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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, November 13, 2020

Guests: Valerie Jarrett, Ed Young, Cori Bush


President-elect Joe Biden is tapping real expertise, tapping people who come in with solutions, tapping people who have managed big crises before. Donald Trump refuses to concede the election and his campaign is pushing conspiracy theories. MSNBC's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you for some great shows this week, and I hope you have a great weekend.

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

Rachel is still in quarantine after a close contact tested positive for COVID-19. She's doing fine, and I know she missions you misses you as much as you miss her.

We are closing out this first full week of this weird, unnerving, often ridiculous presidential transition. But you know there have been rocky presidential transitions in the past. During the transition from President James Buchanan to the newly elected Abraham Lincoln, seven states seceded from the union. So count your blessings on that front.

Or take the transition between President Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had just defeated Hoover after a one term in a landslide of almost 18 points. Herbert Hoover was not happy, and not just because he'd lost so badly. Hoover thought FDR was an actual madman.

And back then, inauguration day was not until March 4th, a holdover from the country's early days when transportation was not so easy.

So, President Hoover had a whole four months as a lame duck president, and he decided to use them to try to get FDR to abandon the New Deal, you know, the plan on which FDR had just won a landslide victory.

The journalist Ronald Shaffer writes at "The Washington Post" this week, quote, at their first post-election face-to-face meeting on November 22nd in the red room of the White House, Hoover opened the meeting with an hour-long lecture on international economic issues. Hoover later told an adviser he'd been educating a very ignorant, if well-meaning young man. FDR, by the way, was 50 years old at the time and just eight years younger than Hoover.

Hoover kept asking FDR to sign on to economic plans with him, and FDR kept saying no because he had run against Hoover's economic plans. Hoover publicly released the telegrams between them because he thought it would make FDR look unhelpful.

Hoover and Roosevelt and their families met against at the White House in January. Eleanor Roosevelt told reporters that Hoover asked her husband to support closing the nation's banks temporarily to head off panic withdrawals. Roosevelt told Hoover, quote, like hell I will. If you haven't the guts to do it yourself, I'll wait until I'm president to do it.

The meeting deteriorated from there. FDR said his son, James, quote, wanted to punch Hoover in the eye, end quote.

One historian's take on this transition period is that Hoover was laying the groundwork for his own political comeback. Quote, Hoover's strategy now was to show that the foolish new dealer had been given every chance to come to his senses. When FDR failed, Hoover would be redeemed, and the people would return him to the presidency.

Already planning his next presidential run four years later, before he was even out of the White House. Sounds like someone else we know. But one productive thing did happen during the Hoover/Roosevelt transition. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, moving up the date of the Inauguration Day so that no president would ever again have a four-month lame duck period, which is why our next president will be inaugurated not on March 4th but on January 20th. So close and yet so far.

But even if our own lame duck president and his allies have not acknowledged the defeat, even if they never will, there is a sense as this week comes to a close that the inevitability of Donald Trump leaving the White House on January 20th is starting to set in.

Today, NBC News issued projections in the last two uncalled states in the presidential election, designating Joe Biden the apparent winner in Georgia. Apparent winner means that NBC News has tallied enough votes to indicate that Biden has won the state, but the results may depend upon a potential recount or final official tallies. And indeed, a hand recount is under way in Georgia.

It's an expensive undertaking that will take several days but is not expected to change the ultimate outcome. Joe Biden currently leads Donald Trump in the state by over 14,000 votes. Historically recounts change tallies by no more than a few hundred, if that. NBC news has also projected today that the state of North Carolina will go to President Trump. He leads there by over 73,000 votes.

And that means this is the final electoral map for the 2020 election. Joe Biden has 306 electoral votes to Donald Trump's 232. That is the exact same margin by which President Trump won the 2016 election, a result Trump called a landslide and historic victory.

Earlier this morning, the government of China officially congratulated Joe Biden on his win. China had been noticeably silent for the past week, even as dozens of other countries publicly recognized Biden's victory. Who knows? Maybe it was NBC calling it for Arizona for Biden late last night that finally did it for China.

Only the second Democratic presidential candidate in 70 years to win Arizona. Okay. Now it's time to congratulate him.

