Several documents were then confirmed missing by the National Archives. And Trump`s legal team asks the court to delay a special master ruling. Meanwhile, opening statements in the founder of the Oath Keepers` January 6 sedition trial began today. Axios is reporting Brett Favre hired former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann, as new texts show the University of Southern Mississippi was concerned about the grant funded volleyball facility he proposed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The community was going to have find their own resources how they could.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC ANCHOR: Margo Snipe (ph), congratulations again for the power and --- showing the power of journalism. Great reporting. Thank you very much for coming to The Last Word. That is tonight`s Last Word. The 11th Hour starts right now.
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight, the latest stunners in the Mar-a- Lago classified document investigation to Trump lawyer who reportedly would not do as his boss requested, as the National Archives confirms several items remain missing, then 35 days until the midterms with election deniers on the ballot, democracy hangs in the balance.
Plus, new evidence surfaces in the Mississippi welfare fraud scheme linked to NFL legend Brett Favre. And as President Biden begins visiting hurricane damage regions, there are no paper towel rolls being tossed as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this Monday night.
Good evening. Once again, I`m Stephanie Ruhle, and a case against the former president`s handling of White House documents appears to be growing by the day.
Tonight reporting from the Washington Post and The New York Times seems to provide the Justice Department more potential evidence. Both papers reporting that back in February, one of Trump`s lawyers refused his clients request to tell the National Archives that everything had been returned.
The Post reports this, the lawyer declined because he was not sure the statement was true, according to people familiar with the matter. The paper reports that lawyer was Alex Cannon, who was responsible for the transfer of 15 boxes of presidential records from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives back in January. Here`s the very same Alex Cannon who testified to the January 6 committee that he told White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, that there was no evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 election.
The papers say both Trump and Cannon have yet to respond to specific questions about this document reporting.
Also today, the National Archives released previously unseen e-mails sent to Trump`s lawyers back in May of 2021. The e-mails indicate a letter from former President Obama was missing. So were those so called love letters between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
In September of 2021, Trump came close to telling New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman that he did take some documents before he decided to walk it back.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MAGGIE HABERMAN, THE NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER: Did you leave the White House with anything in particular? Are there any Memento documents you took with you? Anything?
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Nothing of great urgency and I have great things are you know, the letters that Kim Jong-un letters and many of them.
HABERMAN: You were able to take those with you? Wow.
TRUMP: Look at what`s happening. No, I think that has the -- I think that`s in the archives, but most of it is in the archives.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
RUHLE: As the Justice Department looks into all of this, it is asking a Court of Appeals to speed up the legal wrangling over access to documents being reviewed by the Special Master John Dearie. But today, Trump`s lawyers asked a federal court to delay a hearing on the appeal until January at the earliest. On another front the criminal prosecution of the January 6 riot is moving forward.
Opening statements began today in the trial of Oath Keepers founders, Stewart Rhodes and four other members of the militia group. They are all charged with seditious conspiracy and had pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutor told a jury the group plan for an armed rebellion to prevent a peaceful transfer of power. The government also played audio of Stewart Rhodes himself heard saying his only regret is that members did not bring rifles on January 6.
The Jan. 6 House Committee is also investigating the role of right wing militia groups during the right itself. Today, Vice Chair Liz Cheney said the panel is also focusing on what to tell the Justice Department once their work is done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Judy is if in the course of our investigation, it becomes clear that there was criminal activity then then, you know, we make criminal referrals. That process is one that that we`re discussing now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: NBC News has learned the next and possibly final January 6 committee hearing is likely to be held next Thursday, October 13.
With that, let`s get smarter with the help of our leadoff panel on this Monday night Katie Benner joins us, Pulitzer Prize winning Justice Department reporter for the New York Times. Sam Stein, veteran journalist and White House editor for POLITICO and Tali Farhadian Weinstein joins me here at 30 Rock, former federal prosecutor and state prosecutor in New York. She clerked for Merrick Garland and Justice Sandra Day O`Connor.
Katie to you first, explain what Trump wanted this Former Attorney of his Alex Cannon to do regarding these documents.
KATIE BENNER, THE NEW YORK TIMES JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER: He wanted to represent the National Archives that everything had been returned. He also wanted a statement crafted that will be read upon return of the document saying that all was clear. And that National Archives now had everything they wanted.
