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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, December 8, 2020

Guests: Malcolm Kenyatta, David Paltiel


Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta is interviewed. MSNBC continues its coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.


CAROLYN KORMANN, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Who comes second? Who comes third? Those essential workers, something like 90 million essential workers.

That's going to be a huge challenge but also a huge opportunity for the Biden administration and for everybody to really rally together and make sure that that rollout happens in the right way. But how do you determine between -- you know, how does a pharmacy know between a bus driver and a meatpacking plant worker.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Right, those are going to be hard decisions. Carolyn Kormann, thank you so much.

That is ALL IN for this Tuesday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

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

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here tonight.

Big news day today, the first vaccine shots, injections of the Pfizer vaccine, started getting into the first arms today, as the United Kingdom hit what they have been calling V-Day, Vaccine Day. Health workers and the elderly first in line today for vaccine injections in the U.K.

It ended up actually being a very emotional day, finally, for the first time some hope in. We're going to have more coming up on that, including some of the British news coverage that aired in Britain in primetime tonight, some of the first people who received the injections and how that was covered in the British press. You will want to see that, I promise that. We've got that coming up in just a moment.

Meanwhile, NBC News has obtained a new document from the White House coronavirus task force that warns that even with the expected start of a vaccination program here too sometime soon, according to the White House task force tonight, quote, the current vaccine implementation will not substantially reduce viral spread, hospitalizations or fatalities until the 100 million Americans with comorbidities can be fully immunized, which will take until the late spring.

Again, this thing won't have a dent in it until 100 million Americans are vaccinated. That will take number of months.

Quote: Behavioral change and aggressive mitigation policies are the only widespread prevention tools we will have to address this winter surge.

Quote: This surge is the most rapid increase in cases, the widest spread of intense transmission and the longest duration of rapid increase that we have yet experienced. The coronavirus task force continues, quote, despite the severity of the surge and the threat to the hospital systems, many state and local governments are not implementing the same mitigation policies that stemmed the tide of the summer surge. That must happen now.

Again, this is a new warning to the states from the White House coronavirus task force, a document that NBC News has obtained tonight. I want to show you this from this same document. Look at this: these are the maps of new cases per capita that they just included in this document, in this sort of warning document to the states.

This first one shows new cases per capita three months ago, that's three months ago. Then they show this same map. But this is two months ago.

So, from three months ago to two months ago, you can see how it's getting worse, particularly in the upper Midwest and in the plains states. That one on the right is two months ago.

Now look at this one. This is one month ago. Look at how much worse it got between two months ago and one month ago. And now look at this, this is now. Gulp. Yeah.

It's not -- it's not anywhere in particular. It's everywhere. We are just overrun. This is new cases per capita right now.

Three months ago, two months ago, one month ago, now. Look how much worse it's getting and how fast.

The first vaccine being administered to the first regular folks in the U.K. today, the prospect that the U.S. may approve the same vaccine and potentially another quite soon, it is for sure reason for hope. But it's not yet. And we are going to talk tonight with a public health modeler, a mathematical modeler who's an expert on how to implement a vaccine program so it actually does start saving lives as quickly as possible.

And it's not as simple as discover vaccine, manufacture vaccine, bingo, you're all set. Just put that last map up there again for a second. I mean, this is the current tsunami of new cases that we are getting hit with, right? The more cases we have, the more work the vaccine has to do, the harder it will be for even a great vaccination program to knock this thing down. And this is a tall task.

So, that's the work at hand now. As I said, we're going to get some expert advice on that coming up this hour on what amounts to V-Day, the first day at least in the U.K., where vaccines have gotten into arms. Hopefully that will happen soon in this country. It is still a remarkable challenge ahead.

Today, vice president -- excuse me, today, President-elect Biden hosted an event to introduce his key choices for leadership against COVID and health care more generally. He and his nominees talked about the challenges of how hard it's going to be to get this largest vaccination program ever up and running.

President-elect Biden said today that in his first hundred days he wants the country to commit to wearing masks for 100 days. He said in his first 100 days he also wants the first 100 million vaccine shots into the arms of Americans. And he said today he also wants in the first 100 days a majority of U.S. schools to open if Congress can take action quickly enough to help and fund schools to do that safely.

