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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 12/7/21

Guests: Fiona Hill, Paul Bozyk


President Joe Biden spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin for about two hours to defuse tensions over Ukraine. Michigan reports record number of COVID cases.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: JR, it`s a fantastic piece of work. It`s wonderful to have you here.

Don`t miss "Paper & Glue" premieres on television this Friday at 10:00 p.m., only on MSNBC.

That is "ALL IN" on this Tuesday night.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That was fantastic, Chris. That was amazing. Well-done, my friend.

HAYES: Thanks. I really enjoyed. Yeah. Thanks. Appreciate it.

MADDOW: Yeah, it`s excellent.

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

In April 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, the Reverend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The man who killed him was James Earl Ray, seen here in handcuffs.

James Earl Ray was a rabid segregationist. He was a real racist. He`d been kicked out of the Army in the late `40s. He`d been in and out of prison for years. He`d actually escaped from prison in Missouri, in 1967, the year before he killed King.

After he escaped from prison in Missouri, he spent time in Mexico. He also spent time in California. By 1968, he was reportedly intoxicated with the reactionary campaign of George Wallace, the segregationist Alabama governor, who ran for president in 1968 on an anti-civil rights, pro- segregation, white supremacist platform.

James Earl Ray volunteered for the Wallace for President Campaign. But even beyond that, he was just increasingly committed to the racist cause more broadly. And in the spring of 1968, James Earl Ray moved to Atlanta. He had been living on the West Coast. He`d been living on the East Coast, moved across the country to Atlanta, where Martin Luther King lived and where he preached at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

James Earl Ray appears to have gone to Atlanta specifically in pursuit of Dr. King. And in April of 1968, King took a trip from Atlanta to Memphis, Tennessee. It was widely publicized he was going to do it. He went to Memphis to support the striking sanitation workers there.

James Earl Ray followed Martin Luther King to Memphis. And he killed him there. He shot and killed Dr. King, as King stood on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, the Lorraine Motel.

And for much of America, it must have seemed like time stopped in that moment. Part of our history absolutely did stop in that moment. But it didn`t end for James Earl Ray, because after James Earl Ray shot Martin Luther King on that balcony in April 1968, he got away. He got in his car, drove away, drove back to Atlanta, where he`d been living. And he spent three more days driving north.

He crossed the U.S. border into Canada. He stayed in Canada for a month. Somehow got himself at least one fake passport there. He flew to Europe. Spent some time in Portugal of all places. He ended up in London.

It wasn`t until two months after he assassinated Martin Luther King that James Earl Ray was finally arrested. He was arrested at the airport in London, as he was preparing to fly on to another country.

James Earl Ray was extradited back to the United States to face trial. He admitted he did it. He confessed, pled guilty. He was sentenced to 99 years in prison for the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Then, a couple things of note happened thereafter. One thing to note that happened thereafter, he escaped from prison. He had previously been an escapee and after he was sentenced for killing Martin Luther King, he escaped again.

He escaped from prison in Tennessee. He managed to last about three days outside before he was recaptured. That tacked another year on to his 99- year sentence.

Another thing to know about him, post conviction, post sentencing, is that after his trial, after his sentencing, he changed lawyers. He got himself a new lawyer, a like-minded lawyer, a segregationist, a bit of a weirdo.

And his new lawyer represented him during the time he escaped from prison, but he and his new lawyer also cooked up a scheme by which they would recant James Earl Ray`s confession.

Even though he confessed, he pled guilty, they took it back. They said that actually James Earl Ray hadn`t done it. They don`t know why he confessed. It was crazy, a moment of madness.

He actually didn`t do it, and instead they cooked up a scheme they would blame the assassination of Martin Luther King on a mysterious man named Raul. Who is Raul? There`s no Raul.

They made up that much about it but never got much further with that.


TV ANCHOR: James Earl Ray is in solitary at Brushy Mountain Prison in Tennessee. The last of the five men that broke out with him Friday night was caught this morning. And today, Ray`s lawyer was on-hand. And so was Eric Burns to report on what the lawyer had to say about his client.

ERIC BURNS, REPORTER: This is Jack Kershaw. He is James Earl Ray`s attorney and he talked to Ray this morning. He told reporters that ray is okay physically, exhausted mentally and sorry he tried to escape. And he said, there was no conspiracy to help Ray escape.

