WHO warns of risk of new COVID variant; Biden says, new variant is not a cause for panic; Dr. Fauci says rise of new variants is another reason to get vaccinated; 44 percent of global population fully vaccinated; U.S. is only 59 percent fully vaccinated; WHO warns new omicron variant may pose increased risk of reinfection; Countries impose travel bans as omicron cases spread; U.S. imposes travel ban on eight African countries; Rise of omicron variant spurs new COVID fears; Dr. Fauci says, no doubt that low vaccination rates contribute to rise of new variants; GOP Representative Jackson accuses Democrats of using new COVID variants to cheat on elections; Rise of omicron variant spawns new conspiracy theories.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: How are you doing, Ari? You promise to introduce me to Dr. Ruth one day. I got to meet Dr. Ruth. Can you make that happen?
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: She is the livest 93-year-old ever. I`ll do it.
REID: When they get to 90, they don`t care. That`s what I love about a 90 row (ph). It`s my favorite age group. Thank you very much, Ari. Have a wonderful evening.
REID: All right. Good evening, everyone. We begin THE REIDOUT with the new coronavirus variant, omicron. That is putting the entire world on edge. The World Health Organization is warning that the variant poses a very high global risk but we still don`t know a lot about it. There`s evidence that there might be an increased risk of infection or reinfection with the virus but we really don`t know exactly how transmissible it is or whether it causes more severe infections.
There are increased cases and hospitalizations in South Africa where the variant was discovered but it`s too early to attribute those to the variant. They`re also still studying the impact that omicron could have on vaccines but stressed that current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death. After South Africa discovered the omicron variant, President Biden has a travel ban, including eight African countries, though there is no way to know where the mutation actually started.
But there are already confirmed cases in at least 18 countries, including our neighbor, Canada, and health officials say it`s probably already here. New York is on alert with Governor Kathy Hochul declaring a state of emergency and New York City reinstating a COVID mask advisory. Today, President Biden made it clear that while we should be prepared, we shouldn`t panic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic. We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists and we`re learning more every single day.
Sooner or later, we`re going to see cases of this new variant here in the United States. We`ll have to face this new threat just how we faced those that have come before it. The best protection against this new variant or any of the variants out there, the ones we`ve been dealing with already, is getting fully vaccinated and getting a booster shot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Biden said that he`d be announcing a detailed strategy for how to fight COVID this winter but made it clear that the U.S. will not be instituting any shutdowns or lockdowns, no doubt because there is zero political appetite for that in this country. This all comes as air travel set a pandemic record with many vaccinated and unfortunately unvaccinated Americans eager to get back to normal, whatever that is, at this point.
But the delta variant is still here too, and an average of 1,000 people have been dying from coronavirus every day in America. Only 59 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated with just 21 percent of Americans older than 18 receiving a booster shot the day the CDC director stressed the importance of getting those booster shots, announcing that everyone 18 or over should get a booster, and noting that the recent emerging of the omicron variant further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters and prevention efforts.
And Dr. Fauci said over the weekend that while we don`t yet know how much of an impact omicron will have, it is best to prepare for the worst.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You don`t want to frighten the American public but when something occurs that you need to take seriously, you take it seriously and do whatever you can to mitigate against that. I mean, I`m saying this absolutely clearly that if ever there was a reason for unvaccinated people to get vaccinated and for those who have been vaccinated when your time comes up to go and get a booster shot.
We want to make sure we`re prepared for the worst and that`s what we should be doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: I`m joined now by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden. It`s always great to talk to you, Dr. Fauci.
And, look, I`m not a scientist, but the sort of Occam`s razor explanation for why we`re still in the pandemic and why the virus is still mutating and forming new variants like omicron is that there are so many unvaccinated people around the world, right?
So, let`s just go and look at some of this. 44 percent of the global population right now is fully vaccinated. That means 55.6 percent of the global population has had at least one dose of the vaccine but still about half the world. You can see that heat map there, half the world is unvaccinated.
Among the least vaccinated countries, Burundi, my family`s country, the Congo, only 0.1 percent, Haiti, Guinea-Bissau, South Sudan, Yemen, Ethiopia, most of these are poor countries that are very, very much unvaccinated, almost totally unvaccinated. And the most unvaccinated countries, like United Arab Emirates and Singapore, et cetera, are doing better but there it`s still -- there`s a lot of unvaccinated people. The United States is 58th, we rank 58th in vaccination status in the world. Am I right that that is why we`re still getting variants?
FAUCI: No doubt about it. When you have a high degree of viral dynamics in the circulation of this country or any country in the world, it`s a danger essentially to everyone because once the virus has the capability of freely mutating and freely transmitting from person to person, ultimately, you`re going to get mutations.
