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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 12/20/21

Guests: Mara Gay, David Cay Johnston, Mondaire Jones, Xochitl Hinojosa


Conservative Democrat Joe Manchin puts President Biden`s agenda in jeopardy. Congressman Mondaire Jones speaks out. The January 6 Committee wants to speak to a Republican lawmaker. Donald Trump files a lawsuit against the New York attorney general. The Omicron variant becomes dominant in the United States.


JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT, with Alicia Menendez in for Ari Melber, starts right now.

I will see you tomorrow.

ALICIA MENENDEZ, MSNBC HOST: I cannot wait for that.

Thank you, John.

And welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Alicia Menendez, in for Ari Melber.

A lot to get to tonight.

We start with anger from moderate Democrats, progressives and the White House after conservative Democrat Joe Manchin put President Biden`s agenda in jeopardy. This was a moment many on the left long feared and some warned of. The evenly divided Senate means any single Senate Democrat can torpedo this bill.

And Manchin dropping a bomb Sunday, telling FOX News that he is against the bill. Today, top Democrats are trying to salvage some sort of deal. And the White House is softening its tone, after releasing a blistering statement, accusing Manchin of betraying the president and Congress.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki getting press today.


QUESTION: Senator Manchin`s version of events sort of differ from the White House`s version of events.

QUESTION: Do you regard his $1.8 trillion proposal as a nonstarter, given that it excludes the child tax credit?

QUESTION: Does the president think Senator Manchin has been negotiating in good faith?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He has said that from the beginning. He continues to consider him a friend.


MENENDEZ: New reporting late today that Biden and Manchin spoke last night, Biden seeking to restart talks on the plan for climate, pre-K, paid family leave, child tax credits and more.

Progressives are not holding back.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I think what Senator Manchin did yesterday represents such an egregious breach of the trust of the president.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Well, I think he`s going to have a lot of explaining to do to the people of West Virginia to tell them why he doesn`t have the guts to take on the drug companies to lower the cost of prescription drugs, why he is not prepared to expand home health care.

West Virginia is one of the poorest states in this country.

REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): We all know that Senator Manchin couldn`t be trusted. The excuses that he just made, I think, are a complete bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED).


MENENDEZ: In a new interview, Manchin today claiming cryptically that the White House knows the real reason he`s a no.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I just got to the wit`s end. And they know the real reason what happened. They won`t tell you.

And I`m not going to because I...


HOPPY KERCHEVAL, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.


KERCHEVAL: Wait. Wait. You said you there is -- they know the real reason, they`re not going to tell us, you`re not going to tell us.

What do you mean? What`s the real -- so there`s...

MANCHIN: Well, the bottom line is, there was -- they`re, basically -- and his staff. It`s staff-driven.

I understand staff. It`s not the president. It`s the staff. And they drove some things and they put some things out that were absolutely inexcusable.

And they know what it is. And that`s it.


MENENDEZ: Today, "The Hill" reporting that Manchin was upset with what he perceived as -- quote -- "incivility from the White House," despite Biden and White House officials holding numerous private meetings with him.

There`s also new reporting Manchin had some private concerns he might prefer to keep private. Manchin reportedly thought parents would waste the monthly child tax credit payments on drugs. He reportedly worried West Virginians were abusing paid leave, using it to go hunting during deer season.

Manchin also takes home $500,000 a year from coal investments, which could have been hit by the legislation. Now, West Virginia is ruby-red, voted for Trump by 40 points. But 68 percent of West Virginians support Biden`s Build Back Better plan. And here`s what some of them said today.


SALLY ROBERTS, WEST VIRGINIA RESIDENT: It`s inconceivable that at Christmastime especially that he would leave 350,000 children in West Virginia and their families without the certainty that they will have enough money to pay the Christmas bills.

WES COGAR, WEST VIRGINIA RESIDENT: I can barely put gas in my car now as it is, so, I mean, anything, any other drastic steps that would alter West Virginia at all right now is just -- it`s kind of scary.


MENENDEZ: Senator Schumer today vowing to still bring the bill to the floor for a vote in January. Other Democrats are eying a slimmed-down package that Manchin might support, as the party hopes the gut punch to Biden`s agenda is not its death knell.

Joining me now, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for "The Washington Post" Eugene Robinson, Democratic strategist and former DNC Communications Director Xochitl Hinojosa.

It is good to see you both.

Eugene, I want to start with you.

