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Transcript: The ReidOut, December 28, 2020

Guests: Jon Ossoff, Celine Gounder, Mark Lauritsen


Trump okays COVID relief after one-week delay. House approves $2,000 relief checks, sends to Senate. GOP lawmakers accuse Trump of creating chaos. GOP is trying to limit Biden's ability to use Federal Reserve to address COVID crisis. GOP Senator Rubio accuses Dr. Fauci of lying about COVID-19. Key benefits lapsed as Trump waited to sign COVID relief bill. American terrorist car bombs Nashville. Last week, 17,000 Americans died of COVID-19. Nearly one in every 1,000 Americans have been taken by this virus with millions more grappling with the void of losing loved ones.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Our president, Nero of Mar-a-Lago, AKA, Donald Trump, is capping off 2020 in true Trumpian fashion, putting an end to a self-created crisis only after he fiddled while real economic relief from millions of Americans burned.

On the heels of a holiday week that brought a surge of Americans to food bank and an unnecessary uncertainty over a much needed COVID economic relief plan, Trump damed to provide assistance to struggling Americans after hijacking it, for what it turns out to be no reason at all, relenting last night and signing into law an aid package that he personally held up for a week after calling it a disgrace in a theatrical video that closed with Trump's latest election delusions.

Now, Trump claimed that he would work tirelessly over his Christmas holiday, but instead he went golfing in Florida and kept on golfing at his private resort, as an unemployment benefits expired for 14 million American on Saturday while he held the bill in limbo.

And it wasn't just Trump. The entire kings row court (ph) was on vacay while Americans suffered. Vice President Mike Pence was hitting the slopes in Vail, Colorado and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was in Mexico at a resort home that he owns there. Let them eat cake, said Marie Antoinette.

In a signing statement after he belatedly put his sharpie signature on the relief bill, Trump said that he got some nebulous concessions that actually don't mean anything and he claimed that Congress would focus on his fantasy claims of voter fraud. But since he had already signed the bill into law, that means, in English, he got nothing.

Now, of course, Trump could have advocated for $2,000 stimulus much checks sooner, but instead, he chose to rage about trying to overturn the election. And tonight, the Democratic-led House voted to give Trump exactly what he asked for and what Democrats wanted in the first place, stimulus payments of $2,000 instead of $600.

The Washington Post reported, Trump's decision to throw a wrench into the deal that his treasury secretary negotiated was his alone. One official briefed on the matter saying, he is just angry at everybody and wants to inflict as much pain on Congress as possible. Just Congress?

While Axios noted that, behind the scenes, getting the cranky, stubborn president to belatedly sign the COVID relief bill was like being a hostage negotiator or diffusing a bomb. At this point, it appears that even the House of Murdoch, after years of propping up Trump's foolishness, is skidding away in an op-ed asking Trump to give it up and stop trying to overturn the election.

The New York tabloid's editorial writers offered this advice. If you want to submit your influence, even set the stage for a future return, you must channel you fiery into something more productive. If you insist on spending your final days in office threatening to burn it all down, that will be how you are remembered, not as a revolutionary but as the anarchist holding the match.

I'm joined now by Michelle Goldberg, Columnist for The New York Times, Susan Del Percio, Republican Strategist and Senior Adviser to The Lincoln Project, and Jason Johnson, Professor of Journalism and Politics at Morgan State University.

And, Michelle, I sort of chuckle at the House Murdoch sort of backing away and saying, this will be how you are remembered, not the throwing children into cages and taking them from mommies and daddies and letting 330,000 people die, it will be for holding up this bill. I wonder what you make of this entire last, I guess, what, 72 hours of madness.

MICHELLE GOLBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I would say a couple things. I mean, I feel like you hear a lot of Republicans, since they're trying to deal with Trump in the kind of tantrum-laden boundless aid (ph) of his presidency, pretend that he has this great legacy that's going to be marred by this behavior, as if this behavior hasn't been ongoing for four years.

I would say that, look, if Trump was at all serious about wanting those $2,000 checks, he should really be talking to Senate Republicans, right? Because, obviously, Nancy Pelosi took yes for an answer and I think that Donald Trump was right about the $2,000 for the wrong reasons. So I don't think that Donald Trump was actually interested in the welfare of the American people. If he was, he wouldn't have held up the bill, which means that people are going to get ten weeks of expanded unemployment instead of 11 weeks, because it ran out and has to be restarted.

