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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 4/21/22

Guests: Alexander Burns, Jonathan Martin, Alan Feuer

Summary

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy denies saying he`d call Trump to say he should resign, but it`s on tape. The DOJ enlists career prosecutor to look at broader efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Transcript

AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" on this Thursday night. Don`t forget you can catch me Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, Sundays at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here in MSNBC. You can stream new original episodes of my show, "Ayman", on Fridays on Peacock.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ayman. Thank you, my friend, much appreciated.

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

All right. It was about five years, ago it was May 2017, it was a scoop in "The Washington Post" by a reporter Adam Entous. It was one of those headlines that just makes you go, doo-whoop, say what now? A very memorable headline from "The Washington Post".

House majority leader told colleagues in 2016, quote, I think Putin pays Trump. I think Putin pays Trump.

When Kevin McCarthy reportedly told that to his Republican colleagues in the House, in 2016, that`s when Trump was running for president. Speaker the House at the time as Republican Paul Ryan. Kevin McCarthy was the number two Republican in the House, right under the speaker. He was the majority leader. He`s the one who reportedly said I think Putin pays Trump.

Now, at the time, Mr. McCarthy reportedly made those comments, Donald Trump wasn`t just one of the 17 different Republicans who is running in the presidential primary that year. He wasn`t just a random candidate among them all. It was clear, by the time those comments were made by Mr. McCarthy, that Trump was going to win the nomination.

By the time McCarthy said that, "I think Putin pays Trump," Trump had basically cleared the field of the other competitors. He was just a month away from formerly clinching the nomination. So, for that reason alone, this headline was kind of a double take thing. Stunning that one of the top guys in leadership, one of the most powerful elected officials in the Republican Party, was going around saying out loud, at that time, that he was pretty sure that this guy who is about to be the Republican Party`s nominee for president, he was on Putin`s payroll.

But what made Kevin McCarthy`s more unsettling, potentially even more explosive, was the context in which he made those remarks. What "The Washington Post" reported at the time, was that what happened right before McCarthy said that, right before McCarthy said that Trump was being paid by Putin, he and Speaker Paul Ryan had just come out of talks with the prime minister of Ukraine who was visiting Washington. Again, this is in 2016.

Paul McCarthy -- sorry, Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan apparently met separately with the prime minister of Ukraine, it wasn`t even a single meeting they both had with him. Even so, in both meetings, the Ukrainian prime minister made it apparently made a point of telling each of those Republican leaders in Congress about sophisticated propaganda tactics that, the Russians were using to mess with Ukraine. Specifically, he described to them how Russia had found all sorts of sophisticated, covert ways, to support specific populist politicians that Russia believed could weaken Ukraine`s government. Could we can Ukraine`s democracy, and thereby benefit Russia, which was trying to undermine Ukraine.

The Ukrainian prime minister, in those meetings with Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, he told those Republican members of Congress that the Kremlin had been, quote, financing people in our governments to undo our governments. That was the conversation that House Speaker Paul Ryan, and the Republican leader Kevin McCarthy had behind closed doors with Ukrainian prime minister. The Kremlin had gotten really good at this business of paying for and supporting divisive, corrupt, populist candidates, to try to get them into office in countries they were trying to mess with. So, if those candidates got into office, they would effectively mess with good government, they would mess with democracy, and thereby weaken those countries that Russia saw as an enemy.

That is what`s McCarthy and Paul Ryan heard from the Ukrainian prime minister. After they heard that from the Ukrainian prime minister, they walked out of those meetings. They handed off to go speak with federal members of the Republican leadership in Congress. And not surprisingly, but they had heard from the Ukrainian prime minister was still ringing in their ears, it was still very much on their minds, so much so that they relate, to the Republican house leadership but they had just heard, and apparently that led Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican majority leader, to tell his fellow Republican members of Congress, his opinion.

That quote, there`s two people that I think Putin pays: famously pro-Russia Republican Congressman Dan Rohrabacher, and Donald Trump.

[21:05:02]

As "The Washington Post" put it at the time, quote, some of the lawmakers who heard that live to McCarthy`s comments, but McCarthy quickly added, quote, I swear to God. House Speaker Paul Ryan then instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep this conversation private, saying, no leaks. This is how we know we are real family here.

That`s how we know we are a real family. I`m sorry, I love my family, I love my family, but if I told them that I was pretty sure the guy about to be nominated for president was a paid foreign agent, and I was in a position to know that, I would want them to leak that.

