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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/21/2021

Guests: Chris Murphy, Ashish Jha

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Really happy to have you here.

All right. This was today. In federal court, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Federal magistrate judge named Martin C. Carlson was presiding.

Ready? Here we go.

The judge: Ms. Williams, I want to note for you that one of the reasons you are going home today is because, in a desperate time, in the glare of -- of public scrutiny, your mother has stepped forward and promised to serve as a third-party custodian. And you heard my questions to her, did you not, ma`am?

The defendant: I did, Your Honor.

The judge: And you heard that your mother has promised that if there are violations of these conditions, she will report them to me. And she has made that promise, understanding that if she breaks that promise, she could be criminally charged. Do you understand that?

The defendant: I understand.

The judge: Your mother is making an enormous leap of faith on your behalf, and you are the one person in this courtroom who can make sure that your mother does not have to choose between her love for you and her duty to this court. Do you understand that?

The defendant: Yes.

The judge: Do not put your mother in a position, where I learn that she was put to that choice. Am I clear?

The defendant: Yes.

The judge: Very well. Then, I would like to conclude this proceeding. Ms. Williams, when we meet on Tuesday, one of the first things I did was advise you of your constitutional rights. And then I took steps to protect those rights by appointing aggressive, effective counsel to represent you here.

That recital of rights wasn`t some hollow invocation of abstract principles. It was affirmation of the rights guaranteed to you by the United States Constitution. And it strikes me that guarantee says something extraordinary and extraordinarily good about our Constitution.

You are embraced by a presumption of innocence. You are entitled to the assistance of counsel. You have a right to remain silent. All of these matters guaranteed to you, by the constitution. A constitution, that protects the rights of those who are accused of transgressing society`s rules. Some of the most basic of those rules are set forth in our constitution.

And one of the fundamental pillars of that constitution is the peaceful transition of power. That obligation that all citizens have to facilitate the peaceful transfer of power. It has been honored by generations of Americans, for 232 years. It has become so commonplace that we often think very little of it. But as President Reagan said in his inaugural, that process is a miracle.

The allegations that bring you before me involve conduct that allegedly took place on January 6th of this year as Congress was endeavoring to fulfill its constitutional obligation to certify the will of the people, and the votes of the Electoral College.

You are cloaked in a presumption of innocence, with respect to these matters. But the allegations set forth in the complaint relate to conduct. That was antithetical to these constitutional values. Conduct that involved a riot, a mob, that sought to replace constitutional norms with the howling of a crowd.

We know, now, that the mob failed and the constitution prevailed. The constitution prevailed, on January 6th of this year, because Congress stepping over the wreckage of its capitol met and confirmed the vote of the Electoral College, setting the stage for the latest, peaceful transition of power in this country, yesterday.

In the wake of those events on January 6th, it strikes me that the constitution prevailed, yet again. In the wake of those events, the men and women of federal law enforcement, including the federal investigator and assistant U.S. attorney, federal prosecutor involved in this case, fulfilled a duty that they had under the constitution.

They have sworn an oath under the constitution to protect and defend that constitution, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And in pursuit of that constitutional obligation, a series of investigations have been launched into the matters that took place on January 6th. And those investigations have brought us here today, together.

It also occurs to me, Ms. Williams, in a very personal and direct way, that the constitution has, is, and will be prevailing, in your case. As I noted a few moments ago when we first met, I invoked the constitution on your behalf. And I took steps to protect your constitutional rights by appointing counsel for you.

Your counsel fulfilling the role of the constitution contemplated has aggressively represented your interests here today. Wouldn`t you agree, Ms. Ulrich?

The judge, at this point, turned to the court-appointed public defender, in this case. Wouldn`t you agree, Ms. Ulrich, that you have aggressively represented your client`s interest here today?

The public defender said -- says to the judge: Yes, Your Honor, I spent the last two days doing a lot of investigating.

And the judge turns to the prosecutor in the courtroom. The judge says to the prosecutor: On behalf of the United States, it is my view that, over the past two days, you and your colleagues here and elsewhere, have endeavored to fulfill your constitutional obligation to provide equal justice under the law, to ensure the protection of individual rights and liberties, while ensuring adherence to the rule of law.

