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tv   American Voices With Alicia Menendez  MSNBC  December 19, 2020 7:00pm-8:00pm PST

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i am alicia menendez. ahead, this hour. a massive, russian hack, and a
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massive attempt to blur the lines. not by putin but by our own president. the tweet that puts him miles apart from the truth and his own secretary of state. also, tonight. a second vaccine is approved and about to roll out, across this country. the president wants to take credit for it. as new reporting reveals why this administration wanted to leave school kids out of the process. and who counts? what the supreme court did this week, when faced with trump's quest to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census. it is a temporary win that is bound for defeat. welcome to a a nnew hour of "american voices." topping the news, tonight. president trump, doing what he does best. contradicting the truth and his own intelligence officials in the process. we first told you, last weekend, about the russian cyberattack, targeting a dizzying number of
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private, u.s. companies and government agencies. but, it was not until today that we heard the sitting president address it. not only did he downplay it, but he shifted blame to china, without a shred of evidence to back up the claim. and he added another wild theory into the mix that, maybe, voting machines were hacked, too. that was the president, today. here was his secretary of state, yesterday. >> this was a very significant effort and i think it's the case that now we can say, pretty clearly, that it was the russians that engaged in this activity. >> in a shock to no one, russian president vladimir putin denies being involved. and we all know donald trump won't call putin on the carpet for it. so, here we are. chris krebs, the former director of the cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency, who we should note, was fired by president trump for defending the results of the election, is pushing back against the president's claims.
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tweeting, do not conflate voting-system security and solar winds. the proof is in the paper. you can audit or recount again to confirm the outcome, like they did in georgia and michigan and wisconsin and arizona. can't hack paper. so, for a moment, let's put aside the sideshow, and focus on the facts before us. this cyberhack was huge. so far, we know at least 40 entities have been infiltrated with malware dating back as far as march. according to microsoft, those entities include the office of the treasury, and the departm t departments of defense and energy. and in case you aren't scared enough, they also hacked the national nuclear security administration, which maintains our country's nuclear weapon stockpile. this hack campaign is most likely an effort to spy on us. former-senior counsel to the house intelligence committee tells nbc news, quote, we have no evidence, yet, that any
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information has been deleted, destroyed, manipulated, or modified. in short, russia isn't listening, russia is watching. giving us a ton to navigate through, tonight. starting us off, editor at large for "newsweek" and the author of "how to catch a russian spy," the true story of an american turned double agent. even pompeo is linking the cyberattack to russia. so, why can't the president do the same? >> well, i mean, this has been going on for four years. and if i take off my journalism hat, just for a brief moment, you know, i worked undercover against the gru for three years. and what i can tell you, alicia, and this has been frustrating me the last four years. russia, whether it's cyber, whether it's ukraine, whatever it might be, russia will keep pushing until they hit that obstacle, until they hit that wall. and today, with president trump, he has yet to condemn them. he has yet to push back. so this is the natural
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progression. they are going to keep going. they are going to keep expanding. that -- that aggressive posture is going to be -- keep increasing. and at some point, it's going to go to a bridge too far. so, his inability to confront them, his inability to call them out is, again, just putting this country at danger, in the fact that it just emboldens them by telling them there's no consequence. so, they are just going to keep not only doing this but upping the ante. >> natasha, how was this able to go undetected for so long? and what's it going to take to root out all of the systems that were potentially infected? >> it's a great question. we don't know why the u.s. government didn't catch this. the russians were very, very good at this particular operation. it was a very sophisticated operation. it was something that was carried out allegedly by an arm of russian intelligence that tepi tends to just burrow into
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places. this is a separate entity. and their entire goal is just to spy. it was a massive spying operation. that being said, it can be spying and can also be ex-filtration of data. that's one of the things investigators are examining. in these agencies, was it just that the russians were trying to burrow around and see what they could find out about what the u.s. government was doing? or were they actually trying to steal data, manipulate things, and perhaps try to sow chaos in the future, by changing things that could be critical to our critical infrastructure, for example. we just don't know, yet. when i spoke to officials, who were briefed on the department of energy situation, they said that it could be weeks before they have any idea whether or not this was just something that was a back-door kind of thing, where the russians kind of walked in the back door, looked around. weren't able to get any further. or whether they were actually attacked, in the sense that there was information stolen,