JACK KERSHAW, ATTORNEY: I think we can discount any outside help. If there was outside help, there would be something waiting in the backyard.

BURNS: Did he plan the escape?


BURNS: Who did?

KERSHAW: Don`t know.

BURNS: Ray refused to talk to these investigators from the House Assassination Committee today, but he will talk to them later, Kershaw says.

Kershaw also says he has a picture of the man named Raul. According to Ray, Raul was the brains behind the plot to kill Martin Luther King. Kershaw says he will show this picture some time in the next two months, after he has asked the court for a new trial for his client.


MADDOW: Oh, yes. A picture of Rau, the real killer.

There was no Raul. James Earl Ray, and his lawyer, Jack Kershaw, who you saw there, the man in the light suit and the Colonel Sanders hair, he didn`t -- they didn`t succeed with this plan to get James Earl Ray a new trial, to blame the assassination of Martin Luther King on some made-up guy named Raul. None of it worked. They never got him out of prison. He never escaped again. James Earl Ray died in prison in 1998.

But what happened to his lawyer? What happened to that guy Jack Kershaw?

Interesting story, it turns out. Around the same time that his client, James Earl Ray, was dying in prison, while serving his sentence for assassinating Martin Luther King, around that same time, 1998, Jack Kershaw, James Earl Ray`s lawyer, sort of started a new vocation. I don`t know if he got paid for it, but it seems like he was really -- it was the self-actualized self. It was the thing he always wanted to spent his time doing.

Now, the lawyer Jack Kershaw himself was an ardent segregationist. He was a member of the White Citizens Council. He was actually the founder of the League of the South, in 1994, this neo-Confederate pro-segregationist group. Jack Kershaw founded it in 1994.

And around 1998, when his famous client, James Earl Ray, was dying in prison, having been sentenced for killing Martin Luther King, around 1998, that lawyer, Jack Kershaw, completed his masterpiece, his artistic masterpiece, a statue, a gigantic 25-foot-tall statue that he made maybe with bathroom caulk, household materials of some kind.

I say it was his masterpiece because I think it`s the best he can do. It doesn`t mean that I think it was good. Honestly, it was terrible. But it was his masterpiece.

A buddy of his even said on the record, to a local news reporter, that he, too, believed that Jack Kershaw was a pretty terrible artist. He, too, believed this sculpture was pretty awful. But he was nevertheless proud to put it up in Tennessee for the worst possible reasons.


BILL DORRIS, OWNER OF I-65 SITE WHERE NATHAN BEDFORD FORREST STATUTE SITS: As an artist, mediocre. As a thinker, he was way ahead of a lot of people of his time. Jack got some materials that I use to make bathtubs with and he started with a butcher knife. That`s the end result, what you see out there right now.

REPORTER: To a lot of people, this monument is a symbol of racism.

DORRIS: Any monument is a symbol of racism if you are going to make it a symbol of racism. I have been accused of being racist, if I was racist, why do I have so many blacks working for me? Consider this the sixth largest nation in the world, the Confederate States of America.


MADDOW: I still consider this, meaning Tennessee, to be the Confederate States of America, says the man.

And that is why he explained why he put up that sculpture we just showed you, made from bathtub caulk and stuff, shaped with a butcher knife, he says. That`s why he put up that statue that was created by the lawyer for the man who killed Martin Luther King. It`s a statue the depicts a man on a horse.

And although there`s no way you would know this if I didn`t tell you, the man it depicts is a man named Nathan Bedford Forrest. Nathan Bedford Forrest was a plantation owner. He was a very wealthy slave trader. He was a general in the Confederate Army.

And after the Civil War was over, he became the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. That`s why, for the past 20-plus years, since roughly 1998, there has been on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee, this hideous 25- foot-tall statue of the founder of the Klan, sitting on a piece of private property overlooking Interstate 65.


You really can see it from I-65. And local residents, local officials, have had a lot of consternation over this for the past 20 years. It`s got all this different flags from all various Confederate states flying around it, plus lots of Confederate flags themselves. And then Nathan Bedford Forrest on his horse with a gun and a sword in the middle of it.

Local officials and local residents tried to persuade the state of Tennessee, that perhaps at least the state could plant some tall trees along that part of the interstate to shield this thing from passing traffic.

