IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, 2/17/21

Guest: Julian Castro, Rafael Anchia, David Roberts, Alex Stuckey, Karine Jean-Pierre, Elie Mystal

Summary:

As Texans freeze, Governor Greg Abbott blames the Green New Deal on his state`s power outages. Millions of people are suffering from power failure and no water. One of the Biden Administration`s goals is to have five days a week classes in his first 100 days in office. The NAACP and Congressman Bennie Thompson are suing Trump, Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys, and the Oathkeepers under the Klan Act.

Transcript:

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Absolutely. Vann Newkirk, Marc Elias, thank you both very much. I really appreciate you. That is tonight`s REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.

BETO O`ROURKE, FORMER DEMOCRATIC TEXAS REPRESENTATIVE: We are nearing a failed state in Texas and it has nothing to do with God or natural disasters. It has everything to do with the leadership and those in positions of public trust who have failed us.

HAYES: The disaster grows in Texas and the government deception continues.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): The great new deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America.

HAYES: Tonight, the systemic failures in Texas and how to fix them and the human suffering unfolding for millions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re just hoping that the lights will come back soon enough because it`s really freezing.

HAYES: Then --

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our goal is that as many K through eight schools as possible will reopen within the first 100 hundred days.

HAYES: Karine Jean-Pierre of the Biden administration on their detailed plans to reopen schools. All that and why the former president should be very worried about being sued under anti-KKK Domestic Terror Laws when ALL IN starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. We are one day further towards genuine catastrophe as a huge swath of the country has been hit by winter storms and record low temperatures below zero across more than a dozen states.

Now, millions of Americans are experiencing power outages, but in Texas, there is a near-total breakdown. Most of Texas is on its own energy grid run by the organization called the Electric Reliability Council of Texas or ERCOT. And it is disconnected from the two main power grids in the rest of the country, the eastern and western interconnects. And it is the most deregulated energy market in the country, all sorts of interesting idiosyncrasies to how it operates.

Its power infrastructure is simply not designed to withstand days of freezing temperatures which are expected to continue until the weekend. ERCOT officials said today they expect the blackouts in Texas to last at least until tomorrow. The crisis of the product of both extreme weather, a kind of black swan event, and also real governing failure.

And the person at the head of the Texas government took the time to go on Fox News last night to push the big lie that Republicans and right-wing media have been pushing for days, a brazen jaw-dropping lie that the hippie Libs and their clean energy are to blame for the devastation in Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABBOTT: The Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America. Texas is blessed with multiple sources of energy such as natural gas and oil and nuclear as well as solar and wind. But you saw from what Trace said, and that is our wind in our solar that got shut down and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid. And that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power in a state-wide basis.

If the Biden administration is going to try to eradicate fossil fuels in the United States, every state is going to constantly have challenges like what America has seen take place in Texas right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: That`s not true just to be clear the idea that wind and solar completely went out and thrust the state into that situation. In fact, the governor was spinning a different tale when he spoke to a local news outlet just before he went on Fox News, not mentioning wind or solar or green energy at all, instead placing the blame on natural gas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABBOTT: The companies that generate the power, their operations have frozen up or have trip wired and are non-operational. That is the lead reason why there is a shortage of power for the people who are lacking power right now.

There is an additional reason causing a lack of natural gas arriving to power generation centers across the state. And that`s because the ability to both manufacture and to ship and transport natural gas has been frozen also. It`s frozen in the pipeline. It`s frozen at the rig. It`s frozen in the transmission line.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Natural gas is frozen everywhere. That`s a big part of the problem, the catastrophe. That`s what he`s telling Texans. And he goes on national Fox News to say that it`s the Green New Deal. This is the crazy Blaine game the Governor of Texas is playing while his constituents are freezing in their homes without power heat some for the third straight day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much power have you had in the last three days?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, so that`s probably like a total of maybe four hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four hours in three days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four hours in three days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re huddled under all the blankets that we have. It`s 45 in our house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve Rivera and his wife seeking shelter with the only neighbor they knew that had a fireplace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She hasn`t been able to eat regularly and take her medications.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For 11 members of the Adela family, the only way to stay warm is inside a church van parked in their driveway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many kids are there? How are you guys doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Inside, seven kids ages three months to 11 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it started -- see, I have three cats and a dog, some kids. We lost power, put the kids in a different location with family members, and then we`ve just been sleeping in the closet with my pets. I can`t find gas anywhere. I don`t even know what city I`m in right now, to be honest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hell, yes, hell. It`s sure hell, yes. And so, that`s why I say somebody should be held accountable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: But to the purveyors of the big lie, Republicans like Greg Abbott and his friends on Fox News, this very real and acute suffering is just a vehicle for their political objections. They are trying to convince Americans that the state of J.R Ewing and the Houston Oilers, the capital of American fossil fuel extraction was actually covertly turned into a lefty bastion of green energy while no one was looking and that`s the source of the problem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: So, unbeknownst to most people, the Green New Deal came to Texas. The power grid in the state became totally reliant on windmills. Then it got cold and the windmills broke because that`s what happens in the Green New Deal. You`re without power. Millions are still without power tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Yes, while you weren`t looking. You hear that quote? Unbeknownst to most people, Texas became some sort of hippie commune and totally reliant on windmills and rainbows and flower power. Totally reliant, he actually said that about Texas. Was it unbeknownst to the Republican leadership of the state who`ve occupied nearly every statewide office in Texas for decades? A Democrat has not won statewide in decades.

