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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, November 12, 2020

Guests: Celine Gounder, Amy Klobuchar, Errin Haines


"The Washington Post" reports that Trump insists he'll win but aides say he has no real plan to overturn results and talks of a 2024 run. Interview with Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. MSNBC's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Mehdi Hassan and Jennifer Rubin, thank you both.

That is "ALL IN" on this Thursday night.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW with Ali Velshi in for Rachel starts now.

Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Chris, good evening. Thank you for that.

And thank you at home for joining us at this hour. Rachel remains quarantine after a close contact tested COVID positive, but Rachel is still doing just fine.

However, we just got word a moment ago that more than 157,000 Americans were diagnosed with COVID today. This is a brand-new record, which comes a day after we broke the previous record. More than 157,000 people tested positive for COVID in the United States today. We'll be talking in just a few minutes with a member of President-elect Joe Biden's advisory board. Looking forward to that conversation.

We're also expecting brand new numbers from Maricopa County, Arizona, tonight which could well lead to the state being called for Joe Biden. But before we get to the next president, in fact, before we even talk about the current president, today, we heard from our last president. Not in a speech or interview but in an audio book.

"The Atlantic" magazine today published an excerpt from President Obama's new memoir, including an audio excerpt of the former president reading the book's preface. In that preface, Obama says one reason it took so long to write this book was that he, quote, didn't fully anticipate the way events would unfold, end quote, in the years after he left the office, which I think is Barack Obama's measured way of saying stuff got crazy around here.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Our democracy seems to be teetering on the brink of crisis -- a crisis rooted in a fundamental contest between two opposing visions of what America is and what it should be, a crisis that left the body politic divided, angry, and mistrustful, and has allowed for an ongoing breach of institutional norms, procedural safeguards and the adherence to basic facts that both Republicans and Democrats once took for granted.

What I can say for certain is that I'm not yet ready to abandon the possibility of America -- not just for the sake of future generations of Americans but for all of human kind. And so the world watches America. The only great power in history made up of people from every corner of the planet, comprising every race and faith and cultural practice, to see if our experiment in American democracy can work, to see if we can do what no other nation has ever done, to see if we can actually live up to the meaning of our creed. The jury's still out.


VELSHI: The jury's still out. Preface to President Obama's new book continues from there. But when he recorded that audio version, this year's presidential election had not yet happened.

For the written version of the excerpt published today, the former president updated the text in light of recent events, and it continues from where he left out. I'm encouraged by the record-setting number of Americans who turned out to vote in last week's election have an abiding trust in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, in their character and capacity to do what is right. But I also know that no single election will settle the matter. Our divisions run deep, our challenges are daunting, end quote.

Boy, are they. As of tonight only four -- count them -- four Republican senators have acknowledged Joe Biden's win. These four.

That means Joe Biden has received far more congratulatory calls from foreign leaders than he has from elected officials in his own country. And Biden would have received yet more calls from foreign leaders if not for the fact Donald Trump's State Department is refusing to put them in touch with Biden when they call. The State Department has always handled communications with foreign leaders for lots of reasons including translation and recording what they say and briefing the person getting the call for the president-elect. But not this time.

Another thing that president-elect's have always gotten but Joe Biden isn't is the presidential daily brief, the daily intelligence report prepared for the president. Several Republican senators have begun saying Joe Biden should at least be getting that. But to be clear, they're saying he should be getting the PDB not because he's the president-elect but just in case he becomes president.

Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford was sounding very decisive yesterday, saying Joe Biden did not begin receiving the PDB by the end of the week, he, Senator Lankford, would step in which many interpreted to mean that Senator Lankford, a Republican of Oklahoma, was saying the presidential transition should begin. So, today, just to clear things up, James Lankford rushed to a microphone to make clear that he meant no such thing, and we just have no idea who the president is going to be in January, so Joe Biden might as well receive intelligence briefings, and that it's all he meant.

Sure, give Joe Biden some briefings. No sense being unprepared. I mean, I guess there's some slight chance Joe Biden could be the next president. But right now, it's just unknowable. How could Republican senators be expected to have answers to such bottomless mysteries like he won more votes in the election?

