HAYES: Michelle Goldberg, Tiffany Cross, and Michael Tomasky, thank you all for being with me tonight.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
You might have heard the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 election will be held this week in Miami on Wednesday night and also on Thursday night, which is why I am in Miami tonight. I`ll be here all week. Tip your waitress. Try the veal.
We`re starting to get reports about people setting up debate watch parties all over the country for Wednesday night and Thursday night. We are certainly seeing all the candidates roll out big bunches of new plans and new statements and new parts of their stump speeches as they get ready for this big doubleheader of ten-sided competitions that we are about to attempt to put on television.
I say we are attempting to put it on television because it is exactly as hard as you might expect to prepare for this kind of debate. There`s a reason you don`t put ten people onstage at once unless they are dancing in a coordinated fashion.
Nevertheless, we shall do it. And, you know, it is hard not to sense that the White House and the Trump administration might not be almost as focused on this first debate as the Democratic candidates are. Tomorrow morning, for example, Vice President Mike Pence will be here in Miami, of all places, and spare thought for Vice President Pence at this difficult time, when you consider what exactly he has been tasked with doing here on his Miami trip tomorrow, the day before all the Democratic candidates start debating here.
I kid you not, Mike Pence is coming to Miami tomorrow for a Latinos for Trump kickoff event. To be followed quickly by a vice presidential trip to the National Hurricane Center for a photo op. Given the almost unimaginable catastrophe of the Trump administration`s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and their unrepentant blame everybody else response to the deaths of nearly 3,000 American citizens in that disaster, you might not expect the Latinos for Trump kickoff event to be punctuated by a visit of Vice President Mike Pence to the National Hurricane Center for a trip down memory lane, as to how the Trump administration fatally botched that hurricane response in Puerto Rico.
But then, again, you might not expect the vice president to be dispatched to the Latinos for Trump kickoff event. Just days after President Trump promised that he was dispatching federal agents to go round up millions of immigrants in this country, men, women, and children, whole families. President promised the nationwide raids were coming.
Then this weekend, not just presidential chest pounding but actual Homeland Security Department plans to round up about 2,000 people, mainly -- mainly families on Sunday of this weekend, that was reported first by the "Washington Post" and then soon confirmed by other news organizations. No sooner was the roundup all the immigrant families on Sunday morning plan confirmed.
And the president, himself, got back online and announced that actually he had called off those raids. Quote: At the request of the Democrats.
So, over the last few days, the president has crowed to the country and in particular to all the millions of immigrants living in this country that the house-to-house, church-to-church, school-to-school, mass roundups are about to begin and maybe it`s going to be for millions, maybe it`s going to be for thousands but then, no, whiplash, he`s only staying his hand in stopping that for now because the Democrats asked him to. And now, Vice President Pence, would you please go to Miami and kick off the launch of Latinos for Trump.
I mean, presumably, the thinking here is that they would like to goose the Democratic presidential field in expressing more outrage over the Republican Party`s treatment of immigrants and president Trump`s ever intensifying performative cruelty toward immigrant families in particular, right? The more shocking the better in the Trump era Republican Party. I think the calculation is that the more upset and vocal Democrats get in defending immigrants, and denouncing the Trump administration`s treatment and demonization of immigrants, the more the Trump Republican Party and the Trump White House can excite his base and solidify this idea that Republicans stand with white people against immigrants and the Democrats are for people who aren`t from here.
I mean, that seems to be the calculation, particularly, around the political timing of their performatively cruel policy announcements.
And I don`t know if Vice President Pence shares President Trump`s instincts and inclinations on this as a great wedge issue, as a great way to, you know, troll the Dems and make them mad and make them, thereby, play into your own political strategy. But that will be Vice President Pence`s task here in Miami tomorrow, and it comes at a time when the human costs of this political strategy in the Trump era are becoming quite impossible to ignore, because whatever the political calculation around this as a -- as a, you know, horror movie that is designed for political advantage on even the entertainment of people and politicians who can benefit from it, on the actual border, in our actual country, this horror movie is real, and it is real lives and real.
This is Veronica Escobar. She is a new Democratic member of Congress from El Paso, Texas. When Beto O`Rourke gave up his seat in the House to run for Senate against Ted Cruz, a race he came close to winning which launched his presidential bid, it was Veronica Escobar who ended up running as the Democratic nominee to succeed Beto O`Rourke for that seat. It was a six- way Democratic primary for Beto O`Rourke`s seat and Veronica Escobar won it running away with 61 percent of the vote.
