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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/4/22

Guests: Jamie Raskin, David Kessler


The January 6 investigation is seeking information from Fox News host Sean Hannity. Interview with Congressman Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and author of the new book "Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth and the Trials of American Democracy". Interview with Dr. David Kessler, the chief science adviser to the Biden administration`s COVID response.



CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" on this Tuesday night.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

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

Thanks for joining us this hour. Once again, we`re having a weird one, in terms of a news night.

Tonight, the January 6 investigation has written to a cable news host to ask him to preserve his communications related to the January 6 attack on the Capitol, including his communications with former President Trump and others at the Trump White House.

They are asking him to come in for a transcribed interview, asking to come in voluntarily for a transcribed interview. They`re not subpoenaing him or they`re raising that prospect. Of course, that kind of prospect looms in an investigation which lots of other people have been subpoenaed.

In this letter to this cable news host, they have released a series of his texts, his communications with Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in particular. The reason they have released those texts it appears is to make the case both to him and the public that he is an important fact witness for the investigation, and that they need to ask him asks about what he knows because he may know stuff that other people really don`t.

Now, the TV host in question is a man named Sean Hannity. He`s a primetime weeknight host at the Fox News Channel. And regardless of whether or not you have heard of him or seen his show or his commentary about January 6 or about Trump more broadly, it does appear from the investigation released tonight that Mr. Hannity was kind of in the thick of it, at least with the White House chief of staff and apparently with the president himself.

They say, quote: Dear Mr. Hannity, the select committee now has information in its possession indicating you had advanced knowledge regarding President Trump`s and his legal teams planning for January 6. It also appears that you were expressing concerns and providing advice to President Trump at certain White House staff regarding that planning.

You also had relevant communications while the riot was under way and in the days thereafter. These communications make you a fact witness in our investigation. The select committee is in possession of dozens of text messages you sent to and received from former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and others, related to the 2020 election and President Trump`s efforts to contest the out come of the vote.

For example, on December 31, 2020, you texted Mark Meadows the following. Quote, we can`t lose the entire White House counsel office. I do not see January 6 happening the way he is being told. He presumably meaning the president?

After the sixth, he should announce he will lead the nationwide effort to reform voting integrity. Go to FL. Presumably Florida. And watch Joe -- presumably Joe Biden -- mess up daily. Stay engaged, when he speaks, people will listen.

Quote: This text suggests you had knowledge of concerns by President Trump`s White House counsel`s office regarding the legality of the former president`s plans for January 6. These facts are directly relevant to our inquiry.

Similarly, on January 5th, the night before the violent riot, you sent and received a stream of texts. You wrote, quote: I`m very worried about the next 48 hours. But the counting of the electoral votes scheduled for the following day, January 6, at 1:00 p.m., why were you concerned?

Also on the evening of January 5th, you texted White House chief of staff, quote: Pence pressure. White House counsel will leave. What communications or information led you to conclude White House counsel would leave? What precisely did you know at that time?

Committee continues: It also appears from other texts that you may have had a conversation directly with President Trump on the evening of the January 5 and perhaps at other times regarding his planning for January 6. We`re aware of and interested in your communication to Mr. Meadows and others during the violent attack on January 6, as the rioters were attempting to occupy the Capitol building.

For example on January 6, you texted to Mark Meadows, press coverage relating to a potential effort by members of Trumps cabinet to remove him from office using the 25th amendment. As you may recall, Secretary DeVos and Secretary Chao both resigned following President Trump`s conduct on January 6, as did members of the president`s White House staff. We would like to question you regarding any conversation you had with Mark Meadows or others about any effort to remove President Trump using the 25th Amendment.

Additionally, you appear to have had a discussion with President Trump on January 10, that may have raised a number of specific concerns about his actions in the days before the inauguration January 20.


You wrote to Mark Meadows and Congressman Jim Jordan on January 10th. Quote: Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in nine days. He can`t mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse I`m not sure what is left to do or say. I don`t like not knowing if it`s truly understood. Ideas?

Again, that text message sent to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and Republican Congressman Jim Jordan.

