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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 12/27/21

Guests: Joe Neguse, Cliff Albright, Rob Davidson, Henry Harteveldt, Kurt Bardella, Xochitl Hinojosa


The January 6th committee is focused on former President Donald Trump`s hours of silence during the riot. The Georgia election workers who were targeted by Trump sue a far right media outlet and Rudy Giuliani. Before Thanksgiving, most people in America hadn`t heard of omicron. Now not only is omicron the dominant strain of coronavirus in the United States, but case counts now exceed the delta surge and are approaching the record high from last January before vaccines were widely available.



JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC HOST: Hey, Ayman. Thanks very much. What a wonderful tribute to Bishop Tutu.

But, I got to grab you on thing, your fabulous podcast, all the episodes are out. You worked on it for a year. And I`m just wondering, because it dovetails nicely with what we`re going to talk about at the start of the show. And that is, has the radicalization that you`ve been reporting on for the last year, do you think things have gotten more radical?

AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST: Jonathan, first of all, thank you so much. And that`s a great question. I think we heard from Lonna earlier saying that, you know, radicalization is trending upwards in this country.

And I think everyone should be concerned about what is happening in various corners of the just not the dark web, but is happening in plain sight, when you see politicians and others perpetuating the big lie, using that to stoke division, stoke violence in this country. I think it`s something we should be concerned of and it seems to be echoed by officials in law enforcement as well, when you see the FBI director and others warning Congress about online radicalization.

CAPEHART: Ayman, thank you very much.

And tonight, we begin with the reason the January 6 select committee exists. The committee was designed to stop future coup attempts and every record request, interview and subpoena we`ve reported on from the committee has the same goal, to better understand what has happened on January 6, so that it doesn`t happen again.

But as we approach the one year anniversary of that day, we`re seeing that the ground work for another coup attempt is already being laid. The Trump mob is just as angry as ever, fuelled by the same lies and hate that led to the insurrection.

Like Jared Schmeck, the dad who called into NORAD Santa Tracking Center on Christmas Eve with his kids, and then slid in an insult to the president before hanging up.

Today, that guy told Steve Bannon that he doesn`t even believe Joe Biden is president.


JARED SCHMECK: Donald Trump is my president, and he should still be president right now.


CAPEHART: That`s a lie. But it`s a lie a lot of Republicans believe, thanks to Steve Bannon, and congressional Republicans. And, of course, Trump himself.

And it`s a lie that is still being pushed today.

Here`s January 6 defendant Danny Rodriguez, who is accused of tasing officer Michael Fanone, crying and repenting when confronted with the consequences of his actions.


INVESTIGATOR: Why did you tase him?

DANNY RODRIGUEZ, JANUARY 6 DEFENDANT: I don`t know. I`m a piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I`m sorry. I don`t know. He`s a human being, with children. And he`s not a bad guy. He`s just doing his job. And he`s -- I`m an (EXPLETIVE DELTED) hole.


CAPEHART: Some of the rioters seemed genuinely upset that they were brainwashed. But they only came to that point after carrying out a violent assault on the Capitol. But others have faced no consequences. So, it`s a major concern when we start hearing rhetoric again like we did in the days before January 6, especially when it`s coming from elected officials like House Republican Louie Gohmert, who said last week at right wing Turning Point USA conference in Phoenix, that he believes in Second Amendment Solutions.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you keep fighting for us?

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): Yeah, they just so mistreated --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we getting towards 2nd Amendment solutions at some point?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s going to keep happening or we going to fix it? You think we are?

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


CAPEHART: On January 6, some people came to the Capitol hoping to kill Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence. So, when an elected Republican agrees to solving problems with potential violence, that needs to be addressed head on. What Louie Gohmert said is wrong. And could get people killed.

Trump flirted with violence for years before the insurrection. Remember in 2016 when he suggested, quote, Second Amendment people could take care of Hillary Clinton.

But it`s not 2016 anymore.


It`s 2022, almost 2022.

And a segment of the American public has been radicalized over the last six years if not longer by Trump and Republicans who like Louie Gohmert don`t care what they say or how badly they egg on people to commit violent acts. That`s why the January 6 Select Committee is so important. Time is running out.

Americans have been radicalized and they`re being pushed to action all the time by a group of unhinged conservatives who care more about power and profits than safety and security and doing what`s right. We need it to know the truth, before it`s too late.

