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Transcript: The ReidOut, December 1, 2020

Guests: Karen Bass, Andrew Weissmann, Jaime Harrison, David Jolly, Bernard Ashby, Jemele Hill


DOJ is investigating potential pay-for-pardon scheme. Axios reports, Trump offered pardons to immigration officials who broke the law. Trump issues broadly preemptive pardon for Michael Flynn. Hannity says to Trump, 'pardon yourself and pardon your family.' Attorney General Barr appoints special counsel to continue probe into origins of Russia investigation. The coronavirus situation in the United States is dire, hospitals are overwhelmed as cases have gone up exponentially, with more than four million people infected in the month of November alone. In just 35 days, Georgia will hold its two Senate runoff elections, and Senator Kelly Loeffler, who once posted an ad comparing herself to Attila the Hun, is now trying to convince voters that she's the relatable suburban neighbor and a friend to the black community.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Breaking news tonight from the Department of Justice, where a federal judge unsealed documents that appear to indicate there is an ongoing federal investigation into a potential scheme involving bribes in exchange for presidential pardons. According to the documents, which are heavily redacted, the investigation also involves a possible offer by a redacted individual of a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon, or reprieve of sentence.

The documents do not name individuals and do not name Donald Trump or any other White House official. The White House declined to comment.

Meanwhile, earlier today, The New York Times reported that Donald Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, have discussed as recently as last week the possibility of Rudy receiving a preemptive pardon before Trump leaves office.

The paper went on to say it's not clear who raised the topic. In a statement to NBC, Giuliani claims that the story is a lie. 100 percent I despise crooked lawyers, unquote.

Speaking of crooked lawyers, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have reportedly been scrutinizing Giuliani's business and finances linked to an attempt to gin up bogus information about the Biden family in Ukraine. Giuliani denies any wrongdoing.

For more, I'm joined by Congresswoman Karen Bass of California, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Andrew Weissmann, former FBI General Counsel, and Former Senior Member of the Mueller Investigation, and Tom Winter, MSNBC National Security and Justice Correspondent.

And, Tom, I'm going to start with you. What do we know? I have looked through. I think we all are now leafing through this indictment. A lot is blacked out. And so we don't have any idea who this person is but what do we actually know from this indictment factually?

TOM WINTER, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, a couple of things. And I think you're very right to point out that a lot of this is redacted. So there're a lot of questions that at this hour we can't answer.

But what we can say is that since at least August of this year, there has been an ongoing federal criminal information into a possible scheme whereby somebody was going to pay bribes for a pardon. And we know that because these court documents which you've just been showing relate to an opinion issued by the chief judge, Judge Beryl Howell.

Now, she's somebody who may be familiar to our audience, certainly familiar to Andrew Weissmann, who's joining us here, because she was the judge who over saw the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller's grand jury. The judge released this today or unsealed part of this filing today with its redactions, not identifying any particular individual because she made a ruling on whether or not federal prosecutors could look at certain communications between an attorney and other people who may have been involved in this scheme.

And it's part of that that we have some information that we gleaned from the search warrant, apparently a search warrant that was conducted on at least two offices. As a result to that search warrant, the filter team and the agents that executed it, according to the court documents, recovered 50 digital devices, which includes, iPhones, iPads, laptops, thumb drives, computers and external hard drives all told several terabytes of information.

Base on that, an email communications, according to these court documents, they were able to find several crimes or criminal activity and that I'm reading from this here, it says that, namely, a secret lobbying scheme in which a redacted person and a redacted person acted as lobbyist to two -- to senior White House officials, not to two senior White House officials, to senior White House officials, without complying with the registration requirement of the lobbying disclosure act.

Now, of course, there are certain laws that you have to comply with if you're going to lobby the White House or lobby members of Congress. So that's something that you have to follow. And it says that they did that in order to secure a pardon or reprieve of sentence for redacted.

So we don't know that the individuals involved in this that may have been trying to execute this, we don't know the senior White House officials. The president is not named in this document. It's unclear whether if the president had any knowledge of this at all from the documents. It also says that they uncovered the related bribery conspiracy scheme in which the redacted name would offer substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or a reprieve of sentence.

Now, for folks that closely follow the Michael Cohen saga, this is kind of similar to the some of the legal arguments that came up there prior to him pleading guilty, Joy. Essentially, there was a dispute about what prosecutors and federal investigators could look at with respect to communications that occurred between an attorney and his client.