Nevertheless, I think, that Democrats should leverage this sort of grandiosity of Trump's and start demanding that Republicans, particularly Republicans in the Senate, give the president what they want. And if they don't, and I said this before, it is really, really interesting that that is the line that Republicans won't cross for Trump, right, that any -- sexual assault is okay with that. Extorting a foreign power is okay with that, attempting a coup. Asking for too much money for struggling Americans is where Mitch McConnell cannot go any -- that's where he stops.

REID: You're absolutely right. I mean, Jason, my political scientist friend, I mean, what's so remarkable is that Donald Trump's sort of magical power is doing what Republicans want to do anyway. Like the only things that he is capable of doing are things that they already want to do, like cut rich people's taxes and deregulate oil companies, or doing things that they don't give a damn about, like locking up kids and taking them from their moms. They don't care about that. So if they don't care about it, he can do it. If it's cruel and crazy and it's sucking up to Putin, they don't care. They're like, it's fine, some oligarchs like us too. It's cool, right? It's a (INAUDIBLE) state, fine, anything he wants to do, cuddle up to Nazis, we don't care about that. But don't try to spend money and give it to regular people.

I wonder if -- just from a political science point of view, might this be a lesson to Democrats to just stick with your opening? Because democrats wanted $2,000 in the beginning, and now Trump says, I want it too, why doesn't he just, as Michelle said, force Republicans to keep on being supplicants and doing what Trump tells them?

JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I completely agree, Joy. And here is the thing, Democrats always need to learn more about how to play hardball, and it seems like they want to play hardball with each other. Like they'd rather scream and yell at their far-left and far-right wings than be as hard core as they can be against the actual Republican Party. That's part of the challenge that they're always facing.

But I got to tell you, ultimately, $2,000, in and of itself, isn't the greatest thing in the world. Like that may or may not necessarily change anybody's life. So I think it's important for the party as a whole to remember that even if you somehow run into these obstacles in the Senate and the Senate says, hey, we're not going to pass this one way or another, telling your average American that $2,000 once a month or twice a month or something else like that is going to save them from COVID won't be enough.

The Democrats need to go much bolder with this because that amount of money is not going to help people get out of the debt that COVID has put them into, let alone allow them to survive over the next couple of months.

REID: Well, it's true. And every other civilized country in the world is giving people like $2,000 a month and giving people a monthly check to stay home. That's how you do it if you're logical.

But I have to go to you, Susan, on this. Let me play for you -- this is Adam Kinzinger and Pat Toomey, two of Trump supplicants, right? They haven't lifted a finger to do anything about Trump all this time. Here they are talking about the bill.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): To play this old switcheroo game, which is just kind of like, I don't get the point, I don't understand what's being done, why. Unless it's just to create chaos and show power and be upset because you lost the election. Otherwise, I don't understand it.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): I understand he wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks. But the danger is he'll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he allows this to expire.


REID: Susan, You know what Pat Toomey will be remembered for other than just being a tea partier, he is the guy who tried to shut down the ability of the future -- the Biden administration to do PPP. So he'll be remembered -- he also held the bill up. What is happening?

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I can't explain it. There's no way to, frankly. I would say Adam Kinzinger has been outspoken against the president before. But I think there's a few interesting plays here right now.

REID: On what?

DEL PERCIO: Talking about the New York Post, I think that that was not a message to Donald Trump at all. I think it was a message to other Republicans and party leaders especially in New York and other places that you can take cover under us. I think that they said enough is enough. And I think that's Murdoch's way of doing it.

I also think that it would be very interesting to know what Donald Trump is saying to Mitch McConnell right now. Is he saying, you better take that up for a vote, Mitch, or otherwise I'm not going Georgia on January 4th. I'm curious if that will happen. And it is a good likelihood because Donald Trump just wants to get the $2,000 because he wants to say, I won and you lost. And that's how he's operating.

I can't explain the behavior of a psychopath who has no empathy towards the American public because that's what he is. That's what a psychopath does. He's functioning psychopath and he can lure people in, but he has no empathy and he gets off on hurting other people and looking strong. And he just doesn't care.

So this is his last hoorah, supposedly. Maybe he wants to incite violence on January 6th. That's a danger to the country, which is probably what he'll be most remembered for. And he will then go away back to Mar-a-Lago until he has to go up to New York and face the music up there with two cases pending in New York State and New York City.

REID: Rapid fire for the three of you, and I'll start with you, Michelle. Marco Rubio went after Dr. Fauci. He's still playing the Trumpian game, got leveled by Vin Gupta, by the way. Dr. Gupta, laid him out. But which incentives are stronger at this point for somebody like Rubio, who clearly still wants to be president, still nurses delusions of grandeur? Because he seems to have made the calculation that staying under Trump's warm belly is the way to do it.

