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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, November 25, 2020

Guests: Christina Greer, Richard Schiff


Joe Biden is the only president we have today who is leading the public health crusade against the coronavirus. President Trump pardons Mike Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying about Russian contact. With the vaccines in sight, President-elect Joe Biden might be stepping into the war against the coronavirus with victory in sight. When President Franklin Roosevelt died on April 12th, 1945, Harry Truman stepped into the presidency with victory in sight in World War II but with battles still raging in Europe and the Pacific. Richard Schiff's last COVID test says that he is negative and it felt like a close call.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Lawrence, you know, I've gone across this country in the last few months listening to people talk about their civil rights to not wear a mask, and I think about Bruce Boynton and I think about the real fights we've had about real things versus the nonsense we're facing right now.

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Yeah, it is such an important lesson. And we're going have a lesson tonight, Ali, that you'll be very interested in that you already know.

This is from Richard Schiff, my dear friend who we worked together on the NBC series "The West Wing." Richard is recovering from COVID-19. He just spent five days in Vancouver general hospital, and he has a lot of good things to say about the Canadian health care system. He is going to join us later in this hour.

He's good friends with Joe Biden. So he'll probably be telling Joe Biden the same thing about his experience.

VELSHI: Well, I look forward with a little normalcy, Lawrence, that you and I will be able to talk about health care and get in some of those policy discussions that we both enjoy having. I look forward to tonight's show. You have a good evening and a great thanksgiving.

O'DONNELL: You too, Ali. Thank you very much.


O'DONNELL: Thank you.

There are only 56 more pardon days until America gets its big Christmas present, a new president of the United States. Donald Trump has now pardoned turkeys two days in a row. Yesterday he pardoned Corn and Cob, and today, he pardoned Michael Flynn.

By 12:00 noon on inauguration day, everyone named Trump will surely be pardoned along with who knows who else who might be able to give incriminating evidence against Donald Trump and therefore get a pardon out of him. We have embarked on the most corrupt pardon spree in American history, which will end one way or another in a pardon for Donald Trump himself.

Neal Katyal will join our discussion about the Trump pardons, and it's going to get personal tonight when we're joined by my dear friend Richard Schiff who I met 21 years ago when we both went to work on the new NBC series called "The West Wing." The creator of that show, Aaron Sorkin, hired me as a writer. He hired Richard Schiff as an actor, the first actor on "The West Wing" to win an Emmy on the same night that Allison Janney became the first actress on "The West Wing" to win an Emmy.

Allison and I and everyone else have been very worried about Richard since he was hospitalized with COVID-19 in Canada. And everyone on the cast was thrilled to hear that Richard is healthy enough to join us tonight to describe what he and his family have been fighting with COVID-19.

I was there the night Richard Schiff fell in love with Joe Biden in 2008. I saw it with my own eyes. I was with a group of actors who were on the presidential campaign trail and were invited to Joe Biden's hotel suite late one night in South Carolina during the primaries. Richard will tell you what he saw of Joe Biden that night that made him hope for the Biden presidency that will begin in just 56 days.

Joe Biden will be stepping in to the presidency in the middle of a war, a war against a virus. One of the historical parallels for this is the man who stepped into the presidency in the middle of a war. Vice President Harry Truman was sworn in as president on April 12th, 1945 after President Franklin Roosevelt died of heart failure.

Joe Scarborough has written a new book about Harry Truman entitled "Saving Freedom". Joe will join us later in the hour to discuss the parallels between Joe Biden's moment and Harry Truman's moment and what remains in the 56 days of Donald Trump's pardon power.

The old saying that we only have one president as a time has taken on a new meaning on day when Donald Trump remained absolutely silent about the pardon that he issued to Michael Flynn and about the coronavirus that is raging in this country and has now killed over 260,000 Americans and is in a surge now as there is a small surge or medium-sized surge for travel on the Thanksgiving holiday that will surely mean more killing in many more thousands of households before Christmas.