There was a concession in Arizona today. It wasn't Donald Trump, however. Republican Senator Martha McSally called the Democrat Mark Kelly to congratulate him on his win. Arizona will now be represented by two Democratic senators for the first time since the 1950s.

Also, in Arizona, the Trump campaign today gave up on its election lawsuit in Maricopa County. The campaign said the suit was moot because its allegations concerned fewer than 200 ballots, nowhere near enough to change the outcome of the Arizona presidential race. Though the real reason the Trump campaign gave up on that lawsuit may be that they were nearly laughed out of court for their so-called evidence of voting irregularities, which were a bunch of online surveys that even the Trump campaign's lawyer admitted were filled with lies and spam.

And the Trump team is not faring any better in court in any other state. Today in Michigan, another state Biden won, a judge blocked an attempt by Trump supporters to stop the certification of election results in Detroit. In Pennsylvania, also in Biden's column, a federal appeals court rejected an attempt to toss out a bunch of mailed-in ballots, and two state judges smacked down six cases brought by the Trump campaign trying to invalidate votes in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, lawyers are literally fleeing what's left of the Trump campaign's election litigation. Today, the law firm leading a federal lawsuit for the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania abruptly withdrew from the case, and that comes after a different law firm jumped ship from representing the Republican national committee in a case challenging votes in Arizona.

And now, even Jones Day, the law firm that is so close to this administration they've practically staffed half the federal government -- Jones Day says it will not get involved in any more litigation over this election.

The Trump campaign today shut down the voter fraud hotline it had been using to try to crowdsource evidence that it could use in court. Not only did the hotline produce no evidence, it was flooded with prank calls.

Also remember a few days ago when Trump's attorney general put out that really unsettling memo telling U.S. attorneys around the country that they should go ahead and investigate supposed voter fraud? And the head of the Justice Department's election crimes department was so upset by the memo that he stepped down immediately? Well, today, 16 assistant U.S. attorneys specifically tasked with monitoring elections wrote to Attorney General Bill Barr saying that they have seen absolutely zero evidence of voter fraud or other problems. And they asked him to please rescind his memo because it appears so nakedly partisan.

All of Donald Trump's long shot, slap dash attempts to try to overturn the election results are falling short. Even Donald Trump himself today appeared to almost accidentally acknowledge that a new administration is taking over soon.

Here he was today speaking publicly for the first time in days, talking about how terrible he thinks it would be to do any sort of lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ideally, we won't go to a lockdown. I will not go -- this administration will not be going to a lockdown. Hopefully, the -- the -- whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration it will be. I guess time will tell. But I can tell you this administration will not go to a lockdown.


VELSHI: President Trump today appearing to maybe almost accidentally say the phrase "Biden administration." maybe the president of the United States saying that he doesn't know who won is a bit of progress for him insisting that he won. If that's the only progress we're getting, I guess we'll take it.

The president didn't say anything else about the election today. His appearance today was about the government's COVID vaccine initiative, Operation Warp Speed, and how well it's going and how nobody, but Donald Trump could have made that happen.

As you know, if there is an effective and workable COVID vaccine available soon, that will be amazing news. But the virus numbers are relentlessly terrible right now.

Today, there were more than 170,000 new coronavirus cases in the United States. We have never had over 170,000 cases in one day. This is the fourth day this week that we have set a new record. One thousand two hundred and forty-nine Americans died from COVID-19 today, and it's going to get so much worse before it gets better because the federal government has failed to lead and has failed to back basic public health steps like universal mask wearing.

One of the things that was appealing to lots of people about the candidate Joe Biden and now President-elect Joe Biden and his transition team is that he inherently promised that we might get back to some normalcy in government, and there's no doubt we will get to some normalcy on some basic metrics under a Biden presidency. No more conspiracy theories from the presidential Twitter account, no more family members, family friends and family wedding planners in top administration jobs.

No more pulling out of pretty basic international agreements like the Paris climate accord. No more insulting allied leaders. No more cruelty like trying to deport Dreamers or going to court to throw millions of people off of their health insurance. And maybe just basic competence and normalcy is all we dare hope for in the moment.

But, in fact, some of what we are seeing out of the Biden transition right now especially when it comes to tackling the coronavirus pandemic exceeds normalcy. What we are seeing is the president-elect tapping real expertise, tapping people who come in with solutions, tapping people who have managed big crises before.