Did Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 10 years ago at the tender age of 21 parachutes into the state of Texas to put up windmills under cover of night? Where she and Al Gore driving through the Permian Basin secretly unplugging all the rigs? How stupid does Tucker think his audience is exactly? It`s just a lie. It`s not a dishonest mischaracterization or spin or emission, it`s just a straight-out ridiculous lie.

Now, Texas does have a lot of wind power. It`s true. But wind power makes up only a fraction of Texas energy in the winter. Governor Abbott said himself, wind and solar only make up 10 of the grid. There are real material consequences here, as so many people go into a third freezing night.

The immediate priority must be figuring out a way to get power and heat to people who desperately need it as well as clean water amidst a severe weather event and infrastructure that is simply overwhelmed by it right now.

Julian Castro is the former mayor of San Antonio, also the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama, a 2020 presidential candidate, and he joins me now. Julian, how are things in your hometown of San Antonio right now?

JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER MAYOR OF SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: Well, I think what you talked about reflects the way things are going down here in San Antonio. A lot of people still without power, a lot of people without water. Because of the cold weather, many of the old pipes have burst and that`s caused this cascading effect, no power, no water for folks.

Because stores are closed and grocery stores have very long lines, people are not able to get their medication. Seniors here have had to be evacuated to a warming center downtown. And they`re talking about opening up other ones because it`s supposed to freeze again overnight. You have a lot of people especially the most vulnerable folks in this community under a lot of stress.

HAYES: You know, you just mentioned seniors and I`ve been thinking a lot about them and sort of talking to folks throughout the last 24 hours. In the -- in the famous heatwave in Chicago that killed, you know, 800-plus people, it was mostly seniors who were living alone who were caught in that heatwave. And are there -- are there systems in place to check on seniors who are living alone under these conditions and get them to safety and warmth?

CASTO: There are some. But you know, Chris, the way that a lot of folks I think have had their attention called to this has been through social media. Somebody will say that my grandmother is stuck in her house. She needs her insulin. You know, she doesn`t have power. She doesn`t have water. Or a neighbor will call another neighbor.

I heard from two of my neighbors who were medically compromised that needed to be evacuated to a hotel because they no longer had power. And this is becoming the worst state-level policy disaster since the Flint water crisis. And as you pointed out, we have state leadership, Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick that want to point fingers to everything except the problem.

For the last few decades, they have been the problem. This is not the breakdown of the system. This is a system that is broken down by design. It`s designed not to incentivize weatherization of these facilities. It`s designed not to incentivize being prepared for a cold weather event like this.

And on top of that, a lot of people are probably going to get the highest electricity bill that they`ve ever had when this is done even though they don`t have power right now. Because the way that the system -- that ERCOT runs allows for price spikes that are absolutely through the roof, more than 300 percent over the last few days. And so this is just the beginning of this human-level disaster and economic disaster for a lot of families.

HAYES: Yes. Someone posted today and said, a friend of a friend had gotten this bill and they posted a screenshot of a bill which was a $1,622.14 for two weeks of power which is wild. When you talk about this state failure, I mean, we`ve got news tonight there`s some FEMA activation happening. There`s some generations being rolled out by the federal government.

You know, Texas is a state that is obviously historically famously and fiercely independent. It was its own republic. Is there a federal role here? I mean, I just I`m looking at the weather forecast, I`m hearing the stories. You`ve got this water -- potable water situation now which has been produced by this tripwire you say. Two or three more days of freezing temperatures, like, something`s got to give here, right? Should there be more federal involvement?