And then you have got, to Susan's point, people who may try to break away thinking that the House of Murdoch can protect them if they decide go the other way. Which looks like the stronger kind of incentive structure for Republicans going forward?

GOLDBERG: It's hard to say what the incentive structure is in part because you have a collective action problem, right? I mean, if enough Republicans got together and said we are no longer going to be cowed by this lunatic, who has led our party to presidential defeat and who will likely be a bad candidate in 2024, they could do it.

The problem is the one -- Donald Trump was actually right, I think, when he took the measure of many of his opponents in 2016 and kind of accurately diagnosed their weakness and their refusal, their failure to stand up to him. And so you see -- I mean, I think the behavior you see from Marco Rubio right now might be because he wants to be president, but it's why he isn't president, right? It's kind of why he was so easily defeated by Donald Trump.

REID: Yes, because he's a phony. He's whatever he thinks he has to be to win.

Same thing to you, Jason, because, look, you do have a party that -- Lindsey Graham did say, if we nominate Trump, he'll destroy us and we'll deserve it, and they now seem to be sort of making that happen on their own, Republicans, because they don't seem to know which way to go. None of them is him. None of them has a celebrity background to fall back on. Even Junior can't be him. I don't understand what they think the incentive structure is. Do you?

JOHNSON: And, Joy, and this is the thing, from -- this is a very unique change in American politics. Donald Trump is going to be -- his legacy is that everybody is going to have to study this man for next 100 years. The Republican Party is absolutely foolish if they think they can recreate -- I wouldn't call this lightning in a bottle, maybe poison, amazing (ph) toxicity, maybe Trump, I don't know, white nationalism on the bottom. They can't recreate it.

We see everybody else who's tried to act like Donald Trump has failed to be successful whether they're running for sort of any sort of executive position, whether they're going for governor, et cetera, et cetera, they don't tend to get that far, they are not necessarily all that successful.

So, the Republican Party needs to think long and hard about, okay, look, Trump is going to be out of office soon, no matter what we play to and he is not a reliable surrogate going forward. So they need to realize that their future needs to be in taking the part of the Trumpism that were effective, lower taxes and naked racism, gerrymandering and make that their campaign, because if they try and make it based on his personality, they will ultimately fail.

Now, are those things good for American politics? Not at all. They haven't been good for American politics at any particular point. But from a strategic standpoint, that's where they've to go. And Rubio can't figure that out. Fox News won't do that for him. They're going to have to do it with Newsmax and OAN and online things because they cannot rely on Trumpism, in and of itself, from that man to have their party be successful in the future.

REID: And last word to you, Susan. You've got two choices here. You have the Marie Antoinette Republicans, like Miek Pence and Mnuchin, who are fleeting off into the sunshine vacation spots, right, and then you have got Trump saying, no, be a populist, give people $2,000, the sort of Venezuelan version of politics. Which way do you think Senate Republicans wind up going? Do they go for 2,000 or do they remain on high?

DEL PERCIO: I think that McConnell is going to be forced to take a vote and Republicans are going to go for the $2,000. I think they have to at this point because they are afraid of Trump. The future of the party, Jason is right, it's not Donald Trump because only Trump can be Trump. These other elected officials, they will have to be primaried, be challenged or lose their seats, like Rubio should in 2022, and then the party will rebuild from there.

REID: Yes. I will quote -- I had to press (ph) this amazing tweet where he said, Mitch, better have my money. I think that's what a lot of Americans are saying right now.

Michelle Goldberg, Susan Del Percio, Dr. Jason Johnson, Google it, there rest of you all.

Up next on THE REIDOUT, what we're learning about that powerful Christmas explosion in Nashville and what -- why many people are so reluctant to call it what it is.

And it was one of the biggest scandals of the year. Meat processing workers left unprotected as their workplaces became COVID hot zones. Many of them died.

THE REIDOUT discuss and it continues after this.


REID: Anthony Quinn Warner is the suicide bomber responsible for an explosion that injured three people and ravaged several blocks of downtown Nashville on Christmas Day.

Now, with any act of terrorism, what immediately follows are intense investigations, but also media coverage that differs wildly, depending on what the suspect's name sounds like, who they worship, and the color of their skin, which is why we're seeing Warner, white longtime Nashville resident described in headlines as the bomber who was -- quote -- "killed in the blast" or who died in the explosion, and not as an apparent suicide bomber.

Meanwhile, in the latest example of Joe Biden acting essentially as the president, in the absence of a national leader at the moment, the president-elect addressed the explosion today, while Donald Trump has yet to comment.

