IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The ReidOut, December 22, 2020

Guests: Jennifer Horn, Glenn Kirschner, George Takei, Claire Babineaux- Fontenot, Nikita Stewart


President-elect Biden offers sobering pre-Christmas message. President-elect Biden says, our darkest days in the battle against coronavirus are ahead of us. Biden says his attorney general won't act as his lawyer. Biden's pre-Christmas address is a total 180 from Trump's rhetoric. Biden excoriates Trump for staying silent on Russian hack. Trump continues to deny the reality that he lost the election. Alex Padilla named to fill remainder of Harris' Senate term. California Secretary of State Padilla will become California's Latino Senator.


AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST: I'll see you right back here tomorrow night on THE BEAT at 6:00 p.m. "THE REIDOUT" is next.

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. I'm Jason Johnson. I'm in for Joy Reid today.

President-elect Joe Biden offered a sobering pre-Christmas message that was striking not just for its content but for presenting a complete 180 from what we've been forced to endure from President Donald Trump these last four years, a message has shown empathy and offered a brutally honest, emphasis on the word, honest, warning on the dark and deadly winter ahead.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: Our darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us. So we need to prepare ourselves to steel our spines. As frustrating as it is to hear, it's going to take patience, persistence and determination to beat this virus.


JOHNSON: We also heard a president-elect who will not treat the Department of Justice like his own private law firm.


BIDEN: The attorney general of the United States of America is not the president's lawyer. I will appoint someone who I expect to enforce the law as the law is written, not guided by me.


JOHNSON: A president-elect who is trained to experts and not science-deniers who advise on public health decisions. And last, we heard the next president deliver a fiery rebuke of Trump's silence over the suspected Russian hack of the U.S. government.


BIDEN: This is assault happened on Donald Trump's watch when he wasn't watching. He still has responsibility as president to defend American interest for the next four weeks. But rest assured that even if he does not take it seriously, I will.


JOHNSON: Meanwhile, Trump has abandoned every aspect of his presidential duty, waging war on science, election, math and, you know, reality. His grand finale rages on in the White House with January 6th looming in his mind. That's the day Congress meets to formally count the electoral votes and announce the winner.

Joe Biden, according to Axios, Trump would view Vice President Pence performing this constitutional duty as the betrayal. And yet, each day, the nation leaves Trump behind, with Governor Gavin Newsom, today, appointing California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill Vice President-elect Kamala Harris's Senate seat.

Joining me now is Errin Haines, Editor-at-Large for the 19th, Michelle Goldberg, Columnist for The New York Times, and Jennifer Horn, co-Founder of the Lincoln Project and former New Hampshire Republican Chair. Jennifer announced last week that she is leaving the Republican Party.

Jennifer, I'm going to start with you. Because I think you having left the Republican Party, you are closest to what we're still seeing as some of the madness in the part of the Republican Party. What are Republicans still thinking now when they see a president who is threatening members of his party for simply acknowledging that in 30 days he's not going to have a job anymore?

JENNIFER HORN, FORMER CHAIR, NH REPUBLICAN PARTY: Right. Well, what he is truly about is not that the president is continuing to do this but that the leaders of the party who have won their elections who are going to be continuing in the party in the months and years ahead that they're continuing to embrace this idea that there was -- that this was a rigged election.

You know, like so many other Republicans out there, whether they've left the party, like I have, or not, I reached a point where the most important issue for me is preserving democracy, is preserving constitutional leadership in this country. And every time Mitch McConnell or Mike Pence or Marco Rubio or Tim Scott or any other Republican in Washington continues to embrace the president's conspiracy theories continues to protect him in the damaging insanity that he is inflicting on us. They are personally responsible for the damaging consequences of that.

JOHNSON: Michelle, I want to follow-up with this. We're talking about the damaging consequences of what's been happening because of this administration. We have had presidents that we thought were asleep at the wheel. But we've got something else entirely going on with Donald Trump. He basically has like stopped doing his job. From your reporting, who's running the ship right now? Because if Trump is spending all his time on Twitter and golfing, there's still a country to run for 30 another days before Joe Biden moves in right?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean it seems like, you know, you have various bureaucracies that are sort of chugging along with no real leadership. And so, you have a lot of professionals in the government. It's why things like the distribution of the vaccine keep happening even though the president is completely checked out or is really only interested in this point subverting democracy and trying to overthrow a lawful election.

