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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 8/1/22

Guests: John Kirby, Jon Tester

Summary

The United States killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Interview with Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).

Transcript

ETAN THOMAS, "WE MATTER: ATHLETES AND ACTIVISM" AUTHOR: I mean, He could`ve easily been quiet. His life probably would have been a lot easier if he was quiet. But the fact that Bill Russell wanted to take upon his role, his platform, his position to be able to speak for all Black people is why he is so special and why we celebrate him today.

CHARLES BLOW, MSNBC HOST: (INAUDIBLE) Davidson, and Etan Thomas, thank you both. That is all for us tonight.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Charles. Thank you very much. It`s good to see you there.

BLOW: Good to see you, too.

MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

After the 9/11 attacks, it took about ten years for the United States government to get Osama bin Laden. They got him in May 2011. Now as of tonight, we know it took another 11 years after that to get bin Laden`s brain, to get the man who was bin Laden`s number two in al Qaeda at the time of 9/11, the man who took over as al Qaeda`s leader after bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs.

The string of attacks and murders attributed to Ayman al-Zawahiri is stomach-turning. He was the ideological mastermind behind the term of al Qaeda and groups like that towards indiscriminate mass murder of civilians anywhere, including Muslims all in the name of Islamic piety. And how he got there now looking back at it seemed like a straight shot, but if you sort of dropped in on him at any time in his biography, you wouldn`t have known he was going there.

He was trained as a doctor. He was a trained surgeon. He was from a respected family in Egypt, born and raised in Cairo. By the time, he was 15 years old, he was a committed radical who wanted to try to impose Islamic theocracy by force. He formed his first terrorist cell with the aim of overthrowing the government of Egypt when he was all of 15 years old.

When Islamic militants did assassinate Egypt`s president, Anwar Sadat, at a military parade in 1981, Ayman al-Zawahiri was one of hundreds Islamic radicals tried and imprisoned for that crime. He was tortured for years in Egyptian prisons.

While he was there, he became an informant, supplying information on his comrades to the Egyptian security services. He was released from prison in Egypt in 1984 even more radical than when he had gone in. He nurtured the growth of his terrorist group which he`d literally founded as a teenager called al Jihad or Islamic jihad.

He actually spent time after his release from prison in Afghanistan, Pakistan. He eventually became close with a rich Saudi Arabian guy who in 1988 had founded his own terrorist organization. The Saudi guy was wealthy enough that he was able to bankroll much of their movement himself. He also had great connections all across the Arab world. He was a great recruiter to their cause.

Ayman al-Zawahiri eventually became the Saudi guy`s personal doctor which gave him a personal bond between their ideological co-interests. After the two of them supplied and supported the Afghan mujahidin fighters against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, around 1990, they moved onto Sudan and onto Yemen to establish training camps there for international terrorists. At that time, al-Zawahiri was still really focused on trying to overthrow the government in Egypt. That was his lifelong dream.

In November 1993, his group Islamic jihad, tried to assassinate the prime minister of Egypt. They failed in that assassination attempt but they did wound and kill civilians instead. Two years later, in 1995, Egyptian Islamic jihad blew up the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan, killed at least 15 people, wounded dozens of people.

Two years later in 1997, Zawahiri helped plan the Luxor attack. This was a half dozen gunman descending on a big Egyptian tourist attractions before 9:00 in the morning, in November 1997, six gunmen spent 45 minutes methodically massacring the tourists at that tourist site in Egypt including kids. People from Egypt, people from Columbia, people from Switzerland and the U.K. and Japan and Germany, 62 people murdered. Zawahiri was the mastermind behind that. That was 1997.

1998, Zawahiri wrote what amounted to a declaration of war against America. He proclaimed groups like his and his friend Obama bin Laden`s group, al- Qaeda, and all the Islamist terrorist groups he proclaimed were all united as what he called the international front against Crusaders and Jews, not to put too fine a point on it.

[21:05:03]

Zawahiri`s declaration in February 1998 proclaimed it their mission to target America, to target the United States of America and specifically to kill American people anywhere in the world. That was February 1998 that he wrote that declaration of war.