Joe Biden is the only president we have today who is leading the public health crusade against the coronavirus.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT: Each of us has a responsibility in our own lives to do what we can do to slow the virus. Every decision we make matters. Every decision we make can save lives.

None of these steps are asking people to take are political statements. Every one of them is based on science, real science. I'm hoping the news of the vaccine will serve as an incentive to every American to take these simple steps to get control of the virus. There is real hope, tangible hope.

So hang on. Don't let yourself surrender to the fatigue, which I understand is real fatigue.


O'DONNELL: Today, the only public use of Donald Trump's voice was him speaking over an amplified cell phone to Rudy Giuliani and a few dozen people in Pennsylvania pretending that there was something that they could do about changing the outcome of the election in Pennsylvania the day after the state of Pennsylvania certified the results of the presidential election, giving all of its 20 electoral college votes to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

While Donald Trump was publicly humiliating himself in Rudy Giuliani's cell phone, Joe Biden said this in his Thanksgiving message today.


BIDEN: Let's be thankful for democracy itself. In this last election, the one that just took place, we've seen record numbers of Americans exercise the most sacred right, that of the vote to register their will at the ballot box. You want to know what beats deep in the heart of America? It's this democracy, the right to determine our lives, our government and our leaders, the right to be heard.

Our democracy was tested this year. And what we learned is this. The people of this nation are up to the task.


O'DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight, Ben Rhodes, former deputy adviser to President Barack Obama. He is an MSNBC political analyst.

And Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University.

And, Professor Greer, there is that old saying, we only have one president at a time. That's really being tested during these 56 days.

CHRISTINA GREER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AT FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Yeah, indeed, Lawrence. I mean, Donald Trump has made it very clear that he is not interested in the health and welfare of the American citizens. He's clearly just running out the clock and utilizing his last grift on the way out, fundraising for, you know, several lawsuits that will not come to pass.

Joe Biden will be certified on December 14th and sworn in on January 20th. Our democracy does still stand, and sadly, Donald Trump has shown us he is not interested in governance and definitely not interested in the American public, especially during a public health crisis where over one quarter of a million of Americans have already died.

And so, it's on the one hand, it's a very sad day for the American democracy. On the other, I think the turmoil and trauma that we've experienced as American citizens over the past four years is coming to a close.

But I will say, Lawrence, my concern is not just the pardons that you mentioned earlier. I'm worried about Bill Barr and his execution spree that he'll most likely go on for the next 56 days. I'm also worried about Secretary Pompeo, and what he'll do with our foreign allies and adversaries before the Trump administration comes to a close.

O'DONNELL: Ben Rhodes, who are you concerned about in the remaining 56 days of this transition?

BEN RHODES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Lawrence, I think it's just a question of how much President Trump continues to debase the office of the presidency. The thing I'm most worried about, Lawrence, is he is trying to delegitimize Joe Biden on his way out the door. He is trying to make as many of his supporters as possible think, as he said today in that bizarre charade in Pennsylvania that the election was stolen, which is a way to fortify Republican opposition to everything that Joe Biden might do.

He is trying to reduce people's confidence in the independence of the rule of law with pardons like we saw today of someone who is clearly guilty, who plead guilty to two crimes.

So what I worry about is Joe Biden's capacity to deal with a terrible inheritance. He has to deal with a COVID crisis that is out of control. He has to deal with an economic crisis. We have a difficult hand that was dealt to Obama back in 2009 with the financial crisis. This one is even worse.

And if you stack on top of that a president who is seeking to turn as much of the Republican Party as he can against the incoming president, that's just going to make Joe Biden's job more difficult. That's what I worry about the most.

O'DONNELL: To rewrite the old phrase, I guess I would say, we have only one person who is acting like a president at a time, and that is Joe Biden.

Let's listen to what he said today about the people who have suffered the most from COVID-19 while Donald Trump continues to completely ignore their suffering.


BIDEN: For those who have lost a loved one, I know that this time of year can be especially difficult. Believe me. I know. I remember that first Thanksgiving, the empty chair, the silence. It takes your breath away.

