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Transcript: The ReidOut, December 2, 2020

Guests: Adam Schiff, Ben Crump, Trita Farsi


Democrats hold both Arizona Senate seats for first time in 67 years. Vice President Pence swears-in former astronaut, Senator Mark Kelly. Trump is still refusing to acknowledge Biden victory. Georgia voting official slams fellow Republicans for opening the floodgates to threats. Trump is raising money off refusal to concede election. Mike Flynn urges Trump to invoke martial law, hold new election. GOP Senator Johnson refuses to believe Attorney General Barr that there was no widespread voter fraud. Attorney General Barr admits DOJ found no widespread election fraud. GOP Senator Johnson says, it's political suicide to oppose Trump. Trump allies turn on Attorney General Barr after DOJ finds no voter fraud. Pelosi, Schumer back $908 billion COVID relief proposal.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: The era of Barry Goldwater, widely credited with remaking the conservative movement and the Republican Party and paving the way for Hollywood actor turned Governor Ronald Reagan to become President of the United States is officially over.


FMR. SEN. BARRY GOLDWATER (R-AZ): I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.


REID: That was Goldwater as the anti-civil rights Republican Presidential Nominee in 1964. 12 years earlier in 1952, his Senate victory marked the last time Arizona had two Democratic senators, until today, when former Astronaut and Navy Captain Mark Kelly was worn into the senate by Vice President Mike Pence with his wife, former congresswoman and gun violence survivor, Gabrielle Giffords, by his side. It's another quiet way that Donald Trump's administration has officially acknowledged that the election is over, despite Trump being unable to admit that he lost.

But there's always a coward's caveat in Trumpism. When NBC News asked Pence if he accepted the election results in Arizona, which he, himself, had just confirmed by swearing in Senator Kelly, who won at the same time that Joe Biden won Arizona because their names were on the same ballots, Pence did not respond.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to pump out bogus claims of voter fraud and his -- as his presidency collapses into perhaps what it always was, a giant marketing and corrupt financial scheme. Trump today made that literal by using the White House as the set for a 45-minute infomercial for himself, which streamed on Facebook today, this while his campaign continues to send out desperate pleas for cash, ignoring the consequence of riling up his MAGA supporters with dangerous democracy-destroying lies.

Gabriel Sterling, a Georgia elections official, implored the president yesterday to turn down the temperature before someone gets killed.


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

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


REID: Now, a normal president might have made an effort to show some empathy, but we're talking about Donald Trump here, so his response to this possible matter of life and death was to continue tweeting about the so-called rigged election. And his campaign continues to push doomed lawsuits and to promote them to the marks he's begging them to send them their last $10 while, and this is important, his lawyers never actually argue fraud in court, because lying about that in front of a judge could get them sanctioned or threaten their law licenses.

So what's the point then besides soothing Trump's fragile ego? To repeat, like his entire presidency and his entire career, it's all a grift. According to The New York Times, Trump has raised about $170 million since Election Day, scamming his supporters into thinking they're funding his election lawsuits. When, in fact, 75 percent of that money is going to a PAC that Trump set up which can be used to fund his political activities going forward. The other 25 percent of each donation is directed to the Republican National Committee. A donor would have to give $5,000 to Trump's new PAC before any funds go to his recount account.

And joining me now is former Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Michael Steele, former Chairman of the RNC.

And, Michael, I want to start on that last point because, you know, Donald Trump is just openly using the White House as the backdrop for his infomercial.


REID: But he's always doing the same thing, right? You know, I interviewed people when I wrote the recent book that I wrote about Trump, and they said to a person they didn't think he was going to win. They thought it would be great marketing for his hotels to run for president. He's been using the presidency to suck money out of foreign diplomats.

Now, the people that are with him are in on the scheme. Michael Flynn everyone went -- howled about Michael Flynn calling for martial law, use martial law to overthrow the election. But then when you look at the thing he sent out saying to martial law, it says contribute now, right?

STEELE: Right.

REID: You have Sidney Powell, where her organization is doing these loopy, you know, nutsy cuckoo lawsuits. But then it's like her organization directs donors to write checks payable to her law firm. It is all a scam, Michael.

