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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, January 4, 2021

Guests: Stacey Abrams, Amy Klobuchar


MSNBC continues its coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. Stacey Abrams and Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are interviewed.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" on this Monday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I am here right now to vote for what I want from television programming for 2021, and what I want is to listen to Chris Hayes talk to Dr. Anthony Fauci in a way that doesn't end. I could just -- you could just do that for five or six hours, and I wouldn't need to take a break.

HAYES: I -- he is really remarkable and I think, you know, his -- we are at such a switch point right now on this vaccine. The trajectories that lay out before our country are remarkable. I mean, you heard it from him. A lot depends, a lot of it.

MADDOW: Mm-hmm. And thousands and thousands and thousands and tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of lives. And hearing it from him and finally being able to hear from people who are getting the vaccine and bringing it all the way down to -- you know, turning the telescope around and hearing how it's changing people's individual lives when they're finally able to get vaccinated, I mean, this is historic times.

Fantastic interview, my friend. Thanks. It was great.

HAYES: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. It's really, really nice to be back. Whether or not you were able to get some time off over the holiday -- and I hope you did -- I unfortunately have to break it to you now if you don't already know that this week, now that we're all back, this week is going to be nuts.

But because this week is going to be nuts, because I can guarantee that this week is going to be nuts, because we're going to be covering on the show tonight all the current and forthcoming nuttiness of this week, because of that, I think we should start tonight right here with something that I think is the opposite of nuts.

Following on Chris' discussion earlier tonight with Dr. Anthony Fauci about the challenges of the vaccination program and how slow it is going, and how hard it is apparently to get vaccines into American arms now that we've got it approved and the vaccine program up and running.

Given that, tonight I would like to start by introducing you to Ms. Maureen Weil. She lives in the great American city of New Orleans, and, trust me, you are going to be happy meet her.


NBC PRODUCER: Do you mind if I ask how old you are?

MAUREEN WEIL: Seventy-nine.

PRODUCER: So, you're in that group?

WEIL: Oh, yeah.

PRODUCER: How does it feel to be one the first people to --

WEIL: Excited, and I feel -- I'm blessed to be one of the few that can get it because people are standing in line trying to get it.

PRODUCER: You said you feel excited. Why?

WEIL: Because I have a chance to see a few more days on this earth, because I'm protected. I believe in science.

PRODUCER: And what do you tell all these people who question the vaccine and don't want to take it?

WEIL: I call them stupid because that or either buffoon because that's the only other thing I could think of that would justify their stupidity.

PRODUCER: You didn't hesitate?

WEIL: Huh?

PRODUCER: You didn't hesitate?

WEIL: Oh, I don't hesitate, period. I never have.

PRODUCER: This was the first one. You're going to get two shots.

WEIL: I know.

PRODUCER: How did it go?

WEIL: Wonderful. I mean a little prick and boop. The medicine, you felt it going in, but it didn't hurt.

PRODUCER: Are you concerned over this pandemic?

WEIL: Yes, very c concerned, because there are a lot of people who don't believe -- they listen to the man that's in Washington, way out the way out the door, talking about it's all a hoax and all that bullcorn, and he shouldn't be doing that because that's people's lives. Look at the parents who have died and left young children. I mean, it's sad.

PRODUCER: So now you having this shot, is that like a weight off your shoulders?

WEIL: Yes.

PRODUCER: Does it give you peace of mind?

WEIL: Yes, it does. It gives me a lot of peace of mind. I believe in science, and I don't think Dr. Fauci would be on TV every day telling people to take the vaccine if it wasn't good for them because that's how much respect I have for him.

PRODUCER: Do you feel like you're kind of being in the first wave like this, that you're kind of helping the science of this as it plays out?

WEIL: I don't know if I'm helping the science, but I know one thing for sure. I'm going to save somebody else's life by protecting myself.

PRODUCER: Tell me about that. Why do you say that?

WEIL: Because then I won't get the corona, so I can't spread it to anybody else. So that gives me a little satisfaction that I'm doing it not just for myself but for others.

PRODUCER: Do you think that the way this vaccine has been rolled out, that that's been going okay from what you've seen?

WEIL: Well, I can say that if you had asked me last year what a pandemic was, I wouldn't have known. I had to look it up. And to say everybody in the whole, wide world is suffering, that's scary. So, we have to believe in science. There's no other way.

