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

Guests: Steven Anderson, Anthony Fauci, Zeke Emanuel


President Biden tries to reassure an exhausted country as COVID cases explode. Dr. Anthony Fauci discusses the Omicron COVID surge. New pressure is put on the January 6 Committee to issue its first subpoena to a Republican member of Congress. Can Democrats revive Build Back Better?


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

Hi, Alicia.

ALICIA MENENDEZ, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, John. That cutie gives my kids a run for their money.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Alicia Menendez, in for Ari Melber.

We start with President Biden trying to reassure an exhausted country as COVID cases explode, overwhelmed hospitals send out flares for help, and Americans worry about Omicron.

Today, with Omicron now the dominant strain and spreading fast, Biden laying out the administration`s efforts heading into winter, and saying this is not like past surges, because now we have vaccines.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I want to start by acknowledging how tired, worried and frustrated I know you are. I know how you`re feeling.

For many of you, this will be the first or even the second Christmas where you look across the table and there will be empty kitchen chair there. This is not March of 2020; 200 million people are fully vaccinated. We`re prepared. We know more. We just have to stay focused.


MENENDEZ: About 200 million or fully vaccinated, which is great news.

But about 40 percent of Americans are not fully vaccinated. And in his speech, Biden laced into platforms and people he says are spreading dangerous misinformation.


BIDEN: Look, the unvaccinated are responsible for their own choices.

But those choices of ensure by dangerous misinformation on cable TV and social media. These companies and personalities are making money by peddling lies and allowing misinformation that can kill their own customers and their own supporters.

It`s wrong. It`s immoral. I call on the purveyors of these lies and misinformation to stop it. Stop it now.


MENENDEZ: Biden speaking as testing shortages lead to tremendous lines and long wait times, the president detailing a plan for 500 million free at- home tests, while establishing additional testing sites, deploying military medical personnel to hospitals.

Biden also saying he is not calling for lockdowns, Omicron now present in 37 states, plus Washington, D.C., the country recording its first Omicron death, an unvaccinated man in his 50s in Texas, had COVID in the past, a reminder that natural immunity is not a magic bullet.

The highly transmissible virus also upending parts of daily life, the NHL suspending play for a week. And late today, "The Post" reporting NHL players won`t participate in the Winter Olympics in Beijing, universities going remote, restaurant closures all over the country. It is a pivotal moment.

Later in the show, I`m going to talk to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

But we start with our expert panel, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, former Obama White House health policy adviser and vice provost of global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, and Katty Kay, longtime Washington observer and MSNBC contributor.

It is good to see you both.

Dr. Emanuel, I want to begin with you.

The president, of course, trying to reassure Americans today. Your response to what you heard?

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL ADVISER: Well, I think it`s moving in the right direction. There`s still a lot to be done; 500 million free tests is very important. But we probably need something between two and three billion a month, just given the number of people testing twice a week.

So that`s very important. He`s right about the boosters, but it`s hard to get appointments now because of demand. And the real people we need, as he pointed out, to get shots are the unvaccinated. And that`s critical.


EMANUEL: We should all remember what these shots do.

The shots lower our risk of getting serious infections, ending up in the hospital or, God forbid, dying. They are not, because of Omicron, going to really protect us from getting an infection. Omicron is just moving so fast. So, people may get an infection, lots of breakthrough cases. That`s not a failure of the vaccine.

The vaccine is still working to minimize the risks. So I think the president is moving in the right direction, but there`s still a lot to be done.

MENENDEZ: Right, and so important to underline that point about the vaccine.

Katty, Dr. Emanuel made this point that you had the president criticizing - - quote -- "purveyors of misinformation."


Is this the president`s central battle here?


I mean, conversations I have had with officials in the White House, they are super frustrated about what -- and the president himself has said it before, right? He`s accused Facebook, effectively, of spreading -- allowing the spread of misinformation, which is killing people on its platform. So we know that they`re very frustrated about it.

But it`s just not clear what they can do about it, and whether President Biden standing there and telling people once again you have to get vaccinated if you haven`t already been so, you have to get boosted if you haven`t already been, the people who are resistant are not necessarily going to listen to President Biden over this.

And the challenge for the administration is, who can they get to do that for them? Who can be the voice that actually could change minds, when we know that the number of people in the country who are swayable is very small now?

The -- a much bigger group of the people that are saying, I`m absolutely not going to get it. So there aren`t very many people left to persuade. And I`m not sure the president is the right person to do that.

MENENDEZ: And when we know that the purveyors of misinformation have no intention to stop.