STEELE: I'm not going to argue with one bit of that. The great little dirty part of this is Donald Trump right now, Joy, is raising money at a faster rate to sort of -- to steal the election than he did when he was trying to win the election. And that's what people need to understand.

REID: Yes.

STEELE: All right? He's raising money -- he's raising more money now than he did when he was actually running for the job that he's now trying to say that they stole from him.

REID: Yes.

STEELE: So, look, the --

REID: Yes.

STEELE: You know, the grift is on, baby. It is just on. You need to understand it. And if anybody wants to be a sucker and send their dollar to Donald Trump for his recount effort, you all just suckers, because it ain't going into no recount, it's going into his PAC. And that PAC money, and this is important, allows him to go out and do political stuff unrelated to the recount. So he can hire staff.

REID: Yes.

STEELE: He can put expenses into airplane travel and all. He's setting up how he's going to pay for his post-presidential life at the taxpayer expense today.

REID: Yes.

STEELE: So, again, if you all want to give him the money, that's on you, but know what it's going to. It's not going to overturn the election. It's not going to recount any vote in Georgia or Philadelphia. It is going to set up Donald Trump enterprises after Donald Trump leaves the White House.

He's made it clear, as I said on your show before, he's not going to inaugural. He's not bringing the incoming president to the White House. None of that matters to him. Trust me, he goes to Florida at Christmas and you won't see him in D.C. again. He's just going to be collecting checks at Mar-a-Lago.

REID: Amen, collecting checks. I mean, literally, Claire, they have created a piggy -- an ATM machine that is called the MAGA voter who they can keep going back to again and again and again, hey, send me $10. You know, 3,000 percent match. Hey, my father -- Donald Trump Jr. is on some of these texts saying, my father doesn't see your name on our list for trying to give us sort of like $10, like it is a never-ending ATM machine.

And as long as they keep these people riled up thinking, any minute, martial law is coming, he's going to get installed as the permanent president of the United States, Ivanka is going to be the queen, just give us $10, it's never-ending. It is a scam.

But what I want to ask you about is the people who are going along with it that who are supposedly responsible elected officials. Ron Johnson, senator, said the attorney general should show everybody his evidence that there's been no fraud. The attorney general said there's been no fraud. You can't show evidence of a non-thing, right?

Meanwhile, the same Ron Johnson knows that Joe Biden won a free and fair election per Wisconsin GOP politician. He's refusing to admit it publicly and stoking conspiracies that undermine our democracy solely because it will be political suicide to oppose Trump, because it would stop him from being able to raise money for his re-elect. Your thoughts, Claire.

CLAIRE MCCASKILL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, as much as we scratch our head over what this guy is doing right now, the grift, and, by the way, a lot of that money will find its way into Trump properties. We know that's the plan.


REID: Yes.

MCCASKILL: To help shore up places that he owns with events that will attract his donors. These are the same donors that gave the money to Steve Bannon for them to build their own wall and he got indicted for it.

REID: Yes.

MCCASKILL: These are the same donors that voted for him. You know, we've got to understand that the Republican officeholders are not afraid of Trump, they're afraid of his supporters. They're afraid that he has such a hold on his supporters that if they state the obvious, that this is a grift, that this money is not going for a recount or to somehow, you know, get him the election, that this money is going to fund his lifestyle of trying to get attention after the presidency, that he won not even a close election, Joy. This wasn't a close election.

REID: Right.

MCCASKILL: This was 306 electoral votes and 6 or 7 million popular votes. So this was not close, as presidential elections go.

But that base, he has a vice grip on them. And the -- I talk to Republican senators today on the phone and I said, what in the world? When are you all going to hold hands and jump together and say it's time to acknowledge that Joe Biden is the next president of the United States? And these senators said, you know, Claire, you don't understand. It's politically too difficult because people will never forgive us. Until he gives it up, we can't give it up. And that's terribly depressing because it definitely does not go under the heading of courage.

REID: Well, and I wonder if they can even show up to the inaugural themselves. If there is -- and we don't know if it's going to be virtual or if it's going to be a physical thing, but I wonder if there will be a penalty for any Republicans who dare to show up at the inaugural because the dogma is you can't say, even as you're literally swearing in a Democratic senator who was on the same ballot with Trump, but, okay, did Trump also lose in Arizona? Or I can't say that, right?