PRODUCER: Are you optimistic? Do you see light at the end of the tunnel?

WEIL: Oh, yeah. Only when we didn't have a vaccine, we really were up the creek, weren't we? And we had a hole in the boat. But we got a vaccine, so we got safety.

PRODUCER: I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

WEIL: You're welcome. You're welcome.


MADDOW: We were really up the creek, weren't we? And we had a hole in the boat. But we got the vaccine, and so we got safety.

Ms. Maureen Weil of New Orleans here tonight to buoy all of us, to give us all a mental health boost with some straight-up sanity at the start of a few days that, I'm telling you, are going to be crazy. Ms. Weil got vaccinated at University Medical Center in New Orleans. She is indeed one of the lucky few.

Despite the Trump administration insisting that they would have 20 million Americans vaccinated by the end of December, two-thirds of the vaccines shipped out already o have still not actually been administered to anyone, 15 million doses have shipped out thus far, but less than 5 million of those 15 million doses have actually been used to inoculate anyone. We're going to be talking tonight about the situation in what is now the worst epicenter in the country in terms of hospitalizations.

Los Angeles, California. Ambulance crews in Los Angeles are now being advised to not bring patients in to L.A. County hospitals if, when they encounter the patient in the field, that patient is unlikely to survive. The Army Corps of Engineers being brought in to upgrade oxygen supply lines inside L.A. hospitals because those hospitals are now using so much oxygen for so many respiratory patients that the oxygen lines inside the hospitals are freezing.

Tonight, there are more people hospitalized with COVID than on any other day since the pandemic began. And you know how this goes. First the case numbers go up. Then the hospitalization numbers follow, and then the death numbers follow that.

Hospitalizations, in fact, set a new record, within the past 24 hours, which is terrible. The president's on it, though. Over the New Year's holiday, he said that as far as he's concerned, not only the case numbers but the death numbers are all made up. He says they're all exaggerated.

Yeah, that's one way to cope with the fact that 2,000 and 3,000 Americans are dying every day. Just plug your ears and say it's not true. That's apparently how the president is coping at least. And if that seems like an indication that he might not be working his hardest to try to keep 2,000 and 3,000 Americans a day from dying, well, rest assured I want to show you this. This is his official schedule today according to the White House. This is exactly what they released for his schedule today, Monday, January 4th, 2021.

It says, verbatim quote, President Trump will work from early in the morning until late in the evening. He will make many calls and have many meetings, period. That's what they released for his schedule today.

And actually just as I sat down to start the show tonight, they just sent out the president's schedule for tomorrow, and it's going to sound familiar to you. Daily guidance and press schedule for the president, Tuesday, January 5th, 2021. So this is for tomorrow.

Once again, President Trump will work from early in the morning until late in the evening. He will make many calls and have many meetings. That's what the president's doing. Many calls, many meetings.

So no need to worry, then. We're obviously in great hands.

At this point, though, after the story "The Washington Post" broke this weekend, we have to wonder how many of those many, many calls the president is having might sound anything like this little bundle of crime.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.

You know what they did, and you're not reporting it. That's -- you know, that's a criminal -- that's a criminal offense. And, you know, you can't let that happen. That's a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. That's, a big risk.

And the people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry, and there's nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you've recalculated. It's not fair to take it away from us like this, and it's going to be very costly in many ways. And I think you have to say that you're going to re-examine it, and you can re-examine it, but re-examine it with people that want to find answers, not people that don't want to find answers.

You can't let it happen, and you are letting it happen. You know, I mean, I'm notifying you that you're letting it happen. So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes.


MADDOW: I just want you to find, find enough votes to declare me the winner of the election in your state. And if you don't, what does he call it? He says, that's a big risk, a big risk to you, right?

I'll call that a criminal offense by you if you don't do this. Say you've recalculated. Say you've re-examined it and I won, or else.

Here's my question. Who does the president think is going to prosecute Georgia's state election officials if they refuse his demand that they must forge new fake election results that say he won? He's threatening them, right?

He says, I am -- I'm notifying you that you are letting it happen. That's a criminal -- that's a criminal offense. You can't let that happen. That's a big risk to you. That's a big risk. Risk to whom? How -- in what sense is that a criminal offense by those state officials? Who's supposed to bring those charges that the president is threatening against these state officials?

