1.8M+ U.S. Covid-19 cases TRANSCRIPT: 6/1/20, The Rachel Maddow Show
BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: And I`m hopeful, because
unlike six years ago, we got so much more clarity on the pathway forward.
We know the data. We know the research. We can win. And we can get this
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”: Brittany Packnett Cunningham, and Radley
Balko, thank you so much both for making time tonight.
That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
Thanks to you at home for joining thus hour. Happy to have you here
With more than 105,000 Americans dead from an ongoing viral pandemic that
the White House has all but stopped working on now. The White House
coronavirus response appears to be kind of over. The task force does not
appear to be meeting or doing anything at this point. The top American
infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, now says that he no longer
speaks with the president or with the White House broadly about the
With 105,000 Americans dead, and states all over the country hitting record
numbers of new cases, as the epidemic keeps accelerating, new one-day
records for numbers of new coronavirus infections now, in California, and
in Texas, and in Alaska, and in South Carolina, and in North Carolina, and
in Mississippi. With this unprecedented epidemic ripping through the
country, on pace, and that`s even before we have seen any impact from these
mass protests gripping dozens of American cities, posing potential super
spreader viral threats as well as threats to life and limb, with over
105,000 Americans dead, and 1.8 million Americans infected and still no
vaccine, and still no cure, and still no treatment, and in many cases,
still no access to testing, with 105,000 Americans dead on his watch, with
black and brown Americans, and the elderly, disproportionately dying in
this epidemic, with unemployment levels not seen since the Great
Depression, today the president of the United States announced plans to
deploy the United States military, domestically, against the American
And while these are depths that even the most doomsday predictions about
the Trump presidency did not plumb, this Rubicon moment arrived tonight in
the haphazard, slipshod way that has become familiar for most of the other
previously unimaginable dark turns this country has taken since Mr. Trump
has been president. That is to say, this thing happened but it kind of
wiggled out of him, in a way that was both hard to follow, and hard to
describe in terms of being specific about what action the U.S. government
just took, and whether we do have reason to believe what the president has
said about it.
This started today bizarrely, on a call that was supposed to be between
Vice President Mike Pence and the nation`s governors but Vice President
Mike Pence never got on the call, instead the president got on the call
himself, surprise and said randomly without explanation that he was putting
the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, putting the nation`s top
uniformed military official, quote, in charge. In charge of what? He didn`t
say. Nobody had any idea.
And I know you think I`m being hyperbolic about what the president said. I
am capable of hyperbole. And in this case, I am not being hyperbolic. That
is literally what the president said, without any explanation whatsoever.
I`ve just put him in charge.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ve got a number of people
here that you`ll be seeing a lot of, General Milley is here, head of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, a fighter, a warrior, a lot of victories, and no
losses. And he hates to see the way it`s being handled in the various
states. And I`ve just put him in charge.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: I`ve just put him in charge. You`ve just put him in charge of what?
Of the states? He hates to see the way it`s being handled in the various
states. Just put him in charge.
I know this is almost never a helpful construct anymore but imagine for one
second if any other president, let`s say the previous president, had just
left hanging out there, on a conference call with the nation`s governors,
that he had just put the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff in charge.
Imagine the reaction in this country if any other president just threw it
out there, that he just put the military in charge in the country because
he didn`t like what was going on in the states. The president did that
today, on a call, with the nation`s governors.
And we all just let that dangle out there all day, because, OK, maybe he`s
just announced the military takeover of the United States? Maybe not? We
can`t tell. Well, who knows with this guy?
On the same call, the president then announced that the secretary of
defense was with him, too, and this is how he announced the presence of the
secretary of defense.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: We`re strongly – the secretary of defense is here. We`re strongly
looking for arrests. You have to get much tougher.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`re strongly – the secretary of defense is here. We`re strongly
looking for arrests. What does the secretary of defense do to help you get
arrests? The head of the Pentagon gets you arrests? We do have to get much
Nobody knows what the president is talking about. But then, he put his
appointed secretary of defense, head of the Pentagon, Mark Esper, put him
on the line, with the governors, where Secretary Esper said the streets of
this country are the battlespace, as far as the Pentagon is concerned now.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MARK ESPER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I agree, we need to dominate the
battlespace. I think the sooner that you mass and dominate the battlespace,
the quicker this dissipates, and we can get back to the right normal.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Dominate the battlespace. We need to dominate the battlespace. That
from Secretary of Defense, Trump appointee Mark Esper, earned this response
from the former chairman of the joint chiefs, General Martin Dempsey,
saying quote, America is not a ballad. Our fellow citizens are not the
enemy. Be better.
