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

Guests: Art Acevedo, Karen Bass, Kennedy Mitchum

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

That is "ALL IN" for this evening.

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

Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Those are some remarkable images you were showing there, Chris. Thank you, and have yourself a good night.

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel has a much deserved night off but she`s going to be back tomorrow.

It`s been 16 days since George Floyd died at the hands of police and began a nationwide movement in this country. At this hour protests are still going on in Los Angeles and Phoenix, Arizona.

Let me show you what happened earlier in the day. Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Boston eventually stopping outside of city hall to demand police funding be diverted to social programs. In New York City, protesters carried with them images of George Floyd and signs that read "Black Lives Matter."

And this was the scene in Washington, D.C., where George Floyd`s younger brother Philonise joined protesters walking down, marching down Black Lives Matter Plaza. They chanted: fists in the sky, get `em up, raise `em high.

That peaceful protest today came just a few short hours after Philonise Floyd made an emotional appeal to lawmakers. In gut-wrenching testimony, he called the killing of his brother a modern-day lynching and he urged those in Congress to act on police reform so that his brother George Perry Floyd Jr.`s death would not be in vain.


PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD`S BROTHER: The man who took his life, who suffocated him for eight minutes and 46 seconds, he still called him "sir" as he begged for his life. I can`t tell you the kind of pain you feel when you watch something like that.

When you watch your big brother, who you looked up to your whole entire life die? Die begging for his mom? I`m tired. I`m tired of pain. Pain you feel when you watch something like that. When you watch your big brother, who you looked up to for your whole life die, die begging for his mom?

I`m here to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain. Stop us from being tired. George wasn`t hurting anyone that day. He didn`t deserve to die over $20.

I`m asking you, is that -- is that what a black man is worth? Twenty dollars? This is 2020.

I didn`t get the chance to say good-bye to Perry while he was here. I was robbed of that. But I know he`s looking down at us now.

Perry, look at what you did, big brother. You changed the world. Thank you for everything, for taking care of us on earth, but taking care of us now. I hope you found mama and you can rest in peace with power.


VELSHI: Philonise Floyd was one of half a dozen activists speaking on that hearing on law enforcement accountability. It came as House Democrats are closing in on the votes that they need to pass sweeping police reform legislation. Just last month, movement on the issue seemed completely impossible. But given the outpouring of grief over George Floyd`s death and the tidal wave of protests that we`ve seen from coast to coast, it seems like now might be the moment to actually get something done on this issue.

Even Senate Republicans led by South Carolina Senator Tim Scott have begun drafting their own police reform legislation. Scott`s bill would among allocate funding to promote the use of police body cameras, set up a national police commission to determine best practices and push law enforcement agencies to report more data on use of force by police officers.

There are also reports that President Trump will address the nation on matters of race and national unity, though it remains to be seen how unifying that speech would be, given that it`s reportedly being written by Stephen Miller, the White House aide responsible for the administration`s draconian immigration policies.

But whether or not policing policies change on a national level, we are already seeing rapid change on the state and local level. No place is that change more evident than in Minneapolis, where George Perry Floyd lost his life at the hands of police. This week a judge ordered the Minneapolis police department to stop using all chokeholds and neck restraints. That court also required officers to intervene should they witness a fellow officer using unauthorized force and it greatly restricted the use of crowd control weapons, things like tear gas and rubber bullets, which were employed so liberally during the protests following George Floyd`s death.

On top of all that, a veto-proof majority of the city council has announced that it will dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department, completely rebuilding it from the ground up.

Then today came the news from the Minneapolis police chief himself that he would withdraw from contract negotiations with the city`s powerful police union. That`s the latest step in restoring faith in the city`s embattled police department. Chief Arredondo said he planned to bring in advisers to view how a contract could be structured so it could provide greater transparency for the community and more flexibility for true reform.

In those remarks, he touched on just how powerful those unions can be in keeping bad cops on the job.


CHIEF MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: I believe I speak for my chief peers here in the state of Minnesota as well as across our country, that there is nothing more debilitating to a chief from an employment matter perspective than when you have grounds to terminate an officer for misconduct and you`re dealing with a third-party mechanism that allows for that employee to not only be back on your department but to be patrolling in your communities.