I think, you know somebody is a family if they don`t leak it, maybe the right thing to do is to leak it. In any case, somebody did leak it. Not right away, it took about a year. Those comments from Kevin McCarthy about him saying that he believed that Trump is on Putin`s payroll, those comments and come out for about a year, until May of 2017, at which point Trump was already president.

And so, when that "Washington Post" story with that astonishing headline dropped, that is an issue, right? Because Trump is now president. And in May 2017, when that story drops, spokespeople for House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy, denied this it ever happened. A spokesperson for McCarthy went even further saying, quote, the idea that McCarthy would act assert this is absurd, and false.

It`s absurd, it`s false, you are making fools of yourself, "Washington Post", by reporting something like this as if anything like this has ever happened, or could ever happen, it`s crazy.

But then, the tape, turns out it was on tape, told that "Washington Post" reporters had actually listened to an audio recording of the actual remarks in question. The spokesman who had previously denied that this had ever happened, but they had to do some quick thinking, some backpedalling, they had to come up with a new line -- they decided that they would stop denying that Kevin McCarthy had ever said this, and said they`d try to pass it off as a misunderstood joke. They would no longer insist that it was absurd and false to suggest that Kevin McCarthy had said that Trump was on Putin`s payroll, their new line was that the way he said it wasn`t being fully appreciated. Spokesman said it was, quote, a failed attempt at humor.

So, one thing for journalists to report, in prince, that you said Putin is paying Trump, a whole other thing for them to say, actually we heard the tape of you saying that.

So that story was amazing when it came out in May 2017, the way it evolved over time it stuck with me, as has the premise of McCarthy`s quote in the first place. But keep that story, keep that in the front of your mind tonight, given the news that we are about to break right here on the show.

We have just obtained a copy of a new book that was written by two "New York Times" reporters, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin. Their new book is called "This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America`s Future".

Now, Mr. Martin and Mr. Burns` book is not out yet. It`s not out until May 3rd, a little over a week from now. Like I said, we`ve obtained a copy, and I will tell you that that the book is just incredibly well-sourced, it draws on hundreds of interviews with elected officials, and other government officials, as well as tons of contemporaneous records from the 2020 presidential campaign, and what followed in the hurly-burly aftermath of that election, and it`s contest by the Republican side.

And among other things, the book recounts for the first time, that in the days after the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters, the top Republicans in the House and Senate, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, by then the top Republican in the House, and Senator Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, according to this new reporting from Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, McConnell and McCarthy both had quite a few private conversations with other Republicans and their own advisers, in which they harshly, harshly criticized President Trump for having incited the attack on the capitol, and in fact, according to this new reporting, each of these Republican leaders vowed that they would run Trump out of politics.

Among other things, the book details how receptive Senator Mitch McConnell was to the idea of having President Trump impeached. This is from the book. Quote, on Monday, January 11th, 2021, so five days after the attack on the Capitol. Senator McConnell shared a Chick-fil-A takeout lunch with a pair of longtime advisers, Terry Carmack and Scott Jennings. In Mr. Jennings` Louisville office, McConnell aligned when he saw as Trump`s imminent devise.

[21:10:01]

He said, quote, the Democrats are going to take care of the son of a -- the SOB for us, referring to Pelosi`s determination to bring impeachment charges against Trump that very weak. The House had the votes to impeach Trump, likely with a meaningful stamp of bipartisanship. And during that lunch, Senator Mitch McConnell told these advisers, that there would be at least 17 Senate Republicans ready to affirm Trump`s impeachment, meaning ready to vote to convict him. That was supplied the two thirds vote needed to convict. Trump would already be out of office by the time the Senate folks took place, but a conviction in the Senate would mean that Trump could be barred from running for office ever again.

Trump`s role on January 6th, McConnell said, was clearly impeachable. He suggested that he would be among the Republicans who didn`t vote for conviction. He said, quote, if this isn`t impeachable, I don`t know what it is.

Nice words from Senator Mitch McConnell, right? Principled sounding words. But, of course, Senator McConnell did not vote to convict Trump in the Senate. And because he didn`t, 17 Republicans never were going to, so Trump wasn`t convicted, so he is not barred from running for office.

Senator McConnell`s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment today about this new reporting.

But even beyond with Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns reported about Senator Mitch McConnell, it`s recounting of Kevin McCarthy`s reaction, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy`s reaction on the days after January 6 that are perhaps even more restricting. This is where we`re going to make some news here tonight.

