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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/26/21

Guests: Raphael Warnock, David Kessler


Interview with Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA). MSNBC`s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.


COUNCILMAN JEREMIAH ELLISON, MINNEAPOLIS: And I think we have to ask ourselves who`s served from a public safety standpoint. Who was served in that moment, right?

Not the girlfriend, who was trying to preserve his life. Not him, who was in a mental health crisis, and not the police officer, quite frankly, when has to live with the fact that he killed someone.

We`ve got to have appropriate responses. We are still going to have emergencies in our community, and we need appropriate responses to those emergencies.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Councilman Jeremiah Ellison, thank you for your time tonight. Appreciate it.

That is "ALL IN" on this Friday night.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Have an excellent weekend.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday. Thanks for being here. Happy Passover this weekend.

When Hillary Clinton won the Democratic presidential primary in 2016 and she started her general election campaign for president, she picked as her running mate Virginia Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Kaine. Not a household name to be sure. I think even now, and I mean no offense by this, even now, even after his stint as Hillary Clinton`s vice-presidential running mate, I am pretty sure that Tim Kaine is still not a household name.

But that time in the national spotlight gave everybody who pays attention to the news at least a few things that they know indelibly and in an ongoing way about Senator Tim Kaine like, for example, the fact that he plays a mean harmonica for real. Also, he is fluent in Spanish. He is a former governor of Virginia. He is a deeply religious Catholic who is very comfortable talking about his faith. He has eyebrows that would have their own Instagram and Twitter accounts by now if he had been elected vice president. They are very expressive.

Despite Senator Kaine`s still fairly low profile, there is a lot of things about him as a politician that make him interesting senator to this day and made him a very interesting choice and a surprising choice in some ways for Hillary Clinton`s running mate.

Senator Kaine wrote recently about when he was first thinking of running for office, and a political consultant in Virginia sat him down to talk about his record, his resume, his past, how he`d been living. He says the consultant told him, quote, you clearly never planned on running for office.

The consultant said that to Tim Kaine had done before he ever run for office is he worked as a civil rights lawyer, specifically worked as a lawyer representing prisoners on death row. He says, quote, as I began my legal career, I represented death-row inmates on a pro bono basis. One prisoner was executed in 1987. We shared his last meal a few minutes before the state electrocuted him.

I represented another executed man in 1996, walking him into the death chamber and holding his hand while he was strapped to a table for the state to kill him by lethal injection. The searing experiences face to face with the humanity of my clients made me pray for the day when Virginia would discard this brutal institution.

Senator Kaine wrote about that in this recent essay. You see the title there. I prayed Virginia would end the death penalty.

Well, Virginia just did. This week, the Democratic governor of Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam, toured a death chamber at Greensville Correctional Center in Virginia. That death chamber has been open and operational as where Virginia has been killing its prisoners since 1991. State government of Virginia has killed 102 prisoners in that room.

Governor Northam toured that room this week and then he signed the bill that had been passed by the Virginia state legislature abolishing the death penalty in the state of Virginia.

Now, we are used to thinking of Texas as the state most enthusiastic about killing the men and women it holds prisoner. And indeed, since the United States Supreme Court let states once again start killing their prisoners in 1976, Texas since then has outpaced any other state.

But it`s Virginia actually that holds the record. Its Virginia that is the death penalty capital of the United States as Senator Tim Kaine put it. Going back to Virginia`s history as a colony, Virginia has killed more of its prisoners than any other place in the United States, going all the way back to their first public execution in 1608.

But now, this week, they stopped. This week, after 400 years of killing people, they stopped. The death house that Governor Northam toured this week is now shut down. There were two people left on death row in Virginia. Both of them will have their sentences converted to life.

Look at this. Want to know how the death penalty has been implemented in Virginia? This is amazing. In the 20th century, the entire century, Virginia executed 377 prisoners. Of those 377 people they killed, 296 of them were black.

Look the numbers for the 19th century. The 19th century Virginia state government executed 554 people. Of the 554, 513 of them were black.

