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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, December 7, 2020

Guests: Jocelyn Benson, Mary Trump, Julian Castro, Rick Bright


Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is interviewed. Republican leaders are silent on Trump's election disinformation. Early voting in Georgia for the January Senate elections begins one week from today on December 14th. Debates for both Georgia senate races were held last night in Atlanta. "The New York Times" reports Trump administration officials passed when Pfizer offered in late summer to sell the U.S. government additional doses of its COVID-19 vaccines. Now Pfizer may not be able to provide more of its vaccines to the United States until next June.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And now it's time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O'Donnell.

Good evening, Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: And, Rachel, good evening.

What will you be discussing with Andrea Mitchell tomorrow afternoon? Might it be something new in your life?

MADDOW: It's the book!


MADDOW: Yeah, and I will be talking about it with you as well because you have been kind to put me on your show to talk about it. It is nice of you.

O'DONNELL: Rachel, I don't know if you noticed, but we are talking about it right now. Could you hold it up for people to know the name of the book they want to buy now called "Bag Man"?

MADDOW: I'm sorry. I'm terrible at this.

O'DONNELL: No, you're -- that's why. That's all I'm asking you to do. I know you are bad at selling, so that's the only reason I'm asking you to just hold it up. If you just hold it up, that's it, that's the sale. You're done. That's all you have to do.

There it is, one more time. The upside down version of "Bag Man", 12:00 noon Eastern tomorrow, Andrea Mitchell and Rachel Maddow, I will be watching.

MADDOW: Thank you, my friend, Lawrence. Thank you, I appreciate it.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

Well, Saturday was Christmas tree day for many of us around the country. I bought one at the place we've been buying our Christmas trees for most of the last 20 years. We decorated the tree.

Just like Jocelyn Benson and her 4-year-old son did on Saturday. But we didn't have anyone standing outside with guns, like the people who gathered outside Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's home in the dark on Saturday after Donald Trump had given an hour and 40-minute rant in Georgia, centered on the lie that Democrats stole the election from Donald Trump.

And the people with Trump merch and guns outside Jocelyn Benson's home were very scary looking as they chanted "stop the steal." But in the end, they simply stopped chanting and went home.

Earlier tonight, Jocelyn Benson said, I am proud to stand guard over our voters.

Michigan State Representative Cynthia Johnson, a Detroit Democrat, has received threatening phone calls including one that threatened lynching. Now, I will not play for you the audio of that call, which is filled with racist poison and includes the very specific threat of lynching from the woman making that profane, threatening phone call.

Other Democrats in Michigan have also been threatened. Michigan's governor, Gretchen Whitmer, was the subject of a kidnap-and-murder conspiracy that was perpetrated by informers and led to the arrest of 14 people on federal and state charges.

Today, Governor Whitmer said this.


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: I want to end by discussing the recent threats against the Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, Representative Cynthia Johnson, and House Speaker Lee Chatfield. Yesterday we learned that dozens of protesters gathered outside of Secretary Benson's house as she was finishing putting up Christmas decorations with her 4-year-old son. Representative Cynthia Johnson shared voicemails containing death threats after last week's hearing with Rudy Giuliani. Speaker Chatfield said that threats have been made against him and his family.

This is unacceptable. Threats against our elected officials or any office holder, no matter their party, are not acceptable. They are unlawful and they are unacceptable. Hate and violence have no place in Michigan.

Secretary Benson has worked 24 hours, seven days a week to ensure a safe, fair election in Michigan. The people spoke and it is time to put the election behind us. It is time for us to come together against our common enemy, the virus known as COVID-19.

I ask for people of goodwill in all parts of our state, on all sides of the aisle, to come together.


O'DONNELL: And that is exactly what most people in Michigan have actually done. People on both sides of the presidential vote have come together in the complete acceptance of the fact that Joe Biden is going to be the next president of the United States and Kamala Harris is going to be the next vice president of the United States.