On election night in 2018, she became the first woman to ever represent that district in El Paso. District is majority Hispanic. It`s right on the border, in El Paso.
When she was campaigning to win her seat in the summer of 2018, you might remember a national -- a moment of national attention during that campaign. Then-candidate Veronica Escobar helped lead the protests in Tornillo, Texas, where the Trump administration had started holding kids in tent cities, kids that they had taken away from their parents, in the Trump administration`s zero zero-tolerance policy.
Now, that zero-tolerance policy of taking kids away from their families, taking kids away from their moms and dads, that supposedly was ended by the Trump administration, but as we all now know, even though they named -- they ended that policy in name, they kept taking kids away from their parents. The ACLU obtained documents in court as recently as last week that showed that the Trump administration did discontinue that policy in name, but they have absolutely kept separating kids from their moms and dads.
And the physical conditions in which the Trump administration is holding people on the border, and holding kids on the border, if you`re somebody like Victoria Escobar representing Greater El Paso, I mean, it`s impossible not to see. I mean, obviously, this is a national interest. This is something we will all have to answer for one day to our makers, right?
But in her case, taking care of her district means dealing with some of these facilities and people being treated this way in the part of the country that she represents in Washington. For example, there was this report last month from the inspector general of the department of homeland security, report about a facility called the Paso del Norte processing center which is in El Paso, and what the inspector general reported was that that facility has a maximum capacity of 125 persons.
When the I.G. sent people there to look at the facility, though, they were not at their maximum capacity of 125 people. That facility, instead, was holding 900 people. Capacity for 125, holding 900.
One cell, alone, a large cell that was designed to hold 35 people, it was stuffed with 155 people instead. To get air, to get breathing room, people were standing on the toilets in that facility because, of course, the toilets are out in the open in that facility, or at least they`re out in what would have been the open had there been room for open space at all between all of the bodies crammed into it.
Congresswoman Escobar responded bluntly to that I.G. report. Quote: Today`s report is alarming. It publicly confirms what I have witnessed firsthand for months. The conditions of our processing facilities stripped migrants of their dignity and represent a serious danger to the health and safety of migrants and agents.
Well, that I.G. report was last month. Now, over the past several days, another facility near El Paso, this one is just outside Escobar`s district in the city of Clint, Texas, it has become the source of just unimaginable reports from witnesses, from lawyers, who along with doctors and interpreters, have been able to get inside. These are lawyers who all but stumbled upon a brand-new Trump administration crisis when they found a facility holding kids that nobody had said was holding kids.
The border patrol station in Clint, Texas, is not designed to hold kids. Historically, it has been an adult facility and everybody thought that`s what it still was. But when lawyers trying to monitor compliance with government rules about how kids are supposed to be treated in border patrol custody, when those lawyers learned that there were kids being held at this border patrol station that wasn`t designed to hold kids, that was only designed to hold adult men. And those lawyers followed that news and they got themselves in there to see the conditions, what they found was both almost describable and something they felt needed to immediately be described to the public because we needed to know this was happening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN BINFORD, WILLAMETTE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF LAW: Well, we saw children who were being forced to live in horrendous conditions that no child should ever have to live in. You`ve mentioned the influenza outbreak where children were put into isolation. You`ve mentioned the lice infestation in one of the rooms that resulted in the border patrol guards moving all bedding from the cell that the children were being kept in and forced to sleep on the cement ground. Many children reported that they regularly were forced to sleep on the cement including infants and toddlers and preschoolers.
We heard about -- we saw the children who were dirty and some of them smelled. We saw their clothes were stained. There was no soap. They were infrequently allowed to brush their teeth or take a shower. Even then, it was only for a moment or two.
They were being fed Franken food that isn`t suitable to give children especially on a daily basis and given the same breakfast, same lunch, same dinner day after day. We`re talking about instant foods. We`re talking about Kool-Aid. We`re talking about frozen burrito burritos. It is not a way to care for children who are our responsibility as a nation.
We did not even into this border patrol facility on our radar when we were planning our trip, this inspection. We had heard the week before we left that there were children that were in recent weeks being moved to this facility so we showed up in not sure how many children were going to be in this facility with maximum capacity of 104.
