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Transcript: The ReidOut, 1/21/2021

Guests: Celine Gounder, Jeff Merkley, Yamiche Alcindor, Patrick Gaspard, Jaime Harrison

JIMMY FALLON, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: It feels like the country is back. Sure, the GPS took us in some crazy back road for the last four years, but now we`re back in Main Street and we can tell people we`re lost.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the comics get the last words. As always thanks for spending time with us here on THE BEAT with Ari Melber. I`ll see you tomorrow at 6:00 P.M. Eastern.

THE REIDOUT with Joy Reid starts now.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening, everyone. So how are you feeling? How did you all sleep last night? Yes, yes, it is day two of the Biden- Harris administration. After four years of waiting to exhale, our nation is finally taking a deep, cleansing breath. And today, Joseph R. Biden used his first full day in the White House refreshingly not to fight over crowd size but to turn his attention to the biggest crisis facing America, namely tackling the pandemic.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: For the past year, we couldn`t rely on the federal government to act with the urgency and focus and coordination we needed, and we have seen the tragic cost of that failure.

We didn`t get to this mess overnight. It`s going to take months for us to turn things around. But let me be equally clear. We will get through this. We will defeat this pandemic.

Our national strategy is comprehensive, and it`s based on science, not politics, it`s based on truth, not denial, and it is detailed. We are in a national emergency. It is time we treat it like one together, with the national plan, as the United States of America.


REID: Normal government. President Biden signed a flurry of ten new executive orders today to combat the pandemic, part of a comprehensive national strategy that includes invoking the Defense Production Act, an increasing aid to states, a comprehensive vaccination campaign, expanding testing and treatment, requiring masks while traveling on public transportation and airplanes and addressing racial inequities.

Now, if all of that competence isn`t enough, Biden stressed that his administration would level with the American people and he emphasized the role of experts. And to that end, Dr. Anthony Fauci preceded the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, at today`s second daily briefing and was asked if he feels less constrained under the new administration.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I can tell you, I take no pleasure at all being in a situation of contradicting the president, so it was really something that you didn`t feel that you could actually say something and there wouldn`t be repercussions about it. The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence, what the science is and know that`s it. Let the science speak. It is somewhat of a liberating feeling.


REID: COVID did not totally dominate day two. On the national security front, Team Biden confirmed plans to keep FBI Director Chris Wray. And according to an internal state department memo obtained by NBC News, the administration will approach Russia about renewing the last nuclear treaty between the two countries.

The pedal to the metal approach to governing follows an absolutely refreshing day yesterday, A Capitol filled with celebration two weeks after being overrun with hate and a White House used to celebrate the people of America, not the president`s vanity, a focus on the pandemic taking center stage with mask-wearing and social distancing.

That emphasis was also evident yesterday as Biden donned a mask in the Oval Office while signing his first series of executive orders just hours after being sworn in. And among actions, mandating masks on federal properties, dismantling his predecessor`s ugly legacy, rejoining the Paris climate accord, ending the Muslim ban, halt the construction on a border wall and rescinding the alternative history known as the 1776 commission.

And the rest of the world is ready to turn the page. France`s Emanuel Macron and Canada`s Justin Trudeau tweeted that they`re ready to work with the new administration. Biden`s first foreign leader call will be with Trudeau tomorrow.

But Biden faces an uphill battle here at home. Republicans are already returning to form. Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took aim at Biden`s day one actions.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Now, it`s still early, Mr. President, there is still plenty of time for President Biden to remember that he does not owe his election to the far-left. The president can and should refocus his administration on creating good paying American jobs and not sacrificing our people`s livelihoods to liberal symbolism. Senate Republicans will be ready, willing and eager to help make that happen.


REID: Joining me now is Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent from PBS NewsHour, Patrick Gaspard, former political director in the Obama administration and former U.S. ambassador to South Africa, and Charlie Sykes, Editor-at-Large for The Bulwark.

And, Yamiche, I have to go to you first. This is quite difference for you, Madam, covering the White House. No one screamed at you and you don`t have racial undertoned attacks on you, disrespect for you as a woman and a journalist. I just want to get your sense of how different it feels to cover this White House so far.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: It is a new day, Joy. We are in this situation where we are covering a White House that has (INAUDIBLE) the idea of truth. And so, yes, we might have disagreements, we might have tense exchanges, but, ultimately, we view each other as human beings that we can talk to in a way that doesn`t feel aggressive or (INAUDIBLE) or charred. I think it is a feeling that I think both reporters here are feeling a bit of relief, frankly.

