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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 4/26/22

Guests: Nicholas Wu, Katie Townsend

Summary

Congressman Bennie Thompson said that the January 6 committee will be issuing another invitation to the Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy for him to come speak with him. A Los Angeles County sheriff convened a press conference to announce that he was opening a criminal investigation into a "L.A. Times" reporter, who has been reporting on a scandal in his office.

Transcript

CHARLES BLOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And what people think now is like, oh, we see these massive waves of voter suppression. Well, you always have voter suppression. There`s a massive wave of voter suppression the lead into the 2016 election. That was the first election 50 years where we didn`t have full protection of the Voting Rights Act. It was a massive wave.

What they realize, however, is that it wasn`t enough. So they went back to the drawing board, and became even more vicious in the way that they wanted to suppress people`s votes. The problem is not institutions, and the problem is not how big government is. The problem who do they believe is controlling government, and whether or not the people who they want to control it are in control of the government in the United States of America.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: James Polk and Charles Blow, thank you both.

That is ALL IN on this Tuesday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour tonight. It`s sort of feels like the news is about the fate of democracy, but it is split screen news. On one side of the screen, we`ve got the world stage, where the whole leader of the free world thing started to feel like less of a mantra, less of a gauzy concept, and more of a real life nuts and bolts job description for the U.S. government.

Today, the U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin convened a meeting of dozens, literally dozens of countries, from all around the world in support of Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We all start today from a position of moral clarity. Russia is waging a war of choice to indulge the ambitions of one man. Ukraine is fighting a war of necessity, to defend its democracy, its sovereignty, and its citizens.

But the stakes reach beyond Ukraine, and even beyond Europe. Russia`s invasion is baseless, reckless, and lawless. It is an affront to the rules- based international order. It is a challenge to free people everywhere. And as we see this morning, nations of goodwill from around the world stand united in our resolve to support Ukraine.

My trip to Kyiv reinforced my admiration for the way that the Ukrainian armed forces are deploying these capabilities. Ukraine, clearly, believes that it can win, and so does everyone here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Ukraine clearly believes they can win, so does everyone here.

That was Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaking today in Germany, I think the most important thing about what he said there is that when he said so does everyone here, the everyone that he is talking about is a really big everyone. He and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken convened this meeting today -- this wasn`t just a NATO meeting. It wasn`t even just a meeting of the U.S. and our traditional allies.

This was dozens of countries. It was, you know, from Kenya to Japan, Tunisia, Iceland. South Korea, New Zealand and yes, of course, now, basically all of Europe and all of NATO, and all of our critical allies. But this was like 40 countries. Plus, some that didn`t even put their name on the list, domestic news sources in Israel, for example, report today that the Israeli government attended this meeting as well, even though Israel didn`t put its name on the list of participants. Local reporting suggests that there may have been more than a few other countries, including a special Middle Eastern countries who did the same thing as well, because they wanted to and will participate in militarily supporting Ukraine, even if they don`t want to write their name down about it officially, because they don`t want to officially have to talk about it yet.

It`s a remarkable thing. This is a very, very large coalition. A very large far flung coalition can beat by the United States, in support of Ukraine. The Biden administration has pulled together remarkable list of countries, and they`re going to hold these meetings in a recurring way. They`re going to do these meetings every month, while Ukraine needs as much international support.

How did they do that?

Do you remember in 2017, when Trump shove that guy at that conference, remember that? That was at a NATO conference, I think it was in Belgium.

And this little country called Montenegro, which is 600,000 people in the whole country, they`ve spent nine years trying to join NATO. Putin didn`t want them to join. Putin tried to organize a violent coup in Montenegro to stop it.

[21:05:02]

Russia allegedly plotted the assassination of the country`s prime minister to stop it. But Montenegro went ahead with it anyway, they join NATO. This was their first NATO meeting.

And Trump came up behind their prime minister, and just shoved him, and then stood right in front of him. The guy like reacted, tried to laugh it off, make some contact with Trump, Trump wouldn`t even look at him, just shoved him and walk past him, wouldn`t look at him, pretending like he wasn`t there.