We need more than normalcy. We might be equipped to get more than normalcy. It is not normal to come to office in the midst of a raging pandemic that has already killed nearly 250,000 Americans, but the new guys might actually rise to the challenge. They might actually get the best people around and tackle a once in a century pandemic. They might manage to get us better than normal.

Joining us now is Valerie Jarrett, former senior adviser to President Obama. She's also served as co-chair of the Obama/Biden transition. She's the author of "Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward."

Valerie, good to see you again.

The point I want to make right now is that we're all so desperate for normal, and we might be set up to get something better than normal. When there was a list put out of the number of people on the advisory boards for all areas of government, when "The New York Times" published a list of possible cabinet secretaries, it was remarkable reading through it and seeing the biography of people with years and years and years of experience, none of which was involved with being commentators on TV or quack scientists. There are real people ready to stand up and staff this government.


You are absolutely right. The word that comes to mind is "competence." another word would be "honesty," "evidence-based," "humane," "decent." I could go on.

So, yes, President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, and the team of people they have around them will be able to hit the ground running, and I think we can all then sleep a lot more peacefully at night. That's certainly for sure.

And we saw this week the selection of Ron Klain, someone with whom I worked very closely in the White House, who is smart as a whip, organized, disciplined, no-nonsense, decent, a good person, experience on the Hill, experience in the White House for two different presidencies, just the kind of person that you would want to have a president at his side during an enormously challenging time here. This is serious times that we're in, and it's time for the nonsense to end.

VELSHI: What -- you know Joe Biden. We've gone through a presidency in which Donald Trump either didn't believe he was the smartest person in the room or did, but certainly acted like he was. It was his decision over that of trusted advisers, some of whom in this administration have been strong and have had great experience.

What's Joe Biden's approach to tough and smart decisions?

JARRETT: Well, he's thoughtful. He's a good listener. He's intellectually curious. He will look for a good idea from wherever it comes. He's respectful of even the most junior staff person in the room, recognizing that they're probably the one that were up all night doing the work, crunching the numbers.

He's deliberate in his decision-making process. He believes in process. He reads.

So I think he has a lot of strengths that he'll bring to the table to make sure that he makes informed decisions. He also, Ali, believes that diversity is a strength, and so he will surround himself with people who do not have identical life experiences to his own. And obviously beginning with the vice president that he selected, he's done that.

Obviously, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is competent, independent, strong-minded, and he said he wants someone who will push him and make sure that he thinks about all of the possible implications and ramifications of his decisions. And I think that's the way the White House and the cabinet will look as well.

VELSHI: Ron Klain was on with Lawrence last night, and one of the things they were discussing was Mitch McConnell. You know, one of the advantages Joe Biden has in this world is those are his people. He's from the Senate. He was there for years.

Kamala Harris was in the Senate, and that has been where so many of the logjams have been over the last 12 years.

Here's what Ron Klain said about Mitch McConnell.


RON KLAIN, INCOMING CHIEF OF STAFF: He has not spoken, though, to senator McConnell. Look, I think Senator McConnell still seems to be insisting somehow that President Trump won the election. He didn't. There will be a time and a place for Joe Biden and Senator McConnell to talk. They'll have a working relationship when the time comes.


VELSHI: Valerie, you know that, you know, there are a lot of people saying don't negotiate with the Republicans. Don't meet them halfway. But you also know what it feels like to be in a government where they're stonewalling, where Mitch McConnell calls himself the grim reaper for Democratic legislation.

How does that relationship move forward given that there are so many Republicans who won't even acknowledge the election of Joe Biden?

JARRETT: Yeah. Well, as president-elect Biden said, they will in time. And he does have deep ties in the Senate and the House. He obviously served in the Senate for a number of years, and he -- during the time where he was vice president with President Obama, often he would be the one to go up on the Hill and negotiate with the Republicans because of those strong ties.

I think what is happening right now in this period, Ali, is that they're just so terrified of President Trump that they're afraid to do what they know to be right. And I'm hoping that after President-elect Biden is sworn in, that we do see a sea change.

But you know what else it's going to take? It's going to take the continued activism of the American people pushing their representatives to do the right thing. So, for example, we have got to have a relief package for the workers who are losing their benefits, for the small businesses that are closing, for our state and local government.