This audio was first obtained and published this weekend by "The Washington Post." Since then multiple news organizations have obtained it and made their own transcriptions of the recording. In the recording, aside from some of those clips that I just played you, which have been widely circulated, there was one other thing that you should hear tonight.

It was a sort of parenthetical aside from the president. In fact it seemed like such a throwaway line in the conversation that this line didn't even make it into all transcripts that news organizations drew up from listening to the tape. But it's definitely there, and now, even though it seemed like sort of a parenthetical throwaway, with what happened in today's news, it now seems like this might be very important.

It's this single line from the president at the end of him going back and forth with Republican lawyer Cleta Mitchell.


TRUMP: We had ours magnified out. So each one magnified out is 18 times three, but --

CLETA MITCHELL, TRUMP ATTORNEY: I've watched the entire tape.

TRUMP: But, you know, but nobody can make a case for that, Brad. Nobody. I mean, look, that's -- you'd have to be a child to think anything other than that, just a child. I mean, you have your never Trumper U.S. attorney there.


MADDOW: I mean you have your Never Trumper U.S. attorney there, he says, as Cleta Mitchell comes back into the conversation, starts talking over him. You have your Never Trumper U.S. attorney there. What's he talking about there?

U.S. attorney is a federal prosecutor, right? U.S. attorneys in Georgia were all appointed by Trump, but he said one of them is a Never Trumper.

This call by the president was on Saturday, two days ago. The president telling Georgia's election officials that they need to change the election results to make it so that he won, or else, or else they're doing something criminal. That's the threat from him, that these state officials might find themselves criminally charged they don't generate counterfeit election results that say Trump won instead of Biden.

Well, who would bring those criminal charges? How is the president expecting to carry out this threat? How does he want these state elections officials to interpret that threat? When he's telling them, you're liable to criminal charges unless you do this, who does he want them to think is going to charge them? It's left unsaid.

But in that same call, the president sort of randomly, sort of parenthetically throws out a complaint that, in his words, a U.S. attorney, a federal prosecutor in Georgia, who he, himself, appointed is somehow a Never Trumper. That was two days ago.

Now, today, suddenly and without explanation, the U.S. attorney for the northern district of Georgia has just resigned without explanation. He had reportedly previously said that he would stay on the job in Georgia until Inauguration Day, but now he has unexpectedly stepped down, reportedly citing unforeseen circumstances as the reason he's leaving today rather than January 20th. Would you count it as unforeseen circumstances for this president to threaten to use criminal charges as a means of extorting elections officials into stealing an election for him? Is that unforeseen?

Is it unforeseen that he would denounce you as a prosecutor, as a never Trumper if you didn't want to go along with a scheme like that?

BJay Pak is the Georgia U.S. attorney who has unexpectedly resigned, and it's an immediate resignation. He announced it today. It was sudden and unexpected. It's effective immediately. He has not explained why he's left. We will let you know if he does.

But with 16 days left, things are just going to be nutty from here on out. They're at least going to be nutty for the next few days. I mean, the president being caught on tape demanding that elections officials falsify the results of the election, that they find enough ballots to declare him the winner instead of Joe Biden, that has led already to a proposed resolution of censure against the president in congress. Now, obviously, Republicans are not going to go along with something like that for the most part, but Democrats hold the majority in the House and presumably could pass a censure resolution in the House against the president. That effort is being led by Georgia Democrat Hank Johnson.

The president being caught on tape trying to pressure elections officials into falsifying the election result has also led in some quarters to calls for the president to face another impeachment, again, a quick last impeachment before he goes. The president pressuring elections officials to falsify election results could be a crime under both federal law and state law. The state prosecutor in Georgia's most populous county, Fulton County, says she's already received complaints asking her to investigate the president's call t to state elections officials as a potential felony under Georgia law.

But the president is in Georgia tonight, onstage right now, campaigning for the Republican candidates in Georgia's Senate elections tomorrow. This despite the fact that he says no one should trust election results in Georgia. For some reason, he even said this holiday weekend that the Senate elections tomorrow in Georgia are illegal. The elections themselves are illegal? Okay.

So there he is tonight. Theoretically, he's there to tell Republicans to turn out and vote for Republican Senate candidates, but he's telling them to do so in a state where in a state where he says their votes won't count and the election shouldn't be happening. And honestly nobody knows how that kind of crazy pantsness -- a technical term -- how that kind of crazy pantsness is going to affect whether or not Republican voters turn out and vote tomorrow in those Senate elections.