Alex Cannon, as we`ve reported, as the Washington Post reported, decided that he didn`t want to do that, because he wasn`t sure that that was the truth. And being a lawyer, he understood that would put him in considerable legal jeopardy.
RUHLE: OK, but here`s the thing that happened, what in 2021, and still, the National Archives doesn`t have all the documents, isn`t that true?
BENNER: That`s correct. The National Archives has sent a letter saying they believe they`re more documents out there. But in this case, it`s not documents they`re looking for the kinds of things that, you know, pieces of paper are classified information. It could be that but they`ve specifically outlined that they don`t have communications sent between people in the White House and in the administration, which would also be presidential records, in part because they were using -- they were not using official White House e-mail and their official White House and government issued phones. They were using apps that would encrypt those messages or potentially make them disappear. And so they`re concerned that they don`t have all the messages and it`s unclear whether or not those things can be recovered.
RUHLE: Tali, it has now been eight weeks since the search at Mar-a-Lago. And still we have not heard any explanation for Trump or his lawyers as to why he took the documents to begin with, and what are they doing now? They`re trying to slow the investigation slow this process into January. Is this strategy working for him?
TALI FARHADIAN WEINSTEIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it`s totally predictable. I mean, it does look like his toolkit is pretty limited at this point. And he has said --
RUHLE: He might not need a different tool, though.
WEINSTEIN: Right. Because he has said, look, because the reasoning is so circular upside down. He says he can`t get it together for November, he wants until 2023. Because the special master process that he requested is really time consuming for him and has slowed him down. And I say that it`s circular upside down because, of course, what the Justice Department is saying and trying to get an expedited ruling on is that this whole process was ill conceived.
Judge Cannon should have never taken jurisdiction of this criminal case. And she should have never appointed this special master to do things that don`t really make sense.
And you know, Stephanie, I think sometimes it`s important to just step outside of it and to say, what is going on here? You know, I was sitting today and thinking, I cannot think of another time that a district court judge has appointed another district court judge sitting somewhere else in the country. You know, Judge Dearie is not retired. He`s got his own casework. He`s got his own stuff to do, and slowing things down by making him take a first pass and everything before it comes back to her. I think things are as busy in Brooklyn as they are in Palm Beach.
RUHLE: OK. But Tali, we could say I can`t think of another time fill in the blank Trump for the last six years, as nerdy as all of this may be isn`t working?
WEINSTEIN: Well, yes, in the sense that he is pushing it out. And the political landscape changes every day. And he may well succeed in making it so the Justice Department will not be able to act or will have to make some much harder calls about what it`s going to do.
RUHLE: And that right there is as twisted as it gets. Sam, Trump is still holding rallies, he is keeping up his attacks day in and day out on the Department of Justice, the FBI, he`s now thrown Mitch McConnell into there. But that GOP course that has been backing him up seems a little more subdued these days, doesn`t it?
SAM STEIN, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE EDITOR: Well, I suppose that`s what happens when you raise this prospect of death threats on Mitch McConnell and lob racist attacks on his wife, the course the GOP senators can either pretend that they haven`t heard it, which they do. Or they can then that or they could condemn it, which they refuse to do.
I will say this about Trump, you know, part of what is sustaining him is his ability to get out there and launch these incendiary texts. But that I mean, he`s fundraising. The one thing that`s going well, for him probably right now is the online fundraising that he`s getting from all this, the Justice Department, the FBI going into Mar-a-Lago, that ability to raise money is helping sustain his political operations, while also helping sustain his legal operations.
The $3 million retainer that he essentially had to pay Chris Kise to represent him. He cannot afford that if not for the fact that he`s fundraising off of the victimhood of the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago. So it`s -- in a way it`s a double edged sword here. The more legal troubles he`s in, the less he has in terms of defense from sitting GOP lawmakers, but also the more he gets GOP donor base to come to his rescue fund his legal bills and fund of potential future political operation that is likely to launch surely after the midterms.
RUHLE: OK, then quickly, who are all these Trump donors who continue to write him checks, Sam. And two, does Trump have any restrictions on how aware he can spend this money that he`s bringing in?
