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Transcript: The ReidOut, 12/16/21

Guests: Kurt Bardella, Chris Whipple, Rob Davidson, Amy Klobuchar, Paul Butler

Summary

New revelations by the House Subcommittee investigating the January 6th riot showed the Trump`s former White House chief of staff was using private e-mails, while multiple GOP lawmakers were implicated in the January 6th planning.

Transcript

[19:00:01]

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC HOST: That does it for me tonight. THE REIDOUT with Joy Reid is up next.

Hey, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: How are you doing, Jason? It`s been fun trying out this West Coast lifestyle with you. We`re having you on the West Coast. I`m kind of liking it. I feel uncomfortable.

JOHNSON: But we`re still Christmas ready, though. We`re still Christmas ready.

REID: Always Christmas ready. Always. Always have our hats ready for Christmas. Have a wonderful evening. Thank you, Jason.

JOHNSON: Thanks so much.

REID: Cheers. OK. Good evening, everyone. We begin THE REIDOUT tonight with the intensifying scrutiny of Trump`s former chief of staff Mark Meadows as he awaits potential charges of criminal contempt.

There are now new indications that he is far more responsible for the big lie than was previously known. The "Washington Post" is out with a comprehensive report detailing how Meadows was the chief enabler to a president who was desperate to hold on to power. It portrays the chief of staff who threw the gates to the Oval Office wide open, acting as a facilitator to conspiracy theorists, and who was always eager to present Trump with new material to bolster his false claims.

As one former administration official said, people received voicemails from election conspiracy theorists who would begin their message by saying Meadows had shared the number and suggested they call. Now let`s not forget that among other things, Meadows was in possession of a PowerPoint presentation that recommended that Trump declare a national security emergency, a move straight out of the authoritarian playbook.

In fact the committee today subpoenaed the person responsible for promoting that PowerPoint, described by "The Post" as a retired Army colonel with a background in psychological influence operations, aka information warfare, who described himself on his LinkedIn page as the founder, forklift driver at floor sweeper at One Shot Distillery and Brewery in Dripping Springs, Texas, and who reportedly spoke to Meadows up to eight or 10 times as well as to members of Congress.

That proposal is among a long list of conspiracy theories and election plots that were circulated among Trump`s inner circle. Things like the Eastman memo, the Ellis memo as well as the bonkers Italygate and Chinese thermostat conspiracy theories. All of which Meadows apparently was willingly or even eagerly open to handing over to a president who is desperate to cling to power.

Meadows also had at least half a dozen accomplices in Congress who served as willing foot soldiers in Trump`s attempted coup. People like Congressman Jim Jordan, Paul Gosar, Mo Brooks and Louie Gohmert, all members of the extremist Freedom Caucus, and which Meadows was a former chair.

"The New York Times" reveals that they collaborated with the Trump campaign on a strategy that would become a blueprint for Trump supporters in Congress. Hammer home the idea that the election was tainted, announce legal actions being taken by the campaign and bolster the case with allegations of fraud. But they also took real steps to actually overthrow the election. They bombarded the Justice Department with dubious claims of voting irregularities.

They pressured members of state legislatures to conduct audits and they plotted to disrupt the certification on January 6th of Biden`s victory. These lawmakers were actively trying to subvert democracy. And they`re the same people who could head up crucial committees if Republicans take back the House next year.

Joining me now is Kirk Bardella, adviser to the DNC and the DCCC, and Chris Whipple, "New York Times" best-selling author of the "Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency."

And, Chris Whipple, I want to start with you on this because there are a couple of different kinds of chiefs of staff. There are the ones who tell the presidents things they don`t want to hear, and then there are the kind that are simply enablers, particularly of a narcissistic style of president. Here is a story, it is not from you, this is from Tim Alberta. It was in "Politico" in 2020, and this is a story that I think defines who Mark Meadows was.

And this is when John Boehner found out that there was a group of these Freedom Caucus members who were plotting to make sure that he was not going to be speaker and to vote against him. And while Meadows had not actually voted against Boehner, this is what Boehner recounts to Tim Alberta. Boehner said that Meadows was on the couch, sitting across from me in my chair in his office, and suddenly he slides off the couch, down on to his knees and puts his hands together in front of his chest. He says, Mr. Speaker, will you please forgive me?

And this incident was witnessed by several other people, including Boehner`s chief of staff who described it as the strangest behavior I`ve ever seen in Congress. That is the kind of person Mark Meadows was a member of Congress. What do you make of the kind of enabler he became when Donald Trump tried to overthrow an election?

CHRIS WHIPPLE, AUTHOR, "THE GATEKEEPERS": Well, you know, that`s classic Meadows. I`ve always thought of Meadows as not so much a traditional chief as a kind of glad-handing butler or maitre d` whose only measure of success was how much he could please the president. I mean, just think about this. No one was more loyal to Donald Trump than Jared Kushner.

