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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, 3/23/21

Guests: Rachel Friend, Fred Guttenberg, Heidi Heitkamp, Jamie Raskin, Marc Elias, Lee Gelernt


The nation mourns after another mass shooting leaves 10 people dead in Boulder, Colorado. Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks launches his bid for Senate. Republicans offer a weak fight against D.C. statehood. Sidney Powell`s legal defense claims "reasonable people wouldn`t believe her election fraud claims. The debate over immigration in this country tends to move on two tracks, the emotional culture war debate about the invasion and the actual complicated facts, the reality on the ground.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: That is my hard turn. That is my shout-out. So, with every sort of sad and difficult story that we have, we also want to have something positive. So Happy Birthday, Kim. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice over): Tonight on ALL IN. The President calls for an assault weapons ban.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not -- it should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue.

HAYES: Tonight why the NRA was cheering the defeat of assault weapons ban in Boulder the day before the Boulder shooter bought his. Then --

REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): Louder, are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?

HAYES: The bumper crop of Trump Republicans vying for the Senate grows by one. Plus --

SIDNEY POWELL, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: President Trump won by a landslide. We are going to prove it.

HAYES: How the cracking lawyer who`s sold the big election lie is now changing her tune after being sued for defamation. And Congressman Jamie Raskin on the bizarre Republican arguments against D.C. statehood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: D.C. would be the only state, the only state without an airport, without a car dealership.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. For the second time in a week, a community is in mourning after another mass shooting in America. There`s a makeshift Memorial now that stands near the supermarket in Boulder, Colorado where a gunman massacred 10 people.

The suspect, 21-year-old Ahmad Alissa has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder. He was taken into custody after being shot by police and is in stable condition.


MARIS HEROLD, CHIEF, BOULDER POLICE DEPARTMENT: I want to say to the community. I am so sorry this incident happened. And we are going to do everything in our power to make sure the suspect has a thorough trial. And we do a thorough investigation.


HAYES: These are the 10 victims. They range in age from 20 to 65, each one with their own story, their own unique lives. Three of them were at work when the shooter arrived. The youngest victim, Denny Stong, had worked at the supermarket for several years. A year ago, he posted this image to his Facebook page, of course, as the pandemic was getting underway. I can`t stay home. I`m a grocery store worker.

Rikki Olds was a manager at the supermarket who love cats and unicorns. Her aunt posting on social media today, why you, why not me? You haven`t even lived yet. Teri Leiker had worked at the King Soopers for 30 years. Her boyfriend worked there too. According to a friend, she was selfless, and innocent, an amazing person who loved going to work and enjoyed everything about being there.

Lona Bartkowiak had stopped at the shopping center just to pick up a prescription, just a daily routine kind of thing. She managed to shop in Boulder and her friends said she would give clothing away to people who couldn`t afford it. She lived with her Chihuahua, Opal. She had just gotten engaged.

Eric Talley, you may have heard about, he was the Boulder police officer who was the first, we understand, on the scene. He`s got a fascinating backstory. He enrolled in police academy at age 40, leaving a stable career in IT.


HEROLD: This officer had seven children, ages five to 18. I just had that officer`s whole family in my office two weeks ago to give him an award. I can tell you that he`s a very kind man. And he didn`t have to go into policing. He had a profession before this. But he felt a higher calling.


HAYES: Right now, across the country, as millions of people get vaccinated against the virus, it`s impossible not to feel like we are beginning to return to some semblance of normal, some post-pandemic life. But this too, this feels like normal, an unbearable normal, an avoidable normal, and all too American normal. And just like they always do, Republican politicians are just waving it away and making excuses for why they block basic gun safety measures at every turn.

That`s normal too. It`s also part of this awful ritual that we`ve all practiced now dozens of times. This afternoon, President Biden called on the Senate to pass two bills approved by the House of a closed loopholes and background check laws. He also called for a ban on the kind of assault weapons often used in mass shootings, including the one in Boulder.


BIDEN: This is not -- it should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue. It will save lives, American lives. And we have to act.


HAYES: Here`s the thing. Gun sales in America are surging. Do you know there was a 40 percent increase last year? Nearly 40 million guns purchased legally in 2020. Another four million in January of this year alone. Gun sales are higher than ever. You might think, with so many of us stuck inside for much of 2020, the gun deaths might have fallen. But in fact, no, it was one of the most violent years in decades with shootings particularly spiking in city after city after city. Even in those same cities, many of the other crime numbers remained relatively steady.

