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Transcript: The ReidOut, November 18, 2020

Guests: John Brennan, Patrick Gaspard, Maya Wiley, Ja`Ron Smith, Christina Greer, John Podesta


Biden breaks vote record as Trump refuses to concede. Trump fires cyber security official who debunked voter fraud claims. Trump appointee is refusing to proceed with transition. "Washington Post" op-ed says, media would cover U.S. election differently if it happened in another country. Trump campaign is trying to overturn election results. Report says, Trump campaign began pressuring Georgia secretary of state before election. Poll shows, half of Republicans say Biden won due to rigged election. U.S. passes grim milestone of 250,000 COVID deaths. Despite no cooperation from the current occupant of the White House, President-elect Joe Biden is moving forward with his transition, and he has already announced a number of key members of his incoming administration.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: And finally of the night, the fist bump on the Senate floor heard round the world. Look, Senator Lindsey Graham with Kamala Harris who he is currently claiming didn't really win the election, but we'll run for you twice. But will run it for you twice, they are close enough to at least do a bump. Boom.

That does it for us. Right now, it's "THE REIDOUT" with Joy Reid.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: President-elect Joe Biden has now received more than 79 million votes. That's 10 million more than the previous record set by President Barack Obama, in 2008.

And yet Donald Trump continues to behave like a tyrant (ph) dictator, refusing to accept that the voters have spoken, erroneously declaring victory, bulldozing over our democracy and hunkering down in the White House, refusing to relinquish the reins of government or even to admit that he's been fired by the American people.

In other words, Trump is no longer an autocrat in the making, he's already there. Because declaring victory in an election that one has lost, an election that has zero evidence of fraud, that is what autocrats do.

Trump's focus is on his power and his ego, and perhaps on that orange jumpsuit that may be waiting once he leaves office. His focus is nowhere near his duty to protect the American people from a raging pandemic which has now taken more than 251,000 lives.

And behind every strongman is his supine party, the fixers and the king-makers and the thugs who enable him. Trumpian mascots like Mitch McConnell, William Barr and Lindsey Graham, seen here fist bumping Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on the Senate floor, despite his claims of voter fraud in the election and his suspicion of votes cast in blue cities where the black people live.

It's why you're seeing secretaries of state in Georgia and Arizona receiving death threats for overseeing elections that did not serve Trump. And now electors are getting sued for doing their sworn duty. The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit challenging Nevada's election results, including targeting a presidential elector who happens to be a homeless veteran.

This is what we typically see in banana republics, in mafia states, but here we are seeing it unfurl in a country that used to pride itself as a beacon of democracy, where now a U.S. president can casually fire an official who pointed out the truth about the absence of election fraud, or he can stack every corner of government with lackeys who will do his bidding, from the Supreme Court to the Defense Department, to the General Services Administration where the one official who can hand over the keys to the transitioning president-elect is refusing to do so, with sources telling CNN that she is basing her decision on what she sees as the precedent set by the 2000 election, where there was not a clear winner for more than a month.

Each day that the Republican Party does not condemn this behavior is another day the party normalizes anti-democratic actions, actions that will get further baked into our government and our institutions and our belief systems. And if these schemes don't succeed for Trump, they will one day for someone else. A person, Adam Serwer, of The Atlantic describes as the next racist demagogue who may not be as clownish or as incompetent.

Joining me now is former CIA Director John Brennan, author of Undaunted, My Fight Against America's Enemies at Home and Abroad, Former Obama White House Political Director and Obama's U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, Patrick Gaspard, and Maya Wiley, New York City Mayoral Candidate and former Assistant U.S. Attorney. Thank you all for being here.

And, Mr. Brennan, I want to go to you on this first. Karen Attiah wrote a brilliant piece, and I hope everyone got a chance to read in this morning Washington Post, and she wrote, how western media would cover the U.S. election if it happened in another country. I'm just going to read a little bit of it.

The United States, the former British colony, already rocked this year by ethnic conflict and mass protest over extrajudicial killings by police, may finally have a new leader after weeks of political turmoil, following a disputed presidential election. Trump, however, is refusing to leave power and there are fears that the fractured nation might be pushed over the edge, destabilizing the western hemisphere.

That is how it would sound if we were covering an election in a foreign country, but now we are that country. What do you make of this dissent?

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, obviously, what Donald Trump is engaged in is the behavior we've seen in many authoritarian countries around the globe where individuals try to retain power by all means necessary. And Donald Trump, I think, has demonstrated time and time again that he's not going to adhere to not only the norms and standards that are expected in the office of the presidency but also the requirements that really have the United States national security hanging in the balance.

