Interview with author Tim Snyder. Interview with "Los Angeles Times" reporter, Alene Tchekmedyian.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Dr. Julie Morita, thank you very much.
DR. JULIE MORITA, ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION: Thanks for having me.
HAYES: That is "ALL IN` on this Thursday 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 at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.
I have things for you to put in your calendars. Six weeks from tonight, it is June 9th, that`s a Thursday. That is apparently when they are going to start.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: As many as eight hearings now? A done deal, still working through that?
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Well, eight is the number at this point. And we are moving forward.
REPORTER: Are you going to start at the beginning of the month?
THOMPSON: At this point, the first hearing is June 9th.
REPORTER: Sir, can you lay out what those public hearings might look like?
THOMPSON: Well, they will be a combination of exhibits, staff testimony, and outside witnesses. That`s kind of a combination.
REPORTER: Will any of those outside witnesses be people who have testified --
THOMPSON: Some of them will be people we have not heard from before. Their testimony will be on point as to why the testimony is so important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Some of them will be people we have not heard from before. Their testimony will be on point as to why the testimony is so important.
That`s a chairman of the January 6th investigation, Congressman Bennie Thompson, confirming to reporters tonight, confirming how investigators are going to tell us, tell the public, what they have found. And to start the evening, they will start June 9th, we believe. We don`t know exactly what the format will be or the length of these hearings, how they will do it, but they are planning, at least initially, on having eight hearings.
We think they are all going to happen during the calendar month of June. At least that`s what appears to be the plan now. They are saying that they are going to start tonight, we shall see.
It is interesting, though, having that timeline does give us a bit more information about where they are in the process, right, if you think about it. Chairman Thompson confirmed today that they are still taking depositions for witnesses, including more depositions that they took today. But they have been doing all of that behind closed doors.
We hear reports about what is happening behind closed doors, we`ve heard committee members talk about some of what they have learned. But these hundreds of depositions that they have taken, and the review of millions of documents that they have obtained, we now know that we apparently think that their work overall will be wrapped up within the next six weeks.
And we know that because, on the ninth, they are going public. Six weeks from tonight those hearings will start, in which they will effectively present their findings. So, we know they only need six more weeks to wrap this up.
We also know from some recent reporting, who some of the final witnesses are, who they are planning on bringing in. They include some very recognizable names, the eldest son of former president Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr.
We also learned today that they heard from we`ll hear from Rudy Giuliani, who used to be President Trump`s lawyer, but now presumably he`s nobody`s lawyer, since him lying to the court about the 2020 election, he has at least temporarily been relieved of his law license. Mr. Giuliani had been subpoenaed early on in the January 6th investigation. He is apparently now planning to come in sometime soon to testify.
We also expect that at least the request will be made for testimony from some Republican members of Congress, members who may have been involved in the efforts to overthrow the government or who may at least have been important witnesses to that effort. All the Republican members of Congress who have thus far been asked to testify -- thus far they have all made a big show of refusing to do that, refusing to testify voluntarily. The committee thus far, the investigators thus far have not wanted to issue any subpoenas to try to force testimony from members of Congress.
We still don`t know how any of that will resolve. But now at least we know the timeframe on which those questions will be answered or not. We know the timeframe on which the matters will be settled. Six weeks, because that`s when this whole thing goes public. You can mark your calendar. June 9th.
Julio Cortez is a reporter for -- excuse, me a photographer -- for the associated press, a photojournalist. Last year, last summer, Mr. Cortez was one of the "AP`s" photographers who was awarded a Pulitzer prize, in breaking news photography achievement. This is one of Mr. Cortez`s images that won the Pulitzer for "The AP".
This was an image that he shot in Minneapolis in the spring of 2020.
But about eight months after he took that image and six months before he learned that he would win the Pulitzer for it, photojournalist Julio Cortez was on the "Associated Press" breaking news team that was covering the attack of the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.
