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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 12/23/21

Guests: David Kessler, Douglas MacMillan


FDA grants emergency authorization for Pfizer and Merck antiviral pills to treat COVID-19. A firm which is accused by SEC of deceiving investors is working with former President Trump`s new media company.


[21:00:04] SPENCER ACKERMAN, AUTHOR, "REIGN OF TERROR": That`s what this is. This is essentially a massive cover up institutionalized by the pentagon to keep the wars going. This is essentially a massive cover up institutionalized by the pentagon to keep the wars going. CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Great reporting by Azmat Khan and the team of "The New York Times" there, and I want to give them a shout out again. Spencer Ackerman, as always, good to have you on. Thank you very much. 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. It`s really nice to have you here on Christmas Eve eve. When you settle in to watch this show by now you have probably noticed expect a bit of the unexpected, right? We might have me reading unusually long portions of court transcripts. Sometimes, I do, you know, end up reporting breaking news because the news drags us along. But other times, we will try and do historical background for understanding what is important in the news today. I recognize that we do weird stuff on the show and if you have been watching the show for a while you probably know that, too. We mostly do weird stuff on the show because my brain works weird, and I`m aware of that. I know the way we heard things can occasionally be a surprise. But even with all the weird things that we have done over the years to cover the news, I have never before done this, nor have I ever anticipated that one of the things I would need do on the air someday to explain the news would be to break down a new trend in the recent reviews for Yankee candles. But that day has arrived, and so here we go. Review number one, quote, no scent, very disappointed. One star. Review number two: no scent, very disappointed and embarrassed as this was a gift. One star. And review number three: fraud -- smells like wax when lit, definitely not a yankee. One star. And those scented candles purchased on line could theoretically have been duds sent out to Amazon customers with no scent. And theoretically, that could be true but that`s not what happened at all. There is an assistant professor of political science at Northeastern named Nick Beauchamp. Mr. Beauchamp studies this kind of phenomenon believe it or not. And when he saw the new trend in the Amazon reviews for candles, he had an inkling of why it might be, why all of a sudden, scented candle companies started getting all these complaints about the candles not being smelly enough. The professor used a computer program to scrape all of the Amazon reviews for Yankee candles from January 1 through yesterday and flagged reviews that either used the words no smell or no scent. And then he graphed the number of reviews that had language like that on this chart. You can see this is a thing that has definite trends, big peaks and big valleys, and this chart of people advancing this very specific kind of complaint about their candle purchases. And now, independently on its own, this makes no sense, until you overlay the charts about the people complaining candles don`t smell with the country`s COVID infection rates for the same dates. The purple line shows the candle reviews of people not being able to smell the candle, and the red line is COVID rates in the United States put on the same time frame. Why you think there is a correlation there? One of the symptoms of COVID is losing sense of smell. As more and more Americans get infected with COVID. More and more of them lose the ability to smell anything, and apparently, a very predictable number of them are blaming the poor candle company for the fact that they cannot smell anything. It`s not the candle company`s fault you have COVID. This is not the first time this exact correlation has been spotted. A researcher at Bryn Mawr gets a similar scrape on scented candle reviews last year for the first year of the pandemic and indeed found much the same result. It`s good to remember that we already use metrics sort of like this in public health all the time. It`s not all that different than looking at places where a lot of fevers are detected by smart thermometers and gives you an inkling that something is going on in terms of illness in that area. But I have to say tracking people`s complaints about the lack of the delicious smelliness in their lives from their candle purchases is almost a disconcertingly cheery way to track a pandemic. But the bad candle reviews are going up, and the numbers are going up, and those things are related. [21:05:06] And, you know, just plain numbers themselves right new are as dramatic as the candle reviews are telling us. This is the newly reported cases in the United States. Look at the far right side of the chart. Look at how steeply cases are rising right now. The line on the far right side of