Think about these numbers. 2,804,040 voted for Joe Biden in Michigan and -- I'm sorry. 2 million -- 2,649,852 voted for Donald Trump in Michigan, 2.5 million people in Michigan, 74 million people voted for Donald Trump nationwide, 74 million. And just a couple dozen of those people showed up on Saturday to get in front of the cameras and yell silly Trump slogans at Jocelyn Benson and her 4-year-old son before they went home, presumably to decorate their own Christmas trees.

More than 99 percent of Trump voters completely accept the fact that Joe Biden is going to be the next president of the United States. They might not be happy about it, but they accept it. And nothing Donald Trump says can get them into the streets to protest that fact, that Joe Biden is going to be the next president.

When the votes are being counted for that week after election night, a couple dozen people gathered outside a counting facility in Arizona a couple of nights in a row and then they disappeared. Another couple of dozen briefly protested vote counting that week in Detroit before they disappeared. And the tiny number of scary and threatening-looking Trump supporters are also threatening some Republican officials.

They have been threatening Republican election officials in Georgia, especially including Georgia's governor, Georgia's secretary of state, and Republican Gabriel Sterling who is in charge of election technology in the Georgia secretary of state's office.


GABRIEL STERLING, GEORGIA OFFICIAL: Okay. Like the simple one that is kind of stuck with me is, you know, I turned 50 on November 14th. So somebody tweeted out, enjoy your last birthday cake. You know, those kind of things.

But then my cellphone number is out there publicly. I used to be a public elected official, on the city council in Sandy Springs. I was out there in the internet world and I started getting text messages. I talked to the state patrol guys here and my local police chief, which was helpful for being on the city council formerly, I knew him personally.

So, I have police protection around me, and that is when it started to get a little nut-ball crazy town around us, you know.


O'DONNELL: The leader of nut-ball crazy town, Donald Trump, continues to try to illegally change the results of the election with the latest report from "The Washington Post" in this category being tonight's reporting about Pennsylvania.

President Trump called the speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives twice during the past week to make an extraordinary request for help reversing his loss in the state, reflecting a broadening pressure campaign by the president and his allies to try to subvert the 2020 election result. The most important piece of that "Washington Post" reporting tonight is that Pennsylvania's Republican speaker of the house, Brian Cutler, twice told the president that it is impossible for the Pennsylvania legislature to overturn the election. Impossible.

That's what Georgia's Republican governor has repeatedly told the president and said publicly, that it is legally impossible and that it is unconstitutional for the governor or the state legislature to try in any way to reverse Joe Biden's win in Georgia.

Arizona's Republican governor certified Arizona's vote giving his 11 Electoral College votes to Joe Biden. Every single Republican in the country who has any legal responsibility for the counting of votes and the certifying of votes has fulfilled that duty.

Most elected Republicans are happy to play Donald Trump's game and pretend Joe Biden did not win the presidential election decisively. "The Washington Post" survey of every Republican member of the United States Senate and every Republican member of the House of Representatives found that 90 percent of them were unwilling to admit publicly that Joe Biden is the president-elect and will be inaugurated on January 20th.

And even while Pennsylvania's Republican speaker of the House did the right thing in explaining to Donald Trump that there is absolutely nothing he or this Pennsylvania legislature can do to change the outcome of the election, that same house speaker put his name on a letter with other Pennsylvania legislators to Pennsylvania's congressional delegation in Washington, telling them that they should challenge Pennsylvania's electoral votes being awarded to Joe Biden when the electoral college reports its results to the Congress.

So Pennsylvania's house speaker will put his name on a stunt, on a phony letter to Congress pretending that there's a reason to overturn Joe Biden's victory in Pennsylvania, and he does that at the very same time that he's on the phone with Donald Trump twice telling Donald Trump that there is absolutely nothing he can do or will do in the state legislature to change the outcome of the election.