There is important relief that the federal government is going to have to deliver, and I would add that President Obama and Vice President Biden faced the same challenges back in 2009, and we were able to get a package passed for $800 billion, which then Vice President Biden oversaw with the help of Ron Klain. And so we do know that we can -- we can rise to this occasion. When I say "we," I mean we, the American people. And that's who's going to have to push the Republicans to get over their love affair or their fear of Donald Trump and start doing the people's work once again.

VELSHI: Valerie Jarrett, good to speak to you as always. Thank you for joining me.

Valerie Jarrett is the former senior adviser to President Obama. Thank you for your time.

JARRETT: Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI: As we hit yet another terrible new record in the COVID crisis, more than 172,000 Americans were diagnosed with COVID today. We are learning more tonight about one group in particular that's been very hard-hit, in large part because of the president's actions, the Secret Service agents who protect him. The reporter who broke that story joins us next.


VELSHI: NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss always drops gems on his Twitter feed, but today, he tweeted an anecdote about JFK that seems quaint by today's standards.

On a cold night, seeing a Secret Service agent outside the oval office, JFK asked him inside but was told he couldn't. Kennedy brought out two cups of hot chocolate, which they both drank in the cold. Years later, the weeping agent said, that's the kind of president I've been serving.

Compare that level of regard for the Secret Service to this exclusive report from Carol Leonnig and Josh Dawsey at "The Washington Post." They report that, quote, more than 130 Secret Service officers are said to be infected with coronavirus or quarantining in wake of Trump's campaign travel. The spread of the coronavirus, which has sidelined roughly 10 percent of the agency's core security team is believed to be partly linked to a series of campaign rallies that President Trump held in the weeks before the November 3rd election, end quote.

The report adds that on the day before the election, five separate groups of secret service officers were needed to cover each of the five campaign rallies that Trump held. We're talking about anywhere between 20 and several dozen agents at each stop screening spectators, securing the perimeter.

Throw in the president's nonchalance about mask-wearing at these rallies, and it's not hard to see how so many Secret Service agents ended up sick or in quarantine.

And these weren't the only instances when the president's team was put at risk. After being diagnosed with COVID, Trump did a joyride around Walter Reed in a hermetically sealed vehicle with agents inside. The following day when he returned to the White House still sick, he yanked off his face covering and went inside maskless.

It all comes against the backdrop of a soaring number of infections in this country. Just today, the United States broke another coronavirus record with more than 172,000 new cases reported. And at this point, the president's choices aren't just affecting the health of the people sworn to protect him. As "The Washington Post" reports, the number of officers who have been pulled off duty has put a further strain on the overworked team tasked with the president's care, something that could endanger the security of the White House.

Joining us now is Carol Leonnig. She's one of the reporters who broke this story.

Carol, thank you for being here tonight. There is nothing that members of the Secret Service can do about this. They are -- they don't get to choose what they do. They are generally not thanked for the work that they do because we don't know who they are. They work in sort of anonymity protecting the president.

But the rest of us could see this coming. We could see that the president and everybody in his super-spreader events were traveling around the country. They can't do anything. They don't get to say no.

CAROL LEONNIG, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: That's absolutely right, Ali. This is a group of -- and, remember, you know, we're all familiar with the famous, iconic agents, the sunglasses, the suits, holding the president's belt loop as he leans into a group of people to grasp them.

These are U.S. Secret Service officers. They're a different group. They usually wear uniforms. They support protection of the White House. You see them when you go up to the White House. They're all around the perimeter.

But they also are the backbone of protecting the president when he's on travel. They create basically an external security bubble around every event the president has and every event that the vice president has and, indeed, they are huge support for the major candidates like Joe Biden when he was campaigning.

VELSHI: Right.

LEONNIG: But they don't have a choice. They can't work from home. You know, they have to go. When the boss says, we're heading to Kenosha or we're heading to five cities on November 2nd, that's where they're going to set up that security and to protect that area.

It just so happened that they were heading out in the midst of a pandemic but also in the midst of COVID spiking across the country, and spiking in the states that they were visiting.

VELSHI: And spiking in the bubble that is the White House, which is fascinating because every one of these Secret Service agents is trained literally to stand in the way of danger for the president, literally to take that bullet, literally to fall at the expense of the president. It's got to work on their psyche that they're ready to do that. They are ready to face real danger.

