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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 2/3/2021

Guest: Rochelle Walensky�


CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is interviewed. House Democrats are

going to vote on that measure as to whether or not Congresswoman Marjorie

Taylor Greene should be on House committees.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: All right. One of the big questions facing

Democrats in the Senate is whether they should eliminate the filibuster.

That`s the topic of the latest episode of my podcast, "Why is this

happening?", where Senate insider Adam Jentleson lays out how we got the

filibuster in the first place, why it became Mitch McConnell`s go-to move.

Find out wherever you get your podcasts.

That`s ALL IN for this evening.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Any budget committee staffer that included you

would make me sign up for that budget.

HAYES: It`s such an amazing compliment to get on national television. You

would make a good budget committee staffer.

MADDOW: Budget committee staffer.

HAYES: Pardon me, felt a little serotonin, thank you. Good.

MADDOW: Also, I am sending you some personal financial information later

that I would like you to help me with.

HAYES: Perfect.

MADDOW: Because you alone could get that compliment.

All right, thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.

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

Here`s an interesting thing -- sort of a personal thing, but also a news

thing. Right before President Trump was impeached the first time, I

published a book called "Blowout" and the weird surprising to me thing

about "Blowout" is that tended up being oddly well timed. I had no idea it

was going to be well-timed when I set out to write it, but that`s how it

landed. It was a book about the oil and gas industry and the political

power and geopolitical power of that industry.

And a big chunk of that book was about all of the craziness and corruption

in Ukraine. And, of course, then, right at the time the book came out, all

the craziness and corruption in Ukraine ended up being the setting, like

the playing field for what President Trump got impeached for the first time

he got impeached.

I did not intend it to land that way. It was fortuitous and I hope helpful

to people trying to figure out that landscape while we were looking at that

first impeachment.

Now, of course, Mr. Trump is being impeached for a second time. And it`s

kind of uncanny, a lot of the things I wrote about in that book that came

out during the first Trump impeachment, they`re sort of coming home to

roost now. The whole reason I wrote that book is because I think we were

pretty consistently underestimating the sway of this one industry, how much

sway the oil and gas industry has over politics and whole governments, both

here in the United States and around the world.

And so I thought there was -- I thought it would be helpful. I thought

there was a need for kind of a rip-roaring round the world explainer for

how that one industry can sometimes explain a lot of what otherwise doesn`t

make sense about politics. If something is happening in politics and

geopolitics that doesn`t make sense on the service and what we`re taught to

look for in terms of political currents, it helps to look at this industry

and see if maybe they`re the hidden hand there. Particularly when politics

fails or when governments are really bad, the whole book was like, hey,

this is a place to look.

And, of course, it`s one thing to say here`s the hidden hand at work here.

Here`s the unacknowledged power that`s really making things possible or

impossible that`s really calling the shots here. But it`s that further

thing to understand that dynamic well enough so that when that hidden hand

weakens, when that power behind the throne collapses for some reason, you

can anticipate what kinds of changes that might mean. Understanding the

real power at work means knowing what might happen when that power goes

south, when it shuts off.

So this book "Blowout" when it came out in the first Trump impeachment, I

meant it to be sort of a heads-up for the oil and gas industry being a sort

of secretly powerful political entity. But also a heads-up that if and when

the bottom ever fell out of that industry, be prepared. Be ready to go,

because when the bottom falls out of that industry, a lot of things are

going to change. A lot of things that they as an industry were blocking are

suddenly going to become possible. A lot of bad government, for example, is

going to fall apart, once the power behind bad government loses its zhoosh.

That was the sort of warning I was trying to sound about the oil and gas

industry during the first Trump impeachment.

Now, of course, we`re in the second Trump impeachment. And what do you

know? The bottom actually has fallen out of that industry. I mean, right

after "Blowout" was published, royalty after Trump impeachment numero uno,

the coronavirus crisis hits worldwide. That immediately walloped the oil

and gas industry like nothing ever in its history has ever hit them before.

The floor just dropped below them.

At one point early on in the coronavirus crisis, the price of a barrel of

oil was negative. It cost less than zero dollars to buy a barrel of oil.

Meaning if you owned a barrel of oil, not only could you not charge

somebody money for taking it from you, you would actually have to pay

somebody to take that barrel of oil away from you because it was worth

negative dollars.

And over the course of the pandemic, it hasn`t really gotten better. I

mean, the price of oil has pinged around, but it`s a disaster for that

industry. Yesterday, ExxonMobil just posted its worst quarterly earnings in

40 years. I mean, not long ago, Exxon was the most profitable corporation

in the history of corporations, for multiple years running. This quarter,

they lost over $20 billion. And this is now four straight quarters for them

losing money.