And when there's a crime fraud exception, which has come up in this, an attorney cannot exist just purely for the purposes of shielding documents if investigators ever ask for them. So if you were my attorney, Joy, and I was involved in some sort of illegal activity with Andrew Weissmann, I couldn't communicate through you just to shield us and shield our documents from eventually being uncovered if the purpose of that was to just further the fraud and the scheme that he and I were involved in.

So that's what, that's how this came up. The judge decided to unseal it today. We may get more unsealed documents in this case in the future. But the real heart of this, the background information contained in this opinion in order, which would really tell us what the scheme was all about, which would really detail for us the specific nature of the allegations that were being looked at, that section is completely redacted. So not only we're missing names, we're missing really kind of the heart of this investigation. But we do know that it exists.

And I think importantly, and I'll conclude on this point, importantly, we know that it exists to the point where probable cause existed for a search warrant to be obtained here. So, clearly, other evidence has been developed that's led to this point and now what appears to be a multi-month investigation at least into this, Joy.

REID: And, very quickly, before I let you go, Tom. Just to clarify, there's a piece of language that's in this indictment. This is the political strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was parallel to and distinct from redacted role as an attorney advocate for redacted name. I mean, again, we don't know who are the two redacted people are. But is the allegation that the person that is being investigated was the attorney for the person who wanted the pardon or that the attorney was the person who wanted the pardon? That's a little unclear for me.

WINTER: It is unclear. And it's a little unclear for me, so I'm going to be careful not to speculate at this point.

REID: Sure.

WINTER: Because there's a couple follow-on sentences there that are redacted. But, clearly, somebody had a role here. It was an attorney advocate.

Reading further, through this, Joy, it appears to me that because there was a third party that was involved in these discussions, that allowed the judge to say, hey, you know, if I'm just communicating with you, Joy, if you're my attorney, that's a protected communication between us. But when we start involve third parties, you break that seal of that confidentiality and that privilege, and so that appears to have given the judge a reason here to rule back on August 28th that the prosecutors could begin to review this.

But, again, it's early in this. We're just taking a quick look at this and a lot more reporting obviously needs to occur here.

REID: Tom Winter, thank you very much for making all that information available and clarifying it for us. This is a complicated one. So, thank you for being here. I really appreciate your time. Thank you.

All right, let's bring in our guests, Congresswoman Karen Bass and Andrew Weismann. I have a ton of questions, but I'm going to start with you, Congresswoman. I'm going to go to you first, because -- so we're having all of this discussions about pardons, right? And it's all happening on a day when William Barr, the attorney general of the United States, went to the White House today to discuss one of the things we know that he did came out and say is that the election was not fraudulent and presumably he told the president of the United States that as well, but he also met with the president's chief of staff. When you throw all of that in, in addition to the reporting about Rudy Giuliani, also at least reportedly seeking a pardon, something that he has denied, you have all of this pardon talk now happening. For you, as a member of Congress, where does this all sit with you?

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Well, first of all, when I think of the nerve of them going after pardons this way or the story of Giuliani, I just think of all of the people who are languishing in prison who really rightfully deserve a pardon. And now, we're talking about folks who want to buy their way through an administration. But we know that this has been a pay-to-play administration from day one.

And I just think about next year when President Biden and Vice President Harris are sworn in. When they go into each of these agencies, can you imagine the amount of corruption that we're going to find? And I think this is just an example of it. This is the way that this administration has conducted itself from day one.

I mean, if you think about the Trump Hotel. What is that? When foreign dignitaries pay for hotel rooms, they never stay in, because they know that buys them favor with the administration. I think we're going to find this all over the place.

REID: And I should note that you sit on the Judiciary Committee, so I assume that there will be some sort of hearings about this as the Democrats move forward and thinking about this.

And, Andrew, I mean, you were part of the Mueller investigation, there is so much here, and we should note that we don't know that any of it is all related. So I don't -- as I'm packing this out, don't say that I'm making them all related. I'm just saying all these things are all in place.

We have Miles Taylor, who was a former official at the Department of Homeland Security who said that Donald Trump, the president of the United States, offered pardons to immigration officials who broke the law. He said, shut down the border. Do whatever you'll have to do, you'll get a pardon. Do it. If you get in trouble, I'll pardon you, after he was told that it was illegal to simply deny all immigrants access to the southern border.

You have the Michael Flynn pardon, a preemptive pardon with language in it that says for any and all possible offenses within the investigatory authority or jurisdiction, any and all possible offenses arising out of facts and circumstances known to identify in all manner related to, on and on and on, which is language we've only ever heard when President Gerald Ford offered Richard Nixon a pardon and similarly when Jimmy Carter, President Jimmy Carter, pardoned people who dodged the Vietnam draft. That's the only other two times we've heard that kind of language.

