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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, January 15, 2021

Guests: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, David Kessler


Security concerns grow ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration. Interview with Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Interview with Dr. David Kessler, co-chair of the Biden COVID-19 advisory board, former FDA commissioner, and next week, he will take the lead of America's coronavirus vaccination program.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. It is Friday. President Trump's last Friday night in office.

Some people drink on Friday nights. After a long workweek some people get high or have a movie night or I don't know, whatever. Our president, he likes to spend a Friday night issuing scandalous pardons and commutations to well-known criminals who helped him cover up his crimes or whom he owes criminal favors. So it's Friday night. We are on pardon watch. TGIF.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is going to join us live tonight in just a moment. We're also going to be joined live tonight by the man who President-elect Biden just announced will be in charge of the country's vaccination efforts against COVID-19. Scientists and researchers, of course, did their part. They moved heaven and earth and really did the impossible by developing safe and effective coronavirus vaccines as quickly as they did.

But then the government blew it. The government did not come up with any sort of national plan at all to get the vaccines these scientists had made actually distributed at scale and administered to people with any sort of efficiency. And so even though those vaccines were developed and approved and produced with such alacrity, all that got us is the situation we're in tonight where millions of doses of the vaccine are sitting in freezers where every single passing day another 200,000-plus Americans get infected.

Just today, state governments all over the country are reeling once again after Trump Health Secretary Alex Azar told states they were going to get a whole bunch of vaccine doses next week that they aren't actually going to get. This is at least the second time the Trump administration has told the states there were doses shipping out to them, doses that didn't actually exist, which is just frying these already fragile cobbled together systems in all the states as the states have had to try to figure out vaccine distribution programs on their own with no national plan to help them do it.

So we're going to have much more on that tonight. And more importantly, we're going to have the first national interview with a man who soon to be President Joe Biden just named as the person who will be tasked with fixing this mess and setting up a national vaccination plan for the first time. Under President Biden, Dr. David Kessler will be overseeing a whole new multibillion dollar effort that among other things will put the National Guard and FEMA in the field at new mass vaccination sites in every state in the country.

The proverbial cavalry is coming. On vaccines, Dr. David Kessler will be leading it. He is our guest here tonight in just a moment.

In Washington tonight, as we prepare for the Biden-Harris inauguration on Wednesday, the Secret Service is now in charge of security preparations. They have now literally announced that they're forming a green zone in Washington to include a huge area of downtown D.C. around the capitol. Yes, a green zone like the one we've all reported from in Baghdad during the Iraq war. Within the green zone there will be a restricted red zone where nobody's allowed to be.

The National Mall will be closed. More than a dozen metro stations, which is the D.C. subway system -- more than a dozen metro stations will be closed. Trains will be stopped. Private bus companies that run bus routes are stopping bus routes into D.C. Airbnb and last minute hotel booking sites are not only not taking new bookings for people traveling into D.C. anymore, they are canceling bookings that already exist.

There was due to be a rehearsal for the Biden-Harris inauguration this weekend. That will now be postponed for security reasons. They'll try to do it next week.

But each passing day now brings more arrests of the radicalized Trump supporters who violently attacked the Capitol to try to stop the counting of the vote and the election. And each new public indictment reveals new lurid descriptions of what these people did and what they intended to do. One man charged tonight, a 43-year-old man from Rochester, New York, told people that had they got their hands on Nancy Pelosi inside the Capitol they would have killed her.

And also, Vice President Mike Pence, he told people had they been able to find him inside the Capitol complex, they would have killed him, too. There has been back and forth sort of unbecoming of the Justice Department today about what it means that federal prosecutors in Texas and Arizona told judges and individual defendants cases that the aim of these attackers was to physically restrain and potentially assassinate lawmakers inside the chamber.

"The New Yorker" today reports that members of the mob that attacked the Capitol were armed with guns and tasers and baseball bats and truncheons. At least one person carried a noose with them into the Capitol which puts a fine point on so much of the crowd was yelling "hang Mike Pence."

CNN interviewed one of the D.C. police officers who was driving down the Capitol steps and was beaten and tased by the Trump mob.


MICHAEL FANONE, DC METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: I was just, you know, trying to fight as best I could. I remember guys were stripping me of my gear. These were rioters pulling my badge off my chest. They ripped my radio off of -- off my vest, started pulling like ammunition magazines from their holder on my belt.