Leading our discussion tonight is Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse of Colorado. He served as House impeachment manager in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

Congressman Neguse, thank you for coming back to THE LAST WORD.

Republicans have seen where this kind of rhetoric can go. Why are they still pushing it?

REP. JOE NEGUSE (D-CO): Well, it`s good to be with you. Just taking a step back as you said next week will mark one year since the attack on Congress in January 6, which as you know, and as you articulated was the worst assault on our Capitol, the citadel of liberty since the War of 1812. And there are many of us who warned in the days after the sixth and later on the Senate floor during the impeachment trial that we are facing a radically new threat in the kind of forces that combined to attack our government on January 6.

And I believe that the future of the democracy is on the line. Now, I can`t explain to you why so many Republican politicians, as you mentioned, have been stoking the flames. But I do think many of the stories that you referenced demonstrate or crystallize the way in which those forces and the misinformation including the big lie about the 2020 election really had metastasized over the course of the last year. And much hasn`t been on the front page of the newspaper.

But over time, the disinformation has permeated the minds of more and more Americans. And that is in no small part due to social media, the echo chambers that exist there and as you said, politicians fanning the flames.

But it`s disconcerning, and it should concern every American and why the commission work is so critically important to the future of our country.

CAPEHART: Congressman, do you think it`s metastasized to the point where you think we can see another January 6 style insurrection?

NEGUSE: That`s certainly a fear that I have. And that I know many colleagues share. I mean, ultimately, the assault on January 6th was not just a riot. As you know, it was an attempt to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. And if we aren`t vigilant and don`t take the threat seriously, it could very well happen again, as we warned during the course of the second impeachment trial that you referenced.

And it`s exactly why we establish the select committee, because we needed a comprehensive investigation into who organized the attack, who paid for it, how they nearly succeeded and ultimately overthrowing a presidential election. They failed to do so. But as we know, they vociferously try to do that, and why they did it. And we must organize ourselves to prevent anything like this from happening again. That`s why the committee work is so crucial.

CAPEHART: Well, let`s talk about the January 6 select committee investigation. I want you to listen to former senator on our air earlier today.


CLAIRE MCCASKILL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: We know Trump was watching TV. He watched TV all day long for four years. He watched all the channels.

We can go through and we can put the images at a specific time. And we can then fill in the text messages, the phone calls that were flooding the White House, saying get him to call them off. Give me the facts. Give me the time line and give me a jury.


CAPEHART: You know, Congressman, that is -- she lays out an incredible set of things that the committee I hope the committee is already doing. But what`s the benefit of a time like this - of a timeline like this?

NEGUSE: Well, a couple of things. First, I have great respect for the former senator, and I think much of what she described, the impeachment trial ultimately did glean for the American people the team of house managers did much of that work, as she describes in compiling a timeline.

But there are missing pieces, and I suspect the committee is doing what she has described, putting together obviously by virtue of the document requests that they have refounded and the testimony they have gathered so far, putting together those missing pieces so that the American public and the Congress can better understand precisely what happened on the day, and obviously the inaction of the president in a critical few hours during the course of that assault on the Capitol, his dereliction of duty, under the Constitution, in terms of not taking steps to stop the attack.


Obviously, there`s a lot more for us to learn about the weaponization of the Department of Justice that happened, during the course of the prior administration, vis-a-vis what happened on January 6. So, there`s still a number of unanswered questions and I think that we are going to have answers to those questions in the coming months.

CAPEHART: Congressman, the anniversary of the insurrection is next week. And I`m just wondering, where will you be on January 6, 2022?

NEGUSE: I`ll be in Washington. I`ll be back in Washington, D.C.

I mean, look, I think it`s important for all us of to take a step back and reflect about the events of January 6, 2021. I was in the House that day, in the Capitol, on the House floor, during the attack on the Capitol, and obviously it was a harrowing day for our country, for the Congress, and for our republic ultimately.

So, I`ll be in Washington with my colleagues and, you know, we will be doing the people`s work.

CAPEHART: Congressman Joe Neguse of Colorado. Thank you very much for coming to THE LAST WORD.

Joining us now, Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general and an MSNBC legal contributor.

Neal, great to see you. Thanks for coming back to the last word.

January 6 Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson told "The Washington Post" that the panel is investigating Trumps silence during the attack. And, quote, that dereliction of duty causes us real concern. I can assure you that if a criminal referral would be warranted, there would be no reluctance on the part of the committee to do that.

