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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 12/22/21

Guests: Eric Boehlert, Kurt Bardella, Irene Bosch, Ebony Hilton, Hugo Lowell, Seth Freed Wessler


The MAGA riot committee seeks to talk to GOP Congressman Jim Jordan. The FDA approves a new pill to treat COVID. Disturbing new violent rhetoric emerges from sitting members of Congress. Seth Freed Wessler discusses his new film, "The Facility."


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

Hi, Alicia.

ALICIA MENENDEZ, MSNBC HOST: John Heilemann, that may be the best tease I have ever seen. And I will be watching tomorrow.


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

We start with breaking news. The MAGA riot committee wants to talk to GOP Congressman Jim Jordan. This is one of Trump`s fierce loyalists in Congress who admitted to speaking with Trump on January 6, the committee writing: "We understand that you had possibly multiple communications with Trump."

And they want to -- quote -- "discuss each such communication with you in detail."

Jordan has previously dodged questions about his contact with Trump on that day.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Did you talk to the former president that day?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I have talked to the former president umpteen times.


BAIER: 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 that I have talked to him. But I have certainly talked with the president.

QUESTION: Did you speak with him before, during or after the Capitol was attacked?

JORDAN: I`d have to go -- I spoke with him that day after, I think after. I don`t know if I spoke with him in the morning or not. I just don`t know.


MENENDEZ: He just doesn`t know.

The committee is about to find out the facts. We don`t know if Jordan will comply with this request. But they can issue a subpoena if he stonewalls.

Jordan also admitted sending a message to Trump`s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, on January 5 offering a legal theory on how Trump could block Biden`s win.

Joining me now, former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance, Democratic strategist Juanita Tolliver, and "Guardian" reporter Hugo Lowell. He is reporting Trump is -- quote -- "deeply unnerved" by the January 6 Committee probe.

Hugo, I wonder what you are now reporting what the former president is thinking, given this Jim Jordan news.

HUGO LOWELL, "THE GUARDIAN": Yes, we reported early in the week that Trump was re-agitated by the amount of communications and documents that Meadows had turned over to the select committee.

And I can only imagine that the former president is even more unnerved now, because it appears that the committee is going to go after his biggest allies in Congress, including Jim Jordan, who the committee now knows had multiple communications and contacts with Trump around January 6.

MENENDEZ: Joyce, how significant is this Jordan news?

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it suggests a couple of things.

This isn`t something that the January 6 Committee, which has been highly strategic, did half-baked. They have to have known that Jim Jordan and other members of Congress wouldn`t voluntarily testify without a fight, so it seems clear that they have an enforcement strategy.

What we don`t know yet is whether that`s a political appeal, this notion that there may still be some political consequence to failing to comply with an investigation over something as serious as January 6, or is the committee prepared to proceed with legal consequences, and do they believe that, if they subpoena members of Congress and they fail to appear that the Justice Department might move to hold them in contempt?

We will have to wait and see what the strategy will look like.

MENENDEZ: Juanita, we have heard over and over again that the threat is coming from inside the building. Your take on this big news?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The reality is that someone like Jim Jordan, who has in interviews confirmed that he spoke to Trump multiple times, via social media last week confirmed that he sent a text message on how to undermine congressional efforts to certify an election, it just shows that the people who were locking in lockstep with Trump, with White House officials and the insurrectionists were inside the House.

And I think that letting him go without any accountability is not an option for the select committee, because we know that him being in that position of power allows him purview to do it again, but also, like what Representative Cori Bush said immediately following the attacks, that anyone who had a part in this who was a sitting member of Congress should be removed from office, should be removed from Congress, because they essentially violated their oath of office.

MENENDEZ: Joyce, the committee has testimony that Jordan was communicating with people in the Willard war room on January 5 and 6. just what kind of communications might the committee want to see?

VANCE: The committee is interested in all of it. There is really no communication too small around an important event that you`re investigating.

And so, in this instance, whether there are text messages, whether Jordan took notes from phone calls, whatever is there, they are trying to access it. But it`s important to keep in mind this is likely not a fact-finding mission for the committee. They have more than likely in the 300-plus witnesses that they have already spoken to put together a pretty good picture of what was going on and what Jordan`s role was in it.

And so this is the classic gambit at the end of an investigation when you bring in people who are perhaps still subjects and you`re thinking that they that might be targets and you talk with them to see how much of the truth they`re willing to tell. And that guides where you head.

Of course, the January 6 Committee, these are not prosecutors. These are members of Congress. They`re on a fact-finding and a legislative mission, but they have already tipped their hand they`re considering making a criminal referral over to the Justice Department.


And so the way Jim Jordan and others react to these requests will be very telling for their future.

