Today, the January 6 Committee announced it is moving forward with criminal contempt proceedings against Mark Meadows. Today, Pfizer announced that their own preliminary lab studies show their booster shot provides strong protection against the new omicron variant. Biden nominees for U.S. Attorney were held hostage because Sen. Tom Cotton wanted an apology from Sen. Dick Durbin. Right-wing declares war on the wokeness of the climate policy and pushes anti-climate legislation.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I`m still -- I`m still in jail.
REID: I am so sorry, sir. I`m so sorry for what happened to you. And I wish this was a way that we could just give you back that time, because -- and time is something we can`t give it back. But we`ll -- I know so many people are going to be praying for you and thinking about you. I hope you find the most amazing farmland that you can just be by yourself and just have space and have everything that you`ve ever wanted. I`m wishing you the very best, sir. And thank you for giving us a little bit of your time tonight. Kevin Strickland and Tricia Rojo Bushnell, thank you both very much.
REID: And that is tonight`s "REIDOUT." Cheers. ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES starts now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voiceover): Tonight on ALL IN.
MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: They`ve been pretty aggressive about holding people in contempt and, you know, they`ll do what they need to do.
HAYES: The former president`s chief of staff a no-show at the January 6 Committee, showing up on Trump TV instead.
MEADOWS: I`m not aware of anybody in the West Wing that had any advance knowledge that the security was going to be breached at the Capitol.
HAYES: Tonight, the push to hold Mark Meadows in contempt. And new details about the White House plans for January 6. Then --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, could you please just allow her an opportunity to respond?
SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): Could you please stop your pattern of interrupting me repeatedly?
HAYES: How Biden nominees were held hostage because Tom Cotton wanted an apology.
Plus, the right-wing plan to turn clean energy into the new critical race theory.
And some good news about boosters in the latest variant.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: When you get a booster, you dramatically increase the level of projected protection.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Today, the January 6 Committee announced it is moving forward with criminal contempt proceedings against Mark Meadows, Donald Trump`s former chief of staff. Now, this comes after Meadows told the committee he would no longer be cooperating with them in their investigation and would not appear for his scheduled deposition today. That`s despite being subpoenaed.
Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson released a scorching letter to Meadows condemning his actions and detailing some key documents Meadows has already turned over to the committee. Those thousands of pages include e-mails and texts about the planning that took place ahead of the insurrection on January 6th.
Meadows turned over a November 7, 2020 e-mail discussing the appointment of alternate slates of electors as part of a direct and collateral attack after the election. A January 5, 2021 e-mail regarding a 38-page PowerPoint briefing titled Election Fraud, Foreign Interference, and Options for January 6. That was to be provided on the Hill.
Another email from that same day, the day before the erection -- insurrection about having the National Guard on standby. That`s interesting. Meadows also provided the committee with the November 6, 2020 tax exchange a member of Congress apparently about appointing alternate electors in certain states as part of a plan the member acknowledged would be highly controversial and which Meadows apparently said, "I love it."
Another text exchange, this one from early January 2021 between Mr. Meadows and an organizer of the January 6 rally on the Ellipse. Chairman Thompson ended the letter with this. The Select Committee is left with no choice but to advance contempt proceedings and recommend the body in which Mr. Meadows once served refer him for criminal prosecution.
Now, here`s the thing. All that stuff that I just laid out that`s detailed in that letter is already a lot of evidence for the committee to work with. It`s right there in black and white. Mark Meadows may not want to cooperate, but he can`t take any of that back. Although that does not mean he won`t try.
Last night, Meadows spoke to Fox News and attempted to contradict his own evidence claiming the white house did not know about what was going to happen on January 6.
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MEADOWS: We can all condemn what happened on January 6th and rightfully so, but I`m not aware of anybody in the West Wing that had any advanced knowledge that the security was going to be breached at the Capitol.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Boy, any advanced knowledge that the security was going to be breached at the Capitol, a very specific kind of lawyerly denial. I mean, Meadows literally turned over an e-mail to the committee about having the National Guard on standby that day.
The reality is Mark Meadows wrote a book that has angered Donald Trump. And so, he now finds himself between appeasing the boss and a criminal referral. And he cannot take either back. He can`t take back what he already turned over to the committee and he can`t unwrite the book.
Today, the chairman of the committee did not hold back in his criticism of Meadows publishing the book in which he talks about January 6 while refusing to cooperate with their investigation. "That he would sell his telling of the facts of that day while denying a congressional committee the opportunity to ask him about the attack on our Capitol marks an historic and aggressive defiance of Congress."
I think that`s understated, honestly. Now, the book in question is titled the Chief`s Chief and it was released just yesterday. It`s already gotten Meadows in a lot of trouble. It is part of the reason that he now finds himself in this position facing criminal contempt charges.