Later that same year, in August 1998, they blew up the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. More than 4,000 people injured. More than 200 people killed.

Then in October 2000, they hit the USS Cole, a guided missile destroyer, while it was being refueled in Yemen. 17 U.S. sailors killed, 37 injured.

The year after that in June, June 2001, al Qaeda, bin Laden`s group, formally absorbed Zawahiri`s group, Islamic Jihad. He and Osama bin Laden from that point forward they were no longer compatriots, now as of June 2001, al Qaeda was it. Zawahiri was bin Laden`s second in command, and also, informally, his brain, his strategic think, where his ideological guide, his doctor, the chief operating officer of al Qaeda.

Two days before the 9/11 attacks in an operation masterminded by Zawahiri, a man was assassinated. He was the strongest leader of the northern alliance in Afghanistan. He was the strongest leader in that country opposed to the Taliban. Zawahiri wiped him out on September 9, 2001, doing a huge favor to the Taliban, indebting the Taliban to himself essentially. And then two days later, of course, they rained down hell on the United States of America on September 11, 2001 in Pennsylvania, in New York City, at the Pentagon.

This was the first wanted poster put out for Ayman al-Zawahiri after 9/11. This is in October 2001 weeks after the attack. You see the reward for information leading to his capture at that point was $5 million. That would quintuple to a $25 million reward, the largest reward offered for anyone on earth. After a U.S. SEAL mission in 2011 took out Osama bin Laden, Zawahiri became literally the most wanted terrorist on the FBI`s list of most wanted terrorists.

You can see if you look at the two different wanted posters, you can see over 20 years-plus, while the reward did go up, they didn`t change the photo of him. They didn`t change much of what they know about him or how to advise people to find him, but tonight there is an update. Tonight, they`ve updated the post at long last. This has just changed this evening as we were prepping to get on the air. Put a big red deceased across the bottom of it now.

What we know is this. Ayman al-Zawahiri was back in Afghanistan, which itself is a story. He was in a well-off neighborhood in the capital city of Kabul. "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" are reporting that the house where he was killed was owned by a senior member of the Taliban government known for having links to al-Qaeda. The man`s name is Haqqani, which is a familiar name when it comes to kidnappings and terrorist attacks and mass murder in Afghanistan over the past 20-plus years.

While the U.S. military no longer has anyone in Afghanistan, the U.S. government was able to obtain intelligence on his whereabouts dating back for several months. They were specifically able to get information on the pattern of life at the house where he was staying dating all the way back to April. And the reason that`s important, the reason they were watching the pattern of life at that house was both to confirm he was there but also to try to find the right way and right window to get him without getting anyone else, to get him and get him alone.

President Biden was briefed in detail on the prospects for a drone strike hitting that house. Intelligence community reportedly built a physical model of the house that they wanted to hit. They used that physical model to show the president their intentions and to brief the president on how the mission might unfold. President Biden said in remarks to the nation tonight that he gave the order a week ago that they could strike when the right time and the right circumstances arose. Those right circumstances and that right time apparently arose Saturday night just before 10:00 p.m. eastern, which was just after 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning in Kabul. It was reportedly two hell fire missiles fired from a CIA operated drone.

The president said tonight there were no other casualties other than Ayman al-Zawahiri himself. The president also said this.

[21:10:01]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and our capacity to defend the American people against those who seek to do us harm. You know, we -- we make it clear again tonight that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: It has been 20 years and 10 months since al Qaeda killed 3,000 Americans on U.S. soil in the 9/11 attacks. It took 20 years and 10 months to get the two guys who ran al Qaeda during that attack.

Astonishingly, the leader of the Republican Party, the party`s last president and their likely next presidential nominee said just this weekend that, quote, nobody`s gotten to the bottom of 9/11, literally said that this weekend. Nobody`s gotten to the bottom of 9/11. What was that all about? Well, it took 20 years and ten months but actually somebody definitively has gotten to the bottom of 9/11.

Ayman al-Zawahiri killed yesterday at the age of 71 with the blood of thousands and thousands of innocent people on his hands.