This is, again, a White House that will be held accountable. We`re going to ask tough questions. I`m going to ask tough question. But at least we`re in a situation where they`re saying we`re going to level with you, we`re not going to lie up front, we`re not going to make things up a whole lot. And what Dr. Fauci said about being liberated, and letting science talk (INAUDIBLE) pandemic, it, to me, sums up the situation that we were in before, which is that the science with the fact and data (INAUDIBLE).

This is the president, again, that will be held accountable, but at least he`s not making up truths and alternative facts. that is behind us.

REID: Well, and in addition to that -- yes, absolutely, Fauci even said he didn`t have to stand there anymore like looking -- like, what, when somebody is saying injecting bleach. That`s not happening anymore.

But just to -- so on the substance of this White House now that they are getting in the swing of even daily press briefings. I mean, wow, you don`t have to wait for leaks from angry White House staffers. You can actually have a press briefing.

So, there was a lot of focus today on the coronavirus and on the pandemic. Did you get a sense that within the White House they were shocked and are they prepared to deal with just how bad things were? We`ve seen some reporting that it was much worse than they thought it was when they got to look in the books about how far behind, we are in terms of rolling out vaccines and tackling the pandemic. Did you get a sense that their plan had to change because of how bad things are?

ALCINDOR: I get the sense that they knew things were bad and that they are still combing through the data to see just how bad it is. When I was talking to a senior Biden official today tasked with the issue of coronavirus and working on the vaccine distribution, that person said, we inherited a mess. It is not starting from scratch, but it is almost as bad as that.

He said that the Trump administration, what they were doing with vaccines, essentially dumping into the states. That was the word, that he is dumping it into the states and then saying to the state, good luck with that, figure it out. There was no plan on how to get the shot into Americans` arms, so they`re trying to get that together.

Now, there is a big, of course, challenge to how quickly they`re going to be able to do that. The big question I`ve been asking Biden officials is how far away are we from getting vaccines to anyone who wants one and that there really isn`t a clear answer on that yet and Dr. Fauci said 70 to 85 percent of people to have some sense of normalcy by the fall. So, there is no real clear picture for Biden saying that he wants to get 100 million vaccines into arms rather.

But, to me, it`s still a big question on whether or not they`re going to be able to do that. There will be questions. But they said to me, even today, even COVID testing is still not up to par. That`s something that we kind of (INAUDIBLE) turning the corner on. And I (INAUDIBLE) a number of people today who said there`s the vaccine issue but there is also the basic of having a real plan. This is the first time they feel like there`s a federal plan for the coronavirus, it is pretty a remarkable thing that we have in January.

REID: Yes, indeed. I`m going to go to you on this, Patrick, because you know what it is like to come in in an administration that already faces a pre-ordained fight with the other side that isn`t necessarily in good faith. You already have -- given all the stakes, 408,000 Americans lay dead from the virus, and yet, you have this sort of petty fights that are already being started by the other side.

You have Lindsey Graham going after Hunter Biden on Fox News. I won`t even play it. But he was saying that I can`t get over the fact people went after the Trump kids, Hunter Biden, Hunter Biden. He`s supposedly friends with Joe Biden, with President Trump. You have Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, you know, going after and sort of already saying bad faith kind of things about the way that he thinks that he`s going to work with people, and saying that he doesn`t think the previous president provoked the 1/6 riots. You have Josh Hawley already trying to delay the Department of Homeland Security choice. You can go on and on and on.

But let me read you what The Wall Street Journal wrote, this is on Joe Biden`s unity address and his call to unify, there was also too much of a suggestion that we are obliged to unite around one point of view. This doesn`t sound like Joe Biden is going to get the unity he`s looking for. What would be the advice you`d give his team on how seriously to seek that unity and how much to just be aggressive and to get their stuff done?

PATRICK GASPARD, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Thanks, Joy. The great thing about Joe Biden is that this is not his first trip at the rodeo, right? So he`s heard these kinds of criticism in the past. He was part of the team, the number two on the team, when we walked into the White House in 2009 and discovered that the economic crisis was a good deal worse than we had been previously led to understand. We found that the automobile industry would go belly up and all these homes would go into foreclosure and we didn`t have a single Republican making common calls (ph) for us on issues and challenges that were not Democratic in nature or Republican in nature but required some kind of unity.