CASTRO: Oh, I hope there is and I think there will be. You already saw how promptly the Biden administration approved a declaration of emergency for the state. Look, the thing is seven million Texas right now are on a boiled water notice. And a lot of them are wondering, how are we supposed to boil our water when we don`t have electricity. And not only that how are you supposed to boil your water when a lot of them don`t have running water.

These state leaders basically want you to go out there and collect the melting snow in a bucket and put that over a campfire at your home. It`s these neanderthalic policies and the greed that has driven them that means the federal government is actually right now our best hope to get some relief.

How do they do that? Well, the emergency declaration was a good start. Expertise that can help get the grid back online as quickly as possible. On top of that, emergency aid to people who need immediate housing at hotels and other places, people who are homeless right now, the most vulnerable people out there.

And in the long term, helping to rebuild a grid that is more reliable and put the reliability back into ERCOT so that it actually means something for the people of Texas. The other thing, in the long run, is that we need different leadership in this state that`s actually -- you know, that actually believes in governance.

Don`t ever put people who don`t believe in government in charge of government. This is another example of that. It`s playing itself out unfortunately right in front of people`s eyes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Julian Castro, former mayor of San Antonio, former secretary of HUD there in San Antonio. I hope you and yours can stay warm and safe throughout all this. And I thank you for making some time for us tonight.

CASTRO: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Former Governor of Texas and former Energy Secretary Rick Perry actually told the most honest version of the truth about the situation in Texas today saying in an interview for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy`s Web site, "Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business."

Texas did design this system where they`re cut off from the rest of the country`s power grid in part to avoid federal regulation. It was designed to operate on very thin possible margins of error with trade-off being that energy would be cheaper, but of course then you roll the dice on catastrophe.

Here to explain why the Texas grid has failed so catastrophically, David Roberts, who runs the Volts Newsletter about clean energy and politics, and Texas State Representative Rafael Anchia who serves as the legislatures -- on the legislature`s energy resources committee.

Representative, let me start with you since you serve on this committee. When people ask the question, what is happening here, what is the answer?

REP. RAFAEL ANCHIA (D-TX): A lot of things are happening. The human toll is the one I`d like to highlight the most. I mean, we`ve got at the height of this crisis, four million Texans without electricity in the state of about 30 million.

Still tonight, even after all the interventions, about two and a half million Texans are without power. People are chopping up furniture for firewood. People are turning on their cars in their -- in their garages to try to heat their homes. Carbon monoxide poisoning, admissions to hospitals are on the rise. We`ve had reported deaths throughout the state from people just freezing in their homes. So, things are really bad on the ground.

What happened? We had a catastrophic failure of the entire architecture of our energy production and grid system. We`re the ninth-largest economy in the world. Our economy is bigger than Russia`s. And we are -- we pride ourselves on being independent and energy independent. And just recently, we had a natural gas glut.

Regrettably, we`re unable to power our power plants with that natural gas because it`s frozen in the ground. Oil pipes are frozen. We have been able to get it to the generation. And then, when we do on occasion, some of that generation has been failing.

So, while -- well I saw your clip earlier and I saw that the governor was trying to blame this on, I don`t know, some crazy Green New Deal or windmills, the reality is that we are powered and very proud of it by natural gas in this state. We are -- we don`t shy away from fossil fuel in the state. But regrettably, it has let us down during this crisis.

Massive thermal output has been sidelined because of the coal. And we`ve had mechanical failures, operational failures, and failures to get gas out of the ground. It`s been a big problem.

HAYES: David, you`ve been writing this great series over the Volts Newsletter which I recommend to people about the grid which is a fascinating topic, arcane but important as we see in this situation. I saw someone today say basically, if you were to say one thing about what happened here is that this weather event was more extreme than what they decided to insure against, which is to say they just didn`t spend the money to protect against something like this and now that`s where we are. Is that -- would you agree with that, David?

DAVID ROBERTS, FOUNDER AND EDITOR, VOLTS NEWSLETTER: Yes, that`s not far off. Texas had cold snaps like this in 1998 and again in 2011 and had -- they were smaller, less extreme than this, and there were outages then, smaller and less extreme but still problematic. And in both cases, the sort of after-action report recommended, you need to up-armor your generators against the cold.

I mean, there are power generators that operate in cold areas. They can do it. There are windmills in the arctic. You know, there are natural gas plants in frozen countries. It`s possible but it`s expensive. And so, the political will to do it fades very quickly after a disaster, and then the public`s attention turns to prices.

