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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 9/17/21

Guests: Charles Stewart III, Ashish Jha


Republicans attempt to discreet 2020 election through "audit" efforts. An FDA advisory panel rejects booster shots for most, limits to high risk groups.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. I wish you a happy and restful weekend. Do you have any big plans?

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": A little. Yes, some block party, some block party action, some hanging with the kiddos and with Kate.

MADDOW: Block parties?

HAYES: Yeah. It is block party season in New York City.

MADDOW: Wow. I forget --

HAYES: This is the time of year, they put the little police horses on each side of the block and then you know what is the most amazing thing? You take cars away from any street and it just becomes a party. That`s literally what a block party is. You get rid of cars and you have a party.

That`s why people go to Paris. That`s why they love it. You walk around, there`s no cars. It is a party.

MADDOW: This is -- I mean there`s two things. The differences between us, everybody thinks that you and I are like doppelgangers and everything. First of all, you take cars away from a block and it means you are in my town.


MADDOW: Because I live in a place where nobody lives. But also, like given the opportunity, like not working, the chance to do anything, you`re like, I want to be around people. I`m like, I want to dive into an ant hill and make sure nobody can find me.


HAYES: True, true.

MADDOW: We understand what we are.

HAYES: Very true. You have a great weekend in your ant hill, Rachel.

MADDOW: I will. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.

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

This has been a weird week in the news. Today has been a particularly weird day in the news. I will tell you all signs point to next week being even weirder, but I will tell you why.

Here is a case in point. Our beloved neighbors to the north, our Canadian friends, they have their big national election on Monday. Prime minister of Canada, of course, is Justin Trudeau from the Liberal Party. He is facing off against the leader of the conservative party in Canada, a man named Erin O`Toole.

And Canada has more than just two big parties. In addition to the liberal and conservative candidates or kind of the marquee candidates, there`s also a major candidate from the French-speaking Quebec separatists. There`s a major green party candidate. There`s also a party called the New Democratic Party which is more to the left than Justin Trudeau and the liberals, and they`re led by a charismatic member of parliament named Jagmeet Singh.

Again, elections on Monday. Nobody is sure what will happen, but it is close enough, close enough particularly among the top three candidates, the liberal candidate, the conservative and the NDP candidate, it is close enough that Americans Democrats and other politicians who may or may not have any sway with Canadian voters, who knows? They`re nevertheless weighing in with last minute endorsements. Former President Barack Obama endorsing Justin Trudeau to be reelected as Canadian prime minister. Today, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also effectively endorsing Justin Trudeau for reelection in Canada.

But then coming up fast on the left flank, there`s Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders not to be outdone, weighing in today as well. Not on behalf of Justin Trudeau, instead senators is endorsing Jagmeet Singh form the New Democratic Party.

And again, do Canadians care what former U.S. presidents and former U.S. Democratic presidential candidates think about who to vote for in their election? Honestly, nobody has any idea. Nobody knows if it will have any impact whatsoever.

But, you know, whatever is going to happen there, it is a close enough call at this point that we`ve got this weird late development of American politicians weighing in, which, of course, could have consequences in terms of who the ultimate Canadian government is. If the U.S. powers that be, particularly the president of the United States who was vice president to Barack Obama, who is a close ally of Hillary Clinton who now leads a very narrow majority in Congress of which Senator Bernie Sanders is a very key and necessary member, I mean, there`s cross endorsements from Democratic politicians in the United States in a Canadian election which is going to produce a Canadian government that our government will have to have dealings with, despite the fact we weighed in on how that should go.

Nothing is going to come between us and our good relationship with Canada. But to the extent we are trying to make it more awkward, that will help.

Russia is also having its federal elections right now. Russia has three days of federal elections, started today, ends on Sunday. Vladimir Putin and his ironically named United Russia Party, they are pulling out all of the stops this time. They are running fake candidates to mess with individual parliamentary elections. They have spent the last year criminalizing and locking up all the actually viable opposition figures that stand in the way of Putin and his party.


