George Floyd’s brother TRANSCRIPT: 6/10/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests:
Art Acevedo, Karen Bass, Kennedy Mitchum
Transcript:

 

 

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Well, long live the union as that soldier monument

comes down.

 

That is “ALL IN” for this evening.

 

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now with Ali Velshi, in for Rachel.

 

Good evening, Ali.

 

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Those are some remarkable images you were showing

there, Chris. Thank you, and have yourself a good night.

 

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel has a much deserved

night off but she`s going to be back tomorrow.

 

It`s been 16 days since George Floyd died at the hands of police and began

a nationwide movement in this country. At this hour protests are still

going on in Los Angeles and Phoenix, Arizona.

 

Let me show you what happened earlier in the day. Hundreds of people

marched through the streets of Boston eventually stopping outside of city

hall to demand police funding be diverted to social programs. In New York

City, protesters carried with them images of George Floyd and signs that

read “Black Lives Matter.”

 

And this was the scene in Washington, D.C., where George Floyd`s younger

brother Philonise joined protesters walking down, marching down Black Lives

Matter Plaza. They chanted: fists in the sky, get `em up, raise `em high.

 

That peaceful protest today came just a few short hours after Philonise

Floyd made an emotional appeal to lawmakers. In gut-wrenching testimony, he

called the killing of his brother a modern-day lynching and he urged those

in Congress to act on police reform so that his brother George Perry Floyd

Jr.`s death would not be in vain.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD`S BROTHER: The man who took his life, who

suffocated him for eight minutes and 46 seconds, he still called him “sir”

as he begged for his life. I can`t tell you the kind of pain you feel when

you watch something like that.

 

When you watch your big brother, who you looked up to your whole entire

life die? Die begging for his mom? I`m tired. I`m tired of pain. Pain you

feel when you watch something like that. When you watch your big brother,

who you looked up to for your whole life die, die begging for his mom?

 

I`m here to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain. Stop us from being

tired. George wasn`t hurting anyone that day. He didn`t deserve to die over

$20.

 

I`m asking you, is that – is that what a black man is worth? Twenty

dollars? This is 2020.

 

I didn`t get the chance to say good-bye to Perry while he was here. I was

robbed of that. But I know he`s looking down at us now.

 

Perry, look at what you did, big brother. You changed the world. Thank you

for everything, for taking care of us on earth, but taking care of us now.

I hope you found mama and you can rest in peace with power.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

VELSHI: Philonise Floyd was one of half a dozen activists speaking on that

hearing on law enforcement accountability. It came as House Democrats are

closing in on the votes that they need to pass sweeping police reform

legislation. Just last month, movement on the issue seemed completely

impossible. But given the outpouring of grief over George Floyd`s death and

the tidal wave of protests that we`ve seen from coast to coast, it seems

like now might be the moment to actually get something done on this issue.

 

Even Senate Republicans led by South Carolina Senator Tim Scott have begun

drafting their own police reform legislation. Scott`s bill would among

allocate funding to promote the use of police body cameras, set up a

national police commission to determine best practices and push law

enforcement agencies to report more data on use of force by police

officers.

 

There are also reports that President Trump will address the nation on

matters of race and national unity, though it remains to be seen how

unifying that speech would be, given that it`s reportedly being written by

Stephen Miller, the White House aide responsible for the administration`s

draconian immigration policies.

 

But whether or not policing policies change on a national level, we are

already seeing rapid change on the state and local level. No place is that

change more evident than in Minneapolis, where George Perry Floyd lost his

life at the hands of police. This week a judge ordered the Minneapolis

police department to stop using all chokeholds and neck restraints. That

court also required officers to intervene should they witness a fellow

officer using unauthorized force and it greatly restricted the use of crowd

control weapons, things like tear gas and rubber bullets, which were

employed so liberally during the protests following George Floyd`s death.

 

On top of all that, a veto-proof majority of the city council has announced

that it will dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department, completely

rebuilding it from the ground up.

 

Then today came the news from the Minneapolis police chief himself that he

would withdraw from contract negotiations with the city`s powerful police

union. That`s the latest step in restoring faith in the city`s embattled

police department. Chief Arredondo said he planned to bring in advisers to

view how a contract could be structured so it could provide greater

transparency for the community and more flexibility for true reform.

 

In those remarks, he touched on just how powerful those unions can be in

keeping bad cops on the job.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

CHIEF MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: I believe I speak

for my chief peers here in the state of Minnesota as well as across our

country, that there is nothing more debilitating to a chief from an

employment matter perspective than when you have grounds to terminate an

officer for misconduct and you`re dealing with a third-party mechanism that

allows for that employee to not only be back on your department but to be

patrolling in your communities.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

VELSHI: Chief Arradondo, who has made history as the city`s first black

police chief also acknowledged that it is impossible to tackle police

reform without confronting the issue of race.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

ARRADONDO: Race is inextricably a part of the American police system. We

will never evolve in this profession if we do not address it head on.