So, Neal, what kind of evidence would the committee need before issuing a criminal referral?

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: So, a criminal referral would occur if the committee finds that Trump either by action or in action violated a criminal statute. And I think the most likely criminal statute is one that Representative Cheney has already referenced, which is the 1512 statute, which says that if you are attempting to obstruct an official proceeding, that`s a federal felony. It`s already been used successfully against some of the January 6 insurrectionists.

And several Trump judges -- Trump appointed judges have approved the use of these charges for the January 6 attack. So, for example, like the conversation we`re just having with a congressman, if the president just kind of sat on his hands watching TV, as Senator McCaskill said and not doing anything, because he had a certain intent which was to obstruct the official count on January 6, absolutely that`s a federal crime, every day of the week. And Congress is well within its rights to refer that to the Justice Department or Merrick Garland on his own can pick up that ball.

But to me, the most important thing is what you started the show with, we have to get to the bottom and find out what happened. And right now, the Trump folks are all clamming up and claiming privileges, because they`re afraid to tell the truth before the committee. And if we can`t get to the bottom of what happened on January 6, I don`t know what the Congress is for.

I mean, it`s worth every investigation in its important, whether it`s Benghazi or Iran Contra, or perhaps even the 9/11 committee. I mean, if the government officials White House officials can get away with helping facilitate this kind of armed attack on our Capitol, what can`t you get away with? Of course, we should get to the bottom of it.

CAPEHART: Uh-huh. Well, then, that leads me to the next question, which is, OK, January 6 committee is investigating, but there`s another entity sitting out there that can also -- I think you said doesn`t have to wait for the criminal referral. And that`s the Department of Justice.

And so, where is the department of justice in all of this? Claire McCaskill earlier on "DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE" was saying, look, they might be doing things that we don`t know about, and I look forward to apologizing to Attorney General Garland when that time comes, when they reveal what they`re doing. But until that time, hey, what are you doing? What`s taking so long?

Are we right to be asking that question of DOJ?

KATYAL: Certainly right to ask the question. In an ideal world the best solution here right now is the Justice Department is thoroughly investigating these things and you and I and nobody else knows about it, because that`s the way law enforcement investigations are supposed to be.

Now the truth is, every time you have FBI agents or whatever starting to ask questions you generally hear from the person who`s being asked the questions on, you know, or their counsel. They talk to the media or something and say there`s an ongoing investigation.

We haven`t heard that yet. Which is why people, you know, I respect have said maybe they`re actually isn`t one. If there isn`t that would be unforgivable. If they`re saying we have to keep the investigation quiet. That`s one thing. If they`re saying, we`re going to wait until Congress pursues an investigation and then we`ll pick up the ball afterwards, I guess that might be potentially understandable.


But I get my view is there is nothing more important. This is what the Department of Justice is for, is to investigate these kinds of high level wrongdoings. And to me, we already have evidence there`s almost a crime going on here in the cover up.

I mean, every Trump aid is going before and filing a lawsuit saying, I don`t want to tell the truth to the congressional committee. And they say it`s because this congressional committee is biased.

Look, if you think they`re biased, fine. You can say that every day of the week. But that doesn`t give you a right to hide evidence from the American people and from the Congress. If you want to disagree with Congress` conclusions after they read your evidence, fine, go ahead and do so. Argue that all day.

But don`t, you know, clam up and be afraid to tell the truth before the committee, which is what these folks are doing right now.

CAPEHART: Let me get your view on another one of these people. NBC News is reporting that Trump spokesman, Taylor Budowich, is suing the January 6 Committee to block their access to financial records. Why would he do that? What could the committee learn from his financials?

KATYAL: Well, this is just another lawsuit by a Trump person who is afraid to testify under oath. And, you know, I`m hoping at this point that the Trump folks are getting some sort of wholesale discount on these lawsuits because there`s so many of them. But it`s the same flimsy arguments. You know, they`re putting all their eggs in a kind of creaky wicker basket. I don`t think it`s going to offer protection to them.

What this guy, the spokesperson Budowich is saying is, well, the congressional committee wants to know where I got these $200,000 from. And so I`m going to plead privilege, and not provide that. You know, this is financial information. There`s nothing to do with like the functioning of the executive branch or the presidency, which is what the executive privilege claims that Trump is, you know, trying and losing to litigate. This is going nowhere. This is all about delay.