Well, the guy on whose private property the statue sat, he said, if the state did try to occlude the view of that masterpiece from Interstate 65, well, he had a I plan. He would put all of his Confederate flags on taller flag poles, and he will do whatever it takes to keep this thing on view.


DORRIS: I got some 1,800-foot flag poles. I can put them up starting tomorrow. They will have to build a hell of a wall and a held of a bunch of trees to block all that.

Slavery was the first form of social security. If you stop and think about it a minute, it was a cradle to the grave proposition. They never had it so good as far as job security, to begin with. It wasn`t the best of job security, but it had benefits.


MADDOW: Yes. Slavery sure had some benefits. So, why not honor it this way, with a 25-foot-tall founder of the Klan Confederate statue and all of the Confederate flags.

That man, Bill Dorris, who owned the land, who put up the Klan founder statue on his private property, made by his friend Jack Kershaw who had represented the assassin of Martin Luther King. This guy Bill Dorris, whose property that was, who erected the statue and the flag poles and all the rest of it, he died a year ago, this time last year.

His death made some oh, isn`t that cute headlines at the time, because in his will, he left $5 million for the care of his border collie, who is an adorable dog. He left $5 million to cover the care of his 12-year-old dog for the rest of her life, which is aw.

The thing is he didn`t actually have $5 million. He wrote that in his will, but he didn`t have $5 million to give to the dog or anybody else. The executor of his will had to go to court had to get that figure reduced, because there wasn`t that kind of money to give to the dog. In fact, it appears that the man may have died in debt.

A trailer park he owned near his home is reportedly being sold to pay off the debts from his estate. And it seems like -- just guessing here, spitballing here, I`m guessing that maybe his three-acre parcel of land, overlooking I-65, the one with the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue on it, that may need to be sold, as well, to pay off the debts against his estate.

And the reason I`m guessing that property needs to be sold is that because -- today, finally, this morning, after this thing stood there for more than 20 years on the side of the interstate, after people painted it pink in 2017, they threw pink paint all over it. After somebody else spray-painted the world monster on it last year in 2020.

After all the consternation and upset over having the founder of the Klan looming 25-feet-tall as the gatekeeper to Nashville on an interstate highway all these years, this morning, today, finally came down.

The executor of this guy`s will apparently ordered the removal of the statue this morning. And whether or not that finally happened today, because I suspect, it might be hard to sell that property with a giant, hideous pink Klansman on it. Whether that was a property value decision in Oak Hill, Tennessee, this morning, frankly everyone who owns property in Oak Hill, Tennessee, and the surrounding I-65 feeder into Nashville probably saw the property values get a little boost today when the pink hideous Klansman actually finally came down.

The local state senator, Democratic Senator Heidi Campbell, who had petitioned to get this taken down, she told "The Tennessean" newspaper today, quote: This has been a national embarrassment. I`m so excited. This is great news. It`s just so hurtful to people. Not to mention, he said, it`s heinously ugly.

Fair enough. When the heinously ugly 25-foot-tall statue of the Klan founder came down today in Tennessee, some local news outlets reported that the statue would be held in storage or possibly put up for sale.


But yeah, no. That thing is not going up for sale. It`s not even making it in the back of a pickup truck, let alone in a climate-controlled storage. It turns out, you can tell it from the way they took it down, that it was made out of just like toothpaste, it crumbled and fell apart as soon as they toppled it.

So, now, it`s gone. And you know, if you don`t believe me this is still a sensitive subject for some people, look at what happened elsewhere in Tennessee in the past few weeks. It was back in 2017, that another statue, actually a proper statue of the same Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, another statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest was taken down from a park in Memphis, Tennessee. Health Science Park in Memphis used to be called Forrest park, Forrest with two Rs, named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first Ku Klux Klan grand wizard.

That park had this huge statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in the middle of the park that Memphis took it down in 2017. They did have one complication and taking it down in 2017, which is that was Nathan Bedford Forrest actually physically buried underneath it. Nathan Bedford Forrest his body and of his wife are right underneath that statue in Memphis park.

When they started digging after they took down the statue, it turns out the directions they had weren`t exactly right. They weren`t exactly under the statue, they were under the plaza where the statue had been. It took them a while to find caskets. They did finally found the remains, they made a plan to rebury them earlier just this fall just a few weeks.

But then look at what they had to do in order to get it done. Local NBC five in Memphis, Tennessee, got an exclusive look at this. This is just astonishing.