The book is reportedly, and I have to admit I haven`t read it, I`ve just read selections and reporting about the selections, and reportedly quite revealing. Perhaps unintentionally, it tells us a lot about Meadow`s character and that of his former boss Donald Trump.
There`s one anecdote in particular that stands out from early of October last year. That`s when Donald Trump had COVID, you know, tested positive six days before we knew as disclosed in the Meadow`s book. And Meadows writes about the day when the former president was leaving the White House to be hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center again because he had COVID for so long they were covering up. And he says that Trump laid his briefcase on the floor and apologized for being unable to carry it because he`s so weak.
According to Meadows, Trump said, I`m sorry, I just can`t carry that out there. That`s a very sick man. It took a while to get there while they were covering it up. And the President was so sick from -- so weak from the virus he didn`t have the strength to carry his own briefcase. So, Meadows and another aide erstwhile caddy Dan Scavino were left to decide who would take it out to Marine One for him.
Meadows writes, we stared at each other in silence for a moment wondering who is going to pick up the possibly contaminated briefcase, although I`m sure Dan would have. If I had hesitated for a second longer, I ended up being the one to squirt on some hand sanitize, bend down and grab it. He continued, "As I walked with President Trump toward Marine One, he looked down at the briefcase in my hand seemingly impressed. And Trump said, "I knew you were my guy."
I mean, there`s a lot there, but just -- I`ll just note, that was Trump`s approach to the entire pandemic that if you wanted to be loyal to him, you should probably just go out there and get the disease, right? Like, that`s how you show you`re loyal to Donald Trump. Don`t hide in your house. Get out there. Get sick.
Now, Mark Meadows` loyalty to Trump clearly continues on to this day and arguably, the reason why he will likely be held in criminal contempt. But he`s certainly not the only Trump ally who feels that way. Steve Bannon has of course already been charged with contempt of Congress after he refused to comply with subpoena from the committee.
And yesterday, we learned Bannon will not face trial till July although he wanted his case to be delayed even longer until October. The Committee also recommended a contempt charge for former Trump Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark who aided Trump in his attempts to overturn the election. They are currently holding off on referring the charge to the DOJ as Clark is scheduled to provide a deposition next week, though Clark has said he will plead the Fifth.
John Eastman, the lawyer who wrote the now-infamous coup memo outlining a plan to keep Trump in power against the will of the voters has also been subpoenaed and also up reportedly plans to plead the Fifth, as does Trump`s longtime ally Roger Stone who has refused to turn over documents or speak to the committee.
There are however plenty of others who are cooperating, including one of the main organizers of the Stop the Steal Rally which brought Trump supporters to Washington on January 6th. His name is Ali Alexander, and he is said to testify in front of the committee tomorrow in response to a subpoena issued to him late last month.
The New York Times reports Alexander plans to tell lawmakers he had nothing to do with any violence or lawbreaking on January 6th but has pledged to supply the committee with voluminous documents.
Luke Broadwater is a Congressional Reporter for The New York Times where he`s been covering this story and he joins me now. Luke, let`s just start with setting up who Alexander is for folks that might not know the name, what his role was, and what we know about his cooperation thus far.
LUKE BROADWATER, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Sure, yes. Ali Alexander is a right-wing provocateur and he was the person who first really amplified the Stop the Steal narrative and started pushing it out at rallies first in Arizona and then in different states across the country.
And Ali Alexander claimed that he along with three members of Congress schemed up the idea of the January 6th rally at the Capitol to put maximum pressure on the members of Congress and hear this sort of loud roaring crowd, cheering them on to throw out the votes of Biden electors and install Mr. Trump as president for another term despite the will of the voters.
And so, he has taken the step of now complying with the committee`s subpoena. And so, he`s scheduled to come in tomorrow. He`s already supplied an opening statement to the committee and he`s pledging to give them many, many documents.
And one of the things he`s already emphasizing is he`s trying to insulate himself from blame to the violence that occurred that day and he`s starting to blame others. And he`s saying, other organizers of these rallies did not take the appropriate steps to prevent violence. He`s in a dispute with some of them over some language about where they were to direct the crowd to walk after the rally.
And he`s saying that he -- he`s arguing that he tried to stem the violence while they hung out at a fancy hotel and drank champagne in his words.
HAYES: Yes. And I think there`s a -- there`s a commonality here among people. I mean, we know the rally was planned, right? It was publicized. We saw it on television that day. There were buses that brought people in. There were donations to groups that brought in the buses. There were people on various social media posts. Like, we know that. That`s all in the public record. That`s been disputed -- that`s been established.
