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Trump rally TRANSCRIPT: 6/23/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Murtaza Akhter

BRANDY ZADROZNY, NBC NEWS REPORTER: I think it`s just -- it`s a terrifying situation.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Brandy Zadrozny, who does great reporting on this for us and NBC News, thank you for joining us tonight.

ZADROZNY: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: 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.

And thanks to you at home for joining us at this hour.

The president today went to Yuma, Arizona, to talk about his border wall. You might remember that Yuma regional medical center last month hit capacity in terms of hospital beds and in terms of ICU beds. Yuma, Arizona was actually one of the first places in the country outside of New York where we really did see hospitals being overtopped, hospitals being so full with critically ill coronavirus patients that they had to start shipping patients out to other hospitals in other cities and in other parts of that state.

Well, if you go one hour due west from Yuma where the president was today, you will find the El Centro Regional Hospital in El Centro, California, which is the county seat for Imperial County, California. And that the El Centro Regional Hospital right now, they are in extremis.

This is Christina Santana who works at El Centro Regional Medical as a nurse.


CHRISTINA SANTANA, EL CENTRO MEDICAL CENTER NURSE: Hello. So today has been a rough day. It`s kind of what we expect now every day we come to work just prepared for the worst and brace yourself to what lies ahead during the day.

It`s just very sad and unfortunate, and I really never thought I`d see any of this in my lifetime, but our little town is getting ransacked and beat up by this horrible monster that is the coronavirus. Now it`s beginning to infiltrate our community, well-known people.

We`re all such a small community that it`s starting to hit home and it`s starting to wipe out families, and it`s just a constant anxiety of realizing that the people you take care of are probably not going to make it most of the time. I`m starting to understand what PTSD looks like. It`s like this. It`s wartime. It`s constant suffering and death and dying and going on to the next one and doing your best, doing everything that you went to school for.

And sometimes everything you do is just not enough and every day things change. And we don`t see an end. The numbers keep going up. The patients keep coming in.

And it`s just causing complete havoc in our little community. And then just to see that they want to open everything back up and back to normal and everyone`s saying, oh, this is like the flu.

This is not the flu. This is a monster and it wreaks havoc on your entire body, not just your lungs. It`s a whole systematic disease and we`re tired. We`re tired. We`re exhausted, physically, mentally everything. I just -- I don`t see how -- how we continue, but we do, and we will take this on head first and just do the best we can and help as many people as we can and just keep trucking every day, when we come in.

MARSHA ALVAREZ, EL CENTRO MEDICAL CENTER TRAVEL NURSE: I primarily work the COVID tent. We can see up to 29 at a time out there between the tent and the car. There are multiple patients that start with us in triage and are not stable. So, we have to rush them inside where they can get better care, that we can provide in the tent. What I`ve learned is that sometimes is the last time these families will ever see their patient again. Sometimes these patients are dead within three, four hours.

We are so full and have so many critical patients that the state is helping us to find ICU beds all over California. And so we`re constantly flying out patients, fixed wing and helicopter. As far away as Berkeley and Stanford, and because of the way COVID is, they`re not allowed to see their family, even if they are hospitalized. So it can be weeks before they see their family or it can be the last time that they see their family.

NIKKI FREEMAN, EL CENTRO MEDICAL CENTER RESPIRATORY THERAPIST: So I get asked by my friends and family, how`s work? And I never really know to answer. Working as a respiratory therapist during this time, it`s been difficult. And I know one of the things that I`ve really been struggling with and processing is how quickly a lot of these patients deteriorate, how they go from walking and talking to being intubated to being pronounced dead within a matter of hours and knowing that there`s no family members around for them to say good-bye, it`s rough. It`s very rough.

JUDY CRUZ, EL CENTRO MEDICAL CENTER EMERGENCY ROOM DIRECTOR: Good morning. My name is Judy Cruz. I`m the director from El Centro Regional Medical Center`s E.R. Today has been one of the worst days by far. All of our beds are full.

There are 12 patients waiting for admission to ICU, which we have no beds, so that means we`re pending transfer. We have to look for beds in another hospital. This is very taxing, time consuming.

Some of these patients have been here two to three days waiting for beds. Half of them are on -- intubated on ventilators. One of them required CPR for the first three hours of our shift. That means four nurses, a respiratory therapist, a physician in that room the entire three hours.