Bizarrely, the president today, also told the nation`s governors that he
was going to activate, that was his word, activate Attorney General William
Barr. He said he was going to activate him very strongly.
Like Bill Barr is a gift card, you can scratch a thing off to read his
numbers and then sign him up on a website so you can cash him in. Or maybe
he is a glow in the dark object that needs to be charged up with exposure
to a bright light. We are going to act again.
I know you think I`m like teasing, and being hyperbolic here, about the
president saying he is going to very strongly activate the attorney
general, but that really is what he said. The attorney general is here.
Right here. Bill Barr. And so we will activate Bill Barr and activate him
very strongly. We will activate him very strongly.
At least one person on this call, between the president and the governors
today, told NBC News, after the call was over, that their impression of
what went on in this call was, and I quote, that the president is losing
But the president did then apparently issue an order to the U.S. Army, to
deploy an active duty battalion of U.S. troops to Washington, D.C.
Now, the reason he did this in D.C., we`re going to get some expert
guidance on this but as far as I understand it, the reason the president
did this in D.C. is specifically because D.C. isn`t a state so there is no
governor there, and legally, that means the Army can deploy active duty
U.S. troops there, without getting permission from any state`s governor,
because there is no governor, because D.C. is not a state. The president
couldn`t do this just on his own say-so anywhere else in the Continental
United States. So he picked dc to send an active duty battalion of U.S.
soldiers from Ft. Bragg, in North Carolina, and they rolled into
Washington, D.C. tonight, on the president`s orders.
Nobody signed off on it except the president himself. He apparently told
his appointed secretary of the army to do this. And the secretary of the
army did this. And so now, we live in a different kind of country.
The White House then announced that a statement would be made by the
president at the White House, at 6:15 p.m. Eastern Time, so all the
eyeball, all the cameras, all the reporting resources in D.C. turned toward
the White House for 6:15 p.m. Eastern because that`s what time they said it
would happen. Didn`t happen. They stretched it out and said actually we`re
going to do it at 6:30. Then they stretched it out a few minutes more.
Before the president actually said, or did anything.
But it seems like that might have not just been an average amount of
procrastination or lateness. It seems like that might have been at least
part of the plot. At least it seems that way looking in from the outside,
because while all those eyeballs were turned in the direction of the White
House, waiting for this thing to start happening, at the White House, they
started full-on attacking the otherwise peaceful steady state not going
anywhere protest that was across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House
at that very moment.
So, all of that attention was there. All of those cameras were there. All
of those reporters were there, when they did this, at Lafayette Park,
across the street from the White House, when they did this in the blocks
surrounding the White House. This was a peaceful static protest that they
turned on, in terms of charging at the protesters, in terms of shooting
them with tear gas, and running them out of the area.
So when the president did finally start speaking, at the White House, a few
minutes after they said that he would, at that time you could hear the
canisters of tear gas being shot at the protesters just beyond the cameras
gathered to hear the president speak. And what he announced in those
remarks is that the U.S. military would be deployed against the American
people domestically, in D.C., right away, and he threatened to do it
With a weird little intro, why did he start it this way? The president said
I`m mobilizing all federal and local resources to protect the rights of
law-abiding Americans including your Second Amendment rights. Therefore,
the following measures are going into effect immediately. If a city or
state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property
of their resident, then I will deploy the U.S. military.
I`m also taking swift and decisive action to protect our great capital
Washington, D.C. As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of
heavily-armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers.
Why did he start with I`m mobilizing resources to protect your Second
Amendment rights? I mean, the president is explicitly bragging on the fact
that the active duty U.S. soldiers he is deploying in the United States are
heavily armed. He called them thousands and thousands of heavily-armed
soldiers, and in the same breath, he shouts out that he is looking out for
your Second Amendment rights, which means of course that you can be armed,
too, against the U.S. military? Why are you positing those two things at
Best case scenario here is that the president is having a weird, I went to
a military-themed boarding school for rich kids fantasy here, out loud. And
they cleared the streets outside the White House in that dramatic fashion
so he could have his better photo-op when he walked over to church that had
been affected by the violence in the street, and he could show off, and he
wanted that – he wanted the moment.
So best case scenario here is that the president wanted this theatrical
fantasy here, with no understanding of what it means to deploy the U.S.
military against the American people. Best case scenario is that`s what he
is doing and why, but the actual U.S. military is not going to play these
ranger games. In the worst case scenario is – I mean, this is right up
there on the list, or as bad as it gets. So, sort of have to hope that this
is the president doing this on his own. And he`s not going to get what he
wants, or at least what he says he wants.
