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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle, 8/24/22

Guests: Jackie Alemany, Barbara McQuade, Eugene Daniels, Ro Khanna, Patricia Murphy, Ali Vitali, Mimi Swartz


A newly released, unredacted memo details the Justice Department`s rationale for not charging Trump after the Mueller report. President Biden announced he will cancel up to $10k in student loan debt for certain borrowers, up to $20k for Pell Grant recipients and will extend the pause on repayment through December 31st. And following the money of who`s profiting off the big lie.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: And that is today`s "LAST WORD". THE 11TH HOUR with Stephanie Ruhle starts now.


ALICIA MENENDEZ, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight, a secret memo to former Attorney General Bill Barr is unsealed today. The middle of supports Bill Barr`s questionable decision not to charge Donald Trump with obstructing the Russia investigation.

And the former president says he was surprised the FBI came to get top secret documents at his club. But it turns out the government had been trying since before he left office.

Then, President Biden`s game changer announcement on student loan forgiveness, a lifeline for millions of Americans. Plus, the big lie turned big grift, how some are profiting off of disproven election fraud claims goes beyond the former president of THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this Wednesday night.

Good evening. Once again, I`m Alicia Menendez in for Stephanie Ruhle. As if the current day controversies of the former president were not enough. We begin with new insight tonight into how Donald Trump may have avoided accountability in the investigation that consumed much of his presidency.

Late today after a lengthy court fight, the Justice Department released a document related to the Russia investigation. The memo was top secret and now we know why former Attorney General Bill Barr wanted to keep it a secret.

In March 2019, Bill Barr told us before the Mueller report was released that the report had all been exonerated the former president and therefore, there was no reason to charge him. The memo essentially lays out Barr`s defense of that decision.

The memo contends Mueller`s report did not establish a case to charge Trump with obstruction and failed to establish any underlying crime related to Russian election interference. But as NBC has reported, Mueller`s report actually did identify 10 episodes that could be considered potential obstruction of justice. There`s one former Mueller prosecutor points out that`s just what a couple of high level Justice Department officials are worried about.


ANDREW WEISSMANN, FMR. SENIOR MEMBER OF MUELLER PROBE: Two senior staff say to Bill Barr, that the reason he should make the decision is because if the memo comes out, it might be read to imply that the President committed obstruction. This memo makes it clear that the reason that Bill Barr did not ask Robert Mueller to simply come to a conclusion is because it as it says here, the report can be read to find that indeed, he did commit obstruction.


MENENDEZ: As for the ongoing investigations into the former president. Tonight the Justice Department is facing a deadline related to the search warrant for Trump`s Florida home. Prosecutors have until noon tomorrow to give a judge suggested redactions to the warrants affidavit. Today, at the White House, President Biden was asked about search.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, how much advance notice did you have of the FBI`s plan to search Mar-a-Lago?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I didn`t have any advance notice, none, zero, not one single bit. Thank you.


MENENDEZ: Turns out efforts to retrieve presidential records from Trump had been well underway even before he left office. The Washington Post as the National Archives was asking for presidential documents during the final days of his term after one of Trump`s own lawyers agreed they should be returned. One of the reporters on that story is going to join us in just a moment.

Meanwhile, NBC News reports top intelligence officials do not appear to have launched a formal damage assessment relating to classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. There were also signs the former president is increasingly upset over the FBI seizure of those records.

Rolling Stone reports he`s been pushing his lawyers to quote, get my, my top secret documents back. One prominent constitutional lawyer had a no holds barred response to that.


GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE ATTORNEY: These documents belong to the executive branch they belong to the United States of America. And Donald Trump can`t assert an executive branch privilege as a former president against the current executive branch. Trump took them he stole them in fact.


MENENDEZ: One Washington Post columnist says Trump`s determination to cling to classified documents could create his biggest legal headache yet. An op- ed titled behind Trump`s campaign of delay and defiance at Mar-a-Lago, David Ignatius writes that Trump is now like King Lear an angry exile. But he adds Trump`s notion of supreme personal power is document narcissism might have caught up with him in the Mar-a-Lago.


