RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Super happy to have you here on this Friday night. And can I show you a thing right off the top, point of personal privilege. Look, that`s my mom on the right. And that`s her sister, my aunt, on the left. That`s the two of them getting vaccinated tonight.
My mom is 79. My aunt is 82. I can barely keep it together. My dad is due for his vaccination tomorrow. We feel very lucky.
The first people in our family, first people in our extended family, to get vaccinated.
And tonight, here for "The Interview", for the first time during the coronavirus crisis is the man who at least on a personal level for my family made that possible. I mean, how many people do you know said they would not get vaccinated against the coronavirus unless and until Dr. Fauci got vaccinated? Unless and until they heard from Dr. Fauci personally that it`s time, that it`s safe, that this is how we`re going to beat this thing. How crucial has the public`s trust in this one scientist been, since the start of this global and national nightmare? It is an unprecedented thing in American history.
And Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us tonight for "The Interview".
Dr. Fauci, I feel like we have a lot of catching up to do. I`ve been trying to get an interview with you on the show since March. Now that there`s change at the top in Washington, it`s great to finally have you here, sir. It`s a real honor.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Thank you very much, Rachel. It`s about time. Don`t you think? Indeed, I`m really glad to be with you.
MADDOW: Let me start off by asking you just about how the new administration is starting over. The first couple of days, we`ve had about 30 actions by the new president, many of them on coronavirus. Everything from using the Defense Production Act more to try to meet supply shortfalls, to requiring people to quarantine when they come in from other countries, to setting up a new pre-clinical program to advance therapeutics.
Lots and lots of direct individual actions by the president right off the bat. Are there any of them that you disagree with?
FAUCI: You know, Rachel, no, I don`t. I mean, this has been a very well- planned out -- it`s the national strategy for COVID-19 and pandemic preparedness. It`s about 101-page document. It`s very finely detailed.
And one of the things that I found really very encouraging and gratifying in the meetings that I`ve had, you know, first before -- just a few days before the actual inauguration, and then yesterday, for example, when I was with the president and the vice president, to things that he said to us, myself and other members of the team in private, were just so encouraging.
I mean, he said, let science speak. Let science be the thing that drives us. Let`s just be open and honest and transparent. We`re not going to get everything right. There will be some mistakes, there will be some missteps. The response to that is to fix it and not to point blame and point fingers.
It was just -- just an amazingly refreshing experience and conversation that we had, and he wasn`t doing it for show. This was, like, behind closed doors in the White House where he was just telling the team how he wanted this to go looking forward. That was, like, on the second day that, the first day after the inauguration.
So we have a plan. We have a lot of things that have already been implemented, such as the executive orders that you mentioned.
I mean, I, myself, one of the first things that he asked me to do was to represent him as the leader of the delegation to the World Health Organization executive board. I get up at 3:00 in the morning to be the representative at 4:00 a.m., which was 10:00 a.m. Geneva Time, to do something that the rest of the world was really looking at. And that is, getting us back into the WHO, making sure we`re an important part of the collaboration, the cooperation and the solidarity that`s needed globally when you have a global pandemic.
So, we really hit the ground running.
MADDOW: I know that the president, the outgoing president, or the -- I should say the former president, made this generalized case that wasn`t specific to coronavirus, but made this case that international cooperation and then us being part of international or even just multinational efforts was weakness, was a generosity that Americans shouldn`t afford, particularly at times of crisis that we should take care of ourselves.
It seems clear from your enthusiasm for the U.S. rejoining the WHO that you think that`s not just an act of international, American benevolence. You think that`s good for us.
Can you explain why that is?
FAUCI: Oh, absolutely, Rachel. It`s good for us and it`s good for the rest of the world.
When you are dealing with a global pandemic, the response must be global, and if there`s anything, any phenomenon which is antithetical to this idea about provincialism and total nationalism and keep everybody out, that is the opposite of what you need to do when you`re dealing a pandemic. A pandemic by definition -- pandemic, it`s the entire planet that`s involved.
So, in many ways, we`re no different than other nations. We`re no different than other regions. And the only way we`re going to get this thing under control and crush it, which I feel we will if we do it and pull together, with the kind of solidarity, cooperation and collaboration -- it just makes no sense to think that you are going to exclude the rest of the world, when you`re trying to respond to a global pandemic. It just doesn`t make any sense.
