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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 12/16/21

Guests: Maggie Hassan


The FDA rules that pills to induce abortion may be sent via mail. "The New York Times" is reporting that former Project Veritas operatives, a Trump donor and others are under scrutiny for theft of Ashley Biden`s diary. Interview with Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan from the great state of New Hampshire. The CDC recommends Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines over J&J.



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

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

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

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

A lot of news breaking late in the day today. It started off as a normal news day but things got busy late in the afternoon and into this evening.

In the midst of this Supreme Court-led juggernaut we`re experiencing right now against abortion rights, this near certainty that their forthcoming ruling on a case, they just heard is going to be the ruling that overturns Roe versus Wade. Tonight, we got a big announcement from the FDA. Tonight, the FDA announced a new rule change around abortion pills.

Now, it used to be the case that if you wanted to have a medication abortion. If you were able to take a series of two drugs to end the pregnancy instead of a surgical procedure in a clinic or a hospital, it used to be if you were going to have a medication abortion, an abortion using these pills, the rule used to be that you had to physically go to a hospital or go to a clinic or medical office to be handed the pills for some reason, even though you could -- taking the bills is not a medical procedure, it`s just taking a drug. You had to physically show up and be handed the pills in order to have that kind of abortion.

Well, now as of tonight, the FDA says you can to a telemedicine appointment with your health provider and then the pills can be sent to you by mail. And just like that, your decision of whether you`re going to get an abortion is once again a private matter and nobody else`s business than your own.

Lots of Republican-led states already have state laws in place that block women from getting these pills or at least they make it really hard to get these pills. Those laws are not going to be changed by this FDA ruling. But as a general matter in the country in states that don`t ban it or block it, the FDA now says women can get these pills in the mail in the privacy of their own home and handle the end of their pregnancy on their own terms without unnecessary costs, without unnecessary trips, without unnecessary hoops to jump through.

The FDA`s decision on this tonight may mean that states that have blocked access to abortion pills, they`re going to get those laws challenged in court. This may create sort of a new legal environment, a new sort of legal playing field on which those challenges could be heard. We`ll see.

But at a time when a large majority of the population in this country wants Roe versus Wade to stay intact and Republican-elected officials and Republican-elected justices are going to get rid of it anyway, this decision by the FDA is one of the only things that has gone in the other direction. This is one of the only things that has happened recently in terms of expanding access to abortion, making it easier and less punitive and less dangerous and less costly for women to get an abortion if they want to.

So again, that news broke late this afternoon, early evening tonight. Also late, today, an interesting move from the panel that advises the CDC on vaccines. It`s the panel that advises the CDC on the safety and efficacy of vaccines. They`re very involved in the approval process for vaccines and deciding who`s eligible for vaccines and stuff like that. This is the same panel that earlier approved the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines and also the one shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Well, late today, that advisory panel, after spending time reviewing what we have learned in the past year from the widespread use of these vaccines, hundreds of millions of doses being used in this country, after reviewing the data and comparing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to those other two vaccines over the course of the past year, that panel decided today unanimously to recommend that if you have a choice when it comes to your vaccination, choose Pfizer or Moderna over Johnson & Johnson.

All in all, they say balancing all the risks and the benefits, including the efficacy of the vaccines, they say Pfizer and Moderna, they`re preferable to Johnson & Johnson. That was the recommendation from the panel late this afternoon. Tonight, the CDC as an agency formally adopted that recommendation.

So, the bottom line is if you haven`t been vaccinated yet, go get vaccinated. Particularly with case numbers just skyrocketing right now, and this new variant storming the country.

Go get -- if you have not been vaccinated, go get vaccinated. And when you go get vaccinated, get Pfizer or Moderna. That`s the bottom line.

Now, millions of Americans, including yours truly, have already been vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson.


What this means for those of us who already got Johnson & Johnson as our initial shot is not to worry about that having been our initial shot, but it does raise interesting questions about our boosters.