JOHNSON: And so I'm also wondering, and I'll take this to you, Errin, now that we have the president of the United States, he's in ranting mode, Joe Biden is preparing to step into office. Biden today said, hey, look, you know, everybody who is out there suffering isn't just a Democrat. There are Republicans out there suffering as well and I think that's going to end up making a difference and getting sort of bipartisan movement going forward. Do you think this was sort of wishful thinking during his talk today or does Joe Biden know something that none of us know right now?

ERRIN HAINES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, hi there, Jason, and aren't you looking festive with your holiday red. I guess I should have gotten the memo. Everybody has on their red tonight but me.

JOHNSON: I got frosty on my pocket. He's hidden.

HAINES: Joe Biden is somebody who ran a campaign saying that he plans to be the president for everybody, not just the Americans that voted for him and that he wants to heal and unite the country. And the country is enduring this pandemic, whether they are Democrat, Republican, independent or otherwise.

What he is thinking, it sound like, is that public opinion is going to go a long way to influencing potentially Republican lawmakers. He's saying that he expects their constituents to also be contacting them about the realities of the pandemic in their lives and their expectation that the people that elected them will govern on their behalf as well.

You know, but I think that we're continuing to see Joe Biden kind of touting this message that he plans to govern with everybody in mind, particularly as it pertains to the pandemic, which obviously is his top priority as he prepares to take office.

JOHNSON: You know, Michelle, earlier today when President-elect Joe Biden spoke, he said -- someone asked him, hey, are you going to get a honeymoon period. And that's this sort of mythical time where a new president comes in and supposedly people are nice to them and everything else like that. And Biden said, look, were not on a honeymoon, we have a nightmare.

Is that reflective of what the challenges are that he's facing or is just Joe Biden sort of saying, hey, look, I know that saying a honeymoon is sort of silly when you've got 321,000 people who've died? Is he ready for the fight or is he just hoping for something?

GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, I think he's ready for and that he's clear eyed about what he's walking into, right? And that he's clear-eyed and that he's not going to get a honeymoon period certainly from Republicans who will only acknowledge under duress that he actually won the election. And he's not going to get a honeymoon period to do anything except sort of walk into the bustle of this crisis.

And we'll find out soon with the results of the Georgia Senate -- of the two Georgia Senate elections whether he'll even been able to govern at all given what we have seen in the past of that, you know, kind of utter nihilism of congressional Republicans and their willingness, again, to sacrifice the country if it means they can derail a Democratic president.

And that's also the exact opposite of what we hear from Donald Trump, right? Donald Trump has been lying to the country, you know effecting this hyper optimistic sales man persona, telling us that the coronavirus is going to disappear any day now. You know, what -- Joe Biden was elected because he's the polar opposite of that, that's what he is showing.

JOHNSON: Yes. And the hope is that Joe Biden's sort of conciliatory attitude will actually end up making a difference. Or maybe it's already melted somebody ice in the Republican Party.

Jennifer, I want you to listen to this segment Pat Robertson talking about what he thinks Trump needs to be doing now with the result of the election sort of rolling in state by state.


PAT ROBERTSON, TELEVANGELIST: You know, with all his talent and the ability to raise money and grow large crowds, the president still lives in an alternate reality. He really does.

And he's done a marvelous job for the economy but at the same time he is very erratic and he's fired people, and he's fought people and he's insulted people and keeps going down the line. It will be well to say you've had your day and it's time to move on.


JOHNSON: Jennifer, has Donald Trump lost Pat Robertson? Has he lost the moral majority or is this just Pat Robertson sort of accepting his loss and saying, hey, look, I'm going to now associate myself with Tom Cotton or somebody else?

HORN: Excuse me. Yes, I think Pat Robertson has a better understanding right now than the president of the United States does of what the future holds for him.

Look, with all due respect even to Pat Robertson, what everybody should be thinking, you know, listening to who everybody should be listening to is Joe Biden. And those really wonderful remarks that he made early today, calling for unity, expressing compassion and healing and understanding and trying to shallow out some of the divide that this president has caused in so many of our communities.