President-elect Biden, after this rollout today of his COVID and health advisers, also tonight is making more selections to fill up the rest of his cabinet. Long-time and well-respected Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge will apparently be Biden's nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. There had been speculation Marcia Fudge might end up being Biden's nominee for secretary of agriculture, but she'll apparently be tapped for HUD instead.

It will be former Ohio Governor Tom Vilsack who will be tapped for the agriculture secretary job instead. That's, of course, a job he also held during the Obama administration. He held that job for eight years during the Obama administration. President-elect Biden wants to bring him back to that job again in the next administration.

We've still got no definitive order on who President-elect Biden might choose as his attorney general, but there's intriguing reporting on the short list there, the reported short list for that job today, reports that President-elect Biden is considering Sally Yates, former deputy attorney general, who of course was fired about five minutes into the Trump administration for saying that she wouldn't defend Trump's proposed ban on Muslims.

Also, Merrick Garland reportedly in the mix. Merrick Garland, of course, was President Obama's choice for Supreme Court justice after Justice Antonin Scalia died.

Republicans in the Senate would not even talk with Merrick Garland, let alone hold hearings or vote on his nomination. They instead held that seat open for a year so Trump could fill it instead. Judge Merrick Garland remains a very well-respected, accomplished appeals court judge in Washington, D.C. According to reporting today, he is now also reportedly in contention to be attorney general under President Biden.

As is, Doug Jones, also reportedly in contention. Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney with a storied civil rights career in Alabama. Doug Jones, of course, just lost re-election as a Democratic U.S. senator from Alabama, but he is known to be close to President-elect Biden. He is certainly very well-regarded by his peers in the Senate.

Doug Jones, Sally Yates, Merrick Garland all being described as in contention for AG tonight. We shall see.

But the Justice Department, of course, is not going to be a typical cabinet pick this time around, if ever it could be. It's always hugely important. It's always a dramatic choice that says a lot about the president-elect or the president making that nomination.

But this time, picking somebody to be attorney general, I mean, they're going to be walking into the proverbial smoking wreck of a Justice Department that's been left behind by the successive disastrous Trump era tenures of Jeff Sessions, the first Trump attorney general who Trump of course fired.

And then remember there was that guy Matthew Whitaker who Trump installed, again, for like five minutes, the one with the company accused of fraud that marketed toilets for big men. Matthew Whitaker, he was attorney general for a minute.

And then, of course, Matthew Whitaker's successor, William Barr who is reportedly eyeing the exits, potentially considering quitting even before inauguration day next month. You think about the consequences of that, that presumably would give President Trump the opportunity to name, like, his daughter tiffany to be the next attorney general before he -- before he finally leaves office.

Or maybe that lady who he has been having unleash the kraken in his lawsuits to contest him losing the election. Maybe she'll be attorney general for a day if Bill Barr leaves before Biden is sworn in.

Today, William Barr's disastrous legacy as attorney general was given another black mark when a federal judge in Washington, D.C. formally acknowledged President Trump's pardon of Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn. You'll recall that Mike Flynn twice pled guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts with the Russian government about sanctions.

But Trump has pardoned him. So, that makes that whole case and that whole -- that whole guilty plea and the controversy over it all go away.

Before Flynn got that pardon from Trump, you will also recall that Attorney General William Barr intervened in Flynn's case to try to have the prosecution of Flynn dropped even though Flynn had already twice pled guilty. That all happened after Flynn hired the kraken lady, yeah, that same lady from -- that same lawyer from the Trump election disputes. Flynn hired her as his lawyer. She started spinning these remarkable conspiracy theories about Flynn's case, much as she's spun remarkable conspiracy theories about the election.

But what she did in the context of the Flynn prosecution, Attorney General William Barr apparently bought all of it, bought it hook, line and sinker and maneuvered to have the Flynn prosecution dropped along the crazy conspiratorial lines that she suggested.

Well, today, Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington, D.C. acknowledged the Trump pardon of Flynn, acknowledging that the whole Flynn case goes away. But in so doing, he just excoriated the Justice Department. He just excoriated that decision by William Barr to intervene to try to make the Flynn case go away.