And then some guy started getting hold of my gun, and they were screaming out, you know, kill him with his own gun. At that point, you know, it was just like self-preservation, you know, how do I survive this situation? And I thought about using deadly force. I thought about shooting people.

And then I just came to the conclusion that, you know, if I was to do that, I might get a few but I'm not going to take everybody and they'll probably take my gun away from me. And that would definitely give them the justification that they were looking for to kill me if they already didn't have made that up in their minds. So, the other option I thought of was try to appeal to somebody's humanity.

And I -- I just remember yelling out that I have kids, and it seemed to work. Some people in the crowd started to encircle me and try to offer me some level of protection. And they gave -- that provided me with like enough time or other officers specifically, my partner Jimmy Albright, enough time to get to me and get me the hell out of there and back to the west front of the Capitol.

A lot of people have asked me, you know, my thoughts on the individuals in the crowd that -- you know, that helped me or tried to offer some assistance. And I think kind of the conclusion I've come to is, like, thank you, but (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you for being there.


MADDOW: That's Officer Michael Fanone of the D.C. Metropolitan Police. He doesn't describe it there in that interview, but he was repeatedly shot with a stun gun, with a taser by the attackers. "The Washington Post" reporting late last night that officer suffered a mild heart attack when he was tased, also that he drifted in and out of consciousness while he was being beaten.

Ahead of the inauguration on Wednesday, the Justice Department today released a bulletin saying commercial airlines have tracked an increase in passengers checking in guns on their way to airports in the Washington area. D.C., of course, itself has strict gun laws. But Reagan National and Dulles airport are both in Virginia where of course the gun laws are super lax, and the airlines say lots of people are checking guns into their flights in those airports.

This is probably the time to note we've heard nothing from the FBI or the Justice Department about any apprehension of whoever it was who placed the operational not fake pipe bombs outside the headquarters of both the Republican and Democratic parties near the Capitol on the day of the attack at the capitol. Whoever did that, whoever placed those pipe bombs is apparently still at large despite a huge effort by the FBI to find that person and a big reward posted for information leading to that person's arrest and capture.

National Guard units are being warned that improvised explosive devices, that bombs may be used in an attack around the inauguration.

Today, we're also hearing from the Justice Department and from open source reporting in the "A.P." and "The New Yorker" and elsewhere about military style tactics and coordination among the Trump mob of attackers including this tidy cordon of single file men in full military gear marching single file through the crowd in a disciplined way. See how they're each holding onto the collar of the shoulder of the man in front of them.

That's what "A.P." describes as ranger file formation. "The A.P." says, quote, as President Trump's supporters amassed outside the capitol last week and sang the national anthem a line of men in body armor trudged purposely in the single file line, each man holding the jacket collar of the man ahead. That formation known as ranger file is standard operating procedure for a combat team that's stacking up to breach a building.

It's instantly recognizable to any U.S. soldier or marine who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. It was a chilling sign that many of the vanguard of the mob that stormed the seat of American democracy either had military training or were trained by those who did.

And if those kinds of U.S. military tactics were brought to bear against Congress in the Capitol attack this past week, it's imaginable that even organized force like that, you know, would be deterred by the more than 21,000 armed National Guards men and women who will stationed in D.C. in advance of the inauguration to protect it. But they can't be everywhere. And this weekend, the expectation is that the armed Trump mobs are not necessarily due to turn up in D.C. this weekend. They're due this weekend to turn up at state capitols around the country over this weekend and into Monday.

And, you know, if they're intent on waging military-style, potentially military trained armed terrorist assaults on multiple state Capitols, well, all the troops in D.C. aren't going to make a difference to that. That's part of what is so unsettling about tonight heading into this weekend, right? Knowing what we have come to learn about the attack on Congress, the attack on the Capitol by the president's armed supporters.

We've now got this huge for fortification of D.C., but there's this worry still what might happen in D.C. on top of all that, and more immediately, the warnings of what's planned well outside of D.C. by armed pro-Trump mobs at state capitols or anywhere else may might want to show force or continue advancing their violent campaign against the democracy.