NBC News was first to report tonight that the president was considering
invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807, which would allow for him to call up
the active duty U.S. military for use on U.S. soil against Americans
without the permission of state governors, right? The reason that he acted
to deploy the U.S. military in D.C., and not in another state, is that you
need a governor`s permission to do it in a state, under something called
the Posse Comitatus Act, which says you can`t use the U.S. military
domestically in any sort of law enforcement capacity on our soil. That`s
the restriction there, that`s why he did it in D.C., you otherwise need a
But if you invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, that at least theoretically
could be this president`s way around that, and that has happened in
specific, and geographically specific things before. Rodney King riots in
Los Angeles, or responses to specific hurricanes, individual moments in
time, and individual moments in time that were geographically specific in
The president is going to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, to deploy
the U.S. military coast to coast, wherever he wants to, wherever he feels
like he needs to.
That`s a different thing. If that`s what he`s doing, and he is saying
that`s what he`s doing, legally, he would first have to issue a formal
proclamation that according to the law would have to order the insurgents
to disperse and to retire peaceably to their abodes with a limited time. It
is that weird kind of clunky age because it is the Insurrection Act of
A formal proclamation ordering the insurgents to disperse and to retire
peaceably to their abodes. That`s what he`d have to do in order to invoke
that act. That`s what the law says.
The president spoke tonight as if he has done that, as if he is actually
invoking the Insurrection Act to use the U.S. military against U.S.
citizens here at home. He is talking about it as if he had has done it, but
nobody knows if he has actually done it. According to new NBC News
reporting tonight, not even the Pentagon knows if he has done, because
maybe, with this president, you always have to consider the possibility
that he`s just talking. Or maybe he`s not. Maybe this is it.
Joining us now, by phone, is Courtney Kube. She`s NBC News correspondent
for national security in the military.
Courtney, thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us on this
strangest of all days.
COURTNEY KUBE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: So I`m talking about this in stark terms because I think this isn`t
a – this isn`t a marginal development. This seems like something worth
taking seriously but I have to ask you if we have any clarity yet on the
basic question of whether the president is actually invoking the
Insurrection Act, so he can deploy the active duty military on U.S. soil
outside of D.C.
KUBE: So, Rachel, all day log, my colleague Carolyn and I have been
tracking that the president has been warming to the idea of actually using
the Insurrection Act around the country. It doesn`t seem that he`s invoked
But what I took his Rose Garden statement to be is him threatening the
governors, to say, look, if you guys don`t start bringing in more National
Guard troops, and put a stop to these protests, then I will invoke the
Insurrection Act. The confusing part is what`s going on in Washington, D.C.
tonight. As you mentioned, because it`s different than the states, there
would have to be a governor who would request these forces, and it`s not
clear, whether he`s – he actually had invoked it for D.C.
What seems, what we believe is happening at this point, is that if he`s
bringing in any active duty troops, into the District of Columbia, they
aren`t performing classic law enforcement missions so they wouldn`t
actually be violating the Posse Comitatus Act. So, both of these statutes
are very confusing. The Posse Comitatus Act, as you said, it prohibits any
active duty troops from performing any law enforcement mission anywhere
inside the Continental U.S. but if he were to invoke the Insurrection Act,
then that would go to the wayside and key use active duty troops for law
Just to complicate it even further, there are some basic response to
protest, kind of things that the troops could do, if, without violating
Posse Comitatus, and that is things like crowd control. They can actually
still help the local law enforcement in some cases, in these protests,
without violating Posse Comitatus, if the president doesn`t invoke
insurrection. So it is really murky.
And when he came out to the Rose Garden, we thought we were going to get a
declaration of what he was doing, but instead, we got a lot of very vague
language about thousands of troops and law enforcement that were being
deployed around the country.
MADDOW: Because this is such a serious thing, for us as a country, because
this is such a serious prospect, in terms of our republic, us not having
clarity on it is unsettling, especially after the president made public
remarks about it that were, as you know, supposed to be clarifying. I`m
even more unsettled by the fact that it seems that the Pentagon doesn`t
have clarity about this. That the Pentagon appears to not know what
authority the president is planning to invoke, actively invoking right now,
or intending to invoke at some point in the future, after some threshold is
crossed that we`re not sure what it is.
I mean, is it fair that the civilian leadership of the military doesn`t
know what`s going on here?
KUBE: The only thing I can, the only way I can explain it, there seems
there is a very small group of people at the top who know what is going on
and it`s just not trickling down. There were people over the weekend who
were vehemently denying the idea that the Insurrection Act was even on the
table 24, 48 hours ago, and now, you know, we`re expecting the president to
invoke it in the next hours or day.