More than 19,000 people in the U.S. died from gun violence last year according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. That`s a 25 percent increase in the previous year, and a new record. And that does not include suicides. A 2018 analysis shows the U.S. has the highest number of civilian firearms, 100 residents, by far. It`s almost on its own chart. You see it up there at the top, that bar? You need a different scale for it, easily outpacing countries like Yemen.

That`s the chart there. That`s what it looks like American exceptionalism on this issue. As Vox notes, Americans make up less than five percent of the world`s population, yet they own roughly 45 percent of the world`s privately held firearms. This chart shows guns per 100 people, and gun deaths per 100,000. You see that? All those countries on the lower left, those are countries with relatively few guns per 100 people, relatively few deaths.

And then up at the top of the right, the U.S., that`s us with by far the most guns and the most gun deaths. It`s just its own category. It`s pretty clear we`re just doing something different than anywhere else. The sight of America`s latest mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado is a pretty liberal city, college town. It`s a great place if you`ve ever been. It`s in a state, of course, that has had some of the worst mass shootings in the nation, some of the most traumatizing, some of the most awful, a movie theater in Aurora or, of course, a high school and Columbine.

And in fact, the Boulder City Council banned assault weapons for the city back in 2018, along with bump stocks and high-capacity magazines, and they did that personally in response to the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that year.

But Colorado NRA affiliate and others sued to block the ban. And just 10 days before yesterday`s mass murder, on March 12th, a judge blocked Boulder from enforcing that ban, and four days later, on March 16th, the suspect purchased a Ruger AR 556 pistol according to the arrest affidavit.

This is what that so-called pistol looks like just so you don`t get the wrong idea because of that name. That is what the gun looks like. It`s familiar probably to you now. It`s almost iconic. In the demonic gun violence that we have here in this country, the same kind of assault weapon that was used in at least one other mass shooting, and very similar to ones that have been used in shooting, after shooting, after shooting, after shooting. And on the very same day, the suspect purchased this weapon, this weapon.

The National NRA celebrated the judge`s decision to block Boulders assault weapon ban proclaiming NRA victory in Colorado and claiming the judge given law-abiding gun owners something to celebrate.

I`m joined now by a member of the Boulder City Council, Rachel Friend, a former advocate with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Also with me is gun safety advocate Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie was murdered in 2018 in the Parkland school shooting and who wrote the book, Find The Helpers: What 9/11 and Parkland Taught Me About Recovery Purpose and Hope.

It`s good to have you both here. And I`m sorry, it`s under these circumstances. Rachel, let me start with you. You have an interesting trajectory as someone who worked with Moms Demand Action, then were elected to the city council in Boulder. First, I imagine the city is just in reeling right now. What are things like there right now?

RACHEL FRIEND, COUNCIL MEMBER, BOULDER CITY: Thanks for having me on, Chris. I have to tell you, that intro was hard to watch. We are obviously are hurting right now and everything is still very raw. And we`re learning about the victims. So, that was the first I had seen about some of them. And it`s just painful.

We lost 10 community members. There are a lot of people in town right now who are not eating or sleeping. I think a lot of us are in shock. It`s a degree of sort of community-wide sadness that is new to me. I just think we are in an extraordinary amount of pain, and especially with a fallen officer.

HAYES: Fred, you`ve already lived through too many of these even after your daughter was taken in Florida. I guess, I wonder just at a human level, the emotional reaction when you see this happen to someone else.

FRED GUTTENBERG, GUN SAFETY ACTIVIST: When I look at the picture that you just showed of the memorials that are being set up, it brings me back to that day in such a visceral way the feeling of being broken. And, you know, Chris, I have feelings of horrific anger over what happened today with the Republicans in the Senate hearing, joined by feelings of horrible sadness.

I talked today about this -- I forget the Father`s name, who was killed yesterday and his daughter on Twitter was talking about how she just had her wedding. And he was fortunately there, but she`s now pregnant and he won`t get to see his grandchild. That`s the reality of what this does to American families. And it just -- it is infuriating that the NRA just days ago was calling their effort victory in Colorado.

HAYES: Councilwoman, can you tell me a little bit about -- I mean, it is a remarkable set of circumstances here. And I don`t want to over-determine whatever the causal connection is here. We should just say that we know very little about the shooter`s motivation. There were reports from family members that he was paranoid and disturbed in certain ways, anti-social, described as that.

So, I don`t -- I don`t want to suggest there`s a causal connection that has not been established by the facts we have. We just know the timeline. And we know that you worked hard along with others in the wake of what happened at Stoneman Douglas to get this assault weapons ban. What led you to push for that, and then what happened afterwards?