Committee continues, quote: None of these communications are subject to any kind of privilege. They all bare directly on the issues before the committee. We cannot in good faith fail to question you on these and specific issues relevant to our investigation, which includes an investigation into the facts and circumstances relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power.

This is interesting. Again this gentleman is a cable news host. The committee says, quote, we stress that our goal is not to seek information regarding any of your broadcasts, or your political views, or your commentary. We have deep respect for the First Amendment to our Constitution.

As we detail above, you appear to have factual information directly relevant to the events of January 6 and attack on the institutions of democracy. We have a duty to understand all of the underlying facts and make legislative recommendations. Please identify for the select committee the name of your counsel. We`ll work closely with the person as soon as possible to schedule a time for a transcribed interview with the select committee. We`re also interesting in other communications you may have had with the White House, President Trump, the Trump legal team, or any other persons involved in the events of January 6. We now ask you to preserve all records of such communication.

We have no doubt that you love our country and respect our Constitution. Now is the time to step forward and serve the interest of your country. We thank you in advance for your cooperation.

It is signed, Bennie Thompson, the chairman, and Liz Cheney, vice chair of the investigation.

What a world we`re in. Again, this letter sent tonight to a cable news host at the popular Fox News Channel. We don`t know how he`ll respond. We don`t know if he`ll provide information to the committee or not. The committee should be noted they had previously released another of his text messages to the White House in which he pleaded for President Trump to tell supporters to leave the Capitol on January 6.

So we know from this man`s private communications that he believed at the time of the attack on the Capitol that Trump was responsible for it and control the behavior of the Trump supporting mob that day. For what it`s worth that sentiment, that Trump was responsible that he could have stopped January 6 if he wanted to, that is not something this gentleman articulated publicly about January 6, although his private communications at the time suggest that`s what he knew to be the case.

So, we will see. His lawyer says that he`s reviewing the request from the committee. And there`s been no response yet. We shall see.

In terms of connecting the dots here, there had been previous reporting including from testimony to the Senate that Trump`s White House chief of staff, Pat Cipollone, had said at a White House meeting on January 3, that he would resign as White House counsel. He was reported to have said that January 3 meeting in the Oval Office, where Trump was discussing the possibility of installing a new attorney general so he could use the justice department to basically force the falsification of the election results.

We knew previously from other testimony that Cipollone had threatened to resign at that meeting over that prospect, about the Justice Department being used in that way. These new texts from Hannity released tonight would seem to suggest the White House counsel, Mr. Cipollone, also threatened to resign, even earlier than that, four days earlier than that, as earlier as last New Year`s eve. What was that threat to resign about?

Also, from the texts from Mr. Hannity released by the investigation tonight, it would appear the White House counsel, Mr. Cipollone, also was renewing the threats to resign. On days later on January 5, the night before the attack on the Capitol.

According to Mr. Hannity`s texts, that threat to resign would appear to have been a response to the pressure that was being put on Vice President Pence by Trump and his co-conspirators, pressure to try to get Mike Pence to try to spoil the counting of the Electoral College votes in Congress on January 6.

Did Pat Cipollone threaten to resign on New Year`s Eve on January 3, on January 5? Again, we do not know if Mr. Hannity will respond to this request for him to provide information to the committee. To flesh out the facts around the previously unknown details about what happened.


It is interesting that they are appealing to his patriotism, and asking him to give information to the committee. I don`t know. I think regardless of party, regardless of cable news outlet of your choice, all Americans would like to know what Mr. Hannity knew on January 5. That made him text to the White House I am very worried about the next 48 hours.

What did he know about what was going to happen in the next 24 hours? That made him tell the White House he was worried. We shall see.

But tonight, we`ve also got something else new. The publication of a book today by a member of the January 6 investigation who was also the lead impeachment manager appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to prosecute the case against former President Trump in the second impeachment, the impeachment for inciting the attack on the Capitol this time last year.

And as you will recall, it feels like it`s been both five minutes and also 50 years. This time last year, the House in fact voted to impeach Trump. That was -- the vote was January 13. One month later, a majority of the U.S. Senate, 57 senators, also voted to convict the former president. That was the largest bipartisan vote for an impeachment in American history.

