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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, December 16, 2020

Guests: David Kessler, James Clyburn, Gary Peters


MSNBC continues its coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. Democratic Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina is interviewed. Democratic Senator Gary Peters of Michigan is interviewed.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN for this evening.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: All day I've been thinking of that story as the truck full of air-conditioning parts that didn't bark. That is the weirdest story of fake voter fraud allegations of the entire cycle.

HAYES: Truly. Yeah.

MADDOW: Thank you, Chris.

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

All right. World War II came to an end in 1945, but it was well into 1945. Victory in Europe with the surrender of Germany, that was may in 1945. Surrender of Japan didn't come until months later in August. So, that means that at the very beginning of 1945, the U.S. and our allies were still very much at war. At that point we were years into what had been that long and excruciating global ordeal.

And at the beginning of 1945, in January of 1945, the United States of America also needed to hold a presidential inauguration. President Franklin Roosevelt had been re-elected to a fourth term. No president before him had ever had three inaugurations before, let alone four. The rules, of course, would be changed after FDR so no president could ever have more than two terms again.

But when FDR went up for re-election in the election of 1944, November 1944, he was re-elected in a landslide. Yes, he was seeking a fourth term, which was nuts, but he won 36 states. He got 432 electoral votes. His opponent didn't even contract 100 electoral votes.

For the vast majority of the country therefore, FDR's re-election was welcome, and his inauguration for a new term, which was planned for January 1945, that was something that the vast majority of people in this country, at least in concept, could celebrate.

But it wasn't a great time for celebration, right? Given what was going on in the country, given what was going on in the long, long, agonizing war effort, right? Hundreds of thousands of American soldiers deployed. Millions of Americans deployed over the course of the war, so many dead and injured. It was no time for a party, right, back in Washington for rolling out the bunting and parades and all the usual inaugural hoopla, not during such a period of deep, deep pain for the country and when we really needed to be working on other things.

So in 1945, FDR asked for a smaller inauguration, a scaled-down event. "The New York Times" reported on it at the time in almost poetic terms. They said, quote: This year, war set a different tone for the inauguration. The president had requested a simple ceremony, and it was as simple as such momentous occasions could well be.

There was no mile-long inaugural parade this year with flags snapping briskly over the heads of smartly clad soldiers and sailors. The soldiers and sailors were busy elsewhere, half frozen in foxholes or tanks in Belgium and Germany, as the mortars thumped and the bullets whined above their heads or manning the ships of the greet fleet in the Pacific. There were no mass formations of planes thundering over Pennsylvania Avenue. The planes and their crews were also busy elsewhere.

So for his inauguration in January 1945, FDR made history in two ways. He became the first president to have four inaugurations, but he was also the first modern president to be inaugurated in this smaller way, just at the White House, a deliberately small, understated, scaled down, wartime event.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the White House in Washington, crowds gather for the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt as president of the United States for a fourth term. Invitations admit 7,000 guests to the White House grounds.

Among the guests are wounded servicemen from nearby military hospitals.

Before the south portico of the White House, the crowd lines up. For the first time, an inauguration is held not at the capitol building but here in the president's own backyard.

Now in a grim year of war, the shortest and simplest inaugural on record begins.

Former Vice President Wallace swears in Harry Truman, new vice president.

President Roosevelt takes the oath of office.

FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: I, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States.


ROOSEVELT: So help me God.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president delivers a brief inaugural address.

ROOSEVELT: In the days and the years that are to come, we shall work for a just and honorable peace, a durable peace as today we work and fight for total victory in war.


MADDOW: As we work and fight for total victory in war.

Instead of the massive crowds of people who usually come to see a president sworn in, only 7,000 people were allowed to attend FDR's inauguration in 1945. FDR's four sons were not even there because they were busy serving in the armed forces. Many people invited to the swearing in, as you saw there, were wounded American soldiers who had returned from Europe to recuperate from their wounds. The entire ceremony, that inaugural that last, lasted all of 20 minutes, and then it was over because frankly the president was busy.

