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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, November 24, 2020

Guest: Samantha Power


Samantha Power, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is interviewed. Republicans today filed two new lawsuits in Minnesota and Wisconsin, even as one of those two today certified its results. MSNBC continues its coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: This would be like one of the sort of like epistemic tests for party members to see if you're cadre in the new Republican Party. It would just be like, did Donald Trump lose in 2020? If you say "yes", it's like you are out of line with what the party has decreed. That is not the reality. You need to get in line.

Jennifer Horn and Lachlan Markay, thank you for making time tonight.


HAYES: That is ALL IN this Tuesday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.

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

Back in August, in the second week of August, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced that he had picked a running mate. He had picked California Senator Kamala Harris.

And that announcement was greeted very positively pretty much across the spectrum except by the president. So, that seems like a good sign right off the bat. The Biden campaign received a record surge of new donations after the Harris announcement. There were signs in the polling that the choosing Harris only improved Biden's appeal across the country and his chances of winning the general election all in all.

As vice presidential announcements go, this was seen as a very successful one. And it has continued to be a successful choice, right, by all visual measures. Right, they won the general election after all. Biden's choice of Harris gave him a measurable burst of momentum and goodwill and additional financing on the way to that goal. All good.

Right after the Harris announcement was made, which among other things drove a big burst of new traffic to the Biden campaign website. Among other things, there were lots of people wanting to donate to Biden for the first time. Right around that time, the tech website Mashable right clicked on the Biden campaign website.

Do you ever do that by accident? If you're a tech literate person, if you speak computer code, I'm sure you do this sort of thing on purpose. But if you don't speak code, if you're sort of a technical luddite like me and I think like most people, you only ever do this by accident.

Because this is what it looks like when you do it. For example, in front of the screen here, this is the website, yeah, for our -- our TV show, for This is what it looks like when you go there normally.

But if you right click on it to inspect the source code, this is what pops up, right? Which is neat. That's the guts of the website, that's the code that builds it, but it's also completely Greek to me, right? Completely Greek, unless you know what all that means.

It's not just my website. Here's the very famous, very tidy front page of "The New York Times," right? Very familiar looking until you right click on it to inspect the source code, and this is what that looks like. This is what you get.

And sure enough, to some people, not just to the people who write this stuff but to a lot of people who know how to read this stuff, this is -- this is very coherent, this might even be poetry, this makes a lot of sense. But for most of us old fogeys and nontechnical folks, this is hard to understand.

But when the Biden campaign back in August announced Kamala Harris was going to be the running mate for Joe Biden and they got this huge boost of momentum and attention and traffic to the Biden campaign website, the tech website Mashable went to the Biden campaign website and they did that right click thing to inspect the code, to inspect the actual coding behind the Biden campaign web page, and this is what they found.

The Biden website folks had embedded something into the source code of their website. They had embedded this, wear a mask.

They spelled it out amid the source code for the web page right above the code for the lending page where you could go buy Biden branded face masks.

Oh, kids these days. They dropped that little thing in there only for people who would know how to find it, only for people who would be looking. They did that around the time they announced Harris.

They've also just done it now. After the Trump administration and the president finally relented last night and agreed to belatedly, begrudgingly, officially start the transition, the Biden-Harris transition website which is called Build Back Better, it changed over to a dot-gov official website. It's now, because the presidential transition between administrations, that is an official government thing, funded by and run by the federal government. And so, their website is now a government website.

And as previous administrations have done during their transitions, the Biden-Harris transition has put out on that webpage a public call for people to apply for jobs in the new administration.

You see that sort of yellow colored inset there: Join the Biden-Harris administration. We are building an administration that looks like America. Join us.

And then there's that big blue button that you're supposed to click onto submit your resume. But, look, there's a secret embedded thing. If you don't just click there to submit your resume, if you right click there because you know computer code and you want to read the source code that makes this website tick, if you are code literal enough to be looking at the guts of the Biden transition website and not just clicking on it normally like the rest of us, then, hello, here's something for you.

You see what it says there? If you're reading this we need your help to build back better, with that link for how to apply for administration jobs. Which means, hey, tech-savvy person who is here looking at this source code, you in particular, we want you to consider joining this administration. We need you, which is very smart, right?