The fact that he's acting as a spoiled juvenile, and that's an insult to spoiled juveniles, quite frankly, that he is not facilitating the transfer of power of the executive branch to Joe Biden and his incoming administration, I think is outrageous. Because whether we're dealing with COVID or whether we're dealing with international issues, that transition, which has been honored by every president certainly during my career, and has allowed the incoming administration to be able to get up to speed quickly on these very, very challenging issues, this is something that must happen. And the fact that the members of the Republican Party are still allowing Donald Trump to continue with this tantrum, I think, is despicable.

REID: Yes. And, you know, Patrick, you and I share both family connections to the Congo, and connections by a family to South Africa where, of course, you we're ambassador, you know? And I've been saying to my team a lot that, you know, what Donald Trump is doing is Mobutuism, right? It is something that we saw with the nationalist party in South Africa from the 1940's until they were finally toppled and Nelson Mandela became president and was released from prison in the 1990. I mean, this is what we've seen in this other countries. And yet, we are the kind of country that maybe the Carter Center needed to oversee our election.

PATRICK GASPARD, FORMER OBAMA TRANSITION OFFICIAL: Joy, thanks for having me on. You know, I served with John Brennan and he does not get that heated about anything in public. He keeps his cool. So it gives you a sense of the extent of the crisis that we find ourselves in right now. You're absolutely right. This is the kind of behavior that we see from authoritarians in places and instances that we condemn.

The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, recently put out statements of concerns about violence and clashes following the elections in Belarus and in Tanzania. Two years ago, the Trump administration was making all kind office declarations about the corruption, the fraud and the challenges in the transition of power in the DRC. So you're right that, traditionally, the United States is the broker of election integrity in places all around the world. And it's astonishing to see this being played out here in the U.S.

But I have to say, Joy, there isn't a single thing that Donald Trump is doing right now that any of us could not have anticipated. Those of us who invested in planning scenarios about this expected this. The problem isn't Donald Trump. The problem is the Republican leadership in the Senate, in the House, in states where they have authority over election outcomes. They're not doing what some extraordinary secretaries of states are doing, calling out the lies, calling out the damage and the danger to democracy and educating their constituents and voters about what this does to our norms in the future, incredibly dangerous.

REID: Yes, indeed. They're sort of acting more like a Douma than they are like an American political party, a Russian Douma, I mean.

And you know, Maya, we're going to have to talk at some point about your run for mayor. But it is -- you're running for an executive position in which, you know, you run and you try to win your base, but then you have to actually govern those who voted for you and those who didn't. And Republicans seem to be trying to siphon out only Republicans and say, we're going to directly govern for this sort of white, Christian minority, emerging minority, and everyone else can go to hell.

And even other Republicans are now being targeted by these sort of campaigns against any dissent from Trumpism. ProPublica reports that Trump campaign officials begun pressuring Georgia's Republican secretary of state even before the election. A little bit of that, Raffensperger, Mr. Raffensperger of Georgia, got an offer, declined an offer in January to serve as honorary co-chair of the Trump campaign in Georgia. He later rejected GOP request to support Trump publicly. The attack on his job performance are clear retaliation, Raffensperger said.

They wanted this man who is supposed to be the guy counting the votes to basically behave like the governor. When he was secretary of state and was fixing the election so he could win it, they're like this guy needs to do it not for himself but for Trump.

MAYA WILEY, (D) NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Yes. This is not democracy. This is hypocrisy. Because this is also the same party that claims that it's so important for the federal government to defer to the powers of state.

And we saw that hypocrisy as we saw states in some instances working so hard to ensure that voters could vote despite COVID and spreading lies and disinformation about mail-in voting, something to enable democracy in a way that would also protect public health.

And yet folks then came to the polls. And now we see the efforts to suggest that that too was fraudulent, which essentially means there's no means of voting where you can't claim fraud even in the absence of evidence.

And, you know, one thing that we have to remember here that has been so damaging to this democracy is that the attack on people's ability to vote, particularly black and Latino voters, really started in 2010. So, as Patrick said, you know, Trump is a symptom of a Republican Party that has refused to pay attention to winning votes rather than making it more difficult, rather making it more difficult for people to vote who may not vote for them. And that is ultimately what is endangering our democracy.

REID: And, Patrick, your name was called. I mean, this is -- we're at a point now where half of Republicans believe that the election was rigged, right? So Biden will have to govern in a country where a lot of Republicans just think his election was illegitimate. So you have that. But you are also developing this narrative that votes cast by non-white people, are in and of themselves, illegitimate. So what does that mean going forward?