[19:05:01]

But when Kushner got one look at this "Star Wars" bar of crazy conspiracy theories who were hanging out in the Oval Office, he literally got out of town. He got on a plane and he flew to the Middle East and he didn`t come back until January 6th, coincidentally. Meadows was -- he was all in. He couldn`t get enough of this crazy stuff. And of course he ultimately became the, you know, the chief crackpot conspirator in the plot to overthrow the election. So that`s classic Meadows.

REID: And, you know, it is interesting. Because even William Barr, too. William Barr, as much as a sycophant and willing to basically do almost anything, short of break the law himself for Donald Trump, when this came up, he was like, I`m out, bye. He just didn`t want to participate.

But it strikes me, Kurt, that what brings together this sort of group of people who were the core plotters is that yes, you have the new dummies, you know, the people like Boebert, you know, the sort of, you know, lunkhead freshman, but you also have a lot of people in this Freedom Caucus. And that`s the Tea Party.

And I think one of the big stories the media has missed is that the Tea Party went from being this extremist group that believed that President Obama was not legitimate, that questioned President Obama being president of the United States, to try to undermine him and sometimes in some very racist and strange ways. They are now the core of the Republican Party. In the House in particular and some in the Senate like Rand Paul.

They are the core of this conspiracy. Is that something that you think that we`ve all missed in sort of telling the story of sort of the modern Republican Party?

KURT BARDELLA, DNC AND DCCC ADVISER: It really is, Joy. I mean, it would be easy if we all wanted to believe the fiction that what`s happening right now with the Republican Party isn`t new. It`s some new phenomenon that none of us could possibly have seen coming. But really, all of this, the ingredients for this began during the years of the Barack Obama presidency. And delegitimizing a president, questioning the legitimacy of a standing president?

That`s not new stuff. That`s what the (INAUDIBLE) did for the entire duration of the Barack Obama presidency. You look at the cast of characters now as you articulately -- you know, it`s so true. Mark Meadows, Mike Pompeo, these are people who came of age during the time that they were investigating the Obama administration.

REID: Jim Jordan.

BARDELLA: They were prominent players on the Oversight Committee with folks like Jim Jordan, and they are the ones who spent years issuing hundreds of subpoenas, calling for hundreds of investigations, doing everything they could to use the instruments of power to try to cripple the first black president in the United States history. And now we`re kind of see him move over and go from the fringes of the party to being the central nucleus center of the entire Republican Party, and it`s something that we could chart over the last 10 years.

This didn`t come out of nowhere. This isn`t something we should all be blindsided with. It`s been there the entire time.

REID: Right. And Chris Whipple, I mean, I feel like you have to start putting the pieces together. Because who Joe Biden is, is not just the Joe Biden who dared to beat Donald Trump after Donald Trump went all the way to Ukraine to try to destroy him and his family and beat him anyway. But he is also President Obama`s former vice president. Right? He was with the black guy. Like he`s part of the thing that they wanted to eradicate from American history.

And he`s still here and he`s now president. Let`s go into some of the things they did because some of this stuff was absolutely wild. One of the things that`s been overshadowed is one of the things that the right tried to use against Hillary Clinton was but her e-mails. And the media also, another big media failing was the media was obsessed with these e-mails.

You had Mark Meadows also using private e-mail to do this stuff. He`s letting conspiracy theorists and coup plotters in using private e-mails. This becomes nothing. No scandal. Hillary Clinton even reacted to it, saying, huh, my stuff was all about gefilte fish. My e-mails were about like weddings and risotto. And the media is just ho-hum when they`re using private e-mails.

But I think the other thing that is I think really big is the idea that this memo, and I have a copy of it right here, my version is black and white, but originally I think it was in color. The plot here had to do with psychological warfare. It started before the election even happened. This gentleman started -- this former colonel started in August of 2020 saying we`re going to preset the idea that this election was fraudulent.

It went to CEOs, the guy from Overstock.com, the MyPillow guy. This is a pretty comprehensive plot to overturn an election, you know, including declaring a national security emergency. That ain`t normal. Your thoughts.

WHIPPLE: Yes, it`s staggering. And of course the hypocrisy is off the charts here. I mean, Hillary`s e-mails versus what Meadows is clearly hiding here. Can you imagine just knowing what`s already in the public record, which Meadows voluntarily put out there? Can you imagine what`s on the encrypted app that he`s got, the Signal account or, you know, his private cell phone? I mean, this is unbelievably serious. And Kurt`s right that it`s not new, but it`s gone to an entirely new level.

[19:10:02]

And I think the good news is that maybe that the January 6th Committee doesn`t have to convince Republicans of anything. And it doesn`t have to win hearts and minds of the MAGA crowd. All it has to do, and it`s a tall order, is lay out the evidence, and then this is on Department of Justice, and it`s on Merrick Garland.

You know, I was talking to Fiona Hill yesterday about this. And, you know, there is always a risk when you start prosecuting the party that`s out of power. You don`t want to look like a banana republic to the rest of the world. But the much greater risk is to do nothing when you`ve got people red-handed trying to destroy our democracy. So I think the good news here is that yes, the Republican Party is all in on the big lie, but there is something that can be done about it at the end of the day.