They're not looking for danger they didn't need to face because of recklessness.

LEONNIG: Absolutely, and so well-said. I mean this is a group that will always saddle up for any danger. I've been really amazed in studying and researching this group of patriots.

You know, they are willing to stand in the cold for hours and hours, snow falling down their noses and into their shoes, sweating up a storm in Death Valley, sweat dripping down their backs and legs, aching.

I remember one agent telling me, I have drunk so much coffee, my breath could take paint off a car because that's how many hours they will stand up working. Just really an amazing group of people.

But in this instance, they are being forced essentially out into an unknown danger, one they can't mitigate against, and one that the White House staff and the president himself encouraged (AUDIO GAP) because they won't wear the masks the public health guidelines urge. You know, keep in mind the president, the president's wife, the chief of staff, multiple, multiple aides to the president and multiple, multiple advisers to his campaign have now tested positive.

So you can see why people who are securing the president and securing the White House are coming in contact even when they're not traveling with people who are infected. These folks who are so dedicated to taking risks want to take calculated, appropriate risks.

VELSHI: Right.

LEONNIG: And this is not a calculated one. This is not a natural one. And it's frankly not a necessary one.

VELSHI: Yeah, I've met a few secret service agents in my time. There's nothing reckless, there's nothing uncalculated about them. They believe they can stay alive through these jobs because of the way they think things out, the way they strategize, and the way they think ahead, and exposing themselves to coronavirus needlessly doesn't fit the bill for that.

They will be ramping up the protection of Joe Biden in the coming days if they haven't already, which means that the pressure on them from these 130-plus agents being out is even harder felt.

Carol, thanks for your great reporting on the members of the Secret Service. Carol is a reporter for "The Washington Post." We appreciate your time as always.

LEONNIG: Ali, thanks for the good questions.

VELSHI: With the number of new COVID cases in the country topping more than 172,000 just today, doctors and nurses are once again heading for a breaking point. What does it mean for hospital patients all across the country? I'm going to talk about that after this quick break.


VELSHI: As we reported earlier, the United States has broken yet another record for coronavirus infections in a single day. More than 172,000 new cases. Ten days ago, we hadn't crossed 100,000.

This is just one of the statistics that's trending sharply in the wrong direction right now. The other one is hospitalizations. Based on data from the COVID Tracking Project, hospitalizations increased in 47 states over the past week. Only four states saw a decrease in hospitalizations.

And that metric helps us quantify the amount of pressure heaped on medical professionals across the country right now. One doctor at an Oklahoma City hospital called Integris Health recorded this glimpse of what life is like now for him and his colleagues, including a nurse who was a COVID patient as they try to fight this virus.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Here we are in the intensive care unit, taking care of the COVID patients for what is, again, a very full unit. You can see here another patient on prone, pretty healthy before all of this.

This is what we call the ICU thicket. Look how many pumps. This is one patient. This is one patient. It takes a NASA engineering degree to be able to run all of these lines on one single patient, and that just tells you most people watching this have never had more than one IV in at a time, much less two, four, six, eight, ten, all running simultaneously. And some of those are double pumps.

Charles, talk about maybe your experience as a nurse and as a patient.

CHARLES MAINES, OKLAHOMA REGISTERED NURSE: As a patient, I've seen things on the other side that I normally don't see as a nurse. A lot of things changed the way I nurse now. I had one nurse say a prayer in my ear one time when I was going downhill real fast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long until you came back to work?

MAINES: Well, I had to isolate for a total of 21 days.


MAINES: So I was off for three months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three months? And you were on oxygen at home for a while too.

MAINES: I was on oxygen at home and not really getting a paycheck. So, financially, mentally, physically, it devastates you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody have anything to say to the masses?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're all getting tired of this, but if you don't change your ways, this is going to be endless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be endless. There's no end in sight right now. That's absolutely true. Absolutely true.


VELSHI: That was Dr. David Chansolme. He's the medical director of infection prevention at Integris Health in Oklahoma City, speaking with his colleagues about how they're handling the constant influx of patients.

With hospitalizations increasing across the country, Dr. Chansolme's experience is becoming a horrifying norm. Medical professionals need help and cooperation from all of us right now.