This was "The Washington Post" that day. Quote: President budgets only 20 minutes for whole show. The war has turned this inauguration topsy-turvy, instead of big parades and ceremonies at the Capitol, it will be a quiet affair on the porch of the White House. The president himself had to be almost disinterested, his desk piled high with war problems, because even a presidential inauguration does not erase the war from America's front of mind. The event at the White House had to share a banner headline in "The New York Times" the next day.

Look, Roosevelt sworn in for fourth term, extends good neighbor policy to world. Russians gain 25 miles. French open drive. It's all the same headline, all the same banner.

In 1945, the wartime inauguration of FDR, that was one of the toughest times for the country to be swearing in a new president. And that was not the nation's only painful swearing in. Heck, it wasn't even FDR's only difficult swearing in. FDR's first inaugural in 1933, that was when the country was in the throes of the Great Depression. FDR had just defeated one-term President Herbert Hoover in an election that was not close. Hoover was the incumbent president, but he only won six states in his effort to win re-election.

FDR just walloped him. Hoover was not happy about it. Hoover thought FDR was an idiot. He hated him. He hated FDR's promise of a new deal for the country.

But because he had lost, because Hoover was a lame duck president, there wasn't that much he could really do about the new course the country was about to turn toward. But, boy, did he try.

Now, back then the inauguration was held later than it is today. We've always had the election in November. But instead of swearing in presidents like we do now in January, back then the new president didn't get sworn in until March. So the lame duck period was longer than it is now. And what belligerent, failed little Herbert Hoover did with that extra time in 1933 is that he tried to throw sand in the gears of FDR's transition and the start of the new administration. He tried to get FDR to sign on to his economic plans, the same ones that FDR had run against and that had proved already ruinous to the country.

When FDR, of course, refused to do that, Hoover started publicly leaking their private written correspondence, thinking that that might make FDR look bad.

When the Hoover family and the Roosevelt family got themselves together as a way for the incoming and outgoing first families to get to know each other, to try to sort of make peace, that meeting went so poorly that FDR later said his son James wanted to, quote, punch Hoover in the eye. Hmm.

The historians' consensus basically on what Hoover was trying to do back then was to wrong-foot the incoming president, to wrong-foot FDR so badly in that transition that FDR would look bad even before the start. America would essentially turn against his presidency before it even really got under way, and then the country would come crawling back to Herbert Hoover when the next election rolled around. Yeah, they actually elected FDR to four terms.

That Hoover to FDR transition was so bad, we changed the rules. So now we inaugurate the next president in January instead of waiting until March. That's in part so any sore loser doesn't have time to monkey wrench things for the country if he doesn't like his successor.

So, like I said, things don't always go well. Inaugurations of new presidents are not always ribbons and bunting and inaugural balls and fights about the crowd size. Sometimes there is parallel strife and suffering. Sometimes it almost comes to blows between the incoming and outgoing first families.

We are about to inaugurate our 46th president, not during a time of worldwide war but during a time of worldwide immense pain and sadness and illness. It is admittedly a weird time to be throwing a big lavish party in D.C. when so much of the country is suffering. Today, the United States recorded more than 230,000 new cases of coronavirus, 230,000 new infections in one day, and today a new record, 3,400 deaths per the COVID tracking project. Three thousand four hundred deaths in one day is the most deaths in one day since this crisis began, and by a lot.

Hospitalizations are again, today, at a new all-time high. We've been setting new hospitalization records frequently now. And so like the 1945 inaugural, we again are at a time when there is more that the country needs to be working on, more that a new president needs to be working on than holding a big celebration. And honestly celebrating with more than 300,000 Americans dead in the past year just can't be right either.

But even if it was somehow okay, throwing a swearing in ceremony with thousands of people all packed together, all looking on, that's a safety concern, right, given that our current crisis is not a war abroad but a highly infectious communicable disease as close as us as you can possibly get. Gathering together in any significant numbers can make it all worse, and it can kill some of us who do it or give us something deadly to bring back home.