So we have two tracks on this story tonight. Republicans being responsible, Republicans being irresponsible, and in the case of Pennsylvania's Republican speaker of the house being both. But where it counts, he is responsible, certifying those election results in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, Georgia, Georgia is certifying Joe Biden's win, which they did once again today when Joe Biden won the second recount of votes in Georgia after winning the previous two counts of the votes in Georgia.

Republican House Speaker in Pennsylvania being responsible and faithful to the oath of office when he's on the phone telling Donald Trump that there is absolutely nothing that he can do and that the legislature can do to reverse the results in Pennsylvania. Arizona's governor certifying the election results showing Joe Biden won and facing an attack from Donald Trump for doing that.

We have 74 million Trump voters in this country quietly, peacefully, calmly staying at home, decorating their Christmas trees, watching football games and accepting the fact -- not enjoying the fact, but accepting the fact that Joe Biden is going to be the next president of the United States and Kamala Harris is going to be the next vice president of the United States. We have a few dozen people here and there around the country who will go out, not just to protest Joe Biden's win but to demand that the results of the election be changed and some of them make those demand while carrying guns.

If there is no Kyle Rittenhouse in those gun-carrying Trump supporters, then by February, this will all be mostly forgotten. Threats of lynching will fade from memory except for the people who received those threats, and all of this seemingly violent, threatening behavior, if we're lucky, if we're lucky, will not end in any actual violence. But it will leave yet another permanent stain on the worst president in American history because Donald Trump has never once condemned the violent threats made in his name, and Donald Trump wants, he wants his followers to believe that those godless Democrats are once again this year, as in every year, in a war on Christmas.

What would a war on Christmas look like? Would it look like a bunch of guys outside your window threatening you with guns while you and your 4-year-old son are decorating a Christmas tree? That's what Donald Trump wants for you this Christmas if you have any role in standing guard over our voters.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate this.

I just want to know what it was like for you in your house on Saturday with your 4-year-old son decorating a Christmas tree, a scene we all know well. We have lived through as 4 year olds ourselves, some of us as parents ourselves, and to have that scene out in front of your house?


And certainly, it was a unique time and typically a very peaceful time. And for that reason, as we're putting our young son to bed, it is important to maintain that peace around him and the serenity and the calm. So as noise may have escalated outside, the goal was simply to enable him to feel safe and secure as he very much did at that moment.

So, we made sure that he was able to watch his favorite show, "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," he got to stay up a little bit later doing that. I think he enjoyed that. That was maintained (INAUDIBLE) at the same time working with law enforcement to protect everyone in our house (INAUDIBLE) importance for everyone.

O'DONNELL: And, Secretary Benson, the -- this notion of protector of the vote and protector of voters, that is not how I have ever seen states secretaries of state before this year when it has really become a different kind of job stylistically anyway because you have to contend with this outside protest against what you are doing.

BENSON: Yes, it certainly is -- I mean in my view the state's chief election officer always has served as the guardian of the democratic process, the guardian of our elections and our voters. And so, in fact, as things escalated on Saturday, that also is quite clear to me that these individuals may have been attacking me in my role as the state's chief election officer, but that really were aiming their threats, as you mentioned, at the voters themselves, at our democracy.

And as the defender of those voters, I'm proud to ensure and stand guard against any threats to minimize their voice or otherwise attempt to overturn the results of the election. And so, any result or outcome of Saturday really just strengthened my fortitude to continue to guard the vote, to continue to protect the sanctitude of our democratic process. And I know so many of my colleagues around the country, in Georgia, in Arizona, and elsewhere feel the same.

O'DONNELL: The -- Donald Trump won your state four years ago by about 10,000 votes. Joe Biden won your state this time by about 150,000 votes. In both of those vote counts did you have any doubt about either one of them, the 10,000-vote win margin by Donald Trump or the 150,000-vote win margin by Joe Biden?