That's like putting help wanted ads for bouncers up at the local gym, or it's like trying to recruit new high level diplomats among people who have actually worked during diplomacy or to recruit high level national security people among people who have worked doing high level national security stuff.

Today, Vice President-elect Joe Biden held an event in Delaware to roll out the first selections for his cabinet, for his top national security officials. And, you know, there's always kind of some kind of special, there's always -- you know, a little bit of excitement around watching a new administration take shape. Whether you like that new administration coming in or not, watching the new high ranking officials for the new administration get announced, it's like watching history write itself straight in front of you in days and months and perhaps years to come, we'll have stories to tell. We'll understand modern American history being made by all the people you see in this frame.

Today, we saw them all at once and saw Joe Biden and Kamala Harris talked about all of them. It's really something to watch, right? It's the president holding -- president-elect holding his first cabinet rollout. It's, of course, happening in the middle of this pandemic, and it's happening in the wake of the most chaotic, unprofessional, disorganized administration in history.

I mean, today, in grave, grave contrast to every single thing done every day of the Trump administration, today was organized. It was weird. It was like they had it together. They thought it through, these decisions they were making about the government were deliberate decisions made on purpose, not just some impulsive thing that they misspelled and misunderstood and threw together with no notice in a way that made no sense.

I mean, just the way they rolled it out, the whole crew, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, the six new high level appointees, they all walked out in masks keeping six feet social distance. They stood on marks to ensure they stayed a full six feet apart from each other the whole time. Each of them spoke at that podium standing alone, distanced from everybody else on the stage. But in between each appointee's remarks, a staffer came out and wiped down and disinfect the podium before the next speaker came up. That was in between each of the speakers.

And it was not them just taking that visible responsibility around COVID, taking it seriously, allowing themselves to be seen taking it seriously, listening to these remarks today from these senior members of the Biden administration, all these picks, all these -- they're all these sort of technocratic, non-flashy very experienced people with years and years, in some cases decades of experience in their field, almost all of them are seen as being widely respected even by people that come from different ideological backgrounds. They're all unquestionably qualify for what they're doing and they're all viewed as smart, good decent people.

Pinch me. Is this -- which country is this? It's almost unsettling today, right, to have this clear impression that these people who were just picked by the president-elect were not picked because, you know, the president liked someone called the guy "Mad Dog" once and that sounded cool. Or the person was like the wedding planner for somebody else's son and so, sure that person should be in charge of federal housing in the northeast United States of America, right?

You forget what it feels like to not see people appoint their kids to senior advisor jobs, right? You forget what it feels like to see technocratic public servants who are inarguably hyper qualified for their jobs and ready to do them and prepared. And there at an organize event that make sense, that's taking seriously their experience for high level governments and executed flawlessly. What country is this? I think I remember a country like this.

After the last four years we have had at this moment in our nation's history, it just like felt like you could exhale for a moment.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: My late stepfather Samuel Pisar, he was one of 900 children in his school in Bialstok, Poland, but the only one to survive the Holocaust after four years in concentration camps.

At the end of the war, he made a break from a death march into the woods in Bavaria. From his hiding place, he heard a deep rumbling sound. It was a tank. But instead of the iron cross, he saw painted on its side a five-pointed white star.

He ran to the tank. The hatch opened, an African-American G.I. looked down at him. He got down on his knees and said the only three words that he knew in English his mother had taught him before the war. God bless America.

That's who we are. That's what America represents to the world however imperfectly. Now, we have to proceed with equal measures of humility and confidence.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY NOMINEE: The Department of Homeland Security has a noble mission, to help keep us safe and to advance our proud history as a country of welcome. For 12 years, I had the privilege to stand in a federal courtroom and announce Alejandro Mayorkas on behalf of the United States of America.

The words "on behalf of the United States of America" meant everything to me and to my parents. My father and mother brought me to this country to escape communism. They cherished our democracy and were intensely proud to become United States citizens as was I.