Those Senate elections which will determine which party controls the senate, which will determine whether or not the Biden/Harris administration are able to pass any legislation and get judges put on the courts and get their cabinet members confirmed, right? It's sort of everything in terms of whether or not the Biden and Harris administration is going to actually be able to govern, whether it's Mitch McConnell running the Senate or Chuck Schumer running the Senate. That's all hanging on whether or not the Democratic candidates in those Senate elections tomorrow are able to pull off wins.

I mean, nobody knows how the craziness at the top of Republican politics is going to affect Republican turnout for those elections. Nobody knows what to expect at all from this Senate runoff tomorrow. The last rounds of polling in Georgia do look good for the Democratic candidates, for Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. But it's close even though they look like they're narrowly ahead in recent polling.

Also, polling is notoriously difficult for special elections. Also, polling is notoriously, notoriously difficult over the holidays. So, giant grains of salt for even that close polling.

The early voting numbers also look good for Democrats. In general, the early voting turnout numbers in Georgia for this election are g very high. They're approaching the number of people who turned out to vote early in the general election in November. Traditionally, high turnout is good for Democratic candidates.

But then again, nobody knows what counties as normal, early voter turnout now in the COVID era, since there's so much more reason for people to vote early, it's honestly created a sort of new normal in terms of voter turnout numbers that we don't necessarily understand yet.

Similarly, the proportion of early votes from Democratic-leaning areas in Georgia, those look good for the Democratic candidates. The demographic numbers in terms of who's turning out to vote early, those look good for the Democratic candidates. But that doesn't tell you anything about what the Democrat to Republican ratio of voters is going to look like tomorrow on actual voting day and how that's going to stack up against any lead that the Democrats might have accumulated already with early voting, the early voting population.

What I'm trying to say is be humble about setting expectations in either direction for these Senate races tomorrow in Georgia. I'm going to be part of our coverage of the Senate races tomorrow in Georgia at MSNBC, and we're expecting a long night. We're at least planning on a long night. We'll see. If it's an early call, that will be a windfall, but we're expected to be hunkered down for the long, long night.

Biden and Trump were both campaigning in Georgia tonight. Pence and Harris were both the this weekend. All the national cross winds are blowing there for these races and that includes all of the accelerating craziness on the far right in the Republican Party.

Republican candidate Kelly Loeffler, who is up against Raphael Warnock, in that race tomorrow, in that Senate race, she said today just before Trump's rally in Georgia that she too was going to challenge the electoral votes in the Senate on Wednesday. She's going to play her part in trying to sabotage the Electoral College count, to make it seem like Biden didn't win. Of course she's d going to join that.

Common wisdom in normal times would say that two Democratic Senate candidates would never have a shot in red state Georgia in an election right after a Republican president lost the White House, and so voters might want the pendulum to swing back the other way. I mean, common wisdom would suggest that Democrats shouldn't even necessarily be in this fight, but it looks like they're in this fight.

That said, common wisdom was not invented for uncommon times like this. And so this week is going to be nutty. Stacey Abrams is going to join us next live from Georgia. If there's anybody who knows the way the winds are flowing and what to expect tomorrow in terms of Georgia, if there's anybody who's done anything more to make happen what's going to happen tomorrow, I don't know who better tog talk to than Stacey Abrams.

We're also going to be joined tonight by one of the senators who will have the job of tallying those electoral votes on Wednesday in the Senate when the Republicans are going to try to deliberately screw up and slow down and potentially sabotage that count. They're calling out the National Guard now in advance of the street protest in Washington that the president is inciting to coincide with that count.

Up the creek with a hole in the boat. But we know how to get to safety. Buckle up. Here we go. Lots to get to tonight.



STACEY ABRAMS, CO-FOUNDER, FAIR RIGHT: I've heard there's some conversation about calling going on. But there's only one call I care about. That's the call on January 6th calling Georgia for Warnock and Ossoff, Warnock and Ossoff. That's the call that matters.

We have an opportunity, Georgia, to flip the script, because folks think that November was just a fluke, that it was just because people were upset with those who have been not doing their jobs in D.C. in the White House. Well, we took care of that problem for them, Georgia, and now we need to clean house completely and send Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

We can get this done. So we have the chance, Georgia. We have the chance tomorrow to prove that what we did in November wasn't a fluke. It was the future.