As "The Atlantic's" Ed Young puts it after interviewing medical professionals across the country, in the imminent future, patients will start to die because there are simply not enough people to care for them. Doctors and nurses will burn out, the most precious resource in the U.S. health care system has in its struggle against COVID-19 isn't some miracle drug. It's the expertise of its health care workers, and they are exhausted.

Joining me now, Ed Young, staff writer at "The Atlantic" covering science.

Ed, good to see you. Thank you for being with us tonight.

What's the big takeaway for you when you've talked to these health professionals other than their remarkable dedication, other than the fact that they don't work from home, they expose themselves and their families to coronavirus to do this? But what did you learn?

ED YOUNG, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: They are exhausted, and that word almost doesn't do justice to what they're feeling. They -- many of them are working 12, 24, 36-hour shifts. They are dealing with patients dying on them, a ridiculous and growing rate. A lot of them are working in emergency rooms and ICUs that are full.

COVID patients are some of the sickest patients they've ever had to deal with. They require much more time. They're in ICUs for three times the usual stays, and a lot of them are dying.

And I can't even begin to tell you the toll that takes on people. Nurses, some of the most empathetic people in the world, and one woman said to me that, you know, there's only so many bags you can zip up. That's what it's doing to them. It's just crushing them emotionally. And the problem is getting worse.

You know, we have already in some states, in Iowa, where I talked to several people, there are no staffed beds left. They are at capacity, and the rise we're seeing in cases, those vertical lines we're seeing on the graphs, that is going to in two weeks' time descend upon these ICUs that are already stretched to breaking point. Then the people who get infected at Thanksgiving are going to deliver a knockout punch two weeks after that.

VELSHI: I want to read from your article. During the earlier surges, hospitals canceled elective surgeries and pulled in doctors from outpatient clinics. People with heart problems, cancer, strokes, and other diseases found it harder to get medical help and some sat on their illnesses for fear of contracting COVID-19 at the hospital. Now health care workers are facing an influx of unusually sick people at a time when COVID-19 has consumed their attention and their facilities. We're still catching up on all of that, says Choo, the Oregon physician. Even the simplest patients aren't simple.

This has been something we've been dealing with. If you've got cancer, you've got heart disease, you're got diabetes, for nine months you've been saying, all right, well, hopefully, this is going to get better and I'll have a chance to go in and get the treatment I need. But every one of those beds that's full, it's not a bed. You know, we talk about hospital beds, but it's staffing. A hospital bed can exist. Unless you have people to staff it, there are people going without treatment.

So, there are people who may never get COVID who may not get treatment and may die because we are up to capacity in our health care systems.

YOUNG: Yeah, that's absolutely right. It's not just the people with COVID. The entire health system crumbles when health care workers, when doctors and nurses are too tired, too overwhelmed, too stressed to just do the business of taking care of patients.

And this one thing that's very different about this third surge than the previous ones, in the previous ones, COVID-19, this pandemic was confined to the Northeast and then the South. So doctors could call in for reinforcements. The cavalry could come.

Now the entire country is on fire as you saw from the maps.

VELSHI: Mm-hmm.

YOUNG: At so many places, almost every state is seeing rises in cases, people in hospitals. There's no help coming. There's no place to draw reinforcements from.

So doctors are stuck. They're seeing what is on the horizon. They're already overwhelmed, and they know what is going to come, and it's not good.

Like there is some hope. There is a Biden administration on the way. There is a vaccine on the way. But that's not going to arrive until the next year, and so the choices we make now collectively in the next days and weeks, we will decide how many Americans are still alive next year to get a vaccine and how many health care workers are destroyed in the process.

VELSHI: And you pointed out that the gatherings from thanksgiving will result in more of this stuff. So, please, everybody, it's been so long since people have seen their family or their grandparents or their kids. They rethink all your plans for Thanksgiving.

Ed, thanks for your in-depth look into this. Ed Young is a staff writer at "The Atlantic" covering science. And thank you for being here tonight, sir.

YOUNG: Thanks for having me.

VELSHI: Today, Congress held freshman orientation for its newly elected incoming class of representatives. Typically freshman orientation isn't much to write home about, but some of the personalities in this incoming class made this year's orientation a bit more like reality TV and a bit less like C-Span than normal. I'll show you what I mean on the other side of this break.