And this is why. Let me show you a reason why. This is just three examples of what -- of the media that Trump voters here, what they hear, what the same people who vote for Ron Johnson listen to all day. Let's listen.


LOU DOBBS, FOX NEWS HOST: For the attorney general of the United States to make that statement, he is either a liar or a fool or both. He may be perhaps compromised.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he a warrior armed with the constitution or a bureaucrat armed with the numbers of his friends in the deep state?

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I think the Department of Justice has a lot of egg on their face for having not discovered a lot of this fraud as it was occurring.


REID: I mean, Michael Steele, this is Trump's Roy Cohn. They're not talking about some liberal Democrat, they're talking about William Barr. So William Barr, who -- we were worried for four years that he was going to try to indict President Obama, right?

STEELE: Right.

REID: Because Trump told him to. And now they're like, well, he sounds like he's a member of the deep state. He's Roy Cohn. Like, what? I mean, I don't know. Go on. Your turn.

STEELE: Well, no, no, Joy, no, you make an excellent point, and it just tells you how fickle this all is. I mean, Claire can tell you from her conversations with the members. I've had the conversations as well. I mean, they're afraid of their own shadow if that shadow looks like Trump supporters coming after them.

And so, you know, this is -- this is the reality of it. You know, Bill Barr, you know, is kind of doing a little bit of the Heisman, and, yes, he's taking a hit for it. And the fact of the matter is, whether it's Gaetz or anyone else out there saying, well, Bill Barr should have said something about the fraud, well, there was no fraud. What do you -- what's he going to say?

REID: Right.

STEELE: He's the attorney general.

REID: He got an empty basket.

STEELE: At some point, it would wind up in court. And what's he going to say to the Supreme Court?

REID: And he doesn't want to lose his law license.

STEELE: Exactly.

REID: He's not going to lose his bar.

And last question to you, Claire McCaskill, what does this mean for this $908 billion COVID relief aid? Literally their own constituents are losing -- are getting kicked out of their homes. People are hungry. People are in food lines. My God, can this $908 billion COVID relief aid, can that pass the United States Senate in this environment? Democrats have given a lot to come down to $908 billion. Does this thing end up passing, in your view?

MCCASKILL: Yes, I think it does, something close to that. You know, this is the way we used to do it. You get enough people in the middle that would cobble something together and then try to bring the two sides in. And I think they realize that to wait until after Joe Biden is inaugurated would be brutal for so many Americans. And, frankly, some money now may be more powerful than more money later for those people who are facing eviction, for those people whose businesses are on the brink of destruction. So I do think it passes.

And I will say that another thing happened today, Joy, that we ought to memorialize, our courts are holding up. Trump nominees are holding up. They lost another one today. They are now 1-40 in court. So for all of those people out there, saying there is obvious fraud, clearly the courts only recognize evidence and there is none.

STEELE: Right.

REID: You know why? Because the biggest mark of all is Donald Trump. Mitch McConnell played him like a fiddle. Mitch McConnell had his list of nominees. Rudy Giuliani wasn't on the list, Donald. He was going to put the same people on if Marco Rubio was president. Think that he got his list, not yours. Anyway, oh well. They used Trump for what they wanted him for.

Claire McCaskill, Michael Steele, thank you very much both for being here tonight.

Up next on THE REIDOUT, Barack Obama never had to think about whether he needed to pardon Sasha and Malia, and yet Donald Trump is reportedly discussing pardons for his kids, along with Rudy Giuliani. House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff joins me next.

And as the U.K. gets a jumpstart on the vaccine, even faster than Warp Speed, as the pandemic pushes U.S health care workers to the breaking point.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's always in your face. When I come to work, I deal with COVID patients. And when I go home, I don't get to hug my kids. I have a four and an eight-year-old. And they don't run to the door anymore because we don't give hugs when I get home.



REID: The presidential pardon was originally meant to grant the president power to temper justice with mercy. It was not enshrined in our Constitution so that a dishonorable man could reward his criminal allies, friends and family for their corrupt practices.

However, that's exactly what Donald Trump has done these past four years. He circumvented the proper legal protocols which seek to reward clemency to those who truly merit it, and has instead conveyed mercy to war criminals, liars and political hacks who openly admitted to breaking the law and a Democratic governor who was convicted of selling a Senate seat.