It was not actually on January 8th, two days after the attack that he was finally able to upload this footage I`m about to show you of a mob of Trump supporters attacking him. And also grabbing both him and his "AP" colleague, a man named John Minchillo, a another Pulitzer Prize-winning "AP" photojournalist. Mr. Monticello at one point, they threw him off the railing of the front of the Capitol, the mob of Trump supporters did.
So, I am going to show you some seconds of this video shot by Mr. Cortez. If you have kids with you who you don`t want to see real world violence, this is a warning to you that maybe should be distracting them for about 45 seconds or so. Because we are going to show you that tape, right now.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: That is "AP" photographer John Minchillo who`s the man you saw being menaced and thrown over the railing. His colleague, Julio Cortez, being attacked alongside. He was the one who shot that footage. Those men are both Pulitzer prize-winning "AP" photojournalists. Incredible, right?
Lucky to get away with their lives that day, when the Trump supporters attacking the Capitol decided they would set upon them. You can see that they are press. You can clearly see, Mr. Minchillo low, at least, seeing camera lenses hanging off of his gear and you can see his camera. They are trying to tear him apart.
And lest you think that was an isolated incident that they are that they did not mean it, this of course happen on the same day, same place, that you may remember.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: They are saying CNN sucks, CNN sucks, while they smash all that audio visual equipment, all that journalism equipment, lights and microphones and cabling. They are saying CNN sucks, because that is the chant that Trump used to lead at his rallies. I don`t think it matter to the crowd that none of that equipment was CNN equipment. It was, I think, again, "Associated Press" equipment. What did they care? I mean, subtlety and precision was never really the point here.
The point is something else, something much more obvious. And I had been thinking today about that explosion of violence from Trump supporters, against the media on January 6th, against reporters and photojournalist on January 6th. I have been thinking about that today because of what we have just learned about this man.
This is the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech from this past year. They warded the Nobel Peace Prize this past year to a journalist from the Philippines and to this man who see on the right side of your screen, who has been the editor for decades of a newspaper in Russia called "Novaya Gazeta".
"Novaya Gazeta" is an independent newspaper. And his life`s work has been trying to keep the independent press in Russia alive, by keeping "Novaya Gazeta" alive. And I mean literally, alive, and repeated that word, because it is important to know how often the reporters who work at "Novaya Gazeta" have been murdered for their work.
One of the most celebrated investigative journalists was a reporter for "Novaya Gazeta", and much of what the world knows about Putin`s wars in Chechnya we know about her incredible reporting about it. She published a book in 2004 called Putin`s Russia basically sounding the alarm for the west about what kind of man Putin was and what his plans were for his ability to use power in Russia and to use the Russian state team.
Anna Politkovskaya was murdered two years after she published that book. In the midst of her ongoing investigative reporting on the Russian government and Vladimir Putin`s regime, she was murdered. She is one of six reporters for that one newspaper who were all murdered in Russia before Putin got to the end of his first decade in power. Six different reporters from "Novaya Gazeta" all killed in less than ten years.
But "Novaya Gazeta" kept going. And for the Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. Dmitry Muratov, for the noble and increasingly impossible work of just keeping going, just continuing to do journalism over the threat of this metastasizing authoritarian, violent Putin government.
Mr. Muratov dedicated the Nobel Peace Prize to his murdered reporters, his murdered employees, including Anna Politkovskaya. In his speech, and this was in late December, he warned that Russia was preparing its own population for war, preparing its own population to hate Ukrainians and not see them as human. And he warned that Russia was prepared to wants launch a war against Ukraine.
This was him giving that speech, December 10th, 2021 in Oslo. This was him three weeks ago, April 7th. He was on the train out of Moscow. And they attacked him with red paint mixed with acetone. It chemically burned his eyes.
He survived. But he was hurt. Again, this is the current Nobel Peace Prize laureate. He has vowed to stay in Russia, even as the Russian government has finally succeeded in shutting down his paper, in shutting down "Novaya Gazeta" and all other independent journalism in Russia.
