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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, December 22, 2020

Guests: Libby Casey, Christina Greer, Berit Berger, Katty Kay, Maxine Waters, Melissa Murray, Chris Lu


Congresswoman Maxine Waters speaks out. Congressman Denver Riggleman discusses the current state of the Republican Party. The feds ramp up their criminal investigation into Rudy Giuliani. President-elect Biden warns the country that the darkest days of the pandemic are still ahead.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: "THE BEAT," with Ayman Mohyeldin, in for Ari Melber, starts right now.

Hi Ayman.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST: Hey, Nicolle. Thank you very much.

Hello there, everyone. Welcome to THE BEAT. I'm Ayman Mohyeldin, in for Ari Melber.

New reports today of Trump turning on more of his Cabinet members during his final days in office, as he tries to make desperate attempts to keep power in this country. Axios reporting that Trump is -- quote -- "lashing out" and everyone is in the black zone.

That includes his top lawyer, White House counsel Pat Cipollone. Trump is reportedly -- quote -- fed up" with Cipollone and on the brink of removing him and replacing him with a fringe loyalist. Also in Trump's line of fire, Vice President Mike Pence. Trump reportedly views Pence as not fighting hard enough for him.

Axios reporting that Trump brought up a Lincoln Project ad that is getting in his head. Watch.


NARRATOR: The end is coming, Donald. Even Mike Pence knows. He's backing away from your train wreck, from your desperate lies and clown lawyers.


MOHYELDIN: Now, all of this as the Justice Department gets a new chief.

Attorney General William Barr resigning after becoming the target of Trump's public attacks. His last day is tomorrow, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen taking the helm in fact, insiders telling Axios that he will have -- quote -- "the worst job in Washington," and that Rosen -- quote -- "has no earthly idea the insanity that he is in for."

Today, President Joe Biden talking to reporters about how he views the top law enforcement job in the country.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: The attorney general of the United States of America is not the president's lawyer. I will appoint someone who I expect to enforce the law as the law is written, not guided by me.


MOHYELDIN: All right, joining me now is "Washington Post" reporter Libby Casey, Christina Greer, political science professor and co-host of the new podcast "What's In It For Us?" on, and Chris Lu, an attorney who oversaw the Obama/Biden transition.

Chris, let me begin with you, because there was something that stood out to me in those comments by Joe Biden, where he talked about how the Department of Defense has not briefed him or his team, I should be more specific, about the cyber-breach that has happened.

So, you have been in that position before. Give our viewers a sense of what a normal transition looks like, because this is not how transitions are supposed to unfold.

CHRIS LU, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Look, nothing about this transition has been normal.

In a normal transition, it starts right after the election is called. That certainly didn't happen in this case. Back in 2009, we had complete cooperation from the outgoing Bush administration. It wasn't just at the White House, the transition leadership level. It was through every single agency.

And, look, regardless of whose side you're on, regardless of party, this is important for national security, it's important for homeland security, it's important for continuity. And we know that this is a dangerous time for our country, and adversaries want to take advantage of it.

And when you have got a breach like this that potentially affects multiple agencies, including the agencies that oversee our nuclear arsenal, we should be very concerned. And we should be concerned because we have a president who is dismissing the seriousness of this attack, who, for whatever reason, continues to deflect blame from Russia.

But, more importantly, getting on top of this is not going -- only going to require this administration's actions. But the next administration's. And this is something that there should be tight coordination on. And it should be -- it's very, very troubling that that's not happening right now.

MOHYELDIN: Well, yes.

And it's not just about what is not happening, Libby. It's also about what this White House is doing in its final weeks, with the personnel changes, with the attempt to overturn the election, with the assault on democracy. What are D.C. insiders, Libby, saying about Trump's state of mind right now?

LIBBY CASEY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, you make such an important point, that the Trump administration, President Trump himself is actively making this harder for Joe Biden to come into office, and not just for Joe Biden, but for the American people, because we're the ones who are still going to be dealing with the coronavirus, this horrible hack breach, and so many other crises on the horizon.

President Trump is holed up in the White House. And here's how "The Washington Post" is describing who he's surrounding himself with, conspiracy theorists, media-hungry lawyers and other political misfits.

This is not the opinion page. This is the news section of "The Washington Post" using this kind of language. And the people that President Trump is entertaining the ideas of are calling for things that are so fringe and so outlandish, it is shocking that they're being talked about in the Oval Office.

We're talking about seizing voting machines through executive fiat. We're talking about imposing martial law. It does have that feeling of like the frog in the pot where the water just gets turned down a little bit more and a little bit more.


CASEY: And, suddenly, we're in this completely unimaginable territory.