What does Manchin`s bait and switch here mean both for the Biden presidency and for the country?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, this is not the first time Senator Manchin has moved the goalposts


And so I wrote a new column on this and said, his back must be sore from moving the goalposts so much. I mean, one of the things he`s complained about is that it`s not fully paid for over a full 10 years. And it would be if he hadn`t put the kibosh on the modest tax increases for corporations and the wealthy that President Biden and the vast majority of Democrats in Congress wanted in the first place, but he didn`t want.

And so they`re not in there. So there`s not the money to pay for it all over 10 years. But, that aside, and also leaving aside the fact that it does strain credulity a bit to say they`re not being nice enough to me at this point, after all the private meetings he`s had with the president, he`s been -- lord knows they paid a lot of attention to Joe Manchin.

All that said, where is Build Back Better now? And it`s not entirely clear. The White House hopes they will be able to start talking again. It`s not first time Manchin his sounded like a no. It`s the first time he came out and said, I`m definitely a no. So we will see if that is any more permanent than his kind of no`s that we have been getting all along.

MENENDEZ: Not only did he say he was a no. He chose FOX News as his venue to announce that he was a no, which also feels as though there`s a lot of subtext there, perhaps not subtext, just text.


MENENDEZ: Xochitl, I want to play the sound for you...

ROBINSON: Just text.

MENENDEZ: ... yes -- from Speaker Pelosi earlier today, get your thoughts on the other side. Take a listen.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This will happen. It must happen. And we will do it as soon as we can. I have confidence that Senator Manchin cares about our country, and that, at some point very soon, we can take up the legislation. I`m not deterred at all.


MENENDEZ: Xochitl, do you share her optimism that this bill isn`t dead?

XOCHITL HINOJOSA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, never bet against Nancy Pelosi. That is one thing I have learned in the few years that she has been speaker of the House. This is the second time she`s been speaker.

But I want to also mention, to your point about Joe Manchin and the child tax credit, I think that what you`re going to hear from groups and members of Congress is how this benefits West Virginians.

And specifically, in West Virginia, 90 percent, over 90 percent of children would benefit from a permanent child tax credit. In November alone, about 300,000 families would qualify for that. So when you`re talking about whether this does anything for his constituents and why he`s against it, I ask him to speak directly to his family members.

And I think that, in this whole argument, you`re not hearing that this is about Joe Biden or Democrats or Joe Manchin. This is about the American people that are going to suffer because of one man`s decision-making.

So, yes, Democrats will pass this.

MENENDEZ: It was so interesting to hear from those people in West Virginia on that exact point.

Eugene, Senator Manchin, has publicly said he`s a no on the bill, claiming he doesn`t want to add to the nation`s debt, also citing concerns over inflation. Yet, Goldman Sachs lowered its 2022 growth forecasts after Manchin said no to Build Back Better. This isn`t about the economy, Eugene.

You know that. I know that. So what is his thinking?


I don`t know. I mean, it doesn`t seem to be terribly clear thinking to me. There is -- for example, there`s a lot of stuff in the Build Back Better package that Manchin not only once, but needs.

For example -- just one small example, there is an excise tax that goes to pay benefits to coal miners who are disabled because they have black lung disease. That -- the current tax rate expires on December 31. If action is not taken, the amount of money available for that program is going to be cut in half.

Now, how can you take that back to West Virginia, a program for coal minors with black lung, and say that, because I -- they weren`t nice enough to me or whatever the latest reason is...

MENENDEZ: They named-checked me. Eugene, they named-checked me. Don`t you understand how offensive that is?

ROBINSON: Yes. Yes. Well, guess what?

You have been named-checked. I have been named-checked. We have all been named-checked at various times. And that`s kind of part of being a U.S. senator.

But my point is, there is stuff in there that he`s got to have. So how does he sort of climb far enough down from a ledge he`s now on so that he can get stuff that he really needs for his constituents?


I mean, Xochitl, that is what Manchin is up against. Here`s as I understand, and you will tell me if I`m wrong, the challenge for Democrats, which is they still need his vote if this does go piecemeal. They still need his vote for voting rights, for filibuster reform. They would need his vote if there were to be a Supreme Court vacancy and then a nominee.


What position does all of this put other Democrats in?

HINOJOSA: Well, Democrats are frustrated, and rightfully so, because they want to deliver for the American people.

They promised it and they ran on it. And they plan on running again on it again in 2022. And so, yes, they will have to come back to the table. I think that you were -- you heard a very aggressive White House, but, at the same time, they understand, listen, he put a proposal forward. We don`t have to go back to square one.

But, yes, there are still a lot of things that we want to deliver for the American people that are nonstarters for us. And so it`s going to take longer than we expected. I don`t necessarily know it`s going to be done at the end of January here. But the hope is that he comes back to the table, we figure out what he is willing to pass, pass as much as possible to help the American people, and then figure out what else we can do to provide relief for families in other ways.