Okay, all kidding aside there's a reason that one place Republican senators are starting to budge is actually the issue of intelligence briefings because if they know in their heart of hearts as most of them surely do that Joe Biden really is going to be the next president, regardless of what they're willing to say within earshot of Donald Trump, well then making sure the next president is up to speed on the latest intelligence and national security information is really important.

Today, over 150 former national security officials including several who served in the Trump administration wrote to the Trump administration to urge them to officially name Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the apparent president and vice president-elect. The technical step that is required to get government transition resources flowing, they warn that, quote, delaying the transition further poses a serious risk to our national security. And even as the lack of a presidential transition process may be doing unknown harm to national security, President Trump continues to clean house across the intelligence and national security establishment in the U.S. government.

We've written reporting from the last few days about the firings at the Defense Department and the installation of Trump loyalists at the top levels of the Pentagon.

Well, today, President Trump appears to have started clearing out the government's top cyber security officials. The Department of Homeland Security's cyber security and infrastructure security agency or CISA, definitely not a household name, but throughout 2020, it was at the center of preventing foreign interference in the election, both by preventing cyber attacks but also by pushing back on Internet disinformation about the election.

Today, "Reuters" reports that the assistant director for cybersecurity at CISA was forced to resign, and the widely respected head of the agency, Chris Krebs, is telling associates that he expects to be fired.

Here's what's particularly crazy about this. Just today, CISA joined several other government agencies in a celebratory statement announcing that, quote, the November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised. That's amazing news.

Imagine being the president of the United States and seeing that statement and being upset by it. But apparently it is CISA's insistence that it did the job it was supposed to do, that it successfully helped protect American elections that has made Donald Trump so angry. Chris Krebs, quote, drew the ire of the Trump White House over a website run by CISA dubbed rumor control which debunks disinformation about the election.

White House officials have asked for content to be edited or removed which pushed back against numerous fall false claims about the election, including that Democrats are behind a mass election fraud scheme. Just makes your head spin.

The top cyber security official his whole job is to protect the integrity of the election and he did, but the president says the election was fraudulent, so the guy has got to be fired. In just a moment, we're going to speak with a key Democratic senator who's worked on election security and knows Chris Krebs about how concerned we should all be on what the president is doing here.

This story gets at the attention we've been talking about all week. On the one hand, it seems very, very bad the president is clearinghouse in all these national security posts as he refuses to concede defeat in the election. It can look sinister and scary, but if Trump is just firing his top security official because he's mad that the guy debunked his Twitter conspiracy theories, that feels less sinister and more petulant and silly.

And if you're looking for more evidence that Trump and his allies are not really engaged in a series or confident attempt to hold to power, today in Arizona a Trump campaign lawyer attempted to submit as evidence a stack of online forms filled out by random people who claim they had witnessed or heard about voting irregularities. Even the Trump lawyer admitted the forms were full of lies and, quote, spam.

The judge would not allow the so-called evidence. The Trump lawyer was later forced to admit in court, quote, this is not a fraud case, this is not a stealing the election case. Which maybe he should tell the president.

Meanwhile another Trump lawyer attempted to file an election lawsuit with the federal court that has no jurisdiction over elections, a legal dream team this is not.

And over at the "Washington Post" this headline, quote, Trump insists he'll win but aides say he has no real plan to overturn results and talks of a 2024 run. "Washington Post" reporter Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker write, quote, asked about Trump's ultimate plan, one senior administration chuckled and said, you're giving everyone way too much credit right now.

Trump has been spending his days largely on the phone, calling advisers, allies and friends. The president has been trying to find people who will give him no good news, one adviser said.

Look, there's no doubt this is scary time. There's no doubt Donald Trump can do a lot of damage on his way out the door. The moment calls for vigilance, but there is mounting evidence that there may not be an actual plan or even a genuine effort to keep Donald Trump in power.

Joining us now, Philip Rucker, White House bureau chief for "The Washington Post", whose reporting I've been telling you about.

Phil, good to see you again, my friend.

What are you hearing about those around the president, what they believe to be true and what they're telling him and what he's thinking?

PHIL RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, what they believe to be true is not the same necessarily as what they're telling him, that the people around the president understands the reality as it exists which is that Joe Biden won this election, he's the president-elect, that these legal challenges do not -- do not have much hope of turning those election results around even if some minuscule amount of voter fraud were to be discovered, and let's be clear none has been discovered yet. It's not enough to turn this election around.