BENSON: Well, no, particularly this year. Our election was as secure as it has ever been. In fact, the greatest threat to the security of our elections have really been through this misinformation and false rhetoric designed to sow seeds of doubt among the electorate about the sanctity of the process.

But really, the process itself was secure. The results were accurate. And despite an unprecedented level of scrutiny on that process, it has withstood and results have been certified.

At this point now, a month out of that November 3rd election of the polls closing that night, I think it's important for us to recognize that and for everyone with a platform or in position of authority to note that every moment that this misinformation and hateful rhetoric continues leads to more moments like we experienced, I experienced, my son experienced on Saturday night.

O'DONNELL: I want to listen to something that Congressman James Clyburn said tonight. He represents a district in South Carolina where through his whole life, he has seen attempts at voter suppression and attempts basically to devalue voters and votes.

Let's listen to what he said about what he is seeing now.


REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): I never thought I would see the day that duly elected people will be so shallow in their thinking, to try and overturn an election. You're talking about a difference of 7 million votes. Any place else in the world that would be recognized as a landslide victory for whoever got the votes. And so, for them to fly in the face of that, they're really trying to invite insurrection.


O'DONNELL: Secretary Benson, where do you see yourself in the flow of history? Do you feel a connection to what you're having to deal with this year, to what others are struggling for getting all votes recognized in the past in this country have been struggling for?

BENSON: Yes, certainly. I mean I started my career in Montgomery, Alabama, investigating hate groups and hate crimes throughout the country, and it was really there where I was instilled with this deep sense of responsibility to carry on the work of those who worked to defend our democracy throughout history, sacrificing certainly a great deal.

And so, it's not lost on me, those sacrifices that are borne by anyone seeking to protect voters, protect our democracy and guard the will of the people. And in many ways, secretaries of states and election administrators across the country are on the front line doing that under significant spotlight this year.

But I think you will find from all of us regardless of what side of the aisle we are on we are proud to do that. That's our job. That's the oath of office we take when we step up as election administrators. And so, that pride just increases as we feel connected with all of those who have come before us to defend and protect voters, our citizens and democracy.

O'DONNELL: Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

BENSON: My pleasure. Thank you.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

Up next, life after Trump, political life. Will Donald Trump in effect be the Republican leader of the United States Senate whether the Republicans are in the majority or the minority in the Senate, and what will that mean to the Biden/Harris agenda?

Mary Trump, Donald Trump's niece, joins us next.


O'DONNELL: Will Mitch McConnell be the Republican leader of the United States Senate or will Donald Trump continue to be in charge of the Republican Senate while the Biden/Harris administration is trying to confirm members of the cabinet, ambassadors and federal judges and trying to pass legislation for economic relief and expansion of health care coverage during a pandemic?

"Axios" is reporting President Trump is considering a made-for-TV grand finale, a White House departure on Marine One and final Air Force One flight to Florida for a political rally opposite Joe Biden's inauguration, sources familiar with the discussion tell "Axios".

But if Donald Trump has pardoned himself and his family and Rudy Giuliani and who knows who else and if he still ends up as a criminal defendant in the state of New York where his federal pardon cannot protect him, who will still be listening to Donald Trump?

Joining us now is Mary Trump, author of "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man."

Mary, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. I want to get your vision of Donald Trump next year, Donald Trump January 21st. Is he still trying to control the operations of the United States Senate? And then what happens eventually when -- or I should say if, if he becomes a criminal defendant in the state of New York?

MARY TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S NIECE: I think part of that depends a lot on what happens on January 5th in Georgia honestly. I think that the silence of Republicans in Congress as Donald continues to commit sedition on a practically daily basis is unforgivable. However, from a tactical point of view I'm pretty sure it is because Mitch McConnell believes he needs to keep Donald's base riled up in order to increase Republican turnout in Georgia.

So the question -- one big question I think is how much use is the Republican Party going to continue to get out of Donald. Post-inauguration what should happen, because this is what usually happens, is that the outgoing president decreases in relevance, is no longer the center of the show, and that's what should happen now but it depends on us.