The dispute for people like Ali Alexander, and I think it`s true of Alex Jones and Roger Stone to the extent that I can -- I can see is that they`re trying to sort of slice the salami fairly thin which is yes, we planned this rally as covered by the right to peaceably assemble and free speech. What we didn`t plan was the, you know, criminal invasion and violent confrontation with police that happened subsequently. Is that -- that`s sort of the case they`re trying to hold up.
BROADWATER: Yes. I would say that that is the main defense that many of the rally organizers and planners of January 6 have put forward. Yes, we spread what we all know is false information about widespread election fraud, yes we round up the crowd, yes we try to get votes thrown out and keep President Trump in power against the will of the people -- as we know, the true election results were for President Biden. But they say largely what they were engaged in is as maybe violent rhetoric or heated rhetoric and not a coordinated attack on the Capitol.
Now, of course we do know from court documents and the federal cases that are going on that there was coordination for some of the attack and some of these extremist groups. And so, the question I think for the January 6 committee is trying to connect the dots between some planned attacks and planned violence that we do know about and the overall planners of the rally and planners of the objections in Congress and how there`s -- to the extent to which those things are related and connected.
HAYES: All right, Luke Broadwater, great reporting and thank you for filling us in on that. I appreciate it. I want to bring in Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, who`s a member of the select committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol.
And first, I want to get your response, Congresswoman, to Meadow`s announcement that he`s no longer cooperating and his failure to show for the subpoena for the deposition today.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, he`s all wet when it comes -- legally. I mean, he sent us 2,000 text messages that obviously didn`t think were privileged or he wouldn`t have sent them to us. We`d like to ask him about those. He sent thousands -- more than 60 -- we think more than 6,000 e- mails from two private email accounts. Obviously, he didn`t think those were frivolous.
Some of these documents were contemporaneous communication while the riot was going on and the events leading up to the riots. So, to think that somehow he doesn`t have to tell the committee about the things that he sent over is simply wrong. And also, you know, it bothers me a bit that he is out making money off a book relaying in conversations he said he had with the president, but he doesn`t want to come in and talk to the committee about those conversations. That`s not what the law really envisions.
So, next week, the committee will be meeting to consider referring Mr. Meadows for criminal contempt and we expect the House to take that up next week as well, and send it to the Department of Justice.
HAYES: So, that`s the plan. Now, I mean, just to reiterate your point here. You know, with Steve Bannon obviously, I think everyone watching the case agree that the executive privilege invocation to the extent there was one was as flimsy as humanly possible, right?
HAYES: He`s not an employee. It`s not the current president. The current president has not asserted this privilege. With Meadows, you have someone who clearly was the chief of staff and what -- if it were with the current president, their privilege might obtain, but it wasn`t.
But it does seem like you waive a lot of that argumentation when he hand over the documents and you publish a book for profit. Is that -- I mean, is that your understanding of the legal situation was?
LOFGREN: Well, he`s already made --
LOFGREN: He`s already made the determination that the documents he sent to us were not privileged. That`s why he sent them to us. So, to say that we can`t ask him about that it`s just legally indefensible.
And then, also, there`s such a thing as waiver. Once you start talking to others about it, you can`t claim well, I`m not going to tell the Congress, I`m only going to make money off the book. You know, that`s not the way it works.
So, I`m disappointed that Mark has taken this route. I think it`s improper. And you know, why -- we have a lot of information already. I mean, we`ve -- we`re working very hard. We`ve got thousands and thousands of -- you know, over 30 000 documents. We`ve had more than 250 witnesses. We`re having interviews practically every day. And we`re putting the pieces together. No one witness has all the information, but Meadows does have some information that we want and need and we hope to get it. And we will piece it together from others if he continues to defy his obligation under the law.
HAYES: Yes, I wanted to segue to that precisely for that reason. I mean, obviously, we`ve covered the very high profile cases of folks refusing, of Steve Bannon, now Meadows, the back and forth with Jeffrey Clark, the fact that others are planning to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights for non- incrimination incoming before you. But you know the Ali Alexander news to me was interesting in so far as the broader scope and context here.
When you look at the chairman`s letter about the documents he has, other documents, that you`ve gotten a lot-- talked to a lot of people and I would -- I`m just curious how you feel it`s going in terms of putting the picture together.
LOFGREN: Well, we have a lot of evidence and we`ve got an ever clearer picture but we`re not done yet. I will say also in terms of Fifth Amendment, you know if people think what they`ve done could constitute a crime, the Fifth Amendment allows them to not to testify against themselves but there`s a provision that allows the committee to give what`s called use immunity that we would not use the testimony they give us, we would not provide that to the Department of Justice.