GASPARD: Yes, not a new story, Joy. You know, some of us remember not that long ago serving in a White House where people like Donald Trump and others lifted up birtherism and all kinds of other claims to try to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama.

But let's be clear that this goes back decades. When we talk about voter suppression today in this election cycle, we need to appreciate that going back through the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, there are clear antecedents to this moment that may not be as dramatic as what's occurring with the attempt to block ballots in Detroit right now, for instance, but it's an everyday occurrence in Milwaukee, in Atlanta, and so many other urban centers where clearly Republicans are concerned and that the more people who participate, the less likely it is, that they are likely to succeed in their effort. So this is not a new thing.

And I want to say, Joy, shame on all of us, and this is not just Republicans, shame on all of us in this democracy that we don't make voting access a regular issue in our policy work beyond election cycles. So that's not something that we can hang exclusively on the Republican Party.

REID: Well, and -- but Mr. Brennan, you know, the challenge that will be hung directly on the Republican Party will be that Joe Biden is now going to have to govern a country and try to get a virus under control that doesn't care what party you are that is relentless and vengeful and murderous, and he's going to have to do that where you've got people on the right, you know, going after the governor of Michigan, threatening to kidnap her and put her on trial, trying to impeach her for having mask mandates. We've got Republican governors who say freedom equals you don't have to wear a mask. I don't care what anybody says, what the science says. He's going to be facing a country where a substantial minority don't believe COVID is even real and it's a national security issue and a security issue for governors. What should he do?

BRENNAN: Well, I think he's going to have to try to restore the trust and faith in the administration, both domestically as well as internationally. Donald Trump will soon be out of the White House. He will pass from the political scene. But the damage he has done to our standing, reputation in the world as far as being that beacon of democracy that really represents those democratic principles upon which our country was founded and which other countries are struggling through, the same thing here in the United States.

As Donald Trump has fueled this polarization, he has sown great distrust within the American electorate within the American population. And therefore, I think Joe Biden is really going to have to work very hard to really highlight the fact that Donald Trump was an aberration, he was abnormal president. But, really, it's going to be up to the members of the Republican Party to, quite frankly, repudiate the things that Donald Trump was standing for and was doing.

Until we have that broader repudiation, I think, as people have said, he is symptomatic of a broader problem and challenge we have in this country, but what he has done over the past four years I think has accelerated and has intensified some of these very, very disturbing trending.

GASPARD: And, John --

REID: Yes, I wish we had more time.

GASPARD: Joy, his lies can't survive the 250,000 empty chairs that are going to be at Thanksgiving tables two weeks from now.

REID: Indeed.

GASPARD: And that's something we should all think about.

REID: Absolutely. Maya Wiley, John Brennan, Patrick Gaspard, thank you all very much.

And up next on THE REIDOUT, the Republicans' deadly COVID obstruction. Trump put Americans life at risk, are refusing to cooperate with Joe Biden's transition while red-state governors still don't take the virus seriously even with, as we said, 250,000 Americans dead. And our frontline health care workers are caught in the middle.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're seeing the heartbreak that this virus causes. And to go out in public and have people deny that the virus exists or that the pandemic is a problem, or they go out in public and have people say it's more important to me to be able to not have to wear a mask if I don't feel like it, that is an incredibly difficult thing to see.


REID (voice over): Plus, which votes are Trump and his conspirators trying to nullify? You guessed it, black voters in Detroit, Atlanta, Philly, and Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, those who tell the truth about the integrity and transparency of the election get fired.

Back with more of THE REIDOUT after this.


REID: The coronavirus continues to smash devastating records all across the country. Today, we reached another grim milestone. More than a quarter million Americans have lost their lives to the virus. That is a quarter of a million, I will say that again, a quarter million loved ones, friends, health care workers, other essential workers, the list goes on, gone on Donald Trump's watch, because he has just given up. And his administration's obstruction of President-elect Joe Biden's transition threatens to put even more American lives at risk.

Today, Pfizer announced that its vaccine is 95 percent effective at preventing the disease, and that it plans to ask the FDA for emergency authorization within days. Moderna announced a similar success rate.

And I should correct what we reported last night. Moderna did receive funding from the administration's Operation Warp Speed to develop the vaccine. Pfizer did not.

In a town hall with front-line medical workers today, president-elect Joe Biden slammed Trump for his lack of leadership and cooperation in combating the pandemic.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I can't do any of this until I'm sworn in, or I can convince the president now to do things that should be being done already.

I mean, there's hardly been a meeting that's taken place in the White House about any of this.


REID: Biden went on to say that he's urging all governors to adopt mandatory mask mandates, and touted North Dakota's governor for changing course on a mask mandate in his state.