In the 21st century, there hasn`t been anyone newly sentenced to death in Virginia in ten years, and that last death sentence was overturned on appeal. And some of the decline of the use of the death penalty in Virginia is traceable to an interesting thing.

When Tim Kaine was governor of Virginia, he signed reforms to improve the quality of criminal defense lawyering that prisoners got when they faced potential capital charges. The quality of a capital defense was improved by law under Tim Kaine. That alone greatly reduced the number of Virginians that ultimately got put on death row. People with a quality legal defense don`t typically face a sentence that arbitrary and wild.

So, there are two people left on death row in Virginia, but those death sentences will not be carried out. No one will be executed by the state anymore in Virginia. Change can happen. Even in the most impossible seeming places.

In the last six months of the Trump administration, President Trump and in particular his Attorney General Bill Barr, who, of course, was performative and outspoken about his own supposed religiosity, Trump and Barr in the last six months Trump was this office they rushed to kill as many federal prisoners as they could. Just in the last six months that Trump was this office they killed off 13 of them. The last one killed just four days before Biden was sworn in.

Trump managed in his one term in office to kill more federal prisoners than any president in 120 years.

This past week, the U.S. Supreme Court took up the issue of the Boston marathon bomber`s sentence. And given the makeup of the court, there is a lot of speculation that the Supreme Court might reinstate the death penalty in that case, which would put President Biden in the position of having a very, very high-profile pending federal execution on his hands.

And I don`t know what the Supreme Court will do in that case and I don`t know what president Biden will do if it comes to it but talk about change. President Joe Biden is the first U.S. president ever elected who is an unequivocal full stop opponent of the death penalty, the first one. We have never before had a president who was just plainly against capital punishment. It took us all this time. He is the first one.

Thanks to one presidential election in the space of one day, we went from a president who was throwing over the proverbial furniture inside the federal prisoners trying to hunt down and kill as many people as he could, as fast as he could with the remaining days that he had, squeezing in rush executions right up until he was dragged out of the White House in his last day, even prisoners who are still litigating their cases, killing more people than any president in 120 years.

And then one election removes him and replaces him with our first ever anti-capital punishment president. And now, two months after he got there, as president, the state that has killed more of its prisoners than any other in America has given it up. The first state in the South to ever voluntarily give up the death penalty, Virginia, America`s capital of the death penalty, the one place you could have been sure it would never happen. But it happened.

The one place it would seem impossible. Turns out it was possible. Tim Kaine prayed for Virginia to end its death penalty. Astonishingly it did, against all odds.

But look at Virginia right now. Virginia`s been on a tear. Democrats were elected to full control of state government in Virginia in 2019.

What have they done since they had control of the state government in Virginia? Well, they have abolished the death penalty despite the fact that Virginia has a richer history of killing its prisoners than any other state in the country. They are the first state in the South to do it. They abolished the death penalty this week.

They also expanded early voting. They made Election Day a state holiday in Virginia. They established same-day voter registration for the first time ever. They banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

They upped the minimum wage. I mean, Virginia is in the South, to be clear, but Democrats are governing there. And so everything from voting rights to civil rights to justice reform in a really fundamental level, it`s underway, it`s happening, even in a place where not that long ago all of those things were not just impossible seemingly, they were impossible to imagine.

Democrats governing in Virginia is a thing to behold. Where Republicans are in control, it`s interesting. To look at Virginia as an example of what Democrats are doing with power, where they`ve got it, and then to look at places where Republicans are in control, the last few months since the election where Republicans have power they have been busy in a different direction.

Republican-controlled legislatures have passed various kinds of abortion bans since the election in South Carolina, Arkansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Arizona, Oklahoma, Indiana, Wyoming. Lots of Republican legislatures are anticipating that the newly constituted Supreme Court will strike down Roe versus Wade, that will allow states to ban it and so they are passing bans that are plainly illegal right now in the hope that when Roe v. Wade gets struck down by all those Trump-appointed justices, that their state bans will go into effect.

