CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": He owns it all. And he thinks he could - - you know, defending the honor of the Confederacy in the wake of the largest social protest in race in a generation is going to be his way forward.
Cornell Belcher and Rick Wilson, thank you both for making time tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You bet, Chris.
HAYES: That is "ALL IN" this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
I appreciate it.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We`re really happy to have you with us tonight.
It is Thursday, July 2nd, and tonight, I`m happy to report that we have crunched the numbers. We have gone over them closely, very closely.
In keeping with the times, we`ve actually even made a graph to help our understanding of these numbers. But according to our very, very, very careful calculations, we hear at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW have determined that we, us, our collective humanity, we have arrived finally at the halfway point of 2020. You guys, technically, as of today, we are halfway there.
It`s a leap year. So, there aren`t 365 days this year. There are 366 days this year. At least there will be by the time we get to the end of it, provided the giant meteor doesn`t get us or the sun doesn`t burn out.
So, there will be 366 days by the end of this year. Divide by two to find the halfway point. That`s 183 days. Count up all the days we had so far. Yesterday was day 183. That means at midnight, we hit day 184. Which means we have made it through the whole first half of this year that we all wish would stop already.
Honestly, 2020 would have been a catastrophic year in the news if it had stopped three months ago. But we have made it halfway through. They cannot make us do that again.
And it is astonishing that this first half of this year alone, more than 128,000 of our fellow Americans did not make it to see this point because of the coronavirus. And there will be more to come. NBC`s tabulation of the new case numbers today, these are tabulated as of 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time each day, NBC News` tabulation as of 6:30 tonight shows America just shattered the record for new infections in one day, and that`s a record that we only set yesterday.
Today, per NBC`s numbers, we had just under 55,000 new coronavirus infections reported in the United States in the past 24 hours, 54,915.
For context, when it felt like the apocalypse, especially in and around New York back in April, the case numbers then were 30,000, 35,000 a day at the worst of it. Now we`re at 55,000. And the curve is shooting straight up.
So the first half of 2020, which we are threw with now, was jaw-dropping. We now get to do the second half of 2020. We can do it.
But as we put the first half of this annus horribilis as the queen would say, behind us, as we start and what we all want to be a better second half of this year.
It`s interesting. There does appear to be this cursive thing going on in the news. The news just keeps repeating itself. The same stuff keeps happening in slightly different iterations, both related to coronavirus and not.
For example, you might have seen the news today that the Justice Department has removed the U.S. attorney, the top federal prosecutor in New York, one who has been overseeing some sensitive cases that touch on the president`s interests.
And no, you`re not watching a rerun. It`s just that it`s happened again. It was two weeks ago that the Justice Department ham-handedly pushed out the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. That`s the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman.
Tonight, it`s a different one. Tonight the top federal prosecutor in New York that they`ve taken out is the U.S. attorney not for the Southern District but for the Eastern District of New York, which means he is the top federal prosecutor whose office is in Brooklyn.
They did the SDNY U.S. attorney two weeks ago. Tonight, they have done the EDNY U.S. attorney as well.
Now, what`s been going on in that office? Lots of stuff. It`s a big, powerful office with its fingers in lots of different pies of national significance.
About a year ago, you might remember the "Associated Press" was first to report that that prosecutor`s office had opened its own investigation related to President Trump`s inaugural committee. The "A.P." reported that prosecutors working with a grand jury in EDNY had sent subpoenas to the inaugural committee and the committee had complied.
The office had also questioned Tom Barrack, a close friend of the president and major fundraiser for the president, head of the president`s inaugural committee. We don`t know what ever came of that investigation. But that was EDNY.
You might also remember around the Geoffrey Berman firing when they fired the Manhattan federal prosecutor two weeks ago, one of the controversies there was the ongoing prosecution of our ex-boyfriends Lev and Igor, two friends of the president`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who did lots of work with him in Ukraine. In fact, it was their work with Rudy Giuliani that led to the president`s impeachment in December of last year. That was only December last year he was impeached.