Biden also reiterated today that his transition team is still not getting the crucial national security information that they need from the Pentagon.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: many of the agencies that are critical to our security have incurred enormous damage.

Many of them have been hollowed out in personnel, capacity and in morale.

We have encountered roadblocks from the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget. Right now, we just aren't getting all the information that we need for the ongoing, outgoing and -- from the outgoing administration in key national security areas.

It's nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility.


REID: Joining me now is Clint Watts, former consultant for the FBI's Counterterrorism Division and MSNBC national security analyst, and MSNBC anchor Ayman Mohyeldin.

And, Ayman, I have to start with you first, because your tweet rewriting "The New York Times" headline gave me life today and I think all of our producers, gave us all life, because it expressed the frustration that so many brown folks and black folks feel when we watch the news, right?

Even though we're in the news business, it frustrates me that the way that people are described when they do something that sure does look exactly like the kind of terrorism that we and all -- both of us have had to report on in our jobs, but they are a white person, it's just described differently.

And if this guy blew up a van, and he was in the van, that's a suicide bomber. And that's regardless of what -- the reason that he did it. We will figure out why he did it. We don't know. But that's a suicide bomber.

And I -- it just frustrates me that people don't call it that. So, I just want to get your comment, as somebody who has covered lots and lots of this stuff on air as well.


I mean, Joy, I think you raised a really important point here. And I want to make the distinction for our viewers between what is kind of the cultural media landscape in terms of how the society covers terrorism acts that are committed by people who we believe to be foreign-linked or international-sponsored acts of terrorism and those who are domestic acts of terrorism.

And I think the difference here between the government response and the cultural media response is very important to note. And that's what I was trying to get at with "The New York Times" headline.

If you look at that headline, it started out by saying, "A quiet life, a thunderous death, and a nightmare that shook Nashville."

If you looked at that, you would have no idea what that headline was about. You would almost think it had something else to do -- it almost romanticizes and humanizes what we're seeing, when, in reality, I just tried to simplify it in terms of how "The New York Times" has covered previous attacks that have been carried out by people linked to international terrorism, which is straight to the point, a suicide bomber carrying out an attack against a major American city on Christmas Day.

And, for me, what I thought was the most important thing in all of this -- and I know there's a legal definition to terrorism and whether this meets that threshold.

REID: Sure.

MOHYELDIN: And that's an important debate to have.

But what I think is more important is to try to understand that an individual who plans this attack, who acquires the material, who develops the know-how, who canvasses the location, who surveys the site, who identifies a potential target in the AT&T building, according to local officials like the mayor and other officials, who believe that's what the target was, and then carries out this act of -- using a weapon of mass destruction, that terrorizes people, that disrupts interstate commerce, because we had to shut down airlines.

It disrupts the infrastructure of major American cities and also forces people to move out of their homes for the next couple of days, because 41 buildings, including one, was completely damaged. That is the quintessential form of a terrorist act.

And yet the society in the media is reluctant to have that conversation. And I think that's troubling.

REID: And it troubles -- it's troubling to me too.

And, Clint, it's troubling also because I feel like, in a lot of ways, we, as a society, because somebody looks like maybe the editor's family, or they can relate to them, they can find something about them that feels relatable, means that we miss the escalating level of violence that is making us more like other countries that do deal with suicide bombings, et cetera.

And people have lots of reasons why they do it, right? They don't always have a note they left or a thing. You have may find out later.

But there are countries where suicide bombings happen, and it's reported that way.

We live in a country where you had Dylann Roof go in and shoot up a church. And then there were all of these headlines about whether it's a hate crime, or is it terrorism, and what was his life like, and what was his childhood like, and what got him interested in South Africa?

And you had 22 Latino shoppers massacred in El Paso. The media went immediately to talk about mental illness. What could have been the mental illness behind it? You had the Las Vegas gunman, where Donald Trump just didn't address information about whether it was domestic terrorism.

But you're seeing an escalating level of violence in this country. And you have a president who's inciting violence and inciting politically related violence. If we're not talking about domestic terrorism, aren't we missing what those escalations mean?


And this has been pretty consistent over the last three to four years, major escalation in domestic terrorism. I have even testified at the Senate about it a couple of years back.

There's no real arguing about the stats and the numbers and the fact that the media and the way it's really treated is totally different.

If you saw a headline, and it was anything that could be connected with ISIS or al Qaeda, just like Ayman said, it would be. And if it was traditionally a white man, recently, on any of a number of mass shootings which were literally race-based or anti-government-based, you would not see it necessarily called domestic terrorism, the way it would be.