A 57-vote majority is not enough to secure a conviction in the Senate. To get a conviction you need two-thirds. You need 67 senators to vote. Not 57.

Looking back on that, the historical consequences of that are really stark, right? Had enough Republicans senators that day voted to obtain that formal conviction, had it been 67 senators voting to convict and not 57, former President Trump would not just be the only president twice impeached in U.S. history, which he is. He would have become the first ever president barred by law from ever running for any public office again.

Had they actually convicted him, had they got 67 votes he would have been barred from running for public office ever again. But he was not convicted, 57 votes not 67.

Because he was not convicted, he is not barred from running for office. He is likely to run for president again. Even as the Justice Department and the January 6th investigation weigh the question right now of whether -- could ever be held criminally liable for his role in the conspiracy to stop the transfer of power to the new president and thereby overthrow the United States government.

The January 6 attack on the Capitol was part of the plan. We know it. Thanks to a year of investigation that it was only part of the plan. It was an integral part of the plan. It was just part of it.

Three-term Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin sits on the January 6 investigation now. He also was the lead impeachment manager. He personally led the effort against Trump for the January 6 attack.

The week the Capitol was attacked last year, Jamie Raskin lost his beloved 25 year-old son to suicide. Tommy died on December 31st. He was buried on January 5th. January 5 last year. Congressman was with his daughter and son-in-law at the U.S. Capitol the following day, the day after his son`s funeral, on January 6, when the attack on the Capitol happened.

Congressman Raskin`s new book, which is out today, it`s called "Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth and the Trials of American Democracy". The book is in some sense it`s a biography of his son, a love letter to his son. It`s also an astonishing very difficult loving account of losing his son.

It is also a memoir about Congressman Raskin`s own life, his own leap in particular from being a constitutional law professor to being a very high profile member of Congress. It`s also a searing and original and at times very surprising account of the attack on January 6. And the impeachment that followed. A lot of insider information about the impeachment effort we never had before.

It`s also a clarion call about the ongoing threat from Trump and from the authoritarian anti-democratic forces that he has unleashed in this country that are more dangerous now than they`ve ever been.

In Jamie Raskin`s new book out today, we learn among other things he had initially proposed a motion that senators should vote on Trumps impeachment by secret ballot. They shouldn`t stand up and vote in their own names, but they should conduct their vote in secret. A lot of Americans believed that had it been a secret ballot, the conviction of Trump would not have just been assured, it might have been unanimous.


Raskin also proposed that senators should sit alphabetically rather than by party to break senators apart from partisan bonds, at least a little bit, at least in that one physical sense, so they could more easily vote their conscience when it came to vote to convict or acquit.

We learn in Raskin`s book that he`s come to see the attack on January 6 as three coinciding rings. The first ring, the outer ring was the rioters who came to scream and smash things. The second ring, the middle ring, was the insurrectionists who came to actually stop the congressional vote counting process, including the paramilitaries who were trained and some cases brought arms to the capitol region to try to achieve that goal. But then the innermost ring is what he calls the ring of the coup.

Raskin says, quote, in my mind, it was here in the bulls eye center of the action that Trump operated likely along with chief of staff Mark Meadows, Rudy Giuliani, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Michael Flynn, Senator Josh Hawley, Representative Jim Jordan and the most extreme elements of the Republican House and Senate conferences. This is where the actual strategy for Trump to stay in power was being executed.

The basic idea, he says, turned on getting Vice President Mike Pence to declare and announce a hitherto unknown and unilateral power in the vice presidency, to repudiate electoral votes from specific states. If and when Pence did that, by vaguely citing allegations of fraud in those states and, quote, returning their votes to the state legislature, Pence would succeed in lowering Biden`s electoral vote total to below 270, which would immediately trigger under the 12th Amendment a contingent election. The House contingent election the one place Trump could, quote, win the election.