In the SDNY indictment against Lev and Igor, Lev and Igor are alleged to have funneled illegal foreign contributions into Republican campaigns, including the main PAC supporting the president`s reelection efforts. But in conjunction with that case, there have been some other interesting prospects raised. In December, prosecutors in the Lev and Igor case told a judge that they expect to be -- they expected there to be a superseding indictment in that case. They expected there to be another indictment related to the facts in that case.
Well, that came around the same time as a whole bunch of public reporting that Lev and Igor`s friend, the president`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, was himself under serious scrutiny by that prosecutor`s office in New York. Multiple sources telling multiple news organizations that they had received detailed subpoenas about Rudy Giuliani`s business dealings and foreign entanglements and it seemed to be a very active, very aggressive investigation.
And the prosecutors from that case tell the judge in open court -- yeah, we expect more indictments here. We expect more defendants to be charged. So that happened in December.
Two months later in February, Attorney General Bill Barr made this really unusual announcement that had a big impact on the prosecutors` offices in New York. He announced that any investigation, any federal criminal investigation having anything at all to do with Ukraine, like say the Lev and Igor and potentially the Rudy Giuliani cases, they now needed a few extra layers of supervision.
The attorney general put out this weird notice saying that any new information about anything related to Ukraine or any Ukraine case, any decision on opening a new investigation that touched on Ukraine or expanding any existing investigation, any widening or expansion of existing matters. Anything that had to do with Ukraine had to be cleared with Attorney General Bill Barr personally, and it also had to be run through the U.S. attorney`s office in Brooklyn, the U.S. attorney`s office in the Eastern District of New York, which is very strange, right?
I mean, there is other prosecutors and other districts. There is, for example, Geoffrey Berman in SDNY prosecuting Lev and Igor and reportedly investigating Rudy Giuliani, too, and expecting a superseding indictment. This is the attorney general basically publicly pronouncing that that office will not be allowed to make important decisions about those investigations or any prosecution decisions on their own. They had to run anything they wanted to do not only through the attorney general`s office, but also through a random other prosecutors office.
You have to answer to him too. He is at the same level of you and he is not in your district, but you have to run everything through him. Well, that other prosecutor who was put in charge of anything related to Ukraine, his name is Rich Donoghue, and until today, he was U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York. But now, tonight, he is out. They have given him a different job at Main Justice and they cleared him out at EDNY to make room for somebody else.
So we don`t know whatever happened to the Rudy Giuliani investigation. We know that Lev and Igor`s trial has been delayed until after the November election, but what`s going on between the attorney general and these ongoing cases touching the president? I mean, we`ve seen a lot of this, right?
But today`s news isn`t a rerun. This isn`t -- they just keep doing the same play over and over again. It`s recursive news.
I mean, Bill Barr has now taken out the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. He`s taken out the U.S. attorney in SDNY. He has now taken out as of tonight the U.S. attorney in EDNY.
These are all the major prosecutors` offices basically in the country where there are major ongoing prosecutions and investigations touching on the president, his businesses, his inaugural, his campaign personnel, and all the myriad fallout from the Russian effort to help Trump in the last election. Bill Barr, one by one has been picking off those U.S. attorneys and removing them from their posts.
And like I said, we are at the halfway mark of this year. We are at the halfway mark right now for 2020. It`s hump day for the year.
But it`s kind of like Groundhog Day for the Trump administration and the rule of law. They just keep doing this. We keep seeing the same things again and again.
There is also a very familiar feel in this recursive news we are now getting in the headlines about coronavirus. I mean, it was back in February when the Trump administration screwed up the development of an American test for COVID that was sort of the original sin in terms of why we didn`t have testing when the rest of the whole world did. That screw-up was in February.
By March, as case numbers were ticking up and it was starting to look very serious in some parts of the country, we were seeing the consequence of that testing failure by the Trump administration all over. This was a headline from back in mid-March in the "Denver Post". Line cut off at Denver`s drive-through coronavirus after wait time hits four hours.
This was a headline from New Mexico around the same time, again, back in March. Las Cruces, New Mexico. Long lines for coronavirus testing in Las Cruces, supplies run out after just two hours.
At the time, that New York, again, this is months ago, "New York Times" is running big national stories with headlines like this one, The lost month: how a failure to test blinded the U.S. to COVID-19. You see the date on that, that`s from March, a lost month.