There were over 350 children, Chris, and we scanned the list and immediately we saw zero, zero, one, two, four, five. They were all ages. They were infants, toddlers, preschoolers and we couldn`t figure out where they were keeping them.
So, we talked to the chief officer and he indicated they had recently expanded the facility but we couldn`t see an expansion. So after we were done with interviewing on the first day, we drove around the facility and the only thing that we could see that appeared to be new was a metal warehouse with no windows and we couldn`t fathom that the American government would truly be keeping hundreds of children in a metal warehouse. And, yet, in fact, when we came back the next day and we asked the border patrol and we asked the children, that was, in fact, where many, many of the children were being kept.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: One of the lawyers who has become now for us as a country one of the key witnesses describing what has been happening under the Trump administration on the border, which we otherwise wouldn`t know had these lawyers not been able to get in there. I mean, that we are hearing about these conditions at this facility, I mean, again, you can -- you can tell there from the way the lawyer`s telling the story, that happened because of a few different things coming together that very easily might not have come together. I mean, by happenstance, the lawyers reviewing compliance of government rules, holding kids in border patrol facilities and facilities like this, they happened upon this facility where nobody knew kids were being held.
By chance they discovered, basically followed leads as they could find them. This discovered this undeclared, undisclosed new warehouse where apparently hundreds more kids have been held -- again, a facility that nobody knew about. The lawyer we just heard from on my colleague, Chris Hayes` show, she told NPR the reason she and her colleagues have witnessed conditions, have been able to speak out, is because they essentially decided amongst themselves that they had to, even though they never speak to the media about their site visits, they decided that in this instance, this is a life-threatening situation.
This is such an emergency that it has to be addressed separate from ongoing litigation about the conditions in these places. People need to know this is happening now. And so they have come to the press. They never go to the press. In this case, they decided they needed to.
So, that story, in particular, about that border patrol facility in Clint, Texas, that has broken over just the last several days. As I mentioned, that facility in Clint is just outside El Paso, just outside the bounds of Veronica Escobar`s congressional district.
Today, Congresswoman Escobar was the first to let the world know that presumably in response to this burst of publicity, the Trump administration has now quietly started taking all the kids out of that place and moving them somewhere else.
Quote: This morning, my office was informed that only 30 children remain in the Clint border patrol station in El Paso County. Last week, lawyers found 255 kids in beyond alarming condition in the same station. Many questions remain to understand what happened and the Trump administration should answer.
How many children in Clint were separated from their parents? What is the administration doing to reunite these families? Who will be held accountable for these atrocities?
Children do not belong in detention and Donald Trump`s failed policies are only harming children and promoting needless and cruel family separations. This must end.
Joining us now is Congresswoman Veronica Escobar of Texas.
Congresswoman, thank you so much for being with us tonight. I really appreciate it, especially at this busy time.
REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX): Hi, Rachel, thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Let me first just ask you if I accurately summarized what we have come to learn over these last few days and let me ask you if we have any further news as to how this is developing tonight.
ESCOBAR: Well, we have no further news. This morning, as you mentioned, we learned that many of the kids in that facility had been moved from the Clint facility probably to another station in El Paso, maybe other places. But we are doing our best to keep on top of all of this information. These atrocities are shocking and horrifying and really should be a wake-up call for the country.
And you mentioned it during your summary of what was going on, but family separation is still happening in the United States of America. And the Trump administration its in efforts to criminalize asylum seekers and to erode the protections that asylum seekers have, looks for other ways to criminalize people and when they do criminalize adults with children, frequently, they separate children them and that`s why in part family separations are still occurring.
MADDOW: One of the things that was so horrifying and so I think morally wrenching to the country when we first learned that the Trump administration had gone ahead with this policy of taking kids away from their mothers and fathers and instead holding them alone, one of the things that was so, I think, disturbing in an ongoing way is when we learned in detail including in much later detail in court cases down the line that the Trump administration hadn`t really made any effort whatsoever to track parents, to track family members and kids after they were separated. They hadn`t created databases. They hadn`t linked these kids administratively at all to their families, making it essentially a matter of luck and extraordinary effort by advocates to try to get these kids reunited.
