U.S. Marks One Year Since Capitol Riot. Biden, Harris address nation 1/6 anniversary. Cheneys join Dems to mark Jan. 6 anniversary. DOJ under fire from some Dems over Jan. 6 investigation. A.G. Garland under pressure to go after Trump. Democracy in peril one year after Capitol insurrection.
JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: They want you to see Election Day as the day of insurrection and the riots that took place there on January 6, as a true expression of the will of people. Can you think of a more twisted way to look at this country, to look at America? I cannot.
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LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Twisted. That is tonight`s "LAST WORD." THE 11TH HOUR starts now.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, once again. I`m Ali Velshi. Day 352 of the Biden administration. We`re now one year from the violent insurrection that left us with searing visuals of Trump supporters staging a brutal attack on the Capitol Building and, more importantly, on American democracy in action that day.
Lawmakers mark this day was solemn events on Capitol Hill, including an evening vigil and testimonials from members who escaped the mob of rioters, but today began with remarks from the President and Vice President in Statuary Hall. President Biden offered an impassioned defense of our democracy, laced with a direct and scathing attack on Donald Trump.
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BIDEN: The former president of United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election, because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution. He`s not just a former president. He`s a defeated former president. Defeated by a margin of over 7 million of your votes, and a full and free and fair election. Those who storm this Capitol and those who instigated and incited, and those who called on them to do so, held a dagger at the throat of America and American democracy. I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation, not allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy.
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VELSHI: Moments after Biden finished, Trump responded with a series of statements calling the president speech, "political theatre," among other things.
Most Republican lawmakers stayed away from the events at the Capitol. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement that acknowledged the gravity of this day while also criticizing efforts to use the January 6 anniversary to push for voting rights legislation and filibuster reform, "The United States Capitol was stormed by criminals who brutalized police officers and used force to try to stop Congress from doing its job. It has been stunning to see some Washington Democrats try to exploit this anniversary to advance partisan policy goals that long predated this event. Senators should not be trying to exploit this anniversary to damage the Senate in a different way from within."
Just two Republicans who did take part in today`s events January 6 committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney and her father, the former Vice President Dick Cheney, who also served in the House of Representatives. They were in the chamber to join Democrats for a moment of silence. Aside from the Cheneys, every seat on the Republican side of the House was empty. Earlier the former Vice President was asked about his party.
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REPORTER: What is your reaction to the Republican leadership`s handling of this, of the reaction to January 6?
FMR. VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY: Well, I`m -- it`s not a leadership that resembles any of the folks I knew when I was here for ten years.
REPORTER: Are you disappointed with the way that they`ve treated your daughter?
D. CHENEY: My daughter can take care of herself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Meanwhile, a group of former Trump administration officials is behind an effort to block their former boss from winning office again. One member of this group is the former White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham who says that about 15 former officials are involved. She`s now cooperating with the House Select Committee investigating January 6, and she met with them on Wednesday.
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STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY & COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR: All I know about that day was that he was in the dining room, gleefully watching on his TV as he often did. Look at all of the people fighting for me, hitting rewind, watching it again. That`s what I know.
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VELSHI: With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Thursday night, Peter Baker, is the Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Carol Leonnig is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter with The Washington Post, co-author with Philip Rucker of The New York Times bestseller, I Alone Can Fix It. Juanita Tolliver is a Veteran Political Strategist to progressive candidates and causes, and Daniel Goldman is a former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He also served as General Counsel for the House Intelligence Committee during the first Trump impeachment.
Good evening to all of you. Thank you for being with us tonight.
Carol Leonnig. Joe Biden started his campaign when he first declared he was running with the idea that it was a fight for the soul of this nation. But generally speaking, he doesn`t speak about Donald Trump. And generally speaking, when he does, he doesn`t speak negatively about Donald Trump. Today that all changed.
CAROL LEONNIG, THE WASHINGTON POST INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: It absolutely did, Ali. I don`t think I`ve ever heard him say anything so forceful and aggressive about the "former guy" or former president, depending on who`s speaking.