Donald at that point is going to be even more desperate than he is now because clearly once Joe Biden is in office, Donald no longer has the protection of the Oval Office. So on January 21st, he should indeed be looking at state-level charges in New York, and who knows what else? The question then becomes what else is he going to do to change the subject.

O'DONNELL: I wanted to get your reading as someone trained in psychology about this line that your uncle delivered on Saturday, which to me seems to be boiling it all down to its most basic essence, the essence of the Trumpian message, where he said to his crowd in Georgia -- we are all victims, everybody here, all these thousands of people here tonight, they are all victims, every one of you.

MARY TRUMP: It's one of the most extraordinary things about Donald, is he has always considered himself somebody who has never been treated properly, even though he is one of the most privileged people on the planet from the time he was born. He was born into great wealth. He had everything at his disposal. He was entirely supported for his entire life by his parents and then the media and now the Republican Party.

So his politics of grievance are pretty grotesque. However, he is attempting to strike a chord with his audience, which also considers themselves a victim of an unfair system and of, you know, I guess some liberal, Democratic conspiracy.

The truth of the matter is they're all Donald's victims, and it is a way for him to flex his power and demonstrate the control he has over the people he is deliberately misleading.

O'DONNELL: There's a question -- I guess it is a social psychology question in this conversation he is having with his followers there because he's gone from telling them that they are winners and he's the greatest winner in the world, that's all he does, and telling them they're going to get tired of winning. It was winning, winning, winning, and he switches that now in his very first public speech really after losing the election by saying, we are all victims.

How would a social psychologist explain the way the crowds are processing that switch?

MARY TRUMP: Well, I'm not a social psychologist so I will do my best.


MARY TRUMP: I think that these people are so invested in the myth that is Donald Trump that they will follow him to the ends of the earth no matter. They will follow any argument he makes, no matter how contradictory, no matter how hypocritical, because without him, what are they?

You know, he has taken the politics of grievance -- and I hate to give him credit for anything, but he has taken it to an art form and they are right there with him, feeling just as aggrieved on his behalf but also on their own.

O'DONNELL: Does that "Axios" reported vision of inauguration day read as possible to you, that Donald Trump will fly off on air force one to Florida in the morning, of course, not go to the inauguration -- which I always said he won't do -- but then have a rally in Florida at noon time, at the same time as the inauguration?

MARY TRUMP: Absolutely. I agree with you, it is much more likely that he counter programs the inauguration in some melodramatic way than it is that he shows up because, again, showing up would mean conceding something that he is never going to concede. It is though incumbent upon us no matter what he does, no matter how extravagant and ridiculous his stunt that we ignore him and pay attention to what's important, which is the incoming administration and what they are going to do to help us get out of the messes that Donald has put us in.

O'DONNELL: Mary Trump, you and I will be ignoring together whatever Donald Trump does on inauguration day. Mary Trump. The book is "Too Much and Never Enough."

Thank you for joining us again tonight. We always appreciate it.

MARY TRUMP: Thank you so much, Lawrence. It is great to be here.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, the Georgia senate elections on January 5th, as Mary Trump just said, are going to be so important. They will determine much of the future of the Biden presidency, everything from cabinet confirmations to legislation is at stake.

Julian Castro campaigned in Georgia with Georgia senate candidate Jon Ossoff today and he will join us next.


O'DONNELL: Early voting in Georgia for the January senate elections begins one week from today on December 14th. Debates for both Georgia senate races were held last night in Atlanta. Here is Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Reverend Raphael Warnock.


REV. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: My question has been pretty simple. Yes or no, Senator Loeffler. Did Donald Trump lose the recent presidential election?

SENATOR KELLY LOEFFLER (R-GA): You know, President Trump has every right to use every legal recourse available.

In our own state we have seen time and again that we have investigations that need to be completed.