I think, in the case of this bombing, what we do have to remember is there are examples of the inverse as well, I can talk about Stephen Paddock, right, the Las Vegas shooter. Just a couple years back, I was on air several times, and people were trying to figure out, OK, what was this terrorist's motivation?

And, to this day, I don't think anyone really knows why that person committed mass murder.

REID: That's true.

WATTS: And the same point with this one here.

Part of the classification issue is, if they can't come to an ideological bearing in a law enforcement space, it can cause a lot of trouble down the road trying to parse what attacks are actually terrorism vs. what are mass shootings due to personal grievances or crime.

Take the Virginia Tech shooter or any of the shooters that we have seen in schools over the last couple decades. They are not necessarily tied to a terrorist organization or to a terrorist plot, which is a political, social, religious objective.

REID: Sure.

WATTS: So, that's part of the reason why you're seeing the law enforcement community goes that way.

I think what we're getting to here is how the immediate reaction is people to jump to one conclusion vs. another one, when we're really looking at the same or a very similar act coming from one person that happens to be white in this case. And, in other cases, we see they have a foreign context or the color of their skin is the basis for which those immediate media assessments are made.

REID: And very quickly, before I let you both go, first Clint and then Ayman, are you concerned?

You had Donald Trump tweeting, see you in Washington, D.C., on January 6. He's the guy who said stand up and stand back -- stand back and stand bye to the Proud Boys, who have been violent. You have David Ignatius saying: "The U.S. will be in a danger zone until the formal certification of Biden's elective victory on January 6, and one might argue all the way until the 20th."

And I will ask you both.

First of all, Clint, are you concerned about violence, political violence in this country, related to the changeover of presidents?

WATTS: I am.

But it's been -- it's been descending, essentially, since Election Day, meaning we have seen several of these calls to rallies. While there have been fights break out, we haven't seen that terrorist violence that we were worried about.

For example...

REID: We're losing your audio, so I'm going to let Ayman -- I'm going to let Ayman finish the answer.

Ayman, are you concerned about the way we will be covered?

MOHYELDIN: Yes. The short answer is yes.

I think one of the challenges that we have had in the media generally is to not take President Trump literally for the concerns that he has brought into the debate about how the transition of this democracy is going to happen.

I think, too many times, people kind of have a lot of trust in American institutions, which is important to have. But, as we have seen, as we continue to see, Republican members of the president's party sometimes tend to shy away from leaning towards a peaceful transition to democracy because they want him reelected by any means necessary.

And I think there's a tendency sometimes to say, don't worry, he's just speaking, ultimately, it'll be resolved by the institutions.

REID: Right.

MOHYELDIN: But I -- as a journalist covering it, I have to take the president and his threats seriously.

And I think there is cause of concern.

REID: Absolutely.

Put me down as concerned -- as concerned as well.

Clint Watts, Ayman Mohyeldin, thank you both very much. Really appreciate you.

And coming up: More than two million Georgians have already voted ahead of next week's crucial Senate run-off, speaking of democracy. Can Democrats pull off another big victory there?

Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff joins me next.

Don't go anywhere.


REID: We are just eight short days from Georgia's Senate run-off elections. And the winners will decide which party controls the Senate and the fate of Joe Biden's agenda.

Georgians are taking this very seriously, with more than 2.1 million votes already cast. Now, while we don't know who those votes were cast for, we do know that the highest turnout rates so far are coming from Democratic-controlled districts.

The lowest turnout is coming from Republican districts, including the one that elected QAnon princess Marjorie Taylor Greene and where Donald Trump is planning to hold a rally next Monday, the day before the election.

And, according to the Democratic political data firm TargetSmart, there have been nearly 68,000 Georgians who didn't vote in the general election who have already voted early in this run-off. A majority are voters of color, and two-thirds are over the age of 35.

And joining me now is Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff.

And thank you for joining me, Mr. Ossoff.


REID: Let's start with where do you think this is going?

It's hard -- how are you?

It's hard to do the prognostication because you really don't know who people are voting for. But how do you feel going into these last eight days? Do you think Democrats have built up enough of an early vote lead to withstand what could be a usual sort of Trump Election Day turnout?

OSSOFF: Thank you for having me.

And the turnout is record-shattering. And to think about how far the state has come, you have got the young Jewish son of an immigrant mentored by John Lewis running alongside a black preacher who holds Dr. King's pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church in the two most consequential Senate races in a generation.

But here's what's happening, Joy.