Communities of color have paid the heaviest of costs, and that is with

their lives. And our children must be safeguarded from ever having to

contributing to the horrific and shameful chapter of this country`s

history.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

VELSHI: In addition to all that news today in the city of Minneapolis, late

this afternoon, the state`s governor called a special session of the

legislature to tackle police reform. Among the items expected to be voted

on are a statewide ban on chokeholds, legislation that would make it easier

to discipline officers and possible changes to state laws involving police

unions.

 

Now, while those measures might be expected in Minneapolis, that`s not the

only place that reform is taking root. In the past two weeks we`ve seen

aggressive new actions taken in New York, in Washington, D.C., in Denver,

in Los Angeles, and, of course, in Houston, the city where George Floyd was

laid to rest yesterday.

 

At that funeral service, Houston`s mayor announced that he would be signing

an executive order banning chokeholds and implementing other police

reforms. So change is happening. The question is how much change will we

see and how much can be done given where we are as a country right now.

 

Art Acevedo is the chief of the Houston Police Department and he`s been

outspoken. He was one of the witnesses who testified before the House

Judiciary Committee today and he joins me now.

 

Chief Acevedo, good to see you again. Thank you for being with us again.

 

CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: It`s great to be with you.

 

VELSHI: I want to ask you, you testified today before the house as the head

of a police department of a major city who`s actually in favor of seeing

some reforms to policing. I have to ask you how you think your testimony

was received, both by the people to whom you gave it and back home in

Houston.

 

Have you received pushback from members of law enforcement in Houston?

 

ACEVEDO: No, not at all. I think it was well-received, but it`s not about

how well it`s received, it`s about how well it`s acted upon. You know,

testimony in hearings are great, but without action, it just won`t make a

difference.

 

I`m proud to say that my mayor today, Mayor Turner, actually did what he

said he was going to do. He codified an executive order, rules of

engagement and rules of conduct for our department that I think is key,

because the day that this chief leaves, another chief comes in, they will

not be able in the dark of the night or on a weekend change those rules

without going back to the city and to the mayor, and I think that`s a huge

step forward for our city.

 

VELSHI: One of the things you and I talked about a few days ago is the

degree to which there are not great statistics across the country about

police force incidents with citizens and there isn`t even general agreement

across police forces and across states on what constitutes use of force or

what constitutes too much force.

 

How do we fix that? We`re not dealing with one set of police forces or even

one per state. We`re dealing with thousands and thousands of police forces.

 

ACEVEDO: Yeah, we`re actually dealing with 18,000 police departments across

the country, ranging from a one officer department to, you know, 38,000

officers in New York. And the problem we have as a nation is that we don`t

live in a vacuum, we don`t live on an island. We must figure out what are

the most critical policies in terms of policing, in terms of legitimacy,

and in terms of accountability.

 

And we have to come up with a set of standards that have to be the same

across the nation. It`s not enough for Houston to do it, it`s not enough

for Minneapolis and Minnesota to do it. It has to be 18,000 police

departments because what happens in one place impacts every other place.

 

And the time is now to get it done and I`m glad we`re starting to see

movement towards that end.

 

VELSHI: Chief, most police officers in the country are unionized. And I –

I imagine some of those unions are really helpful to their employees. But

we are hearing, particularly in Minneapolis, that seems to be the poster

child for a very difficult union led by a union leader who just has a view

of policing that is out of sync with most of society`s, I think.

 

How do we deal with that issue?

 

ACEVEDO: Well, first of all, it`s important for workers to have rights. But

the rights should be about pay, benefits and fairness. It should not be

about being able to keep bad cops that really hurt the standing of good

cops across this country.

 

And you nailed it on the head. The Minneapolis union head, from everything

I`ve seen and everything I`ve heard from police chiefs in that city,

presenting and past, is that he`s an absolute cancer. And so, when you have

a guy that`s bragging about how shooting people doesn`t bother him, how

he`s been in three shootings, that does not – and then making fun of the

fact that the new officers today, today`s officers actually have a

conscience, it shows you that you have a leader in that city that`s not

really a union leader.

 

I think he`s someone that does not act in the best interests of the good

cops in Minneapolis. I think he`s a poster child for what`s broken with

some of our labor movements as relates to policing in this country.