Republicans in Tennessee right now are -- this is a treat. They are considering a Senate bill to give the biological father the unilateral right to veto an abortion. And there are no exceptions for rape or incest in that bill. Think about that for a second.

The mother does not get to decide whether or not she is going to have an abortion. The woman who is carrying the fetus does not get to decide. The biological for is the one who gets to decide regardless of what she wants.

So, Tennessee Republicans are thinking that probably the best use of their time in office is to make sure that a man convicted of violently raping a woman and thereby impregnating her, he, even from jail, will have the ultimate say as to whether or not she is forced against her will to stay pregnant to carry that child to term and give birth to the rapist`s baby.

Same goes for incest. The woman would not have a say. Only the biological father would have a say even in cases of rape or incest. That`s what Tennessee Republicans are working on. You give Tennessee Republicans control of their state, that`s what they`ll do.

In Missouri this week, Republicans in the state legislature became the latest Republicans to try to block people in their state from getting health insurance. Voters in Missouri overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure requiring the state to expand eligibility for Medicaid. I know that sounds like Washington-ese. What it means very simply is that hundreds of thousands of Missouri residents who currently don`t have health insurance would get it.

Republicans in Missouri were very much against this referendum. This is the state that picked Trump over Biden by 16 points in the same election they re-elected the Republican governor, they re-elected a Republican legislature, but Republican leaders in the state for as red a state as Missouri is, for as much of a grip as the Republican Party has on the state of Missouri, Republican leaders in the state told Missouri voters don`t you dare vote on this referendum that people should get health insurance. Don`t you do it. They told them people had to vote no.

Republicans wanted to stop this so bad, they even moved the vote on it to what they thought would be a sleepy primary date in August where nobody would bother to coming out to vote. They thought that would give them a better chance of voting this thing down. But Missouri voters absolutely came out to vote and they voted for it in big numbers. Republicans told them to vote no. They voted yes with an exclamation point.

Uh-oh, that means that more than 200,000 people in Missouri are going to get health insurance. That can`t be.

So this week, Republicans in the state legislature are refusing to do it. The voters by passing that referendum established a new state law. And actually wrote it in the state constitution, that people would have to be able to get health insurance in this way.

Republicans are literally having to defy state law and their state constitution to do this, but they are insisting they are refusing what this referendum said. They will not allow hundreds of thousands of poor people in Missouri to get health insurance no matter what the voters say, and no matter the fact that it`s paid for.

"The Kansas City Star" editorial board just lost its mind at the Republicans in Missouri for doing this today, saying, quote, they are turning down billions of federal dollars. They are ignoring the voters. They are violating the state constitution. Why?

This is not me talking. This is "The Kansas City Star". Quote, because they hate the poor. There can be no other explanation. That hatred is so intense, it overrides greed, political ambition, even respect for the law. Quote: Far too many Republican lawmakers don`t want this to be a state where even one poor Missourian gets treated for a cough or a broken finger.

"Kansas City Star" editorial board, absolutely just in disbelief that Republicans in Missouri are refusing to obey a new law passed by the voters because it would give people health insurance.

So, where Republicans have power, since the election, they are working double time on things like banning abortion and making sure people don`t have health insurance. We are seeing a lot of bills and a lot of Republican-controlled states targeting trans people.

But more than any other single thing that they are doing, Republican governance since the election has been focused on rolling back voting rights. What "The New York Times" tonight calls the most extensive contraction of ballot access in generations.

Democrats are, like, let`s make it easier to vote. Let`s make it easier to early vote. Let`s make sure the lines aren`t too long. Let`s make it easier to register to vote. Let`s keep up the huge voter turnout numbers that we had in the 2020 election, that was great.

Even though Democrats didn`t win up and down the ballot, Democrats basically think the more Americans can vote, the better, and the more Americans do vote, the better. It makes for a better, more representative democracy. It gives us all some skin in the game. That`s how Democrats are doing this.