MADDOW: You know, it was President-elect Joe Biden who was the headliner at today's rally in Atlanta for Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and the Reverend Raphael Warnock. But it was Stacey Abrams who, as usual, brought the house down at that rally. Stacey Abrams is a one-woman Georgia force of nature who helped deliver the victory for Joe Biden in Georgia with her years-long work on voter registration and fight for voting rights in Georgia.

Tomorrow, her hard work may very well help to flip the Senate to Democratic control. Tonight, just moments ago, since we have been on the air. President Trump said Stacey Abrams' name from the stage at his Georgia rally, and he said her name like it was an epithet. Watch this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's with this Stacey Abrams? You know, your governor -- your governor and your secretary of state, they're petrified of Stacey Abrams. What's that all about?


MADDOW: They're petrified of Stacey Abrams. What's that all about?

I have just the person to ask. Joining us now is Stacey Abrams, former gubernatorial candidate for the Democratic Party in Georgia, the founder of Fair Fight, a national voting rights organization that fights voter suppression.

Ms. Abrams, it's an honor to have you back. Thank you so much for making time to talk to us on a big night.

ABRAMS: Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: So I have to ask you if you can give us any insight into the answer to the president's question. Stacey Abrams, what's up with this Stacey Abrams? Your governor, your secretary of state, they are petrified of Stacey Abrams. What's that about?

I just want to ask you if you have the answer to that and what you make of the president's remarks about you tonight.

ABRAMS: I don't think that either of them are afraid of me. I think what has happened is that over the last two years, we were able to mitigate much of the voter suppression that Brian Kemp architected and that Brad Raffensperger enforced. We were able to secure absentee ballot rules that actually treated every single voter the same. We were able to mitigate and eviscerate the exact match system that was keeping so many people off the rolls in this weird limbo that existed only in Georgia.

And across the board, we were able to raise the resources and the attention that meant that our elections workers got the resources and the training they needed. I think that really what's going on is that Brad Raffensperger and Brian Kemp are afraid of Georgia voters because now they know that all Georgia voters who are eligible to vote will have the opportunity to be heard.

MADDOW: I don't know Georgia Republican officials as well as you do. I feel like what's happened since the November election, it feels like the person who Brian Kemp and Mr. Raffensperger are most afraid of right now is President Trump with the way that he has come down on them with both feet, trying to get them to falsify election results. This tape over the weekend essentially directing Raffensperger and his office to counterfeit the election results, to declare that Trump won despite what the results were in Georgia.

And it is -- you know, it's heartening to hear on that tape Raffensperger say, no, Mr. President, your facts here are wrong. But to hear them face that wrath from the president, I just have to ask you what kind of an -- how that changes things in terms of this all-important election, how that changes the dynamics in the state, and what you make of how they have, in effect, stood up to the president with what he's done since the election.

ABRAMS: Well, I would cast it slightly differently. They aren't defending the right of voters. They're defending a system that they created.

It was under Brian Kemp that the state authorized the single largest purchase of voting machines in Georgia history, in fact, in American history. It was under Brad Raffensperger that so many of the changes were made in order to secure the elections.

And now they've got to defend what they did. This has nothing to do with, you know, this newfound notion of voter access and the belief in voting rights. They are both two of the most egregious voter suppressors in the country. But they have to defend the system they created against all enemies, and that includes in this case Donald Trump.

MADDOW: Stacey, what do you think a national audience should expect looking at Georgia tomorrow? What do you think we should expect in terms of long lines, the speed of the count, ultimately what you think the results are going to be?

ABRAMS: I think your characterization of the election was spot-on. We don't know what's going to happen. We are excited about the turnout that we've seen. More than 3 million people have voted early and buried in that number is 112,000 voters who voted early this election but did not vote in November. Of that number, we know that 25 percent -- sorry -- 22 percent are under the age of 25 even though they only comprise about 12.5 percent of the registered voters.

And of that number, 40 percent are African-American even though black voters only comprise about 32 percent of the electorate. What this means is we are seeing disproportionate numbers of communities that typically sit out these elections showing up, even having not voted before.

But we don't know what the Republican turnout will be. Sadly, the miasma of misinformation propaganda and conspiracy theory is having an effect on their belief in the system. I will say this. As a Democrat, you know, I like winning but I don't believe -- as someone who believes in democracy, I don't like winning by dispiriting and disenfranchising voters with disinformation.

