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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 12/16/21

Guests: Niambi Carter, Sarah Kendzior, Elie Mystal

Summary

The January 6 Committee issues new subpoenas. A new timeline emerges on how the Trump coup attempt started just hours after the last votes were cast in 2020. New dire warnings emerge about COVID over the holidays. Does Florida Ron DeSantis want to turn parents into vigilantes who can punish schools for teaching American history? A disturbing new murder case spotlights race and injustice in America.

Transcript

[18:00:14]

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT with Jason Johnson, in for Ari Melber, starts right now. What a treat.

Hi, Jason.

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Nicolle. Thank you so much.

And I love your holiday design. It looks fantastic.

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: Thank you. Candy cane.

JOHNSON: Exactly.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Jason Johnson, in for Ari Melber.

We start with breaking news in the MAGA riot probe. The January 6 investigation pointing to possible crimes by Trump and his allies in Congress, the probe intensifying as new evidence is uncovered today, and a major new subpoena just revealed.

Philip Waldron, the retired U.S. Army colonel who circulated that PowerPoint coup plan, has been subpoenaed. The committee wants to hear from this election denier who got access to the White House. Waldron`s PowerPoint uncovered in the Meadows trove of data detailed a plot to overturn Biden`s win.

Here is the brand-new letter from the committee, stating Waldron has -- quote -- "information concerning attempts to disrupt or delay the certification of the 2020 election results."

Meadows got a copy of the PowerPoint one day before the insurrection, Waldron saying he visited the White House on multiple occasions after the election and spoke with Meadows maybe eight to 10 times. Waldron`s subpoena citing that very statement he made to "The Washington Post."

Here he is last December at a Georgia Senate hearing spreading false information.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COL. PHILIP WALDRON (RET). U.S. ARMY: President Chavez designed them for - - they`re designed to control and manipulate votes.

And that`s what we found reviewing these things. We have affidavits in Pennsylvania and Arizona that these machine-printed ballots were injected into the system.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Have you had an opportunity to examine any other Dominion machines?

WALDRON: No, but we`d like to.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: That was Rudy Giuliani laughing, but he might not be laughing now.

A major Trump ally turned over phone records. Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale says the phone data was subpoenaed and he`s cooperating, singing like a jaybird. All of this coming as Trump allies in Congress are rattled and scrambling. MAGA gym class Jordan admitting to a coup text to Meadows. Others worry the committee knows what they did last summer.

"The New York Times" reporting six GOP loyalists fought to keep Trump in power as MAGA insiders were holding so-called crisis meetings as early as November 9. More on this in a moment.

This explosion of evidence stems from Mark Meadows, Trump`s top aide, who led Trump`s allies in Congress to pressure the Justice Department to overturn the 2020 election. Meadows in serious legal jeopardy, and, with this evidence, so are Trump allies in Congress.

Joining me now -- I could not think of a better pair of people to talk to - - joining me now is former U.S. attorney Joyce Vance and justice correspondent for "The Nation," the angriest lawyer on television, Elie Mystal.

Thank you guys so much for joining me this evening.

Joyce, I`m going to start with you.

I could read from the script. I could go from technical information. I`m just going to ask you the question that every single American is asking. Why the heck aren`t these people in jail already? Why? Why? Why are we not seeing perp walks? I do not understand this.

Tell me -- explain this to me like I`m a 7-year-old why we don`t already have members of Congress and these people who plotted to take over the government in jail already.

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you`re not a 7-year-old.

(LAUGHTER)

VANCE: And I know from our conversations that you understand this as well as any lawyer.

The problem here is that we`re on the precipice. We`re struggling to remain a rule of law country. The Democrats can`t become the party of lock them up. We saw how dangerous that was when Trump supporters perpetuated that sort of role and sort of whipped mobs into frenzies.

In this country, evidence comes first and conviction comes second. And so we`re now going through the slow, painful process of putting the evidence together. It`s frustrating. It takes longer than any of us would like it to, because the fact seems so clear in front of our eyes, but it`s critical that the committee do its work and hopefully that DOJ do its work, and that they meticulously collect evidence, so that we understand the difference between what we suspect and what we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court, who the participants are and what they did.

Just what we have seen tonight with this Waldron subpoena is momentous. The committee describes the PowerPoint as a blueprint to overthrow an election. If it`s true -- and Waldron`s credibility will have to be tested. We don`t know if he will hold up as a credible witness.

If he does, and if he had a series of eight to 10 meetings with Mark Meadows that culminated in the production of a PowerPoint, that sounds an awful lot like we`re in conspiracy territory.

[18:05:03]

So I think, unfortunately for all of us, we have to be patient for a little bit longer.

JOHNSON: You can call me cool. You can call me miracle. I can be whipped into a frenzy very easily, because this seems pretty clear to me.