MENENDEZ: Well, Joyce, you watched that video of Jim Jordan ducking in a number of ways and times the question about when he spoke with the former president.

As you watched that, what does it tell you about the type of witness he would be even if he was willing to meet with the committee?


VANCE: So that`s the real Jim Jordan. That`s the unguarded, unpolished Jim Jordan.

In reality, when he appears for committee meetings and likely if he showed for testimony in this instance, he would be the combative bully that we`re used to seeing when he`s involved in congressional hearings, somebody who`s there to make points, somebody who`s there to create moments that can go viral on social media and television.

And the committee if they face him, particularly in a public setting, will have an uphill battle. But, again, I think that`s not the point of their engagement with Jim Jordan. They`re simply here to make the point that the Jim Jordan that we saw in that clip is a lot more closely aligned with the reality of Jim Jordan and his concern about the role he may have played and the knowledge he may have had about January 6 than what we will see on the public stage as he indicates that the January 6 Committee is out of bounds or not legitimate.

The real Jim Jordan is that clip you played.

MENENDEZ: Juanita, the letter also says the committee has testimony that Trump was -- quote -- "watching television coverage of the attack from his private dining room."

Juanita, how do you watch what happened on that day and not intervene to stop it? How damning is that?

TOLLIVER: You watch it and not intervene because you want it to happen, right? That was the position of Trump. And I think witnesses are confirming his intentions when he sat there and did that, because what those witness statements mean is that the select committee has that inside picture, as Joyce was describing.

They have that perspective. And now they`re just going to use it to corroborate or pressure other witnesses and targets here. I do think that we all knew very clearly when Trump decided to be silent for those four or five hours while the attack was happening what his intentions were. We know he wasn`t quick to act.

And when he did speak up, he told the insurrectionists he loved them. He told them he understood why they were there. Right? So he is again on record communicating his intentions very clearly in a way that I think the select committee has already latched onto and will likely refer him for criminal charges at the end of this.

MENENDEZ: So, Hugo, we have seen a lot of reporting about the way that the former president has reacted to some of his loyalists choosing to plead the Fifth.

When it comes to someone like Congressman Jordan, what is it that the former president is most worried about and what is the way in which he is going to want to see him respond to the subpoena? Does he want him to go in there and create those viral moments that Joyce was just talking about?

LOWELL: Yes, I think that`s absolutely right. Trump is always a stickler for the optics. Right?

And his main complaint with a lot of former aides that have already invoked the Fifth is that he thinks it makes him look weak and it makes him look complicit in a crime. So I think Trump will be looking for Jordan to put up as big of a fight as he can to the select committee.

But I just don`t know if it`s going to work, because the select committee make these two points in the letters that is really significant. And the first is that they`re looking at Jordan`s communications with members of Trump`s political operative team at the Willard.

And we previously reported that the team at the Willard were basically involved in finding ways to stop Biden`s certification from taking place on January 6. That was the entire aim of the organization. The second point is, the committee said they`re looking at communications with Trump and discussions about whether there could be any pardons for people involved in planning January 6.

And I think these two things are really significant. And if Jordan has documents or knowledge or any sort of information about this, whether he gives this to the committee will be a very big point -- turning point for the investigation because that would yield whether there`s complicity from the Trump White House and members of Congress in January 6.

MENENDEZ: Joyce, a Stop the Steal rally organizer said on Infowars he thinks Trump is going to be subpoenaed. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want a nexus, is what my lawyers call it, between the people who were violent, unjustified violent, or vandalism, and then you and me and the activists, so that if they can connect it to a Trump staffer and then Trump.

Folks, Trump will be subpoenaed by this committee. Breaking news. Trump will entirely be subpoenaed by this committee.


MENENDEZ: Joyce, your legal analysis on that question?

VANCE: Well, my crystal ball doesn`t extend quite that far.

But what seems very clear to me is that the January 6 Committee has brought on board some very experienced former federal prosecutors, some very experienced investigators.


And one thing that you don`t do is that you don`t subpoena the target unless you have a goal in mind. And so, look, here`s the endgame with Trump, and it`s part of this unknowable question that we all have about whether the Justice Department is involved in an active investigation, because, if they are, there won`t be any compelling of witnesses to testify in front of the House committee.

Compelling witnesses to testify means you would have to give them immunity to overcome their objections, and that means no prosecution down the road. So whether Trump gets -- testified largely is a function whether the final endgame will be these hearings that we`re hearing the committee will hold after the 1st of the year, this notion that they will have a couple of weeks to lay bare to Americans the facts.

And if a part of that is putting the former president on the stand to have him go through the painful exercise of taking the Fifth Amendment again and again and again as he`s asked questions, then we may well see it, but the big cardholder is the Justice Department and where they`re headed.

