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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, 5/5/22

Guests: Dahlia Lithwick, Dave Weigel, Ed Yong


NBC News Justice Reporter Ryan Reilly joined Hayes to talk about seeking accountability for the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Wall Street Journal published an editorial last week with inside information on the Supreme Court`s Roe decision. Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission rammed their rejected the map despite the court saying otherwise. Washington Post`s Dave Weigel joins Hayes to discuss how the 2022 election will test the power of Trumpism. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Ed Yong joins Hayes to talk about the unthinkable milestone of one million lives lost to COVID-19 in the U.S.


SYMONE SANDERS, MSNBC HOST: And I just hope people tune in at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Well, congratulations again. Symone Sanders, thank you very much. We will all be tuning in. And be sure to watch the premiere of "SYMONE" and her exclusive interview with First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden Saturday at 4:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.

And that is tonight`s REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight on ALL IN.

ELMER STEWART RHODES, FOUNDER, OATH KEEPER: We were calling for him to use the insurrection act all through the summer. He did not do it. And he read -- and up to the last moment, he could have done it.

HAYES: It`s the closest contact yet between someone charged with seditious conspiracy and the President of the United States. Tonight, what we know about who Stewart Rhodes was talking to inside the White House. Then --

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY):" It is an outrage that we have five justices on the Supreme Court who lied, lied in their confirmation hearings in order to be confirmed.

HAYES: As outrage continues, new thinking about the mysterious source of the Supreme Court abortion draft. Plus, desperate attempt to stop the Republican power grab with civil disobedience over the maps in Ohio and checking in on the MAGA primary in the next big Senate race.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump offered to buy Greenland from Denmark. What did you think about that?

CARLA SANDS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO DENMARK: I thought it was an awesome idea, because he`s a deal guy.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.

HAYES: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. We now have the closest evidence yet that the President was possibly just one degree of separation from the violent armed insurrection. And it comes to us from the Federal filing from the Department of Justice. But before we get to that, to understand what this new development means, it`s important to keep in mind just how many people had access, of course, to the inner workings of the Trump White House, particularly in the last two months.

We know from Mark Meadows text messages that fringe conspiracy theorists had a direct line of communication to the Oval Office. The wife of sitting Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Ginni, was texting Meadows about overturning the 2020 election as well as all sorts of crazy QAnon conspiracy theories about Trump`s enemies being rounded up and held prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.

Mike Lindell, the Pillow Man, of course, was also texting Meadows about the election including a rambling screed about God and rigged voting machines. You got Fox News host Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Brian Kilmeade, all texting Meadows either before or during the insurrection.

And then there`s the head of the far-right gang, the Proud Boys Enrique Tarrio. Now, he was indicted by the Department of Justice back in March for his role in inciting the insurrection. In the days before January 6, Tarrio says he was invited to the White House, although the Trump administration claimed he was just there for a public tour.

We also known as the Proud Boys, including Tarrio, appeared at a Stop the Steal event with a longtime adviser to Donald Trump, Roger Stone, in the days leading up the insurrection. So, we know lots of fringe figures had access to Donald Trump`s inner circle. And now, we may be learning about one more. And his name, we`ve said before on the show, his name is Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, an interesting guy.

He`s the head of another far-right gang known as the Oath Keepers. They mostly like to roleplay as militiamen and they are vociferous supporters of Donald Trump. Rhodes is currently facing federal charges of seditious conspiracy, a rarely prosecuted crime, for his role in attempting to violently overturn the results of the election.

According to his indictment, "Rhodes and certain co-conspirators plan to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power, which included multiple ways to deploy force. They coordinated travel across the country to enter Washington D.C., equip themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and we`re prepared to answer Rhodes` call to take up arms at Rhodes` direction. Some co-conspirators also amassed firearms on the outskirts of Washington DC, distributed them among a quick reaction force teams and plan to use the firearms in support of their plot to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power."

Rhodes also told another Oath Keeper he could store those weapons in his hotel room on January 6. "If you want to steal weapons with the operation leader, you can. He`ll have a secure car trunk or his hotel room, or mine." That`s from government filings.

Now, the government alleges Rhodes himself spent more than $10,000 on weapons, accessories, and tactical gear in the days before the insurrection. And the quick reaction force ended up storing most of his weapons in nearby Virginia, with Rhodes and his allies allegedly plotting away to bring them to the Capitol quickly once they took control of the building.

"The quick reaction force teens were prepared to rapidly transport firearms and other weapons into Washington DC in support of operations using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power." I mean, take a step back just for a second before I continue. Like, this is what a coup plot is, right, as the government alleges. I mean, one Trump supporter even posted this picture of what appears to be guns and tactical gear stored in Virginia to a pro-Trump website on the night of January 5.