After trying last year to assassinate the main opposition leader in Russia, Alexei Navalny, Putin`s government has since been holding him indefinitely in prison.

Part of Alexei Navalny`s appeal in Russia is that he is not just a political figure, he is a very visible anti-corruption activist. If there`s one thing that defines the Russian government, it is a flagrant, epic, biblical-level corruption. The resistance of resentment of Russian government corruption is something that unites lots of Russians across ideological stripes.

As I said Navalny`s organization has been criminalized by Putin`s government. Putin`s government has arrested and exiled so many people that are part of it. Nevertheless Navalny`s organization keeps turning out corruption reports, these exposes about the lavish lifestyles and palaces and yachts and foreign villas and wineries that Putin and his henchmen have accumulated all over the world since Putin has been in power, and robbing the Russian treasury blind.

Just today, Navalny`s group released a new report. Again, he is in prison and everybody who runs his organization has been chased, chased out of visible Russian society. Nevertheless they persist. Today, they released a new report which has not been validated by NBC News. This is just me telling you what they have published.

But what they just published is a new expose that purports to document that perhaps the highest profile politician in Russia other than Putin himself, Russia`s long-time foreign minister, you will recognize him actually. Remember when Trump randomly invited him into the oval office along with the Russian ambassador? The ambassador on the right, the foreign minister on the left. Remember, he randomly brought them into the Oval. He gave them a bunch of code word protected top secret intelligence he wasn`t supposed to share with anyone.

That guy, his name is Sergei Lavrov. Navalny`s group today published an expose about him. It purports to say that Sergei Lavrov has a whole secret second family just like Putin does. In addition to Lavrov`s official wife that he retains, I guess, for political purposes, there`s, according to Navalny`s organization, a whole secret second wife who nobody is supposed to know about who reportedly travels with him on his official business, which means the government is paying for her.

She and her family also, according to this report, appear to have been the recipients of lots and lots very over-the-top unexplained wealth, as does Lavrov himself. Navalny`s group says they`ve discovered the foreign minister, Mr. Lavrov, appears to basically live this very high-flying, total luxury life he has of massive yachts and huge private planes at his disposal for him and his family any time they want them and mansions all over the world, in Italy, in London, in Montenegro.

They report he appears to be living this life with his secret second family, essentially as a permanent guest of one particular Russian oligarch, a guy named Oleg Deripaska. Like all of the Navalny Group organizations -- excuse me, Navalny group investigations, they have put this investigation together in a way that is very memorable, very witty, very visual. I will give you an example.

In the case of this mansion in Montenegro where the foreign minister seems to spend a lot of time, Navalny`s group matches together a bunch of different Instagram photos from a Sergei Lavrov family member showing this one interesting, weird pool shot. There`s the pool and then there`s an angled colonnade looming over it. They matched it with over-flight photos of what is reportedly Oleg Deripaska`s mansion in Montenegro, which has visibly the same distinctive pool and the angled colonnade. They colored them bright green and blue so you can compare them in the over-flight shot in the Instagram photos.

Navalny`s group says Lavrov and his family have been kept by the oligarch for many years. He pays for their rest. They fly on his planes. They sail on his yacht. They live in his houses.

Navalny`s group has done exposes like this of the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, as I say the second most important politician in the country after Putin. They`ve done similar expose of the unexplained, massive, over-the- top wealth of Russian President Medvedev. That one actually unwound with the help of lots of photos of Medvedev`s very distinctive and very expensive taste in sneakers.

They`ve done a similar expose for Putin himself, exposing what purports to be his secret billion dollar, sprawling palace on the Black Sea. Navalny`s organization dropped that one just as Putin`s government arrested Navalny and locked him up indefinitely, where they appear to want to try to keep him for the rest of his life.

In today`s expose, just as the Russian elections start, Navalny`s group says this. Quote: Hypocrisy. Lies. Theft. Meanness. Cynicism. These are the true values of United Russia, and United Russia is the name of Putin`s political party.