It's really hard to care. It's hard to give thanks. It's hard to even think of looking forward. It's so hard to hope. I understand.

I'll be thinking and praying for each and every one of you.


O'DONNELL: Christina Greer, that, of course, is the new presidency. That is the presidency that we will be living with beginning January 20th.

GREER: I mean, Lawrence, in some ways it just takes my breath away. We know that Joe Biden as a public servant has suffered incredible losses within his family, and he has dealt with it with such dignity and grace. And he always makes it about other American families.

We have to remember, it's not just 260,000 Americans who have died from the COVID crisis. It's 260,000 families. It's 260,000 communities. It's 260,000 neighborhoods and friends and people who loved these individuals.

And Joe Biden is making it about the American people. We know that Donald Trump has been completely incapable of ever seeing the suffering and the sorrow that is across this nation. It's always about him, no matter what it is, and especially with COVID crisis.

So I think it actually might take some people a little bit of time to get used to someone who's thoughtful, who is engaged, who actually puts the country before himself, not just personally, but also financially. And I also think, Lawrence, we need to be really vigilant with I know Donald Trump will still try and steal the limelight, but Mitch McConnell has to be held accountable for his obstructionism and the way he has held the Republican Party hostage. And as Joe Biden tries to move the country forward, as Ben has stated, we have to make sure it's not about Mitch McConnell's agenda. It has to be about what Joe Biden wants to do for the good of this nation, especially as we try and emerge from one of the greatest health crises that we've had in over a century.

O'DONNELL: Let's listen to what Kate Bedingfield said today. She on the Biden team, and she responded to a question about how important is Donald Trump himself in his personal cooperation to the transition. Let's listen to this.


INTERVIEWER: Is there a world in which you think he needs to talk to Trump? Or are you guys getting sufficient information already from your conversations with others in the West Wing, Meadows and then at the agency level?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, JOE BIDEN'S DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We believe that we've been getting the information that our teams need. Certainly should president Trump want to speak with President-elect Biden, then that's something we would work out in the future. But in terms of whether it is mission critical to being able to move the mission forward sufficiently, no.


O'DONNELL: Ben Rhodes, not mission critical for Joe Biden to talk to Donald Trump.

RHODES: There is nothing he can really learn from Donald Trump because Donald Trump has never been interested in being president. Lawrence, can tell you in 2016 after the election, Barack Obama met with Donald Trump in the Oval Office I think for 90 minutes. And he called me up after that meeting, and he said he, President Obama, was seeking to talk to him about health care, talk to him about the Iran nuclear deal, talk to him about threats around the world.

What did Donald Trump want to talk to Barack Obama about in the one meeting he could get information about how to be president? He wanted to talk to Barack Obama about their crowd sizes. He said you and I could get big crowds. Hillary couldn't get big crowds. He kept steering the conversation back to kind of the most base politics.

This is a man who was about to assume the most profound responsibilities imaginable, and he didn't really care. And frankly, I think he had maybe one more phone conversation with Obama after that.

So what is there to Joe Biden to learn from Donald Trump? This is a man who is totally incurious about a pandemic that is killing thousands of Americans every week.

And so, I think the Biden team is doing the right thing. They're getting ready to go, and the agencies learn from the people in the government doing their jobs, and Joe Biden is healing the nation, as he said is his central focus, and getting ready to hit the ground rounding on January 20th.

O'DONNELL: And Donald Trump would spend the rest of his life lying than conversation if they ever had it, as he does lie about his conversation with President Obama.

Ben Rhodes, Christina Greer, thank you both for starting our conversations tonight. Really appreciate it.

And when we come back, the "New York Times" says Donald Trump is embarking on what they call a wave of pardons after the Michael Flynn pardon, Neal Katyal says President Trump still has much to fear from the law. Neal Katyal will join us next.

At the end of this hour, we'll be joined by my dear friend Richard Schiff, who I worked on the NBC series "The West Wing." Richard is recovering from COVID-19 after being hospitalized for five days. And he has an important warning for us all.