And, you know, his argument is essentially, I don`t trust Congress. Therefore, I don`t have to give them information. Well, that would be nice. Every time we face an investigation. We could say we don`t trust the investigator.

That doesn`t shut the books on this investigation. The duty of American person is go and tell the truth to a congressional committee. And then you can argue about it afterwards.

CAPEHART: Neal, I hope to never face a federal investigation.

Neal Katyal, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

Up next, Rudy Giuliani is facing new legal trouble this time in Georgia for helping Trump push his big lie that the 2020 election was stolen. One of the cofounders of Black Voters Matter will join me.

And later, with omicron surging and people traveling for the holidays, one report tonight says doctors and nurses are seeing violence and hostility as COVID cases fill hospitals yet again.



CAPEHART: This time last year, Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman received a Christmas card sent to her home saying, quote: Ruby, please report to the FBI and tell them you committed voter fraud. If not, you will be sorry.

That`s according to a defamation lawsuit filed last week against One America News and Rudy Giuliani for their role in pushing Donald Trump`s big lie. Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea Moss were accused of manipulating election ballots in Fulton County by the former president`s lawyer and OAN.

According to the lawsuit, quote: Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss have become the objects of vitriol, threats and harassment. They found themselves in this unenviable position not based on anything they did, but instead because of a campaign of malicious lies designed to accuse them of interfering with a fair and impartial election, which is precisely what each of them swore an oath to protect.

This lawsuit among many others has proven to be a major consequence of spreading the big lie. But if there`s another more sinister consequence -- but there is another more sinister consequence, voter suppression. In Lincoln County, Georgia, where a 29 percent of the population is black, officials are moving to close all but one of the seven polling places as a result of Georgia`s voter restriction law passed last year.

Joining us now is Cliff Albright, cofounder of Black Voters Matter.

Mr. Cliff, very nice to see you. Thank you for coming.

I want everyone to listen to the 911 call Ruby Freeman placed on January 4 after a woman later identified as Kanye West`s publicist arrived at her home asking her to confess to election fraud.


RUBY FREEMAN, ELECTION WORKER: They keep saying that time is running out. And I`m going to need some representation. They`re saying that I need help and they can help me because they say they coming after me.

DISPATCH: Do you know who these people are?

FREEMAN: No. That`s why I want the police to come. And I`ll go outside and talk with them with the police being there. I`m not talking now.


CAPEHART: Cliff, what`s your reaction to the threats Ruby Freeman and Wandrea Moss faced?

CLIFF ALBRIGHT, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK VOTERS MATTER: Yeah, thanks for having me, Jonathan.

I mean, we have been saying all year now, right, that when you look at the voter suppression taking place, both in term of legislation, but also in terms of the wider narrative, the big lie, that one of the most dangerous aspects, you know, all of it is bad, right? The criminalizing, giving out food and water, the criminalizing election officials that send out ballots to people. The most dangerous thing we have been saying all year has been this attack on local boards of elections, right, on local election officials, like Ms. Freeman, right?


And so, while happening to Ms. Freeman is bad and in a different kind of universe in a multi-verse, it might be comical that Kanye`s publicist delivered a message from the mafioso -- but as bad as all that is, it`s the bigger issue, right? It`s the wider attack that we`re seeing on taking over local boards of elections. It`s already started here in Georgia, on being able to overturn elections, being able to cast ballots basically being able to do exactly what Trump wanted the Georgia secretary of state to do, but he didn`t do because the law wasn`t on his side. But now with this Georgia law, they would be able to do that.

So, this attack on Ms. Freeman is part of a much wider and much more ominous stories about attacks on election officials all across the country.

CAPEHART: So, then, Cliff, are you concerned about what these past threats against election workers could mean for polling places during the 2022 midterms and beyond?

ALBRIGHT: Yes. We`re very concerned about it. I mean -- and again, this is what we have been saying all along. You know, this is why, you know, some of the newer aspects of the Freedom to Vote Act, right, which was actually added in For the People Act, which is actually added in For the People Act. It wasn`t there originally.

But after this year, seeing these attacks, there has now built in to the most recent legislation protections for election officials. Yes, we`re very concerned about it because at the end of the day, what we know is there`s a thing about out organizing the voter suppression. We can do everything right on our side. We can go out and we can touch all the voters multiple times and have persuasive messages and get the votes out.