FRIEND: Well, first, to your point about the shooter. I do you believe in no notoriety, so I also will not be addressing any spat aspects of that individual. And I will say at the outset that I think what is required to get gun control laws passed at the end of the day is political courage and bravery. And we were lucky in Boulder that we had that here in 2018.

I was not on city council then, but I was working on the ban from the community side. And it was right after the Parkland, Florida mass shooting on Valentine`s Day 2018. And then Boulder City council member Jill Grano immediately propose that we implement an assault weapons ban.

I think that, like the rest of us who were doing this gun violence prevention work, she was tired of waiting. She was tired of waiting for a federal or state cavalry to arrive because they never arrive. So, she proposed the assault weapons ban and large capacity magazine limits, and their proposal was extremely popular here in the city of Boulder.

But immediately, there was swift and harsh opposition from the regional and national pro-gun rights groups, the NRA and kind of a local version of them. It`s not exaggerating to say that people got off of buses that were chartered and parked in adjacent parking lots near the city chambers, and they had NRA hats, and they walked into city council chambers and testified against her ban.

It was a toxic and stressful and hard environment in the rooms where we were having the hearings, which is true of most rooms whenever there is a gun control bill up, there are just hard room to be in. The activists are intimidating in the hallways in parking lots, and all around. And it was the same thing for our city council members.

So, it was intense on all sides. And I think at the end of the day, we had brave council members who decided to not give in to the intimidation tactics from the NRA and the other people who were doing things like open carrying assault weapons at our farmers markets and things like that between February and May 2018.

So, again, we had a supportive city attorney, supportive city manager, and a majority of city council who said enough, and so they passed the ban in May of 2018.

HAYES: That that has now been, of course, enjoined by a judge, although not struck down. And Fred, final question to you just about the fact that we have seen this proliferation of gun sales, of shooting violence, of gun violence in the last year. It`s been a brutally violent year in American life. And what sense you make of the fact that we`ve seen the sales of these kinds of weapons continue to climb?

GUTTENBERG: So, let`s just put a little context around that. When my daughter was killed just over three years ago, there was an estimate of about 300 million weapons on the streets of America. That estimate is now over 400 million in just the past three years. Three years ago, when my daughter was killed, the gun lobby used to say the AR 15 was for hunting, for sport. They don`t say that anymore. And as Rachel just said, you go to these events now where we talk about gun safety, you have people who literally show up carrying AR 15, using them as armed intimidation.

So, it went from being -- it went from being told us this was a weapon for hunting and sport. It`s now a weapon being used as armed intimidation. And the facts are OK, we let this happen. The facts are, when you look at that hearing today, the Republicans want to not only continue to let it happen, they want it to go even further.

And so, as a final message, I just want to say as strong the way I can. We need to go forward without those who don`t want to work to save lives. If that means ending the filibuster, if that`s the way, then we got to do it. Too many people are dying. It was 10 yesterday, it was eight last week, and it was all the others that get killed in communities across America every hour of every day. Enough is enough.

HAYES: Rachel Friend and Fred Guttenberg, thank you very much for making time on a really awful occasion. But I really do appreciate you coming on the show. Thank you.

GUTTENBERG: Thank you for having me.

FRIEND: Thank you.

HAYES: So, it seems like each election cycle these days, and we`re about to enter into one, maybe you haven`t noticed that yet but it`s coming. The Atlanta Senate races are just absolute train wrecks. Remember back in 2017 when the Republican candidate Roy Moore faced multiple accusations of sexual assault, but still earn the endorsement of the President. And that sent Trump loyalists like Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks literally running for cover.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe Roy Moore over the women?

REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): I believe that the Democrats will do great damage to our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you still believe Roy Moore?

BROOKS: I believe that the Democrats will do great damage to our country on myriads of issues.


HAYES: Well, Mo Brooks is tired of running from the press, but apparently he isn`t tired of running for Senate. That story is next.


HAYES: Back in December, Mo Brooks of Alabama was actually the very first member of Congress to say that he would challenge the results the Electoral College vote when Congress officially tally Joe Biden`s win on January 6th. In fact, Brooks was one of the speakers at the rally outside the White House that morning who riled up the crowd, telling them to head to the Capitol.


BROOKS: I`ve got a message that I need you to take to your heart and take back home, and along the way, stop at the Capitol. Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.


