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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 8/23/21

Guests: John Kirby, Ashish Jha


Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby is interviewed. For the first time, the FDA is granted full, unqualified, not emergency use authorization to the Pfizer vaccine, for everybody age 16 and up.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: How was your time off, Chris? We missed you terribly.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Oh, that`s kind of you. It was blissful, a lot of time with my family, a lot of sun. It was wonderful.

Huge thanks to Mehdi and Zerlina for making that happen. I feel tan, rested, and ready.

MADDOW: I will say following along with your fresh pasta making and like kind of like walking your kids through, this is how we in the Hayes family make our fresh pasta, go get the drying rack, very impressive.

HAYES: Yes. The Shaw/Hayes family. I should be clear, yes, you`ve got to start them young on the pasta making, and the pasta made last night was -- it was very good.

MADDOW: Very good. Well, welcome back. Zerlina and Mehdi, our lovely, lovely colleagues, they`re great, but there`s only one you. We missed you. Welcome back.

HAYES: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. Thanks to you at home for being with us today. Happy to have you here.

CNN is reporting tonight on what sounds like it may be a dramatic turn in the investigation into the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. Now, NBC News has not verified this reporting. I`m just citing what CNN has reported this evening.

But if in fact this is borne out, this would be sort of a big hairy deal. What CNN is reporting tonight is that the January 6th investigation, the select committee investigating the attack, they`re about to send requests to cell phone providers, requesting that those cell phone providers preserve records from phone calls and the usage of cell phones by several people linked to the attack, including members of Congress.

The preservation notices are apparently reportedly due to go to the telecom providers as soon as this week. The committee`s chairman, Congressman Bennie Thompson, has also previously said that he starts to -- plans to start sending out the committee`s first subpoenas as of next week.

The investigation into the attack on January 6th isn`t just about what happened that day during the attack and why the security arrangements in the Capitol were insufficient to protect the building from being breached and members of Congress being directly threatened. It`s about that, but it`s also about how the attack came to be. And who is culpable for arranging or indeed abetting the attack.

Chairman Bennie Thompson is confirming tonight that it is hundreds of people for whom they`re going to be seeking cell phone records. But if CNN`s reporting is right, and among those member -- among those people whose cell phone records are going to be sought are members of Congress, which ones? Which members of Congress are about to become part of this investigation? We don`t know. Presumably, we`ll find out in good time.

There are two very well known Republicans in Congress who have already admitted they were on the phone during the course of the attack or at least on the day of the attack with then president Trump, the leader of the Republican Party in the House, Kevin McCarthy has said he spoke with Trump during the attack. Republican congressman Jim Jordan has also since admitted to speaking with Trump on the day of the attack as well.

But because the investigation covers not just what happened during the course of the attack but also what may have led up to it, may have set it off, there`s also hard questions of course being raised about congressmen like Paul Gosar and Congressman Andy Biggs, both of whom have been accused of being involved in meetings and discussions with people who have claimed credit for instigating the whole January 6th events.

It also raises questions about Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks, who gave a famously incendiary speech at the January 6th rally just before the attack on the Capitol started. Congressman Mo Brooks later admitted he was wearing body armor under his flannel shirt and wind breaker that day. Body armor. Despite the fact he also claimed that his speech that day was -- when he was talking about the need to fight, that was just metaphorical thinking. He had no idea, no inkling there would be an actual fight. No inkling that the crowd was actually riled up enough to go do anything dangerous that day.

He says he had no clue of that. He just also felt the need to wear body armor while he spoke to them, and you know, who among us can`t relate to that? Who among us has not slipped into full Kevlar plates and a helmet while go to the local League of Women Voters meeting?

Heading down to the Rotary meeting to calmly discuss the civic issues of the day with our fellow Rotarians over a rubber chicken dinner, don`t forget your Kevlar.

But it`s interesting about Congressman Brooks. Congressman Mo Brooks this weekend spoke at the Trump rally that was held in Cullman, Alabama. Mo Brooks is going to give up his seat in the House to run for the United States Senate seat from Alabama that`s coming up. He has attached himself at the hip to former President Trump in order to try to win that Senate seat.

You might have seen footage about that rally this weekend.


This is the rally where former President Trump was sort of mildly booed by the Alabama crowd for telling them that they should get vaccinated. Alabama is a state that ran out of ICU beds last Tuesday. They have federal disaster teams coming in to their hospitals to try to keep them afloat because Alabama hospitals are so overrun by very sick COVID patients.