Them not setting up a system when they were taking these kids away was just horrifying. Do we know if they learned at least that lesson, if kids are still being taken away now, and you`re reporting that they are and we`ve had these reports that they are, do we at least know if they are tracking them?
ESCOBAR: We don`t. And we don`t know what the plan is for reunification and that`s what I ask in part in a letter that I sent late last week after the news broke to the CBP commissioner and to the Border Patrol chief, what are they planning on doing to reunite these families? Many of these children, Rachel, should not have, been separated in the first place. Many of them have family members. They shouldn`t be in these conditions at all.
In some respects, things are worse today than they were a year ago when it comes to the conditions for these kids because a year ago, the country was paying attention. The country thought at some point that it was going to end. And then as the news broke that families were starting to be reunified and that lawyers and activists were helping track folks, I think for a lot of the country, people thought, OK, it`s over, now we just need to reunify them.
Well, it`s not over and we don`t believe that the system has gotten any better. And part of what is also really heart wrenching about this is that many of the separations are absolutely needless. They don`t have to happen. It`s a decision by the Trump administration to do it.
MADDOW: Do you think that -- I mean, my sense in reading this stuff, my sense in looking at the footage of these lawyers trying to basically alert the country, saying it is not our job to do this, we don`t make public reports on our site visits, we`re breaking our own rules in order to tell you because we`re so horrified. Looking at the news coverage first in the "Associated Press," NPR, "Washington Post," ABC news has done amazing reporting on this, seeing this start to build as a national story that`s getting bigger and not smaller, over the course of these last few days, I feel like America`s moral conscience has been hit again by this and that people are worked up and upset about this.
Do you foresee that people are going to be out protesting at these facilities again? I mean, I know you helped lead protests at Tornillo when we first learned kids were being taken there. I know that in El Paso, there has been marches in support, and demonstrations.
Do you think that`s where this is going?
ESCOBAR: I do, and I have to tell you, we need to sustain that outrage. We need to sustain that sense of desperation because this is not changing. It`s not getting any better.
Part of what is happening that`s so deeply troubling is that as -- as HHS, the health and human services agency, runs out of bed space, the border patrol is having to hang on to kids longer. And I do want to say, Rachel, that it is not just incredibly heart wrenching and horrific and atrocious for the children, but I do want to say, I have heard from many agents who are distraught, overwhelmed, just completely beyond themselves, with what is happening. And what they are being tasked to do.
And so I do want to say that. That it`s impacting absolutely everybody. The communities, my community has been generous and kind but is absolutely worn out, the fact that we face this day in and day out.
But, you know, I get asked frequently from other folks, what can we do? Should we protest? What -- how do we react to this? And we really -- we have to figure out as a country how we deal with this.
Congress is going to do everything we can, every step of the way, in the House, where we have a majority to be a check and a balance on this administration. My colleagues and I are constantly working, looking for ways to prevent the administration from doing what it`s doing, to, you know, I passed an amendment to end zero tolerance. Colleague after colleague after colleague is working on legislation.
But the general public needs to stay in tuned with what`s happening, not lose our sense of humanity and compassion and have to demand change. Keep pushing on Congress. Keep pushing on the administration. Do not let these lives, especially the lives of the most little and vulnerable among us, go unnoticed as they have to live through what they`re living through right now at the hands of the American government.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Veronica Escobar from Texas, from the great city of El Paso -- thank you so much for joining us tonight.
ESCOBAR: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Keep us apprised in the days ahead. You played a really important role today in letting us know about those kids being moved out of that Clint facility to the extent that they`re letting you know things, please let us know, too.
ESCOBAR: We will. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: There`s a lot of other odd stuff going on in the news right now, I will admit, but I hereby contend that nothing else in the news today was as weird as this rat. Actual rat. I prefer to think of this as a sleeping rat, but we called the reporter who got this picture, Josh Gerstein at politico.com, and he confirms to us there were, like, flies and stuff.
I think there`s no escaping this is actually a dead rat. And this dead rat appeared today on these steps just outside the courthouse where Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn was in court today for only the second time since he pled guilty a year and a half ago to lying to the FBI.