HAYES: A lot of people did kick some ass after that and gouging the eyes out police officers, beating them, you know, all that sort of thing. Now, that was just the latest and craziest and a long list of problematic antics from the Alabama Republican. Back in 2011, Mo Brooks said he would do "anything short of shooting undocumented immigrants to keep them out of the country." He claimed a few years later that there was "war on whites in America."

And then there was a time he literally ran down a flight of stairs to avoid questions about sexual assault allegations against Roy Moore, then the Republican candidate for Senate from Alabama. And now, Mo Brooks has decided to follow in Moore`s footsteps and run for Senate, making the announcement last night with none other than Stephen Miller by his side.


BROOKS: Our republic`s election system which is the underpinning of every republic is under attack. In 2020, America suffered the worst voter fraud and election theft in history.


HAYES: That`s a lie. That`s not true. That`s wrong. That`s false. That`s the dangerous lie of the president. Anyway, that`s considered a solid Republican seat. It`s currently held by retiring Senator Richard Shelby. Meaning Mo Brooks has a very good chance of becoming a Senator next year. And he is one of several colorful figures in that position.

Former Governor of Missouri Eric Greitens who resigned in 2018 amid allegations of sexual misconduct, blackmail, and campaign finance violations also announced yesterday he`s running for Senate. That seat, opening up Roy Blunt`s retirement is another relatively safe bet for Republicans.

And in Ohio where the seat currently held by Rob Portman is also a likely Republican win. Former State Treasurer Josh Mandel has entered the race. He says he was motivated to run by Donald Trump`s sham impeachment trial. And like the former president, he was temporarily kicked off Twitter for violating their policies about hateful conduct.

Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota knows how difficult it is to swim against the tide of state-level partisan polarization, and she joins me now. It`s great to have you on, Senator. I mean, the Mo Brooks situation seems genuinely troubling to me in so far as this is someone who promoted the big lie, was one of the first people, the first member of Congress to sort of say they wanted to overturn the election. And then last night, in his announcement speech, he`s basically running on that.

HEIDI HEITKAMP, FORMER NORTH DAKOTA SENATOR: You know, the problem that you have is we become so tribal, even the craziest of people. As long as they have an R behind their name, and can make it through the primary system, seem to get elected. And just to give you an example, Chris, and thanks for having me on.

When I ran in 2012, I ran -- I beat -- I beat the opponent in a -- in a state that brock Obama lost by 22 points. And I knew that as long as I kept it within that margin, I could win because I could convert 22 percentof the people who would otherwise vote for Mitt Romney to vote for me. When I ran for reelection in `18, guess what, that was only four percent.

HAYES: Right.

HEITKAMP: There`s no way you could run against that headwind. And so, the really important thing here is the dissolution of the Republican Party, that they let people like this back in, that they are pandering so that they can win elections. And they`re going to basically create a United States Senate that is unrecognizable in terms of people who want to get things done and people who are not hyper-partisan.

HAYES: Well, you`ve got -- I mean, Alabama is a great example, right? Because we all know -- I mean, barring something crazy, and obviously we just had a Democratic senator from Alabama, so nothing is for ordained. It turns out that if you nominate someone way too far out there, you can actually lose that seat.

But barring something like that, I mean, you got a situation where the winner of that primary is likely to be the next U.S. senator. And so, the positioning there, which is that I want to overturn a democratic election, it was a massive fraud, is probably smart position to win that primary. But then, that`s who you got as your next U.S. Senator replacing Richard Shelby.

HEITKAMP: Well, I mean, that`s the point. The point is that is it going to only be a Republican. Now, Alabama`s little interesting. I know people think oh, it`s ruby red. It`s a lot pinker than North Dakota, quite honestly. And I`ve got a great friend down there, Anthony Daniels, who is this House Minority Leader who is working to register African-American rural voters. That could change everything.

And so don`t write Alabama off. I think that the South is changing, and there`s opportunity there. And I think if you`re Mitch McConnell, you better be pretty concerned that if you get people way off to the edge, that could in fact, reenergize the Democratic and liberal, more liberal Republican middle that could really come out and send a message to the Republican Party.

HAYES: Yes, it`s a great point, right, because Roy Moore actually is the -- is the example of a -- of a boundary, right? I mean, Republicans thought they could just get away with that.


HAYES: No, it was. He was -- that`s where the -- you fell off the map, right? Like, how do you lose a senate seat in Alabama? Well, you nominate Roy Moore. That`s -- you know, you got a Democratic senator for your trouble.

And there is concern about both Josh Mandel in Ohio who`s already lost once to Sherrod Brown who was not very popular, was not very well liked, doesn`t have a great reputation in Ohio. Or Eric Greitens who was a subject of scandal. Like, there`s these twin things, right. There`s the partisan sorting. But there is some level at which strong candidates do matter.