Under the guise of conservative family values and the protection of morality, Putin seized the country and turned it into a personal wallet to enrich himself, his family and his friends. Under the pretext of some kind of encroachment on our borders, an external threat, he made Russia an impoverished rogue state, a state that for some reason is forever in a trench and is at war with everyone. Tons of lies that pour out as all on us, as family but this is all hypocrisy. Their real life is second families, yachts, airplanes, palaces. A royal glamorous life at the expense of the oligarchs. This is Putin`s ideology. This should be written on the posters of United Russia.

And remember, they dropped this today, this new expose on the first day of the elections in Russia where they`re trying to outsmart, they`re trying to outflank Putin and his United Russia Party. Navalny from prison, all of the other opposition leaders they haven`t killed, the ones they exiled or have driven into hiding, they`re still trying to use what remains of democracy, what remains of the election process in Russia to get Putin and his thugs out, to vote out United Russia and thereby vote out Putin.

So they end with this plea, and this one comes with a real kicker for us, us Americans watching here from home. They say, quote, it just needs to be stopped. Russian in the 21st century cannot be governed by such people. We are better than that. We deserve more and we are ready to fight for it.

We will continue to tell you stories that are often scary to tell, but absolutely necessary. Others will continue to engage in politics, despite being intimidated, imprisoned and killed. Still others, no less brave, will take to the streets for our freedom.

Be sure to come to the polls this weekend and vote against United Russia, against Putin`s party of crooks and thieves. The only effective way to kick these scoundrels out is smart voting. That is a consolidated vote for one specific candidate who has the most chance to defeat United Russian.

We have published the names of the smart vote candidates for all 225 constituencies in this weekend`s election. Look for them on our smart voting website. If the site is blocked, look for them in our app, in the Apple App Store, and in Google Play.

That`s where the expose lands today. They`ve got a smart voting idea. There`s a million different parties in Russia. They`re trying to get people to coordinate their votes so that instead of splitting the vote between all of the different people who are running against Putin`s party, they`ll focus, they`ll consolidate the vote so everybody supports one candidate no matter who they are just because they`re not United Russia, just because they can beat Putin`s party and thereby Putin`s party won`t get a majority and he won`t be prime minister anymore.

Technically, it could work. If it were a free election, it probably would work. But here they are today promoting this as the means of voting to get Putin finally out after all of these decades, and they drop this epic corruption expose, yet another one today, yet another secret second family among Putin and his inner circle, with the yachts and the mansions and the villas and the unexplained access to all of this massive wealth while they`re supposedly operating on civil servants` salaries.

They dropped this the day one of the election. Vote them out using the system we have devised to beat Putin`s party at the ballot box this weekend. Use this system all over the country.

We have explained it. We told you who our consolidated candidates are that will make system work and put it on our website. We expect them to block our website. The Russian government can do that. If they block the website, don`t worry. Download the app and do the smart voting take tick using the app. You can get it at Google Play, you can get it at Apple`s App Store. They dropped that expose today and that`s how it ended.

Then today, the first day of voting in the Russian election, here is the headline in "The New York Times." Google and Apple under pressure from Russia, remove voting app. Dateline, Moscow, Apple and Google removed an app meant to coordinate protest voting in this weekend`s Russian elections, a blow to the opponents of Vladimir Putin.

The app was created and promoted by allies of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny. We`re hoping to use it to consolidate the protest vote in each of Russian`s 225 electoral districts.


The app disappeared from the two technology platforms just as voting got under way.

Google and Apple both took down the app. Putin`s government pressured them, threatened them and they caved. They took Navalny`s smart voting app down just as Russians start voting.

Apple and Google, of course, yes, both of them are American companies, really big, rich, powerful American companies. But in this case they are doing the work of the Putin government to shut down the political opposition in Russia. Putin`s party, United Russia, they`ve only got about a 30 percent approval rating according to the New York sometimes today. They can`t actually win. They can`t actually keep Putin in power without having the opposition locked up and silenced, and you expect that therefore from Putin and his government. You just don`t expect big, powerful American companies to be so willing to help.