So part of it is the situation is evolving so rapidly. I think the protests
in D.C. really were a game changer, for the White House, and for Pentagon
officials who I spoke with, seeing the monuments defaced and the St. John`s
Church, the historic church across from the White House being burned and
graffiti on its walls, that changed the calculus a bit, and the officials
we spoke, with Carolyn (ph) and I spoke with today, said that was something
that really changed the president`s thinking on this. And it pushed this to
the next level of response.
But the question remains, you know, what is, is there an active duty
component? We know there is, there are several groups of military police
around the country who actually stand all the time on a 24-hour watch. And
they are, they are waiting to be called up and they have to respond within
24 hours, to civil issues. It`s called Defense Support and Civil Authority.
Several of the units, military police units were put on four-hour
deployment orders. So one of those could have been easily been notified and
one is down in Ft. Bragg and that is the one we`re told would be most
likely to respond to D.C., they could be up here in a matter of hours to
help if needed. It is a fast and rapidly evolving situation, specifically
here in D.C., we just don`t have a lot of clarity on what`s going on.
MADDOW: Remarkable. The lack of clarity itself is a really important part
of this story.
Courtney Kube, NBC News correspondent for national security, and the
military, Courtney, thank you.
And as if, if clarity emerges over the course of this hour, we`ll get you
back on the air to tell our audience about it. Thank you.
MADDOW: I want to bring into the conversation now, somebody I`m honored to
have with you us tonight, Jeh Johnson. He`s the former general counsel of
the Defense Department, and he was the former top lawyer at the Pentagon,
he also of course was secretary of homeland security, under President
Secretary Johnson, it is nice to see you, sir. Thank you for joining us
tonight on short notice.
JEH JOHNSON, FORMER SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Rachel, nice to be back
on your show. It`s been a while.
MADDOW: It has been a while. I hope that your life has been peaceful and
apolitical, as at least as much as you want it to be.
But the reason that I wanted to call you tonight, sir, is I feel you have
pretty unique experience, having been both homeland security secretary and
the Pentagon`s top lawyer in terms of thinking about this sort of Rubicon
the president may be crossing tonight. I just want to ask your reaction to
what you`ve learned tonight, and I want to give you a chance to correct me
if I`ve said anything that strikes you as wrong.
JOHNSON: Where do I start? First, small point. The president says he`s
putting General Milley in charge, I`m sure that was a head turn for General
Milley. General Milley is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is
by law the principal legal adviser to the president and the National
General Milley with all due respect is not in charge of anything except the
joint staff bureaucracy on the second floor of the Pentagon and a few other
things, like the National Defense University. So, small point.
Aside from that, as you pointed out, there is the Posse Comitatus Act of
1878, which generally forbids the active duty military to engage in direct
domestic law enforcement. It is one of the things that makes our country
great. It`s an American value. It is one of the reasons why we have so much
respect for our U.S. military today because we keep them cabined in that
The Insurrection Act of 1807, which some lawyer pulled out of the closet,
has been amended over time, over the years, and it`s cobbled together in
various different places, but the Insurrection Act is something that
empowers the president to commit the active duty force domestically, but
essentially when all else has failed. It is a measure of last resort when
state governments have failed in their law enforcement mission, when state
court systems have melted down, like for example when there is violence on
the streets and states refuse to abide by federal court order, in those
types of circumstances, which are clearly not applicable here.
The violence is widespread, the violence is serious, but we are not at a
point, I think we`re far from a point, where state law enforcement with the
help of the National Guard, under state control, can deal with it. I think
we`re a very long way off from invocation of the Insurrection Act.
MADDOW: If the president were to try to invoke the Insurrection Act, is
every step of that within his own authority? I know that he has to at
least, as far as I understand it, not as a lawyer, but he has to issue some
sort of formal declaration, a sort of order, telling people to disburse,
giving people a chance to stop doing what they`re doing, which is the basis
for him potentially invoking this act. But then, he could, under his own
steam, just do that, and thus invoke the act, and thus order the military
to follow his orders. Nobody else who can stand in his way for doing this,
JOHNSON: There is a reading of the insurrection act that suggests that,
that you need not wait for the states, for a governor, for a state
legislature, to request it. We must issue some sort of proclamation with
the finding, but the circumstances here, as serious as they are, are not
present that require, that permit insurrection, use of the Insurrection
Act. The states have not failed in their mission, and any national security
lawyer, ranging from the ACLU, to the Federalist Society, will tell you
that, who is worth a darn, frankly.