That was how Trump treated the newest member of NATO, right after he was elected in the spring of 2017.

Putin didn`t like that guy. Putin didn`t want Montenegro to join NATO. Trump just gives him a shove.

Yeah, I`m going to go tell him here and say, not every U.S. president could`ve done the same job today uniting the world in defense of a country being menaced by Putin. I`m not sure we would`ve seen a convening at the free world like this today, under the former guy. I`m just going to take a wild guess, but the Biden administration has done it. You see the U.S. and Ukraine flies next to each other there, about 40 countries arrayed in support.

Tomorrow, in eastern Ukraine, Putin is going to run one of his sham little fake votes in the city of Kherson, so you could use the supposed results of that vote to provide some pseudo-legal window dressing to justify Russia taking over that part of Ukraine as well.

Putin, you might remember, this is a central part of his playbook. He did a version of the same thing in the nation of Georgia, when he invaded that country in 2008. He`s done it already in Ukraine, when he invaded Ukraine previously in 2014 to justify taking parts of Ukraine for Russia. Now he`s doing it again in Kherson. That is supposedly going to be tomorrow.

That may also be what he tries in the next country he appears to have designs on, just of the southwest of Ukraine, in the small nation of Moldova. Russia`s got 1,500 Russian troops stash there already, in a port of Moldova that Putin is claiming dominion over, just as he`s claiming dominion over specific parts of Ukraine, and still specific parts of the nation of Georgia.

But even as he does that, the rest of the world is really linking arms here in a remarkable way. Germany is sending heavy weapons to Ukraine for the first time since Germany`s very particular role in World War II, the world has not looked to Germany to do anything like this, and Germany has not wanted to do it. But in this war, against this kind of aggressor, now they say they want to pull their weight as the biggest economy in Europe, and as part of this unified international effort to give Ukraine what it needs to actually win this war.

Finland and Sweden had previously wanted to stay militarily independent and out of NATO, as we`ve been covering here on the show. Putin`s invasion of Ukraine has changed that sentiment radically on both of those questions. Both countries seem inclined to request NATO membership, sometime soon. What is newly emerging as their strategy is that Finland and Sweden may seek to do this together. They may make a simultaneous request of NATO, and it may happen very soon, as soon as next month.

Today, in Washington, amid all that sort of unity, all those developments in the world today, there was a collective spit take in Washington when Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul told a Senate hearing on Ukraine today that Russia only seems to be in the habit of invading countries that were part of the former Soviet Union. He implied, you know, why should anyone care about that?

As I said, a sort of collective spit take as Senator Rand Paul made that argument today, that we shouldn`t care about Russia invading Ukraine, we should let them do what they want because, after all, they were part of the soviet union, so Russia can`t invade anyone they want, as long as they think they have legitimate designs on any other sovereign country.

You know, back in 2017, when Trump was shoving the prime minister for Montenegro, right after Montenegro got into NATO, you might remember that it was Senator Rand Paul who tried to block a vote on the U.S. okaying Montenegro joining NATO. John McCain got off on the floor of the Senate at the time and said, quote, that senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.

Now, today, five years later, that same senator from Kentucky is demanding from the U.S. secretary of state why it is that we should stop Putin from invading any number of countries. Since, after all, they`re all pretty much has to play with anyway.

The U.S. is sort of leading the free world on the international stage, and at home, leading members of the Republican Party are like, what is so good about the free world? I mean, like I said, it`s kind of a split screen night in the news, in terms of the faith of the democracy. On the world stage, we`ve got, you know, what Secretary of Defense Lloyd`s Austin said it was a moral clarity helping Ukraine defend itself as a democracy that has been invaded, right?

This huge, and surprising, and diverse number of countries around the world, now lining up alongside the United States to help them defend their democracy. But, here at home, the other side of the split screen, I mean, today was another day when we learned how close to toast our own democracy has been. Thanks to efforts on the right, to try to use force to overwhelm our democratic process in this past year. In recent days, we learned that Republican Utah Senator Mike Lee participated avidly in the illegal scheme to try to get states that were won by Joe Biden to never let the less sand fake electors to congress, so they would be counted for Trump instead of Biden in the Electoral College.