Now, the reason Mike Flynn was at court today was so his new lawyer could ask for yet another delay before Mike Flynn is finally sentenced. Flynn`s lawyer is a professional anti-Robert Mueller pundit and author who can be found at any time of day or night on the Fox News Channel opining about Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation and the Justice Department being a whole bunch of terrible criminals and corrupt traitors. She has said that the judge in Mike Flynn`s case doesn`t know what he`s doing and that Flynn should withdraw his guilty plea and stop cooperating with the government.
So when Flynn recently dumped his previous legal team and hired her instead, just as he`s heading toward finally being sentenced, it gave rise to the expectation that, perhaps, Mike Flynn might be about to back out of his cooperation deal. He might back out of his guilty plea. He might, instead, try to get a pardon from President Trump. Frankly, if you`re asking me, I would -- I would be surprised if that still isn`t where this is going.
But today in court, on this weird news day, today in court, we learned that Mike Flynn isn`t going there yet. He is apparently still a cooperator with the government, including in a case against his former business partner.
This is what happened today in court. Quote, the judge: I have a question. At this point, my understanding is that your client intends to testify for the government in a proceeding before Judge Trenga in Virginia. Sidney Powell, Mike Flynn`s new lawyer: Yes sir.
The judge: Is that still the plan although the attorneys need more time to get up to speed to represent him? Is that still the plan? Flynn`s lawyer: Oh, yes, sir, yes, sir, that cooperation is fully ongoing.
The judge: All right, is it anticipated your client will testify in that matter? Flynn`s lawyer: Yes, Your Honor.
So, Mike Flynn will still cooperate with prosecutors. He will still testify for prosecutors in their case against this former business partner of his, a Trump transition official, a man named Bijan Kian who`s been charged with acting as an illegal foreign agent. Bijan Kian was Flynn`s business partner. Today at Flynn`s hearing, we learned that despite Kian having been his business partner, despite his new lawyer that says Robert Mueller runs a crime family and Flynn is innocent and he should withdraw his guilty plea and stop cooperating, despite all that, we learned at today`s court hearing with Mike Flynn that she says he`s going to keep cooperating to the point where he`s going to testify at that trial and she wants another 60 days. She asked for 90. She got 60 days to read in while Flynn keeps cooperating with prosecutors.
And then leaving the courthouse, they stepped over the dead rat lying on the steps outside the courthouse. And the subtle art of metaphor died in that moment.
Honestly, there`s a lot that is a little bit weird right now in the court cases and investigations that have sprung from the Mueller investigation. For example, on Friday, Felix Sater from the Trump Organization, the guy who took lead on the Trump Tower project, on Friday, he ghosted the House Intelligence Committee, just didn`t show up for his testimony.
He later cited an unspecified health reason for not showing up but said he definitely shouldn`t be subpoenaed to appear. What`s the big deal? I just couldn`t make it.
Today, the House Judiciary Committee was supposed to get testimony from Annie Donaldson, who was chief of staff to White House counsel Don McGahn. But they didn`t get their witness either. For some reason, the fact that Ms. Donaldson is pregnant, the fact she is, in fact, in the third trimester of a pregnancy, that apparently snuck up on everyone. Whoa, where`d that come from?
And for some reason, being that pregnant means you get a five-month delay in which you don`t have to comply with a subpoena for testimony in Washington. They now say they won`t even try to get her to testify in person until November.
Meanwhile, we await the start of trial on state charges for Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Paul Manafort has now been moved from a federal prison in Pennsylvania to a New York facility instead to facilitate him facing an additional trial on state charges in New York on top of the federal crimes for which he`s already been convicted. It is possible that we will get Paul Manafort`s arraignment on these state charges in New York quite soon, possibly this week or next week.
Bizarrely, the resolution of Manafort`s federal case has now resulted in a federal court publishing this wild string of hundreds of text messages and calls between Paul Manafort and a Fox News host who appears to have been coordinating not only Fox News` coverage with Manafort, but also sort of coordinating Manafort`s legal strategy including the possibility of Manafort giving prosecutors incriminating information about the president and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also the threat of Rick Gates, Trump`s deputy campaign chairman turning states evidence. That`s all been coordinated between the White House and Paul Manafort with the intermediary, the conduit being this Fox News host who was covering these matters every night on TV without ever disclosing his roles in making them happen, these things.
The icing on that particular cake is the declaration by Manafort to this Fox News host that he can`t wait until he starts working on the Trump re- election campaign. Paul Manafort saying, my text messages, quote: Plus I plan on helping on the real act.