MENENDEZ: Juanita, to Joyce`s part about not having a crystal ball, I play that Infowars clip not as any type of matter of facts, pure conjecture, but what does it tell you that this is the message they are choosing to run with?

TOLLIVER: This is what they`re trying to feed to their base, but also signal to Trump what`s coming up.

Keep in mind, Ali Alexander sat for eight hours of testimony in front of the select committee. He was paying attention to the questions they were asking, and now he`s going out to report to the public what that was, because, in my mind, I`m like, how are you doing interviews right now pretending like you`re not at the center of a congressional investigation?

But he`s quite comfortable delivering this message. And the only reason I can think is to give it to Trump and give it to Trump`s base, because we know Trump is going to take something like this and run with it, as he announced his January 6 press conference at Mar-a-Lago. He`s looking for another -- a counternarrative to combat what we know that the select committee is unearthing through all of the witness testimony that they`re gathering right now.

MENENDEZ: Joyce, a judge denied a request to block the January 6 subpoenas, saying -- quote -- "There is no basis to conclude that Flynn will face immediate and irreparable harm."

Your take, Joyce.

VANCE: So, Flynn found that he could not get an injunction to keep the committee proceedings from going forward as to him.

But I think there`s something very interesting going on here. Flynn didn`t simply try to go in front of the committee and claim executive privilege or make the host of arguments we have seen other witnesses make, and that`s because the committee is being very effective.

When they have subpoenaed other witnesses and then referred their contempt to the Justice Department for prosecution, what we have seen happen with Steve Bannon and now the early stages of that with Mark Meadows, that`s apparently been effective in convincing other witnesses that they don`t want to go that same route.

Now we see this new effort by former General Flynn to try and get a court to say that they can`t proceed against him. That has failed, at least at this preliminary injunction sort of stage. Increasingly, the committee is going to get its witnesses. And this is what was missing in large part during the Mueller investigation is, witnesses were able to painfully drag out the prospect of their testimony.

The former president was able to cut a deal where all he had to do was answer written questions, as opposed to sitting down for an interview. The committee is learning the lessons of the past and moving forward in a way that`s having a big impact.

We now know that a judge won`t give Mike Flynn an easy out, and ultimately he will likely have to answer these questions or come up with another strategy.

MENENDEZ: Joyce Vance, Juanita Tolliver, Hugo Lowell, thank you all so much for walking us through this breaking news.

Coming up, great news about a new pill to treat COVID, as Omicron hits all 50 states. We`re going to talk to the experts about that and the nationwide testing shortage.

Plus, disturbing new violent rhetoric from sitting members of Congress, talking about Second Amendment solutions.

And our fact-check to FOX News. Nope, Joe Biden not the Grinch. We will explain.

Stay with us.



MENENDEZ: Everyone is talking about the Omicron surge across the country. And a major boost of good news at the right time today, the FDA announcing emergency use authorization for the first pill to treat COVID-19.


JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: The Pfizer team has a very promising and now authorized treatment, a pill that dramatically reduces the risk of hospitalizations and death for those at risk.


MENENDEZ: This is the first antiviral pill. It`s being called a game- changer. It`s nearly 90 percent effective at reducing hospitalizations and death. It can be taken at home and is approved for anyone over 12 with symptoms.

It comes as we see more than 100,000 new daily cases, Omicron accounting for 73 percent of infections, the New York City area averaging 11,000 new daily cases. Dr. Fauci saying today early data causes less severe symptoms than Delta, but it is highly contagious.

Hospitals are filling up. In Minneapolis, up to 400 patients wait for an E.R. bed every day. Cleveland facilities out with this ad, saying, "Help," adding, "We have more COVID-19 patients in our hospitals than ever before. And the overwhelming majority are unvaccinated."

Joining me now, associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the University of Virginia, Dr. Ebony Hilton.

Doctor, always good to see you.

You and I have sat through so much bad news together. I`m glad that we get to talk about this good news today. How big of a deal is this pill?

DR. EBONY HILTON, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Oh, it`s a huge deal, especially given the fact that, again, Omicron it`s more contagious.

The question is going to be with this pill that can literally reduce your chances of death, can reduce your chances of a hospitalization by 89 percent, the question is, will we have enough?

And that is what -- it`s a race against time at this point, because we know we have 200,000 COVID cases that were diagnosed today. Right? So when we`re looking at that speed of infection, do we have enough of these pills to go around? And, at this point, we have tens of thousands that`s going to be made available by next week.


We`re hoping to ramp that up, but it`s -- we need those companies really to invest in science, get those pills out and get into the hands of not only Americans, but across our globe. It is necessary.