And again, remember, this is the confederate general, wealthy slave trader, first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest.


REPORTER: All of it, along with the soil, transferred into temporary caskets for transporting. With the remains of a man both reviled and revered and the weight of a city divided on its shoulders, Taylor ordered his staff to place the caskets in two different vehicles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have my staff simply the site, drive in different directions and I`ll call you and tell you where.

REPORTER: They drove around about 40 minutes to avoid anyone following them before Taylor directed them to hand to his Tennessee funeral home. Taylor said he changed the locks on his home where he kept the remains and quietly remarried them in the cemetery as he waited to learn where the Forrest would be laid to rest permanently.

But the Forrest decided to make Columbia, Tennessee, the locations of the sons and confederate veteran`s headquarters, the Forrest final veteran burial site, lead zoom the burial remains once against. They were tucked inside period clothing and the family plan to stop at the site of one of Forrest`s civil war battle sites in the way to Columbia.

But the Forrest family attorney got a call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is now a security threat, that the FBI wanted to make us aware of. They ask that we not take that route and we not do that ceremony.

REPORTER: Taylor says they moved the remains under the cover of darkness, September 16th, for a series of visitations, possessions, the funeral and third burial of the couple. Ceremonies attended by approximately 4,000 people and the FBI, with facial recognition software into.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re still looking for insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6 and felt for whatever reason that the funeral of Nathan Bedford Forrest might be a good place to find people who perhaps were in the Capitol on January 6.

REPORTER: Photos from the ceremony show some of the 500 civil war re- enactors, rudderless horse with backwards boots and more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This picture here was taken from the balcony. This is actually General Forrest`s remains going into the mansion for the visitation. They had ladies, morning ladies, that were dressed in all black. They carried his portrait from the mansion up to the grave site.


MADDOW: More than 4,000 people, 4,000 Americans showed up for that. That was just a couple of months ago in Tennessee at the headquarters of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans in Columbia, Tennessee.

And if you missed what the funeral director said there, he said the FBI was there. The FBI is not confirm this. But according to the guy who ran this world ceremony, the FBI was there with facial recognition software, looking for insurrectionists who stormed the capitol on January the 6.

The FBI felt for whatever reason the funeral of Nathan Bedford Forrest might be a good place to find people who perhaps were in the Capitol on January six. Yeah. The funeral, the re-burial of a Confederate general and the Klan founder might possibly have been an attraction to the Americans from our generation who did their part to try to overthrow the U.S. government by force.


Tonight, there`s news on the investigation of the January 6th attack. Former President Trump`s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has announced he will no longer cooperate with the investigation. He`s putting himself there by on a course of potentially being formerly prosecuted for contempt if he continues to refuse to testify continues to refuse to hand over documents about what happened in the lead up to January 6.

One Justice Department Trump administration official, one legal adviser to Trump, they`re already pleading the Fifth in the investigation. No signs yet that Mark Meadows might plead the Fifth. But we got word tonight that another longtime adviser to former President Trump, Roger Stone, he`s reportedly saying that he too will feed plead the Fifth. We`ll have more on that coming up.

But these touchstones, these symbols a violent insurrection against the U.S. government, they`re having their moment right now as well, which may not be equally since.

Just yesterday in Richmond, Virginia, they started dismantling the pedestal that had once held a giant statue of the head of the Confederate Army, Robert E. Lee. That statue itself came out in September of this year. Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced this weekend that the pedestal on which the lease statue stood, that pedestal also start to come down in Richmond.

They apparently started dismantling yesterday. They see it will be gone by the end of the year.

In July of this year, you might remember, they also brought down the Robert E. Lee statue that stood in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was all the way back in 2016 that high school students from Charlottesville petition to have that Robert E. Lee taken down. The city council voted the following year, 2017, that it should be taken down.

But while the whole question of what was going to happen to that statuesque up in legal wrangling in 2017, new Nazi white supremacists and neo- confederate groups seized on the very threat that the Robert E. Lee statue might come down as their pretext for holding their Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

The statue of the center of that didn`t actually come down until July of this year. Since then, just a couple of weeks ago, the client and neo-Nazi and neo-confederate groups that organize that deadly Charlottesville riots, the protests that statue in -- having to take it down. Those groups were found liable to pay more than $25 million dollars in -- to people who were hurt by the whites supremacist rioters in Charlottesville.

