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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 7/26/21

Guests: Zeke Emanuel, Jim Himes


Dr. Zeke Emanuel organized a joint statement released today by 58 major medical organizations calling for all health care workers to be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Russian intelligence agencies have mounted a campaign to undermine confidence in Pfizer and other Western vaccines using online publications that in recent months have questioned the vaccines` development and safety. This weekend House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger to the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Our next guest, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, organized a joint statement released today by 58 major medical organizations calling for all health care workers to be required to be vaccinated against COVID- 19.

Their statement said, "Our health care organizations and societies advocate that all health care and long-term care employers require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. This is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers to put patients as well as residents of long-term care facilities first and take all steps necessary to ensure their health and their well-being."

Nationwide, only 58.7 percent of nursing home employees have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control; and fewer than 9 percent of hospitals have required their workers to get vaccinated, according to the American Hospital Association.

Today the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to require some of its employees to get vaccinated. The Department of Veterans Affairs will require 115,000 of its front line health care workers to get vaccinated in the next two months or face penalties including possible removal.

And today New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city`s roughly 340,000 municipal workers will be required to be vaccinated by the time schools reopen in mid-September or face weekly testing.

Joining us now Dr. Zeke Emanuel. He is a member of President Biden`s COVID- 19 advisory board. He is currently a vice provost of global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Emanuel, most of us are just shocked that it would come to the point where you have to advocate for medical workers to be fully vaccinated. How did it come to this?

DR. ZEKE EMANUEL, MEMBER, PRESIDENT BIDEN` COVID-19 ADVISORY BOARD: Well, I think medical workers reflect the country. And I agree with you, you know. It`s pretty shocking that health care workers would not be the first in line and every person in health care wouldn`t get vaccinated.

I have been calling for a mandate ever since April 14th when I wrote an op- ed in "The New York Times". I think we need to get all the health care workers vaccinated. They should not infect other people putting them in danger.

And unfortunately because of disinformation, because of access problems people have just stopped getting vaccinated. And we need to get them over that little barrier they have and get them vaccinated.


O`DONNELL: So the American Hospital Association saying that only 9 percent of hospitals have fully vaccinated personnel is rather frightening. Is there any way for us to know if the hospital we might choose to use or be taken to in emergency has fully vaccinated personnel?

DR. EMANUEL: No, there really isn`t.

I am proud to say that my University of Pennsylvania Health System, which is a five-hospital healthcare system, has mandated that all workers get vaccinated.

But this came home to me very vividly, frankly Lawrence, when my daughter was delivering a baby and she said I don`t want to question whether that nurse or the person coming in cleaning the floor has been vaccinated. I should just assume that they are vaccinated because they are working in a health care setting.

And I totally agree with her. And I don`t think any of us should have to doubt or question or worry that we might get COVID from a health care worker.

O`DONNELL: Have you personally had any conversations with an unvaccinated health care worker or has your group come up with any reports about what they say about why they are not vaccinated?

EMANUEL: Well, I think that a lot of it is local, Lawrence. I think a lot depends upon the local dynamics on the floor or the local dynamics in a department of a hospital.

And typically what you`re hearing over and over is if the leader of that group says they`re not for it for whatever reason -- political reason, the disinformation they might have gotten -- that tends to influence other people around them. A lot of this like the military, like sports teams, a lot of this is local.

O`DONNELL: But the thing that I think we don`t get, who live outside the medical community, is we think of nurses as medical scientists. We think of physicians as medical scientists. We think of everyone working with the medicine in the hospitals as medical scientists.

Sure there are people in maintenance who aren`t. There are executives in hospitals who aren`t medical scientists. But it`s the people who are involved working with medical science every day deciding exactly how much of a drop of this particular medicine can this patient take. It`s people in that section of it that astound us that they are not vaccinated.

DR. EMANUEL: Yes. Look, health care is not hermetically sealed from the larger society. And I think that is what you are sort of perplexed by. And it just isn`t.

The same kind of disinformation that happens in society can happen in medicine and unfortunately that has happened extensively on this, you know.

Vaccines used to be seen as a Godsend, saving us from serious illness. I remember when I took my polio sugar cubes in school and the relief that parents had.

But now we have made vaccination this ideological badge of the in-group and the out-group. And that`s really what the source of the problem is. We should not make this key life saving element a badge of you are a member of our tribe or you`re against our tribe. And that`s been the most serious problem here that this is not about keeping people healthy, it`s about tribe membership.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Zeke Emanuel, thank you for all of your earnest efforts and guidance throughout this pandemic. Really appreciate it.

EMANUEL: Thank you, Lawrence. Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, vaccine disinformation is killing people. And one of the drivers behind that misinformation is Russian intelligence. House Intelligence Committee Member Jim Himes will join us next.