And, unfortunately, he lost his battle to the coronavirus. When I walk out of this office, I`m going to go out there and tell the staff what an amazing job they`re doing and have been doing and how proud I am of them. But just know that we`re all praying that this comes to an end soon, and we just want to go back to normal.


MADDOW: We just want it to go back to normal. That`s the medical director of the E.R. at El Centro Medical Center in El Centro, California, which is, again, the county seat of Imperial County. I also saw nurses and respiratory therapists who worked there at El Centro.

That hospital is in southern California. It`s basically an hour due west of where the president visited today for his event hyping the idea of his border wall. In the state of California, they hit a new record number of cases on Sunday. This weekend, more than 4,500 new cases reported in one day.

Then the next day, Monday, yesterday, they broke that record and they got over 5,000 new cases in a day. Then today, California broke that record and got more than 6,000 new cases in a day. Things are going poorly in California. That`s a snapshot that we just saw of how things are at one already incredibly hard-hit hospital in the southern part of the state.

The state of Texas also broke the 5,000 cases a day barrier within the last day. Texas statewide numbers are terrible right now. Before the new record for new cases was formally announced by the state today, Governor Greg Abbott did a round of press interviews about the fact that the state was about to hit this new 5,000 cases a day benchmark. Governor Abbott still trying to, you know, smooth things over, calm people down, alleviate any concerns about how bad things are in his state.

Until recently, he was still claiming that the state had plenty of hospital capacity, and besides, the numbers only looked so bad because of increased testing. He`s been echoing the president on that point, but it`s just not at all true for Texas. Testing doesn`t put you in the hospital, Governor, and Texas hospitalizations have doubled since Memorial Day. They`ve just had 12 straight days of record hospitalizations in Texas.

In Houston, they`ve doubled their case numbers since just last week. "Houston Chronicle" today is out with an editorial blasting Governor Abbott for his, quote, foolish and short-sighted leadership in downplaying the impact of the virus. Harris County where Houston is says they will exhaust their available ICU beds within 11 days. There`s 5 million people in Harris County. They`ve got 134 ICU beds left as of today. And case numbers doubling week to week.

Late last night, the Texas Children`s Hospital announced that it will open its doors to adult patients in and around Houston to try to alleviate some of the strain. The children`s hospital`s going to start taking adult patients as of last night.

In Utah, the state health department is also raising alarms that Utah hospital capacity is on track to be overtopped in as soon as four weeks. They`re advising the state of Utah to start opening alternate care facilities now so that people have somewhere to go when the hospitals are full. Health officials in the state are now asking the governor of Utah to make face coverings mandatory. They are not mandatory right now in Utah.

Bluntly, the state Health Department is calling on the governor to shut the state back down again if the case numbers don`t go down. Health officials in Utah are asking for the state to have its old coronavirus restrictions reinstated by July 1st if case numbers don`t come back down to around 200 new cases a day.

Well, for context, Utah right now is at more than double that number. They`re approaching more than 500 new cases a day right now. They`ve been over 200 new cases a day for 26 straight days now, and there`s no sign of it slowing down at all. The state health department want it is to revert to its stay-at-home order if they don`t get back down to 200 cases a day by July 1st, by next week.

In neighboring Arizona -- don`t even get me started. Before the president arrived for his Arizona campaign event tonight, he went to Yuma first and talked about his wall and then he went to Phoenix. This is what his Phoenix event looked like.

Before he arrived in Phoenix, Arizona for this event tonight, which was staged just like this. Look at it. Look at that.

This is not a picture from the past, pre-coronavirus. This is a picture from tonight. The White House did this.

Arizona`s health department as the president arrived in Arizona today, Arizona`s health department announced a record number of new coronavirus cases for the state today, and a record number of new hospitalizations for the state today, and a record number of ICU beds in use for the state today, and a record number of patients on ventilators in the state today. All in one day they hit those records, the day that President Trump came to town and staged that event with 3,000 people inside.

I mean, Arizona right now is not in a holding pattern, they`re taking off. Two weeks ago, Arizona started to hit 1,000 new cases a day. Six days ago, they shifted gears up to 2,000 new cases a day. Now, in three of the last five days, they`re up over 3,000 new cases a day, including more than 3,500 new cases just specifically today.

And this is coming at a time when people in Arizona are waiting five, six, 10, 12, 13 hours to get a test, even people with symptoms, because the state is so consistently terrible. They`re 40th in the nation in terms of access to testing. And still, with that little testing available in Arizona, their numbers are still this bad.