And then there's insider question, the question of whether members of Congress have been complicit. Did members of Congress help pro-Trump rioters basically case the joint by bringing them into the capitol the day before the attack to show them around or the inside space? That under investigation by the Capitol police. Did members of Congress betray the location of people who would have been targets of the mob? In other words, did they help?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today announcing that that prospect that some Republican members of Congress may have essentially helped in the insurrection attempt, that is under investigation. She said any members found to be complicit in the attack should expect to face not only potential expulsion from Congress but also criminal prosecution.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If, in fact, it is found that members of Congress were accomplices to this insurrection, if they aided and abetted the crime, there may have to be actions taken beyond the Congress in terms of prosecution for that.


MADDOW: Nancy Pelosi addressing the fact that that is now under investigation by the U.S. capitol police and reportedly by the general accounting office, the GAO that's also been asked to look into what happened, specifically including the question of whether or not any members of Congress or congressional staffers may have effectively aided and abetted in the attack on the Capitol building and on the Congress.

One of the first members of Congress to raise this prospect was the fire brand new second-term New York congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): There's a secure extraction point and a secure room that you may have heard a lot of people, you know, members give interviews from. They say I'm in a secure location. I'm in a secure location.

You know, Republican members of Congress didn't wear masks. They refused to wear masks in that enclosed secure location, and now we are on, you know, just in the last 24, 48 hours our third member of -- Democratic member of Congress who just tested positive for COVID because they were sheltering in that place.

I, myself, did not even feel safe going to the -- that extraction point because there were QAnon and white supremacist sympathizers and frankly white supremacist members of Congress in that extraction point who I know and who I have felt would disclose my location and allow me to -- who would create opportunities to allow me to be hurt, kidnapped, et cetera.

And so I didn't even feel safe around other members of Congress. As for myself I had a pretty traumatizing event happen to me, and I do not know if I can even disclose the full details of that event due to security concerns. But I can tell you that I had a very close encounter where I thought I was going to die. And you have all of those thoughts where, you know, at the end of your life and all of these thoughts come rushing to you.

And that's what happened to a lot of us on Wednesday. And I thought -- I did not think -- I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive. And not just in a general sense but also in a very, very specific sense.

Wednesday was an extremely traumatizing event, and it is not an exaggeration to say that many, many members of the house were nearly assassinated. It's not an exaggeration to say that at all. We were very lucky that things happened within certain minutes that allowed members to escape the House floor unharmed.


MADDOW: Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez made those statements on Tuesday. And because the conservative media is obsessed with absolutely everything she says and does and thinks, they have since attacked her for those comments saying, oh, nothing that serious happened at all. She's just making it up.

Today, "The Washington Post" is reporting that just as the congresswoman says it was actually a matter of seconds between the mob and their targets inside the Capitol who they explicitly said they wanted to kill. "The Post" reporting that vice president Mike Pence was rushed into a hideaway outside the Senate chamber less than a 100 feet from where a huge pro-Trump mob chased a Capitol Police officer. This is part of the crowd demanding where are they counting the votes, and hang Mike Pence.

From "The Post," quote, rioters loudly denouncing the vice president as a traitor, began to pour into the Capitol, Secret Service officers spirited the vice president to a room off the Senate floor, with his wife and daughter. About one minute after Pence was hustled out, a group of mobs -- a group of the rioters, excuse me, charged up the stairs to a second floor landing. Pence and his family had just ducked into a hideaway office less than 100 feet away from that landing. If the Trump mob had arrived seconds earlier, the attackers would have been in eyesight of the vice president as he was rushed into that hideaway office.

Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez was right about the dire and very near threat to members of Congress who were inside that day. And it turns out to the vice president as well. And now, of course, there's the threat of this weekend and the week ahead.

Joining us now is Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

Congresswoman, I really appreciate you being here. I know you have lots of options and I appreciate you coming here to talk about this.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Of course. Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: So you and your colleagues have been through an ordeal. You made those public remarks on Tuesday about how specifically scary and dangerous was the situation that you were in. And you said at the time that for security reasons, you didn't feel like you could say more about the direct threat you experienced that caused you to go through all those things people worry about when they worry their life is in danger.

Can you tell us more about that event or tell you why you can't because you've been advised about your own security here?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yeah, you know, I think one of the reasons we hesitate to share more details is because, frankly, the security lapses that exist and that existed that day. And, you know, we hesitate to reveal locations and what actually happened in order to not reveal other lapses and vulnerabilities potentially.