Biden won. That's the reality, and it's what the White House officials largely believe. But a number of people are trying to encourage the president. Don't necessarily want to give him bad news. They're trying to encourage him to fight onto pursue these legal challenges.

The president instead of being president, instead of addressing the coronavirus and making public appearances and holding task force meetings these last few days, he's been lighting up the phone. He's been calling friends, allies, advisers, anybody who can give him some good news, who can point to discrepancies potentially where the vote may be crooked in the president's view and give him something to cling onto as he tries to claim falsely that the election was stolen from him.

VELSHI: There's reporting that the national security advisor has told staff don't even mention Biden's name. If you ever mention Biden's name, that's a no-go. You'd be fired, one national security official said. Everyone is scared of even talking about the chance of working with the Biden transition. That's reporting from "The Daily Beast".

To what end, Phil? Where does this go? At some point, are they all hoping he'll come around to the conclusion himself or the courts will dismiss all the cases and all the counting will be finished and there'll be no -- nothing left and at some point Donald Trump will accept reality?

RUCKER: Well, Ali, the hope of some in the president's orbit, and this would be the least dangerous scenario for the country is that this is just getting the president to a better emotional state. And, you know, maybe next week before we hit Thanksgiving, he'll start to realize what's really going on, and he'll find a graceful way to accept the reality of the results and move on, and Biden will be able to begin his transition in the formal official way that he is waiting for.

But we don't know that's going to happen. And Donald Trump is mercurial. He's impulsive. He makes decisions based on instinct and based on what information people are feeding him, and there's a very real possibility that he refuses to concede, and that he refuses to accept these results, and this continues all the way through the inauguration on January 20th.

But it's worth keeping in mind that the staff in the West Wing, you know, are under orders not to accept that Biden is the president-elect, not to be casting about for jobs, not to send their resumes out. If they're caught doing so, they may be fired.

And yet, privately, they know that their jobs are going to be over January 20th because they know --

VELSHI: Right.

RUCKER: -- how this election turned out.

VELSHI: Philip, you are the White House bureau chief for "The Washington Post" for a reason. You don't speculate. You report.

So, you just stated that there's a possibility, outside possibility that he doesn't come to this conclusion and this goes on until inauguration. At some point, in between there, there'll be Electoral College vote, which makes it harder to fight back on it.

But what do people tell you is the worst-case scenario?

RUCKER: Well, that would be the worst-case scenario that the president continues to challenge the election result, that he continues to encourage his millions of followers around the country not to believe the integrity of the vote, that he casts doubt about the validity of our very democracy in this country and refuses to accept Biden is his successor.

Now, what that physically means on January 20th when he's supposed to vacate the White House, who knows, and I'm certainly not going to speculate about that, but it's a dangerous scenario because as you just quoted Barack Obama saying in his book, the world is watching. This is the most powerful and important democracy in the world, and what we have right now is a sitting president challenging the very integrity of our election system.

VELSHI: Philip Rucker is the White House bureau chief for "The Washington Post" --Phil, thank you for making time for us tonight. We appreciate it.

RUCKER: Thank you.

VELSHI: I want to turn now to Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the ranking Democrat on the Rules Committee and a member of the Judiciary Committee. She was a key voice on election security throughout the 2020 campaign. Obviously, she was also a presidential candidate herself.

Senator Klobuchar, good to see you again. Thank you for being with us tonight.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Thanks, Ali. Thank you.

VELSHI: Let's talk about what you believe is going on with Mr. Krebs and CISA.

Why -- is this just vindictive on the part of the president? He did tweet today, the president that is, about votes that were actually changed -- votes for Trump that were became Biden votes. There's no -- there's no ground on that at all.

What do you think is happening?

KLOBUCHAR: You know, Chris Krebs headed up this agency, toiling away now since he was appointed to this position, and then confirmed by the Senate on a bipartisan basis all through -- since 2017, and he has won the respect of conservative Republican secretaries of state like the West Virginia secretary of state that said he turned everything around, worked so well with the states on election security, to people like my friend Mark Warner who today issued a statement supporting Chris Krebs in his position as a ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.