REID: Right, I mean, the idea, again, this would be the number one headline in every newscast in this country if the Barack Obama administration, the Obama-Biden administration had said that they were going plan a national security emergency to try to roll back the 2016 election because of foreign interference. They knew there was foreign interference. They put out an October information about foreign interference.

Had they then taken the next step and said, because Russia is interfering in our election, we`re going declare a national security emergency, and we`re going to communicate on private e-mails that we`re going to do such an emergency and shut down the election of Donald Trump, and Donald Trump was a completely unfit human being who never should have been near the presidency.

But had they done that, Kurt, you can imagine and I can imagine, we both know what the media would have done and we both know what Republicans would have done. But here`s where Republicans are now. Let`s just play this real quick. These are five Republican candidates for governor in Minnesota, and they were asked a very simple question. Did Biden win the election? This is how thorough the big lie has become. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUGH HEWITT, DEBATE MODERATOR: In your opinion, did President Biden win the constitutional majority of the electoral college?

DR. SCOTT JENSEN, REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I can`t know what I don`t know. And I think we have to take that attitude towards 2020.

DR. NEIL SHAH, REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I grew up in a suburb of Chicago. And I can`t tell you the last time Chicago has had perfectly free and fair election. So this is not a new problem.

MAYOR MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I do believe there was voter fraud at a massive scale across this country.

STATE SEN. PAUL GAZELKA, REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t think the election was fair, but I do think we have the results that we have. The electoral college is the way that we determine the election.

STATE SEN. MICHELLE BENSON, REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: The more we watch, the less they cheat.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

REID: This is complete brainwashing, Kurt.

BARDELLA: Oh, brother. I mean, again, it`s now a prerequisite if you want to run as a Republican candidate in any election, local, state, federal, to deny the truth. To deny democracy. They are an anti-Democratic Party. And we talk about the slippery slope that exist of, do you prosecute people who are of the other party. Well, when that other party has made the conscious decision to make itself a criminal organization, to make itself an organization that harbors domestic terrorism, an organization devoted to ending democracy as you know it, then it`s not an offensive act by the Justice Department, it`s an act of self-defense of democracy.

That`s what it`s there to do. And if we aren`t willing to go that far to protect democracy, well, then we don`t deserve to have it in the first place. I mean, this is kind of our last stand here, Joy, because I`ll tell you, if Republicans get back the reins of power in the 2022 elections, in the 2024 election. They will never relinquish it again. We are seeing the extraordinary lengths to which Republicans are willing to go to throw out a free and fair election in 2020. If we let them back in the driver`s seat of democracy, it`s over.

REID: And we now know that Jim Jordan is one of the people who was forwarding text messages with -- and one wonders what`s going to happen with him. Is the Congress going to act on him?

Let`s do a hard turn. It`s not really such a hard turn, Chris Whipple. We now know per "The Washington Post" that the same Republican Party, the official, you know, the Republican Party, they have agreed to pay up to $1.6 million in legal bills for the former president, for Donald Trump. Not for anything related to potentially interfering in the election. Not for the case that he is facing in Georgia that could be a criminal, you know, a criminal proceeding regarding interfering in the election, but for his private legal expenses for more than 10 years of shenanigans with his personal finances in his real estate.

Dream with me. The Democratic National Committee doing the same for any Democrat, not that there is any Democrat who`s, you know, spent his whole life not paying taxes. But go ahead. Your thoughts on this development.

WHIPPLE: No. Inconceivable. It never would happen. But I don`t think it should shock us that the Republicans should do this. I mean, they are obviously all in on the big lie, on the notion of the stolen election. They are enthralled to Trump. It`s a cult of personality worthy of Jonestown. And that`s just the way it is. But, you know, I think that all we can do at this point is hope that the truth will come out through the January 6th Committee.

[19:15:07]

They`re off to a great start, and a continuous drip, drip, drip of this kind of incriminating information may get us to a point where I once thought that the defining image of Mark Meadows was holding Donald Trump`s coat as he delivered that speech that launched the insurrection. Look, it may not be too much to hope that the defining image is a prison door clanging shut. It could happen if the evidence is brought to light.

REID: We shall see.

WHIPPLE: And in that case, it really won`t matter how many Republicans you convince. You`ve got to convince Merrick Garland.

REID: Yes. Amen to that. And it is Jonestown complete with them gulping the COVID Kool-Aid, literal Jonestown at this point.

Thank you, Kurt Bardella, Chris Whipple. Thank you both very much.

And next on THE REIDOUT, new warnings about the rapid spread of Omicron, speaking of COVID, with cases doubling every two to three days. But a member of one of America`s most famous families sees opportunity in all of the death and despair.

Plus, the year will come to an end with no movement on voting rights or Build Back Better. With the two usual suspects standing in the way and repeating the same lame excuses.