Everybody in the country basically right now is recommended to get boosted, even if you have previously been fully vaccinated. Well, what about booster shots for those of us who have had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine? What this means tonight from the CDC is that if you had Johnson & Johnson as your first shot, your booster shot ideally should be Pfizer or Moderna.

Most people who initially got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have already been doing Pfizer or Moderna as their boosters anyway. That is already the common practice in this country, but this new recommendation from the CDC would seem to point in that direction more explicitly.

So, again, interesting decision. We got some nice, clear comment on this issue from Dr. David Kessler, the top advisor to President Biden, who we`ve had here on the show numerous times talking about the Biden administration`s response. We`ve got his comment on this new decision for you coming up later this hour, some clarity from him.

Late tonight we also learned that the national Republican Party has agreed to pay more than $1.5 million in legal bills for former President Donald Trump. Specifically for his defense against New York state investigations into alleged tax fraud, bank fraud and insurance fraud at his real estate business.

These alleged crimes have absolutely nothing to do with him being a Republican. These alleged crimes have nothing to do with his time as president. They`re about conduct that allegedly occurred before he was a public official of any kind. These alleged crimes obviously have nothing to do with the mission of the Republican Party.

He is not an employee of the Republican Party. He is not a Republican nominee for any office. He is not even a Republican candidate for anything.

Nevertheless, the Republican Party is paying his legal bills for his, like, business entanglements? I will also note for the record that he supposedly is also a billionaire, who would be better placed than any of us to be able to afford his own lawyers.

He`s also sitting on more than $100 million in cash that he`s raised for his PAC, money that he raised since he lost his re-election bid. Any amount of that $100 million plus he is welcome and free to spend on his legal bills or on his personal travel or on hairspray or renting bumper cars by the hour or any other thing that he wants.

I mean, he could spend that money on the legal defense of people who were arrested for their role in the January 6th attacks maybe. He hasn`t been doing anything like that. He`s not spending that money even on his own legal fees.

Instead the National Republican Party is paying the bills of the lawyers that he is using to defend himself that he has been inflating and deflating values of his properties in order to cheat on his taxes, cheat on insurance, et cetera, et cetera. Nice work if you can get it.

Do you remember ahead of the Republican National Convention in 2020 when the Republican Party announced they weren`t going to have a platform that year? They weren`t going to have a policy platform for the election for the first time ever in the history of the party? They abolished the party platform in 2020 in favor of a statement that just said Republicans support everything Donald Trump does and thinks.

Now that he`s a private citizen, they`re spending donors money on paying the legal fees for his shady real estate company. Wow, party of Lincoln, my friends. Party of Lincoln. Interesting how you`re evolving.

On the issue of Trump`s ongoing efforts to undermine Americans` belief in our democracy to try to get Americans to no longer respect election results, his ongoing efforts still to try to overturn the election results from his lost re-election bid, Along those lines tonight, we have heard from Trump`s -- the lawyer for Trump`s long-time advisor, Roger Stone, that Roger Stone will take the Fifth tomorrow. He`s expected to appear in person on Capitol Hill in front of the January 6th investigation tomorrow so that he can invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination as his reason for not answering their questions. His lawyer implying that he`s going to sit there and take the Fifth in response to every single one of their questions.

Trump Justice Department official Jeff Clark is also pleading the Fifth in this investigation. Trump lawyer John Eastman is also pleading the Fifth in this investigation. Roger Stone will plead the Fifth tomorrow.

The January 6th investigation sent to a new subpoena to a man named Phil Waldron.


You might remember this video clip. We discussed him in detail at the top of last night`s show. He is the man that claimed credit for compiling the absolutely bananas, here`s how to do a coup 38-page PowerPoint presentation that somehow found its way to Trump`s White House counsel and ultimately found its way to the January 6th investigation. That document said the election results should be thrown out and falsified, reversed, by a simple process.

Trump should declare a national security emergency. The National Guard should be federalized and sent out to seize ballots all over the country. This is the guy who said the mastermind of the election fraud was the brother of the vice president of Venezuela.