Elie, so here`s my question for you. We have so much information here about what appears to be conspiracy. We have people sending text messages back and forth saying, hey, want to take over the government? Sounds cool. Let`s do it.

Legally, are there ways that we could be moving faster? I understand what Joyce is saying that, hey, we want to be meticulous, but are there ways we could be moving faster? Because I still seem to see people who are ignoring or not paying attention to when they should be coming in to testify, and there`s just a process of being in contempt.

I can`t help but think to myself, if you or I were caught with a trove of documents saying we wanted to take over the state of Michigan, we`d be in jail by now. So I don`t understand why that hasn`t happened faster on a federal level.

ELIE MYSTAL, "THE NATION": Sure, we could be moving faster.

Joe Biden could have nominated Liz Cheney for attorney general maybe. Maybe that would have worked out. Or maybe he could have nominated Jamie Raskin, or Adam Schiff, or Joyce, or Glenn Kirschner, or you, or me, or a ton of other people who would be putting the wood to these people by now already.

Now, I agree with Joyce that we are fundamentally in the investigative phase. My question is, why is Congress doing the investigating, and not the FBI? Where`s Chris Wray? Where`s Federalist Society Republican appointee Chris Wray on these subpoenas? Why is Brad Parscale turning over documents to the select committee, as opposed to the FBI?

Why is Waldron being subpoenaed by the select committee, as opposed to the FBI? Is the FBI on the case? Now, they might argue that they are and maybe we don`t know, and maybe there`s a super double secret investigation that`s boiling beneath the surface that`s ready to erupt at the opportune moment. Maybe that`s the case.

But I don`t see evidence of that yet right now. What I see is Congress, which is an oversight -- which has an oversight function, doing with all deliberate speed, as quickly as they can, putting together a case, and I see the FBI doing nothing to go get these people.

And that is my question. And that`s my problem. And I think it all comes back to Joe Biden`s decision to appoint Merrick Garland, a slow-moving institutionalist, to the Department of Justice, as opposed to some of his more aggressive choices, like Schiff or Raskin or Yates or -- I could keep going on about other people who I think would have prosecuted this, who would have prosecuted the prosecution a little bit more expeditiously than what we`re seeing from Garland.

JOHNSON: I can think of hundreds of DAs, local DAs, who could be -- Harvey Dent would have been able to do a better job than what we have seen so far from Merrick Garland.

I want to play this sound bite here. It`s from an organizer, Jan, so I want to join -- Joyce, I want to hear your thoughts. It`s an organizer who is basically talking about how they had planned to stay at one hotel. Then they heard Trump talking. I want to get your thoughts on the other side as to how this also plays into the idea that these people were very clearly being directed by the president and his cronies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DUSTIN STOCKTON, JANUARY 6 TRUMP ELLIPSE RALLY ORGANIZER: What we revealed to the committee is that there was an internal conflict that was ongoing inside the organizer groups about what the program and what the day on January 6 should look like.

And we kind of lost that battle. And we didn`t realize we lost that battle until President Trump told people to walk down to the Capitol.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: Joyce, what does this tell us about the direct involvement of the president, not to mention what may or may not have actually been occurring within the sort of organizers of this attempted coup?

VANCE: Well, it certainly gives us some good leads that investigators need to follow.

And I`m sort of in Elie`s camp on this. I have this same question about where the FBI is. I think you can make an interesting argument that all that matters is the ultimate result of this investigation, and that it would be a very compelling case if a bipartisan congressional committee were to refer an investigation to main Justice for prosecution after they completed their work.

So that`s certainly a possibility. But it does seem like the FBI has plenty of leads that they can follow up on. And this is one of them. How did the events on January 6 itself take place? Who was calling the shots? Was there some sort of master plan? Or was this really something that just happened on an ad hoc one-off basis throughout the day?

There are so many questions along these lines. One of the intricacies of developing a conspiracy case is, you need to identify the subject of the conspiracy. There has to be an illegal objective that a group of people come together and agree to accomplish. So it`s not as easy as seeing pieces of activity here and there.

You actually have to find the group. You have to prove the agreement, the specific conduct that they agreed to do, and establish that it`s illegal. It`s always been a possibility that, on January 6, there were multiple conspiracies involving multiple people, or perhaps no conspiracy at all.

[18:10:15]

But someone needs to get to the heart of that, whether it`s the FBI or Congress.

JOHNSON: Yes, I mean, this was not a crowd of people that ran on the field after a game-winning shot.

Like, they were, they were clearly there for a purpose, and were ready to be riled up.

One of the people who has played a role in perpetuating misinformation and keeping these fires burning has been Jim Jordan.