Putin, of course, has put in place this new law that puts you in prison for 15 years if you even reported on or describe the war against Ukraine. And while Dmitry Muratov has promised he will stay in Russia despite that, and he has nearly died for it already, his "Novaya Gazeta" reporters and editors who have fled Russia, they have just recently opened up a new paper, a new entity, they call it "Novaya Gazeta Europe", because they can no longer be in Russia while they publish it. They are publishing in exile.
Well, tonight, there`s news here. A dramatic statement to "The Washington Post" from unnamed U.S. intelligence officials -- you can see the headline there from "The Post" tonight. U.S. says Russian intelligence orchestrated attack on Nobel laureate. Quote: The U.S. government has assessed that Russian intelligence was behind an attack early this month on a Nobel Prize winner and prominent Russian editor who criticize the Kremlin`s war on Ukraine.
Dmitry Muratov, editor of the independent Russian newspaper "Novaya Gazeta" was about to travel to train when an assailant attacked him with a mixture of red paint and acetone, leaving his eyes with a chemical burn. U.S. intelligence has concluded that the incident was the work of Russian intelligence, according to his official he spoke on the condition of anonymity under rules set by the Biden administration. The official did not give any detail about how the officials had come to make the assessment, citing the need to protect sources and methods.
The officials said in a statement, quote, the United States can confirm that Russian intelligence orchestrated the April 7th attack on "Novaya Gazeta`s" editor in chief, Dmitry Muratov, in which he was smashed with red paint containing acetone.
So, they are making the official who is confirming that finding stay anonymous, under Biden administration rules, which itself is tension with the press, right? But the Biden administration is also making that assessment public, saying that they know enough to be able to blame Russian intelligence for doing this. This was not some vigilante attack on the editor. This was Putin`s government going after this journalist, the current Nobel Peace laureate.
They are blaming Russia for its overtly, saying it`s U.S. intelligence who knows what they did, they are letting Russia know they knew what they did by telling our own press about it.
And, you know, this stuff does not happen in a vacuum. I mean, this is happening as our own political right is quite deep into it`s presses the enemy of the people phase. This weekend is the White House Correspondents Association dinner, which the last president did not go to in his whole time in office, and not just because of COVID. It`s because the last president literally campaigned against there being a free press. He literally campaigned on that enemy of the people phrase, which he borrowed from Stalin.
This weekend, for the first time in three years, the correspondents dinner is back on after being shut for COVID. The Biden White House is getting a bit of a hard time, understandably, about the fact that President Biden is planning to go to the dinner in person.
It is understandable. They are getting a hard time for that. It`s a controversial decision, it`s going to be 2,000-plus people in an indoor ballroom. The president is 79. The vice president currently right now already has COVID. I mean, I get it, in terms of why COVID concerns are enough to maybe make you not want to see President Biden attend this event in person this weekend.
On the other hand, I see the other side. It does mean something. It is something important in this moment, now, both domestically and for our role in the world. It means something for U.S. president to show up, to stand for the press, to stand with the press. Even as the press, I am sure, it drives this president just as bananas as we have every other politician since the dawn of time. That is what we do.
But right now, it is particularly important for the U.S. president to stand with the press, because there really is an opposing side here, right? From the other side of American politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Now, you know we have a lot of fake news back there, that fake news.
I am talking about the fake news media. They are truly an enemy of the people.
The fake news media right back there.
It is the enemy of the people, our media, is the enemy of the people. It`s very, very dangerous what they did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The repetition is part of the point here. The repetition is part of how that works. The repetition is how it stops seeming shopping and start seeing seeming like something that resonates.
And that has sunk in. Doing that for that long, doing that for the last seven years, that has sunk in. That has changed things. At this point, there are not going to be any debates between the next two candidates in the next presidential election.
The Republican Party says they are done, they are not doing that anymore, because whether or not the Republican Party`s presidential candidate next time around is going to be Donald Trump, the party itself has decided this year that they can never abide by the fact that it is reporters who ask questions at presidential debates. And so, therefore, there will be no presidential debates in 2024.
It`s a remarkable decision. And it is on the basis of the fact that the press is involved in asking the questions. The Republican Party can no longer abide by that.