I think, Dr. Emanuel, you want to jump in there. I also, in addition to that, want to ask you, we all know about the shortages of testing kits. I think we all now have text threads saying, oh, I think I found one here, I found one there.

Is the new plan enough to fix it?

EMANUEL: So, first of all, I would say I don`t think persuasion is going to get us there.

And, here, I may disagree with the president. We really do need mandates. There is no chance of getting to the 85 percent vaccination level that we need by persuasion. We have done that. We have been persuading. We have made it free. We have been educating people. We have gotten rid of the barriers. We now have to do what we can do.

And the main thing we need to do is to mandate it in every venue we possibly can. And I think it`s a good thing the appellate court allowed the mandate for employers to go forward.

Where -- I don`t think this is going to be adequate to meet the demand for testing. It is just not. We need to have a lot more tests. I really think the federal government should buy them all and distribute them at pharmacies, at grocery stores, rather than logging on to a Web site, because that is going to create a disparity.

People who have the time, who can navigate it are going to get it, and people who don`t have high-speed Internet, can`t navigate a Web site aren`t going to get it.

On the other hand, walking into a pharmacy, paying 50 cents a test, that`s a different issue. And I think that -- there`s a pharmacy within a few miles of everyone in the country.

MENENDEZ: To say nothing of the additional bureaucracy and the frustration that comes with that bureaucracy, having to log on, put in your information, when you want a test right now.

Katty, you had the president invoking his predecessor, Donald Trump, to talk about boosters. Take a listen.


BIDEN: I got my booster shot as soon as they were available. And just the other day, former President Trump announced he had gotten his booster shot. It may be one of the few things he and I agree on.


MENENDEZ: I, Katty, fully agree with Dr. Emanuel`s point that we might have sort of hit the limits of persuasion of that part of all of this.

If there is still room, can that persuade some to get vaccinated?

KAY: I mean, it doesn`t do any harm, right, to credit the former president and, as Joe Biden has done, not just with getting a booster shot, but also has credited the former administration with the work it did on developing vaccines early on in the pandemic.

It doesn`t hurt. It`s just -- I mean, the doctor has a -- Dr. Emanuel has a point, that we can`t persuade people anymore. Everything has been tried, cajoling them, shaming them, educating them, and we have kind of reached a limit. And vaccine -- I mean, federal vaccine mandates are really hard to do in this country.

We will have the Supreme Court weighing in on that. We will see whether it gets anywhere. You do have -- in Europe, you have got now I think it`s a handful of countries, five or six, who have said -- you have to be -- you have to be vaccinated. It is a international mandate, punishable by law if you are not vaccinated,

We know mandates work. That`s why private companies are doing them in the United States. It`s why private companies in the U.S. are going even further, some of them, than the White House`s recommendations, because they do work and they get people vaccinated.

I think it`s the only way we will ever get that rump of people who say they are adamantly opposed to getting vaccinated. I don`t see any other way that we would get them to be vaccinated at this point.

MENENDEZ: Dr. Emanuel, to add to this bouquet of challenges, how concerned are you about hospital capacity on top of everything else?

EMANUEL: Oh, it`s a big concern in many ways. One is just the physical beds. Do we have enough beds in some areas?

And the second is personnel. I mean, you need to have nurses and respiratory therapists and other doctors to care for people. If they`re out sick with Omicron, even if it`s five or 10 days, that undermines the ability to provide high-quality care.


And we know that, in addition to the Omicron or the COVID deaths, that we have had people unfortunately die because we can`t give the excellent care that Americans expect out of their health care system. So it`s a double- edged sword here. It might -- Omicron can compromise people`s health, but it can also compromise the ability of the health care system to provide optimal health care.

And that I think, is a big problem. You should also be aware that, when President Trump, former President Trump announced that he had gotten the booster, he was booed by that crowd. And that tells you something about the misinformation that they`re willing -- and the fact that, even if he says to get a vaccine...

MENENDEZ: He and Bill O`Reilly, even if both of them are on stage together telling people, we both got boosted, they`re still going to be people who boo.

I did find it interesting, and perhaps you did too, that the former president felt the need to distinguish that it was just a few people in the crowd, right, that he is now sort of obsessed with this notion of it not being on him.

EMANUEL: Yes, I agree with you.

MENENDEZ: I do want to ask you both, because it struck me -- and. Dr. Emanuel, I will start with you -- that the president was very adamant about no more lockdowns. What did you make of that?

EMANUEL: Well, I don`t think we can have a lockdown in this country.