So the first question on the donors, I don`t know if you`re on the Save America PAC e-mail list, or the Texas but it`s relentless. There -- It is borderline spam, but it is a spigot of, well, it`s probably I think, definitionally spam at this point, but it works. I mean, this is the donor -- this is the donor base for the Republican Party.
And you will see this in the actual money raised by actual current candidates. They do not have grassroots online donors right now. They`re suffering terribly in the fundraising race against Democrats, because in part, Trump has absorbed all of that apparatus under his umbrella.
Now to the second part, you know, what happens if you were to declare his candidacy is that he would have great restrictions action when he could spend that money on? That`s part of the reason why he`s not currently declared candidate for president again, you know, (INAUDIBLE) constants interviews, he said, you`ll like the answer you hear when I say it, but if you were to actually make the declaration, a bunch of campaign finance laws will go into effect. It will be restricted on what that on both the coordination and what that pack could spend.
RUHLE: But as for now, he can spend it as he wants, stunning. Katie, Oath Keepers trial is now underway. How high are the stakes?
BENNER: The stakes are very high. These are the most serious charges brought against any of the 900 or so defendants that the Justice Department has filed criminal charges against. It`s asked -- it`s asking the jury to decide whether or not the leader of the Oath Keepers and several other members, basically, you know whether or not they committed sedition on January 6, whether or not they planned to overthrow the government by stopping the peaceful transfer of power from President Trump to Joe Biden.
And this is going to be a really important case, you know, they`re going to -- the legal experts have already said, if coming in to the Capitol, in stack formation, using military tactics to stop Joe Biden from becoming president is not an attempted overthrow of the government, is not an attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power and to stop the democratic process. It begs the question, what is it? Well, it`s to be seen whether or not the jury will be convinced but that those are the stakes as far as the Justice Department is concerned.
RUHLE: Tali, these guys are pleading not guilty, and they are the four leaders of the Oath Keepers. But other members of the group have already pleaded guilty. And according to our own Ryan Reilly, they may be testifying for the prosecution. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN REILLY, NBC NEWS JUSTICE REPORTER: Stewart Rhodes had on the night of January 6, where he was talking to somebody who was apparently a Trump intermediary in the room of a hotel and essentially calling upon Donald Trump and calling up telling this Trump intermediary to put him in directly in contact with Trump and tell Trump to call upon these militias to step up, to step in, and essentially stop the peaceful transfer of power.
There`s a number of overlaps between the Oath Keepers and the Trump folks in this and I think we`re going to get more of that as this trial sort of plays out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: How difficult is it to get convictions in a conspiracy case like this?
WEINSTEIN: Well, it`s a great question, because this charge seditious conspiracy is rarely ever used. And basically, the government had to resurrect it. And the fact that they did, it tells us a lot about what is at stake here. I mean, I agree with Katie, this is huge, because this is a statute that Congress passed right after the Civil War as a way to deal with southerners who couldn`t deal with the fact that they lost and were not able to accept the peaceful transfer of power. And so they`re fighting the government and sort of defying the authority of the government. And that was creating violence.
So you can, you know, transpose all of that on to what is happening now. It feels right. And it makes sense. But there`s not a lot to work with in terms of what are the ins and outs of this statute because it had sort of been put to sleep for so long.
RUHLE: Well, it`s awake now. Sam, the next January 6 hearing could take place next week, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain was asked today about the timing it being so close to the midterms. And here`s what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: He views them as very responsible efforts to get to the bottom of a real threat to our democracy. So the hearings Congress is holding, I think is part of what should be a national reexamination of whether or not this country is dedicated democracy. But what the threats and challenges to that democracy are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: All that makes sense, Sam, but should this Biden White House worry about the public perhaps tuning out the committee`s message about democracy?
STEIN: Yes, and no. The White House has a couple of different messages they`re trying to emphasize before the midterm elections. One of them is that the economy is improving, but the main one is really bad abortion activists. I think the third one if you had to rank and this would be about this issue of democracy being on the ballot. We know that the President made a high profile speech not too long ago, where this was the main emphasis.
But if you look at the actual breakdown in campaign gave dollar spent it`s not the primary motivation but not the primary focus with Democratic candidate.
That said, I think the reason that they`re -- they would benefit politically from this, and I don`t think you got them to admit this in private, they probably would admit this, because if this election is a referendum on Trump or Trumpism, it beats it being a referendum on Biden, and Biden`s. Any incumbent president in the midterm election will say, Look, I don`t want it to be a referendum on my record. I wanted to be a choice about the future.