We also have pretty clear-cut evidence that that same Stewart Rhodes, the head of the Oath Keepers met with the head of the Proud Boys for 30 minutes in an underground parking garage. That`s thanks to another DOJ filing. "A documentary film crew was present in the garage and at one point picked up audio of a person referencing the Capitol."

In the days after the insurrection, the government says roads spend thousands more on gear and ammunition. On inauguration day, he went on Alex Jones Show to complain about Trump not doing more to support the violent insurrection and to call on his fellow Trump supporters to resist the illegitimate Biden regime.



RHODES: It`s just amazing that Trump left the election be stolen out from under him and to let our country be stolen like this, our government. So, we have to prepare to walk the path of the Founding Fathers to declare your independence from that illegitimate regime. We still defend the Constitution, but they`re the ones that usurpers and the violators and declare that and then get strong in your communities.

You need to be raising local militias in your towns and counties. And like the Founders did, you need to then nullify, refused to comply. And when they come for you, you defend yourselves.


HAYES: OK. These people were serious, I guess is what I want to say here. I mean, they talked about a plan to use violence to overturn the result of the election. And according to the Federal evidence compiled, and again, it`s just alleged by the government, they did a lot of planning.

Now, we now know from a new federal filing that Rhodes at least claims he was coordinating with someone close to Donald Trump. On January 6, Rhodes reportedly took a call with a source apparently close to Trump on speakerphone. And another Oath Keeper "heard Rhodes" repeatedly implore the individual to tell President Trump to call upon groups like the Oath Keepers to forcibly oppose the transfer of power.

This individual denied Rhodes` request to speak directly to President Trump. After the call ended, Rhodes state of the group, I just want to fight. So, there`s a lot we don`t know here. This could have just been bluster from Rhodes. It`s not implausible, though, that he had connections to the White House.

I mean, the morning of the insurrection, for example, the Oath Keepers were providing security to non-other than Roger Stone, Trump`s longtime adviser. That`s established. So, if Rhodes truly was on the phone with someone close to Trump imploring the president to tell armed a far-right extremist groups to oppose the transfer of power by force, that`s a pretty big deal.

Among other things to consider, just imagine, for example, what would have happened if Rhodes had gotten through to the President, the man who`d already incited the insurrection, who was reportedly watching the violence unfold on TV with glee and was desperate to stop the certification of Biden`s elections by any means.

Ryan Reilly is a justice reporter for NBC News. He`s been covering the January 6 attack on the Capitol. And he joins me now. Ryan, give us the context for this filing. Where did this allegation of the government surface?

RYAN REILLY, NBC NEWS JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, so this is the third guilty plea we`ve seen in a seditious conspiracy case from a member of the Oath Keepers. And frankly, when this rolled out yesterday, it was sort of like, oh, there`s another one, OK. In the afternoon, sort of almost a ho-hum thing which you`ve got to step back for a moment to remember this is a seditious conspiracy case.

But, you know, you stroll into the courtroom, there`s a few reporters around. Interest is sort of gone down a little bit since the first, you know, trial and the first pleadings that we`ve seen. And then all of a sudden, they start rolling this out. We`re going through the seditious conspiracy charges.

And when they got to this one paragraph, the judge actually just paused for a moment, and I think I believe said something along the lines of I just want to make sure we have this one right or get this one clear and went through this allegation that as agreed to by both the prosecution and the defendant in this case, who is now admitted seditious conspirator that he was in the Phoenix Park Hotel right off the grounds of the Capitol, and was overheard this conversation between some sort of Trump intermediary and Stewart Rhodes.

And this is -- remind you, this is like as the Capitol grounds are still occupied. Like, they had just come from the Capitol. Police were still clearing things out. This is right in between the time like after Trump sent a message about, you know, they`re --- about the initially saying sort of go away, but then it was before he said, remember this day forever. So, it was still like an active scene at that point.

HAYES: Yes. And the judge actually being brought up short by this. I mean, the testimony, I mean, this is coming, right, via this plea deal, right? It`s the third Oath Keeper to plea, which means the government has gotten a lot of cooperation in building the seditious conspiracy case against Rhodes and maybe others.

REILLY: Correct. And, you know, this is -- this is -- he`s been cooperating for a while, it`s very clear, because, frankly, they walked up to him in the hallway right before the hearing. And he was very familiar with the prosecutors. You know, and just the way this case was brought about, he`s testifying before the grand jury. Today, they are talking about the logistics behind that.

So, I mean, this is a significant development, and it really is -- you know, it could go in a couple of different ways here. They`re both preparing for this forthcoming trial with a number of Oath Keeper defendants who will obviously be a key defendant there. But also, frankly, whoever this mysterious person was, this apparent Trump connect, you know, that`s also something that`s going to be explored.