O'DONNELL: The Trump campaign has filed 53 frivolous lawsuits claiming election fraud. Courts -- actually, the lawsuits did not ever claim fraud, not in a single one of those lawsuits did they claim fraud once they got in a court.

Courts found zero instances of fraud. That includes one case in Georgia that was dismissed today by a federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush.

Georgia's Republican Senator David Perdue, who is facing allegations of insider trading, just refused to show up to debate his challenger, Democrat Jon Ossoff, who appeared next to an empty lectern.


JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: My message for the people of our state at this moment of crisis is your senator feels entitled to your vote. Your senator is refusing to answer questions and debate his opponent because he believes he shouldn't have to. He believes this senate seat belongs to him. The senate seat belongs to the people.


O'DONNELL: Today Jon Ossoff held a campaign event in Lilburn, Georgia.


OSSOFF: Imagine being a U.S. Senator afraid of answering questions in public for fear that he might incriminate himself. At a moment like this when people are hurting.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now is Julian Castro, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration, former mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Secretary Castro, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

You are back on the campaign trail today for Jon Ossoff, tomorrow for Raphael Warnock. What are you seeing out there, especially in response to this weekend's debate, last night's debate where David Perdue did not even show up?


What I'm seeing is a lot of enthusiasm. I think that the people of Georgia understand how important the stakes are here. They understand that what happens here in Georgia is going to affect not only all Georgians but also all of us as Americans.

I think most folks get, and what they saw in the debates last night reinforced this, that in Senators Loeffler and Perdue they've had two people that in Georgia's most critical moment of need have chosen to serve themselves, to enrich themselves, to benefit their friends, instead of working on behalf of the people of Georgia.

And what they see in Raphael Warnock and in Jon Ossoff are two folks who are committed to serving the people of Georgia, who are talking about the issues that matter -- health care, jobs, getting small businesses back up and going, housing opportunity as many people are facing eviction, making sure that we tackle climate change, and the biggest challenges of our generation.

So the differences here couldn't be more clear.

O'DONNELL: Let's listen to more of what Jon Ossoff had to say on the campaign trail today and how these campaigns, these two Democratic campaigns sound like a partnership. Let's listen to this.


OSSOFF: You got the young Jewish journalist son of an immigrant running alongside a black preacher who holds the same pulpit as Dr. King at Ebenezer Baptist Church building a movement for health, jobs and justice for the people at a moment of crisis. Because health, jobs and justice are what the people need right now.

And we are running against the Bonnie and Clyde of political corruption in America.


O'DONNELL: Secretary Castro, that kind of teamwork is unusual. Most people when they're running for office they're just trying to get themselves over that hurdle.

CASTRO: Well, it is. I think we're fortunate that we have these run-offs going on at the same time. As you know, Lawrence, this doesn't often happen where you have two United States senate seats in a run-off, up at the same time.

And you know, I think they've done a very good job as a team, campaigning, making sure that their message is clear about what they're going to do for the people of Georgia to get us past this pandemic, to work to make sure that folks have good opportunities here in Georgia, and that's how they're going to govern.

They're going to govern in a much stronger way for the people of Georgia than Loeffler and Perdue have.

O'DONNELL: I want to listen to something that Reverend Warnock said last night in his debate because, interestingly, both Democratic campaigns are running against Republican candidates, credibly accused of insider trading using their senate positions for insider trading. Let's listen to the way Reverend Warnock put it last night.


WARNOCK: She was only there three weeks. I'm not sure she was fully unpacked when she started dumping millions of dollars of stock trying to protect herself.

She purchased that seat. It has done well for her. The issue is that the people who sold it to her don't own it, and the people of Georgia are coming back to get their seat.


O'DONNELL: Secretary Castro, is that issue getting traction on the campaign trail?