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there were things manipulated. we just don't know yet and i think that's worrying officials most. >> instead, they are calling it an act of espionage. how does viewing this breach as an attack open the way for retaliation? >> so, i want to be clear because i've, also, spoken to officials. and technically, u.s. cybercom is calling this an incident. so it's important to understand, sort of what natasha said. the reason that this wasn't detected is simply because they focus on the supply chain, right? cybersecurity, just like any security, is focused on keeping a bad guy from the outside, out. in this case, they exploited a private company, solarwinds. they exploited their product. they changed code. they did it through an update server. they actually changed code. that, in a definition, is cyberattack. however, it was not a u.s. government system that started this off. it was a private company. so, the question here, and what i have asked experts is should we allow that critical-infrastructure umbrella, the idea that because they attacked a private company
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that, in effect, was used to launch a much larger-scale operation against government systems, the answer, frankly, i think is yes. i mean, look, today, what happens if, tomorrow, it's boeing? i mean, this is a really important extension. and a lot of people i am talking to, on the expert side, are saying this warrants an actual response. >> natasha, you specifically reported on the hack at the department of energy and the national nuclear security administration, which again, maintains the nation's nuclear weapon supply. what information was compromised? and how might that information then be used by russia? >> yeah. so there were five different semiautonomous agencies, including national security administration, within that administration. there were also certain aspects that were -- that were breached in the sense that the russians were able to get into the networks. but they still don't know, again, how far they were able to get. whether they were able to
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actually get any information. and the department of energy has put together what are called hunt teams to try to get a sense of basically following the russians' tracks here. basically, trying to rummage around. see what they have been able to access. and then, if possible, try to kick them out. but again, it could take weeks and weeks. and part of the reason why this happened is because we had such a weak link in the supply chain, as navid was talking about. this is going to, obviously, change a lot of people's minds about how we approach using these software, these -- these critical -- these supply chain management software, in the sense that it's so broad that the -- so many of the -- so many agencies in the u.s. government have been using this one software that, if compromised, could take down the whole thing. so, that's obviously going to be reexamined. and obviously, it's particular scary the department of energy was compromised, in that sense. >> naveed, i am struck by how
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many questions you and natasha are laying out. and it would seem to me, this is a critical moment for the president-elect to be receiving national-security briefings. instead, there has been a pause on those. what does that mean for the incoming administration? what does that mean, even more importantly, for our national security? >> well, you know, i think this is -- it is important for the president-elect to know what's going on, to get those intelligence brief. but it's also important for him to start formulating policy how to deal with this, right? this is -- this is uncharted territory. what the russians did here by compromising u.s. systems, as natasha is pointing out, we don't know what they have done. in fact, just because we have closed this exploit, if they've taken over another server that's not solarwinds server, we might not even know about that. this could be an ongoing threat. so, having the president-elect briefed on this, having him be able to start formulating policy. having him be able to start formulating what his response is
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going to be day one what he sets foot in the office, i think it's incredibly important. and again, if president trump is saying we should look at china, not russia. i mean, my goodness, what's the messaging? on top of the fact that there is some sort of level of obstruction, by design or by default, with briefing the incoming administration. how is this helping our national security? it isn't. >> all right. natasha, thank you so much. naveed, i will see you a little bit later in the program. zblchlgts sti still ahead for us. we will talk about moderna's new weapon against covid-19 with a doctor who took part until tin trials. zblchlg plus, fresh lockdowns in the uk just before christmas. a new form of coronavirus is spreading fast. but first, richard lui standing by with other big stories. richard. >> some of the stories we are watching. the u.s. has now recorded more than 250,000 new covid cases. total cases are approaching 18