But look -- look at what`s happening in Charlottesville right now. Late last night, in a meeting that actually stretched into the early hours of this morning, the Charlottesville, Virginia`s city council took a vote on what to actually do with the statute. That Robert E. Lee statue that they finally took down this summer in July, it`s 1,100 pounds of bronze. They did finally take it down from that square in town five years after local high school students asked them to please take it down, and four years after the city council said they would, four years after neo-Nazis, new confederates converge on their city to protest that decision. They finally took it down but what do you do with it?

Apparently at least, a half dozen different groups approach the city of Charlottesville think they wanted the Robert E. Lee statue. They had something or other that they wanted to do with it.

Well, last night, or early this morning, in a unanimous vote, the Charlottesville City Council decided what to do with it. They decided that 1,100 pound Robert E. Lee statue would be given to a local African American Heritage Center that has a very specific plan for it.

They`re going to melt. It`s the going to melt it down. Ultimately they say it will become a new public artwork about what Charlottesville is like today. It`ll be about some new idea in Charlottesville. That new idea, what exactly they`re going to put it down to, what they`re going to turn it into, those school to come later.

For now, the only plan that everybody has agreed to is melt it. They`re calling the project swords into plowshares.

Change is hard. Change is often so hard that it is unimaginable. Until one day, you`re driving down I-65 and hey, look, it happened. One day you are driving through the center of Charlottesville, Virginia, and hey, look it happened.

It feels impossible. It feels unimaginable. It feels intractable. And then it`s done.

Lots to come tonight. Stay with us.



MADDOW: Here are some little telltale signs by which you can discern, even at a distance, that the United States might be under new management compared to the previous four years. First of all, before his one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin today, President Biden called a bunch of our major European allies. Last night, he called France, Germany, Italy and the UK. Leaders of all five countries got on the phone together so they can all get on the same page about their concerns with Putin`s military buildup on the border of Ukraine, so President Biden could talk with them about what the agent was for this meeting before he took the meeting with Putin.

Then, as soon as his meeting with Putin was over today, he called them all back again to fill them in on what had happened. To make sure that the U.S. is on solid footing with our allies, as Russia once again threatens to invade a country in Europe. Also, this is a similar process. Perhaps, a hopeful sign today, after the Biden, Putin meeting was over, we, the American public heard about what happened on that call from the U.S. government, before we heard about it from the Kremlin.


And that shouldn`t be that big a deal, but for the last four years, that never happened under President Trump. Under President Trump, if you had any contact with the Russian government, even if we had not known about it in advance, the Kremlin would always give us the first word about what had happened. We would find out that our president had a meeting with Putin, the Russians said they had talked about we would always find out about it because of a press release from the Kremlin.

This time, it was our government. It was the U.S. government that was first to describe what happened. And maybe that`s not the biggest thing in the world, but it is a change. These are among the signs that things are being handled differently.

While our White House is certainly under new management right now, our president is different, Russia`s president is the same. And Russian President Vladimir Putin does appear once again to be relishing this moment on the world stage when he has once again got everybody afraid of him, wondering what it is that he`s going to do.

Is it possible right now to sauce out whether Russia is going to invade Ukraine, and either expand its existing war or start a whole new level of war there. The White House made sounds today after this call that there are things we could do in response, that would be crippling for Russia, that would be terrible, stuff we never even contemplated doing to them the last time they invaded Ukraine in 2014.

Is that true? Is that spin? Is that bluster?

Putin clearly started this. He appears to be testing the U.S. government and the international community to see what he can get away with. He`s got 175,000 troops massed on the border with Ukraine. What is the right way for the U.S. government to be handling this?

Joining us now is Fiona Hill. She was the top Russia expert on the National Security Council under President Trump from 2017 to 2019. She`s also the author of "There Is Nothing For You Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century".

Dr. Hill, it`s real pleasure to have you back on the show. Thanks for making time to be here tonight.

FIONA HILL, RUSSIA EXPERT: Thanks so much, Rachel. Good to be with you.

MADDOW: Let me ask you, if I`m framing this the right way. It seems to me from a layman`s perspective that President Putin has the world`s attention. He got one on one attention from the president of the United States today, and he has the whole world guessing as to whether or not he will do something else militarily towards Ukraine. But he seems to be enjoying and having seeking the attention that you got from it.