MADDOW: We`ve now had not that many weeks experience, a few weeks experience in our country administering the two different approved vaccines that we got so far -- Pfizer and Moderna.
Has anything emerged over all these weeks to indicate one of those is any more effective, or more safe or more easily tolerated than the other? Or, essentially, should -- should the American public, as people find out they`ve got an appointment to get vaccinated -- today when I find out my aunt and my mom got appointments and were going in, I burst into tears I was so happy.
And then I asked them which vaccine they were getting. I`m not sure what that was supposed to mean to me.
Have we -- have we discerned any different -- difference between the vaccines that we`ve got in terms of how people tolerate them and how they work?
Well, if you look at the big picture, Rachel, the United States government has been involved in the development and/or the facilitation of the testing of six candidates. Two of them have already been shown to be highly efficacious, 94 percent to 95 percent. They`re the same type of vaccine. We call it a vaccine platform.
This one happens to be the mRNA platform. We have others that are close behind that will soon be evaluated for efficacy and safety and very likely will have the same positive fate as these two.
But the two that are out are essentially identical in the sense of very, very little if any discernible differences. They`re 94 percent to 95 percent efficacious. They have a good safety record.
So when people ask me, which one did you take? It just so happened that the Moderna one was shipped to the NIH where as you know I work. So I got the Moderna one.
If the Pfizer one had been shipped, it would have been exactly the same. I would have said no difference whatsoever.
So whatever your mother and your friends got, I believe that it would make no difference if they got Moderna or Pfizer.
MADDOW: How close are we to the approval of any of the one-dose vaccines, and mathematically obviously that`s going to make a difference in terms of the size of the pipeline, in terms of getting vaccine out to the community.
MADDOW: How close are we to those?
FAUCI: Real close, Rachel. I would think that no more than two weeks from now. The data will be analyzed in a similar fashion, the way we analyzed it with the Moderna and the Pfizer candidate. That is an independent data and safety monitoring board. We`ll look at the data, determine if it`s ready to be given to the public, to the companies so that they can go to the FDA and ask to see if they could get an emergency use authorization.
You know, I don`t want to get ahead of them, but I have to tell you, I would be surprised if it was anymore than two weeks from now that data will be analyzed and decisions would be made. That`s really good news, as you said, because that would be, if it does get an emergency use authorization, yet again another candidate that does have some differences. And that`s good, because it gives a wider range of flexibility.
One, it`s a single dose. That`s really important, because you can expect to start to see results you know, 10, 14 days or so right after and then when you get to 28 days, you probably continue to go up. But it has a less stringent cold chain requirement, which is really good, by moving it around and making sure you don`t waste doses.
MADDOW: Do we have any lessons learned so far in terms of distributing the vaccine most efficiently? Not in the abstract and not in the generic sense, but getting it into Americans` arms right now in early 2021? Are there -- are there some settings or some delivery sites that we thought would make sense to give vaccinations that haven`t been all that good at it, that we should shift away from? Are there lessons learned already?
FAUCI: Yeah, there really is. I mean, it hasn`t been perfect when it goes from the delivery and the distribution into people`s arms. We like to have done better. I think, you know, you can abstract it and go back and say, well, we planned this, it looks like it`s going well.
Then when you get on the phone and talk to people, as I say in the trenches, you see that everybody is perfect. In some respects, that`s understandable, because it`s a new process that`s just been initiated.
However, getting back to the plan that I had mentioned that you asked me about, that President Biden had put forth, it`s that there`s a very strong emphasis on getting the vaccines, one, more of them, the equipment that you need, using the Defense Production Act, to get as much as we can, and making sure we put into place at the local level the capability of getting it to people in a situation where it might be difficult. Community vaccine centers, getting pharmacies involved. Getting mobile units involved.
So one thing we`ve learned that the science and the development of the vaccine has been breathtaking, I might say. I mean, we did something in less than 11 months. We`re about 11 months that normally would have taken years to get a vaccine that goes from the identification of a brand new virus to the time you`re actually injecting it into people. A successful vaccine that is safe and effective. That`s unprecedented.