I think what was striking about this moment was Joe Biden grabbed the bully pulpit with both hands and he said, here`s the deal folks, here`s the guy who`s spread the big lie. Here`s the guy who`s a sore loser. He all but called Donald Trump a big baby, you know, the guy can`t get over the fact that he lost. And it`s interesting, I think, to a lot of partisans on both sides, I`ve been listening to them myself today. Democrats are furious that he hadn`t really made this use of the bully pulpit sooner to communicate to voters, whether they be Democrats or Republicans are undecided exactly what the truth is about the election, 8 million voters -- 7 to 8 million voters decided this election in favor of Biden and it isn`t any other way.
VELSHI: Peter Baker, we just heard this earlier today from Bennie Thompson, the Chairman of the January 6 Committee. Let`s listen.
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REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, (D) MISSISSIPPI JAN.6 SELECT COMMITTEE CHAIR: We are learning that individuals conspire to change the outcome of the election, that they use assets of the federal government to try to promote the big lie that they intimidated state officials toward the big lie. I`m concern that even the replacement of certain people to accomplish the big lie was under consideration.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You said individuals conspired conspiracy obviously being a crime, individuals, including people in the inner circle of the Trump White House?
THOMPSON: Oh, no question about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Peter, what are people who are watching that supposed to make of it? Is there some sense that this committee has the momentum and the ability to get to the bottom of all that Chairman Thompson said that they`re looking to get to the bottom of?
PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that`s the question, of course. Look, we already know that people around the president and the president himself tried to use the power of his office to pressure other entities of government to declare the election somehow corrupt. He told the acting Attorney General just, you know, just call it corrupt. And we`ll Republican congressman, I`ll take the rest. He called the Secretary of State in Georgia to try to get him to find 11,000 more votes for him. He called and met with Michigan lawmakers. He called the governor of Arizona. He repeatedly tried to use any influence he can to taint the election and find a way to justify, denying President Biden the election, he had won, up to the point where he pressured his own Vice President to take an action that the Vice President, Mike Pence thought was unconstitutional on that day on January 6.
So, what this committee has to do, of course, is lay out a narrative that will be compelling to voters who haven`t already made up their mind about, right? Many Americans already have pretty strong views of January 6, the question is, is this committee coming up with something that they won`t know that will change some minds. And they`ve already done, we know, you know, more than 300 interviews, and they have 30, some 1000 documents, and they`ve obviously uncovered these text messages involving Mark Meadows, the White House Chief of Staff and others. So, we know that they`ve been producing things that we hadn`t seen so far. The question is whether there`s more to get what they know what they haven`t told us yet, and how they present hearings that they plan to have in the coming months.
VELSHI: Daniel, you and I talked a lot during the Mueller investigation. You were then general counsel to first impeachment of Donald Trump, how is this different? What can this committee do that either an impeachment or special counsel can`t do and, or the other way around? What disadvantages does it have?
DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, there is no clear outcome here as there was with impeachment, as there potentially was with the special counsel in terms of the criminal indictment. But what I think we are seeing is, as Peter said, real momentum. And what happens when you get some momentum and you start getting the dam to break is you get witnesses like Stephanie Grisham, who all of a sudden had, who had a front row seat and now is cooperating, and then she tells the committee about others who may be less well known to those of us watching but who may be central to what was going in the White House. And you start to build a narrative and others start to cooperate and then it gets to the point where someone like Mark Meadows has to say, all right, am I going to rebuff this committee and allow the committee and the other witnesses to paint the picture of me that will go down in history? Or do I want to go in there and give my side of the story.
And that`s why the momentum matters is that it starts putting pressure on everyone around the president to get in there, to tell their side of the story. But when you have documents like they do, and you have numerous witnesses as they do, you can`t make up a story as easily as you might be able to if everything were being played out in public. So, there`s so much we don`t know, all the over 300 witnesses, a lot of documents still to come. And that`s why I think those public hearings will be so important is that they`ll be able to sort of package the case, once they know the facts and present it in the most persuasive way possible, which can move the hearts and minds of Americans, and frankly, may have an impact on the Department of Justice and whether the department decides that it`s going to invest in a full-fledged investigation of the efforts to overturn the election. All of those facts that Peter laid out, that`s pretty good evidence that Donald Trump tried to overturn an election, which is a violation of the federal conspiracy laws to impair and interfere with the lawful functioning of the government. And if he did that, knowing that it was a fraudulent scheme, then you can charge him and the question is, was this just getting advice from John Eastman? Or did he know that it was a big lie that he was peddling in order to pressure officials and overturn the government in which case it would potentially be a crime?