And then, the judge turns back to the defendant, Ms. Williams. He says: So, Ms. Williams, in a very real and direct sense, you are being released, today, because the constitution has prevailed. Because your counsel has fulfilled her constitutional obligation, and because the United States is also fulfilling its constitutional duty to strike hard blows, but fair blows in the pursuit of justice.

So, Ms. Williams, I share that thought with you as you leave here today, that your freedom today, conditioned as it is, by the orders that I have entered, is a result of the prevailing of the constitution. And I`ll leave you with this final thought, Ms. Williams. The judge closes with this: the constitution prevails here, today. And the constitution will always prevail, in this country. We`ll stand in recess.

Courtroom deputy rises. The court is in recess and the transcript notes, the proceeding is adjourned.

And thus, concluded a federal-detention hearing, today, for a 22-year-old woman from Pennsylvania, whose court-appointed counsel admitted today that she was part of the crowd that entered the Capitol that violently attacked the seat of the U.S. government on January 6th.

She was released to her mother`s custody today. She is 22 years old. She was released to her mother`s custody today with an ankle bracelet. She`s basically under House arrest at her mother`s house.

But part of the deterrence factor here being that her mother may very well be imprisoned, herself, if her daughter breaks the conditions under which she was released by the judge today. The judge telling her today, her rights under the constitution are why she has a lawyer. One good enough to get her out of jail and sent home while she awaits trial for these alleged crimes.

The judge telling her the constitution is why she is presumed innocent. And even if she and the other alleged capitol attackers were waging war by trying to install a president, by force, the constitution would prevail, anyway. Prevail against that kind of attack and the constitution will, in fact, prevail over the means by which we, as a country, have to now deal with those who tried to set fire to it.

Welcome to day one. We all lived through a president, who was assisted in his elevation to the White House by illegal assistance from a hostile- foreign power, which he welcomed. He was impeached, twice. He was thrown out of office, after one term. His supporters then mounted a violent and deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol to try to keep him in power.

So, yeah, now, it`s cleanup on aisle 45 time. And for a long while, yet, it is going to be cleanup on aisle 45.

We start our coverage, tonight, of the first, full day of the Biden administration but we, admittedly, have to do it with a little bit of sort of bifurcated vision. I mean, the new White House team, the new administration, has clearly taken the wheel with confidence. With what seems to be quite assured knowledge of where they intend to go, and they -- they appear to know most of how they are going to get there.

This is not a bunch of play actors or amateurs or people learning government, for the first time, from something other than Schoolhouse Rock. These are people who know government, and, by and large, have worked in high levels of government, before. And they have lots of what you might call low-hanging fruit to pick in terms of policy, in terms of obvious, clearly needed, meritorious, noncontroversial policy, that the last administration just left hanging.

So, like, yeah. Duh, we need a national strategy to get Americans vaccinated. We need one of those. That`s low-hanging fruit because we didn`t have one of those things before. Quote: Biden and his advisers are inheriting no coronavirus vaccine-distribution plan to speak of, from the Trump administration.

One of the biggest shocks the Biden team had to digest during transition period was a complete lack of a distribution strategy under former President Donald Trump even weeks after multiple vaccines were approved for use in the United States. One source telling CNN, quote, there is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything, from scratch.

So, yeah, duh, a country, with the worst coronavirus epidemic on earth. A country that now has multiple vaccines available to it. Yeah. That country, duh, should have a national-vaccination program, of some kind.

But apparently, the Biden team is having to build that now, from jump, because the outgoing administration never thought to do that. That`s what`s called low-hanging fruit, in terms of policy aims.

And -- and -- and, yes, we need COVID help to schools. And small businesses that have been moving heaven and earth on their own, without help to adapt and adapt and adapt and adapt and try to stay open and operating under pandemic conditions.

Yeah, duh, let`s do that stuff, and right away. And even on national security, it is low-hanging fruit. I mean, if the previous administration had not been so bizarrely, and insistently, supplicant to Russia, we would had the director of national intelligence doing assessment, for example, for the administration, on the huge cyberattack on the U.S. government, within the last few months, reportedly, the worst cyberattack on the United States, in history. Had we not had such a weird administration when it came to Russia for the past four years, you might expect that the intelligence community would be working on trying to assess responsibility for that, and how to handle it, how to respond.

Also, do you remember the reporting that Russia paid bounties to Taliban fighters and other fighters in Afghanistan? Russia paid cash rewards to those fighters for them killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. You will recall that President Trump never raised that issue. Never objected to that, at all, with Russia. Never seemed bothered by it. Never seemed to care.