O`DONNELL: In March, State Department officials told "The Wall Street Journal" that "Russian interference did not end with the election. Russian intelligence agencies have mounted a campaign to undermine confidence in Pfizer and other western vaccines using online publications that in recent months have questioned the vaccines` development and safety, U.S. officials said."

Yesterday, The New York Times reported, "The scheme appears to be part of a secretive industry that security analysts and American officials say is exploding in scale, disinformation for hire. Private firms are selling services once conducted principally by intelligence agencies. They sow discord, meddle in elections, seed false narratives and push viral conspiracies, mostly on social media and they offer clients something precious, deniability."

Joining us now Congressman Jim Himes, Democrat of Connecticut and a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Congressman Himes. What is the incentive in disinformation about the Pfizer vaccine?

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Well Lawrence -- (INAUDIBLE) destabilizes the west (INAUDIBLE). That is a big metaphor for what is happening right now with vaccine (INAUDIBLE).

And then, you know, the other element to this is that, you know, (INAUDIBLE) develop their own vaccine and it is not bad for them to create doubts about whether the western (INAUDIBLE) Pfizer and Moderna are as effective. So, I mean that is the motivation.

But I would point out that in some ways, the Russian activities are the easier (INAUDIBLE) relative to domestic misinformation, right.

We can go after the Russians. We can use all the traditional tools of diplomacy. We can do cyber operations (INAUDIBLE).


HIMES: But what is much more challenging is that over the course of this disinformation, it is domestic, you know. Old Uncle Bill who has a theory that he read on Facebook is entitled to full first amendment rights. That is where it is more challenging (ph) to deal with what can be lethal disinformation.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Jim Himes, thank you very much for joining our discussion tonight. Really appreciate it.

And coming up, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger will be one of the members asking questions when police officers testify at tomorrow`s first House Select Committee hearing on the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

Former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade will join us next on what questions she would ask in tomorrow`s hearing about the Trump mob`s attack on the Capitol.



O`DONNELL: This weekend House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger to the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

Congressman Kinzinger voted to impeach president Trump for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol that day. He is the second Republican on the committee appointed by Nancy Pelosi, along with Congresswoman Liz Cheney.

Speaker Pelosi appointed Kinzinger after Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pulled all of his choices from the committee because Speaker Pelosi rejected McCarthy`s -- two of McCarthy`s Jim Jordan and Jim Banks who both voted to overturn the presidential election after the Trump mob attacked the Capitol to try to overturn the election.

Today Kevin McCarthy told reporters that the two Republican members of the Select Committee are quote, "Pelosi Republicans".

Here is how Congresswoman Cheney and Congressman Kinzinger responded.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a Pelosi Republican? REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Let me pass. This is serious business here. We have important work to do. And I think that is pretty childish.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Look, it is childish. We are doing big things right now. We`re getting to the answers of the worst attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812.

He can call me whatever names he wants. And I just believe that -- look, you know, bottom line I`m an elected member of Congress. I`m a Republican.


O`DONNELL: And we are now less than 12 hours away from the committee`s first hearing. The committee will hear from four police officers, two from the Capitol police and two from the D.C. police. They will describe what they experienced when the Trump mob attacked the Capitol.

Our next guest, former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade has suggestions for what the committee members should be focusing on. In an article she co- authored for "Just Security", Barbara McQuade writes, "The committee should consider the acts and omissions of executive and legislative branch entities and individuals up to and including former President Donald J. Trump, his associates and others involved in the runup to the events of January 6th, and the use of disinformation to incite violence.

Suggesting collection of this evidence is not to presuppose liability but the country needs an accurate record collected as contemporaneously to events as possible. Only by understanding all of the factors that did or did not contribute to the attack can we hope to prevent similar attacks in the future."

Joining us now is Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney in Michigan and a law professor at the university of Michigan Law School. She`s an MSNBC legal analyst.

Barbara, so as a member of the committee what would be the focus of your questions? How would you go after what you were looking for?

BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, tomorrow, of course Lawrence, we`re going to hear from four of the police officers who were there that day and I think that is a wonderful way to start.

We want to hear about what they saw, what they heard, the injuries they`ve suffered and continue to suffer as a result of this. I think it is really important to debunk some of the myths that have formed up already around January 6, that the people there were just ordinary tourists. And so I think hearing firsthand from them will be very important.

But then moving on I think it`s important to understand about the intelligence failures. Why we didn`t collect information and then share it to the right representatives. And then when the response came, why it was that there was such a lengthy delay while we waited for the National Guard to show up. I think those are important.