Now what we`ve got to do is get the logistics of getting it distributed and into people`s arms in an efficient way. We`re not there yet. There have been missteps. We`ve got to do better.
What the president and vice president have said is the goal, which I think is a challenging goal, but a reasonable goal, to get 100 million doses -- not doses. To get 100 million people vaccinated in the first 100 days. So that`s the thing we`re going to strive for.
Ultimately, you want to get the overwhelming majority of the population, and I would think that would have to be about 75 -- excuse me, 70 percent to 85 percent of the population to get that umbrella of herd immunity, which then when we get there, Rachel, that`s when you start talking about getting back to some form of normality.
And in order to do that, you got to pull out all stoppers and really go after it to get as many people vaccinated as possible, and that`s actually the plan as part of the national strategy.
MADDOW: I feel like there`s, started to understand this as sort of different columns of necessity, and one of them is science, and as you describe. It was a breathtaking scientific achievement to have the development of safe and effective vaccines that quickly.
Then we`ve got the implementation, which is a logistics in governance thing in terms of getting shots into people`s arms. But then there`s also the public health issue of prevention, and on that, we`ve been terrible. And even with all of the success in column one and the hopefully the new commitment to column two, on prevention, you know, we`re still having hundreds of thousands of Americans infected every day, and for them, and especially having something close to me get very sick with the illness, I`ve been really focused on the issue of therapeutics, treatment for people who didn`t get the vaccine in time, who didn`t get -- for whom prevention didn`t work, who did get it. I know that`s a new focus, too.
What can you tell us about, if anything`s on the horizon in terms of treating people who are already sick to prevent them from dying?
FAUCI: Yeah. That`s something that we are really challenged with and have to do better with. We have treatments now, relatively speaking, more effective for people with advanced disease to prevent them from dying and to prevent them from having a deteriorating course. So, for example, there have been clinical trials that have shown in individuals who are hospitalized, even those who require mechanical ventilation or who have a requirement for high-flow oxygen. If you give them a drug and a randomized placebo-controlled drug, a very commonly used drug called dexamethasone, you can diminish significantly the 28-day mortality.
We have monoclonal antibodies, which are antibodies that are specific for the virus that you can derive from individuals by taking their cells out and the having those cells produce these antibodies. There are a number of them that have been promising enough that they have been granted emergency use authorization. We`ve got to get more of that, and we`ve got to give it to people earlier.
But the real goal, Rachel, is to do what we did so successfully with HIV. To get direct, acting antiviral drugs so that when someone comes in with symptoms to prevent them from going in the hospital, you might give them a seven to ten-day course. Unlike HIV, which requires a lifetime of course, but the same type of drug, one that`s a very powerful drug, directly acting on the virus itself.
That`s something that we`re putting a lot of effort in, and when we get that, that will really turn around the entire situation of our ability to prevent someone from progressing and going into a state where they really have advanced disease.
MADDOW: And that`s the sort of theory of the case for the best shot for therapeutics. But is there anything that looks promising along those lines already? Or is this something that`s years away in terms of development?
FAUCI: No. Well, you know, normally under business as usual-type things, it might have been years away. But there are a number of companies that have candidates that they`re looking at, that might look pretty, you know, the companies are a little shy telling you about things, but being at the NIH where we fund scientists who are doing this, I think it`s going to be much sooner than we think.
That once you get something that looks like it`s a hit, as we call it, namely, something that really does act. You get it into a phase one trial quickly and because the situation is so dire in the sense of the need for therapeutics, you move it along. You don`t just want to forget about safety. Safety is always important. But if you can show it`s safe, has good antiviral activity, we can move relatively quickly on that.
And as I mentioned, there are a couple of candidates that are looking promising in the test tube, and then from there you go to an animal model and then get it into humans.
MADDOW: Dr. Fauci, what do you tell people who are dealing with a long-term symptom from COVID? People who are technically recovered but they still have impairment months later.
Some of the stuff for some people is very severe. Months after they have, you know, technically recovered from the disease, they`re still not able to work. People have long-term and very serious consequences.
Is that something that`s being studied systematically?