Yes, you know, if something in that last story rang another bell for you as an American, it would have been the name Oleg Deripaska. Remember that guy? He is the same Kremlin-connected Russian collected oligarch who had the Trump 2016 campaign chairman on his payroll for quite some time. The Russia investigation found that Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort stayed in close touch with that same guy, with Oleg Deripaska, throughout the time he was running Trump`s campaign while at the same time Russian intelligence was mounting covert efforts to influence our American election on Trump`s behalf.

Now, today, Alexei Navalny`s group is exposing that Oleg Deripaska is not just a Kremlin-linked oligarch, he`s actually the oligarch who is assigned to maintain the jet-setting international luxury lifestyle of Russia`s foreign minister and his secret wife.

So like I said, it has been a weird week of news this week. It has been a weird news day today, but next week may be a very -- a very bumpy ride. The U.N. General Assembly starts next week in number. It is the first U.N. general assembly since Joe Biden has been president.

It may, in fact, be awkward with our best friends, Canada, next week, right? Our Democratic Party politicians are making endorsements for and against their sitting prime minister as he is running for reelection on Monday. That may be -- they`ll still be our best friend but it will be awkward.

It also will be awkward with our very good friend France. France as we speak is withdrawing their ambassador to the United States because France is mad at us for a nuclear submarine deal we just did with Australia. Again, we`ll stay friends with France, but that`s awkward.

It will also be awkward with Brazil where they`re very, very Trumpy president is up for reelection next year. He is already saying if he doesn`t win that election it is definitely because of voter fraud and he won`t respect the result. Why does that sound familiar? He also apparently now wants to come to the General Assembly, the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week without being vaccinated against COVID, which U.S. immigration authorities and even New York city authorities may have something to say about. So, that will be awkward, too.

And, of course, the general assembly will follow immediately the end of these elections now underway in Russia. They`re going from now until Sunday. These elections in Sunday that Putin really is rigging by, among other things, locking up all of his opponents in one nice, happy awkwardness introduced above and beyond all of that now is from the two largest and richest American tech companies who are playing along with Putin`s plans to effectively delete the opposition, by force if need be, by threat otherwise.

So like I said, this week has been a strange news week. Today has been a weird news day. Next week might be really weird. It is not like, you know, even with all of that international stuff going on, it is not like we don`t have enough on our hands keeping the home fires burning.

Tonight, we`re going to speak with the always-plain spoken, always clarifying Dr. Ashish Jha about this very interesting by the FDA today, very interesting decision by the FDA today to not approve COVID vaccine booster shots for everyone but to approve them specifically for older people and for people who are otherwise at high risk from COVID.

Now, this decision was somehow basically totally expected by all of the public health experts and a big surprise to most of the mainstream media, which seems like a gap worth closing. So, we`re going to talk with Dr. Jha about that tonight.

We`re also going to speak tonight with an expert on things falling apart democracy wise. As you know, tomorrow is the day that supporters of former President Donald Trump are coming back to the U.S. Capitol to effectively celebrate the attack that they mounted on the capitol on January 6th when they tried to use force and mob violence to stop the certification of the presidential election, to try to keep Biden from being installed as president, to try to keep former President Trump in power.


Tomorrow`s rally is explicitly designed to celebrate the people who took part in that attack. Yesterday, former president himself put out a message saying he stands with the people who attacked the capitol on January 6th in his name. Today, trying to kick things up yet another notch, he wrote to the secretary of state in Georgia demanding that Georgia decertify its presidential election results from 2020 and declare him to be the true winner. It is ten months since that election, but he is still trying to get himself declared the real winner of the presidential election, still denouncing and attacking elections officials who won`t go along with his demands.

And, you know, this remains ridiculous on its face. It is ridiculous on its feet. It is ridiculous doing a hand stand or a cart wheel. You know, it is fact-free noise that remains completely nuts in a fact-based universe.