the screen is basically vertical. In New York state, they not only hit their highest case numbers ever. In New York state, they broke the record for daily new cases five times in one week. This is New York state. Massachusetts just today reported the highest number of new cases they have seen ever since the pandemic. Washington, D.C. has a relatively small population, and when big things happen to small populations, things can look warped when you look at the chart, and honestly, look at the chart and Washington D.C. and the new COVID cases. This is the Washington D.C. chart of new COVID cases reported overtime. Look at the right side of that graph. It looks like a glitch. It looks like somebody dropped it, right? But that is not a typo. That is real. And if you want a slice of life in Washington in terms of people who live and work in Washington D.C. who you heard of, we got a lot of high-profile cases this week. Democratic Senator Cory Booker, Senator Elizabeth Warren, now Senator Chris Coons. They`ve all announced that they tested positive for COVID. House Democratic leader James Clyburn is positive, so is Congressman Jason Crow. Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky announced that she too has COVID. This week, we had news from the White House that the staffers who work with both President Biden and Vice President Harris have been infected. Both the president and vice president have been repeatedly tested themselves and remain negative, we`re told, and it`s all over the federal government, among other things. Today, seven different people who traveled with the deputy secretary of defense, they came down with it as well, seven of them. And in all of those instances I just named, we don`t know of anybody having to be hospitalized, even though some of them said they had COVID symptoms but all the people I just mentioned have been vaccinated and boosted. So these are breakthrough infections for people who are nevertheless well protected from serious illness by the vaccine. And we also do know that, while, yes, there can be breakthrough infections for people who are fully vaccinated and boosted, and we know that. And we also know for sure that people who are not vaccinated are way, way worse off and more vulnerable right now. And I can show you that very easily. Let`s talk about New York City. New York state is having record breaking numbers and New York city is a highly vaccinated estate but you probably heard about the big uptick in cases. Look at this. At first glance it look boring but it has a really good payoff in a second. Trust me. So this is COVID cases in New York City week by week, and it`s that COVID cases going back to late September. The number of COVID cases being reported per 100,000 people from late September until now. You can see these numbers go up, starting right at thanksgiving in November. The new numbers start going up in New York city. They pop up a bit. You know what? Put a label on that line. That -- part of that chart we`re looking at, that line, that is how the cases have risen in New York City among the people who are vaccinated. Yes, they have gone up for sure. And now, watch this. Bink. This in the same time period in the same city, this is how cases have risen in New York city among people who are not vaccinated. Yeah. They both started to go up at the same time, but, oh, dear. So, not only are vaccinated people who are getting infected way, way less likely to be sick or hospitalized because they had the vaccine, but look at how fast the cases are rising in unvaccinated people versus people who have gotten the vaccine. Man, get your vaccine now, please. If you haven`t been boosted, get your booster. Now is the time. Just look at this graph. Which line would you rather be on? As this omicron variant just runs us down in the road right now. That said, at the same time, it`s a remarkable confluence of things, a remarkable confluence of events that this week, this Christmas week we simultaneously have this epic surge of new cases from the omicron variant, lots of cases from people who are vaccinated but tons and tons and tons of case of people who are unvaccinated. So, we got this big new surge of new cases and at the same time this same week, we have this big leap forward and all this interesting stuff to think about and potentially changeup around all the drugs that are available right now to fight this thing. This has been a huge week in terms of case numbers, through the roof. Also, it`s a huge week in terms of how we fight COVID. I mean, start with the vaccines. Omicron has been here long enough, and we know there is effectiveness from the omicron variant, but it`s reduced effectiveness, so you need to get your booster, and if you are fully vaccinated and boosted, yes, you can get a breakthrough case but you are still quite unlikely to get seriously ill enough that you need to be hospitalized. For people who get infected who are at high risk of getting seriously ill and trying to stay out of the hospital, our country have had pretty good success with the monoclonal antibody treatments. These drugs you need to take as an infusion