Here is what Mr. Burns and Mr. Martin said about Mr. McCarthy. Quote, on January 10th, so four days after the attack on the Capitol, Kevin McCarthy convened a small group of House Republican leaders to share his thinking. Speaking with just three other top and probably ends on private call, McCarthy said he might call on Trump to resign. He conferred for more than 45 minutes, with Steve Scalise, Liz Cheney, and Tom Emmer, the Minnesota congressman who led the Republicans Campaign Committee.

The usually upbeat McCarthy was audibly anguished. The gravity of the attack was still sinking in, and it seemed increasingly clear to him that he had to break with Trump. It was finally time to end their alliance. His plan, McCarthy said, was to approach President Trump, and tell him it was inevitable that Congress would impeach him, and it isn`t time for him to go.

He envisioned telling Trump about a peach man resolution. Quote, I think this will pass. And it would be my recommendation, you should resign.

I think this will pass, meaning the impeachment resolution will pass, meaning you will be impeached. Quote, it would be my recommendation that you should resign.

McCarthy said near the end of the call, quote, I`ve had it with this guy. What he did was unacceptable, nobody can defend that, and nobody should defendant.

Now, it is one thing to know that Kevin McCarthy once felt that way, and once told his colleagues that he intended to do those things that he describes. And, of course, now, you can slide a sheet of paper between him and Trump, he decided to just jettison those, apparently principled concerns, and pledged his loyalty to Trump once again. That is one thing, it tells you something about Mr. McCarthy.

In their new book, Mr. Martin Mr. Burns call it, simply, surrender by Mr. McCarthy, that`s the word they use.

But, you know, it`s another thing entirely for him to deny that this all happened, when in fact it happened. In a statement to "The New York Times", earlier today, a spokesman for Kevin McCarthy issued a flat denial that McCarthy ever said that he would push Trump to resign. That spokesman said, quote, McCarthy never said he called Trump to tell him he should resign.

McCarthy never said he`d called Trump to say he should resign. To further clarify, we should also note that NBC News research the congressman`s office following that statement, specifically ask and again in drilling down on the question of whether or not Mr. McCarthy said he would push President Trump to resign. His spokesman responded, saying, quote: No he did not.

Leader McCarthy also issued a statement himself, today, saying in part, "The New York Times" reporting on me is totally false and wrong.

The problem with these denials from Mr. McCarthy, and his office, is that we have now obtained audio of that January 10th phone call that leader McCarthy held with other top Republicans, in which he in fact said, he is going to call Trump and tell him that he must resign. The authors of this new book, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns of "The New York Times", they have share that audio of this call with us, so that we can share with you tonight, so that you can know that when Kevin McCarthy denied that this happened, he is not telling the truth.

[21:15:14]

Here it is.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Liz, you on the phone?

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Yeah I`m here, thanks, Kevin.

I guess there is a question, when we are talking about the 25th Amendment resolution --

MCCARTHY: Yeah.

CHENEY: -- and you asked if, you know, what happens if it gets there after he`s gone? Is there any chance, are you hearing that he might resign, is there any reason to think that might happen?

MCCARTHY: I`ve had a few discussions. My gut tells me no, I`m seriously thinking of having that conversation with him tonight. I haven`t talked to him in a couple of days. From what I know of him, I mean you guys know him to, do you think he never back away?

But I think I`m going to do, is I`m going to call him. This is what I think, we know it`ll passed the House. I think there`s a chance it`ll pass the Senate, even when he is gone. And I think there`s a lot of different ramifications for that.

Now, I haven`t had a discussion with the Dems, that if he did resign, with that happen? Now, this is one personal fear I have. I do not want to get into any conversation about Pence pardoning. Again, the only discussion I would have with him is that, I think this will pass.

And it will be my recommendation you should resign. I mean, that would be my take. But I don`t think he would take it. But I don`t know.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: The discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass, meaning the impeachment resolution will pass, and it would be my recommendation that he should resign. I mean, that would be my take. It would be my recommendation that, Mr. President, you should resign.

That is what Kevin McCarthy told other House Republicans, on January 10th 2011, that he was going to call President Trump and tell him the impeachment was going to pass, and he needed to resign.

Mr. McCarthy flat out and categorically denied that today. He denied he said he would tell Trump to resign. He in fact said exactly that.

Joining us now are "New York Times" national political correspondents Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns. They are the authors of the forthcoming book, "This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America`s Future".