BIDEN: And it's not a political statement. It's not about whether you're a tough guy or not a tough guy, whether you're -- it's about patriotism.

If you really care about your country, what you want to do is keep your neighbors and your family safe.


REID: Then there's South Dakota's Republican Governor Kristi Noem, who has spent months screaming freedom, despite a COVID explosion in her state.

Today, the state reported nearly 1,400 new cases and a sharp increase in deaths. But she defended her decision not to implement a mask mandate, claiming that states with them aren't doing any better.


GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): I don't want to approach a policy or a mandate just looking to make people feel good.

I want to do good.


REID: Joining me now is Dr. Vivek Murthy, former surgeon general and co-chair of president-elect Biden's COVID Advisory Board, and Dr. Lipi Roy, internal medicine physician.

Dr. Murthy, I'm going to go to you first.

Are masks simply a feel-good measure that don't make any difference in the spread of the disease of COVID?

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, it's good to be with you today, Joy.

So, what science tells us very clearly is that masks work to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It's not a source of debate in the scientific community. And if you also look at parts of our country which have put mask mandates in place vs. those that have not, we have seen a slower rate of spread in those areas that have actually implemented mask mandates.

So, the message is simple. Masks work. We should be encouraging people to use them. We should be making it easier, in fact, for people to access effective masks as well.

REID: And just to be clear, do masks protect, let's say, me from catching COVID, or do they primarily protect me from potentially spreading COVID, Dr. Murthy?

MURTHY: So, masks actually benefit both the person wearing the mask, as well as the people around them.

There was a time earlier on where the message that many people were getting was that masks only protect the people around you, but they don't afford you any protection. That is not the case.

We now know that, actually, the mask can help everyone. So, there's really no reason for us, from a public health perspective, to hold back on recommending masks. This is something that, again, we don't want to wait until it's too late to implement mask mandates. We're seeing some states do it now, in the midst of this extraordinary surge.

But, really, this is a policy we should have in place everywhere because it saves lives.

REID: And, Dr. Roy, let me play for you the South Dakota governor again, Kristi Noem, just play a little bit more of her, because she has been one of the most recalcitrant of governors in the entire country when it comes to mask mandates.

Take a listen.


NOEM: Let me tell you, my people are happy. They're happy because they're free.


NOEM: The governor in Nebraska, Pete Ricketts, Kim Reynolds in Iowa, and I have been making decisions to protect our people and let them use personal responsibility to protect their way of life.


REID: Now, I will note, Dr. Roy, that most of the people behind her do not have masks on. They didn't even do it for the pictures, the people behind her.

The test -- the positivity rate in the past week in South Dakota -- and let's do the comparison of South Dakota and New York. We will put them up on the screen. South Dakota has a 56.34 percent positivity rate. New York has 3 percent. And New York is -- New York City's closing at schools at less than 3 percent.

Your thoughts?

DR. LIPI ROY, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that's -- first of all, it's good to be with you again, Joy. And it's good to see Dr. Murthy again.

The narrative, the messaging that the governor is sending to her people, not only is it false, but it's just downright reckless and harmful. She cares about the freedom of her people, well -- and wants them to be happy?

I don't know how happy they will be if and when they get severely kill and get hospitalized and, God forbid, are in an ICU or on a -- put on a mechanical ventilator. None of that's considered freedom, right?

And it's not a coincidence that the same state that refuses to mandate masks or even encourage masks, which we all know save lives -- saves lives, it's not a coincidence that same state has one of the highest, if not the highest test positivity rate in the country.

In stark contrast, New York City, which just passed the -- approached the 3 percent test positivity rate, just announced school closures in response. That's government officials, elected officials making decisions based on data, speaking closely to their health advisers to make decisions to protect their people, Joy.

REID: Yes, indeed.

And, Dr. Murthy, we're seeing states sort of changing their minds and some states moving toward it, but these are the states that are having new restrictions. And this is new as of this week.

You have Michigan having new restrictions beginning on Wednesday, something for which the Republican governor is being threatened with impeachment. You have, in Kentucky, Andy Beshear's Kentucky restrictions impact gatherings, schools, restaurants and more.

We have California governor pulling the emergency brake, imposing new restrictions on businesses, despite the fact that he did make the mistake of attending a party and that -- not a good example that he set, the governor there, Gavin Newsom, but he did -- does have restrictions going on right now.

Is this what all the states need to do? If you could have every state take your advice, Dr. Murthy, would you say that everyone should right now have mask mandates? And should there also be what are called lockdowns?

Oh, we can't hear Dr. Murthy.