And I have to say, I have become -- it`s unclear to me what a lockdown means. We know what a Chinese lockdown is. Everyone stays in their apartment, gets groceries delivered to them and doesn`t come out. That`s not America. We`re not going to have that.

I do think we have to be clear that we should have smaller gatherings. If you`re going inside, people should be tested. You should wear your mask any time you`re inside other places, and that I personally restrict my -- I don`t eat in a restaurant. And there`s a reason. I want those restaurants to survive.

I order out from them. But I do not think it`s a wise idea to go into a bar, to go into a restaurant. And I think we all have to wear -- get used to again wearing those masks for this period of time, until Omicron comes down. And that`s one way of avoiding a lockdown, actually.

It helps if we actually do these public health mitigation measures to avoid the lockdown.

MENENDEZ: All right, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, thank you so much.

Katty, you are staying with us.

Coming up, my interview with Dr. Fauci answering your questions about travel and friends and family during this new COVID surge.

Plus, new pressure on the January 6 Committee to issue its first subpoena to a Republican member of Congress.

And what Biden said today about Joe Manchin and the chance to find a new deal.

We have a big show tonight, so stay with us.



MENENDEZ: Criminal conduct by Trump, that is what the MAGA riot committee is investigating.

Investigators considering whether to send a criminal referral to the DOJ to investigate evidence of criminal conduct by Trump and others. This, of course, is an escalation, with a flurry of action happening and new evidence revealing a wider plan from Trump`s allies.

The committee seeking its first interview with a House lawmaker, GOP Congressman Scott Perry, who today denied that request, saying he won`t comply and citing the -- quote -- "failures of the radical left."

The committee saying they know of -- quote -- "multiple texts" and other communications with Trump`s former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, including evidence they communicated over the encrypted app Signal.

News today this committee is ramping up the public pressure, planning televised hearings for next year. As the probe eyes Trump and his inner circle., he is, not surprisingly, taking the worst possible legal position, trolling the committee and fanning the flames of his anti-democracy movement, on the one-year anniversary of the insurrection, Trump announcing what he is calling a press conference at Mar-a-Lago, spewing lies in a statement announcing the presser, saying that it will be about the -- quote -- "rigged election" and calling the fatal January 6 riot a -- quote -- "unarmed protest."

Joining me now, Melissa Murray, professor at the NYU School of Law. Katty Kay is back with me.

Katty, it`s likely not going to be a press conference, because that would require actually engaging with the press, not just repeating election lies. Yesterday, Neal Katyal referred to Trump as freaking out. Do you think that this is part of that freak-out?

KAY: I think the president just wants to get attention that particular day and maybe wants to put some point of view that he thinks will defend himself.

It was interesting listening to the statement where he talked about the January the 6th peace -- totally peaceful protesters against the unlawfully rigged election. It was kind of classic Trump there. There weren`t many facts in that. In fact, there was a lot of non-facts in that; 700 people have been charged with violence around January the 6th. Five people died on that day. Bombs were planted.

It clearly wasn`t totally peaceful. But this is his chance to -- he can`t - - he`s not having huge, big rallies anymore. He hasn`t got so much national platform anymore. He wants to make sure he speaks to his base. And maybe there is a freak-out going on in the president. He will never admit that he was wrong.

And maybe he`s feeling that this investigation is getting a little close to home. But as much as anything, knowing Donald Trump, this will be about wanting to have the spotlight on that particular day.

MENENDEZ: Right, wanting to distract.

Melissa, news of a possible criminal referral, what`s your takeaway?

MELISSA MURRAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, again, it seems like the January 6 Select Committee is really insistent on prosecuting this search for more information about the January 6 insurrection.

And that makes a lot of sense. We don`t really have a full grasp of what happened, who was involved, and to what extent it was actually coming from inside our government as well. And so I think it makes a lot of sense that they are willing to go to the mattresses to get this kind of information.

And with regard to what Katty just said, I mean, we should just reflect on the fact that it`s a little unorthodox to have a former president who is actively planning and seeming to plot his next move. Like, typically, our former leaders go off, retire, live the rest of their lives in relative obscurity.

But what we have here it looks more like what you would expect from some unstable democracy elsewhere around the globe.

MENENDEZ: Yes. No, absolutely. Important to remind us of just how abnormal this actually is.


Speaking to that, Melissa, you have a sitting GOP congressman, Perry, who won`t comply with the committee, the committee saying -- quote -- "If members with directly relevant information decline to cooperate and instead endeavor to cover up, the select committee will consider seeking such information using other tools."