AVRIL HAINES, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE NOMINEE: I will never forget that my role on this team is unique. Better than that of a policy advisor, I will represent to you Congress and the American public, the patriots who comprise our intelligence community. Mr. President-elect, you know that I have never shied away from speaking truth to power, and that will be my charge as director of national intelligence.

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR DESIGNATE: Sir, we will be vigilant in the face of enduring threats from nuclear weapons to terrorists. But you've also tasked us with re-imagining our national security for the unprecedented combination of crises we face at home and abroad, the pandemic, the economic crisis, the climate crisis, technological disruption, threats to democracy, racial injustice and inequality in all forms. The work of the team behind me today will contribute to progress across all of these fronts.

JOHN KERRY, PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR CLIMATE DESIGNEE: No one should doubt the determination of this president and vice president. They shouldn't doubt the determination of the country that went to the moon, cured supposedly incurable diseases and beat back global tyranny to win World War II.

The road ahead is exciting, actually. It means creating millions of middle class jobs. It means less pollution in our air, ocean. It means making life healthier for citizens across the world. And it means we will strengthen the security of every nation in the world.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.N. AMBASSADOR NOMINEE: In the years that I've worked in government, I'm always struck by how only in America would we be where we are today, where life can be hard and cruel, but there's hope in the struggle. There's promise in our dreams, where you learn to believe in yourself in that anything is possible. And on this day, I'm thinking about the American people, my fellow career diplomats and public servants around the world.

I want to say to you: America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back.


MADDOW: Diplomacy is back, America is back. That's Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Also, Avril Haines, the next director of national intelligence. And John Kerry, the next presidential envoy on climate, and Jake Sullivan, the next national security advisor, and Alejandro Mayorkas as the next homeland security secretary, and Tony Blinken, the next secretary of state, talking there about his stepfather who has escaped the death camps in the Holocaust and was rescued as a child by an American tank crew.

This is some of the high profile faces of the new U.S. government after the Trump era. Those are the folks that we're going to get.

We've got a lot to get to tonight. Samantha Power who was U.N. ambassador under President Obama, one of the high profile members of the national security apparatus, and the diplomatic apparatus in the Obama administration. She's going to be here live with us in just a moment. I'm really looking forward to talking with her.

We're also still keeping an eye tonight on some of the stuff the Trump White House appears to be trying to deliberately monkey wrench as they head out the door. And I continue to maintain that this stuff they've been doing has been way too low profile. I know it has been distracting to have a president claiming that he secretly won the election, and there's some means by which he's going to fight to overthrow the results.

But what's really been happening while he's been making all that noise is that the actual transition has involved Trump administration officials messing stuff up on purpose in advance of Biden and his team getting there -- in some cases, in ways that have potentially profound implications for national security.

Last night, for example, we talked about the outgoing Trump administration suddenly announcing now after the election during the lame duck that they're not only pulling the United States out of the Open Skies treaty, which among other things let's us fly surveillance flights out of Russia. They're not only pull s out of that treaty, they're destroying the airplanes that are used by us to conduct those overflights under that treaty.

So even if the incoming Biden administration wants to rejoin that treaty, which is not a stretch. President -- ex-Vice President Biden, candidate Biden criticized the Trump administration very strongly when they said they wanted to pull out of that treaty.

But if President Obama -- excuse me, if President Biden wants to get back into the treaty, well, good luck to him. Even if he puts the U.S. back in the treaty nominally, he won't have the actual ability to do those surveillance flights over Russia anymore because Trump is literally destroying the planes that are approved to do that surveillance, right now, after the election in the lame duck.

One U.S. official telling "The Wall Street Journal" that these highly specialized surveillance planes used for the Open Skies Treaty are being, quote, liquidated right now by the Trump administration.

"Air Force Magazine" has since tried to follow-up on what the heck is going on with this. Look at what "Air Force Magazine" found. This is such a perfect snapshot of what it's like right now in national security stuff as the Trump administration is apparently trying to figure out ways to burn stuff down on their way out the door.

This is from "Air Force Magazine" today. Quote: Many details of how the U.S. military will wind down its participation in Open Skies are still murky. Federal officials are largely keeping mum on the process of off-loading the jets, what will happen to the airmen who fly and maintain those jets as well as the pictures collected by the overflights. And if there's work under way to find an alternative to the plane based intelligence gathering which will now end as the U.S. pulls out of the treaty.