Again, those are the three rings of sort of the attack that Raskin I think presciently describes in terms of what was going on in January 6. And of course, there is tonight ahead of attorney general speech tomorrow, on January 6. Merrick Garland at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time tomorrow is going to give an address to Justice Department staff and American public about the January 6 investigation and prosecution.

There`s tonight still a wide open pressing question as to whether anybody in the innermost ring, what Raskin calls the ring of the coup, the people who actually devised and tried to implement the plan to overthrow the government. There`s an open question tonight as to whether they`ll get off scot-free, as to whether their efforts will go unanswered. The question remains, whether they will have to answer for that -- for what they did, with anything more than more chance to try to do it again.

Here`s how Jamie Raskin writes it from that day, from the floor of the House.

He says, quote, boom! I hear the sound I will never forget, a sound like a battering ramp, the sound of a group of people barreling up against the central door, with some huge hard thick object, hell-bent on entering the House Chamber. The members nearby pressed furniture up against the door and a number of us further away run to the door to help protect it. We are then quickly told to get back by Capitol police officers, who rush in and defend the entrance with their guns drawn.

The pounding of the door accelerates and we can hear the sound of angry, macho chanting out there. Hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence. Also, we want Trump. We want Trump.

Someone official calls upon us to evacuate right away, calmly. Everyone moves. Some people run to the speakers lobby, carrying their gas masks. I look up to the gallery to see hour colleagues frozen in place on the Democratic side now awkwardly crouching and sliding through the rows to make their way to the gallery above the Republican side.

I see New Hampshire Representative Annie Kuster and California Representative Sara Jacobs, who is only in her fourth day on the job crawling their way over to the gallery above the Republican side. We escape and reunited later, a colleague would tell me they decided to cross over to the Republican side because they thought a mass shooter who entered would be less likely to aim the Republican side of the House.

Meantime, the officers up there locked all the doors to keep the rioters from breaking in. They will unlock them to get colleagues out. I feel strange about leaving them up there. Who knows where we`re going. Where will any of us find safety on January 6?

A bloodthirsty mob of hundreds entered the building outside the metal detectors, and with no security check. Who knows what weapons they are carrying? What if one of the rioters is carrying an AR-15? Many of us are thinking the same thought.

I wonder where all the chaos is taking us. Whether my daughter Tabitha, my son-in-law Hank, my chief of staff Julie who they`re with are safe at the Capitol and whether they will be rescued soon. Whether I should try to turn back and find officers, whether these insurrectionists have firearms. Whether Donald Trump`s allies plan to escalate the violence. Whether we`re facing an insurrection, a coup or even a civil war, whether we will finally impeach the traitor for setting loose the dogs of war upon us or perhaps invoke at last the unsung 25th Amendment, whether dear America will survive the fall into political madness. I feel curiosity, anger and resolve.

But there`s one thing I do not feel as we travel down, down, down. Faster, please hurry, an officer exhorts. Down, down, down into the dark complex basement passage way of the Capitol.

One thing I don`t sense as we`re jostled this way and shepherded that, there`s one emotion I have not experienced at all on this persistently gloomy and objectively terrifying day. I will not experience all through the night. That is fear. I feel no fear. I felt no fear today at all.

For we have lost our Tommy Raskin, and the very worst thing that ever could have happened to us has already happened. But I`m still in the land of the living and Tommy is with me somehow every step of the way. He`s occupying my heart and filling my chest with oxygen. He`s showing me the way to some kind of safety.

My beautiful son is giving me courage. As we flee the U.S. Capitol building for our lives, my trauma, my wound has now become my shield of defense and my path of escape. And all I can think of is my son, propelling me forward to fight.

Joining us now is Congressman Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland. The author of the new book "Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth and the Trials of American Democracy".

Congressman, thank you for being here.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Thank you for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: So I have to ask you, reading the book and knowing you a little bit and having talked to you over the course of the last few years. You are incredibly articulate, unimaginably articulate about your choice to stay public, to keep working and indeed to write this book in the midst of this grief and this challenge.

Now that you are putting it out to the world, and able to talk about it, does it still feel like the right thing to do? Does it feel like you had to do it?

