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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, November 20, 2020

Guests: Christine Greig, John Fetterman


MSNBC's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. As lawsuits flail in court, Donald Trump personally meddles in Michigan vote certification.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: You are very kind to me, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated. Enjoy your weekend.


MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. As you can see, I'm still at home. I know this is weird.

I'm still treating you to the -- I get it -- admittedly unpleasant sight of me in, like, full Nixon, no makeup, also me rigging this whole shot with, you know, lights and microphone and everything on my own. So, if there's definitely going wrong, I know there's a reflection in my glasses. I know there's like a weird door and a shelf with a stuffed dog on it behind me.

I'm sorry. This is just how it goes. I'm home. I can only do so much on my own. I once again beg your patience and your forbearance while I finish up my COVID quarantine.

I know that this does not look great, but it will hopefully get better soon. So your patience is appreciated. Thank you.

We've got a lot going on on the show tonight, a lot to get to. I would like to start by introducing you to Nikki Tomlinson. Nikki Tomlinson is an ICU nurse at Great Plains Health, which is in North Platte, Nebraska.


NIKKI TOMLINSON, ICU NURSE: At one point in time, we had a physician up here that everybody knew really well. I've known him for a long time, been a family doctor for a long time. That was my lowest point. I still get teary thinking about it. That -- I've been in nursing for 20 years, and that was actually my breaking point I -- when he didn't make it. I had to -- I already had some time off scheduled, and that couldn't have come at a better time.

I couldn't get through the next day of work without breaking down for an hour, or every hour. That was -- that was probably my darkest time at work, my darkest time ever in my last 20 years of nursing. So that was -- that was hard.

And then seeing some other family and friends come in that have fought this, that have beat this, that are scared along the way, and other patients that just aren't making it.

I've never seen anything like COVID. There's -- we don't -- we just don't know enough about it. We learn new things every day, and it seems like things change every day, and I don't know. It just -- that's the one thing that's constant about COVID is that it fluctuates, and it changes, and we just learn new things all the time. And that's what makes it scary. I've been a nurse for 20 years, and I've never experienced burnout like this.

It's -- we're working extra shifts. We're working -- we do great as a team, but the stress, the emotional stress, the physical stress that it is putting on us being there for the patients, which is what we got into nursing for, but when we're the only ones that can be there for some of these patients, that emotional stress, losing them is just -- I've never experienced anything like it before.

So the emotional and the physical stress, it's exhausting, absolutely exhausting. I don't know how we are getting through it. We are, but I don't know how.

What I'm thankful for right now during all this time is my health, my fellow co-workers' healths, and my family. You know, my family understanding how I have to work the long hours and not always be home during all of this and adapting to, hey, can't touch mommy when you get home. Let her run and take a shower, and their health. I just hope it -- hope it continues.


MADDOW: What she's thankful for is her own health and the fact that her family doesn't have this, that her family hasn't gotten it, and she hopes that continues. That's what she's thankful for.

Last night, I talked here about my own experience being home in quarantine. I have tested negative, but I've been taking care of my partner, Susan, while she's sick. I just want to say thank you to everybody who reached out and was so nice in response. It was overwhelming. Actually it was really kind.

It was -- if I had to pick a word, I would say it was buoying to me and to Susan, so thank you, everybody.

But, you know, Susan and I will be -- are going to be okay. We are coming out of this. She is coming out of this. She is going to recover.

The people who I'm really worried about, who I'm thinking about even as we're going through our own experiences, I mean, beyond everybody who's sick and suffering right now like Susan as been these past couple of weeks, beyond the 80,000 plus Americans who are in the hospital right now with COVID, the most we've ever had -- I mean, beyond the people who are suffering directly themselves trying to fight for their lives with this thing, the people I'm really worried about are the health care workers, right, who are all over the country right now are staring down both barrels of this without the kind of support that they had in the spring when this all started.

With this now just tidal wave of cases and hospitalizations and deaths all coming down on them directly and personally, in a way that does not feel sustainable in terms of them being able to keep doing it, in terms of keeping them backstopped, keeping them supplied, keeping them at work, keeping the American health system open and able to function.

So, frankly, not to be too blunt about it, but so that saveable people can be saved. That's what I'm worried about is our health workers right now and the strain on them, this many months into it with things this bad right now. I mean, here's the front page today of the "Atlanta Journal Constitution." And you see the mix there, right?