Mr. Burns, Mr. Martin, thank you very much for being with us tonight, and congratulations on this book.

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you, Rachel.

ALEXANDER BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you.

MADDOW: Let me first just ask both of you, give you each a chance to chime in if I got any of that wrong, or if I put the emphasis in the wrong place or got any of it just the wrong way around.

MARTIN: No, I think you very much captured it. I would just say for the book-buying audience out there, for people who work in politics, this is only the start. We have captured some of the most intimate and sensitive conversations in the extraordinary period following January 6th on tape. And there is much more to come between now and when the book is out on May 3rd.

But what you played there really does capture, Rachel, where Kevin McCarthy was. He was looking for a way out. He felt Trump had become toxic.

He was Trump`s biggest ally during the four years of the Trump presidency, and here he is looking for an escape hatch -- how do I get rid of this soon to be former president? And what do I have to do to, sort of, make myself cleansed from him, somehow, some way?

And he comes to, "Maybe I have to ask him to resign" -- which, of course, famously is what, you know, Barry Goldwater did with President Nixon during the Watergate scandal.

What`s different here is that in the subsequent weeks, Kevin McCarthy realized there was not the will in his caucus to make such a call to President Trump, and that his members were deferring to their voters, who just did not want to move on President Trump. They weren`t angry at him over January 6th, and McCarthy was down at Mar-a-Lago before the month is out, and patching up his relationship with President Trump. And now we know that they`re back together again.

MADDOW: Well, thank you both -- I have to thank you for allowing us to hear and to play for our audience the recording that backs up your reporting here.

Alex, I have to just ask what you make of the fact that Mr. McCarthy and his office is denying that this ever happened, denying explicitly to New York -- to NBC News today, when we followed up with him about their denial on this, explicitly clarifying that he never suggested he was going to make this kind of a call to Donald Trump? It really does appear to not be the truth for Mr. McCarthy.

[21:20:02]

BURNS: Well, that`s a pretty diplomatic way of putting it, Rachel. It was a totally bogus denial, as your audience just heard.

And I think that what this moment captures, in addition to everything Jonathan just said, and what this tape in particular captures is just the staggering gulf between what Republican leaders say about Donald Trump in public, and to his face, and what they will say about him in private.

And I don`t know that anybody should find it terribly reassuring that Kevin McCarthy is more clear-eyed about Donald Trump and the dangerous force that he represented in January of 2021, but he`s more clear-eyed about that in private than he is in public, because, Rachel, this is an ongoing story. We all know Donald Trump, he`s preparing to run for president again, we all know the way he talks about what happened in the 2020 election, and the way he talks about what he believed should happen in the 2024 election.

And if past performances any indicator of future results, what you heard on that tape, and then what Kevin McCarthy did subsequently to hold Donald Trump to account, which was nothing, is a pretty ominous story about the future.

MADDOW: I don`t mean to be Pollyanna about this at all, or naive, but it seems to me that I expect a sort of level, from politicians in particular, you know, of saying one thing in public and saying it another way in private, certainly speaking more harshly, less diplomatic terms in private.

MARTIN: Right.

MADDOW: What I don`t expect is for even public officials, even politicians, to flat out lie about what they have said, when it is on the record, when they have reason to believe it might have even been recorded, and they just lie and deny that it happened.

I think this creates a real problem for Mr. McCarthy. I think he must at least apologize. I would not be surprised if there are resign -- calls for his resignation, for him lying and denying that he did this when in fact he did it.

But, of course, he answers to his caucus, and, Jonathan, let me ask you about another --

MARTIN: Yeah.

MADDOW: -- bombastic allegation or at least bombastic reality that you guys portraying the same chapter in the book, which is that Mr. McCarthy also, according to your reporting, called for more members of his caucus, other Republican members of Congress to have their Twitter accounts cut off --

MARTIN: Right.

MADDOW: -- the same way that Trump was cut off from Twitter. He`s also denying that he said that. What is your reaction to that denial?

MARTIN: I can`t quite do a Maddow style (ph) justice here, but I`ll try. If you take yourself back to this period, January of 2021, remember, President Trump was widely seen after January 6th as potentially inciting a second attack on the Capitol. So, Twitter took action, and removed him from that platform.

And so, what McCarthy is talking about is he`s hearing from his fellow GOP leaders on this call, about some of the more bombastic tweets from far- right members of the House caucus, who are, you know, looking for any rationalization about the attack on January 6th. McCarthy says a lot on this call, quote, can`t they take their Twitter accounts away, too?