You know, who knows, maybe that dream isn`t dead. Maybe Paul Manafort could still help with the re-elect from prison. I don`t know.
But a lot of stuff in these investigations in these court cases just seems a little bit -- a little bit nuts end unpredictable right now. I mean, House Intel says they may subpoena Mueller, himself, as soon as this week. Mike Flynn is stepping over a dead rat outside the courthouse today while he continues to cooperate despite every other signal from the universe that he`s going to stop cooperating.
The committees now have to figure out how they`re going to deal with all these no-show Trump witnesses, each one of them has a fantastic new excuse for why he or she doesn`t show up.
Trials are ahead for both Bijan Kian and Paul Manafort in New York and more.
Stay tuned. Stay tuned.
MADDOW: For a three-week-long sort of adventure, maybe just an experiment, seeing if they could do it, for three weeks covering most of this month, a Republican-led state government in the great state of Missouri decided that they would start forcing the last abortion provider in that state, a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, to subject every woman seeking an abortion at that facility to a mandatory medically unnecessary internal pelvic examination.
We have been covering this story here on the show ever since it first broke. When the last Planned Parenthood clinic in Missouri went to renew their license this year, the state government told them that in order to do so, they would have to start doing this extra pelvic exam. An extra internal vaginal examination at least three days before a woman could actually get her abortion from the same clinic.
This was the first time the state had ever asked the clinic to do such a thing to their patients. It was based, they said, on a new interpretation of existing state law. So, it wasn`t a new legal requirement, there wasn`t the legislature passing this and signing it into law. This was just the state health department looking at the existing law and deciding that from here on out, clinic, you`re going to have to start doing these extra ones. In order to keep the clinic open, these doctors at Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, they agreed to it, they felt they had no choice. The state made it a condition of their keeping their license and keeping their doors open.
And so, for three weeks, the doctors at that clinic were forced to give women an internal vaginal probe for no medical reason as basically the cost of getting an abortion in Missouri. But once the state government in Missouri started forcing them to do that, they could not force the doctors to stay quiet about it at the same time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAWANNA SHANNON, ST. LOUIS PLANNED PARENTHOOD DIRECTOR OF SURGICAL SERVICES: We`re not satisfied with the fact that we do the pelvic exam when it`s medically necessary. They want us to do the pelvic exam three, four, five, six, seven, days before they even get the procedure. They want us to do pelvic exams on medication abortions. None of that is medically necessary.
DR. DAVID EISENBERG, PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF ST. LOUIS MEDICAL DIRECTOR: The idea that we`ve been having to put women through something that`s totally unnecessary, uncomfortable, inhumane, just because the state has reinterpreted the rules, just doesn`t seem fair.
DR. COLLEEN MCNICHOLAS, ST. LOUIS PLANNED PARENTHOOD REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SERVICES: We either have to ask patients to subject themselves to a state sanctioned, essentially, sexual assault, or they can`t have an abortion here in Missouri.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Since we first started covering this story, it`s been interesting to see the outcry over this policy. This anger over what the state was making these doctors do to their patients -- anger, expression of outrage and objection coming not from just the doctors having to perform these procedures but from the patients, themselves, from medical professionals across the country.
But then eventually, it broke. After 21 days of being forced by the state to subject their patients to what these doctors considered to be a state- sanctioned, state-mandated, sexual assault, the physicians at that clinic finally decided, you know, we`re not going to do this anymore. They said, you know, we`ve done this for three weeks, we are no longer going to give our patients a medically unnecessary vaginal exam three days before their abortion. We`re no longer doing this.
We had the medical director of the clinic here on the show that night to explain how he and his colleagues came to that decision and what they thought the state might do in response. Well, that was Wednesday of last week. The doctors standing up to the state government saying we`re done, we know you`re making our license contingent on this as a clinic and you want to shut us down but we`re not going to make our patients go through this unnecessary, uncomfortable, inhumane thing just because you say so.
How will the state respond? Nobody knew.
On Friday, something unexpected happened which is that the state basically said, well, okay then. They basically said, all right. On Friday, the Republican-led state health department in Missouri took back its new rule that all women in Missouri must get a second unnecessary pelvic exam before they`re allowed to have an abortion three days in advance.
They reversed course. They changed their mind. The health director in Missouri, a man named Randall Williams, he, himself, is a doctor. He is actually an OB/GYN. Oh.