VELSHI: Chief Arradondo, who has made history as the city`s first black police chief also acknowledged that it is impossible to tackle police reform without confronting the issue of race.


ARRADONDO: Race is inextricably a part of the American police system. We will never evolve in this profession if we do not address it head on. Communities of color have paid the heaviest of costs, and that is with their lives. And our children must be safeguarded from ever having to contributing to the horrific and shameful chapter of this country`s history.


VELSHI: In addition to all that news today in the city of Minneapolis, late this afternoon, the state`s governor called a special session of the legislature to tackle police reform. Among the items expected to be voted on are a statewide ban on chokeholds, legislation that would make it easier to discipline officers and possible changes to state laws involving police unions.

Now, while those measures might be expected in Minneapolis, that`s not the only place that reform is taking root. In the past two weeks we`ve seen aggressive new actions taken in New York, in Washington, D.C., in Denver, in Los Angeles, and, of course, in Houston, the city where George Floyd was laid to rest yesterday.

At that funeral service, Houston`s mayor announced that he would be signing an executive order banning chokeholds and implementing other police reforms. So change is happening. The question is how much change will we see and how much can be done given where we are as a country right now.

Art Acevedo is the chief of the Houston Police Department and he`s been outspoken. He was one of the witnesses who testified before the House Judiciary Committee today and he joins me now.

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


VELSHI: I want to ask you, you testified today before the house as the head of a police department of a major city who`s actually in favor of seeing some reforms to policing. I have to ask you how you think your testimony was received, both by the people to whom you gave it and back home in Houston.

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

ACEVEDO: No, not at all. I think it was well-received, but it`s not about how well it`s received, it`s about how well it`s acted upon. You know, testimony in hearings are great, but without action, it just won`t make a difference.

I`m proud to say that my mayor today, Mayor Turner, actually did what he said he was going to do. He codified an executive order, rules of engagement and rules of conduct for our department that I think is key, because the day that this chief leaves, another chief comes in, they will not be able in the dark of the night or on a weekend change those rules without going back to the city and to the mayor, and I think that`s a huge step forward for our city.

VELSHI: One of the things you and I talked about a few days ago is the degree to which there are not great statistics across the country about police force incidents with citizens and there isn`t even general agreement across police forces and across states on what constitutes use of force or what constitutes too much force.

How do we fix that? We`re not dealing with one set of police forces or even one per state. We`re dealing with thousands and thousands of police forces.

ACEVEDO: Yeah, we`re actually dealing with 18,000 police departments across the country, ranging from a one officer department to, you know, 38,000 officers in New York. And the problem we have as a nation is that we don`t live in a vacuum, we don`t live on an island. We must figure out what are the most critical policies in terms of policing, in terms of legitimacy, and in terms of accountability.

And we have to come up with a set of standards that have to be the same across the nation. It`s not enough for Houston to do it, it`s not enough for Minneapolis and Minnesota to do it. It has to be 18,000 police departments because what happens in one place impacts every other place.

And the time is now to get it done and I`m glad we`re starting to see movement towards that end.

VELSHI: Chief, most police officers in the country are unionized. And I -- I imagine some of those unions are really helpful to their employees. But we are hearing, particularly in Minneapolis, that seems to be the poster child for a very difficult union led by a union leader who just has a view of policing that is out of sync with most of society`s, I think.

How do we deal with that issue?

ACEVEDO: Well, first of all, it`s important for workers to have rights. But the rights should be about pay, benefits and fairness. It should not be about being able to keep bad cops that really hurt the standing of good cops across this country.

And you nailed it on the head. The Minneapolis union head, from everything I`ve seen and everything I`ve heard from police chiefs in that city, presenting and past, is that he`s an absolute cancer. And so, when you have a guy that`s bragging about how shooting people doesn`t bother him, how he`s been in three shootings, that does not -- and then making fun of the fact that the new officers today, today`s officers actually have a conscience, it shows you that you have a leader in that city that`s not really a union leader.

I think he`s someone that does not act in the best interests of the good cops in Minneapolis. I think he`s a poster child for what`s broken with some of our labor movements as relates to policing in this country.