I mean, politically, of course, the big news out of Georgia is that Georgia -- you know, this is this morning's paper, so they finished their recount yesterday. It showed once again that Biden clearly won the state. That set the stage today for Georgia to formally certify its results, and of course that's significant news. We'll talk more about that later tonight.

But look at what else is sharing the front page with that huge political news, right? CDC, stay home for the holiday. Georgia state health official adds: rethink traditional Thanksgiving.

Below that, there's the biggest front-page headline in Atlanta today. It makes me shake with anger. That's a quote from a doctor who works in a COVID ward in Atlanta, talking about people blowing off the risk as the numbers skyrocket and as the hospitals get overwhelmed.

You see the subhead there. Health care workers on the front lines feel they're fighting losing battle as public flouts safety rules. That's Georgia today.

It's the same song up in Minnesota today. This is the "West Central Tribune" in Willmar, Minnesota. Front page headline today, a plea for help. Hospitals are perilously close to running out of workers.

Yeah, it's one thing to run out of beds. Beds can be found and moved and bought. But enough health care staff to take care of patients who are in those beds, that is what we are running out of in rural Minnesota and all over the country.

Here's the first column in that same paper today. Case rates skyrocket in the region. Again, that's west central Minnesota.

Here's the front page of "The News-Star" in Monroe, Louisiana, blunt headline: Hospitals overwhelmed.

Here's the front page in Grand Junction, Colorado, today, "The Daily Sentinel". County says ICU beds are full. Here's the front page in Muncie, Indiana, today. "The Star Press" in Muncie, Indiana. Hospitals' COVID-19 rate soars in Indiana.

Let's go to Wyoming. "Casper Star Tribune" today, Casper, Wyoming, deaths rise by record number. Something has got to turn this around.

Go to Kentucky. Here's the Lexington, Kentucky, paper today, "The Herald Leader". Kentucky sets staggeringly high new record for coronavirus cases.

Go to New Mexico, "The Albuquerque Journal" today, COVID cases explode. Up in Washington state, "Bellingham Herald". State virus rates the worst since beginning of pandemic. It's all over the country, right?

And, you know, as overwhelming as this crisis is, I mean, now, tonight, we've just learned that the president's eldest son and namesake, Donald Trump Jr., has it as well. He has tested positive. He's reportedly isolating.

I hope that he doesn't get symptoms. He so far apparently doesn't. God bless him.

And maybe the president's eldest son, who has such a high profile in the Republican Party now and in conservative media now, maybe that will have an impact on thinking about this thing at the White House and in the conservative media and on the right. Maybe. Even if the president himself getting it didn't seem to light a fire under them. I don't know.

But as overwhelming as this crisis is, we are unavoidably at this moment in history where we have two huge totally unprecedented crises hitting simultaneously. The "Minneapolis Star Tribune" today I think was actually a pretty good snapshot of what the heck we as Americans are supposed to do with the twin disasters we've got all at once.

Look at the front page of the "Minneapolis Star Tribune" today. A raging forest fire of virus sweeps Minnesota. State to get ambulances from FEMA for surge. Importantly, those are staffed ambulances, so ambulances with their crews from FEMA going into Minnesota to help them deal with patients and the need to move patients among hospitals that are overwhelmed.

But then look at the other side of the front page. Trump trying to nullify election. He wants GOP lawmakers to ignore will of voters. Giuliani relies on lies and conspiracy to push case despite claims states cannot legally override the results.

When you look at that front page in toto, it's like, oh, yeah, that's right. These two unimaginable things, these two worst-case scenarios are crashing down on us at the same time. Worst-case scenario in terms of democracy, worst-case scenario in terms of the pandemic. We have to deal with both right now today. I mean, if we live through it, we'll be able to tell our kids and grandkids someday that we dealt with both at once because we had to, but first we have to live through it.

The efforts of the president to throw out the election and try to stay in power despite the fact that he lost, despite the fact that somebody else just won the election by a lot, I mean, honestly, it does remain profoundly ridiculous, and his legal team is ridiculous, and his proclamations and tweets and conspiracies are ridiculous. And there are other things we need to be dealing with frankly that aren't ridiculous, like 250,000 of us dead and our health workers being burned out and stressed out and worked past exhaustion already at the time we most need them to try to save the lives of saveable Americans who are otherwise going to die from this virus if they can't get top-flight care.