But at the end of the day, even if we overcome all the other stuff, even if we overcome the voter ID and the attacks on vote by mail and all that stuff, the food and water, if we overcome all of that, at the end of the day, if Republicans have the ability to simply throw out ballots, like they tried to do in Georgia, they tried to do in Michigan, right, and Detroit, in Wayne County.

If they`re able to do that, there`s no out-organizing that. That has been the thing we have been most concerned about.

CAPEHART: So I mentioned it in the intro and that`s what`s happening in Lincoln County. I want to get your reaction to Lincoln County officials saying that the move to close six out of the seven polling places in Lincoln County will make voting, quote, easier and more accessible, and eliminate the need to transport voting equipment and staff to the remaining sites. Come on.

Your reaction to that, Cliff?

ALBRIGHT: Yeah. We have been down this path before, including right here in Georgia. Remember a couple years ago, it was Randolph County, where they were trying to close seven out of the nine polling places. We were able to stop them with a coalition of folks here in the state of Georgia and national r partners. We stopped them then, but this is just a continuation of that.

And what you`re seeing that they`re always trying to find new excuses. On why it is they need to close down all the polling places. Oh, it just so happens we`re closing them down in like your community and your counties. Sometimes they say it`s because of financial management, right? We don`t have the resources.

Here, you`re hearing it`s about we want to make it easier for folks, as if it would be easier for folks to have to travel dozens of miles in order to get to the one polling place in the county. Not to mention that sometimes when they do this, one polling place happens to be at the courthouse, which for many members of the community, transportation issues, that courthouse is not always a welcoming environment.


ALBRIGHT: And so, that`s why it`s important folks have access to polling places in the community. You wouldn`t be able to see this if we had things in place like the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, because any measures like this would have to be pre-cleared. We don`t have the power now because the Supreme Court is gutting the Voting Rights Act.

CAPEHART: Cliff Albright, I wish we had more time. We`ve got to go.

Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, thank you very much for coming to THE LAST WORD.

Coming up, with omicron cases surging, it`s clear that the U.S. is in the throes of another COVID winter. But one thing is different, the unvaccinated are now people who have refused the vaccine. And in some cases are lashing out at the very people who are trying to save their lives. Dr. Rob Davison joins us next.



CAPEHART: Think about this. Before Thanksgiving, most people in America hadn`t heard of omicron. Now not only is omicron the dominant strain of coronavirus in the United States, but case counts now exceed the delta surge and are approaching the record high from last January before vaccines were widely available.

The U.S. is averaging more than 214,000 new cases per day, an 83 percent increase from two weeks ago. Despite the surge in cases, today the CDC shortened the recommended isolation time for people who test positive for COVID-19 from ten days to five if they are asymptomatic and continued to mask. The CDC`s reasoning is to minimize disruptions in this second COVID winter.

But this winter is different because many people who are overwhelming the hospitals are people who have refused the vaccine.

And also because of headlines like this. From the "Detroit Free Press". "Michigan doctors, nurses report violence, hostility amid-the COVID-19 surge. An emergency room doctor in west Michigan".

Dr. Rob Davidson is an emergency room doctor in west Michigan. He is also the executive director of the Committee to Protect Healthcare. Dr. Davidson, nice to see you again. Welcome to THE LAST WORD.

You recently wrote an op-ed in the "New York Times" about your experience at your hospital in rural Michigan. Tell us about what you are seeing?


DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMITTEE TO PROTECT HEALTHCARE: Well, we are still deeply mired in the delta surge here in west Michigan. Our hospitalization numbers are not at all time highs but we`re still so far beyond anything we have ever seen before the pandemic. And finding beds for patients on a regular basis is still a challenge every day.

I`m in a county where I work where about 45 percent of people are vaccinated. And it doesn`t look like it`s budging from there any time soon without vaccine mandates. And so we expect to have omicron hit us fairly hard. We are hopeful that the cases are less severe. But, you know, I don`t think tis experiment has been tried in low vaccination areas.

We have seen it in big cities on the East Coast. We have seen it in the U.K. where a lot of people are vaccinated or in South Africa where people are a lot younger. We`re a little concerned if delta doesn`t, you know, completely let up what omicron will bring.

CAPEHART: I was just -- I`m actually surprised to hear you say that your hospital beds and everything is filled with people who have COVID. But because of the delta variant, and we`re all talking about omicron. How concerned are you?