MENENDEZ: All right, Eugene Robinson, Xochitl Hinojosa, as always, thank you both so much.

I want to turn now to Democratic Congress Mondaire Jones of New York.

Congressman, thank you for being with us.

First off, does Manchin`s no on Build Back Better surprise you?

REP. MONDAIRE JONES (D-NY): It doesn`t surprise me, because, as you will call, the progressive strategy for the past several months has been to link both bills together, both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the larger Build Back Better Act.

We had indication after indication that the senator from West Virginia is not someone who can be trusted to follow through on his word. And so, in that respect, this is not surprising. But in another respect, it is.

And here`s what I mean, by that. This is someone who has signed off on the vast majority of what is in the House version of the Build Back Better Act. This is an individual who has been showered with attention from the president of the United States himself, who reports that Senator Manchin as recently as a few days ago made a counterproposal, to the tune of approximately $1.8 trillion, again, all of it fully, if not more than paid for in revenue, that would get him to yes.

And so to give the White House about 30 minutes` notice before going on FOX News to announce that Build Back Better is dead, despite the broad popularity of this legislation, including amongst 68 percent of likely voters in West Virginia, that was surprising.

MENENDEZ: All right, so there`s the Manchin piece of this, and then there is, as you said, the policy piece of this. So I want you to give us a reality check here. Is this legislation dead?

Is there an appetite to do this piece by piece? And if you do, what do you think Democrats actually have the votes for?

JONES: There is an enormous appetite to pass this life-changing legislation that is both popular and urgently needed from West Virginia all the way across the country.

And we are talking about making child care high-quality and affordable for every family in America, expanding Medicare to include hearing aids, to saving the planet from imminent climate catastrophe, especially after we just went through Hurricane Ida.

So this is something that is necessary. It`s something that also has been cutting child poverty in half across the country. And so I believe that we will get to yes. We will get Senator Manchin to yes, that is. It`s unfortunate that we haven`t done this yet. But I`m hopeful that, with the Senate majority leader saying that, in early January, the Senate will return to vote on not just Build Back Better, but on the democracy-saving legislation known as the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, that will be in a much better position in just a few weeks, hopefully.

MENENDEZ: What do you see as the consequences if that latter piece doesn`t move?

JONES: Our democracy faces its greatest test since Jim Crow.

We see that in the voter suppression that has been enacted by Republicans in Georgia, Florida, Texas, Arizona, and elsewhere. I would submit to you that nothing is as important as saving our ailing democracy. We can ill afford as Americans to have the people who incited the violent insurrection at the Capitol that nearly took my life and the lives of hundreds of others of members of Congress to take back control the federal government.

These are people who don`t believe in governance. They believe in the raw exercise of power through voters` disenfranchisement and lies, whether it`s about vaccines or masks or about who won the presidential election next year.

So this is devastatingly severe as a situation in which we find ourselves. But, in this moment, I believe that Senators Manchin and Sinema, with the president of the United States using the full resources available to him, including his bully pulpit, can be convinced to do the right thing, and at least make an exception to the filibuster for purposes of voting rights.


MENENDEZ: We will be watching.

Congressman Mondaire Jones, thank so much.

Coming up, breaking news from the January 6 Committee, now demanding answers from a Republican lawmaker for the first time. We`re going to talk to Neal Katyal.

Plus, Donald Trump`s desperate new lawsuit to stop the probe into his finances and avoid going under oath. Also, Trump admits he got boosted, as Omicron becomes the dominant strain in the U.S. We`re going to cover the politics and the science.

That is ahead. Stay with us.


MENENDEZ: The MAGA riot committee is charging forward, moments ago requesting information from Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry, making him the first lawmaker to receive this type of request, citing his role in the events of January 6 and efforts to install Trump ally Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general.

Also today, some key witnesses are singing behind closed doors, the founder of the Stop the Steal movement telling investigators he had contacts with GOP lawmakers before January 6, including -- quote -- "a few phone conversations" with Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar and a text exchange with Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks.

Here`s Brooks wearing body armor at the pro Trump rally moments before the Capitol riot GOP.

Committee member Adam Kinzinger is also going there, bluntly saying they are looking into possible crimes and Trump himself is being investigated.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Do you believe that Donald Trump committed a crime?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): By the end of our investigation and by the time our report is out, have a pretty good idea. We will be able to have out on the public record anything Justice Department needs maybe in pursuit of that.

Nobody, Jake, is above the law.


MENENDEZ: Nobody is above the law.

