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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 11/30/21

Guests: Ryan Reilly, Ruth Marcus, Dahlia Lithwick, Michael Osterholm


No cases of the new variant of COVID-19 have yet been identified in the United States. And Dr. Anthony Fauci said it is too early in the study of the new variant to know whether it is more transmissible and more deadly. Benjamin Netanyahu`s former defense minister now calls the American withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal the main mistake of the last decade. Life in Malawi became a bit more difficult in the last week with the new variant of COVID-19 hitting southern Africa. Malawi is one of the countries in southern Africa that is now under a travel ban to the United States.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. Thank you.

And we -- a big day at the court tomorrow. We`re lucky tonight to have Ruth Marcus and Dahlia Lithwick joining us to preview that.

And Ruth wrote this masterful piece in "The Washington Post" that I -- when I went to read it, it offered the option of listening to it. So, I, of course, will always take that option so I can do some other things. And I went to press the button and it shows the number of minutes. I thought it was going to be like 6:30. It was whoa, almost an hour or something like that. There must be some mistake.

No. It`s that long and it just a masterful encapsulation of basically my whole adult life of watching the Supreme Court and what has happened to it. It`s an excellent way to get through a workout, I discovered, and read by Ruth in her own voice. Didn`t get some high-priced actor to do it, Ruth Marcus, and it really -- it really is masterful and really ramps up to tomorrow perfectly.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Ruth is genius. And when you see her tonight, you can tell her if she doesn`t feel like reading the next one, I hereby volunteer, because I love reading everything she writes, and I would love to do that.

O`DONNELL: Oh, great.

Rachel, we`re starting off tonight with some breaking news video that`s just been released by federal court in Washington, D.C. of an FBI interrogation, confession by one of the January 6 attackers. And this is the guy who is on video giving electroshocks to Officer Michael Fanone, the electrical shocks he thought were going kill him. He eventually had a heart attack from what was going on in that video.

We have now just pulled into the control room, getting ingested as we speak some of that video of that FBI discussion. We`re going lead with that tonight.

MADDOW: That`s great. I had seen the ruling from Judge Amy Berman Jackson that that had to be released today, and we`ve sort of been watching all day when it was going come out. I`m really glad you got it.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Thanks.

MADDOW: All right. Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, as Rachel just said, tonight, Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered the release of the FBI interrogation video of defendant Danny Rodriguez, who was seen on video attacking officer Michael Fanone with a Taser, and repeatedly giving officer Fanone known electroshocks that officer fan known believed were going to kill him.

Here is some of that video of the FBI questioning of this defendant on March 31st. This was just released minutes ago.


DANNY RODRIGUEZ, DEFENDANT: What do you want me to tell you, that I tased him? Yes.

INTERROGATOR: Explain, explain --


INTERROGATOR: Why did you tase him?

RODRIGUEZ: I don`t know. I`m a piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I`m sorry. I don`t know. He is a human being with children. And he`s -- he`s not a bad guy he sounds like. He is just doing his job and he is (AUDIO DELETED).

INTERROGATOR: But why? Why would you go up there with a Taser? Why would you take that Taser that was given to you from your friends and tase him?

RODRIGUEZ: It wasn`t give to me by my friends. It was given to me by a stranger. I swear to God. I swear to God. It`s not the same tasers. I`m telling you. I`m not trying to protect them.


O`DONNELL: We are ingesting more of that video as we speak. We`ll have more of it in a moment.

We`re leading off our discussion tonight is Ryan J. Reilly. He is the senior justice reporter for "HuffPost".

Ryan, you`ve been covering this. This is your beat, these cases, these defendants. You knew this video was coming. How long is the video? How long is the interrogation? What else do we learn in it?

RYAN J. REILLY, SENIOR JUSTICE REPORTER, HUFFPOST: In the interrogation stands about three hours. And what`s nice is that we already had this transcript that we could go through that lays out exactly how this all unfolded. We could reference that as the video is released.