Our Republican opponents and the national Republican Party are trying to disenfranchise black voters in Georgia. They're trying to throw out the registrations of those who have registered since the November election. They're trying to pull ballot drop boxes out.

They are up to all of their old tricks. Voter suppression is alive and well in Georgia. And while the reverend and I are out here working to get out the vote, Republican super PACs are outspending Democratic groups by a lot.

And so I am asking everybody out there, tune in right now and follow me. I'm asking you to invest in victory in Georgia, in voter protection in Georgia. Help us defend the franchise from this voter suppression.

Go to ElectJon,, and help us win with just eight days to go. There is so much on the line.

REID: So, I know that there is a ton on the line, obviously. And voter suppression in Georgia is sort of classic, given who the governor there is, the former secretary of state, and the way he won the governorship.

I wonder how much that money -- where does it -- where does it matter? I mean, you raised in your -- in your -- when you ran for the House -- for that House seat, Georgia 6, you raised the record-shattering amount of money and got close, but didn't quite win.

You came very close in the initial part of the Senate race. You got within 88,000 votes of Mr. -- of Senator Perdue. How is the money actually useful? You know what I mean? Like, what is it that it -- what has it changed, in your mind?

OSSOFF: Look, I go through with my team the turnout numbers, the fund-raising numbers, and the threats to the franchise, as these Republican lawsuits pop up seemingly daily trying to disenfranchise voters in Georgia.

And the bottom line is that we are behind our fund-raising targets for this final crucial week. This money is not just being shoveled into TV ads. This money is going to an unprecedented turnout effort. There is movement energy in Georgia, and the early voting numbers don't lie.

But there are still hundreds of thousands of people who need to hear from this campaign. There is still the prospect of litigation that will disenfranchise black voters in Georgia. Georgia Democrats are fending off and have been fending off multiple lawsuits brazenly intended to disenfranchise black voters in Georgia.

And without the resources...

REID: Yes.

OSSOFF: ... we will not be able to prevail.

REID: But let's talk about money. You're talking about money.

You have come out very strongly in favor of the $2,000 level of benefits for COVID relief, as has Reverend Warnock. Are you aware of whether Perdue, Senator Perdue, or Senator Loeffler are in favor of that -- of that level of relief?

OSSOFF: I haven't heard a peep from Perdue yet. Look, Perdue...

REID: Because he's advertising -- he's advertising based on the $600.

Yes, go on.

OSSOFF: He is.

Perdue, the same U.S. senator who was on the phone with his broker buying medical and vaccine stocks when he heard about this pandemic, opposed even the first round of $1,200 stimulus checks.

And now, after eight months of obstruction, after he repeatedly stated his opposition to direct relief for the people, while he rubber-stamped vast sums that went to major corporations and Wall Street banks, he's touting $600, like he's saved the day.

Six hundred dollars is a joke. Folks have months of rent past do, gas bills piling up, child care costs that they can't keep up with, credit cards maxed out. People are hurting, through no fault of their own. This COVID economy is devastating working families in Georgia and across the country.

And I'm calling on Senator Perdue to reverse his opposition to $2,000 relief checks. Look, president-elect Biden, President Trump and Democrats all support this policy to get money into the pockets of hardworking Americans who are in dire straits right now.

And Senator Perdue needs to come out tonight and commit to voting on the floor of the Senate for $2,000 relief checks.

REID: You have made that very clear on Twitter and on this show as well.

I think people love the buddy act between you and Reverend Warnock.


REID: So, good luck to you, sir, Jon Ossoff.

Thank you very much for spending some time with us this evening. Appreciate it.

OSSOFF: Any time, Joy.

And up next -- cheers.

Overloaded hospitals are bracing for another post-holiday COVID surge, as the TSA reports the highest number of air travelers since the start of the pandemic.

Stay with us.


REID: Last week, 17,000 Americans died of COVID-19. Nearly one in every 1,000 Americans have been taken by this virus with millions more grappling with the void of losing loved ones.

In Florida with no statewide restrictions and 11 percent positivity rate, preparations are under way for Donald and Melania Trump's annual New Years Eve's bash, a typically gaudy affair that includes hundreds of revelers packed together toasting the Trump successes of the past year, which happens to be the deadliest year in American history, thanks to COVID-19.

On Sunday, ignoring the pleas of experts and exhausted healthcare workers, nearly one and a half million people traveled through U.S. airports, the most since the start of the pandemic.