Elie, I`m going to play you a quote from Jim Jordan, and then get your thoughts on the other side as to how many of these Republicans are going to be continuing to allow -- why are they continued to allow to lie and claim they didn`t know things that we all know they were doing?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I have talked to the president numerous times. I continue to talk to the president since he`s left office.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: No, no, I mean on January 6, Congressman.

JORDAN: Yes. I mean, I have talked to the president -- I have talked to the president so many -- I can`t remember all the days I have talked to him. But I have certainly talked to the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: I remember every time I have spoken to somebody famous. I`m pretty sure I remember the first time I saw Barack Obama in a gym in Berea, Ohio, talking.

I have trouble believing that Jim Jordan doesn`t remember talking to the president of the United States on the day that people tried to take over this country.

Elie, when you see video like that, does it make you more or less encouraged that maybe some of these Republicans will eventually be flipped when they have been caught an obvious lies? Or does it make you think that they`re pretty much going to keep gaslighting us until somebody locks them up and puts them in a striped costume?

MYSTAL: I think, unfortunately, the latter.

There is no indication that I see from these Republicans that they are anything other than thralls to Donald Trump. They have bought that hook, line and sinker. And there is no turning back for people like Jim Jordan. There is no turning back for people like Ted Cruz. They have decided to literally hitch their wagons, hitch their rafts to the good ship of state that is Donald Trump, and they will go down with that ship.

That is just their decision. I`m a little bit more interested in people like Mark Meadows, right? I`m a little bit more interested in some of the - - we make a big deal about the people who haven`t cooperated with the select committee, the Meadows, Bannon, Jeffrey Clark.

Most people have. Hundreds of people have cooperated. Brad Parscale, who was no -- that`s the guy who was like sending out Death Star tweets before the campaign imploded. He`s cooperating, right?

So like, while the people at the top, they really have too much invested in Trump to ever get away from him, I mean, look, Mike Pence -- Trump tried to kill Mike Pence, and Mike Pence is just like, I`m still trying to hug -- hang on to Donald Trump.

So maybe the people at the top have too much to lose. But as we start getting into the staff and the other people who were just kind of around, maybe they are the people that we can hope will one day see the light, will one day tell the truth, and will one day free themselves of the thrall of Trump, and thus helpfully bring the country to a place of enlightenment and truth.

JOHNSON: Joyce, I want to know, because we`re heading into this final time, but I want to ask this very quickly.

Is there a timeline for this? Is there a time that we have to have these investigations done in order to stave off what might happen in the fall 2022, very quickly.

VANCE: So, as a prosecutor, you don`t think in terms of politics. You think in terms of the five-year statute of limitations that you have to indict a case.

As a political calculus, though, this committee has at least until the new Congress is sworn in to complete its work, possibly longer. And DOJ can continue to work after that for the full extent of at least the Biden first term in office.

JOHNSON: Joyce Vance and Elie Mystal, thank you both so much for starting us off today.

MYSTAL: Thanks for having us.

JOHNSON: Coming up, our new timeline on how the Trump coup attempt started just hours after the last votes were cast in 2020.

Plus, the COVID surge and a dire new warning about what to expect during the holidays. And it`s not just gifts under the tree. We will talk to an expert about how to stay safe.

And the troller in chief, Ron Death-Santis of Florida, wants to turn parents into vigilantes who can punish schools for teaching American history.

Stay with us on THE BEAT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:17:58]

JOHNSON: We`re back with new details from the January 6 investigation, revealing that Trump`s attempted coup started a lot earlier than we initially thought.

In fact, it started just hours after Election Day, a GOP lawmaker texting Mark Meadows on November 4 about a -- quote -- "aggressive strategy" to overturn the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): On November 4, a member of this body wrote to Meadows: "Here`s an aggressive strategy, "one day after the election. "Why can`t the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and other Republican-controlled statehouses declare this as B.S., where conflicts in election not called that night, and just send their -- just send their own electors to vote and have it go to the SCOTUS," the Supreme Court of the United States?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: Just a few days later, on November 7, Mark Meadows sent an e-mail about a plot -- quote -- "discussing the appointment of an alternate slate of electors" as part of a -- quote -- "direct and collateral attack on the election."

Then, on November 9, there was a secret meeting at Trump headquarters featuring GOP lawmakers and White House officials. The group`s strategy? Hammer home the idea of the election was tainted, announce legal action and bolster the case for fraud allegations.

That same day, Trump`s press secretary made the plan public.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This election is not over. Far from it. We have only begun the process of obtaining an accurate, honest vote count.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: We now know Trump`s attempt to overturn the election started just hours after the last votes were cast, reaching its devastating conclusion and deadly conclusion on January 6.

How can America stop the next coup, and why the heck aren`t these people responsible for it already in jail?