VELSHI: I`m just showing you are viewers, we`ve got pictures of a protest in Portsmouth, Virginia, where people are taking down or attempting to take down a confederate statue there. The crowd has gotten fairly big and folks, depending on where the camera is positioned, you can actually see folks are in there trying to take that down. We`ll stay on top of that story.

You said something, Chief, that I`m interested in. Good cops. There are good cops. There are lots of good cops. I know some good cops.

In the last week and a half, it`s hard to get some people to believe there are any good cops. We`ve seen images of people who have taken a knee, who walked with protesters. I saw it with my own eyes in Chicago. You did that, you walked with protesters.

What do good cops do today? What is the right thing for a good cop to do in this environment? Because the instinct is to stick with your own, and we know that among policing, that`s -- what`s happening.

But it would be so good for the country to be able to see police officers say enough of this. We`ve seen some. But what can police officers do to help the situation?

ACEVEDO: You know what, I think that we have to be more transparent in terms of the good things that are happening with policing. Unfortunately, the bad things make the news more often than not, hit the cyber world more often than not.

I can tell you with 34 years of policing, the police officer today is much better than the police officers 34 years ago when I started. We have to do a better job of transparency and showing the community that 75 percent of the actions that we take in terms of complaints and discipline are internal. Our officers reporting, our supervisors doing their jobs. Unfortunately, life happens, we`re busy and not doing a good job of highlighting the good things going on in law enforcement.

Having said that, it is clear to anyone that`s paying attention that we still have too many departments where the policies are not where they need to be, where the accountability is not where it needs to be, where the actual command and control and supervision and transparency isn`t where it needs to be. And again, I`m hopeful having met with the Congress today and testified that once and for all, we`ve been talking about reform for a long time, but both Republicans and the Democrats, they`re equally, I believe, to be held accountable, have not moved the ball forward.

I promised the community here, we`ve promised the Floyd family, many of my colleagues and chiefs across the country have promised these activists and regular citizens that have been marching that we will be their voice. We`re going to be their voice. We`re going to be their eyes and ears. We are going to report back to them which member of Congress, who did what and who failed to act.

At the end of the day, let me just say this last thing before I forget. The only cog that is really visible is law enforcement, the front-line officer. We also have to think about what`s happening in the courts with prosecutors and judges because at this point, it`s not just the front-line officer that needs to be dealt with.

VELSHI: Yes, yes.

ACEVEDO: It`s also courts and prosecutors.

VELSHI: That was a point that a number of protesters -- I was reporting from the protests in Minneapolis and Chicago and New York City. A number of people sort of pulled me aside to say, look, policing is a really, really, really important issue and it`s the one that`s most visible and the one that`s most obvious. But in fact, this problem permeates through the entire justice system.

And let`s not forget about reporting on that. So I appreciate that you brought that up, sir. It`s not as easy because it`s not as visible and obvious to us, but it is all the way through to our incarceration rates a big part of the problem.

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

And we`re going to keep an eye on that situation in Portsmouth, Virginia. It does seem the statue has been taken down, also seems that somebody might have been injured there. We saw some EMT people. They might have been injured as the statue came down because it`s quite a height off of which it came.

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

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

Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass is the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. She`s helping lead the fight to pass police reform in the House. Today, she laid out just what is at stake as Congress considers this bill.


REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA), CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS CHAIR: If this had had been a law last year, George Floyd would be alive because chokeholds would be banned. Breonna Taylor would be alive because no-knock warrants for drugs would be banned. Tamir Rice would have graduated high school this may because he -- the officer that killed him had been fired from a nearby department and he lied on his application.


VELSHI: Congresswoman Karen Bass of California joins us now.

Congresswoman, thank you for joining us.

BASS: Sure.

VELSHI: That last issue that you brought up about the testimony, about a police officer who lied about having been fired, that`s not -- there`s no national database for that. If a police officer gets fired from a department, they can go work somewhere else. There`s no obvious way to find out about what happened.

BASS: Absolutely. And you know I`m glad you just had the chief on because I was having a discussion with him yesterday and he said it`s very common. He said that officers, bad officers, problematic officers, move from city to city. And if you lie, you know, and if the department that hires you is not really diligent, they might not know.