But it lands on the eve of another rally of Trump supporters who want the election overturned, who are celebrating the use of violence to try to overturn it in January of this year. That`s caused the capitol and the Supreme Court to be ringed with protective fencing for this weekend. It has put the D.C. and Capitol police on full activation. It has caused Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to today approve a national guard unit to be standing by for activation to protect the Capitol if necessary.

And everybody is hoping -- and I think largely expecting that will be overkill and that Trump supporters won`t come back in the same kind of numbers planning the same kind of violent mob mayhem to try to get their way. For one thing, there`s not going to be anybody in the Capitol doing any sort of work when they get there tomorrow, so hopefully that fencing will be more than not needed. It will just come down without incident soon after this planned event.

But this is happening alongside this now accelerating pace of Republican legislatures in Arizona, in Wisconsin, in Pennsylvania, taking apart the election results from 2020, taking custody of the voting machines and the software and in some cases the actual ballots and the voting records of millions of American voters to try to undo the election results if they can, like Trump is still demanding to this day, to at least try to undo the sense that Americans have that the election result is a settled matter and Joe Biden is the duly elected president of the United States.

Every country around the world governs itself a little differently. Some better than others, some worse than others. Sometimes around elections, in fact, it is indeed awkward, but our system is going through something that it has never been through before. It is breaking down in terms of its participation in small D democracy on one side of our politics, and as ridiculous as it is and for all of the other things our country has to deal with both internationally and here at home, our democracy being under legit and sustained now attack from one side of our politics without any meaningful resistance on that side of the political aisle anymore -- well, we`re going to get some expert help on that tonight, and much more.

Stay with us.



MADDOW: This was a letter that former president Donald Trump released today addressed to the top elections official in the state of Georgia.

It says, quote: Dear Secretary of State Raffensperger, large scale voter fraud continues to be reported in Georgia. Really? Enclosed is a report of 43,000 absentee ballot votes counted in DeKalb County that violated the chain of custody rules, making them invalid. I would respectfully request that your department check this, and if true, along with many other claims of voter fraud and voter irregularities, startle the process of decertifying the election or whatever the correct legal remedy is and announce the true winner.

That`s part of this, or whatever the correct legal remedy is, you know, just pick something. Georgia state code blahdy, blahdy, boo, boo, and, presto, I`m president again.

Sincerely, Donald Trump. Let me know when it is done.

In case you`re wondering, former President Trump appears to have gotten the claim about 40,000 some invalid ballots he appears to have gotten from a pro-Trump website launched in Georgia after the 2020 election. It designed to look like a real newspaper. Sure, seems legit.

Efforts to somehow undo the 2020 elections to get the results thrown out and Trump declared the real efforts, those efforts are treated by much of the mainstream press as yesterday`s news. They recognize that. But in Republican land, these efforts have never been more full steam ahead in state after state, including just this week and today.

Republican legislators in Pennsylvania just this week started their brand- new reassessment. What do we call it? Of the 2020 election, they`re calling it a forensic audit as if the election was a crime.

They`re trying to undo the Pennsylvania presidential election result from ten months ago. If you voted in Pennsylvania in 2020, they`re trying to subpoena your full name, birthday, home address, driver`s license number and a portion of your Social Security number. They want the records for all of the voters in the state. They say they will then hand the records over to some as-yet-unknown contractor who will, through some mysterious forensic process, show that voila, Joe Biden is not really president or something.


Meanwhile, Wisconsin Republicans have started their own thing as well, paying for it with taxpayer money. Their election results investigation is sending demands for 2020 election information to county clerks across Wisconsin. At least we think the demand letters are from the Republicans investigator. The letter is so hinky-looking and sent from this bizarre, mysterious Gmail address. Several county clerks say they`re still not sure if that request for information is legit.

In Arizona, the home of the original so-called forensic audits, the one all these other states are trying to copy, Republican lawmakers there say the crack team of investigators, cyber ninjas, will be delivering their report on the Arizona election results a week from today. Given that the Arizona fake audit was supposed to take three weeks and it is now in its fifth month, I`m not going to hold my breath for the new deadline, but okay.