Republicans, where they are in power, they are moving against early voting, against vote by mail, against absentee voting of all kinds. They`re getting rid of polling places. They are shortening the number of days where people can vote and shortening the number of hours that polling places are open on Election Day. They are making it harder to request a ballot, making it hard to be to get your ballot submitted or dropped off, they`re requiring you to submit paperwork you never had to show before in order to get your vote requested or cast or counted.

They are driving back access to the ballot, voting rights, every place in the country where they have power. And as of last night, in Georgia, remarkably, the Republicans in the state legislature have granted themselves the ability to remove the election boards in individual counties on their own say so. Think about how that is going to work in practice.

Let`s say, for example, a county in Georgia votes Democratic. And Republicans in the legislature don`t like that. They think that`s wrong.

Well, they have just granted themselves the ability to fire the elections officials in that county and install their own people instead. Who then can refuse to certify the vote or make new rules about which ballot should be thrown out? Make new rules about what gets counted and what doesn`t in the middle of an election.

Republicans in the Georgia legislature largely sided with President Trump when he told Georgia officials in November and December that they needed to not certify the vote in Democratic-leaning counties. They needed to throw out ballots that skewed towards President Biden. Georgia Republicans in the legislature agreed with Trump on that for the most part.

They jeered at their governor. They screamed at their secretary of state. They wanted to do what Trump was demanding. It was Georgia election officials who resisted by saying they didn`t have the authority to do what Trump was demanding.

So, no matter how much everybody huffed and puffed, they didn`t actually have the legal ability to do what Trump and all the Georgia Republicans in the legislature were saying they should do. Well, Georgia Republicans in the legislature just gave themselves the authority to do what Trump was demanding.

Fulton County, while heavily Democratic, well, Fulton County`s election board has just been replaced by our guys. And Fulton County is going to do something different with those ballots from here on out. And no, that vote is not going to be certified.

You`re waiting for statewide results out of Georgia? Hmm.

I mean, Georgia had the temerity to vote Democratic for a president and then Democratic for two U.S. senators. That is not going to be allowed to stand in Georgia.

We have been covering this story intensively. Even so, last night, it was legitimately shocking to see how this all culminated. We knew what Georgia Republicans were trying to do. We didn`t know they were going to run it through in one day, get it through the house and Senate and to the governor`s desk and signed into law in one day. That`s what they did.

So at the end of the night, there is the Republican governor, Brian Kemp, and six other white men behind closed doors posing in front of a painting of a Georgia slave plantation signing that bill to take away voting rights into law, signing that bill that will give them the ability to undo election results county by county, wherever those results come out wrong.

That was what was happening inside closed doors. On the outside of those closed doors was Democratic State Representative Park Cannon knocking on the governor`s door because she wanted to be allowed into the signing ceremony.

As we saw here last night, in this stomach-turning footage, she gets handcuffed and dragged off by state troopers, dragged through the state capitol. State representative charged last night with two felonies, taken to jail.

She is saying, I`m a legislator.


PARK CANNON (D), GEORGIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I`m literally not doing anything!


MADDOW: There are a lot of things in our politics, in our world right now to be hopeful about, to wonder at their possibility, whether it`s vaccines, new record vaccines yesterday in terms of the number of Americans who got vaccinated in one day. Well over 3 million Americans got vaccinated in one day. One percent of the country got vaccinated in one day yesterday. The vaccines or the stimulus checks they got done in the first 50 days that Biden was in office.

Or Senator Tim Kaine`s prayers being answered for his state where he had started as a person representing death row prisoners, served as a governor that still had the death penalty that was still carrying out executions while he was there, personally he personally opposed, but politically unable to stop it. The state now stopping, the state that could never change, now first in the south leading the way. There are things that are awe-inspiring right now, stunning. Things that seemed impossible that apparently are possible and we are doing them.

But alongside that, there`s this incredible, just brazen and shameless regression. Representative Park Cannon who was represented at -- excuse me, who was arrested at the governor`s door for trying to be allowed to see the signing of this bill to take away voting rights and to give Georgia Republican legislators the ability to undo elections as they see fit, Representative Cannon among other things is a parishioner at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, which is famous as the home church of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. He preached there until he was assassinated in 1968.