MADDOW: In terms of the way the president sort of rolled out this concept
tonight, as I was just discussing with Courtney Kube, there is a lot of
ambiguity, as to what the president, not just what he means but what he has
done, including there seems to be, at the Pentagon, no real sense of what
authority the president is invoking now, or planning to.
Can I just ask you, having served as a cabinet secretary, having served in
the capacity that you did in the Defense Department, what you expect from
the defense department right now? What do you expect from the military,
with the president making these kinds of public statements, and talking
about soldiers being used in the way that he talked about tonight? Is this
a situation where we should expect, either civilian appointees, or senior
uniformed members of the military, to stand up and have to say no to the
JOHNSON: Rachel, that`s a very good question. Frankly, if I think Jim
Mattis were still secretary of defense, we would see real pushback to this.
I cannot speak to the current secretary of defense because I do not know
I do know a whole lot of civilian and military lawyers in the Pentagon
right now who understand the implications of the invocation of the
Insurrection Act, and know its proper application, and that`s across the
spectrum, from all sorts of lawyers I know in national security. And so,
normally, when you do something like this, and you issue a military order,
to deploy the active duty, there is a lot of planning, there are rules of
engagement that go into it, and military personnel, down the line, down the
chain of command, have to understand what they`re being asked to do.
We can`t do this on a moment`s notice, without close consultation down the
chain of command.
MADDOW: Jeh, Johnson, former Defense Department general counsel, former
secretary of homeland security in the Obama administration – sir, it is an
honor to have you here tonight, especially on this strange and dark day.
Come back soon. It`s been too long. It`s nice to have you here.
JOHNSON: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We have much more to get to, here tonight. Live images
as you`ve been seeing from protests ongoing tonight around the country.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The prosecution of the former Minneapolis police officer who has
been charged with killing 46-year-old father of two, George Floyd, that
prosecution is now in the hands of Minnesota`s attorney general, Keith
Ellison, who you may remember from his career as a Democratic congressman
and a senior figure in the Democratic National Committee. Attorney General
Ellison was appointed to take over this prosecution by Minnesota`s
governor, Tim Walz, who says he made that decision after talking with
George Floyd`s family. They said they wanted Attorney General Ellison to
take over the case from the local county prosecutor.
Now, Attorney General Ellison is not saying whether he is going to pursue
charges against any of the three other officers who were involved in this
arrest. Four officers were involved directly in the arrest. They have all
been fired. One has been charged. He is not saying if he`ll bring charges
yet against the other three.
He is also not yet saying if he`s looking at greater charges against the
plan who has already been charged. But Attorney General Ellison told MSNBC
today, he plans to hold all four of these officers to, quote, the highest
degree of accountability that the law and the facts will support.
Today also brought two new autopsy reports a private autopsy, an
independent autopsy, commissioned by George Floyd`s family, and an expanded
report from the autopsy conducted by the county medical examiner. Both of
those reports today called George Floyd`s death a homicide. But while the
county report says a number of factors contributed to George Floyd`s death,
the family`s independent autopsy, says Mr. Floyd died directly from
asphyxiation caused by the officer`s knee on his neck.
Just across the river from Minneapolis, and Minneapolis`s sister city of
St. Paul, this was the scene all afternoon today, and into tonight. At the
Minnesota state capitol building, thousands and thousands and thousands of
peaceful protesters covering the Capitol grounds. That`s one snapshot of
Minnesota`s capital city today.
Here`s another, from the “Minneapolis Star Tribune” tonight, quote, the
county board declared a month-long state of emergency Monday, after the
civil unrest, looting and arson following the death of George Floyd. The
declaration from the Ramsey County board overlaps the county`s other
ongoing state of emergency, for the COVID-19 pandemic response. Ramsey
County manager told commissioners the community is facing the biggest
health crisis since the flu pandemic of 1918, the largest economic crisis
since the Great Depression of 1929, and the greatest social unrest since
the late 1960s, all at once, all together, and no way through any of them,
except through them all.
Joining us now is the mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, Melvin Carter.
Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for your time tonight, thank you for coming
MAYOR MELVIN CARTER (D), ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA: Thank you for having me on. I
really appreciate it.
MADDOW: So, give me an update on how things are in your city. I know for
example that your curfew in St. Paul goes into effect in less than two
hours tonight. How do you perceive things to be in your city tonight? What
are you expecting tonight?
CARTER: You know, Rachel, thank you so much for having me on. And I
appreciate the question.
