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[00:00:00]

The Rachel Maddow Show weeknights at 9:00 Eastern on MSNBC. Before we start in earnest tonight, I do just want to take a second, if you will indulge me, because I have a thank you that I need to say. I'm not going to spend a ton of time on this, I promise. But I just wanted to tell you that we've had a couple of real milestones here at the show. Good ones. In January, for the first time ever, this show was the number one most watched show on all of cable television, which is crazy, right?

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Not not just the most watched show on cable news, but the most watched show in all of cable TV, everything that was in January, which was flummoxing and I thought absolutely was a fluke. But then today we learned that we did it for a second month in a row. It turns out we were the most watched show on all of cable TV for both January and February, which I have no idea what to make of. But even better than that, for February four, this past month, not only were we the most watched show on cable, but our network, this network, MSNBC, was the most watched network in all of cable TV in the month of February, which is the first time that has ever been true for us as a network since we came into existence nearly twenty five years ago.

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So if you know me, if you've ever seen the show, you know that I don't talk about ratings and cable news wars and all that stuff. So I'm not going to dwell on this. I will not mention it again. But it is a really big deal for us. And I'm really thankful to you for watching this show. I had no idea there would ever be so many of you watching. It does blow my mind personally, but I am so grateful and humbled.

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Thank you for supporting the show. Thank you for supporting MSNBC. We will keep doing our best to be worthy of your time and your trust for you tuning in. So let us never speak of this again. Sorry, but I had to get that out. All right.

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Moving on today, the nation's new commerce secretary was confirmed by the Senate. Gina Raimondo. She's the governor of Rhode Island or she was the governor of Rhode Island. Now she'll be our commerce secretary. Yesterday, the new education secretary was confirmed as well, Miguel Cardona. The Senate also tonight just confirmed Cecilia Rose to be chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. That was an overwhelming vote is ninety five to four for Cecilia Rouse. The nomination of William Burns to be CIA director just got a unanimous vote out of the Intelligence Committee and that will now head to the floor.

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A unanimous vote in committee is a good sign that he may get a unanimous vote on the floor. Deb, Holon to run the Interior Department. Javier Basara to be health secretary. Those Biden cabinet confirmations both seem to be on track to happen soon as well. Now, before tonight, we were still waiting after days and days and days and days to see if a Republican senator would decide that he or she would support Neera Tanden to run the Office of Management and Budget in the White House.

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The reason the White House needed to look for a Republican to support Mrs. Tanden is because conservative Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced that he wouldn't vote for her, which immediately it was evident as soon as he said that that that would potentially scupper her nomination.

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He said that he would not support her nomination because he decided that he did not like the combative tone of some of Neera Tanden past tweets. And the reason this is sticking in everyone's craw, the reason this announced that announcement that he wouldn't support Tanden has become sort of a stain on Senator Mansion's reputation is it's not that senators don't have a choice as to which way they're going to vote on every nominee. It's the question of the standard that he's applying here, because, of course, Senator Manchin voted to confirm plenty Trump nominees, all men, of course, who had much worse problems with their online tone than Neera Tanden ever got anywhere near.

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The reason this is a real problem for Senator Manchin and his reputation is because for some reason, Senator Manchin was only bothered by her tone in her online statements. He was not similarly bothered by the much more inflammatory things said by Republican male nominees who he happily voted for in the past. Again, all senators have a choice to they're consulted, advise and consent does a real thing. They are supposed to make an individual decision on every nominee. The problem here is not Senator Manchin voting against a Democratic president's nominee.

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The problem is Senator Manchin applying a blatant and inexplicable double standard just for her. When guys who did much worse were no problem to him, but for some reason she really bugs him. So because of that, we've been waiting to see if Senator Manchin would explain that so that this wouldn't accrue to his reputation the way it's going to. In the absence of that, we've been waiting to see if a Republican would actually set up stand up to support her so she could get the 50 votes she needed to be confirmed to run the White House Budget Office.

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Lisa Murkowski, the Republican senator from Alaska, was thought of as a potential crossover vote for Neera Tanden. Tanden and Murkowski met in Murkowski s office on Capitol Hill yesterday. Senator Murkowski still had not said how she would vote on the nomination when it got to the floor.