OK, we're going to get your sound. We don't have your sound yet.


REID: So, I'm going to first ask -- oh, there we go. We have got you.

Go ahead. Go ahead, sir.

MURTHY: So, masks work, and they need to be part of the public health measures that every state is taking.

Because we're seeing a surge across the country, it makes sense right now for governors to have mask mandates in place. But there's a larger challenge that's being illustrated right now, which is that states in many cases are making their own decisions and systems for when to trigger restrictions because we don't have a clear national alert system that states can rely on that's evidence-based and tells them, when you hit a certain test positivity rate, certain number of cases, certain hospitalization rate, that these are the measures you put in place.

And without that, many states are having to make this up on their own.

And, Joy, there's one last thing that I want to emphasize here, because this is near and dear to me. It's a cost of the pandemic, though, that we're not measuring, and that's the impact and the toll this pandemic is taking on our health care workers.

And I want to emphasize this, because you just earlier in this segment showed a clip of a health care worker who was -- who was clearly struggling with the impact that this is having and wondering why people aren't taking more measures to protect themselves and each other.

And I want to emphasize, many of these people are my friends, my colleagues. They're tough men and women. But many of them are really struggling right now, as they once again see this surge that's filling their hospitals and taking their lives.

And this psychological injury and strain that many of our health care workers are experiencing, this will stand as one of the most profound costs of this pandemic. And that's why it's so important that we take every step possible to bend that curve, to wash our hands, wear masks, keep distance from others, so that we can ultimately reduce the spread.

REID: Yes.

And one of those health care workers is you, Dr. Lipi Roy. You're out there in the world doing this.

ROY: Yes.

REID: Are you concerned that this news about -- about -- that there's going to be vaccinations available at some point, when we don't know when it's going to be, will cause people to relax even more and say, oh, good, everything's going to be fine, I can just go ahead and have my Thanksgiving?

ROY: Yes, I'm absolutely worried about that, that people are going to just become so lax and they -- oh, I have got this pill, this medication, and I can just relax my other preventive health measures.

I'm totally concerned about that.

But I also just want to follow up on what Dr. Murthy said. Just today, I got yet another text from a colleague, a former mentor of mine who's now an infectious disease doctor, who wakes up at 5:00 a.m., sees patients with transplant infections, organ, bone marrow infections, who comes home late at night.

And she says, I understand people have COVID fatigue, but if you want fatigue, follow me for the last nine months, and I will show you what tired is.

REID: Yes, absolutely.

And, also, we definitely want to pick up all of the health care workers, down to the orderlies, the doctors, to the nurses, everybody who is doing the hard work out there and taking huge risks for us. We thank you so much.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, Dr. Lipi Roy, thank you both.

And up next, former Trump administration official Ja'Ron Smith will tell us what it was like to be a rare high-ranking black official in the Trump White House and what he thinks about Trump's baseless election fraud allegations.

Stay with us.


REID: Before, during and after the election, the Trump campaign and its allies across the country have done everything they can to make voting harder for communities of color, particularly black voters.

Take, for example, what happened in Florida. In 2018, voters there granted former felons who've paid their debt to society the right to vote. Governor Ron DeSantis and the Republican legislature stepped in to weaken the measure, requiring ex-felons to pay any outstanding fines and fees first.

The move was called the single biggest instance of voter disenfranchisement targeting black Floridians in recent history, since African-Americans face the disproportionate brunt of the criminal justice system in Florida, as elsewhere in America.

Then there's North Carolina, which passed a voter I.D. law that was struck down by the federal courts, which ruled that it was intentionally designed to target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.

Now that the election is over, Republicans are still zeroing in on cities with large black populations, like Detroit, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee, and questioning the validity of their votes.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And if you tell me that Philadelphia doesn't cheat in elections, I will tell you...


REID: And it just keeps going.

On Monday, we learned that the Georgia secretary of state felt pressured by Senator Lindsey Graham to toss ballots in certain counties.

And, last night, two Republicans from Wayne County, Michigan, home to Detroit, refused to certify the vote tally. One of the Republican canvassers, Monica Palmer, said that only votes from areas outside of Detroit, which just so happened to be predominantly white, should be certified.

During public comments, watch as the two Republicans on the board were torn to shreds by a man named Ned Staebler.


NED STAEBLER, MICHIGAN BUSINESSMAN: I just want to let that the Trump stick, the stain of racism that you, William Hartmann and Monica Palmer, have just covered yourself in is going to follow you throughout history.

Your grandchildren are going to think of you like Bull Connor or George Wallace.

Monica Palmer and William Hartmann will forever be known in Southeastern Michigan as two racists who did something so unprecedented, that they disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of black voters in the city of Detroit.