There have been a bunch of key moments that I`m interested in. One of them very early on is this arrest took place about a month after Danny Rodriguez was identified in a "The Huffington Post" story after he was identified by online sleuths. So about a month after our story ran, that`s when the FBI went to pick him up.

And they actually used the fact that he had already been identified in a "HuffPost" story as part of the interrogation, and were saying essentially that a lot of people were telling the Danny Rodriguez story, anti-fascist and people on Twitter and "The Huffington Post" were telling the Danny Rodriguez story. So he had to basically combat that.

And it was a pretty effective interrogation technique because basically Danny Rodriguez spilled his guts here, and that`s what we see on this video unfolding today. And I think overall, there is this ongoing theme that we see in a lot of these January 6 cases where there is a lot of this very machismo heated rhetoric that we see from a lot of these Capitol defendants at the beginning, and then on the back end of it, when the consequences come, when they`re actually interviewed by the FBI or when they`re sentenced by a federal judge, suddenly we see them break down. And that veil sort of falls a little bit.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, they`re very different people once they`re in custody. We have more of the video now ready in the control room. This is about Danny Rodriguez saying that Trump called us to D.C. Let`s listen to this.


INTERROGATOR: How do you get to January 6? Like what else happens in that period of time?

RODRIGUEZ: Trump called us. Trump called us to D.C.

INTERROGATOR: Tell me about that. How did he let you guys know to come to D.C.?

RODRIGUEZ: If he`s the commander in chief and the leader of our country, then he`s calling for help. I thought he was calling for help. I thought he was -- I thought I was doing the right thing.

I thought we were just -- I had no plans of what was going to happen. I didn`t know what was going to happen. I`m not a leader of anybody. And I just had what I thought was good intentions of going and being involved and being a part of and joining whatever. I didn`t know what was going to happen. I really didn`t.


O`DONNELL: So this crying guy is the guy who is saying I had good intentions. He is on video tasing a police officer, tasing Officer Fanone repeatedly.

REILLY: That`s right. And afterwards, he actually went back to an Airbnb in Virginia where he was staying with a bunch of other Trump supporter, and they celebrated. They actually drank beers, a local beer here in D.C., D.C. Brow that features the Capitol dome on the front cover. That`s what they did. They`re holding an "F Biden" flag and posing for photos. That`s what they sort of snapped into immediately after this brutal attack on Officer Fanone.

It really is remarkable just to see him jump through, because he thought he was a patriot. He thought he was doing the right thing. He was listening to Infowars. He was listening to all this garbage news online, and he actually literally believed that the election was stolen, as millions of Trump supporters do.

And the problem with that is that some of those Trump supporters who belief ridiculous lies are actually going to do something about it, as Danny Rodriguez did here, and that`s where we are today.


O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to more of what he told the FBI, including that after Trump became president, he tried to join the Army to serve not the United States of America, but to serve Donald Trump. Let`s listen to this.


INTERROGATOR: So Trump became president.

RODRIGUEZ: Trump became president.

INTERROGATOR: And you wanted to join the army in response to him becoming president?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I actually did. Yeah.

INTERROGATOR: That`s cool.

RODRIGUEZ: I actually went to the recruiting office and tried to join. And at that time, Trump was still seen as not a good person. Well, it was in the very beginning, I went in there. I volunteered for a job.

I went in there to recruiting office in my Trump shirt, and got it some weird looks. And I was like you guys are not for Trump here? I don`t get it. But they just didn`t follow politics.


O`DONNELL: Ryan, what is the status of the Danny Rodriguez case?

REILLY: So there is going to be a hearing next week to determine basically whether or not this entire interview is going to be admissible in court. Danny Rodriguez`s federal public defenders have suggested that the Miranda warnings he gets at the very beginning and the form that he signs advising him of his Miranda rights wasn`t significant in this case.

So I think that right now most -- I think the general theory is that most of this is going to get through based on what we heard from court from Amy Berman Jackson just a few weeks back. But really, it doesn`t really matter in terms of Danny Rodriguez`s guilt.

I think where it could come into play is deciding whether he gets a domestic terrorism sentencing against him, because a lot of what he said in there shows the political motivation behind his crime and shows what he was trying to accomplish.