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But tonight, all this waiting and wondering and I think consternation over the behavior of Senator Manchin came to an end. Well, maybe the consternation about Senator Manchin will continue, but the waiting about Neera Tanden came to an end when Tanden told the White House she wanted to withdraw her nomination. Now, the result of this, as made clear in a White House statement in response, is that Tanden will get another job in the Biden administration. They will put her in a job that does not require Senate confirmation.

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She will join the administration. And Senator Joe Manchin will drag this around as a stain on his reputation for the long run. But it also means that President Biden will need to pick a new nominee to run the White House Budget Office. So there is some uncertainty now in terms of how the Biden cabinet is going to look in the end because the tendon denomination has come to an end. That said, Merrick Garland seems to be moving forward fairly smoothly to be the next attorney general of the United States, although somewhat along the same lines.

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Perhaps it should also be noted that two women of color who have been named by President Biden to be other senior officials in the Justice Department, working directly under Attorney General designate Merrick Garland to women of color. Kristen Clarke and Vanita Gupta have attracted fairly rabid attacks from Republicans at this point. And so we'll see what happens to their nominations as well, even as Merrick Garland seems to be moving forward. We'll also see if Joe Manchin decides he doesn't like them for some reason at the Justice Department.

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We'll have more ahead this hour on the proverbial burning wreckage that all the Biden appointees are going to be walking into at the Justice Department and the challenges ahead with prosecutions related to the January 6th capital attack. There was an interesting and sort of surprise announcement today made about who's going to be taking a key job in the Biden Justice Department that will have an important relationship not only to the January 6th arrests and prosecutions, but also to a bunch of the cases that ended up in a weird semi legal limbo after what appears to have been improper influence, improper political influence on Justice Department decisions under the Trump administration.

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A new appointee announced today for a key part of the Justice Department. Who is going to have that mess to clean up? We'll have more on that coming up later on this hour. The new defense secretary in the Biden administration, you'll remember he was confirmed very quickly after the inauguration. Retired General Lloyd Austin.

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And it's interesting for all of the diversity in our armed forces, including at the top, for all the pioneering leadership of people like Colin Powell, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of course, before he became secretary of state, before Lloyd Austin, it's almost impossible to believe. But the Defense Department never had an African-American secretary of defense before. Mr. Austin took that role this year under President Biden. And you might remember a few years back in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made a groundbreaking sort of glass ceiling breaking choice for defense minister in that country.

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He chose a man named Harjit Sajjan to be Canada's minister of national defense, the equivalent position of what Lloyd Austin is here. And our government minister Sajan is a Sikh. He wears a turban as a visible sign of his faith. He's a combat veteran with multiple tours in Afghanistan, also a former police officer. He's also very photogenic and charismatic. And so he became a bit of an international media star when he was first named to the cabinet. But interestingly, Minister Sajan, the Canadian defense minister, was actually one of four Canadians who Justin Trudeau named to his first cabinet, the infrastructure minister, the science minister, the minister for Small Business and Tourism and the defence minister, all four of those Canadian cabinet ministers of Sikh origin and Justin Trudeau's first cabinet.

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The Canadian population overall is about one and a half percent Sikh. And as those numbers have grown and Sikh families have prospered in Canada and Sikhs have been elected to parliament and started to become high ranking government ministers every now and again, we here in the States get sort of media crossover. We crossover into our media and our culture of something cool happening in Canada. To sort of celebrate or celebrate is the right way to celebrate this particular relatively new kind of diversity among Canadians and new immigrants there.

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Like, for example, this gentleman who lives in the Yukon Territory. His name is Gurdeep Pandor, and his social media presence is all about the over-the-top joy he takes in teaching other Canadians, Canadians, born and bred immigrant Canadians from all over everyone he teaches Bhangra dancing. This is his thing. Here he is teaching Canadian soldiers at a firefighting training base see the see the helicopter in the back on fire there, the firefighting training base. These are Canadian soldiers and he's teaching them all how to dance bhangra.