MENENDEZ: I was about to say, as you and I have often talked about, of course, baked in there a question of equity.

Listen, some may think this pill takes the place of getting vaccinated. What should our viewers know?

HILTON: What our viewers should know is that you have to be infected for this pill to work.

And our goal is for you not to be infected in the first place, which means not only the vaccines, not only the boosters, but also wear that N95 minutes, also doing that social distancing. We do not know the consequences of infection with COVID-19.

But what I can tell you is that there are other viruses that causes cancers, yes, HPV, HBV, EBV. We know these viruses cause cancer. Will COVID-19 be in the ranks of those same viruses, in that it can also cause these untoward consequences?

So do not go and just willy-nilly get infected because you feel like it will be no big deal. It is a big deal. Every infection is potential for casualty.

MENENDEZ: I think one of the things that is hard to reckon with, with this new variant it is that it is both less severe, according to Dr. Fauci, but research also shows 140 million new cases in the next two months. It is incredibly contagious.

How do you square those two things? And what is the best way to handle them?

HILTON: Right.

I will never call anything mild. What we know is that, if we are saying -- let`s say it is -- that it`s a reduction in the hospitalization. If more people are getting infected, though, that means that they`re going to be more people that are going into the hospital, just by nature of numbers. And we do not have the space at this point.

It`s not only a health concern, it`s also an economic concern. What happens in America when a million, two million Americans are affected per week? What does that do to our businesses staying open? What does that do to us being able to have a free and open nation and have this issue of capitalism?

You cannot have a work force if your work force is sick. And so that`s what we need to get to the point of thinking, not just in this acute time, but the longevity of this pandemic has shown us over and over again that when we think we are ahead of the game when it comes to COVID-19, we are far behind. And we have to be hypervigilant in not getting infected in the first place, which means go back to mitigating the spread and the same thing that we were doing back in March and April of last year.

MENENDEZ: When your work force is sick and when your work force is playing the role of caretaker for those who are.

Dr. Hilton, you are staying with me, because coming up in just 60 seconds, the scramble for at-home rapid tests. We`re going to talk to a scientist who actually developed one very early in the pandemic and was stymied by the Trump administration.

And later the party of Trump, the party of extreme rhetoric, talk of civil war, vulgar threats.

We are back in just 60 seconds.


MENENDEZ: The Omicron surge leading a rush on testing and frustration.

These are the scenes we are seeing, long lines for COVID tests ahead of holiday travel, Walgreens and CVS struggling to keep up with demand for at- home testing kits.

The Biden administration ordering 500 million at-home tests, but they won`t be available until sometime in January. Biden is taking criticism for not anticipating this. But new reporting shows President Trump dropped the ball on a home test in the first few weeks of the pandemic.

One company, E25Bio, had a solution early on in the pandemic, inexpensive rapid tests with support and financial backing from the NIH. But due to convoluted FDA standards, it never got approval.

Irene Bosch is the founder of that testing company, E25Bio, and an adjunct professor of medicine at Mount Sinai. And Dr. Ebony Hilton is back with us.

Irene, thanks for being with us.

When was your test ready and why was it not approved?

IRENE BOSCH, FOUNDER, E25BIO: Yes, well, thank you. Thank you for the opportunity.


So, yes, indeed, we had very early in March, and indeed was the first submission to the FDA back then, as a clinical study in three hospitals in Florida. So, basically, the test, it`s just a -- as you know, a very simple test.

It`s an antigen test. So it actually detects the virus. And what we found out, that, indeed, the first three to four days is absolutely accurate. This test can even reach the same as PCR, but then it actually goes down in the sensitivity and performance as you progress in the disease.

So FDA was not able to accept this test because they want an overall value that basically takes into account about seven days of disease. And when you do that, the average of that performance goes a little bit down. And they didn`t like that.

So the way they do it is, they compared to PCR, and it didn`t reach that threshold.

MENENDEZ: What having these tests available that early in the pandemic, what would it have done, what would have changed?

BOSCH: Absolutely, we believe, not just me, but many, that you had to have two things in place, very affordable, very much disbursable, so a lot of people could have it, right, therefore, affordable, and frequent.

And the idea of frequency is a completely new concept that appeared in early days, in which we knew that doing a test, even though you have the best test in the world, once a month, it would not mitigate the spread of disease.

But if you have a test that you can do every week or even twice a week, depending on how much prevalence of disease you have, that is the kind of test that you could use to basically mitigate the infection. So that was missing in the FDA approval process. They did not have that concept of frequency, nor they had a concept of a test that is not just for diagnosis, like we all know medical professionals need, but also population, means something that is called monitoring.