This is what President Trump is focused on at this moment. And you just -- the advisers around him are coming out now and saying they're trying to back away from it. When you see someone like William Barr...


CASEY: ... looking to the exits, it's a moment that shows this is continuing to go forward.


And we should note William Barr has been one of the most loyal foot soldiers in this administration to President Trump. And not to mention they also want to try to delay the Senate run-off race in Georgia to February 4, according to Peter Navarro, who made that recommendation.

Christina, let's talk a little bit about something we heard Speaker Pelosi say. And it's about Trump leaving office. Watch what she had to say.

Actually, let me read it for you. She said -- quote -- "I'm counting down the hours until he's gone. I plan to pull him out of there by his hair, his little hands and his feet."


MOHYELDIN: Your reaction to that?

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Well, I think Speaker Pelosi has just reached a level of frustration, where the president has refused to concede, he's refused to acknowledge Joe Biden as the president-elect and the 46th president of the United States.

And, as Chris has said, it puts us in a very dangerous position, not just internationally, because, obviously, we're weakened and our foreign adversaries are looking at this transition that's in disarray, but we're looking at domestic terrorism constantly in places like Oregon and Michigan. And we have a sitting president who's calling for tacit threats towards even members of his own party.

So, we're in the coup. Like, it is imaginable. Many of us thought of this well before November 3, because we knew that this president would not go quietly. We knew that he would not accept election results. For those of us who are in New York, we know that he's never been able to accept defeat gracefully.

He's always been able to point in some other direction, either distract people, or bailout, or grift his way out of it. And this is a slightly different scenario. And so here we are. We find ourselves holding our breath until January 20, where there is a possibility that someone may have to drag the sitting president -- the current president out of 1600 Pennsylvania when Joe Biden is sworn in, something we have never seen as a nation.

And we have to also remember that other nations are looking at us and to us. And in the past four years, they have realized, A, the emperor has no clothes, and we're clearly in such disarray, we have weakened ourselves internationally in ways that I don't know if we will feel the real results for years to come.

MOHYELDIN: Yes, I was going to say I have seen others make the point that come noon on January 20, he will be treated like any other trespasser on the White House if he has not left the grounds of the compound.

Chris, I'm curious to get your thoughts here. Trump's real goal, by some assessment, is to undercut the Biden presidency before it even begins. We know he has this vindictive streak he has demonstrated with loyalists, he has demonstrated with opponents.

And there's no doubt that, when you're looking at what he's doing now, he is not making it easier for the incoming administration. He's deliberately trying to make it harder.

LU: Yes, let's not forget, I mean, we are now 45 days past when the election was called. We are eight days past the Electoral College deciding this election.

And we still have a president right now who is intent on increasingly desperate and dangerous efforts to try to overturn this election. And, again, this should trouble you, regardless of what party you're part of, because our elections, our voting are the fundamental tenet of our democracy.

And when you look at the things that he's trying to undercut the incoming administration on, it's on things like the pandemic, it's on economic recovery, it's on national security, homeland security, like this Russian breach.

These are not problems that are suddenly going to go away on noon January 20. The next administration is going to have to deal with them. And in this -- for the sake of our country's best interest, you would want this handoff to be as smooth as possible.

And you have a president who is not cooperating, seemingly, and who's not providing that level of assistance that's going to be required for the new team to have this smooth transition, and all while doing that to delegitimize the election and continue to create this kind of tension.

Look, no one in this country should be resting comfortably until we get to noon on January 20.

MOHYELDIN: Yes, no doubt everyone should be taking these actions very seriously.

Christina, let me play for you at FOX News host Geraldo Rivera had to say to his friend Donald Trump. Watch.


GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS: The president is wrong. There is no avenue left.

Telling people that, right around the corner, we can do this, we can turn this around, that's bogus. There's no way to turn it around. Mounting evidence? Come on, Brian. There's not mounting evidence. The Supreme Court is not going to hear this case. And I think further whining by the president makes him appear a sore loser.


MOHYELDIN: Is Geraldo here the voice of reason the right, Christina, because it's hard to imagine?

It seems like, if you try to make that point to the right, you get cast aside. There are new voices on the block, so to speak, with more right-wing fringe elements speaking up on behalf of the president.

GREER: Right.

Well, the president is slowly, but surely losing gender sort of his faithful followers on the elite levels, which were always around a ragtag crew of Republicans anyway. So he will start going to more and more fringe groups, the Newsmaxes, the more conspiracy theorist, the Sidney Powells of the world.

I mean, I think, if you read the fine print, the reason why the president is fighting so hard, part of it is ego and his embarrassment. But the other part is, this is the last big grift. If you have read the fine print, you're giving him money. He can use the money for whatever he deems appropriate in various ways.