Why is all this? Because this guy literally has been telling the truth, and this is -- and the people that work for him. This predates what we have seen in the last few weeks. All along, they started this website, and I suggest people look at it,

And it took on all kinds of bad information out there on mail-in ballots and things and set the record straight. At the same time, he worked really hard to stop foreign interference in our election.

Yes, there were attempts, which they came out publicly with before the election, but overall, as they stated in their statement today, this has been an election where we were able to have a fair election.

And that's because of local election officials all over this country, Republicans and Democrats, who are doing their jobs, and that's because of people like Chris Krebs. And no frivolous lawsuits by Donald Trump are going to change that.

And I just -- I'm proud of Chris Krebs.

VELSHI: But there are a lot of them.

KLOBUCHAR: I think he should get a medal instead of being condemned for protecting our country's elections.

VELSHI: Yeah, for four years, we talked about foreign interference in our elections. The idea that that wasn't the problem, in fact, there was a joint statement from CISA and the elections infrastructure, governing, coordinating council, a whole bunch of people who oversee elections, and they said there's no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.

But herein lies the rub -- these are governmental organizations saying so, and today, the same day, you have the president not just tweeting about suppression and polls and all that kind of stuff, but actually saying votes were changed. And the net result, Senator, is depending on what polls you look at, up to 20 percent of Americans do not believe this election was fairly decided. Not do not think that Donald Trump lost it, do not think it was run fairly. This is the deep scar that this is imposing on democracy in America.

KLOBUCHAR: It is, and I am pleased people are coming out slowly be surely on the Republican side -- including some governors. I know you mentioned a few of the senators, but the governors, there have been a number of them that have come out, congratulated Joe Biden on his election, and we just start seeing now today, it was, yes, James Lankford said he thought Biden should get the briefings, but also Chuck Grassley said the same thing, and he is the most senior member of the U.S. Senate on the Republican side.

So, you know, I think that things are slowly but surely changing. Am I dismayed that Donald Trump is firing people left and right while we have the worst moment in the pandemic so far occurring in this country? Fifty-six people die in my state alone yesterday, and he is just sitting, stewing in his office.

As John Bolton said today, we don't have time to get through seven stages of grief with Donald Trump. The point is that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are moving forward. They -- Joe announced his chief of staff today. The president-elect has put together this preeminent task force of 13 experts to make recommendations to get us through this pandemic and out the other side. Work is being done in the private sector on the vaccine.

We need to get rapid testing out immediately and work is being done. And that's -- I hope that's some assurance to you, despite the fact that Joe Biden is being denied what he should be getting, which is these intelligence briefings and a transition space and funding for his transition.

VELSHI: Senator, I saw you last -- in person when I was in Minneapolis doing my show there, and your husband had COVID. So, this is -- this is personal to you as well as the national tragedy. As you heard today, 157,000 new cases today.

Senator, thank you for your time as always. I appreciate it.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you very much, Ali.

VELSHI: The coronavirus numbers today are so overwhelming that they are almost hard to comprehend. A member of the Biden/Harris coronavirus task force joins us to help us understand what this administration, the next administration is planning to do to help.


VELSHI: More now on the breaking news tonight -- the number of new cases of COVID-19 in the United States has reached another record. According to NBC News, coronavirus tracker, 157,825 now cases have been reported so far today in this country. That's 9,000 more than the previous record set just yesterday -- 9,000 more than the record.

We have been breaking coronavirus case records almost every day for the past week. We are showing no signs of stopping. Deaths are on the rise, too, with the number of new people reported dead from COVID increasing daily. Hospitalizations are trending up. More than 67,000 people are in the hospital fighting this illness.

Hospitals in many state like Wisconsin, Illinois, New Mexico, just to name a few are overrun with patients. The pandemic is worsening in every corner of this country, no matter how you measure it.

By "The New York Times" count, cases are rising in every single state except for Louisiana. Meanwhile, in our nation's capital, the White House is experiencing yet another cluster. Despite not having the bulk of the election results in on election day last night, the Trump -- last Tuesday, I'm sorry, the White House held this presumptive victory party at the East Room at the White House and since then, several attendees have tested positive, including White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Trump campaign adviser David Bossie, former Trump campaign aide Healy Baumgardner, and White House political director Brian Jack, all in attendance, all having tested positive.