Mobile, Alabama, at one point last week had no ambulances available. If you called 911, there was no ambulance to get you because they`re so tied up with sick COVID patients there, and there were no ambulances left to respond. Trump at the rally this weekend suggested that people there should get vaccinated. The crowd mildly booed him when he told them that, and when he reminded them he himself had been vaccinated.

That got a lot of attention for obvious reasons. But I say that they sort of mildly booed Trump because it was a scattering of boos. You really want to see someone get nearly booed off the stage, though, booed to the point of intimidation, look at how that same crowd at that same event responded in Alabama to Congressman Mo Brooks, when Congressman Mo Brooks was not talking about vaccinations and COVID, when instead he was talking about the last election.

At the rally this weekend, he basically tried to dial back his previous, you know, incendiary position on how the presidential election shouldn`t count and it was all stolen and Trump really won and not Biden and we must fight over that. He basically tried to walk that back to this Alabama crowd this weekend, and watch how they responded.


REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): There are some people who are despondent about the voter fraud and election theft in 2020. Folks, put that behind you. Put that behind you.

Yes. Look forward. Look forward. Look forward. Beat them in 2022. Beat them in 2024.

All right. Well, look back at it, but go forward and take advantage of it.


MADDOW: That was this weekend, hometown crowd lustily booing. Booing the heck out of Alabama Republican Congressman Mo Brooks for him having the gall to suggest that, yeah, the election was stolen, and really, Trump won and Biden didn`t win, but they should move on from that and work on the next election where incidentally he`s hoping to be on the ballot for United States Senate. That crowd was absolutely not having it.

And you can tell in that footage, Congressman Brooks seems to be shocked by the reaction. Surprise, yeah, I thought Frankenstein would love his creator as well.

But in the wake of that just screaming rejection from his own base voters on that point, Mo Brooks has since flipped again. Now insisting in an online statement, quote, let me be clear, the 2020 election was fraught with voter fraud and election theft on a massive scale. Trump won the election. I support audits of state 2020 election results. I eagerly await their findings -- trying to go back to that way of dealing with the issue. The man knows what side his bread is buttered on.

And as for him eagerly awaiting the supposed state audits of the election results, he is going to have to wait longer, along with anybody else in the same boat with him. The flagship ridiculous 2020 election audit is a first one in Arizona. It was April when Republicans in the Arizona legislature first handed over most of the actual ballots from Arizona`s presidential election and tons of voting equipment, handed it over to a QAnon promoting Trump election conspiracy theorist who runs a one man band company named Cyber Ninjas.

That company and the Arizona Republicans said their so-called audit of Arizona`s election results would take three weeks. It`s now been five months and counting. They said last week that the report from that audit would be in by Friday, this past Friday. It was not in by Friday. Then they said it would be in by today.

But then at the end of the day today, Arizona Republicans released a statement saying, quote, unfortunately, Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan and two other members of the five-person audit team have tested positive for COVID- 19 and are quite sick. And therefore, the report on the audit will not be submitted today. That, of course, is terrible news. And we wish them all the best.

Arizona`s Republican Senate president, Karen Fann, told the "Arizona Mirror" today that one of the three people on the audit team who has COVID is not just quite sick with COVID but actually hospitalized with COVID- related pneumonia, which is terrible. Again, we wish them the best whoever they are.

But I will tell you, even this part remains mysterious. First of all, this assertion that three people of the five-person audit team are very sick with COVID is the first news anybody has had that there`s a five-person audit team.


Who`s on the team? Who were the other four people besides Doug Logan? It`s like when people talk about Doug Logan running a company called Cyber Ninjas. That technically is true, but has anybody turned up a single employee of Cyber Ninjas other than Doug Logan? It`s kind of a one-man band.

I mean, they had millions of ballots from the Arizona election, and all of this election equipment from Maricopa County for five months for their audit that was supposed to take three weeks. The Arizona Senate president who hired this entity, the Cyber Ninjas, to do the audit, she`s supposedly been supervising it all along. She expressed surprise to local reporters, surprise at this COVID news, because that was the first that she learned there was a five-person audit team producing this audit.

She reportedly says she doesn`t know who else other than Doug Logan is on this five-person team. A former Republican official named Ken Bennett, who has served as the Senate liaison for the audit, basically the person in charge of explaining to the press and public what`s going on with the audit for all these five months, he said today after the statement came out saying the report was not coming and it was because three people on the five-person audit team have COVID, he said today that not only did he not know it was a five-person audit team, and not only did he not know who is on this five-person audit team, he said today that he actually thought it was a nine-person audit team. If so, what happened to the other four?