Other tools. What happens now, Melissa?

MURRAY: Well, the other tools, obviously, they can subpoena him. He obviously has made clear that he will stonewall that subpoena.

From there, you can move for criminal contempt to have the Department of Justice prosecute this. Of course, they can seek civil action in the courts. That`s probably a less attractive alternative because it will take a lot of time to have that go through the court system. And time is of the essence for this committee, because if the Democrats lose control of the House, this committee is going away.

MENENDEZ: Right. Time is of the essence. We are reminded of that every day.

And, Katty, the committee, they have a ton of evidence. What are Trump allies thinking now?

KAY: Look, I think you listen to how President Trump has rounded on anyone who he feels has betrayed him, betrayal is a very important issue for this president, for the former president. He values loyalties amongst his subordinates almost above everything else.

And he clearly feels that anyone who has cooperated, even if they then reverse their cooperation, in the way that Mark Meadows did, has been disloyal to him. So, if -- I mean, if you have decided that being a Trump loyalist and being close to President Trump is still a priority for you. You`re in a bit of a tricky position, if you then are being asked by the committee to cooperate with them or you`re being subpoenaed by this committee.

But it`s true. There is a time limit on this. And this can be dragged out. Legal processes take a very long time. And this can be dragged out. And the fear for Democrats is that it gets dragged out until next November, and then it`s -- if they lose the House, it`s all over for this investigation.

MENENDEZ: Well, to that point about dragging it out, Melissa, you have Michael Flynn now suing the committee, saying the subpoenas are unlawful.

Is that going to hold water?

MURRAY: It doesn`t matter if it holds water or not. It will take enough time to go through the trial court and then an appellate court. And by the time it goes to the Supreme Court, the election cycle will be over.

So it`s a standard move. We have seen them do it before. We will see them do it again. There`s already a lawsuit for Trump against the New York attorney general, Letitia James. It`s the same playbook over and over again.

MENENDEZ: Yes, delay, delay, delay.

Katty Kay, thank you so much for being with us.

Melissa, you are staying with me.

Ahead, after a 60-second break, I`m going to talk to a retired U.S. general warning of a potential 2024 insurrection built on Trump`s big lie.

And later, as Omicron surges and questions swirl, Dr. Anthony Fauci is here with some answers.

We`re back in 60 seconds.


MENENDEZ: A stark warning to prepare for a 2024 insurrection, as Trump plans a January 6 anniversary so-called press conference to push more election lies.

The Pentagon reporting almost 100 service members were engaged in prohibited extremist activity this year. That is up from previous years. Now former top military saying bluntly, the military must prepare now for a 2024 insurrection, adding they are chilled to their bones at the thought of a coup succeeding next time.

In a moment, I`m going to speak with one of the authors of that warning, retired Brigadier General Steven Anderson. The retired general is fearing a civil war if the military fails to address divisions inside.

It comes as the Pentagon releases new guidelines to stop the rise of extremism in the military, including penalties for liking white nationalist and extremist content on social media.

Dozens of former and active service members participated in the MAGA riot. More than 80 service members are charged in connection to January 6, five of them on active duty. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby saying this:


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: As Secretary Austin has emphasized, the department is focused on prohibited activity, not on a particular ideology, thought or political orientation.


The vast majority of men and women in our armed forces, as, of course, you know, serve honorably. While extremist activity in the force is rare, any instance can have an outsized effect.


MENENDEZ: Joining me now, Retired Brigadier General Steven Anderson, who served in the U.S. Army for 31 years. Back with us also, Melissa Murray.

General, talk to me. Why are you so worried about a coup?

BRIG. GEN. STEVEN ANDERSON (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, thank you very much for having me on, Alicia. I really appreciate this.

First of all, I just want to understand this is really hard for me.


ANDERSON: I was raised in the army 31 years to be apolitical, to not get involved in politics. I`m a conservative Republican. At least I was until Donald Trump came on the scene, but no more. The Republican Party has lost its soul.

But 43 years ago, I swore an oath to the Constitution to protect and defend our country against all threats, be they domestic or foreign. And I never thought the day would come that I`d have to think hard about the domestic threat, but we have to.

What`s going on now is just shameful. And when you see all the soldiers that were involved, the former soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines that were involved, in the insurrection on 6 January, it chills us to the bone.

When you think of things like Lieutenant General Mike Flynn, who was advocating a coup, absolutely disgraceful. When you have 124 senior leaders that signed on to the Stop the Steal nonsense from Donald Trump, I mean, evidently, they think that the pillow guy is their source for authoritative information on election integrity.