We know that he will have several lawsuits when he's a citizen starting on January 20, civil and possible criminal, depending on how the New York attorney general decides to play things that he's done whilst president and even things that he's done before he became president.

So, this is the grift as he's leaving the door. But we have to look at so many Republicans slowly, very, very slowly, are just now coming around the bend, because they have to think about also, finally, the future of their own party. What is the Republican Party going to do for the next four years?

They want to be viable in the midterm elections, when the opposing party tends to gain more seats. They want to be viable in 2024. If Donald Trump continues to hang over their heads that he may or may not run, what does that mean for their bench? What does that mean for the future of their own party with younger senators and governors that are coming up?

MOHYELDIN: And, Libby, let me ask you really quickly, 29 days to go the until the new administration comes in, still a lot of time for the Trump administration to wreak havoc.

Talk to us a little bit about what checks, if any, are in place if Trump continues purging key posts and top officials with less than 30 days in office?

CASEY: Honestly, the biggest check is going to be Republicans and whether they can try to be some sort of voice against Donald Trump.

Now, he's alienating more and more of them, going after people like Mitch McConnell himself now. But the positions that President Trump appoints, people that he puts in now can be replaced when Joe Biden comes in, except for some of these positions that are like three- or four-year terms.

So, some of this can be sort of rolled back. And, obviously, the Biden administration is keeping tabs on what they can immediately take care of once they get into office, what can they reverse, and then what will be much more complicated to undo.

The precious thing that Americans are losing right now, though, is time. And we're not even really sure -- it's not definitive how President Trump is even going to come in on this big bill that Congress passed, because that's not what he's tweeting about and focusing on right now. It's expected that he will sign it.

But what he's focused on right now is instead the election and tweeting out falsehoods about the election. And so we're losing precious time to continue doing any kind of work on the pandemic, on the hacking crisis, on racial equality in America, as well as the economy.

And so the more Joe Biden gets in front of America, like he did today, and talks in presidential terms and talks about things like coronavirus, like the Russia hack, the more Americans can focus on him. But President Trump is still in the Oval Office.

MOHYELDIN: Yes, indeed, he is.

Libby Casey, Christina Greer, Chris Lu, thank you for starting us off this evening. I appreciate it.

And coming up in just 30 seconds: The feds ramp up their criminal investigation into Rudy Giuliani. Will Trump pardon follow?

And Dr. Fauci rolls up his sleeve for the COVID vaccine.

Also, we're going to have a live interview with a GOP lawmaker who says that his party needs to stop the -- quote -- "lunatics from running the asylum."

All that, plus Congresswoman Maxine Waters -- when we're back in just 30 seconds.


MOHYELDIN: All right, Rudy Giuliani is the subject of an ongoing federal criminal investigation by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.

The criminal investigation is accelerating in Trump's final days in office, one of the two sources familiar with the investigation telling "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" and NBC News the case at SDNY involving Giuliani is -- quote -- "very active," with the feds discussing trying to obtain Giuliani's electronic communications.

And here's where the plot thickens. The feds can't get a search warrant without approval from the Department of Justice because Giuliani is the president's lawyer and some materials may be protected by attorney-client privilege.

And so the timing of recent events matters here. Giuliani has led what critics call the legal clown show, trying to overturn the election, spewing baseless claims of fraud, offering no evidence, and becoming a punchline to feel the boss' election obsession.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: There was a plan from a centralized place TO execute these various acts of voter fraud, massive fraud.

How is it they all turned around?

QUESTION: Where is our FBI? And have they expressed any interest whatsoever?

GIULIANI: What do we have to do to get the FBI to wake up? I'm sending my votes of people in Michigan over to Germany? I'd fire everybody that was involved in this election.


MOHYELDIN: Attorney General William Barr leaves tomorrow. He's been at odds with Trump over election fraud.

And then there's the issue of pardons, with reports that Giuliani and Trump talked about a preemptive pardon. Why would he need a pardon if he did nothing wrong?

Giuliani's attorney tells us here at NBC News -- quote -- "No reason to believe there's any truth to the allegations that there is renewed interest in my client." But NBC stands by the reporting.

And there is renewed interest in getting Giuliani's electronic communications, and the heat is getting turned up.

Joining me now is Melissa Murray, law professor at NYU, and Berit Berger, a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York. Great to have both of you with us.

Berit, what does very active mean to you here, when we hear that term that a very active investigation is ongoing?

BERIT BERGER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, that means to me that they have witnesses that are talking.

I mean, you have to remember, if they're thinking that they're going to get an electronic search warrant to go after Giuliani's e-mails, they have to have probable cause that a crime has been committed.