And then lastly, we have Sean Hannity who we know advises the president in addition to doing a T.V. show, saying, you should pardon yourself and your family, advising him to do blanket pardons for kin. What do you make of all that and then when you now throw in this reporting?

ANDREW WEISSMANN, FORMER FBI GENERAL COUNSEL: Joy, it's that litany I would also add that there was the commutation of the sentence of Roger Stone.

REID: Yes.

WEISSMANN: So, again, you're seeing favorable treatment.

Just to follow-up on the eminent Congresswoman's point, which is, I think if you step back from the sensational news that we have unfolding right now, let's remember that this idea of a sort of pay-to-play, that you can have a bribery scheme to pardon, it's possible because of the way that this White House has exercised its pardon power.

Normally, in Republican and Democratic administrations, everything goes to a pardon attorney. There is a long process that is filled with career people vetting pardons. And it's because that has been thrown out by Donald Trump that you have this possibility of being able to say, you know what, this is what's alleged in the opinion by Judge Howell, which is I'm going to make sure that there's a lot of money that goes to the campaign in exchange for which I will get a pardon.

So some things jump out to me. First, this is very similar what Judge Howell did here is very similar to what happened during the special counsel investigation, which was the prosecutors wanted to see attorney-client privilege -- potentially attorney client privileged information. And they said to the judge, we would like to have your permission to see this, because we don't think the attorney-client privilege applies. And the judge agreed in a written order. We did that with respect to Paul Manafort.

What we're seeing today is the judge's decision redacted. Notably, the Department of Justice opposed it being unsealed. And the judge said no, proposed redactions to me, but I am going to unseal the fact of there being this investigation. I will keep under seal the names of the people. But that's what happened here. It's very similar to what happened in the special counsel's investigation other than we didn't oppose having a redacted opinion released because the whole idea was to have as much as possible released.

And then the others, as Tom mentioned, there are two schemes that are outlined here. There's a lobbying scheme and there's this pay-to-play pardon scheme. With respect to the lobbying scheme, the judge does drop a footnote that she says it's not clear that this meets the lobbying standard, the violation of the lobbying disclosure act. So there is some cold water thrown on this by the judge.

With respect to the bribery scheme, one thing that's really, I think, important to know, and I'm not trying to get ahead of this, but, you know, you would not engage in a bribery scheme in exchange for a pardon where you give a huge amount of money to a campaign if you didn't have some assurance that somebody close to the president was going to have influence. It doesn't mean necessarily the president. But you're not going to give that money unless this is really a fraud scheme, you know, unless you have some assurance that there is going to be somebody on the inside who is going to be able to deliver.

So, this remains to be seen what happens here but it certainly is tantalizing and it seems pretty clear that the chief judge thought it was important to get this information out into the public domain.

REID: Well, and just to show you guys the redactions on this, I mean, when I tell you it is like blacked out page after page after page, okay? So we don't know much, right? A lot of it looks like this, you know?

And, Congresswoman, I'm old enough to remember when Republicans thought that Bill Clinton should be raked over the coals if not dragged into court over the Marc Rich scandal. I wonder if your ears are being deafened by the amount of outrage that you're hearing from your Republican colleagues, including Republicans on the Judiciary Committee about this. Because you now have Donald Trump having stated during his presidency, break the law, I'll pardon you.

You have his one of his favorite lawyers, Joe Digenova, saying take out this gentleman and shoot him because he was in charge of elections and said, the truth that the elections were clean, take him out and shoot him, he's now saying it's all a joke. But, you know, if he did something wrong, he's got a friend in the White House. He can just pardon me. I mean, there is a lot going on here.

BASS: Yes, there is. And if you think about it, just sit back and recount it, it sound like you're talking about a criminal syndicate.

REID: Yes.

BASS: I mean, it has just been this way.

There's also the fundraising scheme that he is saying when he's directly to people, saying, you're going to contribute to my legal defense funds so we can overturn the election, when, actually, 75 percent of the money goes to a political PAC called Save America, which is what he's going to use for goodness knows what. Maybe after he leaves the presidency, it will pay for rallies. Maybe it pays for his campaign debt. But the culture of corruption is throughout this administration.

And, again, I can only imagine what we're going to find. But this is what we have seen from day one. And that's just talking about him. What about when we get into the cabinet officials? What about when we get into his family members? Because there was a culture of corruption, pay-to-play from the beginning, he normalized this type of behavior.

REID: Yes.

BASS: And so, it's not surprising that people outside of the White House in the private sector would think nothing of bribing for pardons. Why not? People have bribed for everything else.