So, yes, now, belatedly, the newly sworn in director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, has been tasked with assessing Russia`s culpability for that as well.

And this is the most basic, most fundamental, most bottom-line national security stuff. Direct attacks on the American government and on Americans in uniform, that were never defended against by the previous president. That he, in fact, ignored, and, thereby, excused. Attacks on the United States, that he allowed to happen.

When it comes to national-security strategy, there isn`t much low-hanging - - lower-hanging fruit than that. So, that will no change, right? This is not -- this is not complicated stuff. There isn`t any high-level, complex decision-making that needs to go into starting stuff like this.

Duh. We should figure how to vaccinate the country. And yeah, we shouldn`t let a hostile, foreign government attack us with impunity, without us doing anything about it, not even raising objections to it. This is like ask a 5- year-old what`s good for the government to do.

So, this is one level at which we are watching the news in our country. The outgoing administration was so incompetent, and so indifferent to the very basic responsibilities of governance, including the defense of the United States. That the first stuff they need to do, you can`t believe wasn`t already being done. The first stuff they have to do is like -- you -- to call it ABC is unfair to the alphabet.

So that is part of what we are watching, such a radical shift from one day, to the next. And, you know, on personnel, the Biden administration has picked its nominees for top jobs, and there is not one of them among them who is like a friend of the family wedding planner, who`s now in charge of housing and the whole northeast. Or a former talent booker for the Cartoon Network what is who`s been installed at the CDC as CDC chief of staff during a fatal pandemic. That really is a thing that happened. At the White House` insistence, they installed a CDC chief of staff who was a booker for the Cartoon Network. For real.

I mean, if you think about it, the talent for the Cartoon Network is, like, cartoons. How hard is it to book them? Don`t you just draw them?

The new administration`s nominees appear, by and large, to be competent, noncontroversial experts and respected public servants. It`s shocking. This is their first, full day, that they are on the job and they are already working on what appears to be the stuff you`d expect them to be working on. The things Joe Biden said, during the campaign, and during the transition, that he would work on and work on, from day one.

And so, day one, here is our 200-page national COVID strategy and the executive orders to start implementing it, right? Those executive orders that were ready to go, not even on the first, full day, but within minutes of the -- of the inauguration. It appears that none of those will immediately be thrown out by federal courts because they were lawyered by, like, the president`s son-in-law and the editor from "Breitbart," who once made that movie one time about how much the old guy from "Duck Dynasty" looks like Jesus if you squint.

No, he had actual lawyers do the legal stuff. So, that`s a new, hard thing to get used to. That`s part of our new field of vision.

Experts, like the guy who used to coordinate the international-military effort against ISIS, who was inexplicably fired by Donald Trump, recently. Biden has brought him back. The truly bizarre, fanatical, Steve-Bannon friend, who Trump installed to run the international broadcast agency, which is like, you know, Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Marti in Cuba, and all the rest, that Bannon guy, was fired by the new Biden administration, almost instantaneously, upon President Biden being sworn in.

He -- the guy wrote an indignant letter about it saying how shocked he was to be fired. Yeah, dude, you tried to turn the Voice of America into a weird, North Korean style, Trump-propaganda network. Yeah, you are not staying past day one.

And the White House Spanish-language White House has been put back up and the surgeon general is being replaced. And they stopped building the wall on the border. And they put a moratorium on deportations and they rejoined the WHO and they rejoined the Paris climate accord. And we have press briefings, again. And they`re sane.

The changeover is for real. The new folks appear to know what they are doing. They also appear to be not messing around. And that`s part of what we are seeing, and radically adjusting to on this first, full, new day.

But, there is also this other thing. We do have to start with a little bit of bifurcated vision because, while the outgoing president is now gone and gone, for real. There are some flaming paper bags of something that he left on the proverbial, front stoop when he went.

And I know you hate me for saying this. I can actually hear you through the TV right now saying, no, Maddow! We do not want to hear any more about him, right? There`s a new president, a new vice president, let`s just talk about.

