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

Guest: David Kessler, Katie Benner�

Summary:

President Joe Biden announced that there will be enough vaccine for

every adult in America by May 31st. Dr. David Kessler, chief science

officer for COVID-19 response under President Biden, is interviewed. "New

York Times" Justice Department reporter, Katie Benner is interviewed about

the Biden administration naming Channing Phillips as top federal prosecutor

in D.C.

Transcript:

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): And we shouldn`t be selling them weapons. And

so, I think the administration is right now having a debate about what our

security partnership looks like, and if we make changes to that, while it

won`t look like a personal sanctions on MBS, it will have a big impact on

him and his priorities.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: All right. Senator Chris Murphy, thanks for

making time tonight.

That is ALL IN on this Tuesday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

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

appreciated.

And thanks to you at home for joining us for this hour. Before we start in

earnest tonight, I do want to take a second, if you will indulge me, I have

a thank you that I need to say. I`m not going to spend a ton on this, but I

just want to tell you that we`ve had a couple of real milestones here at

the show, good ones.

In January, for the first time ever, this show was the number one most

watched show on all of cable television, which is crazy, right? Not just

the most watched show on cable news but the most watched show in all of

cable TV, everything. That was in January, which was flummoxing and I

thought absolutely was a fluke.

But then today, we learned that we did it for a second month in a row. It

turns out we were the most watched show on all of cable TV for both January

and February, which I have no idea what to make of.

But even better than that, for February, for this past month, not only were

we the most watched show on cable, but our network, this network, MSNBC,

was the most watched network in all of cable TV in the month of February,

which is the first time that has ever been true for us as a network since

we came into existence nearly 25 years ago. So if you know me, if you`ve

ever seen the show, you know that I don`t talk about ratings and cable news

wars and all that stuff so I`m not going to dwell on this, I will not

mention it again.

But it is a really big deal for us. And I`m really thankful to you for

watching this show. I had no idea there would ever be so many of you

watching. It does blow my mind personally, but I am so grateful and

humbled.

Thank you for supporting the show. Thank you for supporting MSNBC. We will

keep doing our best to be worthy of your time and your trust for you tuning

in.

So, all right. Let us never speak of this again. Sorry. But I had to get

that out.

All right. Moving on. Today, the nation`s new commerce secretary was

confirmed by the senate, Gina Raimondo. She is the governor of Rhode

Island, or she was the governor of Rhode Island, now she will be our new

commerce secretary.

Yesterday, the new education secretary was confirmed as well, Miguel

Cardona. The Senate also tonight just confirmed Cecilia Rouse to be chair

of the Council of Economic Advisers. That was an overwhelming vote, it`s

95-4 for Cecilia Rouse.

The nomination of Williams Burns to be CIA director just got unanimous vote

out of the Intelligence Committee, and that will now head to the floor, a

unanimous vote in committee is a good sign that he may get a unanimous vote

on the floor.

Deb Haaland to run the Interior Department, Xavier Becerra to be health

secretary, those Biden cabinet nominations seem to be on track to happen

soon as well.

Now, before tonight, we were still waiting after days and days and days and

days to see if a Republican senator would decide that he or she would

support Neera Tanden to run the office of management and budget in the

White House. The reason the White House needed to look for a Republican to

support Ms. Tanden is because conservative Democrat Joe Manchin of West

Virginia announced that he wouldn`t vote for her, which immediately, it was

evident as soon as he said that, that that could potentially scupper her

nomination. He said he decided he did not like the combative tone of some

of Neera Tanden`s past tweets.

And the reason this is sticking in everyone`s craw, the reason that

announcement that he wouldn`t support Tanden has become sort of a stain on

Senator Manchin`s reputation, is not that senators don`t have a choice as

to which way they`re going to vote on every nominee. It`s the question of

the standard that he`s applying here, because of course Senator Manchin

voted to confirm plenty of Trump nominees, all men, of course, who had much

worse problems with their online tone than Neera Tanden ever got anywhere

near.

The reason this is a real problem for Senator Manchin and his reputation is

because for some reason, Senator Manchin was only bothered by her tone in

her online statements. He was not similarly bothered by the much more

inflammatory things said by Republican male nominees who he happily voted

for in the past. Again, all senators have a choice to -- you know, they are

consulted, right, advise and consent is a real thing, they`re supposed to

make a real decision on every nominee.

The problem here is not Senator Manchin voting against a Democratic

president`s nominee. The problem is Senator Manchin applying a blatant and

inexplicable double standard, just for her, when guys who did much worse

were no problem for him but for some reason she really bugs him.

