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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 11/29/21

Guests: Diane Swonk, Molly Jong-Fast


The World Health Organization has designated omicron a variant of concern, and it was first reported in South Africa, where COVID infections have increased sharply over the last few weeks. President Joe Biden meets with retailers to discuss holiday shopping supply chain issues. A country without access to safe abortions for every woman. If you are an American under the age of 50 you have never known that version of America and you may not think such a thing possible.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: My pleasure, Rachel.

You know, this conversation we`re having about the international guard, in Oklahoma, a year ago we were 13 days away from having a vaccine. And it was sometime before I qualified to get one. I remember the day I qualified. I kept hitting the button, like I had about nine websites open, and I was trying to get an appointment, I was hitting refresh, refresh.

And I was thinking to myself, while there`s this free vaccine that could actually save my life from a deadly virus. It did not occurred to me, one year ago, that we would be having discussions like the one you just had. That people are actively working against getting a vaccine for a virus that is still active, and still killing people.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: To the point where a state`s governor is putting on the line the individual careers of all the guardsmen and women, to whom he is giving advice about what is going to happen to them if they don`t get the vaccine, which is in split stately discouraging them from doing it.

It`s just -- it is just an astonishing thing. It is -- when you think about all the heroism that we`ve seen from National Guard members, from Oklahoma, a national have stepped up to distribute vaccines, who have done so much on COVID, for them to be roadkill for this governor in that case.

VELSHI: They are the front line.

MADDOW: Exactly, exactly.

VELSHI: Thank you for bringing that story to our attention, Rachel. Have a good one. We`ll see you tomorrow.

MADDOW: Thanks, Ali. Thanks.

VELSHI: And, of course, tonight, we begin with a new coronavirus, Omicron. What you need to know, and what you are still figuring out.

The World Health Organization has designated omicron a variant of concern. It was first reported in South Africa, where COVID infections have increased sharply over the last few weeks.

Today, President Biden has said, quote, sooner or later it will be detected in the United States, it`s probably here already, and he provided this perspective.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.


VELSHI: A cause for conch certain, and not a cause for panic. There are three fundamental panics, about the Omicron variant, or any variant for that matter, that we have to answer before we let any panic set in.

First of all, how transmissible is it? Second, does it cause severe illness? And third, our COVID current vaccines as effective against the new variant?

Well, so far, it is too early to know the answers to those questions. Some people say they know it. But we don`t have enough information yet. Scientists are conducting studies.

It may take a few weeks before we know the answer. Some have suggested that we might know by the end of this week. But we are learning more every single day.

There is one thing we do know about this. We`ve got tools to protect ourselves. Here`s Dr. Anthony Fauci tonight with my colleague, Joy Reid.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR: If ever there was a reason to get the people who are unvaccinated, vaccinated. And those who are fully vaccinated, and whose time comes up to get a booster, it`s now, because we know from experience already that when you get a high level of antibodies, neutralizing antibodies. Even if it`s against one particular variant, when you get a high level, usually due to vaccination and boosters, which gets that level way up. You get such a high level, it cross protects against the other variants.

So when you get a brand-new variant and you don`t have a really understanding of it, yet the best thing to do is to get your level of neutralizing antibodies as high as you possibly can.


VELSHI: Another reason not to panic just because this country is in a much, much better place than it was a year ago, to fight a new variant.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A year ago, America was floundering against the first variant of COVID. We will fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed. Not chaos and confusion. We have more tools today to fight the variant than we`ve ever had before. From vaccines to boosters, to vaccines for children, five years and older, and much more.



VELSHI: As I do whenever things get this confusing, I bring this person in. Leading off our discussion tonight, Laurie Garrett. She`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning science reporter covering global pandemics. She`s an MSNBC science contributor.

Laurie Garrett, are not well-acquainted before coronavirus. And we got acquainted quite quickly.

So, you are the one I turn to, Laurie, because there`s a lot of conflicting information. There are a lot of people who seem to know a lot about this Omicron, but the smarter the people are that I talked to, they say, we don`t have enough information just yet to know whether or not we could know our vaccines are okay, if this is credit miscible. And this year five discussed, two years ago almost, more transmissible and more deadly overlap.