It shows that this was in fact an act of domestic terrorism. And if that`s allowed to be introduced, that could add to a sentencing enhancement once he actually is punished for his crime. He is looking at a lot of time behind bars, obviously. He almost killed Mike Fanone, but that really could step it up if he gets that domestic terrorism sentencing, yes.

O`DONNELL: Ryan Reilly, thank you for staying on this beat, staying dedicated to it, and thank you for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

REILLY: Thanks so much for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol, which has been considering holding former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress for defying the committee`s subpoenas, has now reached a deal, with Mark Meadows, in which Mark Meadows will cooperate with the committee. The committee has already received documents from Mark Meadows, including 6,000 emails.

The chair of the committee, Bennie Thompson, released a statement today saying, quote, Mr. Meadows has been engaging with the select committee through his attorney. He has produced records to the committee and will soon appear for initial deposition. The committee will continue to assess his degree of compliance with our subpoena after the deposition.

Today, Georgia`s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger spent over four hours in discussion with the committee, a discussion that reportedly focused on Donald Trump`s phone call to him on January 2nd in which Donald Trump appears to commit the federal and state crime of election fraud.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.


O`DONNELL: Secretary Raffensperger told "The Atlanta Journal Constitution" today that the Trump phone call was an important part of today`s discussion with the committee. He said, quote we talked about that and everything else leading into the election. That was their focus because that was where the greatest disinformation was foisted upon our nation.

That phone call is also the focus of a criminal investigation of possible election fraud by Donald Trump in Fulton County, Georgia, where District Attorney Fani Willis has empanelled a grand jury to consider that evidence. Donald Trump`s lawyers had a very difficult time in a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. today because as Judge Patricia Millett put it, we have one president at a time under our Constitution.

Private citizen Donald Trump has brought a lawsuit to try to overrule the decision of the President of the United States Joe Biden to have the federal archives hand over Trump White House records to the January 6 committee for its investigation.

One of the judges on today`s three-judge panel, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a Biden appointee, said this.


JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, U.S. COURT OF APPEALS, D.C. CIRCUIT: This all boils down to who decides. Who decides when it`s in the best interest of the United States to disclose presidential records? Is it the current occupant of the White House or the former? Is there a circumstance in which the former president ever gets to make this kind of call? And why should he?


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Matt Miller, former spokesperson for Attorney General Eric Holder, and Jill Wine-Banks, former assistant Watergate special prosecutor and former general counsel of the Army. Both are MSNBC contributors.

And Jill Wine-Banks, I want to get your reaction to what you heard in that appeals court discussion today. The one president at a time beat was struck more than once.

JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It was, and it started actually in the district court when the decision was made. The judge, there is only one president, is not a king, and the appellate, which is Donald Trump, is not the president.

So it goes back to that. And I think what has to happen is in terms of the crucial question of what is the interest of the United States, only the current president can decide who what is of such national significance that you need to wave any privilege, executive privilege or anything else. And under the current Presidential Records Act, under the current Supreme Court cases of USA v. Nixon and GSA versus Nixon, I think the answer is clear that these records will be and should be disclosed and that the committee can get them and can go about its business quickly.

And the decisions need to be made as soon as possible so that they don`t run the time out before Congress is not in session anymore.

O`DONNELL: Matt Miller, the court has not seen a case exactly like this.


They have two Nixon cases from President Nixon, one while he was president, and another when he was a former president.

And so, neither one of those cases fit exactly what we`re talking about here. And so, the -- it seems to me the judges spent an inordinate amount of time today in a very repetitive discussion simply because this exact case had never passed through the court before.

MATT MILLER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah, that`s right, Lawrence. This really is a case of first impression, because this isn`t a traditional executive privilege case. Usually in these executive privilege cases, you`re seeing the courts trying to mediate between two branches of government, the executive branch and the legislative branch who have different priorities, different equities, and the courts are asked to intervene and decide how to balance those equities.