Ignatius ends with a suggested solution to this controversy he writes stop denigrating the rule of law, respect it.

And with that, let`s bring in our leadoff panel Jackie Alemany, Congressional investigations reporter for The Washington Post, and MSNBC contributor, Eugene Daniels, White House correspondent for POLITICO, and Barbara McQuade, a veteran federal prosecutor and former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She worked with the DOJ during the Biden transition, and she`s a professor at the University of Michigan`s law school. Good to see you all.

Jackie, you have new reporting on just how long the National Archives has been trying to get these documents back from Trump, even before he left the White House, but the former president acts like he`s surprised by this. Tell us what you learned.

JACKIE ALEMNAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, thanks so much for having me on tonight. We reviewed an email of correspondence between the former president`s legal team and officials from the National Archives in the May time period that showed that there was a determination weeks before former President Trump left office that certain items around roughly two dozen boxes of original presidential records that were being kept in the residence of the White House needed to be returned to NARA under the Presidential Records Act, and that Trump`s top lawyers at the White House including Pat Cipollone, along with Scott Gast had made a determination that these boxes would be returned to the National Archives and to the White House Office of Records Management.

It`s unclear in via this email, if NARA knew exactly what was in those boxes in the residence at the time, but where we are now we know that multiple boxes 15 initially, and now multiple sets of classified information and subsequent seizures by the FBI have been recovered in -- from Mar-a-Lago and into the possession of the National Archives.

And now the FBI, showing that this all unfolded far earlier than was previously known, and that even in the final days of the administration, there were officials already concerned about the former President`s record keeping practices and trying to recover materials, again, as early as January of 2020.

MENENDEZ: And Barbara, this timeline is critical. The more we learn, the longer it seems the dispute with the archives over documents has been going on and the harder it would seem for Trump for his allies to defend all this. What would you be telling him if you were his lawyer right now?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think the best advice I think you can give someone is that when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. And it seems that every time he turns around, he`s saying something that makes his case a little bit worse, you know, the evolving defenses. For example, at first he didn`t do it, and then that the FBI planted these documents, and then that he declassified them, all of those statements can ultimately be used against him. And the changing narrative, I think just tends to show a consciousness of guilt.

But the significance I hear from Jackie`s story is that this lengthy duration of the battle back and forth, really establishes this element of willfulness. And unlike other crimes, where ignorance of the law is no excuse, you do have to prove that a person knew that what they were doing was illegal when it comes to mishandling classified documents. And so this length of duration of this battle with the archives, you know, tends to show that Donald Trump knew very well that what he was doing was against the law, and yet continued to hang on to these documents. So, every time he opens his mouth, he`s making the case worse for himself.

MENENDEZ: So tomorrow in Florida, DOJ is going to submit it suggested affidavit redactions. Barbara, what should we be looking for? What`s the process here?

MCQUADE: Well, I the judge has ordered them to produce some redactions. I can`t imagine that there`s an awful lot that they are going to want to expose to the world because it is going to potentially involve the disclosure of some of the witnesses here, even if not by name, to identify, you know, maybe their job descriptions or when and where they observe certain things. And it wouldn`t take much for someone to figure out who these people are.

And so the judge will review these documents. So there will be a proposed redaction. It seems likely that there will be so much redacted as to really render this exercise futile. But nonetheless, maybe the judge will feel like, you know, just putting in a few random words here and there is all they can do.

So I think the judge is going to review the Justice Department`s proposed redactions tomorrow. You may push back and see if they could disclose a little bit more, but I don`t imagine we`re going to see a whole lot.

MENENDEZ: All right. The President and his allies have been criticizing law enforcement. The former president and his allies, excuse me, have been criticizing law enforcement ever since the Mar-a-Lago search and not has federal agencies on alert.


One man died in a police standoff after firing a nail gun at an FBI bureau in Cincinnati. New Video has just been released from that incident as NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez reports.


GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The barrage of gunfire alongside in Ohio cornfield came during a tense standoff after police say a man trying to breach this FBI field office in Cincinnati this month.

A high speed chase follow the attempted break in. This video provided to NBC affiliate WLWT by the Warren County Sheriff`s Office just one of the agencies involved.

The standoff lasts nearly six hours. Eventually law enforcement closes in the suspect shot and killed.

(on camera): Authorities have not confirmed the motive. But the suspect posted on social media about his desire to kill FBI agents after former President Trump`s Mar-a-Lago residence was searched.


MENENDEZ: Eugene, the attacks from the former president, the attacks from his allies, they have real world consequences. How worried is the White House about this investigation and the continued threats to federal law enforcement.

EUGENE DANIELS, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This current White House is very concerned about it so much so that on September 15, they`re kind of bringing people together in a day of unity. We`re talking to lawmakers, clergy, people, you know, activists and advocates to figure out how to tone down the rhetoric in this country. It`s really hard to do when you have a former president who is still the leader of his party, and a party following him, you know, blindly as he kind of says whatever he wants, it was kind of shocking, I think to all of us, as soon as president -- former President Trump started talking about the FBI and the way that he was, which he`s done for years after the FBI went to his home.

He started to see Republicans say something I never thought it was able to defund the FBI, right, defund law enforcement, something they have attacked Democrats for a very long time. And so the fact that you have a Republican Party that`s willing to follow Donald Trump, as he attacks, you know, whether that is election workers right, before and before January 6, whether that is law enforcement officials currently, and it`s not going to stop this is something that he`s done for a very long time.

And so when you talk to people in this White House, then it`s not very clear how much they can do. Right? They can try to get the American people to tone down the rhetoric. But when it comes to stopping the former president from doing that, there`s almost nothing they can do. They`re hoping to September 15. Meeting and conversation helps to kind of jumpstart that conversation.

MENENDEZ: Well, Jackie, you`re also covering the House January 6 committee, they`ve been working through August, what`s going to be their focus going into September? And when might we see them resume hearings?

ALEMANY: Yes, well, so far what we know about that is the committee plans on holding a series of hearings in September, and wants to continue their work until the very last moment, until possible in the case that the GOP ultimately takes back the majority in November after midterm elections.

If that`s the case, what we have heard again, but this is all in flux, and not quite nailed down, as investigators are still knee deep in some of the investigations that they have been conducting this summer with regards to various topics. But that means that writing the actual report could also go until later than previously anticipated with a sort of interim half-baked report coming out ahead of the midterms and then the final report coming out at the end of the very, very end of December.

But we know that there were several topics that investigators have been pursuing, including investigators who traveled abroad to obtain new materials. They`ve also been pursuing conversations that took place amongst Trump`s top cabinet officials about invoking the 25th Amendment questioning the former president`s mental fitness at the time post insurrection. And we also know that they`re still digging into the issue with the U.S. Secret Service trying to recover text messages that were deleted in the aftermath of January 6, despite multiple preservation requests from various entities, unclear whether or not they`re going to be able to recover those in time, though for again, the fall set of hearing season two, so to speak,

MENENDEZ: Barbara, there`s the investigation into the documents. There is the work of the 1/6 committee and then there`s today`s development in the Russia investigation. The group that sued to get the DOJ memo released issued this statement today saying quote, It significantly twist the facts and the law to benefit Donald Trump. The memo supports the chilling conclusion that any president can interfere with any investigation. They believe it could damage them politically. Is this group right? Did this memo give Bill Barr the cover he needed?

MCQUADE: Yes, I read the memo and it really strikes me as you know reverse engineering the result that they want to get.


It has, you know, just legally inaccurate analysis. You know, for example it says that because there was no sufficient evidence to show a conspiracy, that they should not charge obstruction. That`s just not the law. It`s thwarting an investigation is bad in its own right. It`s a crime in its own right. It doesn`t matter that you don`t make the ultimate case. It says because aids didn`t follow through on his orders that they shouldn`t charge but the statute makes it a crime to attempt to obstruct justice.