With all due respect to Pat Robertson, it's a little too little too late from him or anybody else who considers themselves the moral majority when it comes to recognizing the destruction of Donald Trump and the need for our country to move beyond that.

JOHNSON: Speaking of majorities, Errin, I want to ask you about the decision that just came from Governor Gavin Newsom in California. He selected Alex Padilla, current secretary of state, to take the position of senator from California since Kamala Harris will assume be Vice President of the United States.

You write for the 19th, the intersection of women in politics, clearly, there was a tremendous effort, certainly sort of a public effort, for the Governor of California to pick another black woman. Do you think that this was just sort of Governor Newsom thinking about his own political future in California? And how do you think black women politicians who have been fighting to keep that seat in the hands of a black woman are going to feel about this?

HAINES: Well, you know, Jason, it really just puts black women between a rock and hard place, because the reality is, you know, we shouldn't be really talking about one Senate seat for one black woman out of 100 senators in this country. And that's something that Senator Kamala Harris told me in our interview back in August as soon after she was nominated. And we knew that there was a potential for this very outcome.

And so you know the fact that her becoming vice president means that there are no black women in the Senate is really the question that we should be asking why that is as opposed to why black women's representation in the United States Senate comes down to, you know, whoever a governor could possibly be appointing to that position in any given state, right, especially when we know that black women, as I have written about extensively for the 19th, are the backbone of this democracy and so -- and certainly the Democratic Party.

And so, to not see them reflected in the upper chamber is really -- you know, is something that should not be coming down to appointments. But that is where we find ourselves because Kamala Harris is currently the lone black woman in the Senate. And when she departs, there will be none.

JOHNSON: And Michelle, when she departs, she will be leaving not only a huge gap sort of representation in the Senate but she'll also be sort of speaking to a sea change in politics. We've got an administration right now where, look, Joe Biden is putting new people together, he's taking things into consideration. Are we going to see a president who is saying, look, I need to make sure just because I happen to have a black woman as vice president, it doesn't mean that I can't be more diverse in my selections? Are we going to see the president perhaps push to have a minority person in the secretary of labor or A.G.? Or do you think that Joe Biden is going to continue to sort of pick his friends in his new positions that he's filling in this administration?

GOLDBERG: Well, it looks like the finalist candidates, at least the people who have been publicly most discussed for A.G. are two white men. Joe Biden has assembled the most diverse cabinet in American history.

JOHNSON: So break in (ph) now?

GOLDBERG: Unfortunately -- what's that?

JOHNSON: Okay, sorry, everyone. We have to jump to some breaking news. We have breaking news. Donald Trump just issued a slew of pardons, including allies like Dunken Hunter, a former Congressman from California, Chris Collins, a former Congressman from New York, George Papadopoulos, his former foreign policy adviser and Alexander Van Der Zwaan.

It seems very clear that the president has rolled out this pardons as part of what he has been saying that he was going to do for quite a while, politically. We don't know at this point if there's going to be any sort of push back or what the consequences could be. And, quite frankly, we have no reason to believe that these are the only pardons that President Trump is going to roll out in these coming days. Our hope is that, going forward, we'll have some sort of assessment.

And I want to take this back to the team. Now that we have heard about these brand new pardons that Donald Trump has just brought out, now, he's saying, hey, look, I'm going to take care of my friends, look, I'll start with you Jennifer, do you believe that this sort of thing actually is about loyalty or is it about Trump just flexing power?

HORN: Well, I think for Donald Trump, it's about, well, for our country, it puts us in a very dangerous decision. We know that with Donald Trump, he starts small and goes bigger and bigger with everything he does that is an outrage.

So, if you look at this, and as bad as they are, and bigger and look at them, this is the first step or the first big rollout of pardons from the president and he has still got month to go before he's going to leave office. It should make the American people justifiably concerned about what is the second round going to include, you know, who will be included in the third round, how dangerous is -- you know how bad is this going to get? And we have seen this from him throughout this whole process since the election. He's ignored what's happened with Russia. He has given up leadership on the pandemic. This -- seeing him rollout this list of pardons, just to be asking -- the people should be asking themselves, what's next?