RASKIN: Well, Tommy was a young man. Indeed, he was a boy who was filled with extraordinary moral and political passion. And I think if feels right because of who he was and what he wanted for the world.

Tommy was in his second year at Harvard Law School, when we lost him. And he was deeply engaged in movements for human rights, against war for animal rights and welfare and to defend and expand democracy. He was asking a lot more of democracy. Not less.

And so, I did feel him very much in my heart and chest through that entire period. It`s been a tough year, Rachel, as you know. And I wasn`t getting a lot of sleep for a long time. I was up at night and there were very few people left to call, even on the West Coast when I was up late.

And I decided that I could either spend the rest of my life obsessed with this 50-day period, or I could try to record it for my daughters, for my family, for my constituents, for my friends, for my fellow countrymen and women. And I would do that and try to make sense of what happened.

MADDOW: A year on now, how do you think Tommy would feel about the work that`s happened in the country? In response to the attack, in the effort to try to investigate what happened and pursue accountability. Obviously, the first step to pursue accountability was the effort that you led, the impeachment.

But you`re a member of the January 6 investigation now. We`ve learned so much more since, there`s still so many open questions about what happened and how it will be -- how it will be accounted for. How do you think he would view our progress over the year?

RASKIN: Well, when Tommy was not under the darkness of his depression, he was the life of the party. And he was radically optimistic and buoyant about our prospects for changing things, in America and all over the world. And I think he would be looking on the bright side of how many people are cooperating with our investigation, how many people are coming forward to tell the truth. About what happened and how many people really want to solidify the institutions of American democracy.


There`s no doubt we get closer to Donald Trump there`s a coterie of people like Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows who are very much protecting the secret of what took place. But I think that truth will prevail and I think that Tommy had confidence that in democracy, you`re not going to be able to fool all of the people all of the time. The truth is going to resurface.

MADDOW: You`re hard on yourself throughout the book, both in terms of seeing the sign of what was going on with your son. In terms of seeing the signs of what was going on with the country, and with the democracy.

You write in detail about how speaker and spring of 2020 had asked you and some of your colleagues to basically game out all of the ways the election could be messed with. The ways that Trump and his cohort might try to corrupt the election result or try to steal it. And you describe the different situations to prepare for.

But then you say, in essence, we predicted every maneuver except one, the unleashing of mob violence to intimidate the vice president in Congress, overwhelm and stop the counting of votes and provide pretext and context for Trump to potentially intervene with military force under the Insurrection Act, to put down the uprising he helped to organize.

Obviously, hindsight is 2020 here. But I`m wondering if you had the thing you beat yourself up for is not seeing that coming. Had you seen that coming? Had you`ve been able to predict that as a potential out come. Is there something that could have been done proactively to stop it?

RASKIN: Well, we just spent countless hours figuring out every possible parliamentary maneuver and counter maneuver if Vice President Pence in fact decided to declare the extra constitutional lawless powers to reject and rebuff the Electoral College votes. If the GOP pursued their objections to particular states or states to walk out, we tried to predict every possible maneuver.

But of course, being Democrats and being liberal minded people, we were thinking completely within the context of the constitutional and legal system. And that`s why I quote some of the right wings favorite philosophers, like Carl Schmitt, who said that sovereign is he who controls the exception.

And on January 6, we move out of the rule of law and into this twilight land of the exception where they were talking about invoking the Insurrection Act, they were making things up about the Electoral Count Act, making things up about the Constitution, and that we had not prepared for, that I indeed fault myself for.

Just like I say, I fault myself for not talking about suicide to Tommy. And I liken not talking to a depressed person about suicide to not talking to a teenager about sex. You think somehow you are being clever and you are suppressing a reality that you don`t want to materialize.

But, in fact, you are making it worse because when you don`t speak these words, it endows them with more power. I likened not talking about suicide to not talking about fascism. And I think we have to talk about fascism which Madeleine Albright use to reminded us is not a specific ideology system with particular content. It`s just a strategy for taking power and maintaining power against the rule of law and against the majority in a democracy.