So there should be a national registry. You should be able to Google the person`s name, get into the national registry and see whether or not the person had a history of abuse, a history of instability, et cetera.

VELSHI: We heard some remarkably moving testimony. We played a little at the top of the show from the brother of George Floyd who talked about making his brother`s death a call for change in this country. Talk to me about what the tone was of that testimony, because out in the streets the tone has been very tense.

How was this testimony received by members of the committee?

BASS: Oh, I think everyone was moved by it. I mean, it was very powerful for him to be there, and I really appreciate his presence. I mean, literally, he laid his brother to rest yesterday and he came and testified today, and he was there all day long listening to, you know, and answering questions. It was a very moving moment.

There was a woman also who had lost her brother, it was a different circumstance, but I think that everybody felt their grief, felt their pain, and I think that it moved everyone in the room.

VELSHI: I noticed that Republicans in today`s hearing did not spend a lot of time posturing or arguing against your specific proposals, the ones that you and your colleagues have laid out.

BASS: Right.

VELSHI: Is there something shifting? Is there -- are the boundaries of what is possible in Washington shifting?

BASS: Yes. I came away very encouraged from the hearing, frankly. And knowing that the White House has reached out over in the Senate and they`re kind of over there scrambling to put something together, what we`re doing is definitely more comprehensive.

But the idea that my Republican colleagues pretty much spent the whole day talking about rioting and defunding the police and very little attention to the bill, as a matter of fact, some of them made positive references to the bill. So I feel like we`re in a good place.

I`m ready to get started. I`m ready to reach out to them. I`ve already made a couple of phone calls and a couple of them have called me. So I`m definitely encouraged after the hearing today.

VELSHI: Just a few weeks ago, a lynching bill that the House passed was stopped because Senator Rand Paul is concerned that people who engage in racist activity might get caught up, swept up in a lynching bill in case they were just assaulting someone on the base of a racist act as opposed to killing him.


VELSHI: Right, because we wouldn`t want anybody getting swept up in a law just because they`re racist who assaults people. But the point is we seem to have leapfrogged that. We actually seem -- the country, including some of your Republican colleagues in the Senate, have all said things that are not in keeping with what the president has been talking about in the last few days, but are in keeping with laws that might actually change policing in this country.

BASS: Absolutely. And you know his rationale behind why he held up the bill is just ridiculous because a lynching is a murder. And so, the idea that, well, maybe somebody didn`t really mean to kill anyone. But understand that the reason why the lynching piece is in this bill, the history of lynching in the United States involved law enforcement.

And what happened to George Floyd? To me, that was a lynching. What happened to Ahmaud Arbery? That was a lynching. That was a common thing that happened where you would have somebody who was either a law enforcement officer or somebody who was a wannabe.

And you remember one of the guys that killed Ahmaud was a former law enforcement officer. But there`s been a relationship historically. That was the reason why.

It is shameful. It is 2020, and the idea that we`re still talking about this. Do you realize black people were marching over a hundred years ago talking about lynching and we still can`t get this done? But I`m positive about the bill, though, I am. I came away very positive.

VELSHI: Congresswoman, I`m glad for that because it did sound that way and I sort of wanted to get your sense of it if you came away with the same feeling. Let us hope.

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

BASS: Thank you.

VELSHI: We`ve got much more ahead here tonight. There was a major development in the Trump administration`s effort to get rid of the charges against Michael Flynn.

Big news in the coronavirus pandemic.

And we`ll be talking with the head of elections in one state where Republicans are determined to make it harder for people to vote.

Stay with us.



TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS REPORTER: At Houston`s Methodist Hospital, COVID-19 hospitalizations are once again surging, up 40 percent. Most, but not all of the sickest patients, elderly.

DR. MARC BOOM, PRESIDENT & CEO, HOUSTON METHODIST: I think Memorial Day was a big factor. I mean we really saw about six days after Memorial Day, we saw even more acceleration at that point in time. I think people have left their guard down.

COSTELLO: Same story in Phoenix, Texas and Arizona among at least nine states reporting a jump in hospitalizations, the best indicator of the virus` toll. Arkansas, California, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Oregon and Utah also on the list.

As states expand testing, the number of confirmed cases now 2 million, with 113,000 deaths.