JOHNSON: So you know, Michelle, a lot of these of people we've been hearing about throughout the Trump Administration, and, basically, these names going to rolled out like the usual suspect with slightly 90s clothing. But the fact to the matter is it's a reflection of the differences that we saw with Joe Biden earlier today. Joe Biden is like, look, I'm not going to use the Justice Department. I'm not going to use pardon on my way.

Do you think that after Trump has pardoned these people, is that going to increase Joe Biden's desire to say, hey, look, I'm going to stay away from the Justice Department, or might he encourage his new A.G. to say, hey, look, even if these people have been pardon, we still need to engaged investigations of past behavior or bad behavior in the Trump administration?

GOLDBERG: I don't think he's going to encourage his A.G. to do that. He's already said that he won't encourage his A.G. to do that. But he has also said that if, you know, he's A.G. finds evidence of criminal behavior, that he won't stop them. And so I think it's very important for whoever is appointed as A.G., that they see some of these pardons really as admissions of guilt.

I mean, one of the things that I think we'll find out soon whether or not Donald Trump is going to issue some kind of blanket pardon of Rudy Giuliani. And there's, right now, we know in SDNY -- or at least there's been reporting that there is this SDNY investigation into Rudy Giuliani. I think it's very, very important that whoever comes into that position not let Donald Trump's, you know, kind of promiscuous flinging around of these get out of free cards be the final word on the corruption that we have endured over the last four years.

JOHNSON: Yes, it wouldn't surprise me if we saw a slow drip, drip, drip of pardons coming out of this administration, which works for Rudy Giuliani.

Thank you, Errin Haines, Michelle Goldberg and Jennifer Horn.

Up next on the THE REIDOUT,. Donald Trump washing his hands of the COVID calamity as the pandemic rages across the country, California waste rushing (ph) a life-saving care.

On Trump world, there are massive parties at Mar-a-Lago, complete with money cannons, as if COVID never existed and 2,000 people were not dying every day.

Plus, Georgia, the final frontier, in the 2020 election cycle and many of the big names from the Star Trek universe are helping Warnock and Ossoff in their very important political enterprise. Actor and activist George Takei joins me.

Back with more of THE REIDOUT after this.


JOHNSON: Since his election loss, President Trump has spent more time nurturing his delusional election fantasies than he has spent fighting the pandemic.

Over here in the real world, COVID-19 is raging. More than 18 million if tested positive, and more than 322,000 Americans are dead. Hospitals across California are heading towards catastrophe. Intensive care units in the state have seen a nearly fivefold increase from just two months ago, right before the holiday season.

One doctor told "The Los Angeles Times" -- quote -- "We're going to be New York, with bodies piling up. Wouldn't be surprised if L.A. rings in the new year as the COVID capital of the world."

And the Associated Press is reporting that 2020 will be the deadliest year in American history because of the virus. France and several other European countries closed their borders to Britain on Monday over fears of a new highly contagious coronavirus strain.

The CDC warned that the strain could already be in the United States. It's been up to president-elect Biden to act as the shadow president.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Experts say things are going to get worse before they get better, notwithstanding the fact we have the vaccine.

As you all know, we're averaging a death rate of close to 3,000 people a day. That means we are going to lose tens of thousands of more lives in the months to come. And the vaccine won't be able to stop that.

So, we will still have to remain vigilant.


JOHNSON: NBC News reported that president-elect Biden is consulting with scientists and experts on whether he should invoke the Defense Protection (sic) Act to increase the deployment of the vaccine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci received the first dose of his vaccine earlier today.

As for Trump, he quit doing his job weeks ago.

Joining me now are Dr. Kavita Patel, former Obama White House health policy director, and Mara Gay, "New York Times" editorial board member.

Thank you so much, both of you, for joining me.

Dr. Kavita Patel, I want to start with you.

A new strain of coronavirus, that's all people are talking about. Tell us what we know about this new strain so far. How concerned should we be? And does the current vaccine that's still just slowly rolling out do anything about this new virus?

DR. KAVITA PATEL, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, good to be with you, Jason.

And here's what we know. It's a variant of mutations of the coronavirus.

JOHNSON: Guys, I can't hear.

PATEL: Can you hear me? OK?

It's a variant under investigation in the U.K., which is shown to be more transmissible, which, in plain language, means that it's easier to give and pass along this virus and also easier to receive this virus, making it highly contagious. But it has not been linked to more severe COVID disease, which I think is critical.