Not every mutation is relevant but every once in awhile you get a constellation of mutations that are worrisome, and that`s what we`re dealing with this current variant, the omicron. I mean, that`s the thing, that is the situation that we`re facing right now. We don`t know a lot about it, as you said, but it has these mutations that are strongly suggestive that it has a transmissibility advantage. Namely, it transmits very efficiently and also some suggestion that it might invade some of the protection from monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma of even for vaccine-induced antibodies.
We need to know if in practical purposes that that spells out to a really high degree of transmissibility and whether or not when it does infect someone, whether it causes severe disease. And those things we`re going to know, Joy, in about a couple of weeks, a week-and-a-half, two weeks, at the most three weeks. We have a great deal of cooperation from the South African colleagues, scientists and public health officials who have been very transparent with us and sharing information with us.
REID: You know, and the South African president has complained and South Africans are getting pretty offended that they`re being kind of targeted when all they did was discover it. It`s like the Spanish flu being the Spanish flu because they were the ones who admitted that it was there. South Africa actually did a good thing by letting us know that this variant is here and discovering it.
But I wonder if trying to bar travel from a country like South Africa even works. I`ve been kind of -- my team is sick of me saying this, but I`ve been likening the pandemic, this virus, to like the Alien and Aliens, right? It`s whole goal is to jump into different people and mutate into different kinds of aliens and these anti-vaxxers and people who don`t get vaccinated are like the guy from the corporation that`s like we can go ahead and allow it to come back to Earth.
At some point, isn`t it true that this thing is going to mutate to a kind of virus that we can`t stop with any vaccine or any treatment?
FAUCI: No, that would be really highly unlikely, Joy, but you`re making a good point in one respect. You`re absolutely correct. If ever there was a reason to get the people who are unvaccinated vaccinated and those who are fully vaccinated and whose time comes up to get a booster, it`s now. Because we know from experience already that when you get a high level of antibody, of neutralizing antibody even if it`s again one particular variant, when you get a high level usually due to vaccination and booster, which gets that level way up, you get such a high level, it cross-protects against the other variant so when you get a brand-new variant and you don`t have any really understanding of it yet, the best thing to do is to get your level of neutralizing antibody as high as you possibly can.
And we happen to have the tools to allow us to do that. We have highly effective vaccines that we know that boosters get that level way up, much, much higher than after the usual two dose of an mRNA or the one dose of the J&J. And that`s the reason why the president today emphasized at the White House press conference why it`s so important to get a booster and why the CDC today announced that they`re recommending boosters for everybody 18 years of age or older who is eligible. So, we really need to push that very, very hard.
REID: Well, I got my booster and my husband and I got our boosters. But the problem is that we are not in a whirl where we can isolate ourselves from people who won`t get vaccinated. We know people in our lives that refuse to get it done. And a lot of the argument they`re making is that they have natural immunity if they`ve had COVID before. What do you say to people that say, well, I had COVID, therefore, I am immune from COVID?
FAUCI: Well, there is two different groups of people there, Joy. There are people who haven`t had COVID and still don`t want to get vaccinated. And those are the people, up to 60 million of those, that they can`t have an excuse that, well, I`ve been infected, therefore, I don`t need to get vaccinated. There are far, far more people, 60 million or so, who have not been vaccinated, who don`t want to get vaccinated even though they`re eligible.
The issue of if you`ve been infected, how long your protection lasts, we don`t have enough information of that to give a great deal of confidence. Although it is true, to be fair, that when you do get infected and you recover, you have a degree of protection that is substantial. The question is what is the durability of that?
And that`s the reason why the CDC recommends that even if you have been infected and recovered, if you do get a vaccine, the level of your protection goes way, way up and that`s the reason why they recommend it.
REID: Yes, I have a family member that had it twice, so it can`t be that protective because they got it again.
Is it safe for people to travel because people are going back to normal, whether we like it or not? Is it safe to get on a plane and go see family in Cleveland or in Louisiana, especially if you`re traveling to a state that has a low vaccination rate?
FAUCI: Well, you know, Joy, the fundamental principles are you are much, much safer if you are vaccinated and boosted than you are if you`re not vaccinated. Travel always increased the risk particularly if you go to a place where there is a high dynamic of infection.
However, you can`t just say no travel at all. You need to understand during the Christmas holidays and the upcoming holidays now, people will be traveling. So, the thing you can tell them is follow some fundamental principles. If you`re not vaccinated, get vaccinated now. If you`re vaccinated and eligible for a boost, get boosted.
And when you do travel, be prudent. For example, when you go to the airport to get ready to get on a plane, when you`re on a plane, you have to wear a mask. But in the airport, in a congregate setting, wear a mask. And when you do travel wherever you and you go into an indoor setting where you don`t have any idea what the vaccine status of the people around you are, then wear a mask under those circumstances.