REID: And, by the way, the two eventually backed down. The vote was certified.

And, today, the Trump administration announced a targeted recount of Dane and Milwaukee counties in Wisconsin, which just so happen to have large black populations.

The campaign didn't want to pay for recounts in the rest of the state. Go figure.

For more, I'm joined by Ja'Ron Smith, former deputy assistant to the president in the Trump administration, and current executive director for the Center for Advancing Opportunity.

Mr. Smith, thank you so much for being here.

And I want to start by asking you a pretty basic, sort of bottom-line question. Do you accept and believe that Joe Biden is the president-elect of the United States?

JA'RON SMITH, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF AMERICAN INNOVATION: Well, I think we should just let the nation kind of run its course on the investigations and lawsuits dealing with the vote.

And, once that's decided, we can confirm it. And I think, if the election was leaning in Trump's direction, we would want to run a course and make sure that every vote that was cast was appropriate.

REID: What investigation specifically?

SMITH: Well, I mean, there's a number of lawsuits that we filed, that the Trump administration filed.

REID: But give me a specific one. Name me one. Name me one...

SMITH: Well, I mean...

REID: ... that has not already been thrown out.

SMITH: Well, I'm not going to get specific. I'm just saying very generally on the amount of law...

REID: No, but you're the one who said it. You said -- but hold on. You said that you think it should run its course on all the investigations.

So, you ought to know what investigations you mean, and what you are alleging happened.

SMITH: Well, I wasn't being specific. I was meaning that, generally, there's a number of different lawsuits that the Trump administration's filed.

There's a number of different...

REID: How many have they -- how many of those lawsuits have the Trump administration and the Trump campaign won so far?

SMITH: I mean, honestly, I haven't been following it.

I think, just generally...


REID: But you -- wait. OK. Wait. You haven't been following it.

Mm-hmm. But you're saying -- but hold on. You're saying you can't accept that Joe Biden is the president-elect. You can't name me an investigation you're talking about specifically.

I will just tell you the answer. They have won one out of about 25 or 26. They're losing in case after case after case in state after state. Michigan has gone through. Wayne County backed down. They have certified that. They are going to finish the recount in Georgia. The secretary of state there, who's a Republican, has said they found nothing that would overturn a 14,000-vote race.

So, what specifically is it that you need in order to accept that Joe Biden is, in fact, the president-elect of the United States?

SMITH: Just let it all run its course. I mean, they're still -- all of this stuff is not finished.

REID: Let what play out? Let what?

SMITH: I mean, I'm just saying...

REID: Are you waiting on Rudy Giuliani's things?


SMITH: I mean, look, my whole thing is this.

I don't work in the Trump administration anymore. I don't work for the campaign. You asked me a general question about how I feel about the outcome. And I'm just letting it run its course.

REID: Sure.

SMITH: I know that they...

REID: Well, I...


SMITH: ... a recount in Florida for the Al Gore race. They let that run its course. Let it run its course. Let the people, everyone feel confident with the outcome of the election, and we will move forward.

I'm very confident that the country's going to move forward with this, and we're going to deal with the problems of our nation. And I'm very confident that we're going to get together in a very bipartisan manner and deal with the issues that are plaguing so many Americans.

REID: Let's talk about some specifics, because you said you don't work for the administration anymore. Then you should not be bound by having to be loyal to them out of being a member of the team anymore.

Do have an issue with the fact that the gentleman, Mr. Krebs, Chris Krebs, who was in charge of cybersecurity, certified that the election had no fraud, had no outside -- I should say, no outside interference?

Do you believe him?

SMITH: Well, look, I haven't been following the politics of the day.

I have been focused on the Center for Advancing Opportunity, making sure that everybody has access to education, that we're reforming our criminal justice...

REID: So, you're not following the election, really? So, you're not following the post-election?

SMITH: Well, actually, I...

REID: Because you're saying you don't believe that Donald -- you can't say to me, just as an American citizen, just as an American, that Joe Biden is the president-elect, which you could hear pretty much on any news station, even on Fox. It's pretty clear. He is.

SMITH: Sure. Well, I understand what you're saying, Joy. All I'm saying is that I will --


REID: It's not what I'm saying. No, it's not my opinion.

Okay, let me ask you this question -- hold on, we don't have a ton of time. How do you -- how do you reconcile as a black man in this country -- well, hold on, hold on. How do you reconcile as a black man in this country and a voter the fact that your party, the Republican Party, continually is focusing on and going after and trying to invalidate the votes of black people in Detroit, in Atlanta, in Milwaukee, and only doing that in places where black people vote?