We have two special guests on that. And we`re back in just 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:20:58]

JOHNSON: Joining me now is journalist Sarah Kendzior. She`s author of the book -- the 2020 book "Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America." And MSNBC terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance.

Thank you all so very much for joining me this evening.

Sarah, I will start with you.

We now know that this coup attempt, it started right after the election. It probably started beforehand. They already had a plan in place.

I want to start with you on this. You have been consistent and one of the loudest voices out there about the failures of Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice to be aggressive about these individuals. Just take us through just a little bit of your timeline as to what Merrick Garland has failed to do so far, especially in the face of this newfound evidence.

SARAH KENDZIOR, AUTHOR, "HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT": Well, Merrick Garland should have been prepared, because I want to take the timeline a little further back, which is that this plan had actually been in the works for the 2016 election.

That is when Roger Stone coined the phrase Stop the Steal. That is when Roger Stone promised a bloodbath if Trump were not installed as president. And they made these threats consistently for the four years that he was in office.

And so there`s plenty of evidence in the public domain, generally speaking, about their tactics. There`s also plenty of evidence throughout 2020 about specific actions they were going to take. Michael Flynn was calling for a coup. Lin Wood was recruiting insurrectionists off the Internet.

This was all happening in plain sight. The day before January 6, Steve Bannon announced the coup on his podcast. Like, this is extremely easy to find out. And that is why when the House impeached Trump in February, they were able to rely exclusively on public domain evidence and did not call witnesses. Perhaps they should have. They could have gotten Mark Meadows` wonderful PowerPoint back then.

But, yes, Merrick Garland, an experienced professional, could have gone right into this, aggressively making sure that our country is not attacked again in this fashion. Instead, he has done basically nothing, but allowed Trump and his crime cult to run out the clock, which has been the tactic that Trump has used with his goon squad of lawyers for the last 40 years.

So none of this should have come as a surprise to anybody.

JOHNSON: Malcolm, after hearing what Sarah just said, I don`t have a tremendous amount of confidence in this administration being aggressive at hunting down these people who are terrorists.

With your particular experience, if you found a PowerPoint, right, if you found a PowerPoint for people who attempted to overthrow a government, I don`t care if you were -- if you were in the Middle East, if you were in somewhere in Africa, you were somewhere in Asia, you found a whole PowerPoint, wouldn`t your first thought be, well, if there`s this PowerPoint, there`s probably another one out there for the next time they`re going to try this?

What do you think is likely still out there, if we have already found this kind of information, for what these Republicans are planning to do in 2022 and 2024?

MALCOLM NANCE, NBC COUNTERTERRORISM AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: You know, it`s interesting. I have actually been in that circumstance where -- with a U.S. intelligence agency, where we actually intercepted plans of a terrorist plot in action, in motion.

We mobilized three commands across the region, the entirety of European Command, the entirety of Special Operations Command. I mean, we move resources when we know something is about to happen. We try to do disruptive counteraction.

I`m not seeing that from the United States government. I think what we`re seeing now is, January 6 is being seen as a point where the FBI is going out and trying to collect a lot of data against a lot of individuals, but many of these are very low-grade arrests. We`re seeing the judiciary is actually being quite mild with them.

They`re letting people go on vacations. They`re letting one guy retain his gun to protect a church. That being said, what we could be doing, certainly -- and I hope that the Justice Department is doing it -- we`re seeing no evidence of it, of course -- is understanding that the nation is under direct attack.

[18:25:05]

We`re all going back today over this timeline of November 4. Well, a year ago, when I came out and predicted that we were actually in route to a major insurgency, which started with the insurrection -- insurgency is multiple operations, but it`s also political and paramilitary.

JOHNSON: Right.

NANCE: We started seeing paramilitary training for this of many of the people who have been indicted in September and October of 2020.

And now we`re seeing the bridge to the political component of this connect. What`s missing here is the actual conspiracy. We have a PowerPoint on how they expected to execute it. We just need to get the orders. This is where Merrick Garland should be mobilizing the Justice Department to defend the nation from future threats, because the coup is under way.

The coup attempt is still under way.

JOHNSON: Sarah, I want to play some sound from a U.S. representative who is talking about continuing this coup and get your thoughts on the other side. This is a Representative Louie Gohmert.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): In effect, the ruling would be that you got to go to the streets and be as violent as Antifa and BLM.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: So, look, this is this is five days before the attack. We`re hearing this sort of thing.

Sarah, I guess my concern is, with all of this evidence that we`re hearing now, we are coming up -- we`re closer to the one-year anniversary of this attack than we are to when it happened. And we have all this documentation. We have all this video from people saying, yes, engaged in this behavior. We have text messages. We have smoke signals. We have passenger pigeons. We have a fricking Bat Signal in the sky with a big old T that says take over the government.