When you`re in the home with the family and you know who`s vaccinated, the people are vaccinated, everyone is vaccinated, enjoy the holiday, have a good meal. But don`t be unprudent in the sense of saying, I`m going to a place that`s an indoor setting, I have nobody -- no idea who is there but I`m not wearing a mask. That`s putting yourself at an unnecessary risk.
REID: We are out of time. But, very quickly, I`m going to squeeze one more thing in. I`m sorry, producers. Do you want to respond -- I would never bring up Dr. Ronny Jackson, he embarrasses me, but -- and it scares me that he ever got to touch President Obama but when a -- he`s a doctor and a lot of people will listen to him when he says things like you and President Biden are just making this up because you all think it`s going to help Democrats in the midterms. What do you say to somebody who is a doctor who is telling people publicly as a member of Congress that this is all made up, that this is all just an election strategy?
FAUCI: That the virus is the election strategy, is that right? Is that what he`s saying?
REID: That`s what he`s saying. That this variant, that this talk of the omicron variant is just to yourself and the president trying to do an election strategy to help Democrats.
FAUCI: Well, then, I would just say without being pejorative against him that he is at odds in his feelings and his believes with virtually everybody who knows anything about virology, including all the WHO and all the other health ministers throughout the country and throughout the world. So, other than that, I have no comment then.
REID: That is firm but fair. Dr. Anthony Fauci, people should listen to you and not people like him because he seems like a whack to me. Dr. Anthony Fauci, thank you very much.
Up next on THE REIDOUT, the new COVID variant means new opportunities for deadly right-wing disinformation, as we just discussed.
Also, this could be one of the most devastating weeks ever for abortion rights as the conservative court takes up Mississippi`s to Roe v. Wade.
Plus, opening statements in the sex trafficking trial of Jeffrey Epstein confidant Ghislaine Maxwell, which is surely making a lot of powerful men very nervous.
And tonight`s absolute worst is now the leading voice for racism in Congress, which is saying something because there is a lot of competition for that title.
THE REIDOUT continues after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Always a new variant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you can always count on a variant about every October, every two years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I think -- yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are probably right, however, they could speed up, the variants could come quickly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re going to need a new variant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: I`m not even a doctor and I know that they come in the winter, because it`s winter. It gets cold. Anyway, yes.
Now, while there is still a lot that we don`t know about the new coronavirus variant omicron, what I can tell you with confidence is that it is, in fact, real and something that we need to keep a close eye on.
Now, of course, as you just saw, if you are a Fox viewer, the conspiracy theory machine has already kicked into gear. And if the message from the three stooges there wasn`t clear enough, well, then let Republican Congressman Ronny Jackson spell it out.
The former top White House doctor for both Trump (INAUDIBLE) and President Obama, a fact that still freaks me out, tweeted over the weekend that the new variant is nothing more than a ploy by the Democrats to cheat through the midterm election, the one that is still 11 months away.
But let`s be clear, there was no cheating by the Democrats in the last election, no matter how many times the MAGA crazy crowd shouts it from the rooftops. But this quack politician from Texas and others in the tin foil hat brigade want the American people to somehow believe that not only did the Democrats contrive this new variant but also somehow convinced the World Health Organization and countries around the world to scramble and shut down flights and go into emergency pandemic mode all to push mail-in ballot for next year`s midterm elections here in the U.S. And if that sounds plausible to you, you probably also would trust Dr. Ronny Jackson to operate on you, which I would discourage if you want to be alive.
Joining me now, Dr. Uche Blackstock, Founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, and Rick Wilson, co-Founder of the Lincoln Project.
I`m not a doctor but you are, Dr. Blackstock. But even I can figure out that anything that is flu-like, a viral type of thing that causes symptoms that can be confused to a flu probably comes around when it gets cold like in October or November? Am I wrong or am I right?
DR. UCHE BLACKSTOCK, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You`re absolutely right, Joy. And it`s a sad day when a practicing physician surgeon can politicize a microscopic infectious particle like a variant.
We know that variant is out there. We -- there`s still -- as you have mentioned, there`s still so much more that we need to learn about it. But the fact is, is that we are still in the middle of a pandemic. We are in crisis at the beginning of our fifth Delta surge. And we have this new variant that we`re trying to figure out.
So there is nothing made up about this. We are -- this is the real deal, and we have to deal with it right now.
REID: And, Rick, what bothers me more than the people who are just -- they get all their news from Facebook, so they don`t really know -- are the people who actually really know better, and who are doing this because it`s just a game. It`s a shtick to try to stay in their office, because they must really love being elected officials.
So, they just do this just as shtick. Let`s show one of those people. This is Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina. Here she is one part of the day, when she was on FOX, and the other part of the day, when she was on CNN talking about vaccines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): One of the things the CDC has not done and no policy-maker at the federal level has done so far is taken into account what natural immunity does. In some studies that I have read, natural immunity gives you 27 times more protection against future COVID infection than a vaccination.
And so we need to take all of the science into account and not selectively choosing what science to follow when we are making policy decisions.