That is a tragedy, and it's something we should all be ashamed of having happened in this election. But I do think that tomorrow will tell us whether or not Donald Trump's tirades against our system have actually convinced some Republican voters to stay home.

MADDOW: In terms of the way this election tomorrow -- this special Senate elections, these runoffs are being administered, will there be the same number of polling locations? Will we expect the same type of, in some cases, bottlenecks in terms of people having to wait a very long time in order to cast their ballots? Will it look like it did in November in terms of the way it's being administered, or have changes happened since just those few weeks ago when people were at the polls before?

ABRAMS: By the time we had got to Election Day in November, we had seen cures to many of the challenges. What we're worried about tomorrow are attempts at voter intimidation that's being stirred up right now by the rally in Dalton. But we're also concerned about longer lines. That's why we have made certain that voters understand what their rights are, that they can call 866-OUR-VOTE, that if they're in line by 7:00 p.m., they have the right to cast their ballot.

We're hopeful we will not see a repeat of early October voting or, by god, the debacle of June. But we're prepared for any outcome. And what we want voters to understand is we are standing with them. Not just Fair Fight, but a phalanx of organizations, the multi-ethnic, multiracial coalition across the state of Georgia.

No one is too far away for us to be able to help them, and we want all of them to understand that tomorrow between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., you have the right to be heard in Georgia.

MADDOW: Stacey, I just have one last question for you. With the president right now, as we speak, in Georgia and he is spinning out all of his conspiracy theories, what you described as a miasma of conspiracy theories and grievance, that is happening right now on blast from the president in your state.

And he has derided the vote in Georgia. He has sought to overturn it. We've all heard on the tapes. He's talked about it publicly. He's tried to do it in the courts. We now know he's doing it privately in terms of, to my mind, extorting state officials to try to counterfeit those election results to benefit him.

I just want to give you a chance here on TV to either counterprogram or respond to the president directly in terms of what his message is for the voters of the state of Georgia given what y'all are about to do tomorrow and what you did several weeks ago on November 3rd.

ABRAMS: Well, I'm less concerned about a failed president who is on his way out and more about the two U.S. senators who have completely and totally kowtowed to the unfounded and just unconscionable lies that he's told about our elections. David Perdue, today, he decided to support this accusation and these attacks on our voting system, the conspiracy theories that have been debunked time and again.

Kelly Loeffler intends to go t Congress on Wednesday and to stand up and to deny the voters of Georgia their chosen electors. It is a shame and a travesty that these two people call themselves leaders, that they hold the titles of senator.

And it is up to Georgians, every one, to show up tomorrow. If you haven't voted, to show up, to drop off your absentee ballot at a drop box or at a polling location, to go to the polling place and to cast your ballots for Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, if we want COVID relief, if you want health care, if you want jobs, if you want justice, if we want normalcy, then we have to not only eliminate the scourge that is Donald Trump, but we have to excoriate the terrible leadership that we've seen from David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler by telling them that enough is enough and it's time for them to get out. And you can go to to find out.

MADDOW: Stacey Abrams -- Stacey Abrams, the founder of Fair Fight -- Ms. Abrams, thank you so much. I know it's a huge night for you. Keep us apprised as things unfold over the next 24 hours. Can't wait to see how it comes out.

ABRAMS: Thank you so much, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. Senator Amy Klobuchar is one of the senators who has actually got a job when it comes to tallying the electoral votes. She's one of the senators actually in charge of opening, processing, and tallying the electoral votes in front of Congress on Wednesday. This is the process that a dozen Republican senators and more than 100 Republicans in the House -- this is the process they're going to try to bollix up.

Senator Klobuchar joins us coming up next to talk about what this process is going to be next, what to expect, and how worried to be about what the Republicans are planning.

Stick with us.


MADDOW: As the clock ticks down on this presidency and President Trump appears more and more desperate to find some way to try to cling to power, I don't know about you, but I have found myself struggling to kind of calibrate my level of worry about what the next couple of weeks holds. Actually, about what the next couple of days holds.

For example, the day after Christmas, the deeply sourced "Washington Post" columnist David Ignatius reported that senior government officials, people in the Trump administration, are worried that any violence at the pro-Trump demonstrations planned for Washington on Wednesday, any violence at those events might be used by Trump as a pretext to mobilize the military, which he would then use somehow to keep himself in power. Ignatius reported on those concerns the day after Christmas.