It is less controversial, and has received way less attention than that. But in Republican-controlled states this year, we have seen a whole rash of moves and restrictions put in place, that ban reporters from covering state governments, from covering state legislatures. In Utah, in Kansas, in Iowa, when they decided to ban reporters from the Iowa legislature this year, it broke what was otherwise a 140-year unbroken tradition.
For 140 years it worked have reporters they are asking legislators questions. This year, with this Republican Party, in a league works. Reporters are banned.
Last fall, the Republican governor of Missouri, Mike Parson, asked law enforcement to pursue charges against a local reporter in Missouri, because that reporter reported accurately on a security flaw in the state computer systems. The governor actually got state law enforcement to investigate that reporter for months, as if there were some crime in that reporting. They actually tried to bring charges against the reporter. But no prosecutor would do it.
I didn`t actually think it would get much worse than what we saw from Mike Parson in Missouri. But then, this week -- hello California -- Fox News darling conservative sheriff of Los Angeles County convened a press conference in which he put a reporters photo on a big poster. He is pointing to it there with a pointy stick.
The sign says, what did she know and when did she know it? And he pointed at that reporter, who was in fact covering the press conference. He said she was going to be the subject of a criminal investigation for this dastardly reporting she was doing on scandals in the sheriff`s office.
In addition to putting up her photo, he put up a list of alleged crimes she was pretty sure this reporter might have committed on scandals in his office.
We cover this earlier on the show, earlier this week. We can report tonight after a furious pushback, that that sheriff is now pretending he never did that. It`s one thing to change your mind and say, okay, my bad, I get carried away. It`s another thing to say, oh, no, I didn`t do that, you dastardly people, for saying that they did. Let`s all forget that that happened.
How about we don`t? That hero we porter from the Los Angeles times is actually going to be here tonight for a first national interview, he will be our guest coming up in just a few minutes.
But this idea that there is a supposed terrible threat from the press and that reporters are not just irritating the people in power, but actually criminal, that the freedom of the press is a threat that must be destroyed, physically destroyed.
I mean, this is something that we should be fluent in them. I mean, this is an issue that is not hiding its light under a bushel. This is not something that you really have to go looking too hard for. On January 6th, they really did carve the phrase, murder the media, into the U.S. Capitol. They left that behind. Presumably they meant it.
This is a thing that we should be able to see clearly. And even when they are doing it in a way that is more stupid than scary, it is the same thing. It`s a tactical pattern that we should recognize and be able to think clearly about. I mean, this thing we covered last night, with the ridiculous Trump deposition that gave rise to 100 million fruit pictures today.
In this deposition he said, you could be killed if someone threw a tomato at you, that that`s a lethal threat that must be met with maximum force. That, undoubtedly, was hilarious it`s ridiculous. But that came at a deposition, in a case where Trump is trying to not be held accountable for his security guards beating up protesters.
Now, the clear impression from the way he talks about protesters is that he would like people protesting to be beaten up, that would give pleasure. He`s talk about how that makes -- the threat of beating up anti-Trump protesters makes Trump rallies, in his words, more fun. He would like to be able to do that.
How do you get to do that? How do you get away with something like that? Hype some non-existent threat to justify and provide a pretext. For whatever thing you want to do and get away with it. If you want to beat up protesters, and you find it fun.
But the worst thing that anyone can say about the threat is that one of them once was rumored to have a tomato -- well, describe tomato as a lethal threat them. Anybody protesting against you is a lethal threat. And therefore they deserve maximum force.
It`s the same tactical pattern over and over, right? Lock her up, right? Lock her up, lock her up, about Hillary Clinton. Why? What was the extensive bill reason that they were going to lock her up? Because she used her personal email account when she was working at the State Department.
Yes, that`s it, and that such a threat to the very foundations of America that she must be locked up, he must be jailed for that. She should be executed for treason for that.