We`re going to have a live report in just a moment from a front line doctor in Phoenix, an emergency room doctor in Phoenix to talk about why the last thing that community needs right now is an indoor event tonight with 3,000 people packed in like sardines and almost nobody wearing masks. I mean, just think about this for a second, right? I mean, how does -- how does this look to other countries, for example?

I mean, for all the, you know, failure of the president`s way smaller than expected rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this weekend. I know he`s gotten a lot of grief and he`s been very embarrassed about how small that crowd was with 2/3 of the arena sitting empty.

But think about it this way -- even for that sad sack of a bad turnout rally in Tulsa, the White House, the president still did manage to get 6,000 people into that indoor space in Tulsa for that event, 6,000 people. And then tonight, he crammed another 3,000 people inside for another campaign event.

And however positive or negative or exciting or embarrassing these political events have been for the president, these are still the only indoor events in the country in months in which thousands of people have congregated inside the same space. I mean, think about that. How do we explain that in terms of our responsibility as a country in the midst of a global worldwide pandemic where countries even when they isolate themselves from one another are still interlinked, where any country where this is out of control is a risk to any place else on earth. I mean, how do we explain that?

I mean, it`s one thing to think about, you know, countries where whatever the rural says, people are going to do their own thing. But in this case, think about what the ruler is doing, right? Think about what the occupant of the White House has arranged here. The largest indoor congregate events of the entire coronavirus era, the only mass indoor events being held for any reason anywhere are being held in the United States to celebrate the president`s re-election effort, because that`s the one priority thing we need to do as a country?

I mean, if we`re going to get thousands of people together in places with out of control epidemics and over top hospitals already, let it be so we can chant "lock her up" or whatever, and hear stories from the president how good he is walking down ramps and how President Obama is a secret Kenyan who should be arrested for treason or whatever. That`s the reason we need to start putting thousands of people indoors, in the same space with no masks again.

This isn`t happening anywhere in any industrialized country. It certainly isn`t happening anywhere else in the country that has the worst epidemic and the highest death rate on earth. That`s us.

But this is what the White House is doing. I mean, it`s like this stuff is happening on another planet where a failure to deal with this totally foreseen, preventable public health disaster didn`t just kill 121,000 Americans in 16 weeks.

Here`s the government`s top infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, testifying today in Congress.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES DIRECTOR: We`re now seeing a disturbing surge of infections. One of the things is, an increase in community spread, and that`s something that I`m really quite concerned about. We were going down from 30,000 to 25,000 to 20,000, and now we`re sort of stayed about flat and now we`re going up. A couple of days ago, there were 30,000 new infections. That`s very troublesome to me.


MADDOW: We`re starting to pretty regularly have 30,000 new infection, or seven-day average right now in terms of new cases. There`s over 30,000 new cases a day. Dr. Fauci says that`s very troublesome to me.

It`s also very troublesome to the rest of the world, even though it`s not apparently not to the president of our country, who again tonight decided to pack 3,000 people into a single room in a state where the virus is spreading out of control. You know, 1,000, and 2,000, and 3,000, now 3,500 new cases a day. It`s like 3,500 cases a day, how many you think we can get out of this room tonight if we put 3,000 people in here for hours.

"The New York Times" reports tonight the European Union is making its plans to start reopening its borders to international travelers because they are on the other side of their curve, unlike us. In Europe, they`ve got their epidemics mostly under control. The plan so far, according to documents that "The Times" had seen is to include travelers from Europe even after reopening if those travelers are from countries where the virus is still rampant, where it is still rampaging at will.

So that means that even as the E.U. opens up its borders to travelers from all over the world again, it means countries where there`s been abject failure in dealing with the coronavirus, places like Russia and Brazil and the United States, we`re not going to be welcome.

Quote, European Union countries rushing to revive their economies and reopen their borders after months of coronavirus restrictions are preparing to block Americans from entering because the U.S. has failed to control the scourge. That prospect, which would lump American visitors in with Russians and Brazilians as unwelcome is a stringing blow to American prestige in the world and a repudiation of President Trump`s handling of the virus in the United States, which is more than 2.3 million cases and upwards of 120,000 deaths, more than any other country.

Yeah, we are so disastrously, poorly run right now as a country that we are an international catastrophe that the rest of the world has to protect itself from. Our bodies as Americans represent a threat to the rest of the world because of the way that our government, our leadership has allowed this virus to run rampant through our bodies as the American population. And so we now are an infectious vector risk to the rest of the world.

