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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, December 4, 2020

Guests: Jonathan Capehart, Robert Reich, LaTosha Brown, Robert Garcia


Trump's assaults American democracy with his behavior towards the election saying it was fraudulent and the Republican Party leadership is not even denouncing that behavior and staying silent. President-elect Joe Biden is warning that economy will stall based on dire jobs report and calls for Congress to act now to pass a stimulus package to help Americans. Existing benefits are set to expire at the end of December still Congress is in a stalemate over passing a COVID relief bill. The massive job at the local level of keeping the health care system up and running as COVID cases spike while at the same time juggling how to come up with a vaccine distribution plan.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks for being with us tonight. I hope you have an excellent weekend. I will see you again on Monday, if not before. Now it's time for "The Last Word" where my friend Ali Velshi is filling in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. I lit up when I saw Fareed Zakaria on your show. You know, I worked at CNN for many years and we -- our offices were next to each other on the 7th floor at Time Warner Center.

And I used to go in and have these kinds of discussions with him because you two are the smartest people I know. So, you could imagine what a discussion that would have been. I would go in and we had a similar conversation years ago about taxes, right, when people say taxes are too high.

Well, if your taxes are giving you a good return on your investment, you tend to be more satisfied with them. If you feel like you are paying taxes and you don't know where they are going, it's the same conversation with the government.

Too big, too small is no not the relevant conversation. What's the right size, what's the right kind of government, what's the right quality of government? I thought that was one of the most valuable conversations that I have heard in a while.

MADDOW: Thank you so much, Ali. I mean it's, you know, the thing about Fareed is that because he is such a 360-degree thinker and I know it's kind of his brand at CNN.

But because he is thinking in that kind of a wide arc all the time, he really can bring in not just basic political concepts, but political concepts that are informed by stuff all over the world and history and current events and sort of sharp current analysis.

I just -- I find his brain to be a very enjoyable thing to spend time with. I like the book. I love being able to have him on tonight. Thank you for saying that.

VELSHI: And I have, you know, I've been with him for many years and heard him many times. He always is better with an interviewer of your quality. Your new book is out, by the way. And so I am just going to break it to the viewers. They might see you a little earlier than Monday. Maybe Sunday morning on "Velshi." You have kindly agreed to talk to us about your book.

MADDOW: I have. And that's, you're actually -- I have -- I am going to the first interview, first discussion with anybody about my new book with you in part because I'm so grateful to you for how well you have done hosting the Rachel Maddow Show for most of November.

But I won't -- it's the very first interview I am going to do about it. I haven't talked about ton my own show at all. I am debuting my new book with you on Sunday morning.

VELSHI: Well, it's going to be great. I remember the podcast well. And for those who do, this is the book version. Rachel, it's my pleasure and it's been my pleasure to be in for you most of November. And I hope you and Susan are doing really, really well and I will see you Sunday morning.

MADDOW: Thank you, Ali. See you then.

VELSHI: Thanks, Rachel. One of the hallmarks of our democratic system is commitment to the peaceful transition of power. That hallmark has been tested this last month. But at the heart of the peaceful transition of power is the notion that there is just one president at a time.

And it's clear right now that we have one president. It's just that it's not the man in the White House. Donald Trump has given up. Now, I don't mean he conceded the election. He is still silent on that. But he stopped governing.

In fact, the entire Trump administration and Republicans writ large seem to have given up. They are paralyzed by their dear leader who can't be bothered but doing but whine and complain and lie about his very obvious, increasingly obvious election loss.

And their collective refusal to accept the results of a free and fair election is having dire consequences. It goes beyond the big picture, damage to our democratic institutions, which should not be diminished, but right now in the abdication of governance, there are actual lives at stake.

State and local election officials, including a few rare Republicans, have begged the outgoing president to stop his election lies. Officials are actually facing death threats. Their relatives are facing death threats, but he hasn't stopped. Trump continues to lie. Consequences be damned.

And he hasn't stopped because no one is really trying all that hard to stop him. Where are Republican -- Congressional Republicans? Where are Senate Republicans? Where are state and national Republicans? Some of them are brazenly standing behind Trump, a tiny few have spoken out about his antics, often because they are themselves, the brunt of his attacks.

But most remain silent while coronavirus rips through this country and the president won't even say its name. Silence on the pandemic starts at the top. The outgoing president hasn't talked about the record daily news case numbers. He hasn't talked about the record daily new hospitalizations or on the right of the screen, the record new daily deaths.