Okay. Also China. Also there was a server in Germany and some UV light and rare earth minerals that need to be.

Incidentally, he breathlessly reported that none of the vote totals for Michigan made sense. None of the vote totals matched up with the registered voters in communities in Michigan. Very upset about that. Filed an affidavit on that as part of the -- as part of some of the Trump election lawsuits.

The reason it appeared that none of the voting data looked right for Michigan, and also completely wrong, is because he was looking at a list of counties from Minnesota, not Michigan. But he apparently didn`t notice those were two whole different states and got filed as part of the lawsuit anyway.

Anyway, this is the guy that has just within subpoenaed in the January 6 investigation tonight. Roger Stone will inevitably cause a circus tomorrow and I should tell you our friends at the Fox News Channel I`m guessing are about to get a little extra crunch in their nutter-butters starting tonight because the Fox News Channel as an entity just got told by a judge tonight that the $1.6 billion defamation suit filed against them by one of the voting machine companies they claimed was part of the stolen fantasy, Fox had asked for that to be thrown out. A judge said actually that defamation lawsuit against them can go ahead.

And, you know, Fox News is very rich. Very, very rich. They swim in a sea of cable subscriber fees and My Pillow ad revenue. But still, $1.6 billion is enough to -- I mean that`s -- who knows. It may be enough to re-churn the peanut butter a little bit in terms of their overall on air nuttiness about Trump and the election. We shall see. Consider this just to be a little fair warning.

So, like I said, a lot of news breaking late this afternoon and into this evening. All of those stories that I just did are things that happened in the second half of the day today.

With everything going on today and tonight, here`s the story, here is the story that I can`t really believe is a real thing. I should believe it. I`ve read everything there is, I believe, to read about it so I know that it must be real but I kind of can`t believe it.

I know it, but I don`t feel it. This has to be -- this has to be fiction. Apparently it`s a real story.

We first covered this last month. We had Michael Schmidt here on the show to talk about it, Michael Schmidt from "The New York Times," Pulitzer Prize winner, great reporter.

We had him on early last month for a very, very strange story that he broke with his colleagues at "The Times" about a bizarre dirty trick that had been played against Joe Biden and the Biden family in the last days of the presidential campaign in 2020. Mr. Schmidt and his colleagues reported that the FBI had executed search warrants that day, November 5th, last month, as part of a federal criminal investigation into political opponents of President Biden somehow stealing or otherwise obtaining the diary of President Biden`s daughter.

And they had all of these strange pieces of the story: The FBI raiding multiple premises in and around New York. The fact that Mr. Biden`s daughter`s diary was apparently her actual diary and it had been posted on a right-wing website less than two weeks before the election.

This intriguing detail that it was public corruption prosecutors leading this case at SDNY that led to those search warrants executed. It was such a weird story when this broke last month. We had Michael Schmidt on to explain what is known thus far in the case.

But I remember distinctly telling him at the edged of my interview, listen, Mike, we`re going to need you back here again when we finally understand what all of these weird pieces mean. Well, we finally understand what is actually going on here because this is a freak show of a story.


Well, now we`ve got the rest of it, or at least most of the rest of it. Check this out. This is Adam Goldman and Michael Schmidt writing today in "The New York Times".

Quote: In the final two months of the 2020 campaign, President Donald J. Trump, his grip on power slipping because of his handling of the pandemic, desperately tried to change the narrative by attacking Joe Biden`s son, Hunter, invoking his name publicly over 100 names. At the same time another effort was under way to expose the contents of a diary kept the previous year by Mr. Biden`s daughter, Ashley.

Now, more than a year later, the Justice Department is deep into an investigation of how Ashley Biden`s diary found its way into the hands of supporters of Mr. Trump at the height of the campaign. Federal prosecutors and FBI agents are investigating whether there was a criminal conspiracy among a handful of individuals to steal and publish the diary.