So because of that, we`ve been waiting to see if Senator Manchin would

explain that so that this wouldn`t accrue to his reputation the way it`s

going to. In the absence that have, we`ve been waiting to see if a

Republican would actually stand up to support her so she could get the 50

votes she needed to be confirmed to run the White House budget office. Lisa

Murkowski, the Republican senator from Alaska, was thought of as a

potential crossover vote for Neera Tanden. Tanden and Murkowski met in

Murkowski`s office on Capitol Hill yesterday. Senator Murkowski still had

not said how she would vote on the Tanden nomination when it got to the

floor.

But tonight all this waiting and wondering and I think consternation over

the behavior of Senator Manchin came to an end. Well, maybe the

consternation about Senator Manchin will continue, but the waiting about

Neera Tanden came to an end when she told the White House she would

withdraw her nomination.

Now, the result of this based on a White House statement in response, is

that Tanden will get another job in the Biden administration that does not

require nomination, she will join the administration. And Senator Manchin

will drag this around as a stain on his reputation in the long run. But it

also means that President Biden will need to pick a new nominee to run the

White House Budget Office. So, there is some uncertainty now in terms of

how the Biden cabinet is going to look in the end because the Tanden

nomination has come to an end.

That said, Merrick garland seems to be moving forward fairly smoothly to be

the next attorney general of the United States, although somewhat along the

same lines. Perhaps it should also be noted that two women of color who

have been named by President Biden to be other senior officials in the

justice department working directly under attorney general designate

Merrick Garland, two women of color, Kristen Clark and Vanita Gupta, have

attracted fairly rabid attacks from Republicans at this point. We`ll see

what happens to their nominations as well even as Merrick Garland seems to

be moving forward. We`ll see if Joe Manchin decides if he doesn`t like them

for some reason.

At the Justice Department, we`ll have more ahead this hour on the

proverbial burning wreckage that all the Biden appointees will be walking

into at the Justice Department and the challenges ahead with the

prosecutions related to the January 6th capital attack. There was an

interesting and sort of surprise announcement made today about who`s going

to be taking a key job in the Biden Justice Department that will have an

important relationship not only to the January 6th arrest and prosecutions

but also to a bunch of the cases that end up in a weird semi-legal limbo

after what appears to have been improper influence, improper political

influence on Justice Department decisions under the Trump administration.

A new appointee announced today for a key part of the Justice Department

who is going to have that mess to clean up. We`ll have more on that coming

up later this hour.

The new defense secretary in the Biden administration, you`ll remember he

was confirmed very quickly after the inauguration, retired General Lloyd

Austin.

It`s interesting, for all of the diversity in our armed forces, including

at the top, for all the pioneering leadership of people like Colin Powell

who served as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, of course, before he

became secretary of state, before Lloyd Austin, it`s almost impossible to

believe, but the defense department never had an African-American secretary

of defense before Mr. Austin took that role this year under President

Biden.

And you might remember a few years back in Canada, Prime Minister Justin

Trudeau also made a groundbreaking sort of glass-ceiling-breaking choice

for defense minister in that country. He chose a man named Harjit Singh

Sajjan to be Canada`s minister of national defense, an equivalent position

as Mr. Austin here. Mr. Sajjan is a Sikh, he wears a turban as a sign of

his faith. He`s a former police officer, he`s very photogenic and

charismatic and became a bit of an international media star when he was

first named to the cabinet.

But interestingly, Minister Sajjan was one of four Sikh Canadians who

Justin Trudeau named to his first cabinet. The infrastructure minister, the

science minister, the minister for small business and tourism, and the

defense minister, all four of those Canadian cabinet minister of Sikh

origin in Justin Trudeau`s first cabinet.

The Canadian population overall is about 1.5 percent Sikh. And as those

numbers have grown and Sikh families have prospered in Canada and Sikhs

have been elected to parliament and started to become high ranking

government ministers, every now and again we here in the states get sort of

media crossover. We cross over into our media and our culture of something

cool happening in Canada to sort of celebrate -- celebrate is the this

relatively new kind of diversity among Canadians and new immigrants there.

Like for example, this gentleman, who lives in the Yukon Territory. His

name is Gurdeep Pandher. And his social media presence is about the over

the top joy he takes in teaching other Canadians, Canadians born and bred,

immigrant Canadians from all over, everyone, he teaches bhangra dancing.

