should be a priority.

I mean, honestly, it doesn't matter if Google or Twitter or big banks or NBC employees come back to the office now in six months or a year. It really doesn't matter that much. But it matters that those folks are out there working. We all rely on these farmworkers for our most basic needs.


HAYES: The pandemic continues to get very, very bad. The latest data today on COVID in the U.S. is daunting. We had 183,000 new cases today, as you can see from the chart in the pink. And the blue chart, which is the thing that we keep our eyes on the most, there are now nearly 90,000 people currently hospitalized. That is a 16th straight record day for that number. We're in a literal sense off the charts for hospitalizations. We never had anything like it.

And here perhaps is the worst part in the gray, the number of deaths. 2,284 Americans gone just today, and putting us on a trajectory to meet or exceed the death tolls that we saw the worst part of this pandemic back in April.

Now, this is all happening as people are about to have Thanksgiving tomorrow. And a lot of people including the CDC have urged people not to get together in big groups for Thanksgiving. It has been turned, I think, quite nihilistically and quite cynically into a kind of cultural work cudgel by some of the right including Senator Ted Cruz, who seem more interested in trolling on social media than giving people good advice about how to protect their loved ones.

Erin Banco is a national security reporter at The Daily Beast, and she's been writing about what could happen this Thanksgiving if people ignore the warnings from the White House Task Force and the CDC around COVID and the holiday.

Erin, what is your reporting indicate about the sort of perception on those folks in the White House taskforce about where we are and what Thanksgiving could do?

ERIN BANCO, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: So, we took about a couple of weeks to report this out. And right in the middle of our reporting, the CDC announced new guidelines and recommendations with thanksgiving holiday including inviting people not to travel and to not get together with people outside their household.

And this was sort of viewed internally by senior officials as a last-ditch attempt to try to convince Americans not to traveled for Thanksgiving. And if they do travel, to wear masks indoors and social distance and be outside. But a lot of the officials we spoke to said, you know, the guidelines came a little bit too late, right. People had already made their plans to travel for Thanksgiving. And those people who have previously pushed back on mask mandates and social distancing weren't going to all of a sudden change their habits.

So, the fear is that those counties in America that are already struggling with high hospitalization rates, new cases and death, you know, the situation is about to get a whole lot worse. We spoke to some doctors in Wisconsin who are particularly fearful that the worst is yet to come with this third wave of the Coronavirus.

We spoke to one nurse who says she's getting more and more pediatric cases of COVID and there are no beds left. We talked to Dr. Anthony Fauci who said, listen, if people don't follow these guidelines, we're in big trouble.

HAYES: You know, one of the -- one of the really maddening aspects of this is that, you know, from a public health perspective, it matters a lot. Like, you have clear, consistent, durable messaging, right? So, everyone rowing in the same direction, everyone is saying, look, this is -- this is terrible to be away from people you love on Thanksgiving. We really think this is going to do a good job.

That didn't happen until very late in the game here, right? I mean, you've got Scott Atlas, who's the President's advisor out on T.V. saying, look, this might be the last Thanksgiving you can have. Get in there. You know, a few days before the taskforce kind of managed to reassert some authority over the process, but it really doesn't seem like there's any real unified message out of the administration.

BANCO: That's right. The messaging has sort of broken down in recent months. You know, a lot of people can't really rely on which agency is going to say what, and especially there's a -- there's a real split between the White House messaging and, of course, messaging from the CDC and other top health agencies.

But you're right, these recommendations came too late. And so there has been some evidence there. The New York Times did a study and a couple others did some polling around this. There has been some indication that some people, some portions of the population are planning on staying home and staying safe. But the real fear is that those portions of the population that have already stopped responding, excuse me, to public health guidelines are not going to listen this time around.

And so, the fear is that, especially in rural communities that are really cash strapped and are suffering from PPE shortages and bed shortages and staffing shortages, that if people gather for Thanksgiving, they're going to see the situation get a whole lot worse. And the staffing situation in particular, is of concern.

HAYES: Yes. We should note that we have, like so many things in a pandemic, we've been around -- we've done this before, right? Memorial Day, July 4th, we -- Fauci talked about this. When we have holidays, people get together, it's totally understandable. People want to get together and holidays. That's what makes holidays great, but it has a cause and effect. And if it happens again here, we're already past capacity. Like, the hospitals are already on the verge of melting down.

So, it's really important for people to take that seriously. If you're listening to me right now, please, please do what you can to take that to heart. Erin Banco who's been doing great reporting on this, thanks for sharing that.

BANCO: Thanks.

HAYES: Next, how President-Elect Joe Biden can manage the growing catastrophes without Congress which he may have to do. Heather McGee and Name join me right after this.


HAYES: In 56 days, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the President of the United States. And the big outstanding question right now is will he have a Democratic Congress. Democrats will control the House, of course, but Democratic control of Senate rests on those two runoffs in Georgia. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are running to take on the incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in those races. If they win, they'll have 50-50, Kamala Harris breaking the tie.

But here's the thing, even if they win a 50-50 Senate in which you need every member of our caucus to pass anything is going to be a real uphill battle for big sweeping domestic legislative accomplishments. So, Joe Biden and the Biden administration, people staffing the administration have to be thinking now about how to use the tools of the executive to further a progressive agenda.

And to help get a better understanding of that and think about what that might look like, I want to talk to Heather McGee, board co-chair of Color of Change, and Anand Giridharadas who's the publisher of the brand new newsletter, The Dot Inc, whose latest pieces called The Afterlife of the Resistant.

And Anand, you had an interview -- I thought of you because you had an interview with Chuck Schumer a few weeks before the election. And this was, you know, national polling averages missed by about four or five points, right. So, at that point, national polling averages, they have Biden at plus-eight. He's going to end up with a plus-four.