REID: Yes. And you know and for last thing to you, Andrew Weissmann. We also have -- all of this is taking place in a moment where you have William Barr turning a sham investigation of the Mueller investigation and now the investigation into Donald Trump's campaign ties to Russia into a special counsel equivalent to Mueller. So you have that. And then you have this possibility that when this is all said and done, Trump simply pardons everybody including himself.

So my final question to you then is, is it possible that we might see the president of the United States pardon the whole lot of them, this criminal syndicate, if you want to call it that, as the Congresswoman did, and himself? Can he get away with it?

WEISSMANN: So, I think we will see a lot of that. It is not at all clear that it's legally possible to pardon yourself. So I'm not sure -- I'm sure the president is going to try, but I'm not sure that's going to legally work. But I think something that's really important here is why did the chief judge, Chief Judge Howell, want this opinion out now?

REID: Yes.

WEISSMANN: And I think it's in part to answer your question, Joy, which is what she is doing by having this out there is casting doubt and also sort of a pushback, a brush back on the president saying, you know what, you're going to pardon people, you better be sure that there's been no pay-to-play here. Because if the president carries through on that, that is a federal crime.

REID: Absolutely.

WEISSMANN: And so that, to me, is -- and trying to think about why this is coming out now and why the chief judge is doing this, I think it's for the people who are going to be seeking pardons. It is a crime to -- and DOJ is investigating this, which is sort to have a pay-to-play.

So I think that could have a brush back effect on the number of pardons we see coming out of the White House in light of this DOJ investigation.

REID: Absolutely. And I just want to mention the, when I mentioned Joe Digenova, it was his former campaign attorney and former federal prosecutor who called for Chris Krebs, who certified that the election was clean, to be taken out and shot, which he's now said is a joke. That's the tenor of the administration that we are soon to be losing.Thank you so much, Congresswoman Karen Bass, Andrew Weissmann. Thank you both very much.

And up next on THE REIDOUT, we all knew it would end this way, but new reporting indicates Trump apparently plans to continue his childish tantrum all the way to inauguration day and beyond.

Plus, as the COVID crisis grows more desperate, Scott Atlas slithers away from the White House, leaving behind a legacy of deadly failure and an attempt to unleash herd immunity on a sickened and exhausted nation.

THE REIDOUT continues after this.


REID: Donald Trump, with his tiny little hands behind his tiny little desk, continues to rant and rave about election fraud, despite his own attorney general, William Barr, telling the AP today that the Justice Department has found no evidence of any fraud that would have changed the outcome of the election.

Meanwhile, Trump has had nothing to say about the coronavirus pandemic that has killed 270,000 people in the U.S. and counting.

Urgent action under Trump is clearly never going to happen. A bipartisan group of senators may be working on a COVID relief bill, but we can only hope it will be completed before the government is scheduled to shut down on December 11. And even then, it's likely we will have to wait 50 days for the new Biden administration to implement its plan.

And they do have a plan. We now know the members of Biden's economic team who will be tasked with rescuing millions of Americans who are facing financial ruin and a wave of infections.

That isn't the only mess that Trump leaves behind. The Republicans now are grappling with the Frankenstein monster they built. Trump's election fraud mantra could depress voter turnout in the crucial Georgia run-offs. And now, after all the Republican hand-wringing over what to do as their president torches democracy, one of their own had this to say about the threats some election workers have received:


GABRIEL STERLING, GEORGIA VOTING SYSTEM IMPLEMENTATION MANAGER: Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language.

Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions.

This has to stop. We need you to step up. And if you're going to take a position of leadership, show some.

This is the backbone of democracy. And all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this.


REID: Joining me now is Jaime Harrison, former candidate for U.S. Senate in South Carolina and founder of Dirt Road PAC, and David Jolly, former Republican congressman from Florida who is no longer with the party.

And, gentlemen, thank you all for being here.

I want to get more into what Mr. Sterling said. His name is Gabriel Sterling. And he's the Georgia voting implementer.

And let me play for you another little part of his remarks today. They were really powerful. Take a listen.

I don't think we have it, so I will read it.

He says: "I'm talking about Senator David Perdue and Senator Kelly Loeffler, two people whom I still support in the election booth. But they need to step up on this particular thing. And that's me speaking as a Republican, not in the office, because I probably stepped out of line, but I'm kind of pissed. They called for us to resign. And, frankly, when they called for us to resign, the senator -- sorry -- the president called Brad Raffensperger, who is a fine, upstanding, lifelong Republican, an enemy of the people. That helped open the floodgates to this kind of crap."

And the crap he's talking about, David, are death threats. And he was very passionate in talking about the fact that people are being threatened, their wives are being threatened. Mr. Raffensperger's wife was threatened.