FAUCI: Oh, very much so, Rachel. This is a real phenomenon. I, myself, personally, am dealing and helping a number of people who have a post-acute COVID-19 syndrome just as you accurately described.
They are virologically okay. The virus is no longer identified in them, but they have persistence of symptoms that can be debilitating -- extreme fatigue, muscle aches, temperature disregulation.
Some of them even have situations where what they call brain fog, where it`s very difficult for them to focus or to concentrate. It can be really quite disturbing.
We are doing a lot on that. We had a workshop in December that my institute sponsored, bringing in experts from all over the country and the world. We`re going make a major investment in research dollars to try and find out the full extent of this, any hints towards what the underlying mechanisms are, what we can do to treat it.
We take it very seriously for the simple reason that even if a small fraction, and it appears to be more than just a small fraction of people, have persistent symptoms, when you look at the 24 million, 25 million people in the United States who have been infected, albeit not all of them had had any symptoms, but even those who have symptoms and globally, when you have approaching 100 million people having been infected, this can be something that really could be an issue. And that`s the reason why we`re taking it very seriously.
MADDOW: Very, very happy to hear you describe it that way and to know about your personal involvement.
Dr. Fauci, would you mind sticking with us just a second? We`re going to take a quick break but I haven`t even scraped the surface of the things I want to ask you about yet.
MADDOW: Great. We`ll be right back with Dr. Anthony Fauci right after this. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: So now you having this shot, is like a weight off your shoulder?
MAUREEN WEIL, CORONAVIRUS VACCINE RECIPIENT: Yes.
REPORTER: Giving you a peace of mind?
WEIL: Yes, it does. It gives me a lot of peace of mind.
I believe in science, and I don`t think Dr. Fauci would be on TV every day telling people to take the vaccine if it wasn`t good for them, because that`s how much respect I have for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Maureen Weil getting her vaccine dose in New Orleans, Louisiana, telling us that she got it in part because she has faith in science and knows that Dr. Fauci wouldn`t tell you to get the vaccine unless it was time to get the vaccine.
We`re back now with Dr. Anthony Fauci. He`s the nation`s top infectious disease doctor, more than 30 years at the NIH.
Doctor, I know how much -- how much you know the American people have faith in you and have trusted you. I want to tell you that I have -- not only have faith and trust in you. I have faith in the career scientists throughout the NIH and CDC and all the other gold standard research agencies that we are blessed with as a country.
But over the course of this year, I have also been a little bit freaked out at how the CDC in particular just got pushed around, and not just behind- the-scenes pressure, it did affect their recommendations. And we know they`re under review now that President Biden is there.
But I really feel it never should have happened, and I`m uncomfortable with the solution of that being, you know, we just need to elect better people and hope the next president doesn`t do something like that.
Can you help us understand how that -- how that happened? How it happened seemingly so easily?
FAUCI: Yeah. I mean, it`s such an unusual, aberrant situation, Rachel, where you had at the very top, and I -- you know, I don`t take any great pleasure in criticizing presidential leadership or the people around the president, but we had a situation where science was distorted and/or rejected. And a lot of pressure was put on individuals and organizations to do things that were not directly related to what their best opinion would be, vis-a-vis the science.
You know, I had pressure put on me but I resisted it and I had to do something that was not comfortable, but I did it, and I had to be directly contradicting not only the president but some of the people around the president who were saying things that just were not consistent with the science.
I am not a political appointee. So, you know, this whole idea about, you know, we`re going to fire him and, you know, that kind of stuff -- I mean, I didn`t want to be at odds with the president, because I have a lot of respect for the office of the presidency. But there was conflict at different levels with different people and different organizations, and a lot of pressure being put on to do things that just are not compatible with the science.
And I think the only way that happens is when you have leadership from the very top and people surrounding the leadership that essentially let that happen. It`s a real aberrancy -- I`ve been -- I`ve served now, this is my seventh administration, Rachel, and I`ve been advising administrations and presidents on both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, people with different ideologies.
And even with differences in ideology, there never was this real affront on science. So it really was an aberrancy that I haven`t seen in the almost 40 years that I`ve been doing this. So, it`s just one of those things that is chilling when you see it happen.