And, meanwhile, back at home, tomorrow, a bombshell is about to land in terms of the president also messing with the rule of law. Today we got -- and I know this may have gotten somewhat lost in the shuffle today with everything -- the dystopic landscape that is the news today. But this is important.

Today, we got the opening statement that federal prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky is going to give tomorrow at noon when the House convenes its hearing on the Trump administration interfering in the rule of law. Aaron Zelinsky is currently serving as a federal prosecutor in the Justice Department and he is coming forward as a whistle-blower, alongside another Justice Department official from the antitrust division, and now we know something of what he is going to say. And this is just phenomenal.

I mean, just check this out. It`s from Zelinsky`s opening statement.

He says, quote: I`m prepared to testify before you today about the sentencing in the United States versus Roger Stone. Since 2014, I`ve been privileged to serve as one of over 5,000 assistant U.S. attorneys. We`re a nonpartisan, career prosecutors working in offices throughout the country. Our job is to see that justice is done in every case without fear or favor, without party or politics.

I remain committed to these principles, as am likewise committed to complying with your subpoena, to the best of my ability. It`s unusual for a prosecutor to testify about a criminal case, and given my role as a prosecutor, there are reasons why my testimony will necessarily be limited. The Department of Justice has indicated it may assert certain privileges related to investigative information and decisions, ongoing matters within the department and deliberations within the department.

I intend to respect the invocation of these privileges in appropriate circumstances, but also recognize that, for example, the deliberative process privilege doesn`t apply when testimony sheds light on government misconduct.

He says, quote: The first thing every U.S. assistant attorney learns is that we have an ethical and legal obligation to treat every defendant equally and fairly. No one is entitled to more or less because of who they are, who they know, or what they believe.

In the United States of America, we do not prosecute people because of their politics and we don`t cut them a break because of their politics either. In the many cases I`ve been privileged to work on in my career, I`ve never seen political influence play any role in prosecutorial decision-making, with one exception, United States v. Roger Stone.

He says, quote: What I saw was the Department of Justice exerting significant pressure on the line prosecutors in the case to obscure the correct sentencing guidelines calculation to which Roger Stone was subject, and to water down and in some cases outright distort the events that transpired in his trial and the criminal conduct that gave rise to his conviction.

What I hear repeatedly was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president. I was told that the acting U.S. attorney, Timothy Shea, was receiving heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Justice Department to cut Stone a break and that the U.S. attorney`s sentencing instructions to us were based on political considerations.

I was also told that the acting U.S. attorney, Tim Shea, was giving Stone such unprecedentedly favorable treatment because he was, quote, afraid of the president. Zelinsky says that explanation was deeply unsettling.

Together with my fellow line assistant United States attorneys, I immediately and repeatedly raised concerns in writing and orally that such political favoritism was wrong and contrary to legal ethics and department policy. Our objections were not heeded. When I learned the department was going to issue a new sentencing memo, I made the difficult decision to resign from the case.

And now, tomorrow at noon, he is going to tell the country what the president and this attorney general have done.

We`re going to get expert advice this hour on what this means and who was supposed to get in trouble for a whistle-blower coming forward with something like this and how they`re supposed to get in trouble and what documentation might be coming to bolster this very serious accusations. I will tell you one of the things I`m most interested in here from this statement we got from Aaron Zelinsky, this prosecutor, this whistle-blower, is that he appears to be calling for other Justice Department personnel, other more senior justice department personnel who have seen this stuff and who have expressed how wrong they know it is -- he appears to be calling on them to come forward, too, to follow his example. To say what they have seen, which they know is wrong and illegal.

More on that and much more. All ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Last night, we showed you a video that was just posted online by the pastors of the church where President Trump did his political rally tonight in Phoenix, Arizona. We got a little bit of a pushback on that from you guys because at least some of you thought we made that up and we were making fun of these guys with a fake video. We were not making fun of them. It was not fake. This was a real thing.


UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Hey, gang. We have some exciting information about what we`re doing to fight COVID-19 here in Dream City Church. We`re part of the first church in the nation to --

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Yeah. We`ve installed Clean Air EXP. We have a local Arizona company. It was technology developed by some of members of our church. And we`ve installed these units, and it kills 99.9 percent of COVID within ten minutes.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Ionization, is that what it is?