VELSHI: Peter, that`s high praise for a reporter coming from Daniel Goldman. He knows of what he speaks. What he did -- let me ask you about something that Carol said that she had never heard. She doesn`t remember hearing Joe Biden speak as forcefully or aggressively about Donald Trump. Joe Biden got into this whole thing to be a conciliator. He said the country was splitting down the middle. And he has been criticized by a lot of people in his own party for his conciliatory approach. The gloves seem to have come off today. But let`s talk about election prospects and winning, approval ratings are still low for Joe Biden and for Democrats, for whatever reason, that is. What does Joe Biden have to do to finish his mission of unifying this country?
JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think Joe Biden laid out a playing field today with his speech for the path that Democrats should pursue throughout the rest of this midterm election, right? Like his speech today was about accountability. His speech today was about naming exactly how bad this wound is for this country and the need to clean it out in order to be able to heal. And this energy that he put on display today that we have not seen throughout this presidency, especially related to the January 6 attack is something that Democrats in Congress need to carry forward. They need to keep that same energy when trying to undo a lot of the harm that we saw come from Trump`s lies, the lies perpetuated by Republicans every time they try to minimize what happened on January 6, and the impact it had on our democracy. So, this energy that we saw today should be the energy that Democrats carry in the Senate, when they figure out a way around the filibuster, whether that`s a carve out or other options when they pass voting rights laws, when they pass the freedom to vote act, when they pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, because there`s a lot to undo. Because this lie that Trump perpetuated doesn`t stop on January 6, it spreads to state houses across the country where Republicans in 19 states have passed voter suppression laws that we know are targeted to black and brown communities that have been disenfranchised historically and marginalized. So, the energy that Biden put on display today is the energy that Democrats need to carry in order to flip the script because the country is asking Democrats, what are you going to do about everything that`s gone wrong, talking about January 6, talking about the voter suppression laws. And so, considering that Republicans have absolve themselves of any responsibility to fortify our democracy or protect our democracy, it all falls to Democrats at this point.
VELSHI: You said a lot of wins there, when they pass this, when they do that, when they do the other thing. But the fact is, it`s not been for lack of trying on the parts of either Democrats or the president. What changes if there`s another gear that that Joe Biden has right now, what does that do for voting rights? What does that do for Build Back Better? What does it do for COVID? What does it do for Americans who say, how are you making my life better?
TOLLIVER: I think the next gear is emphasizing the impact because let`s be real, Ali, the election in 10 months could be the last election that we recognize under our current democracy, right? It is so fractured at this point. So, naming that threat, naming that with this energy to the general public is absolutely going to increase pressure on Democrats in Congress to act because saying our own stopped, saying Manchin wanted bipartisan support on that is going to be insufficient. And honestly it, it will also be a welcome mat for Trump to expand his power and expand his authoritarian mission that we`ve seen on display thus far.
And so, I say when because I am hopeful that they keep this energy. I`m hopeful that they will use every tool available to them to pass these rights because it falls exclusively to them. No one else can step in here. And so, when I see Biden use this energy today, that`s a signal to his entire party to get it done.
VELSHI: Daniel, there`s one piece of criticism that`s still out there that Juanita didn`t touch on. Its people who would like Merrick Garland to work faster, who`d like Merrick Garland to get in there and do something about Donald Trump and his cronies and what they were up to a year ago today? What`s your sense of the speed at which the Attorney General`s Office and the Department of Justice are working?