or as a series of injections. Well, that`s all changing right now, too, because the bad news about monoclonal antibody treatments that saved so people and helped so many people over the recent months, the bad news is that the two most commonly used ones, the one from the Lilly and the one from Regeneron, they don`t work against the omicron variant. That said, there is a third monoclonal antibody, one made by Glaxo, that one is less available and harder to get and is in very limited supply but that one does work against omicron, and there is an interesting story about the administration realizing that, early on, as soon as omicron reared its head, the administration has been trying to marshal all the supplies we have of the one last monoclonal antibody that still works, even on the omicron variant. They have worked on the supply of it, and they have had interesting decisions to make with the very limited amount we got. On top of the monoclonal antibodies, yesterday and today, the FDA approved two different new drugs that you can take at home. Antiviral pills you can take to prevent serious illness and hospitalization. The one from Pfizer that was approved yesterday appears to be more effective and potentially have fewer side effects and safety occurrence and things to worry about than the one approved in Merck today. So the Pfizer appears to be a preferable option to the one from Merck, both in terms of effectiveness and complications, and the one from Pfizer, the better one is in really, really limited supply and will be for a while yet. And the Merck one that is not useful for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons, there is more supply of that one, but again, it`s not as effective, and it has safety concerns that the other one doesn`t. The Merck one that`s basically approved today is something to be used where other treatments are not available or appropriate and it has a bunch of restrictions and only for adults and not for pregnant women. That said, we have millions of doses of that one and less than 100,000 doses of the other. So our whole landscape of what we have in terms of drugs fighting this thing, it`s ally really, really changing right now as we speak this week. We`ve got this huge new crux of cases, and we have two new drugs approved, two others that were widely used were rendered obsolete by the new variant. You think you have your head around the various options, and it`s all changed, and boom all of a sudden, you can`t smell the butter and popcorn- scented candle. But even as this whole landscape is changing we have to do our best to make practical decisions about vaccines and boosters for yourself and your family members, about testing, whether or not you can easily access testing, what`s your strategy around using testing to keep you and your family members safe around the holidays. Also, what are you going to do if someone in your family is positive? What are you going to do and how are you going to approach it if you or someone you love needs a treatment? The treatment landscape and the vaccine landscape and all these thing are very much in flux, but the good news is the experts can help us understand them, and none is so complex that we as a layperson can`t understand it. Joining us now is our friend, Dr. David Kessler. He has been a great source of guidance for us in the show. He`s the chief science adviser to the Biden administration`s COVID response. Dr. Kessler, thank you for making time to be here tonight. I said a couple of nights ago, I`d love to have you back so soon. I hope you don`t mind that I cash that in so quickly. DR. DAVID KESSLER, BIDEN ADMIN COVID RESPONSE CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER: My pleasure, Rachel. MADDOW: First, let me just ask you if I explained any of that -- any of that wrong? It is I think a little bit hard to keep track of how our medicine cabinet is changing in terms of what our treatments and vaccines can do to help us with this new variant. [21:15:04] Did I screw any of that up in explanation? KESSLER: No. You got it perfectly. I think we have to recognize what you showed in the graphs is that we are going to break the peak of this pandemic next week in the number of cases. And we have to recognize that that is just bringing a lot of stress and a lot of concern right before Christmas to a lot of families. I don`t think there is a family and where I live in Washington D.C. and in the New York area that is not confronting what do I do about being exposed to somebody, somebody with a positive test? And let me just take a minute or two, Rachel, if I can just to see if I can put this in context of where we are as we go into this holiday. This is no doubt a highly, highly infectious disease. There is an exploding number of cases. But what is absolutely critical to understand while this is highly infectious, most people who will get it are not going to be seriously -- become seriously sick. Omicron infection is considerably less severe in people who are fully vaccinated and boosted as indicated because they are immunized against the variant. The observed derivative of omicron