Now, maybe we don't think it's very likely that President Trump is going to use the U.S. military to try to stay in office for a second term, to try to usurp power. If you're like me, maybe you can't even in the most wildly imaginative part of your brain, you can't figure out how such a cockamamie scheme would even work in practice. What would that mean, right?

But if president Trump did try it, if he did try something like that, it would be so catastrophic to our standing as a democracy that even a slight chance that it might happen, that he might try to do that is probably worth a considerable amount of worry. It was clearly worth enough worry for all ten living former defense secretaries, including Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and the Trump defense secretaries, Jim Mattis and Mark Esper, all ten of them, all ten living former defense secretaries wrote an editorial in "The Washington Post" last night recognizing Biden as the next president and warning the U.S. military against getting involved in any Trump craziness should he try it.

So like that's one side of the level of worry calibrator. We have this very low probability scenario, like how likely could that even be? How likely could he even try it, you know? Very low probability scenario. But one with a very high level of seriousness in terms of potential consequences.

On the other side, presumably much less consequential, really the biggest risk just being that it's going to be a big, awkward time waster, we now have this near certainty that Republican lawmakers are going to deliberately screw up the counting of the electoral votes the day after tomorrow, on Wednesday in Washington. Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler, as Stacey Abrams just said, is the latest to jump on the bandwagon. She announced tonight that she's going to vote on Wednesday with a dozen of her Republican Senate colleagues against certifying Joe Biden's Electoral College win.

They're not even voting to certify it. They're going to insert themselves into the process and object to the certification of Biden's win, right? Now, that is something that doesn't pose as much of a fatal risk to the republic as, you know, like the army being deployed against civilians, right? Nothing those Republicans are going to do in the Senate the day after tomorrow is going to stop Joe Biden from taking office as the duly elected next president of the United States on January 20th.

But congressional Republicans are definitely going to do this on Wednesday. So how do we calibrate our level of worry right now about the next 48 hours, right? On the one hand, very serious but unlikely threats that the president might use any violence or threat of violence in these protests that he's inciting on Wednesday as a pretext for putting the military in the streets, and he would then use the military in some way to try to usurp power, right? Not very likely. Very, very worrying, right?

On the one hand, that's one thing we have to worry about. On the other hand, a very likely threat in terms of them screwing up the Electoral College count, but something that seems like it's probably much less serious in terms of its consequences. I mean we've never really gone through that before as a country, but presumably we'll just get through it.

How should we think about these things? How worried should we be?

Joining us now is Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She's the top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, which means she has a key role in Wednesday's certification process, including leading the Democratic response to the challenges that Republicans are planning to raise.

Senator Klobuchar, it's great to see you. Thank you so much for your time tonight.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Thanks, Rachel.

And let me say at the outset, 12:01 p.m. on January 20th, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to be inaugurated as the president and vice president of the United States. So if that's a de-worrier, I hope it is. That will happen.

And for me, leading this effort on the Senate side, I do think it's really important for people to see that this thing was set up in the 1800s, this process. It's only been challenged twice, resoundingly defeated, the objections in the past. And, of course, it makes me furious, and I think it's soul crushing that people like Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz are leading the effort to undermine the will of the voters to step in and say we should have some audit at the last minute when every single state in the nation, every single state has certified these results. Over 80 judges including Trump-appointed judges have rejected, rejected these crazy claims. We all know that.

But I want your viewers to know that there is another story, and that is that, of course, the Democrats are standing tall for our democracy. But there's also Republican leaders, including today the two Republican senators from North Dakota joined in, and that's part of my job is working with them to make very clear in the U.S. Senate, the leadership in the Republican Party, in the senate, people like John Thune, people like Susan Collins and people like Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, the former Republican candidate for president, Ben Sasse -- there are a large number of Republicans who are actually standing up for the democracy.

So I hope that at least calms you a bit, that in the Senate, this isn't just going to be about Democrats. It's a majority Republican right now although I so think we can win those races in Georgia. I'm so excited about what Stacey has done and our two candidates there. But it is very clear in Senate there is going to be bipartisan pushback against this group that is trying to undermine the will of the people of America.

MADDOW: So materially in terms of the consequences of what the Republicans are going to do on Wednesday, should we expect that it's just going to make everything take a long time, and it's going to make the objections process they're going to go through is going to stretch things out and make this go on for hours longer than it needed to. But ultimately, the outcome is foretold.