This was the richest company on earth by a mile forever and ever. Now

they`re a company that loses more than $61 million every day they stay in

operation. They`re losing $61 million a day.

This was the headline this morning in the business section of "The New York

Times." after a bruising year, the oil industry confronts a diminished

future. Big oil companies lost billions in 2020 because of the pandemic.

They face broad questions now about how they will adapt to climate change

and regulations.

So that book that I wrote "Blowout" tried to document how the oil and gas

industry has undercut democracy, hollowed out democracy, both in parts of

the United States and around the world. This is about the strength and

incredible financial resources of that industry has stopped us from making

even the easiest reforms and fixes when it comes to the climate.

Well, now that mighty industry is sucking wind and so stuff is changing. It

seems like a whole new world is possible. I mean, listen to this from

today. This was Senator Chuck Schumer who as of today is running the United

States senate. This is him announcing today what they`re getting to work on

in the United States Senate, now that the Democrats have control as of day



SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Senate Democrats are not going to waste any

time taking on the biggest challenges facing our country and our planet.

It`s long past time for the Senate to take a leading role in combating the

existential threat of our time, climate. Climate change touches virtually

every aspect of our economy, and involves virtually every aspect of public


So as the Biden administration prepares a whole of government approach to

combating climate change, the Democratic majority will pursue a whole of

Senate approach as well.


MADDOW: A whole of Senate approach. Now that the Democrats are in control

of the senate, he`s assigning every committee in the U.S. Senate to start

moving climate legislation. They`re moving on it.

This past week, the Biden administration unveiled multiple efforts they`re

going to pursue all at once, including through executive action, to make

the country take a big shift on climate -- long, long overdue, easy


Today, Pete Buttigieg, one of the best communicators in a generation of

Democratic talent was sworn in as secretary of transportation in the Biden

administration. Among other things, Secretary Buttigieg will be overseeing

the transformation of the huge fleet of all federal vehicles to all

electric vehicles. General Motors just announced they will no longer make

internal combustion engines for their cars and SUVs within the next 15


And I`ll tell you right now, the best super bowl ad you`re going to see on

Sunday is the Will Ferrell Aquafina Kenan Thompson ad about GM shifting to

electric cars and this ground breaking new battery they`re putting in like

30 different models of cars. Their whole fleet is going to be electric in

less than 15 years.

It`s happening. It`s happening. All at once, and now very quickly. When the

worst opponents of us getting it together on climate are collapsing

economically or are so rocked back on their heels economically and

politically, honestly, that some of even the big oil companies are trying

to decide now if they might switch sides and maybe try to be good guys on

this issue for once. When your opposition collapses like that, it`s time to

run the field.

And a Democratic president is in office who is committed to this as a top

priority, and the American people voted the Democrats into control, both

the United States house and the United States Senate, when Democrats

campaigned on the fact they were going to move on this issue, it`s

happening. And it`s happening in part because the bad guys on this issue

have collapsed. It is happening in part because of the suddenly sagging

fortunes of what previously, what until a year ago was the richest, most

destructive industry on the planet.

That`s what that book that I wrote "Blowout" is about. The full title is

"Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most

Destructive Industry on Earth."

And apparently, this book is going to come out again every single time that

Donald Trump gets impeached. Came out in hard back when he was getting

impeached the first time, and now this week, it`s just come out in

paperback for the first time, if he gets impeached a third time, I`ll have

to release it on a wax disc.

The audio book was also nominated for a Grammy, if that`s of interest in

case you would prefer to hear it rather than read it. But anyway, if you go

to, it`s all there in case you are interested.

But it feels a little uncanny. And as I mentioned, today, Republicans and

Democrats in the Senate did finally sign the rules that allow the Democrats

to take charge there. Take charge and start running all the committees.

Democrats won those two Georgia Senate races nearly a month ago, which is

what gave them 50 senators, which is what gave them control of the Senate,

but Republicans have dragged their feet in actually allowing the Democrats

to take over and start working in the Senate. It was a week and a half ago

that Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, actually dropped

whatever his supposed objections were that were the excuse for him not

allowing Democrats to take over, but even after he publicly dropped that

objection last Monday, he still dragged it out another week and a half. It

wasn`t until today that he finally relented and agreed to sign over power

to the Democrats.

So it is a month late today that Democrats started running the U.S. Senate.