I mean, we have stuff to do as a country. But instead, we really are doing this, right? Trump wages full assault to overturn election. Front page of "The Washington post" this morning. Pressure campaign on state officials, lawyers press baseless claims of vast conspiracy, escalating attacks target vote certification process. Trump targeting Michigan in plot to subvert vote, a desperate effort to force the election in his favor. Invites state leaders to the White House in a brazen step.

That brazen step, as "The New York Times" put it, by the president to bring Michigan state legislators to the White House today, presumably to pressure them to intervene in the Michigan vote, in the certification of Michigan's vote. I mean, that did happen today. He did summon them to the White House.

And those Michigan state legislators, those Republican legislators put out a statement afterwards that was widely greeted as a very reassuring statement. I'll tell you, I read it as vague. Maybe I'm incapable of being reassured at this point.

But this is what they said in the part of their statement that was about this question we're talking about.

They said, quote: We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan. And as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan's electors just as we've said throughout this election. Michigan's certification process should be a deliberate process, free from threats and intimidation.

Allegations of fraudulent behavior should be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated, and if proven, prosecuted to the full e tent of the law. And the candidates who win the most votes, win elections and Michigan's electoral votes. These are simple truths that should provide confidence in our elections.

Well, good. I want to have confidence. All of us want to have confidence in our elections because we're a democracy, and we need them. And that part of the statement where they say they will follow the normal process regarding Michigan's electors, that's a good thing to hear in terms of whether we're going to have a democracy or not.

But the president and his campaign, right, still are making wackadoo and increasingly outlandish claims of fraud in the election, right? These same Republican lawmakers in Michigan that were at the White House today, they did already start a very seem self-serious inquiry in the Michigan legislature to review the election somehow because it needs review because they're implying something is wrong in the election.

And honestly, what they're describing is the normal process for Michigan electors? It's a process that doesn't involve the legislature at all, but it does involve some other people who the president is showing an interest in. I mean, it's a pretty simple process in Michigan.

Michigan counties certify the vote first. Michigan counties have all now certified the vote. There are 83 counties in Michigan. Each one has a four-person board of canvassers that certifies the vote for that county, four-person board of canvassers in each county, two Democrats and two Republicans.

It was the Republicans on that board in Michigan's largest county, Wayne County, who president Trump very nearly succeeded in leaning on hard enough to get them to refuse go along with the vote certification in that county, in Wayne County.

But the county totals were certified, sort of got hamstrung at the last second by the president's effort. And now, what happens is those certified totals from the counties, they don't go to state legislature. They go to another four-person board of canvassers, another board that, again, is two Republicans and two Democrats. But they're not from any one county. This is the state board.

Two Democrats, two Republicans who at the state level are supposed to do the certification of the vote on Monday in Michigan. And what have we seen here already, right? We've seen the president already basically successfully lean on the two Republicans who are on that canvassing board in that one crucial county. He botched it timing-wise, and so it's screwed up. But he very nearly succeeded in stopping them from certifying the results in that county.

Given that, what's to stop him from leaning on the two Republicans at the board of canvassers at the state level, right, who have to sign off for the whole state. There's two Democrats on that board and two Republicans on that board. The two Republicans who the president has in his sights are, number one, a young attorney who serves as a policy adviser and staff attorney for the Republicans in the statehouse, and also, the other guy is a Republican county chairman whose wife is one of the people who filled out one of those bananas affidavits for one of the bananas Trump lawsuits alleging that she saw terrible fraud in a vote counting center in Detroit.

She's the wife of one of the two Republicans on that state board of canvassers. And her affidavit is a matter of public record because of that court case. Her affidavit literally claimed that one of the things she saw that was horribly wrong and very suspicious with the counting process in Detroit was that she observed -- she believed that Detroit poll workers were, quote, extremely rude. That was her affidavit for why the Detroit vote shouldn't count.

She's married to the guy who gets to decide whether Michigan is going to certify its statewide vote totals while the president is zeroing in on elections officials just like that to get the ones who are Republicans to side with him and throw out Michigan's election results. She says the poll workers in Detroit were very rude. Get that to Rudy.

If President Trump could get those two Republican men in Michigan to refuse to certify that Biden won the election there -- and one of them has already said to "The Washington post" as of yesterday that as far as he's concerned, he thinks that a delay might be in order here. If he can get them to say they want a delay, if he can get those two Republican individuals, those two men, to refuse to certify that Biden won the election there by over 150,000 votes, which he did, if he gets them to refuse to certify that, things are very quickly in sort of weird territory.