And that`s what they`ve been trying to do. They want to make this a choice election about what kind of future the American wants to live under. And if they can make that -- if the January 6 committee hearings, help them make that it`s to their political benefit.
RUHLE: Tali, today was day one for the new Supreme Court term. It was the debut of death of Justice Katanji Brown Jackson. But all of this is coming while there`s a new Gallup poll out saying the public opinion support for the Supreme Court is at an all time low. What are you watching this term?
WEINSTEIN: Well, I`m watching the subject that we`ve been talking about tonight, which is democracy. And we just heard Ron Klain talk about threats to democracy. So this court, this term has two huge cases about democracy and attacks on our institutions. Tomorrow, they`re going to hear a case out of Alabama about racial gerrymandering, and you can`t make this stuff up 27 percent of the population, the voting population in Alabama is black, but the way they`ve drawn their congressional maps, they black voters really only have a shot at getting one out of seven congressional seats the way that they want.
And the question before the court is, is this OK? And then later this term, they`ve already said they`re going to hear a case about partisan gerrymandering, where North Carolina drew maps that favor Republicans tend to for a huge percentage, and the North Carolina Supreme Court said, You can`t do that.
And the argument in front of the court is well, no, under the independent state legislature doctrine, which was not a thing, as far as I knew, right? That`s fine, because only legislatures, as we know, Republicans have invested a lot in can decide these issues of how elections are conducted. And state courts can`t do anything about it. And the Supreme Court has already said, well, we don`t get involved in partisan gerrymandering, either.
And so two big gerrymandering cases that really it each of them disenfranchise voters, right, these strategies if they`re allowed to stand and all of this is in front of the Supreme Court that lots of Americans have lost faith in. It`s a lot.
RUHLE: Tali Farhadian Weinstein delivering you all nightmares on this Monday night. Tali, Sam, Katie, thank you all so much. We`re going to leave it there. Scared yet.
Coming up. You thought Dahmer was going to be the scary show this season, five weeks, five weeks and counting to what may be the most critical midterm election in this nation`s history. We`re going to dig into what`s at stake.
And later, Brett Favre and the welfare money scandal. We`re going to talk to one of the leading reporters on the Mississippi controversy that is not going away. All that plus an update on hurricane recovery. THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on a Monday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: Character matters, really matters especially in elected officials. And I think those ought to be the criteria by which we make decisions when we go vote. And I think it`s really important not to incentivize the kind of partisan toxicity that that has come to characterize too much of how we conduct ourselves these days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Liz Cheney is speaking the truth, but as she`s speaking and alone, the midterm elections are just five weeks away and the stakes for democracy could not be higher, as Trump`s Big Lie still has a chokehold on the Republican Party. As Tim Alberta writes in The Atlantic, quote, Republicans have nominated scores of candidates who deny the legitimacy of Biden`s victory. Seven are running to become the chief elections official in their state. Scary, huh.
Let`s welcome back two of our all-time favorite political analysts, Juanita Tolliver, host of Crooked Media`s "What A Day" podcast and Matthew Dowd, a former George W. Bush strategist and founder of Country Over Party.
Matt, let`s get right to it. What happens if straight up election deniers win in these important swing states?
MATTHEW DOWD, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Our democracy is in peril. But I mean, it`s that`s the bottom line to it. Our democracy is in peril if they win. And it basically means the 2024 election is likely not to be legitimate because they won`t seed to the will of the voters in the key states. If they win in Arizona, if they win in Nevada, if they win in Michigan, if they win in Wisconsin, all states that will decide the presidential election. We won`t have a legitimate election because they won`t allow the will of the voters to prevail in it.
So, I don`t think you can say it any other way that our democracy would be seriously in peril if they were to win.
RUHLE: Juanita, do you think the majority of Americans know this. Most people just live in their lives.
JUANITA TOLLIVER, "WHAT A DAY" PODCAST HOST: I hope they start to tune in in these last few weeks because based on 5:30 aides (ph) analysis 60 percent of Americans and voters will see election deniers on their ballots. And so I hope they`re go to the polls knowing who these people are.