I mean, they should have 24 months in power in the Senate until the next

election. But Republican Senator Mitch McConnell succeeded in eating one of

those 24 months. So they`re only going to have 23 months to get done what

they want to do. Which gives them, I think, quite -- permission, is that

the right word, gives them reason at least to go as fast as possible.

The Republicans stole a month from them, so now they get to go double time.

Now they get to start. And on the other side of the capitol, in the House,

it`s, of course, a real split screen moment right now. On one side of the

screen, there`s House Democrats moving ahead with the whole governing

thing, voting to move forward President Biden`s big COVID relief bill, to

start working on the legislation as of tonight.

On the other side of the screen are House Republicans who have spent all

day and now all night having a big fight within their party about which

Republican members of Congress they should punish for unconscionable acts,

and how they should be punished and exactly what counts as unconscionable


Tonight, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, she`s third

ranking Republican in the House leadership, she survived a vote among her

colleagues on whether they were going to oust her from leadership because

she was one of ten house Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump

for his role in inciting the violent attack on the capitol January 6th.

Even though she survived the vote, dozens of her house Republican

colleagues tonight voted that she should be kicked out of her leadership

job for daring to cross Donald Trump. But they could not drum up enough

votes to get it done, so Liz Cheney will stay in her role as the number

three house Republican.

And make of that what you will. Only ten Republicans in the house voted to

impeach Donald Trump, but tonight, 145 Republicans voted to keep Liz Cheney

in leadership despite her vote.

Tonight`s vote was also a secret ballot, so maybe Republicans are more okay

with impeachment when they don`t have to answer publicly for their votes.

Or maybe lots of house Republicans just secretly like Liz Cheney but they

don`t want to talk about it publicly. Like I said, make of it what you


But the other colleague of theirs who House Republicans are grappling with

tonight is, of course, the freshman congresswoman from Georgia, Marjorie

Taylor Greene, and if you are a living, breathing sentient human who has

consumed any news coverage in the past few days, you are more than likely

familiar with Congresswoman Greene and all the things unearthed about her

and her views and her public statements recently from harassing and mocking

a teenage survivor of the Parkland school shooting, because Ms. Greene

believes that shooting was a hoax with actors and nobody really died, to

endorsing social media posts that advocate putting a bullet in House

Speaker Nancy Pelosi`s head, to propounding a conspiracy theory that the

California wildfires were not a naturally occurring thing or even the

product of normal arson, no, in fact, she says they were started by lasers

from space controlled by shadowy Jewish groups. It should really be looked


All of which comes on top of what was already famous about her, that she`s

an energetic adherent and proponent of the QAnon conspiracy theory which is

the same conspiracy about Satan-worshiping, pedophile, child-blood-drinking

lizard people that motivated lots of the rioters who attacked the capitol

on January 6th, that`s a theory she has propounded, a theory that among

other things predicts a violent resurrection of the Trump presidency and

the public execution of hundreds of prominent Democrats and celebrities and

figures from the news media, public executions. They want them in public.

They want everybody to see them.

In the wake of the January 6th attacks on Democratic members of Congress,

they say they feel unsafe around Congresswoman Greene, including one who

asked to have her office moved away from Marjorie Greene`s office out of

concern for her safety after a couple run-ins with her. And as you know,

this doesn`t really have to be hard for House Republicans. They do have a

playbook they wrote themselves for handling something like this. A playbook

they have used very recently.

Only two years ago that Congressman Steve King of Iowa found himself

wondering aloud to a "New York Times" reporter, what`s so wrong with the

word white nationalist and white supremacist. Why did though become such a

bad thing? And even though Steve king had been saying stuff like that and

acting that way forever, this time, Republicans decided they just had


And the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, got his caucus to strip

Steve king of all his committee assignments. He was kicked off all his

committee said, treated as a pariah from there on out. He had no actual

work to do. He ended up twiddling his thumbs in the House for the lest of

the term and there was a Republican primary against him in which he was

sounded defeated and that was it for Steve King`s political career. They

know how to do this.

And Democrats now control the house. They basically said to Republicans,

look, you know how to do this. Take care of this problem with Marjorie

Taylor Greene saying Nancy Pelosi should be shot and sandy hook didn`t

happen and Parkland didn`t happen and Jews are controlling space that

account for the wildfires.