The ruling from Judge Sullivan today cited the, quote, breakdown of the traditional independence of the Justice Department from the president. It said, the Justice Department's reasons for why it decided to reverse course and seek dismissal in this case appeared to be a pretext, meaning he's accusing the Justice Department of effectively lying about what was motivating their actions when Barr waded in to get the charges against Flynn drop.

Judge Sullivan said, quote, the corrupt dismissal of politically well-connected individuals could constitute an abuse of discretion by the Justice Department. As I said, there are -- there are multiple reports now that Bill Barr may quit as attorney general before inauguration day. If so, he will drag this, the intervention in the Flynn case and his intervention in the stone case and so much more behind him as a ten-ton weight. That will be his legacy.

And whoever Joe Biden picks as the next attorney general really is going to have to go in that first night with a broom and a bright flashlight to start cleaning up just the ongoing rotting mess that Bill Barr has left there in his wake.

But I want to stick a pin in something tonight as we get to this difficult moment for the outgoing president. Now that the president's pseudo-legal disputing of the election results is coming to what it seems like will have to be an end, he's sort of -- his campaign has distanced himself from the kraken lawsuit lady. Rudy Giuliani, he's in the hospital with COVID. His other lawyer who he got from Fox News also now says she's just tested positive with COVID. I mean, all three of them are sort of out of contention.

And today we hit the safe harbor day after which all the states' votes for the Electoral College are basically baked in and every state in the country has completed the process of choosing its electors and having gotten those in before the safe harbor deadline. Nobody can mess with those Electoral College choices anymore.

I mean, today, to put a final nail in the coffin, today the United States Supreme Court spent a hot minute looking at a Trump case that they finally got up to the Supreme Court to try to throw out the election results in Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court looked at that for a hot minute and then just said "no" unanimously in a one-sentence order, they were not taking this thing up.

Now that it's clear that even the U.S. Supreme Court with a 6-3 conservative majority, with three Trump appointed justices on it, the Supreme Court is not going to help advance this fantasy either. And the safe harbor deadline is here. And all of the Trump lawyers on this stuff are sidelined. And the Electoral College vote is basically assured.

Now that we are getting to the -- to the end of this nonsense by necessity, there's one last dynamic here at the end that I think is turning into a bit of a livewire. I think it does affect the last-ditch efforts to try to overturn the election by the president and his supporters. I think it does certainly affect how the president is spending his last days and what he wants to do with his last control of presidential prerogative. I think it also may affect the Justice Department, which, again, just got excoriated by a federal judge today for its intervention to help one of the president's guys.

I mean, it's interesting, in this same ruling today from Judge Sullivan about Bill Barr wading in to try to get the charges dropped against Flynn and how improper the judge seems to have thought that was, in this same ruling, Judge Sullivan today also talked about pardons. And Flynn did receive a pardon here. And Judge Sullivan doesn't question that. The pardon power is in the constitution and presidents can pardon who they want.

But Judge Sullivan today in his ruling raised the prospect that judges might take issue with some of the ways that President Trump appears to be considering pushing the limits of his constitutional ability to pardon people, whether it's an attempted pardon for himself or potentially pre-emptive pardons for future crimes not yet committed. Judge Sullivan suggested bluntly today in this ruling that the president can't really invent new forms of pardons that are outside the constitutions scope. He suggested in blunt terms today that the courts will stand ready to referee that and push back if the president tries it.

That's important with this president having more than 40 days still in office given the way he's been musing about using his pardons as a sort of party favor for everybody he meets in his last days. In today's news, we got a sort of perfect encapsulation about how all of this mess may come together in the end for this president and for people who are seeking his favor in this sort of desperate time.

And the story that we got today, it comes out of Texas. It starts a few years ago, summer of 2015. In the summer of 2015, believe it or not, the attorney general of the state of Texas, the state's top law enforcement official, had to turn himself in to police to get his mug shot taken.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was indicted on securities fraud charges. The charges were that Mr. Paxton, while he was in the state legislature while he was running for attorney general, he was also running a side hustle. He allegedly got friends and colleagues to invest hundred of thousands of dollars in a certain company, while he failed to mention to him that that company was paying him to do just that, paying him to scout investors. That's illegal.