The best way that they would show probable cause is if they have a cooperating witness or multiple witnesses that are telling them about the crimes. So, they certainly must have other evidence. But my guess is that probably means they have people that are talking about Giuliani.

MOHYELDIN: And, Melissa, do you think that they will be able to get those e-mails? Giuliani perhaps trying to exercise a little bit of attorney-client privilege here.

To what extent will the law allow him to hide behind that?

MELISSA MURRAY, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, it really depends on how closely related those e-mails are to the president's business.

If there's an incredibly close nexus, then there will be a much harder fight in order to get those to be released. Attorney-client privilege is really arcane, really difficult. But, again, this is a place where you can expect the administration to put up a fight, especially if the materials involved are really damning for the president.

MOHYELDIN: Berit, the reporting states that prosecutors for the Southern District of New York have been in communication with Justice Department officials in Washington about gaining access to those e-mails.

What do those talks sound like from an SDNY prosecutor's perspective?

BERGER: Yes, so this is not uncommon for assistant U.S. attorneys to have communications with the Department of Justice if they're trying to seek a search warrant for an attorney's communications.

And that's for good reason, because there's a heightened standard when there's an attorney involved. These conversations probably include, what is your probable cause? How are you going to protect against any potential taint? So, that means that the prosecutors, if they were able to get such a search warrant, would have to come up with some sort of a filter team, a team that's not related to the actual prosecutors doing the investigation, to make sure that they're looking through the communications to try to weed out anything that would be protected material.

But these are conversations that do happen in routine cases. My guess is, given Giuliani's role, these would be getting the highest level of attention, though, from the Department of Justice and probably have a very different feel than the run-of-the-mill conversation.


So, to that point, Melissa, from a DOJ perspective, how does the Department of Justice and Barr's exit really impact these talks? Do you think the Department of Justice, which, in many people's analysis, has been acting as the law office for President Trump, could they be independent enough to make a fair and impartial decision about these e-mails?

MURRAY: Well, it really all depends on what happens.

And this is already a period of transition for the DOJ, as they wait for the Biden administration to announce who will be the pick for attorney general. The fact that there's going to be an acting attorney general in the interim just complicates this further.

So, you already have a transition top of a transition, which may delay the degree to which these sorts of questions can be definitively resolved.

MOHYELDIN: Let me play for you, if I can really quickly, Berit, what Rudy Giuliani had said about voter fraud claims. Listen to this.


GIULIANI: I can smell crooks, smell them. And these crooks smells so bad, you can smell them from a mile.

Now, prove me wrong. Prove me nuts.


MOHYELDIN: What is your reaction to that, Berit?

BERGER: My reaction is, that's not how this works. It's not the job of somebody saying, I have alleged fraud, now you go and prove that it didn't happen. That's generally not the way things work.

Usually, if you're the one making fraudulent claims, you're the one putting forth the evidence that a crime actually happened.

MOHYELDIN: Yes, fair enough.

All right, Berit Berger, Melissa Mary, thank you. Excuse me. Melissa Murray, thank you so much for joining us this evening.

And coming up, Congresswoman Maxine Waters is here on Trump's election scheme and Speaker Pelosi wanting to pull Trump out of office.

But, first, a GOP lawmaker says his party needs to stop the -- quote -- "lunatics" from running the asylum.

He joins me live next.


MOHYELDIN: All right, so now to the war inside MAGA world as Trump's assault on democracy triggers recriminations and infighting.

The latest development, Trump going after top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell after he publicly congratulated Biden on his win, the White House sending out a blast e-mail to House Republicans with a graphic implying that McConnell only won his election because of Trump with the -- quote -- "Sadly, Mitch forgot. He was the first one off the ship."

One of McConnell's GOP allies saying the election scheme to overturn the results will "go down like a shot dog in the Senate."

Another GOP congressman who rejects the election denialism, saying it is -- quote -- "a constant fight in the Republican Party to try and stop the lunatics from taking over the asylum," that congressman joins me in a moment.

The split now also playing out in real time on right-wing media, some of the very conservative outlets whose guests and commentators had parroted Trumpist conspiracies on voting machine companies now having to fact-check those claims, in an apparent effort to stave off legal action from those companies.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Smartmatic is the multinational corporation purportedly tied to the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez's regime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Newsmax would like to clarify its news coverage. Smartmatic is a U.S. company and not owned by the Venezuelan government, Hugo Chavez.

MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS: The Smartmatic system has a backdoor that allows it to be -- that allows the votes to be mirrored and monitored.