And tonight`s "Absolute Worst" says they hated the gift that you`ve got them then turned around and regifted it to someone else, hoping to get all the praise.

THE REIDOUT continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:20:38]

REID: The Kennedy name typically conjures up notions of sacrifice for the greater good, not misinformation and grift, which is more common with a Trump.

Alas, the Associated Press did a deep dive into Robert Kennedy Jr. and discovered that he and his charity, the Children`s Health Defense, have profited from a massive anti-vaccine campaign that uses slanted information and conspiracy theories to spread distrust of the vaccine.

According to the AP, Kennedy was named one of the Disinformation Dozen by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which says that he and the Children`s Health Defense Web site are among the top spreaders of false information about vaccines online.

This comes as we are facing a winter tsunami of the Delta and Omicron variants. The Centers for Disease Control is warning that deaths in the United States will soar by 73 percent, or more than 15,000 a week. The CDC also expects the United States to reach 1.3 million new infections by Christmas.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that New York City has experienced a significant increase in cases and that the Omicron variant is here in full force. In fact, New York state reported 18,000 new cases today alone, which is close to the pandemic record. Reports of long lines at testing locations throughout the city are flooding social media.

Late this afternoon, President Biden held a meeting with his COVID-19 task force and delivered this message to the American people:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Due to the steps we`ve taken, Omicron has not yet spread as fast as it would`ve otherwise done and as is happening in Europe. But it`s here now, and it`s spreading, and it`s going to increase.

For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death, if you`re unvaccinated.

But there`s good news: If you`re vaccinated and you had your booster shot, you`re protected from severe illness and death.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: The head of the World Health Organization warned that Omicron is spreading at a rate not seen in any previous variant and could overwhelm unprepared health systems.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which has more than 40 hospitals and more than 8,000 beds, is close to capacity and at times is running over. In Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic and other hospitals took out full-page ads in major state newspapers on Sunday, pleading with the public to get vaccinated and wear a mask.

The ad reads: "We`re heartbroken. We`re overwhelmed."

Officials note that hospitalizations are up 21 percent throughout the country over the past two weeks.

With me now, Dr. Uche Blackstock, founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, and Dr. Rob Davidson, E.R. physician in West Michigan and the executive director of the Committee to Protect Health Care.

Thank you for both being here.

I want to read this piece that you wrote Dr. Davidson. And you wrote this in "The New York Times." I`m just going to read a little bit.

You wrote: "In a small hospital, our patients are our neighbors, friends and old high school classmates. The profound sadness of failing to save a life hits us every time. Familiarity deepens our sadness, but more and more, we feel frustrated and angry. Losing a patient is never easy. Losing one so senselessly, when the death could have been avoided with a free, safe and effective vaccine, is devastating."

We have seen Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett say the same thing, as one of the people who invented the -- one of the vaccines. At this point, should this many people be dying, even if there is a more transmissible variant?

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMITTEE TO PROTECT MEDICARE: Absolutely not.

I mean, we`re dealing with a Delta surge. So I can`t even imagine what Omicron could bring. We`re in a county that`s only about 42 to 43 percent vaccinated fully. And, again, these are folks I have been taking care of for two decades of my life and have sworn to take care of them. So, when they come in, that`s what you do. You take care of them.

But it is extremely disheartening to see nurses crying on the way home from work because the person they went to high school with just got put on a ventilator, and they know they`re probably not going to make it.

REID: And what do they say, these people that you know, that trust you, that know you, that you have been treating? What is their reason for not being vaccinated?

DAVIDSON: Listen, people say, I have heard that it can make you sick, right? I have heard that so many times.

And I explain to them how many people are in our hospital. We`re in a small little critical access hospital, about 25 beds. Every person but one over the past month has been COVID-positive. One goes home or one dies, unfortunately, and they get replaced with another.

And I tell them that. I tell them the people we have to ship to bigger hospitals who need more advanced care. I tell them about all of this happening and just try to convince them. But it`s -- but they have been poisoned with this idea that, A, COVID not a big deal from the beginning, and, B, these vaccines will somehow make them sick.

[19:25:15]

REID: Dr. Blackstock, so there`s a lot of also confusion.

I know a lot of people who were wary of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because they heard it was less effective. Then other people said, no, get it. It`s one stop -- it`s one shot and done. There`s been a lot of questions.

You now have the CDC saying that they actually do think Pfizer and Moderna are better. So, I mean, at this point, what do you recommend that people do? Are you still in the camp of get whatever vaccine you can get and get it fast? Or should we be pushing people to go and get Pfizer and Moderna, particularly if they`re willing, given the surge, to at least try to get vaccinated?

DR. UCHE BLACKSTOCK, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Right.

So, Joy, in the beginning, there was a scarcity of vaccines.

REID: Yes.

BLACKSTOCK: So, that`s why we were encouraging people to get whatever vaccine they could get.