The senior pastor now at Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta is Georgia`s new Democratic U.S. Senator, Reverend Raphael Warnock. When Representative Park Cannon was arrested last night, Senator Warnock went to the jail where she was being held.


REPORTER: Were you allowed to speak to with her inside? And if so, could you share what she said?

SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): As I said, I have known Representative Cannon for years. She is my parishioner. She is understandably a bit shaken by what happened to her. She didn`t deserve this.


WARNOCK: And we`ll continue to pray for her and to walk with her through this.

REPORTER: Should Georgians who oppose this be considering a boycott of Georgia businesses?

WARNOCK: We need Georgia businesses to stand up, in a moment like this. They, too, are citizens of this state and I can tell you as someone who is the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church where Dr. King served, that come Martin Luther King Jr.`s birthday, the corporate entities in this state will all be fall over themselves to honor Dr. King. If you want to honor Dr. King, stand up against voter suppression right now.


MADDOW: Senator Raphael Warnock last night speaking from the jail where a Georgia state representative was taken after being arrested outside the signing ceremony where the biggest voter suppression bill in a century was being signed.

Senator Raphael Warnock is going to join us here live next. Stay with us.



WARNOCK: Somehow, the actions of a state legislator knocking on the door of a governor who is signing a law that impacts her constituents, by her actions, were somehow so dangerous and criminal that she got charged with two felonies. I got news for the state of Georgia and for those trying to take the people`s voices, we`re going to keep on in various ways, we are going to keep on knocking on that door because that wasn`t just Representative Cannon knocking on the door.

The people are knocking on the door saying this democracy belongs to us. It doesn`t belong to the politicians. And in this moment, we are going to stand up for that sacred American right one person, one vote.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) getting rid of the filibuster?

WARNOCK: What was that?

REPORTER: Do you think this moves the bar with your Democratic colleagues holding onto the filibuster?

WARNOCK: You know, we will see. But folks keep asking what we are going to do about the filibuster. I think they ought to ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle what are they going to do about voting rights? The question is really not where do I stand on the filibuster? That`s a Senate rule.

The most fundamental question is, where do you stand on voting rights? We wouldn`t have to have this debate about filibuster, at least on this issue, if the folks on the other side would do the right thing and stand for voting rights and vote the bill up.

They can vote the bill up. Why won`t they stand up for voting rights? They see what`s happening right here in Georgia. They see legislators deciding that it`s a crime to give people water. Who are standing lines that they are making longer?

And so, I`m a member of the Senate. I respect this tradition. I am honored to be there to represent the people of Georgia, but the issue of voting rights is about the democracy itself. It`s much bigger than any Senate rule.


MADDOW: Joining us now live is Senator Raphael Warnock from the great state of Georgia.

It has been a busy day and busy 24 hours for you, sir. Thank you so much for taking time to be with us here tonight.

WARNOCK: Thank you so much, Rachel. Always great to be with you.

MADDOW: Let me just ask you first if you have any update for us on the situation with State Representative Park Cannon. She, obviously, we all saw the footage of how she was handcuffed and dragged through the state capitol, taken into custody. It was shocking even after seeing that to learn she had been charged with two felonies.

Can you give us any update on that situation?

WARNOCK: Well, first of all, you know, it`s heartbreaking to watch that footage, and I`ve seen it a few times now. I`ve known Representative Cannon for several years. I`m her pastor.

She is a brilliant young woman, deeply committed to public service. She shouldn`t have had to endure this kind of insult and injury for standing up for her constituents and their right to be heard in their own democracy.

And so, she is taking some quiet time. We talked about that last night. And she just needs a little time to be still and know that there is a power greater than the machinations of people who are using their office to try to silence the voices of the people.

MADDOW: When you talked last night at the jail when you went to the facility where she was being held and you spoke with reporters this morning, you talked about how this fight is now even more joined than it was, that this fight goes on and that, in your words, we will not go back.