I'm asking this in part because the president tonight in Georgia just said, I hope our great vice president comes through for us, talking about Wednesday. If he doesn't come through, I won't like him quite as much.

Is there -- is there anything that the Republicans could do or that Vice President Pence could do that would change the way this is going to end on Wednesday?

KLOBUCHAR: The vice president's job is essentially a ministerial job. He cannot violate the law, and if he does something that is against that law, we can object in the house chamber, and then we'll go back and vote on it just like we're going to vote on each state.

They're focusing on six states, Rachel. I don't think it's a surprise to you. Arizona and then Georgia, Michigan and Nevada. They are focusing on Wisconsin, of course, and Pennsylvania.

And if they object, if there's a senator and a house member that object to each state, the Senate goes back, debates for two hours. Then there's votes. The House does the same thing at the same time, and each of these states could take three to four hours.

So you are correct, it could go on for 24 hours. It could go on for longer. But I think in the end, because I believe that we are going to make such a strong case based on the facts, the ten living secretaries of defense that you just pointed out, the words of so many Republican and Democratic elected officials across the country supporting these results, saying there's no widespread fraud, including, by the way, former Attorney General Barr, including the man who led the efforts for election security at Homeland Security.

So we have the facts on our side. We're picking up votes as we speak, and so we're going to win this in a big way. And I hope that that will give Joe and Kamala, when they come in -- it's not just about what happens and the spectacle and how angry we are that they're doing this. That's all true.

But I want them to come in, when they're standing up there on that platform in front of the capitol, they're going to have leadership of both parties behind them because that is what we need to move our country forward, to get the vaccines out, to get our economy going, to have a U.S. Senate and it all depends on Georgia, that's going to stand up for the people of Georgia and stand up for the country by making sure people get the help they need, like the $2,000 check that the Republican Senate stopped in its tracks.

That's our job. And so, part of this is going to be all captured on the day, on Wednesday. And that is that I'm going to make this as bipartisan as I possibly can while pushing back hard against the hard against Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley.

And, Rachel, I'm actually looking forward to it.

MADDOW: I can tell that you are. I can read the relish in your voice a little bit while you were talking about it. I'm going to be part of MSNBC covering it. I'm looking forward to it. I'm bringing a sleeping bag to the studio.

KLOBUCHAR: That's a good idea. And a pillow.

MADDOW: Fair enough. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, thank you very much. We're waiting to see how this unfolds. Thanks.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. Stay with us.


MADDOW: It is one of the indelible visuals of this chapter in history we're living with, the U.S. Navy hospital ships floating into our nation's biggest cities, to help the most overwhelmed hospitals in the early days of the pandemic. USNS Comfort sent to New York City. Its sister ship, Mercy, sent to southern California. The Mercy arrived at the port of Los Angeles in late march and stayed about seven weeks until the situation in California stabilized.

Now all these months later, Los Angeles would like the Mercy to come back. As L.A. becomes the newest epicenter of U.S. epidemic, L.A. hospitals have been turning away ambulances, ICUs in L.A. have been full for weeks. Some hospitals in L.A. have been setting up patient beds in gift shops and conference rooms.

So, now, one of L.A. County's supervisors has requested that that hospital ship, the USNS Mercy, come back to help take off some of the pressure of L.A.'s overtopped hospitals and health care workers.

Janice Hahn said when making her request, quote, our health care workers are exhausted and our hospitals are overwhelmed. They need backup.

In the meantime, here comes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a team of design and construction experts from the Army Corps are being deployed to six L.A. hospitals to increase the amount of oxygen each hospital has available to give to patients. In trying to treat thousands of people simultaneously suffering from the same respiratory disease, L.A. has quite literally been running out of air to treat all the COVID patients coming through their doors.

In the city of Los Angeles yesterday, more than 11,000 people were newly infected with COVID in one day. Look at the case numbers in L.A. right now.

Hospitalizations are nearing an all-time high and unsustainable level. Somebody died of COVID in L.A. yesterday every 17 minutes, just in that city.

With the post-holiday surge coming, public health officials say this is just going to get worse before it gets better.

Prayers for the great city of Los Angeles tonight. Watch this space.


MADDOW: That's going to do it for us for tonight, but I'm going to see you again tomorrow night early. Our special coverage of the Georgia Senate elections, those all important elections that will determine control of the Senate, that coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. I will see you then.


Good evening, Lawrence. I have missed you.


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