But I want to pick up on something else that Matt said around the process of accepting election results. Because in addition to these conspiracy theorists who are running as candidates, you also have conspiracy theorists signing up to volunteer, to serve as poll workers to serve as people who check in voters, and they could turn away voters. They could try to obstruct the vote counting process. They could read damage every step of the way in this process. And that is another thing that makes my flesh crawl because plain and simple. It`s a question of will our democracy survive this election?
RUHLE: Matt, you know, who`s not talking about democracy hanging in the balance, Fox News. You turn on Fox News, anytime a day, any day of the week, there are three messages on repeat the border crisis, crime on the rise and inflation.
Now, Republicans aren`t offering any solutions, but drumming these beats over and over? Is that enough to scare people into voting for them?
DOWD: Well, that`s why it`s incumbent on candidates to run campaigns that emphasize the issues that they`re strong on. If the Democrats tried to respond and run the issues that the Republicans want, then they`re likely to lose. But this is an election that has made your cross currents, the cross currents you mentioned, that favor Republicans in this election cycle and the cross currents that favor the Democrats, including choice and democracy, and health care and all those other issues. So there`s this crosscurrent.
I`ll give you a perfect example. There just put out -- a poll just came out in Michigan, probably one of the key swing states here. Joe Biden`s numbers are still not good in Michigan, but every single Democrat who`s running against an election denier for attorney general, for Secretary of State, and for governor, every one of those is losing by near double digits in that state. Why? Because the candidates, the Democratic candidates in Michigan are all running on these issues, are all running on the threats to democracy, are all running on the threats to all these other issues.
And one thing we could should take this out of the sort of theoretical or the political science, which is democracy. What that really means is that the people that want something to accomplish, whether it`s social security, Medicare, choice, guns, you will not be able to accomplish it when you`re not in a democracy.
So the only way you can receive the will of the voters in this country or in any country is through a democracy. So if Democrats run on the campaign, that their strongest son, and emphasize those issues, as we see in Michigan and other states, they can win.
RUHLE: Yikes. Juanita, a new polling is giving Democrats an edge among Latino voters. But that edge is shrinking. Why is that?
TOLLIVER: Look, the two things that come to mind when I see that decline over the past 10 years, is really about research as well as outreach. So on the research side, I`m thinking strategists need to understand and accept that Latinos are not a monolith. They come from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences. And you cannot force feed them one message or one issue and expect them all to bite. And so that is something that needs to be invested in in the long term.
The other long term invested is going to be ongoing outreach. I saw a recent tracking poll from three weeks ago, so two months before the election that said 51 percent of Latinos had not had any outreach from either party. And that is an act of failing. Because one thing I know is that that outreach needs to be early and often and regular to get a drumbeat going to not only develop buy in and support for your party, but also that action of getting to the polls. And that`s what is happening right now.
RUHLE: Matt, I want to ask you this. I want to go to the state of Florida because Ron DeSantis and his wife have been raising money every day on television, over radio calls since the storm hit, raising money for relief funds to help people. They`ve raised more than $10 million. That`s a lot of money. Some critics are asking, Where`s the oversight? Are they right to worry or at a time like this? Should we just be grateful that our lawmakers are raising money trying to help people? How concerned should we be?
DOWD: So first off, every time that anybody raises a question about leadership during a crisis, people say don`t do that people, Republicans say don`t politicize it. So somebody says somebody who`s critical Ron DeSantis, in a hurricane, they say, Don`t politicize. The same thing they say, after a mass shooting, somebody brings up the fact that we ought to reduce access to guns, they say, Don`t politicize it. Of course, this is about politics. And if of course, the governor should be criticized for any number governor of Florida should be criticized for any number of things, not the least of which he has spent no time on infrastructure in Florida, and all his time on critical race theory on transgender issues, on threats to businesses.
And of course, they should we`re -- after what we`ve saw with Donald Trump and how he`s conducted himself in office and the egregious nature, he`s used charitable organizations and raised money that no one knows that no one can track where it ends up but it`s likely to end up in the pockets of the Trump family.
Of course, they should raise those issues. I don`t understand why he`s not raising the money for the Red Cross or for any number of established charities. Why he has to set up his own charity in this. We ought to raise a whole number of questions in this because we`ve seen evidence over the last five years of the leader of the Republican Party who`s taken money that he said it was going to reraised for charities and diverted to things we have no ideas about.