This deep into the process, they purport to have absolutely no idea what`s happening. In any case, the contention now is the audit report is not ready even today because the head of Cyber Ninjas and maybe some other people are very sick with COVID. But nobody knows who they are or what their actual involvement is.

I will tell you Arizona Republicans also announced today that aside from the COVID problem, they`re actually still not done with the audit anyway. Something something ballot envelope something something. So maybe it`s going to take another week or so.

This is the very professional audit that Trump world trusts. Because they believe the results of this audit will make way more sense and be way more solid and be way less shady than actually just looking at the certified election results from the county and the state.

Mo Brooks is eagerly awaiting the results of this audit to find out what the real story is.

So, we`re following those developing stories tonight. There`s also late breaking news tonight about do you remember my boy friends Lev and Igor? Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were colleagues of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman were arrested in 2019 and charged among other things with allegedly funneling large illegal foreign donations to a PAC supporting Trump`s re-election and to other Republican candidates. Both Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman pled not guilty.

Mr. Parnas had since made public claims including on this show he was basically bamboozled into a plot by Giuliani and Trump and some other Trump world figures to try to wheedle dirt out of the nation of Ukraine to be used against Joe Biden in the 2020 election. That plot ultimately led to Trump impeachment number one. Lev Parnas has publicly named not just Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump but also Trump administration officials including William Barr, the former attorney general, as having been in the loop on some of that scam.

Mr. Parnas has kind of fairly high profile figure since he was charged, even as he is fighting these charges and pleading not guilty. Mr. Fruman has been much less of a high profile figure, but it`s Mr. Fruman, Igor, who is apparently going to change his plea from not guilty to guilty. A change of plea notice was docketed in his case today. He`ll have a hearing on that matter before a federal judge in the southern district of New York on Wednesday.

Now, in the filings around that Wednesday hearing, at the hearing itself, we may learn the circumstances of his guilty plea. Whether this means he is turning state`s evidence, whether this means Igor Fruman is cooperating with prosecutors to tell them what he knows about other people`s actions, other potential crimes.

Because of Igor Fruman`s links with former President Trump and Mr. Giuliani, because of the subsequent revelations about Mr. Giuliani being under criminal investigation for his part on whatever they were doing in Ukraine, Igor, the man you see here on the right with President Trump, Igor pleading guilty has to be a very uncomfortable making development for parts of Trump world tonight, if his guilty plea is going to be accompanied by a cooperation deal with federal prosecutors. We shall see.

So following that, also, coming up in a moment, we`re going to be speaking with John Kirby. Admiral John Kirby, spokesperson, the press secretary at the Pentagon, lots to talk with him about today.


With the FDA giving full gold standard approval to the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19, that cleared the way within hours today for the Pentagon to institute a new requirement that all active duty U.S. troops must be vaccinated. That`s fascinating new development today at the defense department, and we`ll have big implications in terms of how quickly it`s rolled out and what happens to service members who may refuse to get vaccinated even though they`re required to get lots of other vaccines as part of their service.

Admiral Kirby, of course, has also been the main explainer to the public and press on the urgent and increasingly massive U.S. airlift effort to evacuate Americans and our Afghan allies out of Afghanistan. The Pentagon announcing today between yesterday and today, they got nearly 11,000 people evacuated in one 24-hour period. They said last week their maximum range was 5,000 to 9,000 people being evacuated per day. They evacuated nearly 11,000 in the last 24 hours. That means the pace of this evacuation is picking up substantially. We`ll talk with Admiral Kirby about whether or not they aim to sustain that rapid pace.

Admiral Kirby has also sort of cagily fielded questions, cagily addressed recent reporting that U.S. forces are now at least occasionally using helicopters to go get people and bring them to the Kabul airport amid increasingly desperate and dangerous circumstances outside the gates and blast walls of the airport. That sort of aggressive exfiltration effort by air has been of great interest as we have seen the scenes outside the gates of the airport get more harrowing and more dangerous each day, and as we hear about terrorist threats against those crowds outside the airport.

You may have also seen the reporting this weekend about a woman, an evacuee from Afghanistan who literally gave birth to a baby onboard one of the U.S. military C-17 evacuation planes just after it landed at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. Just a crazy story, it puts your heart in your throat to know this woman was this pregnant, this close to delivering, when she got herself and her family onboard that C-17, and then to have given birth on the tarmac onboard the plane. U.S. servicemen and women racing onboard that cargo plane, delivering the baby right then and there onboard the plane before they were even able to disembark her. Mother and baby are both reportedly doing fine.