I guess my question for you is, when you see video like this, do you think any of these Republicans are actually scared at this point, or has the fecklessness and impotence of the DOJ and this administration so far emboldened them to continue with what they were trying to do earlier this year?

KENDZIOR: They`re absolutely emboldened.

They were emboldened going in because nobody held Trump accountable for the four years he was in office or the 40 years before that, when he was a criminal -- a career criminal backed up by various mafiosos.

And so they`re flaunting their impunity. And that frightens people. It draws Americans into their fold. It makes them seem like they too may be protected if they engage in these sorts of actions. That`s why you had all those low-level operatives recruited by people like Flynn and Wood willing to attack the Capitol in broad daylight, have it aired on national TV, have it livestreamed on the Internet.

All of this was open. And that somehow gives people the impression that it`s not illegal, that it`s not treasonous, that it`s not sedition. It is still sedition if it is in plain sight. That doesn`t change what actually happened.

What you need, though, what Merrick Garland should be doing is going to the top. These low-level QAnon folks and whatnot, a lot of them got conned into participating into this. These high-level operators, people like Roger Stone and Michael Flynn and, of course, Trump himself, have been at this for years,and they are heading for a comeback.

They`re trying for coup two, now with more bloodbath, and that is something that this nation must do everything in its power to prevent. And it`s very interesting to me that they`re not.

What it looks like to me now with all these faux revelations emerging is that they are feigning shock to avoid accountability, because they should have been holding them accountable all year long.

JOHNSON: I completely agree. And it`s crazy to me the insistence that we should be happy with them bringing in all these red shirts, when we know the commanders are still behind the desk controlling this and looking for their next plan.

Sarah Kendzior and Malcolm Nance, thank you all so much for joining us on THE BEAT this evening.

KENDZIOR: Thank you.

JOHNSON: Coming up next: MAGA Governor Ron Death-Santis ripping a page out of the Texas playbook to stoke the flames of America`s culture wars.

Plus: a white man in Oklahoma out on bond after allegedly murdering one of his black employees. It`s a lesson in unequal justice.

But, first, grim warnings from the CDC, as Omicron fuels a new surge that could put a damper on holidays.

That`s next on THE BEAT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:33:03]

JOHNSON: New warnings of an explosion in COVID cases, the CDC forecasting cases could jump by 55 percent -- that`s right -- 55 percent by Christmas Day to over a million people per week.

Experts cite the impact of the Omicron virus now present in at least 25 states and the Delta variant making a comeback, largely responsible for the recent jump in deaths, 1,300 Americans now dying every day, a 34 percent increase from a week ago, the surge in cases felt across the United States, cases doubling in three days in New York City.

A top adviser to the mayor saying the city has -- quote -- "never seen this before." A wave of show cancellations on Broadway, a number of universities canceling in person exams, now going virtual, outbreaks ripping through sports leagues. One of the NBA`s biggest stars, Giannis, is entering the COVID protocol, NFL quarterback Baker Mayfield among the 90 players in the league`s COVID, list even though the Browns weren`t making the playoffs.

This is all happening with the holidays getting closer.

NBC`s own Lester Holt got Dr. Fauci`s take.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LESTER HOLT, NBC ANCHOR: If you`re a family sitting around the table planning your holiday trip and you`re watching this right now, what should you be rethinking? What would you advise people, not even in an official capacity, but simply just good old common sense?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, again, vaccination is going to make the difference, Lester.

If I`m a family member, I`m vaccinated, I`m boosted, we can feel very comfortable in having our plans to be together as a family in our home with some friends who are also boostered and vaccinated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: Joining me now is Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, infectious disease expert with Boston University.

Thank you so much, Dr. Bhadelia.

I`m going to start with this. It`s holiday season. People are traveling. Is this an issue, this new Omicron variant? Is this a situation where people have been relaxing their social distancing, relaxing the rules they have been living under in the last year-and-a-half and that`s why Omicron is spreading so quickly?

[18:35:06]

Or is it because this new virus is a whole new ball game that we need to be concerned about?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I`d say, Jason, it`s both. I think we have seen that.

The reason Delta was already increasing is because we had entered this level of potential comfort with the fact that we were getting boosted, although, I should say, only 25 percent of us that are eligible are boosted.

But the Omicron variant is definitely more transmissible. The U.K. had a technical brief last Friday that showed that, in a household, right, if you have somebody who had Omicron infection, the odds of you getting infected from that person is three, three times compared to what it would have been with Delta.

So it`s really -- you -- the spread that you`re seeing, it is both Delta -- you`re seeing the official numbers for Omicron being less than 10. I think you`re hearing about four or five or something. But, really, I would imagine, because it`s moving so fast -- we have seen this in the U.K., how quickly the numbers went up -- it`s likely that we`re about to hear that those Omicron numbers are higher than we expect, because there`s a delay in case identification, reporting and getting those numbers out.