He is the one who decided that women had to get this second pelvic exam in the first place. On Friday, he talked to reporters about why he changed his mind. He said, quote: In looking at what they`re doing and the fact that they think it causes a burden for patients to do the pelvic exam twice, as a clinician who practiced for 30 years, I`m sensitive to that.
He`s sensitive to that. It took state health director Randall Williams more than three weeks to develop a sensitivity to that. To doctors practically shouting themselves hoarse about how the new vaginal probe mandate might be hurting their patients.
But after three weeks of medically unnecessary pelvic exams and lots of publicity about them, Randall Williams and the health departments, they did come around. He decided to tap into his 30 years as a trained medical professional and listen to those doctors at the clinic.
Planned Parenthood says because of that pelvic exam rule, because it took the state thee weeks to change their mind about it, more than 100 women were forced through that. More than 100 women forced by the state to have an internal exam they didn`t need. More than 100 women had to take off their clothes, let a doctor insert an instrument inside their body because of a policy the state now reversed. They`ve now taken it back.
More than 100 women forced to undergo the vaginal exams because of what the state admits now is kind of an oops moment. We`re sensitive to it now.
Planned Parenthood is calling for the state health director of Missouri, Randall Williams, to be fired, over what happened to those hundred-plus women on his orders, which he now says was a mistake. The state says, broadly pictured, it`s all over now. If you are a woman trying to get an abortion in Missouri today, you don`t need to get a second medically unnecessary pelvic exam anymore before you`re allowed to have your abortion. The state says they`re cool with just the one now.
That said, the state is still trying to end all access to legal abortion in Missouri and we`ve got an update on that tonight as well.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Brigitte Amiri. She`s deputy director of the ACLU`s Reproductive Freedom Project.
Ms. Amiri, thanks very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate you being here
BRIGITTE AMIRI, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ACLU`S REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM PROJECT: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, we`ve been covering this situation in Missouri pretty intensively over the past few weeks. We started covering it because of the in threat from the government there that they were going to put the last legal abortion provider in that state out of business. That story when we got to Missouri it figure out how that was playing out quickly became the story of this effectively a new mandate from the state government for this extra medically unnecessary pelvic exam that the state was insisting women now had to go through.
Over the past few days, the state has backtracked on that. They`ve stopped requiring that. But the effort to close down the clinic remains. The state court fight in Missouri at this point, the status of that is that the injunction, the preliminary injunction that`s keeping the clinic open, expires on Friday.
As somebody who`s fought these fights nationwide, I wanted to ask you about this just to see how you see the Missouri situation right now.
Do you think that Missouri is actually in its last few days of there being a legal abortion provider in the state?
AMIRI: I don`t have any way of predicting that, but I think Missouri is the perfect example of how a state can push abortion out of reach without banning it explicitly. The nation`s attention has been focused on this wave of abortion bans that have been passed in several states, but what has always been true is that states have been piling restriction upon restriction and using different ways to try to close clinic doors, and that is what could happen in Missouri if the courts don`t intervene.
MADDOW: Because of the Roe versus Wade Supreme Court decision, American women all have a constitutional right to access abortion services if they want it. As you describe with those restrictions, that right is not often practically in place. There`s no de facto right if there are too many restrictions in state law that prevent you from being able to access it including financial restrictions and all the rest.
But I wonder if, you know, in the 46 years that we`ve had Roe, we haven`t had a state go completely dark in terms of access to abortion. We haven`t had a state lose every provider. Is there some sort of federal failsafe from the federal courts that kicks in that has prevented that from happening in the past that might kick in here in Missouri or in Kentucky or any of these other states that are down to their last clinic and under pressure?
AMIRI: The federal courts have protected the last clinic from closing in Kentucky, in Mississippi, for example. So there is the federal constitutional protection that says that states may not ban abortion, whether it`s outright or in the de facto way.
But the Trump administration and President Trump has vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices that would overturn Roe versus Wade. So, the anti- abortion movement is banking on and they`re emboldened by that promise. And they are trying to get cases to the Supreme Court that will either undermine Roe versus Wade or eviscerate it entirely.
MADDOW: What we`ve seen in Missouri over these past few weeks has been surprising on a number of different levels. I will admit to being surprised that the state health department backed off what they were trying to do with this new sort of punitive pelvic exam they were putting women through.