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Ionization of the air, and it takes particulates out, and COVID cannot live in that environment.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: So when you come into the auditorium, 99 percent of COVID is gone, killed --


MADDOW: Gone. It`s gone. Plug the thing in and it --

So says the guys who are not just random church guys. Those are the guys about to host an event that includes the president of the United States there live and in person and thousands of other people in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

No need to worry. We got this magic thing that makes 99 percent of the COVID disappear. Did it cost you $19.95 which you can pay in five easy payments free shipping? Did you read the fine print because sometimes when they say free shipping.

Today, the CEO of the company that produces that technology told NBC News that the pastors must have misspoken. This is a product for all that it does in terms of particulate matter, it has never, ever been tested on COVID-19.

Late today, the pastors of Dream City Church issued a new statement saying the pastors had used the wrong words when they made that video proclaiming they had found this neat trick to kill 99 percent of COVID, but their statement today said they do think the device they bought for their church will be, quote, significant for the future of clean air.

So, maybe can`t help you with the coronavirus, but the future of clean air. Nothing to sneeze -- don`t talk about sneezing.

Ahead of the president`s event at that church today, the mayor of Phoenix, Kate Gallego, issued a statement warning about the dangers posed by hosting this event, given what else is going on in Phoenix and Arizona. She said, quote: While I do not believe an event of this magnitude can be held safely, particularly as Arizona sees rising COVID cases, the president has decided to continue with this rally.

She noted that the event was not permitted by the city whatsoever. White House just went ahead with it.

Quote: We`ve seen tremendous compliance with the mask ordnance that went into effect in Phoenix this weekend. Everyone attending the president`s event, particularly any elected official should set an example to residents by wearing a mask, this includes the president. Public health is a group effort, not a partisan issue. It requires the participation of every resident and level of government.

Despite that strong appeal to public health, it appears the vast majority of attendees at the president`s event tonight weren`t wearing masks tonight, let alone him, even as 3,000 people sat crammed together at this long indoor event.

With coronavirus cases in the state of Arizona hitting record highs every single day now, and with hospitals and ICUs reaching capacity, how potentially consequential is an event like this one? Especially if you`re a front line health worker who has been dealing with this crisis each and every day.

Joining us now is Dr. Murtaza Akhter. He`s a clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix. He`s currently working at two different E.R.s in the Phoenix area.

Doctor, it`s a real pleasure to have you here. Thank you so much for making time.

DR. MURTAZA AKHTER, PHOENIX E.R. DOCTOR: Thank you for having me back, Rachel. I appreciate it.

MADDOW: You were here about a week ago and one of the things that you expressed was concern that you felt that the numbers, as bad as they are and as bad as they look in Arizona, might not reflect how bad the epidemic is, just given the flow-through of patient that you`re seeing in emergency rooms. A week after you expressed those concerns here, are those concerns at all alleviated? Have things gotten any better?

AKHTER: No. For anybody who is saying things are better, they can come to my shift right now, which I just asked a colleague to cover me for so I can be on this interview.

It`s not better, and if anything, the state data seems to have backed up what I was seeing. I was hoping that I was wrong and just in the wrong spot at the wrong time, but the numbers are only going up and the positivity fraction is going up dramatically.

People keep saying if you test more, you`ll have more positive cases. Well, you`ll also have more negative cases. So the fact that the positive fraction is going up so rapidly is concerning, and what`s each more concerning is they`re not even going to decompensate until a couple of weeks from now.

So as bad as it is right now, I`m concerned about what a couple of weeks from now will bring. Then you`ve got this rally you were talking about which I think is going to be a hot spot for spread. Who knows what`s going to happen?

MADDOW: In terms of the impact on Arizona, we`re starting to see testimonials in particular from nurses but also some doctors in Arizona where people are talking about real exhaustion and the, just the toll of working in totally full units with very sick people, totally full intensive care environments with very, very sick people with lots of patients dying, with lots of I guess whatever the opposite of turnover -- people coming into the hospital and staying there for a long time and not seeing good outcomes and getting out.

Is that your experience in Phoenix? Are you worried about health workers being able to -- health workers and health infrastructure being able to keep up?

AKHTER: Oh, totally. I think I`m in a very lucky position, actually, because I work at a safety net hospital where I`ve got some of the best residents I`ve ever worked with working here. They`ve got a lot of energy. Very positive attitude. It`s an honor to be next to them.

But very few people are that lucky. All the departments are backing up. If an ICU fills up, it has a domino effect on every department below and then we end up stacking those patients in the emergency department. It`s a very concerning situation because you have COVID patients and non-COVID patients all went the same department and we`re trying to separate them but it`s an E.R., there`s only so much we can do.