I mean, take care of this problem you have with Marjorie Taylor Greene the

way you did with Steve King. She wasn`t musing aloud about whether words

are good or bad the way Steve king was. She has been publicly propounded a

theory that not only led to a violent attack on the capitol, but that at

its heart is about executing Democrats, for being Democrats. So Democrats

have been saying, listen, do what you did with Steve King here. Strip her

of her committee assignments or I guess we`ll have to do it for you?

Democrats have been particularly incensed that Republicans put Ms. Greene

on the Education Committee, someone who believed mass school shootings in

recent years have been a hoax and no kids really died. Put her on the

Education Committee.

But this time around, House Republicans have not been able to bring

themselves to use the Steve King playbook. Maybe it was the supportive

phone calls that Congresswoman Greene claims to have received from Donald

Trump, but House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, after having met with

her yesterday, in which she was reportedly not at all contrite in that

meeting about anything she said, House Leader Kevin McCarthy put out a

statement tonight that did not announce any sort of action on Congresswoman

Greene and instead attacks Democrats for their criticism of her.

And so tonight, the house rules committee approved a resolution that will

strip Congresswoman Greene of her committee assignments. Again, the same

punishment that befell Steve King.

The full house is going to vote on that tomorrow. That means all House

Republicans will now be forced to go on the record voting to support

Marjorie Taylor Greene or not. Voting to go on the record as to whether or

not you can serve as a Republican member of Congress after calling for the

execution of the speaker of the House.

Very few Republican members of Congress are actively defending Marjorie

Taylor Greene or any of the things she has said or done. They`re mostly

arguing process. They say if Democrats remove her from her committees,

that`s bad. That`s a bad thing for the other party to do because whatever

party controls Congress, that party can then remove the other party`s

members from the committees.

The Democrats don`t seem swayed by this argument. Here was rules committee

chairman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts at tonight`s hearing.


REP. JAMES MCGOVERN (D-MA): If the president is going to be that somebody

advocates putting a bullet in the head of a member of Congress, and if that

is going to be the new determination as to what it takes to throw people

off committees, I`m fine with that. I`m fine with that.


MADDOW: Yeah. I`m fine with that. Can we all agree on that? Can we all

agree that if you call for putting bullets in the heads of other members of

Congress, that`s the line? Republican members of congress, does that seem

like a reasonable line for you? We`ll set that as the threshold. Is that

okay as a precedent? I guess we`ll find out when all members of the house

have to vote on it tomorrow.

But House Democrats are trying to walk and chew gum at the same time. They

have teed up this vote tomorrow on kicking this radioactive Republican

member off her committee said. They`re moving ahead on a big COVID relief

bill. They took the first step in passing President Biden`s COVID relief

bill, after President Biden held a phone call with house Democrats today

and hosted Senate Democrats in the Oval Office.

His message to them was, act fast and go big. The president reportedly

saying that basically, the main thing Congress has to be worried about with

COVID relief is not doing enough. Not going big enough with this effort,

saying they are definitely not going to shrink it down or dilute it, even

if Republicans continue to complain that they don`t like it.

And one reason, the main reason the president and Democrats want to go big

is, of course, because they think it`s good policy. It will help the most

Americans and the most direct and sustainable and robust ways possible.

That`s why they don`t want the bill to be less effective than it can be.

But the other reason I think they feel comfortable saying let`s go big

right now is that it`s very popular, what they`re trying to do.

I mean, President Biden as a brand-new president is pretty popular

individually, but his popularity is nothing compared to the popularity of

the COVID relief that he and Democrats are pursuing right now.

There`s a new Quinnipiac poll out today that finds 68 percent of Americans

support this $1.9 trillion COVID relief package the president has put

forward, 68 percent support. The $1,400 in direct aid stimulus checks that

are a central piece of the package, that`s supported by 78 percent of

Americans. Ask Americans if they support increasing the federal minimum

wage to $15 an hour, something the president has said he wants in the bill,

support for that among Americans is at 61 percent.

This is a wildly popular COVID relief bill, every aspect of it. And with

congressional Democrats working as of tonight to get it passed into law

with the Senate putting in motion procedures that will allow them to pass

it even if every Republican says no, they hate it, that`s what the Biden

administration is doing legislatively to get the country relief from the

hardship imposed by the pandemic to fund vaccination efforts, to get

schools to reopen safely, and all this crucial stuff. It`s incredibly

popular, every aspect of this.

So, yes, they`re emboldened by mass public support for what they`re doing

to not compromise and weaken their proposals, to instead move forward with

what they want to do, with what they believe is right and what the public

is behind. And it`s, you know, I mean, with the crisis that we`re in with

COVID, it`s clear at least nobody questions why they shouldn`t just be

doing this first, right?