And I just want to give my friend a great big socially distanced TV hug. Richard Schiff will get tonight's last word.


O'DONNELL: After pardoning Michael Flynn today, Donald Trump will surely be issuing pardons at a pace greater than one per day for the next 56 days because he will probably issue hundreds of pardons and clemencies to people who will deserve them. They will be people who have been convicted of nonviolent crimes who the Trump administration will find and use as a cushion against the several totally corrupt pardons Donald Trump will surely issue, including pardons to all of this children, possibly even including Tiffany because they might all be subject to federal tax evasion issues based on their entanglements in the Trump tax returns which will soon be in the hands of eager prosecutors in New York City who have empanelled a grand jury to study possible criminal conduct by Donald Trump.

And that state grand jury will not be stopped by Trump pardons, which will apply only to federal offenses. The climax in the Trump pardon story will come the day Donald Trump receives his own pardon, probably on the morning of inauguration day, he will grant that pardon to himself or he will resign the presidency possibly early that morning, and with Mike Pence acting as president for a few hours be pardoned by President Pence.

The Flynn pardon is surely the first of many to come in what will be no doubt the most corrupt pardon spree in American history.

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

Neal, your reaction to what we can safely bet is the first of many pardons to come in the next 56 days?

NEAL KATYAL, MSNCBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Lawrence, I think that the Michael Flynn pardon is intrinsically evil on its own terms. This is a guy who pled guilty, admitted two times to two different federal judges that he committed a federal crime. The last time he said in open court, quote, I recognize that the actions I acknowledge in court today are wrong and through my faith in God, I am working to set things right.

He admitted to them that he lied to federal investigators and not about something minor, about his dealings with the Russians. And with Trump, it's always some sort of dealing with the Russians and the lying that's going on. And Michael Flynn's walk back over the last couple of years I think really shows the moral bankruptcy of these people.

Now, Flynn is claiming the prosecution is rigged. And I mean these people, every time they lose, they trot out this garbage. It's no different than the election being rigged.

This isn't second grade. When you commit a crime or lose an election, you don't just whine about it and go on saying it's unfair, you accept your punishment. And what Flynn did today, what Flynn got away with is to me so reprehensible, Lawrence, it's so corrosive because he got away with it not because there was some brilliant defense he had. He got away with it because he was the president's pal.

And what does that do to law enforcement to the idea about justice? I mean, every time I walk into the Supreme Court, it says the following words on the top of the court, "equal justice under law." And when I walked into the Justice Department as I did for so many years, you know, you'd walk past the statue of Lady Justice, and she is blindfolded. The whole idea is it doesn't matter who you know, you get the same punishment.

Well, not in Trump's world. If you're his friend, you get something else.

O'DONNELL: And, Neal, the notion of can Donald Trump pardon himself I think is going to be a question that we will be entertaining over the next 55 days. I expect his pardon to come at the very end in the last 24 hours. And that's when we'll find out how confident Donald Trump is about being able to pardon himself.

He has said he believes he has the complete right to pardon himself.

KATYAL: Yeah, he's also said he thinks he can do anything under the sun. Saying so doesn't make it. So this is a guy who fundamentally doesn't believe in law and thinks he can do anything.

I think it's quite clear that he can't pardon himself. The words and the constitution require that you can grant pardons as president, and it's nonsensical to think you can grant something to yourself. There is maybe the most venerable principle in all of our law is you can't be a judge in your own case. It goes all the way become to Dr. Bonham's case in 1610.

So no, he can't pardon himself. He'll no doubt try, but I think federal investigators and a Biden administration will not be stymied by that. And of course as you were saying earlier, it won't apply to state prosecutions. There is one last bright spot, Lawrence, about the pardon today about Michael Flynn, because like so much else that Trump touches, this pardon will turn to -- has a risk to turning to for him excrement.