And then, of course, the role that the disinformation campaign about the big lie that President Trump actually won the election played in motivating those who were there that day.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Adam Schiff said about this today. He`s going to be a member of this committee.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We will follow the evidence wherever it leads and to whomever it leads. So I think once we are composed and we`re getting close, we`ll be defining the scope and the order and the priority of our witnesses and I don`t want to get into the process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you expect to have to issue subpoenas?

SCHIFF: Yes, I do. We want to make sure for example when we request documents that we get all of them. That we don`t have people withholding information because it is a voluntary request. So yes, I favor going to subpoenas and going to do them early.

And with witnesses, I expect that some of them will be reluctant to testify and they will need to be compelled. So that is certainly my expectation.


O`DONNELL: So Barbara, that is a big strategic point for any congressional committee is to subpoena or not to subpoena. If you subpoena, you run into the possibility of a protracted legal battle trying to enforce that subpoena which is why Congress always prefers to get the witnesses without going through the subpoena process.


O`DONNELL: But it seems like Adam Schiff possibly has learned his lesson about dealing with the Trump side of the world and that it`s going to take subpoenas.

MCQUADE: Well, I think one of the lessons learned from the Trump administration is if you are going to use subpoenas eventually, you should serve them early because as you mentioned it can be a protracted process going through the courts.

One of the things our courts are not great at is moving quickly. And so if the committee is serious about getting these documents in time to be able to use them to question witnesses, they probably should be serving the subpoenas right at the front end so that if they have to go to court to enforce them, they can do that sooner rather than later.

O`DONNELL: Yes. And that seems to be what Congressman Schiff is saying. It sounds like that is probably a consensus of this committee at this point.

How would you -- how would you see it in terms of scheduling? They are going to begin with this is what we saw on that day -- tomorrow, by police officers who were there and who were being attacked.

They will establish this was full of violence. This was a real attempt to change the actual process that was going on in the Senate and the House. They were trying to change the election. They were talking about hanging the vice president.

All of those things, which is going to be a necessary fact base for someone like Donald Trump who is going to be saying, whether he testifies or not to this committee, he will be saying during this investigation that those people were there in love as we have heard him say. That they were there peacefully. That they were full of love.

That message is going to be coming out constantly from Donald Trump during this investigation.

MCQUADE: Yes, and that is why I think it is important to get the facts on the record and debunk some of those myths. You know, in the series of questions that we put together in the piece that you mentioned. We used the 9/11 Commission report as our template and that talked a lot certainly about what happened on 9/11.

But then it went back in time to look at what were the origins and the planning that occurred. I think it would be also important for this Select Committee to go back. They may start with January 6.

But I think it is important to look at the planning and the conversations and the ground work that may have been laid leading up to that to trigger people to be there that day.

You know, we know that Donald Trump, for example, sent out a tweet urging people to come to Washington on January 6. "We`ll be wild", he said in that tweet. What role did that it play in radicalizing some of those people to actually show up on January 6?

And then like the 9/11 commission, it is also important to look forward. What have we learned from this episode that we need to change to do differently in this country, with respect to violent extremism, the use of social media to facilitate and recruit people. And the use of disinformation to motivate people to acts of violation because they believe their country is being stolen from them.

I think all of that is really important to first chronicle and then assess so that we can go forward.

O`DONNELL: This is one of those congressional investigations that intersects with criminal investigations including the now hundreds of people who`ve been arrested and criminally charged with invading the Capitol.

Some of those people may at some point give evidence, actually say under oath what they believed Donald Trump wanted them to do. And what they believed Donald Trump meant when he said, you know, we are all going to walk down to the Capitol together.

And so, this is one of those things where they may at some point get lucky, because that testimony comes out in judicial process on time or they might have to wait a while to hear what those kinds of witnesses might actually say.

MCQUADE: Yes. So, as these tracks are proceeding in parallel fashion, you are right in that sometimes one can assist the other. You might learn about something in one form that can be used in the other.

But there is also the risk that you could interfere with the criminal process. So, you know, a famous example of that is when Congress immunized Oliver North, heard his testimony and the court later ruled that his -- a court later ruled that his prosecution was tainted because the prosecutors had heard his testimony in that congressional hearing.

So they have to be mindful of not immunizing people that might be facing criminal charges down the road.

O`DONNELL: And Barbara, what do you see as the reasonable timetable for a congressional investigation like this?

MCQUADE: I think it will take many months to hear from all of the different witnesses. You know, I would put them in several categories.

Tomorrow some of the first responders. I think we need to hear from the intelligence community. I think we need to hear from the Defense Department as to why the response was so slow.


MCQUADE: I think we need to hear from officials at the White House. And probably some expert witnesses about domestic extremism, about disinformation and about social media.

So pulling all of those groups together I think could take several months.

O`DONNELL: Barbara McQuade, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

And a programming note, we will be joined tomorrow night at this hour by Congressman Jaime Raskin. He is a member of that committee.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.