So, Joe Biden, President Biden -- it feels good to say, President Biden is accustomed to this kind of hollow criticism and this kind of playing to the lowest common denominator inside of that party. That`s not going to stop him from having a laser focus on the things that he has listed as his priorities and that he`s begun to act on with the executive orders that he`s already signed and with the kinds of convenings that leaders in that administration, like Brian Deese, who is leading the economic counsel, is putting together the group of 16 Democrats and Republicans this weekend to begin bipartisan conversations on this next tranche of stimulus, right? So we have that at the domestic level, on foreign policy as well.

Not only is Joe Biden acting aggressively and affirmatively based on the mandate he has been given by the people of this country, but they`re doing it in a way that speaks to overwhelming competence. They understand the machinery of the bureaucracy, they understand how to sequence all of these things and they`ve got to land it.

Let me just say quickly, though, Joy, that style is substance in addition to the kind of behavior. Thank you so much for acknowledging what Yamiche went through. The things that she was assaulted with sent a signal around the world about press freedom, democratic practice in America. And Yamiche doesn`t like to call attention to herself but we all appreciate the violence that she underwent every single day and appreciate her grace and dignity and weather in through it.

REID: Hear, hear, very quick, let me play world leaders reacting, because you make a very good point about the way the world saw us given all of that. Here are world leaders reacting to the Biden-Harris incoming administration.


BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: I really congratulate Joe and Kamala Harris on their achievement on their inauguration today. It`s a fantastic thing for America. It`s a step forward for the country that has been through a bumpy period.

JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: The world is facing huge challenges, not least obviously COVID-19 but also the challenge to our collective environment, all of which we are seeing early signs that are really encouraging from the United States and the role they wish to play.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once again, after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.


REID: Even Mexico`s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who was friendly toward Donald Trump, congratulated Biden, said he supported his agenda.

Charlie, the incentive structure you would think with the previous president gone and unable to attack them on social media, you would think that then-Republicans could react to the incentive structure of COVID and say that trying to solve this catastrophe that is also an economic catastrophe, that would incentivize them because it would benefit them too. But it doesn`t seem to me from looking at it that nothing has changed. I don`t think anything has changed about them or their media. Are you surprised by that?

CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, actually. Could I just say one thing though? What if they had one picture that really captures the magnitude of this transition, it was watching Anthony Fauci completely liberated and almost giddy that I`m able to be here. That was really an extraordinary moment. And, of course, you see the international leaders who were exhaling, like so many Americans did.

But the reality is that Joe Biden despite that very eloquent plea for unity is not going to get any honeymoon whatsoever, because a honeymoon requires good faith negotiations. It requires Republicans to come to grips with the record over the last four years, their complicity and the big lie that led to the attack on the Capitol. And rather than seeing that level of responsibility, they`re seeing them moving farther and farther away from it.

And this is a political party, you know, that has Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz and Louie Gohmert and Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson and Tommy Tubberville. This is going to be a very hard party for Joe Biden to do, but he certainly set the right tone.

And we`ve only used the term normalcy, but what I was struck by was watching that press briefing today and there was actual news being made because you have an actual functioning government with a president who is engaged on the level of policy which we have not experienced in so long.

So keep in mind that you have the American people watching this while the Republican Party continues to obsess about its own base and still remarkably cowering before a defeated, disgraced, twice impeached ex- president who has basically been reduced to being fat Elvis in Florida right now, but he still has the whip of the Republican Party.

REID: It is strange, and I wonder then, Patrick, to put it back on your political director hat is how do you deal that? There is a divide and conquer strategy where they find a couple of Mitt Romneys and say we`re just going to peel them off and ignore the rest of them because they were there in the tea party too when the Obama and Biden administration was there. Is it divide and conquer or what would you suggest that the Biden people do?

GASPARD: Yes. You know, divide and conquer I don`t think is the approach that Joe Biden is going to take in this moment. Obviously, we are at a point in our country that we`re dealing with historic and unprecedented polarization and division. He is going to make a sincere and authentic attempt to reach across, find areas where there can be some constructive partnership with Republicans on COVID relief, on the size of the stimulus, perhaps even on the increase of the minimum wage.

I think that Republicans, as well as Democrats, are terribly concerned about the fact that it`s women more than men who comprise a large percentage of the 10 million Americans who are out of work as a consequence of COVID, and I think they can find some ways to partner here.