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million, with over 315,000 deaths. now, in congress, still no deal on covid relief. the senate called it a night, just a short time ago. a vote on a relief package is not expected, until tomorrow. friday, congress passed a two-dtwo two-day funding extension. next deadline, that is sunday at midnight. join the army, you are a soldier. join the navy, you are a sailor. join the space force, you are a guardian. vice president pence announced the new label, yesterday. it was the one-year anniversary of the creation of the space force. more "american voices" right after this short break. right after this short break
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today, the cdc voted to recommend moderna's covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, for persons 18 years of age and older. the fda approved it, last night. doses are set to be shipped starting tomorrow. putting actual shots in arms, by as early as monday. the second tool against this pandemic. giving health officials confidence that millions of americans will get vaccinated, over the next couple of weeks. >> we remain on track to allocate 20 -- around 20 million doses of vaccine to all jurisdictions, by the end of december. with distribution of those doses pushing into the first week of january. >> with me now, nbc's shaquille brewster, who is in olive branch, mississippi, outside of the mckesson distribution plant,
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where the moderna vaccine will be distributed. shaq, a lot of optimism here for the distribution of the moderna vaccine. what more do we know about this process? and how soon the vaccine can be administered? >> well, we're really getting the sense that we are just now hours away from the first trucks rolling out of this distribution center. you mentioned the distribution center is named mckesson. it's the facility that moderna is relying on to help turn its stock of vaccine into individual shipments. we learned, today, from the general of operation warp speed, the chief-operating officer, that they are expecting to send these shipments out to some 3,000 locations across the country. we know that moderna is promising more than 20 million doses of this vaccine to be delivered, by the end of the year. that's just a small timeframe that we are dealing with, at this point. you know, as we talk about the numbers, it's also important to note that there was some confusion about the timeline of the vaccine when we saw with
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pfizer. many states, and you heard complaints from many governors, saying they didn't get that initial allocation that they were expecting of pfizer's vaccine. well, in the briefing, this morning, we heard the chief operating officer of operation warp speed really take ownership over that. listen to a little bit of his comments during the media briefing this morning. >> i am the one that approved the forecast sheets. i am the one that approved the allocations. right? there is no problem with the process. there is no problem with the pfizer vaccine. there is no problem with the moderna vaccine. so would the governors -- to the governors' staffs, please, accept my personal apology if this was disruptive in your decision-making and in your conversations with the people of your great state. i will work hard to correct this. >> this is really a new process for everyone, and he said that, really, it came down to
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miscommunication. not understanding how many doses were ready to be shipped based on the doses that were produced. but really, the difference between this vaccine and the pfizer vaccine is that temperature that the vaccine can be frozen. we know the moderna vaccine does not require that special, sub-arctic freezer, that many hospital systems have. but pharmacies don't have, for example. so, that's the difference this vaccine will really make, especially, when you dig into the different plans from the states. this vaccine is really going to help rural hospitals, the rural communities. because they are used to holding and containing items, at this temperature. so, you are really going to expect to see this vaccine go out to things like pharmacies, doctors' offices, and nursing homes. those critical areas, to really help get this first phase of vaccine out to the people. >> all right. shaquille brewster, going to be exciting to watch that vaccine rollout, tomorrow. thank you so much for covering it for us. over in the united kingdom, a new variant of the coronavirus has started to spread so quickly
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that prime minister boris johnson announced, today, he is enforcing the strictest lockdown, yet, across london and parts of england. he says, the threat is so real that residents need to rethink their christmas plans. >> let me, first of all, just say to everybody who's made plans for christmas. as i said earlier on, everybody who's thought about it, all the care and love that's gone into plans for christmas. we, of course, bitterly regret the changes that are -- that are necessary. but alas, when the facts change, you have to change your approach. >> nbc's matt bradley has more from london. >> reporter: yeah, well, britain's boris johnson, who lives right behind me here at 10 downing street, he has just become the prime minister who stole christmas. he is clapping back a lot of the restrictions that had already been lifted here in britain, and that he had promised would be lifted for christmas and new year's. he went back on his word. he got some scathing criticism among reporters at the press