And the point I think that crew is making there is this one, which is it may not have been that Donald Trump really wanted to thwart a criminal investigation. It may be that he simply was concerned that investigation would harm him politically, therefore, we shouldn`t charge him but that conflates motive with intent, it`s still corrupt, it`s still wrongful to try to thwart an investigation. It doesn`t matter what your motive is.

So, it completely ignores what I thought was the most egregious example, which was directing Don McGahn, the White House counsel, to fabricate a memo to say that he had not -- Trump had not directed Mueller, or directed the firing of Muller. So for all of those reasons, it really was just cover for William Barr to reach the results he wanted, in my view.

MENENDEZ: Eugene, I got to ask you before we go, it has been six months since Russia launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine says a Russian missile hit a train station today killing at least 22 people, the White House pledged billions more in aid, nearly 13 billion has been promised since the invasion. What are you hearing from the White House about their plan moving forward?

DANIELS: Yes, something that this White House has felt from the beginning. And every single room every time they talk about this is that this is a fight about democracy era autocracy, and that they want to see this to the end. And so that means, you know, keeping Ukraine with the weapons that they need to continue to fend off Russia for as long as they possibly can, making sure that the American boots never hit the ground in Ukraine, and definitely not in Russia to participate, and giving billions of dollars and different types of aid to make it possible for Ukraine to make it through this.

Well, the issue with that is that has continued to be holding together the coalition internationally to do this as a world market has been has struggled, right? Economies in different countries, not just ours, have hit a bumpy road. And so this White House is going to continue to focus on that.

And you talk to aids, you know, this is I think people did not expect this to go on as long as it has. But now that it has gone on, you know, at the six-month mark, you talked to folks, I think that it could go through the winter and in the Ukraine when it will be a lot harder to do some of these things. And I think that is concerning for the world writ large.

And for White House that did not want to spend a lot of time focusing on Europe. They wanted to spend a lot of time in their foreign policy arm focusing on China and the kinds of things that China can do and we should be in they feel that we should be stopping them from doing and I will say this are helping Ukraine is also a part of that, right, and make giving everything to Ukraine so that China realizes that if they were to invade Taiwan, if they wanted to invade Taiwan, America would, you know, possibly give support to Taiwan.

MENENDEZ: To say nothing of the Ukrainians that have been displaced and lost so much. Jackie Alemany, Eugene Daniels, Barbara McQuade, thank you all so much for getting us started.

Coming up, the president keeps a campaign promise forgiveness of a portion of federal student loan debt. One more thing Democrats hope to campaign on. We`ve got a member of Congress who was also a student borrower himself, next.

And later, a closer look at just who`s been making big money from the big lie deep in the heart of Texas. THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on a Wednesday night.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The news today will give millions of Americans a significant financial boost while fulfilling a Biden campaign pledge.

BIDEN: Provide more breathing room for people so they less burdened by student debt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Biden says the government will forgive federal student loan debt of up to $10,000. For those earning less than $125,000 a year, Pell Grant recipients will get $20,000 in loan forgiveness.


MENENDEZ: Today`s announcement on student debt cancellation was welcome news to a great many borrowers and not just graduates. As NBC News reports the debt forgiveness applies to undergraduate, graduate and Parent Plus loans.

With us tonight California Congressman Ro Khanna. He personally took out more than $100,000 in student loans is the same struggles to make those monthly payments. Congressman, you carried student debt yourself. How big is this for borrowers?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA) OVERSIGHT AND REFORM COMMITTEE: It`s a big significant step. It`s long overdue. You know I took out over $100,000 of loans. There was a year I couldn`t pay it back. I had to take forbearance. Now I was fortunate I was able to pay my student loans back.

But you know what? I don`t have any resentment that other people other Americans shouldn`t have to go through the same hardships that I did. I mean, it`s crazy in this country. No other Western democracy makes young people take out 3040 $50,000 of debt to finish their education. I`m glad the President did this.