But now, with this emerging data showing the clotting issues with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, especially among younger women, there is this issue that people maybe probably should take the mRNA vaccines, and that is what is being recommended now. They do have higher efficacy, and that`s been shown all along.

So, definitely, based on the data that we have at hand, I would recommend the mRNA vaccines.

REID: And yet the mRNA vaccines are the source, Dr. Blackstock, of more of the conspiracy theories, right, this distrust of big pharma...

BLACKSTOCK: I know.

REID: ... this idea that there`s some sort of conspiracy to make you change your RNA. And people think they`re experts. And they go on like Facebook posts and do spike protein talk. They don`t know anything about it.

I don`t know how we talk through this with people at this point, other than just send them all to Dr. Davidson...

BLACKSTOCK: Right.

REID: ... so he can tell them how many people are dying in front of him.

I don`t know what to do at this point.

BLACKSTOCK: Well, I think we have seen that Facebook is a huge culprit and allowing these organizations and people to distribute -- disseminate disinformation.

I mean, RFK Jr.`s Facebook posts have been shared widely. He has hundreds of thousands of social media followers. I actually ran into some of his -- the representatives of his organization at a predominantly black event over the summer giving out information entitled "Medical Racism," but it was actually anti-vax propaganda.

So it is just so -- and they`re so well-funded. And so that is the problem. We have to start holding these social media platforms accountable. And that`s not being done yet.

REID: And, Dr. Davidson, I`m worried. I think a lot of people are changing their plans for the holidays because they`re worried about traveling.

Should we be ceasing and desisting, in your view, in terms of getting together for the holidays with anyone who`s not in our pod, our group of people that we have been around mostly for the last year?

DAVIDSON: Yes, I think that`s the safest way to go, right?

If you have people who are fully vaccinated, particularly if they`re boosted and they don`t have symptoms, and, hey, if you can find a few rapid antigen tests out there, and you can do those before they get together, I think you go for it.

We are going to have to live with this at some point, right? So, if we can trust people in telling us they have been vaccinated, they have been boosted, but I wouldn`t go anywhere near a group of people where I didn`t know their status, or I knew that they were likely unvaccinated, because I think you`re just setting yourself up.

That viral load just goes up and up.

REID: Yes.

DAVIDSON: The more people you`re around that have it, even if you`re vaccinated, you`re setting yourself up to possibly be a breakthrough.

REID: And we`re out of time, very quickly, but, Dr. Blackstock, just to be clear, is Omicron -- does it -- is it more deadly, or is it just more transmissible or both?

BLACKSTOCK: So, what we know now, it`s definitely more transmissible. It can reinfect people who have had previous infection or been vaccinated.

We -- the jury`s still out on whether it`s more deadly.

REID: More deadly.

BLACKSTOCK: But because it`s more transmissible, the sheer numbers of people infected could drive hospitals to overcapacity.

REID: Well, I -- Dr. Rob Davidson, God bless you for what you`re doing.

Dr. Uche Blackstock, God bless you for what you`re doing.

Both of you, thank you. Stay in the fight. And God bless. Have a happy holiday, if you possibly can.

BLACKSTOCK: Thanks, Joy.

REID: Thank you for all you do.

Whew. This is tough.

DAVIDSON: Thank you.

REID: Thank you.

Still ahead: Trying to figure out what conservative Democratic senators want from the Biden administration`s key initiatives is like trying to hit a moving target while blindfolded. Anybody else feel like this may be an intentional effort to run out the clock?

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:33:47]

REID: President Biden is calling for the Senate to get moving on two big planks of his agenda.

In a statement tonight, he said: "We must pass the Build Back Better -- the Build Back Better social spending bill," and added that: "We must also press forward on voting rights legislation as quickly as possible."

With Congress` Christmas recess coming soon, both may be on life support. President Biden and Vice President Harris held a virtual meeting this morning with key Democratic senators to discuss next steps, a meeting President Biden called productive.

And while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said -- has signaled that he`d like to move forward on voting rights, Arizona conservative Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema is also blowing up those plans -- and already blowing up those plans, reiterating her support for the 60-vote threshold for legislation.

For his part, West Virginia`s Joe Manchin has demanded that any action on voting rights be bipartisan, while he also stalls the Build Back Better bill with his incoherent opposition to a key element, the child tax credit.

He either thinks it should be eliminated from the bill altogether or extended for 10 years, in which case he thinks it`s too expensive, a nonsensical bag of positions that`s been described by those close to the administration as like nailing Jell-O to a wall.

Manchin continues to stand in the way of Build Back Better, even though the Census Bureau found that, in 2019, 20 percent of West Virginia children were living in poverty, the seventh highest rate in the country. Manchin is also opposed to adding dental benefits to Medicare in the bill, despite more than a quarter of his elderly constituents having no natural teeth.

[19:35:17]

So it appears that the only thing he`s consistent about is stiffing West Virginia`s poor.