I mean -- let me ask the question this way. Your experience now today, how different is it from last December?

DR. DAVIDSON: Well, I`ll tell you what in a personal way I`m protected, right. I have been vaccinated. I have had a third dose of the vaccine. My wife is a family doctor, she has as well. All of our kids have.

So I don`t come home from every shift taking off my scrubs in the garage and taking a shower. Feeling like I could infect them or I`m at significant risk.

It`s different now because so many of my patients that I have been taking care of for 20 years have refused this vaccine. Come in and get angry with me when I simply want to get a test because I had a patient not that long ago suggest that I was going to give them COVID because we get paid extra when we do that.

You know, another patient because the waiting room was so full, and had to wait a long time said well, I`ll come back with my nine millimeter and we`ll do something about it and had the police called because they didn`t like their wait time because of this overwhelming surge of unvaccinated people filling up the hospital, filling up the ER.

So that part feels a lot different. We thought with the advent of vaccines, you know, we sort of naively high fived in March of this year when we came out of the last wave in Michigan.

My partners and I thinking all right, we got it, you know. The waves are going to be over because people are going to get vaccinated. And it`s just not happening around here.

CAPEHART: Dr. Rob, I`m struck by the fact you say patients you have been treating for 20 years aren`t getting vaccinated. I mean you have been their doctor. There`s a trust. There`s supposed to be a trust between the two of you.

How does that make you feel to know that these people who you thought trust you don`t trust you when it comes to something as vital as this?

DR. DAVIDSON: I tell you what, I have said this before. I`ve tweeted this. I have written it. I`m frustrated with the individuals. I`m frustrated with their decisions because I know it`s hurting them, it`s hurting all of us. It`s keeping the hospitals full. Hurting people without COVID who can`t get in.

But I`m really, really mad at the folks out there perpetrating the disinformation, you know. The senators like Ron Johnson, our state senator here Mike Shirkey who tells people natural immunity is better than the vaccine and refuses to get vaccinated. And folks on other networks like Fox News and others that are worse that are basically spending every day undermining our efforts to do what`s right.

And people just can`t get away from it. Their brains have been completely transformed to listen to all that noise. And discount what, you know, what I tell them, what my wife the family doctor for 20 years has been telling them. And what we`ve all been telling them. And they`re unfortunately paying the price.

CAPEHART: Wow. Dr. Rob Davidson, thank you very much for coming back to THE LAST WORD.

DR. DAVIDSON: Thanks for having me.

CAPEHART: Coming up. The pandemic hit airline travel Christmas weekend. What can we expect heading into New Year`s?

That`s next.



CAPEHART: The super-fast omicron surge collided with Christmas travel. An estimated 10,000 flights were cancelled this weekend across the globe as COVID infections kept airline crews off the job.

Today the "New York Times" reports at least 2,600 more flights were cancelled Monday including about 1,000 U.S. flights. Several major airlines have reported 90 percent or more of the staffs are vaccinated.

Vaccinations aren`t required for domestic travel. But today, Dr. Fauci said the U.S. should consider a mandate.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR: When you make vaccination a requirement, that`s another incentive to get more people vaccinated. If you want to do that with domestic flights I think that`s something that seriously should be considered.


CAPEHART: Henry Harteveldt, president of the Atmosphere Research Group and travel industry analyst. Welcome to THE LAST WORD. Thank you for being here.

Airlines cancelled thousand of flights because so many flight personnel tested positive for the coronavirus. How big of a crisis is this for the airline industry? And how long might this situation last?


It`s a substantial challenge for the airline industry because this is happening at Christmas and New Year`s. No airline wants to be the airline that ruined Christmas.

The individual effect of this on airlines is small. Most airlines are cancelling about 4 or 5 percent of the flights. But if that flight that`s been cancelled is yours it`s a disaster.

CAPEHART: You know, JetBlue cancelled about 110 flights on Sunday saying they were seeing an increasing number of sick calls from omicron.

A spokesperson told NBC News "Despite our best efforts we`ve had to cancel a number of flights, and additional flight cancellation and other delays remain a possibility.

So Henry, what can airlines do going forward to prevent cancellations? Can they prevent cancellations?


HARTEVELDT: Jonathan, they can`t prevent cancellations because this virus is random. It`s going to affect whoever it`s going it affect.