HEITKAMP: Well, and good opposition matters and good organization matters. What we have to do as Democrats is we have to reenergize. It`s not about Trump. It wasn`t always just about Trump.

HAYES: Right.

HEITKAMP: And so, we have to say, if you want to fix problems like you talked about in your previous segment, if you want to make sure that there`s equal opportunity and that we`re solving problems in America, you have to step up not just in a presidential election, you have to step up in the midterm and you`ve got to get that energy back.

HAYES: Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp, thank you so much for making time tonight. I appreciate it.

HEITKAMP: You bet. Thank you, Chris, for having me.

HAYES: Next up, Congressman Jamie Raskin on the fight for D.C. statehood in the desperate attempts by Republicans to find any excuse to stop it. Congressman Raskin joins me next.


HAYES: The House Oversight Committee held a hearing yesterday on a bill that would make Washington D.C. the 51st state, and there were some amazing arguments on both sides, deeply rooted in our traditions and founding documents in American democracy. You know, it`s a sad state of affairs that most people don`t know their constitution very well. But a little notice provision in the document requires any place being considered for the statehood to have multiple car dealerships.


REP. JODY HICE (R-GA): D.C. would be the only state, the only state without an airport, without a car dealership, without a capital city, without a landfill, without even a name on its own. And we could go on and on and on.


HAYES: No landfill. That`s Republican congressman Jody Hice, currently running for Secretary of State and Georgia effectively on a platform of overturning Democratic elections. Of course, there are car dealerships in Washington D.C. And of course, there is obviously no car dealership stipulation in the United States Constitution that was signed in 1787.

But that there is literally just about the best argument Republicans have, I mean, they really fall apart because denying the citizens of District of Columbia true representation is purely an exercise and raw political power. Republicans need to stop D.C. from becoming a state so two new very likely Democratic seats are not added to the U.S. Senate, which could potentially tip the balance of power in the Senate for a long time.

The most audacious entry into the debate came from Senator from South Dakota Mike Rounds. "The Founding Fathers never intended for Washington D.C. to be a state D.C. statehood is really about packing the Senate with Democrats in order to pass a left-wing agenda." That`s a senator from South Dakota speaking there. South Dakota with the population only a bit bigger than Washington D.C. doesn`t have much argument to be a state either.

The main reason there even is a South Dakota and North Dakota explained by Princeton historian Kevin Kruse. The Dakota territory was cut in half, admitted as two states as part of a larger scheme by Republicans to add 16 states over a nine-month period in 1989 and 1890 and thereby pack the Senate with Republicans like you.

Seeing that North Dakota and South Dakota combined only have slightly more residents than my home borough of the Bronx when there`s a debate about D.C. statehood and you`re one of the four senators of those two states, maybe just lay low until the whole thing passes over.

Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin took part in that hearing on D.C. statehood as member the House Oversight Committee, and he joins me now. Congressman, I know you`ve been working on this issue for a long time. People have been pushing for it for a very long time. Is something different now?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Well, it`s no longer a local issue for people who live in D.C. It`s a national issue now. People understand that there are 712,000 taxpaying draftable U.S. citizens who live in Washington who paid a lot more in taxes than people in North Dakota or South Dakota pay. And there`s no reason to deny them their equal status in the union.

But the other thing that`s happened is that the Senate has become a major impediment to social progress for the country on everything from the universal background check for violent criminals purchasing firearms, to reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, to passage of H.R.1.

And so, the Senate needs to be integrated with everybody who lives in the country. And that means people in D.C., it means people in Puerto Rico, it means everybody who`s unrepresented and disenfranchised right now.

HAYES: I mean, the argument that Republicans make is that this is a pure power grab, that there`s no principle at play whatsoever. What`s your response to that?

RASKIN: The power grabs are in the eye of the beholder. We think it`s a power grab that all of these people who come from states that were admitted after the original 13 like South Dakota and North Dakota, or you know Alaska would try to deny it to people who have every right to be part of the Union.

So, look, you know, we shouldn`t be totally naive about it. We understand that there`s a basic Democratic imperative for inclusion of people who are being taxed, who fight in our wars, and so on, and who are governed by our government. But in truth in American history, it has been a partisan political football. And what`s interesting about this moment, is that the Democrats are very solidly behind statehood for people from Washington.