GOLDMAN: Well, the speed that they`re working on the January 6 prosecutions and investigation is remarkable. Those numbers that he outlined in his speech yesterday are pretty astonishing for one year of an investigation. I think everyone needs to recognize that just because, you know, Peter, or Carol may have report on what an anonymous source says. That is not admissible evidence that can be used in a criminal case, it`s a lot harder to find admissible evidence to support what we believe to be the facts. And that`s incredibly important to remember when you`re talking about the speed. I can`t put Peter on the stand and say, hey, Peter, what did your anonymous source say? And use that as evidence, you actually have to find out who the source is, and put the source on the stand and have that source be cross examined? You know, it`s much more complex, complicated and difficult to find admissible evidence.
So, we cannot expect these investigations to move as quickly as we might want them to, or we might think they can, because we read it in the media. The issue, I think that that everybody is wondering, and the speech left open the question, I think yesterday is there`s no question that the DOJ is going to get to the bottom of January six. But are they going to broaden the aperture and include some of those facts of Donald Trump and others trying to overturn the election? That`s the open question. And that will take a lot of time. It`s not going to happen overnight, and it`s not going to happen in the next weeks or months. And we shouldn`t want it to. I mean, our country founded on the rule of law, we cannot say that Donald Trump abused the rule of law by giving favors to his friends and by trying to interfere in the criminal justice system. But yet when the switch is flipped, all of a sudden, we want, you know, to politicize the criminal justice system.
We have to maintain the rule of law and do it properly and give due process to everyone, whether we like them, would like their politics or not. So, I would caution patients. But, you know, we would like to see, I think, many people are wondering whether or not there`s an investigation into Donald Trump`s efforts to overturn the election because to me, based on what we`ve seen, that is where he has the most criminal liability.
VELSHI: Standby, all of you, all four of our guests have agreed to stay with us.
Coming up, we know the election was not stolen. So is the big lie peddled by the former president and his supporters, a cause of the deep political division in this country? Or is it a symptom?
And later, why some say the biggest threat to American democracy is America itself. I look at the danger within and what happens if social instability spreads. One of our guests says the history of that is not pretty the 11th Hour just getting underway on a Thursday night.
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SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK MAJORITY LEADER: The mob can start out as a small number. But if it`s allowed to grow, and leaders egg on the mob, encourage it, it become -- it can become poison. That is what Donald Trump is doing. As even his response to President Biden`s speech today showed. And once that happens, the unthinkable could become real. Democracy erodes and could, God forbid, God forbid, horror of horrors vanish.
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VELSHI: Earlier today, the New York Times described January 6 as "just another wedge in a divided nation." In that article, one of our guests Peter Baker writes, "While Mr. Biden and the Democrats described the dangers to the constitutional order from what amounted to an anti- Democratic insurrection, Mr. Trump and his allies rail against a congressional investigating committee and seek to rewrite history by repeating wild and false claims about a supposedly stolen election and asserting that the riot was born out of Justified Anger."
Still with us, the aforementioned Peter Baker, Carol Leonnig, Juanita Tolliver, and Daniel Goldman.
Peter, tell me more about this. You write about the idea that this has become just another partisan wedge, but to Juanita`s point, if it continues down that road, we`re going to have elections that could potentially become less democratic as we go along. If Americans accept the premise that you presented today?
BAKER: Yeah, you know, there was this feeling I think, for about a day, maybe a week after January 6, is something might have changed as a result. The shock to the system that was so extraordinary what had happened that even Republicans, many Republicans not all, would have finally decided to break with Trumpism to realize that there was something going on here that was bigger than party. You heard that time, Mitch McConnell excoriate, you heard Lindsey Graham say, enough, I`m off, you know, I`m done with this. You saw Kevin McCarthy say it was the former president bear responsibility for what happened and then within a very short amount of time, everybody headed back to their corners. And what we saw today was not a 911 style commemoration to bring the country together, not a moment where the country unified to defend its democracy in a system, which you saw was a very party line exercise in Washington.
Democrats conducted commemoration speeches, historians panel, candlelight vigil, and no Republicans other than Liz Cheney and her father, Dick Cheney, showed up in the Senate chamber or the House chamber for those events. That`s an extraordinary situation. That is, you know, a corrosive one to a democracy of the two sides category can agree on the starting rules and then compete for who wins on a basis that they all agree on it`s just, it`s a dangerous situation.