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Everybody can do it. Everybody's having the time of their lives. Here he is on a Navy warship teaching Canadian Navy sailors, everybody can dance. Everybody can do it. I love this guy. And this is what that same guy just posted today. So he says in the tweet that accompanies this video, he says, Yesterday evening I received my covid-19 vaccine, then I went to a frozen lake to dance Bhangra on it for joy, hope and positivity, which I'm forwarding across Canada and beyond for everyone's health and wellbeing.

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And this is his I got my vaccine dance, his joy at getting his covid vaccine. Honestly, it makes me feel better already. And here in the United States today, here is the Tennessee version of that for us. Well, hey, it's me, I'm finally going to get my vaccine, I'm so excited I've been waiting while I'm old enough to get it and I'm smart enough to get it. So I'm very happy that I'm going to get my MacDermott shot today.

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And I want to tell everybody that you should get out there and do it, too. I haven't changed a lot of my songs to 50 occasions. It goes vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, the vaccine. I'm begging you, please don't hesitate. The vaccine vaccine, that same vaccine, because once you're dead, then that's a bit too late. Trying to be funny now, but I'm dead serious about the vaccine. I think we all want to get back to normal, whatever that is.

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And that would be a great shot in the arm if we could get back to that. But I just wanted to encourage everybody. Perhaps the sooner we get to feeling better, the sooner we are going to get back to being normal. So I just want to say to all of you cowards out there, don't be such a chicken squat. They get shocked.

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Dolly Parton today, the one and only she's had a longtime relationship with Vanderbilt University. You may have heard the hour, seen the headlines from a couple of months ago. She gave them personally a million dollar donation to Vanderbilt early on in the pandemic to help them with their research, which was part of the development of the Moderna vaccine. She helped pay for the development of the malaria vaccine. And today, Dolly Parton got her Moderna vaccine shot. And of course, because she is Dolly Parton, she got it without having to roll up her sleeve because, of course, she already had a special dress that already had upper shoulder cutouts so they could just give her the shot right there without once interrupting, even for a second her perfect Dolly Parton glamour.

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Think, got it, I got it. Look, I didn't hurt just a little bit, but that was from the alcohol panel thing, right? All right. But I don't know. Mix up my beauty mark. OK, can you do like to get a new blood on my clothes? Hey, I did it.

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I did. I did it. I did it. Dolly Parton in Tennessee today. Dolly got her shot. The Sikh Canadian teach everyone to dance. Guy got it and went out and danced the bun on a frozen lake to celebrate. I will take it. I will take it more like this, please. Today was a bunch of big news, really big news on covid, there was some inexplicable news mixed into it from Texas and Mississippi, where today governors in those states announced they're dropping their mask requirements entirely in those states.

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Why now? Texas and Mississippi are both states where case numbers have very recently started to climb back up. Look at the far right side of each of those graphs. For all the progress each of those states has made and all that trauma and death they have been through, their numbers have just started to come back up. Case numbers in both states on the upswing and vaccines now rolling out in sufficient numbers and increasing numbers that can get us to the end of this thing.

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If we can just hold on a few more weeks and they're deciding they can't wait another second, they're pulling all covid related rules, like I said, at least to some fairly inexplicable decisions today in Texas and Mississippi. And it's not like Texas and Mississippi don't have other things to be worrying about right now. Both those two states have thousands of residents without clean drinking water because of infrastructure failures right now, including in the capital city of Mississippi. Both of those states, they've got huge present dangers right now with thousands of residents without potable drinking water because the state has absolutely blown it.

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So those two Republican governors in those states have decided that this is the right moment for a big, distracting, disastrous public health decision anyway. Knock yourself out. Meanwhile, though, today is the day we got really very big news about vaccine progress somehow. And we're going to try to find out how tonight somehow the administration persuaded two big rival drug companies, Merck and Johnson and Johnson, to stop competing in this front, on this front and instead cooperate to help each other out.

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Johnson and Johnson, as you know, has just developed this new vaccine that was only just approved this weekend, started shipping out yesterday. All the data say it works great. It only requires one shot. It only needs to be stored in a normal refrigerator without any special equipment. It is cheaper than the other two vaccines we've got approved. It's got sort of everything going for it, except for whatever reason. The Biden administration has been saying for a while now that they were surprised to learn when they took over five weeks ago that Johnson and Johnson didn't actually have the logistical capacity to manufacture that vaccine in large enough amounts.