Tell me what that fight looks like now. We`ve been covering a lawsuit, for example, brought by Marc Elias on behalf of a number of Georgia organizations, excuse me, to try to stop this in court. What else do you see as the components of the fight against this?

WARNOCK: Well, let me very clear to the folks who are watching tonight. If you think that this is something happening down in Georgia, you are misapprehending the moment that we`re living in. If you think that this is something happening to black voters, you still don`t quite clearly understand.

This is a defining moment for the American democracy. If this is happening in the state capitol in Georgia, it will not take very long for it to visit a state capitol near you. Because, clearly, while there is the reverberations of race, our ongoing struggle in America here, the ways in which poor people, young people are marginalized in various ways, and a real sense that this is about something much more profound than that.

It is about whether we are who we say we are. Either we are a democracy or we`re not. Either which believe in the idea of one person, one vote, or we don`t. Either I`m citizen, or not.

These are politicians who are trying to hold on to power. That`s what this is. It`s a power struggle.

And they decided that they are going to hold on to power no matter what, even if it costs the democracy itself, and the only people ultimately who can correct this are the people themselves.

So we have all got to stand up, say no to this. History is watching us, and our children are counting on us.

MADDOW: I described this a few moments ago as something that feels quite brazen, and I mean that almost in a technical sense. I feel like in the entire time that I`ve been an adult and certainly in the time that I`ve been working in the news media, I`ve been following and reporting on Republican efforts here or there to try to roll back voting rights and to make it more difficult to vote for them, to try to shrink the electorate, the available electorates so that it`s more to their liking, push out people on the margins, particular people of color, particularly who are likely to vote Democratic.

But it does feel something new is happening, that there is a brazenness and a shamelessness and just an overt willingness to shove against democracy as evidenced by the Republican lawyer for the state of Arizona who told the Supreme Court the reason they were pushing new voting restrictions in Arizona because it gave them an electoral advantage. They didn`t use to admit that.

The reason I say that and spell it out is because I feel like that revelation for me is at odds with the kind of hope that I`m hearing you articulate when you say that reporters should ask Republicans about voting rights, that it shouldn`t just be about Democrats trying to beat them by getting rid of the filibuster, that Republicans need to be asked about where they stand on voting rights.

I feel like we know and it`s not good.

WARNOCK: Well, you know, I am a deeply hopeful person and hope is a little different from optimism. Hope is the recognition that, yeah, we are in a serious fight for what is good, what is true, what is righteous, and evil is well-financed and determined. I understand that.

But you know, as bad, for example, as this bill is, or this law, it`s now on the books, is, and it`s terrible, it would be even worse if it were not for the fact that people stood up and made noise about it. And so, I don`t want people to underestimate the power of their own voice.

You talked about it earlier in the segment on Virginia. A change that we don`t think is possible, when it happens, it almost feels like all of a sudden, although it wasn`t all of a sudden at all. Dr. King used to say the arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice. It`s our job to keep bending the arc.

And so, as a member of the United States Senate, I`m going to continue to speak to my colleagues, but on the Democratic side to be sure. But I`m not willing to give up.

Even with talking to my Republican colleagues, I`m not going to let them off the hook so easily. And what they decide to do, history will judge them for that.

But I believe in democracy. I believe that democracy is, as I said a couple weeks ago, is the political enactment of a spiritual idea. This noble and amazing idea that all of us have within us a spark of the divine, the Imago Dei, some sense of the image of God.

And therefore, we ought to have a voice in the direction of the country and our destiny within it, and when that happens, you know, good things can happen.

If we hadn`t won this election, if Georgia hadn`t stood up, the people of Georgia, we wouldn`t have passed that $1.9 trillion bill we just passed, the American Rescue Plan that`s going to put shots in arms and money in people`s pockets so that they can buy food and a coat for their kids.

That is what happens when democracy is alive and vibrant. That happened just a few months ago, and, yes, this is happening right now. We are witnessing a Georgia that stood up and, in a real sense, in my mind, saved the country.

And now, voter suppression, yeah, Georgia again, ground zero. This wrestling in the soul of our state between its past and the possibilities of its future, same thing in the country writ large, this is a moment.