I mean, never mind that is it is impossible to find anybody in the Trump administration who did not use the personal email while they worked in government. Never mind that Trump literally trucked boxes of highly classified material to Mar-a-Lago and left lying around at his golf club. There is actually a real concern about the handling of classified information or government material being stored or handled improperly. There isn`t a real, perceived threat here.
But if you can talk about that threat as if it`s the worst thing in the world, well, you can use it as a pretext for what you want to do. And if what you want to do is jail your political opposition, or may be have them killed, well, hype some nonexistent threat that you attached to them, beyond all recognition to justify that. That is how you build a pretext that you need.
Voting fraud, actual voting fraud is like a handful of old Trump supporting white men in The Villages in Florida, and in New Hampshire and Ohio, all voting twice for Trump because they thought no one would notice. I`m just picking those cases out of a hat because those happened to be the ones top of mine, but those are also all the voting fraud cases that have broken in the last few months.
You take that invisible infinitesimal, total non-consequential threat and turn it into a mechanized, million strong cabal using South Korean planes and Venezuelan and Italian satellites -- and Jewish space lasers, and pretty soon, you know, voting fraud is the end of America, which surely is enough to justify when it is we want to do in the first place, which is stop abiding by actual election results, taking power by force and insistence.
Voting fraud is so extremely definitely we need martial law, really? Well, if you make essential threaten you just buy anything response a threat.
This is not something we invented. This is not something the Trump era invented. I mean, Russia invaded Ukraine in February, telling the Russian people it was because Ukraine was a military threat gearing up to attack Russia. Really?
Russia is 3,000 percent larger than Ukraine. That`s like saying the town of Putney, Vermont was going to invade Mexico. Or that Aruba was going to invade China.
But still, make the claim. Find a threat, invent a threat or find one somewhere. And hype it beyond comprehension, neutralized the bizarreness of that supposed overhype, supposed and overhyped threat.
Neutralize the bizarreness of it through propagandistic mass repetition and bingo. Lock her up. Press is the enemy of the people, Ukrainians to be demilitarized and denazified. Take -- invent a threat out of whole cloth or take the smallest thing in the world and blow it up into something incomprehensibly massive. And bingo, you have the pretext for anything that you want to do.
The time that we are in is the overlap in the Venn diagram between stupid and scary. You are here. This kind of tactic that we are seeing against the press, against voting, against political opponents, it is a tactic that is not new. It`s a tactic that we did not invent in this country, but if we can see it more clearly, if we can get more fluent about it, and talking about amongst ourselves. One of the things we will quickly learn is that we can turn to our advantage the learned experience of the people who have gone before us and faced it and thought of before we had to.
And that is what we`re going to do here tonight. Stay with us, big show ahead.
MADDOW: In 2010, Yale historian Tim Snyder published a new history kind of a shocking new history of World War II. Professor Snyder specializes in the history of Central and Eastern Europe and the book was called "Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin".
That book took on really for the first time would happened in total on the land east of Berlin and west of Moscow between 1933 and 1945. He elected to do something that nobody had ever really try to do about that geography and the world in that time. He told a single history, a single story of the 14 million people who were killed in that part of the world while both Hitler and Stalin had power.
Forty million people who were not soldiers, civilian noncombatants, not people who are caught in the crossfire while countries were trying to kill each other soldiers. These were victims of mass killings, sanctioned by policy. In western Russia, in Belarus, in Poland, and Ukraine, the Baltic States, all the same place, all from two different dictators over a 12-year time span. Again, not war casualties in the sense of combatants but were casualties in the sense of mass killings being a policy.
Professor Snyder`s book is recognized and was soon recognized as a gigantic achievement in modern history. It`s of course, all the more relevant because the war in Ukraine now. This week, Professor Snyder published an updated paperback version of "Bloodlands". This one has a new afterword which offers a contemporary look at the work.
In it, among many other things, Professor Snyder reflects on his contribution to popularizing the use of the term, the big lie, in reference to former President Trump`s effort to basically overthrow the U.S. government last year, persuading his followers to believe the big lie, that the 2020 election was somehow stolen even though there was never ever any evidence to support that.