VELSHI: Today, newly elected members of Congress from across the country arrived at the capitol to attend freshman orientation. Among them QAnon supporting, conspiracy tweeting, soon to be Republican congresswoman from Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene.

She immediately courted controversy with this tweet about their first session's COVID safety protocols: Masks, masks, masks. I probably told my freshman class that masks are oppressive. In Georgia, we work out, shop, go to restaurants, go to work and school without masks. My body, my choice.

Anyone else see the irony in that? Honestly where do you even start with a tweet like that?

On the other side of the aisle, one incoming Democrat's comment on masks received attention for an entirely different reason. This was the tweet from the incoming Democratic freshman Cori Bush, who was elected to represent the 1st district of Missouri.

Quote: It's day one, so I'm wearing my Breonna Taylor mask. A few of my Republican colleagues have called me Breonna, assuming that's my name. It hurts, but I'm glad they'll come to know her name and story because of my presence here. Breonna must be central to our work in Congress.

Breonna Taylor, for anyone out there who does not know, which apparently includes multiple members of the incoming Republican class, was a 26-year-old aspiring nurse who was shot and killed by police during the execution of a so-called no-knock warrant inside her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment back in March.

No police officers were charged in connection with her death. Taylor's killing led to nationwide protests against police brutality and for racial justice.

Congresswoman-elect Bush still wearing her Breonna Taylor mask described the feeling of being mistaken for Taylor to reporters afterwards.


REP.-ELECT CORI BUSH (D-MO): You know, first of all, I am Breonna Taylor as far as I could be a black woman murdered in my bed tonight, you know? But I am not Breonna Taylor. This Breonna Taylor was murdered in her bed at night, and she does not have justice of murder by the police.

And I just want people to, you know -- we have to stretch ourselves and pay attention to what's happening in other parts of the country, but this has been national news for a long time. People have protested in the streets with this name, and it just saddens me that people aren't -- that people in leadership, people that want to be in leadership, don't know the struggles that are happening to black people in this country.

And it's -- it's -- it's just disheartening, and it was hurtful, absolutely hurtful. I didn't hear it once. I didn't hear it twice. I heard it several times I'm being called -- called, you know, Breonna Taylor today, you know. But it's okay because we will educate, and we'll make sure that people know who she is, what she stood for, that she was an award-winning EMT, you know, in her community, that she's someone who deserves justice right now.

VELSHI: It's okay because we'll educate. We'll make sure that people know who she is, what she stood for. Say her name.

Of course, that admirable level of restraint, spirit, and forgiveness and positive energy, it's going to be needed more than ever in the 117th Congress. Democrats will likely see their current majority of 35 seats shrink to about half of that when new members like Congresswoman-elect Bush are sworn in on January 3rd.

We are trying to get Congresswoman Bush on the line. We're going to talk to her on the other side of the break.

Stay with us.



BUSH: I didn't hear it once. I didn't hear it twice. I heard it several times I'm being called -- called Breonna Taylor today. But it's okay because we'll educate and we'll make sure that people know who she is, what she stood for, that she was an award winning EMT, you know, in her community, that she is someone who deserves justice right now.


VELSHI: So generally in TV we like to talk to people on TV because sometimes you lose something when you just talk to them on the phone. But we're having some technical difficulty, and we've got Congressman-elect Cori Bush on the phone. I tell you one thing, having gotten to know this woman a little bit. You lose nothing by having her on the phone. She brings everything to every conversation she has. She is soon going to be representing the people of Missouri's first congressional district.

Congresswoman-elect, good to talk to you again. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

BUSH (via telephone): Thank you for having me.

VELSHI: This story that you tell is remarkable. I guess the bubbles in which we live don't let us understand that there are lots of people who don't know the name Breonna Taylor. In fact, the irony is the message out there is say her name so that women who get killed at the hands of police are known. They are not forgotten. They are not erased.

And that's exactly what you were doing by wearing a mask with her name on it. And what you encountered today was that very eraser, that people didn't know who Breonna Taylor was.

How did you keep your composure and educate people? Because that's really the only way this is going to work.

BUSH: Well, at first, it was hurtful, because I'm thinking to myself, I'm wearing this to uplift her name, but I'm thinking I'm doing this in a space where people should already know her name.