I wonder exam they were putting women through. I wonder if there are any sort of lessons from the road, anything in terms of what you`ve seen about whether publicity, public outcry, attention to the difficulties that the states are putting women in does have a track record of rolling some of this stuff back.
AMIRI: Well, absolutely. Everyone should be making their voices heard. This is absolutely no time to sit on the sidelines. Abortion, the right to abortion access, is hanging in the balance right now.
And so, we`re encouraging everyone to speak out, hold their elected officials accountable, let them know where you stand on the right to abortion, and ultimately we hope that everyone`s voices will be heard and that the courts will also protect the right.
MADDOW: Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU`s Reproductive Freedom Project, Brigitte, I appreciate your time tonight. Thanks for coming on.
AMIRI: Thank you.
MADDOW: Al right. We`ve got still more ahead here tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The Shanna Key Irish pub and grill is located in Key West, Florida, which is about 150 miles southwest of here, but so close I swear I can smell it. Its claim to fame is that it`s home to the southernmost pint of Guinness in the United States. That, of course, makes the Shanna Key a natural choice if you`re in Key West and you`re looking for a place to watch this week`s presidential debate Wednesday and Thursday night.
Florida Keys Democrats are going to be hosting debate watch parties at the Shanna Key this Wednesday and Thursday. Here in Miami, She the People and the new Florida majority are hosting a discussion on race and social justice ahead of the first debate, then that`s going to be followed by a big community watch party.
Former Democratic nominee for governor in Florida, Andrew Gillum, he`s teaming up with the Florida Democratic Party for a different watch party event on Wednesday night. Some of the biggest unions in Florida say they were going to hold rallies outside the debate venue before also hosting watch parties nearby.
According to their campaigns, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, they each have hundreds, literally have hundreds of watch parties lined up in cities and towns across the country. Bernie Sanders supporters also have a ton planned, including one in Belgrade, Serbia, of all places. Yes, in Serbia.
We also got this one from Virgin Islands Democrats. Virgin Islands Democrats, I want to go to your watch party. Alas, I cannot.
In a lead up to these debates this week, it`s very exciting, lots of candidates put on new policy proposals. Joe Biden just outlined an immigration plan in the Miami Herald today. Good choice of publications given the debate location.
Beto O`Rourke today called for Congress to enact a war tax aimed at expanding care for military veterans. Senator Sanders unveiled a plan to cancel $1 trillion of student loan debt nationwide. Senator Elizabeth Warren just put out a ban private prison and private detention facilities.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee has released his campaign`s fourth specific policy on climate change. This one would end fracking nationwide.
So, there is all this substance, there`s all this flood of important new policy stuff being churned out by the candidates ahead of this debate. But you know what they say about best laid plans. You should know ahead of all the prep these Democratic candidates are planning for, the Supreme Court is also likely to issue big controversial rulings on gerrymandering and the Census citizenship question on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
So until they hit the debate stage, the candidates are preparing for that. They`re, you know, preparing for their own platforms and what they think will be the likely questions, right?
Plus, there`s the start of the G-20, plus there`s whatever is going on with Iran, plus there`s the border news, plus there`s the debate stage with ten people on it. How do you prepare for a debate stage with ten people on it? Who knows?
It`s all very exciting. But honestly, think about it, their prep schedule must be murder right now.
MADDOW: Last story for you tonight. If you work for the government, you are prohibited by law from campaigning in the course of your duties. Can`t take taxpayer money to campaign for partisan election results.
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway has recently laughed off suggestions that she is a serial, even gleeful violator of that law, which is called the Hatch Act. But this month, after Justice Department Ethics Office recommended that the president should fire her for being a repeat offender for breaking that law, the president, of course, has said he will not fire Kellyanne Conway for breaking that law. And now, tonight, the White House counsel has blocked Congress or tried to block Congress from even asking Kellyanne Conway about any of this.
White House counsel now telling the House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings that no way will Kellyanne Conway be answering their questions on this point.
We don`t know yet whether Congressman Cummings and House Oversight Committee will subpoena Conway in order to try to get her testify. If they do, you can add it to the other list of subpoenas of other staffers that the White House won`t respect. But that`s the next one. We`ll see.
That does it for us tonight. See you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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