I have been a proponent of vaccinations and wearing masks when we need. I have run ads encouraging my district to go and get vaccinated and when we have these variants, and we have these spikes, to take every precaution, from washing our hands to wearing the N95 or KN95 masks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Rick, shouldn`t she be smart enough to know that people can watch both channels and find out what you said on the other one in order to be a member of Congress?
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: And has she never heard of the Twitter machine or the Google?
WILSON: I mean, because it`s pretty obvious that she`s trying to play the two different audiences here. And that doesn`t fly anymore.
Nancy McEnany is one of those people who`s caught in that wedge between the hermetically sealed B.S. world of Trumpism and trying to not completely give way to the whole thing.
But a guy like Ronny Jackson, Dr. Happy Pills there, he knows full well also that he is not telling the truth about -- this isn`t manufactured in a lab somewhere. It`s not a conspiracy.
Occam`s razor tends to work in all things. And it`s either a global conspiracy by the deep state elites, or it`s a naturally emerging variant of a virus that we could have stepped on a little harder if we`d had more vaccinations.
I don`t know, call me crazy, but it seems like the sciencey explanation might be the actual explanation in this case.
REID: But -- and the hypocrisy just kind of runs all the way through.
Republicans in several of these Southern states in particular were cutting off the additional unemployment aid, claiming it makes people lazy, and saying they don`t want to work.
But now, all of a sudden, magic. Now they want to give unemployment benefits to people who quit or get fired because they don`t get their shots. So now they`re for getting the free money that makes you lazy, as long as it makes you lazy, but also possibly puts you in the hospital.
Your thoughts, Rick?
WILSON: Well, look, this is exactly the kind of thing that`s led to Florida having the third highest COVID death rate in the country. This is exactly what has led to other states where Republican governors have played these stupid games.
Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. And this idea that they`re now going to throw what is essentially a government subsidy at people because they didn`t take the responsible adult human step to get vaccinated so that their friends and their family and their mothers and their grandmothers and their relatives wouldn`t get sick and die from COVID, this, to me, I missed that part when I was reading -- a young man reading Buckley and Hayek and Kirk and all the conservative greats.
I missed the part about being a dumbass when it comes to trying to save people`s lives.
REID: I mean, and, Dr. Blackstock, you have talked a lot about this, that we just weren`t ready for this pandemic, because you have this sort of attitudinal problem, where people are like, don`t tell me what to do.
I don`t want to get -- I don`t want to wear a mask. I don`t want to get vaccinated. I don`t care even if lots of people die, even if my own family dies. I don`t care. I don`t care. I don`t care.
And so when you have that attitude, we are 58th in the world in terms of the percentage of our population that has vaccines -- is vaccinated. We are a First World country, and we are 58th. That is why Omicron is spreading.
I mean, of all high-income countries, we are dead last in terms of our vaccination rate, right? And then that`s a problem. And that has to do with the politicization of the pandemic at the very beginning. It was masks. It was vaccines. Now it`s a variant, if the variant could be politicized.
And then we also have the vaccine global inequity issue. That is huge. And that`s -- we still have widespread transmission. That`s leading to emerging variants, and we`re not taking care of each other. So we have an individualism, personal responsibility problem here in the U.S., but we also are not taking care of lower- and middle-income countries to ensure that they have not only supply, but that they have manufacturing capability, that we are encouraging pharma to waive patents on the vaccines.
So we also have to do our part globally as well.
REID: Yes, I mean, we almost would have been better off, rather than banning travel from South Africa and Botswana, to send them all of the vaccines that the people here won`t take.
REID: And then they all -- the rest of the world could actually get over COVID. And, that way, we`d be better off.
And, Rick, I mean, it`s almost like if we had a dome over the United States, the part of it that is like dumb-estuary (ph), right, where people are living in there, killing their own constituents, getting their own constituents sick...
REID: ... willing to let people die, and even Trump can`t control it now. He gets booed when he says get vaccinated.
REID: So is there any way to crack that little dumb-estuary and let some people out? Or are they just going to stay in there, get sick and maybe die?
WILSON: Well, look, you have got states like Florida now and Mississippi and Alabama and Louisiana that`s basically Darwin`s waiting room.
And these people are going to either decide they`re going to get vaccinated, or they`re going to -- they`re going to continue to watch their friends and neighbors and their family members die off. This is not -- the people who believe that COVID is something -- it`s the common cold and the basic flu, they are mistaken.
We have many hundreds of thousands of dead Americans right now in part because people on the Republican side of the equation discouraged vaccination. FOX News was an outright propaganda network against vaccination for months and months and months.
And it has caused an enormous amount of damage in this country. And, unfortunately, pain is the only teacher in politics.
REID: Fair, unfortunately.
WILSON: And so you`re going to see states where people die off.