He often talks about coronavirus as a thing that doesn't result in death. Tell that to the 2,500 people dying a day this week. In fact, almost no Republicans have talked about this. And their silence is an admission of their guilt. There is no qualifying that statement. Their silence is an admission of their guilt.

An admission that their inaction with this president may be responsible for the deaths of Americans who believed Trump's lies and by extension their lies about the virus, about it going away, about it not being all that contagious, about not needing masks.

They supported a denier because they thought it was good politics or they didn't follow science or both and people died. As of tonight, 279,303 Americans have died from the coronavirus. How many lives could have been saved if Republicans stood up?

How many lives could have been saved if Republicans stopped the lies? How many lives could have been saved if Republicans cared more about their constituents than about their re-election? Because this is not about their constituents. It's just about them and their power and their all-encompassing desire to keep that power.

The man in the White House has said nothing about the new distressing jobs report that just came out. A recovery is happening and it's helping some people immensely and others not at all. Seven hundred thousand Americans have been filing for unemployment insurance claims every week for 37 weeks.

Plus, 20 million people are still on the pre-pandemic unemployment rolls. This is unheard of. So what does the man in the Oval Office do? You guessed it. Nothing. He said nothing about that dire repot. Congressional Republicans were almost uniformly silent on the jobs report.

But it makes sense when you think about it. For months, Mitch McConnell has blocked relief to those in need, relief that passed the House on October 1st. And the man in the White House has said nothing about the need for relief in weeks.

13.4 million people are on pandemic unemployment programs that expire at the end of the December. He doesn't care about that. He was never even part of negotiations to get another round of relief to Americans in need. He made a point of saying he wasn't going to participate.

So why should we expect anything different? Unlike a real president, the man in the White House will let Mitch McConnell do whatever he wants. He doesn't care about negotiations. He doesn't seem to care about Americans. He is not a real president and he never was.

A real president doesn't ignore death threats to election officials or COVID records or the tens of millions of Americans in need just because he lost an election. The man sitting in the White House might not accept his loss but he has abdicated his responsibilities and his Republican enablers allowed him to.

There is one silver lining here. The outgoing president's abdication means the incoming president has stepped in to fill the void. In remarks in Wilminton, Delaware, President-elect Biden renewed his calls for Congress and President Trump to act and act now to help Americans in need.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are in a crisis. We need to come together as a nation. We need the Congress to act and act now. If Congress and President Trump fail to act by the end of December, 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits they rely on. Merry Christmas.

Unemployment benefits allowing them to keep food on the table, to keep the lights on, and the heat on. Pay their bills. Emergency paid leave will end. Moratorium on evictions will expire. States will lose the vital tools they need to pay for COVID testing and public health. If we don't ask act now, the future will be very bleak.


VELSHI: The president-elect also made clear that he will be putting forward another relief package of his own crafting once he takes office.


BIDEN: As we inherit the public health and economic crisis, we are working on a plan that will put forward for the next Congress to move fast, control the pandemic, to revive the economy and to build back better than before.


VELSHI: It's evident that the president-elect believes clear communication and logical and sane management are needed to combat the COVID crisis and its economic fallout. It's evident he cares about this. Just this week, Joe Biden held a town hall on the economic consequences of the pandemic.

When was the last time you saw a president interact with real people? Not friends or donors or Fox hosts, but real people. When was the last time you saw a president care about you? Seeing how the president-elect adds further highlights the lack of leadership we have seen from the current White House occupant and his congressional supporters.

It is the crux of a new piece from Susan Glasser in "The New Yorker." The president is acting crazy, so why are we shrugging it off? Glasser argues that now is not time to get complacent or to dismiss the president's insane behavior because far too much is at stake.

Susan Glasser writes, "The temptation is to look away, to move on, to cringe and avert your gaze. That is exactly what Republicans in the Senate, who have stood by Trump through impeachment and other ignominies, have done this week, pivoting so seamlessly into bashing the new Biden administration that they never even stop to acknowledge its existence."

We can't look away. We can't allow the severe damage that has been done to be swept under the rug. Republicans, you are culpable. The man in the White House will ultimately diminish in importance. Your party will have to find an identity, maybe even one based on ideology rather than fealty to one flawed man.

But for those of you Republicans who are hoping to rebuild and wash off the stench of Trump, you should know this. You will be remembered for your silence. You will be remembered for being complicit in one man's attempts to take down the country you profess to love.

So what will it be? Have the courage to actually do something to change the path we are on or fold up your cards and hope politics deals you a better hand next time? Tonight, one thing is clear. The presidency of the United States is not about the place where the leader of this nation is doing their work or where they live.