As for doing something about it in the United States, it's highly likely, given the global travel from Europe in the U.K. to the United States, and vice versa, that this strain might be present in the U.S.

But the good news is that, number one, it is not associated with severe disease. So, we know that, while it's easy, if you still practice the measures we have talked about, that you are not likely to get it. And then, number two, because we have vaccines, currently, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, as well as several vaccines in clinical trials, which actually contain a mechanism for developing antibodies to multiple sites of that spike protein, we should be able to have coverage with current vaccines against that strain in the U.K.

Pfizer has already said that they're going to try to test their vaccine against this strain. But the good news is that vaccine technology takes into account that mutations occur all the time.

So, Jason, we have to be vigilant. We have to keep continuing to double down on our mitigation measures. But we should not be alarmed about this U.K. strain. It's something to watch,but not get scared of.

JOHNSON: And, Mara, so we may know some of the technical things behind it.

But we have been sort of blanketed with misinformation throughout this entire sort of pandemic because of the -- the current president and because of many members of the Republican Party.

What do you think is the sort of most responsible thing for press and politicians to be doing right now about this new strain? Should they just be sort of referring us to doctors? Should they still be encouraging people to engage in the same behaviors? What's the sort of public response from thought leaders and politicians right now to hearing about this new strain?


I think the number one thing is to listen to public health experts. Too many of them were sidelined for too long this year in the United States in this pandemic, and that cost a lot of lives.

I think the other thing -- and this is kind of a practical bit of advice from someone who has had a really tough and close brush with the disease myself, as a healthy person -- which is to assume the worst.

I'm an optimist. I'm not really the kind of person to talk about doomsday scenarios. But truly do not assume that you know how your body will respond to this virus. Do not assume that you know that you won't give it to somebody, whether it be your neighbor, your family member, your kid, your parent, and that they will just be fine, because you don't know how your body will respond to this virus, even if you have no preexisting conditions.

And now that we know that there's a highly transmissible strain, which I think we should just safely assume is in the United States -- and especially if you live in a big city like New York, you should assume that. You should really take those precautions as seriously as you did in April, because, again, the vaccine is not going to address any symptoms that you might have that are concerning.

JOHNSON: And, Mara, I want to stay with you for a minute.

We have these reports, we have these images of huge parties being thrown by conservative college groups and Turning Point and everything down at Mar-a-Lago, maskless parties, where you actually have people, like, shooting out money, dollar bills, which are also incredibly dangerous and unsanitary during a pandemic.

When you see stuff like that, not just as a journalist, but as somebody who has suffered through some of the impacts of COVID, does it does it fill you with rage? Does it make you realize that perhaps we're not sending enough messages to people? Or do you think we're always just going to have a certain segment of society that doesn't care?

GAY: It makes me very angry.

I think we have a real crisis of empathy in this country, where, until it happens to you or someone you love or someone you know, you don't care or it isn't real, or it's just something that happens to someone else.

In this case, unfortunately, the narrative is that this only happens to people in cities or to black and brown people. It doesn't help when you have such a disproportionate impact on already vulnerable communities, especially minority communities and people living in poverty.

And you compare their experience this year in the pandemic, not just with the disease, but, of course, with other impacts, like joblessness, when you compare that to someone like Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump himself, who gets sick, go to the hospital, get treatment that the rest of us don't have access to, and come out just fine days later, despite their age and underlying health.

And so I think that does make me very angry, but it's just, I think, more fuel to just keep talking to one another and hopefully make those connections and understand that we are all connected, whether you like it or not.

And this is a virus that can come for anybody. It can come for you. It can come for those who love. And so, really, it should be enough to say protect your neighbor, but, if it's not enough, at least protect yourself.


That is a Christmas wish that we all would like to pay attention to this year.

Thank you, Dr. Kavita Patel and Mara Gay.

Up next on THE REIDOUT, more on the breaking news that the White House has issued a slew of pardons.

Stay with us.


JOHNSON: We're continuing to follow that breaking news from the White House on a slew of new partners from Donald Trump just in time for Christmas, including Duncan Hunter, a former congressman from California, who was sentenced to 11 months for stealing campaign funds, and Chris Collins, a former congressman from New York was sentenced to 26 months for insider trading.