And so, no, we're not going to have a big inauguration. We've had small inaugurations in tough times before, and we should learn from that. But that's what's going to happen again this time too because the circumstances -- for the circumstances that we're living through now.

Today, they announced the number of tickets for those to attend the Biden/Harris inauguration is going to be drastically limited. Instead of giving out a pool of 200,000 tickets for members of Congress to dispense, which is what they do in a normal year, each member of Congress instead will be allowed to attend themselves, and they will each be allowed one guest total. Literally Congress usually gets 200,000 tickets. Now it's you, the member, plus one.

Yesterday, the inaugural committee asked members of the public to please not travel in person to D.C. to see the inauguration live. The incoming president and vice president will be sworn in on the west side of the U.S. capitol as is tradition. They're not going to move it to the White House the way that FDR did, but the inaugural committee is urging the public to not come to D.C., to watch online.

The congressional committee in charge of inaugural logistics said today that they're working on what they're calling, quote, enhanced opportunities to watch the ceremonies online in addition to the traditional televised national broadcast. The inaugural committee saying, quote, the ceremony's footprint will be extremely limited. The parade that follows will be re-imagined.

So it's going to be different, and we sort of knew to expect that, but now we're finding out exactly how it's going to work. I mean, that's the work of the transition still rolls ahead as normal. I mean on the Biden/Harris side at least it's proceeding as normal. On the side of the outgoing administration, it's still, wow.

The president reportedly using his time in office, his remaining time, scheming at how he can get revenge on people who didn't help him try to overturn the election results. CNN reporting tonight that President Trump is considering an on his way out the door pardon for more than two dozen people, but for the first time it's been reported that he is considering among them Allen Weisselberg, who is the chief financial officer of President Trump's own business.

Apparently, the president is spending his last days in the White House imagining the outcomes of future prosecutions involving himself and his family business. So he might have to pardon the finance guy at his business, the guy who signs the checks. So, yeah, this cannot be considered a normal transition for the outgoing president. But the incoming president, yes.

Today, President-elect Biden announced his pick for transportation secretary. It will be former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. Mr. Buttigieg talked today about being a teenager during the Clinton administration when he watched one of President Clinton's choices for an ambassadorship be denied a vote in the Senate because the nominee, James Hormel, was gay.

If Mr. Buttigieg is confirmed to lead the Transportation Department, he'll be the first LGBT cabinet secretary in the history of the country.

President-elect Biden saying today upon introducing Mr. Buttigieg, that his cabinet will look more like America than any other cabinet has before. It does look on track to be the most diverse cabinet ever, even as we wait on a few key positions to be filled, including positions both cabinet level and sub cabinet level that are mission critical to fighting the pandemic.

President-elect Biden has yet to name, for example, his commissioner to run the FDA, the agency in charge of, among other things, granting approval for coronavirus vaccines and hopefully someday coronavirus treatments as well.

Tomorrow, an FDA advisory committee, the same one that advised the FDA on approving the Pfizer vaccine, that same committee will debate the merits of approving a second COVID vaccine. This one is the one made by Moderna.

If all goes well with that FDA advisory panel meeting about the Moderna vaccine tomorrow and they recommend that the FDA approves it, it's possible that the FDA will issue that approval as early as the end of this week. And if that happens, we'll have two vaccines in play at once. If the Moderna vaccine is approved by the end of this week, it's been reported that we should expect 6 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to begin shipment all across the country.

For context, just under 3 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have gone out this week. The Moderna one alone would more than double that number of doses next week, which is good. Today, the current vice president, Mike Pence, and his wife announced that they will receive the COVID vaccine themselves on Friday. They say they'll do so on camera to try to convince Americans that it's safe and they should do so too. President-elect Biden is expected to receive the vaccine as early as next week.