It's about the actions the leader takes, the words a leader says, the heart a leader shows. We do have just one president at a time. That's the design of our great democracy. In this case, America's real president just isn't in the Oval Office yet.

Leading off our discussion, Tiffany Cross, the author of "Say It Louder, Black Voices, White Narratives and Saving our Democracy." And Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer at "The Washington Post" and host of the podcast "Cape Up."

My two good friends, thank you for being here. Let me start with you Tiffany. This has crossed a line. It's a month after the election. There are Republicans who are playing footsie with demagoguery, with a dictatorship, with martial law, with a coup.

They are letting Trump and Giuliani and that legal clown car go around the country and suggest to people that this is an illegitimate election.

TIFFANY CROSSS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. So, Ali, first of all, I think you captured so much in your open about the problem. But I just want to reiterate, this is not something new. And I don't think any of us should be surprised by the complacency of the Republican Party.

This is something that has been long going his entire presidency. The Republican Party has been rather spineless in dealing with him. And I want to punctuate something you said. There are 2,000 people dying every day. The bread lines are getting longer and longer. I pass by them in my neighborhoods and the people waiting. These are real-life people.

So while we, in the nation's capital, sit and discuss the minutia of government, there is somebody right now hungry, somebody right now suffering, and somebody right now who doesn't know how they will pay their mortgage.

I certainly understand what that's like. I certainly wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. And so when you look at a party across the aisle, the hypocrisy that lays there, it will support a president even as he harms children they claim to want to protect, even as he goes against a constitution they claim to support, even as he goes against a country they claim to love, even as he goes against a God they claim to worship.

So I don't think there is reasoning with people who have just committed themselves to the MAGA cult. There are over 250 million Americans who are of voting age, who are eligible to vote, 70 million voted for this president.

There are 50 U.S. senators who are acting with this president. They to in the represent the majority of America and I think this is why the Senate is so important. The Biden administration can come in and I do think there is a level of naivete about being able to work across the aisle. We should lose that right now and understand that Republicans will not work with this administration.

Trump's grip on the Republican Party will not end the day he leaves office. His supporters are literally threatening lives. And the pro-life party has been radio silent on it. So I think that we have to, first of all, encourage everyone in Georgia to vote.

It's quite baffling to me that at this moment in time the power of the Senate rests in the new American electorate, the rising majority of America, voters of color, and we are going to see how the serious finality -- I'm sorry, the series finale of the old angry white men ends because this is a party that's increasingly out of touch with the changing demographics of America and they are holding on to power as though their lives depend on it because, in some ways, through their limited prism, it does.

VELSHI: Jonathan, the fear here, of course, is that there are some Republicans who would like to make a case for a conservative approach, economically or otherwise, and they are watching this happen to their party. Tiffany's right. It's not new.

But you would think at this term with Donald Trump having lost the election and losing court case after court case, in fact, "The New York Times" reports that Trump lost four more lawsuits today in Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

There is still not backing away. They are still saying, you know, it's his right to challenge this in court. At some point, are there no grown-ups left in the room to say, stop, enough, just leave?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it depends on which room. There aren't any grown-ups in the room in the White House. There is so few grown-ups in the U.S. Senate that no one listens to them. And I am thinking of, well, there is only one I can think of offhand, and that's Senator Mitt Romney of Utah.

The way I view this, Ali, is that I think Republicans have been dealing with the president with kid gloves since the election. Let him throw his tantrum. Let him work it all out, go through the stages of grief that he lost and then he will come to grips with it and then we can move on. But it's been more than a month now, and it looks like they are waiting until the Electoral College certification on December 14th.

And then they're going to look to, well, maybe when Congress, the new Congress is sworn in and then they certify the Electoral College vote, then maybe he'll act right and then we can move on. The problem is, the Republican Party is no longer the Republican Party. It is the party of Trump.

And you have a lot of people like Capitol Hill, more people on Capitol Hill who live either believe in the cult or live in fear of the cult in terms of getting a primary challenge from the right, which given how far the Republican Party has moved to the right, I don't know where these people are --

VELSHI: It's kind of incredible.

CAPEHART: -- where there people are coming from? I think to push back a little bit on what Tiffany said in terms of the naivete of President-elect Biden talking about reaching across the aisle, I think he is saying exactly what he needs to say, that because he does need to reach across the aisle and say, hey, this is our country, we need to work together.

But the moment Mitch McConnell does what we all know he is going to do, that is when then President Biden and Vice President Harris have to show what they are made off, have to show that they are not going to stand for obstruction, certainly not in the way that Obama/Biden had to deal with for eight years.