You have a general officer out in Oklahoma who`s refusing national mandates. Somebody needs to remind him that he works for the National Guard. You are supposed to support the federal government. And, also, all these soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines that are refusing the COVID shots, I mean, they gladly stand in line for yellow fever shots, anthrax shots tetanus, the like, but now we have politicized COVID shots.

And it`s shameful. So, you see all these signs, and it points to a situation in which we have soldiers that are being influenced by politics and by politicians like Donald Trump. And I`m so concerned that they will confuse allegiance to the Constitution and to the country to allegiance to the party or a cultlike leader like Donald Trump.

That`s why we wrote the op-ed.

MENENDEZ: Gen, what you lay out in the op-ed, what you laid out right now, it is terrifying. What needs to be done to stop it?

ANDERSON: Well, the first thing I think needs to happen is, we need to account for everybody that participated, that they need to be brought to justice.

And that`s going on right now. And it`s going to take some time. But most of those people are low-hanging fruit that we`re going to be able to get to and take appropriate action. But I`m really concerned about the leaders, the leaders, the leaders of the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and the leaders in Congress like Josh Hawley and Mo Brooks and the president, all of whom fanned the flames of insurrection, and stood back and act surprised when you had thousands of people storm the Capitol.

So we got to account for all those things. We got to conduct accountability. The other thing we need to do is educate. A lot of our people in military just really don`t understand civics 101 like they need to. They don`t understand how the government is supposed to work, and that they`re supposed to have allegiance to the Constitution and not to a particular person or party.

The other thing is intelligence. We need more intelligence. We need to figure out who`s in the ranks. Who are our future insurrectionists? And we need to find those people, root them out, and get them out of the service.

And then, also, we need to conduct strategic planning and war gaming. I mean, we need to imagine the unimaginable. A year ago, who would have thought that thousands of people would storm the Capitol like they did? We need to think about those kinds of potentialities.

Physical threats, cyber threats, I mean, we need to plan for 2024 now. I can assure you, the bad guys are doing that very same thing right now. They`re thinking about ways that they failed to pull off what they wanted to do in 2020. How can they improve and do better in 2024? So we need to take action now.

MENENDEZ: General, when you talk to people in Washington who are actually in a position to do something about this, do they share your concern or do they believe that you`re being hyperbolic?

ANDERSON: An awful lot of people do believe I`m hyperbolic. I mean, turn on FOX News, and you hear people that are laughing at our op-ed. That`s really sad.

But, truth be told, an awful lot of people just haven`t seen this situation for what it is, a grave threat to our democracy. We have got to start thinking about that right now. And it`s sad that so many people are listening to the folks at FOX and other people in the political scheme, particularly the Republican Party, that want to downplay this, pretend like, oh, it was just a tour that got out of hand a little bit.


Now, I will tell you that I am proud that DOD is trying to enact some new policy. The one that they pushed out yesterday, the John Kirby that you just talked about a little bit, that`s a good step in the right direction, to make it essentially hard for folks to participate in extremist groups and gangs.

But I would submit to you that they`re allowing membership, and that`s not a good thing. I mean, I would submit that, if it`s -- if it`s -- if the group is on the FBI`s gangs and extremist activities list, they should not be allowed to be on that, -- be a member of that group, because you know that they`re going to take advantage of that.

And they`re going to use that essentially to try to make their organization more credible by citing members that are in the present military. That`s not a good thing. But it is a step in the right direction.

MENENDEZ: Right, especially, Melissa, when we see a rise in that activity over previous years.

Two questions for you, Melissa. What legal statement should be enforced inside the military and beyond? And what recourse does the military actually have to pursue extremists, Melissa?

MURRAY: So, I mean, there has to be a pretty narrow line that has to be drawn here, because you don`t want to intrude upon protected First Amendment conduct. So that has to be defined.

But I think it`s perfectly fair to say that you cannot be in groups whose missions are antithetical to the oath that you have obligated yourself to keep as a member of the armed forces.

What can the military do? Obviously, there are civil actions that are -- can be brought against individuals. There`s criminal action against those who are members of the military who participated in the insurrection on January 6, and, of course, the military maintains its own courts martial and can discharge individuals for not adhering to the code of military justice.

MENENDEZ: General Steven Anderson, Melissa Murray, thank you both so much for walking us through this.

Ahead: Is a deal still possible? Democrats meeting tonight, as pressure mounts on Manchin, and a top progressive called him.