 

VELSHI: I`m just showing you are viewers, we`ve got pictures of a protest

in Portsmouth, Virginia, where people are taking down or attempting to take

down a confederate statue there. The crowd has gotten fairly big and folks,

depending on where the camera is positioned, you can actually see folks are

in there trying to take that down. We`ll stay on top of that story.

 

You said something, Chief, that I`m interested in. Good cops. There are

good cops. There are lots of good cops. I know some good cops.

 

In the last week and a half, it`s hard to get some people to believe there

are any good cops. We`ve seen images of people who have taken a knee, who

walked with protesters. I saw it with my own eyes in Chicago. You did that,

you walked with protesters.

 

What do good cops do today? What is the right thing for a good cop to do in

this environment? Because the instinct is to stick with your own, and we

know that among policing, that`s – what`s happening.

 

But it would be so good for the country to be able to see police officers

say enough of this. We`ve seen some. But what can police officers do to

help the situation?

 

ACEVEDO: You know what, I think that we have to be more transparent in

terms of the good things that are happening with policing. Unfortunately,

the bad things make the news more often than not, hit the cyber world more

often than not.

 

I can tell you with 34 years of policing, the police officer today is much

better than the police officers 34 years ago when I started. We have to do

a better job of transparency and showing the community that 75 percent of

the actions that we take in terms of complaints and discipline are

internal. Our officers reporting, our supervisors doing their jobs.

Unfortunately, life happens, we`re busy and not doing a good job of

highlighting the good things going on in law enforcement.

 

Having said that, it is clear to anyone that`s paying attention that we

still have too many departments where the policies are not where they need

to be, where the accountability is not where it needs to be, where the

actual command and control and supervision and transparency isn`t where it

needs to be. And again, I`m hopeful having met with the Congress today and

testified that once and for all, we`ve been talking about reform for a long

time, but both Republicans and the Democrats, they`re equally, I believe,

to be held accountable, have not moved the ball forward.

 

I promised the community here, we`ve promised the Floyd family, many of my

colleagues and chiefs across the country have promised these activists and

regular citizens that have been marching that we will be their voice. We`re

going to be their voice. We`re going to be their eyes and ears. We are

going to report back to them which member of Congress, who did what and who

failed to act.

 

At the end of the day, let me just say this last thing before I forget. The

only cog that is really visible is law enforcement, the front-line officer.

We also have to think about what`s happening in the courts with prosecutors

and judges because at this point, it`s not just the front-line officer that

needs to be dealt with.

 

VELSHI: Yes, yes.

 

ACEVEDO: It`s also courts and prosecutors.

 

VELSHI: That was a point that a number of protesters – I was reporting

from the protests in Minneapolis and Chicago and New York City. A number of

people sort of pulled me aside to say, look, policing is a really, really,

really important issue and it`s the one that`s most visible and the one

that`s most obvious. But in fact, this problem permeates through the entire

justice system.

 

And let`s not forget about reporting on that. So I appreciate that you

brought that up, sir. It`s not as easy because it`s not as visible and

obvious to us, but it is all the way through to our incarceration rates a

big part of the problem.

 

Thank you again for joining me, sir, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.

 

And we`re going to keep an eye on that situation in Portsmouth, Virginia.

It does seem the statue has been taken down, also seems that somebody might

have been injured there. We saw some EMT people. They might have been

injured as the statue came down because it`s quite a height off of which it

came.

 

We`ll try to get more information for you and we`ll keep a close eye on

that picture.

 

Plus, the protests that are going on at the moment in Phoenix and in Los

Angeles.

 

Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass is the chair of the Congressional Black

Caucus. She`s helping lead the fight to pass police reform in the House.

Today, she laid out just what is at stake as Congress considers this bill.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA), CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS CHAIR: If this had had

been a law last year, George Floyd would be alive because chokeholds would

be banned. Breonna Taylor would be alive because no-knock warrants for

drugs would be banned. Tamir Rice would have graduated high school this may

because he – the officer that killed him had been fired from a nearby

department and he lied on his application.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

VELSHI: Congresswoman Karen Bass of California joins us now.

 

Congresswoman, thank you for joining us.

 

BASS: Sure.

 

VELSHI: That last issue that you brought up about the testimony, about a

police officer who lied about having been fired, that`s not – there`s no

national database for that. If a police officer gets fired from a

department, they can go work somewhere else. There`s no obvious way to find

out about what happened.

 

BASS: Absolutely. And you know I`m glad you just had the chief on because I

was having a discussion with him yesterday and he said it`s very common. He

said that officers, bad officers, problematic officers, move from city to

city. And if you lie, you know, and if the department that hires you is not

really diligent, they might not know.