MADDOW: And it`s -- it`s chilling, I`m sure it was even more chilling up close, but from the outside, it was terrifying because the existence of the pressure, however aberrant that is from previous administrations that you`ve seen, it was sort of par for the course in terms of way this administration behaved on lots of issues. The thing that was very upsetting was that it worked.
And so, I guess what I`m asking --
MADDOW: -- the thing that we from the outside couldn`t see is, how much of a fight was it? Was there -- was there -- was there pushback? Was there struggle?
Were there people threatening to resign and taking a stand when the CDC was being told you can`t say that about, you know, the safety of people engaging in congregate choir practice or telling the CDC to change its recommendations on asymptomatic people who`ve been exposed? Was there a fight?
FAUCI: You know, Rachel, you`re asking me to make judgment on people and I don`t really want to do that. I`m sorry.
You know, I certainly fought back, and, you know, I`m still surviving. So maybe the reason that happened is because I`m not a political appointee. But, you know, people were influenced, unfortunately.
But I got to tell you, at the same time that some might have been, a lot of people weren`t. There were a lot of people in the CDC and the FDA who are really suffering under that.
You know, these are two organizations that are really, really good organizations, and I think everybody needs to understand that. You know, they were saying, well, they may have lost faith in it. No.
I mean, I have colleagues and dear friends in both organizations that I would stand next to them anytime of the year, and they`re just really, really good. I really hope that the American people understand that, that those are really sound organizations.
MADDOW: And as I said, I preface this with my faith remains in the career scientists at the NIH and CDC, and I know people at both organizations and have a long time preceding this. I was just -- it`s been alarming to see their work corrupted, and it will be --
MADDOW: -- an important thing under this administration to see them independent, back, able too speak their mind even when they may have disagreements with a political line from the administration.
Two things that -- well, I`ll ask you about one at a time. One of the problems that we`ve had as our national response has been that there hasn`t been enough testing. There hasn`t been easy enough access to testing. And that is waxed and waned over time, but I think you can generally say that`s true.
One of the things that was concerning watching from the outside was to hear, for example, the president argue there shouldn`t be more testing, because that`s the way that you find more cases, and so, we don`t want to do more testing.
MADDOW: Is part of the reason that we haven`t had enough testing over the course of this year, that there was a deliberate effort to make sure that we didn`t do too much testing or was that -- that we were trying to do much as we could and it was a failure in terms of competence?
FAUCI: No. I think the testing situation, you know, we started off really with some stumbles, as you well know, in the first test that came out from the CDC. Had a real technical problem that set us behind the eight ball for a while. Tried to correct it.
But there was a difference of opinion, Rachel, about the testing of only those people who had symptoms versus people who did not have symptoms. Right from the very beginning, I had said we should flood the system with testing. We should make sure that people are tested even though they don`t have symptoms, because we know it can be spread with -- by people who don`t have symptoms.
There are a lot of people on the Coronavirus Task Force who felt that way also. I mean, there be people like my colleagues, Debbie Birx and I and others in the Coronavirus Task Force that felt very strongly we should expand the testing. It just -- you know, it happened. And at the end of the day, they`ll come back and say, well, we`ve tested more than any country has ever tested.
Well, that`s true, but the testing of people to determine on a broader level what the penetrance of infection was in the community and in the country was not done at the level that I and some others felt should be done, and we should still be doing much more right now.
We should have tests, Rachel, where someone could have a point of care test that they bring home, do themselves without a prescription that`s sensitive and specific and can tell you with a really good degree of certainty whether you or your family or the people that you want to come into your home are infected. We`ve got to get those tests.
We`re getting closer to tests that have the sensitivity and specificity to do that, but we should have had that available a long time ago.
MADDOW: Dr. Fauci, should we expect to hear from you and from Dr. Messonnier and Dr. Shulkin (ph) and other senior scientists and senior supervises of these agencies, and on a regular basis? I know that -- as we`ve been talking about, the country really trusts you in particular, but we`ve seen a sort of disappearance, a sort of muzzling of some of these other senior folks within the government.
Do you think that we`ll have more access to you, both the press and the public?
FAUCI: I`m positive of it. I attest to this (ph), Rachel, I`ve been wanting to come on your show for months and months. You`ve been asking me to come on your show for months and months, and it`s just gotten blocked.