And as you mentioned, the majority of airline employees are vaccinated. If there`s good news here it`s this. That the CDC decision to truncate the isolation time to five days means that the first wave of employees who got sick hopefully will be back on duty by the middle of the week. And that may help the New Year`s weekend go better.

CAPEHART: So, you know, we heard Dr. Fauci say that a vaccine requirement for domestic travel should be seriously considered. What are your thoughts about a vaccine mandate for travelers?

HARTEVELDT: Well, Dr. Fauci appears to have walked back his comments later. In fact, on an interview with the "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS" tonight but, what he also said is that it would be a good thing to have these vaccination requirements. But it`s not very practical to do so. We don`t have a digital vaccination certificate. To do this would make flying far more complex and it could lop off 14 percent or more of the people who fly now from traveling. And the airlines would lose more money. They`re going to fight this.

CAPEHART: Henry Harteveldt, thanks so much for joining us tonight.

Coming up, what happens when Trump is no longer Trumpy enough for today`s Republicans? Because it might be happening now. That`s next.



CAPEHART: Donald Trump`s descent down the escalator in June 2015 was the start of a new Republican era. Trump was mean. He talked like a thug even if he acted like a victim. He was ignorant and proudly so. And he never gave up the grift, saying whatever he needed to say to keep his most rabid fans hooked.

And a lot of Americans died while Trump downplayed, denied and cried about how the coronavirus pandemic would hurt his reelection chances.

Trump and his fringe promoters are a big reason why we have an entrenched unvaccinated minority in this country. And I say all that because it is necessary context for what Donald Trump recently said to one of those fringe promoters, Candace Owens.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh no, the vaccine worked, but some people aren`t taking it. The ones -- the ones who get very sick and go to the hospital are the ones that don`t take the vaccine.

Look, the results of the vaccine are very good. And if you do get it, it`s a very minor form.


CAPEHART: If I had pearls, I`d clutch them because, of course, that is correct. And, of course, Trump should have said this unapologetically and unwaveringly from the moment the vaccine was approved a year ago.

But of course, this is bewildering and enraging may Republican anti-vaxxers who have been fed lies and quack cures by fringe Trump promoters for the last year.

Owens herself tried to explain away Trump`s comment by reminding fans that Trump is old. "People oftentimes forget that, like, how old Trump is." I`m quoting Candace Owens right now. "He and other old people came from a time before TV, before Internet, before being able to conduct their own independent research."

Now I`m chuckling because of what I`m about to tell you because Candace Owens went on to say she is currently drinking silver to prevent sickness. Silver -- yes, you heard that right, silver.

But fringe promoter Alex Jones went much further. He said, quote, "This is an emergency Christmas day warning to President Trump. You are either completely ignorant about the so-called vaccine, or you are one of the most evil men who has ever lived."

Could we just pause for a minute, let that sink in? If your Christmas day involved the presents, old songs, and the warmth of holiday spirit, be grateful. You didn`t have the time or the heart to consume this kind of garbage on December 25th.

But what else can you expect from a conspiracy theorist who is now on the hook to pay the families of children murdered at Sandy Hook for claiming their murders were staged.

That aside, it does raise a really interesting question. What happens when Donald Trump is no longer Trumpy enough for the Trump Republican Party?

Joining us now, Democratic strategist Xochitl Hinojosa and Kurt Bardella who previously worked for Republicans in the pre-Trump era and now consults for Democrats. He`s also an opinion columnist for the "Los Angeles Times" and "USA Today".

Great to see you both. Xochitl, it`s been a long time since I`ve seen you, but I`ll start with Kurt.

And Kurt, did Trump create a monster and now he`s lost control of it?

KURT BARDELLA, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": I mean it`s this classic story, right. Be careful what you wish for or you might get it. You want a bunch of lunatic fringe conspiracy theorists to vote for you? You want to turn the party upside down and inside out in this bottom-dwelling, conspiracy theory driven nonsense political entity? Well, guess what? They will come for you too, at some point.

And now he`s learning that. That this party now, it`s becoming more about the Lauren Boebert`s Madison Cawthornes, Matt Gaetzes and Marjorie Taylor Greenes, than the Donald Trumps that these people are to the further right in extreme of even where Trump is. And he is going to be cannibalized by them just as he cannibalized what used to be the Republican Party.

It`s just a cycle that`s going to repeat itself over and over again until at some point, either they run themselves down into the ground or someone in the party stands up and says, enough is enough, let`s take back the Republican Party towards a more mainstream approach.