Is it fair to portray that way?

HILL: Well, he certainly doesn`t want to get attention. But he wants attention for a particular purpose. Putin has been signaling for quite some period of time going back over several administrations in fact, that he wants to see some kind of new security arrangement in Europe. Ukraine is part of that.

In many respects, we are coming up this month 30th an adversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War, definitely, 30- year independence of Ukraine and other countries like Ukraine that were once part of the Soviet Union. Putin is basically saying, look, we didn`t solve the end of the Cold War. At the end of other wars, we had a settlement in which there was an agreement about how Europe would be divided up, and I want that agreement now.

They`d been -- as I said -- he has been signaling a laying it for many years before different presidencies and this is the latest iteration of this.

MADDOW: How does threatening Ukraine militarily occupy parts of Ukraine, seizing parts of Ukraine for, Russia threatening to do even more of that now, how does that factor into that strategic goal that he has?

HILL: Well, Ukraine is the critical part of this. Putin has signaled many times, including quite recently in a speech that he counts Ukraine to be part of Russia, essentially as an extension of Russia. He said the Ukrainian and Russian people are one and the same, that Ukraine belongs with Russia. Ukraine is in Russia`s sphere of influence. So, Ukraine needs to be part of this disposition of a new European security arrangement.

Now, the problem is of course that he demands President Biden, as he has with previous presidents of the United States, sit down and basically thrush this out. Obviously, he is hoping that today was today`s teleconference was part of that process.

MADDOW: In terms of the interest here, if as you say, he considers Ukraine to be integrally part of Russia, something that even spiritually cannot be separated from Russia. That Ukraine is his, that Ukraine and Russia must be one. The United States looks at Ukraine as an ally, but doesn`t nearly have the same emotional connection or strategic connection to Ukraine that Russia does. It is just an imbalance of power there. Putin understands that.

If you testing how far the United States or allies will go to defend Ukraine?


I mean, obviously, the United States is not going to war with Russia in order to defend Ukraine. Everybody keeps saying that up and down, but short of war, the United States presumably has more options than we have exercised in the past.

Is this an effort to flush out what those might be, and you sense the Biden administration might be willing to do things that haven`t been done before to dissuade this type of aggression?

HILL: Well, look, you are absolutely right, Rachel. You framed this exactly the right way. This is what Putin is doing. He is probing and he`s testing.

He is making it very clear that if he decides it`s necessary and, of course, is going to keep us guessing about whether he has made that kind of decision, that he is poised to do maximal damage to Ukraine. I mean, the kind of forces that we see the right there, all this available information for the public satellite imagery, for example, you know, we can see that he might be poised for a major invasion of Ukraine. That`s exactly the goal.

He is trying to push into thinking that he would do this, and again we have to treat it very seriously because he`s done things like this in the past as you said. He`s already annexed Crimea. He`s already moved in to other parts of Ukraine, into the Donbass region.

I was trying to see are we ready to acquiesce in this? And I think that what President Biden has done today as you laid it out, with all these repeated phone calls to allies is showing that the United States and its allies, is very serious and resisting it.

Again, Ukraine has been an independent country for 30 years. Ukraine has agency here. It has sovereignty. And the United States is not in any kind of position to basically bargain away on Ukraine security. So the Biden administration is certainly affirming things and the way that one would expect and hope and anticipate in responding to this.

MADDOW: Fiona Hill, former top Russia expert on the National Security Council, the author of "There is Nothing For You Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century", which of every book written by anybody associated with the Trump administration in any way, is absolutely the one to read.

Dr. Hill, thank you very much for your time and insight tonight. It`s a real honor to have you here.

HILL: Thanks, Rachel. Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more to come here tonight. Stay with us.



MADDOW: At least 22 states have detected the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus since the first U.S. case was identified last week. Public health experts say that is sure to go up. We don`t know much about the new variant yet, scientists and health officials say very well could be the most contagious, the most easily transmitted version of the virus we have yet encountered. Maybe. We`ll see.

We also don`t know yet for sure if it causes more or less severe illness than the Delta variant that nominees here now. If, in fact, Omicron is more contagious, it will take over here soon enough, and we will know soon enough about its characteristics.

Even before Omicron takes hold though, we got about 99.9 percent of U.S. cases are Delta. Regardless of Omicron, even before Omicron gets here in significant numbers, the case count from good old delta variant COVID cases is climbing very aggressively right now, particularly in the Midwest and in the Northeast as winter sets in.