So to find out that it was not only did people not know her name, it was so bad to where you thought I was her. But, you know, wearing that mask and hearing what people said, it just made me think about a day when someone walked up -- this white woman walked up to me and she rubbed the back of my hand.

And I said, why are you rubbing my hand? Just to see if it comes off. She wanted to see if my color, if this brown skin comes off. And I didn't get upset. I understood she needed to be exposed to black people. She said she hadn't been exposed.

But to me, in this situation, we're talking about people who are leaders. We're talking about people who are leaders in communities where there are black people, where there are brown people, where there are people that are murdered by police, where there are people who are, you know, unhoused or whatever it, people who have issues with police.

And we need them to understand that they have to serve the entire community. And so this was -- it was very disturbing because when we said we want to leave, we signed up for this. We signed up to say we want to leave. Seven hundred fifty thousand people, regardless of what they looked like, where they come from, they are in our district. So we want to lead them.

And you cannot do that. There have been protests all over this country. The whole mass was lit up, protests all over this country for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who I just don't understand why that name did not ring a bell to several people today.

VELSHI: Congresswoman, you and I had a remarkable conversation the other day in which you were talking about uplifting other types of people as well, including people who are homeless, including mothers who are bringing up their children, including people who are food insecure. You were very, very frank about who you are and what you're bringing to Congress. You even made a comment to me about the fact that you know, when you're homeless, you smell because you can't bathe.

BUSH: Yes.

VELSHI: And that alone stops people from taking you seriously or wanting to do business with you or wanting to help you out. And you want to bring that level of empathy. But you're in those fancy halls now, and that's where you're going to be.

How will you make them see the life experience you have had?

BUSH: The same way that I did it today. The same way I walked in. And, Cori, the same Cori that I was the other day before I won, I'm walking around with my Black Lives Matter shirts on, with my shirts that are my activism shirts, the same way.

I'm going continue to use my voice, because I remember a day, Ali, I remember the days when I didn't know where to use the bathroom. When I was sleeping out of a car, where do you use the bathroom if you are unhoused, you know? I know what the pain of hunger feels like. I know what the worry of -- are my children going to be safe while we're out here. I know what that's like.

I know what it's like to feel to wonder if I'm the next Breonna Taylor, or India Kager. Aiyana Stanley-Jones was a child sleeping her bed, you know, I mean, at her house. Tanisha Anderson, Reticia Boyd (ph), Korryn Gaines, Sandra Bland, you know, Mya Hall, Kelly Haran (ph), Natasha McKenna. I am them, and they are me.

And so I have to make sure that in order for nobody else in my communities to become a hashtag, because Malcolm X said.


BUSH: He said the most disrespected person in America is the black woman.

And so, we have to make sure that people all over our country understand that we deserve respect. We deserve -- we deserve to be treated like everyone else in this country. You know, we give so much. Black women give so much.

And not only black women, people all -- people all over that are marginalized give so much, you know, and we receive so little, and we receive the attacks and the bitter force.

But you know what? No more. Because you know what? Cori is in the house. Cori is in the people's house, and I'm going make sure they hear my voice because I'm tired of the hurt. I'm tired of the pain, and my daughter will have better.

You know, daughters all over this country that look like me, that will have better because people like me and my good sister Rep. Ayanna Pressley and so many others, my new sisters that walked in with me out of Georgia, yes, Nikema.

Yes. She -- we will be walking in those doors making sure that everybody knows that our voices have to stand in this country.

VELSHI: As I promised my viewers, you get no less Cori Bush on the phone than you do in person. Congresswoman-elect Cori Bush, thank you for being who you are. You will soon be representing the people of Missouri's first congressional district, the first black woman to do so.

Thank you for your time tonight.

BUSH: Thank you.

And that does it for tonight. You can catch me again tomorrow morning for my show "VELSHI" from 8:00 to 10:00.

And you won't want to miss this, on Sunday, I'll be hosting a special hour of "VELSH: SURVIVING THE NEXT WAVE", where I'll be joined by a cast of experts to answer your questions about getting through the crisis that is the COVID economy.

So, here is your homework. If you run or work for a business that is struggling with this ongoing COVID surge, send your questions about how to survive it financially to, Our experts might give you an answer on air. I'll tweet that out as well.

And with that, it is time for "THE LAST WORD" with my friend, Lawrence O'Donnell.

Good evening, Lawrence.


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