That was the lamentation, right, back in March. Wow, we lost a month. We lost a whole month between February and March that we could have been testing for coronavirus. We could have been understanding our epidemic. We could have been working on it. We lost a month. It set us back a whole month.
Well, now it`s July. What`s our testing situation like now? We lost a month. We had that time to catch up. Now it`s July.
Now we`re halfway through the year. Now we`ve had multiple months to try to sort out those early problems, but this is still what the local news is like around the country right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The family clinic has been open for testing for about three months now, but in recent weeks, lines have snaked through the parking lot. People waiting for hours to get tested.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell me how long have you guys been out here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve been here since around 6:40.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. What time is it now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now it`s 11:12. We`ve advanced a few feet I want to say.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Giovanni Salazar (ph) and his family one of many waiting in line to get tested at the MD family clinic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We thought we were going to be here for two hours, three. But we`re heading towards five, six hours now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thousands have rushed to Utah COVID testing centers in recent weeks. Medical professionals saying they`re seeing a 50 percent increase in those who are wanting to be tested.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s making for long lines at the drive-up testing sites.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have higher demand because of prevalence in the community.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, according to health directors, this backlog is occurring statewide.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some people are even being turned away due to the influx of those who want to be tested. But health officials emphasize although not everybody needs it, those who have been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case should consider testing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Roma Nation (ph) says the clinic is trying to prioritize those who had direct exposure to COVID-19.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The message we`re trying to get out to folks basically is to prioritize essential workers and especially health care worker, because those are the ones we need on the front lines to be able to work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The clinic had to create a waiting list due to the skyrocketing demand for testing. This week, it started off with 30 names. Now it`s more than 200 patients long.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, at our mobile drive-through yesterday, we literally had the line filled before the official start time, which was 9:00 a.m.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s deja vu, right? I mean, that`s all local news coverage from now. Our testing was a disaster in March, right? That was supposed to be our lost month, with the Trump administration screwing it up in February, and as of March it was still screwed up because we were a month because of what they had done that was March.
Our testing was a disaster in March and we thought we knew why. Why is our testing still a disaster in July? Why have we got people in hours` long lines and waiting lists with hundreds of people on them, right? Why are we now having people wait three, four, five, six, seven days for test results, right?
Those were local news clips that I just showed you from Dallas, Fort Worth, from Salt City, Utah, from Panama City, Florida. But, honestly, pick your poison. Pick anywhere.
This is the local news tonight in Alabama. Long lines for testing in Alabama.
This is the news in Texas. Officials in Texas` big cities say their public testing sites are being strained. Austin, Texas, has begun to limit who can be tested.
In Georgia, Georgia sees testing systems strained with rise in COVID cases. Here is "The Tennessean" tonight, long lines reported at coronavirus testing sites across mid state.
Here is "The L.A. Times" today. As of Wednesday, yesterday, there were no available appointments for coronavirus testing at L.A. County or L.A. City- run test sites.
Here is "The Washington Post" today. As cases surge, long lines for testing sometimes stretch miles in the summer heat.
Americans are trying to do the right thing. Americans are trying to get tested because they want to do the responsible thing, because they want to keep themselves safe. They want to keep their family members safe.
Americans are trying to do the right thing and being very freakin` patient about it, I might add. It is not the American people who are failing here. It is the government that has failed to make testing available in any workable way, even after all this time.
And so, okay, even if you forgive them their initial screw-up, why months later are we still looking at the same Groundhog Day headlines about the inability of people to get tested? I mean, even the major lab companies are now reporting that they are not able to keep up. They are not able to increase testing.
Wow. There is rising case numbers all over the country in most states right now. They`re not prepared for that. They are not able to scale up. Why is that?
Because even for the biggest lab companies in the country, which are the same giant lab companies that we had at the start of this mess, over these past few months, the government has done no work to make sure the big lab companies in this country would scale up, would develop capacity to handle what we would need. We just squandered that time.