LOU DOBBS, FOX BUSINESS: We asked him for his assessment of Smartmatic and recent claims about the company.

EDDIE PEREZ, OPEN SOURCE ELECTION TECHNOLOGY INSTITUTE: I have not seen any evidence that Smartmatic software was used to delete, change, alter anything related to vote tabulation.

BARTIROMO: So, that is where we stand right now. We will keep investigating.


MOHYELDIN: All right, joining me now is outgoing Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman of Virginia.

He's out with a new book "Bigfoot .... It's Complicated," which examines the way pockets of the country are falling prey to conspiracy theories. And BBC News Washington anchor Katty Kay.

It's great to have both of you with us.

Congressman, let me begin with you.

What is your message to Republicans in your party who are actively cooking up election plots with Trump?

REP. DENVER RIGGLEMAN (R-VA): I would say, listen to facts.

It's really difficult for me to even understand how we're allowing conspiracy theories to run this disinformation gambit against our own colleagues. And you're seeing with 126 that signed on to the Texas A.G. Lawsuit. You're talking about what's going on in the White House.

I cannot believe that some of my colleagues would meet about overturning the Electoral College results. And, to me, it seems that, right now, we are sort of bought in certain segments of the Republican Party on crazy.

And as I saw in some of those clips, even though I'm trying to fight disinformation, my background is in intelligence, it seems like crazy is starting to eat itself. And that does happen sometimes.

MOHYELDIN: But let me just ask you really quickly, if I can, a follow-up, which is, how in a world where these people don't agree on facts can you present them facts?

I mean, that the fundamental problem here is that they just don't agree with the facts.

RIGGLEMAN: I'm glad Katty is here, because we had talked about that also.

And the thing is, this is -- I had an argument with a Bigfoot believer who said, since I worked for the NSA, I was tracking him and his family, and if he came out too hard for Bigfoot, that I would go after him.

So, it's very difficult to talk facts with people like that. But you're seeing these belief systems starting to sort of metastasize across our entire electorate in certain portions in certain states. So I think that's a real issue.

And, listen, it's hard to talk facts with people who don't want to talk facts, but they do believe in almost a messianic conspiracy theory, which is QAnon or other types of things like that. So it's very difficult, very difficult. I don't know how we break through unless we use just blunt-force facts at this point.

MOHYELDIN: Yes, what was once fringe is now becoming more mainstream.

Katty, let's talk about the feud between Trump and McConnell. Is it significant? Is it just a small rift between the two men? Or is this going to be something that divides the Republican Party over the next four years?

KATTY KAY, BBC NEWS: I mean, you have had a few Republicans, senior Republicans, who had stopped by Donald Trump over the last four years who have had that kind of a "Et tu, Brutus?" moment, where Donald Trump must be feeling that, increasingly, people who had been senior and loyal because it suited their interests are now jumping ship.

You have got Barr. You have got McConnell as well. Mitch McConnell wants power. And he knows that doing things like working with moderates in order to get a stimulus bill passed, for example, is the kind of thing that will keep him in power, potentially because it helps the senators down in Georgia.

So I think it's an indication of a new way of -- rather, a return to the old way of doing business in Washington, which we may have all forgotten over the last four years, where it is possible for some people to have conversations and possible for people in the center to come together to try and get things done.

And it's an indication of the fact that Donald Trump is out the door. He is leaving, and Mitch McConnell is looking to the future, which is why he is congratulating vice president and president-elect -- former Vice President and president-elect Joe Biden and saying what Congressman Riggleman has also said. Joe Biden won. It's time to move on and get things done through.

MOHYELDIN: Congressman, given the fact that the president, regardless of what he does on January 20, may still linger in the Republican Party. I want to share with you what one conservative writer suggests, which is that Trump may be all that is holding the GOP together.

"The Republican Party," he says "has embraced reality TV authoritarianism, not out of strength, but weakness. Mr. Trump is all it has."

What happens to the Republican Party after January 20, when President Trump, although on the sidelines, if he decides to run again in 2024, is still there, is still tweeting, is still casting a very large shadow with him and his surrogates over the GOP?

RIGGLEMAN: I think it's not just casting that shadow. I think it's the amount of money that he's raised. When you talk about hundreds of millions of dollars, he's going to be a force.

And you're looking at this massive grift. I call it the griftocracy. And you don't want a group of individuals -- and I have said this before -- that are supporting the president or supporting his policies who believes that "The Lord of the Rings" is a documentary.


RIGGLEMAN: That's probably not where we -- I don't think we want to go there, right?

And so I think it's actually going to be more money that's controlling the Republican Party.