REID: And that's what Donald Trump has unleashed on his own party. Your thoughts?


Yes, Joy, that's the great danger in Donald Trump's behavior and in the silence or complicity of his Republican allies on the Hill. It's exactly this culture that he is -- that he is fueling, the flames that he is fueling and the danger that he's creating.

And, understand, the Constitution is working in this moment. The Constitution is keeping Donald Trump's powers in check. We will have an orderly transition. Joe Biden will be the next president. The courts are throwing out Donald Trump's contests.

The danger is in Donald Trump using the bully pulpit to incite ultimately what could be violence. And, at the end of the day, it is a reflection of his past four years. We have seen it in his handling of Charlottesville, of the pandemic, of the racial unrest and the social justice marches throughout the country.

Donald Trump cannot de-escalate and address the needs of the nation. He only addresses his own political and personal interests in this moment.

And, look, shame on Donald Trump, but shame on the Georgia senators who are sitting in silence and allowing this to happen.

REID: And, Jaime, I think the shocking thing is, Lindsey Graham, who you ran against for United States Senate, he did say, if we nominate Donald Trump, we will be destroyed and we deserve it, probably the only true thing I have ever heard him say.

And now what you have is Republicans destroying each other, and this mantra that's been created where you're not allowed to say that Joe Biden is the president-elect of the United States. That goes against the dogma.

So, you have had Lindsey Graham, who has made comments like, well, I hope Joe Biden is willing to go to Donald Trump's inauguration, knowing that that isn't true, celebrating in Iowa as a Republican who won by six votes. And he's like, great day in the morning. This lady won by six votes.

He doesn't want signature matching in Iowa, where there's like only 3 percent black people, but in South -- in Georgia, well, we can't trust that.

I mean, the openness of Lindsey Graham in particular's sort of nefarious behavior, and very light defense of democracy, if any at all, is pretty flagrant. What do you make of that?


Listen, I think many of these folks -- and Lindsey Graham is probably at the top of the list -- have forgotten what their job is. It is to be public servants. That means serving the public.

The most important thing that we have as American citizens is our right to vote. That is the cornerstone of this democracy. And to see them playing games with that, to just willy-nilly say, well, we can throw out hundreds of thousands or millions of votes because it just doesn't benefit us politically is shameful.

The next time a student next year goes into a political science class, I hope a professor has a class just on feckless leadership. And I can tell you, you will see Lindsey Graham as being at the head of the class of that type of leadership.

We deserve better in this nation. We send our sons and daughters overseas to risk their life for democracy in other nations, and we have got members of Congress right here who are doing everything that they can in order to rip away that democracy in this great nation.

And it's -- and that has to stop.

REID: And it is shocking to me, David, that the majority of voters in South Carolina would return someone like Lindsey Graham to power, who has been really nothing more than a toady for Donald Trump -- and that's the kindest thing that I can think of to say about him -- and yet who has vowed to stop Neera Tanden from getting a job as the department of -- Office of Management and Budget chair.


REID: Let me show you, Leader, let me show Neera Tanden's introduction of herself today.


NEERA TANDEN, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET DIRECTOR NOMINEE: Like the vice president-elect's mother, Shyamala, my mother, Maya, was born in India, and America came through for her when times were tough.

We relied on food stamps to eat. We relied on Section 8 housing vouchers to pay the rent. We relied on the social safety net to get back on our feet. I'm here today, thanks to my mother's grit, but also thanks to a country that had faith in us, that invested in her humanity, and in our dreams.


REID: David, I'm old enough to remember when the Republican Party would want someone like Neera in the party, right?

JOLLY: That's right.

REID: And, meanwhile, what they want is somebody like Kelly Loeffler, who's worth $800 million and doesn't care if anyone in her own state gets relief from COVID, from the COVID recession.

I don't get it. And attacking an Asian American woman nominee, how does that build the Republican Party?

JOLLY: It doesn't, Joy.

What you're seeing is the very beginnings of the Republican Party becoming the opposition party again, which they are very good at. And the irony of all this, what is not lost on the American people, all Neera Tanden and others are asking is to take care of the working-class people in the middle of a pandemic where the economy is leaving them behind, this K-shaped recovery.

The Republicans are happy to take care of the business community and to take care of the investor class community. Democrats are saying, don't leave behind the working class.

And if you look at what Congress is leaving behind, it's the programs that exactly support sustained income for the working class that has suffered the most. The American people see that.

It's why the Republican Party has now lost seven of the last eight presidential elections in the popular vote. It's the reason they claim to power in Congress only through gerrymandering. And it's the reason that guys like Jaime Harrison gave Lindsey Graham a run for his money this race.