But also we have, by this time next week, 300,000 Americans dead of a pandemic that the president of the united states refused to take seriously, and then tried to palm off responsibility to governors and localities who were begging for federal coordination to get this pandemic under control.

And it's running rampant in the country. We cannot, and the Biden/Harris administration cannot afford to play games or have games being played with American people's lives and their livelihoods.

VELSHI: If folks like this combination of Capehart, Cross, and Velshi, you're going to see lots of it. You two are making your own news this week. Both of you are officially taking over what we used to know as Joy Reid's old "AM Joy" slot.

Tiffany, on Saturday mornings, Jonathan on Sunday mornings. The show's premier next weekend, both airing right after my show "Velshi." So between the three of us, we are going to fill a lot of your weekend morning hours. Congratulations, friends.

CAPEHART: Thank you, Ali.

CROSS: Thank you, Ali.

CAPEHART: Looking forward to it.

VELSHI: I am, too. Jonathan and Tiffany. All right, coming up, more on the dire need for COVID relief. For far too many Americans, the economy is going to wreck them before a vaccine can save them. Famed economist Robert Riesch joins me after this break to discuss what can be done to take care of Americans in need.


VELSHI: Grim and dire, that's how President-elect Joe Biden described the economic slowdown that we are facing as the pandemic rages to record levels and new shutdowns and stay-at-home orders loom. Today, the Labor Department reported that the United States economy added 245,000 jobs in November. That's fewer than half the number of jobs added in October making it the slowest month of growth since the spring.

The unemployment rate fell slightly to 6.7 percent. But as "The New York Times" points out, that figure does not fully capture the extent of the joblessness because it doesn't include people who have dropped out of the labor force and are not actively searching for work.

Axios detailed the reality of two different economic recoveries further dividing the have's from the have nots, "Big business investors and the wealthy are thriving, but restaurant and bar employees, hotel and airline staff, and service workers are in a pretty hopeless situation right now. A depression is an apt description of what they are facing especially folks in rural and middle America who are parents."

"The Washington Post" put it this way. "The Dow topped $30,000 for the first time last week. But lines of cars at food banks stretched for miles."

President-elect Joe Biden acknowledge that hardworking people are struggling and predicted a very dark winter unless Congress passes a relief package.


BODEN: The folks out there aren't looking for a handout. They just need help. They are in trouble through no fault of their own. Put yourselves in that position anybody listening. Laying awake at night wondering what's going to happen tomorrow. If we don't act now the future will be very bleak. Americans need help and they need it now.


VELSHI: Joining us now is Robert Reich. He is a former Labor Department secretary under President Bill Clinton, professor of economics at UC Berkeley. His latest book is "The System: Who Rigged It and How We Fix It."

Bob, good to see you again. You and I have spoken for months about the fact that there is an opportunity in front of us to fix things that were broken before the pandemic because we are spending trillions of dollars in trying to get things back to normal.

In the end, in six months from now, most people will have had a vaccine and that will be terrific and there will be a lot of wreckage in the way. I am meeting people every week, small business owners and workers who cannot hold out.

They couldn't hold out for the first nine months. They can't hold out for another six months. They are losing their benefits the end of December. And we don't have an answer for them.

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY, CLINTON ADMINISTRATION: Ali, we don't have an answer, and the problem is that we don't see the kind of two Americas are very, very different. That is, you have managerial, professional workers, people who own a lot of shares of stock. You know, the entire stock market of the United States, the richest 1 percent owns half of all the shares of stock.

The richest 10 percent of us own 92 percent of all the shares of stock. So, all of the managerial, professional shareholding portion of the economy and our society are doing really quite well. They are remotely working. They are collecting paychecks. They are doing much of what they did before.

It's inconvenient, but it is not life-threatening. It's not survival threatening. You have another very large portion of the work force, much, much larger than the portion that I just mentioned, who really are in many, many ways threatened right now.

They don't have jobs. They don't have paychecks. It's very, very difficult for them to afford any health insurance. They are not given sick leave. If they are essential workers, many are unprotected. I hear from warehouse workers, Amazon warehouse workers who contact me almost every day telling me that they don't know what to do.

They are in effect, trapped and they're not getting the kind of personal protective equipment they need. And I hear this all over the country of people who are quite desperate. And if at the same time we have got COVID cases increasing and you have unemployment going up, the report today was really disturbing because it means that the so-called recovery from the 22 million jobs we lost in February and March has slowed.