 

So there should be a national registry. You should be able to Google the

person`s name, get into the national registry and see whether or not the

person had a history of abuse, a history of instability, et cetera.

 

VELSHI: We heard some remarkably moving testimony. We played a little at

the top of the show from the brother of George Floyd who talked about

making his brother`s death a call for change in this country. Talk to me

about what the tone was of that testimony, because out in the streets the

tone has been very tense.

 

How was this testimony received by members of the committee?

 

BASS: Oh, I think everyone was moved by it. I mean, it was very powerful

for him to be there, and I really appreciate his presence. I mean,

literally, he laid his brother to rest yesterday and he came and testified

today, and he was there all day long listening to, you know, and answering

questions. It was a very moving moment.

 

There was a woman also who had lost her brother, it was a different

circumstance, but I think that everybody felt their grief, felt their pain,

and I think that it moved everyone in the room.

 

VELSHI: I noticed that Republicans in today`s hearing did not spend a lot

of time posturing or arguing against your specific proposals, the ones that

you and your colleagues have laid out.

 

BASS: Right.

 

VELSHI: Is there something shifting? Is there – are the boundaries of what

is possible in Washington shifting?

 

BASS: Yes. I came away very encouraged from the hearing, frankly. And

knowing that the White House has reached out over in the Senate and they`re

kind of over there scrambling to put something together, what we`re doing

is definitely more comprehensive.

 

But the idea that my Republican colleagues pretty much spent the whole day

talking about rioting and defunding the police and very little attention to

the bill, as a matter of fact, some of them made positive references to the

bill. So I feel like we`re in a good place.

 

I`m ready to get started. I`m ready to reach out to them. I`ve already made

a couple of phone calls and a couple of them have called me. So I`m

definitely encouraged after the hearing today.

 

VELSHI: Just a few weeks ago, a lynching bill that the House passed was

stopped because Senator Rand Paul is concerned that people who engage in

racist activity might get caught up, swept up in a lynching bill in case

they were just assaulting someone on the base of a racist act as opposed to

killing him.

 

BASS: OK.

 

VELSHI: Right, because we wouldn`t want anybody getting swept up in a law

just because they`re racist who assaults people. But the point is we seem

to have leapfrogged that. We actually seem – the country, including some

of your Republican colleagues in the Senate, have all said things that are

not in keeping with what the president has been talking about in the last

few days, but are in keeping with laws that might actually change policing

in this country.

 

BASS: Absolutely. And you know his rationale behind why he held up the bill

is just ridiculous because a lynching is a murder. And so, the idea that,

well, maybe somebody didn`t really mean to kill anyone. But understand that

the reason why the lynching piece is in this bill, the history of lynching

in the United States involved law enforcement.

 

And what happened to George Floyd? To me, that was a lynching. What

happened to Ahmaud Arbery? That was a lynching. That was a common thing

that happened where you would have somebody who was either a law

enforcement officer or somebody who was a wannabe.

 

And you remember one of the guys that killed Ahmaud was a former law

enforcement officer. But there`s been a relationship historically. That was

the reason why.

 

It is shameful. It is 2020, and the idea that we`re still talking about

this. Do you realize black people were marching over a hundred years ago

talking about lynching and we still can`t get this done? But I`m positive

about the bill, though, I am. I came away very positive.

 

VELSHI: Congresswoman, I`m glad for that because it did sound that way and

I sort of wanted to get your sense of it if you came away with the same

feeling. Let us hope.

 

Congresswoman Karen Bass, always good to see you. Thank you for joining me

tonight.

 

BASS: Thank you.

 

VELSHI: We`ve got much more ahead here tonight. There was a major

development in the Trump administration`s effort to get rid of the charges

against Michael Flynn.

 

Big news in the coronavirus pandemic.

 

And we`ll be talking with the head of elections in one state where

Republicans are determined to make it harder for people to vote.

 

Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS REPORTER: At Houston`s Methodist Hospital, COVID-19

hospitalizations are once again surging, up 40 percent. Most, but not all

of the sickest patients, elderly.

 

DR. MARC BOOM, PRESIDENT & CEO, HOUSTON METHODIST: I think Memorial Day was

a big factor. I mean we really saw about six days after Memorial Day, we

saw even more acceleration at that point in time. I think people have left

their guard down.

 

COSTELLO: Same story in Phoenix, Texas and Arizona among at least nine

states reporting a jump in hospitalizations, the best indicator of the

virus` toll. Arkansas, California, North and South Carolina, Mississippi,

Oregon and Utah also on the list.

 

As states expand testing, the number of confirmed cases now 2 million, with

113,000 deaths.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

VELSHI: NBC`s Tom Costello there on the news that nine states are reporting

a jump in hospitalizations for coronavirus.