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conference, this afternoon. basically, this is another lockdown, without that name. there is going to be closing of all nonessential businesses, and that includes restaurants and gyms. everybody is going to be encouraged to work from home. it's going to be a lot like the previous lockdowns that have been here, throughout europe. and why? well, it's because of a troubling, new variant of the coronavirus that's emerged here in london, and in southeast england. now, this is something. it spreads about 70% faster than the regular coronavirus. and here, in london, authorities say 60% of the cases are from this new, mutant strain. now, scientists have assured everybody that this is not any more deadly than the normal virus. and it isn't any more resistant to vaccine. so, the existing vaccines that have just started being rolled out here. they will still work. but, it's troubling to a lot of scientists. they say that those two conditions could change, at any time, because this virus simply
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replicates a lot faster. even if it is less deadly. and the faster the virus replicates, the faster it can possibly mutate. and that could bring up some problems, to come. but for now, most people here are just gutted that they're not going to be spending christmas with their extended families. alicia. >> matt bradley reporting. thank you, matt. well, the distribution of two approved vaccines is big progress. incredible. in squashing this pandemic. it does little to fix the hurt caused to america's school system. schools continue struggling with how to carry on, while not putting students and teachers at risk. but as with most everything in this pandemic, it could have all been avoided. as vanity fair reports, in the first months of the pandemic, the trump administration was presented with a detailed plan by the rockefeller foundation to test students and teachers. the plan would have cost $8.5 billion a month, but the white house punted. saying we think the markets will sort it out. with me, now, public-health
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physician at american college of preventative medicine fellow. she also took part in the moderna trial. doctor, always good to see you. first, on that vanity fair report. what impact would an extensive-testing program in schools have had, given the level of cases we are currently seeing across the country? >> i think it just would have been an important partnership between public health, and another bedrock public institution, meaning our education systems. look. a lot of local districts have been lost without firm guidance, firm instructions. not knowing quite what to do. and if the federal government were able to provide a blueprint, to provide instructions and a response for how those school districts could handle the coronavirus pandemic, we would be in a better position than we are now. making testing available to teachers. making testing available to students, in the numbers that would be necessary to keep students safe. we just didn't have that.
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and another issue. we didn't have a plan for schools to prepare issues around ventilation, to ensure that their buildings and their spaces had proper airflow and air dynamic. so, yes, once again, we were slow out of the gate. but i am looking for us to rebound strongly with the next administration. >> and part of that rebound. today, the cdc voted to recommend moderna's covid-19 vaccine for emergency use for persons 18 years of age and older. pfizer's vaccine is approved for those as young as 16. what do we know, doctor, about how these vaccines affect younger people? >> so, we're still learning, right? and there is current research that's going on. and what we'll see happen is that trials will begin to look at the vaccine, in progressively younger groups. we know that, with pfizer, they tested 16 and 17-year-olds. we know that moderna tested 18-year-olds and over. you will probably see, next, that adolescent population to see how adolescents respond to
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the vaccine. and if all goes as expected with the older groups, you will see that get younger and younger. but this is just how science evolves, and how science unfolds. and this is the most effective and safest way to do this. >> doctor, today, the cdc has issued new guidelines for allergic reactions to covid-19 vaccines. that, if you have ever had a severe, allergic reaction to any ingredient in a covid-19 vaccine, then the cdc recommends that you should not get that specific vaccine. and if you have had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines, to ask your doctor. but anyone who has had allergies unrelated to vaccines should get the vaccine. what do you make of these new recommendations? >> this is a rational approach. what we are emphasizing here, again, is shared decision-making. what we call person-centered care. if you have a history of severe allergic reactions, where your
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throat closes up and you have difficulty breathing. you have had to use a epipen, you have had to be cared for in a hospital, you should have this conversation with your doctor. your doctor should help you go through the ingredients in the vaccine to decide whether or not it's safe for you to be administered the vaccine. and if your doctor -- if you are able to come to that decision after that thorough evaluation process, then sites where the vaccines are being administered have other checks and balances in place making sure that those persons are observed for 30 minutes. making sure that epipens and other life-saving measures are available, should there be any significant, adverse reactions. but this is good science. this is good, ethical guidelines we are hearing coming from the cdc. and they're just things that we will learn, as the process continues to unfold. >> dr. purnell, as always, thank