Senator Mike Lee had previously denied participating in such a scheme, he said he was shocked, shocked when he heard about it, thought it was crazy. We now know he was a promoting it aggressively to the White House, and he was trying to pull it off. He was personally contacting officials in multiple states that had been won by Biden, to see if there is any way to get their votes counted as if they had been cast for Trump instead.

We have learned, as well, hot on the heels of those revelations, to the White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, was advised directly by the White House counsel`s office, but that scheme was illegal. That scheme involving states one by Biden, nevertheless having their votes counted for Trump? He was told in no uncertain terms, that that was illegal. He was reportedly told that multiple times by the White House counsel`s office, and even though he was informed by the White House counsel`s office said that that such a scheme was illegal, he pursued it anyway. And we have since learned he wasn`t alone.

Mark Meadows`s aide Cassidy Hutchison has testified to the January 6 investigation, the theory Republican members of Congress were present. Republican Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas. Perry, Gaetz, and Gohmert were all present when White House lawyers told Meadows and them, that this scheme involving -- that scheme was illegal. Mr. Meadows kept trying for it even though they had all been told it was against the law.

CNN reports today that one of those members, Scott Perry, texted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows just a few days at the election, that the White House needed to have the NSA, the National Security Administration, immediately sees communications relate to the voting machines. He that same day text of the White House that the CIA was in on some sort of anti Trump plot, and the White House needed to act against the CIA as well.

On the heels of those revelations, tonight, "New York Times" reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns have released more audio from the immediate aftermath of the January 6th attack. Their forthcoming book, which is released on Tuesday of next week, is apparently going to be accompanied by an absolute trove of incredibly disturbing audio tapes, audio recordings of Republicans speaking among themselves in the immediate aftermath of the January 6th attack, including this newly-released discussion, of how dangerous top Republicans believed it was four pro-Trump Republican members of congress, to keep talking in violent terms, the violent and incendiary terms, about even other members of congress, the way they were in the wake of January 6th.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Okay, the other thing I want to bring up -- and I`m making some phone calls to some members. I just got something sent now about Newsmax, something Matt Gaetz said where he`s calling people`s names out, saying an anti-Trump in this type of atmosphere and some of the other places. This is serious stuff people are doing that has to stop."

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Yeah, I think Mo and Louie`s comments, too, a lot of members have said some real concerning things about-

MCCARTHY: Did they say something today, too?

SCALISE: Not -- I mean, Mo was at the rally and, you know, they were kicking (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and taking names thing at the Trump rally.

(INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did Gaetz say?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gaetz said (INAUDIBLE) specifically, I just saw that on Twitter.

MCCARTHY: I`m calling Gaetz, and explaining to him, I don`t know what I`m going to say, but I`m going to have people call him. But the nature of what -- if I`m going to get a briefing, I`m going to get another one from the FBI tomorrow, this is serious (EXPLETIVE DELETED), we need to cut this out.

[21:15:05]

SCALISE: Yeah. That`s -- I mean, it`s potentially illegal what he`s doing.

MCCARTHY: Well, he`s putting people in jeopardy. And he doesn`t need to be doing this. We saw what people were doing in the Capitol. You know, and these people came prepared with rope, with everything else.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: We saw what people would do in the Capitol. They came prepared with rope, with everything else. Just before that, we heard Louisiana Republican congressman Steve Scalise saying, about Matt Gaetz, yeah, that`s potentially illegal when he was doing. McCarthy said, well, he`s putting people in jeopardy. He doesn`t need to be doing this. We saw what people did in the capital. People came prepared with rope and everything else.

That audio just released by "The New York Times", that`s the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives talking about their own members. How they are incendiary, calls to violence, even against other members of Congress were potentially illegal, very concerning, threatening to the point of Mr. McCarthy referencing the FBI briefings he was getting, in that same discussion.