We have spent the last couple of days engaging our residents, engaging
faith leaders, engaging business owners, and what we have found is an
incredible sense of continuing rage, of continuing anger, of continuing
just unwillingness to accept the death of George Floyd, and the death of
African-American men at the hands of law enforcement. We have made a strong
call, for peace, with the caveat that it should not be mistaken for
patience, that we`re going to stay impatient, that we`re going to keep on
pushing, we`re going to keep all of this energy and we`re going to keep on
fighting to change, all of those systemic factors, which have resulted in
our seeing so many African-American men turn into hashtags.
I spent the day out today at peaceful protests. I spent the afternoon with
a couple thousand other Minnesotans sitting in the street in front of the
governor`s residence and went to 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis where Mr.
Floyd was killed, where, you know, there are a lot of stories in Minnesota,
and it is not told enough, exactly what you just described, peaceful
There`s free food out there, there`s free water out here. There`s a band,
there is sidewalk art, there`s all kind – there`s a card that Minnesotans
are signing to Mr. Floyd, there is a beautiful spirit of peaceful
resistance but there is absolutely no patient for this to continue in our
MADDOW: Both you and Minnesota`s governor have made some comments over the
past few days about the elements within these protests that have driven
them from peaceful protests, from peaceful expressions of anger and
impatience, as you put it, into more violent acts, into things like arson
and looting and violence, and violent confrontation. You talked about it
essentially being external elements, that blame should be assigned – to
which blame should be assigned for those aspects of the protest.
I want to know if that – if your perception of that has changed over the
past two days and if that`s still what you think is the greatest risk in
terms of things curdling, things going from peaceful to violent overnight.
CARTER: You know, Rachel, that`s a very good point, and I like to point
out, there are sort of two completely different things happening, those
peaceful protest, the legitimate protests of people who are just driven by
a sense of justice and fairness, people who want to just secure the good,
the health, the economic and the physical well-being of our communities,
and I contend that that, that those goals cannot be achieved, by burning
down our neighborhood stores, our neighborhood restaurants, our
neighborhood pharmacies, our neighborhood local businesses.
And so, there is a second group of folks who have been out and about, in
Minnesota, over the past week, who are driven by a desire to break windows,
and start fires, and destroy our communities. And the purpose of the curfew
that you mentioned earlier is to sort of separate the two, so our law
enforcement professionals can have room to work, they`re doing a fantastic
And I`ll tell you what, I don`t know where those folks who are trying to
incite us to violence, incite us to destroy our own communities, I don`t
know where they sleep at night but I tell you what, if that`s the way you
look at our community, I see you as an outsider.
MADDOW: Let me ask you one more question, Mayor Carter, and that is about
the president`s remarks tonight in which he is threatening to deploy active
duty, in his words, heavily armed U.S. troops around the country, at his
own say-so. He`s threatening to invoke the kind of federal authority that
would make it his – it would give him the power to do that, even if
governors objected, and didn`t want those federally deployed U.S. active
What do you think about the prospect of having active duty U.S. soldiers
heavily armed in the streets of St. Paul?
CARTER: Rachel, I will tell you, even by this administration`s shockingly
low standards, that threat, to say to governors, they have to, quote,
dominate the American people, and unless they dominate our cities and our
state, the federal government was never designed, was never instituted, to
dominate American people. That is the closest thing to a declaration of war
on our American people that I`ve heard in my lifetime.
I will tell you this. I have been on the phone today, with my governor,
Governor Tim Walz, who in 2008, as a U.S. congressman, representing
district one, in Minnesota, was the lead author of the federal – of the
re-establishment of the federal Insurrection Act, which basically restored
what the Bush administration cut out from it. Governor Walz who again was
the lead author of that act has guaranteed me that in Minnesota, we`re not
doing it, we`re not federalizing our troops.
MADDOW: Melvin Carter, mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, thank you for your
time tonight. Thanks for making news actually on our air.
Again, our heart goes out to your and your city tonight. We`re praying for
peaceful – a peaceful night and a good resolution. Be well, sir. Thank
CARTER: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to get to here tonight. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST, “POLITICS NATION”: They`re trying to make the
story, the reaction to murder, rather than murder. The fact is that the
reaction to murder would not have happened had there been no murder.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s right.
SHARPTON: Do not get it twisted. When we got to Minneapolis, they asked us
if we came to denounce violence. Yes, the violence started when a man put
his knee on the neck of –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that`s right.
SHARPTON: – and held him down, for over eight minutes. That`s the violence
that needs to be dealt with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Reverend Al Sharpton has been working with George Floyd`s
family, in the wake of his death, and in the midst of these protests, in
George Floyd`s name that have now risen up across the country and even
internationally, Reverend Sharpton is due to give the eulogy at Mr. Floyd`s
funeral next week.