So with a more transmissible variant, what becomes important is that -- and one, by the way, which may cause more breakthroughs -- it`s important for us not to get -- not just getting boosted, to improve our protection against severe disease, but layering those protections, using those masks we they`re indoors and traveling, and getting tested if we`re going to large gatherings.

JOHNSON: So, Dr. Bhadelia, that`s a key thing. Breakthrough infections are the concern that I and many people who I talk to have.

They`re being told by their jobs, oh, yes, go back to school. The worst thing you could have is a breakthrough infection. We don`t have a lot of longitudinal data on COVID. So, just because a breakthrough infection doesn`t kill you, we don`t know if it couldn`t have long-term health implications for people three to five years down the road, do we?

BHADELIA: Well, in fact, we know that it might, because we do see more data on long COVID or what did NIH is calling the post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

In fact, NIH funded a huge nationwide study that`s going on right now, the RECOVER study, that`s looking at exactly that number, because many people who survived SARS-CoV-2 or the COVID infection ended up having new chronic conditions they didn`t have before, such as kidney issues.

Many have just issues going back to their everyday life. So there`s a small percentage of people who suffer from that as well. But beyond that, or let`s -- even just looking at the acute setting, the trouble with Omicron is that, if you`re healthy, if you`re young, you have your boosters, you`re probably not going to get sick.

You might get a breakthrough infection. You will. And a percentage of those -- we want to avoid those for the reasons you talked about. But because it`s so transmissible, it`s also going to infect more people who are unvaccinated. And it`s going to infect more people who are vaccinated, but vulnerable, who are much more older or who have immune conditions.

And that`s why we`re so concerned that it might cause more hospitalizations this winter.

JOHNSON: I want to play a quick clip from Jordan Klepper.

It sort of speaks to this idea of these people who are young and healthy and think that they can just sort of out-lifestyle their way out of COVID. And I want your thoughts on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JORDAN KLEPPER, "THE DAILY SHOW": Are you vaccinated?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe.

KLEPPER: Maybe?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I`m not.

KLEPPER: You`re not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

KLEPPER: Are you fearful of catching COVID?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

KLEPPER: No?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that it`s more about the lifestyle vs. like vaccinated, not vaccinated. Like...

KLEPPER: What is the lifestyle?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like, being healthy, like, taking care of yourself, like your mind, your body. If you live a lifestyle of wellness, then your body should be able to handle COVID.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: It a lifestyle of wellness got to do it? If I stop eating hamburgers and cut back on pork and sugar, is that going to keep me safe from COVID, Doctor?

BHADELIA: I`m going to say, look, good health is always a good thing. We should be aiming for good nutrition.

But that`s not going to make or break, absolutely make or break. There are many different things, chronic conditions, age, how much virus you got exposed to when you got exposed, which, by the way, most people don`t realize plays a role in severity as well.

And so you want to stay healthy. But why would you then expose yourself to potential virus that right now seems to be landing mostly unvaccinated people in hospitals and potentially passing away from the disease?

JOHNSON: Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, thank you so much for this holiday warning. Hopefully, everybody will take it to mind.

BHADELIA: Thanks, Jason.

JOHNSON: Still to come: A disturbing new murder case is spotlighting race and injustice in America.

But, first, MAGA Governor Ron DeSantis is under fire for what critics say is a vigilante-style attack on free speech in schools.

More on that when we get back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:43:53]

JOHNSON: Critics accusing Florida`s MAGA Governor Ron DeSantis of combining vigilante-style justice with right-wing culture wars in a new effort to codify white supremacy for political gain.

DeSantis proposing a new law that would let parents sue school districts teaching Critical Race Theory, a graduate-level framework for understanding racism that no one is actually teaching in regular public schools.

It`s a variation the anti-abortion law in Texas that lets citizens sue abortion providers. Critics say this looks like race-baiting political theater, since there is literally no evidence of Critical Race Theory being taught in Florida schools.

The Florida Board of Education already passed a separate measure banning Critical Race Theory before. DeSantis announced the plan at a campaign- style event where he toss hats into the crowd and quoted MLK.

But let`s be honest, no one likes quoting MLK more than folks who know they`re wrong, from Aaron Rodgers to Ted Cruz and now Ron DeSantis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): You think about what MLK stood for. He said he didn`t want people judged on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character.

(APPLAUSE)

DESANTIS: You listen to some of these people nowadays, they don`t talk about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[18:45:02]

JOHNSON: DeSantis calling the measure the -- quote -- "Stop WOKE Act."