But I have to tell you, that dramatic situation this weekend led to this question and surprise answer at the Pentagon press briefing this afternoon. I don`t know if you have seen this footage today. It started one way and went dramatically off the rails to the surprise of everybody except one person in the room, and went off the rails not in a bad way, but in a way that definitely makes me want to know more. Watch.


REPORTER: I`m Terace Garnier with Newsy. General Lyons, our medics being provided for each flight. I know there`s a concern about capacity because you`re trying to get as many people on. But are medics being provided. And the reason why I asked that is because there are reports that a woman had a baby during one of the flights.

And so, you have medics that will be on board? That will be able to handle any sort of emergency situations that may come up. If someone has a baby? Or, you know, falls and get sick? Or something in that instance?

GEN. STEPHEN LYONS, COMMANDER, U.S. TRANSPORTATION COMMAND: Yes. It`s a great question. We do not have medics on every flight. There is a medical screen as part of the screening and boarding process. And -- but I`ll confess to you that many people would have to self-identify any kind of medical issue.

Really exciting. I mean, I really appreciate the news reporting on the baby being born, as that flight came into Ramstein. Matter of fact, there`s actually been more than that. So, it`s just a -- just an incredible, incredible operation, ongoing. You know, just impressive work by our great airmen.


REPORTER: But a lot more than that?

REPORTER: Yes. What do you mean by that?


REPORTER: What do you mean more than that?

REPORTER: More than one baby? How many babies?

KIRBY: They`re asking in terms of more than one baby.


LYONS: Yes. Well, my last data point was three. I don`t have a formal tracker, but those are the. You know, so we`ll, we`ll keep you posted.

KIRBY: All right, sir. We`ll follow up and try to get you information on the other two.


MADDOW: All the reporters go, wait a second, did he say there`s been more than that? Does he mean -- when he says more than that, he means more babies? There`s more little babies?

Somebody actually says, there`s more little babies, there`s more than one baby? Admiral John Kirby obviously flummoxed by this as well. Did you just say three babies, sir? We`ll get more on the baby situation.

Admiral John Kirby said he would get more on that to explain. He`s here with us next. Stay with us.



MADDOW: When the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was Admiral Mike Mullen, his spokesman, his spokesperson was the man you see here on the left, a man named John Kirby.

John Kirby was the voice of the Joint Chiefs during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. John Kirby can also be seen here in this photo with former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. John Kirby was his spokesperson at the Pentagon for a while, too.

That was before Mr. Kirby went on to become spokesperson for the secretary of state when John Kerry was secretary of state under President Obama.

He`s had these very high-visibility jobs at the Pentagon, at the State Department. He`s also a rear admiral in the United States Navy. John Kirby served in the Navy as the public affairs officer for the Blue Angels. He served as the editor in chief of the Navy`s magazine. He served as chief spokesperson for the Department of the Navy.


These days, he`s back at the Department of defense reprising his role as Pentagon press secretary, this time in the Biden administration for a Defense Department that is now led by Secretary Lloyd Austin.

John Kirby has been a very, very high-profile person in Washington for a long time. Right now, he has one of the most difficult and most scrutinized jobs in Washington, because, right now, daily, sometimes multiple times per day, he is briefing the Defense Department press corps, which is not a bunch of pushovers, briefing them, briefing through them the rest of the world, as the United States attempts to wind down its longest war and engages in a big, very, very difficult, very contested evacuation effort in Afghanistan.

Just today, John Kirby has already briefed the press twice, two separate Pentagon briefings already today, on everything from helicopter exfiltrations of Afghan evacuees, to the evacuation flights and their numbers, to babies being born on board those evacuation flights.

He`s done a lot of work already today, but I still have more questions. And he`s been kind enough to join us tonight to come answer them.

Admiral Kirby, thank you so much. I know it`s been a long couple weeks, even a long day today. Thank you for being here tonight.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: My pleasure, Rachel. Thank you.

MADDOW: Let me start by asking you not about the most important thing, but something my interest was very piqued by at the second Pentagon briefing, in which we learned that there wasn`t just one baby born on one of these flights, one of these evacuation flights this weekend at Ramstein in Germany.


MADDOW: But the general who you were briefing with actually said there`s been three babies born in these circumstances?

KIRBY: Yes, that`s right. He surprised everybody, including me, on that.