That`s not the case here. The executive branch at this point, represented by the President Joe Biden and the legislative branch agree. These documents ought to be turned over.

So the question put to the court, as Judge Jackson really summed up well is who gets to speak for the executive branch? Now, it is clear, partly from the Presidential Records Act and partly from that`s one of those Supreme Court cases from the Nixon era, that former presidents are owed some sort of deference. They do get to make some kind of limited assertion.

But I think what the judge has made clear today is where they`re going come down is when there is a dispute between a former president and the current president, only the current president is situated to speak for the executive branch. And I think they are going to rule unanimously against him. And to Jill`s point, it is important they do it quickly, and they have been moving quickly. I think the courts are on to what Donald Trump did when he was president in trying to win by delay. It only took the district court 23 days in this case from the time the case was filed to when they ruled.

And it`s only been 22 days since the appeal to hearing today. I expect it will be maybe a week to a decision. It`s very clear they`re moving quickly. I think that`s important.

O`DONNELL: Jill, we`ve seen mark meadows in some form of cooperation with the January 6 committee. He could, though, in his testifying to the committee at certain points refuse to answer questions. He could use the Fifth Amendment for that. He could also make attempts to claim executive privilege in response to individual questions. And that could in itself lead to other legal battles.

WINE-BANKS: It could lead to delay. I don`t think it will change the ultimate outcome. But I agree with what was said, which is that we have to wait until after the deposition to evaluate his actual level of cooperation. Pardon me if I`m a little skeptical, but I`m glad he`s turned over some documents, and I`m glad he`s agreed to testify because that at least avoids the total contempt of Congress by not even showing up.

He`ll show up, but I am suspicious and suspect that he may actually not answer the key questions that we all want to hear the answers to. He is a key player in this. He was with President Trump throughout this day. He knows a lot.

But honestly, even if we can just get the documents, things like phone records, people go, well, how big a deal is that? It is a very big deal. It was crucial evidence. It guided the Watergate team to finding the right witnesses to things because we knew who had been in conference with the president or with other potential defendants. It`s very important to get the documents. It`s just as important to get Mark Meadows` actual testimony and honest answers. I hope he sees what is ahead of him if he does not really cooperate, and that he will do so.

O`DONNELL: Jill Wine-Banks and Matt Miller, thank you for joining our discussion tonight. Really appreciate it.

WINE-BANKS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, the rule of six. How six Republican-appointed justices on the United States Supreme Court have shifted the court from conservative to radical. That story is told by Ruth Marcus in her brilliant new piece in "The Washington Post." Ruth Marcus joins us next with Dahlia Lithwick in anticipation what we will see tomorrow in a Supreme Court argument about Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, in direct contradiction of Roe versus Wade.



O`DONNELL: "The Rule of Six" is the title of Ruth Marcus` masterful new piece in "The Washington Post", describing the stunning success of the 40- year conservative project to reshape the Supreme Court of the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has had a conservative majority since the 1980s, but Ruth Marcus points out the new super majority of six justices appointed by Republican presidents has shifted the majority of the court beyond conservative to radical.

The latest test of the radicalized Supreme Court will come tomorrow in oral arguments about a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks in direct contradiction of current federal law. The Federalist Society was founded at Yale Law School, indicative of among other things overturning Roe v. Wade.

An op-ed piece in "The Washington Post," Ronald Reagan`s former Attorney General Ed Meese says the Reagan administration`s most disappointing legal loss was our failure to persuade the Supreme Court to overrule Roe. Now unlike then, the Supreme Court has six justices who have all expressed some commitment to the founders` interpretive principles and who have all been shaped by the institution`s scholarship and renewed dialogue brought to the legal profession by the Federalist Society.


In Ruth Marcus` essay "The Rule of Six," she writes: A five-justice majority is inherently fragile. It necessitates compromise and discourages overreach. Five justices tend to proceed with baby steps. A six-justice majority is a different animal.

A six-justice majority such as the one now firmly in control is the judicial equivalent of the monarchy`s heir and despair. The pathways to victories are enlarged. The overall impact is far greater than the single digit difference suggests.