And I want to look for a second what`s going on in Michigan, because this is two pieces of data for Michigan that are bad in any combination, but really bad in sequence.

Last week, Michigan hit its highest hospitalization ever. Hospitalizations in Michigan or reach their highest point ever last week. The previous record was that seven months ago. So highest hospitalizations ever last week, then this week, they reached their highest number of active cases ever.

Think about that sequencing, once you get infections, then you get reported cases, when you get reported cases, then you get people turning up sick, once you get people turning up sick you have hospitalizations, and then you have death numbers. Michigan is already at its highest hospitalization ever, the week after that they get their highest COVID numbers ever.

The delta variant, before Omicron gets here is already filling up hospital beds pushing the health care system to a brink. The situation in Michigan is not good. It`s like if your house at the shore was underwater, and you just learned that actually were already underwater but it`s only low tide right now.

The tide is coming in. This is going to get worse. It`s a bad combination of events.

But that`s where Michigan`s, and part of the reason we are worrying about Michigan right now is the state is already getting a big amount of federal help. Federal government has already deployed through emergency teams of health care workers the hospitals in Michigan. But things are still getting worse.

Look at the hospitalization graph again. Highest it has ever been. At least one Michigan doctor is saying the three federal teams that have been sent to help already are not enough to deal with a upward curve right now, according to Michigan pulmonologist, Dr. Paul Bozyk (ph), the numbers are significantly picking up in the community and health care is bearing the brunt of that. We need the next team, the next federal help team, and the next team after that.

He went even further and a call from help from his colleagues who have retired. Said, quote, we need people who have taken a hiatus from health care for their own personal physical and emotional health. We need those people to consider a return so they can rejoin us on the front lines to try and get us through this challenging time. The glass can only hold so much water, at some point, it`s going to overfill, and it is over filling in certain hospitals right now across the state.

Joining us now is Dr. Paul Bozyk. He is head of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. He is also vice chair of Board of Michigan State Medical Society.

Doctor Bozyk, it is a real pleasure to have this time with you tonight. Thank you making time to be here.


DR. PAUL BOZYK, PULMONARY & CRITICAL CARE, BEAUMONTH HOSPITAL, ROYAL OAK: Thank you very much, Rachel. Appreciate being here.

MADDOW: I`m worried about those two metrics in sequence. To have Michigan hitting its highest hospitalization numbers ever and then immediately thereafter, to have its highest reported case numbers ever. It feels -- that feels on a sustainable almost an immediate level.

Am I right to say that way or is this some piece of this that I`m missing or misconstruing?

BOZYK: No, you`ve got a exactly right, Rachel. Unfortunately, it doesn`t seem like the trajectory shows any signs of turning around. We have seen -- back to July 1 actually, the infection rate which means one person insects more than one other person. And here we are now and December with the infection rates as high as we have. That infection rate continues to be higher than one, so we expect the numbers to continue to climb.

MADDOW: How much of the rising case numbers that you`re seeing right now in Michigan -- how much of that is among the unvaccinated? And how much of it is among vaccinated populations? We know obviously there are breakthrough infections for sure.

The good news about breakthrough infections tends to be people don`t get as sick. They`re less likely to be hospitalized. They`re less likely to get seriously ill. They`re less likely to die.

Is there some silver lining here? Some reason for hoping that some of these case numbers are breakthrough infections so that people are likely to end up in the hospital?

BOZYK: That`s certainly a possibility, but I will tell you that 80 percent of Michigan`s population of hospitalized patients and 80 percent of those who go on to die from COVID are those who are not fully vaccinated. So, absolutely, still much more risk in the unvaccinated population. We like to imagine that some of those cases that reported as infection are not those that are going to come into hospital, because they are vaccinated, because they are breakthrough cases.

We do see a small number of those. Those are particularly prevalent in those folks who are not boosted. So, if you`re done your due diligence in being vaccinated, please take that extra step and go get that loose. The unfortunate reality is still that 80 percent of folks who have to come to hospitals are still unvaccinated and we`re still looking for ways to reach that population to help them learn and make the right choices to vaccinate.