Those being scrutinized involved current and former operatives for the conservative group, Project Veritas, a donor who Mr. Trump appointed to a political position in the final days of his administration. Also, a man who once pled guilty in a money laundering scheme.

The inquiry has intensified the scrutiny of Project Veritas. Its founder was pulled from his apartment in his underwear and handcuffed during a dawn raid last month by the FBI two days after a pair of his former employees had their homes raided as well.

The group, Project Veritas, admits that it purchased Ashley Biden`s diary but ultimately did not publish it and the group denies wrongdoing. This episode has its roots in the spring of last year, the spring of 2020, as Ms. Biden`s father was closing in on the Democratic presidential nomination.

Ms. Biden has kept a low profile during her father`s vice presidency and presidency. She was living in Delray Beach, Florida, last year. But in June with the campaign ramping up, she headed to the Philadelphia area, planning to return to the Delray home in the fall. When she left the Delray home she decided to leave some of her belongings behind, including a duffel bag and another bag, people familiar with the events said.

Weeks after Ms. Biden headed to the Northeast, the friend who had been hosting ms. Biden in the house in Delray allowed a woman named Amy Harris and her two children to move into that home. Quote, shortly after moving into the Delray home, Ms. Harris, whose social media postings and conversations with friends suggested she was a fan of Donald Trump, she learned that Ashley Biden had stayed in that home previously and that some of her belongings were still there.

Exactly what happened next remains the subject of the federal investigation. But by September, ms. Biden`s diary had been acquired from Ms. Harris and a friend by Project Veritas. The friend of Ms. Harris here is an ex-convict who spent years in prison for a major money laundering scheme.

Project Veritas has acknowledged buying Ashley Biden`s diary, but in October, less than a month before the election, the group decided they would not publish a story based on it. That said, quote, Project Veritas was still trying to use the diary as leverage.

Get this, on October 16th, 2020, Project Veritas wrote to Joe Biden and its campaign that it had obtained Ashley Biden`s diary and wanted to question Mr. Biden on camera about its contents.

Project Veritas` chief legal officer, Jered T. Ed, I think that`s how you say his name, wrote to Mr. Biden, quote, shall we not hear from you by Tuesday, October 20th, 2020, we will have no choice but to act unilaterally and reserve the right to disclose that you refused our offer to provide answers to the questions raised by your daughter.

In response, lawyers working for Ashley Biden accused Project Veritas of threatening them as part of an extortion effort to secure an interview with candidate Joe Biden in the campaign`s closing days. Ms. Biden`s lawyers told Mr. Ede of Project Veritas that Project Veritas should treat this diary as stolen property. The lawyer suggested that serious crimes might have been committed.

Ultimately one of Ashley Biden`s lawyers, Roberta Kaplan, told Mr. Ede, quote, this is insane. We should send SDNY, meaning federal prosecutors in the southern district of New York.

Shortly thereafter, Ms. Biden`s lawyers in fact alerted prosecutors at the United States attorney`s office at the Southern District of New York which is the federal prosecutor`s office that is now overseeing this case.

You know, Nixon went for the guy`s medical records from his psychiatrist`s office. Here we`ve descended even from there to the personal diary of the daughter of the president.


And now it is literally a federal criminal investigation. How is this real? How is this not bad fiction?

Joining us now is Michael Schmidt, Washington correspondent for "The New York Times", who initially broke the story for "The Times" last month. He`s one of the reporters in today`s scoop.

Mr. Schmidt, thank you for making time for being here tonight.


MADDOW: Did I screw any of this up or have I missed anything important that helps us understand this story?

SCHMIDT: No. I think you were -- as you were going in the back and forth about the letters that were exchanged by Project Veritas and the Biden lawyers, I could hear it in your voice. That was a really, really important time. This was a very, very close election, closer than most people think.