What are Trump supporters going to do when it comes out and says, oh, turns out we looked and the bamboo fibers told us Joe Biden is not really president, what are they going to do? Since January 6th as a country, we are alert to the danger of physical political violence from Trump supporters and around the results of the 2020 election. The U.S. Capitol is locked down in preparation for tomorrow`s pro-Trump undo-the-election pro- January 6th insurrectionist rally.

Fencing is back up around the Capitol and around the Supreme Court, police are fully activated. The National Guard is on stand by. We are alert for the danger of physical violence after what we went through.

What about the more intangible dangers posed by months upon months of increasing state-level efforts to undermine confidence in the 2020 election results, to perform these so-called audits that are designed to make maybe all election results seem suspect? What dangers do we need to be alert to there?

For this, I would like to expert advice. Joining us is MIT professor of political science Charles Stewart III. He`s co-director of the Caltech MIT voting technology project in Stanford, MIT Healthy Elections Project.

Professor Stewart, it is an honor to have you with us tonight. Thank you for taking time to be here.

CHARLES STEWART III, MIT PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE: It`s great to be here. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Let me first ask you if I am asking the right questions and looking at the right universe of concerns, the kind of framing that I put on this and the way I set this up. Do you think it is the right way to look at it?

STEWART: Well, I mean there`s a big concern here, which is the undermining of American democracy. Look, I mean, it is a commonplace but it is fundamentally important to note we are a, you know, nation of laws, not of people, and we have ways of running elections. Those are set in stone and we run elections by those laws. And you know, we`ve done this for hundreds of years, a couple hundred years. That`s how democracies work, especially American democracies work.

And what we`re seeing right now is an attack on the rules by which we run our elections and a systematic attempt to call into question the outcome based on what? Based on no evidence. Based on violating the rules on which the elections were run, and trying to run around I think the most important part of this last election, which is the -- which is that elections are determined on the facts.

And we have already had the facts determined. The facts determined that Joe Biden is president, and this current set of so-called audits, at best they`re reviews. I don`t know what they really are. They`re not set of the facts because the facts are established.

They`re oriented around creating confusion in the minds of a set of voters who are looking to political leaders for assurance about the nature of democracy. They`re not getting that assurance. You know, that`s a big problem, a totally big problem.

MADDOW: But why should it matter to the average voter whether Republican lawmakers in one state or another want to engage in this sort of fact-free sham election review and create confusion around whether or not election results can be trusted? I mean I can imagine plenty of people saying, yeah, I recognize it is going to that effect on other people. Thinking people are not going to believe in the results of these weird partisan review exercises.

The people who are going to be persuaded by whatever is announced as the result of these things, they were ready to believe anything anyway. So, you know, what`s the danger here? These are people already willing to be deluded or to just lie about what is going on.


STEWART: You know, I think the danger is something that is often overlooked. Democracy is -- you know, it depends on the trust of the people, but it also depends on election officials and the courts and, you know, the people in charge to do their jobs and do their job according to the law. You know, in doing that is a -- is a meticulous fact-based process that you`re not paid a lot for.

So, I think the big story here is the relentless harassment of good people who are following the law, who are not in it for the money, and that they are being hounded either to apparently do what Apple and Google did, which was acquiesce, or just to get out of the business. So democracy everywhere depends on people doing meticulous, boring things right all the time and to have this cacophony of death threats thrown on you is wearing on the people who are stewards of democracy. I think that`s actually the big problem.

Imagine anybody trying to do their job honestly and having your boss or somebody in the next cubicle or somebody down on the street yelling at you constantly. What are you going to do? You`re going to get out of there.

And that`s what we worry about, is that in the long term this process could very well run out of the elections business, people who have been conscientious, people who, you know, root for one team or the other, you know, in their spare time, but when they`re on the job, they do their job well and they do it as well as they can according to the law.

I think that the big story here is that they are, you know, in the crosshairs. That`s a bad term to use, but I mean they`re being targeted, and I worry that people who are -- who have been trying to do the right thing are going to be replaced by folks who are less experienced at best and have wrong motives at worst.