Both former congressmen were early supporters of Trump during his 2016 campaign.

Also pardoned was George Papadopoulos, Trump's former foreign policy adviser for his 2016 campaign, who pleaded guilty in Robert Mueller's investigation.

Joining me now is Glenn Kirschner, former federal prosecutor.

Thank you, Glenn.

This is just -- I would like to say it's unprecedented, but we kind of felt like this was going to be coming from Donald Trump.

First, I just want to ask you, just politically, before we get into the legal shenanigans of this, politically, what does Donald Trump think he's doing here? Is this ingratiating him with Republicans? Is this just paying off old debts? What's the strategy behind this?

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, it feels like Donald Trump is exercising power just because he can.

It also feels more like the thumb in the eye for the law enforcement community, for the victims of the financial crimes that were committed. And it is particularly galling, Jason. Full disclosure, prosecutors are generally not fond of pardons, because we will spend quite literally years putting cases together, investigating them in the grand jury, indicting them, going to trial.


KIRSCHNER: And we do that all on behalf of the American people generally and the victims in the cases specifically.

So, a pardon -- these kind of what seemed to be thoughtless and needless pardons, this is not righting wrongs, this is not providing mercy. What this is, is excusing people who steal campaign finance money that is donated in good faith by constituents. This is people who engage in financial crimes.

And with the Papadopouloses of the world, this is somebody who impedes a federal law enforcement investigation by the FBI. This really seems to be just an across-the-board assault on the rule of law by Donald Trump, simply because he has the power and authority to do it.

JOHNSON: Glenn, I just want to ask you this quick, because I always think this is important for context.

Somebody like Papadopoulos, if you or I got caught lying to the FBI in a federal investigation, how much time would we likely -- how much time would we likely serve?

KIRSCHNER: Lying to the FBI one time is a five-year offense. And, often, people who lie to the FBI are repeat offenders. They lie in an investigation over and over and over again to either try to keep themselves out of trouble or to protect their criminal associates.

But, Jason, if it were you and I, we would be sitting our butts in a jail cell for a good long stretch of time.

JOHNSON: Yes, unfortunately, we would. There would be no Trump Santa Claus to protect either of us.

Glenn Kirschner, thank you so much for joining us. We're in the middle of this breaking news.

Coming up: new details tonight in the battle for Georgia, where voter turnout for the Senate run-offs is already massive.

Stay with us.



JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: There's movement level energy in Georgia right now. And if you had told anybody in Georgia ten years ago this is where we'd be today, they wouldn't have believed you. The most competitive state in the country, two Senate runoffs for the control of the Senate, I'm urging everybody in Georgia to get out and vote early.

We have the momentum and the energy. We're going to win these two races. And it's going to take record-shattering turnout. So, my message, if you're in Georgia, vote today.


JOHNSON: Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff today became one of the 1.6 million people who already voted early in Georgia's two Senate runoff elections. The races will determine control of the Senate and ultimately how much of a Joe Biden agenda actually becomes reality.

Both parties have been racing to register new voters. According to Target smart voter data analyzed by NBC News, 67,000 voters with no general election vote history, that means they didn't vote necessarily last time, have been added to the list of potential voters since November 4th.

The numbers point to a small advantage for the Democrats. Who make up 44 percent of the newly registered voters. Republicans make up 41 percent of those voters, while 15 percent are not affiliated with any party.

As the NBC piece points out, quote: Young voters, a strong Democratic voting bloc, are likely to play a key role in the runoffs. Thirty-nine percent of these newly registered voters are below the age of 30.

However, those new voters would have to turn out to have an impact on the race. Senate races have drawn nationwide attention with celebrities donating platforms and time to supporting the candidates. Earlier this month, "Star Trek" cast members joined Stacey Abrams for a fundraiser for Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff aptly named Star Trek: The Next Election.

Joining me now is actor and activist, the great George Takei.

Thank you so much for joining us this evening, George. How are you?

GEORGE TAKEI, ACTOR AND ACTIVIST: Just great. Happy holidays to you. And I greet you with the -- what we on "Star Trek" call the Vulcan greeting. Live long and prosper.