CAPEHART: One more for you, Kurt, on this very point. I mean even if Trump ceases to be the organizing principal of today`s Republican Party, how does any national Republican step away from Trump? What do they stand for?

BARDELLA: Well, this is the thing. I mean we`ve seen people like Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger try to do that. The problem is by and large, for those who do try to do that, they don`t end up running again, they take their ball and kind of go home.

We`re seeing right now one of the most interesting things about what`s going to happen in the coming year. All of these right wing MAGA wannabe, wannabe-mini Trumps running for Congress and the type of primaries, the type of candidates we`re going to see, there`s all this doom and gloom about how it`s already over and said and done for Democrats. They`re going to lose the house and all this.

Let me tell you something, Jonathan. The Republicans are fully capable of nominating such right wing lunatic extremists that they`ve alienated themselves so much from the main stream, they have don`t have a chance in November. I think we`re seeing a lot of that play out with all these people making these pilgrimages to Mar-A-Lago trying to get Trump`s blessing.

CAPEHART: And Xochitl, speaking of, you know, right wing extremists being nominated to run for federal office meaning House and Senate. Today`s "Washington Post" has an article. The headline, House MAGA squad seeks to expand by boosting challengers to fellow Republicans. Here is why one Republican challenger is running against the House Republican in Washington state.

Quote, "Kent said he has little interest in fighting with Democrats if he makes it to Congress. Instead, he wants to force Republicans into tough votes, starting with articles of impeachment against President Biden and a full congressional inquiry into the 2020 presidential election which he says was stolen from Trump.

"A lot of it will be shaming Republicans," Kent said. "I need to be going after the people in the Republican Party who want to go back to go along to get along. It`s put up or shut up."

Xochitl, you`re a Democratic strategist. I mean as alarming as that sounds, this is America. What do you think when you hear that as a strategist?

XOCHITL HINOJOSA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think that the MAGA brand won in 2016. But let`s remember, it failed to bring the Republican Party over the finish line in 2018 and in 2020. And we saw even this last year that in 2021 that Glenn Youngkin didn`t win on a far right brand, he won on a more moderate-leaning brand that said he would deliver. And a lot of Republicans were looking at that playbook afterwards, thinking through. Man, if we just are a little bit more moderate, if we can hold it together for 2022, then we could potentially take back the House and the Senate.

That`s not what`s happening here. What`s happening here is you have a Republican Party that is trying to go further and further to the right to embrace Trump.

And mind you, they are not all embracing vaccines, even though I would love for them to come out just like Donald Trump did and say that vaccines are safe. They are not doing that. and honestly, that is terrible as an American.

As Democrats, if you are going to have a Republican Party who is going further and further to the right, that is only good news for Democrats because what will happen is that Democrats will talk about how they are delivering, how this is a far right party.

And Americans don`t want that message. And so it is good news for Democrats in the sense that Republicans are going further to the right. This is terrible news more broadly for America.

CAPEHART: Ok. I hear you. You`re a brilliant Democratic strategist, so I hope you`re right.

So Kurt, are there House Republicans in much Trumpier districts who could be picked off in a primary? Is there such a thing?

BARDELLA: I guess we`re about to find out. I mean, the fact that, again, you have the litmus test right now for Republicans in primaries is do you buy into the big lie? And will you spend more time fighting your fellow Republicans than even Democrats or Joe Biden?

That quote from that "Washington Post" story is remarkable that someone wants to go to Congress as a Republican to set the people like Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell straight. That`s how far gone that they are, Jonathan.

I`m going to tell, if they want to blow this next election, which it seems like they do, keep talking about impeachment. Keep talking about that your priority isn`t to deliver for the American people the way Democrats are trying to, it`s that you want to impeach Joe Biden. That`s not going to get it done.

CAPEHART: Xochitl, real fast, in 15 seconds, the likelihood, would Republicans have the nerve if they took back the majority to actually go and impeach President Biden?


HINOJOSA: I hope not. But what I will tell you is that if they do, then they will lose elections after that. There is -- I don`t see a situation that Republicans gain control and hold control on an impeachment strategy.

CAPEHART: Xochitl Hinojosa, Kurt Bardella -- thank you both very much for joining us on THE LAST WORD.

And that is tonight`s LAST WORD.

"THE 11TH HOUR" starts right now.