But like I said, with all eyes on the FDA this week, we are, among other things, waiting to hear who president-elect will pick to run the FDA in his administration. One name reportedly under consideration by the Biden team is Dr. David Kessler. He has already had the job of FDA commissioner under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He currently serves as the co-chair of President-elect Biden's COVID advisory board. He is also, I should tell you, the chief medical adviser for the Biden inauguration as they radically scale down the festivities to make sure that this year's intentionally stripped-down event will be one at which everybody can be kept safe.

Joining us now is Dr. David Kessler.

Dr. Kessler, again, it's a real honor whenever you can make time to share some time with us. Thanks for being here tonight.

DR. DAVID KESSLER: Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: First, let me just ask if I got it right in what I just said there about the inaugural and the effort to keep it smaller and COVID-safe this year. Is there anything important that I left out or that I got wrong?

KESSLER: No, you got that exactly right, but let me tell you why. And it's because of the man. It's because of the president-elect.

From the beginning of the pandemic, what he's cared about really are two things. He's cared about modeling the right public health behavior, and he's cared very much about not putting anyone at risk. So that's what you've seen over the last eight months. The Democratic national convention election night, the rallies, very much wants people to be safe.

But this is also an important time. It's a peaceful transfer of power. It's bringing the country together, so it's a very important moment. All traditional functions will be preserved, but we want everyone to participate, but please participate from home.

MADDOW: Dr. Kessler, I don't want to get ahead of the FDA and its vaccine safety advisory committee. I don't want to presume what is going to happen between now and the end of the week. But if they do approve the Moderna vaccine by the end of this week, should we expect that having two vaccines in circulation instead of one means just that much more supply in terms of Americans having access to a vaccine? Is there a more complicated way we need to be thinking about it, or is it just additive? There will be that many more opportunities for Americans to get inoculated?

KESSLER: So assuming Moderna gets approved -- and it's likely to be approved, but, again, let's not prejudge it. Let's hear all the facts and all the data in full public view at the advisory committee, and let's let FDA make its decision. But then, Rachel, let's do a little math, okay? If 330 million people, adults and kids in the United States. Some debate what the exact number, what percentage you need to vaccinate or to have developed antibodies from natural infection to get to herd immunity.

Let's for the moment say it's 75 percent. So that means we need to vaccinate approximately 250 million people. Right now commitments from Pfizer and Moderna would get us enough vaccine to take care of -- to vaccinate two doses, 175 million people by the end of June, but July 1st.

So that's not quite enough to get to that 75 percent. So what are the options? I mean, I would like -- and my fingers are crossed. I mean, there's several other vaccines that we're going to get the data in January. So having a third vaccine would certainly get us over that supply. It's very possible that we're going to need to go into the third or fourth quarter if those other vaccines don't hit, but I can tell you we are staying laser focused on trying to get enough vaccine as soon as we can and as safely as we can.

But, you know, again, there's a long period ahead of us, and we shouldn't think this pandemic is over until we get enough people vaccinated.

MADDOW: Dr. Kessler, let me ask you about a story that I admit is not the biggest story in the world, but I realize I don't know how to think about it, and I find it a little unsettling. "Politico" and "the New York Times" have just reported that each little glass vial of the Pfizer vaccine is supposed to contain five doses. But as they're administering it to people, pharmacists are discovering and the hospitals are discovering that they actually in some vials can pull one or two extra doses from the vials. They pull out the five doses, and there's still more left in the jar.

On the one hand, that's great. It sounds like a Christmas bonus, more vaccine than we thought we had. On the other hand, I worry just as a layman watching this process that maybe that means there's more sloppiness in this process that I wouldn't expect. It seems like a surprising thing to me. You wouldn't expect that sort of thing to be mis-measured.

How should we feel about this news? Is this a little thing?