And seeing them go ahead, refusing to be slowed down, refusing to be put

off track, that seems appropriate given the size of the challenge and the

public supports it. But of course, alongside legislation, the other thing

President Biden is doing is he has to build out a whole new federal

government response to COVID because the federal government response that

existed before the Biden administration took over was such a disaster to

the extent it existed, it was terrible.

The Government Accountability Office just released a report today detailing

how bad the Trump administration`s response to COVID was. "Washington Post"

report today on that study led with just how horrified the investigators

were by what they were seeing when they started looking in detail at what

the Trump administration actually did on COVID.

Quote: A government watchdog study from a generally staid audit agency

amounts to a wide reaching condemnation of President Trump`s botched

response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The document outlines broad Trump

administration failures so alarming that the normally circumspect auditors

announced themselves deeply troubled. That constitutes an anguished cry

from an office that prides itself on just the facts, dull reports.

Among the things that so deeply troubled the government auditors, they kept

telling the Trump administration how many things needed doing that were not

getting done, and the Trump administration just didn`t respond to any of

that. They didn`t get any better. They didn`t take any action in response

to clear recommendations about stuff they were doing wrong or needed to

improve. They absolutely just blew it all off.

They started bad. They got worse over time. Even when they were told that

there were things specifically they could do to improve, they ignored them

and continued to get worse. As we have reported extensively here over these

last months, one of the most heartbreaking and horrifying failures of the

Trump administration is what they did to the CDC. Which should be our

lodestar as a country as to who we follow, when we trust, who gives us

unassailable public health guidance about how to handle something like a

coronavirus pandemic.

It should be our lodestar, should be the world` lodestar. CDC has been up

until this administration, this past administration, they have been the

premier public health agency in the world, the world gold standard. And

what the Trump administration did to it was repulsive. For an agency so

needed, for an agency that should have been at its apex of its capacity to

meet the most challenging moment in public health in 100 years, the Trump

administration cut them off at the knees.

The mismatch between what was needed and what they did is revolting. I

mean, from the White House reaching down to the level of individual

scientists working in the field to assess an outbreak in a South Dakota

meat processing plant, telling individual scientists to change their

language so the meat plant wouldn`t actually be told by CDC what they

should do to keep their workers safe. To burying CDC guidance on how to

reopen schools and businesses safely, not letting anyone see it.

Having CDC scientific guidance edited by the president`s daughter, Ivanka

Trump, editing CDC scientific guidance. Really? And Kellyanne Conway, too,

because why shouldn`t she?

Having a director put in place at CDC who did not protect his agency from

any of that, who did not let it happen, who did not sound the alarm, who

did not resign, who personally bent to the White House`s will and let the

scientific work of that once great agency be infected by the White House`s

nonsense, who carried their water for them, who personally helped them

intervene to squash science. That`s what the Trump administration did to

the CDC.

That`s a big part of what went wrong with this horrific, horrific pandemic

in this country. That is a big part of how we have 4 percent of the world`s

population and 25 percent of the world`s deaths. So how do you fix that?

First thing you do is you hire a new CDC director. When Joe Biden announced

he had chosen one of the prominent infectious doctors in the country,

prominent HIV/AIDS researcher to lead the CDC, the announcement was met

with what can only be described as mass enthusiasm and relief from her

colleagues in the medical field.

One of her colleagues at Harvard Medical School summed it up like this:

This news has sent me into a sort of public health euphoria. It gives me

such hope to know someone as kind and fearless as Dr. Rochelle Walensky

will lead our public health agency. Welcome back, CDC.

Welcome back, CDC. We need you.

The new director of the CDC joins us for the interview here live next.


MADDOW: The CDC over decades had earned its reputation as the globally

renowned gold standard for public health research and guidance. But during

the coronavirus pandemic, this past year, the Trump administration silenced

and censored scientists at the CDC, promoted the views of political

appointees who are unqualified to be making those sort of pronouncement. It

was a real bastardization of the CDC`s crucial role at a time that we

needed them most.

And so, it was clear early on that whoever the new president was going to

tap to run the agency was going to have to be in charge of not just turning

the tide of the pandemic but also restoring CDC to what it should be, a

tough task.

President Joe Biden has chosen Dr. Rochelle Walensky to run the Centers for

Disease Control.

Joining us now for the interview is Dr. Walensky.

It`s a real honor and a pleasure to have you here. Thank you so much for

being here.


much for having me. I`m delighted to be here with you.