Bernice King, MLK`s daughter, blasting the misuse of the word woke to deter the fight against injustice.

Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson ripping the governor`s "lies, lies, lies and more lies," others calling it a racist dog whistle. Whatever it is, it`s part of a growing right-wing trend, with MAGA making it a campaign issue and eight states passing anti-CRT laws.

DeSantis now raising the stakes with a vigilante solution, as opposed to, say, I don`t know, looking out for kids` test scores, graduation rates, or COVID cases.

Joining me now is Dr. Niambi Carter, associate professor of political science at Howard University. I don`t think she teaches Critical Race Theory. And Juanita Tolliver, Democratic strategist and MSNBC contributor.

Dr. Carter, look, I have -- I tend to avoid what I think are unnecessary conversations about Critical Race Theory, because I don`t want to give any oxygen to bad faith actors. But I want to ask you, as an actual educator who`s in the classroom, and you teach at an HBCU, how many of your incoming freshmen students have some deep, intense knowledge of Critical Race Theory?

Is it actually something you have ever met a student who understands when they enter the university?

NIAMBI CARTER, HOWARD UNIVERSITY: Not really.

I mean, it`s not taught widely. And I think this conversation is really using Critical Race Theory to be a catch-all for anything that makes white people uncomfortable, quite frankly.

I mean, we know that CRT is a very specialized theory. It`s usually done by legal practitioners. Even in graduate school, Jason, we don`t do CRT as a matter of course. So this is all just smoke and mirrors to do what people like Ron DeSantis want to do, which is stoke white fears and raise anxiety levels to win elections, because we know he`s about to run for reelection.

So this is all to sort of gin up the base. And the fact that he was throwing hats out at the end lets us know this is all political theater. This is not anything of substance. And it`s also, of course, really seriously going to have a chilling effect on academic freedom in the state of Florida.

JOHNSON: Juanita, so they want to introduce this Stop WOKE Act.

And DeSantis says, hey, Critical Race Theory is being driven by elites. It`s being driven by elites.

What I want to ask you is, who are these mysterious elites who are driving Critical Race Theory? He says it`s corporate elites. He says it`s pop culture elites. Last time I checked -- and maybe I need to check the airlines -- I don`t see Dr. Ibram Kendi parachuting into schools and force- feeding kids The 1619 Project.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON: Maybe I have missed that part, right?

So who are these elites that they`re talking about? Or is this just kind of a red herring for black folks who talk too much?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You named it, Jason. They don`t want to hear the truth.

And as the good professor also noticed -- noted, anything that makes white people uncomfortable is what they`re going to latch on to. So you better believe that racist people and parents in Florida are going to be suing every school, every teacher, every school district that they possibly can, without basis, without evidence, because this entire charade has been happening without evidence.

I think it`s also evident that the Republicans look at Glenn Youngkin`s victory in Virginia and are like, that`s our playbook. We can spread another lie that we know is going to resonate with white voters and even in some cases welcome them back to the GOP, because what we saw in Virginia was 57 percent of white woman voting for Youngkin.

And that`s a 13-point swing back to the GOP after they lost so many women under Trump`s reign and during the 2018 midterms. They are now coming back to the party, because they see this and they`re like, oh, well, I need to protect my child, when, in reality, they`re just embracing a new form of white supremacy and racism.

JOHNSON: Ms. Tolliver, we`re going to stay in Virginia for a little bit because it`s a nice state.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON: There`s a recent NPR article saying the exit polling shows that voters were backing Youngkin on education issues.

Call me a skeptic. I have family in Virginia. I spend time there, University of Virginia alumni. I don`t think that Critical -- I don`t think education is what was actually driving white women to Youngkin.

I think what was driving white women and many voters to Youngkin -- and, again, he only won by 2 percent of the vote -- is the fact that he was running against Terry McAuliffe, and the fact that he had a more optimistic campaign.

Do you actually think, from a campaign standpoint, that Critical Race Theory has its own actual issue is driving people, or is it just the same thing as gay marriage or something else like that; it`s a cover for bigots to vote for whatever they were going to vote for anyway?

TOLLIVER: It is a cover but it still is a welcome mat, because when he framed it as parents` rights, that`s when they started to tap in.

They just say, I should have a say in what my child is learning. I should have a say in what books they`re reading, though let`s be real. Very, very few parents are at their PTA meeting.

But on top of what you mentioned as far as Youngkin competing against McAuliffe, imagine if Youngkin was up against Jennifer McClellan or Jennifer Carroll Foy, one of the two black women who competed in the Virginia primary. Imagine how their response and calling it out for racism for what it was would have landed with those same suburban voters who seemed to be persuadable in this election.

[18:50:08]

Imagine how that would have landed. So, when Democrats are thinking of their response to this, it goes beyond just calling it out for racism. But it goes into running a different type of candidate who can not only spot it in real time, but can respond with their own personal reality of how this impacts them.