Joining us now, Ruth Marcus, "Washington Post" columnist and deputy editorial page editor. Also with us, Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor and legal correspondent for "Slate" and host of the podcast "Amicus".

And, Ruth, I hope you heard Rachel Maddow`s offer at the beginning of this hour which is to do the reading of your next piece for the audio version for "The Washington Post," which I listened to today.

RUTH MARCUS, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, thanks. We need all the help we can get.

O`DONNELL: Ruth, you take us through what we`ve all lived through in this coherent way that I haven`t held a in my hands that way before, just laying it all out, how this was the plan to get to this. And, of course, crucial to the plan were deaths at odd points in the calendar. Justice Scalia, Justice Ginsburg, and how those were handled by the Senate.

MARCUS: Yes. This is the moment that they`ve been waiting for. But this is also the moment. And thing is a fair word to use, that they`ve been scheming for a while. Scheming in the sense of organized effort with the Federalist Society to groom judges and make sure they did a better job of picking judges with the more recent Republican president than with our predecessors, but also seize the moments that you mentioned, Lawrence, the death of Justice Scalia and preventing Barack Obama from filling that seat with Merrick Garland, and then racing through Amy Coney Barrett, the newest justice as a replacement for Justice Ginsburg when she died.

Really, honestly, impressive political work in a sense on the part of Republicans to get to this momentous point that we`re at with this, as you say, newly radicalized Supreme Court.

O`DONNELL: Dahlia Lithwick, what are you going to be listening for tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. when this Mississippi case is argued before the Supreme Court? Our viewers will be listening. They don`t have your expertise on what to listen for from each justice.

DAHLIA LITHWICK, LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, SLATE: Lawrence, I think that one of the things that was really magisterial about Ruth`s piece is what happens if you got six justices on the court who are about to get everything they want. And we clearly have three justices who really want everything they want and want it now. And then we have three justices, and I hesitate the call them the middle, but Ruth doesn`t call them the middle. But we have Justice Roberts, Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh who may not want everything they want right this second for fear of looking berserk.

So what I`m going to look for is what happens if there is clearly six votes to overturn Roe. You have six justices who were I think groomed to overturn Roe. Three of them really want to write the sentence Roe v. Wade is overruled. And three of them are kind of triangulating against a whole bunch of other interests. So looking for cracks in those three and those three is what we`re looking for.

O`DONNELL: And, Ruth, is there any version of this Mississippi case where the court upholds the Mississippi law, but doesn`t overturn Roe v. Wade?

MARCUS: Well, there is certainly a version where they do not say the magic words former Attorney General Meese, and I think a very important op-ed for "The Washington Post" said he very much wanted to hear which is Roe v. Wade is overruled. But there are ways to effectively undo and set the stage for the further undoing of the abortion right in upholding the Mississippi law, and disappointing conservatives by failing to say those words.

As much as Attorney General Meese would be upset by that, that doesn`t by failing to overturn Roe, that doesn`t mean that that would be a win for the abortion rights side or for liberals on the court or for liberals in the country. It would contain the seeds, it would be a loss and it would contain the seeds of further loss.

And it`s also very important to understand that what`s at stake here and what took up so much space in my piece is that this is not just about abortion rights. It`s the big Kahuna for conservatives.

But it`s also about so much more than that. It`s about guns. It`s about affirmative action. It`s about the ability to go to federal court to vindicate voting rights, which we saw decimated last term. It`s about all sorts of really complicated issues involving the power of regulatory agencies to protect us against pollution, climate change, dangerous drugs, everything else. So this is the moment conservatives have been waiting for. But this abortion case is just one manifestation of that moment.

O`DONNELL: Ruth Marcus and Dahlia Lithwick, thank you very much for joining us on the eve of this important argument in the Supreme Court. Really appreciate it.

MARCUS: Lawrence, thank you so much.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.


O`DONNELL: And coming up, I`m sure I`m not the only one who speeded up my scheduling of a booster shot for coronavirus vaccine after the news of the new variant of COVID-19 was discovered in South Africa. Dr. Michael Osterholm joins us on the new variant next.