Testing didn`t get any better. And the same goes for PPE. I know this is even harder to believe than the testing stuff, but this was today. This is not some historical artifact from the bad old days. This was today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): This document confirms what our committee has been hearing for weeks, that we face serious shortages in personal protective equipment, including masks and gowns. For example, page 4, shows demand for N95 masks dwarfed supply in March, April and May. It also shows that we will need more than 160 million N95 masks in July alone.
But the imports and domestic production together will only supply about 130 million masks. That leaves a projected shortfall of about 30 million masks.
How is it possible that more than five months into this crisis, our country is still facing the possible shortage of 30 million N95 masks this month?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This month. Yeah. How is that possible that more than five months into this crisis, our country is still facing the possible shortage of 30 million N95 masks this month? How is that possible?
But we are more than five months into this crisis. I mean, for short hadn`t, it`s easy to remember. This thing is called COVID-19 because it was discovered at the end of the year 2019.
We are now officially tonight halfway through 2020, and we still haven`t sorted out PPE. Not even for health workers.
NBC News obtained a document today showing that the major medical supply companies in the United States have just warned Congress that there is not enough PPE. The supply lines have not been shored up that would allow us to make enough quickly enough, and the shortages are back, and they are real.
Quote, the Health Industry Distributors Association tells committee staff it has been imploring the Trump administration to create a national supply chain for months. The companies told committee staff that obtaining personal protective equipment for U.S. medical personnel and patients under current conditions is, quote, not sustainable.
This is the medical supply industry itself sounding the alarm in July. And again, this sounds familiar because it sounds like a rerun of the PPE headlines that we saw months ago in March. But this is now, as we head into the back half of 2020 because this stuff didn`t get fixed.
In the time that we had, in the time we thought we bought ourselves with all the sacrifices that were made by the American people, right, after the huge big first spike that was centered on New York and the Tri-State area, it turns out we didn`t shore ourselves up as a country in terms of testing, and we didn`t shore ourselves up as a country in terms of PPE. And in the meantime, all the states sort of randomly opened up without guidance and without regard for whether they had their own outbreaks under observation and under control. So now we are into our second peak, which is already much higher than the first, and it`s all over the country.
And now what do we do? Because we are living -- we`re living this again. We lived in April through the heartbreak, right, of seeing hospitals in New York pushed to the breaking point. Just the moral disaster there, the American catastrophe there. We lived through that in April with New York hospitals.
Well, today this is Texas. This is the front page of the Houston chronicle right now. Stay at home this Fourth of July weekend. It is the safest thing to do.
And that`s the front page wraparound -- wraparound front page of the "Houston Chronicle" right now, because this is the news in Houston right now. This is the headline inside the paper.
Texas medical center hospitals go into phase 2 surge plans as ICU capacity exceeds 100 percent. Texas Medical Center, which boasts 1,330 ICU beds under base operations, had 1,350 such patients in-house on Wednesday, 1,350 patients in ICUs.
Roberta Schwartz, president of Houston Methodist Hospital says, quote, it`s actually possible that we could become the next New York City. I can`t believe we`re now staring down the barrel of that gun.
That said, here is one thing that isn`t a rerun of something we saw a few months ago or a few weeks ago, and it shows you, I think positively, that we have grown a little bit. We have at least learned something.
In the interim, while we have been blowing it as a country and wasting all of the time that we earned ourselves with the sacrifices that the American people made, while we have been continually screwing up, we have learned something. We have learned, for example, that masks work pretty well to slow the spread of this thing. If you wear a covering that covers your mouth and your nose, that is going to make you much less likely to infect other people if you have coronavirus, particularly if you don`t know you have it.
Well, tonight, the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, announced a mask requirement for anybody out in public in Texas. It applies to anybody in any county in Texas that has more than 20 cases, there is now a mask requirement statewide.
We are capable of learning. We are capable of figuring some stuff out about how to do this better than we have done in the past. We are capable of not just squandering all of our time and making all the same mistakes and enduring the same horrible headlines time and time again where you have to keep checking the dateline over and over again because you can`t believe it`s July and you`re still seeing that, when you saw it`s all through February, all through March, all through April, and you thought the terror of April made it sure that we would never do this again.
We are capable of growing and getting better. We can do it. We can learn, I swear.