Here he is teaching Canadian soldiers at a firefighting training base, see

that helicopter in the background, these are Canadians soldiers, he`s

teaching them all how to dance bhangra, everybody can do it, everybody is

having the time of their lives.

Here he is on a navy warship, teaching Canadian navy sailors. Everybody can

bhangra dance, everybody can do it. I love this guy.

And this is what that same guy just posted today.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW: So he says in the tweet that accompanies this video, he says,

yesterday evening I received my COVID-19 vaccine, then I went to a frozen

lake to dance bhangra on it for joy, hope, and positivity, which I`m

forwarding to Canada and everyone else.

This is I got my vaccine dance, his joy at getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Honestly, it makes me feel better already.

And here in the United States today, here is the Tennessee version that

have for us.

(BEGI VIDEO CLIP)

DOLLY PARTON, SINGER-SONGWRITER: Well, hey, it`s me. I`m finally going to

get my vaccine. I`m so excited. I`ve been waiting. I`m old enough to get it

and I`m smart enough to get it. So I`m very happy that I`m going to get my

Moderna shot today.

And I wanted to tell everybody that you should get out there and do it too.

I even changed one of my songs to fit the occasion. Vaccine, vaccine,

vaccine, vaccine, I`m begging of you please don`t hesitate. Vaccine,

vaccine, vaccine, vaccine , cause once you`re dead, then that`s a bit too

late

I know I`m trying to be funny now but I`m dead serious about the vaccine. I

think we all want to get back to normal, whatever that is. And that would

be a great shot in the arm, wouldn`t it? If we could get back to that.

But anyhow, I just wanted to encourage everybody because the sooner we get

to feeling better the sooner we`ll get back to being normal. So I just want

to say to all of you cowards out there, don`t be such a chicken squat. Get

out there and get your shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Dolly Parton today, the one and only. She`s had a long time

relationship with Vanderbilt University. You may have heard or seen the

headlines from a couple of months ago, she gave them personally a million

dollar donation at Vanderbilt, she helped pay for the development of the

Moderna vaccine and today Dolly Parton got her shot. Because she`s Dolly

Parton, she got it without having to roll up her sleeve because of course

she already had a special dress that already had upper shoulder cutouts so

they could just give her the shot right there without once interrupting

even for a second her perfect Dolly Parton glamour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PARTON: Think you got it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got it.

PARTON: Okay. That didn`t hurt. Just stung a little bit. But that was from

the alcohol pad, I think.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

PARTON: OK, all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me quickly --

PARTON: You`re going to mess up my beauty mark? I`m joking, you do what

you got to do. I don`t want blood on my clothes. Hey, I did it, I did it!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: I did it, I did it! Dolly Parton in Tennessee today. Dolly got

her shot. The Sikh Canadian teach everyone to dance guy got it. And went

out and danced the bhangra on a frozen lake to celebrate. I will take it, I

will take it, more like this, please.

Today was a bunch of big news, really big news on COVID. There was some

inexplicable news mixed into it from Texas and Mississippi where today

governors in those states announced their dropping their mask requirements

entirely in those states. Why now?

Texas and Mississippi are both states where case numbers have very recently

started to climb back up. Look at the far right side of each of those

graphs. For all the progress each of those states has made and all that

trauma and death they have been through, their numbers have just started to

come back up.

Case numbers in both states on the upswing. And vaccines now rolling out in

sufficient numbers and increasing numbers that can get us to the end of

this thing if we can just hold on a few more weeks. And they`re deciding

they can`t wait another second. They`re pulling all COVID-related rules. At

least to some eyes, like I said, fairly inexplicable decisions today in

Texas and Mississippi. It`s not like Texas and Mississippi don`t have other

things to be worrying about right now.

Both states have thousands of residents without clean drinking water

because of infrastructure failures. In the capitals of both states they

have huge present dangers right now with thousands of residents without

potable drinking water because the state has absolutely blown it. Those two

Republican governors in those states have decided this is the right moment

for a big distracting disastrous public health decision. Anyway, knock

yourself out.

Meanwhile, though, today is the day we got really very big news about

vaccine progress. Somehow, and we`re going to try to find out how tonight,

somehow the administration persuaded two big rival drug companies, Merck

and Johnson & Johnson, to stop competing on this front and instead

cooperate, to help each other out.