The thing that prevents Michael Flynn from testifying right now against Trump is the 5th amendment, that he would be forced to incriminate himself. Once he pardons himself, once Trump pardons Flynn, Flynn is not in danger of self-incrimination. And there is a school of thought that Flynn's got the goods on Trump, and that's why Trump's been watching out.

So the pardon removes that obstacle. And while Bill Barr, the current attorney general isn't willing to prosecute Flynn or try and get information from him, in 56 days, that's all going to change. And so this could be very, very bad for one Donald Trump.

O'DONNELL: Yeah, there is that loss of the Fifth Amendment, accompanied by the fact that even if you've already been pardoned by Donald Trump, you absolutely can be indicted for committing the crime of perjury if you do that after the pardon. So that it all becomes in the year when Donald Trump becomes a defendant next year, which is very likely all of this is going to become kind of a constant subject for us.

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

And when we come back, Joe Scarborough will join us with his reaction to Donald Trump's pardon of Michael Flynn and what it means to have a presidential transition in the middle of a war. This time, a war against a virus.



BIDEN: I know we can and we will beat this virus. America's not going to lose this war. We'll get our lives back. Life is going to return to normal, I promise you. This will happen. This will not last forever.


O'DONNELL: With the vaccines in sight, President-elect Biden might be stepping into the war against the coronavirus with victory --



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know we can and we will beat this virus. America's not going to lose this war. We'll get our lives back. Life is going to return to normal, I promise you. This will happen. This will not last forever.


O'DONNELL: With the vaccines in sight, President-Elect Joe Biden might be stepping into the war against the coronavirus with victory in sight.

When President Franklin Roosevelt died on April 12th, 1945, Harry Truman stepped into the presidency with victory in sight in World War II but with battles still raging in Europe and the Pacific.

President Truman did not feel adequately trained for the task that he took on, but Joe Biden has all the experience we could ask for in a president taking over the war against the coronavirus.

Joe Scarborough knows Joe Biden well, has studied his career, and Joe Scarborough has now written a new book about President Harry Truman title "Saving Freedom: Truman, the Cold War, and the Fight for Western Civilization".

And joining us now is Joe Scarborough. He is the host of "MORNING JOE" here on MSNBC. And he is staying up late tonight.

Joe, thank you very much. Thanks for doing this. And your book is so timely.

When you hear Joe Biden today putting this in the language of war and saying we will not lose this war, here he is stepping into that kind of position that in a combat war, Harry Truman stepped into in World War II.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: I mean what a great parallel you drew there, Lawrence because it is true that while Truman became the president with the war hopefully drawing to a close.

Many people believe the war with Japan might last until '46 maybe even '47, cost a million lives. Harry Truman didn't even know about the Manhattan Project when Franklin Roosevelt so you talked about a transition.

FDR knew he was dying. He didn't tell his vice president, who he only had two meetings with after they got into the White House together.

So Harry Truman had to make a lot of decisions, and of course, he usually made the right decisions. But I think the parallels between these two -- and so it's great to be talking to you about this because you understand this better than most, Lawrence.

The fact is both of these gentlemen weren't counting on lightning in a bottle striking to get things done. They actually knew how the Senate worked.

Harry Truman understood the Senate. He understood that while he had the wisest men, whether it was George Marshall or Dean Acheson or George Kennan or Averell Harriman around him, he understood he had to get through the Republicans who had just gotten the majority for the first time in 14 years.

And if he didn't convince a formerly avowed isolationist Arthur Vandenberg to come along with him and even bring people like Mr. Republican Robert Taft, there would be no Truman Doctrine, there would be no Marshall Plan, there would be NATO.

So you know, I kind of get sick and tired of people talking about wanting outsiders in Washington, D.C. I don't want an outsider if I'm having brain surgery. I want somebody who knows what they're doing. I don't want an outsider when we're talking about running the free world.

Outsiders have wrecked not only Washington, D.C. They've wrecked the country and tried to wreck the world. It's good to have some competence in there.