We will get there, I swear, and we will do that, too. I hear you and I understand. But we are in a position we`ve never been in before. The violent attack on the government by the former president`s supporters was only 15 days ago. That young Pennsylvania woman who allegedly broke in with the rioters, and directed them to legislative offices and stole Nancy Pelosi`s computer because an FBI affidavit says she allegedly had a plan to sell it to Russian intelligence through an intermediary she knew in Russia -- I mean, there she was in court today getting a sermon on the Constitution from the judge hearing preliminary motions in her case.

You will recall the absolutely harrowing video of police officers being individually pulled down the Capitol steps, beaten by the pro-Trump mob at the Capitol. I have literally had nightmares about the guy with the hockey stick in those videos, swinging it over his head with all his force, swinging it down on those police officers, over and over and over and over and over again.

Today, they say they got him. Justice Department say they arrested and charged a 29-year-old Michigan man who say they was the one who they believe did that. In addition to the individuals charged, we are now to roughly 125 federal charges, so far. The former president, himself, is also going to face trial for his role in allegedly inciting that tack -- that attack, trial in the United States Senate.

Democrats, of course, have now taken control of the United States Senate. And so, it is their decision as to when the trial of the president will start. Republicans, now the minority, they said today that they don`t want the president`s trial to start until February.

So, we`ll see. It`s not really their call. Senate can start whenever they are ready. And the Democrats run the Senate now. We shall see.

If the Republicans seemed inclined to potentially convict the president, I think they would have some actual leverage in terms of how the trial would be conducted and its timing. But if they`re never going to vote to convict the president, no matter what, then there`s no point in them making any sort of demands about how things are going to go forward.

Again, they`re out of power. They`re out of power in the White House. They are out of power in the House. They are out of power in the Senate.

Meanwhile, investigations are underway on Capitol Hill as to whether there were in effect co-conspirators in the attack, among Republican members of Congress who may have helped the Trump mob mount that violent attack on the U.S. government. In part, because of those concerns, there are now working- metal detectors outside the floor of the House, metal detectors that Republican members of Congress keep setting off because they are carrying guns.

Despite rules they all signed, acknowledging that they can`t bring guns onto the House floor. "Huffington Post" reporting tonight at least one house lawmaker today, caught trying to bring a gun into the House chamber, onto the House floor.

This is all live and crucial stuff, at this point. That has not gone away because the former president is now gone to Florida. And the White House has been deep cleaned and the Biden family has moved in. Also, you may recall, if you are old enough.

That, after President Bill Clinton left office, congress, thereafter, spent months and months and months and months investigating and agonizing over one of president Clinton`s last-minute pardons. There was a concern, an allegation, that one of the last-Clinton pardons might have been issued, essentially, as a reward, as a trade for campaign contributions from the guy`s family.

Whatever you think about those allegations against Bill Clinton and the old Marc Rich pardon, the full slate of pardons that our latest-former president just issued, makes even the worst characterization of that scandal from the `90s look like jaywalking compared to what Trump just did. I mean, a pardon to a guy who brought a -- excuse me -- a whole floor of apartments on Trump Tower. A pardon, to a guy who belongs to the president`s golf club and gave money to the president`s fake, and now- shuddered, fraudulent charity. A pardon to a fundraiser and Republican Party deputy finance chair who worked with a convicted pedophile on an influence-peddling scheme for access to Trump.

I mean, I can go on. There were more than 140 of them. But a shockingly large proportion of them are people with financial or political ties to the president. A shockingly large proportion of them are the largest-pardon scandals we`ve ever had, before now. And there`s dozens of them.

Scandals, to the point where, at least some observers are now arguing that, in one of these pardons, in -- in -- in one case, among these pardons, the Steve-Bannon pardon, the president`s pardon, might, itself, have been an illegal act by the former president. So, that`s stuff, too. That has to stay in our field of vision, even as the new administration moves in and starts to clean up, and starts to move us forward, we have to be able to see both things, at once.

We are still following, for example, the disturbing news broken late, last night by "The Washington Post" that after Trump`s disgraced national security adviser, Mike Flynn, told the president that he should use military force and martial law to seize power, despite the election results, it was Mike Flynn`s brother, at the Pentagon, and on -- and on the call when capitol police and lawmakers called to ask for help from the national guard during the siege of the Capitol. That request was initially denied by the U.S. Army. It`s still not clear why, but to have one of the central figures in the president`s election conspiracy and the QAnon conspiracy, one of the central figures promoting the disaster that was January 6th. To have his brother involved in the Pentagon decision on January 6th to not send troops to help the overrun Capitol police. That is a disturbing story line that we will continue to follow.