is less than delta. Cases are up 45 percent in the last week, but hospitalizations are flat. Here`s who I`m most concerned about in the next couple, you know, days, the people who really are at the center of who we have to make sure we take care about. These are, you know, people who despite vaccinations may be at increased risk, the extreme elderly, the medically fragile, the immunocompromised. Those are people that we have to take great care to protect. And they, obviously, are protecting themselves. For the rest of us, I think this is very important. If you don`t have symptoms or you only have mild symptoms, you know, we see the long lines. I don`t think, you know, if you don`t have symptoms, if you only have mild symptoms, I don`t think right now there is a need to stand in a line for hours to get tested. I mean, if you have a home test, then use it. But if you have a head cold and a good fitting mask, please use it. And for those of us who are vaccinated and boosted, please understand we have our shield. We have our protection. Yet, an enormous number of cases, we`ll get through this just fine. MADDOW: One of the things I want to ask you about, Dr. Kessler, is the changing options for people who need treatment, for people who are sick and at high risk of advancing to serious illness and needing to be hospitalized and a high risk of dying from COVID. These monoclonal antibodies have saved lives, and even for people who were not willing to get vaccinated, they were willing to consent to that type of treatment when they fell ill. I don`t pretend to understand it, but we observe that. Now, the monoclonal antibodies that we have been using most often don`t work against omicron. Can you talk to us a little bit about the decision- making you have gone through against the one remaining monoclonal antibody that`s in such short supply that does seem to work against omicron? KESSLER: Rachel, you helped us over the months get out the word how important the monoclonal antibodies are. But when we started to see the omicron variant in south Africa, at the very beginning, as soon as it got reported, no evidence in the United States, we looked at the molecular biology and did our analysis of those mutations, and we realized that two of the three monoclonal antibodies were not going to work. We used our best science and recognized that the Regeneron and the Lilly were not going to work. There`s still plenty of delta, so we made sure that people use that. But we pulled back for a number of weeks the GSK monoclonal, and that allowed us to have more that we shipped out this last week. [21:20:05] We are shipping out more -- we have about 300,000 regimens in January. We just bought another 600,000 for the first quarter. You know, we`re buying everything we can get our hands on. But the important part, as you put up your graphic again, you see that those monoclonals are only -- they are very important. But the great news is, you know, we have now that medicine cabinet certainly for outpatients. We have oral antiviral, two that were approved yesterday and today. We have a new intravenous -- the drug is not new. Remdesivir has been out there, but there`s a paper in "New England Journal" yesterday that found results for use as in outpatient, prevent hospitalization. So there`s a range of therapy. There is one that is very important. There is a monoclonal that just got authorized, and that`s the AstraZeneca. And that`s for prevention, even before you get infected for people who are immunocompromised. So those people who were afraid to go out, cancer, organ transplants, other reasons they are immuno-suppressed, it doesn`t amount to a vaccine but giving them the monoclonal will give them the equivalent of a vaccine and that protection. So, much -- many more therapies today that we had in the past that accesses the oral treatment and allow the public to easily use the outpatient therapies. Ultimately, as soon as we have enough of these, when that Pfizer drug, when we have, you know, millions of doses a month, yes, it`s going to take a few months to get there, that`s going to be a game changer. MADDOW: Just as a lay observer of these things, that Pfizer drug, I feel incredibly bullish on the prospect for that drug because the clinical trial data was impressive, and the unanimous recommendation from the advisory group that it be approved, and it`s easy to administer, three pills twice a day and five days, boom, you`re done, it`s just such effectiveness. And three days after symptoms, it`s a maybe harder to do, but still show some effectiveness and people get even five days after symptoms. There`s so much good to say about the Pfizer pill and how many he was it could prospectively save. The only part of it I despair of is how few doses there are, and I know the United States government is buying up everything we can. But is there -- are we at the physical and scientific limit in terms of what could be produced in terms of the Pfizer drug? I know the Merck drug was appealing in a lot of ways, but the Pfizer pill is so promising and a game changer as you say. Anything we can do to get more made? KESSLER: So, we are working day and night, and Pfizer are working day and night, and they have accelerated, but the chemical synthesis takes eight to nine months. So, there are some limiting steps but we`re trying to overcome those. We`ll have about 265,000 doses in January, but we`ll be in the millions by April. MADDOW: Will the administration have sort of a communication plan, a messaging plan to let people know about their treatment options? Obviously, that one, when we got it in a way that we can deliver it at scale, it will be a good solution for a lot of people. Until that`s available, treatment can be complex, and certainly, health providers need to be involved in the decisions. But is there some effort that you or the administration are planning to let us know more? Especially if millions of Americans are going to get infected with this omicron variant, it seems that upping the people`s consciousness about the treatment options will make a big difference whether or not they can access treatments that might save their life. KESSLER: Absolutely and it`s not only patients but doctors. But you have to understand, these drugs, and now we have five outpatient therapies that work against omicron, they vary ineffectiveness. They vary in their risks, and you mentioned they vary in availability. And so we are going to have to educate physicians, too, and we are doing that, and we will have to, you know, maximize the benefits of these therapies. We`ll have to be sure that the higher-risk patient gets the most effective medicines, and they go first. [21:25:02] And tonight, the most important thing is those who have been immunocompromised, those who`ve not been able to have vaccines, there are drugs that are being shipped that you can take. MADDOW: Dr. David Kessler, chief science adviser to the Biden administration`s COVID response. Sir, it`s always an honor to have you here, and thank you for your time tonight, and for your ongoing service. I know you will get nearly enough time off from the holidays, but I hope it`s a restful time for you and your family in any case. KESSLER: Merry Christmas, Rachel. MADDOW: You, too. All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOOW: The House and the Senate are both done for the year, both of them wrapped up their legislative business last week and high-tailed it home for the holidays. The house is scheduled to be back in D.C. until January 10th. But the Senate is coming back a week earlier than that which is notable for other reasons meaning they will be back in session January 6. [21:30:06] And that, of course, is a controversial thing in terms of elected officials and say, Capitol police officers want to be at work and at the capitol on January 6 given what happened on that date one year ago. That said, there is also a real urgency to get right to work at the start of the year given the list of things they are hoping to accomplish, not the least of which is the legislation to protect voting rights. There`s been this tidal wave of voting restrictions that are expected to pass in Republican controlled states ahead of next year`s midterm election. Federal protections on voting rights, well, kind of now or never. And on that issue of voting rights, I would like to draw your attention to something, the remarkable turn around the voting rights. I am a little surprised it hasn`t gotten more national attention. It deserve its. It involves a political candidate in Georgia, a very famous one. His name is Herschel Walker. He is a football legend, a Heisman trophy winner and former NFL player. He`s now running as a Trump-endorsed Republican for the U.S. Senate seat in Georgia that is currently occupied by Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock. And honestly, Mr. Walker, while he is very famous for his football career, he is not the most natural choice for a Senate candidate. Surely before he announced his bid for office, "The Associated Press" had a worrying report about the portrait of him that emerged from readily public records. Quote, an "Associated Press" review of hundreds of changes of public records tied to Walker`s business center and sheds a new life on a personal turbulent history, accusations that he previously threatened his ex-wife`s life, meaning he threatened to kill her and exaggerated claims of financial success and he alarmed business associates with unpredictable behavior. The history that the "AP" ran down included the fact that his ex-wife actually secured a legal protective order against him because of his threats and perceived violence. For the complicating matters, Mr. Walker was encouraged to run for the Senate seat in Georgia despite the fact that he does not live in Georgia. He actually had been living in Texas for a long time and it makes Georgia a hard place to be a senator from. Despite all that, he entered the race after getting sign off from both former President Trump and also from Senator Mitch McConnell. But this is not just a Trump Republican thing. One of the other interesting things about Herschel Walker and his Senate race is despite his major name recognition and his major endorsements, he has kept a low profile. He has tried to avoid interaction with voters, and he has basically turned down interview requests with mainstream journalists. And we may be starting to understand why that is. This is a clip from a recent interview Mr. Walker gave on a far-right Internet or talk radio show. Let`s just watch over it. Sink into this. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP HOST: Raphael Warnock doesn`t talk about inflation. He doesn`t talk about the price of gas. He doesn`t talk about the supply chains, disruption or anything of that nature, but he brings up voting rights, the -- the John Lewis voting rights bill. What do you say about Raphael Warnock trying to push this during this time, trying to what I call federalize elections? HERSCHELWALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: You know what`s sad about that, you know, to use the name of a great man to bring up something so bad is terrible to do. You know, Senator Lewis was one of the greatest senators that`s ever been and for an African American, he was absolutely incredible. To throw his name on a bill for voting rights I think is a shame. First of all, you know, the bill doesn`t fit what John Lewis stood for, and I think they know that. And I think that is sad for them to do this to him. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: The Lewis Herschel Walker is talking about is John Lewis. Of course, John Lewis was not a senator. What he said there, Senator Lewis, one of the greatest senators that has ever been. He was never a U.S. senator. He served in the House of Representatives for over three decades. He then said to throw his name on a bill for voting rights, I think that`s a shame. It doesn`t fit what John Lewis stood for. Voting rights was the cornerstone of John Lewis`s life`s work. He was responsible for the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. And even if you can`t wrap your head around that, it`s this part of the Herschel Walker interview that will make your head spin. [21:35:07] (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) WALKER: Let`s go to the voting rights, if you want to talk about voting. First of all, you want to get people to vote, if they`re legal to vote, and you want to try and encourage people to vote. That`s the most precious thing you have -- not encourage, but encourage. And you get things done now. Don`t talk about it after or talk about it during. Get it done right now. And no one is not legal to vote, why don`t we go in and get the IDs and get it done right now instead of waiting until it`s time to vote and start talking about it. And I think that`s what people got to remember. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s what people got to remember. You got it? We have to encourage, not encourage, but encourage. You know what I mean? Mr. Walker is trying to clarify his position on voting rights. He says Senator John Lewis would never want to be associated with. He is trying to clarify his position on voting rights there. I do not think he was successful. Even if he diagrammed the sentences, we would not be closer to figuring out what he is saying. And it`s totally fine not to be an expert on voting rights but to be clear, this is the guy that the Republican Party, the Trump wing and Mitch McConnell wing are throwing their full weight behind for the seat currently occupied by Raphael Warnock. This is who they want representing the people of Georgia next year. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) [21:40:44] MADDOW: Okay. So the company was called Atlas, Atlas. Atlas Technology International. It appeared to be funded and perhaps run by a firm in China, in Shanghai. But what this company said the business was when it filed the annual report with the SEC said that their business was selling cupcakes in the United States. Quote, we are a bakery-based company in California, specializing in freshly made cakes and cupcakes. We engage in the business of selling a wide variety of cupcakes and other baked goods under the brand name sweets and treats. So they are doing business under sweets and treats but their real business is Atlas Technology, kind of a weird name for a cupcake company, right? But okay, watch what happens next. The same year, Atlanta Technology International filed their annual report with the sec but now, instead of the cupcakes thing which disappeared, the company designed and distributes touch screen technology. That is quite a change in business plan. Yeah. The annual report goes on, quote, the company has yet to establish Atlas as a renowned brand for touchscreen technology. Well, yeah. Give them a break, last year, Atlas was selling fresh-baked cupcakes. They have only just gone from baked cupcakes to touchscreens. Give them some time. The branding hasn`t followed them as they made that leap. That was one company. The company that started off saying it made cupcakes and immediately switched to touchscreens. That`s their business, cupcakes or touchscreens, depending. We learned about this odd business from "The Washington Post" today which noted that the same Shanghai folks behind