But I think one of the things that was so scary that day not just for myself but for many other members and I think even for people at home watching on television was these acts of great heroism, you know, even within Capitol police and within congressional staff, et cetera, that were juxtaposed with acts of great betrayal by people in those same ranks. And what's so scary in a situation like that is that you don't know even if a person is in uniform whether they are there to hurt or to help.

And, you know, it goes without saying that this is what a lot of communities have experienced. But to be in that is extremely scary. And just as you pointed out where it seems as though -- and it seems as though some of the arrests have either been military, ex-military or trained by military, police officers, two police officers have been -- two Virginia police officers have been arrested and charged. That -- that is extremely unsettling when you have that kind of breach of trust. And it can be very scary especially when you're in the actual midst of an emergency situation.

MADDOW: Let's talk about that in terms of members of Congress and congressional staff as well. You saying that you didn't feel safe going to that extraction point because you believe knowing them that there were members of Congress you didn't trust not to betray your location and put you in danger in that way.

Can you talk a bit more about that, about why you -- why you believed that, if what you believed about that, what you know about that is something that ought to be part of the investigation? Or is it part of the investigation that's been announced into whether members of Congress are complicit here?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Right. Well, I mean, we can't -- I can't speak as to what is currently under investigation specifically or not, but we -- but there are members of Congress that have made public comments. Comments like that Muslim Americans should not hold public office.

They've made public comments that are quite closely aligned with the beliefs of white supremacists and white supremacist sympathizer organizations. And these are all public record. And, you know, people of color are not safe around any individual who, frankly, sympathizes with a white supremacist cause. And it doesn't matter if you've been elected to Congress or not, it is a complete abdication of any responsibility that we all have to protect and defend and be there for each other as human beings and certainly as Americans.

And so, it wasn't safe. And the implications of that are quite dire. To not be in a secure location because being in the insecure location seems like a safer bet than being in a secure location, I mean it's -- it's pretty scary. And I can also say I was not the only member of Congress that felt that way. You know, not every member was in that secure room. And even for members who were in that secure room we have now seen several who have come down with COVID.

And this was a big day so members of Congress who had just been sworn in three days prior had spouses with them, children with them, young staffers with them. And we're responsible for their safety, too. And on the flip side, members who didn't wear their masks endangered those families, too. And those members are on video as well.

I mean, they bear full responsibility for endangering the lives of the people around them. And also for what? A conspiracy theory, a political point?

It's truly -- it's not just a betrayal but it's also just simply embarrassing that you have members that don't even have scientific competency writing policy and responsible for the lives of other people.

MADDOW: One of the things that we started to report out a little bit is this newfound interest in the third clause of the 14th Amendment, which says if you participated in an insurrection or rebellion against the United States, you're barred from holding office ever again. And that's obviously come up in the context of the impeachment article you voted for and a majority of your colleagues voted for against the president.

But we started to realize it's being discussed now as far as we can tell in terms of potentially invoking that against members of Congress. So this is being investigated. We know from Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, talking about that today. The GAO, the U.S. capitol police and others are looking into members of Congress and congressional staff potentially being part of this thing.

But in order to expel people potentially from Congress and ban them for life from holding public office for having been part of something like this, Congress would have to act as far as we can tell and pass some sort of legislation in order to do it. I wonder if you feel that might be ahead. I mean, it's -- it would be a historic thing for Congress to take those steps because worries about members in its midst.

Do you think that's possible and that's being worked on?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, you know, I don't think the fact -- it is absolutely historic, but this insurrection was quite historic for violent reasons as well. We've never had a breach of our Capitol in this respect. We have never had the Confederate flag make it into our nation's Capitol not even during the Civil War.

And frankly, you know, to see that there were members of Congress cheering them on, calling them, you know, their people, their constituents, it -- you know, there is a resolution that has already been drafted. And I'm a proud cosponsor of it. This is Representative Cori Bush's resolution to investigate and to essentially sanction and expel members of Congress that have been found by investigation to be essentially working with -- with the folks who flew a Confederate flag in our nation's Capitol.