I will tell you, just tonight, Mike Flynn`s brother, Lieutenant General Charles Flynn, has just done a new interview with "The Washington Post," in which he die anyways denies his relationship with his brother Mike Flynn was any sort of factor in the response to the Capitol attack. That said, the Army has not explained why it repeatedly lied when it insisted, multiple times, that Mike Flynn`s brother had nothing to do with that decision, was not on the meetings, was not in on the call, when, in fact, he was.

Disturbing story, we are continuing to watch that. You can`t just let that, you know, drift into the mysterious past, right?

We are, also, continuing to watch the weird clown car full of Trump loyalists who the former president installed both at the Pentagon and crucially at the NSA, the National Security Agency, right before he left office. One of them was installed as the top-legal officer at the NSA, literally, two days ago, the day before the inauguration. Trump`s aim, clearly, was to try to burrow these people into the government, into the intelligence community, and the civilian leadership of the military, in a way that would, somehow, stick President Biden with having to deal with them, in an ongoing way.

It doesn`t appear that that will work, and in the case of the guy they forced into the top-legal job at the NSA, the Biden administration instantly relieved him of his job. Upon President Biden being sworn in, they put him on what they call administrate administrative leave. Reporter Catherine Herridge of CBS News first to report that young Michael Ellis was sent home and put on leave, on inauguration day, because the -- because of the circumstances of his bizarre 11th-hour appointment, which are now under investigation, and Herridge reports because of new allegations that young Mr. Ellis may have mishandled classified information as part of whatever mishegoss they were trying to pull off there.

You will also remember that strange, late-night statement from the outgoing administration the night before the inauguration. President Trump`s last night in office in which President Trump said he had ordered the declassification of material related to the Russia investigation. Even though, the statement said, the FBI objected to that material being declassified and released. We still don`t know what that is. We still don`t know if the Michael Ellis gambit at the NSA had anything to do with that effort to declassify and publicize information related to Russia over the FBI`s objections. But we will do whatever we can to figure it out.

And so, at least for a while, bifurcation of our vision is still necessary. They tried to get away with a whole bunch of really deeply shady stuff, on their way out the door. And so, now, actually is the time to shine a bright light on all that stuff so that they don`t actually get away with it. And did I mention the former president`s going to be put on trial, himself, within the next couple of weeks?

I mean, we can -- we can keep track of two things, at once. We have proven to ourselves, over these nightmarish-past four years, that we can do lots of things we never worried about before, let along what we can do. We can deal with the flaming bags left on the proverbial porch by the outgoing president, and also watch the new team at work. We can, and, in fact, we must.

It`ll be easier, some days, when we see what the new team is doing. Particularly, when, in the face of this epidemic, we can see that they are finally, finally, just going to let the scientists speak, on their own terms, and without the veil of insanity being pulled down in front of them. Apparently, we can do that, too. And that makes some of these things more - - feel more doable than they did before.

We`ve got that story, ahead. Senator Chris Murphy is joining us, tonight. Dr. Ashish Jha is joining us tonight.

Stay with us. Lots to come.



REPORTER: You`re one of the few holdovers from the previous administration, to this current one. What has been your experience with this new team? And in your view, what would have been different in terms of the trajectory of this outbreak from the start, had a team like this been in place at the beginning?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, I can tell you my impression of -- of -- of what`s going on right now. The team -- I don`t know if I can extrapolate other things.

But one of the things that was very clear, as recently as about 15 minutes ago, when I was with the president, is that one of the things that we`re going to do to be completely transparent, open, and honest. And if things go wrong, not point fingers, but to correct them. And to make everything we do be based on science and evidence. I mean, that was, literally, a conversation I had, 15 minutes ago, with the president. And he has said that multiple times.

You know, one of the new things in this administration, if you know the answer, don`t guess. Just say you don`t know the answer. Yeah. Yes.

REPORTER: You have joked a couple times today, already, about the difference in -- that you feel in being kind of the spokesperson for this issue, in this administration, versus the previous one. Can you -- can you talk a little bit about how free -- how much different do you feel less constrained? What is -- for so many times, you stood up behind the podium, with Donald Trump standing behind you, that was a different -- that was a different feeling, I -- I`m sure than it is today. Can you talk a little bit about -- about how you feel kind of released from -- from what you had been doing the last year?