VELSHI: So, Carol, what we also saw today, was the former president of the United States, continuing to perpetuate the very lie that got this thing all underway. To what degree to Peter`s point? To what degree does Donald Trump still control the levers of power within the Republican Party? And do you see that changing in any way in the coming months?
LEONNIG: I really don`t, Ali. I mean, when Donald Trump says this is all a bunch of, you know, political theatre, I kind of have to chortle because Donald Trump was a genius at political theatre, and he is perpetrating it now. He`s engaging in it full bore. And he controlled the levers of power in the Oval Office and used almost everyone he could in the waning days of his administration to try to block a peaceful transfer of power. And now he`s using every lever at his disposal, no longer in the Oval to continue to remind people of something that`s not true. I think that`s why I`ve heard from so many Democrats at least complaining that they wish Biden had been using this pulpit to remind people what is true.
If, as my great colleague, Phil Rucker, and I often say if and it`s still true today as it was on January 21st of last year, if the primary was held for the nominee for the Republican nominee for President, Donald Trump would be the nominee. And I think what a lot of us are starting to watch for is journalists to Schumer`s point about the -- God forbid, what happens if people don`t believe in our democracy, we are looking to see, are there going to be essentially dozens of miniature Trump`s in the midterm election say, oh, heavens to Betsy, this election was rigged. I won the dog catcher election, and it was unfairly robbed from me. And if, you know, dozens of people start to do that. That`s an erosion that, you know, you can`t imagine finding enough sandbags to repair.
VELSHI: Juanita, Democrats are seeming to understand for those who didn`t understand it, everybody seeming seems to understand that this issue about the legitimacy of elections around voting rights, is the primary issue and probably needs to come ahead of other issues as desirable as those other matters are, because as you pointed out, if this continues through the next election, elections may just not be fair in this country after that?
TOLLIVER: That`s exactly right. And to Carol`s point, I just keep coming back to the reality that this is why accountability matters. So much so that the person who does take a page from Trump`s book doesn`t try it because they know there`ll be held accountable. They know they`ll be prosecuted for trying to undermine an election in the future.
And so, it comes back to Democrats having that exclusively on their shoulders. At this point, since Republicans have said they`re going to try to minimize January 6 or continue to spread Trump`s lies because they`re fully happy being fully aligned with Trump at this point. But on voting rights, Ali, that`s exactly right. When you think about the fact that if black and brown voters can access the polls, if young people can access the polls, if people living with disabilities can access the polls, then no, it doesn`t matter what inflation issues our country is facing. It doesn`t matter how much the gas price is, it doesn`t matter, all these other things that impact our realities, because our voices, our basic rights is being denied to us.
And I think that underlying issue, that underlying reality is something that should prompt Democrats to again, act like the threat to our democracy is clear and present, because it is and failure to react to this moment will only allow for further snowballing and further harm to be done to our democracy. Because we know Republicans aren`t going to do anything, if anything, they`re going to obstruct in the name of Trump because they truly think they have the midterm sewn up because they have Trump on their side, because they have the lies on their side. And when 70% of Republicans at present do not believe that Biden was legitimately elected or 56% of Republicans believe that what happened on January 6, was about protecting freedom and defending freedom. Then it shows how deep seated this is. And so, protecting our basic rights is one of the most critical things Democrats can do in this very moment.
VELSHI: This is an important night to reflect upon our democracy. I wish I could spend the rest of it with the four of you, I`ve learned so much tonight. Peter Baker, Carol Leonnig, Juanita Tolliver and Daniel Goldman, thanks to all of you.
Coming up, one year after the Capitol riot, we`ll have an in-depth discussion about the current assault on our democracy and the obstacles standing in the way of solving the problem when the 11th Hour continues.
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REP. LISA BLUNT ROCHESTER, (D) DELAWARE: Those of us trapped in the gallery, we lived it, ducking, crawling under over railings, hands knees, the sounds, the smells. We had a front row seat to what lies, hate or plain old misinformation conjures. We went from victims, to witnesses. And today we are messengers. We reflect on the fact that January 6 was about so much more than an effort to break into a building. It was an effort to break down our institutions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That was Delaware Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester underscoring the broader implications of the attack on our nation`s Capitol, exactly one year ago today.