Last week, Republican Liz Cheney also saying they`re looking at possible crimes. Trump seems to be getting defensive, downplaying the insurrection at a Texas event last night, saying: "What happened on January 6 was a protest. This wasn`t an insurrection."

And Trump ally Steve Bannon, who is currently facing criminal and possible jail time for stonewalling the probe, continues to spew election lies, this time talking directly to us here at MSNBC.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: So, all the MSNBC producers all day long should understand something. We`re going to get it decertified in Arizona, in Georgia, in Pennsylvania, in -- wait for it -- Wisconsin.

We`re going to get these electors decertified. Guess what? We`re going to take over the election apparatus.


MENENDEZ: Here`s a reality check. They are not getting these elections decertified. And the plan to take over the election apparatus is exactly what their plan is, and why the fact-finding and fight for democracy is ratcheting up.

Joining me now, former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal.

Neal, your reaction to this newest request, Congressman Perry?


So, up until now, the investigation by Congress, this 1/6 Committee, has focused outside the legislative branch. They have looked at Trumpistas, allies of Trump, people at the White House even and the like.

But they have never done, up until this point, to our knowledge, looked inside at themselves, at the legislative branch. Now they are. That`s what this letter today from the chairman of the 1/6 Committee says.

And it comes on the heels of evidence that we were -- or revelations that people have been going to Congress and testifying, including, as you said, the Stop the Steal movement, one of the founders, Ali Alexander, saying, yes I was in touch with members of Congress like Paul Gosar. And I worked with them on the January 6 set of events.

So, all in all, together, this is a fairly substantial step in Congress looking now at themselves, in addition to looking at Donald Trump and those that surrounded him.

MENENDEZ: And when you have Kinzinger saying, Cheney saying they`re looking at crimes, what crimes are possible?

KATYAL: Yes, so I think the main crime here is the obstruction of an official proceeding.

I think it doesn`t take a rocket scientist to learn that Donald Trump today is, I think, to use the technical legal term, freaking out. And he`s freaking out because of the revelations that you just mentioned a moment ago, but also because there was a decision 10 days ago by the federal court in Washington, D.C., by a Trump appointee, Judge Friedrich.

And what Judge Friedrich said is that one of the insurrectionists was guilty of violating the statute obstruction of an official proceeding. The official proceeding was the count of votes on January 6, and she said what this person intended to do was to try and stop it.

And she said, you don`t need to show that this person intended violence or anything like that. You just need to show that the person acted with a corrupt intent to stop, effectively, the counting of votes.

Now, that is a how-to manual for a criminal prosecutor to use to go after Donald Trump. And that`s what he`s worried about. And that`s why you see all of these moves being made by Trump and his allies today.

MENENDEZ: I want to talk about that freak-out.

Former impeachment counsel and NBC analyst Dan Goldman noted of Trump and this freak-out, as the ex-president, he has a lot less authority than he did as president, but his playbook doesn`t work if he`s not president.

What does it say? How perfect is it that the former president`s frustration, his freak-out, is in large part about not being able to abuse the power he once had because he no longer has it?

KATYAL: Exactly.

Our entire constitutional system is set up to basically trust presidents and give them immense powers, even to delay litigation or court cases against themselves, because we don`t want random people to tie up the president and stop the nation`s business from being done. So that`s why our system was written the way it is.

It wasn`t written for someone like Donald Trump, who abuses every lever in the system to delay, obstruct and prevent things. And that`s one thing when you`re president. You got those -- that suite of tools available. He doesn`t have them anymore. So he`s now filing all these cockamamie lawsuits and things like that, pretending that he is the once-invincible Donald Trump. And he`s nothing like that.

And that`s why you see the January 6 Committee moving forward with the speed it is why the courts are throwing out his claims. I mean, Donald Trump claimed executive privilege to the January 6 Committee, and our nation`s second highest court in nine days -- it took them nine days -- that`s it.

This is a really deliberative. It took them nine days to write a 68-page opinion. That was a body slam from start to finish, and saying, Trump, you got no argument here whatsoever.


MENENDEZ: Well, and there`s also been all this reporting about how he`s freaked out about the fact that all of his friends are now pleading the Fifth because he thinks it makes them look weak.

So that, in and of itself, is telling.

I want you to take a listen to this, committee member Adam Kinzinger on GOP lawmakers. Take a listen.


JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Do you think that some of your Republican colleagues bear direct responsibility for that riot?

KINZINGER: It`s possible.

We`re going to pursue doggedly everything to the ends of the earth. And that includes -- and we don`t like necessarily having to go here, but that includes members of Congress.