And it just becomes politically unpopular to do something expensive. And so, they kick the can down the road again. They`ve done it a couple of times now.

HAYES: Well, follow-up to this. I mean, there`s a broader sort of structural issue here being revealed as I read your series on the grid which is that it`s not just the Texas grid that needs to be up-armored. Like, two things happening which is we move to fossil fuels, more things remain on the grid, and more extreme weather events means we need major investments in the grid across the country.

ROBERTS: That`s right. The grid is becoming more and more central to the U.S. economy, to U.S. power especially in the next 20 years as we electrify transportation, all our cars and trucks, and we electrify all our buildings, building heating and cooling. That`s going to really raise the amount of electricity we use and it`s going to make it much more central to our lifestyle. And so, the grid desperately needs investment and upgrade.

And at the very least, we need a national grid because at the very least, if generators are offline in Texas, they`re likely to be working somewhere else, in some neighboring states. So, at the very least, we need to be able to share power across the country. That`s just very basic.

HAYES: Representative, Greg Abbott tonight announcing he was going to start some investigation of ERCOT, clearly wanting to sort of point people in their direction as the source of the problems here. What`s your -- what`s your response to that and is there going to be the political motivation after this to fix it this time?

ANCHIA: Well, what bugs me is that rather than taking responsibility for the public utility commission that oversees ERCOT which he appoints the members to, he`s just trying to boogeyman where he can. This is the time we need leadership in the state.

We need the governor to act like he does when we have a hurricane blowing through, when he stands up there with the head of the Department of Public Safety and the state guard and says hey, you know, I`m going to lead and we`re going to -- we`re going to give you direction on what to do.

He has been willfully slow and late on this thing. So, now he says he wants to investigate the grid operator. Well, in fact, he has had all of the tools in place of the public utility commission which again he controls and appoints to do so during these last decades.

Again, your other guest said it right. In 2011, we had a really bad blackout situation. We were supposed to invest and the recommendations from both the state and federal investigations where you need to weatherize, you need to insulate, you need to de-ice. We didn`t do any of that. We didn`t spend any of that money and didn`t look at it as an emergency.

Now, people are suffering. They`re dying at massive levels throughout the state. And he`s pointing fingers rather than leading or accepting responsibility which is what we need leaders to do.

HAYES: David Roberts and Representative Rafael Anchia, thank you both for your time tonight. I really appreciate it.

Ahead, a closer look at the failures that led to the unfolding disaster in Texas for someone who`s living through it right now. First-hand account of the last 72 hours after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: We are now on day three of this disaster across Texas and throughout much of the country, and the weather is going to be cold for several more days. The Texas power commission is not saying when electricity is coming back and we can be on the precipice, like I keep saying, for a real catastrophe.

More than 2.6 million people across the state still do not have power. At least 16 people have died. There are also extremely long lines at grocery stores across the state where retailers have had to ration the purchasing of some items and limit store hours due to supply shortages. In Houston, there is low or no water pressure across that city.

Officials say running water will be restored by the end of tomorrow but residents are also being told to boil their water for safety. Of course, lots of them can`t do that because they have no power. In Austin, one family resorted to boiling snow to get something to drink. Another Austin resident shared this video after pipe spurs asking "If there is an extreme water shortage in the city, then why can`t someone help fix this in the last 12 hours?"

A Dallas resident tweeted this insane photo of the icicles hanging from his indoor ceiling fan. And earlier today, Houston Chronicle Investigative Reporter Alex Stuckey tweeted, "No power for two days. No water since yesterday. I smelled gas inside and outside the house so I called 9-1-1. They never came. Sat outside for three hours with three dogs until we finally reached center point emergency line. Technicians come out, major gas leak."

And Alex Stuckey who wrote that joins me now by phone I believe in her car. Alex, is that right? How are you doing?

ALEX STUCKEY, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, HOUSTON CHRONICLE: Yes, I`m in my car, so my teeth don`t shatter as I`m talking to you.

HAYES: How long -- how long have you been without power?

STUCKEY: We`ve been out without power for about two and a half days, so -- the water went out yesterday, so it`s it has not been a good time over here.

HAYES: So, you have no power, you`ve got no water. I assume there`s no heat in the house. How cold is it?

STUCKEY: It`s cold. I mean there were -- there were points this morning where I could see my breath in my house, so that`s not super ideal, of course. But you know, last night, it was -- I want to say it was nine degrees outside. Tonight, it`s supposed to be, you know, 28. So, it`s pretty hot in comparison. So, hopefully, that won`t happen again but it`s cold.