We still have about 10 or 12 million people who do not have work. On top of that, you've got a lot of people who are --

VELSHI: Yes. I want to put chart -- I want to just, while you're saying this, I didn't want to interrupt you, but I want to put a chart up to illustrate the point you are making because you can take these numbers any way you want.

People can spin them the way they want, but this is the number of people who have been unemployed long term, right. This is long-term unemployed. You can see from the recession in '08 and '09. Then you see that number coming down for the entirety of the Obama administration.

It continued to come down during the Trump administration. The angle changed a little bit. So it wasn't as strong under Trump as it was under Obama. But then you see what happened in 2020. And you see that the number of people who are on long-term unemployment, it continues to rise. So as much as the government wants to spin this otherwise, it's worsening. It's not getting better.

REICH: Yes. And this is where the notion of a depression comes in because you've got so many people who are long-term unemployed, they are really out of the work force. They are no longer even counted as unemployed, many of them.

Many of them are running out of state unemployment benefits, which are not very generous, to say the least. And they are, you know, since July 31st, they have lost whatever federal benefits they were getting. And on top of that, the few people who remain getting federal benefits under the pandemic insurance program, they are losing out shortly after Christmas.

They have about three weeks to go. And so what happens? I mean, are we just basically saying we don't care about these people? One-third of Americans are behind on their rent payments and their mortgage payments right now.

We have got a tremendous problem of people who are facing possible foreclosures or they may be losing their homes, their houses. In a civilized society, I guess this is fundamentally the question. Don't we --

VELSHI: A wealthy civilized society.

REICH: Well, the wealthiest nation in the world. Don't we expect that we have some responsibilities to one another? Now, when Joe Biden was talking today, he was really speaking to Mitch McConnell because Mitch McConnell, you know, you can ask yourself why is it that one person, one man in the Senate has this much power?

Mitch McConnell is holding everything up. Mitch McConnell has decided, no, he does not want to agree with the Democrats to any kind of a stimulus plan, a survival plan right now for millions of Americans. Well, until he says, yes, nothing is going to happen.

VELSHI: Well, for a while, things can change. Mitch McConnell's keys to the kingdom can be taken away one month from tomorrow. I am going to talk about that. But as always, Robert Reich, thank you for joining me. It's always a pleasure talking to you. Robert Reich, former Department of Labor Secretary. His latest book is "The System: Who Rigged It and How We Fix It."

Now, let's talk about what he just said about Mitch McConnell. For many, inaction in Congress isn't just a political parlor game. It's quite literally the difference between somebody having a home or being evicted. The difference between having food to eat or starving.

And it is the most dire situations. It's a matter of life and death, which is why that Senate runoff election in Georgia, the two of them, are so critical to improving the lives of many people. Every American needs to be focused on that runoff election, one month from tomorrow.

Because if Jon Ossoff on the left, and Raphael Warnock on the right, win next month, the Democrats will control the Senate and getting help to people will be easier. We've got the latest from Georgia up next.


VELSHI: Today President Obama took part in a virtual rally for Georgia's Democratic Senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm hoping that everybody understands the urgency of this upcoming election.

Anybody who is listening right now, you need to understand, this is not just about Georgia. This is about America and this is about the world. And it's in your power, in fact, to have an impact.


VELSHI: That's a really important point. It's not just about Georgia.

And normally, a special election is just about that state. But Georgians will elect two senators in the January 5th runoff election, one month from tomorrow and that election will determine not just control of the United States Senate, but ultimately how the nation addresses the coronavirus pandemic.

President-Elect Joe Biden will be able to execute his COVID response much more effectively if Democrats control the Senate. A response that could be a matter of life or death as cases across the country surge.

Tomorrow President Trump will campaign in Georgia for Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Trump has attacked Georgia's top Republican officials who refuse to entertain his baseless claims of election fraud.

In contrast to that during a rally in Savannah today, Vice President Mike Pence all but acknowledged that Joe Biden will be sworn in as the president on January 20th.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need to send him back because a Republican Senate majority could be the last line of defense.


VELSHI: Joining us now is LaTosha Brown. She's the co-founder of Black Voters Matter Fund. LaTosha, good to see you. Thank you for being with us.

The issue here is that it's kind of always hard to get people interested in something that is a special election, that's not on the news all the time, that's not being talked about.

But in this particular case every voter in Georgia has a responsibility that everybody else in America is going to feel on January 5th.

LATOSHA BROWN, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK VOTERS MATTER FUND: Absolutely. You know what's interesting, I think it's kind of poetic, that in Georgia the very state that what we saw mass scale voter suppression two years ago is now the state that we are looking at democracy and we are looking at who controls the senate.