O`DONNELL: No cases of the new variant of COVID-19 have yet been identified in the United States. And today Dr. Anthony Fauci said it is too early in the study of the new variant to know whether it is transmissible -- more transmissible, and more deadly. But Dr. Fauci`s advice remains the same. Get vaccinated.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF MEDICAL How ADVISOR: How do we address omicron? We said it over and over again and it deserves repeating. If you`re not vaccinated, get vaccinated. Get boosted if you are vaccinated.

Particularly when you boost it, you get a level so high that even if the mutations of various variants diminish that level of protection, you are still within the range of some degree of protection. And that`s usually most manifested in protection against severe disease that leads to hospitalization.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist and director of the Center for Infectious Disease, Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

And I want to test with you my level of reaction to this news about this situation. And it seems to me that although we don`t yet have a reported case in the United States, based on what I think I`ve learned from you and others over the more than a year now is we are absolutely going to have a case of this new variant, and it is probably already here in the United States, probably already has passed through JFK Airport.

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE, RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Absolutely. I`m quite certain we have cases here, and we probably even have chains of transmission occurring here.

Although it`s only been reported in 20 countries, I think if we could all be all-knowing tonight, I wouldn`t be surprised if it`s already in 40 to 50 countries. So this virus is clearly moving around the world with speed.

O`DONNELL: And so what should our behavior be here in the United States in relation to this news?

DR. OSTERHOLM: Well, I think we have to first of all take a step back and remember our first enemy right now that we`re dealing with is delta. We still have a country that is struggling in many parts with the delta surge that is basically almost bringing hospitals to dysfunction. And so we have to keep getting people vaccinated for that purpose.

But as Dr. Fauci said, not only the first doses for people not yet vaccinated, but the booster doses. We have over 100 million people now in this country who received all their doses, but are more than six months out who have not received a booster dose.

So we need to concentrate on that. And while preparing for that, Lawrence, we actually do prepare ourselves in a much better way should we see this new variant show up here.

O`DONNELL: What should we expect? What do we at this point know about the efficacy of the vaccines against this new variant?

DR. OSTERHOLM: Well, you heard conflicting information just today. A report out of Israel said it probably is going to work pretty well. The CEO of Moderna, the vaccine manufacturer, said it`s probably going to be challenged. I think that it`s surely obviously somewhere between those two extremes.

I think what we can see from previous studies of vaccines that were done in South Africa and South America earlier this year where there was at that time the beta and gamma variants circulating. These were two that had the same types of mutations that we now see on this new variant.

And in both of those instances, vaccine protection was reduced substantially in terms of infection. But at the same time, it showed that you could reduce substantially the number of people who got seriously ill or hospitalized and die.

So even using the current vaccines, if you are fully vaccinated, you are standing a much better chance of not having a severe infection with this new variant.

O`DONNELL: And what is the developmental process for tuning up these vaccines if you can get adequate information about this new variant and go into the lab? Can you retool these vaccines to aim it at that new variant?


DR. OSTERHOLM: In fact, that effort is going on 24/7 right now. What`s happening is the companies that make these vaccines are receiving the genetic information about this virus.

They`re in the lab making the vaccines. They will be bringing these vaccines forward for studies in people to look at how well they make antibody and the rest of the immune response in those individuals. They also will make sure that they`re safe.

And then the FDA will consider these as we call a strain change. Just like we do influenza vaccine every year we don`t relicense a new influenza vaccine. We exchange one influenza vaccine for another. And it`s fully anticipated that the FDA will take this initial data and use that to approve the vaccines for use.

This whole process could take anywhere from three-and-a-half to four months though. So we`re going to have to use the vaccines we have now, and use them effectively to address this issue.

O`DONNELL: Michael Osterholm, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Always invaluable --

DR. OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: -- to get your counsel on this. Really appreciate it.

Thank you.