Today we learned there are two more positives -- Republican national committee chief of staff Richard Walters and Trump campaign adviser Cory Lewandowski, who since that election party has also spent time in Philadelphia trying to help Trump's flailing legal challenges to the vote count there. And he showed up at the infamous news conference Saturday outside the Four Seasons -- the Four Seasons total landscaping company.

But don't panic. Lewandowski told CNBC today, I feel great and it's agree he's not experiencing symptoms right now, but it's not great for the nearly 160,000 Americans who just caught this today, or specifically the 67,000 people currently hospitalized because of their symptoms.

These numbers keep going up in no small part because of a lack of a consistent national response to this virus. Each state has been left to make up its own rules in response to case surges. "The Wall Street Journal" reports that governors in New York, Maryland, Minnesota, Utah, Iowa, and other states have imposed restrictive measure since yesterday's record high case count, but change could still be on the way.

The Biden transition team is getting down business and planning a national response to coronavirus. Earlier this week, Biden assembled his coronavirus task force, a team of doctors and health experts that will help shape coronavirus containment policy for the Biden administration, starting on day one, hopefully before day one.

One of the doctors on that task force joins you now, Dr. Celine Gounder, epidemiologist, clinical attendant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at NYU's Grossman School of Medicine and now a member of the Biden/Harris coronavirus task force.

Dr. Gounder, good to see you again. Thank you for being with us tonight.


VELSHI: I want to understand. I know that there are many of you very qualified people on the two different groups of the Biden administration, the incoming Biden administration has put together. What does it mean to us on the receiving end?

What does a coordinated federal response look like? It is stuff that the administration does? Is it pulling all the governors together and creating a standard that makes sense? Is it using the CDC and the NIH the right way, unlike this administration is doing? What does it look like?

GOUNDER: Well, it's all of the above, Ali. I think part of what has been in the works for months now is developing a blueprint, a plan, how to operationalize that plan in terms of how to control the pandemic in this country. And that requires a federal response but it also requires a state and local health response and the involvement of the private sector.

And so, what you're going to see in the new administration is the CDC taken off the sidelines, back in the center of the game. You'll see -- you'll be hearing from people like Nancy Messonnier and Ann Schuchat again. These are career scientists at the CDC who are really experts in this area and you're going to see improved coordination with governors, with local and state health departments in terms of implementing the CDC guidelines.

And finally, in terms of the private sector. When we talk about, how do we scale up vaccines? How do we scale up test something how do we scale up new techniques like monoclonal antibodies, that is very much going to require the participation of the private sector to distribute and disseminate all of those new technologies.

VELSHI: I remember watching the Ebola virus response in the United States and thinking, this is tight. The idea if you call -- I'm in New York City. If you call 911 and you've got Ebola symptoms, a whole separate operation comes to get you in hazmat suits and went to a particular place. The government fought that.

Ron Klain is going to be the chief of staff at the White House, a guy who knows how to fully take on a virus and really go to war with it.

You know Ron very well.

GOUNDER: I do, I do. And I think there could not have been a better choice. Ron has spent decades in government previously as chief of staff to Vice President Gore, later for Vice President Biden, and now for President-elect Biden. And not only does he understand how government works, how different branches, different agencies work together, how to coordinate all of those different groups, he also served as White House Ebola czar, and so, really does understand how to control a pandemic in terms of the government response.

So really, I was quite pleased to see that Ron was chosen. I can't think of a better choice.

VELSHI: What -- there's some talk about shutting down the country. What's the best way for people to think about what controlling the spread of this virus looks like vis-a-vis going about business as usual?

GOUNDER: Well, I don't really love the expression shut down or lockdown. I think we have moved beyond that at this point. Those kinds of draconian, lacking in nuance kind of measures, we've moved past that, because we do understand a bit more about how the virus is spread.

And really what we need to be doing is thinking about this as not an on and off light switch, but rather a dimmer switch where you sort of dial up and dial down interventions. As you do your surveillance, you see what's happening in different communities.

I think New York City was a good example of this in the last couple of months, where in specific zip codes, we targeted testing and contact tracing in those zip codes. We didn't have lockdowns across the city. And so, we're now in New York at the point where we're reaching a tipping point in terms of having to tighten up on certain things more broadly.