MADDOW: And it`s something that doesn`t happen all at once. It starts as you describe and as Madeleine Albright has observed, it starts in places you might not expect, in creeps. If you ignore it while it`s starting, it only grows.

Congressman, we`re going to have a take a quick break here for a second. I hope you don`t mind if I ask you to stay through the break I want to ask you about the breaking news that I just described. The investigation into January 6 has asked somebody in my job of cable news host to testify and provide documents to the committee. Obviously that`s a sort of a red hot question and a live prospect for a lot of reasons, if you don`t mind, sir.

We`re going to take a quick break, and I love to ask you about that when we come back.



MADDOW: We are back with Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, whose really incredible new book is out today. It`s called "Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth and Trials of American Democracy".

Congressman Raskin, thank you for sticking with us. I really appreciate you being here.

So, there is a surprise news tonight that the January 6 investigation you are a member of that nine member investigation is seeking the cooperation of a Fox News Channel host named Sean Hannity because of his texts with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and apparently has communications with other people at the Trump White House around January 6.

You are a constitutional law professor. I know you have an acute sensitivity to not only the First Amendment, but to all the rights enshrined in our Constitution, the Bill of Rights. Are there any First Amendment concerns that you have or any First Amendment concerns that you think should be aired around this request of Mr. Hannity that he provide information to the investigation.

RASKIN: Well, the Supreme Court is repeatedly said everybody owes the honest truthful testimony to Congress or a court, when they come calling. So, you can be a truck driver and elementary school driver, an elementary teacher, or you can be a doctor or you could work for MSNBC or Fox News. But if you have evidence that is relevant to a congressional investigation or court case, you turn over the evidence.

Now, we were very clear in this letter that was sent to Mr. Hannity it was not about anything he said on the air. And he`s not going to be in trouble for any view political viewpoint he`s taken.


And that, of course, would trouble me.

This is about what he knew about plans to attack the peaceful transfer of power on January 6. He has to testify like everybody else.

MADDOW: It does seem from the text messages attributed to Mr. Hannity released by the investigation tonight, it is advancing the story for us a little bit. It`s previously been described to the Senate actually by witnesses testifying to the Senate, that the White House counsel had threatened to resign on January 3rd in reaction to Trump working out some plan by had which he would have the Justice Department -- essentially act to falsify the election results -- and again previously had been described publicly in that testimony that the White House counsel was going to resign over that.

Mr. Hannity`s text messages would suggest that there were a couple of instances in which the White House counsel was threatening to resign. One on January -- described on New Year`s Eve, December 31st. Another, the night before the January 6 attack.

Am I correctly reading into those he`s describing new stand offs within the administration, new concerns about the potentially legality of the president`s course that we didn`t previously know about?

RASKIN: Well, we knew that Trump`s own appointed leadership at the Department of Justice for example was threatening to resign if he indeed go forward with the plan to install Richard Clark as new attorney general. So he could proclaim the big lie as justification for getting Mike Pence to reject the Electoral College votes and kick the whole thing into a contingent election.

This is the exact same process. There were people who saw the constitutional danger of what Donald Trump was doing, and they tried to blow the whistle a little bit in their way. They tried to act as a restraining force. Of course, they didn`t go to talk about to the Department of Justice. They didn`t go out to talk to the media. They didn`t blow the whistle publicly, but at least they were doing what they could behind the scene to stop it.

It tells us a lot about what was taken place there and about how we might be able to avoid a situation like this in the future. And, of course, that`s the charge of the January 6 committee to tell the truth, in a comprehensive and painstaking and fine-grained way about what took place, and to make recommendations, legislative and policy recommendations about how to avoid a future attack on American democracy like this one.

MADDOW: Congressman, one last question about the investigation. Again, you`re the -- you`re the only constitutional law professor in Congress. And it`s comes in handy way more often than it`s comfortable to come in handy these days.

But given your unique perspective on it, I wondered if you had a view on whether or not Congress has the power to subpoena its own members for the an investigation like this. Congressman Jim Jordan, Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, both refused or at requests to voluntarily provide information and testimony to the investigation. If you and your fellow members of the investigation decide that you want to subpoena them, do you believe you have the power to do that? It`s never been done before.