A spokesman for the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, which manages the aircraft and the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron referred questions about pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty, referred questions to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. A spokesperson at the Office of Secretary of Defense referred questions to U.S. Strategic Command back at the Air Force base in Nebraska.

A Strategic Command spokesperson referred questions to the U.S. State Department. The U.S. State Department in turn directed questions back to the Pentagon. The Pentagon referred questions to the Air Force, and the Air Force declined to comment.

So, that's how we're handling us pulling out of this decades-old international treaty that allows us to surveil Russian military operations not only for our own purposes but also to help our European allies who are worried about Russian aggression in Europe. We're pulling out of it. We're liquidating the planes we use for that surveillance, and who do we ask about this?

Even the airmen at Offutt Air Base in Nebraska who have been doing this program, do they still have jobs? What are they supposed to be doing?

Offutt says, ask the secretary of defense. The secretary of defense says ask StratCom back at Offutt Air Force. StratCom says, no, ask the State Department. The State Department says, no, ask the Pentagon. The Pentagon says ask the Air Force. The Air Force says no comment.

This is how it's going. This is how they're handling the transition even on national security matters, active ones. Not just matters of policy, matters of literal equipment being destroyed as we speak.

But NBC News reports tonight that the Biden transition today made contact with all federal agencies, including the White House. Some agency teams began arranging their first transition meetings today, approximately 20 transition meetings, first meetings, took place today in this first day after President Trump finally relented and allowed last night that the transition would be allowed to begin.

Biden campaign made this statement, quote: Career staff at federal agencies have been responsive, receptive and helpful within the first few hours of formal engagement. Notice they said career staff there.

Many career staff have been preparing for this moment for several months. Their work is greatly appreciated as we begin making up for some lost time.

Yeah, making up for some lost time to say the least, making up for four years of lost governance as well. Tick-tock.

Samantha Power joins us next. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Here's a moment from President Obama's big new memoir. He's describing internal deliberations for how the U.S. should respond to the uprising in Egypt against the dictator. This is January 2011. It's part of the Arab Spring sweeping across the Middle East.

And the Mubarak government, it's a conundrum, right, because they're a long time U.S. ally at this point, even though he's essentially a dictator. Our ally, Israel, in particular really didn't want to see Mubarak overthrown in Egypt.

President Obama writes in his book, quote, in Tahrir Square in Cairo, the demonstrations continued to swell as did violent clashes between protesters and police. I consulted by national security team to try to come up with an effective response. The group was divided almost entirely along generational lines.

The older and more senior members of my team, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Bob Gates, CIA Director Leon Panetta all counseled caution, all of them having known and worked with Mubarak for years.

While they acknowledged the need to press the Egyptian leader on reform, they warned there was no way of knowing who or what might replace them. Meanwhile, national security aide Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, Denis McDonough, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Joe's national security adviser, Tony Blinken, they were convinced that Mubarak had fully and irretrievably lost his legitimacy with the Egyptian people.

Rather than keep our wagon hitched to a corrupt authoritarian order on the verge of collapse and appeared to be sanctioning, the escalating use of force against protesters. They considered it both strategically prudent and morally right for the U.S. to align itself with the forces of change. I shared both the hopes of my younger advisers and the fears of my older ones.

Ultimately, the U.S. government, the Obama administration, sided with the protesters and called for Mubarak to step down. The younger advisers won that argument.

And you look at the way Obama talks about them, right? At one point, he describes Samantha Power and Ben Rhodes as, quote, evoking by own youthful idealism, the part of me still untouched by cynicism, cold calculation or cautioned dressed up as wisdom.

Even though this wasn't even a decade ago, those folks now can no longer be seen as the scrappy young upstarts clashing with the establishment. I mean, they are the foreign policy establishment now. Tony Blinken, who again is described there as Joe's national security adviser in Obama's book, he is now President-elect Joe Biden's choice for secretary of state.

Susan Rice was on Joe Biden's very, very short list for vice president. She's assumed to be under consideration for a major role in his administration.