The Republicans have added in their platform for most of the decades since World War II that Puerto Rico should be a state. Do they really mean it? If they mean it, then there`s the grounds for a deal because most states have entered the union like animals boarding Noah`s Ark.

HAYES: Right.

RASKIN: In twos. You know, Kansas, Nebraska, Hawaii, Alaska, I think, Maine and Kentucky. Well, Puerto Rico, the Republicans want at least theoretically, Washington the Democrats want. There`s the grounds for a compromise to bring democracy to millions of people who are left out and can`t really run their own affairs because the federal government is in charge.

You know, the U.S. government cheated Puerto Rico out of hundreds of millions of dollars during Hurricane Maria. You remember Donald Trump tossing them some paper towels. And they also cheated D.C. out of hundreds of millions of dollars in COVID-19 funding, which fortunately, we`ve been able to rectify in the American Rescue Plan.

But there`s no safety in depending on other people`s representatives to take care of you in the U.S. Senate or in the House.

HAYES: We should note that, you know, the people of Puerto Rico would have to have a say over this. There`s a long tradition there and a question quite contentious about whether they want to join the union or not, so just put putting that aside.

RASKIN: Yes. There was just a plebiscite on it. So I think there`s some movement forward there too. I understand it`s been a controversial question. But in American history, either you`re going to be a colonial possession or you`re going to be a state, and you`re going to be able to speak for yourself and to be represented for yourself.

HAYES: Final question for you. I haven`t gotten a chance to talk to you in a while. Obviously, January, you suffered a loss of your son, and then very quickly after that, January 6th, and then very quickly after that, the first time, impeaching a president for the second time. I wanted to just see how you are doing.

RASKIN: Well, it`s kind of you to ask, Chris. I`ve -- every day, my family feels a little bit better. We`re not drowning in agony and grief the way we were for so many weeks there. And we just missed Tommy terribly. But we`re going to be celebrating him on April 3rd with a memorial service which will be open and available to everybody on YouTube.

And we`ve been very encouraged and gratified by how many people have been moved by what they`ve learned about Tommy`s life. And he was passionately committed to human rights and to animal rights and welfare. And he was a magnificent young man. And we`re going to celebrate the 25 years we had him for.

HAYES: April 3rd, I will -- I will definitely check that out. I`ve been so touched by your family and by the kind of person that he was. Congressman Jamie Raskin, thank you so much.

RASKIN: And thank you for having me, Chris.

HAYES: Still to come, facing a lawsuit for her role in spreading the big lie, Trump`s cracking attorney Sidney Powell is giving up the game in a court of law. I`ll talk to the one and only Marc Elias about Sidney Powell`s new defamation defense next.


HAYES: After months of pushing Donald Trump`s big lie the election was rigged against him, weaving bizarre conspiracy theories appeared to intimate that long dead Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had manipulated voting machines to change votes in the U.S., and ingratiating herself with Trump`s to the point where he reportedly considered naming her to be a special counsel overseeing an investigation of voter fraud, lawyer Sidney Powell has given up the game.

A court filing defending Powell from $1 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, her lawyer said the claim she made on national TV for months were not at all true and too ridiculous to be defamatory.

"Plaintiffs themselves characterize the statements that issue as wild accusations and outlandish claims. They`re repeatedly labeled inherently improbable and even impossible. Such characterizations of the allegedly defamatory statements further support defendant`s position that reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact."

That`s right. After months of helping to whip up so much fury among the Trump base that thousands of his supporters violently stormed the Capitol building in attempt to stop Joe Biden from being certified as president, Sidney Powell now says that all those people should have known better than to believe her.

Election lawyer Marc Elias led the charge to stop Trump`s efforts to claim election fraud in the courts. He`s the founder of the legal advocacy Web site Democracy Docket, and he joins me now. Well, what do you make of this response?

MARC ELIAS, ELECTION ATTORNEY: Well, I mean, I agree with her that her claims were nonsense. But that doesn`t mean they`re not -- they`re not actual defamation. I mean, the fact is, she lied repeatedly about the outcome of the election and in this lawsuit, specifically about the role that the various voting machine manufacturers may played, or didn`t play. And, you know, her effort by her lawyers while gallant, I don`t think it`s going to save her.

HAYES: Well, there was always this strange thing that was happening on it`s all these lawsuits which you saw up close, which is that they would say one thing in public. And then when they had to file things in court and make arguments in court, you know, where they could be disbarred, it would -- there were very, very, very different kinds of songs they were singing.

ELIAS: Yes. They tended to be very brave in the parking lot and not so braving the courtroom. You know, the big bravado outside the lawn care company was then -- was then followed by a very meak performance sitting before the federal judge.