Joining us now live from the White House is John Kirby. Until a few months ago, he was press secretary for the Department of Defense. Now he`s spokesman for President Biden`s National Security Council. He`s also retired rear admiral in the United States Navy.

Admiral Kirby, I really appreciate you making time to be with us this evening. It`s a historic night.

JOHN KIRBY, SPOKESMAN, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Absolutely, Rachel. It`s good to be with you. A good day for the country.

MADDOW: Let me ask you -- in my summary there in terms of what we know what happened, both about Mr. Zawahiri`s background, but also about how you got him. Is there anything I got wrong or anything else you can tell us how this unfolded?

KIRBY: I think you did a pretty good job telling who this man was, what he was responsible for and how he met his end. I can tell you, there was an awful lot of work done by the counterterrorism and the intelligence community to get us to this point. It was painstaking, meticulous, thoughtful work.

As you rightly pointed out in your opening, Rachel, the president was kept informed throughout, finally made the decision in late July, July 25th specifically, and, of course, we executed. And even though he`d given the order on the 25th, the conditions needed to be right.

And there were a lot of conditions. It was whether we needed to be factored in. Of course, Mr. Zawahiri needed to be where we thought he would be on his pattern of life. And the president was clear that he didn`t want us to cause civilian casualties.

And so, that also factored into making sure everything was just -- conditions were right. And when it was, we took the shot.

HANNITY: With something like this, obviously, the only antecedent that comes to mind really is that famous image of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton and others in the situation room watching the raid unfold that ultimately killed Osama bin Laden.

I just have to ask you in terms of historians looking back at this day these briefings, these planning sessions, the president`s decision process, was it gravely interrupted? Was the process interrupted at all by the fact the president has COVID and he`s been in isolation on and off during the time this was all being decided?

KIRBY: No, not at all, Rachel. No. I mean, he worked right through his time with COVID. In fact, he`s still isolating now and he has a rebound case here.

But, no, it did not affect his decision-making process at all. He was able to constantly stay in touch with his security team throughout, no impact whatsoever. I happened to be here in 2011. I was here at the White House -- I was working for the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs, Admiral Mullin, when the mission to get bin Laden went down. And so, for me, this was also personally a nice bookend to that.

MADDOW: I have to ask you in terms of what happens next here. Do you believe -- does the administration believe that the Taliban knew Zawahiri was in Kabul? Obviously, the justification for invading Afghanistan in 2001 was that the Taliban were providing a safe haven for Zawahiri and for bin Laden and for the al Qaeda organization ahead of 9/11. Did they know he was back in Afghanistan, back in Kabul?

KIRBY: We know some senior leaders of the Haqqani Network were aware. And we know that from the way they tried to cover things up over the last 24, 48 hours. That`s really about as far as I can go into this. But we have indications that some of them were aware.

Look, I mean, al Qaeda was on the ground in Afghanistan even when the president decided to end that war.

[21:15:00]

And we knew that, and we talked about that, that al-Qaeda was already re- establishing a presence there.

We also said that we were going to watch that very, very closely and stay vigilant and make sure we had capacity from an over the horizon perspective to deal with any threats to the homeland. Mr. Zawahiri`s presence in Kabul certainly met that test because he`s been actively involved in planning and plotting threats against our homeland going forward.

MADDOW: One of the things that the president mentioned tonight in his remarks is that Zawahiri has been recently making videos, calling for people to attack Americans and attack U.S. interests.

KIRBY: That`s right.

MADDOW: We`ve heard from a senior administration official it`s possible even after his death, al Qaeda or the confederates may release further Zawahiri videos. They may release some of that material, but they sort of bank ahead of his death.

Do you anticipate that that`s going to pose additional threats? Does that raise the threat level for the United States in terms of potential retaliation from terrorists?

KIRBY: It very well could. We don`t know exactly how many videos he recorded and whether there`s still some in the can, Rachel. But it`s entirely possible they could put that out there as a way to inspire future attacks and future al Qaeda planners and plotters. And so we`re going to be watching for that as well.

I can tell you, our vigilance is very high, and we won`t be caught off- guard when they do try to do that. Again, we`ll see. We just don`t know if he actually has additional videos he hasn`t released.