MENENDEZ: All right. The big headline on this plan is the lump sum cancellation $10,000 or $20,000 depending on if you have Pell grants but it also extends the payback pause through the end of the year it caps monthly payments at 5 percent of income, some of that fine print, how important is that?


KHANNA: Well, it`s very important, especially right now where you have rents having increased or you have gas prices up food prices, young people, people who are trying to make ends meet, they, as it is, are struggling. And so to ask them to be paying back their student loans right now with a difficult economy is just wrong. And I`m glad that the President is extending that time so that they can make their living expenses and not have the burden of paying back the student loans.

MENENDEZ: You alluded to this earlier, but the President was asked about the fairness of this policy after today`s announcement, take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, is it unfair to people who pay their student loans, or chose not to take out loans?

BIDEN: Is it fair to people who, in fact, do not own multi-billion-dollar businesses if they see one of these guys getting all the tax breaks. Is that fair? What you think?


MENENDEZ: Congressman, you know, I know you`re going to hear this fairness argument over and over again, between now and November, your thoughts on the best way to push back?

KHANNA: Well, I understand that their parents in this country sacrifices who struggle, so that their kids could go to college. I understand that they`re young people who took two, three jobs to pay a college and I have so much admiration for them. I respect their resilience. And that`s something that they will always be proud of.

But just because they had to go through hardships, just because they had to do something that was unfair taking out $40,000, $50,000 doesn`t mean that`s the way it should always be. America`s a nation where we make progress for the hardships of previous generations don`t have to be the hardships of future generations.

So I think we have to respect their sacrifice, but say that we can do better, and then no person should have to go into that kind of debt ever again.

MENENDEZ: Well, I think that`s part of the fairness argument that you`re going to hear. You`re also going to hear a lot about how people who chose not to go to college and have the opportunity to go to college will benefit from the program. So feel free to speak to that piece of things. There are also critics warning about the impact of debt forgiveness on inflation. What is the pushback there?

KHANNA: On vocational education are people who don`t go to college, of course, their loans should be forgiven as well. So let`s make sure that this is clear. This applies to trade school, applies to vocational school, and let`s double down on investing in people who don`t go to college. So the answer isn`t to punish those who are going to college. The answer is to invest more in vocational education trade school.

On the inflation impact, this is not going to have any drastic impact on inflation. I mean, this is a forgiveness. People aren`t paying the money anyway, right now, if there`s been a pause. And so it`s not like there`s you`re putting more money back in the pockets of individuals because they haven`t been paying the loans for the last two years. So the argument that somehow this is going to be inflationary just doesn`t add up.

MENENDEZ: So that is going to be all of the pushback from the right. I also want to ask you, though, of course, progressives are activists who wanted to see more here, can you give us a sense of what more might look like?

KHANNA: Well, I wanted to see more too. I mean, it costs about $20,000, $30,000 to go into public college in most places in this country. I had to take out like I said, $100,000 of loans for three years. So $10,000 is just not enough. It`s not going to cover even a semester of tuition and living expenses. That`s why many of us were pushing for $50,000.

But I do want to acknowledge that the president deserves credit. He`s the first president who has forgiveness loans, just like he`s the first president who took major action on climate, and this is a downpayment to a more just social policy, something we can build on.

MENENDEZ: Congressman Ro Khanna, thank you so much. Coming up, the polls predicted it now voters are proving it. Anger over the rollback of Roe is making Republicans uneasy about the midterms. Now just 75 days away and Democrats they are hopeful when THE 11TH HOUR continues.



MENENDEZ: Breaking news in the fight to protect abortion rights. The Biden administration scored a victory late today when a federal judge blocked part of an Idaho law that would ban abortions except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother`s life. That victory arrives after Democrats also notched a critical win in New York, where abortion was a major campaign issue.

Here with us tonight Patricia Murphy, political reporter and columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. And Ali Vitali, NBC Capitol Hill correspondent and author of the brand new book "Electable: Why America Hasn`t Put a Woman in the White House Yet," it is out right now.