Joining us is our colleague, Reverend Al Sharpton, host of “POLITICS
NATION”, president of the National Action Network.
Rev, it is good to see, my friend. Thank you for joining us tonight.
SHARPTON: Great to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me – let me just ask as somebody who knows this case
intimately, who has been with the family of George Floyd, but somebody who
also knows the media very well and understands a lot about the national
news coverage and its power, can I ask you, if you feel like we have the
story right in the way that we are talking about this, the way that we are
covering it, and what we are focusing on, or do you think that the media is
veering into places that either aren`t helpful or aren`t on a real
representation of where things are and where they`re going?
SHARPTON: The media has concentrated a lot on reaction, and certainly, the
violence, and the looting, and all of what we`ve seen, in terms of some,
whether it is instigated, whether it`s other forces or not, is certainly
part of the story.
But I don`t think we`ve focused enough on the root problem here, and that
is the policing of citizens in this country, particularly black citizens
and people of color. This could not have caused the spark that it has if
there was not a basic, long-standing problem of policing.
One of the reasons that we brought Eric Garner`s family to this family, is
because the first time we heard, I can`t breathe, was not a week ago, from
George. It was six years ago, from Eric Garner, who died as a result of a
choke-hold saying I can`t breathe.
Nothing happened to those officers. They were not criminally prosecuted. It
took five years to even get one fired.
So what message does it send to law enforcement if a videotape shows a man
being choked to death, and nothing happens in New York? Why would they
think that there would be no accountability? That`s the dangerous
Now, that doesn`t mean all police are bad or even most are. But all people
in the community are not bad, but those that are, have to be held
accountable. And that`s all we`re raising.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about remarks from former President Obama today. He
wrote a really interesting piece that was posted on “Medium”, saying that
protests and organizing need to go hand in hand, that there`s a place for
protests, but there is also a place to translate the grievance here, and
the righteous outrage here, into very specific demands for change. And he
talked about how a lot of the officials, a lot of the elected officials,
and therefore, a lot of the elections that matter, in terms of making a
difference in policing, are not necessarily federal elections, not
necessarily presidential election, it`s people like mayors, city councils,
and other people who are going to be closer to the decision about who is
the police chief in any one community and how the police are governed.
Just wanted to ask if you, what you thought of President Obama`s remarks
there, if you think that`s a helpful way for people to think about it, in
terms of protesting and organizing, doing the political part and also the
direct action part hand in hand together as essentially one motion?
SHARPTON: I think that it is exactly what has to happen. You don`t need one
or the other. You need both ends (ph).
Marching and protests which I`ve done all my life as you know is to
traumatize a problem, but you don`t want to just leave it with the drama.
You want it solved by having the right people in office, the laws enforced,
and executed in a way that would lead to a fair and just society.
If you don`t dramatize, then no one will deal with it. But if you just
dramatize it, you are only waiting for the next situation to occur. We
can`t have episodal (ph) movements. We have to have movements that`s geared
toward permanent change, change in the legal structure. That`s what
happened in our best times in the protest movement, whether it was in the
civil rights in the `60s before my time, or in our time, and that`s what we
intend to, we want to focus on that at the memorial services this week, is
that we must use this moment for movement, to change policing laws and
those that police it by voting in people that want to have equal protection
under the law. Police and citizens protected properly.
MADDOW: Reverend Al Sharpton, president of National Action Network, host of
“POLITICS NATION” here on MSNBC – Rev, it is great to see you. I know you
have been working triple time this whole past week. Thank you for making
time for us.
SHARPTON: Thank you. Good to see you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back with somebody I`ve really been
looking forward to tonight, Sherrilyn Ifill from the NAACP Legal Defense
Fund joins us straight ahead as we continue to look at these live images of
protests all across the country. St. Paul in your screen right now, we`re
watching Seattle, we`re watching Hollywood, we`re watching multiple other
Stay with us. Our live coverage continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERENCE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD`S BROTHER: In every case of police brutality,
the same thing has been happening. You got protest, you got destroy stuff,
and they don`t move. Do you know why they don`t move? Because it`s not
their stuff, it`s our stuff. So, they want us to destroy our stuff.
They`re not going to move. So, let`s do this another way. Let`s start
thinking that our voice doesn`t matter, and vote, not just for the
president, vote for the preliminaries, vote for everybody.
Educate yourself and know who you are voting for, and that`s how we are
going to hit them, because there`s a lot of us. There`s a lot of us!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s right.