MENENDEZ: Neal, what we saw today, do you think that`s just the starting point?

KATYAL: It`s just the starting point.

And I know some people may be frustrated when they hear Adam Kinzinger or others say, we`re looking into it, we`re trying to do a thorough investigation, and not give a clear answer to that. But that`s what we want an investigator to do. We want them to actually behind closed doors get all the facts, sift them out, and then reach a considered judgment, not on national TV, but through an official proceeding and the like.

So everything I think has been done to the book at this point by the January 6 Committee. I think they deserve a lot of credit for moving and getting all this information. My only quibble is, it`s taken a long time. We`re almost at a year since the January 6 events. And I think this thing has to get moving really, really fast.

And the American people deserve answers a year into this.

MENENDEZ: I share your sense of urgency.

Neal Katyal, I want you to stay with me, because coming up in just 60 seconds: President Biden preps a major address on COVID. What you need to know about the surge with a medical expert.

And Trump`s rattled. The New York A.G. is following the money.

Back just in 60 seconds.


MENENDEZ: We`re back with that breaking news from New York`s probe into Donald Trump`s finances, today, the former Florida blogger suing New York Attorney General Letitia James over her inquiry into his business practices in the suit.

Filed in federal court in Albany, Trump argues: "Her mission is guided solely by political animus and the desire to harass, intimidate and retaliate against a private citizen she views as a political opponent."

At least Trump`s lawsuits admit he isn`t president. But James fired back, saying: "The Trump Organization has continually sought to delay our investigation into its business dealings. To be clear, neither Mr. Trump nor the Trump Organization get to dictate if and where they will answer for their actions. Our investigation will continue undeterred, because no one is above the law, not even someone with the name Trump."

Trump is accused of inflating the value of his assets in order to secure more favorable loans. And James has made it clear that being rich and once powerful will not deter her investigations.


LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: In this state, we have a set of laws that every individual and entity must be held accountable to, regardless of who you are, regardless of your power, size, influence, wealth, station in life, one set of laws.

And, today, we send a strong and loud message that no one is above the law.


MENENDEZ: Joining me now, David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and lecturer at Syracuse University Law School and author of "The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America." Back with us is Neal Katyal.

David, is Trump ultimately trying to get this before the Supreme Court? Is that what`s going on here?


He`s trying generally to delay, delay, delay, which is what Roy Cohn taught him to do. Unfortunately, this lawsuit doesn`t really raise the best argument he has against Letitia James, which is that she`s conducting a civil investigation and cooperating with the Manhattan district attorney`s criminal investigation.


And the lawyer who drafted this just glancingly mentions this, instead of focusing on bootstrapping civil into criminal interesting.

MENENDEZ: Interesting.

Neal, what`s the likelihood of success in this suit, you think?

KATYAL: If there were a negative percentage, I would offer that, but it would be zero percent if there`s not a negative percentage.

I mean, there is a doctrine in our law. And it`s one of the most foundational doctrines. It`s called Younger vs. Harris, is the Supreme Court case. And it says, basically, you can`t stop -- you can`t just file a lawsuit because you`re worried that an investigation might come out against you or even deprive someone of their rights.

The remedy, the Supreme Court says, is to raise that in the context in the investigation, not to run into another federal court and try and stop it. And so Trump is complaining here, like every other target of an investigation, civil or criminal, and our legal system undoubtedly says you can`t do that.

And so at this point, I got to wonder about Donald Trump`s psychology. I mean, this is a guy who supposedly hates losing, but he keeps coming back to the table after every failed bluff totally convinced he`s going to win the next one.

It`s just nuts to me. I`m sure, however, his legal team is crying all the way to the bank because they charge him legal fees for all of these silly filings that they`re filing on his behalf

MENENDEZ: Both his legal team and whoever it is that writes his fund- raising e-mails.

David, there`s also the issue of Trump`s deposition next month and Letitia James` civil investigation. James has requested to take his testimony on January 7. That is soon. Is it possible that this will be delayed or canceled due to this suit from Trump?

JOHNSTON: Well, I think Letitia James office will have to fight to get Donald to come and testify, particularly because, at some point, you`re going to see the lawyer raise the bootstrapping argument.

And, by the way, Neal hit on a very important point here, and that is, Donald is reduced now to lawyers who are not well-known, but who certainly know how to channel in their pleadings his emotional fury at things going against him. The lawsuit itself just reeks of this emotional, rather than legal, arguments.

And that`s how Donald works, and it`s not going to work with any judge.

MENENDEZ: I was going to say, it`s how he works. It is not how the law works.