This is General Steve Lyons. He`s the commander of U.S. Transportation Command. And we wanted him to come in and talk to our press corps about the incredible logistics effort that is going in to moving these thousands of people out of Afghanistan into temporary safe havens elsewhere as they work back to the United States.

And right at the end of the briefing, he got asked about the one baby that we knew had been born, because there was great photographs of that, of course. And he let it slip that, in fact, actually, two others had been born.

So, we and the press corps here at the Pentagon are trying to chase down the details on that, because it`s just a great story and just another indication of the humanity and the professionalism and the kindness with which U.S. military members are really treating their important evacuation work.

MADDOW: It also tells you about the humanity and the desperation of the people who are getting out.

For somebody to be not just pregnant, but pregnant upon the moment of potentially delivering, somebody who is going to go into labor during the flight...


MADDOW: ... and still at that moment putting themselves in peril, taking their fragile selves and their families and getting themselves on board one of the military transports, the extremis that these women and their families are in to be able to do this, it does make me wonder about the kinds of medical resources that are being made available to these refugees, the kind of resources that they need once they land...

KIRBY: Right.

MADDOW: ... how long they`re staying -- they`re staying at the initial place they first land once they`re taken out of Afghanistan.

What can you tell us about that?

KIRBY: So, there`s some initial medical screening at Kabul before they get onto a flight, because we want to make sure that they`re OK, so there`s some medical treatment there.

There are -- and the general said this -- there`s no medical personnel on these flights. We`re saving every available space for passengers, for people that want to get out, who are, as you rightly said, Rachel, desperate to leave.

So, we`re not putting medical personnel on these flights. But then, when they get to these temporary safe havens or staging bases, if you will, for onward movement, they again are evaluated for any medical issues and given a chance to get some more screening there.

And then, of course, when they get back to the United States, we go through that again. We definitely screen them for COVID at some of these staging bases. All of them are getting screened for COVID when they get to the United States. Right now, they`re coming into Dulles.

And then -- so, there`s constantly throughout the process medical personnel that are trying to look after them as best we can.

MADDOW: Is there going to be a sort of call to the American people and civil society organizations in the United States to help resettle people, to do community resettlement efforts, to donate things that these new families may leave, to find them housing, to get them in English-as-second language courses if they`re resettling here?

I know not everybody is going to be coming to the United States, but thousands are.

KIRBY: Indeed.

MADDOW: Is there a call now from the U.S. government, indeed, from the Defense Department, from the American people to step up and help?

KIRBY: We`re actually starting to see that, Rachel.

Certainly, lots of non-governmental organizations are already helping the State Department and DHS as they -- as these Afghans are ready to move into American society. They`re already going to relocation centers and getting help starting their new lives, absolutely.


But, you know, the commanding general of Fort Bliss, Texas, where some have already gone for this -- the follow-on final paperwork that they have to complete before they can become citizens, has said that he`s been deluged with phone calls and e-mails from the people living outside Fort Bliss, Texas, just wanting to know what they can do, blankets, food, whatever they can do to help.

So, we`re already starting to see the American people in many of these communities really reach out and want to do what they can to help what will be their future fellow citizens.

MADDOW: I will tell you, just -- just anecdotally from our experience -- we`re just a cable news show that covers this process, and that has covered some individual stories of people who have been evacuated with their families.

And we have been inundated with requests just from our viewers in terms of how they can help. And so I know that you`re in a different role, as the press spokesman at the Pentagon, but I think there is a real hunger among the general public watching this to want to step up and do something, especially as we learn more about how hard these flight crews are working and how hard these thousands of U.S. troops are working to try to make the best of this very difficult situation.

I do think there is public appetite to do something, sort of put our money where our mouth is, to give -- to be part of this process in some way.

I don`t know if that`s -- I doubt we will hear that from you at the podium. But I do feel like -- I do feel like we have to hear that from the administration, from the government in some way, because that needs to be channeled in some way. It`s too valuable to leave on the table, it seems to me.

KIRBY: No, I agree, Rachel.

And I think this is what is quintessentially so great about our country. Americans are a generous lot. And we`re an immigrant nation, and we`re used to these stories, as sad and desperate though they may be, and we are used to reaching out to people that are in need and really want to start a new life here.

And so I think just that one little base in Texas is just one small example. I think you`re going to see that all over the country. And, again, that`s one of the great things about living in this country, and I think these Afghans, that will be something that they take away too.

MADDOW: Tell me about something that you have received lots of hard questions about all last week and over the weekend and today, which is the issue of safe passage out.

Obviously, getting control of the airport, getting control of the tarmac...

KIRBY: Right.