JOHNSON: So, Dr. Carter, we`re heading right back to Florida here.

I`m curious as to what you think could be the long-term implications of what DeSantis is pushing here, because the idea that you can sue a public school because you`re unhappy with something they may be teaching, I mean, that`s just going to trickle upstream.

I mean, that`s going to happen. I mean, what concerns me is not just that these lawsuits could be happening in your local public schools, but also that you`re going to have some kid backed by FOX News or some right-wing organization that decides they want to go to FAMU and then sue all the political science department there for teaching Critical Race Theory.

Do you think there`s a chance that we could see this creep up the river and therefore becomes an attack all throughout public schools throughout the state of Florida?

CARTER: Absolutely.

I mean, look what already has happened with University of Florida telling the professors that they cannot actually testify with their expertise, right? This is the actual thing that the university is supposed to be about, debating ideas, theories, right, having real informed conversation.

And having your faculty experts be able to lend that in the service of expanding democracy is the kind of thing you would imagine a state would want to support. But that`s not actually what is in the Republican playbook. And that`s certainly not what DeSantis wants to see.

So, absolutely, this is going to have upstream effects. This is also the same man who said he wanted to have a civilian force that he would be in charge of, right, as a sort of second army, if you will.

So this is absolutely dangerous. I mean, we can sort of make light of it and we can crack jokes about it. But this is absolutely central. And, honestly, the people of Florida need to be paying attention to this as well, because while it may score you some political points, the brain drain that happens as a result of this kind of incursion on academic freedom and intellectualism is horrible.

And I will also add, are we going to extend qualified immunity to teachers in the same way as we do police officers? Because I guarantee you, nobody has died because of something that was taught in their public school classroom. And so I think we have to be very serious here about what this is going to mean, because it looks like DeSantis is putting Florida straight to the bottom on every measure of health and wellness, because schools are what bring industry.

Schools are what bring people to education and keep them in the state, not just at the upper echelons, right, in terms of college and law schools and graduate schools, but also elementary schools. This is going to hurt industry. So this is actually bad for business. Right?

JOHNSON: Right.

CARTER: It may be good short-term for gains, but this is going to be bad for business.

And it looks like DeSantis wants to run this state right into the ground. And he may have a lot of help going there.

JOHNSON: You have a lot more kids who have died in the state of Florida from mass shootings and violence and COVID than you had from somebody reading The 1619 Project as part of their curriculum.

CARTER: Absolutely.

JOHNSON: Dr. Niambi Carter and Juanita Tolliver, thank you guys so much for bringing some common sense to us this evening.

CARTER: Thank you.

JOHNSON: Ahead: a murder suspect accused of killing and burying a black man under a septic tank. How the heck is he free on bond?

That outrage is next on THE BEAT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:57:41]

JOHNSON: Turning to a disturbing story in Oklahoma, where Brent Mack was found buried under a septic tank after being brutally shot and killed.

The victim`s boss, a former city councilman, is accused of the gruesome murder. But he was granted a $500,000 bond by Judge Susan Worthington. Daniel Triplett is charged with first-degree murder and somehow he was released from jail last week. He is free before trial.

And listen to how bad this is. He was caught on tape, the victim seen disappearing from view as he enters a hole dug by Triplett for a septic tank. Triplett is seen leaving the scene alone. Mack`s body was later found at the site.

The victim`s family is outraged, starting a petition to get Judge Susan Worthington disbarred.

Here`s what the family had -- family and the DA had to say about the judge`s decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TROY FRANKLIN-SMITH, BROTHER OF BRENT MACK: When I heard her say, "I`m going to grant bond in the amount of $500,000," she understands that there is video evidence. And she put that up against him being an outstanding citizen in the community.

LAURA THOMAS, LOGAN COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: In my 35-plus years as a prosecutor, bond is not granted in murder one cases. There was no evidence presented that this defendant could be convicted of something other than murder one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: This case speaks to a broader, deep-rooted pattern of racial disparity in America`s cash bail system, where white criminals charge was serious offenses like murder one can get bond.

Black and Hispanic people are much more likely to be held on bail than whites; 75 percent of blacks and Hispanic pretrial detainees are charged with drug or property crimes, not murder. Young black men are twice as likely as whites to be detained.

Bond is not granted for murder cases. The judge saying he was an outstanding citizen in the community as an explanation? We can see the injustice, and the system must be fixed.

But one thing we do have to remember is that, in the midst of this kind of violence against black people in this country, just because Derek Chauvin, just because there are occasional cases of people being held accountable does not mean that our system as a whole does not need massive change and restructuring.

That does it for me tonight.

"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up next.