Neal, I want you to take a listen to what Michael Cohen testified in 2019 about this exact investigation. Take a listen.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: It was my experience Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it`s served his purposes and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.


MENENDEZ: Neal, we all remember that moment.

Could Cohen be brought in to testify against Trump again?

KATYAL: A hundred percent.

And let me just say how extraordinary it is to have Donald Trump`s former lawyer testifying in Congress under oath and saying Trump inflated his assets and basically committed federal and state crimes. That`s a remarkable, remarkable thing.

And what this investigation is in New York is to try and figure out, is Michael Cohen telling the truth and other folks? Are they or not? That`s going to play out. Trump has filed this lawsuit today. I don`t think this thing goes anywhere.

I think, if James wanted to, she can conduct that deposition on the 7th. She will get permission from the courts to do so and expedite their consideration of this bogus Trump lawsuit today. And I think everything can move forward.

MENENDEZ: David, you have touched on this earlier, but I want to put a finer point on it.

James` investigation is a civil case. Why is from fighting so hard? And then could it turn criminal?

JOHNSTON: Well, there is the criminal investigation she`s cooperating with by the Manhattan district attorney, as well as other investigations that may well turn criminal.

But Donald needs to stop this, because it`s going to go right to the heart of his frauds, where he overstated by huge amounts the value of properties. Lots of people object to the property value put on their house, I did over the house I`m sitting in right now over $30,000. But you can`t take a property worth $1.3 million for property taxes, in your view, and then say under oath in another form it`s worth $50 million.

That`s fraud on its face.

MENENDEZ: Neal, one of the big things hanging over this whole case is outgoing New York district attorney Cyrus Vance. Mr. Vance leaves office at the end of the year and has not yet signaled whether his investigation will be handed over to his successor.

How will this A.G.`s affect the agency`s investigation, you think?

KATYAL: I don`t think it affects it at all.

I suspect that investigation will continue. And law enforcement officials, they`re pros. They take it where the evidence leads them. And I know the Manhattan DA`s office will do exactly that.

So I don`t think the shift in one district attorney to another matters. I don`t think this lawsuit today matters in any way, shape or form. I think things continue to go on, and the investigation continues, and the possibility of criminal indictments is now looming over Donald Trump.

MENENDEZ: All right, David Cay Johnston, Neal Katyal, thank you both so much.

Ahead, late-breaking news on COVID, the variant and boosters.

Plus, Trump tells supporters he actually got the booster, some of those supporters not happy. We have the tape.


And later, closing arguments in the trial of the Minnesota police officer charged with killing a black man at a traffic stop.


MENENDEZ: Breaking news on COVID.

As cases explode, new numbers show Omicron has now become the dominant strain in the U.S., representing over 70 percent of new infections last week. You see the long lines for tests. New York City just set records for cases for three straight days, hospitalizations up 41 percent nationwide.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker testing positive with COVID, despite being boosted. Both report mild cases. President Biden now planning a speech tomorrow where he will give a -- quote -- "stark warning about a brutal winter for the unvaccinated."

What about the vaccinated who haven`t been boosted? What about folks who got boosted, but are immunocompromised? What if you`re going to visit other people who are immunocompromised? How deadly is Omicron? Why is there a shortage of tests still? And will Biden`s warning persuade the millions of Americans who still won`t get vaccinated, many of whom are resistant because of the politics on the right, politics that were on full display this weekend as Donald Trump and Bill O`Reilly revealed they have both gotten their booster shots and promptly got booed by their own supporters?


BILL O`REILLY, FORMER HOST, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR": Both the president and I are vaxxed.

And did you get the booster?


O`REILLY: I got it too.



O`REILLY: OK, so...

TRUMP: Don`t. Don`t. Don`t. Don`t. Don`t. No, no, no. That`s a very tiny group over there.


MENENDEZ: Joining me now, Dr. Uche Blackstock, founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity and an MSNBC medical contributor, and Mara Gay with the "New York Times" editorial board.

It is good to see you both.

Dr. Blackstock, Omicron now the dominant us strain. As I have turned to you and asked you many times over the course over the last year-and-a-half, what does that mean, and what do we need to know?

DR. UCHE BLACKSTOCK, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, Alicia, thank you so much for having me on.

And the question, is this a surprise? We saw what what`s happening in South Africa with the exponential increase in cases. We saw the U.K. and across Europe, and now here, this represents 73 percent of all cases, and we are still ill-prepared.

We see those long testing lines in New York City that are unable to accommodate all the people who have been exposed or are symptomatic. And so we`re in a bad situation right now. I`m very concerned about people, as you mentioned, who are unvaccinated, those who are vaccinated and vulnerable, those who are immunocompromised and elderly, still boosted, but there`s a lot we don`t know about the severity of disease that this variant causes.