MADDOW: With Michigan hospitals so full, with health care staffing levels being so critical, you making that personal call today, asking health care professionals who may have stepped away from that profession because they were tired or because they needed to get away. They needed to take care of themselves, asking people to rejoin the front lines, that really got my attention today. That`s part of the reason we called you today.

With resources stretched that far that you have to make that kind of a plea to your colleagues, I wonder what you think -- what else is in the armamentarium? What else you can do? What else hospitals can do? But else the state can do to try to make the necessary resources available for people who are sick?

BOZYK: Yeah. Well, first, let me say, appreciate the emergency health care workers coming to Michigan. I think that highlights the severity of our situation right now. No question. Much appreciated.

We have two asks for the community because under question of what else hospitals can do, we can control the things we can control, which is trying to manage beds, and trying to manage staffing to the best of our ability. Allocate resources that we have to optimize patient care. But beyond that, as I mentioned in the article, what`s the glass starts over Phil, we really lose control of the situation.

So, here`s what my request was of that community. Number one, is just a personal appeal to those folks that had to step away from health care, particularly in patient health care, we have really been the health care heroes they were in March 2020. They still are today, it`s just fewer of us at the bedside. If you had that skill set, if you have that talent, please consider returning to help your local health care facility.

And number two, to the community, you can play a great role in this by doing that things that we need to do to turn down the infection rate, right? Those are things that have been well described. Things like vaccinated, we talked about boosting earlier. Masking and indoor public spaces, please do it. Avoid the crowded spaces to give yourself from room away from other folks.

Right now, with the prevalence this high in the community, there is a high chance that when you go out, you`re going to encounter someone who is infected in the community.

MADDOW: Dr. Paul Bozyk, head of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, Dr. Bozyk, thank you for your time tonight. Thank you to you and your colleagues. I know this is a really difficult time with how strange resources are. Appreciate you taking the time to help us understand tonight.

BOZYK: Thank you very much, Rachel. Appreciate it.

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



MADDOW: You might have seen these headlines last week. It seemed like a very good deal at the time. Ex-Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows will appear before the January 6th panel. Meadows agrees to cooperate in Capitol attack investigation.

Well, now, today, one day before his scheduled to testify that investigation, Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has changed his mind and decided, actually, he`s not going to cooperate after all. Mr. Meadows said today that reversal is in part because the investigation has subpoenaed his phone records.

CNN is reporting tonight that the general`s investigation has subpoenaed phone records from over 100 people, including Trump White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and numerous other Trump officials. It`s not like the investigation is just asking these folks to hand over their phone records and then these people have to decide what to do with the requests. The investigation has gone to the phone companies directly. They`re getting the information via subpoenas to the phone companies.

According to this new reporting, the committee has already begun receiving data from phone providers for multiple witnesses.


Now, that appears to have freaked out former officials like Mark Meadows who presumably don`t want to answer questions about who they spoke with on the phone on January six. And what they spoke about.

One point of interest here, I will point out -- even though Mark Meadows now says he has changed his mind and he`s not going to cooperate with the January 6th investigation, a notably is announcing that he`s going to plead the Fifth. He`s not going to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self incrimination. That is notable because that is becoming an increasingly popular tactic from other Trump world figures who are caught up in the January 6 inquiry.

Tonight, for example, we can learn a long time Trump advisor, Roger Stone, will plead the Fifth. In so doing, he will join Trump lawyer John Eastman and Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, both of whom sought to help Trump overturn the election results in the days before January 6, and both of whom have now told the committee they are pleading the Fifth. Roger Stone now joining them in doing so.

Mark Meadows is apparently not going to do that. January 6 investigators have told Mr. Meadows that they still expect him to tell them what he knows. Today, the leaders of that investigation, the chairman, Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson, the vice chair, Republican congressman, Liz Cheney, released a statement about that. It says in part quote, tomorrow`s deposition, which was schedule at Mark Meadows requests, will go forward as planned.

If indeed Mr. Meadows refuses to appear, the committee will be left no choice but to advance contempt proceedings and recommend that the body in which Mr. Meadows once served now refers him for criminal prosecution.

In other words, they`re threatening pretty explicitly that if Mark Meadows, Trump White House chief of staff, does it show up at 10:00 tomorrow for that deposition, he`s likely to be the next member of Trump world to be facing potential prison time after a Justice Department criminal prosecution for contempt. It`s getting good.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: All right, that is going to do it for us tonight. I will see you again this time tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.