Yesterday, sources told NBC News that Trump had also discussed preemptive pardons for his current lawyer Rudy Giuliani. All these liars, criminals and cheats had one thing in common. And it wasn't humility. It was unflinching support for Trump. That support, that loyalty is another reason why Trump is considering preemptive pardons for his adult children.

Late last night, we learned that Trump has discussed preemptive pardons for his three eldest progeny, Donald Trump Jr., Eric and Ivanka, along with her husband, Jared Kushner.

The news was first reported by "The New York Times."

And joining me now is Congressman Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

And thank you so much for being here, Congressman Schiff.

I want to alert you and remind you of -- and I'm sure that you're aware of it -- back seemingly 147 years ago, the Senate Intelligence Committee, your counterparts in the Senate, issued criminal referrals for Donald Trump Jr., Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, and two others.

And they made those referrals to federal prosecutors. And they made these criminal referrals in a letter to the U.S. attorney's office of Washington, D.C. This was in June of 2019. One section of the letter raised concerns about the testimony that Donald Trump Jr. and Kushner had given which contradicted the testimony of one Rick Gates.

What do you make of those referrals? And can you just explain to us what that means and whether that might be why Donald Trump is contemplating pardons for them?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, I can't speak specifically to what the Senate Intelligence Committee may have referred.

But I can tell you, we made similar referrals in the case of Roger Stone, in the case of Erik Prince, where people came before our committee, and we had good reason to believe, based on the testimony and evidence that we collected, that they had lied under oath, and that they should be considered for a potential prosecution, for perjury, or making a false statement.

So it may very well be referrals along those lines.

But, look, I think the president has probably broader fears than that about his children. There are any number of reported investigations, some state, some federal, in which he may be concerned that they're facing criminal liability.

And he's obviously concerned about himself, from the press reporting that he would even go so far as to consider trying to pardon himself somehow. But, look, this is the nature of those the president has surrounded himself with, including his family. And that is, it's been essentially a den of thieves environment.

And so I think the president views this as his way of trying to protect those that have protected him.

REID: So, just to break this down, just to -- into two pieces, first of all, you're a former prosecutor.

We know that there have been clemencies issued by previous presidents, including President Obama, for instance, to send a message, pardoning multiple and sometimes hundreds of people who had been convicted of, let's say, drug crimes, to send the message that we shouldn't be putting people in prison for life for selling marijuana, right?

And so that's a statement pardon. But they did -- even if they were guilty of it, it's something they shouldn't be in jail for life for, that kind of a pardon.

Have you ever heard of somebody getting a preemptive pardon who was innocent of all crime, who's just an innocent person? Have you ever heard of that, just somebody getting a blanket pardon, and they're an innocent person?

SCHIFF: Well, no.

I think that, in the cases, the very few cases where there have been prospective pardons, such as Ford pardoning Nixon for whatever he may have done during the presidency, there was some idea of the potential criminal liability facing Richard Nixon.

Here, it's an effort not only to prospectively pardon people for things they have not yet been charged with and may never be charged with, but, also, it's the president's own family. It's people that had been covering up for the president, in addition to his own family.

In the case of Roger Stone, it's someone who lied to help cover up, or Michael Flynn, who lied to help cover up. And so there is a self-interest at play as well. And I think that makes this quite unique.

There were accusations when President Bush conveyed a pardon to Caspar Weinberger that the special counsel there thought that might have been an effort by then President Bush to cover up, but nothing of the scale and scope of what Donald Trump has already done and is contemplating in the future.

REID: Yes, and the cover-up general is what they used to call William Barr, because he advised George Herbert walker Bush to pardon people, which Caspar -- which interrupted those Iran-Contra proceedings.

The second question would be, let's say that Donald Trump tried to pardon himself. How would that be refuted? Is that a case where -- who would be the party that would object to that? And how would that objection play out and potentially wind up in the Supreme Court?

SCHIFF: It would play out this way.

Let's say that the Southern District of New York indicted Individual No. 1, who is known to be the president of the United States, in a campaign fraud scheme that the Southern District has already charged Individual 1 coordinated and directed, the same one that Michael Cohen went to jail for.