Now, I do not know whether or not to include the federal government in that under the leadership of Donald Trump as president, but here`s a test. Because here, tonight, right now as we speak is this new question, this new, very practical, very realistic question of why there isn`t a federal mask requirement?
Texas just did it. Texas just did. Why not the country?
Is that the one thing this administration might conceivably get it together to do even as they failed in every other thing they were assigned? Could they conceivably get it together to do that? And if so, how much of a dent could it make?
A live question tonight like it`s never been before, and that`s next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In Germany, they`re at nearly every train station, these big vending machines that say masken. Masken. I don`t speak German, but I know what that means, "masken" across the top.
Face masks have been required on public transportation and certain stores in that country since April. So, this is part of how Germany encourages people to follow that mandate. Just find a vending machine.
In Singapore, where masks are also compulsory, residents can scan their government-issued IDs at any one of more than 1,200 kiosks. Just scan your idea and how pop two free face masks.
In Austria, face coverings are required when entering supermarkets and drug stores. And so, the government hands them out to you before you enter any of those types of establishments. Dozens of countries have adopted mask ordinances since the coronavirus pandemic struck.
And it would appear that they are on to something. Researchers at the University of Washington project that the lives of 33,000 Americans could be saved just in the next three months, just by October, if we adopted near universal mask use in this country.
With that data in mind, one very prominent public health official from the Obama administration is calling on the United States to adopt a national mask requirement.
Dr. Howard Koh says in part having everyone wear a mask in public is a simple common sense measure that has proven to significantly slow the spread of the virus. We have seen tremendous success in countries around the world that have quelled their outbreaks. With a vaccine still months away, a mask requirement will free up vital economic activity without spreading the risk of the massive coronavirus. We have to do everything in our power to protect the precious health of all Americans.
You know, if there is somebody who is an expert on this type of stuff who we might want to listen to stuff on this, Dr. Koh is one of those people. He served as assistant secretary of health under President Obama. In that capacity, he oversaw 12 public health offices including the office of the surgeon general. In addition to all the other public health initiatives he ran during the Obama administration, he also helped coordinate the national response to the H1N1 pandemic.
He has had an incredible prolific career on top of all of that. He also served for six years as the public health commissioner the great state of Massachusetts. This is somebody who knows a thing or two about enacting big public health policies and thinking how they can practically be put into place.
He is somebody who understands the science, has done the work on the state level and the federal level.
Joining us now is Dr. Howard Koh, professor of public health leadership at the Harvard School of Health now. He also served as assistant secretary to health in the Obama administration.
Dr. Koh, thank you so much for making time tonight. I`m really looking forward to you talking about this.
DR. HOWARD KOH, FORMER ASSISTANT HHS SECRETARY, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Since you have been talking about this, and because of your pedigree and what you have been through, I have been thinking about the prospect of a national mask requirement. I saw Vice President Biden was asked about it and said he supports the concept this week.
But I now tonight feel like this is a live practical question for the country in a way that it hasn`t been before because of this decision that was just made by Governor Greg Abbott in Texas. I just wanted to ask if you share that sense or if you think I might be approaching this the wrong way.
KOH: No, I think you got it right.
And let`s take a global view on this, Rachel. As you pointed out, we`re now into month six of the worst pandemic this country has endured in a century, and around the world we see so many countries that`s got to the other side of this crisis, their cases going down, countries in Europe and in Asia, Australia, New Zealand.
But here in the United States we have trends going the wrong way. We`ve been setting records over the last several weeks as you noted, some 55,000 new cases today. My good friend Dr. Fauci is concerned about those numbers rising to 100,000 new cases sooner rather than later.
And so this is really alarming. And you have to ask yourself why aren`t we getting a better handle on this pandemic right now? And it`s because other countries have realized the power of prevention, the power of public health.
Right now, as you know, we don`t have a vaccine yet, although there is a lot of research. We don`t have a cure yet, although we have some great advancements in therapeutics. But what we have is the power of public health, social distancing, hand hygiene, and then wearing masks.
And you pointed out the very important scientific data that is coming out almost weekly now showing that masks decrease transmission, and it can potentially save lives. And it`s time right now for our country to embrace the maximum prevention possible.