But let`s be really clear here. Joe Biden understands what the challenge is. He understands the charge he`s been given by the American people and he has a fierce urgency now about this moment on COVID, on economic relief, on racial inclusion, as we move forward and build better, and he`s going to be affirmative in all of that.

And it was astonishing to see that, not just the comments from the rogues gallery in the Republican Party, but Wall Street Journal suggesting that somehow Joe Biden is just trying to line everybody up behind his views. He`s saying this is democracy. We have disagreements but we have to find new ways to engage one another and be civil in our disagreements. That`s what he`s going to model with his example right now. And it`s important here and it is also important overseas, Joy.

REID: Yes, absolutely. I`ll ask the question to you then, Yamiche. Do you have any discussion when you`re talking with folks inside the administration, do you get a sense that they have chosen a strategy? Is it try to just isolate those who are still trying to get attention on social media for what they`re doing and try to find other people or are they just going to burrow ahead and ignore what Republicans are saying? After all, I mean, they do have a 51-50 senate if they need it.

ALCINDOR: I get the sense that there is going to be two parts to this. They`re really going to try to burrow ahead and try to make sure that they can use the power that they have and put forward Democratic ideals and Democratic ideas. I mean, Joe Biden has a $1.9 trillion package out there. But I do get a little bit of sense, at least in the rhetoric, that they`re going to be talking about working with Republicans. They`re going to be trying to at least pick up a couple of Republicans that they can work with, Mitt Romney and maybe a couple of others.

But there is a sense that they know that Republicans are going to saying pointed criticisms about them. They know that a number of these lawmakers, especially in the House, they voted to make sure that President Biden couldn`t get into office. So they`re very understanding of the issues at hand.

REID: That is good to hear. They are clear-eyed.

GASPARD: They also have political seats to protect in Arizona and Georgia in 2022, so they really do have to find ways to allow those senators to make common calls here.

REID: Yes, absolutely. And we`re going to be talking about that with the right kind of person to talk about that with the new DNC chair coming up later in the show. Thank you very much, Yamiche Alcindor, Patrick Gaspard, Charlie Sykes. Thank you all very much.

And up next for on THE REIDOUT, starting from scratch, President Biden unveils his comprehensive COVID plan promising science, not politics.

Plus, the arrival of decency and competence and the critical and unique role for Madam Vice President Kamala Harris.

Plus, Jaime Harrison, as I just mentioned, joins me in his very first interview since becoming the chairman of the Democratic National Committee earlier today. You don`t want to miss it.

Back with more of THE REIDOUT after this.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And while the vaccine provides so much hope, the rollout has been a dismal failure thus far.

And to a nation waiting for action, let me be the clearest on this point. Help is on the way.

This will be one of the greatest operational challenges our nation has ever undertaken. And I`m committed to getting it done. We`re committed to getting it done.


REID: One hundred million vaccinations in 100 days, that is the ambitious goal set by President Biden to help get this country on the path to defeating the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes as the country just saw its worst day yet, with more than 4,100 new deaths. That puts the total at more than 408,000 Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

And this administration is only now learning the full extent of how the previous administration mismanaged the crisis, with the president`s COVID- 19 czar, Jeff Zients, telling reporters -- quote -- "What we`re inheriting from that administration is so much worse than we could have imagined."

But as -- but even as President Biden has released a comprehensive plan to address the pandemic, it still requires the cooperation of all the governors. And some are already seemingly unwilling to comply.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I saw some of the stuff that Biden`s putting out. He`s going to create these FEMA camps or whatever.

I can tell you, that`s not necessary in Florida. All we need is more vaccine. Just get us more vaccine. The more bureaucracy that`s involved in this, the worse it`s going to be, trust me.


REID: Joining me now is Dr. Celine Gounder, infectious disease specialist and Biden transition COVID adviser.

And, Dr. Gounder, thank you so much for being here.

You know, I lived in Florida for 14 years. And, unfortunately, Florida is - - has been cursed with repeated incompetent governors that get reelected. And I cannot tell you why.

But this is probably the worst governor that I have ever seen when I was there. There`s nothing like him before. This man has presided over 1.6 million cases and 25,000 deaths in Florida. And deaths have been on the rise just since January.

He was more interested in reopening Disney World than in even thinking about the vaccine. And letting people go on Twitter, not being canceled off Twitter, that`s his priority.