FAUCI: You said I was joking about it. I was very serious about it. I wasn`t joking.

No, actually, I mean, obviously, I don`t want to be going back, you know, over history. But it is very clear that there were things that were said. Be it, regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things like that, that really was an uncomfortable because they were not based on scientific fact.

I can tell you, I take no pleasure, at all, in being in a situation of contradicting the president. So, it was really something that you didn`t feel that you could actually say something, and there wouldn`t be any repercussions about it. The idea that you can get up here, and talk about what you know. What the evidence, what the science is, and know that`s it. Let the science speak. It is somewhat of a liberating feeling.

REPORTER: Basically, banished for a few months there for a while. You feel like you`re back now?

FAUCI: I think so.


MADDOW: I think I`m -- I think I`m back. It is somewhat of a liberating feeling he says. You know what else must feel liberating? Watching the new president and his first, full day in office, do the very thing you just spent the last 11 months begging the former administration to do, to fight the pandemic. Back in March, Senators Chris Murphy and Brian Schatz introduced a bill to require President Trump to fully use the Defense Production Act in the fight against COVID, to federalize the critical medical-supply chain to fight the epidemic.

Well, today, it took election and a new president but today the next President Joe Biden said he will do just that. He says he will use all- available authorities, including Defense Production Act, to fix critical shortfalls, for everything from swabs to syringes.

Joining us now, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who has been banging this drum all year long.

Senator, thank you so much for being here tonight. It`s nice to see you.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Yeah, thanks for having me. Good to be with you.

MADDOW: How do you feel about what has just been announced as the new, national strategy, the new national plan to tackle COVID?

MURPHY: Well, first of all, listening to that clip. I have been so happy for Joe Biden over the past 24 hours. I think I`m happier for Dr. Fauci. Glad that he finally gets to actually speak truth to the American people, without any consequences.

But as you mentioned, what happened today is really revolutionary. What the new administration has announced is that they are going to start using the full powers of the federal government to make sure that we have enough PPE, enough testing kits, and enough vaccine, in order to beat this virus.

And, you know, for -- for -- for all the talk that Donald Trump engaged in about, you know, being tough and expanding the authority of the White House. He left, on the table, for 11 months, this simple authority, the ability to go command the industrial base of this country to make more of the medicines and the equipment that we need.

In Connecticut, Rachel, we, right now, find out on Tuesday how much vaccine we are going to get for the following week. It takes two days for the state to, then turn that around. And by Thursday or Friday, they are ready to let the health centers and hospitals know how much they are going to get, giving those hospitals and health centers two days to schedules appointments, to make sure they have health professionals onsite. You cannot run a vaccine-distribution program, where you don`t have more than two days visibility as to how much vaccine you are going to have.

By operationalizing the Defense Production Act, Joe Biden is going to change that because we are going to make enough vaccine. We are going to make enough testing equipment so every hospital, every health center in this country knows 30 days, 60 days out, how much they are going to get and they can plan for it. That`s life-saving.

MADDOW: The thing that does strike me is that -- and this is not an original observation. A lot of people are talking about this. But it does feel like the weird, sort of, anti-blessing here is that the first stuff that needs to be done is not the hardest stuff. It`s just the stuff that -- that`s obviously step one, the stuff that plainly needs to be done. That isn`t even that controversial. But just wasn`t done.

The fact that there wasn`t a national plan to get Americans vaccinated. It`s not like they had one, and it was a bad plan. And now, we are going to try a different one. There was no national effort behind that. It`s just -- it`s -- it`s -- it`s just remarkable.

But I do think it`s now -- now that we`re sort of realizing how much wasn`t done. I`m not sure how much we, the public, know how much we are going to see change, how quickly. It feels very disorienting to know that a lot of the stuff we thought the government was doing, they just weren`t working on.

MURPHY: Yeah. I mean, effectively, the Trump administration gave up after the travel ban didn`t work. And they were pretty clear about that. I mean, early on, they were telling us all that it was really the state responsibility to, you know, buy masks and to set up testing sites, when it was impossible for the states to do that. They were competing against each other.

Prices were going up. Supplies weren`t nearly enough. And you`re right. It`s hard to turn this aircraft carrier around, in a handful of days.