Paxton denied the charges. But it's interesting, these allegations weren't exactly new terrain for him. Just one year before, the same guy, Ken Paxton, had admitted in engaging in a remarkably similar illegal scheme involving a different company and securities fraud involving that other company. In that earlier case, he had admitted what he did, they let him off with a $1,000 fine. But that made it hard for him to argue that he didn't understand what the law was here.

When he came up on these second round of charges, he wasn't going to get off on a $1,000 fine. The second round of charges carried a possible punishment of up to 99 years in prison. And so, it was this kind of remarkable summer day in 2015, Ken Paxton, attorney general of the state of Texas, he gets fingerprinted, gets his grinning mug shot taken.

He was ultimately released on bond within just a few minutes. He made a quiet get away out of the back of the courthouse that allowed him to avoid the press and throng of protesters out of the front of the courthouse holding signs that said, you know, Paxton must go, give Pax the ax, not above the law, time to resign.

Ken Paxton didn't resign. He continued to serve as Texas attorney general. And then in 2018, Texas in its infinite wisdom re-elected him attorney general while still under indictment under the securities fraud charges. He's still attorney general in Texas today. That felony fraud case has still not been resolved. Ken Paxton, while serving attorney general of that state remains under indictment of those charges with a potential 99 year prison term hanging over him.

But then this year, in 2020, just a few weeks ago, things with Ken Paxton started to get worse and weird. It started with the "Austin American Statesman" obtaining a letter from Paxton's office. Now, this letter was signed by seven of Ken Paxton's top deputies, all his top staff in his office as attorney general.

Those seven top deputies to Ken Paxton said in this letter that they had reported their boss to law enforcement authorities. And not for the old securities fraud thing for which he's still under indictment. No, they believe they have him on a whole new set of crimes.

Quote: We have a good faith belief that the attorney general is violating federal and/or state law, including prohibitions related to improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other potential criminal offenses. Each signatory below has knowledge of facts relevant to these offenses and has provided statements concerning those facts to the appropriate law enforcement.

I mean, that was -- that was the totality of the information when that letter comes out, right? The attorney general already under indictment of federal securities fraud charges. Okay.

Now, in addition, the entire upper ranks of his own office reporting him to law enforcement for a number of possible crimes, including bribery and corruption, all this super-serious stuff.

Nobody really knew what exactly they were accusing him of, what this was all about. And as the details started to emerge, it still sort of seemed a little bit baffling. The day after this letter came out and the "Austin American Statesman" reported on it, "The Houston Chronicle" reported that Kevin -- excuse me, that Ken Paxton's seven deputies, all his top deputies had been upset that Paxton appeared to be using his office specifically to benefit one of his campaign donors, to benefit a guy who gave a bunch of money to his campaigns.

Now, Paxton denied it. He said everything his deputies accused him of was not just false allegations, but they are false allegations by, quote, rogue employees, all seven of them. Seven deputy and assistant Texas attorneys general, they all went rogue, all in exactly the same way.

It took a little while for dogged reporters in Texas to put it a together. It was not helped by the fact that Paxton kept firing the people who had blown the whistle on him and his office. But it sort of emerged now that we know the basics of what happened.

There was a campaign donor to Ken Paxton. He got his house raided by the FBI that was investigating him for serious crimes. This campaign donor was not happy that his house got raided by the FBI.

But he knew he had donated generously to the state attorney general so he turned to the state attorney general to help him. He asked him to help him push back against the FBI. He asked him to specifically start an investigation of the FBI, and the federal prosecutors and the judge in his case and various other federal officials. And Ken Paxton said, sure.

Sure, I'll do that for you, Mr. Campaign Donor. I will open an investigation into the FBI because the FBI had the temerity to go after you.

Ken Paxton hired a junior level lawyer who had connections to his campaign donor, the guy he was trying to protect. And he basically told the guy, yeah, you're now a special counsel. You should go subpoena the FBI for messing with this guy who gave me all these campaign donations.