VELSHI: NBC`s Tom Costello there on the news that nine states are reporting a jump in hospitalizations for coronavirus.

Meanwhile, "The Washington Post" reports that since the beginning of June, more than a dozen states plus Puerto Rico have reported their highest seven-day average of new cases ever.

And so, today, President Trump announced a new comprehensive plan to contain the spread of the virus in those states. I`m just kidding, he didn`t.

He`s announced that he`s going to go ahead and hold giant rallies in those states -- Florida, Arizona, North Carolina. They have all just had their worst week for new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

Florida gets a twofer. Not only is the Sunshine State slated to get a Trump rally sometime soon, the Republican Party is reportedly leaning toward Jacksonville, Florida, as the new location for the celebration part of the convention this summer because I guess Florida is going to let them pack a convention hall with no social distancing or masks.

It`s not just campaigning during a pandemic that states are trying to navigate. They`re also trying to figure out voting during a pandemic. This is how it went yesterday in Georgia. The front page of "The Atlanta Journal Constitution" this morning, "Complete Meltdown".

Voters waited hours in long lines in 90-degree heat. Some were still there hours after polls were supposed to close. The chaos was not only due to fewer polling locations and fewer workers because of the pandemic but also to Georgia`s brand new, hastily installed electronic voting machines which they apparently forgot to teach anyone how to use.

In Las Vegas also, long lines. Waits of three hours or more after Nevada reduced polling places and encouraged people to vote by mail because of coronavirus.

So, if reducing in-person polling places and voting mostly by mail is how we`re planning to hold our November general election when far more people will be voting, clearly the system is going to need some work unless, of course, you don`t want it to work.

One state whose primary went off without a hitch was Iowa. Iowa had record turnout in its elections last week. The vast majority of it vote by mail. No major problems at it`s in-person polling places.

And Republicans in the Iowa legislature looked at that result and thought, we`ve got to make sure that doesn`t happen again. The way Iowa got that record turnout and smooth election was by mailing every Iowa voter an absentee ballot application so everyone could vote by mail and not have to brave a pandemic to vote in person.

And today, the Republican-controlled Iowa Senate passed a bill that would prohibit the state from ever doing that again. The president of the Iowa state association of county auditors, Roxanna Moritz, wrote to lawmakers saying, quote, county auditors as local commissioners of elections are baffled by this.

The 2020 primary was very successful. Counties experienced record or near record turnout. Election Day went very smoothly. Results were rapidly available.

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

Joining us now, Scott County auditor, Roxanna Moritz. Roxanna Moritz, president of the Iowa state association of county auditors.

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

You wrote this letter to Iowa lawmakers who proposed these changes and you said, quote, why would the state want to cripple the process that led to such success? Have you received any satisfactory answer to that?

ROXANNA MORITZ, AUDITOR & COMMISSIONER OF ELECTIONS, SCOTT COUNTY, IOWA: Well, not really. The Senate did pass it out of the Senate today. It was voted on in the committee last Friday at 10:30 p.m. it really just is unfortunate because they used a vehicle of a bill that was put in place that was two sentences and they put a 30-page amendment to that bill. And, of course, because of COVID, they are in a short time frame to be voting in the legislative process.

So, not really a lot of time for us to react or lobby our legislators. That being said, it will go to the House now that it came out of the full Senate. And I`m hopeful that with -- it`s being led by a Democrat by the name of Representative Hunter. I think that they might find some common ground.

But, even that being said, we just came through a great primary. You didn`t hear a lot about us in the national news because the state overall had a great day on our primary election and did a great job across the state.

VELSHI: Yes, sadly, that`s not what makes the news when things work the way they`re supposed to. Unfortunately, we don`t think of that as news. But this is huge news in this particular environment.

What`s the reasoning given by members of the Senate for not doing that? In other words, the questions you ask are the questions that every American who`s not an auditor, who`s not involved in elections would ask. Everything you listed worked. What did they say was bad about this?

MORITZ: Well, the number one issue was that they felt like the secretary of state stepped out of his bounds by actually mailing an absentee request form to every registered voter and put out some information saying that it wasn`t within his authority and that if he did this in the general election, it would end up costing them money, which really wasn`t quite true.