RUHLE: That is the question, why not raise it for the Red Cross? Why raise it for this special fund that you just created? We`re going to keep watching. Juanita Tolliver, Matthew Dowd, thank you both so, so much. I told you they were two of our favorites.
When we come back, the story that isn`t going away kids the pro football legend at the center of a growing fundraising firestorm the latest in the Brett Favre controversy when THE 11TH HOUR continues.
RUHLE: The death toll from Hurricane Ian is now over 100 and that number is likely to rise as search and rescue efforts continue across Florida. Our own Kerry Sanders has more.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): This is St. James City. Since last Wednesday when Hurricane Ian hit, this island community has been mostly cut off from contact with the outside world/
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Haven`t seen any help from the government.
SANDERS: 72-year-old Joe Lou routed out here alone.
SANDERS (on camera): What would you like people to know?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send help whenever, whatever.
SANDERS (voiceover): Survivors here say friends with boats in Cape Coral and Fort Myers have taken it upon themselves to render aid. So far, there`s been no feeble water ice generators, food.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
RUHLE: President Biden is set to visit Florida on Wednesday. But today he visited an area of Puerto Rico that was among the hardest hit by Hurricane Fiona. The president pledged $60 million to help the island prepare for future storms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We`re going to make sure you get every single dollar promised. And I`m determined our Puerto Rico Bill faster than in the past and stronger and better prepared for the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Back with us tonight, Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason. He was traveling with the president today. Jeff, talk to us about what you saw and what else did we hear from the President?
JEFF MASON, REUTERS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Steph, it was really a visit I think for this President and the First Lady to show support for Puerto Rico and for its people. The President`s remarks and the clip played where he talked about pledging U.S. support, pledging the federal government support. Over the last few days he has made a point of saying that Puerto Rico deserve more from the United States. And I think he was trying to make good on that.
RUHLE: How was his message received by residents? Because let`s be honest, they were told we`re going to help you this won`t happen again. We`re going to improve your infrastructure five years ago.
MASON: Well, indeed, it was interesting to me today. He didn`t go and meet with a lot of residents. He didn`t meet with some groups. But one of the people he met with was the governor of Puerto Rico. The Governor was not shy and putting out some asks and one of them was to extend a state of emergency for another 180 days, which would lead essentially to the U.S. government paying all of the bills and all of the costs for cleaning for another half a year.
I think that that was assigned this island that has been tell the U.S. government what it wants and what it needs. And that was the reaction from the leader.
RUHLE: The President is headed to Florida on Wednesday, what should we expect to hear from him then?
MASON: Well, I think you`ll hear a similar message in terms of U.S. support for recovery efforts, there will be probably a wider or larger political edge to the Wednesday visit, likely to meet with Governor Ron DeSantis. During that trip, that`ll be watched very closely because of the political tension between those two men, although I think it`s also say that both men have found those political tensions a while discussing and working on the recovery from that.
So I think that will be the focus on fine stages was today, but with a little bit of an edge because of the disagreements between the two on other issues.
RUHLE: Well, we will be watching the people of Florida certainly need our government leaders to get together and help them in this time of need. Jeff Mason, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
When we come back, new developments in the Brett Favre welfare scandal. We`ll talk to the Mississippi reporter tracking all of it when THE 11TH HOUR continues.
RUHLE: The Mississippi welfare scandal involving former NFL star Brett Favre is still unfolding. Axios now reporting Favre has hired former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann as his lead counsel. Favre is suspected of pressuring Mississippi government officials to spend millions of dollars in welfare funds on a volleyball center at the school where his daughter played the sport.
And our next guests reports newly uncovered text messages show that the University of Southern Mississippi had concerns about the grant funded volleyball facility. Favre personally received in addition to that over a million dollars in welfare funds to give speeches that he never actually made.
He did repay that money. We should note he has denied any wrongdoing through his lawyer. And he has maintained that he did not know that the distributed funds were welfare funds at all. And at this point, he has not been charged with a crime.
Joining us Anna Wolfe, reporter for Mississippi Today. Anna, you have done extraordinary reporting, since the very beginning on this story, this scandal. If it wasn`t for journalists like you, would any of this come out? Would Brett Favre still have that million dollars? Would we know nothing about this volleyball center, he just be living his big old life?