REID: Yes, unfortunately, that`s what`s going on -- and it`s their own voters, but I guess they figure there will be enough of them left to like watch the polls and intimidate black voters and make sure that they can`t vote. And they figure that`s all they need.
Dr. Uche Blackstock, Rick Wilson, we can`t make this stuff up. Thank you both very much.
REID: The "Absolute Worst" is still ahead.
But up next: The Supreme Court will hear the most serious challenge to abortion rights in a generation. And it happens this week.
We will be right back.
REID: For nearly 50 years, abortion has been a constitutional right afforded to every woman in America. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a Mississippi case that challenges the precedent of Roe v. Wade.
There`s an entire generation of women who have never known a world without it. And yet, in a few months, in many states, women could face being transported back to the period when they were made to endure back-alley abortions in unsafe conditions, sometimes resulting in sickness and even death.
Sensing that this was a very real possibility, Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California, joined by two of our Democratic colleagues, recently shared her own deeply private and personal reproductive journey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA): I`m compelled to speak out because of the real risks of the clock being turned back to those days before Roe vs. Wade, to the days when I was a teenager and had a back-alley abortion in Mexico.
I was one of the lucky ones, Madam Chair. A lot of girls and women in my generation didn`t make it. They died from unsafe abortions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: On Wednesday, a majority conservative court itching to turn the clock back will hear arguments about that Mississippi law that prohibits nearly all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.
Many suspect that the court could deliver a disingenuous decision that would gut the constitutional right to abortion, while preserving it in name only, because, let`s face it, some of these folks lack the courage of their convictions.
And I`m joined now by Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus.
And, Congresswoman, thank you so much for being here.
You so bravely talked about the fact that you were one of the lucky ones who survived having to endure a back-alley abortion. We are getting very close to the stage where that`s going to be reality again in states like Mississippi.
I fully believe that this right-wing court is going to overturn Roe v. Wade. So what happens then? If, in fact, they even gut it to the point what they -- and do to it what they have done to the Voting Rights Act, and leave it basically limp and dying, what happens to American women?
LEE: Thank you, Joy, for having me.
And this is a very important decision as it relates to our reproductive freedom.
And let me just say what we have done in the House, led by Congresswoman Judy Chu, the women`s health production -- excuse me -- Women`s Health Protection Act. We have passed that over into the Senate. And, hopefully, the Senate will pass it. And what that will do is codify, make into law Roe vs. Wade.
Right now, states, as you see, they`re doing anything they want to do to deny access to the full range of reproductive health services, including abortion care. And that`s why we have got to pass this bill and pass it quickly.
REID: And do you -- are you surprised that there has been relative silence on this issue, even as you have a "Handmaid`s Tale" law that passed in Texas, lots of outrage about that?
But, I mean, this is being cloaked in Christianity on the other side/. Where are the churches that are going to have to minister to these women, who -- some of whom are going to die in the process of trying to get -- end a pregnancy?
LEE: And this is about -- Joy, about one`s own health care decisions.
Whether you believe or not believe in abortion, that`s not the issue. The issue is a person having the right to make their own decisions about their own lives. And when you look at the equity issues, of course, it`s black and brown women who have historically been denied access because of the economic issues and because of racism and because of all the issues we know so well.
And so everyone needs to step up regardless and just say, women, people of color, low-income people, everyone has the right to make their own health care decisions. And that should not go and fly in the face of anyone`s personal, personal opinions or values.
REID: The Senate has -- can`t be bothered to take up the Build Back Better bill anytime soon. Joe Manchin has made it clear he doesn`t care about that.
Kyrsten Sinema has made it clear she doesn`t care about that, or voting rights, or anything else that the progressives and that the House cares about.
What confidence do you have that these people in the Democratic side will do anything about abortion rights?
LEE: Joy, I have to have hope. I have to be optimistic.
And this is about organizing. It`s about political action. And I have to salute our young women, our women of color. We have organized around the country with our activists. We will be out in front of the Supreme Court with thousands of people on Wednesday.
And so we know it`s an uphill battle. But we have got to fight, fight fight. When we fight, we win. And so, regardless of the Senate`s composition, we have got to make sure that all of those who are on the fence or who don`t want women`s reproductive freedom and want access to the full range of health care services, we have got to make sure they change their mind.
So this is going to be about political action, and we have got to win this one, because you`re right. It`s a matter of life and death for so many people.
REID: Yes, indeed.
And I want to just acknowledge right now that we had a very important and very sad event happen over the last couple of days. Former Congresswoman Carrie Meek died on Sunday at the age of 95. The grandchild of a slave and a sharecropper`s daughter who was born in 1926, she became one of the first black Floridians elected to Congress since Reconstruction.
She was a fierce advocate for affirmative action and equal economic opportunities for the poor. Ms. Meek was elected to Congress in 1992 and represented the Miami-Dade era for a decade. She was succeeded by her son Kendrick Meek.