Snyder says in his new afterward, quote, the big lie, a term that originates with Hitler, became central to American political discourse after I applied to Trump`s claim to have won an election that he lost. The concept of the big lie which I reintroduced discussion in 2019 and 2020, helped millions of people see how mendacity of a certain scale of facts politics overtime, making democracy ever more difficult.
Joining us now is Timothy Snyder, he is professor of history at Yale University. He is the author of "Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin". Again, it is out in a new edition this week.
Professor Snyder, really nice of you here in this person. I don`t do this anymore. Nice to see you.
TIMOTHY SNYDER, YALE PROFESSOR: Thrilled to see you.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about that last quote that I just read. Mendacity of a certain scale. How mendacity of a certain scale affects politics overtime.
Can you just tell us what you mean?
SNYDER: Well that`s the public relations advice is from Hitler. Hiller says if you tell a lie that`s of a certain scale, that`s big enough, people won`t believe that you could deceive them on that scale. And since they believe and they taken first, they don`t want to disbelieve later on. It becomes part of their life, becomes will we now call an alternative reality because it shaped politics. That begins to substantiate itself, not only in memory, but in policy.
You act as if it`s true, and then you move on to do things as though it were true. So in our example, if we pretend that Trump won the election 2020, then we have an argument for suppressing votes. Because we can say well there was fraud therefore we should suppress votes.
MADDOW: It`s because of the sort of commitment part of that, it makes it feel undoable, because if X number of people become invested in it because they have once believed it, and it would challenge their understanding of who they are and they`re worth in the world to lose that belief in it.
It makes me worry about the ability to sort of underwire people to learn the truth.
SNYDER: And this is why lying is so dangerous in politics. We`ve gotten very casual about lying. We have a very casualty will bring us the truth or the reporters. We`ve gotten very casual about the historians, we`re passing memory laws in this country, just as Russia has passed memory laws.
And there`s a law designed in both cases to allow us to avoid the difficult little truths and prevent us from investing in the big lies. And the problem of the citizens in the big lie is, people in general in the big lies, is that once you do something for example storm a Capitol, once you do something that makes it more true, right?
So the politicians tell the big lie, but once we are brought in, once we do something or in this book for example. Once you kill on the basis of a big lie, then the big lie really has to be true.
MADDOW: One of the things that I have sort of taken with me from "Bloodlands". Is the idea that people need to be erased and countries need to be released and certain identities need to be a race for the purposes of other countries, other leaders, other imperatives.
And so, talking for example about the mass murder of the Polish elite, so that the polish people would somehow, could somehow be a race from history, that the idea of pulling as a place customer be subverted into some of the things that were politically useful for the attackers. That kind of elimination is planning not just societal but literally to erase the idea of a people. We are seeing that so overtly in the way that Putin is talking about Ukraine right now.
I am very worried that we are starting to talk in elimination`s terms about some of our fellow Americans, the way that we`re using, not just epithets but also classifications of people. It`s not just our political opponents but as inhuman.
SNYDER: The German invasion of Poland and 39 has really been on my mind to. Because it`s not just how Putin is describing Ukrainians, as you say, he says Ukrainians are nation, they`re not really a state. And that`s genocide talk. That`s how you talk before you try to eliminate the nation and the state.
But it`s not just talk, this is this war of aggression is also a war destruction. They`ve to point about 1 million Ukrainians, that`s a considerable share the population. They`re shooting the local elites. They`re killing the man, they think are capable of taking part in military activity. They`re reeducating the teachers and the children.
They`re going through with this idea, as best they can, of trying to eliminate the Ukrainian nation. And you`re right, it all starts with talk and that`s why we look on these examples of how Russians treat their history, how they treat their reporters, how they treat their language. And we have to learn these lessons in time. Because as you say, if we talk about our own reporters, our own fellow citizens in the same way. Then we`re preparing ourselves to do terrible things.