And I say to the corporations in Georgia that have been entirely too silent in this moment that this is what Dr. King meant when he said that there comes a time when silence is betrayal. All of us have got to use our voices, our vote, and I am going to use every fiber, every effort, everything within me to stand up for our democracy.

MADDOW: Senator Raphael Warnock of the great state of Georgia -- sir, thank you for joining us tonight. I know this has been a really intense time for you and for Georgia. Appreciate you making time to be here.

WARNOCK: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead this Friday night. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Ready for some unequivocally, unadulterated straight up good news? Ready?

The United States set a new record today for the number of vaccine doses administered in one day. According to the White House, just under 3.4 million vaccine doses made it into arms yesterday. That means we vaccinated 1 percent of the whole U.S. population yesterday in one day.

If that kind of pace keeps up, the U.S. will have no problem meeting or exceeding President Biden`s newly announced goal of 200 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office.

And here is the thing I feel like isn`t get enough attention. We can actually see the effects of the vaccines not just in the anecdotal happiness it`s bringing to millions of Americans, as they get protected against this virus, and people being able to hug their grandparents and kids and all that stuff. There are tangible on the ground effects we can see about what`s happening because of the vaccine rollout.

The data showing us that COVID deaths are plummeting among the populations that have been the most vaccinated so far. I don`t know why this isn`t getting more attention. It`s stunning.

This is a chart from the CDC. COVID deaths over time broken down by age. Different lines are different age groups, right? So, the one at the top, the dark one, people 80 years old and older. The dotted line below that, people age 65 to 79. And then younger age groups below that.

Seventy-one percent of Americans over the age of 65 have received at least one shot at this point. So, these are the older age groups that received the most vaccinations per capita.

And this is deaths over time. You can see that the last peak of deaths was at the beginning of January. At that time for Americans aged 65 to 79, there were 16 deaths for every 100,000 Americans. For Americans over the age of 80, for every 100,000 of them, there were 62 deaths. The death rates were really, really high.

But look what`s happened since then. Look how those two lines have fallen off a cliff in the three months since then. The number of deaths per 100,000 Americans in both of those older age groups is now less than one, less than one.

It`s gone from 16 deaths per 100,000 and 62 deaths per 100,000 in those two different age groups, to less than one per 100,000 in both. That is vaccinations at work. Look at that.

That said, the news is not great among the unvaccinated population. The number of people getting newly infected each day in the country is still massive and now, it`s even rising again. Even with the number of people who we have got vaccinated.

CDC director said this morning that right now the country is averaging about 57,000 new cases per day. That`s up 7 percent from last week. With all of those people vaccinated, cases are rising in at least 20 states. The state of Michigan, for example, Michigan says that COVID hospitalizations are surging among younger people, among the least vaccinated populations, the younger people.

Hospitalizations in March in Michigan were up 800 percent among people in their 40s. People in their 30s, hospitalizations up more than 600 percent. Hospitals in Michigan are filling up can COVID patients again, but this time, it is younger patients because it`s older people who have -- are more likely to have been vaccinated.

So the Biden administration`s vaccines rollout keeps getting bigger and faster. It`s already got more than two thirds of Americans over the age of 65 having at least one shot. That is paying dividends already in lives saved. But they are in a race against a virus that is right now spreading like wildfire among the unvaccinated population in this country, which is still the majority of the population.

So how is the race going?

Joining us now Dr. David Kessler. He`s a former FDA commissioner in this country. He`s now chief science officer for the Biden administration`s COVID response.

Dr. Kessler, it`s really kind of you to come back tonight. Thank you so much.


MADDOW: Let me first ask you if I explained those trend lines correctly. Deaths really plummeting among the most vaccinated age groups, but cases and hospitalizations in many places going up among younger populations. Is that a fair characterization of the data right now?

KESSLER: You have it exactly right. You also had right the fact that -- I can just tell you personally, today, there was that moment of joy when we got that number, 3.4 million doses reported in a day. You know, that just - - there was that moment. There was just, I mean, very important.