I mean, a court might make them do the certification anyway or try to. The Republicans in the legislature might conceivably decide that the normal process of choosing electors has come to an end because there's been no state certification, and so perhaps the normal process should be that they step in and name electors of their own choosing, who are going to support president Trump.

I mean, we know how this is supposed to go. It's supposed to be basically a perfunctory process. But who knows how they're going to try to make it go? The Biden campaign's legal coordinator, Bob Bauer, former White House counsel to President Obama. Today, he seemed confident this mess wouldn't go on for much longer in Michigan, but also sort of horrified that they really are trying to do it anyway.


INTERVIEWER: What happens if and when the Michigan state board of canvassers is deadlocked on Monday and they vote 2-2 and therefore don't certify the statewide results, where do you think the campaign comes into play if and when that happens?

BOB BAUER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: I'm confident, by the way, that by the normal operation of the Michigan legal process, this is going to get sorted out, and these votes are going to be certified, and there are a variety of ways that this can happen. We'd have to assume in the first instance, we'd have to hope in the first instance that those who have a clear-cut duty to certify the votes, a clear-cut duty to do so, and we're not going to assume at the moment that they won't. If they don't, there are legal avenues to enforce the obligation to certify these votes.

One way or the other, the votes will be certified. I can assure you about that. These votes will be certified, and these electoral votes will go on a certified basis into the column for President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris.

Am I concerned about Donald Trump's conduct in calling legislative leaders to Washington? Of course. It's an abuse of office. It's an open attempt to intimidate election officials.

It's absolutely appalling. Actually in the context of all these losses and the record of failure that I just described, it's also pathetic. But having said all of that, it will be unsuccessful.


MADDOW: Pathetic, but it will be unsuccessful. You know, it is -- it is one thing to know you are living in a country facing mass death, a quarter million people dead already, right, and facing the breaking point strain of its health care system in states from coast to coast while the president schemes to try and stay in power even though he just got voted out, right?

But -- I mean that's our life. That is what is happening. That is what the latest Republican presidency in the United States of America has wrought. It is amazing just as a concept that we are going through this, but it's happening.

We really, for all the pathetic, ridiculousness of this, and for the confidence on the Biden side that this is -- whatever they're trying here is so beyond the pale, there's no chance it will be successful. We really are seeing them try to carry it out, and it's happening right now, today and tonight. The president is pressuring state legislators, pressuring rando county and state elections officials to see themselves as Trump loyalists and Republicans first, to get them to sabotage the election results or delay them long enough that guys on their own side can then just step in and take this thing over and override the election results.

It's happening. It's not a horrifying prospect. They're doing it. And we don't know how that works out in a country like ours or like any others because while we've sort of gamed this out, we've never seen it live. We've never done this as a live experiment with our democracy.

We're going to talk later tonight with presidential historian Michael Beschloss about whether history has any help for us here on this. But I want to talk right now with the Democratic leader of the Michigan statehouse.

Christine Greig is the leader of the Democrats in the state legislature. She joins us live from Farmington Hills, Michigan, as the Republican leaders in the legislature head back from their meeting at the White House with a president who really appears to be trying to use them to hold on to power despite losing the election.

Representative Greig, it's really nice to have you with us tonight. Thank you for making time.

STATE REP. CHRISTINE GREIG (D), MICHIGAN: Thank you for having me, Rachel. I'm so glad to hear that Susan's on the mend. So, she's been in our thoughts and prayers.

MADDOW: Thank you very much. I will take a double helping of any prayers that are offered. I'm a believer.

Let me first ask you if in talking about what's going on in Michigan, just asking your perception, if I've explained any of that wrong, if I've missed out anything important in terms of what's going on here. You're definitely in a position to know this stuff better than me.

GREIG: Yeah. I mean it's incredibly alarming, right? I mean, the fact that our Republican leaders are saying they're not going to mess with the process, but yet they go and talk to the president and issue this statement that they really only talked about COVID. Now, if you really believe that, we've got a bridge to sell you, right?

So they had the opportunity there to look the president in the face and say, listen, the voters of Michigan have spoken. More than 149,000 Michigan -- the gap was more than 149,000, 14 times what that gap was when Trump won in 2016. The voters have spoken. And so, they had that opportunity to set the record straight with the president, and they come back and actually tell us they didn't even talk about that.