And I don't know how many of my colleagues need to be reminded of this, but the Confederacy were a band of enemies and traitors to the United States and insurrectionists themselves. And they are not part of the United States, have never been part of the United States and will never be part of the United States.

And, frankly, you know, if they find more sympathy with them, then perhaps they shouldn't be serving in the United States congress. And frankly they should my belief is if they believe any investigations, particularly law enforcement investigations will find them complicit or perhaps even assisting in such an attack, they should resign before they are removed. But, you know, with these investigations, the facts will bear out in due course.

MADDOW: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York -- again, I know you have lots of options for where to come talk about these things. I appreciate you being here. And although I had nothing to do with it, I am very sorry for what you and your staff and your colleagues have been through. It is heartrending above all the other things it is, and I'm sorry.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Of course. Thank you so much and we'll get through this.

MADDOW: Yeah, all right.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Okay, the doctor who president-elect Biden just put in charge of overseeing the new national effort to vaccinate Americans against COVID-19 is going to join us ahead.

Lots to get to tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Earlier this week, the Trump administration announced what was ostensibly a big change in the way it was distributing the coronavirus vaccine. They said instead of holding back second doses of the vaccine for people who had already gotten their first shot, they were going to release the doses now to get the first dose of the vaccine into more people more quickly.

All those doses they've been holding in reserve, they said, those would be released to the state so states could vaccinate more people. So states plan accordingly.

It turns out all those vaccine doses in reserve, the Trump administration talked about, the ones they said they would now send out to the states -- turns out they're not actually real. They're not there.

Jaw dropping lead from "The Washington Post" today. Quote: When Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced this week the that federal government would begin releasing coronavirus vaccines doses held in reserve for second shots, no such reserve existed.

And governors today are apoplectic about this, and you can see why. We've been planning on that and signing people up for appointments and expanding our state eligibility requirements because now we thought more people would be able to get the vaccine all on the basis of what you said you were sending us. Now you're not sending it to us, really?

Oregon's Governor Kate Brown said today she's, quote, shocked and appalled they set an expectation they could not deliver with such grave consequences. This is deception on a national scale. Oregon seniors, teachers, all of us were depending on the promise of the Oregon share of Federal Reserve vaccines being released to us.

Minnesota's governor says the Trump administration just straight up lied to the state of Minnesota about this, lied to them. I mean, it's astonishing.

It's also the second time the Trump administration has done this. It's the second time in the space of a month the Trump administration has suddenly at the last minute told the states they were getting way fewer vaccine doses than they said they were going to get. Way fewer than the number of doses than the states had been told they were getting, that they planned for, they built their vaccination strategy around. Sorry, last minute they're actually not coming. It's infuriating.

It's one thing to think about like shortage and the need to ramp up the manufacturing, you know, the difficult work of getting the vaccines made and approved and tested and produced. That's one thing. We understand those sort of physical constraints. But we don't know what we've got and we're promising you thinks that aren't there?

It's infuriating. Don't take my word for it. Ask the governors. They are infuriated.

"Wall Street Journal" reporting today that leaders at Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration's unfortunately named vaccine program, they waited months to approve any kind of vaccine distribution plan. They left states virtually no time to implement their own plans this fall when the Trump administration announced at the very last minute it would be the state's responsibilities. One former government vaccine official saying, quote, they didn't plan for the last inch of the last mile, the part that matters most, how you're actually going to vaccinate that many people quickly.

They didn't try to come up with a plan for it. There was no national plan for implementing vaccine distribution. And in addition to not having a plan and repeatedly telling states they were getting phantom doses that don't really exist, the Trump administration has also not been doing a transition on this stuff with the incoming Biden folks.

"The Washington Post" reporting this afternoon that the Trump administration has refused to share information about its ersatz vaccine rollout with the Biden transition. Biden officials shutout of meetings this week which has caused Biden transition officials to try to glean whatever information they can about the vaccine situation from like their contacts at pharmaceutical companies or from career government staffers who have been communicating with the Biden transition on their personal e-mail accounts during their down time because they weren't allowed to do that work at work under the Trump administration.

It's bad. It's very bad. I mean, with 200,000 plus Americans getting infected every day now while millions of vaccine doses sit in freezers unused, with 3,000 and 4,000 Americans dying every day, it is very, very bad we're failing this badly at getting people vaccinated.