 

Meanwhile, “The Washington Post” reports that since the beginning of June,

more than a dozen states plus Puerto Rico have reported their highest

seven-day average of new cases ever.

 

And so, today, President Trump announced a new comprehensive plan to

contain the spread of the virus in those states. I`m just kidding, he

didn`t.

 

He`s announced that he`s going to go ahead and hold giant rallies in those

states – Florida, Arizona, North Carolina. They have all just had their

worst week for new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

 

Florida gets a twofer. Not only is the Sunshine State slated to get a Trump

rally sometime soon, the Republican Party is reportedly leaning toward

Jacksonville, Florida, as the new location for the celebration part of the

convention this summer because I guess Florida is going to let them pack a

convention hall with no social distancing or masks.

 

It`s not just campaigning during a pandemic that states are trying to

navigate. They`re also trying to figure out voting during a pandemic. This

is how it went yesterday in Georgia. The front page of “The Atlanta Journal

Constitution” this morning, “Complete Meltdown”.

 

Voters waited hours in long lines in 90-degree heat. Some were still there

hours after polls were supposed to close. The chaos was not only due to

fewer polling locations and fewer workers because of the pandemic but also

to Georgia`s brand new, hastily installed electronic voting machines which

they apparently forgot to teach anyone how to use.

 

In Las Vegas also, long lines. Waits of three hours or more after Nevada

reduced polling places and encouraged people to vote by mail because of

coronavirus.

 

So, if reducing in-person polling places and voting mostly by mail is how

we`re planning to hold our November general election when far more people

will be voting, clearly the system is going to need some work unless, of

course, you don`t want it to work.

 

One state whose primary went off without a hitch was Iowa. Iowa had record

turnout in its elections last week. The vast majority of it vote by mail.

No major problems at it`s in-person polling places.

 

And Republicans in the Iowa legislature looked at that result and thought,

we`ve got to make sure that doesn`t happen again. The way Iowa got that

record turnout and smooth election was by mailing every Iowa voter an

absentee ballot application so everyone could vote by mail and not have to

brave a pandemic to vote in person.

 

And today, the Republican-controlled Iowa Senate passed a bill that would

prohibit the state from ever doing that again. The president of the Iowa

state association of county auditors, Roxanna Moritz, wrote to lawmakers

saying, quote, county auditors as local commissioners of elections are

baffled by this.

 

The 2020 primary was very successful. Counties experienced record or near

record turnout. Election Day went very smoothly. Results were rapidly

available.

 

Why would the state want to cripple the process that led to such success?

Why indeed?

 

Joining us now, Scott County auditor, Roxanna Moritz. Roxanna Moritz,

president of the Iowa state association of county auditors.

 

Ms. Moritz, we appreciate you being with us. Thank you so much.

 

You wrote this letter to Iowa lawmakers who proposed these changes and you

said, quote, why would the state want to cripple the process that led to

such success? Have you received any satisfactory answer to that?

 

ROXANNA MORITZ, AUDITOR & COMMISSIONER OF ELECTIONS, SCOTT COUNTY, IOWA:

Well, not really. The Senate did pass it out of the Senate today. It was

voted on in the committee last Friday at 10:30 p.m. it really just is

unfortunate because they used a vehicle of a bill that was put in place

that was two sentences and they put a 30-page amendment to that bill. And,

of course, because of COVID, they are in a short time frame to be voting in

the legislative process.

 

So, not really a lot of time for us to react or lobby our legislators. That

being said, it will go to the House now that it came out of the full

Senate. And I`m hopeful that with – it`s being led by a Democrat by the

name of Representative Hunter. I think that they might find some common

ground.

 

But, even that being said, we just came through a great primary. You didn`t

hear a lot about us in the national news because the state overall had a

great day on our primary election and did a great job across the state.

 

VELSHI: Yes, sadly, that`s not what makes the news when things work the way

they`re supposed to. Unfortunately, we don`t think of that as news. But

this is huge news in this particular environment.

 

What`s the reasoning given by members of the Senate for not doing that? In

other words, the questions you ask are the questions that every American

who`s not an auditor, who`s not involved in elections would ask. Everything

you listed worked. What did they say was bad about this?

 

MORITZ: Well, the number one issue was that they felt like the secretary of

state stepped out of his bounds by actually mailing an absentee request

form to every registered voter and put out some information saying that it

wasn`t within his authority and that if he did this in the general

election, it would end up costing them money, which really wasn`t quite

true.