Joining me now is Senator Amy Klobuchar -- Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Senator Klobuchar, thanks for being here.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Thanks, Joy.

REID: The Congressional Progressive -- thank you.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has called upon the Senate to remain in session until Build Back Better is passed. Number one, is there any chance you all will remain in session? And, if you did, would it make any difference, with Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema around?

KLOBUCHAR: Yes. I`m wearing my team blue suit today, Joy. And I don`t think I look like anyone that`s ready to go home.

I`m ready to get things done. And I know the president is as well. And in the Senate right now, there are so many people that want to move forward. And that is because we are in the middle of a surge in this pandemic. We need to bring down the cost of pharmaceuticals, something we have never done.

And it is more than overtime to do it, something the Republicans have voted against consistently. It is time to actually bring down the cost of child care and make it easier for people to go back to work. That`s what Build Back Better is about. That`s what we are in the midst of a debate.

And I would note that neither of these two senators have come away from the negotiating table. Negotiations are going on as we speak. I was just with Senator Manchin for an extended period of time talking about the voting bill.

And we can do two things at once. And with the voting bill, as you know, Joy, that is about the Senate rules.

REID: But, respectfully, it does appear to me that Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema being at the table, it looks like a stalling tactic. I have to be honest.

And the folks out here in the world that are watching what`s going on in Congress, it looks like Manchin and Sinema are trying to talk these bills to death. They don`t support them. It`s clear Joe Manchin does not want Build Back Better to happen. At least he doesn`t want it to happen this year, if at all.

Kyrsten Sinema up claims she supports voting rights. She`s done absolutely nothing to prove that she supports it. She really cares more about the filibuster than she does about saving democracy, my opinion.

And so I don`t see what these negotiations -- what is the point, if they have made it pretty clear they want to kill the bill, both bills?

KLOBUCHAR: OK, let`s focus on voting first.

Number one, I would get rid of the filibuster in a minute if I could. I think there`s -- it does not meet the challenges of our time.

Number two, both of those senators support the Freedom to Vote Act that I spent the entire summer negotiating with Senator Manchin, who is a former secretary of state, and several other senators including Warnock and Padilla.

There`s agreement on substance on the voting bill, and it is so important, with 8,000 threats on members of Congress since January 6, with local election officials leaving their positions because of threats against them, with over 400 bills, as you have so well-discussed on your show, over 400 bills that have been introduced to stop the freedom to vote.

That`s what -- the stakes are incredibly high. We can`t wait.

So, let me make clear, both those senators support the bill. So the issue is the Senate rules.

And what we are arguing with them about is, this isn`t about changing the filibuster. It`s about actually, as Senator Byrd himself in the old days said, you -- the rules should meet the circumstances of our time. The circumstances of our time right now is an assault on our democracy. Byrd himself changed the rules several times.

As you saw last week, Joy, the rules were changed for the debt ceiling. The rules have been changed, 160 carve-outs to the filibuster. And we are simply making the case to get this done and to allow the Senate to debate the bill.

So, I would disagree on the fact that they`re against the voting bill. They`re for the voting bill, and we are moving on the Senate rules.

On the other bill, they are negotiating with the White House on the details, especially Senator Manchin, but he has signaled a willingness to get this done. And I don`t think our country can wait.

Do I get frustrated?

REID: But, Senator -- yes.

KLOBUCHAR: Of course I get frustrated, Joy.

But I just want to get this done. And these are the people we`re working with right now.

REID: But the challenge is, it`s easy to say you`re for the bills, but then, when you oppose the only way to make the bills pass -- because, unfortunately, there are no Republicans, zero, not any, that are willing to vote for either of these bills.

KLOBUCHAR: Correct.

REID: Both Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema, they know that. So they know that the only way to make these bills pass is by changing the rules.

So being against changing the rules is being against the pieces of legislation. It`s a way to do it, and not be called on it.

Isn`t it true that both of these senators are claiming to be for the bills, but because they oppose the only way to pass the bills, they`re against these bills, Senator?

KLOBUCHAR: One, Joe Manchin`s name is on this bill, Joy. So we have to be honest about this.

REID: He doesn`t care.

KLOBUCHAR: And it`s same -- but, number two, Joy, you got to -- I`m in the middle of this every single day.

[19:40:05]

REID: Yes.

KLOBUCHAR: And I`m not going to give up.

And I`m not going to give up on all the people that are going to be hurt by this. It`s Bob Dole that once said, we`re a first-class democracy, and we shouldn`t treat people like second-class citizens, which is what`s going on right now with what`s happening in the states on voting.

But, right now, we are making the case to them. And they -- and especially Senator Manchin has signaled an openness to the standing filibuster. And there is a way, with Senator Merkley`s help, that we can get to the point where we can come up with an agreement on a rules change, the president, vice president firmly behind it, to get to that moment.

I don`t really have a choice, Joy, but to stay here and talk to them.

REID: Yes.

KLOBUCHAR: There is no other option here.