In addition to that recording tonight, released by "The New York Times". We`ve now also got the context for what Nicholas Burns and Jonathan Martin have reported here on this show last week, when they described Kevin McCarthy expressing exasperations the social media companies, the Twitter was not cutting off the accounts of more Republicans, beyond just Trump. As Republicans continue to use social media platforms like Twitter to call for violence, or to otherwise say things online that could incite.

Here is that tape.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MCCARTHY: What did Mo Brooks say down at that rally, though?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s the kicking butt and taking names thing is the one I`m seeing the most from people. I didn`t watch the speech, that`s a number of members said that to me, the use that term.

MCCARTHY: Louie said like, we need to fight or something, right? Didn`t he say something a couple of days out that was horrendous?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something like that, yes. It`s incendiary.

MCCARTHY: I mean, you`ve got Maxine Waters and all that stuff too. I mean, I know the Dems are in a very strong position right now, they`ve got a lot of things. But our members have got to start paying attention to what they say. You can`t put up with that type (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brooks apparently said, today`s the day American patriots start taking down names, and kicking (EXPLETIVE DELETED) which is I think a step further than the rhetorical take, you know?

MCCARTHY: Do you think the president deserves to be impeached? Boy, his comments, that`s almost (INAUDIBLE)

All right. Let`s -- someone give me the info on what they said.

Have either them apologized for it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have not seen that anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there is an issue with Alabama. Barry Moore has said some things today even that we should look at, honestly.

MCCARTHY: What did Barry say today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, so he deleted the personal twitter account, but Jamie Dupree (ph) with "The Atlanta Journal" got a screenshot. He said, about 22 hours ago, while we have more arrests for stealing a podium on January 6, then steal an election on November 3rd, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit, I recommend you start. Here is video evidence of these crimes as well, #electionintegritymatters.

And then Moore also made this tweet on the Saturday night, as a Capitol police officer shot and killed a woman, and try to get lobby. So, he tweeted @MarjorieGreene and @NARAL, I understand it was a Black police officer that shot a white female veteran. You know that that doesn`t fit the narrative.

MCCARTHY: Oh man.

UNIDENTIIFED MALE: We have to confront with this.

MCCARTHY: Can`t they take their Twitter accounts away, too?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: Can`t they take their Twitter accounts away, too?

It was a black police officer who shot the white female, says Congressman Barry Moore, I gasp then follows on the call, and you hear Kevin McCarthy say, can`t they take their Twitter accounts away, too?

You heard earlier in the tape of that conversation, this is a tape that was reportedly made on January 10th, so four days after the attack on the Capitol.

[21:20:02]

Kevin McCarthy appearing to say about Congressman Mo Brooks, you think the president deserves to be impeached for his comments? Ahead of the attack on the Capitol, ahead of the attack on the Capitol, January 6, then describing what Congressman Mo Brooks had said at the same rally where the president spoke before the attack. He said, quote, that`s something that goes further than what the president says.

So they`re talking about Mo Brooks being even more culpable than President Trump, and President Trump deserving impeachment for what he had said. And then this quote from another Alabama Congressman Barry Moore, talking about the fact that it was a black police officer who shot a white female. Gasp, can`t they take their Twitter accounts away?

After those recordings were published tonight, further illustrating how keenly Republicans and leadership are aware that what their own members were doing was going to cause violence. Tonight, the chairman of the January 6th investigation, Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson told reporters that, yes, they really would like to talk to some members of Congress for their investigation. Yes, in particular, they`d really like to talk to Kevin McCarthy. Listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REPORTER: Do you want to hear from Kevin McCarthy?

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Yes, we`ve invited him to come earlier before the latest revelation that was reported on tapes. So, in all probability, he will be issued another invitation to come just like some other members.

REPORTER: When will that happen?

THOMPSON: Soon.

REPORTER: This week?

THOMPSON: Soon.

REPORTER: Do you voluntary ask McCarthy and the other two Republicans, there is some new members and that was well.

THOMPSON: For sure, Leader McCarthy, will make a decision on any others before the week is out.

REPORTER: If he doesn`t respond to that invitation, second invitation, which you subpoena him at that point?

THOMPSON: Well, that`ll be a consideration for the committee to decide.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was the chair of the January 6th investigation, Congressman Bennie Thompson saying that the committee will be issuing another invitation to the Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy for him to come speak with him.