The yet in that title is doing a lot of work. Ali, we`re going to talk about that. Patricia, we were asking how much of a driver abortion would be for voters after what we watched out in New York. It feels like we got a much clearer sense.

PATRICIA MURPHY, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION POLITICAL REPORTER: We certainly got a sense in that House race up there. I think we also certainly saw that in Kansas with the referendum vote there as well.


And we`re seeing it here in Georgia, there`s an immense amount of internal and external public polling that shows that voters who want to protect abortion rights are much more motivated to get out to the polls and 2022 than those who are anti-abortion. And that is just in numbers that candidates are saying, up and down the ballot. We also see our own Governor Brian Kemp, really being used by state Democrats as a motivating factor to get all sorts of candidates, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, they`re pushing these messages that he is anti-abortion, and therefore Democratic voters should vote for their candidates up and all the way down the ballot specifically on the abortion issue.

MENENDEZ: And Ali, abortion messaging undeniably effective. I wonder what else you took away from yesterday`s results and what you`re watching for moving into November?

ALI VITALI, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think that on the abortion issue, I think that women are now central to this conversation. And of course, that`s always true every election cycle. But the fact that right now, you`re seeing this moment where women`s bodies, their ability to make healthcare decisions, economic decisions, is all very central to democratic messaging, as they try to take this across the country, this pivotal post-Roe moment and use it as a galvanizer for voters and we`re watching that happen in the polling.

You`re seeing the generic ballot between Republicans and Democrats begin to even out. You`re seeing the enthusiasm gap, where Democrats had been lagging begin to close, but then I also think I look to the places last night Carolyn Maloney losing her seat in New York, Nikki Fried, losing the nomination for Democrats in Florida in that governor`s race. There are still places where women are putting forward their bids and losing. And I think that that`s something that`s worth unpacking here as well, just in the larger context of this female moment.

MENENDEZ: Yes, Patricia, I want to ask you about Florida where Charlie Crist says he`s going to run a campaign based on decency against Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis said this today about Dr. Anthony Fauci. Take a listen.


DESANTIS: I know he says he`s going to retire, someone needs to grab that little elf and chuck him across the Potomac.


MENENDEZ: Patricia, I wonder if Charlie Crist decency campaign, he says going to run on decency, if it can work against DeSantis in Florida. And if it can begin to chip away at DeSantis`s perception on the national stage?

MURPHY: Yes, I think for sure. I think there`s a really good chance that that is the exact kind of message that moderate independent voters want to hear. Now, obviously, we know that Democrats have a lot of work to do in order to catch up to Republicans in Florida, which is increasingly voting more and more Republican. But that`s exactly the message that Joe Biden ran on. It`s exactly the message that won for Joe Biden here in Georgia, one the country for him to return to normalcy to return, to decency to return, to a government that works for people and isn`t just there to be performative and cruel, and mean tweet all the time.

And I think that that is something that there`s certainly a group of voters that are eager, very eager to hear that whether Crist can get it across the line. I`m not sure. But certainly it`s a message that voters have certainly been eager to hear. And it`s been successful within the last two years.

MENENDEZ: You know, I got to ask you, Ali, you talked about Nikki fried, you talked about Carolyn Maloney, but I actually want to go back to 2020 to that campaign. And Biden`s decision to really elevate Harris, how did that compare with the way other women who run for vice president in the past how they were treated?

VITALI: Well, look, you and I talked about this for the book, actually. And I encourage people to buy it. And then see all of the brilliant things that you and I talked about here, your take on this so palpable, because of the work that you`ve done on your own book about women and how they`re interpreted in the workplace as well.

But just this idea that Biden was elevating Harris, at a time when it was an asset of value to have more diversity on a ticket, the first woman, the first woman of color, Vice President, it`s clear that he knew that this was a moment in politics where it wasn`t just a way to hopefully excite voters. It was a way that the Biden campaign knew would excite voters. And then you chart that path into this current moment right now, where again, women are at the center of this electoral moment.