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you so much. next, joe biden's plan to save the planet and the team he is bringing together to help him do it. plus, how president-elect biden is building his cabinet with a special focus on climate change. more on that, right after this. service at the ready. at mercedes-benz, it's not just a job, it's our mission. from our expert technicians armed with state of the art tools and technology, to genuine parts made for the perfect fit. whether it's our place... ...or yours. we're there. rain or shine, day or night. no one knows your vehicle better. to learn all the ways we can be at your service, call, click or visit a dealership near you. with sweet potato fries. eating a falafel wrap (doorbell rings) thanks! splitsies? ♪ meant the food, didn't you? honey
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just hours ago, president-elect joe biden announced his picks to be the next stewards of our nation's climate and energy policies. if confirmed, michael regan would be the first black man to lead the ea. and congresswoman deb haaland would be the first in our nation's history. she spoke about the long road that brought her to this moment. >> the president-elect and vice president-elect are committed to a diverse cabinet, and i am honored and humbled to accept their nomination for secretary of the interior.
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growing up in my mother's pueblo household made me fierce. i struggled with homelessness, relied on food stamps, and raised my child as a single mom. these struggles give me perspective, though, so that i can help people to succeed. >> for more, i am joined by ali vitali. and a berkeley law lecturer, she is also former deputy chief of staff to president clinton. good to see you both. ali, president-elect biden just introduced nominees for his climate and energy teams. what do these appointments, ali, signal about where the incoming administration will place its priorities? >> well, alicia, throughout this transition, we have talked about the premium that's been placed on refrequentilective governanc diversity of experience, race, and gender. certainly, today, in that room, you saw that reflected. but there is, also, a premium being placed on dealing with the crises that are facing this nation right now. we talk, often, about the
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pandemic and the economic recession. but climate change was an issue that dominated the democratic primary. voters across the country animated about the urgency of this issue. and today, being in that room, as biden rolled out this next wave of picks. the urgency was clear, as he connected this crisis to all of the other crises that are facing the nation right now. listen. >> so many climate and health calamities are colliding, all at once. it's not just the pandemic that keeps people inside. it's poor air quality. multiple studies have shown air pollution is associated with the increased risk of death from covid-19. >> so, you hear him there, talking about the pandemic. but all of these things are really interconnected. and especially, as we go forward, into this administration, trying to go on offense. especially, in regards to environmental policies. when i was covering the early days of the trump white house, those were some of the first things that they dismantled from the obama administration. and so, a lot of work to be
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redone here, if you are the biden team. but they are trying to, also, do it with jobs and the economy if mind. it strikes me that they have jennifer granholm, the former governor of michigan, in the role as -- as head of the energy department here, because she is someone who can talk about building out of a recession. she was at -- at the head of michigan during the great recession. she talked about that, today. and she is someone who, now, when they want to get out there and start selling jobs as climate-friendly jobs, she is someone who can do that with a deep wealth of speaking on cable news experience. also, experience talking to unions. so, they have not just qualified and competent managers and leaders here but, also, people who can be qualified and competent messengers, when that time comes as well. >> maria, i want to get your take on the nomination of congresswoman deb haaland to be secretary of the interior. both, your sense of what she brings to that role, and the challenges that lie ahead for her? >> absolutely. i think all -- all of these announcements are great. i want to point out that
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jennifer granholm is a colleague here at the goldman school of public policy here at uc berkeley. and when she left the governship in michigan, spent the last few years working precisely on this issue of energy and jobs. so, she is really terrific for that spot. and what can i say about congresswoman haaland? i mean, it is -- it is a glass ceiling broken, on so many levels. and the importance of having an indigenous person at the head of the interior department. it is -- there is -- it's so exciting. i can't -- i can't even express it because she is a lawyer. she's well-versed in the substance. she comes from a state that has, you know, depends on oil. so, she's also going to be someone who is looking to move our country away from fossil fuels. but very conscious of the impact on jobs. new mexico is a poor state.