You`ll recall that the investigation has issued a number of request, voluntary requests for interviews with Republican members of Congress, who appear to be directly implicated in the effort to overthrow the government and install Trump in a second term by force. No Republican members of Congress have agreed to do that including Kevin McCarthy after areas previously invited. They now say they will invite him a second time, following all these recent revelations about his reaction to the January 6 events.

You just heard him say their tonight that they will make a decision when it comes to it, if he rejects the second invitation to testify, and have to decide whether or not he`s going to get a subpoena instead.

Joining us now is reporter Nicholas Wu. He covers the January 6 investigation for "Politico". He was one of the reporters in that scrum listening to remarks from Chairman Bennie Thompson tonight.

Mr. Wu, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Nice to have you here.

NICHOLAS WU, POLITICO CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Thanks so much, Rachel.

MADDOW: So I feel like today has been a day of, sort of, a snow balling development in terms of January 6, particularly related to Republican members of Congress. Let me ask you the way described, that if they got anything wrong, or there`s anything important in terms of today`s developments that you think of missed out?

WU: That`s exactly right, we`ve seen the focus turned back on House Republicans here. This is going to be something that the committee has to make some big decisions on, on what exactly they`re going to do if they actually want to hear from any of these members of Congress.

MADDOW: In terms of the likelihood of getting to hear from members of Congress, we have previously seen requests, I think Scott Perry might have been the first, that these members should come in top one by one, all of these members have rejected those voluntary requests. We haven`t seen subpoenas to members of congress.

Last night, Congressman Adam Schiff, who`s on the January 6 investigation, told me that that would effectively blow up the House of Representatives to start subpoenaing members of Congress. It seems like there`s practical considerations there as well, though. The committee presumably wants to move fast and have the report out before the election in November, while they`ve still got the authority to convene this investigation, before the Republicans likely take over.

Is the expectation that any subpoena will just end up with a protracted court battle, and might not force an appearance?

WU: Yes, the problem with the subpoenas is as the committee is talked about before, there could be these legal issues and enforcing one against a member of Congress. Well, it`s not without precedent for a congressional panel to subpoena another member. We see the ethics committee do that in this investigation.

For something like this, there`s a real possibility ends up in court, the thing is that the committee and congressional Democrats can take other steps to enforce their interview requests. They could try to dock members pay, for example. That`s the step they haven`t taken yet.

Partly -- there`s a concern that the issues on the other foot, when Republicans take control and start their own investigations in the future, that`s going to be turned against Democrats.

MADDOW: Let me ask, Nicholas, about the specific revelations concerning house Republican leader Kevin McCarthy. Certainly, these recent revelations, particularly the audiotape, particularly because he lied about the conduct that was then revealed on the audiotape. It`s a political problem for him. It intervals and to have lied about his behavior in the immediate aftermath of the seminal moment in his career.

But it`s also made very angry some of the extremist pro-Trump members of Congress, who he is expressing concerns about, including statements from people like Matt Gaetz, criticizing him politically for having seen himself in such up oppositional terms to he and other members of the time.

Is this materially changing the political landscape of Kevin McCarthy`s leadership in the Republican Party? If the Republicans do well in the midterm elections, he`s expected to be their contender for speaker. Is this putting that in doubt?

WU: At the end of last week, it looked like Kevin McCarthy`s aspirations to be speaker were in at least some trouble. As revelations of this dribbled out, you did see criticism from influential members of former President Trump`s inner circle. Steve Bannon, for example, said cardinal sin for McCarthy to have denied what was then found to be on tape. And you saw some of these congressmen. Gaetz publicly criticize the Republican leader.

This week, however, McCarthy and Trump have talked, it looks like they`ve made up in some ways. And while last week, it looks like a lot of Republicans were kind of in wait and see mode to see what McCarthy would say, what Trump would say. McCarthy seems to have solidified in some ways is on standing here.