RASKIN: Well, without saying anything about what the committee may or may not do, I think it`s clear we do have such a power. Under Article I, we have the power to define the rules of our own proceedings, we have the power to discipline and potentially expel members.

Also, the speech and debate clause says that members of Congress shall not be questioned anywhere else other than Congress. About conduct they may have engaged in. And I think to that clearly indicates permission for questioning our own members, which is something, of course, we do all the time, in the ethics committee.

MADDOW: Congressman Jamie Raskin, Democratic congressman from Maryland, author of a really, really excellent, heartbreaking new book, which is called "Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth and the Trials of American Democracy", Congressman, thank you for writing the book. Thank you for talking to us about it tonight. I know that nothing is easy at this point, including conversations like this. Bless you for having them. Thanks for being here.

RASKIN: And thank you very much for reading my book and having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: Appreciate it.

OK. We`ve got much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re seeing COVID-19 cases among the vaccinated in workplaces across America, including here at the White House. But if you`re vaccinated and boosted, you are highly protected. You know, be concerned about omicron but don`t be alarmed.


MADDOW: Be concerned, check. But not alarmed. I`ll get back to you about that part in a minute. Ask me in five minutes. Let`s see.

President Biden today met with the COVID response team at the White House. He said the omicron wave that is crashing over the country now is something we should be concerned about, but not alarmed about if we are vaccinated. Still, the distance between concern and alarm is a fine distance. It`s a small distance for a lot of us.

The great state of Maryland today, for example, declared a 30-day state of emergency to mobilize the military. To help health officials respond to the virus and save Maryland hospitals.

We also learned today that new military medical teams are fanning out to yet more states. Military medical personnel are working in ten states across the country.

Here`s my worry which we`ve talking about for a few days now, the hospitalization numbers are tracking dramatically upward in multiple states now. On trajectories that look basically as steep as the incredible and unprecedented rise in case numbers that we`re seeing now.


Infection numbers going up like crazy is one thing. But seeing those graphs of hospitalization numbers going up just as steeply, that`s unsettling, too. The White House today announced they are doubling the size of the order they placed for Pfizer`s very effective by still very scarce antiviral pill. The U.S. is now ordering 20 million course of that Pfizer treatment, instead of 10 million. The administration changed guidelines on boosters, saying people should get their Pfizer booster five months after your second shot, rather than waiting until six months.

The FDA is just approved booster shots for kids age 12 to 15.

So, there`s a lot going on. There`s a lot of movement and action happening. In terms of response to this wave, but the hospitalization numbers and the case numbers are both looking scary right now, honestly.

Joining us now is Dr. David Kessler, who`s been a great source of guidance for us here over the past few months, the chief science adviser to the Biden administration`s COVID response.

Dr. Kessler, as always, it`s an honor to have time with you. Thanks for making time to be here tonight.


MADDOW: The president said if you are vaccinated and boosted, you should look at the rising case numbers and look at this current wave with concern. But not with alarm.

I will tell you, honestly, I feel alarmed looking at the hospitalization numbers rising so steeply. I was not alarmed about the case numbers rising because we`ve been told and you have explained the cases in many cases are more mild. They`re not necessarily as threatening as earlier iterations of the virus.

Seeing the hospitalization numbers go up so steeply when the hospitals were so taxed, I`m worried about that.

KESSLER: So let`s go through what we know. Cases are everywhere. And yes, there`s an increase in hospitalization and my friends in the ICU units, they are -- they are crushed. No question increase in hospitalization.

But I think we are seeing something fundamentally different. That could change. It could be due to the variant. It could be to the extent of the immunity, but if you look at the rate of hospitalization, all these people now infected. The number of hospitalizations, it is reduced.

And most importantly, this is key, this should comfort you, Rachel, if you get into the hospital, there`s less chance you`re going to ends up on a breathing machine, or in the ICU. And there`s less death.

That`s key. We`re going to get through this. This is fundamentally something is different in the long pathology with this variant. Yes, enormous number of cases. But I think we`re going to get through this and I think the president is exactly right.