 

The CARES Act gave the state of Iowa $4.86 million to be prepared for the

elections in 2020. Our secretary of state who happens to be Republicans,

myself a Democrat, 66 of our 99 auditors are Republicans, working together

to prepare and make sure that everyone felt safe by voting at home, put

that in an absentee request form.

 

They said he didn`t have the authority to do that because it would cost the

state money. Unfortunately, that is incorrect. It did come from the CARES

Act.

 

They also wanting us to purge our voter rolls so if you don`t vote in two

general elections, they would ask us to take your names off the rolls. It

is a vehicle being used really on a different bill just to slide it through

with nobody paying attention.

 

VELSHI: What a remarkable story.

 

Well, thank you for the work that you`re doing and we will continue to

follow it closely. Roxanna Moritz is the auditor and commissioner of

elections in Scott County, Iowa. She`s also the president of the Iowa state

association of county auditors.

 

Thank you for your time.

 

I know Rachel is off tonight, but in her absence I`m going to try my best

attempt at court filing drama tonight. I`ve been doing vocal warm-ups all

day.

 

Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

VELSHI: Highly irregular, those were the words today from a court-appointed

lawyer describing the Justice Department`s new approach to the case of

Michael Flynn. General Flynn, you`ll remember, was the president`s first

national security advisor. He twice pled guilty to the crime of lying to

FBI agents when they asked about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

 

Despite Flynn`s own admissions of guilt, the Trump Justice Department

decided last month to drop the case against him.

 

So was Michael Flynn guilty as he said he was twice or not? The judge

overseeing the case brought in a former judge and a prosecutor named John

Gleason to consider the matter. And in a scorching 82-page filing today,

Gleason argued that the Justice Department`s attempt to dismiss Flynn`s

case should be denied, writing, quote, the government has engaged in highly

irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the president.

 

Now, at the heart of the case is what Flynn told the FBI about his talks

with the Russian ambassador during the Trump administration`s transition to

power. Flynn said he and the Russian diplomat had not discussed U.S.

sanctions on Russia for interfering in the 2016 elections. Recently

released transcripts of those conversations show that Flynn definitely did

discuss sanctions with him. And what`s more, sanctions were the central

point of their discussion, which may help to explain why former Judge

Gleason today said the facts surrounding the move to dismiss the case

reveal an unconvincing effort to disguise as legitimate a decision to

dismiss that is basically sole – based solely on the fact that Flynn is a

political ally of President Trump.

 

He added: The DOJ has treated the case like no other and in doing so has

undermined the public`s confidence in the rule of law.

 

Joining us now, Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern

District of Michigan. And Barbara has just published a piece on this.

 

Barbara, good to see you again.

 

The filing today is highly critical of the Justice Department. The retired

judge, Gleason, accuses the Department of Justice of a gross abuse of

prosecutorial power and essentially accusing the department of dropping its

investigation into Flynn because Flynn is tied to the president.

 

What`s your takeaway?

 

BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, well first I thought you did an

excellent rendition on reading court documents. But beside that, I thought

one of the things that`s so remarkable about this pleading today isn`t just

that he dismantles the arguments of the Department of Justice as

pretextual, going through their arguments that the charge was no good and

it was weak and they couldn`t prove it. He goes through all of that, which

I fully expected.

 

The part I didn`t expect is the second argument where he argues why the

Department of Justice is doing this. And he said it is all about protecting

President Trump. That Flynn was his close advisor, that he was at the time

he was talking with the Russian ambassador, he was also consulting in real-

time with members of the Trump transition team who were down at Mar-a-Lago

and going back and forth to say what should I say to the ambassador. That

President Trump asked Jim Comey to let this go with Michael Flynn and he`s

tweeted more than a hundred times.

 

It is quite clear this is all about president Trump`s agenda to end this

case. As you said, it`s about doing a favor for a political ally of the

president. It`s an abuse of power, and it is preposterous that these

arguments have any legal merit.

 

VELSHI: There`s something you wrote today that caught me, because while

we`re all talking about wrongdoing and right doing and motivations for this

whole thing, key to this whole thing, and I`m quoting from you, Flynn, who

was serving in the sensitive position of national security advisor, quote,

according to the filing today, repeatedly lied about the nature and extent

of his communications with a senior official of a hostile foreign power

that was being sanctioned by the U.S. government for interfering with the

U.S. presidential election, end quote.

 

These lies certainly had a tendency to influence and in fact did influence

an investigation by the FBI into potential threats to national security.

 

The reason I bring this up, Barbara, is because this is not some legal

mumbo jumbo on the technical side argument, this was actual central and

important (AUDIO GAP) what Flynn was saying to the Russian ambassador.