SMITH: Well, I would validate that Trump got the biggest vote tally of African-American voters in 60 years. Sixty years we've had the best number of nonwhite voters since Nixon. And so I think --

REID: No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no. I'm asking you. Hold on a second. Donald Trump -- do you know what percentage of the black vote he got? Do you know what it was?


SMITH: Twelve percent.

REID: Okay, you don't know. I'm going to re-ask you the same question, just as a black person in this country, how do you feel about -- how do you feel about this campaign going after the cities where black people vote? Don't you think that is racist?

SMITH: I mean, you're not even allowing me to talk and respond to you. I'm happy to answer your questions, but if you're going to cut me off in the middle of it, we're not going to have a productive conversation. Look --

REID: I just need you to answer the question.

SMITH: Yeah, but I'm trying to answer the questions. These things aren't --

REID: Okay.

SMITH: These things are significant and I want to talk about them from a policy point of view because that's how I look at things. Look, I'm going to wait for the election to kind of play its course, just like every other election that we've done in our lifetime. If the president had more vote tallies and Biden has been behind and Biden was contesting the vote, we would be waiting for all that to finish and let the states certify and then we'll move on as a country. That happens.

As it relates to the city -- as it relates to these cities and the voter turnout, a huge percentage of African-American voters voted for Trump. An historical number of African-Americans --


REID: Sir, hold on -- do you seriously think that the reason that -- do you think that the reason that the Trump campaign is going after Detroit and going after Atlanta is because these people all voted for Trump? Are you trying to tell me that you think that's why they're going after these cities because they voted for Trump? That's what you think.

SMITH: What I'm saying is I don't think it's racist at all, joy, because everybody in Detroit is not black.

REID: You don't?

SMITH: There are some white voters --


REID: The vast majority of people in Detroit voted for Joe Biden.

SMITH: Listen, all I'm saying -- you're asking me about racism in these different counties. I'm not for suppressing the vote. I want everybody's vote to count. I encourage voter -- I'm not for voter suppression.

So I can't really speak to that, but what I would say is that in all of these cities, you know, they're not all-black cities. They have white voters there, too. So we're looking at everyone's vote and making sure everyone votes. I think that's what the Trump administration's looking at. It's not a race thing --


REID: We'll leave it. It is because these cities are where black people live, but it doesn't bother you. I think you've made that very clear.


REID: Ja'Ron Smith, thank you very much for being here. Have a wonderful evening.

Thank you. Okay. I think we're done. Thank you very much.

Joe Biden promises that his administration will look like the America that elected him president. We'll catch you up on how that's looking so far straight ahead on THE REIDOUT.

Stay with us.


REID: As the country faces a deadly pandemic, there is nothing more important in the relationship between the American people and the White House than trust. Unfortunately, Donald Trump has spent the past four years abusing that relationship.

"Washington Post" fact checkers fountain that he's lied while in office more than 22,000 times. That's about 17 lies a day.

So, it shouldn't have been a surprise that Trump's White House press secretaries would follow in kind. You know, we all remember Sean Spicer's very first day on the job. He lied about Trump's inauguration crowd size. And for the record, yes, it was smaller than President Obama's.

The latest of four Trump press secretaries is Kayleigh McEnany. During her first performance, she claimed she would never lie to the American people. We had her word on that. Unfortunately, that word turned out to be as good as a degree from Trump University.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would also note the president's long history of condemning white supremacy and racism.

He has a great record when it comes to the LGBT community.

The president never downplayed the virus, once again, the president expressed calm. The president was serious about this.

We were looking at the prospect of 2 million people potentially perishing from the coronavirus in this country.

The fact that we have come nowhere near that number is a testament to this president taking immediate action.

REPORTER: You have pledged in this briefing room to never lie to the American people. Are you saying that the president of the United States has never lied to the public before?

MCENANY: I'm around the president. His intent is always to give truthful information to the American people.


REID: Well, now it falls to Joe Biden to begin the process of restoring trust in the Oval Office after four years of lies, corruption, conspiracy theories and Twitter rants.

And today, we got some news about who he might turn to, to be his administration's spokesperson, a potentially historic pick, and that's next.


REID: Despite no cooperation from the current occupant of the White House, President-elect Joe Biden is moving forward with his transition. He has already announced a number of key members of his incoming administration.

NBC News has learned he is closing in on his finalists for the administration's top communications jobs that could include a historic first, a black woman as White House press secretary. Those being considered are Karine Jean-Pierre who served as Kamala Harris's chief of staff, Kate Bedingfield, the campaign's communications director, and Symone Sanders, a campaign senior adviser.