HAYES: And is this the -- is this the general way things are going for your neighbors as well, particularly the water situation which seems in some ways as dire as anything. Like you got to get water somewhere, right?

STUCKEY: Yes. I don`t know a single person that has water in Houston right now. It`s -- you know, if they`ve got anything coming out of the faucets, it`s barely a drip. I think it`s so funny that, you know, they`re telling us to boil the water because there`s no water to boil. You know, if you -- if you thought ahead enough, you gathered some in containers, right, but you know, a lot of people didn`t do that. So, you know there`s a lot of people just, you know, struggling with that basic necessity.

HAYES: What are the -- what`s this scene like at say, grocery stores or gas stations or anywhere that you would need to get the kind of provisions you would -- you would need under these conditions?

STUCKEY: Grocery stores, the lines are, you know, out the door, super long. And of course, we have like, the COVID situation to deal with as well, so already grocery stores have been limiting how many people can go in and out at a certain time. So, this just makes it more of a problem.

I went to a couple of gas stations to fill up just in case and the lines were so long. I was just like, there`s no point. I`m not going to like sit here and waste more gas waiting to get gas. And this morning, my husband and I, we went to Home Depot to get some parts to try to fix the gas leak situation, and Home Depot had no power. They were letting people in one at a time to like shop in the dark with cash.

HAYES: So, you still have a gas leak in your house?

STUCKEY: So, we had them come out last night. They finally came out, I want to say, at midnight or 1:00 a.m. and they just shut the gas off. It`s something to do with the water heater and something about it being cold made it you know have a leak. I don`t know.

But, of course, there`s no -- there`s no plumbers available because they`re dealing with, you know, more important things like houses flooding because of burst pipes, and luckily that`s not happening in our case. So, we actually, my husband and I, have been trying to fix that issue ourselves with YouTube, so --

HAYES: What is the -- is there sort of a general safety net from the folks you`re talking to for people who do live alone particularly elderly folks. I asked this of Julian Castro in San Antonio. In the city of Houston, are there -- are there people actively kind of trying to locate those folks and get them help?

STUCKEY: I mean, there`s a couple -- they have these warming locations that if you, you know, sort of signal distress, if you`re even capable of doing that, you`re given this list. It`s like, you know, businesses who have generators or whatever. But, you know, for me in that case, you`re also running the risk of getting COVID if you go to these packed places just because they have heat.

So, it`s sort of this decision of like should I, you know, just pile on the blankets and try not to freeze or should I go to this place where I might, you know, get a disease that`s -- a virus that`s killing, you know, hundreds of thousands of people.

HAYES: Yes. It`s a pretty important point. I mean, as I think about elderly folks like packed into indoor spaces that are being heated is not -- you know, that`s not great from the COVID perspective, nor is like the supermarket or all that stuff. Like, you know, the virus is still there.

STUCKEY: Exactly, yes. And so, I think that`s something -- you know, there`s a bar that`s down the street from us and people are rushing there because they have a generator, so they have heat. But you know, they`re also all inside drinking without masks. And so, like OK, you`re in the heat but, you know, you are also getting sick unknowingly.

So, I think -- you know, I think for me, the concern is, you know, what are we going to see after this in terms of, you know, these super spreader areas because people were just seeking, you know, the basic need of warmth and they ended up contracting COVID.

HAYES: What is the communication to you and to your -- and to folks in Houston about what the timeline is here?

STUCKEY: It appears to me to keep changing. You know, one of the issues with this is like a lot of people, they don`t have power so they can`t charge their devices and, you know, we haven`t been able to print the paper product of our newspaper. And of course, you can get it online. But if you can`t get online, then you can`t look at it. So, it`s you know, been a constant problem in that regard.

But you know, it appears to keep changing. It was supposed to be like well, Wednesday like things will start getting better. And now, like tonight, we`re in for another like, really cold night so probably things aren`t going to get better. So, they keep pushing back the -- somebody keeps pushing back for us when they can come out and you know turn the gas back on.

They originally told us like yes, we`re absolutely coming today to turn it on. And then when we called them and said hey, you guys aren`t here. They`re like, oh, yes, not until Friday. This isn`t an emergency. So, I think no one knows on that front. And in addition, like we haven`t really heard anything about the water when the water is going to come back.

HAYES: What are you and your husband -- like, are you just putting on a bunch of layers and staying under a bunch of blankets indoors? Are you -- are you -- I`ve read -- someone I saw today. So, I was scrolling through text and social media posts and someone was hacking up their fence to light a fire in a fire pit.