ANNE WOLFE, MISSISSIPPI TODAY REPORTER: That`s a really good question. You know, this story has kind of blown up here nationally, most recently, but the story has also been out there for over two years. When they made six arrests back in 2020, we were the first to really make that connection between Brett Favre and this welfare scandal that was unfolding, when a company that he had been investing in and was trying to get the state to support him on was named in the indictments as having received 2 million in stolen welfare funds.
I think a lot of this you could have seen be swept under the rug if it weren`t for people staying on it.
RUHLE: Good for you. Then I have to ask you if you`ve been working on this since 2020, what has been you or your team`s interaction with Brett Favre? I asked because I`ve asked him to come on TV with me. I don`t know 1, 20 consecutive days, no dice. What has he been like with your team over the last two and a half years?
WOLFE: We have not gotten an interview with him. You know, there was some text exchanged in the beginning where, you know, at the very beginning before he had been cited in an audit or, you know, the auditor was demanding that he make a repayment. We were talking to him about what conversations he had had with folks about either this pharmaceutical startup company that I mentioned, that he had pressured state officials to be involved in. And then also the volleyball stadium that we broke back in February of 2020.
We asked him if he had ever had any conversations with the governor about this volleyball project. And he said in a text message that he had not, he said no. Which we now know based on text messages that have been released, most recently that you indeed had conversations with the governor.
RUHLE: Pressured state officials in the poorest state in the country to invest in a pharmaceutical startup. All right, tell us about your new reporting now?
WOLFE: Well, I think the big question, as the story has progressed has been, you know, how much did Favre know about the source of these funds and what these funds were supposed to be spent on. And in the latest text messages that have just been released most recently, he at least knew that the funding came from a place that made the university nervous when he was talking about using these funds to build a volleyball stadium.
That in addition to the fact that they had to call this building a wellness center instead of what it actually was, which was a volleyball stadium. And they had to justify what they were doing by saying that it was going to serve, you know, however many people in poverty. I think gives some sort of indication as to the workarounds that they were trying to pull here, right.
You know, but this is how the TANF program has worked for decades in states where they`ve wanted to sort of contort the mission of this welfare program in order to support them doing what they wanted with the money.
TANF has a strict prohibition on states using the money for brick and mortar construction projects. And Favre actually uses the term brick and mortar in some of his text messages, saying that maybe Nancy knew the nonprofit founder that had been receiving a lot of this welfare money. Maybe she could give it to a different entity who could then give it to the university on to use on brick and mortar. Funny term.
RUHLE: Then based on your reporting, how detailed Favre is in all of this? Are you surprised that he hasn`t yet been charged with a crime? He just got himself a big giant lawyer.
WOLFE: So the state made six arrests back in 2020. There has not been a single arrest since then. John Davis, the former welfare director has finally pleaded guilty to federal charges two weeks ago. These are the first federal charges in two and a half years that have been levied against someone.
So you know, when you ask why haven`t charges been filed yet? You know, the feds do work slowly. They work quietly. We`re just now seeing for the first time them charging someone two weeks ago. John Davis has pled guilty to those federal charges. He`s agreed to eight prosecution.
Prosecutors have said that they are now working up the ladder, up the ladder from John Davis as former Governor Phil Bryant who was his boss. The closest -- the best evidence that we have about Phil Bryant involvement in welfare misspending has to do with Brett Favre projects. So I think we`re just waiting to see, you know what, what prosecutors will do here.
RUHLE: And why are the tax only coming out now?
WOLFE: That`s a good question. So, within the state`s civil suit, this is civil litigation that the state is bringing against 38 people or companies who received money improperly, and they`re trying to claw that money back. Within that civil case, Nancy knew the nonprofit founder that I mentioned has brought a subpoena against former Governor Phil Bryant, we`re going to have a -- governor is not a target of this civil suit. But they are subpoena in his text messages to serve as part of her defense, because in her lengthy defense, she says that the governor, in some cases, directed her to make these purchases. And if the governor didn`t even know that it was wrong, or the governor was willing to skirt these regulations, then, you know, how can she be held to that standard.