Dr. Fauci warned that the worst is yet to come.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We very well might see a post seasonal in the sense of Christmas/New Year surge. And as I've described it, it's a surge upon a surge, when you're dealing with a baseline of 200,000 cases, new cases a day, and about 2,000 deaths per day, with the hospitalization over 120,000. We're really at a very critical point.


REID: "The Washington Post" reports that more than 2 million people have received their first dose of the vaccine. And earlier today, a vaccine created by Novavax entered the final stage of testing.

Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of President-elect Joe Biden's COVID-19 advisory board, announced that Biden plans to invoke the Defense Production Act to boost production of COVID vaccines.

And Dr. Gounder joins me now.

Dr. Gounder, I do worry that people are so fatigued by COVID restrictions that that they're not really listening to the guidance anymore. And people are just counting on vaccines to save the day and save everyone.

The Defense Production Act would boost the amount of vaccine that's being produced. But how much would actually have to get out there and how quickly in order to get some kind of herd immunity, genuine herd immunity?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, MEMBER, PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN'S COVID-19 ADVISORY BOARD: Yeah, so the president-elect asked his called upon the president --


GOUNDER: Hello, can you hear?

REID: Yep, we got you. Go ahead.

GOUNDER: OK. The president-elect has called upon President Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act for personal protective equipment. He hasn't done so yet. And if personal protective equipment continues to be an issue come late January, the president-elect will invoke the Defense Production Act himself. It's a shame this long into the pandemic almost a year, front line providers including myself are still facing shortages of face masks and shields and gowns and gloves.

And certainly, the Defense Production Act is one option that's being considered. For ramping up the production of the testing supplies as well as the raw materials needed for a vaccine production. But it's not just about vaccine production. In terms of getting everybody vaccinated. It's also going to be a major logistical challenge at a time when healthcare workers are swamped in hospitals and ICUs. And so, it's very difficult to reallocate those healthcare workers to vaccination activities.

REID: Yeah. I just want to let the audience know that we don't have Dr. Gounder's video, but we do have her audio, thankfully. So, I'm just going to keep going.

You know, as far as the vaccines, and I do think people are putting too much stock. There's only 2 million have been vaccinated so far and you're already hearing stories of people who shouldn't be getting them at this stage, getting them early, to the point where Governor Cuomo of New York has announced a million dollar fine and license revocation for anybody who gets the vaccine fraudulently before healthcare workers get it.

Are you concerned it's too slow at this point and also now already being interrupted by people who shouldn't be getting it first?

REID: Well, we are very concerned it's too slow. We basically have administered 2 million doses in two weeks. So, that's one million per week. At that rate, it would take us over a decade to vaccinate everybody in this country. So, that's clearly not nearly fast enough, you know? So, we really need to be ramping up our rate of vaccination.

You know, in terms of people jumping the line, I think big picture, to get to herd immunity, we want as many people to get vaccinated as possible. The CDC has issued guidelines as to who should go first, and that's really because we want to maximize the impact of the vaccine from a public health approach, public health perspective.

It's not just about the individual getting the vaccine, but also about preventing transmission and preventing death. And so, that's certain groups have been prioritized over others. It's not those people are better or more important. It's that has the greatest health impact for all of us.

REID: Yeah, indeed. Dr. Celine Gounder, thank you so much for being here tonight. And we apologize for the technical snafus. But thank you for your contribution tonight.

And up next, how meatpacking plants, speaking of people who ought to be getting it, getting the vaccine, became COVID-19 catastrophes and what needs to be done to protect those workers.

We'll be right back.


REID: As we just discussed on the other side of the break, with limited doses of COVID vaccine available, the debate over who gets vaccinated next continues. The CDC has recommended that meatpacking and poultry processing workers should be next in line. Meatpacking plants were host to some of the worst outbreaks in the country, with most employees working long hours in cramped conditions.

According to the Food and Environment Action Network, which has been documenting cases, nearly 66,000 meatpacking and food processing workers have been infected with the virus and nearly 300 have died. According to "ProPublica", workers at a Tyson plant in Waterloo, Iowa, felt pressured to show up or risk losing their jobs.

That plant is now facing a wrongful death lawsuit, filed on behalf of the families of workers who died after being exposed to the virus. The suit claims that managers were downplaying the dangers of the virus, calling it the glorified flu while simultaneously placing bets on how many workers would get sick.

Tyson responded saying its top priority is the health and safety of its employees, and that its protective measures meet or exceed official guidance.

Despite the mounting death toll in various facilities, Trump signed an executive order in April classifying meat plants as essential infrastructure that must remain open.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're big companies, but they're now being treated fairly. They're thrilled. And that whole bottleneck is broken up.