But, first, Dr. Anthony Fauci on THE BEAT to answer your COVID questions. That is next.

Stay with us.



MENENDEZ: Today, President Biden addressing the nation on the Omicron surge.

Joining me now, chief White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Dr. Fauci, thank you so much for being with us. A lot of questions people have, in light of this new variant, in light of the fact that we`re going into the holidays and trying to get through as many of them as possible.

The one that I think is top of mind for most is, how dangerous is Omicron if you are triple vaxxed, meaning you are vaxxed and boosted?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, certainly, you have a considerable degree of protection.

We know now from studies that have already been done, with more to come, that if you are vaccinated without a boost, you have a diminution in the protection to Omicron when you talk about, for example, the level of antibodies, but that is very nicely reconstituted with a boost.

So you can feel reasonably comfortable that, all other things being equal, that you would not get seriously ill if you get infected. There will be breakthrough infection. This is an extraordinary virus that has an amazing capability of being transmitted from person to person.

But with a double vaccination of an mRNA, followed by a boost, the protection against serious disease is considerable. So that is good news. It`s bad news that we`re dealing with such an extraordinary virus and its ability to essentially surge through the country the way it`s doing right now.

You know there`s 73 percent of the isolates are now Omicron, where, just a week-and-a-half ago, it was just literally a few percent. This is a very, very transmissible virus.

But vaccine with booster is a very important tool in the armamentarium against this.

MENENDEZ: And for people who do not have the vaccine?

FAUCI: Well, they`re going to be very vulnerable.

That`s the reason why I worry so much about people who still to this point refuse to get vaccinated. When you`re dealing with any SARS-CoV-2 or COVID- 19 virus., it`s a problem. When you`re dealing with one that spreads so rapidly and you are unvaccinated, the virus is going to find you.

And I know there are going to be a lot of people who may get minimal symptomatology, but there are a lot of people that are going to get seriously ill if you are unvaccinated. And that`s the reason why, despite the recalcitrance on the part of so many people to get vaccinated, we continue to encourage them, particularly in the context of this new variant, to please get vaccinated, and if you are vaccinated, make sure you get your booster in time.

MENENDEZ: Dr. Fauci, you know very well there are people right now deciding whether or not they`re going to get on planes so they can be with their families for the holidays.

What should go into that calculus? What`s your advice?

FAUCI: Well, certainly, any kind of travel increases the risk.

If you are careful and prudent in the travel that you are about to do you feel is important, necessary travel, like seeing a member of the family that you have not seen for a long time, if you are vaccinated and boosted, and the people that you were visiting are vaccinated and boosted, you can get on a plane and travel, so long as you`re very prudent when you`re at the airport of wearing a mask.

Remember, there`s nothing that is completely risk-free. But by being vaccinated, by being boosted, and by being prudent in mask-wearing, you dramatically diminish the risk of getting infected and certainly of getting a severe illness.

MENENDEZ: Another sensitive question.

Let`s say you`re boosted, you have an elderly or immunocompromised relative also vaccinated, also boosted, is it safe for you to be with them?

FAUCI: Well, what I would do under that circumstance, I would probably go the extra mile to be sure that you`re not bringing an asymptomatic infection into the house, and I would get tested a day or so before you actually get in with that vulnerable person.

That`s something that isn`t necessary, as it were. But when you have a very special circumstance, like someone who is immune-compromised, you want to go the extra mile. And I would recommend that you get a test to show that not only are you vaccinated, not only are you boosted, but you know, as of yesterday or today, that you`re not infected.

MENENDEZ: I don`t need to tell you those rapid tests have become increasingly difficult to access, people calling up their pharmacies, not able to get them, here in New York City, lines two hours` long.


How then do you make the decision if that test isn`t readily available?

FAUCI: Well, then, again, it really is a question of your own personal ability or not to assume a risk.

Different people have different risk aversions. If you are really very risk-averse, and you feel you want to get that extra mile to get the test, and you can`t get it, you may have to make the tough decision not to expose yourself to that person.

Other people feel, vaccinated, boosted, the other person is vaccinated and boosted, I haven`t seen them in a long time, I`m going to make a decision to see them.

But, again, if you possibly can get a test, that would be really very helpful. There are a lot of individual decisions about the risk you`re willing to take. The only thing that we as public health officials and physicians and scientists is to give you, to the best of our ability, the data that we have about the risk.

And when you`re asking a question that you`re asking right now, is a totally reasonable question, you can`t quantitate it, except to say that you will diminish the risk if you get a test, and that test is negative.