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So we talked with the chief science adviser to the covid-19 response, Dr. David Kessler, about that a couple of weeks ago. He said that he had been working on that problem that very day and that there was a whole of government effort to work on that problem, among others, in terms of these production bottlenecks. Well, today, the Biden administration announced that they worked out a deal where this competing company, where Merck will come in and help with the manufacturing of another companies of Johnson and Johnson's vaccine.

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The vice president has some good news to report today, we're announcing a major step forward to the largest health care and pharmaceutical companies in the world that are usually competitors are working together on the vaccine. Johnson and Johnson and Merck will work together to expand the production of Johnson and Johnson's vaccine. This is a type of collaboration between companies we saw in World War Two. We also invoked the Defense Production Act to equip two Merck facilities to the standards necessary to safely manufacture the Janja vaccine.

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Johnson and Johnson's vaccine manufacturing facilities will now begin to operate 24 seven. Here's what all this means. We're now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May. Let me say that again. I'm pleased to announce today, as a consequence of the stepped up process that I've ordered and just outlined, this country will have enough vaccine supply, a safe again for every adult in America by the end of May. By the end of May.

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That's progress. Enough vaccine for every adult in America by May thirty first by the end of May, if he means that. I think that means in some ways we might get some are back this year, I mean, depending on whether or not that vaccine actually gets into enough American arms, end of May, that's two months earlier than they previously thought they were going to get. Their president went on to say today that in order to administer all these vaccines, we need more vaccinators, retired doctors and nurses to come out of retirement to help FEMA personnel, Defense Department personnel.

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I definitely want to know more about that, because it's one thing to have enough of the flu. It it's one thing to have enough of the vaccine sitting in vials. It's another thing to make sure that it can get into enough Americans. But if production is going to be that much faster than we thought it was going to be, if they've fixed enough of these bottlenecks that we're going to have enough for every American by the end of May. Well, we better have a distribution system that can get it into enough Americans by the end of May to to change everything.

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So I want to know more about that. I also want to know more about this part of it. We are, of course, I think we're thirty seven days into the new administration. President Biden said in his first hundred days he wanted the US to administer a hundred million vaccination doses. Well, at thirty seven days in, we're already over halfway there. We're well over 50 million doses administered. So it does look like we are ahead of the target to to hit ahead of pace to hit that target.

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But alongside the hundred million doses in one hundred days, President Biden also said he wanted all elementary schools reopened in his first hundred days. And the CDC has put out guidance about what it takes to safely reopen schools. Most schools honestly don't yet meet that criteria. And there's a lot of concern as to what it's going to take to get schools to a point where they do meet that criteria. The money in the covid relief bill, that's for reopening schools safely, that will help, but that, too, is a ways off.

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It hasn't even passed the Senate yet. So teachers and school staff in particular have been really worried about what it means to have all this new pressure to open schools, especially to open elementary schools and to open them quickly, which everybody agrees is an important goal and is really important for kids. But it's unnerving to have that sense of pressure and that sense of imminent, potentially forced reopenings while so many of the adults who make schools run still themselves can't get vaccinated.

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Well, here's the other big news today. Here's what President Biden said about that. Over 30 states have already taken the step to prioritize educators for vaccination, and today I'm using the full authority of the federal government. I'm directing every state to do the same. My challenge to all states, territories and the District of Columbia is this we want every educator, school staff member, child care worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March to help make this happen starting next week and for a month, the month of March will be using our federal pharmacy program to prioritize the vaccination of pre K through 12 educators and staff and child care workers.

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Throughout March, they will be able to sign up for an appointment at a pharmacy near them.

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They'll be able to sign up for an appointment at a pharmacy near them, prioritize the vaccination of pre K through 12, so pre-K through elementary school, middle school, high school educators and staff, plus child care workers. What is the federal pharmacy program and how is this going to work? I mean, getting every teacher and school staff member, every child care worker in the country vaccinated this month? This month, he wants this done by the end of March, he wants them to all have at least one vaccination shot by the end of this month, by this new initiative from the federal government.