LAURIE GARRETT, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING SCIENCE REPORTER: Yes, they do. Ali, a lot of speculation is going on about this variant Omicron by people who should know better and keep their mouth shut about things that you just don`t know yet. We`ve only really recognize the existence of this variant for a matter of days.

And while lots of great minds, all over the world are racing to understand what the 26-plus mutations on the spike protein and the maybe, 30 other mutations elsewhere on the virus actually do, and how they interact with each other, and whether or not they make it easier for the virus to latch on to cells, get into cells, reproduce itself, get the virus back out into the bloodstream, into your, nose into your mouth, where you have exhaled it to other people. We don`t know the answers to these questions yet.

Delta, surprises. Also it`s a things were said about delta when it first appeared. It has subsequently turned out to be inaccurate or, let`s just say incorrect guesses. And we now know a great deal about delta, I think we do very well understand that variant well, we have to do ourselves time.

And here`s another thing I`m very concerned about, Ali. This virus, if you look at the genetic changes over time of strains found to date has been around for a while.

VELSHI: Uh-huh.

GARRETT: It`s probably been in a patient, a patient somewhere in South Africa for a long time. And this should not be surprising, if anybody is really paying attention, because out of South Africa have come two other significant variants, the one that caused many of the early vaccine trials to go awry, and the C.1.2 that just appeared this summer. And they also appear to have been in circulation for a while on a very low level, one, two, three people before surfacing and becoming obvious.

Why would that be so? Can you guess what the reason might be, why South Africa would be a brewing pot?


GARRETT: HIV. It`s the largest population of HIV-positive people in the world.


GARRETT: And in this epidemic, we`ve seen much of the services related to HIV fall apart because public health systems are so stressed. Now, South Africa has got a strong system compared to its neighbor nations and certainly stronger than, say, Lesotho or Zambia, and it does its level best to supply necessary treatments to all of its HIV-positive population, but there are 10 million HIV-positive people, mostly in the T-8 southern states of Africa who are without treatment, are unaware that they carry the virus and do not know that their immune system is compromised.

I mean, think about it. We`ve been very concerned, correctly so in this country, about making sure that whatever new treatments and then vaccines became available, we put our cancer patients, our transplant patients at the top of the list, you first, because you`re immunocompromised. We`re not doing enough globally.

VELSHI: That`s part of the issue, right? The South Africans are a little bit annoyed that they reported this, they sequenced it very, very fast and basically the world just shut down on South Africa.

I was there two months ago, and they actually seemed to, as society, be taking this thing very seriously beck then. Everybody was sanitizing, everybody signed in everywhere they went, had to get tested frequently.

One of the issues, though, Africa is the least vaccinated continent.


South Africa is an exception, but Africa doesn`t have enough. The president has made the point that we need to get more vaccines to Africa.

GARRETT: Actually today, the African union, its vaccine organization and its international partners, World Bank, WHO, GAVI, the Global Fund and so on all came out jointly and said, hey, world, we`re glad you`re finally starting to send us some vaccine, but please don`t dump it on all of us at once. We don`t have enough refrigerators and deep freezers. We don`t have enough syringes, we don`t have enough skilled personnel to rev up overnight and distribute 16 million doses.

Please pace how quickly you launch this in our direction, because we need to have our infrastructure in place. I mean, this would be like -- as if the day that the first Moderna vaccine was available, we don`t -- dumped a million doses on Mississippi and said, go for it, folks. You don`t overnight have that capacity.

On top of it all, there are shortages of everything else involved in vaccination in the alcohol swabs, in the syringes, in the deep -- the cold packs, everything. So, yes, South Africa has probably managed to get two doses to about 28 to 32 percent of its adult population. That`s very good compared to most of the rest of Africa, but it`s woeful in the face of a variant, and in this case, in the face of three co-circulating variants.

VELSHI: This is the lesson we`ve all been talking about, right? The virus doesn`t observe national borders, it can get around the world at light speed. The one difference here when coronavirus started in the U.S. when you and I were talking last January, February, we had massive resistance from the federal government around testing.

Do we have a good enough and strong enough testing regimen today in the United States that if this starts circulating and we realize it`s highly transmissible and highly dangerous, we can at least test everybody properly?