The Republicans, as you pointed out, are not going to come over to the table and suddenly say, kumbaya, we want to help the people, to allow people to vote. That`s not helping, because their path to victory is all -- all paved in gold with this idea of picking their own voters and limiting the people who voted in the last election.

We get that. They get that. The stakes couldn`t be higher.

REID: Yes.

Let me ask you about -- or this is related. So the parliamentarian has ruled against the immigration plank that Democrats want to include in Build Back Better. This is going to affect hundreds of thousands of people, if this can`t be done, people who are really counting on Democrats to make it happen.

Do you support the idea of another idea, overruling the parliamentarian, which has been done in the past, and allowing Vice President Harris to do the overruling of the parliamentarian, which a vice president has done in the past, and then going ahead and passing these bills?

And if that was over -- if that overrule happened, could that bill pass with 50 votes?

KLOBUCHAR: Yes. Yes. I think that option must be on the table. And I hope we have a vote on that.

The question is, will everyone be on board? That`s where we have to get to. But we cannot, we cannot move forward our economy, actually, when we have, especially in my state, incredibly low unemployment rates, which is a great thing -- but we need people working.

We have restaurants, places that literally are shutting down because we don`t have enough workers. So that is the strong economic argument for these work permits that were included in the House bill that passed the House of Representatives with Build Back Better and that I strongly want to see.

I would like to see a path to citizenship. I am an original sponsor of the bill that would provide for that. But, right now, this is the next best thing that would allow us to go forward. So, yes, of course, that`s on the table.

REID: Senator Amy Klobuchar, in her blue for sticking around for the holidays, to keep working...

KLOBUCHAR: Because I am not -- yes, exactly. I`m not someone that is going home.

REID: I appreciate you always being willing to come on and parry with me on these issues, because you know they`re very important, and I know you care about them.

KLOBUCHAR: I do.

REID: So, thank you very much, Senator. Happy holidays.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Joy. Thank you.

REID: Thank you. Thank you very much.

KLOBUCHAR: Happy holidays to you.

REID: Cheers.

Tonight`s "Absolute Worst" is still ahead.

But first: The defense is presenting its case in the trial of former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter for the deadly shooting of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop. Potter is expected to take the stand tomorrow.

We will bring you the latest next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:47:23]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE REGINA CHU, HENNEPIN COUNTY DISTRICT COURT: Ms. Potter, do you -- do you still want to testify, or have you changed your mind?

KIM POTTER, DEFENDANT: Yes, Your Honor, I will testify.

CHU: OK. And you don`t need any more time to think about that?

POTTER: No, your Honor.

CHU: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: The defense began its case today in the trial of Kim Potter, the former Minnesota police officer who is charged in the shooting death of 20- year-old Daunte Wright.

It`s expected that Potter will take the stand tomorrow. She faces first- and second-degree manslaughter charges following the traffic stop in April where she says that she mistook her gun for her Taser when she shot Wright in the chest. She could face up to 25 years in prison if found guilty on both charges.

Joining me now is Paul Butler, former federal prosecutor and a Georgetown law professor.

And as sort of -- as sort of impossible-seeming as this claim is that she mistook her gun for her Taser -- anybody who`s actually ever held a firearm and held a Taser, they are quite different. And they`re different colors and everything.

What do you make so far of the case that the prosecutor has made and her decision to testify?

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So, to convict Ms. Potter of manslaughter, prosecutors don`t have to prove that she intended to kill Daunte Wright, but only that she was reckless or negligent.

And, Joy, the prosecution has emphasized, as you say, how different a Taser looks from a gun to make the case that no reasonable police officer would make the mistake that Potter claims that she made. Tasers are brightly colored. They`re twice as heavy as guns. The trigger mechanisms are very different.

Plus, Potter always kept her gun in one pocket and her Taser in another. So, no case is -- against a police officer is ever a slam dunk for the prosecution, but, based on the evidence, it`s hard to see how Officer Potter could be found not guilty, even if she`s not convicted of the most serious charges.

On the other hand, Joy, you never know...

REID: You never know.

BUTLER: ... what a jury is going to do.

And there are particular concerns in a racially charged case like this, when the jury is not diverse. This jury has only one black juror.

REID: Here we go again.

I mean, and then there`s also the things that are similar that we`re now used to -- I have done this a lot -- trying to blame Daunte Wright for his own death, saying all he had to do -- if he just complied, the same sort of story of trying to demonize the dead person, who can`t defend themselves because they`re dead.

Does it surprise you that that is being attempted here again?

BUTLER: Not at all. But prosecutors are learning from other cases. And they are trying some of the same tactics that have gotten cops convicted.

So, when the victim is a black man, prosecutors have to try to get the jury to see his humanity. Daunte Wright`s father testified yesterday. He talked about -- he talked the kind of stories you would hear at a Christmas dinner, about how he was both Daunte`s father and his boss at work, poignant stories about how much Daunte`s father loved Daunte, and how much Daunte loved his own son.