Now the announcement by the governor of Texas today was welcome news, but it`s not enough. We only have 20 states with a mandate for mask wearing. Well need to make it 50 states. We need to move as fast as possible toward a national coverage, a national plan to address this national crisis.
MADDOW: I feel like we are living through a pivot point right now when we are seeing -- certainly there are still people who have decided that masks are a deep state plot to, you know, rewire their fillings and take away their guns. We`ve seen conspiratorial stuff and we`ve seen people still opposing masks as if they represent some sort of grave infringement on freedom.
But at the same time, we are seeing even high profile Republican and conservative politicians start to change both their own public behavior and the way they are talking about these things, including it should be noted the president softening his tone and talking about how he thinks that masks are good and he doesn`t mind the way he looks in a mask. He himself has moved quite some distance in terms of his public remarks.
How fast do you think this transition could happen? Is there some sort of public health allegory we should look at in terms of other things that had initial resistance what the public ultimately came around to in terms of understanding when this sort of transformation that you`re describing needs to be happening, when we could expect it or hope for it?
KOH: Well, right now, Rachel, we can all make our plans, but it`s the virus that is dictating the outcomes. So in face of, that we need to practice the maximum prevention we can. Now more and more people are starting to understand the science here and the fact that this can be very powerful for public health, that we now understand that if we wear a mask you not only protect yourself, but you protect others around you, your family, your friends, people you care about and love.
So this is a way actually of boosting freedom for people as we talk about the July 4th weekend, of freedom to interact with other people, freedom to go out in society and help businesses get started again -- freedom from danger, freedom from infection and hospitalization. So we need to rally around this national strategy for the country, not do it state by state.
MADDOW: Dr. Howard Koh, professor of public health leadership at the Harvard School of Public Health -- the way you just described that, the way you framed that right now in those closing remarks is absolutely priceless. It shows that you were assistant secretary of health during the Obama administration, sir. Thanks for talking to us about this.
And please come back. I think that we are in the middle of a transition here. We`d love to talk to you about it as this policy develops.
KOH: Thanks so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In the aftermath of President Trump trying to extort the nation of Ukraine to help him against Joe Biden in this fall`s election, it`s still so crazy that that happened, in the wake of the president`s impeachment for that bit of craziness, part of the fallout from that debacle was legal.
Donald Trump`s Attorney General Bill Barr set up a whole unusual new command structure for all federal prosecutors who might be thinking about bringing any criminal charges that had anything to do with the nation of Ukraine, like, for example, the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York who were reportedly aggressively investigating the president`s lawyer and Ukraine fixer Rudy Giuliani. Any such investigations under this new chain of command suddenly had to be run through the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, a Trump appointee named Richard Donoghue.
It was a seemingly random decision by the U.S. attorney general, but it got weirder today when as I mentioned at the top of the show, Richard Donoghue, the U.S. attorney was moved out of the job at the EDNY. He is no longer the U.S. attorney there.
Now, it remains to be seen who will ultimately be put in charge there and whether that person will be tasked with riding herd on any and all Ukrainian cases in any jurisdiction anywhere in the country. So that`s been weird.
But there has also been fallout from the president`s impeachment for the people who testified in the impeachment inquiry, in particularly for Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, in his role n the National Security Council.
He listened in on Trump`s infamous phone call last July in which the president pressed the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. Lieutenant Colonel Vindman`s testimony appeared to particularly get under the president`s skin.
And as soon as the impeachment process was over, when Senate Republicans acquitted the president in the Senate, not only was Lieutenant Colonel Vindman fired from the National Security Council and escorted off the White House grounds by security, so was Colonel Vindman`s twin brother, who didn`t testify about anything having to do with impeachment, but you know, he does look a lot like the guy who did. So he had to get fired too?
Lieutenant Colonel Vindman was booted from the White House in what appears to have been a clear act of retaliation for his testimony in the impeachment inquiry. But he remains an active duty U.S. Army officer, and he is currently due to be promoted to not lieutenant colonel, but full colonel.