Samantha Power, she succeeded. Susan Rice as U.N. ambassador, she is now unquestionably one of the pre-imminent voices in foreign policy in the Democratic Party and in the United States of America.

And so, yes, everyone around the Biden transition is carefully reading Samantha Powers' new essay on foreign affairs in which she argues that the new administration will have to do more than just rekindle alliances and rejoin treaty. She says, quote, the new president will have to grapple with the widespread view that in key domains, the U.S. doesn't have the competence to be trusted. Restoring American leadership, accordingly, must include the more basic task of showing that the U.S. is a capable problem solver once more. Tall order.

Joining us now is Samantha Power, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She's also author of the memoir "The Education of An Idealist," which is excellent.

Ambassador Power, it's really, really nice to have you here tonight. Thanks for making the time.


MADDOW: President-elect Biden has introduced some of the senior appointees that he's making in the national security and diplomatic fields. Many, if not all of the people on the stage with them today I know are people you've worked with in various capacities. I just have to ask your reaction to these announcements that he's made and what it should tell us about what kind of president he'll be.

POWER: I found today indescribably moving. I think you saw on that stage, the resurrection of appreciation for expertise, the invocation of science and facts, the respect for the work force that so many of the people coming in as political appointees but really wanted to signal or to stress already how much they valued those people who have slogged it out for these four years and remained and tried to buck some of the worst tendencies of the Trump political appointees.

But also, Rachel, I've got a Kleenex box here that's a little emptier than it was when the day started because I think a number of the speakers talked as well about something that we haven't heard much of this last four years, which is America as an idea. And there's so much, of course, that's wrong with, you know, how things have gone in so many domains.

But the fact that Tony Blinken can talk about what America represented for his stepfather as he's getting liberated by an African-American G.I., that he could talk about his grandfather fleeing the pogroms in Russia. That Ali Mayorkas is going to become the first immigrant, the first Latino to run DHS -- DHS, that would be the agency that Stephen Miller has exerted unprecedented over from the White House, of the agency that has helped separate parents from their children. And here we have somebody who fled the communist regime in Cuba running that agency and re-injecting humanity and compassion and recognition that that it is in America's interest to be a welcoming country.

That look where the vaccine is going to come from, right? It's companies that are led by immigrants or children of immigrants. And that understanding just pervaded what went on today.

Last thing, I guess, I was very struck by Jake Sullivan who will be team captain in the cockpit of the Situation Room. But he has run domestic policy of late. He's a long time national security hand.

But his understanding, having helped oversee Biden's domestic policy agenda, the pandemic response, the climate response, the Build Back Better. But for him now to be running foreign policy with such an unusual for a national security actor, an unusual appreciation of the domestic policy agenda, the domestic constraints, the domestic landscape, the need for domestic constituencies, the need for the foreign policy to serve the middle class, it's really unusual and exceptional.

So, it was a rare, great, clean day, if I may.

MADDOW: The argument that you made in print in this latest essay that you just published about restoring faith in American competence, not just America's desire to play a leading role in world affairs and to play protective and beneficial and supportive role to our allies, but our ability to do so kind of hit me where it hurts because I feel like the whole idea of, you know, America first and America alone, it sort of makes sense that that comes from the political right because it goes easily with this anti-government idea that the United States shouldn't try to do things around the world and we shouldn't even try to do things necessarily to help our own people because government is inherently incompetent and inherently bad. And therefore, the real role of government should be quite small and people should fend for themselves.

That's a self-fulfilling prophecy if you bring that role into governance, and if you spend four years hollowing out, denigrating and perverting the use and function of important U.S. government agencies. I'm -- I'm worried and I have to ask how worried are you that the Trump administration has hobbled the ability of the U.S. government to do right, to do well when it comes to things like distributing a vaccine or being a responsible member of an international treaty.

POWER: Well, I mean, the case in point, of course, is the response to the pandemic. And nothing, no single event I think in recent, at least, American history has done more visible damage to America's standing in the world than having such a high per capita infection and death rate.

So, this is the country of Silicon Valley, the country of Henry Ford and Steve Jobs and the man on the moon and the Berlin landing. And for the rest of the world now to see us in this light, in part because of our divisions, but again because largely half of those divisions was leading in a manner that was encouraging people not to take proper precautions and, you know, not to bring the country together at a time of national crisis.