Truman was competent. Biden, competent. He will know how to talk to senators, just like you knew how to talk to senators to get things done.

O'DONNELL: Joe, how would Harry Truman react to the pardon of Michael Flynn today? And I ask that because he was so plainspoken and he would react so spontaneously. He was not good at spin. Harry Truman just had a way of putting things.

SCARBOROUGH: Of course, the most famous story is him firing off a letter to the music critic of "The Washington Post" after "The Washington Post" had criticized his daughter's singing performance.

And yes, Harry Truman can fly off the handle, but he also understood at times he had to be diplomatic. I saw Michael Beschloss earlier today. He tweeted out a telegram that he had drafted to Joe McCarthy, but decided not to send it, decided to work with Republicans as he did throughout the administration, at least on foreign policy and hope that that would at the end take care of itself.

But -- but, you know, it's hard work. It's the blocking and tackling of legislating that Truman, of course, was good at, that Biden is going to be good at. But I've got to say, Lawrence, I do think when you look at the pardon, I'm reminded of another book today when I'm seeing Donald Trump continuing to abuse the presidency of the United States. And that's Tom Ricks' book, "First Principles".

And Ricks laid out very well that the framers of the Constitution, Madison and Hamilton, they were skeptics of the enlightenment and human nature. They believed in checks and balances. George Washington believed in Roman virtue.

And I think the presidency, because of Washington, we've relied too much on the good intentions of presidents, people who have sat in the Oval Office. And I think that Joe Biden and Congress has to take a good hard look at the type of presidential reforms that we're going to have to pass over the next four years, much like the post Watergate reforms.

No, a president can't pardon himself. No, a president should not be above the law. One of the most offensive DOJ guidelines to me remains that a president cannot be indicted. Why can't a president be indicted? Why can a president pardon people that are involved in conspiracies that they're involved with?

That's exactly what's been happening with Donald Trump. It's what happened with Roger Stone. It's what happened today with Michael Flynn. It's what's going to happen most likely with his children, as you pointed out before.

So it's deeply offensive to our belief that no one is above the law in this country. And for the life of me, I don't know why these reforms weren't passed before.

O'DONNELL: Joe Scarborough, thank you very much for joining us, Joe. The book is "Saving Freedom". I don't know where you find the time to write a book, Joe, when you're doing 15 hours of television a week.

I'm behind schedule on my next book, and I'm not putting in the kind of hours you are. Great job, Joe. Really appreciate it.

SCARBOROUGH: Thank you so much.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, it can happen to you. It can definitely happen to someone you love, and it happened this month to a guy that I love -- the Emmy winning actor Richard Schiff, who I worked with over a seven-year period on the TV series ""The West Wing"".

Richard tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized and is now out of the hospital recovering. And I'll ask him what he would tell his good friend Joe Biden about his experience fighting this virus, when Richard Schiff joins us next.


O'DONNELL: Richard Schiff is negative, which doesn't surprise any of us who worked with him on "The West Wing", but this time we're thrilled about it because tonight Richard Schiff's last COVID test says that he is negative and it felt like a close call.

Richard was working in Vancouver when he tested positive for COVID-19 the day after the presidential election. His wife Sheila Kelly also tested positive. Sheila's symptoms were mild. Richard's symptoms worsened.

Richard was still at home on November 7th when he watched his friend Joe Biden go over the top in the electoral college and be declared the apparent winner of the presidency by all the major news organizations.

Then when we heard Richard was admitted to Vancouver General Hospital, we all sent him upbeat messages. And then shared very worried messages with each other.

"The West Wing" cast and writers and directors and producers and crew share a bond -- a seven-year adventure in our lives that we treasure. It feels like family. And when one of us hurts, all of us worry.

When Richard Schiff was released from Vancouver General Hospital, we all rejoiced. And I could not be happier to say joining us now is the winner of two Screen Actors Guild awards and an Emmy for his work on "The West Wing". My dear friend, Richard Schiff.