That said, a couple of weeks ago trouble started brewing. "The Washington Post" was first to report concern among a number of military and government officials that Colonel Vindman`s promotion was in jeopardy, again, because of his testimony in the impeachment. Usually, the Army and the Pentagon sign off on a big long list of hundreds of officers being promoted to full colonel each year, and then the White House signs off sort of pro forma, and then it goes to the Senate for a big confirmation vote.
But multiple officials told "The Post" that the list was unusually delayed this year over fears that the White House would strike Colonel Vindman`s name from this year`s list. "The New York Times" followed with reporting that White House staffers were signaling to the Pentagon that they wanted Colonel Vindman`s dropped from the promotions list before that list even got forwarded to the White House. They wanted the Pentagon to retaliate against him so the White House wouldn`t have to.
Well, that`s all been dangling out there. We`ve been waiting to see what was going to happen. Until today, a U.S. senator took a pretty drastic step to try to get this thing settled and in the right way.
U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth sits on the Armed Services Committee. She said today that she will block over a thousand military promotions from clearing the Senate. She will block everybody on the list unless she gets written assurances from the secretary of defense that he has not and he will not block Colonel Alexander Vindman`s promotion.
Senator Duckworth said in a statement, quote, this goes far beyond any single military officer. It is about protecting a merit-based system from political corruption and unlawful retaliation.
Senator Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq war veteran. She is a Purple Heart recipient like Lieutenant Colonel Vindman. She`s in her first term as a senator from Illinois. She is also reportedly on Joe Biden`s short list as a potential vice presidential running mate.
Senator Duckworth joins us live here next.
MADDOW: Senator Tammy Duckworth announced today that she is threatening to hold up the confirmation of more than 1,100 military promotions unless and until Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirms that the Trump administration will not continue to retaliate against Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman for his testimony in the impeachment. There have been recent reports that the White House has been pressuring the Pentagon to essentially take Colonel Vindman`s name off the list of officers who are set to be promoted.
Senator Duckworth is taking direct action to try to block the White House from doing that.
Joining us now is Senator Duckworth of Illinois, a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee, veteran of the Iraq war, a Purple Heart recipient, former assistant secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Senator Duckworth, I really appreciate you taking the time to be here tonight. Thanks for being here.
SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): Well, thanks for covering this issue, Rachel. It`s so important for our military.
MADDOW: Let me -- let me hear just from you directly why you think it is so important and how you decided to approach it in this way that you are.
DUCKWORTH: Well, the military is supposedly an apolitical organization. It should not be politicized. And I watched under this president that he continues to politicize the military, and most recently by using (AUDIO GAP) helicopters to suppress peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square.
In this case, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, if he is on the list, has earned his way to the list. In order to get on the promotion list, you have to have been recommended to be on there by your rater, your intermediate rater, and your senior rater. So, three officers above you have to concur that you should get on the list.
All I`m saying is that if his name is on the list, his name should not be taken off by the DOD and that it should be allowed to go forward with his name still on the list.
I`m afraid that the White House is pressuring the DOD to take Lieutenant Colonel Vindman`s name off the list after he`s earned his way on to it based on his job performance, as he was evaluated by his supervisors.
MADDOW: Do you have any response in hand as of yet from either Defense Secretary Esper`s office or more broadly from the Defense Department? And what are you expecting them to do in terms of responding to what you`ve announced today?
DUCKWORTH: So all we`re asking them to do, Rachel, is very simple. All I`m ask them to do (AUDIO GAP) certify by letter that if his name is on the list they will not take it off the list before they send it to the White House. That`s simple.
Basically, I`m telling them don`t politicize promotions of military officers. Don`t let this White House politicize this process.
Their response was promptly to politicize it by, you know, accusing me of holding up the promotions of thousands of officers and all of this stuff. They immediately responded by being political about it.
And all I was saying is, just send me a letter and confirm that you will not take his name off the list if he`s on it. That is pretty simple to do.
MADDOW: Senator, let me ask you about another right now just jaw-dropping divide between the president -- what appeared to be the president`s interests and the interests of the U.S. military. I know that you`ve been briefed, along with other senators about what`s -- these intelligence reports that Russia was apparently paying bounties for American bodies, paying bounties to Taliban fighters and others in Afghanistan to kill U.S. troops. There`s been open source reporting in "The Washington Post" and elsewhere that the intelligence community believes that, in fact, those bounties were paid because some American soldier`s deaths were initiated because of that Russian program.