I take your point that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy that the ravaging of the Environmental Protection Agency or the language expertise at the State Department makes it hard for the president-elect and his team to come in and then reignite those elements who have so much competence to bring to bear. But a lot of people have stayed, Rachel. A lot of people thought it was their civic duty and their patriotic duty to stay, to continue to fight, to throw their body in the tracks.

Often, they found themselves marginalized. And they may be hard to find because they may be in some basement somewhere where, you know, they've sort of tried to hang on here waiting for the return of people who valued expertise. But I do think there are opportunities and there are opportunities that, frankly, should get bipartisan support, that involve bringing the private sector in to a partnership with government. That is that also recognizes that there are things that non-governmental actors do better than large government agencies, in particular large bureaucracies.

So, a couple of the things that I mentioned, in fact, involved the pandemic response. We will not be able to get our economy really back on track until the global economic engine is purring again. That will not happen as long as people are dying of this virus and this pandemic in developing countries, where our supply chains extend and our trade links reach into.

And so, it's in our interest to be part of a large burden-sharing effort to get the vaccine to poor countries. Yes, we've ordered 800 million vaccines for the American people. And, of course, keeping the American people safe is the commander-in-chief's responsibility, but so too is getting America back to work.

So, there's an example where partnering with private foundations, of course, like Bill Gates, but also the same companies who are making the vaccine along with returning to the World Health Organization, COVAX, this global vaccine alliance.

There's a way to be back at the table and showcasing what America has to offer well beyond restoring this or returning to that, doing something new and fresh and meeting people in their hour of great need.

I also think education and our universities, what a way to show case what America still has to offer in terms of intellectual capital than to welcome back international students, which by the way is a huge source of income for our economy when we don't have a pandemic.

Nonetheless, Trump allowed those numbers to begin to fall substantially, and for Biden to make that a priority again. Twenty percent of African leaders today, Rachel, have been educated in some form in an American university. I mean, that's a gift that keeps on giving well and apart from the financial benefits and soft power benefits, again, to showing what we still have to offer as a country.

MADDOW: Samantha Power, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations -- Madam Ambassador, thank you so much for being here tonight. This is a delicate and really important but also often quite moving moment in American civic discourse.

Thanks for helping us understand it. Thanks for being here.

POWER: Thanks. We have to appreciate the good days when we have them, Rachel, I believe.

MADDOW: That's exactly right. Something I'm worst at in the world, but you're exactly right. Thank you, Samantha. It's good to see you.

We'll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Minnesota was not close. Biden won Minnesota by about a 7-point margin, nearly a quarter million votes.

But the chair of the Minnesota Republican Party says, do you know what? That just doesn't seem right to her. She has gone public this week with her belief that it just seems, in her words, unusual that Trump would lose Minnesota. She said, it seems extremely abnormal to her.

The state Republican chair in Minnesota is named Jennifer Carnahan. She has been getting dragged by the Minnesota press ever since for even trying to float this particular boat.

But today, she did get a little bit of back up when Republicans filed a lawsuit in Minnesota insisting that the Minnesota vote cannot be certified. The process of certifying the vote in Minnesota must be stopped. It cannot be allowed until there is a statewide audit of all the votes in the election.

Why should certification be stopped so there can be an audit? Well, they have this vague sense that something is wrong. That this just can't be the result.

What's going to happen with this last-minute odd Trump lawsuit in Minnesota?

I can cut to the chase by telling you that first of all, this lawsuit was filed wrong. It was filed without some of its important constituent parts. Also, by the time they got around to finally getting this little ball of wax together, Minnesota had actually already finished certifying its votes.

So, lawsuit or no lawsuit, it's done now. Biden won Minnesota by a lot. And this failed, weird, last-minute lawsuit interruptus effort by the Trump folks today is not going to change that and it's never going to change that.

But they're still trying these things. Trump also sued in Wisconsin today, where Biden beat Trump by about 20,000 votes. That lawsuit commands that the state shouldn't certify the results of that election at all.