Of course, you know, it says there that he was not actually connected with Trump. We don`t know, as you said, who exactly that is, but it`s a big mystery right now. Who was this person? Who was this link allegedly between Stewart Rhodes and Donald Trump?


HAYES: Yes, this is how the Washington Post characterize it. What`s been added with the revelation of that call is either the Oath Keepers had some close link to Trump, or they thought they did, as they thought they could functionally invade DC with quick reaction forces stationed at hotels in Virginia to keep Trump in power.

And I have to say like, as anytime that we go back into this specific story, obviously, we all saw what happened with the mob. We know, the various sort of levels of culpability, the people that were sort of at the front and charging. What is alleged by the government here -- and again, I think, based on fairly significant evidence, although it`s just allegations at this point, although in some cases pled to, right, by people, it`s like, a full-scale violent coup, a full-scale violent insurrection against the lawful government of the United States being carried out in plain sight by this individual and these co-conspirators in furtherance of what they thought was Donald Trump`s goal, and at one point, attempting to reach out directly to Donald Trump to be like this.

REILLY: Yes. This was no longer cosplaying anymore. This is no longer playing dress-up, right? He actually was on the ground to the Capitol, saw what happened on the grounds of the Capitol and said, let`s go, I want to flight, and then afterwards went to the Olive Garden. So, there`s this weird mix of you know, of comedy and tragedy and, you know, terror in a lot of these cases, but just the ongoing theme of January 6.

And that`s something that I think a lot of the defense lawyers have tried to play upon. I talked to actually one of the lawyers who has worked with roads last night. I was texting with him. He`s now disbarred, I should mention. But he was saying that essentially like, oh, they wrote this open letter to Trump, so the Oath Keepers have been clear from the beginning that they didn`t have that direct tie.

But clearly, they`re sort of -- they believe they`re one step removed. They believe they knew a guy, right? They believe they had that hook-up. So, I think that who that hook-up is and who was in Trump`s orbit that was communicating directly with the head of a seditious conspiracy, allegedly, as agreed to by multiple other defendants is, is definitely something of interest.

HAYES: Yes. And just finally, you know, ABC News had this reporting about the committee -- the January 6 Committees staff clashing with a former U.S. Attorney. They brought in this former U.S. attorney who has been sort of overseeing the cases and they clashed behind closed doors with staff members of the House Selection Committee. In a roughly five-hour interview last month, House investigators conducted with a former Acting Attorney Michael Sherwin, the DOJ Office of Legislative Affairs, repeatedly objected to questions they argued could impact the DOJ`s ongoing work.

One thing that`s become clear, and you`ve covered this as closely as anyone is, what began as a lot of enormous sort of quantity of cases and a lot of people who were, you know, black and white trespassing has moved up the chain to this kind of case, which is, again, getting closer and closer to people plausibly connected to surrounding the President, Roger Stone being one of them. We know the Oath Keepers we`re providing him security. This -- you know, this mystery caller, like, it does seem like DOJ has gotten closer to the higher rungs the longer this has gone.

REILLY: Yes, I think that`s true. And it`s really the first time I think we`ve seen indications of tensions flare up between the committee and DOJ because obviously, they have sort of different eyes that are looking at this and different approaches that they`re taking, whereas DOJ and the FBI has to stay very strict to what is the criminal offense that we`re investigating here.

The -- you know, the Congress has a little bit more leeway to sort of poke around here and can open some doors open for DOJ. But there is some tension, obviously, when Congress begins looking into what DOJ is doing because they have these ongoing cases and just in general, DOJ sort of, you know, hesitant to sort of get into some of the details of their prosecutorial discretion and their prosecutorial inquiries.

HAYES: Ryan Reilly, thank you so much.

Still to come, the continued to fall out from the Supreme Court leak as states prepare for post-Roe abortion fights. There`s some new thinking about the mystery of who might have leaked the bombshell document and why. And why my next guest says the Supreme Court`s investigation to the leak is a sham. Don`t go anywhere. We`ll be right back.




SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): The reason it was leaked is some left-wing presumably law clerk wanted to put political pressure on the five justices.

What it means is that there was a left-wing law clerk who was upset at how the justices voted and decided to leak this opinion.

There was one woke little left-wing twit who decided to hell with his or her obligations to the justice they work for, to hell with their obligations to the court, to hell with their obligations to the rule of law.


HAYES: Just to be clear, Senator turn podcast or Ted Cruz doesn`t know that, OK. That`s just -- he just boldly asserting that. He doesn`t know it. But there`s been a lot of talk on the right about who how -- whoever leaked the Supreme Court`s decision to overturn Roe versus Wade -- sorry -- must be a liberal. But there are a lot of breadcrumbs that indicate otherwise.