The scientists did their work. The government failed. But today, President-elect Biden laid out his plan for how to fix it starting when he takes office next week. For one thing, there will be a national plan for getting people vaccinated, which is a good start.

Part of that federal plan will be for central community testing, community based testing sites all over the country. Places like school gyms, sports stadiums, community centers. They want to use FEMA and the National Guard to setup and staff those facilities and get vaccines into arms at scale as quickly as possible.

And here's something. They're going to try to build basically a medical corps, 100,000 Americans they want to hire nationwide to do contact tracing and to do vaccine follow-up, which is simultaneously an economic stimulus slash jobs program slash thing we need really bad to tackle COVID.

And then there's the other part of Biden's new vaccination plan. The other big part of it is that he is hiring this guy to run it. His name is Dr. David Kessler. He's a former head of the Food and Drug Administration with expertise in particular in getting therapeutics to market quickly.

He's been the co-chair of Biden's COVID-19 task force for months. He's going to lead the Biden administration's vaccine operation we learned today. We're also told they're not going to call it Operation Warp Speed anymore, which is probably wise if they want to get people to trust what they're doing.

But whatever they name it, it's David Kessler who's going to be in charge of vaccine manufacturing, vaccine distribution and continued development, the safety and efficacy of both vaccines and also treatments. Treatments, which is something that has been making me crazy there hasn't been more focus on -- effective therapeutics for people who have already become infected with COVID-19 and who are already sick. That is also one of Dr. Kessler's priorities.

Keep Americans from getting it, but for Americans who do get it, keep them alive. That is the plan that Joe Biden intends to put into motion just a few days from now.

Dr. David Kessler is the man he's chosen to run it. Dr. Kessler joins us live here next.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts we've ever undertaken as a nation. We'll have to more heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated, to create more places for them to get vaccinated, to mobilize more medical teams to get shots in people's arms, to increase vaccine supply and to get it out the door as fast as possible.


MADDOW: The man who's soon to be President Biden has chosen to helm that task, to move in -- in Biden's words to move heaven and earth joins us now, Dr. David Kessler, co-chair of the Biden COVID-19 advisory board. He's former FDA commissioner, and next week, he will take the lead of America's coronavirus vaccination program.

Dr. Kessler, it's a real honor to have you here tonight, sir. Thank you.


MADDOW: What should we understand as a country about the new plan that you will be leading, that the Biden administration is going to be pursuing to turn this vaccination effort around?

KESSLER: This is a national emergency, and we need to treat it like one. This is going to require a 24/7 operation.

We need more vaccination sites. We need to harness the full resources of the federal government, setup with the states community vaccination centers.

With federal support, we will need to mobilize thousands of clinical and nonclinical professionals. We'll need to launch a new partnership with community health centers. We're going to fully activate pharmacies.

And you have a president-elect of the United States who is fully in, and as he said today, we will manage the hell out of this operation.

MADDOW: How much of what you are planning to do, that complex operation that you're talking about, needs support from Congress? And how much of it is stuff you can start implementing, start putting into place on day one simply with executive action?

KESSLER: It's a combination of both. There are things we're ready to do, transparency with the states, letting them know what kind of supply they will get on a consistent basis. But as the president-elect has said today, there is a request and a very important request for the resources to stand up these centers.

MADDOW: In terms of standing up those centers, it's been reported -- it's been described that it's possible that FEMA or the National Guard could be used in terms of setting up those kind of centers, particularly (ph) large scale centers like that.

Is that something we should expect? Do you think that's the right kind of personnel, the right kind of logistics operators who would make sense for that kind of operation?

KESSLER: I think they can be very helpful in certain aspects of the logistics. But at the end of the day, you want a health professional. You want people in your community who are going to give you the vaccine. We need to do this with the states.

This has to have the full resources of the federal government, but this has to be done with the states in true partnership.

MADDOW: Do you have a handle yet on why states have repeatedly been told they're getting doses that they don't get? We have seen a couple of what appear to be federal government failures in terms of promising states that something was coming, the states planning accordingly, and then being told at the last minute that those doses weren't going to be there.

That, of course -- these are fragile systems in the states, they're setting them up. They're trying to build those airplanes while they're flying as well. It seems to be a devastating frustration for the states.