Which is striking, given his tough talk today about taking on high tech companies, big tech companies in this private conversation that we have on tape. He suggested that those big tech companies that he wants to crack down on actually should crackdown on members of his caucus, the very members that he is now courting assiduously to try to keep happy, so he has the votes to become speaker next year.

And it`s a striking moment in this conversation, because he`s almost pulling his hair out, you can sort of hear the anguish in his voice, as he`s talking about, what else do I have to deal with beyond President Trump and my own members? He is deeply frustrated in that period.

And once again, the McCarthy office denied that fact, and it is a fact. It`s on tape that he said this, sort of pining away, hoping that Twitter could strip some of his own members of their accounts.

MADDOW: So just underscore this, just to be clear.

MARTIN: Yeah.

MADDOW: Mr. McCarthy and his office have denied that he said he was going to call Trump and tell him to resign. You have it on tape.

MARTIN: Yeah.

MADDOW: We just heard that he, in fact, said that.

MARTIN: Yeah.

MADDOW: He`s also -- he`s also today denied that he called four members of his own caucus, other House Republicans, to have their social media access cut off. You`ve also got that on tape?

MARTIN: That`s correct, and we have a lot more on tape from this period, which is at the highest levels of American politics, it is -- it is sensitive, it`s delicate, and it`s high stakes. And we have it all on tape.

And it`s going to I think tell a very different story about this period than the story that many people are trying to tell right now.

MADDOW: Mr. Burns, one of the things that we`ve been talking about four months, more than a year now, is accountability and telling the truth, and making sure that history isn`t lost about this incredibly difficult period that we went through as a country, including the physical attack on the Capitol, including the other efforts to try to throw out the election results and keep a candidate in office after he had lost the election.

[21:25:19]

And I think that some of the story is told by journalists. Some of the story is going to be told by the congressional investigation. Some of the story is going to be told in court, as prosecutors trying to prove crimes.

Do you believe that any of these things that you are first reporting in this book is stuff that is going to be of interest to the January 6th investigators, or indeed to prosecutors? And have you been asked for any of your material?

BURNS: Well, I think we are very good reason to believe that some of this material could be of interest to members of the January 6th Committee, without getting into too much detail on that. It`s obviously an investigation that is looking very, very closely at President Trump`s frame of mind, before and after the January 6th event, his private conversations. The extent to which people in and around the White House, and senior levels of the Republican Party were aware of what he intended to do. And perhaps any awareness on the then-president`s part that what he was doing was wrong or fraudulent.

And so, when you hear Kevin McCarthy alluding on that tape to, you know, I haven`t spoken to President Trump in a couple of days -- well, he did speak to him a couple of days ago, right? So, there are indications in some of the materials we have that, you know, certainly, Leader McCarthy has more insight to what President Trump was thinking and doing during that time than he has publicly disclosed.

MADDOW: Fascinating and consequential.

And, gentlemen, I thank you for this reporting, for sharing it with us, particularly for letting our viewers hear this incredible tape. I know the book is not out until May 3rd, but I hope you`ll come back when it launches, and I appreciate you being here tonight, sirs.

MARTIN: Thank you, Rachel.

BURNS: Thank you so much.

MADDOW: All right, Jonathan Burns and -- excuse me, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns are "New York Times" national political correspondents.

Their new book is "This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America`s Future". It`s not out yet. It is out in about a week and a half, but, boy, is it making news already?

All right. We`ve got much more to get to here tonight. Do stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:32:00]

MADDOW: Former President Barack Obama spoke today at Stanford University in California, talking about disinformation online. How bad it is for democracy, he put forward some ways that social media companies and public policy should change in his view to try to mitigate some of the harm of disinformation. He also found a way and making that argument to use the word, sewage, sewage -- in what I thought was an absolutely pitch perfect way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Democratic backsliding isn`t restricted to distant lands. Right here, in the United States of America, we just saw a sitting president deny the clear results of an election and help incite a violent insurrection at the nation`s Capitol. Not only that, but a majority of his party, including many who occupy some of the highest offices in the land, continue to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the last election and are using it to justify laws that restrict the vote, and make it easier to overturn the will of the people in states where they hold power.