So, we have to consider that possibility too. And if we decide to go that route, then they`re required to answer the question.
HAYES: Yes, you don`t want to end up in insanity of the Bull Gravano case situation but I guess you`ll figure out whether you will -- you`ll be giving that out. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, thank you very much.
LOFGREN: Thank you very much.
HAYES: All right, there`s been a lot of news about the Omicron variant. Honestly, it`s been difficult to know what to make of it all. There`s a lot of data. There`s a lot of discussion. It`s all preliminary. So, on the one hand, we`re getting some new data that seems pretty concerning about evading vaccine protection. There`s also encouraging statements from the Pfizer CEO about their boosters efficacy against this specific variant.
And I`ve been trying very hard the last 24 hours, 48 hours to parse all this data, figure out how we should be thinking about what lies in front of us and we`re going to do that together with some really smart guests next.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All done.
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HAYES: Exactly one year ago today, then-90-year-old Margaret Keenan became the first person in the world to get the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. Now, one year later, we have even more evidence of just how well those vaccines work in the fight against the virus.
Today, Pfizer announced that their own preliminary lab studies show their booster shot provides strong protection against the new omicron variant. Now, we should be clear here. This data has not yet been peer reviewed and they`re announcing it so it`s by no means a complete picture. It`s going to require further scrutiny from U.S. health agencies.
Even so, this announcement has left a lot of people feeling more optimistic about the new variant including Dr. Anthony Fauci.
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FAUCI: The Pfizer data now gives us very important information that although this diminution of the effect of a two-dose vaccine, when you get a booster you dramatically increase the level of projected protection by about 25 fold, which means that people who get boosted after their two-dose mRNA should really do quite well. That`s what we`re projecting that we will see clinically.
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HAYES: OK, that`s very good news but it`s still early, very early, and lots of people haven`t been boosted. The new variant is only a few weeks old. There`s still a lot we do not know and there`s still a bunch of questions that need answering.
I`m joined now by two people who are going to help me unpack what we know and don`t know. Dr. Celine Gounder is an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist. She served on the Biden-Harris transition COVID Advisory Board. And Dr. Eric Topol is a professor of molecular medicine for Scripps Research writer of the Ground Truce Blog on Substack who`s been following all this very closely.
Dr. Topol, let me -- let me start with you because we`ve got I think three new preliminary data sets out just in the last 24 hours from different labs basically conducting experiments on how the Omicron viral variant interacts with the antibody T cell response, immune response in vaccinated individuals. Give us a gloss of the finding there.
DR. ERIC TOPOL, PROFESSOR OF MOLECULAR MEDICINE, SCRIPPS RESEARCH: OK. Well, good to be with you, Chris, and my friend Celine. So, what we have are now five studies. This happens as really exploding new knowledge. And we don`t have anything on T cells yet, Chris, but what we do have is the antibody response, the so-called neutralizing antibody.
It is at least 25 to 40 fold increase with -- we expect with the booster because that`s the amount of reduction that`s occurring with Omicron. Omicron has this feature of immune escape which is because of all of its mutations in key sites of the virus. And so the good thing is Dr. Fauci said in your opening here is that we can get Omicron effectiveness back in the vaccine with this third shot.
So, it`s encouraging. As you said, this is a new variant and we don`t have durable information that is how long will that effectiveness restoration last. But this neutralization antibody problem with Omicron, it looks like there`s a workaround with the booster.
HAYES: OK, I want to just recite that. So, you`ve got a ton of mutations on this virus. The mutations in the virus are acting to essentially disguise it from antibodies that the body has created to go find the virus. And it`s slipping past them because it has put on a disguise so -- if you will. And so, that`s slipping past the protection given by the antibodies produced by the vaccine.
The scale of that, Celine, Doctor, is it seems like -- my takeaway from reading between the lines and reading the conversation on this, the scale of that evasion -- my understanding was the people looking at this data thought it was not great but not as terrible as they feared. Does that seem like a fair characterization?
CELINE GOUNDER, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST AND EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Chris, I think that`s about right. You know, another way to think about this is as if antibodies are like pieces of Velcro where one piece of Velcro would have worked to stick to the old variant. Maybe now you need 10 or 20 pieces of Velcro. But as long as you increase that level of antibody, those pieces of Velcro, you can still get around it. And that`s really what the booster does.
The good news is that you can work around it with an extra dose of vaccine. And probably for most people who have gotten two doses, they are still well protected against severe disease, hospitalization, and death. But you know, that said, given what we`re seeing with these neutralization antibody assays, it probably is the right thing at this stage to get that extra dose to give you extra protection against the immune evading properties of the Omicron variant.