that company also ran another company. This one claims to be a smart phone sales company in Miami Beach. But it did not appear to have sold anything, not a single thing, ever, too anyone. U.S. sales company? And there is also a company run by the same guys in Shanghai, a different company that claim to be developing autonomous drone software. Pretty cut ago cutting-edge cuff. And that company had zero employees. Maybe the drones were so autonomous they were going to design themselves, really cutting edge. So the SEC looked at the companies, publically traded companies in the U.S., and they determined, yeah, these were fake companies. These guys in China article not running companies selling smart phones or drones or cupcakes or touchscreens. But if you are running publicly traded entities, there are a lot of rules about not being fake. So the SEC stepped in and more or less kicked them off the stock exchange. For a couple of them, they issued what is called a stop order. The SEC forcibly stopped them from selling any more public shares. And stop orders are a serious thing and a rare thing. And in the past 10 years, something like 35 companies total have gotten stop orders. Of the 35, at least 3 them were run by the same group of guys in China, in Shanghai. Well, now, this Chinese firm in shanghai that appears to specialize in launching publically traded companies that mislead regulators and investors and get everyone involved in trouble, I`ll give you one guess as to what their new high-profile investment is. Yes. It`s Donald Trump`s latest business venture, the former president`s media company. This is the lead today at "The Washington Post". This is incredible. Quote, a Chinese firm helping former President Trump take the new media company public is said to have misrepresented shell companies with few employees as ambitious growing enterprises. [21:4:5:05] Huh. Misrepresenting your company as a wildly successful businesses in order to get people to fork over their cash to you. Whatever could have attracted this Chinese firm to the founder of Trump University? Game recognizes game, right? I guess? Because the thing to remember about the Trump media company that was just launched, announced a couple of months ago with great fanfare, Donald Trump will launch a new social media platform. He`s going to have all these digital and streaming content, and it`s going to be like Facebook and Fox News and Netflix all rolled into one. The thing about this company is that it appears not to exist at all yet. One securities lawyer telling "The Post" today, quote, there is a shell company, one of these companies created by the Chinese firm, basically merging with another shell company because as far as we know, the Trump media company hasn`t yet been formed. But that has not stopped this Chinese firm`s company from raising hundreds of millions of dollars from the public to supposedly, eventually invest in this Trump media company which does not exist, a financing deal that is under investigation by both the SEC and by FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, because even by the Wild West standards of the scummy end of Wall Street this, deal is sending up red flags left and right. And I know nothing should surprise us anymore, but even from the most cynical among us, you have to admit this is a little bit gobsmacking, right? This guy has spent his entire presidency talking about getting on Ghina, China, right? He turns to a dubious Chinese firm to finance his first business venture since leaving office, and they are immediately under federal investigation because of all the previous cons they have pulled off. Joining us is "The Washington Post" reporter Doug McMillan who along with his colleague Jonathan McConnell broke this story about Trump`s partnership with the Chinese firm. Mr. McMillan, thank you so much for your time tonight. I really appreciate you being here. MCMILLAN: Rachel, thanks for having me. MADDOW: So, over the last few years, looking at sort of shady business stuff around the former president, one of the things I have found difficult at a personal level is his business, to some degree, maybe for the most part has been real estate and it strikes me that big city real estate of the type he was involved in always seemed shady and scummy for everyone on the outside who doesn`t know the business, and it was hard to tell if he was doing more egregious things than everyone else in what is a dirty business. Applying the standards in which Wall Street story, is this Chinese firm an outlier in the deals with the scrutiny they have attracted? DOUGLAS MACMILLAN, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: This is definitely an unusual firm to cherish for, one of the most high-profile deals on Wall Street. I mean, the Trump`s SPAC, Special Perfect Acquisition Company, is something that a lot of people are looking forward to, and drawn interest with little being known about the actual business. It appears that Trump`s media and social media business is very nascent. It`s put out some PowerPoint presentations about how it plans to actually compete with social