That`s -- I mean, let`s call it what it is. It just got blocked because they didn`t like the way you handle things and didn`t want me on there. I mean, it was so clear when they sent it down, why would you want to go on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW? Well, because I like her and she`s really good. It doesn`t make a difference. Don`t do it.
I don`t think you`re going to see that now. I think you`re going to see a lot of transparency. You know, you might not see everybody as often as you want, but you`re not going to see deliberate holding back of good people when the press asks for them. I mean, we were assured that that`s the case.
You know, that goes along with what you were mentioning before about different types of pressures that are put on. It was a tough situation. It really was.
MADDOW: Dr. Fauci, a lot of people who got put in tough situations in this, in this administration I think the observation from the outside is, maybe, that person would be better off resigning, maybe that person would be better off quitting in protest and telling us what happened. I don`t think anybody anywhere in the country ever felt like the right thing to do was quit, and you staying there has been a real anchor for a lot of people through a really hard time.
So, I`m sorry for what you went through and I`m happy to see the spring in your step and light in your eyes and to know that we get to talk to you and the country gets to hear from you from here on out.
FAUCI: Thank you very much, Rachel. Really a pleasure to be with you.
MADDOW: All right. Thank you.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, of course, needs no introduction and no -- no good night. The nation`s top infectious disease expert.
Yeah, I -- we have been asking for him, from March, repeatedly, and he was never anything but kind. And the fact that he is willing to tell you and tell me -- listen, I would love to do it and I was told from the White House that I couldn`t and here`s how they said it, that`s some -- that`s -- that`s transparency. That`s legitimate definition of transparency.
And I would hope if anybody from the administration who`s watching this now, don`t just pat yourself on the back for the fact Dr. Fauci is now allowed to come here and talk to me. I would hope and I expect that what this means, this new commitment to letting the science speak and letting scientists do their own work, means when Dr. Fauci gets calls to go on with Mr. Hannity or Mr. Carlson or some of the other even further-right networks and hosts who disagree with you and who have been saying things about the coronavirus you think are wrong, I hope this transparency extends to letting the nation`s scientists go make their case particularly to people who have been misinforming and telling the people of this country misinformation or politically motivated misinformation in particular on this. The scientists have to lead for all of us. That`s how we`re going to get out of this.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Right before we got on the air tonight "The New York Times" posted this explosive new story by reporter Katie Benner. It was previously unknown story of a -- of President Trump`s attempt apparently at a Nixon- style Saturday night massacre as an effort to overthrow the election using the Justice Department. It is absolutely stunning.
Trump and Justice Department lawyers said to have plotted to oust acting attorney general.
Here`s the lead: Justice Department`s top leaders listened in stunned silence this month. One of their peers they were told devised a plan with President Donald Trump to oust Jeffrey Rosen as the acting attorney general and wield the Justice Department`s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its president`s election results. The unassuming lawyer who worked on the plan, Jeffrey Clark, have been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster President Trump`s continuing legal battles and pressure on Georgia politicians.
Because Attorney General Jeff Rosen had refused the president`s entreaties to carry out these plans, President Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him instead with Jeffrey Clark. The department officials convened on a conference call and asked each other what will you do if Mr. Rosen is dismissed? The answer was unanimous, they would resign.
Their informal pact ultimately helped persuade President Trump to keep Mr. Rosen in place calculating that a furor over mass resignations at the top of the Justice Department would eclipse any attention on his baseless accusations of voter fraud. President Trump`s decision came only after Mr. Rosen and Jeffrey Clark made their competing cases to the president in a bizarre White House meeting that two officials compared with an episode of Trump`s reality show "The Apprentice", albeit one that could prompt a constitutional crisis.
Again, Katie Benner is the sole byline, a reporter behind the stunning new report from "The New York Times" tonight. She details how even before this insane plot, even before this insane plot at the Justice Department, acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen was under extreme pressure from President Trump to declare that he had found something that would justify overturning the results of the election.
Back to her report. Quote: When President Trump said on December 14 that Attorney General William Barr was leaving the department, some officials thought that he might allow Jeffrey Rosen a short reprieve before pressing him about supposed voter fraud. After all, Mr. Barr would be around another week.