And joining me now is Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University. And John Podesta, former co-chair of the Obama/Biden transition team, and founder of the Center for American Progress.

Thank you both for being here.

Christina, I'm going to go to you on this first. There's a long line of long list of black women who were mentioned in an "Essence" article that went through part of the campaign, including Symone, including Karine. They now are potentially up for positions in the administration.

What would be the meaning and importance of that?

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE: I mean the symbolism of it, Joy, should not be underestimated. Right now we are in the speculation phase. We are dealing with two women who are highly qualified. They've been very loyal to Joe Biden. They've delivered for Joe Biden.

I think, you know, we also have to remember there are two sides of this relationship, as with any high-powered job. Obviously, I think they've both shown they could do the job. It is whether or not they want the job.

It is one of the jobs where it is 25 hours a day. They would be undoing so much of the Trump administration, they would be rebuilding trust with the American public, and that's a lot of dedication to the American public which they've already given the American public.

So, I think they have to decide whether or not it is something they would want to do. But as far as having someone like Symone or Karine be the spokesperson for the president of the United States, especially with their ages as well, would really mean something. I think also to the rest of the world, not just the country.

REID: Yeah. Also I think to black women who delivered at the voting booth for Joe Biden and who delivered in the nomination to be honest with you as well. You know, I want to also play Tom Cotton, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Mr. Podesta, speaking about another black woman who has been talked about as somebody who might be in the administration, one Susan Rice. Take a listen.


SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): I cannot imagine a Republican Senate confirming Susan Rice to any position. Remember, Susan Rice is the typhoid Mary of the Obama administration foreign policy.


REID: First of all, who is tom cotton to tell Joe Biden, President-elect Joe Biden what to do, number one? What do you make of that kind of characterization of someone who is actually an esteemed foreign policy voice?

JOHN PODESTA, OBAMA-BIDEN TRANSITION TEAM, FORMER CO-CHAIR: Well, you are exactly right, Joy. I think it is really despicable they continue to go after Susan. She served this country with distinction as ambassador to the U.S. -- U.N., United Nations, as national security adviser, the whole charge against her is trumped up.

And I think that I worked with her both in the Clinton administration and the Obama administration. She's tremendously skilled. She would be a great asset to the Biden/Harris administration. And I hope they don't listen certainly to Tom Cotton who, frankly, doesn't know what he is talking about.

REID: Yeah, that too.

You know, Christina, you know, I know Karine very well. We've had her on the show a lot. We've had Simone on as well, I know her. These are very smart women.

But is there something to the idea that Joe Biden said, "I'll always have your back" to black people, particularly black women who delivered for him. Is that something that would be important to that point of view, having the converse relationship where both sides are supporting one another, something Kamala Harris talked about on the campaigns or during debates?

GREER: Yes, joy, obviously he started with the selection of Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate. We have to think about the representation two ways, there's descriptive and there's substantive. He is not only thinking of two women descriptively as far as black women representing him and serving literally as his mouth piece, but the substantive representation, looking at their resumes, looking at what they've done over the past, not just the last few months working on the campaign but how they served the public in various capacities in other jobs.

Substantively, they are more than qualified to do the job. I think right now the reason speculation is being thrown out there is there are so many other positions the two are qualified for as well.

REID: Yeah, yeah.

GREER: So when we think about how Joe Biden wants to represent black women, he's putting his money where his mouth is. And we have many more appointments to see how he will do that.

REID: Yeah, absolutely.

And, John, just talk about the picks you have seen so far, you know, the sort of diversity he is trying to achieve and also how difficult do you think it is to try to be staffing up a new government when the current government is refusing to allow them in to see the books and get the keys?

PODESTA: Well, look, this has been a problem from the get-go with refusal of the GSA administrators to certify that he -- that Biden and Harris are the apparent winners. They need access. It is really causing a public health disaster to not let them have access to the information they need.

But with respect to staffing up, that process can go on. It is going on. He's already picked a transition team that is quite diverse, almost half of the people are people of color, more than half are women, and his White House picks are following in the same way.

You know, I couldn't agree more with Christina. It would be historic to have an African American woman in Karine's case, an LGBTQ representative speaking from that podium. And that is a critical job in the White House. Make no mistake about it.

It is the place where you need to level with the American people, and notwithstanding that Trump has devalued that job. It is a critical, important job. The press secretary needs direct access to the president and the vice president so that she can do her job.

REID: Yep. Absolutely. And it would be -- it would definitely be a nice change to have people tell the truth from that podium. Christina Greer, John Podesta, thank you very much.

That is tonight's REIDOUT.



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