media companies like Twitter, and streaming companies like Netflix, but there seems to be very little substance behind those claims right now, and they have very few known employees for example, and apparently no revenue. This is a company that through the deal will be turned into a public company overnight. So we took a close look at the deal and we started looking more and more in the company, ARC Capital, and found that this is an outlier. This is a tiny, tiny firm based in Shanghai. They have some global office. They have no offices in the United States, and we talked with the former employees who say that the founder and the leaders of our capital are really interested in the idea of the U.S. regulatory market, and the SEC, and it`s easier to get into and easy to list shell businesses or businesses with little revenue or little behind it or very early stage businesses than in Hong Kong or Asia. So part of the plan in the get- go was to help Chinese firms with it is nascent business models, and they have little track record and no success stories and yet they have, you know, this regulatory cloud. They have had a number of deals end up in the crosshairs of the sec investigators. MADDOW: Is it a problem if Trump`s company turns out to be fake like those other fake companies associated with this Shanghai group that you guys wrote about today? [21:50:06] I mean, is it -- are there rules about all these money that has been raised by these means by the supposed Trump media venture. If it never comes to fruition, can they just take the money and run? MACMILLAN: So the interesting thing about this deal, it`s a merger deal. It`s not a traditional IPO, and that somehow gives them more latitude to make both claims that they don`t necessarily support right away. But once the merger goes through and the Trump business is publicly listed, they`re going to have start sharing their financials. They`re going to have to start having audited financial statements, quarterly earnings reports, and you`re going to have to actually start to see what is this business. And if it`s a shell business, you`re allowed to have a shell business but no active operations in the U.S. You have to, like, be clear and upfront about that. But it appears they`re not going that wrote and they are going to try to build this, you know, media company, social media company, and yeah, eventually there are going to be investors who are going to want has to company happen. At the end of this deal, there`s going to be over $1.2 billion in Donald Trump and his associates` pockets. And, you know, they`re going to have a responsibility or there`s going to be an expectation by investors who own shares in that company that they own shares in a media company. So, yeah, I do eventually think they`re going to have to make good on some of their promises. Do they have to meet their rosiest possible projections Trump is making? They`re projecting over $3 billion in the next five years. I don`t think legally they`re bound to that, but I think you`re definitely going to have to start seeing some efforts towards building a bills and it`s going to be interesting to see what happens if that ends up not being the case. MADDOW: Yeah, and I will believe it when I see it, when we cross that point of things. "Washington Post" reporter Doug MacMillan, thank you for being here. Fascinating story. Thanks. MACMILLAN: Of course, thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: We`ll be right here -- we`ll be right back. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) [21:56:09] MADDOW: Quick update for you on a story we covered last night that we`ve been covering for some time. Every time we talk about this story, we hear a lot from you guys about it. It`s about two election workers in Georgia, a mother named Ruby Freeman and her daughter who are loudly and repeatedly, but falsely accused by Donald Trump and his campaign of somehow rigging the election count in Fulton County, Georgia. Ms. Freeman and her daughter have been repeatedly cleared of any wrongdoing, but despite that, Trump, his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, a bunch of Trumpy media outlets have continued to repeat these bogus allegations against Ms. Freeman and her daughter. Well, tonight, just before we got on the air, we learned Ms. Freeman and her daughter filed a lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani and one pro-Trump news outlet for defaming them. Quote, One America News Network and Rudolf Giuliani bear responsibility for the partisan character assassin of Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss. The complaint says, quote, the harm they have caused to plaintiff`s representations, privacy, safety, and earnings and other pecuniary loss is immense. I don`t know if Rudy Giuliani has a good lawyer at this point. I don`t even know who he`d still be able to call if he wanted to try to get one. But watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: All right. That`s going to do it for us tonight on this beautiful Christmas Eve-eve. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Good evening, Lawrence.