GARRETT: Well, our testing capacity is much improved, but one of the things that we`ve done is augment it with home kits that you can get at your drugstore, take home and test yourself. The problem with the home kit so far is that they`re very expensive. They certainly aren`t affordable for working class folks with lots of kids and a big family, you want to test everybody. It will cost you a couple hundred bucks to test the whole family. That`s not going to be a viable option for most Americans.

Secondly, those test results are private. They`re yours. We`re not keeping track of them, we don`t know how many more Americans may be testing positive, and, of course, nobody is seeing what strain you tested positive against.

And that brings up another point, Ali, with testing. Will this new variant be easy to test with available kits that we have right now? Almost all the test kits in use in America were initially developed to respond to the Wuhan strain of this virus, and of course the Wuhan strain is no longer in circulation. Now, it does pick up -- most of them do pick up the delta strain, but will it pick up the omicron? We`ll see.

VELSHI: Laurie, thanks as always. You help make it a lot clearer to us. Laurie Garrett is a Pulitzer Prize-winning science reporter covering global pandemics. She`s an MSNBC contributor.

Coming up, Omicron is colliding with the holiday shopping season and it could mean less high prices. We`ll explain why and how it can be avoided, next.



VELSHI: Where is my stuff? In the next 25 days until Christmas, it`s a question many people will ask and the answer will depend on a number of things, from how fast Omicron variant spreads to how much truckers are willing to pay for people to work for them.

But whether it`s searching for an out of stock toy, or tracking your package delivery date, the where`s my stuff anxiety all comes back to the supply chain, something you probably didn`t think much about before this year. So, let`s take a quick trip, the journey of your stuff. Many things we buy are made in overseas factories, where wages are typically lower than they are in the United States, or they`re assembled in the U.S. with component parts made overseas. Globally, many factories slow down, or shut down during the pandemic, because of sick workers or lockdowns, so the first thing is getting global production back to capacity, so question number one is what`s the virus situation?

From the overseas factory, goods are put on a cargo ship, so question number two, is there a cargo container to put the stuff in and workers to load the container onto the ship? The pandemic caused a lot of shipping to places that don`t often have a reason to send those containers back filled with other things. So there are, in fact, a lot of containers sitting in the wrong places in the world. Now, assuming there is a container for your stuff, using it may cost more than normal.

And question number three, once it gets to the United States, is there space and are there workers to unload it? Then it gets put on a truck, which leads us to question number four. How bad is the labor shortage of truckers, and are companies willing to do anything about that labor shortage? Doing something about it generally means vetting out the use of the truck which is sending trucking prices soaring. Finally your stuff is approaching, but question number five, did the seller order enough?

Over the past couple decades, companies have tended to keep lean inventories. Just in time inventory is fantastic in normal times.


But it can create the dreaded out of stock message in times like this. And then there are the workers who stock the shelves and will the price you pay reflect the higher gas prices, the higher wages those workers are paid? Or does it just reflect some company`s desire to pad their blaming it all on inflation.

Well, today, Joe Biden met with some of the executives of major retail stores to discuss how they`re working to get you your stuff either for Christmas or whenever.

According to the White House readout, quote, the meeting highlighted steps that companies have taken to overcome supply chain bottlenecks.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon highlighted a 51 percent improvement in his company`s throughput at the ports due to the work of the Biden-Harris port envoy.

As you can see, there are a number of complicating factors, most of them have nothing to do with the step that U.S. government, and there`s no single fix for this. Although the White House is well aware, that you`re getting your stuff at reasonable prices can make or break the presidency.

Joining us now is Diane Swonk, the chief economist with Grant Thornton, someone who might turn for explanations on this.

Diane, this is -- this is a toughie. It`s a real problem, the supply chain issue is real, inflation is real. But there is no easy fix for both or either of these.

DIANE SWONK, GRANT THORNTON CHIEF ECONOMIST: No, there is, and I think it`s really important to understand that we really had a collision, everything from fiscal stimulus, to the experts saving that we generated when we couldn`t buy all the services we usually buy, like going out to dinner, or even traveling in tourism. All that excess saving allowed us to see a surge in demand and in fact, our ports have seen a big surge in demand, they couldn`t handle the input coming in.