The lawyers for President Trump would argue that the case should be dismissed because the president pardoned himself. The prosecutors would obviously contest that. And if the president were convicted, there would be an appeal on that basis or there may be an effort to even thwart the prosecution.

And it would make its way up through the courts. And, ultimately, the Supreme Court would decide. I have to think they would decide you can't pardon yourself, along the lines of the Office of Legal Counsel opinion from the early 1970s. It would make you the judge in your own case. It would put you above the law.

And more than that, it would allow a president of the United States to effectively nullify all other sections of the Constitution, because he could simply pardon himself after encouraging other people to engage in illegality.

And the Constitution, as our justices have written, is not a suicide pact. To interpret it that way would make it into a suicide pact.

REID: Yes, absolutely. Thank you for explaining that. That was my biggest question. I really appreciate it.

And then we should also note that the other case in which you can see a pardon that makes actual sense is if somebody is actually innocent, and was accused of something they didn't do. That makes sense as well. That's not what Donald Trump appears to be alleging. He seems to think...


REID: Whatever he thinks.

SCHIFF: Well, and then also where -- where someone has shown that they have made restitution, they have repented.

REID: Yes.

SCHIFF: They have lived a good life since their conviction, done other notable things.

There are good, legitimate reasons for pardons.

REID: Sure.

SCHIFF: It doesn't appear that any of those are motivating this president.

REID: Yes, indeed.

Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you so much. Always appreciate having you on. Thank you.

And still ahead: The CDC says this winter will be the most difficult in the public health history of this nation. But vaccination plans are moving forward.

And that is next on THE REIDOUT.


REID: OK, for a change, let's start with some good news, a glimmer of hope that some relief from that -- the pandemic is in sight, at least down the road and, well, across the Atlantic.

Today, the United Kingdom became the first country to authorize Pfizer's vaccine candidate. The British government says that it will begin a rollout next week of 800,000 doses for front-line workers and those over 80. The FDA is set to review Pfizer's vaccine next week.

The scientists behind the vaccine told our colleague Richard Engel that he is confident that it will be approved soon.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: This is first happening, this approval has first been given here in the U.K. Do you think the U.S. will be next?

UGUR SAHIN, CEO, BIONTECH: Yes, the U.S. is planned next.

So, we have submitted our emergency use authorization documents to the FDA more than a week ago. We are, of course, also in close interaction with the FDA and try to address all their questions and -- I'm confident that an authorization in the U.S. could also happen within the next two weeks.


REID: OK, well, along with those positive developments, the White House Coronavirus Task Force is issuing a dire warning.

In a report to states, it says the risk to all Americans is at an historic high. It adds: "We are in a very dangerous place due to the current extremely high COVID baseline and limited hospital capacity."

The report added that a post-Thanksgiving surge is expected.

And, today, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield made a very grim prediction.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: But the reality is, December and January and February are going to be rough times. I actually believe they're going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation, largely because of the stress that it's going to put on our health care system.


REID: I'm joined now by Dr. Vin Gupta, global health policy expert and critical care pulmonologist.

And, Dr. Gupta, it's always great to talk with you.

The news is grim, OK? We're going to talk in a moment about the vaccine, which is good news that's down the road. According to "U.S. News," federal officials are predicting 100 million could be vaccinated, but 450,000 Americans will be dead in the United States by February.

Meanwhile, we have the White House Task Force urging health officials to just start sidestepping the unhelpful local governments, saying that, if you are under 40, you need to assume you became infected during the Thanksgiving period if you gathered beyond your immediate household.

These are the things that terrify me. Do you -- are you this pessimistic? Do you think we're looking at 450,000 people dead by February? Does that sound right to you?


First of all, let me say I think the CDC is dead right here. They are so on point with everything they said today. I want to just amplify what Dr. Redfield said, which is the next few months here -- again, no one wants to be gloomy here and continue with these terrible prognostications.

But it's true, everything that he said, which is why, for all your viewers out there, cancel your travel plans. I just got off a week in ICU service, where, let me tell you, Joy, here's the issue here which makes travel just untenable.

You can't test or mask way out of safe travel. You just cannot guarantee it's going to be safe, and because here's the issue. Every patient I cared for in the ICU with COVID-19 didn't know they actually were exposed to the virus. They weren't going out and having a grand old time.