And coming up, the most incompetent presidential son-in-law in history is now trying to pick up a few billion dollars from a dictator who doesn`t just have people murdered, he also has them dismembered. Jared Kushner`s search for blood money in Saudi Arabia is next.



O`DONNELL: "The main mistake of the last decade." Those are the words of Benjamin Netanyahu`s former defense minister who now calls the American withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal the main mistake of the last decade.

Well, the main mistake of the last decade is of course the only thing that Donald Trump actually accomplished in the Middle East during his presidency with the full approval of his inexperienced and completely incompetent son- in-law Jared Kushner who was given and, needless to say, failed at the assignment of bringing peace to the Middle East.

Jared Kushner is now looking for a massive financial reward from his new contact list in the Middle East. The "New York Times" reports in a move that has raised eyebrows among diplomats, investor and ethics watchdogs, Mr. Kushner is trying to raise money from the Persian Gulf States for a new investment firm he has founded.

Qatar, whose leaders saw Mr. Kushner as an opponent in the administration, declined to invest in his firm. So did the main Emirati sovereign wealth funds. Emirati rulers saw Mr. Kushner as an ally, but questioned his track record in business.

But the Saudis are more interested. "The kingdom`s $450 billion public investment fund is negotiating with Mr. Kushner over what could prove to be a sizable investment in his new firm. According to a person familiar with the firm`s plans, Mr. Kushner hopes to raise an amount in the low billions of dollars by early next year."

Joining us now is Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser to President Obama. He is an MSNBC political analyst.

Ben, I just want to get your reaction as someone who took that oath of office to work as national security adviser to seeing what Jared Kushner is doing with the contact list that he built while he was working in the White House.

BEN RHODES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Lawrence, unfortunately, it`s not surprising. But it is disgusting, and it`s corruption on a massive scale. I think what you have to understand here and I think a lot of us felt this at the time, with the Saudis often the payoff for doing their bidding is on the back end.

And if you look at the Trump record in which Jared was running point in the Mohammed bin Salman relationship, you saw the Trump administration cover for the Saudis after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and his dismemberment in the consulate in Turkey.

You saw them do their bidding in pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, clearly a mistake of historic proportions. And you saw them basically have a foreign policy that was 100 percent in line with the wishes of Saudi Arabia.

Now having done their bidding, Jared is going collect on the back end from a murderous autocrat in Saudi Arabia that he can personally enrich himself. And if that wasn`t bad enough we know Donald Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2024, and the Saudis are both rewarding somebody for a job well done from their perspective if this goes forward, and making a down payment on what they might expect from a future Trump presidency.

O`DONNELL: Yes, and Donald Trump, of course, after the Khashoggi murder and dismemberment by the Saudis, said we`re staying with Saudi Arabia. And by the way, just so everybody know, I have no business whatsoever with Saudi Arabia, couldn`t care less. There is no one who cares more, of course, about doing business like that.

I want to go in the minutes that we have to this issue that we`re now seeing in Israel, officials who were working with Benjamin Netanyahu at the time and mouthing all of that utter nonsense about the Iran nuclear deal now fully admitting oh, yes, we`re much worse off now that Donald Trump took the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal.

RHODES: We heard this at the time, Lawrence, from some Israeli security officials that they understood that the deal was actually in their interests and rolled back Iran`s nuclear program and put it under international inspection.

What you have here is essentially the dog that caught the car in the sense that Netanyahu got what he campaigned on for his own political purposes which was to withdraw from the nuclear deal. Because of that withdrawal, as everybody warned, Iran has resumed its nuclear program.

And make no mistake about it, Lawrence, what we are seeing with Iran`s nuclear progress, and if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, nobody will be more responsible than Donald Trump and Bibi Netanyahu and some of the folks in the Gulf who wanted this confrontation with Iran and got rid of a nuclear deal that had this problem solved, that had this program on lockdown.


RHODES: And so we have a situation where for purely political reasons, because they like to have Iran as an enemy, they like to fearmonger about this issue.

They got rid of something that internationally had been welcomed in solving the problem. And now here we are in this situation where Iran is alarmingly advancing their nuclear program and it is much harder to get back into the deal because Trump tore it up once and the Iranians don`t have confidence that the U.S. can stick to an agreement going forward.