Instead, President Trump summoned Mr. Rosen to the Oval Office the very next day after it was announced that Barr would leave. The president told Rosen that he wanted the Justice Department to file legal briefs supporting his allies` lawsuits seeking to overturn an election loss. In other words, he wanted the Justice Department to side with the president`s cockamamie lawyers and their lawsuits designed to overturn the election.
The president urged Jeffrey Rosen to appoint special counsels to investigate not only unfounded accusations of widespread voter fraud, but also Dominion, the voting machine`s firm. Jeffrey Rosen refused but President Trump continued to press him after the meeting, both in phone calls and in person.
The president repeatedly said that he didn`t understand why the Justice Department hadn`t found evidence that supported conspiracy theories about the election that some of his personal lawyers had espoused.
But that lack of interest in doing the president`s bidding to throw out the election results and keep him installed as president, that`s apparently what led President Trump to embrace this other lawyer at the Justice Department, Jeffrey Clark, who he appointed to run the civil division within DOJ. By all accounts, Jeffrey Clark was on the same page as the president on this stuff and why the president wanted him to be installed to take over the whole department.
According to "The Times" report tonight, quote, "Mr. Clark mentioned Jeffrey Rosen and the deputy attorney general, Rich Donohue that he spent a lot of time reading on the internet. A comment alarmed them because they inferred he believed the unfounded conspiracy theories that Mr. Trump somehow won the election. Jeffrey Clark also them that he wanted the Justice Department to hold a news conference announcing that it was investigating serious accusations of election fraud.
Mr. Rosen and deputy general, Mr. Donohue, rejected that proposal. Jeffrey Clark also drafted a letter that he wanted Attorney General Rosen to send to Georgia state legislators which wrongly said that the Justice Department was investigating accusations of voter fraud in their state and they should move to void Joe Biden`s win in that state. That was also rejected.
But yet despite all of this, Jeffrey Clark was apparently unswayed. He met with president Trump the weekend before Congress was set to meet to certify results of the election. After Jeffrey Clark talked with the president -- he then called Jeff Rosen, the acting attorney general, and informed him that per his conversation with the president, he would be taking over at the Justice Department. It was only later after Jeffrey Clark and the acting attorney general, Mr. Rosen, presented their individual cases as to why each of them should be running the Justice Department that the president backed off.
Mr. Trump, apparently according to Katie Benner`s reporting, he swayed by the argument that a Saturday night massacre at the Justice Department would result that all of the other senior leadership at the Justice Department would resign if President Trump ousted the acting attorney general and instead installed this guy who was going to use the Justice Department to declare that Joe Biden didn`t win the election. He was swayed that that might be enough of a kerfuffle that it might prompt some congressional investigations which might distract from what he was trying to do again.
Again, just mind-blowing reporting from "The New York Times" tonight. We should, according to "The Times", that Jeffrey Clark had said this report contains inconsistencies. Now, former President Trump declined to comment for this report, but it is -- it is stunning stuff, particularly when we just learned about the schedule for the president`s trial for him using a violent mob and illegal pressure tactics against Georgia state officials to try to undo the results of the election and stay in power.
We have just learned that he`s going on trial in the United States Senate for those efforts to overthrow the election by illegal persuasion and by force. And now, we know more of the depths of it, absolutely stunning stuff with all sorts of implications.
We will have more on this, next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I guess Fridays are still going to be nuts. We are continuing to follow the breaking news story from "The New York Times" tonight that President Trump tried to oust the attorney general this month just before the Electoral College votes were counted in Congress. He apparently, according to "The New York Times", planned to install and even tried to install a new attorney general who had pledged to use the power of the Justice Department to force the state of Georgia to void Joe Biden`s win in that state. The president was only stopped from doing this when the entire top leadership of the Justice Department said that they would resign in protest if he went ahead with it.
Here is what one former top official at the Justice Department, David Laufman, had to say about it tonight. He said, quote, before the insurrectionist assault on the U.S. Capitol, there was an attempted coup at the Justice Department fomented by the president of the United States.