And, that, the FDA does not regulate and still doesn`t have a template or any kind of mandate to companies to do.


MENENDEZ: I`m sorry.

Dr. Hilton, understanding that this test is not as sensitive, it still could have been very helpful in picking up what would later become super- spreader events. And we are still grappling with this question of testing.

I want you to take a listen to President Biden. Take a listen.


QUESTION: Mr. President, what`s your message to Americans who are trying to get tested now and who are not able to get tested and who are wondering what took so long to ramp up testing?


QUESTION: I`m hearing that from people who are trying to get tested now before the holidays.

BIDEN: Well, what took so long is, it didn`t take long at all. What happened was, the Omicron virus spread even more rapidly than anybody thought.


MENENDEZ: Dr. Hilton, I understand the frustration in looking backwards, especially since we know that we still have a long road ahead when it comes to this virus.

Is the 500 million tests going to be enough? What more needs to be done?

HILTON: Right.

And I feel for the administration. What we know for sure is that if we were in the position we were last year, that tens of thousands more Americans will be dead. So I do thank him for his leadership.

But what we know is that 500 million, it`s not enough. We are going to need more tests within our system. And it`s not only more tests. It`s accessibility of those tests. When we think about the fact that we`re saying that you can get reimbursed for your test if you have insurance, one, you`re assuming that persons have insurance, of which 28 million Americans do not.

And then, two, you`re assuming that persons have $30 in their pocket to be able to pay for this test to get reimbursed. And, especially as the doctor was saying, you have to take tests multiple times per week, especially if you`re one of those essential workers. And we know that 60 percent of all Americans make less than $40,000 a year.

To ask them to pay $60, $90 a week to pay for tests, in hopes that they can get reimbursed by the insurance company, is a lot to ask and may cost them a meal that week, but not only them, but for their children. So we had to think about this differently.

And some of the things I say, why don`t we make our SNAP, our EBT cards, why don`t we have it where there`s a free test on those cards, that persons who have that benefit can go into the stores and actually get a test for free? Why don`t we team and partner up with Meals on Wheels?

We know those persons getting those meals are vulnerable populations. Send a test with that meal to that home. Why don`t we mail based on the social vulnerability index, mail free tests to those homes? Not every American needs a free test mailed to them. I don`t. I can afford one.


I`m thinking about the most vulnerable persons when we`re having to think about this testing. And we need to get that test to them not today but yesterday, because we`re behind the eight ball when it comes to COVID.

MENENDEZ: Dr. Irene Bosch, Dr. Ebony Hilton, thank you both.

Ahead: See, FOX News, we have a fact-check on the Biden economy and the real Grinch, but first our look at some disturbing, violent rhetoric from GOP lawmakers talking about Second Amendment solutions.


MENENDEZ: Now to a burst of violent threats and extremist rhetoric on the right laced with talk about guns and civil war.

It is the kind of language national security officials have warned could have real consequences, this coming from some of the most prominent figures in MAGA, GOP Congressman Louie Gohmert, an election denier, answering questions about a so-called Second Amendment solution at a right-wing conference just this week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was there on the 6th. And thank you for fighting for all of us, man.

Was there more we could have done?

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): Yes, there`s a lot more, but need a lot more people doing it than just a handful of us.

QUESTION: Are getting close to like a Second Amendment solution at some point, if this keeps happening? Or are we going to fix it? Do you think we are?

GOHMERT: Well, I`m still in it because I think we can.



MENENDEZ: Can`t tell if I`m dizzy from the camera angle or the content.

Another sitting Republican congressman telling a conservative crowd that he hopes there isn`t a civil war, before musing about which side would win.


REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): I think we have an opportunity in the next four to six years to prevent kinetic American forces, countrymen on countrymen, from ever meeting, although I have no doubt that we`d be victorious.

It`s time for us to stop being sheep, stand up and be lions. Let`s make these people be...


CAWTHORN: The radical left should be terrified of who we are. The radical left should be terrified of what we are going to do.


MENENDEZ: These are the messages we are now hearing from MAGA leaders.

In the months before the January 6 riot, the FBI was warning that baseless claims about election fraud were -- quote -- "likely to embolden U.S. domestic violent extremists."

Again, that was before the insurrection. Now we are seeing talk of a civil war and the celebration of firearms. Two other GOP lawmakers releasing these Christmas cards glorifying guns, the MAGA crowds responding, Kyle Rittenhouse greeted as a hero at a conservative conference. He brought a firearm to a BLM protest and killed two people, was acquitted for murder. And that earns him rock star treatment?

At the same conference, a FOX News host talked about how to interview Dr. Fauci on the street and veered quickly into violent imagery.


JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS: You got to ambush a guy like Fauci, OK?