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That would be absolutely huge. How is that going to work exactly? And are we really going to have enough vaccine for every adult in the country now by the end of May? Is that just on paper that we'll have enough? Is the distribution plan here enough to actually make that happen?

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Because because as much as I love the winter and I do like dancing on a frozen lake, love the winter, the idea of a country where all the teachers are vaccinated this month and there is vaccine enough for everyone else in the country before the start of June, that's enough to make me love the spring and the summer, too.

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Joining us now for the interview is Dr. David Kessler. He is the chief science officer for covid-19 response under President Biden. And so it's an honor to have your time tonight. Thank you so much for being here. It's a pleasure to be with you, Rachel. First, let me give you a chance to correct me if I explained any of these new policy announcements or the new place that we are with vaccines in a way that was wrong or that missed the point at all.

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No, you got it exactly right. In three months, we will have enough vaccine for every adult in this country.

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When you think about the match of the need to the resources, this is obviously a huge piece of it. Will there be enough actual vaccine, actual fluid in vials to vaccinate every every adult in the country knowing that is now going to happen by the end of May rather than by the end of July, which was the already ambitious goal that you had announced? That's a huge piece of it. The other part of matching the resources to the needs, though, is that the distribution and we've all experienced my family has experienced it a thousand times over the difficulty and the complexity in trying to get people matched up with vaccines that they need.

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Try to get those appointments, try to get people in line. Is that is our distribution effort going to expand to meet the the need in the way that the production of vaccine is?

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Exactly, right now we have many of our state and local partners administering vaccines, but we will add and are adding every week and not only increased number of vaccinators, but increased number of sites. We're doing that. Add mass vaccination centers, mid-sized vaccination centers, community health centers. As you mentioned, there will be a federal pharmacy program for teachers, among others. So there are a number of increasing distribution channels that will keep up with this increased supply of vaccine.

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I'm not sure that I understand what a federal pharmacy program is and how that will work for that, teachers and and school staff members and child care workers and all their families who are watching this tonight, trying to figure out what this means about their loved one of themselves, being able to get the vaccine by the end of this month. How does the federal pharmacy program work?

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Let me make it simple. Beginning the week of March 8th, go to the CDC website. If you're a teacher, you will see the participating pharmacies in your neighborhood that you can go to go to their Web page. And if you're a teacher, if your child care worker, if you're a staff worker, if you're a bus driver in a school, you are eligible to go to that pharmacy and get your vaccine. And we want all teachers to have at least one vaccination the month of March.

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Dr. Kessler, the last time you were here, you said that President Biden had instructed you when he took office to do everything possible to accelerate the production of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. You told me and you told all of us here that you are working on it day and night. I have to ask you, given your concern and your involvement in this, were you working on brokering this deal between Johnson and Johnson and Merck that Merck would actually come in as a competitor and agree to help Johnson and Johnson produce their product?

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The answer is yes. I mean, if you go back, you look at the history a little, President Truman asked the then Robert Wood Johnson Jr., who was then president of Johnson and Johnson to help bring companies together in World War Two. And President Biden made it very clear the message was, there is nothing too big, that you can't go big here. These companies came together. I have to give them enormous credit. At the administration's urging, Merck and Johnson and Johnson came together.

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This is an historic partnership. They will produce. They will double the amount of drug substance.

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That's the vaccine itself. This is what's required. This is their time. We were all in this with them. Dr. Kessler, last night we learned this is not I'm not asking you a politics question here, but it is a question that has a political context. And so I'll just preface it by saying that last night we learned for the first time and we reported here on the show for the first time that the former president, President Trump, was himself vaccinated at the White House in January.

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And we learned for the first time last night because the White House didn't photograph the event, they didn't announce it. They didn't tell anybody that President Trump had been vaccinated. I thought when we reported last night that while he was president, he had actually never told Americans to get vaccinated. It turns out he did say in one tweet in December that everybody should get their shots. But that story highlights something that is very difficult for our country, in particular about vaccines.