I can't imagine by Ken Paxton's deputies wouldn't go along with that. I mean, all seven of those deputies who blew the whistle on Ken Paxton have since quit or been fired. A bunch of them filed a lawsuit claiming their firings were unlawful retaliation. But now, Ken Paxton himself is unsurprisingly, reportedly, under FBI investigation as to whether he broke the law when he took these actions using the powers of his office to help his campaign donor.

The FBI's now investigating all those various potential crimes that Ken Paxton's deputies accused him of. And remember, Ken Paxton is still under indictment and facing potentially 99 years in prison for securities fraud, which was allegedly a second offense. That's the top law enforcement official in Texas. That's the Texas attorney general.

And today he unveiled his next act. What do you think it was?

He, of course, rationally, is joining the Rudy Giuliani unleash the kraken brigade of ridiculous lawsuits trying to overturn the presidential election and undo Joe Biden's win. Ken Paxton, the very troubled attorney general of Texas who has a lot of legal troubles on his own today filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state of Texas against four other states.

He announced that Texas is suing Georgia, and Wisconsin, and Michigan and Pennsylvania. He's asking the Supreme Court to hear this case, to step in and find that the states did their elections wrong and they shouldn't be allowed to vote in the Electoral College, thereby, voila, their 62 Electoral College votes should be subtracted from Joe Biden's total and Donald Trump should be president for a second term.

This lawsuit out of Texas is just as ridiculous as it sounds. All the officials in the states that Ken Paxton is now suing reacted today with a mix of sort of defiance and amusement. Wisconsin's attorney general said, quote, I feel sorry for Texans, that their tax dollars are being wasted on such a genuinely embarrassing lawsuit.

This lawsuit is not going to go anywhere. States can't sue other states because they don't like the way those states voted. It just doesn't even -- I mean, you can't even -- it's silly. And it's perhaps even more desperate and ridiculous than the dozens of Trump and pro-Trump cases that have thus far gone nowhere.

But is it possible that success in court is not really the goal here, that the expectation that the Supreme Court might intervene to throw out the election in those four other states because Texas said so might not actually be a rational and realistic aim here. Could it be that maybe somebody has the FBI breathing down his neck, and he's hoping for one of those many, many, many pardons the president is reportedly planning on handing out willy-nilly in his final days? I mean, if you want this president to pardon you, you've got to get his attention.

This is the kind of viper's nest of interests and conflicts that is driving, among other things, these dead ender lawsuits at this point. This is -- this is what you get when you get a president who advertising with his last 40-plus days in office, you know what, I'm thinking about giving pardons to anybody I feel like it. Just saying. Anybody think they should get one?

So, another lawsuit now in Pennsylvania where all of the electors, they're going to Electoral College, all the electors are being sued by the state's Republicans as the president keeps leaning on Republicans in that state legislature to do something, to do anything, to get those election results overturned.

President is asking you to do it. What would you do? Would you sue the electors in your state for doing their part? Apparently, they'll do that too.

Malcolm Kenyatta, state representative in Pennsylvania, is one of the electors who is being sued in that case. He joins us next. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Of all of the more or less ridiculous lawsuits that Republicans and the president's campaign and his supporters have filed thus far to try to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election, only one has made its way to the United States Supreme Court. And today, the Supreme Court threw it out quickly and unanimously.

The high court ruled on a challenge from Republicans in Pennsylvania who were trying to get the court to overturn Joe Biden's win in that state. As far as legal challenges go in the state of Pennsylvania, the courts at this point are a dead end for the president and his allies trying to overturn the election up to and including the United States Supreme Court today.

But you know, why let that hold you back? At least in Pennsylvania, all these legal dead ends have caused the Republicans to get more creative. Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature have, get this, now filed a lawsuit against the entire slate of electors in Pennsylvania. Electors are the people who get chosen by the voters to go to the Electoral College and say, Pennsylvania cast its electoral college votes for Joe Biden.

What the lawsuit is asking the court to do is to stop Pennsylvania's electors from casting their votes for Joe Biden when the Electoral College meets next week, even though, in fact, Pennsylvania voted for Joe Biden. The lawsuit is not actually just filed by random wing nuts and people who follow the president's legal strategy elsewhere. The lawsuit was actually signed on to by the Republican speaker of the House in Pennsylvania, as well as about a dozen or so other Republican lawmakers in the state.