Johnson & Johnson, as you know, has just developed this new vaccine that

was only just approved this weekend, started shipping out yesterday. All

the data say it works great, it only requires one shot, it only needs to be

stored in a normal refrigerator without any special equipment. It is

cheaper than the other two vaccines we got approved. It`s got sort of

everything going for it, except for whatever reason, the Biden

administration has been saying for a while now that they were surprised to

learn when they took over five weeks ago, that Johnson & Johnson didn`t

actually have the logistical capacity to manufacture that vaccine in large

enough amounts.

So we talked with the chief science adviser to the COVID-19 response, Dr.

David Kessler, about that a couple of weeks ago. He said that he had been

working on that problem that very day, and that there was a whole of

government effort to work on that problem among others in terms of these

production bottlenecks. Well, today, the Biden administration announced

they have worked out a deal where this competing company, where Merck will

come in and help with the manufacturing of another company`s, with Johnson

& Johnson`s, vaccine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The vice president and I have

some good news to report. Today, we`re announcing a major step forward. Two

of the largest health care and pharmaceutical companies in the world that

are usually competitors are working together on the vaccine. Johnson &

Johnson and Merck will work together to expand the production of Johnson &

Johnson`s vaccine. This is the type of collaboration between companies we

saw in World War II.

We also invoked the defense production act to equip two Merck facilities to

the standards necessary to safely manufacture the J&J vaccine. Johnson &

Johnson`s vaccine manufacturing facilities will now begin to operate 24/7.

Here is what all this means. We`re now on track to have enough vaccine

supply for every adult in America by the end of May.

Let me say that again. I`m pleased to announce today as a consequence of

the stepped-up process, that I`ve ordered and just outlined, this country

will have enough vaccine supply, I`ll say it again, for every adult in

America by the end of May. By the end of May. That`s progress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Enough vaccine for every adult in America by May 31st. By the end

of May.

If he means that, I think that means in some ways we might get summer back

this year. I mean, depending on whether or not that vaccine actually gets

into enough American arms. End of May, that`s two months earlier than they

previously thought they were going to get there.

The president went on to say to administer all these vaccines, we need more

vaccinators, retired directors and nurses come out of retirement to help.

FEMA personnel, defense personnel, I definite want to know more about that.

It`s one thing to have enough fluid, it`s one thing to have the vaccines

sitting in vials. It`s another thing to make sure it can get into enough

Americans. But if production is going to be that much faster than they

thought it was going to be, if they`ve fixed bottlenecks so they`ll have

enough for every American by the end of may, then we better have a

distribution system that will get it into enough Americans by the end of

May to -- well, to change everything.

So I want to know more about that. I also want to know more about this part

of it. We are of course I think we`re 37 days into the new administration.

President Biden said in his first 100 days he wanted the U.S. to administer

100 million vaccination doses. Well, at 37 days in, we`re already over

halfway there. We`re well over 50 million doses administered. So it does

look like we are ahead of the target to -- ahead of pace to hit that

target.

But alongside the 100 million doses in 100 days, President Biden also said

he wanted all elementary schools reopened in his first 100 days. And the

CDC has put out guidance about what it takes to safely reopen schools. Most

schools, honestly, don`t yet meet that criteria, and there`s a lot of

concern as to what it`s going to take to get schools to a point where they

do meet that criteria.

The money in the COVID relief bill that`s for reopening schools safely,

that will help. But that too is a ways off, it hasn`t even passed the

Senate yet. So teachers and school staff in particular have been really

worried about what it means to have all this new pressure to open schools,

especially to open elementary schools and to open them quickly. Which

everybody agrees is an important goal, it`s really important for kids.

But it`s unnerving to have that sense of pressure and to have that sense of

imminent, potentially forced reopenings, while so many adults who make

schools run still themselves can`t get vaccinated. Well, here`s the other

big news today. Here`s what President Biden said about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Over 30 states have already taken the step to prioritize educators

for vaccination. And today, I`m using the full authority of the federal

government. I`m directing every state to do the same. My challenge to all

states, territories, and the District of Columbia, is this: we want every

educator, school staff member, childcare worker, to receive at least one

shot by the end of the month of March.

To help make this happen, starting next week and for a month, the month of

March, we`ll be using our federal pharmacy program to prioritize the

vaccination of pre-K through 12 educators and staff and childcare workers.

Throughout March, they will be able to sign up for an appointment at a

pharmacy near them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: They`ll be able to sign up for an appointment at a pharmacy near

them. Prioritize the vaccination of pre-K through 12. So, pre-K through

elementary school, middle school, high school educators and staff, plus

childcare workers.