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We have an odd partisan divide now on vaccine hesitancy among Americans who aren't vaccinated. Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to say they will get the shot when they can. And I don't know why the previous administration treated President Trump's own vaccination like a state secret and whether that might have helped if they told everybody he was being vaccinated. But now that we do have this weird partisan divide about vaccine hesitancy, how does how does a Democratic administration how do you guys work to help Republicans feel more positively about the vaccine, given that given that divide that really does exist?

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Just the science, Rachel. Two thousand people, more than two thousand people have died each day recently.

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This vaccine prevents death. It prevents hospitalization. The vast majority of people I mean, it's that simple.

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I mean, there are six still today. Sixty five thousand cases a day. There are variants that are of concern. We can put this behind us. And, yes, we will have enough vaccine in the next three months for every American. But as the president said, you know, those are the vaccines. We need vaccinations and it's going to take everybody to step up and do their part and get this over with. Dr. David Kessler, former FDA commissioner, now the chief science officer for the covid-19 response under President Biden.

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Dr. Kessler, it is a real honor for us whenever you're able to make time to be here. Thank you. Thank you, Rachel. OK, it is a historic day if there's going to be enough vaccine in this country for every American by the end of May. That is such a change in the trajectory that we were expecting. The delivery is going to have to be there in order to make the promise of this real. But this might have just given us back so much time and saved so many lives as a country, if we can get there.

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Huge day. Much more to get to tonight. Stay with us. Here's something to watch for in tomorrow's news. The US Senate tomorrow is going to hold its second hearing about the January 6th attack on the Capitol. And for the first time tomorrow, we're going to hear testimony from Pentagon officials about what happened that day. That's important because it means we might finally start to get some answers about one of the unsolved, unsettling mysteries about something that unfolded during the attack last week.

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You might remember police officials testified about their desperate efforts to try to get the National Guard deployed to come in to help while the Capitol is being overrun by the pro Trump mob. But their requests for National Guard help were inexplicably slow, walked for hours during the attack. The acting D.C. police chief testified that he was stunned at the lack of urgency from the Pentagon that day when they were calling for help. Now, we haven't heard much from the Pentagon side on this, and what we have heard from them has not been reassuring.

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For instance, there is the still unexplained fact that the Pentagon repeatedly lied about one of the people who participated in the key phone call to the army that day when D.C. officials and police officials were begging the army to send in National Guard help to back up the Capitol Police who were being overrun on that call. On the Pentagon side, we now know, was a general named Charlie Flynn. Charlie Flynn is the brother of disgraced Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn, who, of course, had called on Trump to invoke martial law and use the military to overturn the presidential election results.

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Mike Flynn's brother, General Charlie Flynn, has denied that his relationship with his brother had any connection to his actions or the Pentagon's lack of a response that day while they were getting asked for help. But we still don't know what his involvement was, and we still don't know why the Pentagon initially lied about him being involved in that decision. So that's something to watch tomorrow. Why didn't the National Guard turn up when they were being begged to be there?

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And why did they lie about Mike Flynn's brother having some role in the decision making process there of the first testimony from Pentagon officials about January 6th tomorrow, today on Capitol Hill? We got the first testimony from the FBI since the capital attack. Director Ray told senators that FBI has no evidence that the Capitol riot was instigated by leftists or anarchists or people who were pretending to be Trump supporters by dressing up like them in costume, which is a popular conspiracy theory among Trump supporters, including many Republicans in Congress.

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FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed that right wing extremists, including white supremacists, were among those who carried out the attack. He told senators during his tenure the FBI's domestic terrorism caseload has doubled to about two thousand cases, and the number of arrests of violent white supremacists has nearly tripled. He also reported that over three hundred people have now been arrested in connection with a capital riot and that they're starting to build more extensive cases against some of those people, including charges of planning and coordination for the capital attack.

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Director Wray did not offer a lot of detail today on the cases against accused capital attackers, but frankly, it was good to get anything at all. Given how tight lipped the Justice Department has been the last few weeks. I don't know if it's just that the folks at DOJ are staying quiet while waiting for President Biden's attorney general nominee, Merrick Garland, to be confirmed and start working. We're expecting that Senate vote, as I mentioned earlier, any day now.