MADDOW: Along those lines, let me ask you in terms of being aware as you said at least some of elements of the Taliban, the regime in charge in Afghanistan knew that Zawahiri was there, expressed anger or upset that this strike happened within their territory.

Do you anticipate that the Taliban themselves could try to mount some sort of retaliation? Or if they do, are they capable of causing harm to U.S. interests?

KIRBY: We`re going to be watching real close, Rachel. We don`t have any indications right now that that particular threat could manifest itself, but both the president was very clear tonight as he has been quite frankly since the war in Afghanistan ended, that we`re going to -- that we`re going to stay vigilant. We have the capability and capacity to conduct over the horizon counterterrorism strikes. We`ve proved that this weekend.

And so, I go back to what the president said, which is there`s no greater responsibility that he feels than for the safety of the American people and our national security interests around the world. And I think, again, we moved that over the last couple of days, and we`ll stay able and capable of proving that going forward if, in fact, we have to do that.

MADDOW: Admiral John Kirby, spokesman for President Biden`s National Security Council -- sir, thank you for your time tonight. I feel like congratulations is not exactly the right word here, but I think "thank you" probably is. So thank you, sir.

KIRBY: You`re welcome. Thank you.

MADDOW: All right, joining us now from London is Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent who has covered al Qaeda and Ayman al-Zawahiri for decades, a man who knows more than your average bearer about the Egyptian Islamic radicalism in Cairo that shaped Zawahiri.

Richard, my friend, thank you for interrupting your vacation tonight. Thank you for being up in O dark 30 for us once again on this historic night.

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It is a historic night, and, of course, I think it`s an important night. And yes, I`ve been covering Ayman Zawahiri since the mid-1990s. I was a reporter in Egypt when terrorist attacks were becoming an increasing problem in the country. You mentioned the Luxor attack when a group of Islamists went on a rampage and started massacring tourists in front of the monuments there.

And then he decided to keep going, and he joined up with Osama bin Laden, founded al-Qaeda versus this international front against Jews and crusaders, and now we have come to where we are today.

And I think there are really two ways of looking at it. What you just heard from Admiral Kirby was kind of a positive spin on it. It shows that the United States is still capable, that if the Taliban goes back on its deal - - and clearly it was going back on its deal or at least elements of the Taliban were going back on the deal -- and welcomed in al-Qaeda, that they wouldn`t be able to get away with it because America has eyes on and has the ability to carry out lethal strikes from the sky.

So you can say the policy is working because if there`s al-Qaeda infiltration or presence, the U.S. can take care of it. But there`s another way of looking at it. It shows how confident and how arrogant one might say the Taliban have become. Even after swearing they would never host al-Qaeda leaders again, they`d never go back and repeat the past, they don`t just have an al-Qaeda leader, they have the al-Qaeda leader.

[21:20:03]

He`s hosted right in the center of Kabul. He`s there for months, and it shows that they believe they can -- they can do whatever they want.

I was in Afghanistan after U.S. troops withdrew from the country, after the Taliban drove them out, and I met Taliban leaders. And they believed that what happened was a miracle, that they were given this victory because of a gift from god, that they were untouchable. You can look in their eyes -- if you ever notice a lot of American reporters were going around with the Taliban, there was no hostility.

They were not just proud of what they had done and wanted to show it off. They believed that this was a miracle and that it was their duty to show the world god`s actions on earth.

So when you have that kind of mentality, you`re not really intimidated by what the U.S. is threatening to do. You say, well, we`ve gone through hard times in the past and look where our faith brought us.

So they had bin Laden -- they had Ayman al-Zawahiri in the country, near the palace for months. The fact the U.S. got him shows that the U.S. still has very good intelligence there, still was able to get informants who were able to establish a pattern of life inside the building. But over time, will those informants continue to be as good, and will they be able to find other targets who aren`t necessarily as famous as Ayman al-Zawahiri, which the United States has been tracking for decades?

MADDOW: Well, as you lay that out, I mean, this is obviously a very rude interruption in revelry the Taliban might have been under in terms of being divinely inspired and that they were divinely protected for their actions. This is going to interrupt that in some ways.