That includes putting a pause on indoor do I think, on bars, on gyms, but that doesn't mean closing schools, for example. So, I think we can do these things in a far more granular way that are less disruptive to people's every day lives now.

VELSHI: And that -- those new restrictions going on in New York City tomorrow night. So, it's interesting, the dimmer switch analogy.

Dr. Celine Gounder, good to see you. Epidemiologist, clinical assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at NYU's Grossman School of Medicine, and now a member of the Biden/Harris coronavirus task force. We appreciate your time and your service to the country.

GOUNDER: My pleasure.

VELSHI: President Trump has gotten a lot of mileage out of the controversial legal opinion you cannot indict a sitting president. But that all changes after January 20th. And tonight, there's new reporting that could give the president yet another reason to worry.


VELSHI: In 2019, Trump's long time lawyer and fixer testified for the House Oversight Committee. Michael Cohen testified that the president and his business inflated various asset values for loans and insurance purposes to secure more favorable terms, and in some cases, understated the value of some of his properties to pay lower taxes. Now, in case, it's not obvious, that is fraud and that is illegal.


REP. LACY CLAY (D-MO): To your knowledge, did the president or his company ever inflate assets or revenues?


CLAY: And was that done with the president's knowledge or direction?

COHEN: Everything was done with the knowledge and at the direction of Mr. Trump.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?


OCASIO-CORTEZ: Who else knows that the president did this?

COHEN: Allen Weisselberg.


VELSHI: One of the many people apparently tuning in that day was Letitia James, this woman, the attorney general for the state of New York. After hearing Cohen's testimony, her office opened an investigation into the president's financial dealings, specifically the alleged fraud detailed by Michael Cohen.

Now, up until now, this investigation has not provided much of a real threat to Trump because the president has a very important job that virtually makes him immune to prosecution. But obviously, things changed in the past week and today, we learned that New York's attorney general is advancing her investigation.

Bloomberg News report that Letitia James' office has obtained financial documents from Allen Weisselberg, the individual name-checked by Michael Cohen during his testimony. Mr. Weisselberg is the chief financial officer of the Trump organization. He was intimately involved in the Stormy Daniels hush money payment and has been with Trump for decades, been with the Trump family, in fact, for decades.

His financial documents could potentially shed major light on the Trump Organization's operations and tax strategies.

For more, I want to bring in my friend, U.S. attorney and former U.S. attorney in Alabama, and MSNBC legal analyst, Joyce Vance.

Joyce, thanks for being with us tonight.

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Good to be with you, Ali.

VELSHI: Joyce, let's talk -- let's talk about -- I talked to Letitia James, the attorney general a couple weeks ago on my show, and asked her about this. She wasn't clearly forthcoming, but if she's getting ready for a case she's not going to tell me about it on MSNBC.

The fact is this Allen Weisselberg character who she's looking into, he's been with the Trumps, it's his name is on the checks. Apparently, nothing got anywhere money-wise without Weisselberg's fingerprints on it.

VANCE: That seems to be accurate. He's the chief financial officer. He's the man in charge of the president's trusts, those resources that he supposedly put in to a blind trust during the presidency. But he's been with the company since Fred Trump's time. He'd certainly know as prosecutors like to say where all the bodies are buried if there's been any financial mismanagement or misconduct by the company.

VELSHI: And we'll find out when we find out what Letitia James has, but this does shed new light on what we've seen since Saturday, since Joe Biden was declared the president-elect.

Donald Trump has a lot of reasons for wanting to continue to be president. In fact, according to CNN reporting today, Donald Trump has been asking aides since 2017 about whether he can self-pardon. One former White House official said Trump asked about self-pardons as well as pardons for his family.

Trump even asked if he could issue pardons preemptively for things people could be charged with in the future, the former official said.

So what's the answer to that? Can he, and does it matter if charges are brought by Letitia James, the attorney general of New York state or Cy Vance?

VANCE: I think, first off, we should just take a deep breath and acknowledge the audacity of a president who's so clearly concerned about his own criminal culpability and that of his family members that pardons are a major obsession with him. And certainly we know one thing about Donald Trump, which is that he'll do whatever he wants to do whether he's entitled to do it or not, whether it has legal force is an entirely different question.