They got it from a close contact at home, who inadvertently exposed them to the virus. That's why travel needs to stop. Don't get on a flight. Don't get on an -- in an automobile or on a bus or on a train. Just don't do it. That's number one.

And, number two, Joy, let me say, if everybody masks -- masks -- and right now, we're still thinking about 68 percent of the country is masking, high-quality masks, everybody gets a three-ply surgical masks, these blue masks, or the equivalent multilayered cloth mask, 95 percent of the country gets there, we will save about 75,000 American lives.

So, it doesn't have to be this bad if people don't travel and if they do the things that we have been talking about. And then I will lastly say, if you're over 55, I will add an additional wrinkle here.

If you're over 55, and you're doing basic things in the community, like going grocery shopping because somebody else can't do it for you, just shield. Put on an eye shield. We're that desperate right now. This is a desperate situation, desperate times, desperate measures.

REID: Yes, absolutely.

No, I do the mask and the eye shield when I'm in New York going into 30 Rock. You're right. But I'm also terrified of COVID. And a lot of people just aren't.

I mean, you have Mike Pompeo, who is the secretary of state, throwing multiple indoor parties, holiday parties at the White House. That's happening. You have the White House having a Christmas reception last week.

I mean, the example that's being set at the top by the White House, at the State Department is like the opposite. You have the governor of Florida stopping local governments in the state of Florida from issuing mask orders.

I don't know how we get through if our government at the top and at the state level are acting against what you're saying.

GUPTA: You know, it's deeply frustrating, Joy, that we're still having these issues, whether it's Governor DeSantis in Florida, working against basic common sense when it comes to public health interventions.

That's why you saw CDC say -- today say circumnavigate those orders and basically man -- wear masks. He was -- that's what CDC was finally doing. I'm glad they did that.

The example that Secretary Pompeo and others are setting at the highest levels of government, again, completely unhelpful here.

If you're a viewer watching this right now, do not gather indoors with people that you do not normally live with. It's too dangerous. We think that's what's driving this transmission.

And, Joy, let me tell you, the big supply chain limitation now is people, adequately trained respiratory therapists, nurses and doctors. We don't have enough of them, which is why we need a federal response. We get a federal response, we get military medical assets. We at least have a fighting chance here trying to get more personnel on board.

But that's why we need a federal response. The things that you can do to stay safe, please don't travel, do not gather indoors for the foreseeable future. There is relief ahead.

REID: Yes, absolutely.

And I mean, look at Great Britain, which had an actual lockdown, and now they, next week, will be rolling out a virus (sic). Like, this can be done. If other countries can do it, we can do it. So, I don't know what else to say.

But you are one of the best. And we really appreciate you being here, trying to get through to folks.

Dr. Vin Gupta, thank you.

And up next: Biden's attorney general will have some heavy lifting to do, starting with restoring trust in the Department of Justice after four years of Trump's attempts to discredit and dismantle it from the inside out. So, who's it going to be?

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump joins me to discuss next.


REID: While President-elect Joe Biden is receiving praise for the diversity in his growing administration, there has also been pushback from some of the country's leading civil rights groups. The NAACP and other groups say they have yet to be invited for a sit-down with Biden and questioning if he has appointed enough African-Americans to top positions in his cabinet.

These groups are focused on what's remaining of the big four positions, defense secretary and attorney general. Those making the list to replace William Barr at the DOJ include outgoing Alabama Senator Doug Jones, former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, former homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson, and former associate attorney general Tony West, who is also the brother-in-law of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

And joining me now is Ben Crump, civil rights attorney who you all know, a friend of the show.

So, Ben, let's get into this. First of all, are you among those who believe that Biden has fallen short on appointing enough African-Americans to principle positions in his administration?

BEN CRUMP, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: I believe the president-elect is doing a very methodical job of trying to select the best nominees to fill his cabinet. However, I, like many of the civil rights leaders across America was hopeful, Joy, that we would see more African-Americans in top-level positions, not just deputy positions, especially after our community came out in record numbers during a pandemic to give him the support that he needed to be president. So we are hopeful that he would deliver as he said he would to the black community.