FLOYD: It`s a lot of us!
And we are still going to do this peacefully. Do this peacefully, please!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Terence Floyd who is the brother of George Floyd. Him
speaking on the street corner where his brother was killed by police just
week ago tonight.
Joining us now is Sherrilyn Ifill. She`s the president and director counsel
of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Sherrilyn Ifill, it is great to have you with us tonight. I have the
thought that – you are always one of my favorite people to talk to on
basically anything, but your leadership and your eloquence and you`re
seeing around corners of this past week has been really inspiring, really
So, I`m glad you were able to make time to be here.
SHERRILYN IFILL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: In terms of seeing around those corners, not to put any pressure on
you, can I ask you your best-case scenario for how constructively this
could potentially resolve?
I feel differently about it when I look at some of the mass peaceful
protests that we saw, for example, in St. Paul than I do when I see what
the president said tonight at the White House, what the president did
tonight at the White House. I feel very torn in terms of my emotions and
whether I should be pessimistic or optimistic.
What do you think is the best scenario here?
IFILL: Well, thank you, Rachel. It`s difficult to imagine, you know, the
best-case scenario given all of the circumstances that are surrounding us.
But as you point out, I always try to see through to the core. And the most
important thing is that all of us have acknowledged that we feel
differently. You know I have been here before. I`ve been working on police
abuse issues for a very long time. I have seen more videos than most
Americans would care to see and I`ve seen them from every angle.
And this one, the killing of George Floyd even took me to a different
place, move me in a different way. And I said earlier, I think it`s because
when I watched that officer taking the life of George Floyd with his hands
in his pockets looking out that way, it was apparent to me that he did not
think anything would happen to him. And that is a failure of law.
I want to stop talking about training. You can`t do anything with that
officer. I don`t want to talk the talk because I can`t prepare my children
to encounter someone like that.
The failure of law, of accountability has allowed officers like that to
believe that they can commit these acts with impunity, and as we`ve seen,
as the protests have unfolded, and we`ve seen the kind of brutality with
which many protesters have been greeted, many peaceful protesters have been
greeted, there is an impunity problem here. And so, I think the best
scenario is that out of these terrible devastation and pain comes our
attention to dealing with what is the fault in our laws. We need to deal
with the defense of qualified immunity that allows officers essentially to
raise this judge-made defense that is operating in a way that is not
allowing them to be accountable for their unconstitutional conduct.
We have to deal with creating laws around the use of force by officers. We
have to create a national database of police officers who engaged in
misconduct. This officer, Derek Chauvin, had 18 complaints against him. And
as we know, many officers who are even fired end up going to another
department and getting hired. So, we have to decertify officers so you can
never have a badge and gun and a shield and the power to take life on
behalf of the state.
So, we`ve got to really lean in to the legal apparatus that has allowed
this to happen. People should remember that the way we got the law that
allows the Department of Justice to engage in patter and practice
investigations of police departments, that was legislation that came after
the unrest following the verdicts in the Rodney King case, the Law
Enforcement Misconduct Act. And that allowed the Department of Justice
under Attorney General Holder and Attorney General Lynch to do
investigations of Ferguson, to do investigations of Baltimore and put
Baltimore under consent decree. That law now sits on a shelf gathering dust
in the Department of Justice because Bill Barr is more interested in
carwashes in main and church services and what he calls Antifada.
But we out of this can come a legal regime that will demand accountability
for officers and it will also wake up the population. I think people are
seeing now because of the response to the protests and because of this
terrible video, what African-Americans have been saying for so long. And
they`ve seen it not just against the individual who was killed, George
Floyd, but they`ve also seen against people who`ve been protesting, the
kind of brutality that they`ve seen.
So, I think what will come out of this is an understanding that this
country has gone too far in the latitude that it has given law enforcement
to manage itself and it`s time for us as a democracy to come together and
recalibrate our vision of public safety.
MADDOW: Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director counsel of the NAACP Legal
Defense and Educational Fund, again, an honor to have you here. I
appreciate you being with us on such an important tonight as we continue to
watch these major, major, and at this point right now, peaceful protests
across the country. Thank you for being here.
IFILL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We have been watching these live shots looking at
pictures from Seattle. We`ve been watching pictures from St. Paul. We`ve
been watching pictures from Los Angeles, pictures from Denver. There are
mass protests happening across the country tonight.
The president threatening to use the U.S. military, what he calls heavily
armed U.S. troops against the American population on American soil tonight,
just remarkable day in the news, remarkable day in our country`s history.
That`s going to do it for us for now.
Our live coverage continues, “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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