And more than that, at the center of the accountability movement on the Republican side of things when it comes to holding Trump accountable. You see people like Congresswoman Liz Cheney, Senator Lisa Murkowski, but then all of the women from the Trump administration who came forward to hold the former President accountable to, there is a very, very strong woman`s current here in this country.

And I think that you can look at that charting that path from 2020 where although there was no history made by putting a woman in the White House, there is the acknowledgement within the larger political apparatus on both sides, that there is great power and elevating women right now. You saw Biden do it. You saw Republicans see the payoff for it because they won seats and 2020 in the House. It is something that is becoming a little bit more bipartisan thankfully.


MENENDEZ: Ali, we could talk about this all day. I`ve got about a minute left. I wonder I think we sort of understand the problem, the way the problem is both structural and social. Where`s the glimmer of hope?

VITALI: I think the glimmer of hope is that there are just more women who are able to do this viably and as qualified candidates, the more women that we see run, the more chances that voters have to vote for them. And as the sweater says, as the book says, women are electable if voters vote for them and vote to elect them. And that is really the goal that people should be striving for here is putting more women in the pipeline, putting more women in these positions to run and then putting them in the positions to win.

MENENDEZ: Patricia Murphy, Ali Vitali, thank you both and again, Ali`s new book "Electable: Why America Hasn`t Put a Woman in the White House Yet."

Coming up. The Big Lie is making some people a lot of money. How some grifters are making big bucks off the former president`s lies and deceit when THE 11TH HOUR continues.




REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): The Trump campaign use these false claims of election fraud to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from supporters who were told their donations are for the legal fight in the courts. But the Trump campaign didn`t use the money for that. The Big Lie was also a big rip off.


MENENDEZ: Seems the Trump campaign was not the only organization that found a way to cash in on election disinformation, as Texas Monthly puts it, quote, when the lie is amplified by partisan outlets such as Fox News and by influencers on social media, that makes it easier for the conspiracy mongers to advance their political goals, and for some to make money along the way.

We`re happy to have Mimi Swartz, Executive Editor of the Texas Monthly with us tonight. Mimi, thanks for being here. Obviously, the former president has been promoting the big lie the loudest, what have you learned about others who have profited from this?

MIMI SWARTZ, TEXAS MONTHLY EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, my story focused mainly on a couple who support an organization and run an organization called True the Vote, which is an organization ostensibly created to be sure that voter fraud is stamped out of our nation. And of course, there isn`t any. So they`ve managed to make an awful lot of money by promoting their ideas all over the country right now.

MENENDEZ: The question here is always how proximate these folks are to actual power. So how closely aligned are these groups, are these individuals, with Republican politicians with elected officials?

SWARTZ: Well, I think they`re very closely aligned now because they`re telling elected officials what they want to hear. In particular, one of the members of this power couple is a guy named Greg Phillips, who created -- he`s sort of created the big lie because he`s the one who alleged that Trump lost by only 3 million votes. So he immediately became Trump`s very favorite person. And this is elevated him to go on and work around the country on basically voter suppression.

MENENDEZ: The article says True the Vote founder Catherine Eng -- Catherine Engelbrecht has been a leading advocate for restrictive voter ID laws and purchase of voter rolls, and has organized controversial poll watching efforts focused on Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in Houston. How does racism factor into these allegations?

SWARTZ: Well, I think it`s a huge part of it. I mean, she started out in Houston. But now she`s working all over the country, particularly in Arizona and in Georgia right now where Stacey Abrams is trying to fight through the vote, tooth and nail.

But I think you look at what they`re doing and the people they`re trying to stop from getting to the polls are pretty much universally black and brown, even part of my story and involve the film 2 000 Mules. And what they showed were people of color often stuffing these ballot boxes. And you know, it was all completely made up thing.

MENENDEZ: I do want to ask you about 2000 Mules, the debunked propaganda masquerading as documentary, I think film was generous of you. It has made millions, millions of dollars on this slide. Here`s what former Attorney General Bill Barr told the January 6 committee about it take a listen.