Given the fact that you have a governor like that, who`s already failed in his vaccine rollout, there are senior citizens sleeping on sidewalks for hours just trying to get the vaccine, going from county to county to county, trying to find a way to get it, and they`re supposed to be authorized to get it, how do you roll out a national plan, when you have to go through governors like him?

Is there a way that the administration can get around people like Ron DeSantis?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, BIDEN CORONAVIRUS ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER: Look, this is not about bureaucracy. This is about having a plan, really understanding at the ground level how to get things done, who are the heads of the health departments, who are the local contacts for pharmacies, or who`s working at the local hospital that we need to coordinate with.

It`s really basic stuff. But if you don`t know those things, if you don`t have constant communication with those parties, you don`t have on paper what you`re going to do in terms of when are doses going to be distributed, where, that makes it very difficult to coordinate.

So, that`s not about bureaucracy. That`s just about good government.

REID: But the problem is, is that the administration, the Biden administration, is going to send a certain amount of vaccine to the state of Florida. I`m just using them as an example.

It`s going to go to the health department inside of that state, which is run by and overseen by Ron DeSantis. He wants complete local control. He doesn`t want to have any sort of structures that say who gets it and when. He just wants to throw it out there and let people distribute it locally, because he doesn`t believe in government, really.

Can -- is FEMA, which he`s calling FEMA camps, is FEMA going to be able to supersede him, set up distribution centers and distribute vaccine in places like Florida or in South Dakota, where you have a Kristi Noem? Can the government -- can the government do that, the federal government?


Well, I mean, I think what we have seen is that the CDC guidance was a little bit too complicated. They were trying to balance science, the logistics of implementing, and ethics.

And I think the piece of that they weighted the least, frankly, was the logistics piece. And it`s become very clear that, as much as they wanted to do things scientifically and ethically, that it just wasn`t working.

And, frankly, trying to police a line, having health care workers and public health officials police a line, when they have been under attack for the past year by their own people, when many have retired and not been replaced, been fired or quit, and now we`re asking them to police a line, it`s just not practical. It`s just not going to work.

Some local health jurisdictions have a single public health nurse. And you`re asking them to roll out the vaccine and make sure people don`t jump the line. There are other ways to ensure equity that have nothing to do with a line.

Where do you put your vaccination centers? Who`s doing the vaccinating? Those are actually more effective in making sure that everybody has access. And that`s part of what these FEMA distribution sites, mass vaccination centers, collaborating with federally qualified health centers and community health centers in the hardest hit communities, and mobile units to harder-to-reach or rural areas.

Those are strategies that will help us reach those people.

REID: We right now have 37.9 million doses, a little bit over that, that have been distributed already. Only 17.5 five million have been administered. And that`s in the 38 days since the vaccine was administered.

Let me let you listen to President Biden and the new CDC director appointee, Rochelle Walensky, talking about vaccine availability and whether we will be able to get them at the pharmacy. Here it is.


BIDEN: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will launch the federal pharmacy program to make vaccines available to communities in their local pharmacies beginning early -- within the -- I think by the 7th or 8th of February, but in very early February.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: I`m going to tell you the truth here. I don`t think, late February, we`re going to have vaccine in every pharmacy in this country.


REID: So, if it`s not by late February, when would you estimate that anyone who wants a vaccine in this country can go to their local pharmacy, the Giant pharmacy, CVS, or whatever, and get one?

GOUNDER: I don`t think the two statements there, the president and the CDC director, are actually in conflict.

We are going to be -- the new administration is going to be opening up vaccination through pharmacies, but that is going to take time to scale up. And, remember, the supply remains limited. It will probably be well into the summer and into the fall before there`s wider access to the general public to the average, say, young 20-something healthy person, because you -- we are going to at least try to prioritize the sickest, the highest- risk, the most exposed, the hardest-hit first.

So, to expect that every single pharmacy in this country will have access for everyone who walks in is just not realistic. But one of the one of the important things here is that the federal government will be working with pharmacies to extend access throughout the country.

REID: I respect and really appreciate you just being very blunt and plain about that, and not making false promises, which is something very refreshing.

Dr. Celine Gounder, thank you very much. Really appreciate you.

And still ahead: Can we expect great things from a new U.S. Senate with the Democrats in control? Or will Republicans just obstruct everything, like they did to President Obama?

We`re already seeing hints about how this is going to play out, and it ain`t pretty.

Stay with us.


REID: Democrats assumed control of the United States Senate yesterday, marking the first time in a decade that they have held the White House and both chambers of Congress.