The CARES Act gave the state of Iowa $4.86 million to be prepared for the elections in 2020. Our secretary of state who happens to be Republicans, myself a Democrat, 66 of our 99 auditors are Republicans, working together to prepare and make sure that everyone felt safe by voting at home, put that in an absentee request form.

They said he didn`t have the authority to do that because it would cost the state money. Unfortunately, that is incorrect. It did come from the CARES Act.

They also wanting us to purge our voter rolls so if you don`t vote in two general elections, they would ask us to take your names off the rolls. It is a vehicle being used really on a different bill just to slide it through with nobody paying attention.

VELSHI: What a remarkable story.

Well, thank you for the work that you`re doing and we will continue to follow it closely. Roxanna Moritz is the auditor and commissioner of elections in Scott County, Iowa. She`s also the president of the Iowa state association of county auditors.

Thank you for your time.

I know Rachel is off tonight, but in her absence I`m going to try my best attempt at court filing drama tonight. I`ve been doing vocal warm-ups all day.

Stay with us.


VELSHI: Highly irregular, those were the words today from a court-appointed lawyer describing the Justice Department`s new approach to the case of Michael Flynn. General Flynn, you`ll remember, was the president`s first national security advisor. He twice pled guilty to the crime of lying to FBI agents when they asked about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

Despite Flynn`s own admissions of guilt, the Trump Justice Department decided last month to drop the case against him.

So was Michael Flynn guilty as he said he was twice or not? The judge overseeing the case brought in a former judge and a prosecutor named John Gleason to consider the matter. And in a scorching 82-page filing today, Gleason argued that the Justice Department`s attempt to dismiss Flynn`s case should be denied, writing, quote, the government has engaged in highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the president.

Now, at the heart of the case is what Flynn told the FBI about his talks with the Russian ambassador during the Trump administration`s transition to power. Flynn said he and the Russian diplomat had not discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia for interfering in the 2016 elections. Recently released transcripts of those conversations show that Flynn definitely did discuss sanctions with him. And what`s more, sanctions were the central point of their discussion, which may help to explain why former Judge Gleason today said the facts surrounding the move to dismiss the case reveal an unconvincing effort to disguise as legitimate a decision to dismiss that is basically sole -- based solely on the fact that Flynn is a political ally of President Trump.

He added: The DOJ has treated the case like no other and in doing so has undermined the public`s confidence in the rule of law.

Joining us now, Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. And Barbara has just published a piece on this.

Barbara, good to see you again.

The filing today is highly critical of the Justice Department. The retired judge, Gleason, accuses the Department of Justice of a gross abuse of prosecutorial power and essentially accusing the department of dropping its investigation into Flynn because Flynn is tied to the president.

What`s your takeaway?

BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, well first I thought you did an excellent rendition on reading court documents. But beside that, I thought one of the things that`s so remarkable about this pleading today isn`t just that he dismantles the arguments of the Department of Justice as pretextual, going through their arguments that the charge was no good and it was weak and they couldn`t prove it. He goes through all of that, which I fully expected.

The part I didn`t expect is the second argument where he argues why the Department of Justice is doing this. And he said it is all about protecting President Trump. That Flynn was his close advisor, that he was at the time he was talking with the Russian ambassador, he was also consulting in real- time with members of the Trump transition team who were down at Mar-a-Lago and going back and forth to say what should I say to the ambassador. That President Trump asked Jim Comey to let this go with Michael Flynn and he`s tweeted more than a hundred times.

It is quite clear this is all about president Trump`s agenda to end this case. As you said, it`s about doing a favor for a political ally of the president. It`s an abuse of power, and it is preposterous that these arguments have any legal merit.

VELSHI: There`s something you wrote today that caught me, because while we`re all talking about wrongdoing and right doing and motivations for this whole thing, key to this whole thing, and I`m quoting from you, Flynn, who was serving in the sensitive position of national security advisor, quote, according to the filing today, repeatedly lied about the nature and extent of his communications with a senior official of a hostile foreign power that was being sanctioned by the U.S. government for interfering with the U.S. presidential election, end quote.

These lies certainly had a tendency to influence and in fact did influence an investigation by the FBI into potential threats to national security.