I absolutely agree with you that that statement was so vague. They never talked to the president about what they saw in Michigan and that the voters have spoken. They just put out these vague statements.

But we are going to hold them accountable. The canvassers would, should, and will -- we expect them to certify the vote on Monday. They did just receive tonight the report from the board of elections staff report that comes out, that says there's absolutely no reason not to do your duty. Certify these election results on Monday. Make sure that those 16 Electoral College votes go to Biden.

MADDOW: It does feel like there isn't much legal wiggle room. I mean there isn't anything in Michigan law that puts the legislature in the middle of certifying the election results or picking the electors. There does seem to be clear language in the law in terms of what that state board of canvassers shall do in terms of certifying the vote once they've got the tallies from the counties.

But I am a little bit haunted by a conversation I had on the show last night with a former Republican official in Michigan, a man named Jeff Timmer, who has in a previous life been one of the two Republicans on that state canvassing board. And he told me last night that he has no confidence either in those Republican legislative leaders who went to the White House today or in the Republicans on the board of canvassers in terms of their likelihood of standing up to pressure from the president, defending Michigan's election from pressure from him.

It was worrying to hear that from somebody who used to be a big deal in Michigan Republican politics, somebody who knows the people involved here. I just have to ask if you share that concern that this might come down to sort of personal integrity and patriotism and that that may be a worry here.

GREIG: I absolutely have that concern. But, you know, as you said, the legislature does not have a role in this process. And if something were to happen Monday night and they didn't certify the votes, the courts will step in, as they have in the past when there's been some deadlocked votes on citizens' initiatives.

So I have faith in our courts that they will certify this if the canvassers do not do their job and certify the results. The counties have already sent up -- all 83 counties, as you mentioned, have certified their votes and sent them to the state. They have the report on their desk that says it's time to move forward and certify the vote for the entire state. And, you know, and let's start this transition of power.

MADDOW: Christine Greig is the Michigan House leader of the Democrats there in the state legislature. Representative Greig, I really appreciate you taking time tonight. I know it must feel like a hot spotlight and a lot of pressure on Michigan right now, but thanks for helping us understand it.

GREIG: Thanks, Rachel, and please take care.

MADDOW: I will do. Thank you.

You know, as much as it may feel like a sort of funhouse mirror, it's important to remember that the president and people allied with him are attempting to overturn the results of the election and the will of the people not only in Michigan -- we've just been talking about what's been happening in Michigan. You heard that expression of confidence from the Democratic leader in the legislature there, sort of mirroring the expression of confidence that whatever they're trying, it won't work. That's the situation in Michigan even as these Republican state legislators get summoned to see the president personally in Washington.

But the other state where they're reportedly trying to do this same thing, they're trying to pull off this same trick, is Pennsylvania. And we're going to go next live to Pennsylvania for an update on what's happening there. Michigan is sort of still in the spotlight, but Pennsylvania is due to certify their results on the same timetable. We're going to be talking about that effort coming up after a quick break.

One last thing to show you here before we take this quick break. I just want to show you this one last thing. This is the Trump hotel in Washington, D.C. tonight where somebody has projected onto the side of the hotel a message for these Michigan Republican state legislators who were summoned to the White House to meet with President Trump earlier today.

Somebody has projected their faces and their names on the front of the hotel right there followed by this message, "voters decided." And then it goes on to say "the world is watching." The implication that presumably they're staying at that hotel, and they need to think about the magnitude of what they're being asked to do.

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


MADDOW: So it isn't just happening in one state. They've apparently got designs on two states, both Michigan and Pennsylvania. Those are two states where Biden won, but President Trump is apparently trying to get Republican state legislators to step in and nullify the results of the election in those states, overrule the fact that Biden won the most votes, and instead just hand those states' electoral votes over to Donald Trump instead.

It is obviously crazy town, right, that the president and his allies are even trying to do this. But they are trying to do it, and knowing that it's ridiculous isn't stopping them from doing it.

Now, we were just talking about Michigan with the Democratic leader of the legislature there. But let's also talk about the situation in Pennsylvania. One of the things we've covered on the show in the last few weeks is that Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature have repeatedly tried to set up different entities to question the election results.

About a month before the election, they tried to create what they were calling an election integrity panel in the legislature. It would have allowed Republican state legislators to subpoena elections officials and even subpoena ballots themselves while the vote count was still under way in Pennsylvania. There was an outcry over that. They were not quite able to pull that off.