BILL BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: My opinion then, and my opinion now is that the election was not stolen by fraud. And I haven`t seen anything since the election that changes my mind on that, including the 2000 Mules movie.


MENENDEZ: I mean, you have Trump`s own attorney general, invoking this for a laugh. So how big of an influence is this film for those profiting of election lies?


SWARTZ: Well, I think it`s a pretty big deal. I mean, we just added to the story this morning where Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was hosting screenings of the film for other members of his staff. And that can be quite influential in a state that`s already got more voter suppression than virtually any other place. So I think the people who want to keep other people from the polls have been able to use this film to their advantage.

MENENDEZ: Mimi, your reporting and the reporting is great. It focuses on like a few big key players in the space. Do you have a handle? Do you have a sense of just how many grifters there are out there who are profiting or have profited off the big lie? So both how many folks there are and then how many millions of dollars they`ve raised?

SWARTZ: You know, I don`t know how many there are, but there doesn`t seem to be much effort to stop them. I mean, part of my reporting was realizing that Philips` history goes back to the 80s, where he`s been pulling this kind of thing. And I don`t mean to use that language. He`s been raising funds to protect the vote for decades, and no one has stopped him. There`s been one lawsuit against True the Vote, but that was it ended up being tried here. And it was dismissed by the Attorney General here. So I think, you know, the more successful these groups are, the more there will be.

MENENDEZ: You raise such an important point, which is some of these efforts predate Donald Trump, it just that then Donald Trump with his big megaphone, and his influence actually gives them more legitimacy, more juice, and turbo charges and then we keep having this conversation about what it is going to take to root out the big lie, right, to get people to buy back into our democracy and part of it I think your answer is follow the money.

SWARTZ: Well, I think it`s follow the money but I also thought about this a lot since and I think the lawsuit brought by Dominion. That`s a way to stop these people. I think more you know, I`m afraid we`re going to have to fight big money with big money. But I think that we`re just beginning to see some success against fighting voter fraud, but we`ll see what the next election.

MENENDEZ: Mimi Swartz, thank you so much for bringing us your reporting. Coming up, stunning an astronomer no easy feat but new images of Jupiter if did. What it tells us about the inner workings of our solar system`s largest planet when THE 11TH HOUR continues.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Pasadena, more pictures came in from the Voyager spacecraft. They show something not known before that Jupiter has a ring around it like Saturn. The ring is composed of space debris, and is several miles thick.


MENENDEZ: The last thing before we go tonight, fifth rock from the Sun. Earth got shut down me too. Well, let`s venture into the cosmos for a breather. Back in 1979, the Voyager space probes began sending pictures of Jupiter back to Earth. Scientists were surprised to find moons of fire and dice and then rings around the planet now and what NASA called giant news from the giant planet. The James Webb Telescope is sending back much more detailed images.

A camera with three specialized infrared filters was used to create these images. NASA says that since infrared light is invisible to the human eye, but light has been mapped onto the visible spectrum. And according to one planetary astronomer, quote, we`ve never seen Jupiter like this. It`s all quite incredible that it really expected it to be this good to be honest.

NASA also tweeted this labeled version suggesting we check out the bright waves, swirls and vortices and Jupiter`s atmosphere as well as the dark ring system 1 million times fainter than the planet. Two Moons of Jupiter including one that`s only about 12 miles across they are on the left.

The second photo is created from a composite of several images. The auroras on both the northern and southern poles are visible, as well as the planets Great Red Spot seen here in white. NASA says that spot is actually a storm so big, it could swallow Earth. Yikes.

Then there`s the common misconception that there is no sound in space turns out that`s because most of space is a vacuum. But over the weekend NASA released remix sounds from a black hole 240 million light years away. Take a listen.

And with that, I think I am ready to head back to Earth.


I want to wish you all a good night from all of our colleagues across the networks of NBC News. Thank you for staying up late. We`ll see you here tomorrow at the end of your day.