So as you can imagine, it starts taking a toll on people because not only is there a volume, you also have to prevent yourself from getting sick and also prevent infecting others. It`s a tenuous situation.

MADDOW: I`m worried about what`s happening in the southwest broadly. I mean, when we first saw the regional hospital in Yuma, for example, Yuma, Arizona, getting overwhelmed. One of the things that doctors there told us is that the relief valves that they were able to transfer other patients to other places in Arizona that weren`t being hit as hard.

Well, we`re now seeing all the population centers in Arizona being hit hard. We`re hearing about strains in the hospital systems in all different parts of the state, but we`re also seeing that even in neighboring states, certainly parts of California that neighbor Arizona, I mean, Utah is having serious spikes, Nevada`s numbers are really starting to climb. We`ve seen terrible numbers in New Mexico and even a state over in Texas we`re now seeing them hit records every day.

I`m starting to worry that this kind of flex in the system won`t be there when individual hospitals say we can`t do it, we can`t take another patient, that there won`t be places even nearby, neighboring counties or even neighboring states to send anyone.

AKHTER: That`s a really great point for a couple of reasons. One is, note that that means that the coronavirus doesn`t know state borders or city borders. So when people talk about, you know -- well, we`ll let the mayors decide in this ardent expression of federalism. Coronavirus doesn`t know that this city has a mask policy and this city doesn`t. Those people congregate with each other and the virus spreads beyond any border that exists.

And you can see that with how much of the southwest is getting hit. We currently in the state of Arizona have a surge line, which is a really nice perk, if I may use that word. Such that if your hospital is filled up, you can call the surge line to transfer a COVID patient. And so far, that`s been working okay. So far.

Now, that applies for COVID patients. If you can imagine, there are people that don`t have COVID who are also very sick and need an ICU, and those patients really are stuck, because if your non-COVID, ICU is full, good luck getting that patient transferred.

Like I said, we`re not even at the peak. I think it`s only going to get worse from here, and that`s what`s concerning.

MADDOW: Dr. Murtaza Akhter, clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine at University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix, working two E.R.s in Phoenix right now, taking time out of his shift to be here with us -- thank you for doing that. Thank you for helping us understand what`s going on.

Keep us apprised. We`re really worried about Arizona, tonight`s event not withstanding. We`re worried about you, so please keep us apprised, Doctor.

AKHTER: Well, thank you, Rachel. Thank you for spreading the message and stay safe.

MADDOW: You too. Thank you, sir.

All right. Coming up next, our first look at tonight`s primary results, including what looks to be an upset, a lost primary for one of the president`s chosen endorsed candidates. We`ve got that story and more coming up.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Today`s primary day in a handful of states and we`ve been watching for surprises and upsets. The first one is already here and it is a legit surprise and upset.

In North Carolina, there was a run-off primary today to pick the Republican candidate for a seat in Congress. This is Mark Meadows` old seat in Congress. Mark Meadows had been a Republican member of Congress. He left his seat in the House of Representatives to become President Trump`s like, you know, 500th White House chief of staff.

But that left his seat open, and a candidate named Lynda Bennett was said to be favored to win that race because Mark Meadows endorsed her for his old seat. And then president Trump endorsed her for that seat as well. That said, despite the presidential endorsement and the endorsement by the guy leaving the seat, the "A.P." is now calling that race and according to them, Lynda Bennett, has lost tonight`s primary to a 24-year-old who will only barely be eligible to take the seat if he wins in the general because between here and now -- here and then he`s going to have a birthday.

In Kentucky, there`s a high-profile primary battle for the chance to try to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Who will be the Democrat who runs against Mitch McConnell in Kentucky? Former fighter pilot Amy McGrath had been really running in a league of her own for most of the campaign. She suddenly, though, late -- lately found herself in a very competitive race against State Representative Charles Booker.

Well, between Booker and McGrath, we`re watching that tightly. Polls closed in most of Kentucky at 6:00 tonight. It`s been sort of interesting to watch over the course of the day. Dozens of voters were briefly locked out of the one single gigantic polling place they opened today in Louisville. They only had one polling place for all of Louisville because of the shortage of poll workers.