[19:50:19]

The defense typically depicts the victim as a thug who deserved whatever the cops did to him.

Joy, it`s a shame that, in 2021, prosecutors still have to humanize black victims, but it was an effective strategy that helped convict Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd. So, prosecutors hope it will lead to a manslaughter conviction of Kimberly Potter.

REID: Speaking of -- you mentioned Derek Chauvin.

I want to just pivot really quickly to the fact that he did plead guilty to violating George Floyd`s civil rights. That strikes me as a big deal, not just for him -- and he could get an extra six years on his sentence if he gets the full 25 years from the federal charge and they serve concurrently on top of his 22.5 years.

But there are three other police officers that have to go to trial. If you`re their defense attorneys, and you look at him actually losing a very unusual case -- police officers don`t often get convicted of killing people, particularly killing black people.

He went down. He`s pleaded out on the federal charges. Do you think this makes it more likely that the other three will try to cop a plea?

BUTLER: It makes it slightly more likely, but they have a very different defensive and posture in both state and federal trial than Derek Chauvin. They were mainly rookie officers. Chauvin was their training instructor. So, they`re going to try to blame him.

As we know, Derek Chauvin didn`t plead guilty in the federal case out of the goodness of his heart. In every plea bargain, there`s something for both sides. So, prosecutors got their federal conviction. And, at sentencing, they`re going to ask the judge to throw the book at Chauvin.

But what was it in for Chauvin? He probably will be allowed to serve his entire sentence in federal prison. And that will be an improvement over the state prison, where he`s now being held in solitary confinement. That`s probably why he took this deal.

Plus, if Chauvin had gone to trial and lost, he could have been sentenced to life in prison. So, quite a different calculus for Derek Chauvin than for the three officers who also participated in the act which led to George Floyd`s tragic death.

REID: All right, let`s pivot right back to the Potter trial.

There is this question of the trials that we have watched, there have been this -- these attempts to sort of humanize the person who`s the defendant. So we saw, in the Rittenhouse trial, that he did his testimony, the tearful testimony. We saw, in the case -- in the Georgia case, the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery, one of them tried to testify. That didn`t go so well for him.

Do you think that testifying in general intends to help, particularly when the person is a police officer, who an almost all-white jury might sympathize with?

BUTLER: That`s a great question, Joy.

And in other high-profile cases, we have seen mixed results. So Derek Chauvin did not take this data, and he was convicted of murdering George Floyd. But the Chicago police officer who killed Laquan McDonald testified in his own defense, and he was convicted of murder.

On the other hand, Kyle Rittenhouse, his performance on the stand is probably the reason that he was found not guilty.

REID: Well, that and the judge being on his side. Well, that`s my own editorial opinion.

(LAUGHTER)

REID: Paul Butler, my friend, thank you very much. Happy holidays. Thank you very much for being here.

BUTLER: Happy holidays.

REID: Always appreciate you. Cheers.

Tonight`s "Absolute Worst" is up next. And it`s pretty darn infuriating, but, sadly, not at all surprising.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:57:59]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Unfortunately, Republicans, as I say, vote no and take the dough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Speaker Pelosi said it best back in March, when the stimulus bill passed Congress without a single Republican vote.

And that is exactly what Republicans are doing, taking the dough and even - - and then championing -- and even championing it, even though they once denigrated a plan that delivered direct relief to Americans and businesses during the pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): It`s a giant handout from Washington, D.C., and it`s money that`s being borrowed from the future from our children, our grandchildren and beyond.

QUESTION: If you were in the Senate, would you have voted for the president`s package?

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): No, probably not. I wish that it would have been a bipartisan bill.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): There`s a lot of other nonsense in that bill, which I`m not surprised at, as someone who did serve in the Congress, but there`s no doubt states like Florida, who did it right, are going to come up with the short end of the stick, against other states that did it wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: OK, baby MAGA, that`s real cute.

But aren`t you the one who, let`s see -- oh, yes, yes, yes -- called the package Washington at its worst, and then announced that the COVID relief money will go toward infrastructure, transportation and work force retention?

Ditto on Ohio Governor DeWine, who said he would not have supported the Democratic package, but, hey, since it`s here, sure, let`s replenish the state`s jobless benefits fund and improve health care facilities for kids while we`re at it. And don`t forget to pat me on the back.

And then, of course, Kristi Noem, ah, the Grim Reaper of Sturgis, who is using the nearly $1 billion Democrats handed her state to invest in local water projects, to make housing more affordable, and to build new day care centers. Lovely.

Democratic-backed stimulus, so easy to bash, even easier to spend.

Now you tout projects that Americans desperately need, clean water, jobs, day care, with funds that you condemned as handouts to improve your reelection prospects. Hey, you got to do something as your constituents get infected and die from COVID -- am I right? -- while turning one of the most desperate, grief-stricken years in modern American history into partisan blood sport.

Republican hypocrisy, yes, it`s the "Absolute Worst."

And that is tonight`s REIDOUT.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.