The shift in power came when Vice President Kamala Harris swore in three new Democratic members, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia, as well as Alex Padilla of California, who was appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom, as Vice President Harris now presides over a 50/50 Senate, a split that makes her tiebreaking vote crucial for Democrats.

That split also means the newly minted Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, who today posed with incoming Democratic senators, must come to a power-sharing agreement with Mitch McConnell.

But true to form, McConnell is now threatening to obstruct that resolution. With his party in the minority, he`s demanding a commitment to protect the legislative filibuster, a concession Democrats are unwilling to make.

Meanwhile, the Senate has a long list, a long to do-list, not to mention an impeachment trial that could begin as early as next week. And that to-do list includes hearings for countless administration nominees who still await Senate confirmation, among them, Biden`s nominee for secretary of transportation, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg. And he testified before the Senate Commerce Committee in his confirmation hearing today.

And joining me now to talk about all of that is Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

And, Senator, thank you so much for being here.

Before I get to the workings in the Senate, I have to ask you for any comment that you might have about this blockbuster report in "The Washington Post" that Michael Flynn`s brother was in the room.

And despite the fact that the Army denied it, Lieutenant General Charles Flynn, he confirmed that he was in the room during a tense January 6 phone call during which the Capitol Police and D.C. officials pleaded with the Pentagon to dispatch the National Guard urgently, but top Army officials expressed concern about having the Guard at the Capitol.

Is this something to which we should expect hearings in the United States Senate? And what is your reaction to that news?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Joy, my reaction to this was that simply being in the room is not unexpected.

There had to be Army authorities at a high level in the room. The question is, what was said, and why is it that the Army lied to the American public, lied to Congress about General Flynn being part of that meeting?

I will tell you that anyone who instructed the Army to lie to Congress and the American people, that is conduct unbecoming an officer, and that should have consequences. And, certainly, it raises the question of, what are they hiding? What did he say? Did he take a position that was an outrageous position, an unacceptable position?

American people really deserve to know now.

REID: Yes, indeed, particularly given his brother`s position on what he thought that the previous president ought to do.

Very quickly, relatedly -- somewhat relatedly -- the previous administration left a lot of leave-behinds that it does appear the Biden administration is trying to remove and get rid of. You have Peter Robb, who was the general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board. You have the CFPB then leader. You have the head of the Agency for Global Media, which basically is Voice of America.

This gentleman, Michael Ellis, who`s been a source of a lot of news stories, the NSA general counsel, who was seen as a pretty pernicious leave-behind.

Do you think -- how extensive do you think this leave-behind issue is? And do you think that the Biden administration should make a priority of removing these ideological implants inside of the various agencies?

MERKLEY: Yes, absolutely. They`re doing great harm to America, and they should be fired, removed, tossed as quickly as possible.

REID: Let`s move now onto the United States Senate. You do have Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader McConnell, attempting to essentially protect the filibuster, which he used so repeatedly and in historic numbers. Not since the civil rights era were so many filibusters launched during the Obama/Biden administration.

What do you want to see Senate Majority Leader Schumer do about that? Should he negotiate to let the filibuster -- to keep the filibuster? Can he use something like the leverage that he might have with McConnell wanting two weeks of prep time for impeachment?

And what do you -- what would you like to see Chuck Schumer do, Leader Schumer do?

MERKLEY: It`s just an out -- it`s a completely outrageous demand by McConnell.

We called this the McConnell veto. He used it when he in minority to try to obstruct every good work to help out American families on health care, on housing, on education, on good-paying jobs, on infrastructure, on opportunity, on climate, on criminal justice reform.

And so here`s McConnell saying: Hey, I`m in the minority now, and I`d like to have a veto over everything you want to do to help out Americans.


MERKLEY: Do you think for a moment McConnell would have agreed to saying, oh, Chuck Schumer, you`re in the minority and you want a veto on everything I do, and that`s OK? Of course not.

It`s absolutely just a piece of McConnell`s delay and obstruction strategy. We`re seeing it in full force. It is the guiding principle of his life, is not -- is not to try to solve problems, not try to work with others.

The guiding principle is power quest. How do I get that? I show that the team in office that can`t function, so I have a case for replacing them.

This to me is absolutely a horrific philosophy and McConnell has gotten away with it and he succeeded with it. He built a case to be in the majority, he followed on to proceed to be this close ally of Trump right up until the end, until a few days ago, and it -- no.