So, the top two most populous counties in the state only had one place to vote. Right at poll closing time, they locked the doors, because although people were lined up they hadn`t made it inside the building which is a cockamamie interpretation of how election laws are supposed to work. Eventually, a judge did step in and though doors were reopened until 6:30, and those voters who had been in line were allowed inside to vote.

Again, we`re watching these numbers as they come in. At this hour, Amy McGrath appears to be leading Charles Booker, but this will be a fascinating one to watch.

We`re also closely watching a handful of congressional primaries in New York where is there the potential for upset among some longtime Democratic incumbents. Sixteen-term Congressman Eliot Engel has been running for his political life against a middle school principal named Jamaal Bowman. Polls just closed in New York at the top of this hour, so we`re looking at less than 1 percent of precincts reporting and we don`t expect significant numbers for quite some time in New York, but there`s a lot of national attention on that race.

Folks who are watching this race closely see it as even just this little bit of reporting see it as bad news for Engel. Dave Wasserman of "Cook Political Report" said tonight, quote: At this point, I`d be massively surprised if Jamaal Bowman doesn`t beat Congressman Engel.

Again, those results are just trickling in, and especially with all the absentee voting and the voting by mail that`s happening, we expect results to be slower than usual, but that`s what`s worth watching, at least thus far tonight. We`ll keep you posted.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: John Elias is a current Justice Department official. Until 2018, he was chief of staff in the antitrust division at the Justice Department. He still works at justice, now as a prosecutor.

But tomorrow, John Elias is going to testify under oath that on Attorney General Bill Barr`s orders, the antitrust division of the U.S. Department of Justice was forced to launch ten nonsense investigations into mergers in the marijuana industry, mergers that Mr. Elias says, quote, do not meet established criteria for antitrust investigations.

According to Mr. Elias, this new whistle-blower, these investigations, these bogus investigations were launched not because of any law enforcement reason to do so, but, quote, because Bill Barr did not like the nature of their underlying business.

In other words, because Bill Barr doesn`t like pot, Bill Barr decided he would weaponize the antitrust division of the U.S. Justice Department to give the cannabis industry a really hard time because of his own personal feelings about their lawful business. To say the least that`s not the way the Justice Department is supposed to do its business.

According to the opening statement that he`s due to give tomorrow, John Elias will also testify about the Trump Justice Department opening an investigation into a group of carmakers for deciding to cut emissions from their cars. This investigation was mysteriously ordered from the antitrust division right after the president hate tweeted about the deal.

Mr. Elias` testimony for tomorrow says in part, quote: The day after the tweets, antitrust division political leadership instructed staff to initiate an investigation that day. John Elias says he was so concerned by those shenanigans that he reported it to the inspector general. He called for an investigation into whether these matters constituted an abuse of authority, a gross waste of funds and gross mismanagement.

So John Elias is going to testify about that tomorrow as a whistleblower who is still currently serving in the Justice Department.

Also testifying will be Aaron Zelinsky, who will be testing about what he says was a blatant effort to interfere in the sentencing process for Roger Stone`s criminal case, specifically because of Mr. Stone`s association with President Trump.

That makes two current Justice Department officials who willing to throw themselves on the proverbial grenade just to sound the alarm about what Bill Barr and Donald Trump have done to the rule of law and the U.S. Justice Department. How bad does it need to be for two career justice lawyers to volunteer for that mission tomorrow? And what do we expect will happen because of it?

Joining us now is the great Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney of the great state of Michigan.

Barb, I always appreciate you making time to be here, but especially tonight. Thanks so much.

BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, you bet, Rachel. Glad to talk to you about operation reefer madness.

MADDOW: Yes, exactly. The idea that Bill Barr is like, well, I don`t like pot, so we should use the power of the Justice Department to harass the pot industry. Everybody good with that? No, you`re not? Do it any way.

I mean, it`s like -- it`s like a Scooby-Doo cartoon villain plot. I mean, at least for a non-lawyer, it seems crazy that the Justice Department could be used in that way. But is it actually -- is it actionable? Is it actually something against the rules or something that Bill Barr could get in trouble?

MCQUADE: I think it is, Rachel. I think this is beyond, you know, some of the things where he was advocating for this strong unitarian executive theory and just a philosophical difference about the proper role of the executive branch.

There is a specific policy in the Justice manual, that is the bible that governs all offices of the U.S. Justice Department. And it says that a lawyer for the government shall not be influenced by a person, or subjects, political activities, associations or beliefs. And all of these topics that we have just talked about fall into that category.