And I think, here in Virginia, I think the Republican Party will eventually be a third party. I just don't see how it can sustain itself if it's not a party of policy and ideas, and it's a party of Krakens and some sort of mythological beast that implant votes in voting machines.

MOHYELDIN: Let me play for you one of the former leaders of the Republican Party, Newt Gingrich, what he said about President Trump attending Biden's inauguration. Watch.


QUESTION: Should President Trump attend the inauguration of president-elect Biden?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Probably. I think that we only had a couple of presidents in history who didn't.

If he does not go, then I think he has to explain why. So, I think Trump's got to decide what best communicates his message. I think his instinct is not to go, because he's convinced the election was stolen.


MOHYELDIN: Katty, what do you think it means if he does not attend?

KAY: One thing that we have learned over the last four years is that democracy is partly rules -- they're written down in the Constitution -- but it's also partly made up of traditions and norms. And Donald Trump has ridden roughshod over many of those traditions and norms.

Some of them perhaps don't matter terribly much. I mean, if Joe Biden -- if Donald Trump is actually physically sitting there on Inauguration Day, it would be good. It is part of the symbolism of the smooth transition of power.

More important, it seems to me, is that Joe Biden's incoming national security team has access to everything it needs to have from the Pentagon, at a time when the United States is under attack. That is one of the traditions and norms of a transition period that is actually essential to America's national security.

And it's not happening, I would feel much better if Tony Blinken, Avril Haines, Jake Sullivan, Lloyd Austin were all fully in coordination with the Pentagon at the moment over this Russian cyberattack, and, likewise, on the COVID side, if you had Jeff Zients fully in cooperation with the COVID side at the White House, the sitting White House at the moment.

Those are the kinds of things that really need to happen. It would be nice if Donald Trump was at the inauguration,. It's possible that we have a very scaled-down inauguration. And that might be some way for Joe Biden to get round the awkwardness if Trump insists on not going.

But the smooth transition of power, some of it's symbolism. Some of it's real substance. And the substance isn't happening, and that should be alarming to everybody.

MOHYELDIN: Yes. It's also something that Joe Biden said earlier today in his comments, that he's not getting the full transition cooperation that they need.

KAY: Yes.

MOHYELDIN: Congressman Denver Riggleman, Katty Kay, thank you so much for joining us this hour. I appreciate it.

Still to come: Dr. Fauci getting vaccinated on camera. News tonight on the pandemic and the recovery.

But first: Biden today absolutely ripping into Trump over the massive cyberattack.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters is live with me next on that and much more.



BIDEN: The secretary of state and Attorney General William Barr suggest that Russia, Russia is responsible for this breach.

The Trump administration needs to make an official attribution. This assault happened on Donald Trump's watch, when he wasn't watching.

I see no evidence that it's under control. I see none. Heard of none. Defense Department won't even brief us.


MOHYELDIN: President-elect Joe Biden tearing into Trump over the massive cyber-hack of American government agencies and revealing his transition team still isn't getting updates from the Pentagon about it, which stopped cooperating last week.

Meantime, Donald Trump with nothing on his public schedule for the second day in a row, instead hunkering down inside the White House, apparently ignoring the hack, while being consumed by his election plot, and griping about perceived slights from allies who won't go along with it, even turning on his vice president, Mike Pence.

Joining me now is Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Democrat from California and chair of the Financial Services Committee.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us.

I will definitely get to the COVID relief bill in just a moment, because that is a very important piece of news today. But I do want to get your reaction to what we heard today from president-elect Joe Biden about this cyberattack.

How alarmed are you that the Pentagon still isn't briefing Biden's transition team?

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): It is just impossible to really understand why they will not cooperate with transition.

We know that the president of the United States has this relationship with Putin and Russia and the oligarchs of Russia. We also know that the president has never condemned Putin for the hacking of our Democratic National Committee and some of our election systems in our states.

He will not criticize Putin, and he will not do anything that will help us to understand what is going on with Russia and how much hacking they have done. And so he's been consistent in basically protecting Putin and Russia.

This is dangerous. And Biden is absolutely correct. He's not cooperating still. He's not paying attention. And the nation is at risk. We don't know yet how extensive this hacking has been, how many of our agencies and departments have been hacked into.

And we have got to get on top of this. We have got to make sure that we correct some of the damage that this president has done already...


WATERS: ... by not paying attention, by not pushing back on Russia.

And so Biden has to get tough. And we have got to make sure that he keeps fighting to get the materials and the information that is needed in this transition. If he doesn't get it, we're going to have to dig deep and work hard and investigate and do everything possible to find out how much harm and how much damage and how much information they have, how much sensitive information that they have coming out of even the Treasury.

MOHYELDIN: We -- I know there's a lot of Democrats that are counting down the days.