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so, all of these nominations, i think, really give me hope for the future of this country and our -- for climate change, specifically. >> maria, i also want to get your take on another, big announcement this week. former south bend mayor, pete buttigieg, as transportation secretary. your thoughts on that nomination? >> well, it -- there is -- i think it's exciting to have someone who was a rival, during the primary season. someone who's young and, obviously, who is out, who's gay. and that, again, speaks to the fact that, yes, biden may be an older generation. but he is looking to bring that young talent, and have the experience. transportation's going to be really important. we need infrastructure. we need investment. that's about jobs, and that's going to be something really important because the pandemic and the economy, both those
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things. there's a lot on the plate for this administration. there is no question that they will have their hands full, from day one. >> we talk a lot about both the doing and the undoing. ali, house speaker nancy pelosi gave the haaland nomination her blessing. but house leadership is apparently voicing some concern about pulling another democrat from the house. ali, your sense of how real that concern is? >> well, look. there is a reason why you're not seeing current senators be brought into the fold of this administration. partly, because of the politics, for some of them. but mostly, because biden has said, from the outset, the margins there are so tight, they don't know what's going to happen with those two senate seats in georgia. so, that's why we haven't seen them pulling anyone from the senate side of this equation. but from the house side of this equation, pulling haaland out is different than pulling marcia fudge and richmond from their roles. richmond and fudge come from two
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solidly democratic districts. haaland is a little bit different in new mexico. she is someone who won, yes, by a close margin. but at the same time, here, she is one of only three, at this point. so, there is that -- that side to that coin. but, at the same time, i think when you talk about having progressives feel that they have a voice in this administration and representation in this administration. deb haaland is one of the first people who i have heard full-throated support from progressive groups. they talk about her as someone who is a movement progressive steeped in the issue that matter to the grassroots part of the progressive party. and also, consider the fact, she was a co-chair to senator elizabeth warren's presidential campaign. one of three women, who had that co-chair title. the other two women, progressives in their own right. congresswoman ayanna pressley and congresswoman katie porter. certainly, someone who is well known among progressives. and they see her as someone, yes, who is barrier breaking and
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breaking history. but also, someone who very much represents their ideology in this administration. >> all right. ali and maria, thank you both. up next. who counts and why it matters. the new ruling from the supreme court on the president's census plans. court on the president's census plans. did you know you can go to to customizes your car insurance so you only pay for what you need? really? i didn't-- aah! ok. i'm on vibrate. aaah! only pay for what you need. ♪ liberty. liberty. liberty. liberty. ♪
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honey? new nyquil severe honey is maximum strength cold and flu medicine with soothing honey-licious taste. nyquil honey. the nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever best sleep with a cold medicine. the supreme court, this week, dismissed a case brought by several states challenging president trump's plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census count. the census, as you likely know, is conducted every ten years, and used to allocate house seats in every state. in its unsigned opinion, the court ruled, 6-3, saying it lacks jurisdiction to hear this challenge to trump's census policy. if the courts take no further action on president trump's plan, yesterday's decision, effectively, allows him to carry on with subtracting undocumented residents from his mandatory january apportionment report to congress. it's a temporary victory for
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team trump. temporary, because states are bound to challenge it, again, in court. but, as it stands, the administration continues to pursue an effort that would shift the allotment of both congressional seats and federal money to states that are older, whiter, and typically more republican. as justice briar noted in his dissenting opinion, an estimated 2.2 milli 2.2 million undocumented immigrants live in the blue state of california. if these immigrants are excluded from the census, california is expected to lose two or potentially even three seats in the u.s. house of representative. same goes for texas, which has a large-immigrant population. refusing to count undocumented immigrants would mean less representation in texas. but here is the difference, as pointed out by vox. california uses a bipartisan redistricting commission to draw legislative lines. while texas leaves redistricting up to its gop-controlled legislature. so, lost california seats are likely to hurt democrats because