This is how you do these ambushes. Do you mind, Dr. Fauci, if I ask you a few questions? Now you go in for the kill shot. The kill shot with an ambush, deadly, because he doesn`t see it coming. Boom, he is dead. He is dead.


MENENDEZ: We have seen how talk can spiral into action.

So where exactly does the right hook to go with this?

I turn now to Kurt Bardella. He used to advise Steve Bannon and Breitbart, before repudiating. He is now a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee adviser. And Juanita Tolliver is back with us.

Kurt, your take on this right-wing talk of violence, of civil war?

KURT BARDELLA, DCCC ADVISER: It`s a steady escalation that we have seen really happen for years now. It started with Donald Trump declaring things like the free press being the enemy of the people, inciting violence against the media.

We have seen it in the run-up to the 2020 election, the promise that, if they didn`t get the result that they wanted, that they would be hell to pay, that there would be mayhem. We saw it on January 6, those actions -- those words turn into actions, that these people, this audience of the Republican Party, these extremists, they don`t take what they`re saying is just sport or just casual conversation.

They take it as gospel. They treat it as marching orders. And now we have seen that, even ever since January 6, the Republican deliberate effort to try to whitewash what happened and evangelize these domestic terrorists and turn them into some sort of heroes, with members of Congress like Marjorie Taylor Greene referring to those who are incarcerated who participated in January 6 as being in the patriot wing of the prison.

It`s all leading towards more violence, more mayhem. And, really, at the end of the day, the Republican Party has blood on its hands.

MENENDEZ: Kurt, I got to ask you. You saw firsthand how Breitbart galvanize people. Do you see echoes of that same playbook in what`s happening now?

BARDELLA: Yes, it is the same playbook. And that`s what`s so frustrating, maddening to watch it unfold over and over again.

They`re not doing anything new here. These dark forces, people like Louie Gohmert, or Breitbart, or Steve Bannon, or FOX News, it`s the same cycle. They fuel and feed outrage. And then they turn it into action. And then they sit back and talk about as if they didn`t have a deliberate role in it.

And it really underscores why the work that`s being done by the January 6 Select Committee is so vital, so important, that we have a full accounting, a full record, a full understanding of what went into January 6, who was behind it, who funded it, who knew about it, who helped it, because if we don`t get that full accounting now, we`re not going to be able to prevent the next one from happening.

And, believe me, there will be a next one if things keep going this way.

MENENDEZ: Juanita, I think it is easy to watch some of that footage and still say, oh, that`s fringe, right? Don`t pay attention to it. Don`t give it voice.

But polling from the Public Religion Research Institute shows 30 percent, 30 percent of Republicans think resorting to violence is needed to save their country. What does that number tell you, Juanita?

TOLLIVER: It tells me that this is the core of who the GOP is, what they represent and what they`re willing to do to advance their political beliefs, because, as Kurt was numerating all the events that followed January 6, I want to go back to summer of 2022, when we had armed men take over the Michigan Statehouse.

We had a full kidnapping threat and attempt on the governor of Michigan. This is something nationally that we know the FBI has been dealing with. And when we talk about fueling this energy, it is explicitly white supremacy energy, white insurrectionist energy that we`re seeing being pumped up by this.


And that existed, of course, long before Trump. The thing is, he and the GOP have emboldened it to the point and legitimized it to the point that it is now a viable political play for them? I think the reality is here is that, when you see that 30 percent number, none of this can be dismissed.

When you have members of Congress like Boebert going unpenalized, Marjorie Taylor Greene still walking around the halls, potential people who helped to incite the January 6 attack still sitting in Congress, you cannot dismiss it.

And I fully agree with Kurt that the accountability is required from the select committee. They cannot let any of this past, because, if they do, January 6 would have been a dry run only for what they plan to do next.

MENENDEZ: President Biden recently said this to Jimmy Fallon about right- wing extremism. Take a listen.


BIDEN: The QAnon and the extreme elements of the Republican Party and what Donald Trump keeps sort of, seems to me, feeding -- with the big lie, it makes it awful hard.


MENENDEZ: Kurt, what is there for the president to do about this?

BARDELLA: Well, I think things like he`s been doing recently.

He in a recent speech directly called out those who have been using propaganda and misinformation to effectively lead their own audiences slaughter in terms of ignoring commonsense science and addressing COVID.

And the president has made it very clear from the beginning of even his campaign that he was running to try to unite the country, try to bring this country together, try to get -- move forward beyond these crazy extreme voices.

I think that what he has seen and I think probably been surprised about is how mainstream these conspiracy theory lunatic extremists have become within the Republican Party. It`s not just the outside fringes anymore, like it used to be. They are now the ones in power.