At the same time as the virus was wreaking havoc around the world, it was much easier to turn the lights out on factories, then to turn them back on again. And of course, underline all that, we also have some pockets of labor shortages which really need to have much higher wages in order to bring workers back into the workforce.

And there is a question of those workers who left entirely. We have seen a huge surge in retirements as a result of the pandemic.

VELSHI: Diane, if people are having problem having things shipped in the way that they`re used to, meaning as fast as they used to, many things out of stock for Christmas, it`s a problem we can live with, it`s not ideal.

This at -- some point, do these delays and these extra cost for trucking, and the extra cost for getting containers, and the extra cost for shipping, something from Shanghai to Long Beach, does this even out, does it fix itself at some point on its own, or does the U.S. government, governors around the world, retailers, do they have to do something active to change this?

SWONK: Well, that`s certainly the question that the federal reserve is asking, and Chairman Powell, who will be now reinstated and re-upped as chairman of the federal reserve said inflation will abate one way or the other. Either these problems will be resolved as supply picks up and we see production pick up.

And some of the production problems we see out there are beginning -- the supply chain problems are beginning to uncoil. I think that`s very important. We`ve seen computer chips pick up, and that means that vehicle plants are up and operating again, vehicle plants that were idle as recently as September are now finally producing vehicles.

Of course, the dealer lots are still pretty empty and most people don`t think of a vehicle as the first thing they`ll buy as a holiday gift, but those chips go into everything such as consumer electronics to the games people want to play and buy for their children and adults during this holiday season.

So, these are hard things to unwind on their own. There will be some of that, but there is also a bit of a wage price spiral war going on. We haven`t fully seen it take root yet, but that is a determination the Federal Reserve is going to have to make. Are we risking inflation becoming more entrenched?

And in response to that, the Fed may end up raising interest rates, in fact, I think they will end up raising interest rates even with all the disruptions we see that are outside of their realm of being able to fix, and that`s the supply chain problems. There is also a demand surge going on as well.

VELSHI: You and I have been talking for years, and we have not really seen any meaningful increase in interest rates in a very, very long time. We have seen abnormally low interest rates for a long time. But that`s the Feds` main tool if inflation becomes a really big concern.

What`s the danger of it? What can go wrong? If the Fed starts saying, all right, this inflation thing is real. We`re going to start to edge up interest rates. What is the danger there?

SWONK: Well, there is a lot of danger. The fed hasn`t chased down inflation since the 1980s. In fact, this is the first time the Fed has been preempting a nonexistent inflation for the bulk of the last several decades. So, any time they raised interest rates, they were quickly in the position of pulling back again.


They did that as recently as 2018 and then had to pull back on rate hikes in 2019 because inflation was nonexistent, and I think that`s very important to remember.

In a broader sense, the real issue is that the Fed, instead of being patient and they said they will not hesitate on rate hikes, my concern is that they`ll panic and move too quickly to chase inflation down.

Unfortunately, what we consider transitory as economists, a year or two, is not transitory to most consumers. That`s too long to wait. And, in fact, the Fed also could get worried about inflation becoming more entrenched even as it slows down.

I do worry about the lingering effects of shelter costs out there and medical costs which are now going up. So, we`re seeing more broad-based inflation if they overshoot. That could be a boom-bust cycle.

At the same time, you talk about just in time inventories. We now have double ordering of inventories, people hedging their inventories for just in case inventories down the road, and that could cause a bullwhip effect and an overhang of inventories in 2023.

VELSHI: A no -- I mean, the balance between inflation and raising interest rates is something no president wants to deal with. They`re both not ideal for politics.

Diane, thanks so much for joining us, as always.

Diane Swonk is the chief economist with Grant Thornton.

Coming up, the right wing has been working for decades to get a conservative supreme court that would deal a death blow to Roe versus Wade, and this week could be the beginning of the end.

The former solicitor general, Neal Katyal, joins me next.



ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: A country without access to safe abortions for every woman. If you are an American under the age of 50 you have never known that version of America and you may not think such a thing possible. But it could be a reality once again.

On Wednesday the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a Mississippi case that bans abortion after 15 weeks, roughly two months earlier than the precedent -- than the court set in 1973.