And our condolences, obviously, to the family and to the whole Miami-Dade community that she called home.
And, Congresswoman, I want to give you an opportunity just to reflect on this incredible woman who was a charter member of the Congressional Black Caucus -- or not a charter member, but she was a active member of the Congressional Black Caucus and somebody Miamians really loved.
LEE: Sure, Joy.
My condolences go out to her son Kendrick Meek and all of her family. I knew Carrie so well. And she was a truly woman warrior. And let me tell, just seeing her picture brought smiles to my face. When I came to Congress, she mentored me and she called me Bobbi (ph). She just started coming Bobbi.
"You have got to get on the Appropriations Committee." She was on the Appropriations Committee. She taught me the ropes on how to bring home tax dollars, resources for community-based efforts.
She was a fighter for education. She loved children. And she was always happy. She was -- but she was fighting as she was happy. She was very optimistic. She was a fighter for voting rights, for civil rights, for women`s rights.
And I miss her. Look at her. I mean, she was a beautiful woman. And, in fact, she loved to -- she loved clothes. She loved to travel. And she was there.
LEE: She was present for each and every issue. And she delivered the resources to her district.
REID: Sure did.
Hey, I lived there for a long time down there. And I can tell you she had a soft voice, but a strong spirit. And she got things done-done.
REID: So our condolences.
Thank you so much, Congresswoman. Really appreciate you, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, because you get it done too. We really appreciate you.
And up next: The sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell begins in New York. Quite a turn here. Prosecutors say that she exploited young girls and served them up to the perversions of Jeffrey Epstein and his friends. Her attorneys claim that she`s a scapegoat.
We will bring you the latest next.
REID: Opening arguments began today in the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein, who is facing up to 70 years in prison.
As her indictment alleges, Maxwell assisted, facilitated and contributed to Epstein`s abuse of minor girls, helping him recruit, groom and ultimately abuse victims as young as 14 years old. That`s why she`s been charged with half-a-dozen criminal counts, including sex trafficking and enticing minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts. She`s pleaded not guilty.
Of course, this comes more than two years after Epstein was found dead in his jail cell, where he was awaiting trial in 2019. And while Maxwell has been accused of running a vast sex ring and helping to procure underage girls to other rich and powerful men, this case has narrowly focused on for victims who were abused between 1994 and 2004.
Prosecutors in court today described Maxwell and Epstein as partners in crime who devised a pyramid scheme of abuse in which they encouraged girls to recruit other young girls. In turn, Maxwell`s lawyers describing her as a scapegoat for Epstein`s actions
As their first witness, prosecutors late today called one of Epstein`s longtime jet pilots.
For more, I`m joined by Danny Cevallos, criminal defense attorney and MSNBC legal analyst.
So, Dan, thank you for being here.
Calling the pilot says to me that they`re trying to establish, obviously, that she was trafficking girls and moving them. But it also raises the question, because we do know from the Epstein stories that they were also flying his -- the johns around in these flights.
Should we expect to hear about who all was on these flights?
DANNY CEVALLOS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, that has to be why the government is calling the pilot.
After all, if you have a limo driver, that`s somebody that would see you every day and have a lot to say about your comings and goings. When you`re as rich as Jeffrey Epstein, your limo driver is a jet driver. It`s essentially the same thing. But this is somebody who sees Epstein and Maxwell coming and going and who they come and go with and where they go.
He may not go into the mansion when they arrive, but he can talk about a lot of stuff that he saw in the course of his employment.
REID: And I think the obvious answer -- I mean, Jeffrey Epstein had a lot of information, clearly. He took a lot to the grave, including a lot of high-profile alleged clients` names.
Here`s one of them. Here`s Donald Trump. This is what he said after Ghislaine Maxwell`s arrest back in 2020.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Ghislaine Maxwell is in prison. And so a lot of people want to know if she`s going to turn in powerful people.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just wish her well, frankly.
I have met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach. And I guess they lived in Palm Beach. But I wish her well, whatever it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: I guess. I mean, they lived in Palm Beach. They were friends. There are lots of pictures of them being friendly and being friends and et cetera.
But I take it from just what I`m reading about it that we should not expect to hear high-profile names like that one come up in this case, no?
CEVALLOS: Probably not.
And presidents have a long history of opening their mouths and inserting themselves into criminal cases. President Nixon opined that Charles Manson was guilty and almost set off a mistrial, and that was decades ago.
But the difference here, the eerie difference is the speculation that, well, if Trump actually met and knew Maxwell, why exactly is he wishing her well? And what effect could that have on the trial?
But you are right, in that the prosecution and the court has limited this, limited it even to just four victims, not the many more victims of Epstein that has been guessed at.
REID: And is that a tactic? We were talking about this with the producers earlier today. Is that a tactic to say, let`s get this person no the easiest things to convict her on?