CASTRO: It is, especially because here is somebody in Kelly Loeffler who was not elected, who last night in the debate you could tell just said the same thing over and over and over again. And instead of addressing the issues, basically just tried to label Raphael Warnock, you know, as too liberal for Georgia when he was there actually talking about the things that we hear people talking about at their kitchen table. Being able to afford the rent, you know. When is their job going to come back online? What is Washington, D.C. doing to work to make sure that they have opportunity and to make sure that everybody can get past this pandemic.

It is night and day the way that Warnock and Ossoff are addressing the issues that people are talking about, that they care about right now, and how disconnected Loeffler and Perdue are.

O'DONNELL: Secretary Julian Castro, live from the campaign trail in Georgia. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

CASTRO: Great to be with you.

Up next, "The New York Times" reported that Donald Trump refused the opportunity to buy more COVID vaccine for the United States from Pfizer earlier this year. That vaccine is likely to be approved by the FDA soon, but there could be a shortage of it in the United States because of that Trump decision.

Trump administration whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright joins us next.


O'DONNELL: Tonight "The New York Times" reports Trump administration officials passed when Pfizer offered in late summer to sell the U.S. government additional doses of its COVID-19 vaccines. Now Pfizer may not be able to provide more of its vaccine to the United States until next June because of its commitments to other countries.

In a news conference today with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who will serve as Joe Biden's chief medical adviser on COVID-19, said this.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When you have 75 percent, 80 percent of the people vaccinated you have an umbrella of protection over the community that the level of community spread will be really, really very low. The virus will not have any place to go.

When that happens, Governor, is going to be entirely dependent upon how well we do, how well I do, you do, your health officials in getting the message out of why it is so important for people to get vaccinated. Because if 50 percent of the people get vaccinated, then we don't have that umbrella of immunity over us.


O'DONNELL: Joining us now is Rick Bright. He is a member of the president-elect's coronavirus advisory board. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

You have gone from being a Trump administration whistleblower, saying that the Trump administration was not taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously enough, to now being an adviser to the incoming president. I want to get your reaction to this "New York Times" report tonight that the Trump administration was offered more of the Pfizer vaccine, which is now very close to being approved here, turned it down and now won't be able to get more until the summer possibly at the earliest.

RICK BRIGHT, MEMBER OF JOE BIDEN CORONAVIRUS ADVISORY BOARD: Well, Lawrence, thanks for having me on tonight. The news is really concerning, as you might imagine, and we are still looking into that now. We are assessing to see what actually has been ordered and what still needs to happen to ensure that we have enough vaccine doses for all Americans as quickly as possible.

Now, this highlights something I have been talking about for many months as a vaccine expert. Making vaccines is very complicated. It is a very complex process. It takes time to make the vaccines, to evaluate the vaccines, and then we have to, of course, review the vaccines, which the FD will be doing on Thursday for their safety and how well they work.

And then the really hard work starts in distributing those vaccines and getting them out into the health care centers and hospitals and communities so people can be vaccinated. So we have a lot of work ahead of us.

And one of the greatest concerns I have, as you heard Dr. Fauci share at the same time, if we don't have enough vaccine soon enough to create that level of immunity in our community, then we're going to be faced with dealing with this pandemic and the consequences of the pandemic for much longer.

O'DONNELL: Let's listen to more of what Dr. Fauci had to say today.


DR. FAUCI: More people are going to travel over Christmas. They're going to have more of those family-and-friend gatherings that you accurately said are an issue.

So if those two things happen and we don't mitigate well, we don't listen to the public health measures that we need to follow, that we could start to see things really get bad in the middle of January for any state or city that is facing similar problems without substantial mitigation. The middle of January can be a really dark time for us.


O'DONNELL: Do you see that same vision of the middle of January that Dr. Fauci sees?

BRIGHT: Lawrence, it's getting worse every day, unfortunately. We are in the middle of the dark winter that we projected we would be at if we didn't take those public health measures earlier in the year, if our government didn't lead by example and really encourage people to follow the public health guidelines by wearing masks and avoiding crowds.