The White House apparently believes, the president apparently believes that there`s no response that is necessary to this. I just have to ask your take on this and how you think this will ultimately resolve.
DUCKWORTH: Well, the way it will resolve is if the administration actually starts conducting an investigation into whether or not bounties were paid for the death of American servicemen and women. The briefing that I received just the other day from the Department of Defense was by people who were not the ones that could answer my questions or any of the questions from the senators in the Armed Services Committee that were in the room.
We asked them some simple things, just, do you know if the president was briefed on February 27th as the open source reporting says he was on these bounties? And they have no information on that.
The folks that they sent to talk to us were not people who could answer any of our questions. They did not send Gina Haspel to talk with the Armed Services Committee. They did not send -- allow us to talk to General Miller, who is a U.S. forces commander in Afghanistan. We didn`t get to talk to anyone who would actually shed light on this.
But I think it`s very telling, Rachel. The fact of the matter is that, the president cares more about the naming of U.S. bases and of keeping the names of dead Confederates than he does about whether or not Americans were killed with bounties placed on their heads by the Russians.
He`s not done anything about it. He hasn`t even bothered to come out and comfort the families of fallen heroes by saying he`s going to look into it. If anything, all he`s done is deny, deny, deny and plead ignorance.
And we know that he was briefed. I mean, reports have shown that he was in his presidential daily brief as early as February. If he did not pay attention (AUDIO GAP) and has done nothing about it, that is dereliction of duty as Vice President Biden has said.
MADDOW: Speaking of Vice President Biden, I`d be remiss if I didn`t ask you about these reports that you are being seriously considered as a running mate for Vice President Biden. I know you`re not going to answer me, but I`m just going to ask you anyway if you can tell me whether or not you are -- you are in these discussions, and if this is a job that you`d like to do if Vice President Biden asked you to join the ticket.
DUCKWORTH: Rachel, I`m all about serving my country. And whether it was in the cockpit of my Black Hawk or in the House, and now in the Senate, our country is facing some really dire crises right now, and we need to be able to dig our way out of it. I believe that Joe Biden is the best person.
He has the empathy, the understanding and the ability to bounce back and help this nation to bind our wounds and to (AUDIO GAP) and to come back from them and to lead us out of the mess the Trump administration has put us in, whether with COVID-19, our economy, with our military overseas.
And so, whatever it is that I can get Joe Biden into the White House, I will do that. They have their process for the vice presidential selection and vetting committee, whatever that is. I`m going to leave them to it.
I`m just going to focus on doing everything I can to get Joe Biden elected because he has the kind of person with the resiliency and the (AUDIO GAP) empathy for the suffering of the American people that we need right now.
MADDOW: Senator Tammy Duckworth of the great state of Illinois -- Senator, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us about all these things tonight. I know your time is precious. Thanks for being here.
DUCKWORTH: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: There are three U.S. states right now, three U.S. states that aren`t on the East Coast, that aren`t in the Northeast of the country where the number of new coronavirus cases aren`t rising right now. It is only Indiana, Nebraska and South Dakota. Those are the only three states that don`t have rising numbers right now outside of the Northeast. But, of course, that can be fixed.
Tomorrow, the president is headed to South Dakota to do a fireworks thing at Mount Rushmore. This is the governor of South Dakota, Republican Kristi Noem talking about plans for that event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: We will have a large event at July 3rd. We told those folks that have concerned that they can stay home, but those who want to come and join us, we`ll be giving out free face masks if they choose to wear one, but wee won`t be social distancing. We`re asking them to come, be ready to celebrate, to enjoy the freedoms and the liberties that we have in this country.
(END VIDEOI CLIP)
MADDOW: We explicitly will not be socially distancing. We ask you to come and be ready to celebrate. We will not be social distancing.
South Dakota, as I mentioned, is one of the few states in this country that looked like they were maybe going to start to get out from under this thing. But you know what, it`s only a recovery if you can keep it. And this is a heck of a way to do that.
That`s going to do it for us tonight. Thanks for being with us tonight.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
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