MADDOW: I am intimidated by the scale of the task ahead of you. Not only

because --

WALENSKY: Me, too.


MADDOW: -- of the crisis that we are in -- good, you`re human.

Obviously, the scale of the public challenge, but also the organizational

challenge that you`ve got given what the CDC has been through for the past


How -- how are you thinking about the task ahead?

WALENSKY: You know, as you say, I think it`s a two-pronged task. I have to

take care of the people who are doing the hard work. And they have been. I

mean, they have been for -- many of them are career public health

officials, stewards of the health of this nation, and really, of the world.

I have to take care of them because they`re doing hard work that is about

to protect the rest of the country, and that has been working to protect

the rest of the country.

In truth, there hasn`t been massive turnover of the wonderful personnel who

are working there. They have been muzzled. They have been beaten down. But

they`re still there.

And they are working hard, long hours. Over 8,000 of them have been working

towards COVID-19 over the last year, 1,500 of them have been deployed to

250 cities across the nation and the world. And they are -- they are still

there doing -- doing the work of public health and reviewing the science

and making sure that science gets heard.

MADDOW: I feel like I -- I don`t have the same worries that the Trump

administration will do to you and do to CDC under you that -- the kinds of

problems that we saw under the Trump administration. And so, I don`t feel

like we need to protect CDC and to protect your independence in the way

that needed to happen during the Trump administration.

But I also feel like the solution to what we saw happen to your crucial

agency over the last year can`t just be, you know, whoo, let`s never do

that again, let`s hope we always have good presidents and we always respect

the guidelines and the future.

I mean, are there things that need to change so that those kinds of

problems don`t happen again? Are there protections that you and your

colleagues need just in case things take an ugly turn like that again?

WALENSKY: Absolutely. I think we need to protect our science. We need to

make sure that there`s no finger hold over the MMWR, over the science

that`s produced that we have the final say in that science. I was very

clear before I took the position that they would hear the science from me

and it might not be good news all the time, and we had to maintain humility

in terms of what we were learning because science teaches us all the time.

We will review the guidance and make sure that there -- the guidance is up

to date, that the soft language that might have been there is now turned to

the hard language that the science needs to report. And, you know, quite

honestly, I do think I need to do, you know, not everything was done


We need to acknowledge the places where we might have misstepped, where we

can learn from what was done, what might have been done improperly or might

have -- could have been done better, and we need to review that so the next

time we`re in this position, we can do better the next time.

MADDOW: Let me ask you about the sort of layman`s translation of one of

the virological things that`s starting to get more and more attention now,

and that is the variations and mutations of the virus that seemed to be

affecting its transmissibility, potentially its susceptibility to vaccines.

For us, the public, who have been listening to guidance from people like

you about wearing masks, about social distance, about the other things that

we can do to try to slow and stop transmission, is there anything that we

need to do differently because of the existence of these variants that we

haven`t already been doing? Is there any sign that any of the public health

guidance we have been given about how to protect ourselves and others might

not be effective against those -- those variants?

WALENSKY: Yeah, it`s a great question. I mean, you hear the word mutation,

and everybody thinks of a science fiction movie, right?

So we know that viruses mutate. We know that they change their genetic

code, often every time they replicate. MRNA viruses mutate frequently.

We expected mutations and we expected variants. Usually when there`s a

variant that becomes predominant, it`s because it has some advantage to the

virus, whether it`s because it`s increasingly transmissible, whether it`s

because it has increased mortality, or because it can escape our vaccines

and our treatments.

We know that some of the variants have increased transmissibility. There`s

increasing data that suggests some of the variants, the B117 variant, may

actually be increased -- lead to increased mortality. And the jury is still

out with regard to how these vaccines are going to work with regard --

against these variants.

We have to be -- you know, follow the science, and we`re learning more and

more about whether our public health measures, our mitigation measures, our

mask wearing, our distancing will -- will be fully effective against these

variants, but we have every reason to believe that they will. And the more

case reporting that we`re looking at with the variants that are emerging,

the more we`re actually finding they were happening when masks and

distancing weren`t happening.

So, it`s in fact the same disease, and we believe right now that if you

follow the mask guidance, you follow the distancing guidance, the lack of

gathering, and you don`t gather, that you should be protected against these

variants. What we know is that they will probably be less forgiving when we

don`t follow that guidance.