O`DONNELL: It is also worth noting that both Donald Trump and Bibi Netanyahu were always every day trying to avert attention from corruption investigations of their own, of themselves and their families.

RHODES: That`s right. I think corruption has got to be seen as much more central to all of it, because you had investigations into both of them. Netanyahu facing charges in Israel for corruption. This isn`t theoretical. This is something that the Israeli justice system has uncovered multiple charges of corruption.

You have the Trump family engaged in this kind of business in the Gulf, and they`re making decisions based on their personal interests, not the security interests of their country.

O`DONNELL: Ben Rhodes, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Always appreciate it.

RHODES: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, the new variant of COVID-19 was discovered in South Africa and reported by South African scientists. That has now made life a bit more difficult in all of southern Africa. That`s next.



O`DONNELL: There`s just over an hour left in Giving Tuesday and as usual on Giving Tuesday my thoughts are almost 8,000 miles away in Malawi.

Life in Malawi became a bit more difficult in the last week with the new variant of COVID-19 hitting southern Africa. Malawi is one of the countries in southern Africa that is now under a travel ban to the United States. That ban was imposed on Sunday, which is usually the day that I`m flying back from Malawi after spending the Thanksgiving break delivering desks to schools in Malawi.

But I couldn`t go to Malawi this year because of the coronavirus risks and our UNICEF partners in Malawi here are still getting the job done every day there without me riding along in those trucks with them.

This is the 11th year of the KIND Fund, Kids in Need of Desks, the partnership I created with UNICEF and MSNBC to deliver desks to schools in Malawi, where the kids at those school have never seen desks before that truck arrives with desks.

This year the needs of students in Malawi are more challenging than ever. Students were forced to stay home from school for eight months during the peak of coronavirus. And now that they are back in school, at least for now, students are repeating the previous grade.

And most students in Malawi schools still do not have desks in their classrooms, even after we delivered, thanks to your generosity, 295,203 desks. We have also provided scholarships for girls to attend high school in Malawi where public high school is not free.

Supply chain issues and inflation are world-wide problems and they are even more severe in Malawi than just about anywhere else. That has significantly increased our costs in producing desks.

Malawi does not manufacture any steel, all steel has to be imported to that landlocked country. And the price of steel used in the legs of our desks has increased by 20 percent. and the price of fuel for the trucks delivering the desks that you are providing has increased 30 percent just in the last seven months.

Last month we made a difficult and expensive delivery to three schools along the shore of Lake Malawi. Those schools were unreachable by our trucks and so the desks were taken from the trucks after a three-hour truck ride to a nearby port and then loaded on to boats for delivery to three schools along the shore of Lake Malawi.

Muhabi Chivunga (ph) is the district manager for education in that region and was glad to finally have desks in those remote schools.


MUHABI CHIVUNGA, DISTRICT MANAGER FOR EDUCATION: There have been times when a school does not have even a single desk. And you can imagine children squatting in an examination room and taking their exam. It hasn`t been easy.

So this would have been such huge problem without a desk. Here is a girl sitting on the floor and from time to time what it means is that the uniform, their dress, their shorts will be dirty. And that means they will spend a lot of their time maybe washing clothes instead of reading their books. So it hasn`t been easy.


O`DONNELL: You can make a contribution to the KIND Fund at and UNICEF will send an email announcement to anyone on your holiday gift list in whose name you might want to give a desk or a girl`s scholarship. You can contribute any amount. Every dollar helps.


CHIVUNGA: And they come back and give us more so that most of our children can be sitting on the desks.


O`DONNELL: And that is tonight`s Giving Tuesday message from Muhabi Chivunga from the shores of Lake Malawi.



BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again.

Day 315 of the Biden administration.

And we begin with an intriguing development for that House Committee investigating the January 6th attack on our Capitol. The committee says Donald Trump`s former chief of staff and a potentially crucial witness appears to have reversed his initial resistance to the subpoena he received.