And it was in those final days of the campaign that Project Veritas was trying to use everything that it had to secure this interview with Biden and to try and use the contents of this diary as some sort of leverage to get there, even threatening to essentially publish the diary. And I believe that if Project Veritas itself had published the diary, it would have been caught up in the conservative media echo chamber and been on Trump`s radar in a way that it never became because it was posted on a conservative website that few people know about and it never got much attention.

I think the showdown between the Biden lawyers and Project Veritas, these letters that go back and forth is some of the most dramatic stuff because if the Biden lawyers had blinked and Project Veritas had published this, I`m not sure what impact it might have had. I think it would have had a much more substantial impact.

MADDOW: Aside from the political impact, there`s also the potential legal implications here. I mean it does read in the excerpts that you have published of the back and forth in these lawyer letters, it does read like an extortion attempt, like essentially trying to force Biden into doing an interview with a group that maintains its journalistic outfit, trying to force him to do it by all but explicit threat that his daughter`s diary would end up being publicly disclosed if he didn`t do it.

I mean extorting a public figure like that in that way has legal implications.

SCHMIDT: Before we sort of get to the legalness of it, though, I think we have to talk about the personalness of it.

Ashley Biden was not someone who had a major public role in the campaign. She wasn`t going to work for her father. She was not out there really pushing -- you know, on the campaign trail. She occasionally did appear.

And this was her personal diary. And the effort was to publish the diary to undercut Biden. It was not the first attempt that someone had made at trying to use the Biden children against their father.

And that is just an extraordinary thing that went on here, where regardless of what Project Veritas says about how the diary was obtained or not obtained, here was a person who was having to confront at the height of her father`s race for the presidency, in the final days of the election where Donald Trump had attacked her brother at a debate just days earlier, she`s sitting there in late October having to deal with the fact that someone is trying to take her diary and make it public to stop her father from becoming president of the United States in a race against Donald Trump.

I just think that`s a remarkable personal thing. I cannot imagine what she went through.

MADDOW: Yeah, exactly. The personal -- this being a low life move is one thing. But going to these depths with a candidate`s family, with his kids in particular, it is sort of morally unfathomable, if you`ll forgive my editorializing.

There are some other sort of dangling pieces of the story that you and Mr. Goldman laid out today and I just wanted to ask you if there was anything else we should understand about them. One, you mentioned there was a Trump donor who has apparently come under some federal scrutiny here for her role in having had -- potentially having had something to do with this.

There`s also a dramatic scene towards the end of your piece in which somebody shows up with what appears to be Ms. Biden`s belongings and brings them to a police station. There`s an interaction there with the police station that`s caught on body camera footage. This person is trying to deliver those things to the police.

How do those pieces of this fit together?

SCHMIDT: Well, even though we`ve been reporting on this for over a month now, we still are very early in this sort of story and understanding it.


What we do know is that a woman named Elizabeth Fago, who was a long-time Trump donor, is being -- is being looked at by federal investigators in this for her role. What role did she play in this?

We do not know a lot about that. We know that she had some connections to one of the individuals who helped sell the diary to Project Veritas. And we do know that she was in the West Wing in December of 2020 and that in that same month in the final days of the Trump administration, Trump appointed her to a National Cancer Advisory Board, one of these positions that he was putting different donors and confidants on in the final days of his administration.

Beyond that, we don`t know a lot about her besides the fact that her name has shown up in court in legal documents, law enforcement documents as the authorities have sought more information here. To the other issue that you brought up about this diary, without getting lost in the weeds in this, less than 24 hours after Biden`s victory was clinched, when the "Associated Press" announced that he had won in November of 2020, two bags showed up at the Delray police department from a lawyer who said that he represented a client and he wasn`t really sure how they had been found. They might have been stolen. And he was just sort of turning them in to authorities and the police officer said that they would be throwing these things out and the lawyer said that he was fine with that.

Project Veritas later said that they had tried to return this diary to law enforcement so it could be given back to its owner.

MADDOW: And, of course, the police didn`t end up throwing it out. They went through it and determined this was likely Ashley Biden`s actual stuff. Called the Secret Service, called the Biden family and the story goes from there.