The targets of the lawsuit include the governor and secretary of state and all the named individuals who are on the slate of electors in Pennsylvania which includes our friend, State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta. He has repeatedly been a guest on this show to help us understand what his colleagues across the aisle have been pulling, the whole list of things they've been trying to pull to try to make believe that Pennsylvania didn't just give its votes to President-elect Joe Biden.

Joining us now is Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta.

Representative Kenyatta, it's nice to see you again. Thank you so much for being here.


MADDOW: It feels both like an end to have the Supreme Court just put up the hand today and say, no, we are not taking this lawsuit. We are not taking this up at the level of the United States Supreme Court. There isn't anything here for you that you're not going to -- that you have been unable to get in the lower court.

At the same time, it feels like this is going to continue to generate new and ever more creative lawsuits, including this one that names you as a defendant.

KENYATTA: You know what, Rachel? It has to stop at this point. It absolutely has to stop.

Just think about this. My Republican House colleagues have sent awe letter to Congress asking them to object to the electoral votes. They've demanded a special session -- but not a special session to do something about our frontline workers who need hazard pay or PPE. They're not writing a letter to Congress saying make sure you pass a stimulus package that gets direct cash payments to Pennsylvanians. We lost 187 Pennsylvanians yesterday who died from COVID, 1,500 Americans who died from COVID.

And the speaker of the House is on the phone with the president of the United States and is too cowardly to say, Mr. President, you lost. Stop it. He refuses to do it. And it diminishes our democracy.

And what's worst, Rachel, is they know better. They know better than this.

MADDOW: Republican Senator Pat Toomey called the president's attempts to overturn the election in Pennsylvania completely unacceptable. I saw that and I don't know much about the influence of Senator Toomey at this point, but I wonder if that might be a sign the fever might break or is that a sign that Pat Toomey and other Republicans like him are exiled from the Republican Party that doesn't have any interest in breaking this fever.

KENYATTA: Well, unfortunately, for Pennsylvanians, Pat Toomey has been exiled from this state for a long time. We haven't seen him since he won reelection. He was part of the same group that refused to call the president-elect the president-elect for weeks and now he wants a cookie for showing up weeks late.

What we're seeing and the behavior we're seeing from Republicans is no longer about winning these lawsuits. They've lost over and over and over again. It is about them avoiding primary elections or it is about some of them positioning themselves to run for governor or Toomey's open Senate seat in 2022.

And apparently, the only qualification you need to win a Republican primary is to show how much of a sycophant you are to Donald Trump. And so, Pat Toomey has stood with President Trump every single day of the week. He's been a coward the entire time, just like the rest of them, and I don't think he gets a pat on the back for showing up as late as he did.

Pennsylvania deserves better than this, and it is the height, the height, of irresponsibility to see them continue to push this narrative. This narrative is dangerous. There are people who are hearing them who are going to take what they're saying and act on it beyond the theater of the absurd that we've seen. They need to it cut it out.

I've said over and over again. They are playing with fire, but what's going to get burned is our democracy. Cut it the heck out.

MADDOW: Pennsylvania State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta -- sir, thank you for joining us tonight. It has been --


KENYATTA: Thank you, Rachel. Congratulations on the book. Congratulations on the book. I listen to every episode of the podcast. I can't wait to listen -- to read it rather.

MADDOW: You are -- you are very, very kind. Also I'm coming to your house to steal that nutcracker from behind you. When you hear the noise of your house being broken into, it's me.

KENYATTA: In exchange for a buck, Rachel, in exchange. Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. I'll leave it there on the count -- I'll leave it there on mantle. That's a creepy sort of Santa thing we're going to do here.

All right. Coming up next, I've got some of the British news coverage today from the day -- from the first day of people actually getting administered the coronavirus vaccine today in the U.K.

You're going to want to see this. Just stay with us. We'll be right back.


MADDOW: They call it a jab. To us in the states, we call it an injection or shot. But in the U.K., they call it a jab, a needle poke in the arm.

Today, the United Kingdom began its first jabs, the first residents of the U.K. getting the vaccine made my Pfizer. U.K. is the first Western nation to approve the vaccine. British effort to start vaccinating their whole country started today right before the sun came up.