Back on April 26, six days before the draft decision was reported, the notoriously conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board, which is a kind of waystation for conservative movement types, published out of nowhere, this just out of nowhere, this unsigned editorial advocating for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

But looking back, it sure seems to have a real insider look at the court`s decision-making. In fact, they write the Chief Justice John Roberts seem to be pushing for middle ground that would not totally eviscerate Roe saying, "If he pulls another justice to his side, he could write the plurality opinion that controls in a six-three decision. If he can`t, then Justice Thomas would assign the opinion and the vote could be five-for. Our guess is that Justice Alito would then get the assignment."


Well, that`s a real lucky guess. Like, where`s all that coming from? Where is all this inside knowledge of what the jockeying is around this decision, which again, listen to Ted Cruz, is sacrosanct to keep inside the building. No one can leak. So, the Wall Street Journal board just -- editorial board guesses Alito is going to get the assignment. He did get the assignment. And that was not public college.

They continue, "Roberts may be trying to turn another justice now. We hope he doesn`t succeed for the good of the court and the country." They`re putting pressure on the justices in real time based on apparently insider information." Now the column flew under the radar. But following the leak to Politico, it sure seems more than likely a timely warning to conservatives on the court.

And it`s a startling piece of context to look back at now which circumstantially at least fits with the fact pattern of perhaps conservative leaker trying to lock the justices` votes in place.

Dahlia Lithwick is the Senior Editor and Legal Correspondent for Slate where she explains why the Supreme Court`s leak investigation is a sham. And she joins me now. Now Dahlia, I got to say like, I have no idea who leaked this. Surely, it could have been a liberal. It could have been a spouse of the Justice. It could be an administrative person who had access. I have no inside knowledge.

But I got to say that editorial in the Wall Street Journal editorial board sure looks real weird now given the context of what we have now.

DAHLIA LITHWICK, SENIOR EDITOR AND LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, SLATE: Yes. And I would add to the mix the 2012 Wall Street Journal editorial that told John Roberts not to get squishy on ObamaCare and subsequent reporting revealed that a whole bunch of conservative pundit knew that he was getting squishy and might flip. And we now know that, you know, information, somehow very similar structure.

By the way, Chris, the top half of that editorial was sort of like, oh, you know, liberals are hysterical, they`re out of their minds. You know, John Roberts better not do anything like be subject to pressure. That would mean that liberals are threatening the court. And so, the structure of this one is exactly the same, right?

The structure is, you know, liberals are out of their minds, they`re hysterical, they`re crazy, they`re complaining about the shadow docket. And John Roberts better not get, you know, squishy, or he`s already gotten squishy, and he better not pick up another justice. So, just -- it just -- it`s hard to look at those and not see that there`s a slight pattern of special pleading at the court that these coming from that editorial page.

HAYES: Right, and especially pleading based on inside knowledge. Again, like the whole discourse around like the sacrosanct inviolability of the knowledge inside the crypt must never leak out. Like, someone is talking to a Wall Street Journal editorial board in both those cases, apparently, or they`re just like, really lucky on mind reading. There`s something -- there`s some kind of information.

LITHWICK: Yes. I mean, Jeff Toobin, I think in The Oath reported this out pretty thoroughly. I think that we knew at the time that there were a lot of conservative pundits who knew what was happening in deliberations. And so, I`m not saying that I`m in any way making claims like Ted Cruz that I have any knowledge. The truth is, I am saying I have no idea, but I`m also saying Ted Cruz has no idea.

HAYES: Right.

LITHWICK: And you know, it would be good to sort of wait for the facts before you say things as that.

HAYES: There`s also a key context here which I want to talk about, which is what happened in Casey. I mean, when you`re in the mental state of people who want to end abortion, I think that abortion is murder and Roe was wrongly decided, right? They walked into conference on Casey, which happens in 20 years after Roe, and they think they got the majority to overturn Roe, and they do at the first vote.

And then there`s a flip, famously. And so like, if that -- if some version is happening again, that`s like deeply triggering to the entire world of conservatives.

LITHWICK: Well, I think it`s probably just useful to remember. And Tom Goldstein has a really good post up on SCOTUS Blog that`s trying to game out. One of the things he says that`s really useful to think about is that there`s not one but possibly three. And I would suggest that go further and say for leaks that have happened in the course of the week.

So, in addition to the Wall Street Journal having this kind of uncanny backstory that Justice Alito has the opinion and Roberts trying to shave off some wobbly justice from the conservative majority, we then have a leak to Politico, and then we have a further, you know, leak of the document itself. And then on Monday night, we get this extra leak that Chief Justice Roberts wants us to know what`s going on with him and somebody`s leaked that.