Michael Schmidt, Washington correspondent for "The New York Times," this story is -- even as I understand more and more about it, it`s still impossible to believe. I hope that you will stay on this until we get to the bottom of it. Thank you for helping us understand it tonight, Mike.

SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.

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




SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): The Senate needs to make voting rights the very next issue we take up. We must do voting rights, and we must deal with this issue now.


MADDOW: That was Georgia Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock this week at the tail end of an epic Senate speech. The Senate this week carved out an exception from the filibuster so they can pass the debt ceiling with a simple majority of votes. Senator Warnock in a speech implored his fellow Democratic senators to do the same thing, to carve out an exception to the filibuster so they can pass voting rights legislation with just a simple majority of votes.

Well, President Biden has now backed up Senator Warnock with newly finite language about how the Senate should take up voting rights right now before anything else. He`s now saying, quote, there`s nothing more domestically important than voting rights. It is the single biggest issue.

Well, today, President Biden and Vice President Harris held a strategy session on Zoom with these nine Democratic senators to reportedly chart out some sort of game plan for how voting rights can get passed as the next thing that needs to pass the Senate. One notable attendee is moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin who has seemed like he`s vocally against changing the rules of the Senate to get voting rights passed except on days when he doesn`t sound vocally opposed to it.

He`s hard to parse but at the very least he appears not to be totally against this as a tactical move anymore maybe. And who knows what lurks in the heart of Senator Manchin and who knows what is causing him to have this apparent change of heart if that is what it is. Maybe it`s the holiday season. Maybe it`s something to do with his newfound pressure on the issue coming not only from his colleague the in the Senate like Senator Warnock but also pressure from the public.

I want to show you a new ad that just came out today. One of a number on this subject that`s out right now, but I think this is a really good one. It`s urging the Senate to pass voting rights legislation no matter how they have to get it done.

Watch this. Watch right to the end for the invocation of John Lewis. Watch.


ANNOUNCER: On a faraway beach, a generation called our greatest, saved the world from tyranny. In an office oval, a new generation president faced down a threat of nuclear war. On a bridge in Selma, Alabama, a preacher of his time marched us straight to passing voting rights for every American. At a gate in West Berlin, a late generation American president demanded an enemy superpower tear down a wall and liberate a continent.

American generations, answering the call of their time, with American ideals. Freedom, liberty, justice. For today`s generation of leaders, the call has come again, to protect our freedom to vote, to fortify our democracy bypassing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, because America --

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA): We are not going back. We are going forward.



MADDOW: Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema get most of the attention for being these conservative Democrats who are the main roadblocks to actually passing voting rights in the Senate. But, you know, they are not the only Democratic senators who have said that they opposed changing the Senate rules, changing the filibuster rule for this so that voting rights could be passed by a simple majority. They haven`t been alone in that.

But today, the dwindling number of Democrats on that team, on team "don`t carve out the filibuster to get this done", that team lost another one of their members. One Democratic senator today, in pretty dramatic fashion, has just announced that she has changed her mind about getting voting rights passed. She said she now believes that voting rights is too important, this is the only way to get it done and she is firmly throwing her support behind getting voting rights passed no matter how it needs to get done.

She had previously been opposed to changes to the filibuster in order to get it done. She is no longer opposed. She wants to do it.

That senator joins us next. Stay with us.



MADDOW: We`ve all been following very closely the question of whether or not voting rights will get federal protections this year. To that end, I want to draw your attention to something that just happened tonight on the United States Senate floor.


SEN. MAGGIE HASSAN (D-NH): Congress has a responsibility to act now, to ensure that the right of every American to vote is never taken away. We must pass legislation to prevent partisan politicians from rejecting the will of the people and overturning election results.

And because that effort here in Congress is being blocked by a minority, which is abusing its power, I believe the time has come to change the Senate rules to allow a straight up or down majority vote on this fundamental issue of democracy.