KESSLER: Yeah, it's not mis-measured, Rachel. The way it works is there is overfill in every vial, and that's done by purpose. Depending on the type of syringe you use, the syringe sometimes at the very tip, there's some, you know -- there's some dead volume of liquid left in there. So that's why they overfill. But they fill to precise levels.

Now, it is right if you can use a particular syringe, you may be able to get an extra dose out of this, and that would be good. That would mean another 10 percent, another 7 million people or so we can get vaccinated. We get to our goal.

So I mean everyone is aware of this, and they're trying to find those syringes, but it's not sloppiness. It's the way those vials are designed.

MADDOW: This is why we need clear-speaking officials and experts like you to explain this to easily bewildered observers like me. That makes total sense. Thank you for explaining that.

Former FDA commissioner, Dr. David Kessler, co-chair of President-elect Biden's COVID advisory board, the chief medical adviser to the inaugural this year -- Dr. Kessler, thank you again so much for your work and for your time tonight.

KESSLER: Thank you very much, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. The House Select Coronavirus Committee has been investigating Trump administration political appointees messing with the CDC. What they have found so far doesn't look good, but what we know they have found got considerably worse today.

The chairman of that committee, Congressman James Clyburn, is going to join us ahead tonight.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: You may remember some explosive headlines recently about the Tyson foods pork processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa. Allegations that one of the plant managers at that facility organized a cash buy-in, winner take all betting pool for supervisors and managers to bet how many employees at that plant would get COVID.

It was a heinous enough story at face value, but it was made worse by the fact that more than 1,000 people that worked at that plant actually did get COVID. Six workers at that plant died. The allegations about the betting pool among the managers were made public by lawsuits filed by one of the workers who died there.

Well, today we learned that Tyson has fired seven of the managers at that plant. They paid for an independent investigation into the matter. The resolution of the independent investigation was that five managers should be canned. Apparently those betting allegations were credible enough to terminate those who were found to be involved.

Big, big COVID outbreaks at facilities like that Tyson plant in Iowa have been a problem since the start of the pandemic, and they in part are a problem caused by the companies themselves and how they want to work despite the risks that it poses to their employees.

But that problem has also been exacerbated by the government helping the companies be terrible. In some cases government at the state level, that was definitely part of the problem in Iowa, but also the federal level with the Trump administration. And the way the Trump administration screwed up the CDC in particular.

You might remember back in early April, so very early on, a huge COVID outbreak was identified at a meat plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. For a time it was the single worst outbreak in the country. And the CDC sent in an elite team of disease detectives to do an investigation into the nature of the public health threat at that plant in South Dakota, what needed to be done to stop it. And these disease detectives from the CDC, they're very, very good at what they do, and they're very experienced.

But when it came time to issue their report on what they found at that meat plant, that group of elite scientists issued what was a very un-CDC-like report. It was stripped of any directive whatsoever, filled with all this mealy mouthed language that the CDC doesn't use, caveats telling the company they only had to do things if it was feasible and when it was possible and if they wanted to.

We couldn't figure out what went wrong there. It took us months working on that story for us to figure out what exactly happened. We later learned that the scientists on the ground had actually written a totally normal CDC report on what happened in that meat plant, but their findings were quashed. They were contacted by Trump CDC Director Robert Redfield, and Redfield's office told them to recall what they had written, take it back and change the language in it to remove anything that sounded like a real recommendation, any, quote, power language had to be removed from their report, anything that made it seem like the meat company actually had to do anything to keep its workers safe. Take it out. We can't be seen to be actually saying what we mean.

I mean, that's the kind of top-down political pressure the CDC got from Washington, and it turns out that was really just the first in an atrocious litany of ways the CDC has been interfered with and corrupted by this administration. We've got more harrowing details on that next with Congressman Jim Clyburn.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: The estimable Congressman James Clyburn chairs the congressional committee that's tasked with overseeing the government's coronavirus response. Congressman Clyburn and his committee have now launched an investigation into political interference by Trump administration officials into the CDC as the CDC grappled with and struggled with the pandemic. Today, the congressman made public new head-snapping details about what Trump appointees were up to in messing with the CDC.