Because, if they convict her, she would get -- basically spend the rest of her life in prison. And then it would sort of be implied that she`s sort of paying the price for anything else that she did. Is that sort of the way prosecutors think?
CEVALLOS: You`re throwing a softball to me. I`m a biased criminal defense attorney.
But, of course, that`s what the government does. The government wins 90- plus percent of its cases; 90-plus percent result in a conviction of some kind. They don`t like to lose. And so for that reason, they only take to trial the cases that are sure thing, slam dunks, layups, whatever you want to call it.
CEVALLOS: So, I have news for you.
If there were other victims out there that would have liked to have seen them added themselves, added to the list, it`s possible the government interviewed them and decided, I don`t -- I see them as like 80 percent, 70 percent helpful to us. We`re only going to bring the ones that we think are absolute sure things, because we`re the government. We don`t like to lose.
REID: And, OK, biased defense attorney, what possibly could be her defense? What could she possibly throw out there?
CEVALLOS: Well, we got a preview of it. And it`s two magic words that I expected we would hear several times, that it`s empty chair.
In other words, the real bad guy, they`re going to argue, was Jeffrey Epstein. And you know what? The government couldn`t hold onto him. He died in prison, so they don`t have him to prosecute anymore. But they`re going to make sure somebody suffers for what Jeffrey Epstein did.
And all they`re going to tell you about, ladies and gentlemen, is that this woman, as it says in the indictment, took these ladies to movies, took them shopping. That`s not enough to hold her accountable for what Jeffrey Epstein did.
That`s just an example of what the defense will argue in this case.
REID: Well, there we go.
Danny Cevallos, thank you very much. Really appreciate you.
And don`t go anywhere. A special extended edition of the "Absolute Worst" is up next, as a Republican member of Congress goes all in on bigotry and Islamophobia.
We will be right back.
REID: Lauren "Pew Pew Pew" Boebert, congresswoman from Colorado, loves freedom for a certain type of American, namely, herself, the freedom to pose with rifles in the background for official congressional business and to ignore COVID, the freedom to release an attack ad against Speaker Pelosi featuring gunshot sounds. So many guns and so much freedom.
It`s just others who apparently don`t deserve freedom to take paternity leave for your newly adopted twins if you`re Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, for instance. For that, you get Laura the insult comic attacks, because you`re a man and you can`t breast-feed. Insert stupid laugh track.
But the Colorado congresswoman`s favorite targets are her black, brown and Muslim colleagues, like Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, the first Somali American and one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, video emerged showing Boebert sharing this made-up story to her supporters about supposedly being in an elevator with Congresswoman Omar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): I look to my left. And there she is, Ilhan Omar.
I said, well, if she doesn`t have a backpack, we should be fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Now, after that little ditty dropped, somebody must have told Lauren that she should issue an apology, for which she -- and she did. And she said that she was sorry not for what she did, but that people were sorry that they heard it wrong or whatever.
But then, because, let`s face it, she`s not super bright, she went and stirred the pot all over again during a call arranged by House leadership today with Representative Omar. The Minnesota congresswoman called her out, saying -- quote -- "Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments. She instead doubled down on her rhetoric. And I decided to end the unproductive call."
Now, this is not about one hateful statement or one politician. It`s about a party that has mainstreamed bigotry and hatred. The wide open Islamophobia from the Republican Party is allowed to fester and thrive in 2021. And no one, not its members, nor its leaders, is going to do a damn thing about it, because they clearly believe that bigotry and hatred are the speedballs their voters crave.
And that truly is the "Absolute Worst."
And joining me now is Dean Obeidallah, MSNBC columnist and host of "The Dean Obeidallah Show" on SiriusXM.
I`m not even going to talk. I`m just going to let you talk.
Your thoughts on the apology and on the comments themselves from Boebert.
DEAN OBEIDALLAH, MSNBC DAILY COLUMNIST: First of all, George, do you hear it? Do you hear the deafening silence of the GOP leadership, who is not Congresswoman Boebert? Why?
Remember, they used to tell us, oh, they were afraid of Trump. Trump`s not here, folks. They agree with this garbage. They understand the power of bigotry. Look, GOP bigotry towards Muslims has been a sport since 2012. It began with Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich saying we want Sharia law.
We don`t want Sharia law. We`re watching them try to impose their religious beliefs on us right now.
Then you had Donald Trump take that: Islam hates us. I`m going to ban all Muslims.
The result of this was real-world. We saw hate crimes against our community. So, Lauren Boebert spewing anti-Muslim bigotry for months, not just this joke, this joke, but for months saying that Congresswoman Omar is a terrorist sympathizer, smearing Congresswoman Tlaib, who is the other Muslim woman in Congress, of the "Jihad Squad."
This is who they are. She fits perfectly in this party. It`s a competition. Who is most vile? They`re all tied. It`s her, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Madison Cawthorn, Paul Gosar. The party is about bigotry and the embrace of violence.