MADDOW: That`s a really important reminder that these system we talk about and that we treasure and depend on and think of as our political inheritance, these are systems only made up of people and people are susceptible to all of these pressures and need to be protected.

MIT professor of political science, Charles Stewart III -- Professor Stewart, it is an honor to have you with us, as I said. Thank you for taking time.

STEWART: Thank you for having me. Good night.

MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.



MADDOW: A panel of 18 medical experts, an FDA advisory panel shall met today met today for hours to consider whether to recommend a third Pfizer shot for everybody who`s already had the first two shots, everybody who`s already been fully vaccinated against COVID. If you tuned in to the livestream of the meeting today, it was sort of what you would expect a scientific meeting to look like. Lots of charts and slides and bullet- pointed lists, exactly the kind of cautious, abundantly informed scientific debate you would want to see experts having ahead of a big public health decision.

Ultimately, the panel had to answer this question today. Do the safety and effectiveness data from the clinical trials support approval of a booster dose administered at least six months after completion of the primary series for use in individuals 16 years and older.

In other words should everybody over 16 get a booster shot? The answer in the end was no. The advisory panel voted 16-2 against recommending a booster dose for everybody age 16 or older. But they considered a narrower question, how about a booster shot for everybody age 65 and older and for people at high risk of developing severe COVID? Well, the advisory panels answer to that question was unanimous. They voted 18-0 that the answer to that question should be yes.

Now, these votes that a booster shot isn`t appropriate for everybody over 16 but it is appropriate for at-risk people, those votes were not unexpected in public health circles even if the media treated them as a total shocker today. We will have more on that in a second.

I thought this part was interesting. The advisory panel today also said the FDA should consider including in the risk -- in the list of people who should get booster shots health care workers and other people who were at risk of getting exposed to COVID -- getting exposed to COVID on the job. If the FDA takes up that suggestion, that would mean that booster shots are not recommended for everybody, they`re recommended for people age 65 and up, they`re recommended for people who have, you know, comorbidities that put them at high risk, and they`re recommended for health care workers and teachers and other essential workers who are at high risk because of their job. Interesting prospect.

In terms of what`s going to happen next, we`re likely to get a formal FDA decision next week. Today was just the advisory panel, and the FDA isn`t required to accept the advisory panel`s recommendations but they usually do. The CDC`s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will also meet next week, and then we will get a CDC decision on this matter. So we`ll see what happens from here.

But in terms of why the expectations in the media today were so different than public health experts` expectations, I`m interested in that.


I`m also interested in how well supported by the data these decisions today were.

I know just the person to ask. Joining us is Dr. Ashish Jha. He`s dean of Brown University School of Public Health.

Dr. Jha, thank you for making time tonight. I appreciate you being here.


MADDOW: Is it correct to say that these decisions today were sort of broadly expected in the public health community even if in a lot of the media they were treated as very surprising developments?

JHA: Absolutely. You have got that completely right. I think all of us predicted this is exactly what would happen because we`ve all been looking at the science and we`ve been looking at the data. The data for high-risk people, for people over 65 is clear. And so, we expected the FDA advisory committee to say as much.

The data for younger people is just much less clear. It is not that they don`t need a booster, we just don`t know right now. So, I expect that issue will be revisited in a couple of months when we have more data, but I think most of us thought we`re just not there yet, we can`t make that call yet. And so, that`s where the FDA advisory committee came down as well.

MADDOW: Does the age 65 cut off seem clearly indicated to you by the data? Is that in terms of how clinical trials are structured on this matters, is 65 the relevant pathway? Is it possible that the data also recommends, you know, a similar sort of risk benefit profile for people over age 60 or over age 55?

JHA: Yes, this is a really good question. A lot of the trials in the U.S. tend to look at 65 as the cut point for thinking about older people. Why 65? Well, you know, 65 is also the cut point for Medicare. There`s a whole history of using 65 in the United States.