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But whatever the reason, the US attorney for D.C., the top federal prosecutor in D.C., has been running the federal investigation into the capital attack. He hasn't held a public briefing on that investigation in five weeks. We did get some news today out of that office, though, out of the D.C. US attorney's office. The Biden administration has announced a new acting US attorney to run that office, a man named Channing Phillips. He's a veteran former federal prosecutor who has run the D.C. US attorney's office twice before during to brief stints during the Obama administration.

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This is really notable development for a couple of reasons. Didn't get a ton of national attention, but it deserves it. First of all, it's unusual for a new president to appoint a new acting US attorney. Last month, nearly all the Trump appointed US attorneys submitted their resignations, that's customary when you get a new administration, generally, the top deputies in all the US attorney's offices in the country then step up on an interim basis to become that acting chief while new US attorneys are nominated by the new president and confirmed by the Senate.

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But in this case, special case and the D.C. U.S. attorney's office, the Biden administration has put in their own acting top federal prosecutor in D.C., somebody from outside the office to do as it was a long tenure is widely respected in that office because of previous service, but hasn't been serving there. Now they're coming in from outside to take over immediately while they go through the process of nominating a permanent US attorney for that role and for US attorneys offices all around the country.

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So it's an unusual move. And the D.C. U.S. attorney's office is an unusual place, especially since Donald Trump got a hold of it. The last nominated and confirmed US attorney in D.C. was forced out by Trump. Attorney General Bill Barr under still not fully explained circumstances. And it was Jesse Lou. She was replaced by one of Bill Barr's closest personal aides who then set about helping Barr and Trump turn the D.C. US attorney's office into a cudgel to be wielded against the president's enemies and to help the president's friends who were otherwise in trouble.

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That included the Justice Department overruling career prosecutors at that US attorney's office to recommend a significantly lighter sentence for Trump friend Roger Stone, an intervention that prompted four prosecutors to withdraw from the case of one of them to quit the Justice Department altogether. There was also it was also the D.C. U.S. attorney's office under Trump that moved to drop all the charges against Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, even though the office had secured two guilty pleas from Mike Flynn already in court to those charges, all the attorneys involved in the Flynn case refused to sign the court filing, dropping the charges.

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It was signed only by Bill Barr's handpicked staffer, who he had installed as the acting US attorney. Barr also installed a bunch of outside lawyers at the D.C. US attorney's office to oversee and second guess cases that had connections to President Trump. Some of those cases were reportedly not publicly known, indicating the possibility that investigations touching on President Trump or his interests were simply disappeared by Bill Barr and his goons and his henchmen without them ever becoming known to the public because they made them disappear.

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That was the D.C. US attorney's office under Donald Trump. That office is still tonight until this new guy gets there tomorrow, being run by a different former Bill Barr staffer who has been acting US attorney there since last May. That office is the office responsible for prosecuting all that January 6th capital attackers. But on top of that, there is a giant mess there, years in the making now that needs to be cleaned up. We reported last night that there are currently multiple investigations, including at least two criminal investigations, one by state prosecutors in New York, one by state prosecutors in Georgia that involved former President Trump.

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That's a first in US history. We've never had a former president under criminal investigation before. But for all those investigations that are ongoing, for all that potential criminal behavior by the president being investigated by multiple prosecutors, none of those prosecutors are federal prosecutors and none of those are federal cases because in the Justice Department under President Trump, all of that was taken care of in some cases by activity that really, really looked like corrupting the federal prosecutors offices that handled cases that might touch on the president.

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That trash is tied on to the bumper of the Justice Department until somebody sets it on fire or cuts it off. That is a live wire that the Biden administration could not leave sparking and bouncing around. That absolutely has to be handled. We're about to get a new attorney general, we are about about to get a new acting US attorney in D.C., which is an unusual move. Is that a sign that this is about to be handled? Expert advice on figuring that out.