It`s the most serious direct challenge to Roe versus Wade that has come before this court in decades, a court that now has a 6-3 Republican conservative majority.

Republicans at the state level have been chipping have been chipping away at abortion rights for years, implementing harsher bans with the hopes of reaching the judicial moment at which we now find ourselves.

Aa the Associated Press reports, if anti-abortion advocates succeed in overturning Roe versus Wade it would, quote, "lead to outright bans or severe restrictions on abortion in 26 states. Mississippi is one of 12 states ready to act almost immediately if Roe is overturned. Those states have enacted so-called abortion trigger laws that would take effect and ban all or nearly all abortions," end quote.

Joining us now is Neal Katyal. He`s a former acting U.S. solicitor general who has argued 45 cases before the Supreme Court. He is an MSNBC legal contributor.

Neal, good evening to you.

This is a complicated issue but it is probably one that is very, very important for our viewers to understand. And this issue centers around fetal viability. I want to read a segment from the "New York Times" and I want to help -- have you help us understand what it means.

"The court could overturn Roe entirely while allowing states to ban abortions at any point, but at least some justices may want to find a way to sustain the Mississippi law without overturning Roe in so many words, requiring them to discard the viability line and replace it with another standard that would allow a cutoff at 15 weeks."

It`s a well-written article, but what does that mean?

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: It has a lot of legalese in that article. Let me just make it very simple.

So for most of our viewers` life times, anyone born in 1973 or later, they had a right to guarantee to an abortion under the United States Constitution by a 7-2 decision by the United States Supreme Court called Roe versus Wade at a time when seven of the nine justices were appointed by Republican presidents.

And what that right meant specifically was that a state couldn`t restrict abortion if it were before the 25th week, the so-called viability line.

Mississippi now just in recent years has come along and said, no we`re going to actually ban abortion after 15 weeks. Other states like Texas have gone even further and said we`re going to ban abortion after six weeks.

And what this case the Supreme Court will be evaluating on Wednesday is going to decide is whether this Mississippi law at 15 weeks is constitutional or not.

What the "New York Times" article is basically saying is Roe versus Wade set a viability line. It`s 25 weeks. In order for the Mississippi law to be upheld and declared valid by the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court is going to have to overrule Roe versus Wade.

VELSHI: Let`s talk about what John Roberts can, does, wants to do, what he can do. The Associated Press writing that "Chief Justice John Roberts might find the more incremental approach appealing if he can persuade the majority of the court to go along. Since Roberts became chief justice in 2005, the court has moved in smaller steps on some issues, even when it appeared there was only a binary choice."

I think a lot of my viewers, they may see this as binary. What`s the incremental approach?

KATYAL: Yes. So the chief justice is now presiding over Supreme Court that is really very, very conservative -- far more so than any Supreme Court in our lifetimes.

He himself is quite conservative but he`s also an institutionalist and kind of a (INAUDIBLE). He believes in kind of slow, incremental change.


And so the transformation in the Supreme Court because of the Trump appointments and most importantly, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg being replaced by Justice Amy Coney Barrett has really moved the court to the right.

But we haven`t actually seen a lot of the impact of that yet. They`ve been really cautious, incremental and slow, led by the chief justice.

The question for Wednesday is, is that now going to hold? Are we going to still see that incremental approach? And by the way, that incremental approach, Ali, is not exactly all that incremental, because if the Mississippi law is upheld -- and this is what I was trying to say earlier - - it`s a pretty radical thing.

It`s going to take the right to abortion away in the way the least women and men have understood it since 1973 at the 25th week. Moving it back 10 weeks to 15 weeks is bad. And yes, it would be worse if they moved it back to six weeks in the Texas case which will presumably come before the court in, you know, the next year or so.

So that`s the incremental approach. Still basically overturning Roe versus Wade, it`s just a question of how far do they want to go.

VELSHI: There is a recent poll taken, ABC and "Washington Post", and it shows opinions on abortion. Amongst U.S. adults, 60 percent favor upholding Roe v. Wade, 27 percent support overturning it. Amongst Democrats it`s 82 to 11. Amongst Independents it`s almost the same as it is across the entire U.S. population, 58 percent to 28 percent. Amongst Republicans a plurality favor overturning Roe but it`s not that much. Does any of that matter to the court?