MADDOW: ... getting control of the runway, lining up these staging bases for onward movement, as you were describing, all of that, we have seen the military sort of systematically get that in order.

And we have simultaneously see the number of evacuees rise to this incredible number of almost 11,000 in one 24-hour period just between Sunday and today. But there is still the front end issue of how people get themselves into that safe system, how people get into the airport, how not just Americans, but people linked to the U.S. government...

KIRBY: That`s right.

MADDOW: ... people who are Afghan evacuees, who we are otherwise going to priorities -- prioritize, how they`re going to get out.

Tell me about big picture progress toward making more safe that part of their journey.

KIRBY: So, there`s a couple of pieces here.

And you might have heard me talk about this a little bit ago. We`re in constant daily communication with Taliban leaders who are outside the airport. And we have been making it clear to them what the credentials look like, who we want to see get through their checkpoints who are absolutely entitled to get on these flights.

And, thus far, though there have been certainly cases of harassment and even violence harassment of some qualified individuals, by and large, these American citizens and these Special Immigrant Visa applicants are being able to work through those checkpoints.

We`re also in communication with the Taliban about making it easier for the safe -- a more safe perimeter around the field, so that there are fewer crowds, because crowds have also been an impediment, not from a violence perspective, just from a dense perspective.

So, we`re working with them to try to make sure there`s enough access around the airport for people to get in more freely. And we are working every day. Our commanders on the ground are pursuing opportunities to make access and passage to the field easier and safer for Americans and these SIV applicants, some pretty creative ideas that they`re putting into place.

And, obviously, it`s a dense and dangerous environment. We have a legitimate counterterrorism threat there, terrorism threat around the airport that we have to take seriously. But once we get them onto the field, then they go through a whole series of processing and manifesting, as I said, medical screening, make sure they have food and water, and we try to get them on the very next flight out that`s available.

And these flights, at least yesterday, Rachel, they were leaving one almost every hour. Now, we hope to be able to continue that sort of pace going forward. Obviously, it`s weather-dependent. It`s population-dependent.

But that`s the kind of -- that`s the kind of throughput that we`re trying to reach, so that we can keep these numbers up for as long as possible.


MADDOW: Should we expect to see more evacuations, more transit to the airport aided by U.S. helicopters?

Now, you have talked about this a little bit at the end of last week and also today, that there have been a couple helicopter-borne U.S.-facilitated movements, one from a group that was very close to the airport, another that was described as elsewhere in Kabul.

Should we expect there to be more of those? That obviously seems like a sort of tidy answer to it from those of us looking from this distance? Or is there something that`s particularly dangerous about those helicopter airlifts that we don`t understand that means that that will continue to be quite limited?

KIRBY: Well, the commanders on the ground certainly have the authorities they need to pursue opportunities to bring people in.

And one of the means at their disposal is, of course, rotary aircraft helicopters. And we have done that on a couple occasions. I certainly wouldn`t rule out that we would do it again if it was the best way. And that`s really what it comes down to, Rachel, is, what is the best, most effective, and what`s the safest way to get Americans and other SIV applicants into the airport?

And so, again, sometimes, helicopters are the answer, sometimes not. And they`re pursuing all kinds of different opportunities to make this happen.

So, I certainly wouldn`t rule it out, but it is not the only way in which we are encouraging and trying to facilitate the safe passage of people into the airport.

MADDOW: Let me ask you about one very different perspective on this, which is, obviously, we saw the Taliban takeover of the country, almost every province in the country, in some cases without firing a shot, including walking into Kabul without it having to be a military victory. It was essentially arranged, as far as we can tell.

But there is resistance to the Pentagon (sic). We have seen demonstrations, first by women, by brave women in Kabul, then by larger groups of people in Eastern Afghanistan and Southeastern Afghanistan. We`re now seeing organized resistance speaking out and getting some international press from the Panjshir Valley. We saw anti-Taliban fighters take back some parts of a different province over the weekend, although the Taliban now says they fought and brought those back.

If there is significant resistance to Taliban rule, is the U.S. going to ignore that? Or is there provision in our postwar planning to give assistance to those who are resisting Taliban rule and who, indeed, may be fighting them for control of parts of the country?

KIRBY: Well, I certainly wouldn`t get ahead of policy decisions that haven`t been made on that, Rachel.

What I can tell you is that our presence there at the airport, the 5, 800 troops that we have right now, their focus is really on three things, making sure we can defend that airport and keep its operations going, and then working the evacuation mission to the maximum degree that we can, and then, number three, making sure that we are, as appropriate, reaching out to American citizens who need to be brought in and finding out ways to do that.