What is the federal pharmacy program and how will this work? Getting every

teacher and school staff member, every childcare worker in the country

vaccinated this month, this month, he wants this done by the end of March,

he wants them to all have at least one vaccination shot by the end of this

month, by this new initiative from the federal government, that would be

absolutely huge. How is that going to work exactly?

And are we really going to have enough vaccine for every adult in the

country by the end of May? Is that just on paper that we`ll have enough? Is

the distribution plan enough to actually make that happen? Because --

because as much as I love the winter, and I do, like dancing on a frozen

lake love the winter, the idea of a country where all the teachers are

vaccinated this month and there is vaccine enough for everyone else in the

country before the start of June, that`s enough to make me love the spring,

and the summer too.

Joining us now for the interview is Dr. David Kessler. He is the chief

science officer for COVID-19 response under President Biden.

And, sir, it`s an honor to have your time tonight. Thank you so much for

being here.

DR. DAVID KESSLER, BIDEN ADMIN. COVID RESPONSEN CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER:

It`s a pleasure to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: First, let me give you a chance to correct me if I explained any

of these new policy announcements or the new place that we are with

vaccines in a way that was wrong or that missed the point at all.

KESSLER: No, you got it exactly right. In three months we will have enough

vaccine for every adult in this country.

MADDOW: When you think about the match of the need to the resources, this

is obviously a huge piece of it. Will there be enough actual vaccine,

actual fluid in vials, to vaccinate every adult in the country, knowing

that is now going to happen by the end of may rather than by the end of

July which was the already-ambitious goal you had announced, that was a

huge piece of it. The other part of matching the resources to the needs

though is that the distribution.

And we`ve all experienced -- my family has experienced it, the difficulty

and complexity of trying to get people matched up with vaccines that they

need, try to get those appointments, try to get people in line, is that --

is distribution on that front going to expand to meet the need in the way

that the production of vaccine is?

KESSLER: Exactly. You know, right now, we have many of our state and local

partners administering vaccines. But we will add and are adding every week

not only increased number of vaccinators but increased number of sites.

We`re doing that at mass vaccination centers, mid-size vaccination centers,

community health centers. As you mentioned, there will be a federal

pharmacy program for teachers, among others.

So there are a number of increasing distribution channels that will keep up

with this increased supply of vaccine.

MADDOW: I`m not sure that I understand what a federal pharmacy program is

and how that will work. For the teachers and school staff members and

childcare workers and all their families who are watching this tonight

trying to figure out what this means about their loved one or themselves

being able to get the vaccine by the end of this month, how does a federal

pharmacy program work?

KESSLER: Let me make it simple. Beginning the week of March 8th, go to the

CDC website. If you`re a teacher, you will see the participating pharmacies

in your neighborhood that you can go to. Go to their web page.

And if you`re a teacher, if you`re a childcare worker, if you`re a staff

worker, if you`re a bus driver in a school, you are eligible to go to that

pharmacy and get your vaccine. And we want all teachers to have at least

one vaccination the month of March.

MADDOW: Dr. Kessler, the last time you were here, you said that President

Biden had instructed you when he took office to do everything possible to

accelerate the production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. You told me and

you told all of us here you were working on it day and night.

I have to ask you, given your concern and your involvement in this, were

you working on brokering this deal between Johnson & Johnson and Merck,

that Merck would actually come in as a competitor and help Johnson &

Johnson produce their product?

KESSLER: The answer is yes. If you go back, look at the history a little,

President Truman asked Robert Wood Johnson Jr. who was then president of

Johnson & Johnson to help bring companies together in World War II. And

President Biden made it very clear, the message was there is nothing too

big that you can`t do, go big here.

These companies came together. I have to give them enormous credit, at the

administration`s urging. Merck and Johnson & Johnson came together. This is

an historic partnership. They will produce -- they will double the amount

of drug substance, that`s the vaccine itself.

This is what`s required. This is their time. We were all in this with them.

MADDOW: Dr. Kessler, last night we learned -- I`m not asking you a

politics question here, but it is a question that has a political context,

so I`ll just preface it by saying that. Last night, we learned for the

first time, and we reported here on the show for the first time, that the

former president, President Trump, was himself vaccinated at the White

House in January. And we learned of it for the first time last night

because the White House didn`t photograph the event, they didn`t announce

it, they didn`t tell anyone that President Trump had been vaccinated.

I thought when we reported last night that while he was president, he had

never told Americans to get Americans, I told everyone last night. It turns

out he did write in December one tweet that told Americans to get their

shots.