 

MCQUADE: Yeah, this really goes to the very heart of Russian interference

in the election itself. I think to argue now as the Justice Department does

that these lies were somehow immaterial to the Justice Department`s

investigation really, as Judge Gleason says, strains the credulity of the

credulous. It`s just so preposterous.

 

As you said, it goes to the very heart of it. The government of the United

States sanctioned Russia for interfering with our election. On the same

day, Michael Flynn is on the phone with the ambassador to Russia saying,

don`t worry about it, please don`t escalate, we`ll work through this later.

 

By doing so, he minimized the effect of those sanctions. He was undermining

the foreign policy of the United States. This country has one president at

a time. And by acting contrary to the wishes of the Obama administration,

Michael Flynn was undermining the foreign policy of the United States.

That`s why he lied about it and it wasn`t just Michael Flynn who was doing

this on his own freelancing, he was doing this in close concert with

members of the Trump transition team.

 

And his deputy said to Robert Mueller that Trump himself might have been

briefed about these calls.

 

VELSHI: The other piece of Department of Justice-related news that we got

to see today is that the head of the criminal division at the Justice

Department is stepping down and being replaced by a former White House

lawyer and chief of staff to Attorney General Bill Barr.

 

What`s your take on that?

 

MCQUADE: Well, it`s not particularly good news. It`s just William Barr

again having strong tentacles throughout the department. He was – his

chief of staff. He`s also someone who has spent time at the White House.

 

In fact, the new incoming criminal division chief is someone who worked in

preparation with President Trump in defense of the Mueller investigation.

And so, he comes at it from the other side. This is somebody who`s

literally Trump`s lawyer who is now leading the criminal division of the

Justice Department and was most recently chief of staff for William Barr.

 

So I don`t have a lot of confidence in the independence of his judgment

either.

 

VELSHI: Barbara, good to see you as always. Thank you for joining me.

 

Barbara McQuade, is the former United States attorney for the eastern

district of Michigan.

 

Our next story comes out of the dictionary, but it`s a riveting one. Stay

with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW: Kennedy Mitchum is 22 years old. She just graduated from college.

Ms. Mitchum grew up right outside Ferguson, Missouri, an important hub in

this country in the fight for racial justice.

 

And in her activism, in her discussions about race in America with her

peers, Kennedy Mitchum kept hitting up against the same roadblock. It

wasn`t just that people were close-minded or wouldn`t listen when she

wanted to talk about racism, it was the literal definition of racism.

 

This is how Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines racism – a belief, a

doctrine or prejudice based on the idea that race is the primary

determinant of human traits or capacities, and that racial differences

produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

 

But it doesn`t take a racist belief or doctrine or prejudice for racism to

exist. Racism in America is systemic. It`s built in, regardless of what

many people actually believe. You don`t have to be actively racist to

benefit from a racist system in the same way that you don`t need to run on

a train in order to be in motion.

 

But that is the definition that some white people would show Kennedy

Mitchum in arguments about race to prove to her that their actions were not

racist. See, it`s fine, the dictionary says so.

 

So, Kennedy Mitchum set out to change the definition of racism. Late last

month, Ms. Mitchum emailed the editors at Merriam-Webster. She asked them

to update their definition of racism to, quote, represent the true meaning

of what racism is.

 

Kennedy Mitchum got a response from the editors the next day. This is what

they told her. Quote: We have concluded that omitting any mention of the

systemic aspects of racism does a disservice to readers of all races

because people often turn to the dictionary to gain more nuanced view of

the way a word is being used in a particular context – ignoring this

meaning of the word may leave our readers confused or misled.

 

A revision to the entry for racism is now being drafted to be added to the

dictionary soon, and we are also planning to revise the entries of other

words that are related to racism or have racial connotations.

 

The editors went on to say that without Kennedy Mitchum`s persistence,

these revisions would not have been made.

 

Joining us now, Kennedy Mitchum, a recent graduate of Drake University, who

got Merriam-Webster to change their definition of racism.

 

Kennedy, 22 years old and you`re already in the history books. You have

already made a significant change, and this one is important. This one is

important.

 

Tell me in your own words what you believe racism should be defined as.

 

KENNEDY MITCHUM, REQUESTED THAT MERRIAM-WEBSTER UPDATE ITS DEFINITION OF

RACISM: Racism is built in in our society. It should be defined as not only

prejudice but as well as systemic oppression on a group of people. That`s

what it should be defined as. I think that once that change is made, that

we all can come to a better understanding and see its role in society as it

is now.

 

VELSHI: So when we talk about racism or let`s say when we talk about

something more specific than like reparations, one of the things people say

is I didn`t enslave anybody, I didn`t have any slaves, why do I have to do

anything about this?