People like Jim Jordan, and people like Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, they continue to operate unabashed, unencumbered, because the Republican leadership allows them to do so, because they don`t have a problem with what they`re doing, ultimately. If they did, they`d have done something about it.

And so the mainstreaming of these very dangerous extremist type of characters, codifying them into the DNA of the Republican Party, means that, going forward, there is no bringing that together.

One of the things I always say is, as much as I want this country to heal, I can`t get along with someone who looks at me and sees me as a virus, who calls me the kung-flu, who sees me as inferior because I`m from somewhere different than they are or I look different than they do. That`s what we`re up against right now.

MENENDEZ: Kurt, Juanita, as always, thank you.

Coming up: fact-checking a FOX News attack on Biden. Who`s the real Grinch? We have the tapes.




BIDEN: The much predicted crisis didn`t occur. Packages are moving. Gifts are being delivered. Shelves are not empty.


MENENDEZ: Today, President Biden stating some facts about a supply chain crisis that never quite materialized.

Several weeks ago, right-wing pundits pounced on economic fears to ramp up the annual war on Christmas, this time painting Biden as the Grinch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kids nationwide will have fewer gifts under the tree, thanks to the Grinch in the White House.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Your Christmas presents for your kids, they may not arrive on time or even at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are now officially the White House that stole Christmas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden may have been the Grinch who stole Christmas.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: The Biden who stole Christmas.


MENENDEZ: Those attacks were ridiculous.

And even good-faith fears proved wrong. "The New York Times" noting the Christmas gifts are arriving on time and fears that a disrupted supply chain would wreak havoc over the holiday turned out to be wrong.

UPS and the U.S. Postal Service reporting that 90 percent of their packages have been delivered on time, FedEx right behind them, 97 percent. That`s better than before the pandemic. Today, there`s also some fact-checking to do what Biden`s critics are claiming about the economy.

Bloomberg reporting the nation`s economy improved more invited in Biden`s first 12 months than any president in the last 50 years, Biden`s administration also announcing the extension of the student loan payment pause until May.

Joining me now, Eric Boehlert, founder and editor of

Eric, you think FOX News going to admit Biden is not the Grinch?


But it wasn`t just FOX News. It wasn`t just the right-wing media. I mean, the mainstream press really hit this angle hard. In October, a reporter from a mainstream news organization asked Jen Psaki if President Biden would personally guarantee that every package would be delivered by Christmas.

That`s one of the strangest questions I have ever heard at the White House press briefing. The president of the United States does not dictate private enterprise. He doesn`t run shipping and handling for Amazon out of the West Wing.

But there seemed to be a real interest to really hammer Biden on the economy. And, as you just pointed out, there`s a real disconnect. I mean, jobs are up, wages are up, GDP is up, consumer spending is up. If he were a Republican, FOX News would be putting Biden on Mount Rushmore with this economic record that he has.

But back to the supply chain, there seemed to be a real interest on FOX and other places to create these crisis. Everything was a crisis, particularly after Afghanistan, the troop pullout from August to today. Biden is just buried in all these crises. But, as you just noted, a lot of them don`t come to fruition.

And a lot of the people never say, oops, we were wrong, or, Joe Biden, you did a great job, there`s momentum, you`re doing a wonderful job with the economy. So he`s kind of getting the short end of the stick, I think.


MENENDEZ: Well, you had the president himself touting his administration`s economic achievements thus far.


MENENDEZ: Take a listen.


BIDEN: And at the end of 2021, with what one analysts described as the strongest first-year economic track record of any president in the last 50 years, nearly six million new jobs, a record number for a new president, because of my staff and my Cabinet.


MENENDEZ: So I think there`s the question for the administration about how you talk about macro numbers like that, while talking about the reality that gas is expensive, grocery bills are climbing, and that that is very often what people are actually talking about at their kitchen table, more than some of these other economic indicators.

BOEHLERT: Yes, I think Joe Biden should take more credit.

I mean, obviously, he doesn`t want to be like Trump in pretending everything that revolves around him. He`s not an egomaniac like Trump was, but he ought to take -- he ought to take credit for some really good news. And this is really good news.

Yes, inflation exists. He`s not ducking that. He`s been straightforward that it`s going to be a problem for a while. But this economy is rebounding so much faster than anyone ever thought, if you go back to April or March, and he ought to take credit for it.

MENENDEZ: Eric, I have one more question. It is a yes-or-no answer only.

Did you get all your packages on time?

BOEHLERT: Every one. Every one.

MENENDEZ: Refusing the yes-or-no answer.

Eric Boehlert, thank you so much.


MENENDEZ: Ahead: startling new revelations about the pandemic`s early days and the treatment of immigrants.