Back with us tonight, Joanne Freeman, history Professor at Yale University. Her latest book is, The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War. Also joining us Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO and National Director of the anti-Defamation League. His brand-new book out this week is titled, It Could Happen Here: Why America is Tipping from Hate to the Unthinkable and How We Can Stop it.
Welcome to both of you. Thank you for being with us. Joanne, you and I spoke almost exactly a year ago and you said this to me. You said we`ve underestimated the power and meaning of this kind of rhetoric, this violent rhetoric coming from a president or coming from members of Congress that has real power and, in a sense, we`ve been normalized -- we`ve been normalize to degree that we just dismiss it as more of the same, more of the same. We have heard a lot of violence and a lot of rhetoric in the last year. Where do you think we are today?
JOANNE FREEMAN, YALE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF HISTORY: Well, that`s an understatement, isn`t it? We`ve heard a lot of rhetoric. We certainly have. I mean, I think part of where we are today is, in a way in a state of denial. You know, when a year ago, I was stunned at what I was seeing. Now, I`m stunned at the lack of a response. And some of that lack of a response has to do with what I`m not hearing. In part, what I`m not hearing from Republicans as to what was obviously wrong, we had sort of a flash of a moment where there was recognition on the right, that the events of January 6 were unacceptable, and then silence. And on the other side, on the left, we now are getting some direct language from the President of the United States about the real danger inherent in what happened on January 6, but the words that we use matter is what I was saying a year ago that if you call it an insurrection, or a riot or a protest, and it was not merely a protest, that that matters. Now, I think it matters very much how we talk about what happened in relation to democracy. Because I think fundamentally, even at this moment, even with all of the coverage of these events, and so many pundits and commentators talking about the fact that this is a threat to our democracy, I don`t think a lot of people fundamentally understand what that means. And I don`t think they believe it.
VELSHI: Jonathan, you at the ADL have done some research into the people who`ve been arrested in charge so far, with respect to the insurrection last year. Of the 727 people who have been arrested for their actions on January 6, 21%, have ties to right wing extremist groups and ideologies, which is alarming, 79% have no overt ties to extremist movements, or ideologies. And I`m wondering which one of these numbers bothers you more?
JONATHAN GREENBLATT, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE CEO & NATIONAL DIRECTOR: Well, it`s a good question. To be honest, Ali, both these numbers are frightening for two different reasons. First of all, the idea that 20% of these people have outright white supremacist, or ties to armed militia groups should terrify us. Because for a long time, these people were on the margins. Now they`ve moved right into the mainstream. And they have found a way even since the insurrection, since that terror attack, to go local. The localization of extremism deeply worries me because we have Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, First Amendment Praetorians, now running for school boards, and push him to get involved in local elections to undermine the system from within. So that`s pretty terrifying, because they used to be again in the shadows, now they`re out of the limelight.
And yet, at the same time, to think that you could radicalize or out of five people, that literally a vast majority would feel so impassioned and enraged that they would storm the Capitol Building, assault police officers with American flags, as we see on the screen, carrying the flags of the Confederacy right into our most hallowed building in this democracy is absolutely stunning.
And look, this is why I wrote the book that could happen here, Ali, because it could happen here. I think we forget how fragile this democracy is. There are lots of examples in recent times that I, as a Jewish person, you with your own personal background, many of us know this can all unravel faster than we think if we don`t hold tight into this -- into the social fabric of this country.
VELSHI: You both made this point and I want to explore it a little bit more with you on the other side of the break. Our guests are staying with us. They both have important history on this issue that we are facing right now.
Coming up, how to deploy the lessons learned on January 6 in this mission to preserve democracy despite continued resistance from one political party.
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REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) WYOMING VICE CHAIR, JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE: Former President Trump continues to make the same claims that he knows caused violence on January 6. Unfortunately, too many in my own party are embracing that former President or looking the other way or minimizing the danger. That`s how democracies die. The American people have the ability to ensure that we protect our constitution. We protect our institutions, with their votes, with their voices. And we certainly are not going to be part on our committee of allowing those institutions to be unraveled.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That`s how democracies die, a critical reminder from one of the lone Republican voices demanding truth and accountability for January 6. Still with us, Joanne Freeman and Jonathan Greenblatt.