I asked Admiral Kirby a moment ago if they were anticipating retaliation from the Taliban, and if so, is the Taliban capable of inflicting pain on the United States in a way that would actually hurt. He didn`t answer. He basically said we`ll watch for that.

But what do you think their reaction will be to this strike now it`s happened, and again, probably a surprise to them given how they were to hide him in a relatively easy to find place.

ENGEL: So, first of all, there are big divisions in the Taliban, which is one thing that the Taliban weren`t expecting. You heard Admiral Kirby talk about the Haqqani network. That is a big group of the Taliban that is particularly close to al-Qaeda, and not all of the other factions in the Taliban support them. But they were still a very, very powerful faction, perhaps the most powerful in terms of -- of security.

So a very large segment of the Taliban will be shamed that this happened. They hosted this important figure with whom they had a relationship going back many, many years and he was killed in their territory.

You know, the Taliban released a statement after a drone strike this weekend -- it seems to be the same drone strike. They didn`t say who the target was at the time, and they called it a violation of their sovereignty against international norms. And they said that it could close the doors for future cooperation and opportunities.

So in a way the response was a rejection but fairly measured when you look at other statements from the Taliban. So they were angry. They`re saying it`s going to close the door for other cooperation and it`s a problem, but they weren`t threatening to burn down the White House or carry out an attack like this. But there will certainly be elements within the Taliban and within al-Qaeda who will -- who will want to seek revenge.

That said, he was not a particularly charismatic leader. He never really filled the shoes of Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden was the face. He was the brand name of al Qaeda.

Ayman al-Zawahiri was the legacy player, he was the intellectual. He was the scholar, if you will, establishing the bedrock of the ideology. But he never commanded a lot of personal loyalty within the group. The next leader might be able to be more effective that way.

MADDOW: Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent in London, technically on vacation, but that`s always fungible given your beat.

Richard, thank you so much. I really appreciate you being here, my friend.

ENGEL: My pleasure.

MADDOW: Again, President Biden tonight confirming from the White House the news that the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri age 71 who took over leadership of the grip in 2011 after U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden. Ayman al-Zawahiri has been killed by a U.S. drone strike in Kabul in Afghanistan. That news being confirmed by the president tonight in remarks from the White House, 20 years and 10 months after the attacks of 9/11 killed 3,000 Americans on U.S. soil.

[21:25:09]

We`ll have very much more tonight on this busy news night. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: In 1932, the U.S. was experiencing the worst of the Great Depression. Unemployment in 1932 was 23 percent. The value of shares on the Dow had dropped almost 90 percent compared with what it had been just three years earlier before the crash.

[21:30:05]

The country in 1932 was just in economic freefall. And as of 1932, U.S. veterans -- veterans who had fought in the first world war, they were as or more economically desperate as any other Americans. But U.S. veterans who had fought in World War I had what amounted to an IOU from the U.S. government to pay them some cash. U.S. veterans who had fought in World War I had been promise during the war they would receive a bonus payment from the government, a payment for each day they served on active duty either at home or abroad.

And in the spring of 1932, veterans who had been promised that bonus, they came to Washington. Thousands of them came to Washington to demand that the government make good on those IOUs and pay the soldiers what they were owed. The soldiers setup camps in downtown Washington just outside the Capitol. They planned to stay as long as it took.

President Herbert Hoover, one of the worst presidents in American history, responded by calling in the United States Army to attack the veterans and chase them out. The army burned down their camps, charged them with bayonets, shot chemical weapons at them.

Historian Jonathan M. Katz published a book this year about the marine general who was the hero and a leader for those veterans, a fantastic book.

In that book, he writes that the Army chief of staff who led the attack on the veterans, General Douglas McArthur, he later bragged by attacking those veterans in D.C., he was sure he had thwarted a communist revolution. Okay.

Tonight, there are American veterans again sleeping outside D.C. -- excuse me, sleeping outside in D.C. in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol building. The reason the veterans are there this time is because of the U.S. government`s promise to pay for health care for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits during their service abroad.