MENENDEZ: Amid a new COVID surge with Omicron gripping the country, we`re not getting a first look at what life was like inside a notorious immigration detention facility during the earliest days of the pandemic

The Irwin detention center in Georgia first game to infamy last fall after detainees said they received unwanted and unnecessary gynecology procedures. The accused doctor denies the allegations.

That story was covered in part by award-winning investigative journalist Seth Freed Wessler, who is now out with a powerful new documentary called "The Facility." It is getting Oscar buzz for the shocking details it uncovers about the facility`s COVID response, as detainees struggled for basic safety protections.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because the only way they wear their face masks on Monday, and now they don`t even have it on at all. As you see, she`s going up there. She`s going up there, checking through every room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are not practicing it, which is the social distance, the six feet. With 32 people in here, there is no way we`re going to practice that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I made this myself with a sock to cover my face, because I refuse to run the risk.


MENENDEZ: Seth Freed Wessler joins me now.

Seth, the detainees ultimately took dramatic measures to call attention to their safety. What did they do?

SETH FREED WESSLER, DIRECTOR, "THE FACILITY": Well, I began reporting in the very early days of the pandemic on what was happening inside of ICE detention centers.

I talked with detainees around the country, including in the Irwin County Detention Center, where there was this overwhelming sense of fear because more or less inside this detention center officials were operating as if nothing had changed. Nobody had masks. There was no ability to social distance and there was a tremendous amount of reasonable fear.

And so people inside that detention center, and in ways that I found remarkable as a reporter as I was talking to people, using this video visitation app, calling into the facility, were beginning to try to organize inside to demand masks, to demand protections and to demand that people be released if they had medical vulnerabilities.

And so I watched as people sort of began to organize these protests over the early months of the pandemic at Irwin County Detention Center.

MENENDEZ: And were they successful?

WESSLER: You know, the Irwin County Detention Center lost its contract to hold detainees for ICE. So there are no immigration detainees in this South Georgia Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center.

And I think that decision that the Biden administration made happen for a lot of reasons. But one of those was that people inside were already organized, were able to sort of lift up their voices, and in a way that was pretty profound to tell their stories about what was happening to them inside of this place.

I think those stories got out of the detention center. This film kind of brings us back to that first year of the pandemic. The facility, I really - - I tried to bring people, people seeing this film, inside with me, because I have spent so much time on these video calls.

It functioned almost like a portal in and out of the detention center, not so different from the call we`re having now, but into a place that`s not supposed to be seen from the outside. And so the film tells the story of that protest, but also just a life inside of this place that`s supposed to keep people on the inside separated from the people -- from people on the outside.

MENENDEZ: I want to play an exchange between a detainee and an ICE officer. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is nobody infected in this facility.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both of the wardens were in the federal court on Thursday. And they declared that they have tested three people, and one came positive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people responsible are nowhere to be found. They`re all sitting at home somewhere barking orders, telling people like me what to say to you.


MENENDEZ: What did you make of that officer flat-out lying?

WESSLER: I mean, it was incredibly striking.

I had read the legal filings that had been -- appeared in court just the day before establishing that people had COVID. The warden had said that people had COVID in this facility. And an ICE official shows up in this cell block and tells everybody there`s no problem here, there`s nothing to worry about.

It was shocking to me. It was shocking to the people on the inside. And I happened to be sort of sitting there on the other end of the camera at my desk watching as this happened inside of the detention center.

So, "The Facility," this documentary, tries to tell that story in this intimate, kind of real-time way over -- in that period when all of us were trying to figure out, what is the world going to look like? And it was particularly scary in immigration detention centers and in jails and prisons around the country.

MENENDEZ: This is, of course, not just about one detention center. It`s not just about one moment in time. It is about a larger broken system.

I got about 30 seconds left. Your final thoughts, Seth?

WESSLER: Ultimately, the numbers of people who are held in ICE detention go up and they go down, depending on who the president is or what`s happening around immigration policy.

But the fact is that ICE detention, detaining immigrants who are seeking protection in the U.S. or fighting deportation, remains a central part of the American immigration policy. It remains a central part of how we deal with immigration.

And that`s a choice that the federal government makes. I mean, nearly nobody who is detained has to be detained as a matter of law. It`s at the discretion of the federal government. And that was true during the pandemic in the early days. It`s true now for many -- the tens of thousands of people who remain held in ICE detention around the country.

MENENDEZ: Seth Freed Wessler, I`m very grateful for your work and your reporting on for your time with us tonight. Thank you so much.

You can watch that film. I implore you to watch it. It`s called "The Facility." It`s part of MSNBC Films` holiday marathon. That`s beginning Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

That does it for me.