MADDOW: Timothy Snyder, you know him here on the show is the author of on tyranny which we have discussed many times here on the show, the book that is seen as his sort of totem in the world of modern history. It`s called "Bloodlands" and it`s now a new addition as of this week with a new afterward about the world today.
Dr. Snyder, it`s an honor to have you here. Thanks.
All right, we`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Update for you tonight on the story we covered earlier this week that got a big reaction from you, so I want to tell you how this worked out. "L.A. Times" reporter Alene Tchekmedyian published a video last month of an extreme use of force incident at L.A. County jail. She also reported on internal documents showing that officials in the sheriff`s department including the sheriff himself had tried to cover that incident up in order to avoid that press.
So the sheriff, whose name is Alex Villanueva. He said no that is true here she`s learned about this incident till months of what happened. He took immediate action as soon as he knew about it.
That`s where the story stood this week when that same "L.A. Times" reporter reported that a courting to a commander in the department the sheriff had actually viewed a video of the incident five days after it had happened and he said at the time to other sheriffs of his employees, quote, we do not need by media at this time. "L.A. Times" broke that story on Monday, and then all he double hockey sticks broke out.
On Tuesday, Sheriff Villanueva convened a press conference, not just dispute all this reporting but also to go after "The L.A. Times`" reporter and threatened her. Alene Tchekmedyian was on the front row for that press conference. This is her beat covering the story.
After Sheriff Villanueva denied her reporting, he then put up this poster a huge photo of the "L.A. Times" reporter. Also one of his political rivals for the auto position of county sheriff, also the county inspector general. He said all three of these people were now subjects of a criminal investigation, and a how Tchekmedyian got the security footage that she reported.
Here is a clip of him confronting the reporter and then being asked for directly to clarify what he`s saying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX VILLANUEVA, L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF: I don`t have people -- reporters like from "The L.A. Times" maybe you need to start clarifying exactly what you did with this and when did you, who do you get from and when did you get from. So that`s a question for you to answer. So with that, we`re not going to take a question from you. Anybody else is a question?
REPORTER: Can I ask you a question?
VILLANUEVA: Go ahead, Frank.
REPORTER: Is Alene from "The L.A. Times: under investigation by the apartment? Sheriff, can you answer the question? You place her picture up there, alongside two other people. You talked about in terms of a criminal investigation.
Is this "Los Angeles Times" reporter under investigation by the department?
VILLANUEVA: Well, the act is under investigation. All parties to the act are subject of the investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: All parties to the act, her reporting, are subject to the investigation.
Hours after the sheriff denied he ever said that. He said reports of him saying that were an incredible frenzy of misinformation. Dude, we`re quoting you.
Since the press conference on Tuesday, "The L.A. Times" has published a statement condemning the sheriff`s actions, the general counsel for the paper sent a blistering letter saying in part, quote, if the department actually initiate investigation of Ms. Tchekmedyian, it would contravene will establish constitutional law which bars prosecutions of news reporters from publishing information from confidential records including manners a public interest, although I would someone with your position will be familiar with this longstanding legal principle, let this letter leave no doubt that any attempt to prosecute her or threaten her with prosecutions as your announcement appeared to intend to do is an abuse of your official position that risk subjecting you and the county to legal liability.
Paper general counsel put the sheriff on notice that he should retain any documents of communications related to this matter.
I should also tell you that despite these direct threats, she has faced, "L.A. Times" reporter Alene Tchekmedyian continues to do her job and continues to advance this story. Today, she published a new eyewitness account from one of Sheriff Villanueva`s closest advisors which further corroborates her previous reporting. And adviser says she personally brought a DVD of the use of force and has into the sheriff and she watched it with him and yet I was only five days after the incident took place.
They have gone after her with the force of the sheriff`s department because she has had the temerity to report on the sheriff`s department. The reporter joins us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Alene Tchekmedyian is a staff writer for "The Los Angeles Times". She recently broke the story that an L.A. County sheriff`s deputy had kneeled on the head of a handcuffed man inside the L.A. County jail for three solid minutes. She then broke the story of the department including the sheriff himself covering that incident up.