That`s really what our focus is on right now. And I think we have been very clear the military mission is really confined to those three things. And I wouldn`t want to speculate about what might be in the offing for the future.

MADDOW: Admiral John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, making the most of what has already been a very, very long day by staying up so late with us tonight.

Sir, thank you for your time. I really appreciate it. Any time you would like to come back, we`d love to have you back.

KIRBY: Thank you, Rachel. My pleasure.

MADDOW: All right. We got much more ahead here tonight. Stay with us.



MADDOW: So, we just spoke with Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby. You may remember last week, it was he who announced from the briefing room at the Pentagon the Defense Department had stood up five active duty medical teams to help civilian hospitals here in the U.S. that are overrun by sick COVID patients. Late last week, we saw the arrival of the first of those active duty uniformed teams, Navy personnel arriving at a hospital in Lafayette, Louisiana, to help the doctors and nurses there who have been overrun by way too many, way too sick COVID patients for weeks now, loud sustained standing ovation for those navy personnel. That was late last week.

Now we have word of three more of those active duty uniform military teams deploying. A team of 20 active duty air force medical personnel is headed to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to assist our Lady of the Lake Medical Center. We spoke with that hospital`s chief medical officer ten days ago about the very bad situation there.

Our Lady of the Lake already got one influx of over 30 federal medical personnel from the Department of Health and Human Services. That was not enough. Now, they`re also getting 20 more doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists from the United States Air Force.

Two more of those active duty Defense Department teams are deploying as well to Mississippi. At least 20 medical personnel from the U.S. Air Force arriving at the University of Mississippi medical center in Jackson this weekend. Twenty Army medical personnel headed to north Mississippi medical center in Tupelo.

You will recall this isn`t the first federal help Mississippi has received. They also got a federal DMAT, disaster medical assistance team, from Health and Human Services to set up and staff a field hospital in the parking garage at the University Medical Center in Jackson. Now in addition to that, they have Air Force and Army personnel arriving to provide further help.

There are three vaccines that have been in use in the United States for months now, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Before today, all three of those vaccines were approved under something called emergency use authorization. Millions and millions and millions of doses safely administered of all three vaccines. They have all proven to be effective at keeping you from getting infected. If you do get infected, they reduce your chances of getting dangerously ill. These states that are so overrun, it`s because of low uptake of vaccines in those states.

But today, interesting progress when for the first time, the FDA granted full, unqualified, not emergency use authorization to the Pfizer vaccine, for everybody age 16 and up. That`s a sort of graduation from Pfizer from emergency use authorization to full approval. And that today cleared the way for among other things, a new mandate for all active duty U.S. service members to get vaccinated. They had been waiting on full approval of the vaccine at the FDA to do that. That full approval has been granted. The DOD is now moving ahead.

Within hours of the full approval, CVS pharmacy chains, several state university systems, the nation`s largest school system in New York City, they all also announced vaccine mandates for their employees. Experts tell us we should probably expect more of that in coming days.

Speaking of experts, joining us now is Dr. Ashish Jha. He`s dean of the public school of health at Brown University.

Dr. Jha, it`s nice of you to make time to be here. Thanks for making time tonight.


MADDOW: Why is it logical for there to be a link between requiring the vaccine at a place like the Defense Department or New York City schools or CVS as an employer, why is there a link between that and full approval? What does the vaccine have to prove to get full approval that it didn`t have to prove in order to get that previous level of approval?

JHA: And so, first and foremost, there isn`t necessarily a link. Lots of organizations, my university, for instance, mandated vaccines well before the full approval happened. What the full approval does is it gives people a lot more confidence, some people feel like it`s going to be legally a little bit -- going to stand up well, though the courts have found mandatory vaccine orders based on an EUA is totally fine.

So I think this is much more a psychological boost than it is a legal one for mandatory vaccines.

MADDOW: When it comes to the states that have low vaccine uptake that are receiving, that are experiencing such a terrible influx right now, I`m happy to see federal resources, including active duty military, uniformed resources deployed to states like Mississippi and Louisiana who so clearly need them.

It does feel like a drop in the bucket, though -- 20 workers here, a handful of doctors there. Given the scale of the problem and how the case numbers are continuing to rise in these states where the hospitals are already overrun, is the federal government going to have to ramp up its ability to help in those overrun states? Do we have other resources we can bring to bear?