KATYAL: Well, it matters in the sense that I think the Republican Party has been captured by a bunch of hardcore activists who have made this kind of their mission in life and, you know, judges they`re going to put on the courts of appeals and which ones they`re going to push to the Supreme Court and the like.

So I do think that even though those percentages belie, you know, a basic truth which is if the Republican Party cares about this intensely or at least a segment of the Republican Party does.

I do think it should cause everyone concern if the court is going to really, you know, take back Roe versus Wade, which is one of the few decisions that Americans know by name. And to just change it because the personnel of the Supreme Court has changed is really intentional (INAUDIBLE) American law.

VELSHI: Neal, always helpful to have you break this down and analyze it for us. Neal Katyal is a former acting United States solicitor general.

Coming up, the January 6th Committee is not messing around. If Trump allies defy a congressional subpoena, there will be consequences. It happened to Steve Bannon. And it looks like it`s about to happen to Donald Trump`s big lie lawyer. That`s next.



VELSHI: The January 6th Committee is moving forward on a possible criminal contempt referral for Jeffrey Clark. You`ll remember Jeffrey Clark is the former Justice Department official who was the star of the Senate Judiciary Committee`s investigation earlier this year into Donald Trump`s, quote, "relentless efforts to co-opt the Department of Justice into overturning the 2020 election".

The Judiciary Committee reported that "The acting civil division assistant attorney general Jeffrey Clark became Trump`s big lie lawyer pressuring his colleagues in the Department of Justice to force an overturn of the 2020 election," end quote.

The judiciary committee found Clark`s actions so disturbing that they filed a complaint with the D.C. bar. So, of course, the January 6th Committee wanted to hear what Clark had to say.

Here`s Adam Schiff earlier this month on THE LAST WORD on the eve of Clark`s scheduled deposition.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): He was involved in discussions with the former president, with high-ranking Justice Department officials about efforts to get Georgia and other states to either withhold the appointment of electors or to send alternate slates of electors. He was also involved in discussions about putting out there that the Justice Department was investigating massive fraud. And he is, I think, probably in a singular position to speak to those meetings and discussions both at the White House and within the Justice Department.

So, you know, Congress has heard from a variety of other witnesses who refused those entreaties (ph) by Mr. Clark and the former president, and now we need to go straight to the horse`s mouth.


VELSHI: Except that Jeffrey Clark never gave that deposition. He showed up but he didn`t cooperate. In response, the chairman of the committee, Bennie Thompson, issued this statement the next day. Quote, "He has a very short time to reconsider and cooperate fully. We need the information that he is withholding and we`re willing to take strong measures to hold him accountable to meet his obligation," end quote.

Well, it appears that Jeffrey Clark`s time is up on Wednesday. The committee plans to vote on Wednesday night on whether to recommend a criminal referral for contempt of Congress.

Joining us now is Katie Benner, the Justice Department reporter for the "New York Times" and an MSNBC contributor.

Katie, Jeffrey Clark is definitely the most famous person that no one had ever heard about before you and some people like you wrote about him. To the extent that there was a mastermind of the clown car dumpster fire of an insurrection attempt, he was it. He`s important for them to hear from. What happens now?

KATIE BENNER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Sure, so they`re going to vote to hold him in contempt and it will go to the Justice Department. It`s very likely that the Justice Department will look at the case, and much like in the situation with Steve Bannon, they will choose to charge him with contempt. They`ll take him for a grand jury, and if the grand jury indicts, he will be charged.

There is really no reason not to. The Justice Department has had former officials who worked with Jeff Clark already testify before the committees, with both the Senate and in the House, all of the things that they would want to talk to him about. Almost all of them had been covered already by other former officials.


It will be very hard for him to say that he could not speak to these things, because the former president did not stop the former acting attorney general or the former deputy attorney general from speaking to these issues. So it`s going to be a hard case for him to make.

VELSHI: He`s not Steve Bannon, right. Steve Bannon is a conservative performance artist. He`s got something to gain from this whole thing.

Jeffrey Clark showed up to that deposition on November 5 which is interesting to me. He showed up. He clearly thought it important enough to at least -- you know perform some perfunctory compliance, but then he didn`t participate. So he`s not completely snubbing his nose at the system but he`s doing something.