Authoritarian regimes and strongmen around the world from China to Hungary, the Philippines, Brazil, have learned to conscript social media platforms to turn their own populations against groups they don`t like. Whether it`s at the minorities, the LGBTQ community, journalists, political opponents, and, of course, autocrats like Putin have used these platforms as a strategic weapon against democratic countries that they consider a threat.

People like Putin, and Steve Bannon, for that matter, understand it`s not necessary for people to believe this information in order to weaken democratic institutions. You just have to flood our country`s public square with enough raw sewage. You just have to raise enough questions, spread enough dirt, plant enough conspiracy theorizing that citizens no longer know what to believe. Once they lose trust in their leaders, in mainstream media, in political institutions, in each other, in the possibility of a truth, the game is won.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: People like Putin and Donald Trump advisor Steve Bannon know that you don`t need to win the argument, you don`t need to convince everyone of everything. You just need to pump enough raw sewage into the discourse that people don`t believe it`s worth trying to find something true there anymore.

[21:35:02]

A salient point and one of her well put, as President Obama speaking today at Stanford.

Meanwhile, today, the aforementioned sewage flow around Steve Bannon actually got a little bit stickier today. You know what`s? Sticky? Is the grosser for me to say sticky or stinky in this context? I don`t know. Slipperier or, I don`t know.

While Trump was still president in August 2020, you might remember, Steve Bannon was arrested. He was hiding out in the yacht of a Chinese billionaire and he was arrested and charged with carrying out a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme, which stole more than $20 million from gullible Trump supporters.

I love that this doesn`t even bother Trump folks at all. Dude was literally hiding on Chinese billionaire`s yacht. He was arrested for stealing millions of dollars specifically from Trump supporters so he could spend their money on himself.

Just before he left office, former President Trump pardoned Steve Bannon for those federal charges. But it wasn`t just been, it was four guys, including Bannon, who got charged with a fraud back in 2020. It was only Bannon who got pardoned.

Well, today, of the three other guys, the three other codefendants got charging that same scheme, two of them pled guilty. They pled guilty. They admitted stealing millions of dollars in donations from Trump supporters who thought they were paying for one of Trump`s border wall schemes when in fact these guys were just stealing the money for themselves.

You would think that Trump supporters might hold it against Trump, right? You think they`d hold against Bannon, but you think they particularly hold against Trump that he`d pardon Steve Bannon in that scheme to steal from Trump supporters.

But, apparently, nobody holds against Bannon nobody holds against Trump. It`s kind of a masochistic thing, right? Thank you, sir, may I have another? Also do want the security code on my credit card now or you just need the billing address? We`ll also do that.

That happened today. Interesting question as to whether or not the pandemic called as a witness in the trial of one of the other defendants is actually going to go on trial for this next month. We`ll see.

But there`s another big story that has just broken today about the criminal law, about federal prosecutors and whether they are ever going to have anything to say in court about the effort to throw out the results of the last election and put Trump back in the White House even though he lost. We`ve got that story here next with a reporter we`ve been dying to have on this show forever. We finally got him. That`s here next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: Back in January, Attorney General Merrick Garland gave a speech in which he found that anybody involved in January 6th attack, quote, at any level, would be held accountable for what they did. Now I don`t think of telling any tales, I don`t think it`s filling in any secrets to say that those remarks from the attorney general, while welcome, were greeted with some healthy skepticism in terms of what they really meant.

That same day, though in "The New York Times", reporter Alan Feuer actually had the first solid reporting we had yet seen about how a potential Justice Department prosecution might work, meaning not just prosecution of the rioters, the people physically entering the capitol on January 6, but how the prosecution work of people higher up the food chain, people who tried to overturn the election results.

Mr. Foer reported that day quote, one possible avenue for moving up the food chain, quote, is the case of Owen Shroyer, the right-hand man of the far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Mr. Shroyer marched on the Capitol with Alex Jones and was arrested months later on disorderly conduct charges. Both men, Shroyer and Jones, had connections to the Trump White House.

Alex Jones, the right-wing talk show host and snake oil supplement salesman, has said in fact that he had been in touch with White House officials on the days before the January 6th attack. He said he`d been touch with him about leading a march to the U.S. Capitol. Jones says he spent the night before January 6th at the so-called Trump war room at the Willard Hotel along with Steve Bannon and Mike Flynn and Rudy Giuliani and others.

Alex Jones in fact helped organize the January 6th rally and he encourage his followers to attend. He helped secure over half million dollars in funding to pay for that event. Mr. Jones also has known ties to the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, including their members who would later be charge as part of the alleged seditious conspiracy, to stop the accounting of the electoral votes in the transfer of power from one president and another.