Congress was supposed to pass legislation to make good on that promise last week, and everybody thought they would. But Senate Republicans changed their mind at the last moment and suddenly discovered previously unknown reasons to vote against that veterans bill even though they had previously voted for it.

Veterans and their families are not giving up. They are fighting to get it passed, keep the pressure on. Many of veterans who are camped outside the Capitol today and tonight have been there since Thursday.

On Saturday, this weekend, President Biden said he wanted to go meet with them in person, but because he still has to isolate because of COVID, he instead face timed with those veterans, also sent over boxes of pizza to show them his support.

Democrats say they will bring this veterans bill up for a vote again as soon as tomorrow. But the question, of course, is will Senate Republicans continue to block it? What else will veterans and their supporters have to do to make sure this promise gets kept?

Joining us now is Montana U.S. Senator Jon Tester. He`s chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee and he`s the lead sponsor of that bill to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits the care that they need and that the U.S. government has promised them.

Senator, thanks for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it.

SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): Thank you, Rachel. My pleasure.

MADDOW: I want to talk to you about this burn pits issue. I would be remiss if I did not actually ask you as we start here for your reaction announced by the president that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, has been killed in Kabul by a U.S. drone strike.

Obviously, that makes this a historic night, but want to get your reaction particularly as chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee at a time when so many Americans have fought in the post-9/11 wars.

TESTER: Well, a couple things, Rachel, and I appreciate the president`s decisive decisions. I know they`re not easy, but he made the right decision and got the job done. And I think this really falls back on people in the military and our intelligence community being able to find and deliver a strike on a person who has got a long history of doing bad things to this nation.

So I think it`s a great day in America, and I applaud the president`s actions.

MADDOW: I think it`s a significant day particularly for American veterans. I mean, the Taliban providing safe haven for Zawahiri and bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization in the lead up to 9/11 was the reason what started ended being America`s longest war in Afghanistan. It is one of the hallmark injuries of that war in Afghanistan and the following war in Iraq that veterans had toxic exposures including exposure to burn pits, which was not an act of the enemy. It was an act of the U.S. military. This was in effect a friendly fire injury that the U.S. did.

It always seemed to me to impart a certain moral imperative to the requirement of the U.S. government to make sure we make it right by the veterans who were hurt by that.

[21:35:04]

Do you as it stands tonight have confidence that this bill is going to pass?

TESTER: Well, I sure hope it does because it`s the right thing to do. I don`t need to go back because you`ve laid it out very well, Rachel. These folks went to a place far different than this country and served, followed orders and did what they needed to do to be successful, and in the process because of burn pits where all sorts of toxins were burned, they were breathing bad air that resulted in cancers and lung conditions that are going to affect them for the rest of their life.

And so the promise we make to the men and women who serve when you come back whether it`s an injury you can see or injury you can`t see, we`re going to fix you. We`re going to make you right, and that`s what this bill is about.

It was and still is the number one issue of virtually every veteran service organization out there, the people who represent the veterans have. It was first brought up to me 15 years ago, and for the last year and a half we`ve been working very, very diligently in a bipartisan way to get this bill to the Senate and we did on the 16th of June and it passed with 84 votes.

Now, basically, that same bill that passed with 84 votes is now in a political turmoil that, by the way, our veterans can`t afford to have it in a political turmoil. They mean too much to this country. These are the folks who fight for our freedoms. These are the folks that keep this country free.

And for Congress not to pass this bill is political malpractice. So, we need to get it passed. Hopefully that happens tomorrow, but who knows? I thought it was going to pass last week, and surprise, surprise some other folks had a different idea.

But let me just say this and this is a fact. The bill that the Republicans voted against last week is the very same bill with the exception of one line and it dealt with the V.A.`s ability to buy out providers contracts. That was stripped out. But with that exception, it`s the very same bill that passed with 84 votes on June 16th.

MADDOW: Now, Senator Pat Toomey, retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey says he thinks whatever this technical change is, this not particularly important change is they so object to that caused them to change all their votes, he thinks with a 50-vote threshold, you should be able to adopt an amendment to strip that out and everything would be fine. It sounds to me like sort of trying to muddy the waters around procedural hurdles that don`t necessarily need to exist here.