But last night here on the show, we spoke with Malcolm Kenyatta, who's a Democratic state rep in Pennsylvania, a real rising star in Pennsylvania politics. We talked with him about the next thing that the Republicans in the state legislature are trying. Just yesterday, Pennsylvania Republicans declared they would run some kind of an audit of Pennsylvania's 2020 election. They'd run this audit in the legislature to try to turn up what they said were inconsistencies in the election results.

Now, there aren't inconsistencies in Pennsylvania's election results. It's not clear what material impact any real audit from Republicans in the legislature might have aside from the assurance that it would definitely cast doubt on the election results and turn it into even more of a partisan thing, that Republicans don't believe in election results anymore and Democrats still do.

So the Republicans tried that election integrity thing before the election, couldn't do it. They did pull off this audit plan. They just keep looking for something they can do. But this fever dream that Pennsylvania Republican legislators can do something about the fact that Biden won, that they could somehow try to overthrow the results of the election, not just cast doubt on it but throw it out, that fever dream is alive and keeping people awake in Pennsylvania and beyond, in part because that got identified and admitted to and called out early, before the election.

It was two months ago in September when Barton Gellman reported in "The Atlantic" magazine that there was this scheme cooking among Pennsylvania Republicans. They were trying to lay the groundwork in that state for Republicans in the state legislature to overrule a Biden win under the pretense that there was some sort of terrible fraud in the vote. Republican Party sources both within the state and at the national level told Bart Gellman in September, quote, the Trump campaign is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and instead appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans control the legislature. With the justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote in their state and instead exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly.

Quote: In Pennsylvania, three Republican leaders said they had already discussed the direct appointment of electors among themselves. One said he had discussed it with Trump's national campaign.

They talked about this with the Trump campaign before the election. They were already planning to do this before they even saw that Biden won the state. And reporter Bart Gellman figured it out and wrote it up and got people on the record about it, and so we know this is what they were doing.

And, now, indeed, Pennsylvania voted for Biden, and here we are, right? These Michigan Republican state legislators were brought to the White House today to get leaned on by the president to try to pull something off in Michigan. Now it looks like Pennsylvania may be next.

CNN reporting today that President Trump is having discussions now about inviting Republican state lawmakers from Pennsylvania to the White House as well, just like the Michigan guys he brought in today.

Monday is the deadline for Pennsylvania counties to certify their results, so he's going to have to get on it if he's going to try to enlist Pennsylvania Republicans to try to pull off this scheme.

But if the president, you know, asks not just these Republicans in Michigan but also these Republicans in Pennsylvania -- if he asks them to intervene, to throw out the election in their state and seize power for him instead, what should we expect their response to be? What are these Pennsylvania guys likely to do, especially given that we know they had discussed this possibility with the Trump campaign and were willing to go on the record about it even before the election happened? What are these Pennsylvania guys likely to do if they are asked to throw out an election and keep somebody in power who lost the election in their state?

I know exactly who to ask. He's here next.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: The president telling tall tales. The president telling porky pies about these fantasies of widespread voter fraud. That has not succeeded in actually turning up any voter fraud. But the Republican lieutenant governor of Texas has taken a different approach to this problem.

A few days after the election, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who honestly is a little bit of a piece of work -- Lieutenant Governor Patrick announced that he was ready to pay up to $1 million to anybody who could find evidence of this supposed voter fraud which the president has been saying cost him the election.

This $1 million prize from the lieutenant governor of Texas was not just for Texans. Offer valid in all 50 states. He said, quote, whistle-blowers and tipsters should turn over their evidence to local law enforcement. Anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and final conviction of voter fraud will be paid a minimum of $25,000, and maybe 1 million.

Wouldn't you know it, though? Soon after the Texas lieutenant governor threw that chum into the water, he got a bite. The Democratic lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania, John Fetterman, responded, said he had taken on the challenge, and he had succeeded, he wanted his money. He dug up an instance of voter fraud right in his home state of Pennsylvania. It was maybe not the kind of voter fraud his Texan counterpart was hoping for, but he did try to collect just the same, saying, quote: Hey, Lieutenant Governor Patrick, it's your counterpart in Pennsylvania. I'd like to collect your handsome reward for reporting voter fraud. I got a dude in Forty Fort, PA, who tried to have his dead mom vote for Trump.

