George Floyd’s brother TRANSCRIPT: 6/10/20, The Rachel Maddow Show
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Well, long live the union as that soldier monument
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
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
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
(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
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
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
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
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
We`ll try to get more information for you and we`ll keep a close eye on
Plus, the protests that are going on at the moment in Phoenix and in Los
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.
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.
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
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
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.
(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
(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
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
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
Why would the state want to cripple the process that led to such success?
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
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
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
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
Stay with us.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the