It will be -- and the policy in this country -- it will be the state of Georgia. And so I do think that Georgia was particularly hit hard with COVID-19, one, because we didn't have a lot of leadership from the government office on down.

You know, even in April of this year, 80 percent-- particularly in the African American community -- 80 percent of those who were hospitalized by COVID 19 were African Americans.

I mean just this month, four million people have applied for unemployment. So our state has been hit particularly hard because of COVID-19 and the lack of leadership on the state level and the federal level.

So I do think it's going to be key and critical that we get out and vote this election cycle. Georgia needs to make the difference, not just for the nation, but for Georgia.

VELSHI: So how do you get that conversation into the profile? How do you make the link between the fact that not only it's not who I want as my senator in Georgia. It's the idea that I want COVID help for me and for the rest of the country and that's only going to happen if Georgia elects these two Democrats.

Obama made this point to Georgia voters. I just want to get your sense of whether the message is getting through. Let's just play this.


OBAMA: If the Senate is controlled by Republicans who are interested in obstruction and gridlock rather than progress and helping people, they can block just about anything. And so, although the first two years of my presidency were the most productive legislatively since Lyndon b. Johnson, once Mitch McConnell was controlling that gavel and controlling the agenda in the Senate we saw a lot of progress halt.


VELSHI: LaTosha, How does that point get made to voters who are sitting there saying, I wasn't planning on voting. I don't know these guys all that well. How do you make that connection that this is probably a more important vote than your presidential vote. I don't know if that's really true, but it could be.

BROWN: I think there's a couple of things. I think while President Obama what he raised, I think that's right. He was talking about national policy.

But we have problems right here in Georgia that this isn't a race that's just nationalized. We need representation for the people of Georgia. Looking at our race (ph), how COVID-19 has hit us, but when we are looking at even access to health care in the middle of a pandemic.

Two hospitals have closed since the pandemic. There have been 14 hospitals that have closed since 2013. Wo what we're looking at is there is a -- we need leadership. We need leadership at the senate level not just for the nation, but for the people of Georgia.

And so right now the way that we have to make the connection, we have to make the connection of what people are going to hear locally, what they are going through around their businesses closing, with their uncertainty around the economy. What they are feeling around the health issues and the access of health care with rural hospitals closing.

All of those things are very relevant to the people of Georgia. And as we have been talking to folks, that's been the connection that they have been responding to.

VELSHI: LaTosha, thank you for the work you are doing. Good to see you tonight. And thank you for taking the time to join us.

Latasha Brown is the co-founder of Black Voters Matter Fund.

All right. Coming up, the vaccines are coming. Any idea when you'll be able to get yours. We're going to talk about that next with Dr. Vin Gupta.


VELSHI: Public health officials are finding that setting expectations about the coronavirus vaccines might be as big of a challenge as actually administering the vaccines to the public. Pfizer had to cut in half the number of vaccine doses it expected to distribute by the end of the month from 100 million to 50 million after running into difficulties securing the material that they need to produce the vaccine at large scale.

Today the country of Bahrain became the second country to authorize the Pfizer vaccine, but did not provide details on how many vaccines they purchased when they would be available for use or who would be vaccinated. Next week Britain will become the first country to confront the challenges of rolling out the Pfizer vaccine which requires extremely careful handling and super cold storage of the sort not normally available at your local pharmacy.

Meanwhile, in the United States the Trump administration has failed to provide any sort of detailed plan for distribution of a vaccine. Here is President-Elect Joe Biden.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a lot more that has to be done. They have clued us in on their planning on how they plan to distribute the actual vaccine to the various states.

But there is no detailed plan that we've seen anyway as to how you get the vaccine out of a container into an injection syringe into somebody's arm. And it's going to be very difficult for that to be done and it's a very expensive proposition.


VELSHI: Joining us now, Dr. Vin Gupta, a critical care pulmonologist and affiliate assistant professor at the Institute for Health Metrics at the University of Washington whose numbers and forecasts we have been using here for months. He is an MSNBC medical contributor.

Vin, this is the -- this is the issue, right? There is no question that the creation of these vaccines happened in record time. It's absolutely amazing. And by sometime next summer we may start to talk about coronavirus as something that is behind us.

But until then it's really complicated as to how much of this will we have, who will take it, if you want to take it how you will get it. What is your current thinking on this? Because this is the number one question I get from people.


It's the number one question I get, as well. What we're thinking is that in terms of sheer numbers, about 30 million Americans are likely to get the two-dose vaccine regimen by the end of the year.