And so she has subpoenaed these messages. Bryant has objected to the subpoena. But both of them have now entered text messages within different filings in court to sort of give their side of the story. So Bryant is supplying all these messages that he say show that he didn`t have any idea that they were using welfare money, Nancy has produced text messages between her and Brett Favre that show that the governor was involved in conversations prior to welfare money going to the volleyball stadium --
RUHLE: Well, I`ve got to ask --
WOLFE: And that is why you`ve seen this back and forth.
RUHLE: I have to ask because we`re out of time, as of last year, 21 percent of children in Mississippi live at or below the poverty line. But you are from a state where football stars are treated like gods. How did the people of Mississippi feel about Brett Favre right now?
WOLFE: Well, yes, I don`t think that it`s very hard to understand how someone could be involved in doing this. You know, it`s hard to say that he definitely knew, you know, that this was money that was supposed to be serving the poorest of the poor in Mississippi.
But, you know, this is what happens under conservative policies that prioritize sort of personal responsibility over true safety net supports, you know, where they`re basically more comfortable, it`s less offensive to them to waste the money to squander it, or give it to wealthy people than to actually give it to people in need.
RUHLE: Anna Wolfe, the State of Mississippi is lucky to have your extraordinary reporting. Thank you for joining us tonight. We`re going to keep covering this story right here this hour. Eric Herschmann again, we invited you here to talk about Trump. You`re invited here to talk about Brett Favre any night of the week.
When we come back why Kim Kardashian is in hot water with regulators over promoting cryptocurrency. She has agreed to pay over a million dollar fine. But will other celebrities take notice that this is the tip of the iceberg for all those crypto influencers when THE 11TH HOUR continues.
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RUHLE: One of the things that made cryptocurrency so valuable is that it is unregulated. They`ve been fighting against regulation and regulation is what protects you. So all those celebrities you`re talking about Reese Witherspoon, Matt Damon, Kim Kardashian, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paris Hilton, LeBron James, who all were pumping cryptocurrency, NBC News reached out to all of them today. And you know what they said about crypto nothing.
If you and I have our life savings in Wells Fargo or Citibank, and they go under, the FDIC is there our money is guaranteed. If Coinbase goes bankrupt, that crypto is gone.
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RUHLE: The last thing before we go tonight, crypto consequences. On this show we have been keeping an eye on cryptocurrency how it`s promoted, how its regulated. And as we mentioned over the last year, we`ve seen ads from huge celebrities, famous people the Super Bowl, many, many people called it the crypto bowl, yet none of them had anything to say when the crypto market began melting down back in May.
Well today we`re starting to see possibly the tip of the iceberg of what consequences for celebrity promotions could look like. Kim Kardashian has agreed to pay a fine of more than $1 million after failing to tell her social media following that she was paid to promote EthereumMax. NBC`s Tom Costello has more.
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TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): She`s a reality TV star and social media influencer with a staggering 331 million followers on Instagram, often pitching her own products, now paying more than $1.2 million for failing to disclose that she was paid a quarter of million dollars when she posted "Are you into crypto?" Promoting a speculative cryptocurrency called EthereumMax, though she did include hashtag AD at the bottom.
GARY GENSLER, U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: And so when a celebrity or influence is touting it, it`s important that the public understands that relationship.
COSTELLO: Investors have sued after suffering big losses when their crypto investments tanked. Kardashian reportedly worth $1.8 billion paid the settlement without admitting wrongdoing. She`s prohibited from promoting cryptocurrencies for three years. Her attorneys saying she wanted to get this matter behind her to avoid a protracted dispute.
And recent years the SEC has fined other celebrities too, including boxer Floyd Mayweather, music producer DJ Khaled and actor Steven Seagal.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, CNBC "SQUAWK BOX" CO-ANCHOR: The SEC is using Kim Kardashian as an example as a shot across the bow to all sorts of other influencers, actors models and other people who use social media to promote different cryptocurrencies.
COSTELLO (on camera): The SEC says too many people have fallen prey to volatile cryptocurrency promises. Now it`s applying the same financial disclosure laws that apply to stocks and bonds.
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RUHLE: So much needed attention, oversight and potentially regulation that could protect millions and millions of Americans. We`ll continue to keep an eye on this story for you.
And on that note, I wish you all a very good nights. From all of our colleagues across the networks of NBC News, thanks for staying up late. I will see you at the end of tomorrow.