There`s no way Schumer would agree to this or even entertain it. That`s absolutely off the table.

REID: Yeah.

And on the -- you mentioned climate. The bad faith seems to be running downstream from McConnell. Ted Cruz made an attack on the re-joining of the Paris climate agreement, that it was the equivalent of saying if you don`t like English muffins, you hate British people.

He said, by rejoining the Paris climate agreement, President Biden indicates he is more interested in the views of the citizens of Paris than in the jobs of the citizens of Pittsburgh.

Your thoughts? I mean, didn`t he vote to negate the votes of the people of Pittsburgh in the election. But I`m going to leave the final thoughts on that to you.

MERKLEY: Joy, you are so right. When I -- when I heard this, I thought this from the man who led the effort to burn the ballots of the people of Pittsburgh just last week, and not to mention that the city elects a climate champion as mayor time and again. He just won the award last month for being the best mayor in the country to take on climate change.

So, yeah, the last person who should talk about the citizens of Pennsylvania or the citizens of Pittsburgh is Ted Cruz who wanted to deprive them of a fundamental right to have a voice in the election of a president.

REID: Do you think he should be expelled? I was surprised to see him show up on the nomination given what he did. Is he somebody that you`d like to see expelled from the Senate?

MERKLEY: Joy, I`ll tell you this. There were two insurrections. There was an insurrection from outside the building and there`s an insurrection inside the building. They very, very work closely in the same effort.

But I`ll tell you, the insurrection inside the building was worse in a way because they were affirming the mega lie that Trump told to the nation. It is like somebody being a close ally of McCarthy and a false lie of destroying people`s career over communism. This was an effort to support the big lie that the election was not won by Joe Biden, and I think that effort, that contribution to the insurrection is a major offense against the Constitution and we should have those hearings and explore those issues of censorship or expulsion.

REID: Thank you very much, Senator Jeff Merkley, making it very plain. Very much appreciate you. Thank you.

And still ahead, my thoughts on yesterday`s historic events and a look ahead at some of the challenges and opportunities facing congressional Democrats.

And Jamie Harrison joins me for his first interview as the newly appointed chairman of the DNC. You do not want to miss it.

Stay right there.


REID: January 2021 has so far been a tale of three Wednesdays. There was January 6th, the Wednesday of an insurgency, January 13th, the Wednesday of the second impeachment and January 20th, the Wednesday of inauguration and renewal, and what a Wednesday it was.

It began with symbolism. The two new first couples standing side by side by the reflecting pool overlooking the symbols of American loss during COVID, and proceeded with American glamour with shades of purple and royal blue, emerald and white, sparkle and just plain grandeur. Culminating with that moment, when Michelle Obama erased her 2017 can`t be bothered with this bull ponytail with a glorious moment of fashion perfection side by side with the former president just like they`d come straight from Wakanda.

Then Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took the oaths of office and then took those walks with their gorgeous and loving families. They got right to work with Vice President Harris presiding for the first time as president of the Senate and giving the oaths to the newest Senate members, one black, one Jewish and one Latino because that is what America looks like.

We witnessed the bond of former presidents united by a love of and commitment to democracy. The culmination of a life of service that proves that it`s never too late for greatness to meet you and for you to rise to it, and yes, there were songs. There were musical legends, there were stars and Tom Hank, though he could have used a coat declaring in unison that American culture was built by many culture, many shades and many sufferings and many accents and religious flavors and different flavors and many moments of hope, and of course, there were fireworks like all of the fireworks. And with that, we reclaimed our national honor and our smiles.

And while all of that was amazing yesterday, perhaps nothing was so amazing than a young woman named Amanda.


AMANDA GORMAN, POET LAUREATE: So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.

We will rise from the golden hills of the West.

We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.

We will rise from the sun-baked South.

We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.

And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.

When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.

The new dawn balloons as we free it.

For there is always light, if only we`re brave enough to see it.

If only we`re brave enough to be it.



REID: Amanda Gorman, everybody. That is the America that won and defeated the ugly forces of January 6th.


REID: Today was a day filled with hope and optimism. The next 100 days will be a critical period for President Biden and his fellow Democrats, and standing in their way is the Grim Reaper, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Not just him but also a new party leader has been chosen to help protect the Democrats` majority and agenda.

Jamie Harrison, the brand new chairman of the DNC, joins me now for his first interview.