Do you have a handle on why that's happening and how to stop that from happening again?

KESSLER: Rachel, I need a favor, we have four more days, we need to get in there. We need to roll-up our sleeves. We really need to get to the bottom of these questions. And we will be up-front and give you the answers.

Look, Moderna has shipped some 14 million vaccines. Pfizer some 15 million vaccines. There's been a total of about 30 million that have been shipped, but we only have about 12.3 million people vaccinated.

There's too much vaccine in freezers. We have to get them in arms, and we've got to be able to bring both the resources and the transparency to the problem.

MADDOW: Dr. Kessler, if I could ask you to stick with us while we -- while we take a quick break. There's another element of your remit, part of what you're going to be responsible for as the leader of this effort that I am excited about and really glad you're working on. I'd like to ask you after a quick break if you don't mind.

KESSLER: My pleasure.

MADDOW: Dr. David Kessler, incoming chief scientific officer of the Biden administration's COVID-19 response, will be back with us again right after this.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: We're back with Dr. David Kessler who President-elect Biden has chosen to lead the nation's coronavirus vaccination effort.

Dr. Kessler, in a previous life, I was an AIDS activist when you were the FDA commissioner a million years ago. And as the head of the FDA at the time, you -- you really moved mountains to get pioneering, complex drugs called protease inhibitors approved and into doctor's offices to treat people with HIV. And those drugs and the speed at which you were able to move saved the lives of a lot of people that I knew. And so, you're burned into my mind from that time in American history.

Because of that, I was really interested to see that part of your remit now, part of what President-elect Biden has tasked you with is not just keeping Americans from getting COVID, by getting them vaccinated, but also developing treatment options to keep people alive if they do get infected and they do get sick. I feel like we've heard so little about that comparatively.

What should we understand about that effort?

KESSLER: First, just a little edit if I can, Rachel. We accelerated the approval process. It was really a team, a team -- Dr. Fauci was part of it. The AIDS community, the late Larry Kramer, and Gregg Gonsalves, I mean, everybody worked together.

And one of the things you just need to know is that president-elect has put together really an incredible team here. This isn't about me at all. There's Dr. Murthy, there's Dr. Walensky, there's Dr. Dr. Kocher (ph), there's Dr. O'Connor, Jeff Zients. Andy Slavic was named today, absolutely brilliant. It is a real team, and that's what it takes.

But to your question, you remember, you know, in 1990 when we got there, there was one drug for HIV. It was AZT, and it didn't work very well, and people were dying.

There was an intense focus. We set out the policy together. It was called accelerated approval. We gave the pharmaceutical industry a roadmap, and we sat there in 1996 when the protease inhibitor data came. There were small molecules and they changed the course of that epidemic.

And the important lesson, it wasn't just one antiviral, it was combinations. You have to get companies to work together. There will be, the president-elect in the plan has an effort for a national antiviral program. It is absolutely essential.

People will be -- people with the -- who have been vaccinated, there will be some cases. We know it is 95 percent effective. That sounds great, but one out of 20 people will still be at risk.

There are people who may be immuno-suppressed. There's going to be other viruses down the road, we know that.

So we have to have a major antiviral program, and we need to do together, Rachel, what we did for HIV. You know, we didn't do it overnight there. It took time, but we changed the course of that epidemic, and it is another very important tool in our armamentaria.

MADDOW: Dr. David Kessler, the co-chair of President-elect Biden's COVID advisory board, the incoming chief scientific officer of the COVID response for the nation -- sir, good luck to you. Godspeed. And don't take time from your work to come back here, but if you have come back here and keep as apprise, we'll put you on TV anytime you have something to tell the country.

KESSLER: Thank you so much, Rachel.

MADDOW: Good luck. Thank you.

We'll be right back.


MADDOW: This weekend, South Carolina and Utah will be closing their state capitals. Virginia is closing the whole area around the state capital. Oklahoma is activating its National Guard to protect its state capital. Wisconsin has boarded up its state capital. We know of at least a half dozen other states that put up new fencing around their capitals for this weekend.

It is all because groups of Trump supporters are pledging armed shows of force this weekend in the states. We will see if that comes to pass. We'll also see if we are ready for them this time.

But that's going to do it for us, at least for now.


Good evening, Lawrence.


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