BENNER: I think that in our reporting what we found is that Mr. Clark is possibly a real true believer, that he does believe that the former president won the election, that he beat Joe Biden. Or if he didn`t beat Joe Biden, there was enough fraud that he thinks it`s important to raise these questions.

I don`t think that he was insincere in his efforts to help the former president overturn the election, which is maybe one of the reasons why he would show up to the committee but say, I essentially plead the Fifth. I want to honor my agreement with the former president.

VELSHI: So the committee is looking to go after him. Strangely, not after Mark Meadows, who is a former congressman, former you know, head of the Freedom Caucus and the former chief of staff to the president. Any reason why?

BENNER: Well, I`m not really sure why they chose to -- why they chose to hold Jeff Clark in contempt before Mark Meadows. I can`t say -- I don`t know what`s going on in heads of members of the committee.

I will say, though, that the Clark situation seems very discreet. There is already a lot in the public about what he did and how he tried to pressure his colleagues. What is not known is who in the White House was asking him to do it and what was going on in the larger scheme.

You know, you saw from different former officials that they don`t think that Clark would have acted alone, they don`t think that he came up with this on his own, so they would be asking very pointed and specific things of Clark. Who at the White House told him to do what and when.

Now, Meadows is a much bigger set of questions, so maybe they`re still trying to get their arms around those.

VELSHI: Katie, good to see you as always. Thanks so much for your excellent reporting. Katie Benner of the "New York Times."

Coming up, what did you do over the Thanksgiving holiday? Ate some turkey, some pie, probably more than you need to. Maybe watch a little football. Maybe you snuck in a little "VELSHI" over the weekend -- a guy can dream.

But here`s a serious question. How many times did you think about the president? Probably zero, hopefully zero. Unless you`re the president`s family, in a normal world you shouldn`t be thinking about him over Thanksgiving. You definitely didn`t have to look at your phone with dread.

For the first time since maybe 2015, Joe Biden didn`t bother you on your holiday, and this is a new old feeling of normalcy and honestly it is very good for democracy. Or is it?



VELSHI: The United States just survived its first Trump free Thanksgiving since 2014. We enjoyed a four-day holiday weekend without checking our phones in fear of what the president tweeted or what kind of lies he was telling like these.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you have any plans for your last Thanksgiving at the White House?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don`t know what is last if you look at what`s going on. You have to really take a look at what`s going on. They are finding tremendous discrepancies in the votes. And nobody believes those numbers. The numbers are incorrect numbers. A lot of numbers have already been reported that`s incorrect.


VELSHI: Remember when you had to listen to that stuff all the time? That was Donald Trump`s last Thanksgiving at the White House. By that time, more than 261,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.

The former president`s Thanksgiving proclamation that year encouraged Americans to quote "gather in homes and places of worship". Just as public health officials were warning against Thanksgiving gatherings and the CDC was recommending against holiday travel.

Today the White House unveiled its holiday decorations which honor COVID-19 first responders.

Joining us now Molly Jong-Fast, contributing writer at "The Atlantic" and the author of the news letter, "Wait, What?" And Eugene Robinson, associate editor Pulitzer Prize winning opinion columnist for the "Washington Post". There`s no actual way to say that more exciting but I would if I could, Eugene. He`s an MSNBC political analyst.

Molly, good to see you. You have written a remarkable piece in "The Atlantic in which you argue that Joe Biden doesn`t have an effective foil and that it`s not actually enough that we don`t have the carnival barker in chief giving us red alerts every day about things. In other words, normalcy is, in your opinion, not enough for Joe Biden to succeed.

MOLLY JONG-FAST, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, it`s enough for me. I like it. But we have seen with the polling that a lot of Americans, it`s just not enough for them, right. We see these polls -- these polls are problematic. And it`s weird because you would think that just the reality of having a normal guy in charge, you know, normal holiday stuff, didn`t say anything crazy. We have this variant, we know they are dealing with it in the most scientific and normal way.

Remember what Trump told us to do about COVID. Right? Put the light in the body. I mean so we`re so -- you know, we have this normal president. But the polling says that that`s not enough for people.