I wanted to read for you something Speaker Pelosi said about Trump. She said she's counting down the hours until he's gone: "I plan to pull him out of there by his hair, his little hands and his feet."


MOHYELDIN: I'm curious to get your thoughts.

Is that what a lot of Democrats are thinking right about now about President Trump, that he's got to get out of there one way or the other?

WATERS: We want him out. And we keep hearing these rumors about everything that he's doing to try and stay in. We have even heard rumors that he said he's not leaving. We want him out.

And to tell you the truth, I don't know exactly what you do with a president who has lost an election, and you have a new person who's been elected to the presidency, and the old president is not wanting to leave. I don't know what you do.

My understanding -- or what I would like to do is, I would like to see him marched out of there.


WATERS: I don't know whether it's the Secret Service, or whether it's military, or what have you, but he can't say. He can't claim ownership of the White House.

He doesn't want to leave, and he's doing everything possible, including talking about martial war, et cetera, et cetera. We want him out of there.


WATERS: And I know Nancy Pelosi is counting down the hours. She told me that also.

MOHYELDIN: Let me, if I can, switch gears, just get your final thoughts about the COVID relief bill.

A lot of people are looking forward to the new Congress. How soon do you think there will be another relief bill? Because a lot of it really comes down on what happens in Georgia. If Democrats lose Georgia and Mitch McConnell is still blocking COVID relief efforts coming out of the House, what's going to change for Americans, besides what they got right now, which everyone agrees is not enough?

WATERS: It is not enough. And it's been too long in coming.

And many people are hurting. We have people who are hungry. This food insecurity is rampant all over the United States of America. And so we have got to start right away with the new administration legislating to get more stimulus payments, legislating to take care of those who are eligible for unemployment benefits, legislating to expand the rental assistance.

In the HEROES Act, when we first passed it out of the House of Representatives, I had put in $100 billion, because that is what we determined was needed by all of the experts and the research that we had done. We were only able to get $25 billion in the relief bill that we just had. And that's certainly not enough.

We have got to make sure that we extend the rental moratorium. We can't afford to have families put out on the street. And we have got to take care of the landlords, in particular, the mom-and-pop landlords, who are depending on this rent to be able to do repairs and to keep up their properties.

And this is retirement income for many of these.


WATERS: And some of them still have mortgages on these properties. So we have got to start right away.

Now, we have got to win Georgia. We have got to win Georgia. We have got to win both of those Senate seats. But let's say something happens that we do not win. We are going to work as hard as we can. We're not going to give up.


WATERS: We want Biden to use any influence that he may have coming out of the Senate, still knowing some of those senators.

We are going to organize. We're going to put pressure. We're going to leverage. We're going to do everything that we can. The American public needs their government to come to their aid in a crisis. This is a crisis. People are hungry. They are frightened. The businesses are closing down.

And this government has a responsibility to provide safety and security to the people of this country. They expect this from us. And we should do that. And we're going to fight for it. We're not walking away and we're not running away.

MOHYELDIN: All right. We will see what happens in Georgia January 5.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, thank you so much. I appreciate your time this evening.

WATERS: Well, thank you so very much. I appreciate your having this discussion. It's so important.

MOHYELDIN: Thank you.

And president-elect Joe Biden takes a veiled shot at Trump's handling of the COVID crisis. Dr. Fauci getting a vaccine shot and speaking out about it. And task force member Dr. Birx is retiring -- all of that next.


MOHYELDIN: President-elect Joe Biden talked extensively about the coronavirus today, with a blunt assessment on what lies ahead.


BIDEN: I'm going to tell it to you straight. I'm going to tell you the truth.

And here's the simple truth. Our darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us. So, we need to prepare ourselves, to steel our spines, as frustrating as it is to hear, it's going to take patience, persistence and determination to beat this virus.


MOHYELDIN: All right, so 2020 is now the deadliest year in U.S. history, mainly due to the pandemic and its mismanaged response.

But vaccinations are continuing across the country for front-line workers at this hour. Dr. Fauci got his first dose of Moderna's vaccine today, expressing confidence in it.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: I feel extreme confidence in the safety and the efficacy of this vaccine. And I want to encourage everyone who has the opportunity to get vaccinated, so that we could have a veil of protection over this country that would end this pandemic.


MOHYELDIN: And a change for Dr. Fauci, he won't be working with Dr. Birx anymore. She is announcing that she is retiring after serving on Trump's Coronavirus Task Force.

It comes after traveling with family over the Thanksgiving holiday, against her own advice.

Joining me now is Dr. Natalie Azar, rheumatologist and assistant professor at NYU Langone.