REID: Yes.

And, meanwhile, Donald Trump has raised $170 million for a PAC what -- that he's probably going to -- the money's going to be for him. It's not going to be for anyone except him. And he's getting it from people who are broke. It's amazing.

Jaime Harrison, David Jolly, thank you both very much.

And, meanwhile, the face of the Trump administration's many COVID failures, Dr. Scott Atlas, has left the building. But is it too late to avoid a catastrophic deadly winter?

We will be right back.


REID: Today, on World AIDS Day, we remember the more than 32 million people worldwide who have died from AIDS-related illnesses, 700,000 of them in the United States.

While treatment for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has significantly improved since the first cases were discovered in the early 1980s, the Reagan administration will forever be remembered for absolutely bungling the crisis.

As "The Guardian" points out, Ronald Reagan was president for nearly five years before he said the word AIDS in public, nearly seven years before he gave a speech on the topic.

While that may seem like a long time ago, two of the most influential figures in AIDS research, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, also are leading today's fight against the coronavirus.

A century ago, Woodrow Wilson displayed a similar lack of leadership, never commenting on the so-called Spanish Flu that killed 675,000 Americans before that World War I era crisis was over.

And that brings us to today. With more than 270,000 people dead from the coronavirus, like Wilson and like Reagan before him, the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus has been nothing short of abject failure.

And let's face it, there is something about America's culture of rugged individualism that makes it really hard for the average person to want to mobilize to help other people.

Americans have united before against a common enemy during the World Wars or to give to global charities when there's a famine or a natural disaster. But mobilizing Americans strictly to help fellow Americans who don't necessarily look like them or worship like them has historically come largely when compelled and organized by presidential leadership.

Americans may be making their own choices when they decide to travel for Thanksgiving, for instance, despite the guidance not to, or not to social distance, but they are able to do that because there's no national mask mandate or national travel restrictions or even the economic aid that would allow them to stay home.

And the person at the top, the supposed leader of our country, is absent without official leave.

And no one has exemplified that attitude more than Scott Atlas, who just announced he's stepping down from the COVID Task Force, after months of essentially championing herd immunity, with Trump's full support.

As Phil Rucker writes: "Atlas will forever be the face of this phase of the pandemic response, the embodiment of the president's rationalizing, not taking significant steps to encourage containment efforts."

His legacy lives on, with the White House planning a holiday season packed with indoor parties. And, meanwhile, we're facing a deadly winter ahead.

And that is next.


REID: The coronavirus situation in the United States is dire. Hospitals are overwhelmed as cases have gone up exponentially, with more than 4 million people infected in the month of November alone.

And while Trump might try to downplay the severity of the virus, his own government has an internal map showing that nearly the entire United States has become a COVID hot spot. And we still haven't experienced the surge that will surely come from Thanksgiving.

I'm joined now by Dr. Bernard Ashby, cardiologist and Florida state lead for the Committee to Protect Medicare. And, by the way, Florida became the third state to surpass 1 million cases today after Texas and California.

And, Dr. Ashby, I watched earlier -- I was watching MSNBC earlier and they were talking with a Miami the mayor of a Miami-Dade city, about their complete frustration they can't have a mask mandate in Miami, Miami Beach. They say they can't do anything because the governor of the state of Florida has said you cannot do anything just to close businesses to make people wear a mask. Nothing. You can't even fine them.

What the hell is going on down there?

DR. BERNARD ASHBY, COMMITTEE TO PROTECT MEDICARE, FLORIDA STATE LEAD: Great question, Joy. And, you know, live from Miami, and as we say what's going on, OK? But, unfortunately, Governor Ron DeSantis is completely shown a pattern of mishandling the virus.

And at first, I thought that, you know, he was just misinformed. But it appears that he actually doesn't really understand the level of the severity of the pandemic. And he's actively making decisions to ensure that Florida will become the epicenter of this pandemic, in the next few weeks to months, because of the decisions. He is actually preventing the mitigating measure that we need to implement now to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. And, unfortunately, we're going to be left with no option but draconian measures such as stay-at-home orders, aka, lockdowns that no one wants to have because they have detrimental effects, because he is not doing his job.

And there's quite a few leader around the country who are not doing their job. They'll wait until the bodies start piling up to resort to reactive measures such as stay at home to get the pandemic under control, because as far as we can see, there's no measures being taken place right now. It's unfortunate.