But that story highlights something that is very difficult for our country

in particular about vaccines. We have an odd partisan divide now on vaccine

hesitancy. Among Americans who aren`t vaccinated, Democrats are more than

twice as likely as Republicans who say they will get the shot while they

can.

And I don`t know why the previous administration treated President Trump`s

own vaccine as a state secret and whether that might have helped if he had

told everybody he had been vaccinated. Now that we have this weird partisan

divide about vaccine hesitancy, how does a Democratic administration, how

do you guys work to help Republicans feel more positively about the

vaccine, given that divide that really does exist.

KESSLER: Just the science, Rachel. Two thousand people, more than 2,000

people, have died each day recently. This vaccine prevents death. It

prevents hospitalization, the vast majority of people. I mean, it`s that

simple.

There are still today 65,000 cases a day. There are variants that are of

concern. We can put this behind us. And yes, we will have enough vaccine in

the next three months for every American.

But as the president said, you know, those are the vaccines. We need

vaccinations. And it`s going to take everybody to step up and do their part

and get this over with.

MADDOW: Dr. David Kessler, former FDA commissioner, now the chief science

officer for the COVID-19 response under President Biden -- Dr. Kessler, it

is a real honor for us whenever you`re able to make time to be here. Thank

you.

KESSLER: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: OK. It is an historic day. If there`s going to be enough vaccine

in this country for every American by the end of May, that is such a change

in the trajectory than we were expecting. The delivery is going to have to

be there in order to make the promise of this real. But this might have

given us back so much time and saved so many lives in this country, if we

can get to. Huge day.

Much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: There`s something to watch for in tomorrow`s news. The U.S. Senate

tomorrow is going to hold its second hearing about the January 6th attack

on the Capitol. And for the first time tomorrow we`re going to hear

testimony from Pentagon officials about what happened that day. That`s

important because it means we might finally start to get some answers about

one of the unsolved, unsettling mysteries about something that unfolded

during the attack.

Last week, you might remember police officials testified about their

desperate efforts to try to get the National Guard deployed to come in to

help while the Capitol was being overrun by the pro-Trump mob. But their

requests for National Guard help were inexplicably slow-walked for hours

during the attack.

The acting D.C. police chief testified he was stunned by the lack of

response from the Pentagon while they were calling for help. We haven`t

heard much from the Pentagon side of this and what we have heard hasn`t

been reassuring.

For instance, there is the still unexplained fact that the Pentagon

repeatedly lied about one of the people who participated in the key phone

call to the Army that day, when D.C. officials, and police officials, were

begging the army to send in National Guard help to back up the Capitol

police who were being overrun.

On that call, on the Pentagon side, we now know, was a general named

Charlie Flynn. Charlie Flynn is the brother of disgraced Trump national

security adviser Mike Flynn who of course had called on Trump to invoke

martial law and use the military to overturn the presidential election

results.

Mike Flynn`s brother, General Charlie Flynn, has denied that his

relationship with his brother had any connection to his actions or the

Pentagon`s lack of a response that day while they were getting asked for

help. But we still don`t know what his involvement was and we still don`t

know why the Pentagon initially lied about him being involved in that

decision.

So that`s something to watch tomorrow. Why didn`t the National Guard turn

up when they were being begged to be there? And why did they lie about Mike

Flynn`s brother having some role in the decision-making process there? The

first testimony from Pentagon officials about January 6th tomorrow.

Today on Capitol Hill we got the first testimony from the FBI since the

Capitol attack. Director Wray told senators that the FBI has no evidence

that the Capitol riot as instigated by leftists or anarchists or people who

were pretending to be Trump supporters by dressing up like them in costume,

which is a popular conspiracy theory among Trump supporters, including many

Republicans in Congress.

FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed that right wing extremists

including white supremacists were among those who carried out the attack.

He told senators during his tenure, the FBI`s domestic terrorism case load

has doubled to about 2,000 cases, and the number of arrests of violent

white supremacists has nearly tripled. He also reported over 300 people

have now been arrested in connection with the Capitol riot and that they`re

starting to build more extensive cases against some of those people

including charges of planning and coordination for the Capitol attack.

Director Wray did not offer a lot of detail today on the cases against

accused Capitol attackers. But frankly, it was good to get anything at all,

given how tight-lipped the Justice Department has been the last few weeks.