Richard, it is so great to see you. I'm giving you a big hug right here through the TV. And I really want to hear -- we all want to hear what you've been through and the warning that you have for us, because I know you were taking every precaution that you could possibly take against COVID-19.

RICHARD SCHIFF, ACTOR: I was. First, I have to say, Lawrence, that yes, "The West Wing" family made a difference in my recovery. They brought such love and such humor and support, as did so many people around the world.

And I'm so thankful and so grateful for that. Yes, what was the question?

O'DONNELL: The question was tell us about -- the scary part about this for all of us is I know you were taking every precaution and then --


O'DONNELL: -- I know you got infected. I'm taking every precaution. I know it can happen to me.


O'DONNELL: I just don't know how. I don't know when.

SCHIFF: Well, let's say it's scarier than you've read and it's scarier than you've heard. There is something binary about this COVID-19 thing. It wants to beat you. It gets into your system and it feels like wherever you think you can get a breath in, it's going TO go there and that's where the cough is going to go.

That's where the -- it wants to stop you from breathing. That's what it felt like. It felt like that for 13 days until I finally went into the hospital.

And all I can say is no one that I know is more vigilant. I kept my family from going out. You know, we all learned how to cook for months and months and months. We did go back to work in Vancouver, and I was very much a part of setting the protocols for production.

Production is fine. I did not get this on set. And they're moving along nicely without people getting infected with this. But I can't stress enough that while some people are very lucky to get a live load -- a live viral load and skipped through these things especially younger people and athletes, those of us that are normal, this thing will debilitate you. And all of my energy is gone.

My strength is gone. My muscles have atrophied. It's coming back ever so slowly. And even Sheila, who had a milder case, is still fighting to get some normal energy and so on.

So Biden has it correct, you know. It's not a political thing. It's not a partisan thing. It's common sense. I can't stress enough to people that you do not want this. And the conversation that I had to have with Sheila because it didn't look good there for a day or two, is a conversation you don't want to have with anyone ever.

It's -- this is a tough one. And I just want to tell the American people and anyone listening around the world it's so easy to take the steps to try to keep this from getting into your system or the system of the people you love. It's no guarantee, you know.

We're very vigilant. My wife looks at it like it's trying to -- you're trying to walk away from the sun. It seems to just be everywhere. But people who are taking the common sense steps are for the most part staying clear of this thing.

And it behooves us as a nation and as human beings, we want to just help each other to do everything we can to keep safe and to stay healthy.

O'DONNELL: Richard, what would you tell your friend Joe Biden about your experience in the Canadian health care system? And I know already how much you love and how grateful you are to all those heroes who took care of you at Vancouver General.

SCHIFF: Yes, they're great. They're loving on top of being caring and very efficient. And they're a bit conservative. I got into some discussions with one of the doctors. I had to fight to get Remdesivir. Still don't know if that made a difference or not. I expect that it did.

And they're very much a part of -- believe in the studies and what percentages are good. They do not want to harm ever their patients. But the efficiency of the hospital, the cleanliness, the food was good, was fantastic.

And the fact is that I come out of there without a catastrophic bill, without a debilitating financial burden. And it's the first time I realized how wonderful that is -- to get sick, to go to the hospital for five, six days.

It's a bill that in California would be hundreds of thousands of dollars, right? And I don't know what kind of copay I would be responsible for. I don't know how much my insurance would have covered or tried to wriggle out of.

And here there was no worry about that. And everyone is treated the same. And they treat, you know, I'm not a citizen of Canada. We have been working here for quite a few years. The good doctor (INAUDIBLE) infusing a lot of money into their system, no doubt.

But they do not discriminate against people that are not citizens if they have COVID. They treat everyone. They treat them the same. They follow up. I'm going back to a clinic in a month to -- for them to check up on me. They've called me from the hospital.

This is the kind of treatment -- I'm lucky because I'm a union member, and I have a pretty good insurance system in the states. Not everybody does, obviously. It's something very comforting.