HAYES: Yes. So, that`s -- i mean, I think the sort of now more than ever message on boosters, I have take -- I mean, I`ve gotten the booster, I`ve been urging people on air to get the booster, I really, really, really, really think it`s important.
In terms of what we can expect from Omicron though, Dr. Topol, like, this is the current -- we got 71 partially vaccinated, 60 fully vaccinated of the total population, only 24 boosted. Now, some percent of those people have been vaccinated within the window so they don`t necessarily need to be boosted because they recently vaccinated, but that`s not a great -- I mean, if Omicron is going to evade antibody response and that`s our current numbers, that doesn`t add up to something awesome it seems like to me.
TOPOL: No. Far from it, Chris. So, firstly, it`s important to note that -- in the New England Journal today, there was a big study to show that the booster reduced death by 90 for people over age 50 in a very large study coming into Israel. So, our problem right now as you well know and have emphasized is Delta. I mean, we have a hundred some thousand cases a day and we`re in a second Delta surge. But now, of course, the extra bonus of the booster that would work for Delta is that it will also make a difference for Omicron.
You know, the other point that Celine mentioned is a good one because it`s the T cell story that helps prevent the severe illness, the hospitalizations and deaths. And we`re hoping of course that the two dose vaccine will make a big difference there.
But, you know, we are woefully undervaccinated, underboosted in this country. Because if you look at age 50 and above, you know, we are at most a third or 40 percent of those people at high risk. We`ve got to get the booster and of course the primary vaccination up because that`s why we`re failing to contain Delta.
HAYES: Yes. I mean, that`s a great point. Delta right now is killing $1,000 people a day of our fellow citizens. We have brutal, brutal numbers that continue. Part of the problem here is with a safe and effective vaccine available, it`s politically untenable I think somewhat understandably to impose large non-pharmaceutical interventions, NPIs, as public health officials call them, Dr. Gounder, so you know, you can`t close down bars in the city because -- and I think, it makes sense, right, that`s a -- that`s a kind of break glass situation.
You got the vaccines, you can`t put people out of business, we`re not -- and yet that means that there`s a lot of vectors for infection. One thing that was -- Ryan Cooper wrote about in The Week and I think this should get more attention is just focusing on airflow and how we move air around buildings.
One thing -- one would think sitting in a tin can for hours of people packed in like sardines would be a huge infection risk, this -- talking about airlines. Airlines have rapid air purification systems that both continually introduce new fresh air, filter it through hospital-grade HEPA filters, sure enough despite hundreds of millions having flown over the past 20 months, there are only a few dozen confirmed cases of coronavirus transmission on airlines.
It seems like this is a place we really have should been focusing for the last 20 months and need to focus on even more now, Dr. Gounder.
GOUNDER: So, Joseph Allen who`s an indoor air quality expert at Harvard, Joseph and I wrote an op-ed on this very exact same topic a couple months ago for The Hill. It really focused on improving indoor air quality ventilation and air filtration in K-12 schools. There is over $170 billion in the Cares Act and the American Rescue Plan and other legislation that allocates funding -- and as I said, almost $200 billion of funding for K-12 schools to make these kinds of infrastructure upgrades.
But that has to be planned at the school district level. School districts need to assess their buildings, come up with infrastructure plans, work with vendors to do that, and then spend the money. And that is not an easy task for school districts to do.
HAYES: Well, I will say this. You can buy HEPA filters. They`re not cheap but they`re also not astronomically expensive. They`re not like getting a new car or something. And they`re -- you can get -- order them online and you could put those in spaces. Everyone who`s running building should be looking into doing that consulting with people that have expertise on this. Dr. Celine Gounder, Dr. Eric Topol, thank you both.
Still ahead, the Republican red scare wins out as a top Biden nominee withdraws from contention. Why it matters, next.
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SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I don`t mean any disrespect. I don`t know whether to call you professor or comrade.
SAULE OMAROVA, BIDEN NOMINEE FOR COMPTROLLER OF THE CURRENCY: Senator, I`m not a communist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: You may remember a couple of weeks ago, we played this ridiculous sound bite from the Senate Hearing. It sounded like something out of the second Red Scare of the 1940s and 50s when Senator Joe McCarthy and other anti-communist zealots grilled witnesses by asking are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party.
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KENNEDY: You used to be a member of a group called the Young Communist didn`t you?
OMAROVA: Senator, are you referring to my membership in the Youth Communist Organization while I was growing up in the Soviet Union?
KENNEDY: I don`t know. I was -- I just -- I wanted to ask you that question. Have you resigned?
OMAROVA: From the youth --
KENNEDY: From the Young Communists?
OMAROVA: You grow out of it with age automatically.
KENNEDY: Did you -- did you -- did you send them a letter though resigning?