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california is overwhelmingly democratic. lost texas seats, meanwhile, are unlikely to hurt republicans because gop lawmakers can draw texas's congressional districts to inflict maximal harm to the democratic party. so, the partisan implications are clear. but, we want to be even more clear about what the court did yesterday. it did not say the state's arguments against the trump administration's policy were not without merit. the court said it's clear that the government could not possibly exclude the estimated 10.5 milli 10.5 milli 10.5 million undocumented immigrants in the u.s. but, said the evidence presented by the states challenging the policy unrealistically assumed that the president will exclude the entire, undocumented population. a point on which the justices do not agree. justices kagan, briar, and sotomayor dissented. they believe the case is far enough along for a decision, and they would have ruled the plan unlawful. as justice briar wrote, waiting
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to adjudicate claims until after the president submits tabulations to congress, as the court seems to prefer, risks needless and costly delays in apportionment. in other words, what the trump administration is doing is unconstitutional. we know it's unconstitutional. and waiting for more evidence to say so, judicially, is a waste of taxpayer money and the court's time. here is the bottom line. what the constitution says. 14th amendment, section 2. quote, representatives shall be apportioned among the several states, according to their respective numbers. counting the whole number of persons in each state. undocumented immigrants are persons. so, it's clear, not counting these persons goes against our constitution. all of this, being adjudicated, just 32 days from joe biden's inauguration. and we don't know how this will play out. it's a reminder of what this outgoing dmingds valu outgoing administration values and doesn't value. who they believe counts and doesn't count in this country.
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we're not just talking an accurate census count or congressional seats that come with it. those are, of course, critically important. but we are also talking about something much harder to quantity. a lingering threat by this administration to reshape the fiber of who we are, as a nation. our sense of who counts, and who does not. who we value and who we do not. regardless of how this particular case shakes out, those questions are lingering, and they remain. that tug in that fiber, that snag, that hole, it will be, very much, in need of repair. up next, why a for-profit prison company is suing activists who fought against the trump administration's family-separation policy. you are watching "american voices" on msnbc. over two million meals provided. over four hundred national parks protected.
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ibut nothing makes me feel like palways discreet boutique. outside, it's soft like underwear. inside, it turns liquid to gel. for incredible protection, that feels like nothing but my underwear. always discreet. a private prison company took an activist to court for writing articles that claimed the company's practice included family separations. and the court has ruled the activist was not in the wrong. morgan simon who contributes to forbes has written about how the two largest private prison companies, core civic and geo group managed detention centers at the heart of the policy. cower civic sued for libel saying the use of the term family separation makes it sound they're also detaining children against their will though they held parents in detention who were ultimately separated from their families and children. with me now one of the writers of that article, he's the editor
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at large at news week. we're also joined by that activist taken to court. a senior contributor of forbes and author of the book "real impact, the new economics of social change." morgan, thanks so much for being with us. news week shared some of the core transcript as core civic thought they weren't separating families because they weren't detaining children. but they said you were housing the families and separated them. >> let's be clear birds fly, fish swim, prisons separate families in any circumstance, anytime that someone goes to prison or jail or detention center they have been separated from a family member. now in the case of trump's family separation policy you were ripping families apart and detaining both sides of that
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equation. now, it certainly takes two to tango, and that means if you were incarcerating the parents you are absolutely participating in family separation. that's why i'm still shocked to this day at this frivolous lawsuit. the idea that you would waste a dime of shareholder money trying to deny this truth as opposed to really seeing what are the opportunities we have for real criminal justice and immigration reform. >> naveed, when you put this story in front of me, you argued to me that this was bigger than just these companies. it was a first amendment rights issue. tell me why. >> i mean, when i first saw this, it seemed unbelievable to think that the core of core civic's libel case against morgan was that she was calling this family separation. and you know, whether it's libel or slander, the best defense is the truth. in this case it's hard to argue that family separation isn't happening if you just detain the adult, the parents. in fact, that's what the judge said, as morgan pointed out.