In particular, Roger Stone. If, as Aaron Zelinsky is prepared to testify, they made decisions to go easy on Roger Stone because of his political relationship with Donald Trump, that violates one of the core principles of the U.S. Justice Department. Although maybe not criminal, I think it`s impeachable.

MADDOW: It`s impeachable.

Is it also something that the inspector general of the Justice Department would be obliged to look into? It`s not that the inspector general can necessarily force Bill Barr out of office or anything like that. But shouldn`t there be some sort of internal investigation of this as well, in addition to Congress looking into it?

MCQUADE: Yes. So there`s something at the Justice Department, in addition to the inspector general, which looks into fraud, waste, and abuse, and I think you can look at that for these antitrust violations, for the part that Aaron Zelinsky is talking about, there`s another department at the Justice Department called the Office of Professional Responsibility, and that`s for ethical violations.

I don`t know that the attorney general himself is bound by their findings, because he is over them, but Aaron Zelinsky talks about a troubling chain of command of people who obeyed these orders from however high up they came. He talks about supervisors who told him that this is what they were going to do because these were the instructions they received from the U.S. attorney.

So I think those people could find themselves in some serious trouble in the Office of Professional Responsibility.

MADDOW: I`m glad you honed in on that, because I wanted to ask you about this part of Zelinsky`s opening statement, which has blew me away. He recounts at the beginning of the statement that part of the reason he knew about this political pressure was supervisors in the U.S. Attorney`s Office saying like, oh, yeah, these guys are doing this stuff because of pressure from the White House because they`re afraid of the president, because this is improper political influence.

But then is how he closes his statement: When the sentence was announced, a supervisor from the D.C. U.S. Attorney`s Office forwarded me a copy of the sentencing transcript, noting that, quote, things are raw. But I hope you know that I am grateful for you and your colleagues work. It may be cold to say, but congratulations -- you achieved a remarkable result. Be sure to read Judge Jackson`s imposition of sentence in its entirety. It is a tribute to your work.

Zelinsky says: I responded, thanks for the message. I continue to believe as I previously expressed to you that changing a sentencing recommendation based on political considerations and the fact that the U.S. attorney was afraid of the president, in your words, was wrong, contrary to DOJ policy, and unethical at a minimum.

He`s saying he put it in writing that he heard from a supervisor in the U.S. attorney`s office that the only reason this sentencing recommendation was being changed is because the U.S. attorney was afraid of the president. He`s effectively calling out the supervisor to say, I`ve got your number, you knew this was wrong.

And it`s what he`s saying here -- you could get in trouble and maybe you ought to speak up too?

MCQUADE: I think so, Rachel. I think that whoever that person is, or persons, if I were reading this testimony, I would be running to get my story out there immediately, because whoever this person is, is portrayed at least in Aaron Zelinsky`s testimony as someone who got along to get along, did what he thought he needed to do to keep his job. He even sent to Aaron Zelinsky, this is not the hill you want to die on, you could lose your job over this.

So he does allege that this person violated professional responsibility, violated that provision I cited about not acting for political activity or association. And I think that he didn`t name that person`s name. But if I were a member of that congressional committee tomorrow, asking the questions, I would ask for the name or names of those supervisors.

MADDOW: And if I was one of those supervisors, I would get my own story out right now. I wouldn`t want to be on the right side of history with this, because the wrong side of history is going to be dark.

Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan --

MCQUADE: I`ll take your DMs right now.

MADDOW: Yes, thank you. Right now.

Thanks, Barbara. All right. We`ll check back in with you tomorrow on this. I can`t wait to see this tomorrow.

All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Five years ago today, they were cleaning graffiti off the base of this statue in Charleston, South Carolina. At the time, the city of Charleston and the whole country were reeling from the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church. In Charleston, just down the block from the church, loomed this 115-foot tall monument to famous slavery proponent and vice president, John C. Calhoun.

You can see the graffiti where it says Calhoun and then someone added, racist. That was five years ago today.

Last week on the fifth anniversary of the Charleston massacre, the mayor of Charleston announced that statue would come down. Tonight, as promised, the city council voted to take it down. The vote was unanimous.

We don`t know when the Charleston statute, Calhoun statue is going to come down or where it`s going to go.

But we`re also watching this tonight. At the state capital in North Carolina, they`ve been moving in heavy equipment today to take down what is left of a 75-foot tall memorial to Confederate soldiers, looking to take that down potentially tonight in North Carolina state capitol. Governor`s orders. Watch this space.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.

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