I don`t know if it`s just that the folks at DOJ are staying quiet while

waiting for president Biden`s attorney general nominee Merrick Garland to

be confirmed and start working. We`re expecting that Senate vote, as I

mentioned earlier, any day now.

But whatever the reason, the U.S. attorney for D.C., the top federal

prosecutor in D.C. who has been running the federal investigation into the

Capitol attack, he hasn`t held a public briefing on that investigation in

five weeks.

We did get some news today out of that office, though, out of the D.C. U.S.

attorney`s office. The Biden administration has announced a new acting U.S.

attorney to run that office, a man named Channing Phillips. He`s a veteran

former federal prosecutor who has run the D.C. U.S. attorney`s office twice

before during two brief stints during the Obama administration.

This is really a notable development for a couple of reasons. It didn`t get

a ton of national attention but it deserves it. First of all, it`s unusual

for a new president to appoint a new acting U.S. attorney, right? Last

month, nearly all the Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys submitted their

resignations. That`s customary when you get a new administration.

Generally, the top deputies in all the U.S. attorneys offices in the

company step up on an interim basis to become acting chief while new U.S.

attorneys are nominated by the new president and confirmed by the senate.

But in this case, a special case, the Biden administration has put in their

own acting top federal prosecutor in D.C., somebody from outside the

office, who has a long tenure, is widely respected in that office because

of previous service but hasn`t been serving there now, they`re coming in

from outside to take over immediately while they go through the process of

nominating a permanent U.S. attorney for that role and all U.S. attorneys

offices around the country.

So it`s an unusual move. And the D.C. U.S. attorney`s office is an unusual

place especially since Donald Trump got ahold of it. The last nominated and

confirmed U.S. attorney in D.C. was forced out by Trump Attorney General

Bill Barr under still not fully explained circumstances. Her name was

Jessie Liu. She was replaced by one of Bill Barr`s closest personal aides

who set about helping Barr and Trump turned the D.C. U.S. attorney`s office

into a cudgel to be wielded against the president`s enemies and to help the

president`s friends who were otherwise in trouble.

That included the Justice Department overruling career prosecutors at the

U.S. attorney`s office to recommend a significantly lighter sentence for

Trump friend Roger Stone, an intervention that prompted four prosecutors to

withdraw from the case and one of them to quit the Justice Department

altogether. It was also the D.C. U.S. attorney`s office under Trump that

moved to Trump all the charges against Trump national security adviser Mike

Flynn even though the office had secured two guilty pleas from Mike Flynn

already in court to those charges.

All the attorneys involved in the Flynn case refused to sign the court

filing dropping the charges. It was signed only by Bill Barr`s handpicked

staffer who he had installed as the acting U.S. attorney. Barr also

installed a bunch of outside lawyers at the D.C. U.S. attorney`s office to

oversee and second-guess cases that had connections to President Trump.

Some of those cases were reportedly not publicly known, indicating the

possibility that investigations touching on president Trump or his

interests were simply disappeared by Bill Barr and his goons, and his

henchmen, without them ever becoming known to the public because they made

them disappear.

That was the D.C. U.S. attorney`s office under Donald Trump. That office is

still, tonight, until this new guy gets there tomorrow, being run by a

different former Bill Barr staffer who has been an acting U.S. attorney

there since last May. That office is the office responsible for prosecuting

all the January 6th Capitol attackers.

But on top of that, there is a giant mess there. Years in the making now,

that needs to be cleaned up. We reported last night that there are

currently multiple investigations including two criminal investigations,

one by state prosecutors in New York, one by state prosecutors in Georgia,

that involve former President Trump. That`s a first in U.S. history. We`ve

never had a former president under criminal investigation before.

But for all those investigations that are ongoing, for all of that

potential criminal behavior by the president being investigated by multiple

prosecutors, none of those prosecutors are federal prosecutors. And none of

those are federal cases, because in the Justice Department under President

Trump, all that was taken care of. In some cases, by activity that really,

really looked like corrupting the federal prosecutors` offices that handled

cases that might touch on the president.

That trash is tied onto the bumper of the Justice Department until somebody

sets it on fire or cuts it off. That is a live wire that the Biden

administration cannot leave sparking and bouncing around. That absolutely

has to be handled.

We`re about to get a new attorney general. We are about, about, to get a

new acting U.S. attorney in D.C., which is an unusual move. Is that a sign

that this is about to be handled?