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so yes, this seems to be larger than just family detention and core civic and morgan. there's a question here which is look, if a corporation doesn't like what an activist is saying and that activist is saying the truth and that impacts their bottom line, it impacts their ability to raise capital, can they just sue? and in this case they did and they lost. and so i think this has -- you know, this has a chilling impact, whether you're an american who defends the first amendment, you're in media or you're an activist. i mean, i think the idea that someone could sue morgan for just telling the truth, it's just anti-american. >> morgan, what does it tell you that this private company would go through these lengths partly to avoid being lumped with trump's family separation policy? >> it tells me two things. one is that they fundamentally don't understand social movements, which is that there were millions of people taking activist steps around family
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separation and hundreds of thousands that were organized by the families one together coalition to address the role of money in the banks financing private prisons. so there were so many of us saying we don't want to make money for our families by locking up someone else's. now, i'm an impact investor. i spend most of my time helping people who want their money working for social justice. and in general i'm against any industry that is profiting from causing harm. we know that there's a better way. and that means that we have the opportunity to finance industries that are really going to do social good in the world. so i think that that is an important piece of this equation, that it really was part of a larger social movement, and that it's also reflective of the fact the private prison industry has been facing some serious financial distress beyond losing this case, biden and kamala harris having pledged to stop the use of private prisons at the federal level, and then the incredible loss in their stock price. core civic seeing over 50% in
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the course of a year, and its credit downgraded from average to negative. so between those three, losing the lawsuit, the new administration and their financial performance, it's really the writing on the wall for the industry. and to blame one activist for that who's part of really a massive movement just really feels like folly to me. >> naveed, the sister of a woman, a mother who was detained, separated from her family, told "newsweek" "my family is still recovering from the horror of being separated. it was bad enough for me to think the u.s. government treated us so poorly. it was even worse when i realized a private company was actually making money off of our misery too. naveed, for someone who's watching who doesn't know much about these companies, what is it that they need to understand? >> this is a corporation that is driven by making profit as corporations do. and in that case that motivation means that they want more people that they can bill the u.s. government for. and they want them there longer. so they're not incentivized to push these people in front of a court, to get their day in front
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of a judge, and it's a chilling impact when we start making this a profit-driven enterprise. right? it's going to have an impact on how long people say, how many people come. and i think that when you come with immigration it's a double negative and i think it's something we want to make sure we keep shining a light on. >> naveed and morgan, thank you both. at the top of the hour, you can catch "the week" with joshua johnson. he'll talk to senator debbie stabenow about negotiations for a covid relief package. and tomorrow morning don't miss the sunday show with jonathan capehart, arnold schwarzenegger and dionne warwick are among his guests. that's at 10:00 eastern on msnbc. i'll be back after a short break. some hot cocoa? mom, look! are you okay? head home this holiday with the one you love.
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that is all the time i have for today. i'm alicia menendez. i will see you back here tomorrow 6:00 p.m. eastern for more "american voices." but for now i hand it over to my colleague joshua johnson. hello, joshua. >> hello, alicia. thank you very much. good to see you. and good to see you too. i'm joshua johnson. it's great to be with you tonight, as always. the fda has authorized moderna's coronavirus vaccine for emergency use. distribution has begun. trucks could start rolling to more than 3,000 locations tomorrow. it's a much-needed shot in the arm. but our failure to prevent more cases is shooting us in the foot. from nbc news world headquarters in new york, welcome to "the week."


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