Jonathan, I want to quote something from your brand-new book, on page 115 of the book called It Could Happen Here. You referenced a famous speech from President Lincoln, in which he said scanning the horizon for potential threats, Lincoln dismissed the idea that a foreign power could stamp out American democracy. But there was another danger worth ruminating over Americans themselves."
We kind of think that once we pass the Civil War, Americans themselves, we`re not going to be our threat. But here we are in 2021, and now in 2022. And American themselves, Americans themselves still seem to be our most prominent threat.
GREENBLATT: I think it`s true, Ali, I mean, this is the greatest democracy the world has ever known, in many ways, the most robust and resilient nation seen in history, and yet is indeed I think the threat within which worries me the most. I mean, in the last five years, we`ve seen a rise of hate, and a normalization of extremism that really has no parallel in our 250-year history. We saw nearly a doubling of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the past few years, all triggered after the presidency of Donald Trump. And let`s be honest, anti-Semitism, as you and I have discussed before, it`s the canary in the coal mine. It starts with the Jews. It never ends with the Jews. It`s a sign of decay. And there`s a -- I would suggest there are bookends, you know, through line from Charlottesville to Pittsburgh, to El Paso, to Capitol Hill. And to think that, to think that it requires moral courage for Liz Cheney to do what she`s doing, and I deeply admire her, and I respect her leadership. But where are her peers? Ali, there is nothing partisan and calling out prejudice. There is nothing patriotic and assaulting police officers and again in banging down the doors and breaking the windows of our Capitol. When did this become OK, were in the world do we find these people who would rationalize the images you are seeing on your screen or somehow dismiss them as if they were just a "peaceful protest?"
You know, everyone should read the Karl Rove op-ed in today`s Wall Street Journal. I don`t agree with Mr. Rove on many things, but to show, to find someone with the courage of his convictions, to call out hate when it happens from his own team, right, originating from his own tribe today, that`s the kind of file and courage and we need more of that, Ali.
VELSHI: Yeah. For the first time ever, I tweeted Karl Rove article today because of that, that that op-ed.
Professor Freeman, you always say something that stays with me for a long time. And again, you`ve done it tonight, where you say that Americans don`t really register the fact that democracy itself may be imperiled, why not? And how does that change?
FREEMAN: Well, I think the idea of American exceptionalism is so ingrained in us. We are taught from the earliest point that the United States is different from all other countries, that what happens to other countries, won`t happen here in the United States, that we`re a special kind of democracy, that I think people end up thinking that somehow, we are invincible. And that, you know, people are saying in one way or another, it can happen here. It`s kind of a shorthand version of that, which is, we are so exceptional that we can withstand this kind of erosion from within.
So, I think Americans are almost trained to not be able to believe this sort of thing. And along the lines of what we talked about before the last break, rhetoric is often dismissed as just rhetoric, right? It`s just rhetoric. It`s just performance. It`s just words. But as we`ve seen, and as we`re discussing now, the words lead to normalization, which leads to action. And that`s where we are right now.
VELSHI: What does that look like to you, Jonathan? How do you change that? Because you`ve been fighting this battle, as it relates to anti-Semitism and racism and prejudice on a lot of fronts? What do you have to do to change people`s minds when they don`t think that the problem that you`re articulating is really as serious as it may be?
GREENBLATT: Well, I deeply agree with my other guests. I mean, as someone from the Holocaust, said last year, it starts with words, right? I mean, this is how it begins. And we need to take people seriously. They will do what they say. They say what they mean, everyone from again, President Trump to the white supremacist to other extremist, too often as the prior guests just said, we just dismiss it. Oh, it`s just rhetoric. No, no, rhetoric has consequences. So, I`ll give you three thoughts and what I think needs to happen. And this is, again, when I write about the book is all about strategies and tips for how to deal with hate. Number one, we`ve got to call out hate when it happens. And we`ve got to pull Liz Cheney and cut out not just when it comes from the other side, but from our own side, we have to have the courage and the strength of character, Ali, to say yes, even when it originates from someone on my team, it is a problem. OK, that`s number one.