Starting by March/April timeframe, we are expecting you are not going to have to ration vaccine supplies much anymore. These uncertainties about supplies, getting vaccines from vials into people's arms as the president-elect just said, these will be figured out we expect and that the majority of Americans, if they hopefully will comply with the vaccine, will be able to receive one we think by the beginning of the second quarter. And so that's the expectation here.

There's uncertainties, of course, because everybody -- most of these vaccines, Ali, are two doses separated by approximately 28 days. So we really need -- the most important thing is going to be an aggressive public health communication strategy that says if you had some injection site redness, you had aches or even a small low-grade fever, that shouldn't deter you from getting the second dose.

Meaning everybody with a platform, everybody that's trusted to message on the importance of this and really set -- lead by example. And that's vastly critical. And that will be a welcome change to the last nine months.

VELSHI: Yes. Well, part of the problem -- part of the reason so few people in this country have agreed to take the vaccine is because the president himself and his team sow doubt as to what exactly is happening. Are they rushing something? Are they doing it properly? Because it wasn't -- it wasn't a transparent process.

I have the sense that once this vaccine comes out and people with profile take it and there is this public campaign to get people to take it and after everybody has seen a month of health care workers and others taking it or two, the acceptance numbers will get to the level that you need to create that so-called herd immunity, which is upward of 70 percent.

DR. GUPTA: Well, Ali, I think the one point, just to build on what you just said is, I have heard in some corners, well, why haven't we approved the vaccine yet, because Bahrain and the United Kingdom have.

We should take heart that we haven't done it yet. That we are waiting that extra week for the FDA's public advisory committee and public hearing to happen.

That is a process that didn't happen in The United Kingdom. It didn't happen in Bahrain. We are going through the scientific rigor to the public vetting of this to build confidence.

So there is full transparency essentially to counteract what's happened over the last time (INAUDIBLE).

(AUDIO GAP) people should not be worried that suddenly there's going to be constraints applied. That's not going to be an issue. They are not going to have rationing. And if anything this should increase our trust that science was put forward in the development of this vaccine.

VELSHI: I look forward to it. I look forward to a safe vaccine being distributed and figuring out how the people who really need it get it. But, Vin, thank you for your months and months of guiding us through what real science says about these things. It has made it a lot easier for us.

Vin Gupta, thank you for joining us.

Coming up next, the massive job at the local level of keeping the health care system up and running as COVID cases spike while at the same time juggling how to come up with a vaccine distribution plan.

The mayor of Long Beach, California will announce his city's vaccination plans next week. Mayor Robert Garcia joins us next.


VELSHI: Once health care workers and vulnerable populations are vaccinated against the coronavirus, the success of a nationwide vaccine rollout is going to depend on whether the vaccine reaches people who can't easily access it like those who don't have access to a major drugstore chain, for instance.

NBC News Heidi Przybyla reports "The Trump administration hasn't prepared for a major federal role. It is falling to cash strapped states to establish thousands of mass vaccination clinics, procure staffing and lead major public relations campaigns to inform Americans where to get the vaccine and why they need to take it and to make sure they get second doses despite potential side effects."

Local officials are now facing that massive challenge while also tackling the worst spread of the pandemic that we've seen so far.

Today most of San Francisco Bay announced -- or the San Francisco Bay area announced it will implement California's new stay at home order even before it reaches the ICU threshold announced by the governor. Some of those new lock downs start on Sunday and will run for the rest of the year.

Joining me now from southern California where I am, is Mayor Garcia of Long Beach, California. Long Beach just south of Los Angeles.

Mayor, good to see you. Thank you for being with us. Nice to be back with you again.

Let me ask you about this. You've got a surge in coronavirus cases, and now you've got the reality that you've got to figure out a way to distribute these vaccines without a robust plan having come from the federal government. Where does that leave you?

MAYOR ROBERT GARCIA (D), LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA: That's exactly right. And I think obviously we're seeing a spike in cases all across the state. And while it's very heartening to have the vaccine on its way, this reminds me of what happened with tests. We, as a city, heard week after week the tests are on their way, the tests are coming. That never happened.

In fact cities like Long Beach and all across the country had to go procure their own tests. We had to work with foreign governments and foreign companies to bring tests over to the United states.

And the same thing is happening with vaccines. It's going to be up to us as cities, as counties of states to do the work around vaccination. We'll be rolling out our own vaccine plan next week in the city of Long Beach. We're expected to get some initial batches here in just the weeks ahead.

But it's going to be up to cities and states to do the work. And the federal government again is completely missing from this process.

VELSHI: Very strange.