MENENDEZ: If someone in your family isn`t vaccinated, should you ask them not to show up?

FAUCI: Yes, I would do that. I mean, I think we`re dealing with a serious enough situation right now that, if there`s an unvaccinated person, I would say, I`m very sorry, but not this time, maybe another time when this is all over.

MENENDEZ: Is the definition of fully vaccinated are going to change to include boosters, Dr. Fauci?

FAUCI: You know, it very well might.

I mean, it`s almost a semantic situation. I mean, I want people to understand that, when I and my colleagues say optimal protection, particularly against Omicron, is to get your primary vaccinations, plus a boost, the semantics of what you`re calling fully vaccinated or not for regulatory or requirement purposes doesn`t avoid the fact that, if you really want to be optimally protected, go get a boost.

MENENDEZ: I have got about 30 seconds left, Dr. Fauci.

What steps do you still want to be -- see taken that would effectively get those who have not yet been vaccinated to get on board?

FAUCI: Well, I would hope that the realization that we`re dealing now with Omicron that is a very formidable foe in this virus, if you look at the war we`re having with the virus, that people will then realize to put aside any ideological consideration about why they may not want to get vaccinated, and realizing it`s the best thing for you and your family, but also your societal responsibility, to not allow yourself to be a vehicle for a spread to someone else who might be very vulnerable, who might get seriously ill.

MENENDEZ: All right, Dr. Fauci, thank you so much.

I`m told it is your 81st birthday on Friday, so a happy birthday, happy early birthday to you, Dr. Fauci.

Thanks so much for your time.

FAUCI: Yes, thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

MENENDEZ: Still to come: Democrats huddling tonight, trying to reach a deal, as Biden makes his first public comments about the Manchin bombshell.



MENENDEZ: In just over an hour, Senate Democrats will hold a virtual meeting on the president`s sweeping spending plans and voting rights, both priorities in jeopardy largely because of conservative Democrat Joe Manchin.

Today, Biden making his first on-camera comments on the bombshell from Manchin that he won`t support the Build Back Better Act, which has money for climate, pre-K, paid leave, child tax credit, and more. In the evenly divided Senate, Manchin`s no-vote could spike the bill.

On Sunday, the White House blasted Manchin, accusing him of a betrayal and inexplicable reversal. Today, the president striking a new tone.


QUESTION: Did Senator Manchin break his commitment to you?

BIDEN: Senator Manchin and I are going to get something done.

QUESTION: Do you believe Senator Manchin kept his word to you? And how do you rebuild trust with progressives in your party to advance your legislation now?

BIDEN: You know, I have told you before, you have heard me say this before, some people think maybe I`m not Irish because I don`t hold a grudge.

Look, I want to get things done. I still think there`s a possibility of getting Build Back Better done.


MENENDEZ: The president steering clear of any further criticism of Manchin, as he tries to keep the door open for a deal.

That`s in line with reporting that he and Manchin actually had a cordial conversation on Sunday night. Today, Biden also getting animated as he tried to shift focus away from the political sniping and back to his agenda.


BIDEN: I`m not joking about this. Imagine being a parent looking at a child, and you can`t afford. You have no house to borrow against. You have no savings.

It`s wrong. But all the things in that bill are going to reduce prices and costs for middle-class and working-class people.


MENENDEZ: So, Biden saying he is not giving up, and Democrats huddling tonight, trying to move forward.

Joining me now former HUD Secretary and MSNBC political analyst Julian Castro.

You heard the president there. The stakes are incredibly high here. We`re talking about pre-K. We`re talking about child care. We`re talking about huge investments in climate change.

You have Leader Schumer planning a vote for January. Your read on the likelihood of this bill actually getting passed?

JULIAN CASTRO, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there`s still a chance.

And I think right now that`s about the most that Democrats and the American people who would benefit from all of these transformative investments can hope for.

If you had asked me a few days ago, did I think that Build Back Better was going to happen, I would have said I think that they have probably gone too far for nothing to happen at this point.


And then we had this bombshell from Manchin, and we had the back-and-forth on Sunday morning.

I think, today, Biden got it back on the right track. And Leader Schumer getting everybody together this evening, figuring out what the road ahead looks like, I think they`re trying to get this thing moving in the right direction again.

This is a moment in politics, I think, where people expect folks to deliver results. And if you don`t deliver results, you need to at least get caught trying. And that`s what we got out of Biden today. And that`s what we`re getting out of Leader Schumer.