Lieutenant Governor Fetterman said he was willing to accept his payment from Texas in convenience store gift cards. He said that would work for him. So far not a peep from Austin, though. It's fascinating.

Joining us now is John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Fetterman joins us, I am told, from a rest stop in Breezewood, PA. Is that true?

LT. GOV. JOHN FETTERMAN (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Right on -- yeah, on the beautiful Pennsylvania turnpike, yep.

MADDOW: What's behind you? It's kind of a super cool shot there.

FETTERMAN: Yeah. It's a -- it's a turnpike mural of all these historical photographs. I thought, you know, it's the best background I could possibly pull together at this point, so very historical.

MADDOW: I appreciate you doing it. I also appreciate that you are a tall guy with long arms, and so not having a tripod for your camera actually also works out fine.

FETTERMAN: Yeah. We just passed the budget. I'm on my way back home. Yeah.

MADDOW: Let me ask you first about you and Dan Patrick. Have you actually heard anything from him since you tried to claim the reward?

FETTERMAN: No. My dude owes me at least $2 million. We had two instances of voter fraud in Pennsylvania that involved Republicans having relatives vote for Donald Trump, one living, one dead. We had a dead mom try to vote in Luzerne County, and then we had a Republican father who voted for Trump in Chester County and then left. About half an hour later he came back wearing sunglasses and tried to vote for his son, who was a Democrat.

So, I mean, this wasn't the best and brightest. But in term of, you know, Lieutenant Governor Patrick owing me, yeah. It's like I'm still waiting for those $2 million in sheets gift cards, but so far -- Actually, the lieutenant governor did reach out to me on Twitter. Then he got dragged all over again for not paying up.

MADDOW: Well, we'll see if this creates any additional -- additional pressure. I, for one, would like to see what you do with the money.

But let me ask you about this. The broader issue right now, Pennsylvania sort of being in the sights of the president, at least by some reporting. President Trump is leaning on members of Republican-controlled legislatures in states that Biden won. We saw him bring these Michigan Republicans to the White House today.

CNN is reporting that Pennsylvania's next, that he may ask Republicans from the legislature in your state to come to the White House too, to pressure them. I just have to ask if you know anything about that in the state.

FETTERMAN: I'm like, yeah. I'm like, go, dude. Enjoy yourself. Have fun with it, but it's not going to change anything. And, you know, a new wrinkle to all that story is that there's actually been a COVID flare-up in the Pennsylvania house just recently as today.

So I don't see that movie having a happy ending for the president. So it's really not anything that I'm concerned about, nor should any of your viewers be concerned about. And then when you see the quality of the legal representation that he's been able to secure for himself, it's -- it's just kind of sad and demented.

MADDOW: Is the certification of the vote in Pennsylvania going to go smoothly? Is there any potential bottleneck in the system? Like in Michigan we're watching this state board where there's two Democrats and two Republicans. The Republicans are really being pressured. If they both went along with the pressure, it would actually throw some kind of wrench in the works there in terms of certification.

Is the process vulnerable to that kind of thing in Pennsylvania too?

FETTERMAN: No, I don't believe so. Certification is Monday, and the thing is the terms expire on November 30th. So if they don't certify the results, they won't technically have a House of Representatives to certify with. They would just have a handful of senators that run every four years, and this would be their off election.

So there's really not anything that can happen. I mean and you have to also understand, too, a lot of these elected officials have to walk that line between, like, legitimate governance and, you know, pandering to the lunatic fringe slash death cult part of their party as well too.

So there's a little bit of that going on as well. But I'm confident that, you know, even if they were of that mind frame to do that, there isn't a legal, constitutional mechanism for them to even engage in that behavior quite frankly. But, yeah, so if they want to go visit the president, yeah, good luck with that.

MADDOW: John Fetterman is the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. Sir, thank you for being here, particularly from exactly where you are. I'm always happy to talk to you, sir. It's great to have you.

FETTERMAN: All right. Thanks for having me on.

MADDOW: All right. You know, whenever we hit one of those periods where every sentence about what the president is doing kind of needs to include the word "unprecedented," there is one person I always want to turn to.

NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss actually has been painting some really helpful historical truths here, both in terms of transitions gone bad and in terms of elections gone wrong, with losers trying to climb the mantle of victory themselves. Michael Beschloss has stuff you want to hear about what's going on in our country, and he joins us live, next.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Today, we caught a quick glimpse of something increasingly rare in D.C., a sighting of the president. He appeared in the White House briefing room for about 20 minutes mainly to talk about prescription drugs.