The reason I bring this up, Barbara, is because this is not some legal mumbo jumbo on the technical side argument, this was actual central and important (AUDIO GAP) what Flynn was saying to the Russian ambassador.

MCQUADE: Yeah, this really goes to the very heart of Russian interference in the election itself. I think to argue now as the Justice Department does that these lies were somehow immaterial to the Justice Department`s investigation really, as Judge Gleason says, strains the credulity of the credulous. It`s just so preposterous.

As you said, it goes to the very heart of it. The government of the United States sanctioned Russia for interfering with our election. On the same day, Michael Flynn is on the phone with the ambassador to Russia saying, don`t worry about it, please don`t escalate, we`ll work through this later.

By doing so, he minimized the effect of those sanctions. He was undermining the foreign policy of the United States. This country has one president at a time. And by acting contrary to the wishes of the Obama administration, Michael Flynn was undermining the foreign policy of the United States. That`s why he lied about it and it wasn`t just Michael Flynn who was doing this on his own freelancing, he was doing this in close concert with members of the Trump transition team.

And his deputy said to Robert Mueller that Trump himself might have been briefed about these calls.

VELSHI: The other piece of Department of Justice-related news that we got to see today is that the head of the criminal division at the Justice Department is stepping down and being replaced by a former White House lawyer and chief of staff to Attorney General Bill Barr.

What`s your take on that?

MCQUADE: Well, it`s not particularly good news. It`s just William Barr again having strong tentacles throughout the department. He was -- his chief of staff. He`s also someone who has spent time at the White House.

In fact, the new incoming criminal division chief is someone who worked in preparation with President Trump in defense of the Mueller investigation. And so, he comes at it from the other side. This is somebody who`s literally Trump`s lawyer who is now leading the criminal division of the Justice Department and was most recently chief of staff for William Barr.

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

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

Barbara McQuade, is the former United States attorney for the eastern district of Michigan.

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


MADDOW: Kennedy Mitchum is 22 years old. She just graduated from college. Ms. Mitchum grew up right outside Ferguson, Missouri, an important hub in this country in the fight for racial justice.

And in her activism, in her discussions about race in America with her peers, Kennedy Mitchum kept hitting up against the same roadblock. It wasn`t just that people were close-minded or wouldn`t listen when she wanted to talk about racism, it was the literal definition of racism.

This is how Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines racism -- a belief, a doctrine or prejudice based on the idea that race is the primary determinant of human traits or capacities, and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

But it doesn`t take a racist belief or doctrine or prejudice for racism to exist. Racism in America is systemic. It`s built in, regardless of what many people actually believe. You don`t have to be actively racist to benefit from a racist system in the same way that you don`t need to run on a train in order to be in motion.

But that is the definition that some white people would show Kennedy Mitchum in arguments about race to prove to her that their actions were not racist. See, it`s fine, the dictionary says so.

So, Kennedy Mitchum set out to change the definition of racism. Late last month, Ms. Mitchum emailed the editors at Merriam-Webster. She asked them to update their definition of racism to, quote, represent the true meaning of what racism is.

Kennedy Mitchum got a response from the editors the next day. This is what they told her. Quote: We have concluded that omitting any mention of the systemic aspects of racism does a disservice to readers of all races because people often turn to the dictionary to gain more nuanced view of the way a word is being used in a particular context -- ignoring this meaning of the word may leave our readers confused or misled.

A revision to the entry for racism is now being drafted to be added to the dictionary soon, and we are also planning to revise the entries of other words that are related to racism or have racial connotations.

The editors went on to say that without Kennedy Mitchum`s persistence, these revisions would not have been made.

Joining us now, Kennedy Mitchum, a recent graduate of Drake University, who got Merriam-Webster to change their definition of racism.

Kennedy, 22 years old and you`re already in the history books. You have already made a significant change, and this one is important. This one is important.

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

KENNEDY MITCHUM, REQUESTED THAT MERRIAM-WEBSTER UPDATE ITS DEFINITION OF RACISM: Racism is built in in our society. It should be defined as not only prejudice but as well as systemic oppression on a group of people. That`s what it should be defined as. I think that once that change is made, that we all can come to a better understanding and see its role in society as it is now.