But I also find it useful during the quarantine. Stand back. Stand back. Stand back.


JOHNSON: I have lived my whole life to be able to do this on camera with a member of the original crew. Thank you.

TAKEI: Your ears are too round.

JOHNSON: Trust me, I tried, I tried as a kid.

So, George, I got to ask this. This is right in line with your lifelong activism and politics. A lot of actors, a lot of entertainers, they follow the prime directive, right? No interference. But you've always been involved.

Why did you decide to sort of, you know, put your hand, take out your fencing foil and get involved in the Georgia election? What specifically drew you to this contest and this runoff?

TAKEI: Well, staying in the Star Trek context, a key value of Star Trek was an acronym, IDIC, I-D-I-C, which stand for infinite diversity and infinite combinations. And this is what's at stake in Georgia right now, because yes, the seat is to represent the people of the Georgia. But all across America, Americans are pulling for Jon Ossoff and Reverend Warnock to be elected, because they are not only will be representing the people of Georgia, which the current sitting senators do not. They are all working for themselves and personal enrichment.

But what they will do will be to support our new president, Joe Biden, coming in, because they are going to play a critical part in the Senate as we all know.

And without those two senators, it's going to affect the wellbeing of all Americans, in terms of what the historic joblessness, creation of jobs, to deal with this much hope for vaccine, to efficiently and confidently get it distributed. There are so many things that are hanging on these two senators, Ossoff -- or candidates, Jon Ossoff and Warnock, to benefit all Americans.

So this is a critically important race, infinite diversity and infinite combinations.

JOHNSON: Infinite combinations. Well, speaking, George, speaking of infinite diversity and infinite combinations, you wrote a letter in encouraging, sort of urging the Biden administration to increase diversity, in particular, increase the number of AAPI, members of the community.

You know, what was your motivation in writing this? Do you think Joe Biden is going to fulfill the promise? Is he going to have 7 percent Asian-Americans in this administration? Do you think that he's man you can trust to make this administration as diverse as your original crew was and as ground-breaking?

TAKEI: He's already demonstrated that with the people he's announced as his selection. But even getting those people approved by the Senate hinges on the two senators to be, from Georgia. Yes, in this race particularly, Asian-Americans are the most rapidly growing demographic group in Georgia, particularly around -- around Atlanta.

So, we are urging Asian-Americans to be actively engaged because it affects all of us. The infinite diversity idea is that we've got to work together within our diversity to benefit the well-being of all of us. So, yes, Asian-Americans will be in there participating. This is a participatory democracy, and we are actively participating.

JOHNSON: George, before we go to break, I have to ask you, which is better at protecting America, protecting the universe, the Federation or Donald Trump's space force?


TAKEI: That is a comedy.

You know, when I was a kid, we had kiddie sci-fi program called Space Patrol. We had aliens named Tangga (ph) and Captain Cory (ph), and his gang of space cadets.

And that's what the Trump space force is going to be. It's a joke.

JOHNSON: In other words. We're trusting the Federation.

George, thank you so very much. Thank you so much George Takei.

Much more of THE REIDOUT next. Stay with us.

Live long and prosper.


JOHNSON: While Congress finally passed a much needed COVID relief bill, Donald Trump suggested that he may not sign it unless Congress makes immediate changes to the package. It's been eight months since the last relief was passed and Americans are struggling without it.

Well, it does provide some long-awaited help, but it does not go nearly far enough for Americans hit hardest by the virus. The package includes $600 direct payments to most Americans, but that is half of what was given in the last round. And for families waiting eight months for help, a one-time payment of $600 doesn't go far for rent, bills, or even gas.

Keeping food on the table has especially been a challenge for millions Americans and that strain has been felt at local food banks across the country.

Scenes like this in Fort Worth, Texas, are becoming all too common, with hundreds of cars lined up for hours trying to receive boxes of groceries.

Joining me now is Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, and Nikita Stewart, assistant editor of "The New York Times".

Claire, thank you so much.

I -- this is -- this is what gets me about this. This new relief bill if it gets passed and it's implemented, I know a lot of Americans out there who are struggling and saying, okay, well, how does this bill help me?

Outside of the $600 payment which quite frankly barely covers postage, what in the bill will actually help people who are starving and needy right now and are very, very food insecure?