OMAROVA: Senator, this was many, many years ago. As far as I remember how the Soviet Union worked was at a certain age you automatically stopped being a member.
KENNEDY: Could you look at your records and see if you can find a copy --
I don`t mean any disrespect. I don`t know whether to call you professor or comrade.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my goodness.
OMAROVA: Senator, I`m not a communist.
HAYES: That was Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana interrogating Cornell Professor Saule Omarova who was born in the Soviet Union where the membership was compulsory, which explains the red baiting from the senator. Omarova was President Joe Biden`s nominee for a top regulatory position at the Treasury Department, one that oversees the banking industry.
Keep in mind, she had previously worked in George W. Bush`s Treasury Department, but many Republicans and some Democrats did not want her in that position because their donors in the financial industry among the banks are afraid of someone competent and vigilant overseeing the banks.
So, they use this preposterous and gross line of attack on Omarosa`s upbringing to derail her nomination. She was a crypto communist using her secret soviet training to destroy American capitalism from within.
Guess what, it worked. She formally withdrew her nomination yesterday, rejected from public service to the crime of being born in a country that does not even exist anymore. It would not be the first time a qualified nominee was denied a job in government for petty reasons. There have been many examples.
I keep thinking of one. I`m reminded of a woman named Cassandra Butts. She was President Barack Obama`s nominee to serve as ambassador to the Bahamas. In fact, she worked in the White House. I knew her a bit then. She`s a qualified public servant with decades of work in government for non-profits under her belt. but Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas blocked her nomination for 835 days not because she was controversial or unqualified, but because she was an old friend of President Obama`s from college or law school.
She later told a reporter that Senator Cotton told her "blocking her was a way to inflict special pain on the president." Cassandra Butts fell unexpectedly ill and died of acute leukemia in 2016 after waiting two years for a confirmation vote that never came. Today, Senator Cotton is at it again.
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COTTON: I would be happy to confirm these nominees in the following few minutes if the Senator from Illinois would simply express regret for what happened in the hearing that day.
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HAYES: Tom Cotton`s fee-fees are hurt. More on that next.
HAYES: Back in March, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Vanita Gupta to be Associate Attorney General. And during that hearing, the committee`s Democratic Chair, Senator Dick Durbin interrupted Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas to move to a vote.
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COTTON: She said, make no mistake a vote for Neomi Rao is a vote against yes, you guessed it, civil and human rights.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Senator Cotton, I`m sorry to interrupt you. We`ve been notified there`s going to be the two-hour rule invoked, and we have four minutes left before that happens. And I`m afraid we have no choice but to call the role. I`ll stay here afterwards to hear the completion of your remarks.
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HAYES: So, like Senator Durbin politely explained, and that was a little confusing, he was forced to move things along when the Republicans tried a procedural trick that would have prevented the committee from voting that day if the questioning had continued, but Cotton refused to accept that.
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COTTON: During the remark of our nomination, just minutes into my 15-minute remarks, the Chairman of the Committee cut off my remarks mid-sentence and called for a vote in violation of the committee rules. There must be consequences when the Democrats break the rules. And here`s what the consequences are going to be in this case.
I will refuse consent or time agreements for the nomination of any U.S. attorney from any state represented by a Democrat on the judiciary committee.
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HAYES: Now, it`s a bad-faith argument by Senator Cotton. The only reason that happened is the Republicans tried a procedural trick that forced the Democrats to cut off his questioning. But instead of acknowledging why it happened, Cotton stopped five U.S. attorneys from being confirmed for nearly eight months. Luckily, none of them died of leukemia while waiting.
And his justification has not improved over those eight months. This is what he said just yesterday.
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COTTON: I reiterated today. I would be happy to confirm these nominees in the following few minutes if the Senator from Illinois would simply express regret for what happened in the hearing that day and commit that it won`t happen again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Moments later, Senator Durbin reluctantly expressed regret and those five U.S. attorneys were unanimously confirmed. And literally, the only reason they were not confirmed earlier is because Tom Cotton was having a performative tantrum. Just the latest example of the utter breakdown of governing in the Republican Party.
Adam Jentleson had a front row seat for the deterioration of the Republican Party as the former deputy chief of staff To Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. He`s author of Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy, and is now the executive director of Battle Born Collective, a non-profit organization devoted to progressive legislative strategy.
Now, Adam, let`s be clear. Senators are as a rule egomaniacs and a little nuts. And they really don`t like when people tread on their territory and across the political and ideological spectrum will often zealously guard their turf. Given that context, does Cotton`s performance here fall in like the category of the normal or is it out in the abnormal range?
ADAM JENTLESON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BATTLE BORN COLLECTIVE: No, it`s absolutely far, far out in the abnormal range. And I think what`s important to understand is if he was giving a speech on the Senate floor and he was cut off, that would sort of be one thing.