MADDOW: To be clear, what you`re saying is even among those who are hospitalized, we`re seeing less clinical severity in terms of progression to having to be intubated, having to be put into a ventilator, progression to death. The clinical severity is less among those who are hospitalized. Is that what you`re saying?

KESSLER: That`s exactly correct. Now, that doesn`t mean these hospitals aren`t very strained. But the fact is there is less death, less advancement to the ICU. And that is very good news.

MADDOW: It is good news and something I feel like I have seen sort of preliminary data about it and everything hearing you put it in simple terms. That is a significant thing.

Obviously, part of what is different now in the hospitals, and even out patient setting compared to say a year ago when we were seeing huge numbers of a different kind and variant. One of the things that is different is the means that we have to treat people. We did just see this announcement that we`re doubling the order for the new therapeutics the very promising Pfizer antiviral pill.

I have to ask you if that means we`ll get it sooner? We`ll get more. But are we going to get access to significant numbers of doses of that medicine any faster?

KESSLER: We`re going to get some sooner. Supply is still very tight in the near term. We`ll have about 200,000 courses this month and next we get to about 650,000 courses in March. By April, we get to 2 million, in that month. That`s when things open up.

By June, we`ll have the first 10 million, and by September, we`ll have 20 million. But the most important thing is in the meantime, even if you don`t have access to the Pfizer pill, there are three other treatments. We have talked about that.


And there`s over 4 million doses of those treatments available this month. And don`t forget, most important thing, if you haven`t had your first dose of vaccine, please go get that, that`s absolutely key. There are a lot of treatments available, more on the way.

MADDOW: Dr. David Kessler, chief science adviser to the Biden administration`s COVID response, sir, I know there is a lot going on right now in terms of a policy response, trying to be nimble in response to this gigantic new wave. Thank you for taking time out of all of it to help us understand and for sort of talking me down off the ledge. I appreciate it, sir.

KESSLER: My pleasure, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: When you see cars sitting back-to-back at a stand still like this, when you expect the people in the cars have been waiting in traffic for a while, maybe even for a few hours if it`s bad.

You do not expect that those commuters have been stuck like that in their cars for more than a day.


But that`s where we are. Hundreds of drivers traveling along I-95 in Virginia outside Washington, D.C. got stranded like that on the road for more than 24 hours overnight last night after a fast unexpected snowstorm resulted in hundreds of accidents along the section of the I-95 corridor. The people who are lucky enough not to have been involved in those accidents were nevertheless very much stuck and indefinitely. People were rationing food and water and fuel and in some cases medicine, waiting in freezing conditions for emergency rescue teams to respond.

Among those stranded along Interstate 95 yesterday and overnight last night and into today was Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, who had been on his way back to Washington after the winter break. It`s usually a two-hour drive.

One of NBC`s congressional reporters, Julie Tsirkin, took this photo of a road weary Tim Kaine arriving at the capitol after 26 hours in his car. The senator told Julie, quote: It was 26 hours and the only thing I ate was one orange and the only liquid I had was one 16-ounce Dr. Pepper.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has just announced just before we got on the air, quote, all vehicles have been removed from I-95 and the interstate will open shortly but he noted that the weather conditions do still remain hazardous in some areas. He`s telling people to avoid the road. Hopefully, by now, all of the stranded drivers got themselves a warm meal and perhaps a little something stiffer to drink than a 16-ounce Dr. Pepper. Man.


MADDOW: Tomorrow, Attorney General Merrick Garland is due to give a speech about the progress the Justice Department has made in prosecuting crimes that took place at the Capitol on January 6th last year. As you can imagine, there is a lot of anticipation about the speech, particularly to the question of whether the Justice Department is only going to prosecute low level people or whether they will actually bring prosecutions against anybody who devised and tried to implement the overall plan to overthrow the government.

Nobody knows what the attorney general is going to say but MSNBC will carry that speech live when it happens tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. Eastern. So, watch this space.

That`s going to do it for us now. I`ll see you again tomorrow night.


Good evening, Lawrence.