MENENDEZ: Yes, I mean, I was very struck by some of the images you send since you do, in fact, live in New York of people lining up at these testing sites, bringing their own folding chairs, seniors, kids wrapped in blankets because it is not a hospitable environment for them to be trying and getting these tests.

Mara, I do you need to get your reaction to Donald Trump being booed, I mean, both the fact that he and Bill O`Reilly are on the stage, wanting to claim the fact that they got boosted. We have talked a lot about what it will take to get those who have been resistant to getting the vaccine to get it, whether or not those messengers could, in fact, be good messengers.

I was struck by the fact, Mara, that he says, oh, it`s not everybody booing. It`s just a small corner over there, as though he`s beginning to understand how damaging this is for his own legacy.

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, of course, they created this monster.


GAY: But, at this point, we need all hands on deck. So we need Trump supporters and FOX News viewers to get vaccinated.

So I`m willing to take, personally, any kind of help from anywhere that encourages people to get vaccinated and to do the right thing and take this virus seriously to protect themselves and others. And I think it was really good to see Donald Trump publicly say that he got the booster.

So credit where credit is due. I wish he was out there saying that every day, but, if he gets booed, we know he won`t do that. So, too little, too late? Sure. But I really think that we should encourage this, actually.

And I think the reality is, the people who are refusing to get vaccinated are not going to be bullied into doing it. They may be mandated into doing it, but they`re not going to be convinced through bullying, I think, at this point. So I don`t really -- I`m not an expert on how to convince them. I`m quite frustrated.

I certainly support mandates, as we have as an editorial board here in New York. But I think we really have to just give credit where credit is due today.

MENENDEZ: I share your frustration and I also share your sense that I will take help from wherever we can get it.

Dr. Blackstock, I believe you are with us on that.

I do want to ask you a medical question before we pivot to this bigger question of what we want to hear from President Biden tomorrow.

Moderna says its booster gives significant protection against Omicron. Can you tell us more about what we know?


So just the context for this, this is like a press release from Moderna. Essentially, what we know is from lab data showing that a booster with their 50-microgram dose, which is the dose that people typically get with the Moderna booster, it increases antibodies by about 37 times. A double booster, so giving that twice, increases antibodies by about 80 times.

And so the question is whether or not -- which dose is sufficient, one, but also, two, we start with a larger dose that people had adverse effects with that. The other question is, how does this translate into clinical outcomes, severe disease, hospitalizations, and deaths?

We don`t know whether or not this booster has any impact on that yet. All we know is the lab data showing the increase in antibodies. We know that the immune system is incredibly complicated. There are also cells, B and T cells that are also involved. It`s a very sophisticated system. And so we know they also have memory cells. And that may also influence people`s long-term outcome and immune response.

So there`s a lot we still don`t know. This is incredibly promising, but we need real-life data as well.

MENENDEZ: Dr. Blackstock, given that there is so much we don`t know, I`m going to ask you a question I know people are texting you and tweeting at you all the time, which is, in advance of the holidays, what are you advising people about how they should proceed with family gatherings?

BLACKSTOCK: So, I`m advising friends and family just to be incredibly cautious.

We are seeing how quickly this particular variant is spreading. It`s just incredibly contagious. Just standing next to someone probably just for a few minutes in a closed indoor space, you would probably get infected.


So, I`m telling people, especially if you`re going to be around people who are vaccinated, boosted, and even vulnerable, so elderly, immunocompromised, to be very, very careful, to make sure you`re thinking about other mitigation strategies, opening windows and doors, that you are masking when appropriate, and that you`re utilizing rapid tests.

But, again, we know there`s a shortage of that. So people are trying to protect themselves, but I would say go with your gut. If you don`t feel comfortable, don`t do it. We have to protect the most vulnerable people.

MENENDEZ: So, Mara, I want to loop back to the politics of this thing, because Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was asked about his vaccination status this weekend. Take a listen.


MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS: Have you gotten the booster?

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): So, I have done whatever I did, the normal shot. And that, at the end of the day, is people`s individual decisions about what they want to do.


MENENDEZ: Mara, why is what should be a simple question so hard for him to answer?

GAY: Well, that`s not what leadership looks like, or should look like.

I mean, there`s very little about it I can say, other than we have a right as Americans in a democracy to expect more from our public servants. And I find that really demoralizing and also a missed opportunity. so, that`s about as diplomatic as I can be about that.

MENENDEZ: Yes, to your point about all hands on deck.