STUCKEY: Oh, my God. Yes. So, we -- I lived in Salt Lake before I moved here, so I have all this like hardcore winter gear that i didn`t get rid of.

HAYES: Oh that`s good.

STUCKEY: So, I`m literally just wearing that around my house. You know, last night, we -- I`m not kidding -- had probably 30 or 40 blankets on the bed just, you know, trying to keep as warm as possible. But there`s not really much else you can do, you know.

HAYES: All right, Alex Stuckey in the cold in her car in Houston without water with the gas turned out and no power but making time to talk to us, and I think working on deadline on her investigative piece for the Houston Chronicle which is a fantastic paper that everyone should subscribe to. Alex Tuckey, thank you so much. Stay warm.

TUCKEY: Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it.

HAYES: Ahead, the Biden goal of getting kids back in school for in-person learning five days a week in the first 100 days. What it will take to get there next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: So, our goal is that as many K through eight schools as possible will reopen within the first 100 days. Our goal is that it will be five days a week.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: I want to beat it to death but I just -- I know there are teachers listening. And the CDC has said they don`t have to be vaccinated to go back to school. Of course, it`s the priority --

HARRIS: We think they should be the priority. We think -- we think they should be the priority. We think they should be a priority and the states are making decisions individually about where they will be on the list of who gets vaccinated. I believe they should be a priority. The President believes they should be a priority.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: The question of school and in-person instruction of the COVID era is one of the many huge problems we all need to solve. The Biden administration says they want to get schools open five days a week by the end of April. They want teachers to be prioritized for vaccines to help make that happen.

But there are all kinds of issues and questions from teachers and the teacher`s unions and the parents about how that could actually be safely done. Joining me now to talk about all that, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. It`s great to have you on.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thanks for having me, Chris.

HAYES: First I want to just get clarity -- i want to get clarity on the goal because I think it`s -- there`s been a little confusion about what it is. Like, what is the north star here? What`s the goal, the benchmark for the Biden Harris administration about when we get kids in person in school throughout the country?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, the president has been very clear on this, Chris. He says, the first 100 days, he wants to work really hard to make sure that majority of schools are opened safely, safely so that kids couldn`t -- can go back to school. Look, Chris, as you know, this is an unprecedented situation. This is not -- this is -- this is not easy to -- it`s a herculean task, right, that we have to do.

But this is critical. It`s important. The President understands that every day, every week that a child is not at school, they are being left behind. So, this is really important. And the CDC guidelines is what we are following. We are listening to the science. We are listening to doctors.

And as it comes to, you know, the teachers being vaccinated, it is an additional mitigation -- recommended mitigation step that the CDC is requiring and recommending. It is not -- I`m sorry -- that`s recommended but it`s not required to open up the schools.

HAYES: Right.

JEAN-PIERRE: And at the same time -- at the same time, though, the President and the Vice President believes that they should be a priority, as you just stated, Chris, when it comes to teachers getting vaccinated in states. And we already see that in half the states.

And so, they believe that teachers should be vaccinated just like front line workers. They should be -- we should be grateful to them just like frontline workers. And so, that is how we see that piece of it. And as far as the schools, the president made it very clear last night. He wants to see schools open five days a week. That is the goal. That is what we`re shooting for.

But in order to make that happen, we have this American rescue plan that needs to be passed, Chris. There`s $130 billion in that stimulus package that is going to help get these schools opened up safely. And that includes masks. That that includes making sure there`s ventilation. That includes making sure that the classrooms are smaller.

And so, that is the goal of the Biden -- the Biden-Harris administration. And that`s our focus for the next 100 days.

HAYES: So, there seem like there are three -- broadly three issues here, right? So, there`s the school, the nature of ventilation, and PPE and things like that in the school that`s in the relief package. There`s teachers and administrators and staff members exposure, right? And then there`s parents` worry about their kids.

I mean, one of the things I think that gets a little undersold in this is, you know, when you look at should schools reopen in the fall -- this is the fall, only 46 percent of Black parents say yes, 50 percent of Hispanic parents say yes, and white parents are 62 percent. But that`s still not an overwhelming majority. There`s a lot of parent hesitancy.

I want to just sort -- I want to take all three of these in order. To go back first to the rescue plan. $130 billion, if it was passed tomorrow, am I -- like, I guess I just don`t believe they`re going to redo the ventilation in my kid`s school any time soon.

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, it`s part of it, right? I think that there`s the first component of the immediate need of the money, right? We`re talking about masks.