So, I think it`s just really useful to see this as like a complete and total collapse.


LITHWICK: Not just of the courts ability to trust in one another. I mean, it`s hard to imagine how any justice recovers from this. But I also think for the American people to see that this is just hair pulling and slapping happening on the front steps of the court. This just flies in the face of anything, anything that anyone wants to believe that there`s a scintilla of legitimacy to these ideas, that the court is a neutral finder of fact and open minded and above politics. This is insane.

And so I think the sort of layers of what`s triggering are there`s just so much pain watching the wheels come off.

HAYES: Yes. And I think if you`re -- if you want to overturn Roe, and they`re about to pan that decision, you don`t want the legitimacy or the authority of the court to be called into question right before they do that, which is, I think part of the -- part of the driving the caterwauling. Dahlia Lithwick, always a pleasure. Thank you.


HAYES: Still to come, the redistricting fights that could give Republicans that advantage in taking control the House is November. And a preview of the potential freshman members of the MAGA caucus. That`s just ahead.




REP. RONNY JACKSON (R-TX): The good news is we are going to get the House back. We are going to get the House back. That is a done deal. We are forced -- we`re four votes right now from controlling what happens on the floor, right? We have everything working in our favor right now. We have redistricting coming up. And the Republicans control most of that process in most of the states around the country. That alone should get us the majority back.


HAYES: Congressman Ronny Jackson of Texas, you may remember, was Donald Trump`s White House doctor, has not been hiding his party`s true aim. They are gerrymandering, redrawing the maps in states where they have the majority to give them the greatest advantage in this year`s Midterm elections. And that reality is happening all across the country now -- right now. It brings up a broader question that I think is the center of so much of what we cover.

What do you do when institutions that you believe in and want to succeed are breaking down? Now, I think there`s kind of two possible ways of approaching this. One, you can try to fortify the institutions because otherwise you end up in a race to the bottom. If you do the kind of rule breaking the other side does, that just gives them license to do more.

One other approach is that you can try to fight fire with fire. If you believe that fundamentally, it`s not the institutions or the norms that matter but rather doing whatever it takes within the law to protect a free and flourishing democracy. Well, we see this battle between institutionalists and those who are against the system or skeptical of it all the time.

A really great piece by journalist Alex Perine who wrote about it reasonably, arguing that institutionalists, who make up the vast majority of the Democratic Party, staffers and elected members, have trouble reaching an anti-system person because they think being against the system is an inherently adolescent and silly mindset. But believing in things like the integrity of the Supreme Court has proven to be, I think, much sillier and much more childish.

There`s a great illustration playing out right now in the redistricting battles in Ohio and New York of this dilemma of institutions breaking down and what to do about. So, earlier this year in Ohio, the state Supreme Court struck down Republicans aggressively gerrymandered new congressional map, which plainly violated the state law. "A state law overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2018 to prevent a map that unduly favored one party or its incumbents."

Now, to her great credit, Republican Chief Justice Maureen O`Connor voted with Democrats to form the four to three majority that rejected the map. And that is an example of institutions holding. She did the correct thing. She followed the rule of law even though the map would advantage her party. And so, Ohio Republicans were sent back to the drawing board.

And it was kind of like what happens when you tell your kid to clean up and they like pick up one Lego and say, I did it, I`m done. Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission redrew the map, but they barely changed it. And now, they`re trying to just ram that through. The map, which gives Republicans an advantage and at least 10 of the state`s 15 districts was using this week`s primary election, while it is still being challenged in the Ohio Supreme Court.

Remember, Donald Trump won Ohio on 2020 by eight points. This is not 70-30 red territory. The fight is continuing over the state-level maps. This was the scene at the Ohio State House after the redistricting commission wrapped up their meeting yesterday. You can hear the group of angry opponents chanting fair maps now.

But basically what has happened is Republicans on the Commission have essentially just run roughshod over state law and state courts and the state constitution and the basic tenets of representative democracy and said screw you, we`re doing it anyway. So, that`s Ohio.

Meanwhile, in New York, we`ve seen a somewhat similar situation, right? The State Court of Appeals struck down the highly gerrymandered partisan maps drawn by the Democratically-controlled Senate in New York. The court "chided Democrats for ignoring a constitutional amendment adopted by voters in 2014, similar to the Ohio law, to curb political influence in the redistricting process."

Just like in Ohio, the court in this case made up of judges all appointed by Democratic governors ruled against maps that were given their party a greater advantage. So, what have Democrats done? Well, everybody`s in limbo. Nobody knows where the districts are. The primaries were supposed to be next month. A federal judge postponed them until the end of August. There`s going to be a special master to draw new maps.