You know, 71 percent, as you said, of seniors have received their first dose. Those are the most at risk, 136 million doses have been administered. I mean, these are numbers. But 3.4 million people in the last 24 hours, those are people. That`s not just numbers.

And the protection from death and hospitalization, I mean, it`s tremendous progress. What`s very important to me is the number of people in that wait and see group has been shrinking as they see, you know, that 136 million shots have been given safely.

But, you know, we do sit with Dr. Fauci, Dr. Walensky who runs the CDC, I mean, and there is some real anxiety. If you look at those curves, I think there is two sets of competing factors. On the one hand, there is variants and there is relaxing restrictions, pushing up the curve.

The vaccines are all pushing down the curve. So we are in a real race. We just got to get there. Just -- vaccinations, I mean, are a very, very important tool.

MADDOW: Am I right to think about the rising case numbers, sort of with more alarm than I might have otherwise thought of them because we have got so many people vaccinated. Obviously, for the most part, people who are vaccinated are not getting COVID. They are not -- they are protected from being infected, again, generally speaking and in rough terms.

And so when we`re seeing the number of cases, daily new infections go up in the country, when we have got so many millions of us vaccinated, it really seems like the unvaccinated population has a big transmission problem right now. It seems big and it`s very concerning that it`s accelerating even as so many people are sort of taken off the table as opportunities for the virus because they are getting their shots?

KESSLER: About a 10 percent increase in just the last week. And you see states like Michigan and Minnesota, and the Northeast, a significant concern about this Northeast variant, but we can bring this under control. The usual mitigation measures work. Vaccinations work. I mean, we`re in a race against these variants.

MADDOW: Dr. David Kessler, the chief science officer for the Biden administration`s COVID response -- Dr. Kessler, it`s really good to see you. Thank you for your time tonight. It`s always an honor to have you here.

KESSLER: Thank you.

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


MADDOW: Here`s something to watch for, this is kind of a weird one. The COVID relief checks, stimulus checks, 127 million people have already received those since President Biden signed the COVID relief bill a couple of weeks ago. A hundred twenty-seven million people have received them, but a significant chunk of the population has not received their checks yet and it`s a weird reason why.

News broke this week that nearly 30 million Americans who get Social Security, so that`s older Americans, disabled Americans, nearly 30 million haven`t received their checks yet. Nobody could say why.

Four House Democratic committee chairmen heard about this, decided to raise a stink about it. And what they discovered was that the holdup was not with the agency sending out the checks. It was not auto holdup at the IRS. Instead, it was a holdup at the Social Security Administration.

That led to concern that the holdup might have been intentional. The head of Social Security right now is a man named Andrew Saul. He is a holdover from the Trump administration.

Whatever the reason for the delay, those Democratic chairmen were not having it. They sent this letter to the head of the Social Security on Wednesday night demanding that his agency immediately give the IRS the information they need so they can send out those checks and send it immediately. By immediately, they meant by the very next day. The four committee chairmen signed it, quote, with sincere concern for those who need their money now.

Before 9:00 a.m. the next morning, the Social Security Agency, in fact, sent over the information the IRS needed so that the checks could go out.

We still don`t van exact date for when the checks will be received, but the IRS has everything it needs now, so presumably that can get resolved quickly.

As to why they were delayed in the first place, that remains to be explained. But it appears that a little pushing and shoving sold it this week.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: This is one of those nights when behind the scenes at the TV show there was an expected technical difficulty. Most technical difficulties are almost by definition unexpected, and something just happens and you have to cope. Every once in a while, something happens where you`re, like, uh-oh, something is going to go wrong.

That happened here on the show tonight. Luckily for us, knock on wood, nothing ended up going wrong, but my dear friend Ali Velshi nevertheless got to the studio, got makeup, got before the camera at least an hour early ready to go just in case things went terribly pear shaped on my end.

For that, among so many other things, I am grateful to you, Ali, as always. Thank you for being ready to step in. Thank you for being my safety net.