HAYES: Right.

JEAN-PIERRE: You know, we`re talking about making sure that their social distanced and the things that they need to do from the beginning. And then there`s also, you know, summer school and the learning gap. So, this is -- there`s different components of that money and different options of that -- of that package that`s going to be critical for just getting started right away, Chris.

And look, I get it. I have a six-year-old. And we are -- we`re -- our family is going through the same thing. And so, this is -- this is a problem for the Americans across the country, millions of Americans who are having to deal with their kids not in school, who are having to deal with losing a job, we`re having to deal with this economic downturn, and this horrible status quo that we`ve been in for the past years of Americans dying from COVID which is unacceptable.

And so, this is just part of -- this is part of the plan that the Biden- Harris administration is trying to move forward with.

HAYES: Yes. I mean, to that point, obviously suppressing the virus, vaccinating the population as quickly as possible is the most important thing for everything, right?

JEAN-PIERRE: No, it is. No, it is.

HAYES: So, everything gets solved if you solve that. But on -- the final thing just on the vaccination because I just want to make sure I understand this. I mean, my understanding is that basically the White House is saying look, we don`t tell states who to vaccinate. We have no -- I don`t know if there`s no authority --

JEAN-PIERRE: Authority. Yes.

HAYES: -- whether it exists or not being used. It`s we can make recommendations and we think states should be doing this. That is the message.

JEAN-PIERRE: Right -- yes. We hope -- we insure them or we hope that they - - that they prioritize, you know, like, I just mentioned the teachers. Look, we are working really closely with states, Chris. We are -- we have a partnership with them. We are making sure that we have, you know, more places, more supplies, that folks are getting doses in their arms. That is really critical as well.

Because the way that we`re going to get back to a normal life is to make sure that people get vaccinated. And so, that`s what we`ve been doing for the past month. And we`ve seen progress. We`ve seen more supplies out there. And we`re talking about vaccinators, we`re talking about mobile units, we`re talking about vaccination centers and supply.

And so, you know, this week the President himself is going to go to Kalamazoo, Michigan. He`s going to visit Pfizer, a really critical a site where they`re making supplies -- majority of the supplies that we`re getting in vaccination. And this is -- this is key. And the reason that this is happening, the reason for example Pfizer is two months ahead on making supplies is because of that partnership that we`ve had with them in just four -- in just four weeks.

So, there -- this is a -- you know, there`s -- we have combining crises that we have to deal with all at once. And again, this is why the American rescue plan is so critical because we have to meet this big moment, Chris.

HAYES: All right, Karine Jean-Pierre at the White House tonight, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, Chris. I appreciate it.

HAYES: All right, still ahead, what is the Ku Klux Klan Act and why is it being invoked in a lawsuit against former President Trump. I`ll explain next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Barely 24 hours after a mob ransacked the Capitol at the urging of then-President Trump, the incoming President Joe Biden formally selected his new attorney general, Merrick Garland, who is once again waiting around to be confirmed by the Senate. Welcome to Merrick`s life.

When Biden stood up on January 7th to explain why he chose Merrick Garland to head the Department of Justice at this moment in our nation`s history, he brought up a conversation that he had with the federal judge about the reason the department even exists.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was formed in 1870 to enforce the civil rights amendment that grew out of the Civil War, the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, to stand up to the clan, to stand up to racism, to take on domestic terrorism. This original spirit must again guide and animate its work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: That`s true. The Department of Justice was created in the midst of Congressional reconstruction. And one of its first jobs was to bring the rule of law to the post-confederate south where local law enforcement and juries refused to convict white supremacist terrorists and the Ku Klux Klan under former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was running roughshod murdering people, intimidating them, using terroristic violence in an effort to destroy Black enfranchisement and to reassert white supremacy.

The DOJ was just one mechanism to counter that effort. There was also a bunch of legislation passed at the time including the Civil Rights Act of 1871 known as the Ku Klux Klan Act which, as Elie Mystal writes in The Nation, made it illegal to use force, intimidation, or threat to prevent government officials from discharging their duties because that`s what the Klan was doing.

The Klan Act also opened up civil liability for any entity that would try to do that. You could sue them. Well, fast-forward 150 years, in the wake of a violent insurrection by forces that attempted to deprive the enfranchisement of 81 million voters, many of them African-American.

The NAACP and Congressman Bennie Thompson are suing Trump, Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys, and the Oathkeepers under the Klan Act. They`re seeking among other things to make sure the defendants can never do it again.