The best data right now from Israel, and Israel actually used 60. If I were sitting here last night predicting, I would have said the FDA panel is going to come down on 60 as the cut point because the Israeli data is clearest. They picked 65. Obviously, there`s no single magical number, and if you are 63 and want a booster you may be feeling frustrated tonight.

Let`s see what the FDA and CDC does in the final recommendations, but somewhere around 60, 65 is a pretty reasonable cut point.

MADDOW: And for people watching this tonight who were vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine, or vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson, what should they take away from this decision which, after all, was specific to Pfizer?

JHA: Yeah, specific to Pfizer because Pfizer was the one who collected the data and submitted to the FDA and that`s what was reviewed today. My expectation is in the next four, maybe six weeks we have a determination on Moderna. It could be a little sooner than that.

The problem here is the J&J. Fourteen million Americans have gotten it. We are just not giving them much in the way of good guidance on what to do. I think most of us feel like people need something else if they`ve gotten J&J, especially if they`re high risk, but we`re not hearing much from the FDA. I really do think we need to get some more data and guidance on this.

MADDOW: Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health -- thank you as always for your clarity, Dr. Jha. I appreciate you being here.

JHA: Thank you.

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



MADDOW: Two and a half weeks ago, august 29th, the U.S. military dispatched an armed drone to Kabul in Afghanistan to follow a white sedan. This was just three days after two ISIS suicide bombers had attacked the Kabul airport, and that was the attack that killed 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghans, men, women, and children.

And when U.S. military officials were watching that white car three days later, they say they believed it was part of the early stages of a follow- on ISIS attack. They say they believed that car visited an ISIS safe house, they watched the driver load that they said they thought were explosive into the trunk of the car.

And so, the U.S. military had that drone drop a hell fire missile on that white sedan, and the Pentagon quickly announced the strike. They claimed credit for it, claiming they successfully eliminated a threat to the Kabul airport.

Less than two weeks after that strike, "The New York Times" reported the identity of the driver of that white car. He was an electrical engineer, a long-time worker for an American aid group and in stunning catastrophic detail, "The Times" pieced together footage of the driver of the car that day and what he was doing, not visiting ISIS safe houses and plotting a terrorist attack and picking up explosives but basically just running errands for work. "The Times" reported what the U.S. military believed to be explosives that he was loading into his vehicle, they were just canisters full of water.

The man`s family claimed ten people were killed as a result of that strike, seven of the ten of them kids. They vehemently denied he was connected to ISIS in any way or to any other terrorist group or extremist group whatsoever.

Since then, the military has been doing its own investigation into the decision-making that led up to that drone strike and today, in public comments, they released the results of their investigation. This was something to see.


GEN. KENNETH MCKENZIE, COMMANDER OF U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I am now convinced that as many as ten civilians including up to seven children were tragically killed in that strike. Moreover, we now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K or were a direct threat to U.S. forces. I offer my profound condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed. This strike was taken in the earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport, but it was a mistake, and I offer my sincere apology. As the combatant commander, I am fully responsible for this strike and this tragic outcome.


MADDOW: You know, it is not a rare thing to learn that a U.S. drone strike, even one that was first heralded as a pinpoint counterterrorism success, it is not a rare thing to find out that that drone strike was actually a tragic deadly mistake in which civilians were killed.


What is quite different this time, though, is the pentagon as actually a tragic deadly mistake in which civilians were killed. What is quite different this time, though, is the Pentagon providing this detailed accounting about it. General McKenzie walking the press step by step through how the military arrived at its deeply screwed up intelligence assessment that led to this drone strike.

He delivered that apology, that mea culpa. He then went on to answer blunt questions from the press about the press about how badly they screw this up and what they`re going to do about it. He said the defense department is exploring ways to compensate the surviving family members of the ten civilians who were killed.

Admitting they viewed up, explaining how they screwed up and then answering questions about it from the press, talking about providing restitution to the families, in a way that is quite literally the least they could do, but it is something we are not used to seeing at all.

I`ll be right back.


MADDOW: That is going to do it for us for now. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I`ll see you again on Monday.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" where Zerlina Maxwell is in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Zerlina.