We must change the Senate rules to protect the right to vote because if we don`t, we face a very different kind of Election Day than the one we have now. If the partisans who are attacking our democracy have their way, our Tuesday election day in early November will be different. We`ll wake up, cast our vote, drop our kids at school, go to work.

We`ll tune back in to see the election results only to learn that the vote tally is being ignored, that our votes don`t matter much. We`ll learn that our legislatures are going to throw out the results and pick their own winner.

We`ll see an election day that is a charade, just like in countries where democracy doesn`t exist. Our democracy is too important to allow a minority of this body to let it slip away.

We must pass legislation to protect American democracy. Our country depends on it.


MADDOW: That was New Hampshire U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan tonight urgently calling on her colleagues in the Senate to change the rules, to change the filibuster rules and allow a simple majority to pass voting rights protections.

Now, this is really important in political terms. Senator Hassan is a moderate senator. She`s got a very tough re-election fight ahead of her in New Hampshire. And this represents a shift for Senator Hassan. Up until now, she has not -- she has supported voting rights to be sure, but she has not supported a carve-out from the filibuster for getting voting rights passed.

Now she says given the urgency of this situation and the sort of dire straits that democracy is in without federal protection, now she supports getting voting rights protections passed with a straight up or down majority vote and that really is the only way it can happen.

Joining us to talk about arriving at this new position is Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan from the great state of New Hampshire.

Senator Hassan, it`s a real pleasure to have you here tonight. Thank you for making time.

HASSAN: Rachel, thanks for having me on.

MADDOW: So I want to be clear, and I think I was a little woolly about this the way that I described it before the commercial break a moment ago. In the past, you have said that the filibuster should maybe change. For example, we should maybe force people talk through the filibuster all the way through like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" in order to apply a filibuster to something like voting rights.

This speech that you gave tonight makes me think that you`re calling for something new. That you are calling for essentially a carve-out from the filibuster so voting rights can pass with a simple majority vote. This is a shift for you, isn`t it?

HASSAN: Yes, it is. The foundational nature of voting rights is at stake. Part of what has influenced me is seeing this acceleration of measures at the state level where they`re working to take impartially administered elections and turning them into a partisan exercise. If that happens, if we can`t rely on our votes being counted and tallied and our election officials caring not about who wins but making sure that the election is just free and fair, then we really are seeing the crumbling of the very foundation of our democracy, and that`s the foundation on which everything else is built.

MADDOW: That sort of anecdote, that dystopian portrait that you laid out for your colleagues, talking about how the next election day might be one in which we learn after casting our votes that our votes are being disregarded, it does sound a little bit like science fiction facially, but the type of changes that you described in that part of your speech, those things have actually been proposed in numerous state legislatures already this year, not even a year out yet from last year`s election resolution.


Is there disbelief among your colleagues that things are this serious and that the proposals to change our elections are as radical as the ones that you described?

HASSAN: There is just kind of -- I`m not sure disbelief is the right term, but real concern. We`ve been talking about it among ourselves.

You know, I think a lot right now about my dad. He was a World War II veteran. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

And he and that greatest generation saved freedom for the rest of the world. They saw the threat, the reality of tyrants and authoritarianism up front and up close. And my dad sometimes at the breakfast table with my sister, brother and I would look at us and say what are you all going to do for freedom today and that sounds like an odd question to ask a kid, but my dad meant it.

He`s been on my mind a lot recently. What are we going to do for freedom today, because this all depends on having these impartially administered elections?

MADDOW: Senator, you are a practical and ideologically moderate Democrat. You are a get things done for your home state kind of senator, I know. You don`t spend a lot of time on cable television, for example.

I have to ask you given your role in the Democratic Caucus, your sort of workhorse, not show horse role and the way that you are allied with your more moderate colleagues on a lot of issues, do you have any insight into whether they might be softening on this issue or opening their mind on this issue to potentially changing the filibuster rule in order to pass these protections, even if they had previously said they wouldn`t do it?