Not just delay the certification, Wisconsin -- they want the whole election result thrown out. No election result should be certified at all and instead Republicans in the Wisconsin state legislature, should just be allowed to pick their own preferred winner of the presidential election.

Sure. Why not? Good luck there.

The Trump folks filed these lawsuits today, by the way, right? That transition started last night with the president even admitting it should just go ahead. But they're still going on with the lawsuits.

I should tell you the Trump campaign also announced excitedly today there's going to be a hearing by the Pennsylvania state Senate on the conduct of the presidential election in Pennsylvania. Oh, a legislative hearing you say in Pennsylvania, even after they've just certified the vote there? They're going to hold a legislative hearing investigating the election? After certification they are?

No, actually read the fine print here. Do you remember when the Trump folks had their big press conference in Philadelphia and the president said it was at the Four Seasons but it turned out it was actually in the parking lot of the Four Seasons Landscaping Company by the crematorium and the porn store.

Well, same kind of thing here. They're calling it a Pennsylvania state senate hearing. But this legislative hearing is not at the Pennsylvania state senate. It's not at the legislature. It's not even in the capital city.

It's just Republicans in Pennsylvania going to a hotel in Gettysburg, the Wyndham Hotel, unless perhaps it's Wyndham total landscaping, and at the hotel, they're going to hear a presentation from Rudy Giuliani. Sponsored by Grecian formula.

This is -- I mean, they're calling this like the Pennsylvania legislature is investigating the election. No, people are going to go eat rolled up sandwiches on a catering plate while they listen to Rudy Giuliani say the things that he said on Lou Dobbs, right?

Is -- Pennsylvania certified the vote. So has Minnesota. I mean, is this just going to be a constant now, right? Is this just going to be a thing that Trump-related folks to every day, basically a grift vehicle for them to continue to raise money from gullible people who think Rudy's going to do something other than talk, right? Gullible people who think there's a magic rabbit to pull out of a hat that will somehow make Trump king and send all the Democrats to Guantanamo.

I mean, Nevada, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Indiana, New Mexico, Minnesota, all certified their results today. But even still, even so, still today, the Trump folks filed more lawsuits including in Minnesota while the vote was being certified.

And in Wisconsin -- I mean, why are they still feeling these things even today? And importantly, are any of them more substantive than the dozens of lawsuits and complaints they have had laughed out of court already?

That's actually worth paying attention to as a matter of substance. And we're going to get some expert advice on that next.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Republicans today filed two new lawsuits in Minnesota and Wisconsin, even as one of those two today certified its results.

Democratic super lawyer Marc Elias had this reaction to those two new suits being filed. He said: Earlier today, I would have said 50 court losses for Trump and his allies was not possible, but with these new lawsuits filed today in Minnesota and Wisconsin, they have a shot to get there. They are currently at 36 losses with another eight cases not yet ruled upon. Could they get to 50 straight losses in the courts in these election law challenges?

I mean, we know why Trump and his allies filed all those flurries of bad lawsuits, sort of before yesterday. But it is -- does feel sort of different now. It feels somewhat more surprising to see them still doing it. Even now that so many states have certified their votes and the transition has started and it all does really feel quite over.

Are any of these continued legal efforts any more significant than the three dozen state -- straight cases they have lost since November third? Why are they still doing this?

Joining us now is Matthew Sanderson. He's an election law attorney and NBC News election law analyst.

Mr. Sanderson, it's nice to have you here. Thanks very much for your time.


MADDOW: So I haven't followed every twist and turn of all of the dozens of lawsuits they have filed, but I've followed a bunch of them.


MADDOW: These ones feel -- these new ones that were just filed feel a little different. They have a slightly different cast. Are they any more substantive than all the lawsuits that have been thrown out?

SANDERSON: They're not, and I think they're even less substantive than the initial round that was filed by RNC lawyers and other regular Republican lawyers. I think what you're seeing now in Minnesota, for example, the lawsuit as you mentioned was too late to stop certification there.

And if you look at the substance and the timing, I think it's pretty clear this is some political opportunism at play with a couple of the Republican state legislators filing suits simply to gain favor with Trump voters.