My colleagues reported this evening that McCarthy held a leadership meeting and picked it over with his lieutenants, and they were all on view about what is happening, and they`re trying to win a majority. So, it kind of remains to be seen how this is going to shake out. If Republicans end up with a sizeable majority next year, McCarthy will probably have a very easy path to the speakership.

However, if it`s a narrow majority, and you still have a vocal pro-Trump faction that might vote against McCarthy, then this could cause problems for him.

MADDOW: Nicholas Wu, who covers Congress for "Politico", thanks for your help with these developing stories tonight. Nicholas, it`s great to have you here.

WU: Thanks so much for having me.

MADDOW: All right, it`s a wise point that Mr. Wu was making there at the end, about the size of the Republican majority. If they do in fact win a majority in the midterm elections. If it`s a very narrow majority, then you are going to have entities like the far-right pro-Trump Freedom Caucus, playing a significant role, just as any faction it in a narrow minority complacent in a funeral in deciding who gets the leadership, and who will be blocked by block action in terms of keeping somebody out of the top spot.

When you are thinking about that dynamic, I`ll give you one thing to keep in mind, if the Freedom Caucus is going to play the pro-Trump spoiler role, in terms of who is going to leave the congress, who`s going to lead the Republican Party if they get the majority, the leader at the freedom caucus of Scott Perry, right? He is in leadership of the Freedom Caucus, and he`s also the one who has recently been implicated, specifically in trying to put a guy at the top of the Justice Department who had declared legal for the states to send fake electors to the Electoral College.

He`s also specifically been implicated in recent days in the plan to try to get the mob to move from the ellipse physically to the capital as the votes were being counted. So, if he`s going to play the powerbroker in who gets to lead the Republican Party -- that is going to be something.

All right, much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:34:16]

MADDOW: So, the list is a little bit daunting. This is the COVID list of sort of bold face political names who have contracted COVID just in the past few weeks. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the assistant speaker of the House, Congresswoman Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, the Attorney General Merrick Garland, President Biden`s sister, Val, the secretary of commerce, Gina Raimondo, secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, First Lady Jill Biden`s press secretary, Vice Presidents Kamala Harris communications director, Congressman Adam Schiff, Congressman Joaquin Castro, Congressman Angie Craig of Minnesota, Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon, Congressman Derek Kilmer of Washington, Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Just today, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. I mean, it is a remarkable list in just this past few weeks, and this isn`t even a complete list of the boldface will go names who does that positive for COVID in just the past few weeks.

Well, as of today, we can add Vice President Kamala Harris to that expanding list. The vice president tested positive for COVID today. The positive test result partly came back just before she came back just before she was set to go into the Oval Office to sit with the president, for the president`s daily brief.

Her office says that Vice President Harris has not been near the president in person for an extended period of time, recently. So President Biden is not considered to be close contacts of hers for this infection. White House further announced that Vice President Harris would be working from her official residence while she isolates, according to CDC guidelines, so she won`t be going into work in the White House.

Perhaps, most importantly, with today, the White House said the president has not experienced any symptoms, not at all. They said they were asymptomatic when it comes to this infection.

I mean, I should point, out of all the big names on the list we just mentioned, none of them reportedly experienced severe illness. None of them appears to have been hospitalized, even the real old ones who may have had some symptoms, but scary bad symptoms and having to go to the hospital, none of them as far as we know. And, not coincidentally, all of them are vaccinated, fully vaccinated. In fact, the vice president just got her second booster just 25 days ago.

As we know now, as our understanding of this virus and vaccines have evolved over time, we know that any vaccination schedule cannot 100 percent prevent you from getting infected. You can still get a positive test result, but, if you are fully vaccinated, your positive test result is much, much, much, much, much, much more likely to be associated with only mild centers with no surveillance, and without having to go to the hospital. Thank you, vaccines.

And we should know that this evidence about the efficacy of vaccines comes as the White House is just starting a new push to do more to protect us against the risk of severe illness in COVID. Today, the White House outlined plans to increase the usage of the antiviral pills developed by Pfizer that`s called Paxlovid.