MADDOW: OK. And do you think that we should expect that there needs to be

another big scientific lift in this country in terms of sequencing the

virus when people do get infected, tracking the variants, and indeed,

potentially developing vaccination boosters or vaccination adaptations that

account for it? Is this going to be a whole -- you know, I feel like

scientists got us to the moon in a matter of a very short period of time in

terms of getting us safe and effective vaccines. Do we now need to go to

Mars? Do we now -- is it going to be a big, heavy lift to contend with the

additional complications here?

WALENSKY: The answer is we don`t know, but we can`t be wrong. And so we`re

doing all of those things. We are doing increased sequencing. We have

increased our sequencing ten-fold just in the last two weeks.

We are looking to the -- to Moderna and Pfizer to try to create boosters

and vaccines in case we need to go there. Because when we need to be at

Mars, we need to be almost there when we get going (ph) -- when the time


MADDOW: Dr. Walensky, you said something today at the White House COVID

briefing about reopening schools, specifically about teachers. You said

teachers don`t necessarily need to be vaccinated for COVID before schools

can safely reopen. Those comments caused a lot of discussion, frankly a lot

of consternation even among a bunch of people that I know.

If you don`t mind, I would like to take a quick break right here. I`m

warning you in advance I`m going to ask you about that when we come back if

you can stick around.

WALENSKY: Absolutely.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back with the new director of the CDC,

Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Stay with us.



WALENSKY: I want to be very clear about schools, which is: yes, ACIP has

put teachers in the 1B category, the category of essential workers. But I

also want to be clear that there is increasing data to suggest that schools

can safely reopen, and that that safe reopening does not suggest that

teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely.


MADDOW: Joining us once again is Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the new director

of the CDC.

Dr. Walensky, thank you again for being here. It is a real honor to have


Those comments today at the COVID briefing from the White House caused a

lot of consternation, got a lot of attention. I think broadly speaking, I`m

not a teacher, but I know a lot of teachers and I feel like teachers are

worried that even if kids aren`t necessarily a high risk, if they get

infected at school, many of the teachers feel like they are at high risk.

Why isn`t it a prerequisite for safe reopening for teachers to get the


WALENSKY: Thank you for raising this, and thank you for discussing it.

I want to be very clear about what the science shows and what I believe in

how we should prioritize. There`s accumulating data that suggests that

there is not a lot of transmission that is happening in schools when the

proper mitigation measures are taken. When there is masking, when there is

distancing, de-densification of the classroom, ventilation, contact

tracing, hand washing, all of those things when they`re done well, the data

suggests, the science suggests that there is not a lot of transmission

happening in schools, and in fact, the case rates in schools are generally

lower than they are in the population surrounding it.

So, that`s what the data and the science suggests. And that we definitely

want to have the community rates of disease go down. We want to make sure

that that is happening as well. But the data suggests that it`s safe to go

back to school if you do all of those mitigation measures.

Now, that said, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has

prioritized teachers as essential personnel because they are essential to

our society`s function. And so, they fall in the 1B category, and they

should be prioritized as essential workers for vaccination.

That can be true, and I can believe that to be true, and I can emphasize

that I believe teachers should get vaccinated. But I also think that the

science tells us that if we can do the proper mitigation measures -- and I

would emphasize, if we have the funding to do the proper mitigation

measures as is put forth in the American Rescue Plan -- that we can reopen

schools safely even if all of the teachers are not vaccinated.

MADDOW: Is CDC going to do detailed guidance that will, if it`s seen as

authoritative guidance that will be seen as effectively rules for what it

takes to safely reopen schools?

WALENSKY: They are working actively on that now, and it should be

forthcoming, absolutely. Because we know --


WALENSKY: -- we know that guidance is essential.

MADDOW: Now, I have to ask you on that point, though. We have had a

political promise, a campaign promise from President Biden that one of his

goals for his first 100 days is that he wants schools to reopen.

So -- I mean, maybe I`m once bitten and twice shy here given what`s

happened in the Trump administration in the past year, but is there -- is

it -- is it reasonable to be suspicious of CDC guidance on reopening

schools given that the president has said that schools should reopen?

If CDC scientists find that scientifically actually, it`s hard to safely

reopen schools, maybe we shouldn`t be doing so much in-person learning,

will the Biden administration -- will the president let you say that


WALENSKY: I`m -- I think all of what you`re saying is actually consistent.

The Biden administration and I agree with it, believes that schools should

be the last thing to close and the first thing to open. That administration

and I agree with it, believes there should be adequate funding to make sure

that all of the mitigation measures are in place in schools, should be

prioritized in schools, so that we can get those schools open.

And then, there should be funding for testing in schools, there should be

funding and resources for vaccination of teachers.