The very first jab of all went to a woman named Margaret Keenan. She goes by Maggie. She is 90 years old. She used to be an assistant at a jewelry store.

She has a cute Christmas t-shirt that she wore for the occasion today. She's very, very British. And she's the lead story on ITV News.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening. There were smiles and tears of joy today as patients across the U.K. became the first to receive the Pfizer jab as part of the coronavirus vaccination program, 90-year-old grandmother Margaret Keenan was the very first and said the historic moment meant that she now can look forward to spending time with family and friends once again. Hundreds of thousands more doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be given out over the next few weeks, giving hopes to many others.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, appeared close to tears today saying it was a proud day.

Our health editor Emily Murkin (ph) on what's been hailed as the beginning of the end.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By any an standard, Margaret is an extraordinary woman. She's 90, healthy, and only retired four years ago.

At 6:31 this morning, she became a little more remarkable.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Margaret was given the first coronavirus vaccine, and with it, a place in British medical history, a place she doesn't regret.

MARGARET KEENAN, NINETY-YEAR-OLD: I say go for it. Go for it because it's free and it's the best thing that's ever happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does anything come close in your lifetime to this moment?

KEENAN: No, I can't think of anything. This is a terrible, terrible disease, so we do want to get rid of it. So, anything that helps is marvelous, isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maggie has just become the first ever patient in the Western world to receive the coronavirus vaccine. It marks the beginning of the end of this pandemic. She's celebrating with a cup of tea.


MADDOW: I just have to -- I just have to pause this for one second.

First of all, she's in her Christmas shirt. Yes! Second of all, doing the most British thing you've ever seen in your entire life, right? She's celebrating her COVID jab, she's celebrating being the first coronavirus vaccination in the Western world, and she's celebrating by having a spot of tea. A cup of tea. Nice cup pa.

Why not? We are, of course, a still long way off with this virus. The light at the end of the tunnel is at the end of a tunnel that is very dark and very long and the light is still very dim. But unexpectedly for me, it was an emotional thing today watching the world get a little tiny bit closer to that light one jab at a time.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was, of course, a day of firsts not just for Margaret. May was the first to administer the jab.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was historical for my career, for the human race.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's it now. I think you've started. You've got people --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gate is open.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gates are indeed now open and the patients flooded in. Nurses queued in Belfast and shots were given in Bristol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The logistics behind the Pfizer vaccine have been really challenging but the NHS has risen to that challenge. We've had to store at minus 70 degrees centigrade, reconstitute it and administer it within five days.

And, of course, this vaccine is likely (INAUDIBLE) we must not waste any of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In ten short months the clapping here has turned from celebrating surviving COVID to protecting against it.

Margaret was the first. She is by no means the last.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a tiny glass bottle, and it comes packed with the most precious commodity, hope. A quick dose of optimism in Sheffield for Trixy Walker (ph) after long hard months.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It can't come soon enough. So many people have lost so much and so many people have been bereaved. When it is rolled out, I'll be able to see my grandchildren again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before breakfast, the vaccine arrived, a miracle in the mundane cover of a cardboard box. And any a day of understated drama, a man named William Shakespeare was ready to play his part.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Groundbreaking I think. It could make a difference to our lives from now on, isn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aubrey Bass, a veteran of World War II, calls this past year the worst of his life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife died in March, so it's been very bad. But I'll get over that, sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First, his friends, the best in the world, he says. And now the vaccine, the first in the world, should see him through.

John Ray, ITV News.


MADDOW: The first in the world should see him through. The vaccines administered to thousands of older Britons and health care workers today. Tomorrow, of course, there will be more. They started and now they're rolling.

We got more ahead tonight on the future of the vaccine rollout in this country, what we should hope for, what we should prepare for.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: David Leonhardt at the "New York Times" made me think more clearly about it than I have in the past. He said today, quote, a vaccine that is 95 percent effective, as the Pfizer and Moderna's appear to be, is a powerful fire hose. But the size of a fire is still a bigger determinant of how much destruction occurs. No vaccine can eliminate a pandemic immediately, just as no fire hose can put out a forest fire.