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Coming up. Stay with us. Last year in February, New York Times Justice Department reporter Katie Benner wrote about serious trouble at the US attorney's office in D.C. as career prosecutors found themselves repeatedly subjected to political pressure on their cases from their superiors. The article quoted Channing Phillips, who had run that D.C. U.S. attorney's office during the Obama administration, saying that recent events under Attorney General William Barr, quote, suggest undue meddling by higher ups at the Justice Department.

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Well, now, today, the Biden administration has announced that that same Channing Phillips will be responsible in some ways for fixing the damage. Katie Benner reporting today that Channing Phillips has been appointed to step into that US attorney's office and take over, starting tomorrow as acting US attorney. It is an unusual move. Joining us now is New York Times Justice Department, Katie Benner. España, it's nice of you to make time for us tonight. Thanks for being here.

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Hearing me. At the start of a new administration, we're used to a new president appointing new US attorneys for all the US attorney's offices around the country, or at least most of them. This does seem unusual to have somebody appointed to be an acting U.S. attorney, to come in immediately, even before anyone has been nominated on a permanent basis.

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Yes, indeed, it is an unusual arrangement, but you have to remember that the US attorney's office in D.C. has been the site of so much controversy. It was also in the unusual position where Michael Sherwen, the current U.S. attorney, was put in place under other circumstances where the previous U.S. attorney had been ousted, where her replacement had also been removed, where another man who is the U.S. attorney in Ohio, the department claimed that he was going to come in and serve as U.S. attorney, but instead it was used, as some people think, as like a fait a fig leaf in order to allow Michael Sherman just to stay on because they could say there was somebody the president intended to put in place.

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It was just unusual all around. So bringing in somebody like Channing Phillips has a long history in D.C., a long history in the office and a long history with the police here and the courts is seen as a stabilizing move. And you wrote today, Katie, that there's hope that his that he will help restore confidence and morale in the office that has been so roiled by accusations of political interference. Does your reporting indicate that there is going to be some sort of effort to, two, to find out what happened in terms of undue political influence, in terms of the Justice Department essentially having misbehaved toward that prosecutor's office in ways that were designed to help the president and his interests?

[00:42:21]

I think those questions are already being asked internally. I think that bringing in somebody like Channing Phillips, if you want to get those answers, is probably a good move. He is trusted by people in the office, no matter what their political affiliation. And Channing Phillips also has deep roots here in Washington. His father, also named Channing Phillips, is a very well-known civil rights leader here in D.C. He was he was the first African-American to be considered as a as a presidential candidate that did not work out, but he was seriously considered for that role.

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And Phillips himself, he has the trust of people in the office. So if you want to get to the bottom of what happened, you would like to have somebody like him in place. Katie Benner, Justice Department reporter for The New York Times, it's really helpful to have you here tonight. It's also really helpful to have you on this beat for the long arc of these stories, because in some ways, you're really the institutional memory of what went wrong here and being able to follow it through as these things start to get resolved or at least addressed.

[00:43:16]

It's a real service. Thanks, Katie. All right. We'll be right back. Stay with us. It's day 15 with no running water in parts of South Jackson and bottled water has been the hardest to find people needing to brush their teeth, rinse off or even take medication or having to drive to multiple locations just to get their hands on some, you know.

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And it's hard not to have any water. I wouldn't want anybody to be without water because it's not a good feeling.

[00:43:49]

Meyer says on a daily basis, they bring about five to six containers to Forest Hill High for volunteers to fill up. For more than two weeks now, thousands of people in the city of Jackson, Mississippi, have been without safe drinking water. A cold snap just over two weeks ago caused all that trouble in Texas that we've heard so much about. But it also caused ninety six separate leaks or breaks in water mains in Jackson entire city put under a boil water notice.

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Some people have had no running water at all all this time. As of tonight, the city says they've been able to fix fifty three of the ninety six water main breaks that they know of. But again, it has been more than two weeks. Local officials say they still have no estimate as to when the water in Jackson will be safe to drink. They still have no idea when normal service will be restored. Moorhead tonight. Stay with us.

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That is going to do it for us tonight, going to be a big day in the news tomorrow with that January 6th hearing that for the first time is going to involve Pentagon officials. They have a lot to explain about where the National Guard was and why they were so delayed on January 6th. Should be fascinating to watch. I'll see you again here tomorrow night.