But committee hearings drag on for hours and hours and hours. The chair has to interrupt frequently to let members know what`s going on to give them updates on the proceedings, you know, and it`s not like there are many people in attendance anyway.
So, you know to be interrupted in the middle of a hearing by the chair to give an update that was relevant to every other member who was there and that was being forced on him by Republicans, as you mentioned, is entirely a part of the status quo. And for Cotton to react the way he did is far outside the norm.
HAYES: Yes. And it`s also like a reminder that the Senate rules are just this like mysterious, you know, Talmudic text that like very few people understand and it -- you know, you need unanimous consent to do anything, but the Senate has to do a lot of things, so it has to rely on that.
And I guess the argument is, if you have to rely on unanimous consent that forces people to work together and find accommodations for each other, but often it just looks like well, there`s eight U.S. attorneys who haven`t been confirmed, and like those -- everyone would be better off in the public interest if they have been.
JENTLESON: Yes, that`s right. I mean, you know, look, the senators exercise a lot of power. It`s not like the House. Senators have a lot of control unto themselves, you know, but there`s something different about Senator Cotton. I mean, there`s something uniquely ghoulish about him.
You know, he has been in the Senate for coming on six or seven years now. He`s never accomplished anything. And he seems to take sort of a perverse pleasure in using these opportunities to twist the knife on Democrats. This seems to be why he exists in the Senate.
I was there when he blocked Cassandra Butts. Cassandra Butts was a friend of mine. It was deeply heartbreaking then. He clearly has not learned anything. He clearly regrets nothing about that episode. This seems to be what gives -- what gets him up in the morning and what gives him purpose in his service in the United States Senate and I think that`s deeply sad.
HAYES: So, the other big news out of the Senate today is that there`s some deal -- I can`t even honestly make sense of it where they -- they`re going to raise the debt ceiling with a one-time vote to evade the filibuster so the vote for the thing that would raise the -- raise the debt ceiling without the filibuster doesn`t count as a vote to raise the debt ceiling. It`s like procedural nonsense, but it`s the way the Senate functions.
And a lot of people said, Elizabeth Warren, among others, like, if we can make this exception here, why not make it in other places.
JENTLESON: Look, Senate rules are Calvinball. They are what 50 senators want them to be. You know, it -- there`s this myth of tradition that likes to sort of wrap itself up in as an institution. But really what it is, is you know, over 200 years of history of people sort of doing what was politically convenient at the time and then shrouding it in these grand myths of tradition.
So, you know it is absolutely true that if you, you know, we`re making an exception to the filibuster here on the debt ceiling because it`s politically advantageous to Mitch McConnell. He doesn`t want to have this fight because he`s worried that if he filibustered the debt ceiling, the Democrats would actually go through with the nuclear option and change the rules. So, he`s making an exception.
And Senator Warren is absolutely right. There is no principle reason why if you`re going to make an exception here, you couldn`t make it on other things such as voting rights. So, hopefully, you know, it`s a weird thing that`s happening right now, but hopefully, this is at least a modest step forward towards rules reform.
It is things like this. It`s the small steps. It`s things like senator Cotton just driving senators crazy that sort of build momentum for reform. That`s the way that it`s sort of been happened in the past. And you know, hopefully, they`re sort of inching our way towards that outcome now.
HAYES: Adam Jentleson, thank you very much.
Ahead, Republicans found to success with their critical race theory fear mongering. Now, they`re trying to copy paste that strategy into a new target, critical energy theory. The right`s new woke boogeyman after this.
HAYES: On this show, we have covered Republican state legislators, passing similar kind of bills all at the same time. You see it a lot. Things like voting rights restrictions, changing polling locations, or hours of balloting methods which tend to disenfranchise voters or critical race theory bans. We`ve been covering a lot of those that outlaw phrases or specific book, or even certain concepts in schools.
And part of this is due to the, you know, natural ebb and flow of political movements, things become hot issues. But then there`s this centralized organization called ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council where right-wing state legislators literally get together, craft model legislation, and pass it around to consider introducing in their own states.
In an amazing new turn chronicled by reporter Kate Aronoff in The New Republic, the next frontier for this group is basically taking language of the critical race theory bans as well as the model of very constitutionally dubious laws passed to stop private entities from any boycotts of Israel, mix them together and turn the legislation against any company to move away from fossil fuels, and any government agencies passing rules or policy that might pressure or incentivize banks to lend to oil and gas companies.
The term that Aronoff uses tongue and cheek is critical energy theory, a term that I`m pretty sure no one has ever used but maybe it will be coming to you soon.