Now, this is a drug take for five days. It reduces hospitalizations and deaths and people who are at high risk of possible evasion of this. It reduces the chance of those things by 90 percent. The thing is you have to take this drug, got to take back COVID early, within, hopefully, three days, or maybe five days at least of symptoms starting.

The administration just purchased 20 million courses of the treatment but not enough Americans are getting our system about expressing time, since you need to take early. Well, now, the administration is increasing the number of locations where people who need the drug can go and get it. They`re trying to make sure all of those treatments get to the people who need, them rather than sitting on the shelf.

And that, we learned, tonight includes people like the vice president, Kamala Harris. The White House has just said that she was prescribed Paxlovid today. We don`t know if that means that Vice President Harris had progressed from being asymptomatic this morning, and started to experience symptoms. It`s possible that they decided to prescribe her Paxlovid even while she was asymptomatic. We do not know.

But we were told that, this morning, she was positive. Now she is asymptomatic. We are told tonight that she was prescribed Paxlovid. And, again, that is something you take -- it`s not something that you take when you`re sick, this is when you take it at the outset of symptoms.

On top of that, the White House is also pushing Congress to pass a bill to fund more treatments like Paxlovid, as well as more vaccines, and more boosters. And they`re warning that if they don`t pass this funding quickly, we can run out of all those tools to fight COVID.

But all this proceeding of base, we`ll keep our eye out for more news from the White House about the private vice president`s condition. We`re always thinking about her family.

Watch the space.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:43:44]

MADDOW: I`m going to show you a video here that hard to watch, so if you are not inclined to see something like that, if you`re watching with kids, this is your fair warning, if you want to just look away for a minute.

Here it is, this is a security video from the San Fernando courthouse in Los Angeles County. This video is obtained by "The L.A. Times". And it shows a man in handcuffs, we can see in the blue trousers and white colored shirt. His name is Enzo Escalante.

It starts with him punching in L.A. County sheriff`s deputy and you see them wrestled to the ground. Then, though, one of the deputies that wrestled him into the ground puts his knee on the prisoners head and continues to kneel on his head for three solid minutes, which left that man on the ground alive, thankfully, but pretty well beat up.

And if there`s elements of that video that feel familiar to you, it`s important to know the timing here. That incident took place last year on March 10th -- March 10, 2021. It was two days after jury selection up started and the very highly publicized trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd specifically by kneeling for minutes on end on the neck of George Floyd.

It was a reporter Alene Tchekmedyian of "The L.A. Times" who published this video last month. Along with the reporting, alleging that the L.A. County Sheriff`s Department, and up to and including the sheriff himself, attempt at the cover of the incident, because they fear that negative light this incident could shed on the department. The sheriff himself has maintained that he didn`t know about this until months after it happens. He says he didn`t cover anything up. He says they believe the deputy of duty immediately after we came out will that happened.

Well, yesterday, that same "L.A. Times" reporter, Alene Tchekmedyian, added to the story. Reporting that an L.A. County sheriff`s department commander had filed a new legal claim, contesting all of those denials from the sheriff, alleging specifically that the sheriff had a view of the video of the incident just five days after it occurred. Not eight months later, which is what he claimed. The commander further alleges that sheriff Villanueva said that the group with, quote, we do not need the bug media this time.

So, "The L.A. Times" publishes the disturbing video, the sheriff says, I had no idea, we didn`t cover that up, as soon as I found that about, it I took action. A commander on his own force says, that is not true, you absolutely know about it. And you did cover it up.

That`s where the story stood as of yesterday, where one today is absolutely bananas. Because today, L.A. County Sheriff Villanueva convened a press conference to dispute all of this reporting. And what he did at this press conference, that is not causing a pressure on those headlines, that he got up at this press conference today in person, and you put up a big poster for everyone to see. The post had three large photos on it.

One on the right is the "L.A. Times" journalist who did this reporting. Also, another photo is one of his political rivals for the elected position of L.A. County sheriff, and the third photo was the L.A. sheriff`s department inspector general, who investigates things like this. The reason you put up the photo of those three is because, the sheriff announced today that all three of them are no subjects of a criminal investigation, into how "The L.A. Times" reporter Alene Tchekmedyian got that security footage.