But sheriff than convene a press conference this week to announce he was criminally investigating Alene Tchekmedyian for her reporting. After a ferocious defense of the reporter by among others her employer, the sheriff now says he never actually did that it was all a big misunderstanding. He is so misunderstood.
Alene Tchekmedyian joins us now live from Los Angeles.
Ms. Tchekmedyian, thank you so much for being with us tonight. I`m sorry for what your week has been like.
ALENE TCHEKMEDYIAN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES" REPORTER: Thank you for having me on.
MADDOW: Let me just ask you about what it was like at that press conference. I read the story and thought I absorbed most of it before I did a kind of double take when I realized you were there, you are sitting in the front row, while he was making this announcement that you are under investigation. Where was that like?
TCHEKMEDYIAN: Yeah, you know, it was so surreal at first when I saw my photo up on his slide show. That I sort of chuckled a little bit. And then I held my phone to take a photo because it was just kind of absurd.
But I really didn`t want to get distracted because I really had a long list of questions to ask. That I had to do my phone and I was just trying to keep the focus on that. And there ended up being a lot that I couldn`t ask that was my priority at the time.
MADDOW: I know that after the press conference, your employer, "The L.A. Times" supported you very publicly. And I know that a lot of press freedom groups came out absolutely hair on fire just shocked by with the sheriff had done in your defense.
Can I ask what that process has been like, I imagine that most of just been almost as surreal?
TCHEKMEDYIAN: Yeah, it was really overwhelming to feel that much support. I kind of walked out of the press conference thinking, you know, okay that was bizarre. But I really don`t expect to blow of that a way that it did. And the outpouring of support that I got from texts and tweets and the letter "The L.A. Times" lawyer sent and the statement from our executive editor, just so fiercely defending our right to news gather, and all the statements that you mention from press freedom groups and even encouragement for some sources which is amazing, I felt really, really supported.
MADDOW: Encouragement from sources a nice thing to hear because obviously part of what is going on here is an effort to sort of perform a kind of anti-press toughness which I think is in some ways popular in certain political spheres right now. But it was also directly to intimidate you. That`s why I think it`s been really important to see your byline continuing to push this forward.
The story obviously is not over. You`ve done more than anybody to get to the bottom of it. I imagine that the effort to intimidate you, you have to materially feel it but it seems like the stories very much alive. And your sources are still talking to you.
TCHEKMEDYIAN: Yeah. I plan to keep digging into it and following it where it goes. And it seems like people are willing to still talk with me which is, you know, very helpful.
MADDOW: It`s a core benefit and necessity to what we do, what we all do.
Alene Tchekmedyian, staff writer for "The Los Angeles Times" who`s been out front of an important story about the use of force inside an L.A. County jail and the effort to cover it up and who has paid for it and has been defended while she is doing it.
Ms. Tchekmedyian, good luck, keep going, come back anytime.
TCHEKMEDYIAN: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: If you watch the show you have seen the work of an artist, a courtroom sketch artist named Art Lean. Federal courts don`t allow cameras so we have needed Art Lean to be able to visualize laws of the proceedings we`ve covered here over the years including lots of Trump era favorites like Paul Manafort and Steve Bannon, the Supreme Court justices themselves at work.
Arthur Lane started work as a court artist in 1976. He`s an unparalleled talent and a very niche and important part of public life. He was the only quorum artist allowed into the first military tribunals at Guantanamo. And the early days of the pandemic he adapted to virtual Supreme Court proceedings by getting lawyers to send him photos of themselves making their oral arguments. He then turned those photos into sketches.
This sketch captures Stephen Breyer`s last case as a Supreme Court justice. It`s also Art Lean`s final sketch for the Supreme Court because he is also retiring at the end of the Supreme Court term. He is retiring at the height of his powers.
Art Lean, you have no idea how much we have dependent on you all these years. Happy retirement, Mr. Lean. Great respect.
That`s going to do it for us tonight. Mehdi Hasan is going to be here tomorrow night. I will see you again here Monday.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.