That didn't happen over the last several months. We are now in what I described in May as what would be the darkest winter in modern history. And we are now in that in December, and it's likely to get much worse.

I do want to say, though, that many people are wearing their face masks. And many people are following the public health guidelines and social distancing. And actually reports I saw just in the last week said even more people are starting to wear their mask regularly when they leave their home.

That's very encouraging. And I'm very, very grateful for those people who are following those guidelines. We do need to get many more people to do that, though.

We need to have about 95 or more percent of the population wearing your face mask every time you leave the house outside and inside now. And keeping out of crowds and keeping away from others and small groups as much as possible.

That is how we're going to control the spread of this virus until we do have sufficient vaccine available to provide that community protection that we need so desperately.

O'DONNELL: When we see Dr. Fauci appearing with Governor Cuomo that seems like a certain kind of concession by Donald Trump. That would be unimaginable if Donald Trump had been re-elected.

BRIGHT: All I can say is that we need leadership now. I'm so glad that we have President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris coming into office. I think you saw the news today announcing the nominee for HHS secretary and a whole group of scientists coming in to lead HHS.

So I'm convinced now we have leadership coming in. Science is back, and we're going to get ahold of this virus. We're going to control the pandemic and end it after we come in in January.

Rick Bright, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

BRIGHT: Thank you, Lawrence.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

Up next, tonight's special LAST WORD.


O'DONNELL: It was last Wednesday at this hour that we last talked about the KIND Fund, Kids in Need of Desks, the partnership I created with MSNBC and UNICEF to deliver desks to schools in Africa where the kids have never seen desks and scholarships for girls to attend high school in Malawi where public high school is not free and the girls' high school graduation rate is half the boys' graduation rate.

Since last week you have continued your generous surge of support for the KIND Fund even during this very difficult year when so many of you have lost jobs and lost income as this country and the world suffer the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrew Coe tweeted, "Lawrence, thanks for your efforts with KIND. I'm a former peace corps teacher in Tanzania so I have seen the plight of underfunded schools first-hand. I'm tapped out this year for giving to causes but next year I will remember KIND."

I completely understand that this year is an impossible time for many of you to make a contribution. But even in this difficult year viewers of this program have still been able to contribute almost half a million dollars to the KIND Fund just since we last discussed it on Wednesday.

Euriter Katanyeza (ph) was sent home from high school when her parents could not afford the school fees in her freshman year which is called Form One in Malawi. But your generosity is now going to enable her to graduate from high school.

EURITER KATANYEZA, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: My future was uncertain before the UNICEF scholarship. In Form 1, my family would go begging in the community for my school fees. But then UNICEF started paying for my school fees and provide me with school necessities like school uniform and notebooks. Since then I have never been sent back home due to school fees.


O'DONNELL: Paula Maselati (ph) tweeted "Thanks for the reminder about the KIND Fund. My daughter has two STEM degrees. We know how important education is for young women. We are happy to help again this year."

Michael Monwuba (ph) tweeted, "Lawrence, thank you for KIND. I just purchased a desk and I'm just super excited to do it. It's the best Christmas gift I could give this year."

You can go to and give a gift a desk or a girl's scholarship as a gift to anyone on your holiday gift list and UNICEF will send them an acknowledgement of your gift.

No contribution toward a desk or scholarship is too small.

Euriter Katanyeza was sent home from school when the coronavirus pandemic shut down all Malawi schools in march. There was virtually no remote learning for students in Malawi except for some classes that were held over the radio. But most kids in Malawi do not have access to a radio. Classrooms reopened in October.


KATANYEZA: It feels great to be in class again because I know I will still be able to reach for my dreams. During the closure I felt hope fading. I missed my education and I also missed my friends.


O'DONNELL: "I will still be able to reach for my dreams." Euriter Katanyeza gets tonight's LAST WORD.



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