And we`ve got to interrupt intolerance, immediately, Ali, at the watercooler in the locker room, even at the kitchen table. That`s number one. Number two, I really think we and we, as citizens, our government`s got to do something about social media. One of the big reasons why we believe this happened has been social media, Facebook, literally intravenously, feeding these poisons into our body politic, right, without any filters or editorial guidelines. And I`ve got to be very clear about this. There -- they don`t have the kind of editorial process do you do at MSNBC, their algorithms are engineered to inflame not inform, to drive clicks, not to communicate truth, and that is deeply damaging. And thirdly, and finally, we need to reinvest, reinvest in our civil society, volunteering, voting, showing up for school board meetings, not to scream lunatic, anti-Vaxxer theories, or spread wild conspiracies, but to participate and recognize the humanity in our fellow human beings. And that sounds glib, but we too often retreat into our filter bubbles, Ali, we need to break out and get back into built -- rebuilding our communities, block by block, vote by vote, day by day.
VELSHI: You have both left me feeling a little more positive than when we started the conversation. I`m so grateful to you both for the work you`ve done, for the words that you`ve written and for the efforts that you go to, to try and preserve this democracy that is fragile and important to us. Joanne Freeman and Jonathan Greenblatt. I`m grateful to you. Jonathan`s new book is out this week. It`s called, It Could Happen Here: Why America is Tipping from Hate to the Unthinkable and How We Can Stop It.
Coming up, lighting the way forward with a little help from those who study the past when the 11th Hour continues.
VELSHI: Two of the country`s most prominent historians gathered on Capitol Hill today trying to put the anniversary of the January 6 insurrection into perspective. Here`s some of what we heard from Doris Kearns Goodwin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR: And I`m thinking as an historian, that the interesting thing is that we know what the people living at the time did not know. We know the revolution was one, we know George Washington became a president not a military leader. We know that the Civil War ended with emancipation secured in the Union restored. We know that the allies won World War II, but the people living through that time did not know that. So, they`re living with the same anxiety, we`re living through today. How will this fragile democracy, which is under attack today, resolve itself? And I guess the hope that that brings is that we`ve come through these really tough times before. And the hope is also that we`re going to get to write the chapter of our story, just like our ancestors wrote the chapters of those stories.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: The thoughts of our dear friend Doris Kearns Goodwin, one of the two of our favorite historians, who led today`s January 6 discussion with members of Congress. We`ll hear from the other one when the 11th Hour continues.
VELSHI: The Last Thing Before We Go Tonight, on this anniversary of the attack on Capitol Hill, just a few more observations about the fragile state of our democracy. Our friend Jon Meacham, the other historian, today`s discussion with members of Congress is currently advising President Biden, yet, as he pointed out today, he`s not a Democrat. He says he`s voted for both Democrats and Republicans. Meacham even wrote the seminal biography of former President George H.W. Bush. So, with all that in mind, here`s Jon Meacham, his view of where we might go from here.
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JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: We don`t know. This is a chapter. It`s not the end of the story. And if it is the end of the story, then we have failed in a way as a people that the world will forever condemned to lose this as the song says, to lose this gift through selfishness and greed for power for autocratic impulse would be beyond tragic. I don`t believe that`s going to happen. But I believe we`re as close to that as we have been since Sumpter.
January 6 is it`s not a wake-up call. That`s not quite the right way to put it. It is, as the president says, it`s an inflection point. And it`s either a step on the way to the abyss or it is a call to arms, figuratively for citizens to engage and say no. We are more important, the work we are about is more important than the will and the whim of a single man or a single party or a single interest.
Churchill once said that the future is unknowable, but the past should give us hope. Just the present we have to get through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Wise words from our friend Jon Meacham and Prime Minister Churchill to take us off the air tonight. That is our broadcast for this Thursday night, with our thanks for being with us and my gratitude that America remains tonight a democracy, imperfect though it is. On behalf of all of my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.