Expert advice on figuring that out, coming up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Last year, February, "New York Times" Justice Department reporter

Katie Benner wrote about serious trouble at the U.S. attorney`s office in

D.C., as career prosecutors found themselves repeatedly subjected to

political pressure on their cases from their superiors. The article quoted

Channing Phillips who had run that D.C. attorney`s office during the Obama

administration, saying that recent events under Attorney General William

Barr, quote, suggest undue meddling by higher ups at the Justice

Department.

Well, now, today, the Biden administration has announced that same Channing

Phillips will be responsible in some ways for fixing the damage. Katie

Benner reporting today Channing Phillips has been appointed to step into

that U.S. attorney`s office and take over starting tomorrow as acting U.S.

attorney. It is an unusual move.

Joining us now is "New York Times" Justice Department Katie Benner.

Ms. Benner, it`s nice for you to make time for us tonight. Tanks for being

here.

KATIE BENNER, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks for

having me.

MADDOW: At the start of a new administration, we`re used to a new

president appointing new U.S. attorneys for all the U.S. attorneys` offices

across the country, or at least most of them. This is unusual, for someone

to be appointed as acting U.S. attorney immediately even before anyone has

nominated on a permanent basis.

BENNER: It is indeed an unusual arrangement. The U.S. attorney`s office in

December has been the site of so much controversy. It`s an unusual

circumstance that Michael Sherwin, the current acting U.S. attorney, was

put in place when the previous U.S. attorney had been ousted, where her

replacement had also been removed, where another man who is U.S. attorney

from Ohio, the department claimed that he was going to come in and serve

U.S. attorney, but instead it was used some people think as like a faith --

fig leaf (INAUDIBLE) to allow Michael Sherwin just to stay on because they

could say they were somebody the president intended to put in place. It was

just unusual all round.

So, bringing in somebody like Channing Phillips with a long history in

D.C., a long history in the office and a long history with the police and

courts is seen as a stabilizing move.

MADDOW: And you wrote today, Katie, that there`s hope that he will help

restore confidence and morale in the office that has been so roiled by

accusations of political interference. Does your reporting indicate there

is going to be some sort of effort to find out what happened in term of

undue political influence, in terms of the Justice Department essentially

having misbehaved toward that prosecutor`s office in ways that were

designed to help the president and his interests?

BENNER: I think those questions are being asked internally. I think

bringing in somebody like Channing Phillips if you want to get those

answers is probably a good move. He is trusted by people in the office no

matter what their political affiliation.

And Channing Phillips also has deep roots here in Washington. His father,

also named Channing Phillips, is a well-known civil rights leader here in

D.C. He was the first African-American to be considered as a presidential

candidate. That did not work out, but he was seriously considered for that

role.

And Phillips himself, he has the trust of people in the office. So, if you

want to get to the bottom of what happened, you would like to have somebody

like him in place.

MADDOW: Katie Benner, Justice Department reporter for "The New York Time"

-- it`s really helpful to have you hear here tonight. It`s also really

helpful to have you on this beat for the long arc of the stories, because

in some ways, you really the institutional memory of what went wrong here,

you being able to follow it through as these things start to get resolved

or at least addressed, it`s a real service. Thanks, Katie.

BENNER: Thanks.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: It`s day 15 with no running water in part of South Jackson, and

bottled water has been the hardest to find. People needing to brush their

teeth, rinse off or even take medication are having to drive to multiple

locations just to get their hands on some.

EBONY MYERS: I`d take medicine, and it`s hard not to have any water. I

don`t want anybody to, you know, leave without water because that`s not a

good feeling.

REPORTER: Myers says on a daily basis, they bring about five to six

containers to Forest Hill High for volunteers to fill up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: For more than two weeks now, thousands of people in the city of

Jackson, Mississippi, have been without safe drinking water. A cold snap

just over two weeks ago caused all that trouble in Texas we`ve heard so

much about it. But it also caused 96 separate leaks or breaks in water

mains in Jackson.

Entire city put under a boil water notice. Some people have had no running

water at all, all this time. As of tonight, the city says they`ve been able

to fix 53 of the 96 water main breaks that they know of.

But again, it has been more than two weeks. Local officials say they have

no estimate as to when the water in Jackson will be safe to drink. They

still have no idea when normal service will be restored.

More ahead tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight. It`s going to be a big day

in the news tomorrow with that January 6th hearing that for the first is

going to involve Pentagon officials. They have a lot to explain about where

the National Guard was and why they were so delayed on January 6th. It

should be fascinating to watch.

I`ll see you again here tomorrow night.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."

Good evening, Lawrence.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY

BE UPDATED.

END

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