But is he in some sense actually pointing out a pathway toward getting this passed by saying he at least wants an amendment to strip that language to be a 50-vote threshold?

TESTER: Well, I believe so. But to be honest with you, Rachel, any time we`ve had an amendment up for a budget point of order, it`s always been a 60-vote threshold. It`s different with this.

I think it sets a precedent not healthy for Congress, but nonetheless I do believe there`s a path to get this done tomorrow. It`s going to take -- it`s going to take our two leaders, Schumer and McConnell, negotiating to get an agreement where we can get this bill passed.

Remember this, a health care that is delayed is health care that`s denied. And we`ve already had many, many folks die from disorders from these toxic burn pits. And it`s not only the veteran that has suffered and are suffering but it`s also their family. And when we send folks off especially to the war we just got out of for the last 20 years, they`re exposed to stuff that people shouldn`t be exposed to. And these burn pits are just one example.

And it`s just the right thing to do to get this done. And it`s why we have veterans as you already pointed out sleeping on the steps of the capitol tonight saying, come on, guys, we put it on the line for you, you need to back up your end of the deal.

MADDOW: Montana U.S. Senator Jon Tester, Democrat chair of the Veteran Affairs Committee -- sir, thank you for your time tonight. Keep us apprised. I know this is going to be a hard fight in the days ahead. Thank you.

TESTER: We`ll do, Rachel. Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. More news ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:43:53]

MADDOW: Fair warning, tomorrow is going to be bananas as a primary day. Here are just some of the leading candidates in tomorrow`s Republican primaries.

In Arizona, there`s a Trump endorsed candidate for governor who has made the 2020 election the number one issue of her campaign. She obviously says the election was stolen and President Biden secretly isn`t president. And if she becomes governor she says she`ll eliminate mail-in voting in Arizona, as well as eliminating all voting machines. Oh. Plus she says without any evidence of course her primary election is already being stolen from her right now ahead of time.

Then, there`s Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Arizona. In that race, Trump`s preferred candidate is a guy almost entirely funded by billionaire tech guru Peter Thiel, a man who says he does not believe in democracy and America really started going downhill when women were given the right to vote. Whomp, whomp.

It goes without saying that Senate candidate Blake Masters believes the 2020 election was stolen. He also says the January 6 attack in the U.S. Capitol was a false flag operation carried out by the FBI. When it comes to gun violence in America, Blake Masters says he blames, quote, Black people, frankly, end quote.

[21:45:04]

Then, there`s the Republican primary for secretary of state in Arizona. That`s the official who runs the state`s elections. The Trump backed candidate there is an election denier who says he`ll only accept the results of tomorrow`s primary if he wins tomorrow`s primary.

He was at January 6th himself, and he says he`s a member of the right-wing pro-Trump paramilitary group, the Oath Keepers. Members of which are on trial right now for seditious conspiracy because of their role in the January 6th attack.

All three of those Trump backed candidates have a very good chance of winning their Republican primaries tomorrow in Arizona. Meanwhile, Missouri, the Republican primary for U.S. Senate there features the state`s former Republican governor who was forced to resign from that job after about five minutes in a scandal over blackmailing his former mistress after he allegedly forced her into a non-consequential sexual encounter and then photographed it.

More recently, Eric Greitens` ex-wife has accused him in court of physically abusing both her and their kids. And he`s released an ad that features him and other guys with guns in tactical gear pretending to hunt fellow Republicans they deem insufficiently Trumpy, by storming into their house with guns.

Eric Greiten`s main rival for the Senate nomination in Missouri is another man named eric. His name is Eric Schmitt. He`s the sitting attorney general in Missouri. You may best remember him for joining a lawsuit to try to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Biden`s election and then launching a fund-raising event off of it.

Tonight, I guess this is breaking news on the eve of tomorrow`s Missouri`s primary, Donald Trump released an endorsement in this contest between Eric Greitens and Eric Schmitt. Trump says he`s endorsing Eric. I`m not kidding, this is actually what Trump`s endorsement press release says. I`m therefore proud to announce eric has my complete endorsement. And yes, both Erics have enthusiastically accepted that endorsement tonight. Absolutely unreal.