 

And racism is similar. There are folks that say because I don`t do

something that seems actively racist in the course of the day,

collectively, there may not be racism, or I don`t subscribe to it. And in

your e-mails, you were very careful to distinguish individual racism and

systemic racism.

 

Why do you think people don`t get the difference?

 

MITCHUM: I think they don`t want to get the difference. I think they just

want to be ignorant, and I understand ignorance. Ignorance is bliss, but

it`s reality.

 

If you really care about the people in this world, all people of color,

then you should try to want to understand where we`re coming from when we

say, you know, racism is systemic. Racism is deeply rooted in a lot of –

in a lot of things and racism is killing people. People are dying.

 

That`s why I think that I took out to really try this time, even though I

was up against, you know, Merriam-Webster, which is a very well-known, very

prominent dictionary, because it`s very important. In this climate, we

can`t – there is no time to be ignorant. And we have to all be on the same

page.

 

We`re never going to move forward and there is going to be another black

man after another black man dying if we all don`t understand that the

systems that are in place that are harming individuals.

 

VELSHI: What did you expect to happen when you sent Merriam-Webster an e-

mail?

 

MITCHUM: I did not expect anything. I just thought I was going to get, you

know, maybe a little spam reply to my e-mail. It was a really pleasant

surprise that they did e-mail me back and so fast.

 

And especially since throughout the whole conversation they were really

stern with, you know, the way that they operated. They kept saying that

someone reaching out to them would not, you know, make any type of changes,

so I really had no hope at all.

 

VELSHI: I imagine – I mean, I hope when they first published this either

they will send you one or you are going to buy it. I mean, this is a big

deal. It is a small matter, but it is actually a big deal because what we

look up – I do the same thing. You look something up in a dictionary and

you prove to someone you`re wrong about it. That`s what we use.

 

MITCHUM: Yes, exactly. And that`s – that`s what`s so important. Like there

is no – we have to understand that whether – we all come from different

backgrounds. We all have different experiences, so why are you not trying

to understand me? Why are you just pointing to a dictionary?

 

Like our live – we have live experience. This isn`t just, oh, you can go

to the dictionary and you are going to understand racism. I really hope

that after they look at the new definition they can at least try to

understand instead of, you know, trying to be ignorant because I think

that`s what people really try to understand and become allies, well, that`s

what really will push us forward.

 

VELSHI: I think it`s amazing what you said a few moments ago. You said

there is no time to be ignorant, and I think that`s exactly right. There is

no time to be ignorant.

 

Kennedy, we are indebted to you and for years I will say what happened in

2020 and I will append it by saying, and they changed the definition of

racism.

 

Thank you to you.

 

Kennedy Mitchum is a recent graduate of Drake University –

 

MITCHUM: Thank you.

 

VELSHI: – who got Merriam-Webster to change the definition of racism.

 

Thank you for your time tonight, Kennedy.

 

Still ahead, an endeavor to preserve a piece of the history that we are

living through right now.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

VELSHI: When a fence went up around Lafayette Square across from the White

House last Tuesday one day after protesters were violently cleared from the

park for Donald Trump`s photo-op, it effectively sealed off a public space

that has been used as a backdrop for protests and free speech for more than

a century.

 

But that didn`t silence protesters. They`ve used that fence like a canvas.

They`ve covered it with expressions of anger and grief sparked by the

police killing of George Floyd. A display of pink and green ribbons that

reads 8 minutes, 46 seconds. How many aren`t filmed?

 

There are crosses with the names of other people killed during their

interactions with police. A white t-shirt with a bull`s eye and the words,

my body is not a target. A large sign that reads, they thought they could

bury us, but they didn`t know we are seeds.

 

Over the past week, people have used this fence as part protest, part

memorial, but that could change when the fence that is holding up this

community art comes down. Today, we saw workers taking down a different

section of security fencing near the ellipse, the park behind the White

House.

 

The National Park Service says it is, quote, continuing discussions with

the U.S. Park Police regarding the temporary security fencing in and around

Lafayette Park, which raises the question, what is going to happen to all

of those signs when the fence goes away?

 

Well, we have an answer. “The New York Times” reports tonight that nine

curators from three Smithsonian Museums took to protesters and took some of

the signs displayed there and other museums had curators on the spot as

well.

 

One of the curators from the National Museum of African-American history

and culture told “The Times” why it`s so important to document this moment

saying, quote, history is happening right before us, end quote.

 

That does it for tonight. Rachel will be back tomorrow.

 

Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.

 

Good evening, Lawrence.

 

                                                                                                               

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY

BE UPDATED.

END   

 

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