CLAIRE BABINEAUX-FONTENOT, FEEDING AMERICA CEO: Well, first thanks for having me and you are highlighting some -- the fact that there are real people who are really struggling right now and have been for quite a long time. What (AUDIO GAP) is in the bill that is on the president's desk is some long awaited relief in the form of commodities that would help us to get food as a food banking network to get to people in need.

Your audience may not be aware of the fact that about 50 percent of the commodities that we had last year are about to expire at the end of this year, when we are seeing a 60 percents increase in demand. So we desperately need to do make certain that we fill in the gap and there's a provision inside of the legislation that's designed to do that.

JOHNSON: So, Nikita, one of the things we have seen when it comes to food insecurity is a lot of the resources that Claire sort of alluded to, a lot of the resources are drying up. Restaurants in New York and Houston and Atlanta, restaurants that used to provide a lot of food to people in need are closing down.

Where is the food going to come from? It's one thing to have money but how does this bill provide the food or does it provide the food or access to the food for people who are suffering this holiday season and beyond?

NIKITA STEWART, NEW YORK TIMES: You know, when it comes to the stimulus, I think one of the things that we have to talk about, is even though you want to talk about the distribution of food --

JOHNSON: Nikita, I'm sorry -- Donald Trump issued a slew of new pardons.

Joining me now is MSNBC political correspondent, Josh Lederman.

Josh, good to speak to you for this breaking news.

I have to ask you very quickly, I'm looking through this list here. I've seen this list.

Some of these are pardons for people whose sentences Trump has already commuted. But I'm also picking up theme here, where a lot of these congressmen, including Congressman Stockman, it seems like a lot of people are getting pardons for financial crimes.

Is Trump sort of giving us a hint as to what he may be wanting to do in the future and what he's worried about?

JOSH LEDERMAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, certainly, and these are all people who are in and around his orbit, not all of the, but a lot of the big names here are people that frankly have been part of all of the stories about the swamp that Trump said he was going to get rid of but we've continued to see be a dominant theme throughout the Trump administration.

Some of these people are folks who lied on behalf of President Trump, who sought to advance his political interests or were certainly accused of taking steps that were against the law, when the ultimate goal was loyalty to and furtherance of President Trump and his political goals. Also, very notable, there's, you know, several Republican members of Congress that the president is also granting clemency to this evening.

Now, we don't know whether this is the end of the road so to speak, whether there's going to be even more in the works. Certainly, there are additional people who have faced legal jeopardy as a result of their work for President Trump in the last four years who could presumably be on that list.

But you just contrast it with, for example, the final few weeks of the Obama administration, when there was, in fact, a slew of clemency grants by President Obama, but those were all people, I think it was upwards of a thousand, if I recall, people who were convicted by and large of low level drug offenses, of minor things that had nothing to do with President Obama but where the president was able to use his really amazing clemency powers to try to help people start new lives.

In contrast from what we're seeing from President Trump, it seems that he is chosen, essentially paying back folks who have been very loyal to him for several years.

JOHNSON: Right, Trump isn't just part of the swamp. He is basically taking his muddy shoes and kicking America's couch with it. My question is what happens with Rudy Giuliani? That is the person that I think many Americans, because of the number of investigations, because he's had his fingers in so many sort of corrupt and dishonest and questionable actions. Do we think it's a precursor to Trump pardoning Rudy Giuliani or do you think that's something that may wait until the last day he's in office?

LEDERMAN: I would have to imagine that this would be something that the president would wait until the last minute for, if only because Rudy Giuliani is actively right now involved in the president's legal defense. And the questions that would raise for how he carries forward in just the next couple of weeks, that having been said, you know, we don't know all of what Rudy Giuliani is under investigation for.

Some of what he has been doing now has raised legal questions and certainly the president at the point in time that he were to grant a pardon for Rudy Giuliani if he did that, could pardon any crimes committed up to that point, but as we know, he cannot pardon Rudy Giuliani for anything he may do in the next few weeks or the future.

JOHNSON: Goodness gracious.

All right. Thank you so much, Josh Lederman.

That's THE REIDOUT for tonight. Thanks so much for watching. I'm Jason Johnson.



Content and programming copyright 2020 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2020 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.