But at best, he can pardon himself for federal criminal conduct. And what Attorney General James is looking at is a series of civil cases in New York under broad authority that she has under their blue-sky laws to investigate persistent incidents of fraud by a corporation. It's meant to tell companies if you're going to play in New York, you have to play fairly.

And so, she could theoretically bring perhaps one major civil case against him or an entire series of cases over all these incidents. And that, of course, would be something he couldn't pardon himself from. Nor can he protect himself from criminal investigations that are clearly being done by Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance.

So what these two lines of investigation show us is that there will be investigations that will survive the end of Trump's presidency, and he'll no longer have the shield of the presidency to protect him from the consequences of those investigations.

VELSHI: And then there's this other issue of the money that he owes. We know of at least $421 million that Donald Trump owes. It's not clear to whom he owes it. And two things happen here. One is he can't continue to do things for folks if he's not the president of the United States.

So there are worries maybe he takes some of those things he's got in his head that only presidents know of our country and that's of value to someone. How do we know or how can we police that? How does Joe Biden think about how to stop Donald Trump from taking literally state secrets and sharing them with people in exchange for money?

VANCE: The story of the last four years has been Trump's belief that he is above the law and his ability to hold himself above the law because of the complicity of those around him who have protected him from the consequences of his conduct. That is going to come to a stop on January 20th of 2021 when the rule of law will be restored in this country and where Donald Trump like any other person who violates the law will be held accountable for the consequences.

So I feel very comfortable that the FBI and other federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies will be more than up to the job of ensuring that our country's national security is fully protected and that anyone who seeks to violate it will be dealt with.

VELSHI: Joyce, good to see you as always, my friend. Joyce Vance is the former United States attorney in Alabama -- thanks for your time tonight.

VANCE: Good to see you.

VELSHI: The state of Georgia is still too close to call in the 2020 presidential election, but Joe Biden is leading which is incredible for Georgia. And there's one person who many people think made that happen, Stacey Abrams.

We will have her thoughts on the states Senate runoffs and the path forward from here after the break.


VELSHI: State officials in Georgia, election officials tonight face two gargantuan challenges, preparing for two crucial January 5th runoff elections that will decide the control of the United States Senate and the contours of a Biden presidency. But before they get to that, election officials must conduct a time consuming, labor intensive hand recount of close to 5 million presidential ballots.

Further complicating matters, today the Republican secretary of state who ordered that recount announced that he will be quarantining after his wife tested positive for coronavirus. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ordered the hand recount on Wednesday amid heavy pressure from Republicans who have been attacking him despite the fact that he said that there's no widespread fraud, and that any recount was unlikely to erase President-elect Joe Biden's 14,000-vote lead in the state.

Still, the recount means more long days for an election workforce that's already been putting in 12 to 14-hour shifts over the past month. The deadline for that recount has to be completed, it is November 20th in just eight days' time.

And while the state throws all its resources towards completing that, the eyes of the nation are focused on the runoffs. A Republican leaning poll today released showed a tight race in both contests with the two Republicans slightly ahead both within the margin of error.

But it's a different story when it comes to the money. Republicans have jumped out to an early lead. Both their candidates and Senate allies have already raised $32 million over the past week while outside groups are poised to inject vast sums into the contest.

For Democrats, the disparity would be even greater if not for Stacey Abrams whose Fair Fight group has raised over $9 million to support Georgia's two Democratic candidates.

Today, the 2018 gubernatorial candidate and in the party discussed what was coming up.


STACEY ABRAMS, FAIR FIGHT ACTION FOUNDER: We're not fighting against Republicans. We're fighting for America, and the way we do that is by pulling together the coalition that we had in November and making certain that coalition understands its power heading into January.

We've got to remember this is going to happen in the midst of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. So we've got to be able to penetrate and make sure people understand while we celebrate those holidays, we also have to celebrate the victory of Joe Biden by giving him the greatest president and that is by making sure he has control of the senate.


VELSHI: Today, reports emerged that Abrams herself is indeed looking to run for governor again in 2022. But before dealing with that, she plans to do everything she's focused on exclusively for this existential challenge that she says is posed by two more years of Republican Senate control.


ABRAMS: For me there is no greater promise that I can make to the American people and to Georgians that I'm going to be committed to ensuring their victory because that's how we get access to health care. That's how we get access to jobs. That's how we get access to justice, and my responsibility is to focus so singularly on that that nothing else matters except for getting this done.