Chairman Clyburn's 11-page memo contains hair-raising quotes from emails sent by Paul Alexander, a somewhat random, unpaid, part-time assistant professor at a Canadian college who for some reason was handpicked to be a science adviser to another Trump appointee at HHS. Why does a Trump appointee going into HHS and CDC need his own personal science adviser when he's working at an agency full of scientists?

Well, they wanted something special from this one apparently. Here's one of his emails from July 4th. Paul Alexander sending an email advocating for the government to follow what they call a herd immunity strategy.

Quote: Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle age with no conditions have zero to little risk. We use them to develop herd. We want them infected.

He misspells a lot of things, but he got that one actually right. We want them infected.

A senior adviser at HHS saying let's get as many kids infected as we can and the middle-aged too. Here's Paul Alexander again dated June 24th. It may be that it will be best if we open and flood the zone and let the kids and young folk get infected.

Let all the kids get sick. What could possibly go wrong with that plan? Another email dated July 3rd. Alexander goes after Dr. Anthony Fauci for warning the public about the spread of the virus during a TV appearance. Paul Alexander says, quote, he just won't stop, exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point, blah, blah, blah.

He can't keep quiet, and he is not on the same page of the govn. Does he think he is the president, question mark, question mark, question mark? Again, handpicked adviser for Trump appointees at HHS overseeing CDC.

Chairman Clyburn's memo is another salvo in what is turning into a real ongoing conflict with HHS, which he accuses of withholding documents and witnesses so that the government's coronavirus response essentially can't be overseen. He said in a statement today, quote: The documents released today reinforce the need for health and human services to end its obstruction of the committee's investigation into the political meddling that has hindered the nation's response to this virus.

Health and Human Services must produce critical documents and witnesses that it is withholding. The CDC Director Robert Redfield must appear for an interview regarding evidence that he ordered CDC staff to delete a key email. Unless the administration abandons this flagrant obstruction, I will be forced to start issuing subpoenas.

Joining us now, South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn. He also serves, of course, as House majority whip. He's chairman of the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for being here tonight. It's nice to see you.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Thank you very much for having me. It's good to be here.

MADDOW: Let me ask a little bit of the origin story here. Paul Alexander is brought in as a scientific adviser to another Trump appointee, who has no science or health background, who is brought in as a spokesperson for the agency and who immediately starts, from all reports, setting about trying to change what the CDC is recommending and finding in terms of its science.

Do we know where they got this guy or on what basis he was brought in to literally try to overall all the scientists of the CDC?

CLYBURN: I have no idea. All I know is that he was a political appointee who seemed to be hell-bent on getting around, driving through, or just simply ignoring all of the advice coming from the scientists, and when we had a career scientist to state to our staff that she was ordered to delete damning information -- by this man, Alexander. She went on to say that it was her understanding that he got his orders from Director Redfield.

And so that's why we wanted to talk to the director, to find out more about who may or may not be telling the truth here.

So we asked him for the information. We also asked Secretary Azar. We got a lot of information, but a lot of it is stuff that we didn't ask for, and a lot of the stuff we asked for, we didn't get. And so, we are pressing on with this because this is a very, very serious event.

I've studied it, what happened back in 1918 with the Spanish flu, and I can tell you that if we are not careful and don't get beyond this pandemic, we are going to see an outbreak -- in fact, I think we're experiencing a surge now that could very well put us in a place as bad as we were back in 1918.

MADDOW: Congressman, the other thing that's happening right now in terms of policymaking right now is that at last it seems like there might be some sort of COVID relief. All the public health experts that I know that have commented on matters like that say there is a public health component to having some COVID relief, that if people have some money in their pocket, they're not in dire economic straits, that that helps with the case people need to be able to stay home, work remotely, go to school remotely, do all the things we need to do to attack this.

What can you tell us as to what's going to happen with that relief bill? Are you optimistic there will be something?