Just bottom line on January six, a lot of people who are in the crowd that they were there that day because of Alex Jones.

While reporter Alan Feuer`s inkling about how the Justice Department strategy might unfold around this issue. His reporting on that back in January would later prove to be correct.

Late last month, Alan Feuer was first to report the very big news that the Justice Department was no longer just looking at individual rioters, people who went through the door of the Capitol that day. Mr. Foer was first to report that the Justice Department had a quote, substantially widened its January 6 investigation, quote, seeking information about people more closely tied to Trump and the, quote, pushed by some Trump allies to promote slates of fake electors.

That reporting from Alan Feuer in "The New York Times" in late March fundamentally change our understanding of how the Justice Department was approaching the January six investigation, these criminal cases about the attempted coup.

[21:45:12]

Since then, Mr. Feuer has continued to be just a spigot of news on the subject. Just one week after that report in March, he reported a federal grand jury subpoena seeking information about members of the executive branch and legislative branch who might have involved in the effort to delay congressional certification of the election results.

Then, earlier this month, he had the scoop that Alex Jones`s fellow rally organizer, a man named Ali Alexander, has now offered to cooperate with the Justice Department`s expanding criminal inquiry or at least he`s intending to comply with their subpoenas.

And now, we have Alan Feuer`s latest piece, which reports on two highly significant, and previously unreported developments. First, as Alan Feuer predicted back in January, the food chain thing is kind of worked when it comes to Alex Jones. His sort of right-hand man at his Infowars media empire was arrested for being allegedly one of the capital rioters, but now Mr. Jones himself is reportedly in talks to testify, in talks with Justice Department prosecutors about him giving his own testimony.

Alex Jones, in fact, is reportedly seeking a deal, whereby he will surely knows with prosecutors, in exchange for them giving him immunity from prosecution himself. That`s the first big piece of news from Alan Feuer today.

The second big piece of news is that the Justice Department has brought on a veteran career federal prosecutor, specifically to oversee the investigation into the big effort to keep Trump in power, after he lost the election.

This prosecutor is a career prosecutor. His name is Thomas Windom. He`s reportedly in charge of investigating criminal activity outside of the violence that physically transpired at the Capitol on January 6th. As Alan Feuer for reports today in "The New York Times", quote, Mr. Windom is looking at the politically fraught question of whether a case can be made related to the other efforts to overturn the election, outside the January 6th attack itself. That is a task that could move the investigation closer to Mr. Trump and his inner circle.

So, if there was any doubt before, there isn`t any now, according to this exclusive reporting from Alan Feuer at "The New York Times", the Justice Department is criminally investigating, not just a riot that happened at the Capitol on January 6th, but the overall effort to overturn the election by President Donald Trump and his allies. The question is how rigorous will this investigation be, how well-resourced is it, how up it ultimately go?

"New York Times" reporter Alan Feuer joins us next.

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[21:52:29]

MADDOW: Alan Feuer covers courts and criminal justice for "The New York Times" metro desk. He has been the lead byline on many, many, many of the most important news stories about the investigation into the January 6th attack.

His latest reporting is about conspiracy theorist Alex Jones seeking immunity in exchange for his testimony to federal prosecutors who are looking at the January 6th attack. He also just has the latest scoop that the Justice Department has been a career prosecutor in charge of the potential cases, not against the low-level rioters who went into the Capitol on January 6th, but of the people who are organizing the efforts to overthrow the government, and stop the transfer of power to a new president.

Alan Feuer joins us live.

Mr. Feuer, I know you don`t relish being on TV to talk about reporting, makes me all the more grateful for me you being here.

ALAN FEUER, CRIMINAL JUSTICE REPORTER, THE NEW YROK TIMES: Thanks for having me, Rachel. I appreciate it.

MADDOW: Let me ask you, first, about this reporting about the prosecutor who`s been in charge -- put in charge of this part of the January 6th investigation. What can you tell us about him, and what exactly he is looking at that`s different from all the other prosecutors who have been at work on these cases?

FEUER: Sure, so his name is Tom Windom. He was brought in from Maryland, he`s a career prosecutor, although I don`t know him personally. By all accounts, he`s a kind of classic, you know, federal prosecutor type. He`s been described as diligent yet aggressive, sort of like forceful but cool under pressure.