VELSHI: So when we talk about racism or let`s say when we talk about something more specific than like reparations, one of the things people say is I didn`t enslave anybody, I didn`t have any slaves, why do I have to do anything about this?

And racism is similar. There are folks that say because I don`t do something that seems actively racist in the course of the day, collectively, there may not be racism, or I don`t subscribe to it. And in your e-mails, you were very careful to distinguish individual racism and systemic racism.

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

MITCHUM: I think they don`t want to get the difference. I think they just want to be ignorant, and I understand ignorance. Ignorance is bliss, but it`s reality.

If you really care about the people in this world, all people of color, then you should try to want to understand where we`re coming from when we say, you know, racism is systemic. Racism is deeply rooted in a lot of -- in a lot of things and racism is killing people. People are dying.

That`s why I think that I took out to really try this time, even though I was up against, you know, Merriam-Webster, which is a very well-known, very prominent dictionary, because it`s very important. In this climate, we can`t -- there is no time to be ignorant. And we have to all be on the same page.

We`re never going to move forward and there is going to be another black man after another black man dying if we all don`t understand that the systems that are in place that are harming individuals.

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

MITCHUM: I did not expect anything. I just thought I was going to get, you know, maybe a little spam reply to my e-mail. It was a really pleasant surprise that they did e-mail me back and so fast.

And especially since throughout the whole conversation they were really stern with, you know, the way that they operated. They kept saying that someone reaching out to them would not, you know, make any type of changes, so I really had no hope at all.

VELSHI: I imagine -- I mean, I hope when they first published this either they will send you one or you are going to buy it. I mean, this is a big deal. It is a small matter, but it is actually a big deal because what we look up -- I do the same thing. You look something up in a dictionary and you prove to someone you`re wrong about it. That`s what we use.

MITCHUM: Yes, exactly. And that`s -- that`s what`s so important. Like there is no -- we have to understand that whether -- we all come from different backgrounds. We all have different experiences, so why are you not trying to understand me? Why are you just pointing to a dictionary?

Like our live -- we have live experience. This isn`t just, oh, you can go to the dictionary and you are going to understand racism. I really hope that after they look at the new definition they can at least try to understand instead of, you know, trying to be ignorant because I think that`s what people really try to understand and become allies, well, that`s what really will push us forward.

VELSHI: I think it`s amazing what you said a few moments ago. You said there is no time to be ignorant, and I think that`s exactly right. There is no time to be ignorant.

Kennedy, we are indebted to you and for years I will say what happened in 2020 and I will append it by saying, and they changed the definition of racism.

Thank you to you.

Kennedy Mitchum is a recent graduate of Drake University --

MITCHUM: Thank you.

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

Thank you for your time tonight, Kennedy.

Still ahead, an endeavor to preserve a piece of the history that we are living through right now.


VELSHI: When a fence went up around Lafayette Square across from the White House last Tuesday one day after protesters were violently cleared from the park for Donald Trump`s photo-op, it effectively sealed off a public space that has been used as a backdrop for protests and free speech for more than a century.

But that didn`t silence protesters. They`ve used that fence like a canvas. They`ve covered it with expressions of anger and grief sparked by the police killing of George Floyd. A display of pink and green ribbons that reads 8 minutes, 46 seconds. How many aren`t filmed?

There are crosses with the names of other people killed during their interactions with police. A white t-shirt with a bull`s eye and the words, my body is not a target. A large sign that reads, they thought they could bury us, but they didn`t know we are seeds.

Over the past week, people have used this fence as part protest, part memorial, but that could change when the fence that is holding up this community art comes down. Today, we saw workers taking down a different section of security fencing near the ellipse, the park behind the White House.

The National Park Service says it is, quote, continuing discussions with the U.S. Park Police regarding the temporary security fencing in and around Lafayette Park, which raises the question, what is going to happen to all of those signs when the fence goes away?

Well, we have an answer. "The New York Times" reports tonight that nine curators from three Smithsonian Museums took to protesters and took some of the signs displayed there and other museums had curators on the spot as well.

One of the curators from the National Museum of African-American history and culture told "The Times" why it`s so important to document this moment saying, quote, history is happening right before us, end quote.

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


Good evening, Lawrence.

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