They`re going to at least show their base that they have done everything that they possibly can in a constructive way to get something done.

MENENDEZ: And at the same time, we`re hearing that for the third day in a row progressives are understandably frustrated. Liberal lawmakers don`t want to talk about scaling back their ambitions to revive some of what Joe Manchin killed.

What kind of goodwill, negotiation, leverage, what`s left here?

CASTRO: Well, you said justifiably. That`s right, Alicia.

I mean, this was first a $6 trillion package, and then a $3.5 trillion package, and then $2 trillion. And they voted for the infrastructure package, knowing that this, warning, in fact, that this very thing with Manchin backing out might well happen.

But, look, I think what regular Americans care about and they know as well is, what are you delivering? It would still be great to get universal pre- K, still be great to get some sort of investment in the children of this country and continue to reduce child poverty, still be great to address elder care and affordable housing.

So maybe it`s not exactly what this package looks like. But maybe it`s a package that`s similar to it. They need to keep going, because I think that`s in the best interest of the people that they`re fighting so hard for.


And, as you know, because you, like me, are a policy wonk, it is also complicated, because these policies are very much tied together, right? You start -- if you decide not to fund child care, but you fund pre-K, that actually basically unravels child care as we know it. It`s not as easy as just doing this piece by piece, which I know there is increasingly an appetite for.

I want to ask you, on the child tax credit, we learned that Manchin`s private offer to Biden, which included pre-K, climate money, Obamacare, excluded the child benefit. Senator Manchin has gotten broad pushback today, policy experts, families asking why you would quash a provision that has already benefited more than 300,000 children in his own state, Secretary.

CASTRO: Inexplicable, Alicia,really, for him, I think, policy malpractice, political malpractice as well, because West Virginia is one of those states where, per capita, you probably have one of the highest rates of people who benefit from this child tax credit investment, a lot of working-class folks, a lot of people just getting by.

What was even worse was the reporting on that Joe Manchin thought parents would take these dollars, and instead of using it for the benefit of their children, they would use it for something illicit, something unnecessary. That, to me, spoke of a politician who`s out of touch with his constituents.

The leading editorial board in his state has already said, no, no, the people of West Virginia need this. The miners union said, no, we need to do Build Back Better. So he`s getting a lot of pushback from his state.

And I would just point out, on the political side, a lot of people have said, hey, look, is there really going to be any repercussion for him to go against this? He can show up on FOX News and thumb his nose at Biden, because West Virginia is such a Republican state.

That`s true. But remember that the guy still has a primary to get through when he runs for reelection. Everybody seems to have forgotten about that.

MENENDEZ: You also had one of the most clear-eyed analysis of this, which I saw on Twitter sort of shortly after it happened, which is, there`s still a bunch of things that are going to need to move through the Senate for which Democrats are going to need Manchin, right?

So you talk about voting rights. You talk about filibuster reform. You talk about the possibility of a vacancy on the Supreme Court, needing his vote there.

When you step away and look at the broader picture, where are Democrats headed?

CASTRO: Well, they`re doing some great things, right, the American Rescue Plan, the infrastructure investment, also the fact that Biden matched Reagan`s record in 2021 for the first-year appointment of judges, 40 federal judges.

That was the same number that Reagan appointed in his first year. You need Manchin`s support. You need Sinema`s vote for that. So, as a progressive, as much as it pains me, having seen how all of this went down with Manchin, and as frustrated and as angry as you can get at these folks for blocking really transformative investments, the fact remains we need them for also very important action that`s happening in the United States Senate.


And so that`s -- those are all the things that Joe Biden and Schumer and Pelosi have to juggle to get results for the American people.

MENENDEZ: I have about 30 seconds left.

Do you think they get voting rights done?

CASTRO: I do. I think they`re -- I believe that they`re going to ultimately do some sort of limited carve-out for voting rights.

I think this is different from Build Back Better. I think that Manchin and Sinema ultimately will come around, and the pressure is very high for them to deliver on that.

MENENDEZ: Julian Castro, as always, thank you for being with us.

We`re going to be right back with one more thing on our Dr. Fauci interview.

Stay with us.


MENENDEZ: Tonight, Dr. Fauci joined us and shared some very valuable facts and information on COVID and what to do.

The entire interview is available online on YouTube. You just search for THE BEAT and "Dr. Fauci." It will be there. It is also pinned to THE BEAT`s Twitter page @THEBEATWITHARI. It will be at the top of our feed, if you want to find it and share it with others.

That does it for me.