For instance, you know, right now, we are going to struggle to have enough workforce to, both, do all the testing we need, and distribute all the vaccinations. Biden`s going to try to solve that by hiring a whole bunch of people, and training a whole bunch of people to join the medical workforce.

But that can`t happen overnight. So, he`s got the right plan. It`s just going to take a little while to become fully operational.

MADDOW: Senator, what are you expecting, in terms of impeachment proceedings against the president? There`s been new discussion, new reporting, today and tonight, about when the -- when it might start in terms of the timing.

I find myself wondering, as -- as each day goes on, if the prospect of Republican senators voting to convict is getting to be a dimmer prospect?

MURPHY: So, I think there is two sides of this. Listen. I do think there are a lot of Republicans who were holding their judgment to see how Trump behaved in the final days. And given that the president did not explicitly organize another mob to Washington, it may be that some Republicans are thinking they might not vote for conviction.

At the same time, every day that we learn more about what happened inside the Capitol on January 6th, the angrier members of Congress get. To see how close we all were to potential assassination.

And so, if we do do some investigation, some additional discovery, it may make a bunch of Republican senators even more uncomfortable with fully acquitting this president. So, I think the timing, to me, you know, I would like to see the nominations and the COVID-relief bill come first. But I, also, think that time may allow us to do some inquiry here that might build the case for conviction.

MADDOW: Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy -- sir, it`s great to see you tonight. I know this is both an exhausting and, for Democrats, an elating time. Thanks -- thanks for taking some time to be with us.

MURPHY: Thanks a lot.

MADDOW: All right. We got much more ahead here tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: This didn`t make sense, at the time. It still doesn`t, now. But for reasons that remain unknown, this past summer, the White House took away from the CDC the responsibility of tracking how many Americans were hospitalized for COVID, at any one time. They said, you know, we`ll do that inside the administration, instead. CDC, you stop doing that.

And they totally screwed it up. The COVID hospitalization data, that the White House released, was incomplete. It was erratic. It was riddled with inconsistencies. It`s useless.

And that`s been true, not just for the hospitalization data. Part of what`s gone wrong in the U.S. response is that the federal government never came up with any plan to accurately track, even just new cases, in any sort of centralized way, which is why lots of good data scientists and private entities around the country have been trying to make that wheel, themselves, since the start of the pandemic. It`s why, still, even now, we can`t definitively say exactly how many people died of COVID, yesterday. It depends on which source you`re consulting. It`s somewhere between 4,200 and 4,400, which is the worst of the pandemic and is terrible.

But we can`t give you a definitive, authoritative number, like, from the CDC, because federal government data collection has just been, essentially, abandoned in terms of trying to come up with any sort of authoritative source. Today, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to try to fix that, mandating that the federal government improve on the collection and analysis of COVID data. The order was part of a suite of orders signed by President Biden, today, calling for radical, health-care policies, like expanding testing and identifying new treatments, and publishing worker- safety rules, and developing clear guidance for schools.

It`s not exactly revolutionary stuff, right? Unless you haven`t done that stuff right, in the first place. It is -- I mean, astonishing that a year into this, we still have to go as far back as accurately count the number of cases to start getting this thing right. But that is as far back to basics as we need to go.

Joining us now is Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

Dr. Jha, I appreciate you taking the time. Thanks for being here.


MADDOW: It has been disorienting, to me, just as a person who works in the news business. I have -- I have a degree in health policy, believe it or not. I have a background in statistics. I grew up as a kid in the AIDS movement, I was involved as an activist in that movement.

I am used to the CDC, for anything you might criticize them for, being the source of authoritative, definitive, agreed upon data about the size of the problem, number of cases, hospitalizations, efficacy of treatments, number of treatments, administered, and that sort of thing.

Until Joe Biden started to fix it, I hadn`t really reflected on the fact that that`s a core issue that`s been missing from the very beginning of this epidemic.

JHA: Yeah, Rachel, absolutely right. I mean, data is the lifeblood of any health-crisis response, really any response. Without good data, you have no idea where you are. You have no idea where things are -- are bad or where the things are good.

And, you know, obviously, we don`t know the motivations of the Trump administration, or can`t say, for sure. But they have undermined or they undermined data collection throughout the entire pandemic. It hamstrung us. It took us months to figure out that the pandemic was disproportionately affecting communities of color. Why didn`t we know that from the beginning? Because we weren`t collecting any of that data.