REID: So, let's talk about specifically the attorney general position because there have been at least, you know, two, you know, black men who have been named and Tony West is one of them. The question I think a lot of people have when they see that name, because he is, you know, the brother-in-law of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, that nepotism question comes up.

And I want to stipulate, he ain't Jared Kushner. This guy is highly qualified. He's been through confirmation hearings. I think it was, like, 98-1 the last time he was deputy attorney general.

But people bring that up. They bring not just Javanka, Jared and Ivanka, but John F. Kennedy. Jack Kennedy did nominate his brother, Robert Kennedy, to be attorney general.

But do you think it would read as a scandal and as nepotism if Tony West got that job?

CRUMP: Well, Joy --

REID: Do you worry about that?

CRUMP: Joy, I feel so strongly about Tony West is the most supremely qualified person to the be the attorney general after enduring an assault on civil rights from the Trump administration that I believe we should not penalize him for who his sister is married to. In fact, we should look at how uniquely qualified he is, his vast experience. He not only in the governmental sector, but also in the corporate sector.

And, remember, when you look at his resume what Tony West did in 2008 with fighting against the big banks, securing a $37 billion settlement, and then he engineered us something that was so incredible when he had consumer relief where most of the money went back to the states, and a lot of it went back to the actual people.

This is a leader who gives every American an equal opportunity at achieving the American dream, and now more than ever, Joy Reid, we need a brother like this leading the department of justice to restore the faith and hope that the constitutional promises of justice and equality is meant for all Americans, not just certain Americans.

REID: Well, and, you know, and the reason I ask you, you know, because, you know, President-elect Biden, I'm sure, wants to avoid anything that would look like scandal, anything that would look like the current administration, given who the population of that administration has been. But also, he's got, like, big fights, like, really important fights, particularly on criminal justice, something you, of course, have been intimately involved in. I wanted to play you what president Obama said.

And this was him commenting on the "defund the police", you know, sort of slogan that you've heard some activists use and what he thought of it. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know you've lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you're actually going to get the changes you want done. The key is deciding, do you want to actually get something done or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with?


REID: Well, first of all, what do you make of what former President Obama said in his comments on defund the police? And also tie that in with who gets picked as attorney general, because they are the ones who are going to have to implement some kind of a strategy to reintegrate police departments in this country with black communities.

CRUMP: Yeah. And that's why I am such an advocate for Tony West. He has been doing this for the better part of his life in public service, trying to bring communities together. And when you think about what President Obama just said about defund the police, there is a way that we can have partners at the table, where we can think of a better way to re-imagine policing in America and provide the resources to communities, eventually marginalized communities of color, where we work to solve the historical injustices often done to people of color by the police.

Tony West is that kind of person who can bring everybody to the table, just like the example I gave you, Joy, of him figuring out how to not only get the settlement from the big banks, but to get a lot of the money back to the marginalized people, minorities in America, when they were being preyed upon.

And so, it's going to be that type of individual that Joe Biden must elect, not based on any pre-qualifies of his ethnicity or anything.

REID: Right.

CRUMP: But because he's the best person for the job. And he should not be penalized because of who his sister is married to.

REID: Yep.

CRUMP: And you mentioned --

REID: Well --

CRUMP: I'm sorry, you mentioned --

REID: We're out of time.

CRUMP: Okay. I would just say we have a precedent in America where it can be done. And we -- you would be hard-pressed to argue that John Kennedy's brother was not one of the best attorney generals the United States of America has ever had. Tony West will be in the same bank.

REID: We will -- we shall see what happens. I just want to mention just I gently disagree with President Obama. I don't think anybody who disagrees with defund the police was ever going to vote for any Democrat anyway, so I think it energized a lot of young voters. I'll disagree with the former president, a rare disagreement on that one.

Ben Crump, thank you very much. Really appreciate it.

And up next, Trump's unprecedented lame duck effort to tie Biden's hands on foreign policy, especially in Iran.

Stay with us.


REID: In addition to a worsening COVID-19 pandemic in a wide ranging recession, another fine mess Donald Trump is leaving on Joe Biden's doorstep is America's always fraught but deteriorating relationship with Iran.

According to "The Daily Beast", Trump has told his most hawkish administration officials, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to do whatever they want to punish Iran as long as it doesn't start World War III. With tensions already rising over last week's assassination of one of Iran's top nuclear scientist, any moves by the Trump administration seen intended to make it harder for Biden to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal when he takes office.