So it seems that someone's bucking for a promotion, and that's what's behind this. And you also saw this in Pennsylvania with Congressman Mike Kelly who filed a junk lawsuit just recently and a lot of the speculation is that that was to help him angle in for an advantage in the coming 2022 Senate primary race to fill Pat Toomey's seat coming up.

So I think what you're seeing now is a lot of political opportunism, and it's the same rehash, recycled claims that we're all familiar with right now and I don't expect them to have any more success than the prior batch of lawsuits.

MADDOW: Do judges have the ability to look at these lawsuits not just in terms of the individual cases being brought before them, but looking at them as that kind of a project that you're describing, as something that's rehashed other -- the same disproven or nonexistent claims that have been rejected by other courts.

I mean, at a certain point, is there any legal risk, for example, for the lawyers who are bringing these things? They're not just being rejected narrowly by courts. It seems they're really being laughed out by court. As they keep doing it in state after state and court after court for political effect, as you say, for fundraising effect.

Eventually, do the courts get mad enough to be used this way that there could be consequences for the people bringing them?

SANDERSON: Well, I think a judge will look at each case in front of them, as they should. But I think with the passage of time, what's happening now, the longer this process goes, the more futile this whole effort is.

And I think you'll see progressively harsher treatment by judges. I mean, you saw over the weekend in Pennsylvania, a conservative judge, conservative federal judge compare the Trump campaign's arguments to Frankenstein's monster and really summarily dismiss the claims in front of him.

I think you'll see more of that as time goes on. So I think that's more of a factor than anything. The fact that, you know, certifications are happening and a judge will not and should not overturn the will of tens of thousands of voters. That's not what the court process and the litigation process is really for. And judges realize that and I think they'll act accordingly. They have thus far certainly.

MADDOW: Matthew Sanderson is an attorney, co-leader in the Political Law Group of Caplin and Drysdale, an NBC News election laws analyst -- Mr. Sanderson, thanks very much for being with us tonight. I appreciate you being so straight with us on this stuff.

SANDERSON: Thanks for having me.

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


MADDOW: Here's the front page of the "Leader-Telegram" in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, today. See the headline there, scary as hell, and then all caps below that. The subhead, Eau Claire nurse reveals stress and fear associated for caring for flood of COVID patients.

Local ICU nurse quoted, quote: I'm afraid daily I'm going to get the disease and bring it home to my family. Seeing somebody struggling to breathe is horrifying. That's Wisconsin.

Here's Ohio. "The Dayton Daily News" today: Ohio hospital staff exhausted. Governor Mike DeWine describes the rapid surge in cases as, quote, a runaway freight train.

Here's Brainard, Minnesota, today, "The Brainard Dispatch", no beds anywhere. Hospitals strained to limit by COVID-19.

Here is Lake Havasu City, Arizona, "The News-Herald", beds space dwindling. Surging case numbers hitting hospitals hard as available beds dip toward July tallies.

Here's "The Quad City Times" today in Iowa: We are at a crisis point.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, here's "The News and Observer", we are in danger.

Here's "The Reno Gazette Journal" in Nevada, with a quote from the CEO of local health care system. Quote, I really am worried. And below that: health care system bracing amid COVID-19 patient surge.

Below that there's this. One in five Washoe County tests are positive for COVID-19, 1 in 5.

In Tennessee, here's the commercial appeal, front page, quote: Pastor makes plea to stay home for Thanksgiving. The top headline there featuring the pastor from Brown Missionary Baptist Church in South Haven. Look at that heart-breaking sub-headline which explains why the pastor is making that Thanksgiving plea. Churches funerals up 50 percent from last year.

This is what all Americans all across the country woke up to this morning as the virus continues to rage absolutely out of control. I will tell you, there's a little bit of good news today. A new study from University of Utah finding that statewide mask mandates helped decrease COVID-19 cases, they also helped boost the economy because they help people feel safe enough to shop more.

Utah study bolsters similar findings out of Kansas, that found that masks help decrease the spread of COVID by as much as 50 percent. Studies from Vanderbilt University also showing that mask mandates lower COVID hospitalizations.

One thing that is a blessing here is that the science about what we need to do is so clear, we just need to follow that science.

That does it for us tonight. See you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.


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