VELSHI: Eugene, you know, in the end, I guess we have short memories. But right now the president has real issues he has to contend with. There was Afghanistan stuff. There is inflation, which is real, it`s global but it`s real. There is COVID, which is global but it`s real.

So, what does Joe Biden need to do other than be on the job to convince Americans to give him a fair shake?


EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, if you are going to have a normal presidency, then you are going to have, you know, normal stuff to deal with. And you`re going to -- people are going to react normally to the way you deal with it. Or they see you -- they perceive you dealing with it and a lot of that is going to be based on how they are feeling, you know.

Inflation -- I remember, you know, when inflation was out of control in this country. And the inflation we have now is practically nothing. But it does affect people in a way that they haven`t been affected for a while and they feel and react to it.

And they reacted to Afghanistan. And will react especially to COVID and to how, when and how we get COVID under control enough that people can feel like they got back to their normal lives.

That`s the stuff that is going to matter to Joe Biden. So you are right, it`s not enough just to be normal. But it is nice. And I do like it too.

VELSHI: Molly, there are issues that there are some people in the Democratic Party are disappointed in Joe Biden and the Biden administration for not tackling, in their opinion, at the speed at which they should be tackled including social justice issues, policing, voting rights.

And that might be contributing to some of Joe Biden`s problems in governing because it looks like he`s spending a lot of time trying to keep Democrats happy.

What does that look like to you? What does success look like in terms of Democrats not doing that.

JONG-FAST: Well, he passed three major pieces of legislation in a year, right? So he`s done a lot of legislating and he`s also done a lot for COVID.

The problem is there have been variants, right. And there`s been a lot of vaccine hesitancy in the country and that`s been really problematic.

And so I think for him, you know, he has done a lot. The thing I think is missing from the Biden administration is there`s not enough selling going on. You have a huge disinformation ecosystem that is flooding the zone. And they are telling, you know, their listeners that inflation is bad and it`s caused by Biden.

And Biden needs to go out there and say, you know, he has a lot of really good communicators in that White House and they can be out there talking and selling and showing this infrastructure and explaining to the American people that they built the bridges and they are the reason that these places are having money. And I think ultimately that will help a lot.

VELSHI: Eugene, you know, there is a lot of criticism that it`s a messaging issue. That there are good and important things.

I have Republicans who come and talk to me about there weren`t a lot of them but there are some Republicans who supported the infrastructure bill, a lot more in the senate because they actually understand.

America was short on infrastructure spending. Now we`re getting it. There are no Republicans who are going to support this larger bill but the fact is their constituents will benefit from it.

It is a traditional Democratic problem -- successful messaging of their own initiatives.

ROBINSON: Yes. It is. And we`re seeing it unfold now. And that`s just kind of the way it is. I mean you know, no the messaging has not been as good as the anti-messaging coming from Republicans, a lot of which is disinformation.

And disinformation we know scientifically is more powerful. The crazy false stuff is more powerful. It goes more viral. People react to it more viscerally and more passionately. And that`s something -- that`s a bigger problem that we have to face as a society. If we`re going to be a post (INAUDIBLE) society.

But you know, it`s Thanksgiving. Let`s have a nice Thanksgiving. Let`s have a nice Christmas. What`s really going to count is the months ahead and the number one thing is COVID and the number two thing is inflation.

And if COVID is seen to be under control and we`re back to normal, and people are feeling good about that. And if inflation ebbs as I think it will, you`re going to see those numbers change. And you`re going to, you know, all these Dems in disarray, Dems are doomed stories are going to turn around.

But stuff -- that stuff has to happen. And it`s going to take some time for it to play out.

VELSHI: Molly, you`ve got 30 seconds. What`s your best advice for Democrats and the president to turn it around?

JONG-FAST: Get those members of the White House out there. There are so many gifted messengers in that White House. I mean so many smart communicators.

There are so many people in that White House who should be out there. They should be, you know, put Mayor Pete on Fox News. You know, get them out there. Explain what they`re doing. Show the legislating they`re doing.

VELSHI: Thanks to both of you. It is a pleasure to have you both on tonight.

Molly Jong-Fast and Eugene Robinson -- thanks to the both of you.


That`s tonight`s LAST WORD.

Don`t forget to watch my show "VELSHI" Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

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