Which is to say that New York Democrat, State Senate Democrats are not doing what Ohio Republicans are doing. They`re not playing hardball. They`re not going Maximus. They`re not attempting to steamroll the courts and get their gerrymander maps in place or just ignoring the court altogether.


Is that the right move? I don`t know. Honestly, these are not easy questions. I mean, generally, yes, you should abide the state constitution, particularly when people tell you they vote for a prohibition on partisan gerrymandering. You should abide by State Supreme Court rulings, particularly when they are correct.

In both Ohio and New York, these were pretty aggressive partisan gerrymanders in direct violation of state law. But the net effect of Republicans being lawless in Ohio right now, at least, jamming their gerrymandered maps through over the objection of the court and Democrats being essentially law abiding in New York following the court`s ruling and postponing the primaries, is that Republicans will likely net three or four seats in Congress.

And among those three or four, maybe the MAGA rapper who just became the Republican nominee in Ohio`s ninth district. We`ll talk about him and the rest of the Trump class of 2022 next.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ambassador Sands, when you were ambassador to Denmark, President Trump offered to buy Greenland from Denmark. What did you think about that?

SANDS: He was the third U.S. president to make that suggestion and I thought it was an awesome idea because he`s a deal guy.


HAYES: The MAGA party was on full display last night. The Pennsylvania Republican Senate debate hosted by Newsmax and moderated by Greta Van Susteren, a brief colleague of mine here at MSNBC, now Newsmax. Five candidates for on the stage including Trump`s former ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, who you just saw there admiring one of the more outlandish ideas of the Trump presidency, although, I guess in the grand scheme of things like not one of the most harmful.

Right now, she`s trailing in the polls getting only five percent of the vote in the recent Franklin and Marshall College poll. The front runner right now is the Trump endorsed TV doc, Mehmet Oz, who until recently lived in New Jersey. Pennsylvania`s primary election is less than two weeks away. And given how well the Trump guy just did in Ohio Senate primary, well, it`s a good time to check in on the hold of the twice-impeached ex- President has on Republican candidates.

Dave Weigel has been tracking all this as a national political correspondent for The Washington Post where he writes The Trailer Newsletter, and he joins me now. You`re just back from Ohio, Dave. I want to talk first about J.R. Majewski who wants to -- well, I think is kind of a Vanguard figure. Like, he won a contested primary in the ninth district. He`s going to take on Marcy Kaptur, who`s been redistricted. He`s a long- time member of Congress redistricted into a, I think, Trump plus three seat. Here he is with his Let`s Go Brandon video.


J.R. MAJEWSKI (R-OH), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: They want to make us woke and forced us to get vax. Taking pictures with the Pope will get us to over-relax. Not to poke fun at Dementia, it`s a serious disease, but come on, man. Squeeze your cheeks when you sneeze. He was focused on ice cream while he`s crapping his pants. We want our dreams and our freedom. This is our last chance. This is the hill we die on, this the line in the sand. We need to win on the battlefield, united we stand.


HAYES: I said on Twitter that this guy is the future the Republican Party. I sort of mean it seriously. Like, I think you`re going to see a lot more candidates like that in this crop and further fields. What do you think?

DAVE WEIGEL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think that`s right. And that sort of approach, social media first, things that don`t make a lot of sense to traditional media first. I mean, he`s running in the Toledo area, a place that -- one of the few newspapers that endorsed Donald Trump, but also just a media environment, which was conducive to running like he did.

I mean, he got a shout-out from Trump at the rally that former President had in Delaware County, just because he`s famous for decorating his lawn with actually quite good portrait of Donald Trump colored, red, white, and blue, etcetera. That and just his big personality carried him through it.

Another dynamic here, which would happen in the Senate race, is that the Republican Party establishment such as it is, knows that the only way to really beat a candidate is to accuse them of not being faithful enough to Donald Trump.

In the Senate race, you have glove for glove bashing everybody who wasn`t - - Josh Mandel who they endorsed saying they weren`t Trump enough, which made it easier for J.D. Vance. It`s the same thing in this race. You had a state senator who had criticized Trump over Access Hollywood, probably more electable in the way the Republicans see their candidates as electable, that took her down. She lost to this guy because of all that exposure for criticizing Trump.

HAYES: Yes, there`s also something -- I mean, what`s striking about Vance to me, and Oz is, I think, in a similar category -- I mean, Oz is a sort of extreme examples that like for so long, you and I are about the same age and have been covering politics for around -- you know, around the same amount of time. There`s so much about like authenticity. It was like John Kerry is inauthentic and George W. Bush is authentic, and all this sort of alchemy of authenticity. And there`s something to that.