REID: So, there's -- the panel in charge of determining who should get a vaccine when it comes out first, which again is not an immediate panacea, because we're not talking about everyone in America being able to get a vaccine tomorrow. We're talking about somewhere in the middle of next year. But the first groups would be healthcare workers and residents of nursing homes.

Florida is the state with the oldest base population. The most senior citizens in the country live in Florida. It's a state with disproportionate numbers of senior citizens, and therefore, it's one of the reasons you have disproportionate amount of death there.

Do you get the sense people like the governor are seeing a vaccine in the future and deciding they don't have to take -- they don't lift a finger to stop the vaccine, just to stop the virus because the vaccine will fix it.

ASHBY: Exactly. I mean, that's exactly was going on. So, Doctor -- I mean, I'm sorry, Governor DeSantis is actually thinking that it's the vaccine is a silver bullet. And so, he's just buying time until the vaccines come out and he thinks that somehow this vaccine is gong to slow this downhill moving train.

Unfortunately, that's not going to be the case. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of this pandemic, and, unfortunately, Florida will pay the price because as you mentioned, we have disproportionate of elderly population. And we have a large vulnerable population. And therefore, the death rates are expected to go up exponentially. And there's really no mitigation measures to prevent that.

So, unfortunately, there's probably a few million people listening to this cast -- this television cast right now and I guarantee, unfortunately, that percentage of the folks watching this will be dead by the end of the year. If not a lot of the folks watching this the family members will be dead, in the thousands. And even more than that, a lot of folks will have acquaintances, friends and folks that they know who will be dead.

This is a fact. And the fact that the leadership doesn't appreciate this is appalling. There's a leadership vacuum right now where Trump has abdicated all the responsibilities, and right now, we need Biden to step up and start communicating directly with the American public.

And that's why I have been saying that the COVID task force under Biden needs to start communicating with the public directly and holding daily briefings, in conjunction with the Trump administration task force. So that we can get the messaging correct and pursue a unified approach, so that we can get the American public on board.

Right now, we have to pursue a mentality where folks have to do for themselves because, again, our leadership is not doing their job.

REID: Yeah. And, you know, some of the people who will be dead will be healthcare workers. I mean, there's a strike already about some nurses in New Rochelle, in New York, already on strike because they don't have enough PPE, they don't have enough equipment to save their own lives.

My last question to you, Dr. Ashby, what good will a virus be if folks are afraid to take it? I have had conversations with doctors who are black and people in the black community. There's a lot of skepticism among people I know and I'm sure among people you know who are worried about the vaccine, and who don't trust it.

And what do you -- what do you say to those people?

ASHBY: So, I don't think folks really appreciate the level of distrust right now for the healthcare system, but in particular the COVID-19 vaccine. I would estimate anecdotally based on the folks I know, maybe about 80 percent of the folks I know, educated or not. They're not going to take the vaccine. Or wait until folks get it and see how it reacts, and then make the decision after that.

And, you know, the statistics out there estimate at least the latest poll indicate about 40 percent of the folks African-American descent say they will get this vaccine. I think it's underestimate. And this is going to be a real issue. And it will increase. Folks simply do not trust the vaccine. We need to make an information campaign to inform and educate the public so that they can take the vaccine.

REID: Indeed. Indeed.

Dr. Bernard Ashby, always great talking with you. Be safe. Thank you very much.

And up next --

ASHBY: Thanks.

REID: Cheers, thank you.

And up next, Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler is trying to rehabilitate her image ahead of those crucial Georgia run-offs. I'd say she's facing an uphill climb, but at this point, it's more like summiting Mount Everest.

Stay with us.


REID: In just 35 days, Georgia will hold its two Senate runoff elections, and Senator Kelly Loeffler, who once posted an ad comparing herself to Attila the Hun, is now trying to convince voters that she's the relatable suburban neighbor and a friend to the black community.


JANELLE KING, FOUNDER OF SPEAK GEORGIA: It's so important to have Senator Loeffler in the Senate, especially right now. What we need more than ever is a business mind. We need someone who understands how to not only write paychecks and sign paychecks, but how it feels like waiting on that paycheck.


REID: Mm-hmm. It's hard to believe that Loeffler really truly does understand the dire financial crisis that millions of Americans who aren't receiving a paycheck and are facing evictions are actually going through today. According to "Forbes," she is the richest of the 100 senators, worth at least $800 million.

Her former primary opponent, Congressman Doug Collins, may have best described who Kelly Loeffler really is.


REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): She's desperate to hide the fact that as the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, she spent $30 million trying to buy a Senate seat. And after a private coronavirus briefing, she dumped millions in stock. She profited off the pandemic while too many Georgians lost everything.