If it was the universe of Biden plus-eight, there would probably be a four or five-vote Senate margin, right. It's not the world we live in. Chuck Schumer was talking about an FDR-size presidency in that interview, this is a different world. How do you think folks should think about this world in terms of pursuing a progressive agenda?

ANAND GIRIDHARADAS, PUBLISHER, DOT INC: Well, it was interesting. Chuck Schumer surprised me in that interview. It was actually that -- it was the day before the election. The polls were still sort of, as you say. But what surprised me was, although in the interview with me, Schumer was partly assuming the world in which he would be Senate majority leader and Joe Biden would have a sympathetic, ambitious Senate doing his bidding.

He didn't only assume that world. So, he gave me the kind of laundry list of what they would want to do in that world, ambitious environmental legislation, health legislation, so on and so forth. And I should just say, a lot of ambitious things that Chuck Schumer is not famous for, the kinds of things that the centrist, you know, element of the party has not been famous for.

And he said very forthrightly just on that legislative stuff, that he and the party in the Obama years has been too unambitious and that there needs to be a change in direction bold, progressive change. So, that was interesting. And then we talked about the scenario in a way without the Senate. And what he said there surprised me even more, where he said Biden should do some incredibly bold things through executive action. Some of them, you know, less controversial, like rejoining the Paris Accord or things that a lot of Democrats have already voiced support for.

But as an example, Chuck Schumer also said, the proposal he latched on to from Elizabeth Warren, that Joe Biden should, by executive order, wipe out $50,000 of student debt for millions of Americans. That is something that can happen on day one of a Biden presidency. And so, yes, there is a whole bunch of big important things that need legislative action that may not be possible in the next two years, which is sad.

But there's a whole bunch of stuff that will change tens of millions of people's lives that can be done, the folks that the American prospect have a list, the day one agenda, dozens and dozens of things that Joe Biden can do by himself. And so, the question is actually not just going to be, what does Mitch want. The question is going to be, what does Joe want, and is Joe willing to go big, fight hard, prioritize making people's lives better overreaching out to Republicans?

HAYES: Heather, how do you -- how do you view this given the lessons of the Obama years, right? So, Barack Obama takes office in a very different situation, in some ways, politically, has 59 Senate votes, and then 60 when Franken sworn in. He's got both houses. Of course, it's also again, in the midst of a catastrophe, right? So, there's this terrible prioritization problem that both administrations face. What do you do? This is a very different scenario. What lessons do you see sort of moving over from the last time we were here?

HEATHER MCGHEE, BOARD CO-CHAIR, COLOR OF CHANGE: Well, I was in Washington D.C. running my -- Demos' Washington office at that time. And it was a heady time. There was a 60 vote Democratic majority in the Senate, something we can only dream of now. But I think there are two lessons.

One is you got to make sure to start painting the Republicans with the same brush that you were painting Donald Trump with. I think it was a huge mistake that was done in order to try to win over Republicans to the Democratic -- to the top of the ticket, which was basically giving permission for people to vote for Republicans down-ballot.

And I think we've got to make sure that the American people know that Trump is not an aberration, that is an outgrowth of the Republican Party, and the Republican Party should be tied with them. And as they block these kinds of reforms that the American people need, this real relief that the American people need, you know, the gloves have to come off. It has to be crystal clear in the American people's minds who was responsible.

But also, there is so much that can be done. Obviously, one of the biggest ones is Elizabeth Warren's student loan debt cancellation. That's money in people's pockets right away that affects every generation, actually, that's touched by student loan debt or has someone in their home who's still paying off student loan debt.

We can also do things on criminal justice and policing, particularly for the African American community that Joe Biden said he had -- he would have our backs, because of the way we had his. Appoint reform prosecutors, bring back the pattern and practice investigations into corrupt departments.

We can use the IRS and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to crack down on the Wall Street greed and pandemic profiteering that we've been seeing. We can use the Housing and Urban Development, HUD, to enforce fair housing. Obviously, there are hundreds of executive orders that Donald Trump issued that needs to be repealed. But there's even farther that the Biden administration can go.

HAYES: And, you know, the thing I think about is Stephen Miller, right. You know, Stephen Miller really believes --

GIRIDHARADAS: I'm sorry for you you're thinking about that.


HAYES: Well, and he has -- he believes in what he believes in, and he has some technical know-how about how the law works, and he has used it to terribly tremendous and dangerous effect, cool effect. But you need a bunch of people like that on all areas of climate and health care of like people who care and people who are willing to push the envelope to get stuff done.

GIRIDHARADAS: That's true. And you know -- and it's really worth remembering. I mean, in a lot of my writing about how plutocracy works in America, there's this dynamic where when businesspeople want to change the system in a way that benefits them, they're masters of how change is made. But when they want to -- you know, when they're told that they should do the opposite, and actually change things in direction of more people friendly policies, they're suddenly like, well, it's just -- it's so hard to know how to get things done.

So, Democrats need to be as good and aggressive. Anything that can be done this way can also be done that way. It's sort of a political law of physics.

HAYES: Yes. Heather McGhee and Anand Giridharadas, thank you both making time tonight. If you find yourself a little extra time this week, maybe later cooking or relaxing safely at home, you feel the urge to pull up Twitter and start doing scrolling, don't stop.

Instead, listen to this week's episode of Why is this Happening. I spoke to author and political scientist Eitan Hersh about online activism, what he calls political hobby-ism. Listen to learn about the dangers of doom scrolling and what it looks like to do political action that creates real, tangible, meaningful change. You can find it wherever you get your podcast.

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


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