Dr. Azar, it's great to have you with us.

Your response to that comment today that I think had a lot of people surprised, with that clear-eyed assessment from Joe Biden that our darkest days are ahead of us? How do you square that with what we have also heard from other health official, saying we are still in the tunnel, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel with these vaccines?

DR. NATALIE AZAR, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, Ayman, I think that both things are true.

The vaccine is ultimately going to be the antidote. It is the thing that will make the definitive turn -- or turn the corner, if you will. But we're not there yet. And until that moment happens when we have enough of our population immunized, all we have to rely on are the behaviors that we know work and that, unfortunately, we still are falling short of in many parts of the country, hence the numbers that we're seeing,

MOHYELDIN: Let me play for you something else Joe Biden said about vaccine and distribution. Watch this.


BIDEN: I have absolute confidence in the vaccine. But we're in short supply. Taking the vaccine from a vial into the arm of millions of Americans is one of the biggest operational challenges the United States has ever faced.


MOHYELDIN: How is the distribution going so far, from your perspective?

AZAR: Look, there have already been a couple of hiccups. There were a significant percentage less Pfizer vaccine delivered to health care providers and hospital systems in the last week than was anticipated.

And, quite frankly, I don't know that that was necessarily unexpected, given the sheer volume of vaccines that needed to be distributed, and truly the unprecedented nature of this, and the need for all the collaboration between so many industries, FedEx and UPS, the manufacturing plants themselves. I'm not surprised that there have been some bumps in the road already.

MOHYELDIN: Let me ask you about your personal experience. I understand you're getting the vaccine tomorrow, live on "The Today Show."

Talk to us about your emotions in this particular moment and what it means for you. How, if anything, will it change how you go about your life?

AZAR: Well, I will answer that part first. It won't change at all. I will still be wearing my PPE when I see my patients, and I will still be wearing my mask when I am outside of my household, because I know that I am still capable of potentially transmitting the virus to folks, even though I have gotten my vaccine.

I'm going to have a mix of emotions. I was on the wards in April during our surge. I have been at NYU since 1996, so it feels only right that that's the place that I will be getting inoculated for this virus.

And I'm really just humbled by the efforts of all the scientists and researchers and, frankly, anyone and everyone who's been involved in this effort. It has truly been something to see, really Herculean, and I'm grateful for all the work that they have done, so that I can get my vaccine and my patients can in short order as well.

MOHYELDIN: Do you have any concerns or reservations about any long-term or lingering side effects as a result of taking the vaccine?

AZAR: I do not.

I'm very much encouraged by the data. I'm also encouraged by what I'm hearing from colleagues in infectious disease and vaccinology and public health that the majority of side effects from vaccines occur within the first six weeks after administration.

We have well more than that in terms of follow-up. And the efficacy data is outstanding. It's far better than the flu shot that I easily get every year.


AZAR: So, no, I have no reservations. I know that I will be monitored for the appropriate 15 minutes, given my absence of severe allergic history.

And I have faith in the science. Just today, my colleagues and I donated our blood, as healthy volunteers, in a study that we're doing at NYU that's going to be measuring the memory and the responses, the T-cell and the B-cell responses to the vaccine, as part of our research efforts.

So, I'm all for an evidence-based approach to conquering the virus and preventing the virus.

MOHYELDIN: All right, Dr. Natalie Azar, thank you so much for everything you do. Our best of luck to you tomorrow morning, and hope to speak to you soon.

AZAR: Thanks.

MOHYELDIN: Thank you.

AZAR: Take care.

MOHYELDIN: We will be right back with one more thing from the president-elect.


MOHYELDIN: All right, we close tonight with president-elect Joe Biden talking about how he plans to govern in what could be a divided Washington.


QUESTION: Do you think that Republicans who are losing their businesses, do you think Republican constituents out there who can't pay their mortgage, do you think they're not letting their Republican representatives know they got a problem?

Do you think the person who just lost some -- a family member and is worried about losing another one who happens to be a Republican, a staunch Republican, isn't telling his or her Republican senator or state representative, you have got to help, you have got to get something done?

Do you think all those people who are making judgments of whether or not I'm -- my child will be able to go to school, and I have to stay home, and I can't go to work, therefore, I have no income, are all Democrats?

I think there's just been a dawning here. And, look, you have a different team in town. You have a different team in town. I'm not going to villainize the opposition. But I'm going to stand and say, this is what we got to do, because they know it.


MOHYELDIN: All right, that does it for me.

Here's a quick reminder for you. You can catch me right here on MSNBC weekdays at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. And I will see you right back here tomorrow night on THE BEAT at 6:00 p.m.

"THE REIDOUT" is next.


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