Joining us is David Laufman. He served as chief of counterintelligence section at the Justice Department under Presidents Obama and Trump. He left the Justice Department in February 2018. I should tell you he previously served as chief of staff to the deputy attorney general at the Justice Department in the early 2000s.
Mr. Laufman, it`s really good to see you here. Thanks for being here on short notice.
DAVID LAUFMAN: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So you`ve read this article in "The Times", as have we. We are sort of still absorbing it.
Can you explain for an audience that may not be familiar with the intricacies of how the Justice Department works and how much power the president is supposed to have over what the Justice Department does, how serious this is, how serious a diversion this is from the way things are supposed to work?
DAVID LAUFMAN, FORMER CHIEF OF DOJ`S COUNTERINTEL & EXPORT CONTROL SECTION: Right. Well, look, I thought I had lost the ability to be shocked by the former president`s attempts to subjugate the Department of Justice to his political will but I was wrong. You know, we saw the coup attempt at the capitol on January 6th. Little did we know one had been attempted at the Department of Justice.
It is completely irregular and astonishingly improper for the president to have put pressure on the acting attorney general to serve as an instrument of his effort to cling to power by bringing lawsuits or filing briefs in support of existing lawsuits by his political supporters to cling to power. Ultimately, it appears from this article to assist in an effort to derail the counting of Electoral College ballots on January 6th.
MADDOW: And had this worked -- I mean, it seems like from Katie Benner`s reporting tonight, it seems like this didn`t work because the rest of the leadership at the Justice Department said they would resign in protest. The president was worried that would create such a kerfuffle it might lead to more complications for him, more investigations for him, more trouble for him.
But had this worked, had the president been able to decapitate the Justice Department, install a new acting attorney general who would bring the Justice Department weight to bear on his efforts to essentially undo the election, could that have worked? I mean, if the Justice Department put its full weight behind what the president was doing with his personal lawyers, what effect would it have had?
LAUFMAN: You know, I think it ultimately would just have been another hour of shame for the Department of Justice. It is hard to believe that district courts adjudicating these lawsuits, they might have been shocked by the Department of Justice joining the fray, but I don`t think ultimately it likely would have mattered in their adjudication of these suits.
So it is hard to see what the strategy was on the part of Mr. Clark or whoever was advising the president that it was a winning hand. It would have brought the department lower in the estimation of the American people. It is good to see that men and women in other leadership positions in the Department of Justice rallied to the institution, put this effort down, but we once again see that it can be a thin line between that sort of principle and character and a lurch towards despotism.
MADDOW: We have seen some interesting potential professional consequences for some of the lawyers who brought these cases for the president after the election. There`s what amounts to a sort of concerted effort now in New York to try to have Rudy Giuliani lose his New York law license. We have also seen calls from high places for sanctions for some of the president`s other lawyers who brought these meritless, frivolous and at times sort of insane claims trying to undo the election in various states.
If, in fact, the acting head of the civil division at the Justice Department, Jeffrey Clark, was part of that, wanted the Justice Department to be part of that, was willing to pursue those things as well, is there any -- is there anything improper about his own actions here? Is he potentially looking at any trouble himself for having jumped on board this train?
LAUFMAN: Well, that would be left to the assessment by whatever bar to which he is admitted. Arguably, his efforts at a policy level to push this forward may not be as egregious as lawyers who actually sign their names to briefs filed with the court. But, look, it is an hour of ignominy for Mr. Clark and astonishing, too, for Mr. Rosen in private practice and someone reporting to his boss, Mr. Rosen, he was trying to undermine Mr. Rosen and the entire Department of Justice to facilitate the president`s desperate bid to hold on to power in the closing days of his administration.
MADDOW: David Laufman, former counterintelligence chief at the justice department. Thank you for joining us on this story and on short notice. I really appreciate it.
LAUFMAN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Again, we are learning tonight about the timing, the schedule for the president`s Senate impeachment trial. It looks like that will be conveyed on Monday and the trial will start on February 9th. It was just reported in "The New York Times" tonight may affect perceptions of the president`s culpability for what happened here and how that impeachment trial goes forward.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Programming note for you. Monday night, I`m going to be sitting down with the new Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, at the U.S. Capitol. This will be his first national interview since he has become the leader of the United States Senate. Monday night, right here at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
I will see you then.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
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