At one point, he did say I won, by the way, meaning the election. But that was basically it. He left without answering any questions.

The president hasn't taken questions from the press since Election Day. He's been almost invisible except on Twitter. Of course, in the larger scheme of things, this is a president trying to throw out the results of the election and stay in power.

NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss reminding us while both of these things are weird, it's particularly weird to see them together, as to sitting president disappear from public view for this length of time while he's also trying to orchestrate such an absolutely unprecedented anti-democratic plot. Joining us now is NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss.

Michael, it's great to see you tonight. Thank you so much for joining us.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Oh, thank you, Rachel. Wonderful to see you. I've been thinking about Susan and you a lot. I'm so glad she's better.

And there is no one in this country who has done more than you have to show us all how catastrophic this pandemic has been and to show us all how to protect ourselves. And for this to come to your home, I just cannot get my mind around it.

MADDOW: You are very kind. Thank you for the notes that you sent me earlier and thank you for saying that.

And I have to change the topic because you're going to make me cry on TV and I can't afford that right now.

BESCHLOSS: OK, don't worry about it.

MADDOW: But thank you. Yeah.

Michael, let me ask you about this. The president not appearing is not that big a deal. It is an historical rarity, I'm assuming.

The thing that's striking about it is to see him not appearing while also he's trying to do this thing that I hope you're going to tell me is unprecedented, that there isn't a historical parallel for this that we should have all in mind here to help us make sense of this.

BESCHLOSS: Zero, nothing like this.

First of all, you're absolutely right. He's like Howard Hughes. You remember Hughes, the mogul who was sequestered at the top of a hotel with blackened windows and Kleenex boxes on his feet and growing out his fingernails.

You know, Donald Trump for the last couple of weeks has been not only invisible, but we don't get pictures of him talking on the phone or meeting with people. We don't get readouts of telephone calls he might have with foreign leaders or other people. It's as if there is no president at all.

At the same time, that is guy who, as you were saying, was plotting in a way we've never seen before. It's totally un-American.

Compare this to Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, all of them lost re-election. They immediately conceded. They told the victors that they would not only concede but would give any help they could in the transition to unite the country.

Instead, we got this sore loser. What is he? Is he hiding in his bedroom in the corner, chewing on the corner of the carpet? It's something we've never seen before.

MADDOW: Michael, you were quoted today in "The New York Times," really good piece analysis by David Sanger, raising the sort of specter of a botched presidential election that we had back in the 19th century, in the Reconstruction Era, I think it was 1876.


MADDOW: Rutherford B. Hayes and the dispute over three states where there wasn't a clear outcome and there was an effort to usurp power. I mean, on the one hand, I find that sort of comforting as a historical analog, but I want to take strength from knowing that the country recovered. But that was also an absolute catastrophe for the country.

BESCHLOSS: Of course, it was. It was resolved by Congress and it was resolved in the most ugly, horrible compromise that we can think of, and that is the Republicans said if you let our guy, Hayes, become president, we'll take federal troops out of the South, we'll stop Reconstruction, you can impose racist governments in every state in the South, Jim Crow laws.

And the result was horrible things in the South and elsewhere in this country. Race problems we've had every since as a result of that. That's the way that was resolved.

Compromises are not necessarily great. And the other thing I'm worried about is I think what Donald Trump is doing is grasping at straws, he's trying somehow to rescue himself, although he's resoundingly lost this election. But someone may have told him I don't think Donald Trump really knows who Andrew Jackson was, except for maybe the guy on the $20 bill. I think he probably knows him from that.

But Jackson was someone, as you know from studying it, who campaigned by saying I was robbed of the presidency by a corrupt bargain in 1924. He became president in '28. I think the Trump people may be trying to do that this year and somehow assured he could return to the White House, God forbid.

MADDOW: NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss -- sir, as always, thank you for your time. It's good to see you.

BESCHLOSS: Both of you, please be well.

MADDOW: We will do. Thanks, friend.

All right. We'll be right back.


MADDOW: I have run a bit over, but that's going to do it for me tonight from the weirdest TV studio ever. I'll see you again on Monday from who knows where. Might be here, might be somewhere professional.

Now it's time for "THE LAST WORD" with the great Lawrence O'Donnell.

Good evening, Lawrence.


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