So what is our next president to do?

Joining me now is Trita Farsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute, and the author of "Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Democracy".

I'm not embarrassed to say that I DM'ed Trita when I saw this story about the assassination of this nuclear scientists, to beg him to come on the show. So, I appreciate you responding to my DM.

What position is Biden in at this stage? With this assassination, it looks like whoever was responsible for it was trying to tie his hands.

TRITA FARSI, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: Certainly, and I think by now, it's quite clearly the Israelis were behind it, probably with some degree of encouragement from the Trump administration and the target clearly was Biden's diplomacy and Biden's maneuverability and options, not so much the nuclear program, because these assassinations have never been able to really decisively change the trajectory of Iran's program.

What's really fascinating here and I think apart of the story that hasn't really been discussed that much is the manner in which Netanyahu is approaching Biden even before Biden has become president. Netanyahu had a famously bad relationship with President Obama.

It started out their first meeting in the Oval Office in May 2009. There was a series of misunderstandings from both sides and ended up creating a very bad relationship that never really got better. This is different, though, because here, Netanyahu is taking off his gloves, throwing the first punch, the first stone, even before Biden has been able to write his inaugural address or swear his oath.

It's really telling us something about how he is trying to define Biden's options before Biden even becomes president.

REID: Well, and you add to that that you have Jared Kushner who's got relationships to settlements that are disturbing, for somebody who's supposed to be, you know, sort of helping make Middle East peace, which was one of his many jobs. You've got him traveling to the Middle East to meet with Saudis, to meet with others maybe Qatar and the Saudis, et cetera, running around doing whatever. And then you've got Pompeo who basically high-fived settlements as well.

I don't understand what all of these pieces do to the Biden incoming ability to negotiate anything in the region, let alone anything with Iran.

FARSI: Trying to create facts on the ground that will make it impossible for Biden to overturn them. The political cost for Biden will be so significant, they hope, so that Biden will be deterred from even trying. And on the Israeli Palestinian issue, I fear that they actually will be quite successful, which I think ultimately is really bad because it's taking us further away from a real durable peace.

On Iran, I think they'll have a trickier time, the interview that Biden gave to New York Times that was released today made it quite clear, Biden is sticking with his agenda, he's going to go back into the nuclear deal. Afterwards, he wants to have negotiations with Iran on other issues, regional matters, missiles, et cetera, and he wants to bring in Saudi Arabia and the UAE onto those negotiations that deal with the regional matters, which I think is exactly the right way of going about it.

So, it's been comforting to see that he is sticking to his plan and not allowing Netanyahu to define his option. However, here's the trick, the tricky part, which is that there's still several weeks before he becomes president. And during those weeks --

REID: Right.

FARSI: -- Pompeo may do more provocation that can really be dangerous and really impact Biden's ability to pursue diplomacy.

REID: You know, I feel like whenever the U.S. approaches foreign policy in anywhere in that region, they sort of threat Iran as just completely irrational, and they treat the Palestinians as completely irrational. Is there a different way that Biden administration sort of -- can sort of think about those two actors and how to actually negotiate some change or some thaw in the way we relate to either of those two groups or is or are we sort of doomed just basically do whatever it is that the current Israeli government wants because that does feel like Democrats the end to do that?

FARSI: We're not doomed to that that. We have some ability but it will take some political will. And at the end of the day, we have to be very clear-eyed about this. That approach that has been defined not just by the Israelis but other strategic partners, the Saudis, the UAE, others, were all want to make sure that the United States can only choose between options that they all approve, and instead of actually allowing the United States to pursue its own interest there.

That approach has been really devastating to the United States. This has been bad for our security. It's been bad for the standing of the United States in the region. It is not bringing the region closer to peace.

On the contrary, what we're seeing right now is the formation of what appears to be a pact in order to be able to bring in the United States into a broader war in the region, and that would be absolutely devastating for the United States.

REID: Oh my God.


REID: That is my fear, too. Goal is to not have war, to not drag us into another war somewhere in that region. Let's just hope Joe Biden has a plan.

Trita Farsi, the person I want to talk about this so much. Thank you.

That is tonight's REIDOUT.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" begins right now.


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