Elie Mystal of The Nation thinks they have a very strong case. I`m going to break it down with him right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): This violent insurrection at the Capitol was orchestrated by former President Trump and his lawyer along with the Oathkeepers and the Proud Boys. And we`re going to have our day in court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: A federal lawsuit brought by Congressman Bennie Thompson and the NAACP alleges the former president "Conspired to prevent by force, intimidation and threats, the Plaintiff, as a member of Congress from discharging his official duties to approve the count of votes cast by members of the Electoral College."

It`s a kind of ingenious use of the 150-year-old statute known as the Ku Klux Klan Act which was designed to prevent clan terror against government officials. Elie Mystal, the Justice Correspondent of The Nation argues in a new pace. The statute is almost tailor-made for this type of situation. And Elie Mystal joins me now.

Elie, first describe to me the relevant part of the law and why it works for this situation.

ELIE MYSTAL, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: Well, it was designed, as you pointed out in your open, it was designed to stop the clan from intimidating officials, trying to carry out enforcement of the 14th Amendment, right? So, the 14th Amendment says that you can be a member of Congress, right? The reconstruction south elected many African-American people to represent them both in state houses and in the federal legislature.

Well, the clan try to intimidate those people either from running or from taking up their official duties and stop me when I start sounding similar - - familiar, right? To prevent them from executing their official duties, the Klan would try to intimidate them with violence or threat of violence. And that`s why this law was passed.

If people don`t like the connection between the Klan circa 1871 and the Republican Party circa 2021, that`s a problem with the Republican Party, not with the law.

HAYES: Yes. The point about -- I mean, the point about reconstruction in the south and the fact that, you know, what would happen is the voters would get together and they would elect this person. And the people in power, you know, allied with the Klan who didn`t want full equality would be like, we don`t like who you selected. We want to do something different. Like, there are some very obvious resonance there.

How -- I`m curious how much this has been used as an active part of the law, an active vehicle for civil suits or is it one of the -- is it sort of like, you know, the lost city of Atlantis being rediscovered here?

MYSTAL: Well, there are a couple of things. First of all, Chris, I think one of the first times I came on your show, I said Donald Trump will be in legal jeopardy for the rest of his life. This is what I`m talking about. The drive to bring Donald Trump to justice will never stop. There are people who will never stop trying to bring this man to justice and this is just one of those events.

HAYES: Yes.

MYSTAL: Now, in terms of the utility of the Klan Act, you did a good point. You said, fast forward 150 years. Well, what if we don`t fast forward in 150 years? And if we don`t, what we see is that in 1877, basically White northerners got tired of shoving equality down the throat of southerners, and they backed off and they ended reconstruction.

A law is no use if there aren`t people around willing to enforce it. And for most of this country, despite the fact that we`ve had laws, and to say nothing of, you know, amendments to the Constitution enforcing equal rights -- sorry, allowing for equal rights, enforcement of those laws has been shall we say lacks by the White establishment in this country.

So, with so much of what we`re seeing with the riots, I`ve said a lot, we do not need new laws to address the insurrection and the attack on our government. We need to apply laws to White people this time, right? There were 800 people who stormed the Capitol. All of the people who stormed the Capitol committed a federal offense. but only 200 of those people have been arrested and charged.

Let`s apply the law that we already have to White people this time. If we do that, then absolutely statutes like the 1871 Klan Act, statues like federal -- against federal trespass and sedition, conspiracy, all of these statutes can be brought to bear on Trump, Giuliani, his children, Mo Brooks, Josh Hawley, and 800 people who attacked this nation.

HAYES: Yes, it`s a very good point. I mean, when you talk about, you know, the law lies dormant in the absence of enforcement. I mean, the 15th Amendment guarantees the right to vote and then it just --

MYSTAL: It`s right there.

HAYES: -- lies dormant for lack of enforcement. And we all now know the story of the Voting Rights Act and John Lewis and all that. But it was already there back in the 15th Amendment. You only had to do that because of precisely what you`re identifying.

MYSTAL: Waiting for somebody to care. In terms of this specific act, this is actually the second time Trump has been sued under the Klan Act. The NAACP also brought a suit against Trump and the Republican National Committee right after the election in December alleging that their big lie was -- and their attempt to overthrow the election specifically the way they tried to intimidate state boards of elections to throw out votes.

They argued that was an intimidation under the Klan Act. So, there are actually two of these lawsuits percolating through the system coming after Trump.

HAYES: Elie Mystal, as always, a great pleasure. Thank you for making time tonight. That is ALL IN on this Wednesday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END