Joining me now to explain is Kate Aronoff, a staff writer at The New Republic covering climate, author of that amazing piece. It`s really great reporting, I`ve chuckled at the critical energy theory headline. So, tell me, first of all, what you -- how you reported on this with ALEC.
KATE ARONOFF, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW REPUBLIC: Yes, so the Center for Media and Democracy has been following the story for years and has been really close to the ground tracking these conferences over the years. And so, I was in touch with them as well as a contact, a source that I had there, and just getting sort of updates on what was happening.
And in particular, as a climate reporter following the sort of energy module, which is one among many of these sort of subject areas that they`re reporting on. So you know, there are modules on voting rights, on you know, critical race theory, on any number of things. And energy is obviously a big concern for ALEC, which of course gets -- has gotten a lot of support over the years from the Koch industry.
HAYES: So, the idea is, and I`m going to read from your piece here, the group`s environment -- Energy Environment Agriculture Taskforce met on Friday, voted to bring back two pieces of model legislation that portrayed climate policy, even climate policy doesn`t exist yet, as unfairly discriminating against fossil fuel companies.
So, the mental frame they`re trying to evoke here is if you`re trying to do things as a private entity or a government to get off fossil fuels, that`s discriminatory, similar to the -- you know, that it`s anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic to boycott it. I think that`s sort of the intellectual lineage. And then what would the legislation do?
ARONOFF: Yes. So, you`re exactly right. I mean, this comes out of a couple very specific places. So, this anti-BDS legislation that was passed and a number of states criminalizing protest. And the legislation itself would really require companies -- or require comptrollers at the state level, excuse me, to create and maintain a list of financial companies which are boycotting energy companies.
And so this is voted on unanimously and would require, I think, a pretty huge administrative lift for pretty underfunded offices in a lot of these states which, you know, these offices don`t have a ton of resources to do something like this, but they would be required to divest from companies.
So, pension funds, right, state pension funds, if you`re required to take out any holdings, if you know, Bank of America got to woke and decided that they were going to, you know, divest and you know, take on the fossil fuel industry, which they haven`t. They haven`t.
HAYES: Right. What`s fascinating here is there`s a sort of, like, what`s good for the goose is good for the gander sort of turnabout here, which is that the climate movement has been putting more and more pressure on financial firms on pension funds to divest from fossil fuels, from oil and gas.
You know, the teachers union of California, like things like that, because they see that as a lever, smartly, right, to get us off fossil fuels. So, this is like, well, we`re going to boycott the boycotters, right? The idea is that, like, if you listen to those Willie-headed activists are trying to get you off oil and gas, then we the state of Arkansas will no longer invest in your thing.
ARONOFF: Right. And the irony of this is that these companies aren`t doing that, right? The 60 biggest financial institutions, 60 biggest banks in the five years since the Paris Agreement has spent $3.68 trillion to finance fossil fuel projects. So, it`s responding to a problem that just doesn`t exist. The financial sector is not taking climate change seriously. And yet, at the sort of inkling that they could, you see Republicans really aggressively trying to drag this conversation into the culture or space that they`ve gotten very comfortable with during the Trump administration.
HAYES: Well, and also, the way that it shares -- you know, these -- the anti-BDS laws like Texas, for instance, you know, they`re modeled almost exactly word for word on that, right? The idea there is, if you`re a company or an entity that is decided to boycott Israel over, you know, the occupied territories, or what you`ve used human rights abuses, which again, is a First Amendment-protected political expression, the state is going to punish you for that by like severing contracts.
And basically, that idea which constitutional scholars have pointed to is incredibly dangerous is now just being straight imported into the climate sector.
ARONOFF: Yes. And this is, you know, a playbook that activists in the Palestinian solidarity movement has been -- have been raising alarms about for years, because we know the right. You know, we`ll pick and choose from these different playbooks and pluck them on to whatever issue they want.
And that is, you know, exactly what folks who have been raising alarms about these anti-BDS laws have been saying is that we`ll see sooner or later that these will be applied to energy, to climate, to whatever it is, and that is happening right now.
HAYES: The thing I note here too which I find interesting is for a long time, the argument against alternatives to fossil fuels was that they needed heavy subsidies and that the market was using fossil fuels, but the government was propping up. And you`re just seeing the valence of that shift, right? It`s just the cost structure.
Increasingly what you`re going to see on the right and you`re seeing this in some states like Wyoming, it`s just straight up like state effort, state subsidies coercion used to keep dirty fuel going even past the point in which the market has totally rejected it. This I think is showing us what`s to come. Kate Aronoff, great reporting. Thanks for coming on.
ARONOFF: Thanks so much for having me.
HAYES: That is ALL IN on this Wednesday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.