In other words, quote, the vaccines will be much less effective at preventing death and illness in 2021 if they're introduced into a population where the coronavirus is raging, as is now the case in the United States.

Dr. David Paltiel is at the Yale School of Public Health. He told "The Times" today, quote, bluntly stated, we'll get out of this pandemic faster if we give the vaccine less work to do.

Dr. Paltiel is one of the co-authors of a new study of how to implement a coronavirus vaccination program in the United States. One of the coauthors of his piece is President-elect's Biden's choice to lead the CDC. Dr. Rochelle Walensky. Dr. Walensky and Dr. Paltiel argue, along with their colleagues here, that a vaccine's effectiveness is just step one. After that, they said, it's all about implementation.

Quote: How well a vaccine program works will also depend on how quickly it can be manufactured, how efficiently it can be distributed to locations in greatest need, how persuasive health messaging can be in promoting public acceptance and how consistently the public can adhere to the many complementary prevention strategies like masks and distancing to limit the spread of the virus.

Joining us now is Dr. David Paltiel, professor of health policy and management at the Yale School of Public Health. He's one of the authors of that health affairs paper on the implementation of the vaccine program.

Dr. Paltiel, it's a real honor to have you with us tonight. Thanks for taking some time.

A. DAVID PALTIEL, YALE SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Good to be with you, Rachel. Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: I think looking at those news -- those news packages from Britain today and seeing older Britons getting the vaccine, I mean, your kind of heart swells and it's exciting to see and it makes you feel a lot of emotion of what we've been through in the past year. But I wanted to talk to you tonight because I feel you and your colleagues are making it's not like once we start vaccinating people, we'll throw away the masks.

PALTIEL: Exactly right. You got it exactly right. An effective vaccine is very good news indeed, and there is reason for celebration. But a very common adage of people in the vaccine world is vaccines don't save lives. A vaccination program saves lives.

Identifying and approving an effective vaccine is only the very first step. And, you know, as you pointed out, an effective vaccine isn't so much the beginning of the end as so much perhaps the end of the beginning.

MADDOW: In term of an effective vaccination program I think a lot of Americans, left, right and center, have reason to doubt the competence of our government, the capability of pulling off a big, logistical I guess challenge isn't even the right word -- the amount of logistical achievement we need and coordination in order to do something like this. As somebody who's studied these things and knows what it takes to make a good vaccination program, do you think we're capable of doing is and in a reasonable enough time?

PALTIEL: Well, we are -- as you just said time is running out to invest the requisite resources and attention to production scale up and logistics and campaigns to promote public confidence. Responsibility for on the ground distribution is largely being delegated to state and local health departments, and these organizations are chronically underfunded and understaffed even in the best of times let alone nine months into a once in a century pandemic that has strained their resources beyond limits.

So the complexity of mass vaccination efforts is staggering. And states have warned for months they lack the ability to carry out the work expected of them. We need to Operation Warp Speed for infrastructure in the same way once we had for vaccine development.

MADDOW: I know that Dr. Rochelle Walensky is a colleague of yours. She's a coauthor of yours on this paper I just described. Do you feel like she has the right background, she has the right experience, she has the right understanding about that kind of infrastructure you're describing to lead this kind of effort at the CDC?

CDC has really taken a battering over the past year, and they're not operating from a position of strength right now. Is she the right person to turn it around?

PALTIEL: I totally believe so. I am bursting with happiness for the nation, that such a brilliant scientist and a compassionate physician and the most hardworking manager I've ever met in addition, by the way, to being a loving mother and a decent human is going to lead the resurrection of the CDC as the world's preeminent public health agency.

My wife cried when she heard the news and said I feel as if maybe it's all going to be okay. And I personally had forgotten how just knowing who's in charge could make you feel reassured and calm and even happy.

MADDOW: Dr. David Paltiel, professor of Yale School of Public Health, one of the authors of this health affairs paper on vaccine implementation, thank you for your time tonight. Thanks for helping us understand your work, sir.

PALTIEL: Thank you so very much.

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


MADDOW: I would stick around to tell you more news and stories, but I have this very important thing I have to do on a different TV show so I have to go. That does it for me tonight. I'll see again in a minute.


Good evening, Lawrence.


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