REID: And joining me now is Jemele Hill, contributing writer of "The Atlantic" and host of "Jemele Hill in Unbothered", the podcast.

Thank you very much, Jemele, for being here.

So, you know, in addition to what we already knew about Kelly Loeffler's penchant for making money off of her Senate job, we now have "Mother Jones" with this new headline that while Loeffler opposed new COVID aid for people in need, her husband's firm sought to profit off the pandemic, taking advantage of the pandemic's effect on the housing market to gain control of the digital mortgage sector leading to rapid growth for their money.

I don't even understand why she's still in the race, do you? How she's even polling at, like, 10?

JEMELE HILL, THE ATLANTIC CONTRIBUTING WRITER: Yeah, I don't get it either. I mean, this rebrand that she's trying to do is just so disingenuous, it's so fake.

Everybody knows that on top of her being rich, some of the things that she has said as the nation was having a national, you know, sort of, you know, reconciliatory moment about race and a bunch of different serious conversations in this country, and she let it know how she really felt.

REID: Yeah. Can we play that real quick? Let's play it real quick because we have that. Here she is talking about how she feels about Black Lives Matter.


SEN. KELLY LOEFFLER (R-GA): This is a very divisive organization based on Marxist principles. This week, they threatened to burn the system down, literally and figuratively, if they don't get what they want.

I mean, this is an organization that, you know, seeks to destroy American principles, and I had to draw the line.


REID: I mean, all lies. To the point where were own team, the WNBA team that she owns 49 percent of, the Atlanta Dream, they can't stand her.

HILL: Yeah, I mean, that's what people need to understand, OK? First of all, people may not know this, but WNBA players, they don't make the same as NBA players. Not anywhere close.

So every paycheck they get matters. For that entire league, because it wasn't just the Atlanta Dream, it was other teams that participated in making sure that the league knew how they felt about Kelly Loeffler. For them to do that, knowing what they risk, that should tell everybody what they think of her, and for that matter, how low and little they think of her character.

I mean, these are women who do not have a lot to risk or who have a lot to risk, excuse me. And so, for them to go against somebody who theoretically signs their paycheck, that should say everything. I mean, I think it's important that we have this conversation, Joy, because the WNBA players' role in this particular run-off is huge. It cannot be understated.

When Reverend Raphael Warnock, her opponent, when they first decided to support him, to advocate for him, to use their national platform to increase the awareness of him and his candidacy, he was polling at 9 percent. Now he's in a run-off. That's how much their involvement has meant and it shows you it wasn't just about their disdain for Kelly Loeffler, it was about principles that Reverend Raphael Warnock has about how he is in alignment with principles they believe in.

He believes that black lives matter. He understands, you know, what it's like to be part of the working class and what it's like to not know where your next meal is coming from. We're talking about a man from very humble beginnings. And so, her trying to rebrand herself as this woman of the people is just a lie.

Kelly Loeffler has proven to be nothing but a clown.

REID: Well, I mean, the thing is that she's not from Georgia. Again, there is nothing wrong with moving to another state, you know, but she is this, you know, very wealthy elite, you know, very rich woman who moves from Illinois to Georgia. And then starts to try to play in the rural part of the community. But now she needs the voters in Metro Atlanta, and so she's trying to pivot back.

This ad with the black lady in it, I'm not sure what she thinks she's rebranding there, but she found one person that she can pull out of the sunken place and say "she likes me." I don't understand the shift.

Are there Trump voters in Atlanta that we don't know about?

HILL: I mean, maybe somewhere she unmasked one. I have no idea. Maybe she stirred the tea cup.

I don't know what happened, but the truth is in Atlanta, they let people know the side of history they wanted to be on when it came to the presidential election. I don't know why this would go any differently. And considering that the WNBA players are still actively campaigning, considering Reverend Raphael Warnock, his profile has risen so dramatically since he began -- began his run. I mean, he's got people like Stacey Abrams behind him. He showed the Doug Collins ad. He really has a lot of force behind him.

But I think the thing that people need to realize is that it's not just -- they're just not doing this to in opposition to somebody who has no place or does not belong in the Senate, but they're doing it because in their mind, this is a good candidate. I mean, the WNBA players, they met with him. They talked with him. They wanted to know what his principles were. What he stood for.

REID: Absolutely.

HILL: And he impressed them. That's why they decided to support him. It wasn't just about opposing Kelly Loeffler.

REID: Absolutely. And taking as you said, major risks to do it, financial risks to themselves.

Jemele Hill, always great to talk to you, my friend. Thank you very much. Appreciate you being here tonight.

That is tonight's REIDOUT. Good night, Lorraine.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. Watch that.


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