And his mandate is, essentially, to look at the question of whether or not there was criminal activity, related to January 6th, that took place outside of the ground of the Capitol. As you said in your interaction, the Justice Department has been focused almost exclusively, for more than a year, on people who physically stormed the building. They went in, they broke windows, they fought with cops. Or maybe they didn`t, they just trespassed, and entered restricted areas.

But there is a whole other group of people, who were involved in the political rally, at the ellipse, Donald Trump`s ellipse event, that proceeded that. These are political organizers, speakers, people described as VIPs, members of Congress who were involved in that event. People within the Trump administration were involved in that event.

[21:55:01]

And the question is, did anything that they did help to kind of shape or inspire violence and chaos that ultimately erupted? And that is what it Thomas Windom has been brought in to look at, to answer that question.

MADDOW: Are these -- is this a seditious conspiracy question? Is this the kind of potential prosecution that we have seen, around, for example, the Oath Keepers and those guys? Or is there a different set of potential charges?

FEUER: I don`t know, frankly. But if I had to say, the seditious conspiracy charge that the Oath Keepers are facing, I think is specifically related to the issue of the weapons that they had stored across the river in Virginia, allegedly waiting to be brought into play when needed. If you look at things that, say, Representative Liz Cheney has said on the floor of the house about the behavior of former President Trump and others, the idea is that perhaps the charge here, that may ultimately arise is a conspiracy to obstruct Congress, and the work of Congress.

That has been the Justice Department`s, kind of, go to charge to describe the very unique political crime that was committed on January 6th, which is simply that, by obstructing the peaceful transition of power, that was the crime that was committed.

So, look, we don`t know what charge, if any, may ultimately be brought. But everything kind of points towards the notion of, was there an effort to, obstruct the work of Congress right at the moment when lawmakers were doing the very crucial work of certifying the final result of the election?

MADDOW: Does Mr. Windom have a team? Does he have resources for this work?

FEUER: That`s a good question. The short and answer to that is, there doesn`t seem to be a big team yet? That said, we do know that, you know, at least one subpoena has gone out, he is kind of overseeing that. Ali Alexander, as you mentioned in your introduction has been subpoenaed, and Windom is kind of shepherding that subpoena.

Whether or not there will be more people assigned to his particular team, remains to be seen. Don`t forget, there are 140 federal prosecutors, assigned to the investigation writ large, and so, the job here is to see what is the nexus between the people who are on the ground and the people who were away from that Capitol ground.

You know, I kind of think of it is suits and boots in a way. And so, a guy like Thomas Windom, is presumably working closely with other federal prosecutors, who are kind of steeped in the boots on the ground cases. So, you know, we`ll see kind of where that goes, as the days and weeks go on.

MADDOW: We`ve just got about 90 seconds left here, which I regret greatly, but let me just ask you about what I`ve described as a sort of cynicism, the healthy skepticism about the attorney general saying that everybody involved at every level will face accountability here. What is your bigger picture view as to whether or not the Justice Department is willing to make even politically fraught determinations, if that`s where these suits part of the suits and boots investigation, as you described, it might lead?

FEUER: Look, I mean, you quoted Attorney General Garland in your introduction. You know, he said that he`s going to file the evidence where it goes.

If you look at the case filings, right, it`s very, very clear, and has been from before the emergence of this kind of, expanded vision of this case, that the Justice Department is very homed in on what`s effects, former President Trump`s words and actions had on people on the ground. It`s apparent in charging documents, it`s apparent in water called statements of offense, when people plead guilty.

It`s just very clear, if you pay attention to the paperwork, that the Justice Department is aware of the effects that Trump`s words had on people on the ground. So, whether that results in a criminal case, that`s just not something that we can tell the moment.

I`d be surprised if the Justice Department knew at the moment. But in terms of whether or not their pain attention to, it is very clear they are. And now we know it for certain, that the Justice Department has kind of expanded its gaze, so to speak, and look beyond the people to those who are offsite but may have some sort of culpability.

MADDOW: Alan Feuer who covers courts and criminal justice for "The New York Times" -- sir, thank you. I`m going to get you back here as soon as you can. I really appreciate you being here tonight. Thank you.

FEUER: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right, it`s been a big show. It`s been a big night. I am well into Lawrence O`Donnell`s territory. I`m -- that`s going to do it for me for now. I`ll tell you, Ali Velshi is going to be here tomorrow. I will see you again on Monday.

But now, it is way past time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."

Good evening, Lawrence. I`m sorry.