CLYBURN: I am very optimistic. I don't know if it will go as far as we went the last time, but I think the numbers -- I've been asking people not to get carried away with the top-line. Look at the duration of this assistance because what we're trying to do now is to get money into people's pockets so that they can afford to keep their children at home. I know in my school district in Columbia, South Carolina, they have already told the students that after they go home next week, they are not coming back after the holidays. So we want them to be able to be safe at home and families to be able to afford to keep them at home.

And so I think we're going to do something before we leave here this week. I hope it will go at least as far as we went the last time, but if we don't, maybe we can make up for it with the duration and hope that with the new administration, we will get a much better deal for the American people.

MADDOW: Congressman James Clyburn. Mr. Chairman, I really appreciate your time tonight. Thanks for helping us understand both these stories.

I take note of your subpoena threat against the administration in terms of getting what you need with trying to make sure that the CDC is not interfered with, and we know the extent to which they were. Keep us apprised, sir. I expect you're going to be digging up more in days ahead.

CLYBURN: Thank you very much. I will.

MADDOW: All right. Much more still to come here tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: The election is over. Joe Biden won. The electoral votes have been cast. They will be counted on January 6th. The only remaining suspense now is how badly the president is going to continue to melt down over this turn of events and will the Democrats also have control of the U.S. Senate under President Biden? That will depend on how those Georgia Senate runoff elections go on January 5th.

If the Democrats do win both those Senate runoffs, if Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win those two Georgia seats on January 5th, that will give Democrats control of the senate, and that will mean Republican senators like Ron Johnson will no longer chair committees in the Senate.

So he will no longer be able to do things like he did today, when he convened an official U.S. Senate hearing on what went wrong with all the irregularities in the election, which was an election which didn't actually have any irregularities.


CHRIS KREBS, FORMER CYBERSECURITY CHIEF: The citizens of the United States of America that are responsible for executing this sacred democratic institution of elections are being threatened on a daily basis. I mean you -- you name it, whether it's emails, whether it's phone calls, whether it's people showing up at your house. There's just -- this is not an America I recognize, and it's got to stop.

We got to move on. We have a president-elect in president-elect Biden. We have to move on. These officials that are Republicans -- look at Georgia. Brad Raffensperger, Gabriel Sterling, Jeff Duncan. These are Republicans that are putting country over party, that are being subjected to just horrific threats as a result. This is not America.

SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI): And despite the title of today's hearing, there were no widespread election irregularities that affected the final outcome. These claims are false. And giving them more oxygen is a grave threat to the future of our democracy.

Amplifying these obviously false narratives about fraud or irregularities corrodes public trust. It threatens national security, and it weakens our democracy and our standing around the world. Every time the president or his followers make these false claims, they destabilize our relationships with our allies and allow authoritarian adversaries to undercut American democratic leadership around the globe.

Preserving our democracy takes hard work, and I'm deeply troubled that we're at the edge of a crisis point. Now is the time for American patriots who love this country to say enough is enough.


MADDOW: The Michigan senator you just saw there is newly re-elected Democratic Senator Gary Peters, who was basically in a boxing match all day long as the ranking member on this committee after this bizarre hearing convened by Republicans in the Senate was intended to discuss all the things they believed were wrong with the election in which Joe Biden just handily beat President Trump.

Joining us now is U.S. Senator Gary Peters. He is the ranking member, meaning the top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee in the Senate.

Senator, it's really nice of you to make time for us tonight. Thanks very much for being here.

PETERS: Great to be with you, Rachel. Thank you so much.

MADDOW: I say in part that it's nice for you to be here because I imagine if I did what you did all day today I'd be wiped. It was -- I could see your exasperation watching this today. Sort of trying to not necessarily wanting to engage and try to rebut all of these claims that there was something radically wrong with the election. But yet to keep people focused on the fact that the election was fine.