O'DONNELL: Richard, let me squeeze in a break here, and when we come back from this commercial break, I've got a special Thanksgiving gift for you when we come back from this commercial break. We'll be back with Richard Schiff.


O'DONNELL: Yes, we played that again just to hear the Emmy winning music of Snuffy Walden. I've been trying to get Snuffy to let me use that moving as the theme music for this show. And Richard I know you share this feeling just hearing those notes. Whenever we hear it, it just stirs up seven years of feeling.

And you're going to get THE LAST WORD tonight, Richard, about your battle with COVID and your recovery from it.

But before you get tonight's LAST WORD, there's a few friends of yours who you shared a locker room with for seven years who have a few words for you.


MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: We're ringing the bell for you, Richard. We're so happy and relieved that you're on the mend. We have that much more to be grateful for. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Sheila, Gus and Ruby.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yay, Richard. I love you so much, honey. I'm so glad you're out of the woods. Talking to Lawrence. I can't wait to see you in person. You know, we've all been so worried about you, about you and Sheila and your whole family. I just love you so much.

DULE HILL, ACTOR: Richard, this is Dule. Sending you love. Sending you all the good vibes. I'm so thankful to see that you're recovering, that you are on your way.

COVID is nothing to play with. You had us concerned there for a while, you really did. But I look forward to us catching up again soon, man. Blessed to you. Much love, as always. Later

JANEL MOLONEY, ACTOR: Hi Richard. This is Janel. I love you so much and I'm so relieved you're ok. Happy Thanksgiving. Love you.

BRADLEY WHITFORD, ACTOR: Richard, we're all so grateful this Thanksgiving that you are out of the hospital and on the mend. We love you, brother. And thank you for using your terrifying experience to get the word out to everybody about how dangerous this disease is and how careful we need to be this holiday season.

Love to you and Sheila and the kids. I cannot wait until the day that I can throw my arms around you and tell you I love you in person. Peace.


SCHIFF: They are amazing people.

O'DONNELL: Richard, the team was pulling for you. Go ahead, Richard.

SCHIFF: I know. I felt it. I felt it and I know it and they're just a -- it's like having a family and you go back for a Thanksgiving dinner and there are no fights. We just love each other unconditionally and it's just great.

O'DONNELL: And Richard, I want you to know that every one of those people woke up this morning not knowing they were going to do that until they got a phone call from me saying you're coming back on the show and everybody jumped in, was very, very eager to do it, as I know you would be if it was any one else on the team in this situation.

SCHIFF: Absolutely.

O'DONNELL: And Richard, what is it -- what would you say to people who you know are suffering this tonight, who are in hospitals tonight, maybe on their way out of a hospital, coming home, what that support means to them that Sheila, your family's giving you and that your friends give you?

SCHIFF: Well, it's you know -- whenever you go through a crisis you realize how important the people you love and who love you are in your life.

You just -- no matter how many times you tell yourself not to take it for granted, you end up taking it for granted until a time like this hits you. And I'm just so grateful for Sheila and my family, Gus and Ruby, and my extended family and "The West Wing" family and you, Lawrence, and the fans around the world, who have be so supportive. It's special and it's shocking to feel that you've had an effect on people. It's shockingly wonderful.

And people should listen to -- listen to what I'm saying. You don't have to get to the point where I am being told that I might not be here next week to appreciate the people that you love. And if you really love them, you will do -- take the steps to prevent this disease from getting to those who you love and from getting to you, you know.

We're in a new hopeful time, as you say, my friend Joe Biden is bringing such dignity and such integrity even to this impossible transition, and it gives me hope.

We have some hope coming down the road with the vaccines, hopefully. We may be out of this in a year or year and a half. Hold the line. Don't get this now. Do not get this now and encourage everyone around you, those who you love, to keep it at bay and to help others keep it at bay. You don't want to get this thing.

O'DONNELL: Richard Schiff, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We got to get through a commercial fast because you don't want to see two guys crying on TV.

Richard Schiff gets tonight's LAST WORD.

"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts right now. It has to start right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again --


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