REPORTER: So the Defense Protection Act protects them from liability?

TRUMP: Well, we'll use it. That's what we did. We used it. And it helps them greatly, greatly, to do what they have to do. Because they're ready to do it, but they needed some help.


REID: Last week, Senate Republicans dropped their demands that liability protection for companies be included in COVID relief legislation. But it remains a top priority for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Joining me now is Mark Lauritsen, vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. And, Mark, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

This is something I've wanted to talk about for quite a while.

If you look at places like Greeley, Colorado or these meatpacking facilities in places like Iowa and Mississippi, it felt like these are dangerous places for people to work.

Are these dangerous places for people to be working?


But I would start by saying meat and food processing has always been a hard, hard job. And COVID-19 has actually exposed the fact that not only is it hard work, it can be dangerous, really dangerous. I know you spoke of 300 deaths in the industry.

Just in our union alone, over 130 of our sisters and brothers weren't able to celebrate the holidays with their families because they passed from this.

So the industry has always been tough, but I think we have done a good job of pushing the employers. And at times, it felt like we were one of the few people standing up to the administration when they started doing these silly things like the executive order forcing plants to stay open while workers were dying. It kind of shows the Trump administration's priorities.

REID: Well, Republicans in general seem to believe that the only aid that anybody needs is to go to work and sort of get on the wheel. And obviously, people in meatpacking plants can't do that from home. So they and people who work at place likes Amazon and people who work in close quarters to make people who can stay at home's lives more comfortable can be vulnerable.

You got "BuzzFeed" reporting that 45 meatpacking plants recorded at least 50 confirmed COVID cases, and only 50 plants actually ordered full-scale testing for their employees. And on the subject of managers at this Iowa facility, placing bets on how many would get sick, one terminated manager said the office pool was spontaneous and intended to boost morale. So they're trying to boost fellow managers' morale.

How are workers generally treated in these facilities when it comes to safety from COVID?

LAURITSEN: Well, let me speak to you about the plants that we represent and that are unionized, and I can't speak about what's happening in those nine facilities.

REID: Sure.

LAURITSEN: But where we represent folks, we were the union that pushed to get the enhanced PPE. We've been working with our employers to do things like expand the common areas so we can get people room to social distance. We were the ones that were talking with the employers about the ventilation system all at the same time that the Trump administration at OSHA had basically abdicated the field. We're the union that still to this day is pushing this administration, this OSHA and we'll push the next administration to enact a temporary emergency standard. Not just for our workers, but for all workers across the country, because OSHA needs to do their job.

So, when we look back at the failures of what happened in the COVID-19 pandemic, the first mistake that was made is that OSHA abdicated their responsibility to keep these workers safe, and that left to it our union to basically duke it out with every company individually to make sure our members were safe.

REID: And for those who aren't familiar with OSHA, the Occupational Health and Safety Organization, is supposed to protect workers on the job. But given situations like this, or we could do the same segment about Amazon and all these other places where people have to work in close quarters to again, make our comfy lives possible.

"ProPublica" found that for more than a dozen years, critical businesses like meat packers have been warned that a pandemic was coming. Workers showed that these companies relied on wait and see as their approach rather than do something about it.

In one example 11 years ago, the Department of Labor encouraged employers to stockpile masks for media exposure risk jobs that include those with frequent close contact, close to six feet exposures, et cetera.

So, I'm sure this is something that has come up in your union as well. Do you -- would you -- what do you make of the fact that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, wants to give liability protection to companies like the ones that your workers work in so they can't be sued?

LAURITSEN: Well, let's start the liability waivers that Senator McConnell is asking for is just wrong. It's not just wrong in the meat packing industry, it's wrong for workers across this country in every aspect of work because employers need to be held accountable for what they do and what they don't do.

And in this case, when OSHA abdicated their responsibility, it turned everything upside down, where there was no baseline for people and employers to know this is what has to happen inside our facilities. So, when OSHA abdicated, it left a lot of people throughout to do whatever they wanted to do. And right now, our legal system is going to protect those folks, and the fact that they need to have a union pushing behind them.

REID: Yeah.

LAURITSEN: You know, look, again, when you look back at the history of this pandemic, when OSHA abdicated their responsibility, it was this union and employers that had to sit down and figure it out on their own what has to happen here. All the expertise in the field left and we had to fill that vacuum.

REID: Yeah. Well, good people make good government, and good unions make for a good workplace. Americans keep learning that over and over and over and over again.

Mark Lauritsen, thank you very much. We're going to keep following up on this topic.

That is tonight's REIDOUT. Thank you all for being here.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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