But it`s like, it doesn`t seem to matter. Like, Mehmet Oz is going around like -- with his like, you know, shotgun and pretending to be an everyman. He`s like a rich Turkish TV doctor who lives in New Jersey, nothing to do with Pennsylvania, not like -- and I don`t think in the end it seems to matter to the base.

WEIGEL: But what Oz does have, and something you hear from Trump voters, that he got very wealthy, very successful, left behind to run for Senate. And that is a sort of candidate who I think has an inherent trust from Republican voters. He said this at one of his evens I saw in Pennsylvania. He`s burned the boats. He turned -- he turned down an amazing TV career. That`s true. And that`s the thing you heard from a lot of Trump supporters.

They don`t trust people who are climbing up the political ladder. They do trust people who seem real. They do trust people who are willing to jump into the government because they see it from the outside and they despise what`s happening. That`s --


HAYES: Well, that`s interesting. Right. So, the authenticity here is the fact that he`s like giving -- the Donald Trump line of like I could have made -- I stepped away from my billions of dollars. I don`t need to do this.

WEIGEL: That`s one way he`s defending it, right. And he`s running against - - and I put it in the same thing. There`s not really anyone running as the anti-Trump candidate. At most, you`ve got candidates who say maybe the party should move on for 2020 and they`re not even saying that much because of the backlash. But you have Pennsylvania a rush for it. Everybody`s saying that.

But his main competition in CNN poll, David McCormick is a -- is a former CEO, a billionaire self-funding the campaign saying he is entering politics because he`s fed up with Washington. Look who he`s leaving behind. You have Kathy Burnett who served in that poll, lost a race for Congress in 2020, said there was probably election fraud in that loss, even though it`s a pretty safe Democratic district.

And she`s rocketed from the strengthened -- you see her campaign, just incredibly charismatic, dynamic speeches. If you go down the list, and keep going to find somebody who`s running on their electoral experience or things they did in office. They`re not running in this race.

HAYES: Yes. Dave Weigel whose trailer newsletter of the Washington Post is absolutely indispensable. You should definitely subscribe if you haven`t. Thanks so much.

WEIGEL: Thank you so much.

HAYES: Still to come, the U.S. surpasses a once-unthinkable milestone, one million lives lost to COVID-19. Atlantic writer Ed Yong won a Pulitzer Prize for his incredible coverage of the pandemic and he joins me on how we got to this point and where we go from here, after this.



HAYES: Back on March 30, 2020, it was a few weeks into the pandemic. We were all trying to understand and make sense of what was coming at us. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator did an interview on "THE TODAY SHOW" where she gave a fatality projection.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Fauci said yesterday, we could see millions of cases in this country and as many as one to 200,000 deaths. Do you agree with that analysis? Is that a worst-case scenario or something that we should prepare ourselves as potentially likely?

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: So, in the flu models, the worst case scenario is between 1.6 million and 2.2 deaths. That`s the projection if you do nothing. So, we`ve never really done all of these things that we`re doing. We`ve put them into a model. We`ve looked at the Italy data with their self isolation, and that`s where we come up with. If we do things together well, almost perfectly, we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities. We don`t even want to see that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, that -- I know. But you know, you kind of take my breath away with that, because what I hear you saying is that`s sort of the best-case scenario. If everything works and people do the things you`re asking them to do, maybe you can hold the deaths to one to 200,000 in this country.

BIRX: Well, the best-case scenario would be 100 percent of Americans doing precisely what is required. But we`re not sure based on the data that you`re sharing from around the world and seeing these pictures that all of America is responding in a uniform way to protect one another. So, we also have to factor that in, cities that don`t social distances, that don`t stay at home that believe you can have social interactions, that believe you can have gatherings of homes of 20 and 10 people even. That is going to spread the virus even if everyone looks well.


HAYES: It`s really striking to wash it again. Isn`t it 100,000 to 200,000 lives lost in this country if we do things almost perfectly. I remember that. I actually remember poring over models from England in February and how much of a shock it was to see the numbers. Now, a little more than two years after the interview, one million people are dead.

And look, this is the part in the copy where I try to put that in context. There`s no actual way to put it in context, honestly. It`s a number and a toll on a society-wide experience that in many ways I have found rebels against context against us truly grasping it.

That`s something Ed Yong has been trying to do at the Atlantic chronicling our pandemic journey, recently writing that in just two years, COVID has become the third most common cause of death in the U.S., which means it is also the third leading cause of grief in the U.S. And he joins me now.

You have covered this as well as anyone in the country. You`ve been a cherished resource on this show. And I`ve been reading your writing about the morning here and trying to reckon with it, I guess at an individual level. How do you think about this particular milestone?