One of the things that I find most amusing about the document that you`re just reference to -- referencing to is that her lawyers say, well, you know, some of these things she said at the RNC, as if to suggest, well, no one could believe anything that you said at the RNC.

HAYES: Right. I mean, there`s something sort of maddening about this, though, because I do feel like that there was always a little bit of kind of carnival barker performance of the whole thing. I mean, even from Trump, obviously, this -- and Giuliani, like the whole thing was at one level, it was so preposterous, it was so ridiculous. The things they were saying were so manifestly being offered with no evidence, and yet millions of people believed it.

And then some subset of those people like went and beat the living crap out of a bunch of cops on Capitol Hill when they tried stalking around the Capitol looking for Nancy Pelosi.

ELIAS: Yes. Look, there`s going to have to be accountability, because you had a whole bunch of lawyers and politicians led by Donald Trump who systematically lied to voters before the election, then lied to their voters after the election. That big lie then culminated in violence on January 6th at the Capitol.

And you would think that even after that they would now abandon it. But instead, we see in legislatures around the country, Republicans are now still clinging to that big lie, continuing to lie to their voters as they propose ever greater voter suppression legislation.

HAYES: And not just that. I mean, we covered the story last night of the primary challenge from Jody Hice to Brad Raffensperger, which seems predicated mostly on the fact that Raffensperger refused to indulge in election fraud and fabricate votes to overturn a democratic election. And then, Mo Brooks announces his Senate run essentially saying this is the greatest election fraud. These are now like, canonical central platform positions of Republican candidates.

ELIAS: Yes. Look, the only thing that binds the Republican Party today, its central plank is being against voting. That is really -- it`s no longer taxes, it`s no longer trade, it is literally the glue of the Republican Party that you need to be opposed to voting rights and try to suppress voting in furtherance of showing fealty to a failed one-term president who wants you to believe that he didn`t lose the election that he did. It`s a pathetic place that the Republican Party has landed itself. And hopefully, it`ll turn itself around.

HAYES: In terms of the falsehood, it`s striking to me -- I mean, I am -- you know, I love the First Amendment. And as someone who is in my line of work, I`m always a little suspicious of overly broad use a defamation or libel. I think, you know, free exchange and satirization of public figures and all those things are really important.

It is notable, however, that this has been the one avenue for some kind of accountability on the basic facts of the matter with a variety of different folks who spread this lie.

ELIAS: Yes. It`s been very interesting, actually, that the fear of defamation seems to have injected a modicum, not too much but a modicum of caution in aspects of the right-wing media, and some on the right wing.

But, you know, the fact is, we can`t govern through defamation law. We need right politicians t0 be honest and right now Republicans are lacking that.

HAYES: Marc Elias, thank you so much for your time tonight.

ELIAS: Thank you for having me, Chris.

HAYES: All right, still to come, separating the bad faith political attacks from the actual problems on the border. Lee Gelernt of the ACLU knows all of it better than just about anyone. He`s been working on this for years. And he joins me next.


HAYES: The debate over immigration in this country tends to move on two tracks. One of those tracks, the emotional culture war debate about invasion and things like that. On the other, the actual complicated facts, the reality on the ground.

Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, for example, just criticized President Biden because he "emphasize the humane treatment of immigrants regardless of their legal status." See, when these bleeding hearts softy liberals get into office, immigrants rush the border. That`s the implication there.

There is just one problem with that argument, which has been the kind of meta-context to this whole news cycle. That problem is a guy named Donald Trump. Remember him? He was president. He was the guy who hired Stephen Miller, architect of the absolutely inhumane immigration policy where they kidnap thousands of kids, lost track of their parent, and never brought many of them back together. Remember all that?

Well, Donald Trump`s administration did all that and people kept showing up at the border. Because this is not centrally about what Joe Biden did or said, to make all these people try to come to U.S. It`s about what`s happening in their home countries. More than any other factor, people come here because they are in desperate situations at home.

So, it`s a humanitarian story about desperation above all else. Lee Gelernt is the deputy director of the ACL immigrants -- ACLU Immigrant Rights Project, and he joins me now.

Lee, you`ve been litigating on this, and it is a very complex legal universe. So, let`s just talk about 2020 and the status quo ante, which was a very anomalous year for a bunch of reasons. The biggest one being COVID which the Trump administration used to make it effectively impossible to pursue asylum claims as I understand it.