JHA: Yeah. So first and foremost, it`s worth remembering this is all completely preventable. If people had gotten vaccinated, we would not be seeing this. We`re not seeing this in Vermont. We`re not seeing it in Massachusetts. We`re not seeing it in highly vaccinated places.

Second, you`re absolutely right. We`re still seeing so many infections and those people will end up in the hospitals in the days and weeks and months ahead. So, we`ve got to really hunker down for what is going to be many, many weeks of difficult times.

I think the federal government is going to have to do a lot more for these states, and ultimately, they`re going to get out of it by vaccinated a lot more people. This is not the solution to a pandemic. Vaccines are.

MADDOW: Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University -- Dr. Jha, always a pleasure and honor to have you here. Thanks for -- thanks for your time tonight, sir.

JHA: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got more ahead tonight. Stay with us.



MADDOW: Indulge me for just a moment. This did not get a ton of press in the United States today but I think it is astonishing, and I want you to see it.

There is a prison in Iran that is such a notoriously bad place that I, a random American, have heard of it. I don`t know the names of any other prisons in Iran. But I know Evin prison. E-V-I-N.

Evin prison is, in fact, such a standout place for such bad stuff that the prison, itself, has been sanctioned by the U.S. for human rights abuses. Evin prison in Tehran, among other things, is where Iran locks up its political prisoners, including those with Western ties.

You might remember it from 2009 when Iran held two Americans there for 781 days on totally made-up charges of espionage. You might remember Evin Prison from 2014 when a journalist from "The Washington Post" was held there for 544 days, also on completely fabricated, trumped-up charges. That journalist, Jason Rezaian, believes he was held basically as a bargaining chip for the Iran nuclear deal negotiations, which were underway at the time.

Back in 2003, a Canadian journalist was arrested just for taking pictures of a protest outside Evin prison. She ended up being beaten to death in a different Iranian prison just days later.

So, Evin prison has a backstory. It`s known, worldwide. And it`s not a place we ever get to see the inside of. We barely get to see the outside of it. That`s why this is so nuts.

Today, "The Associated Press" and Voice of America released footage that had been given to them by hackers who say they infiltrated Evin prison and, among other things, they got access to its closed-circuit security cameras. "The Associated Press," doing its due diligence, they talked to four former prisoners who had served time at Evin who all confirmed that the footage does, indeed, look like areas they recognize inside the prison.

This is the part I can`t get over, though. This. Watch this. This is reportedly the control room inside Evin where the guards monitor the closed-circuit security cameras all day long, every day.

And if this video is what the hackers say it is, it shows, in live time, the guards there learning that they have been hacked. Watch this. Watch the screens.

First, one of their monitors starts flashing red. Then, a message pops up. What`s that? You see the guy react.

And then, boom. A whole bunch of the screens start flashing red. That same message pops up everywhere. Message.

Look at his screens on his desk. The message in Farsi reportedly reads cyberattack. And then, later, it says general protest until the freedom of political prisoners.

Look. Just impossible to get your head around that this may actually be footage, in real-time, of the moment when the jailers running the most opaque notorious prison in Iran learn that everyone, everywhere will soon be able to see everything they can see.


Will soon be able to see what they have been up to.

Government of Iran is not commenting on what may or may not have happened here. Iranian state media has not acknowledged this happened at all but we may have the footage of what happened in the moment they realized they had been breached. Just an incredible thing.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: This is a mellow dramatic way to be doing it. A midnight swearing in? Seriously?

Yes, midnight. Tonight at one minute after midnight, Kathy Hochul will be sworn in as governor of the great state of New York. That will officially make Kathy Hochul one of only nine female governors in the whole country.

And I should note, four of those nine first got to those positions through succession, rather than election. Meaning, the dude who got elected to the job got turfed out for some reason. So they ascended to the job because of the unexpected vacancy.

Kathy Hochul, of course, was lieutenant governor to Andrew Cuomo. He is leaving office tonight following the publication of a scathing report by New York`s attorney general, Tish James, a report that accused him of sexually harassing 11 women.

Have we been able to get this up on screen yet? We just got this moments ago. Yes.

This reportedly is Andrew Cuomo`s resignation letter, and it sure does look authentic. We received this just moments ago.

Soon-to-be former Governor Cuomo continues to deny the allegations against him even as he leaves office but in anticipation of her taking over the top job tonight, Kathy Hochul has started out her governorship by already appointing two women to two top posts in her cabinet. As if this all wasn`t dramatic enough, it will all become official at a minute past midnight tonight, a midnight swearing in.

That does it for us tonight. I will see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.