I think thinking specifically of Senator Kyrsten Sinema, but I mean it about any other colleagues who may have been in a more cautious posture on this issue.

HASSAN: What I can tell you is that the seriousness of what we`re seeing in states across the country is really weighing on people, from Georgia to Arkansas to Arizona. We are seeing these measures that are really aimed at allowing partisans to just work the levers of their power to really choose their own winners.

What we also know is when that happens, when voters don`t have confidence that their input matters or that they can hold their elected representatives accountable, then the democracy really does begin to crumble. And people in power, as they get more and more distance and divorced from the people they represent, because they aren`t held accountable, begin to rely more and more on authoritarian methods.

And so this is really serious. It`s weighing on all of us. We know how important free, fair, impartially administrated elections are to our democracy, to our way of life. And frankly, too, how important it is when you think about who our enemies are. Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, they would love to see American democracy fail.

This is about our security, stability, our economy, our individual rights at home, but it`s also about our security around the world and about our standing. So it`s weighing on all of us and we`re having ongoing discussions about it because it`s so serious.

MADDOW: Democratic United States Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire -- Senator Hassan, it is a real pleasure to have you here. I know we won`t get you back any time soon because you don`t do a lot of cable news, but we`d love to have you back any time you`re ready. I really appreciate you helping us get this context tonight.

HASSAN: Well, thank you so much, Rachel. Be safe, everybody.

MADDOW: You, too.

We`ll be right back. Stay with us.



MADDOW: Today, the nearly 90 million Americans who are unvaccinated for COVID received some very clear practical advice from the CDC about which vaccine you should get if you`re eligible. The CDC is now recommending either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Either one of the two mRNA vaccines over the Johnson & Johnson shot. Johnson & Johnson uses a different biological mechanism to protect you from the virus.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky issued this guidance tonight hours after a CDC advisory panel voted 15-0 to make this recommendation. Either of the mRNA vaccines, either Pfizer or Moderna is preferred over the Johnson & Johnson for your vaccination. So, that`s clear guidance now. If the Moderna or Pfizer is available to you, get inoculated with one of those instead of the Johnson & Johnson.

But for the 16 million Americans who got the J&J shot already, there is now still really practical questions that are left at least fuzzy, if not unanswered when it comes to boosters.

The CDC recommended in October that anybody who got the initial shot of Johnson & Johnson should get a booster. Get your booster at least two months after your Johnson & Johnson shot. But what should your booster be?

When they recommended that people who got J&J should get a booster, the CDC said at the time it`s fine to mix and match. You can get a different for the booster shot. But the new guidance tonight, does that mean if you had the J&J, it`s better to get boosted with Pfizer or Moderna other than getting a Johnson & Johnson boost?

We asked the Biden administration`s top science officer on the COVID response, frequent guest of the show, Dr. David Kessler, that question tonight, and this is what he told us, gave this direct quote.


He said, quote, the most important thing right now, if you`re vaccinated, you need to get boosted. We have ample supply of Moderna and Pfizer to support boosters. We encourage everyone to get boosted with one of those vaccines right away. Got it.

Okay. So what this means is get your booster if you haven`t got it already, and if your initial vaccine was Johnson & Johnson, it is preferable to make your booster not another Johnson & Johnson but instead either Moderna or Pfizer. And as Dr. Kessler notes, there is plenty available. Plenty supplies.

I mean, it does still leave one question remaining. If your first shot was J&J, how many boosters should you get? Should you just get one shot of Pfizer? One shot of Moderna? I mean, you to get two shots of Pfizer or Moderna to be considered fully vaccinated in the first place, and then you get boosted with a third shot. If your first shot was Johnson & Johnson, should you get ultimately two shots of Pfizer or two shots of Moderna or just one as a booster?

Right now, the guidance is just to get one shot, one booster shot if you had Johnson & Johnson. The question of whether that guidance might change is now open. And frankly, 16 million people need to know.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: You know what tonight is? Friday Eve. Because tomorrow`s Friday. Helpful reminder.

I`ll see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.