I should also mention in the great state of Washington Republican Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Butler is facing a primary challenge tomorrow. She`s one of a handful of Republican members of Congress who voted in favor of Trump`s impeachment for inciting the attack on the attack on the Capitol in January 6. That, of course, explains why Trump is backing a primary challenger against her.

But the guy Trump is backing, who, boy, this guy has like a whole rolodex of extremist and white militia members connected to his campaign. He keeps showing up at events and posing for photos with guys who spread anti- Semitic and neo-Nazi propaganda online, who say things like Hitler was complicated and Hitler was misunderstood.

The candidate himself said in an interview, quote, I don`t think there`s anything wrong would there being a white people special-interest group. That`s who Trump is backing in a primary challenge to a sitting Republican congresswoman in Washington state tomorrow. Probably the most watched vote tomorrow actually doesn`t involve a candidate at all.

It`s the vote in the state of Kansas on abortion. Kansas will vote tomorrow on proposed amendment to the state constitution. If it passes, it would effectively let Republicans in the Kansas state legislature ban abortion. This will be the first time that voters have cast ballots directly on abortion rights since the Supreme Court overturned Roe.

To make sure it passes, Kansas Republicans have put the measure on the ballot during what they expect to be a low turn out primary election, one in which mostly Republican candidates are running in races, so mostly Republican voters are expected to turn out.

They`ve also made the language of the ballot measures as complicated and confusing as possible so that no normal person can be expected to decipher what a yes vote or no vote really means in this context. We`ve also got reports of misleading text messages being sent to Kansas voters describing a no vote as a yes vote, and a yes vote as a no vote in a way designed to bamboozle people into voting in a way don`t actually intend.

So, that vote is in Kansas tomorrow, so all these primary elections. We`re 99 days out from the mid-terms in which all these candidates who win these primaries tomorrow are going to be on the ballot in the general election.

And we`ll tell you one silver lining here. The great Steve Kornacki is going to host a special focused on what`s going to happen in those mid- terms, and that is coming up tonight after the show, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. You won`t want to miss it.

We`ve got more to come. Stay with us.

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[21:54:07]

MADDOW: This weekend, President Biden joined the small but growing group of Americans who have gotten COVID and then taken the anti-viral drug Paxlovid. With the help of Paxlovid, the powerful antiviral, they`ve recovered from COVID, tested negative only to have what they`re calling a rebound. After finishing the five-day course of the Paxlovid pills and testing negative at the end of it, the president like many Americans then tested positive again a couple of days later.

Now, statistically they say this a rare thing. The data says only about 2 to 6 percent of people who take Paxlovid face a rebound from COVID like this. But the president being one of those places a spotlight on it and raises some interesting questions for future research. The president`s doctor said today, importantly, that the president continues to feel well even though he`s still testing positive as of this morning, and that`s the important bottom line here.

He`s okay, Paxlovid is working and has been working for thousands of Americans, keeping people alive and out of the hospital and ideally dealing with relatively mild symptoms just like the president has experienced.

[21:55:10]

But like the president people who get these rebound cases after completing a course of Paxlovid they face a couple of tricky questions particularly around infectiousness.

Are you contagious once you start testing positive again? The consensus there is probably yes. The CDC now says if you get a Paxlovid rebound, you`ve got to go back into isolation for another five days and wear your mask for another ten day just as if it`s a new infection. That`s the protocol the president is under right now.

Researchers are still investigating Paxlovid rebound. But for people taking that anti-viral drug and excited to test negative at the end of that five- day course the increasing visibility of Paxlovid rebound shows a negative test at the end of that course of drugs might just be a temporary reprieve, and your infectiousness might still be a live issue. That has implications for everybody taking that treatment, definitely still gaps in our knowledge here about the president`s announcement about this should spur new research if not new recommendations hopefully sooner rather than later.

Watch this space.

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MADDOW: All right. That is going to do it for us for now. But I have good news -- now, it is time for a "Special Countdown to the Midterms" with the good and great Steve Kornacki.

Steve, I`m so looking forward to this.