ED YONG, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: I think it just marks a monumental national tragedy. I think we should see it as the disgrace that it is not only because the number is so extraordinarily high, and so disproportionately high given the advantages and the supposed preparedness that America had going into this.

It`s also -- it`s also a tragedy, because we have collectively normalized to it so much that that so many people could have been -- the fourth and fifth deadliest months of the pandemic so far were January and February of this year. And yet in those months, the narrative was largely about how things are going to be OK. You know, mild variant, blah, blah, blah. Like, we`re going back to normal.


People were still dying in those months. And those people left behind loved ones who are grieving the people who they lost at a moment when society told them to go back to normal. I just got a call with the Marked By COVID group and listening to grievers, share their experiences. I`ve listened to dozens and hundreds of such accounts. People are not OK.

The consequence of one million deaths is about at least nine million people who had a hole ripped in their lives, and a hole that is not closing. Even for people who lost loved ones two months ago, their wounds are raw, their grief is prolonged. And we need to do much better at giving them the recognition, validation, and grace that they need to even begin to cope with the losses that they`ve experienced.

HAYES: I think that the thing that I keep coming back to -- I think a little bit as I watch the war in Ukraine play out, right, it`s just the human ability to acclimate, right? The human ability to like, soldier on, you know, watching people in, you know, just the most dire catastrophes, right, in Ukraine and posting social media messages and finding humor and soldiering on admits the worst kind of devastation, that I think I had some vision of catastrophe that was more sort of like singular and spectacular in some way than what this has been.

Which is just that like this sort of weird, surreal juxtaposition between disruptions to life, grinding levels of death and grief, and some ersatz normalcy all just sort of moving next to each other for a very long period of time.

YONG: I agree. This isn`t like a war or a hurricane or, you know, an earthquake. You cannot see the devastation around you. I look out my window and things look OK.

HAYES: Right.

YONG: It does -- I can`t see the nine million holes in people`s lives. I can`t see the traumatized healthcare workers. You know, the ruin inflicted by the pandemic is harder to see. You actually have to talk to people and empathize with their stories, which is something I think we are constitutionally a bit bad at.

There`s also the fact that the deaths were not spread equally, the disproportionately affected Black and Brown communities, all the people, poor people, sicker and immunocompromised people. And America is nothing if not excellent at ignoring mass death when it affects the most marginalized and vulnerable populations. This is something that I think contributes to that moral tragedy, and I think is one of the reasons why people have normalized so much.

The people in positions of power in politics, in our industry, in the media, were among the first and earliest to get vaccinated. And the minute they`ve -- a lot of them felt that they were safe, they declared that it was safe with no regard for the couldn`t -- the dramatic residual risk that some groups still bear, or that long-term accumulative costs that aren`t going away, like, the grief that is befalling to people I`ve been talking about.

We need to refocus our attention on the people who suffer the most. And I`m not sure that we`re that`s what we`re doing. I`m not seeing that.

HAYES: Yes. You know, it`s interesting, because I think back to the flu pandemic of 1917. And the fact that, you know, one of the -- you know, we never -- most people didn`t learn about it, right? There was a big book about it in the -- in the early aughts by John Barrett. It`s great book that, you know, it was a sort of, oh, my God. It was a larger deaths toll than World War I. Why do we never hear about it?

And now here we are, at the end of this period, and it`s like, oh, they just didn`t talk about it because they were so traumatized. Like, they wanted to forget it. And suddenly, that would seem inexplicable at the beginning of the pandemic. I`m watching it happen in real time in our lives.

YONG: Right. You know, when 100,000 people die, the New York Times had a big splashy front page, and it built the losses as incalculable. Well, what`s 10 times incalculable? Apparently, you know, we`re not even thinking about that question, right? We`re, we`re sort of moving past it.

Now, there is one thing that gives me hope that -- one thing that suggests that we weren`t just forget, which is just that so many people have been affected. I have seen so many grassroots groups, I want to just talk about Marked By COVID, sprang up in the wake of this tragedy. People united in their grief and their losses who are trying very hard to make sure that their loved ones are not forgotten, that the lessons from these years are not forgotten. And I think that there is enough -- there are enough of them that I wonder if that`s sufficient to make us remember.


YONG: I would I would hope so. But, you know, it shouldn`t be on the people who have lost the most. It shouldn`t be on the people who are still mourning their parents or their children to carry this burden of refashioning our society. You know, it should surely be on the rest of us.

HAYES: Ed Yong, as always, it`s a great pleasure to have you on. Thank you very much.

YONG: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: That is ALL IN on this Thursday night. "MSNBC PRIME" with Ali Velshi starts now. Good evening, Ali.