Let`s remind everyone, Congresswoman Boebert, on January 6, that morning, tweeted: "Today, it`s 1776."
No, it wasn`t. But that was right-wing code for: Today`s the day we have a violent revolution to prevent Donald Trump from being removed and keep Donald Trump in power.
She hung around with the 3 Percenters, who are white nationalists, photographed with them, loves them. Some of them were arrested for being involved in January.
So, Joy, the idea of bigotry, no surprise. Violence, no surprise.
OBEIDALLAH: What the January 6 Committee should be doing is subpoenaing Lauren Boebert to explain, what is 1776? Why did she tweet that hours before the attack?
Why is she now defending the terrorists who were in jail for January 6? And why did she hang out with people in the 3 Percenters, the white nationalist militia? And some of those people are under arrest. So she is vile. She`s despicable. She`s the GOP. That`s who they are.
REID: And the thing about it is, I mean, this goes back to after 9/11.
One of the reasons Donald Trump caught on with a lot of Republicans is that he put money into this effort to try to stop Muslims in New York from building a cultural center to try to bring people together. He smeared people that he didn`t even know, claiming Muslims cheered for 9/11.
I mean, like this is a like a -- he did a Muslim ban. He did an actual Muslim ban the Supreme Court upheld. And what I worry about is that, because Ilhan Omar is so visible -- Rashida Tlaib and she both are women, who are vulnerable for that reason, but she also wears a hijab, so she is very visible.
And I worry that the thing that Boebert said, basically calling her a suicide bomber, it puts her at risk. Isn`t there some -- I mean, it`s crazy that there`s no sanction for putting a fellow member at risk, at physical risk.
OBEIDALLAH: Republicans, only -- remind everyone, just two weeks ago, only two out of 200-plus voted to condemn Paul Gosar for his fantasy snuff video where he`s literally killing AOC in it.
So, look, this is who the GOP is. The idea of going against Congresswoman Omar has been something Trump did. She`s black. She`s an immigrant. She`s Muslim and a woman, all the things that GOP men hate, and some of the women like Boebert want to put down.
And let`s remind people that story she told was fabricated.
OBEIDALLAH: She made up that story because she knew her base would love her telling jokes at the expense of black female Muslim immigrant. That`s who they are.
Look, they`re -- she`s not out -- I want everyone to understand, she`s not an outlier. She`s mainstream GOP.
OBEIDALLAH: And Kevin McCarthy will do nothing. The guy is spineless. I think they carry him in a bucket. They put a microphone over the bucket so he can speak because he`s a spineless creature, desperate to be House speaker.
OBEIDALLAH: So he will sell his soul to hopefully be speaker of the House.
I hope the American people -- I hope Democrats make this in 2022 partly a referendum on, do you want white nationalism, bigotry, cruelty and violence controlling the House of Representatives? I hope Americans say no to that.
REID: Well, I mean, when Michael Steele was head of the RNC, the whole campaign was about Nancy Pelosi, and it was -- they directly attacked her and said you don`t want her to be speaker. And they made that the campaign. Democrats should do the same.
I wonder -- the other issue here -- and we have talked about it. We were texting earlier. And you reminded me, I mean, Ilhan Omar came here as a refugee as a kid, rose all the way the United States Congress.
REID: She is the American dream.
The one who`s got a criminal record is Lauren Boebert for a series of like petty crimes. The one with a mug shot is Lauren Boebert. I think we might have it. She`s the one with the mug shot. How ironic that the one with the mug shot is trying to imply that the one without a mug shot is the criminal.
OBEIDALLAH: I hope Democrats will put big, big blowups of those pictures on the House floor when they debate this.
That`s 2017. She failed to appear for court numerous times. She then -- in 2015, when she was arrested then for interfering with the police arresting underage drinkers, she told the kids, run away. She interrupted so much, she got arrested for interfering with the arrest.
She should have been charged with resisting, but, somehow, the charges all went away, which is white privilege, because if she`s a black or brown woman, those charges wouldn`t be away. She might be in prison. She might not even be alive today.
Lauren Boebert is benefiting from white privilege. She`s got her -- I hope people look at her mug shot. It`s on Twitter. You just showed it there. This is who we`re dealing with, someone`s who got various arrests demonizing people who are pursuing the American dream.
It`s exceeding it, and making their base happen with vile, vile jokes.
REID: Yes. And they`re not jokes, because they could really put her at risk.
Dean Obeidallah, my friend, thank you very much. Always appreciate you being here.
And before we go, just a quick note to say that, when I referred to Jeffrey Epstein`s alleged clients earlier, I was referring to the numerous high- profile names that have been reported to have connections to Epstein. And it`s quite evident that Donald Trump was a friend to both Epstein and Maxwell.
Just want to make sure we make that distinction.
That is tonight`s REIDOUT. Happy Hanukkah.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.