PETERS: Absolutely, Rachel. And that was the challenge. Because the witnesses that chairman Johnson brought before us, and there were several of them, next to my one witness. But basically, what they were saying, the statements they were making, the allegations that they were making were the same statements and the same allegations that they made in nearly 60 court cases all across the country.

And as you know, those cases all either were dismissed or thrown out and sometimes with incredibly strong language from judges, sometimes Republican judges. That said these are baseless, there's no evidence, there's no fact to them. And yet we continued to hear them once again. And basically Chairman Johnson just wanted to amplify these false narratives that are so dangerous to our democracy and why people are not viewing this election as fair and free, which it was, and Mr. Krebs, who testified, was my witness in the committee, was very clear that there is no "there" there to the allegations being made by president Trump and his followers.

MADDOW: Let me ask you to spin that out a little bit because you did -- you and Chris Krebs today both reiterated frequently that the amplification, as you say, and the attempt to legitimize these false claims and unfounded claims and literally in some cases just wild made-up claims about there being something wrong in the election, you both said today that that is dangerous. You said at one point you fear we are edging closer and closer to a crisis point. Why is it dangerous? Why do you think it pushes us to the point of crisis to air these things, to amplify them, to legitimize them?

PETERS: Well, it's because when we think about elections that's the pillar, that's the very foundation of our democratic republic. And that it's important for folks to trust what happens in an election, that they're free and fair, that their voice is heard, it's legitimate. And whatever happens in the election, folks accept those results. If you win, you win. But as machine said, it's even more important for folks who lose to understand that they've lost. And now there's time for the peaceful transfer of power.

This country has always been a model, or at least recently has been a model for that peaceful transfer of power through the electoral process. And when you look at other democracies around the world and the ones that have stumbled, the ones that have gone into authoritarian regimes and have seen that democracy disintegrate, one of the tactics used by authoritarians is to delegitimize elections. It is right out of the playbook.

You delegitimize judiciary. You delegitimize the press, the elections. That is out of the playbook.

And when we have a president of the United States putting out this information and sowing discord and distrust, it's very difficult to maintain democracy. And that's why it's so dangerous. And to me what is dangerous is not just that the president is saying it but you have so many elected Republicans that are also saying it. Folks that were on the committee today who I believe should know better. They should know better in what they're saying, and yet they continued to stoke distrust and misinformation just to further their own partisan political gains. And they're doing it at the expense of this country's democracy.

It is an incredibly dangerous game that they're playing. It can have very dangerous ramifications. That that's why I say we're in a crisis. We've got to come together.

When you're done with the election and done with the give and take and back and forth in a campaign, at the end you've got to come together and figure out how we actually govern this country and the only way we govern this country is if we come together and accept the results of an election, come together and work and realize there will be another election. We can have another debate in the next election.

But right now, let's get things done.

MADDOW: Senator Gary Peters of the great state of Michigan, member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, top Democrat on that committee. Sir, thank you so much for being here tonight. That committee was very, very -- that committee hearing today was very, very different than it would have otherwise been because you were there. Not just because you brought in Chris Krebs as your guest but because of the way that you drew the line with Senator Johnson there.

And I think it made a really big -- committee hearings are committee hearings. But I think it made a really big difference that you were there today fighting every step of the way. Thanks for helping us understand tonight.

PETERS: Thank you.

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


MADDOW: One quick update before we go. This time last night I told you about a State Department party, an indoor party to which they had invited 900 people. Last night. Less than 70 people showed up. And we reported that last night.

There's a follow-up, though, that you should know about. Tonight, Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the State Department, canceled altogether another holiday party that they were due to hold tonight, and then news emerged that Secretary Pompeo himself is in quarantine after a COVID exposure.

So, we, of course, wish the best for him, but things do seem to be going off the rails for a State Department that was trying to run the holiday season as if COVID wasn't happening.

All right. That's going to do it for us tonight. See you again tomorrow.

Now it's time for "THE LAST WORD" where the great Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Ali.


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