And I think, Dr. Blackstock, it also articulates the fact that there is an acknowledgement that there is still a part of their base that is seeing this as a political litmus test, right, that it`s not public health.


MENENDEZ: They have not sort of crossed the Rubicon into understanding this to be about community benefit, about caring for those who you live in proximity to.

Given that, and given what -- Mara`s great point about the fact that there are a lot of people who are not going to be bullied into getting a vaccine, what then tomorrow do you want to hear from the president?


And so I know we have talked about this before. I`m concerned. I just don`t want a divisive message, the vaccinated vs. the unvaccinated. We know that is not helpful. We need a collective response. We need messaging that explains to people why it`s important to get -- not only get vaccinated, but to follow these other mitigation measures to protect people, and that we are never going to return to "normal" -- quote, unquote -- until we get the transmission levels down.

And that`s going to require sacrifice, unfortunately, on all of our parts. It`s going to require collective action all of our parts. I would really love to see a message that brings us all together, as opposed to dividing us, because, as we have seen, the messaging thus far has been -- not from the administration, but for the previous administration, has been incredibly divisive.

It`s undermined the public health message and the importance of that message. So we need something to counter that. We need something really to bring us together, because we`re essentially right now, with Omicron, in a crisis within a crisis.

MENENDEZ: Mara, what do you want to hear from the president?

GAY: You know, I think we have lost the narrative a little bit here.

I think it`s actually important to have some optimism and some actionable goals for the American people. I think a much healthier message, to Dr. Blackstock`s point, would be, hey, we know it`s hard. We know we can`t live like this forever. But we need you to hang in there for a little while longer, while we understand what this variant is, get more people vaccinated and move to protect the most vulnerable Americans.

By the way, this is not a small group of, people with asthma, people with diabetes, people with obesity, people with long COVID, all kinds of issues, sickle cell trait. The list goes on. These people, even when vaccinated, may be at higher risk. This is tens of millions of Americans.

And the idea is that, until we can break the link between infection and severe illness, which we will be able to do eventually -- yes, we`re going to be living with COVID. But that`s -- living with it when you have Paxlovid and you have medication and treatment is very different than living with something that may kill tens of thousands of people.

So until we get to that point, we need to hang on a little while longer and protect the most vulnerable. And I think, unfortunately, there`s really not been an understanding of that. And, frankly, public officials need to be much clearer about what people need to do to make that happen.

MENENDEZ: Dr. Uche Blackstock, Mara Gay, thank you both so much.

Up next: The jury has the case, a former officer on trial for manslaughter.

The dramatic closing arguments -- that`s next.



MENENDEZ: The fate of a former Minnesota police officer charged in the killing of a black man is in the hands of the jury.

We are now in hour five of deliberations, Kim Potter facing multiple counts of manslaughter, killing 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, this year. The 26-year police veteran insists she meant to draw her Taser, not her gun.

In closing arguments today, the prosecution driving home the point it was reckless and criminal.


ERIN ELDRIDGE, MINNESOTA ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: And it`s not just a tragedy. It`s manslaughter. That she was an officer does not make it OK. That she was on duty does not make it OK. That she shot him with her service pistol does not make it OK.

Her actions were rash and reckless. And what she did was wrong. This was not putting the wrong date on a check. This was not entering the wrong password somewhere. This was a colossal screw-up, a blunder of epic proportions.



MENENDEZ: The defense, meanwhile, argued Potter didn`t do anything wrong and Wright`s death was his own fault.


EARL GRAY, ATTORNEY FOR KIM POTTER: That`s what caused this whole incident.

If he would have gone with the officers, been handcuffed, go to the squad car, go take a ride downtown, and it`s over.

Everything after that, the officers did, they did to try and restrain him, try and stop him from leaving.


MENENDEZ: The jury will have the decision after a pivotal moment in the trial when Potter took the stand in her own defense, breaking down on the stand as body camera video played the shooting.



Taser, Taser, Taser.


So, stopping it to 20201, you have the firearm in your right hand, correct?


ELDRIDGE: And you are pointing it directly at Mr. Wright, correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, Your Honor. Could we have a break?

My client is...


Ms. Potter, do you need to take a break? OK.

(OFF-MIKE) So, OK, members of the jury, we`re going to break for lunch.


MENENDEZ: Whenever the jury has a decision, we will have full coverage here on MSNBC.

We will be right back.


MENENDEZ: One final program note.

Tonight, Rachel Maddow will be interviewing two key progressives on Capitol Hill, Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, to get their takes on the Joe Manchin situation.

That does it for me.

"THE REIDOUT" with the one and only Jonathan Capehart is up next.