And the CDC is the go-to source. It`s the gold standard, and it was sidelined in the entire pandemic. One of the things I`m hoping Dr. Walensky, the new director of the CDC, with this executive order in hand is going to be able to fix, is getting the CDC back in that role.

MADDOW: Dr. Jha, this 200-page COVID-response plan and these new executive orders that were rolled out from the Biden administration. Obviously, this is something that they were working on throughout the transition. Otherwise, they never would have been ready to go so quickly.

I know enough about how you feel about the Trump administration`s response, that I am sure that you are happier with what the Biden administration is planning on doing, than what the Trump administration did.

But are there things that they are missing? Are there holes in their plans? Are there things you are worried about, in terms of the feasibility of some of the things they are planning on working on? Or do you think they`ve calibrated it about right?

JHA: Yeah. So, it`s a pretty standard public-health response. I mean, the most frustrating thing about the Trump administration was they just, basically, ignored all the science, ignored all the public health, and, in fact, spent most of the year fighting those of us in public health. This is very, very different. This is a plan that was put together by smart people. It has all the key features, things that I have been talking to you about for a year, testing. Mask wearing, social distancing, ramping up vaccine distribution. Like, it`s all the basic stuff.

The -- you know, the -- the challenge it`s going to be in the execution. There is a lot to do. There`s a new team coming in place. They`re not walking into a situation where the -- where the -- let`s say, the ground is fertile. There`s been a lot of problems with the -- with the previous team.

And so, what I am worried about is much more the execution. The plan, itself, is pretty reasonable.

MADDOW: Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. Sir, thanks for being here. It`s good to have you here, as always.

JHA: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: This is the part where I tell you that, tomorrow night, at this time, 9:00 eastern, MSNBC, I am going to be interviewing Dr. Fauci.

Dr. Fauci is somebody who we have been trying to get on the show, throughout the length of the epidemic. Perhaps, coincidentally, there has been a change in administration and now, our requests to interview Dr. Fauci have finally been approved. He is going to be here, live, with me, tomorrow night. I hope that you will be here for that.

We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: Here`s something to keep an eye on. As I mentioned at the top of the show tonight I think we`re going to need some kind of bifurcated vision for the start of this administration. There was so much of a flaming dumpster fire left behind by the previous administration that while the new administration is, of course, in there now and moving forward on their own terms, they`re also having to deal with the flaming mess left behind when they got there.

So we have to watch both of those things at once. And here`s one thing to watch on the latter front. The final blitz of controversial pardons by outgoing President Trump may not be as final as President Trump may have thought they would be. Of course, as a general matter the presidential pardon power is absolute, in the Constitution, right? You get a pardon that`s usually final end of story.

But if presidential pardons are done wrong or sloppily or honestly without good lawyering, they may not actually work for their intended purpose. And the Biden justice department may run up against that now.

Andrew Weissmann was, of course, the former lead prosecutor for special counsel Robert Mueller. He personally headed up the prosecution of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who has been pardoned by the president now. Weissmann is now arguing, and it`s important to note he waited until the moment Biden was sworn in to make this known publicly, that he now says Trump`s pardon for Manafort was sort of done wrong. It`s very, very narrowly tailored to only specify Manafort is pardoned for the crimes for which he was convicted.

That might not be enough to keep Paul Manafort out of prison, because as part of his plea agreement that he did before the court, a plea agreement he later violated, Manafort actually admitted in court to many additional crimes beyond the ones for which he was convicted. Crimes for which he was never formally charged, he was never convicted of them. And he`s also not pardoned for them now.

Weissmann says, quote, the trial on such charges would be unusually simple proving the case could consistent of introducing Manafort`s sworn admission to the charges from his plea agreement. Weissmann also says several other pardons the president issued including for Roger Stone, they have the same problem, very, very narrow framing that would allow a Biden Justice Department to pursue federal charges against someone like a Manafort or Stone fairly easily despite the wrongly construed pardon.

Now, will the Biden Justice Department be interested in pursuing such charges? Should they?

Watch this space.


MADDOW: I`ll see you here tomorrow night for my interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci.

But stay right there. Don`t go away. You are going to want to see Lawrence this next hour. Among other things he`s got President Biden`s new White House chief of staff here live. It`s "Inside the Biden Agenda", and it starts right now.