So, all of those things are consistent. And I think what that first 100-day

plan tells us is this is a priority. We have to get our children back to


MADDOW: In terms of some of the most vulnerable people and the people who

have experienced the highest rates of infection, particularly on the job,

we reported here last year that your predecessor, Dr. Robert Redfield --

sorry to say it this way -- but he tampered with the report on COVID

transmission at a meatpacking plant. He ordered CDC investigators to water

down their findings and recommendations.

Thereafter, after we reported that, we learned that the meat industry,

meatpacking industry had effectively drafted the president`s executive

order, mandating that meatpacking plants must stay open even if local or

state authorities wanted to shut them down for public health reasons.

It`s -- that to me is a disaster, especially given how many thousands of

people who work in the meatpacking industry ended up getting infected and

how many of them died. Are you going to unwind all of that? Should we

expect a revision of that? It seems like that process was so corrupted.

WALENSKY: We intend to do a full review of all of the guidance to insure

that it fully follows the science. It has been reviewed by subject matter


What I can tell you is we are -- we are stewards of public health. We want

to make sure that those workers in the meatpacking plants are safe. We want

to make sure that the food is safe for the American people.

The Department of Labor has put forward guidance to make sure that those

workers are safe. There is guidance that should look at infection control

policies within those meatpacking plants to make sure that all of the

documents and guidance for the workers are actually in multiple languages

so that they can fully understand them, and yes, we intend to fully make

sure that the science is leading us.

MADDOW: Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the new director of the Centers for Disease

Control -- ma`am, let me just -- I`ll just say right now, thank you for

what you`re doing, and I am -- I will reiterated how intimidated I am by

the task ahead of you.

But I`ll also tell you, if you get stepped on and if you and the scientists

at the CDC for any reason feel like you are not able to lead with public

health or you`re not able to say what you think needs to be done, if you

get into some politically uncomfortable positions with the new

administration -- which I don`t expect, but if it happens -- please know

that you`ve got an open door here to tell the public what`s going on, and

you will not believe how much support you will get for scientific freedom

if there`s any political trammel on what you`re doing.

WALENSKY: I look forward to being back and I sure hope and don`t

anticipate it will be for that reason.

MADDOW: I -- I am -- I`m with you on that, and I look forward to having

you back. Good luck to you. Thank you so much.

WALENSKY: Thank you. Thank you.

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


MADDOW: As I mentioned at the top of the show, we are expecting a vote

tomorrow on whether or not a new Republican member of Congress will be

stripped from her committee assignments. That vote is going to take place

tomorrow afternoon. This is House Democrats forcing the Republican counter

parts to respond to a -- what seem Tuesday be an escalating series of

violent conspiracy laden and virulently anti-Semitic social media posts

that Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has made.

We have a pretty good idea how Democrats are going to vote on that measure

as to whether or not she should be on House committees. But if you have any

indication how Republicans were thinking about the issue consider this.

Multiple news outlets reporting tonight that during the Republican`s closed

door caucus meeting to discuss this issue, Marjorie Taylor Greene got a

standing ovation in that room from as much as half of the Republican caucus

in that room.

The House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity today to

remove the congresswoman from her committee assignments simply on the say

so of her own conference, of the Republicans saying so themselves. He chose

not to do that even though he knows full well if he didn`t take that

action, Democrats were definitely going to have the votes to go ahead and

do it anyway.

So at the end of the day, she`s not going to end up any committee

assignments. She`s going to end up a member of Congress who has no work to

do and isn`t invited to any of the rooms in which actual work happens. The

Republicans chose not to do it themselves. The Democrats will. And tomorrow

we will get to see every Republican member of the House go on record about

where they stand on the anti-Semitic conspiracy lady who endorsed the

murder of Nancy Pelosi.

We don`t yet know the timing of when that vote is going to happen yet. We

don`t know about the kind of debate or floor speeches that may happen in

advance. But we know it`s going to be on the House floor tomorrow

afternoon. Yuck (ph)!

Watch this space.


MADDOW: Still having to get used to the fact we`re allowed to actually

book government officials now. We were always calling them and asking them

to be on the show. But now, the White House doesn`t intervene to stop

government officials from coming on the show to explain what it is they`re

doing and to face my questions.

It`s -- I don`t know how long it`s going to take me to get used to this,

but I`m going to -- I hope it lasts.

That does it for us tonight. Thanks again to the CDC Director Rochelle

Walensky for being here.

We`ll see you again tomorrow night.


Good evening, Lawrence.




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