The difference in our nation if we do not deliver Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff is going to be tremendous and jarring and possibly existential.


VELSHI: Joining us now is Errin Haines, editor at large of "The 19th", a non-profit, nonpartisan newsroom focused on gender, politics and policy. She's the recent recipient of the 2020 Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalistic Excellence, but more importantly for this discussion, she's a native of Atlanta, Georgia, with wide ranging knowledge of the state's politics.

Erin, great to see you again, my friend. Thanks for being with us.

Let's just talk a little about Georgia being in the column for Joe Biden. Joe Biden is in the lead in a count that isn't completely finished. It is now going to be a recount, but that in itself is a remarkable feat.

ERRIN HAINES, THE 19TH EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It absolutely is a remarkable feat and does not come as a surprise to one Stacey Abrams who has been playing the long game in Georgia for several years and who has believed the electorate can be expanded not by trying to persuade people who may or may not be persuadable but by reaching those voters who haven't been seen and heard in the Peach State and convincing them that this election was about them, not necessarily about any one candidate, but about how their elected officials can have an impact on their daily lives, something that's become more real I think for a lot of voters across this country, and also in Georgia, in a midst of a pandemic.

Listen, her newly formed voting enfranchisement association, Fair Fight, put out a memo last fall saying that Georgia was in play and that Georgia was going to be a factor in this election, that it was going to be a battleground state.

And what she has done has really produced a blueprint for states with these same kinds of forgotten voters, and not only in Georgia but states with large black populations, large marginalized community populations to follow. And I think that headed into this runoff engaging that population one more time now that Georgia kind of has its newfound swagger as a battleground state is what she's singularly focused on.

The governor's race isn't going anywhere. It's going to be there next year. But right now, what the she's focused is keeping this new blue energy focused on possible control of the Senate.

VELSHI: And it wasn't just the counties around Atlanta, Fulton County. If you look at this map this time around, it was a lot of other places that grew, the metropolitan areas that grew, still urban centers typically that went blue versus rural areas in Georgia that went red.

But, Errin, when we look at elections, Senate elections don't get the turnout presidential elections get even when they're in the normal cycle. Special elections suffer from that even more.

What makes this it different? How do you get those same people out to vote in this election?

HAINES: I think because of what's on the line, you know? I mean, for people who want today see not just President Trump out of office but a Biden-Harris victory that they really felt had the capacity to change their lives fundamentally, the kinds of people in the streets marching around this national reckoning on race, pushing for big systemic change, that doesn't happen if Democrats do not have more control in Congress.

And so, that is what is being used to galvanize those voters this time around. But, look, I mean with all this newfound attention on Georgia, I think it has a potential to galvanize both sides even, you know, as hard as Stacey Abrams is going to work and as committed as I know a lot of these black women organizers, not just her but the grassroots folks who know how to mobilize these kinds of voters and get them turned out one more time, not just in Atlanta, Ali.

To your point, I mean, the suburbs don't look how they looked in Atlanta and in Georgia just a few years ago. Rural voters, you know, are being redefined this cycle thanks to folks like Stacey Abrams and other grassroots organizers.

And so, really, reaching out to those folks, getting them energized again. The tens of thousands of young voters who may turn 18 during this runoff election season, those people are all gettable, and I think that's where her efforts are going to be focused, the efforts from her and all the black women organizers who really made Georgia the in-play state we now are all focused on.

VELSHI: Errin, it's so good to see you again. Thank you for all your work.

Errin Haines is the editor at large of "The 19th", the non-profit, nonpartisan newsroom focused on gender, politics and policy. And she's an expert of all things Georgia. Make sure you follow her on social media and follow "The 19th."

A reminder that we are expecting more election results from Arizona tonight which could lead to that state being called for Joe Biden. We expect those numbers within the hour.

Stay with us.


VELSHI: We have new updates on the number of new coronavirus cases reported today, 159,501 cases have been reported so far today. That exceeds yesterday's tally of 148,302. These numbers are too big to imagine, but this is the ninth day in a row that we have seen numbers above 100,000.

Look at how they are multiplying. Today, we also had 1,136 deaths reported in the United States. This needs to change.

That does it for us tonight. We'll see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.


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