They`re all the subjects over criminal investigation now by his office. He says they`re all being investigated now for possible felonies like, conspiracy and burglary and unauthorized use of a database, this list of potential crimes. All while "The L.A. Times" reporter, Alene Tchekmedyian, was in the front row covering the press conference for this paper, as the sheriff puts up her picture as a perpetrator who was offices going after.

This decision by the sheriff today to announce a criminal investigation into this reporter certainly looks like retaliation. The executive editor of the L.A. times about the statement tonight saying the sheriff`s attempt to criminalize news reporting saying it goes against well-established constitutional law, quote, we will vigorously defend Tchekmedyian and "The L.A. Times`" rights in any proceeding or investigation rocked by authorities.

And the story started off bad and Los Angeles, today took a very dark turn.

More ahead, stay with us.

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[21:52:59]

MADDOW: Today, in something that feels like a bad plot line from some distant authoritarian country, a Los Angeles County sheriff convened a press conference to announce that he was opening a criminal investigation into a "L.A. Times" reporter, who has been reporting on a scandal in his office. He put up a big picture of her at the press conference, as she sat there in the front row covering that press conference for "The Times".

Tonight, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is responding, saying, in part, quote: The L.A. County sheriff`s department announcement that it has launched a criminal investigation into a journalist because of her reporting, is appalling. This blatantly retaliatory comeback aimed at the reporter Alene Tchekmedyian is beyond the pale, and violates the First Amendment. Publishing newsworthy information about an alleged law enforcement cover-up, that sought to block an investigation the use of excessive force, is constantly constitutionally protected activity, it`s clearly in the public interest. We condemn the department`s actions in the strongest terms, and urge it to immediately drop this purported investigation.

Joining us now is Katie Townsend, who`s legal director at the Reporters Committee for the freedom of the press.

Ms. Townsend, appreciate you making time to be with us tonight. Thank you.

KATIE TOWNSEND, LEGAL DIRECTOR AT THE REPORTERS COMMITTEE FOR THE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: So if Alene Tchekmedyian were to call the reporters committee`s free legal hotline to ask for advice here, what advice would you give her in the circumstance?

TOWNSEND: Well, I think I would say, first off, there`s long-standing legal authority, including Supreme Court`s landmark decision makes clear that a news organization can be held criminally liable for publishing materials of public concern, it doesn`t matter if the video issue that you played earlier, Rachel, is confidential, it doesn`t matter if it was leaked to "The Los Angeles Times", the Constitution doesn`t commit the criminal prosecution from receiving and publishing it.

The sheriff`s department should know that, and it shouldn`t be threatening a criminal investigation of rhea retaliation for that constitutionally protected activity.

[21:55:02]

MADDOW: Well, threatening and retaliation of the key words there. My understanding, from the sort of political reputation of the sheriff here, who is, as I mentioned, running for reelection, is that he might like this sort of lawless images creates about him, and sort of screw the First Amendment, screw the press kind of image of this creates of him.

But I wonder if, he is it is getting some unexpected blowback. I did hope and expect that "The L.A. Times" is pushing back with all it`s got here. Is the sheriff may be biting off more than he can chew here in terms of what part of the constitution is messing here, by doing this?

TOWNSEND: Yeah, Rachel, I`d like to think that this sort of conduct would receive widespread condemnation, not just from members of the press, which we`ve seen, but just from members of the public. The reporter that was targeted here at the threat of criminal investigation, reported on an alleged cover-up on a video incident where the deputy kneeled on the head of a handcuffed inmate for approximately three minutes the public needs that kind of reporting, to hold them accountable, the public should be outraged by the sheriff`s department`s attempts to silence that reporting.

MADDOW: Katie Townsend is deputy executive director and legal director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which is an absolutely invaluable org organization in our democracy -- Ms. Townsend, thank you so much for being with us tonight. Keep us apprised on the story. It`s pretty astonishing, thank you.

TOWNSEND: Thank you.

MADOW: We`ll be right back.

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MADDOW: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW has once again burst its proverbial banks, and it is now passed time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Good evening, Lawrence. I apologize.