LEE GELERNT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ACLU IMMIGRATION RIGHTS PROJECT: That`s absolutely right. And what ultimately came out was that the White House was using the pretext of COVID to do what they had always wanted to do, which is stop families from coming and seeking asylum here. And it turns out that they pressured CDC into agreeing to that order.

What`s unfortunate is that the Biden administration has largely kept that in place. They`ve exempted unaccompanied children, but there are still families with little children being sent back to danger without a hearing. We have sued over that. We have put the case on pause for the moment. We`ve agreed to talk to the Biden administration. But I think at some point, our patience will run out because we see this as ultimately a logistical problem that can be solved. And I think --

HAYES: So, there`s this -- I just want to be clear. So, this is Title 42 authority invoked in which the CDC as a public health measure, right, barred asylum seekers.


HAYES: A federal judge enjoined that as pertains to unaccompanied minors. The Biden administration has as has kept that opening for unaccompanied minors, part of the reason we`re seeing a lot of them, right? They are actually able to come across and start to get processed.

The question is --

GELERNT: That`s absolutely --

HAYES: Is there the capacity? I mean, that`s sort of the humanitarian question right now. Like, is there the capacity for processing the numbers of people there are, even if you`re just dealing unaccompanied minors in a humane and equitable and safe fashion?

GELERNT: Right. So, I think that you`re asking the right question. And there absolutely is. The federal government has more than enough resources. And I think the Biden administration just needs to coordinate it better and move -- what a lot of people don`t understand is the children don`t need long-term housing. They have parents here or relatives here. So, they just need to be moved to their parents and relatives. And that should be possible.

You know, there -- we`re sympathetic to that there are challenges to the Biden administration because the Trump administration left them with a mess. But we do think this is something that can be handled. And we`d like to see families now be allowed in. I think there`s this feeling like why don`t we just send families back, it`ll be easier. Well, it would be like saving a hospital, it would be easier for you not to take a lot of sick patients, because it would be -- it would be less (INAUDIBLE).

You know, and it`s illegal to begin with. You have to be allowed to apply for asylum. No one is saying everyone can stay, but you have to have a hearing. And I think this whole -- this whole idea that`s come about that it`s not so bad setting these families back. But I think that`s a result of the Trump administration dehumanizing these families.

As you said in your opening, it`s really because the push factors in Central America. No mother wants to pick up her three-year-old and say, we`re leaving and we`re going on a 1000 mile trek. I mean, parents have little kids know what it would be like to move to go on a two-hour trip with their kids. 1,000 miles to flee danger, families don`t want to do that. They don`t want to leave their countries. They`re in real desperate straits, and we can`t just send them back.

Remember, so, you and I have talked. After World War II, we sent the St. Louis back and we said never again. I think what`s happening is that these families are just being treated as numbers. If people could see these mothers and children fleeing desperate straits, I think they would have a much different picture. They really need to picture these families fleeing danger, fleeing death threats, seeing their relatives killed, and what it`s like for them.

HAYES: So, on the other side of that the argument that`s made, I think, right, I just want to present it to you quickly in the last 90 seconds here, is that there is -- you know, even if it`s push factor, there is some pull factor and incentivization, right?

So, if you produce a border which essentially it becomes possible to present for asylum, and come into the country, and then get asylum, which again, is a legal right under international and U.S. law, that you would increase the number of people coming. I mean, a lot of people would rather be here than the dire straits they`re in, and that would produce a problem. What do you say to that?

GELERNT: Well, I don`t think it would produce a problem. Of course, you have -- you have to let people come and seek asylum. And I would just note, you know, that the numbers are not historically high contrary to what you`re hearing from people. But yes, of course, they`re going to be more people out of the country to apply for asylum if you allow them to do it.

But we simply have no choice under the law as well as the humane thing to say, no one can apply for asylum. We can`t say to people, you`re not going to apply for asylum. It`s clear domestic and international law. And it would be inhumane.

Of course, there would be less people coming in if we never let anybody in. But that`s simply not an option under our law. And I can`t believe the United States is even having that debate, that we may close our borders to people in danger. I thought after World War II, we would never go down that route.

And as you said, polarization has become so great that that`s even something people think about sending people back to danger without even a hearing.

HAYES: Yes, there`s also I think a lot of cynical things being done in terms of how people are treating this, and the fact that there was a cessation for a year. And so, return to normal, regression to the mean can be spun to look like some massive crazy increase because 2020 was the most anomalous year in American life in recent years.

Lee Gelernt, that does it for us this evening. Thank you very much for coming on the program. We will continue to keep on this.

GELERNT: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: That is ALL IN on this Tuesday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.