Let's talk about how the vaccine gets rolled out. We obviously understand that health care workers, front line workers need to get it first. Vulnerable populations need to get it next.

But we've learned in the last nine months something you're very clear on, that immigrants, people of color, people without health insurance, people who live in impoverished areas, people who live with multigenerational families don't even get normal health care.

They get coronavirus at higher rates than everyone else. They have higher mortality rates than everyone else. We don't have a system that gets these people better healthcare. We don't have a system that puts these people near the front of the line. How do we deal with that? How do you deal with equity in the distribution of a vaccine?

GARCIA: Well, equity is incredibly important. I mean the billionaires and NBA players should not be at the front of the line for the vaccine. And most importantly there's got to be a federal standard. I believe the Biden administration is already working on that.

Us locally and across the state and the governors are very engaged on this. We are going to get the vaccine first and foremost to health care and medical workers, essential workers first. And so really the state is setting up its own framework and Governor Newsom has done a great job of getting, ensuring that all us as cities work together and the counties as well.

But within our own health system here in the city of Long Beach we also established our own frame. So we know that right after those initial batches come then we know that we're going to also work on folks that are in retirement homes and nursing homes.

And then we have plans to get out into the undocumented communities. As it relates to testing we setup our own global clinics going just to communities that are for people that are undocumented. We're going to do the same thing for the vaccine.

Mobile clinics using our testing centers, convert them. We're going to do them all in Spanish and other languages. So it's got to be an effort where we go out to those hard to reach communities.

VELSHI: Yes. You understand that community well. Got to imagine after the last four years there are a whole bunch of undocumented people who are not English-speakers who are quite leery of getting an injection from the U.S. government.

I'm not very worried about the statistic, but I'm look at the statistics of people who will not agree to take this drug. The number of people -- the vaccine -- the number of people who have agreed to take it has increased now between September and November to 60 percent. That's up 9 percent over that short amount of time, so that's good.

And I suspect once people start getting the vaccine, that number will grow to the 70 percent plus that you need in order to create herd immunity. Does that number worry you, the small number of people who are prepared to take this drug, this vaccine?

GARCIA: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean I'm hearing from those folks already. And the truth is it's really a trust of government. I mean Donald Trump has completely broken trust in government, so you have a lot of communities that would typically be much more likely to listen to the authorities, that are scared, that don't want to interact with the government particularly when it comes to Latinos and undocumented immigrants. They are very nervous about what Donald Trump has done to this country and to our government.

We're going to have to rebuild that trust and we're going to have to go into communities, speak in their language, work with low income families and bring in community organizations that are trusted within communities to get the vaccine out.

It just cannot be wait and see. We can't just sit around and wait for folks to come to get the vaccine. We're going to have to go directly into neighborhoods, in their language and with a cultural lens to get the vaccine to them.

O'DONNELL: Mayor, you and I last talked after your mother and your stepfather both passed away this summer from COVID. So this is deeply, deeply personal for you. What did it do for you that we're now talking in December -- there's your beautiful mother, she was a health care worker for 25 years. Died at the age of 61 years old.

What does it do to you to see these numbers of people in December getting coronavirus and dying at these rates that are higher than when you and I were talking?

GARCIA: I mean honestly, it's incredibly sad and infuriating at the same time. I mean -- when I speak to this issue I speak to it as a son who every time I hear the president speak on the issue or tell lies or host White House parties with no masks on, it's a complete slap in the face to every family that have lost someone.

And to the general public, I mean I understand that his lies have worked and he's tricked a huge part of the population into believing that this is actually not as serious as it is.

There's a lot of people out there that are also just choosing to be irresponsible, young people, people that don't think that it's going to affect them. It's real. It affects people, we're losing -- we're having 9/11-like events every single day. So we need to do better as a country.

VELSHI: It offends my sensibilities, but it must put a stake through your heart to hear those lies.

Mayor, thank you for being with us. Thank you for the work you're doing. Long Beach, California Mayor Robert Garcia.

And that is tonight's LAST WORD but you can catch me on the road this weekend as part of my "VELSHI ACROSS AMERICA" series, "Surviving the Next Wave". I'm coming to you live from Portland, Oregon where I'm going to hear how a sneaker designer turned coffee shop owner is surviving the COVID surge.

And how a laid-off chef found a plan b business model that's keeping her afloat.

Plus none other than Rachel Maddow will join me on Sunday to talk about her new book, "Bag Man". It's an action-packed weekend you won't want to miss. Saturday and Sunday morning, 8:00 a.m. Eastern.

That does it for me tonight.



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