And, Jamie, thank you so much. I really have to thank you for making this the first place that you`ve come since being named DNC chair. You could have gone anywhere, my friend, so thank you so much for making this your first stop.


O`DONNELL: So, let`s talk about -- let`s just jump right into it. Joe Biden gave what even some folks on Fox News, you know, confirmed and affirmed was the speech of his life. And yet the reaction to it on Fox News later in the day -- it was Chris Wallace earlier in the day who said it was the best speech he`d ever heard, the best inauguration speech he`d ever heard.

Later in the day, the other folks came on, and I want to you listen to what they said because this is what you are going to be facing, right? Here you are leading the Democratic Party. I know you have a big agenda ahead of you. This is what you`re facing.

Here they are.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One the point where he sort of came very close to saying, if you weren`t part of 81 million who voted for me, you`re believing in nativism and racism and fear. And I thought that was a bad moment in the speech.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): If you read his speech and listen to it carefully, much of it is thinly veiled innuendo calling us white supremacists, calling us racists, calling us every name in the book, calling us people who don`t tell the truth.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Not only waging war on white supremacists, can somebody tell us in very clear language what a white supremacist is? That`s not some picayune semantics question.

He`s now declared war, so we should know specifically and precisely who exactly he has declared war on. We have a right to know that. Innocent people could be hurt in this war.


REID: That`s what you`re facing. I kind of feel like if somebody says white supremacy, you go, are you talking about me? You might be saying more about you than about white supremacy, about the term.

What do you make of the fight that you`re going to have to deal with a party where those people are really more influential than Mitch McConnell is?

HARRISON: Well, Joy, it makes you scratch your head that there are folks who will actually go on TV and try to defend white supremacy. Joe Biden`s speech yesterday was absolutely beautiful, because he didn`t talk about himself. He didn`t talk about Donald Trump. He talked about the American people.

He talked about making sure that all of us got an opportunity to live the American dream despite our background, despite how we grew up, who we love, how we identify ourselves.

He is fighting for the best for all of us. So there was no hate in his speech. There was no division in his speech. What he did do was put on alert that those folks who do have division and hatred, that you have no room in this great nation.

And so, I`m proud to stand with Joe Biden to bring together the excellence that we know that we have, because in America, our diversity is our greatest asset. And we need to cherish it. And I believe Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will do that in everything that they do.

REID: One of your jobs, Jaime, will be to protect this slim majority that Democrats have in the house and the majority of the Senate. And that means back to Georgia again to fight for Raphael Warnock. Back to states like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, back to Arizona, New Hampshire.

A big menu of races and that really starts now. You got two years to get ready for these fights.

What is the message of the Democratic Party in your view? What should it be? That`s one of the things people say. What is -- do Democrats have a coherent message? What do you think the message is going to be?

HARRISON: Well, Joy, one of the things people should understand with me, I have no intention of letting our victory turn into complacency. We are going to organize, organize, organize.

If we can learn anything from this race, if what we learned from Stacey Abrams and what Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were able to do in Georgia, it is all about organizing on the ground and you can`t just do it right before the election. It has to be continuous and it doesn`t stop.

And so, part of what we are going to do is the successes that come out of this Biden-Harris administration, this Democratically controlled Congress are success that`s we need to make sure that we put down to the ground. That`s why state parties are so important. We need folks to understand that the promise that`s Joe Biden made are the promises that have been kept. And that message has to be a constant drum beat.

And the only way to get that done is by having organizations on the ground, putting that message out directly to the grassroots and directly to the people. And that`s what we`re going to focus on over the course of the next two, four and ten years. This is about building a party for the long term. Not just the cycle but the long term.

REID: And the fact that you are now running the party, does that mean the party is heading to the South and it will work in the South in a way we haven`t seen Democrats do in the past is this and rural areas. I know that`s something that you care about.

HARRISON: Well, Joy, you know me so well. You know the big thing is, I believe in order to be a majority party, you`ve got to compete everywhere. In order to maintain the majority in the United States Senate, you can`t cede any state to the Republican Party. We have to fight every place.

And that`s why we are going to invest in a 50-state strategy, seven territories. We`re going to be in every state. We`re going to make sure they have organization to choose good candidates and folks can go to and be a part of that effort.

REID: And you know, you`re a real pro. You put the website out there.

Best of luck. DNC chair, Jaime Harrison, thank you very much, my friend.

That is tonight`s "REIDOUT".

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. Cheers!