Georgia Governor signs voter suppression law that opponents call "Jim Crow 2.0. President Joe Biden signals new openness to Filibuster reform as the Republicans advance voter suppression laws. Joe Biden doubles his goal of COVID vaccines to 200 million doses. A new study by UCLA economist estimates that 400,000 people in this country died of COVID who could have been saved if Donald Trump and his administration have implemented a more effective health strategy. Big tech chief executives testify in Congress on social media`s role in extremism and misinformation.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Yes, absolutely. You said it very well, sir. Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver, thank you so much for being here. Condolences again to the community there in Boulder. That tonight`s REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight, on ALL IN. Georgia turns Trump`s big lie into a sweeping new voter suppression law. Tonight, the growing backlash as Democrats prepare lawsuits and why the President may have just foreshadowed a voting rights breakthrough.
Then, one year later, a study in contrast.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Easter Sunday, and you`ll have packed churches all over a country.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My predecessor, oh God I miss him.
HAYES: Tonight, the new Biden goal to stamp out the pandemic and the damning new reporting on what a year of failed leadership cost America. All that and what we learned today`s hearing on misinformation and the Capitol attack.
MARK ZUCKERBERG, FOUNDER, FACEBOOK: I believe that the former president should be responsible for his words, and that the people who broke the law should be responsible for their actions.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES (on camera): Breaking News Tonight out of Georgia. Republican Governor Brian Kemp just signed into law a sweeping bill restricting voting access, passed earlier this evening by the Republican-controlled state legislature on a straight party-line vote.
And it comes, of course, after former President Trump`s false, baseless, non-stop accusations of fraud and last year`s election, particularly in Georgia, and his systematic attempts to overturn his loss in Georgia. Attempts that are being investigated by prosecutors there.
The 95-page bill requires photo ID to vote by mail. They used to use a signature matching which works fine. And a million Georgian voters did that last year. There were no problems. It cuts the amount of time voters have to request an absentee ballot. It reduces dropboxes used for absentee ballots. Why? Who knows? It limits when they can be accessed. It makes it a crime for groups to hand out food and water to voters waiting in line.
Also, again, why? Who knows? In a state where we`ve seen some of the longest lines to vote in the country. It shortens the timeframe for runoff elections, including the timeframe for early voting in those runoff elections. It pulls authority from the secretary of state who just coincidentally refuse to allow former President Trump to cheat in last year`s election and overturn the results. And crucially, it hands more power the legislature. It gives lawmakers the power to start takeovers of local election boards.
Voting Rights Advocates and Georgia Democrats slammed the bill. One state senator calling it a Christmas tree of goodies in terms of voter suppression, adding it`s about the opportunity to keep control and keep power at any cost. Another lawmaker calling it an unabashed assault of voting rights unlike anything we`ve seen since the Jim Crow era.
It is impossible to ignore the breathtaking cynicism at play here. Let`s remember the context. Republicans lost the presidential election in Georgia last year. They proceeded to lose both Senate runoff elections in January, all of them by relatively narrow margins. Their own Republican Secretary of State confirmed many times the election was completely free and fair.
In fact, it wasn`t just free and fair, the Georgia election was the most audited recounted election in all of America last year during the National Election. they counted the ballots three times including once by hand, OK. And this is how they`re responding, Republicans in the state, trying to make it just so less people can vote. So, just the people they want to vote can vote.
And it`s not just happening in Georgia, of course. Republicans in at least 40 states have introduced pre-filed or carried over at least 253 bills that would restrict voting access. That`s just this year according to the Brennan Center.
Earlier this month, as we reported on this program, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a new law cutting the state`s early voting period down by nine days, tightening the timeline for when absentee ballots must be received in order to be counted, stripping county auditor`s much of their discretion in running elections, including establishing satellite in-person early voting sites and mailing absentee ballot request forms to voters who didn`t specifically ask for one. Limiting who could return a voter`s absentee ballot, closing the polls and our earlier on election day.
Again, why, why, why, why, why, why? Well, just because it makes it harder to vote. And maybe that confers a marginal advantage on Republicans. That`s why.
In his first presidential press conference this afternoon, Joe Biden spoke out forcefully against these measures.
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BIDEN: What I`m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It`s sick. It`s sick. Deciding in some states that you cannot bring water to people standing in line waiting to vote. Deciding that you`re going to end voting at 5:00 when working people are just getting off work. Deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances.
The Republican voters I know find this despicable. Republican voters.
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HAYES: Georgia Governor Brian Kemp spoke shortly after signing the new bill claiming the restrictions are needed and would even bring more people to the polls.
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GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): The Senate Bill 202, Georgia will take another step toward ensuring our elections are secure, accessible, and fair. The facts are that this new law will expand voting access in the Peach State.
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HAYES: I mean, it quite literally makes it harder to vote. That`s not even a matter of dispute. I mean, maybe there`ll be enough of a backlash that more people vote but it doesn`t expand access. And while Governor Kemp was speaking, there were some sort of commotion in his office. I don`t know if you saw it live, but the video broadcast cut off.
And we now know that a Democratic lawmaker, State Representative Park Cannon was knocking on the door to his office to witness the bill signing and she was forcibly removed and arrested, dragged out. Watch.
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PARK CANNON, DEMOCRATIC STATE REPRESENTATIVE, GEORGIA: I`m under arrest. (INAUDIBLE) Speak to me. Why am I under arrest? There is no reason for me to be arrested. I am a legislator. Do not touch me. Where are these officers taking me? I am not doing anything. I`m literally not doing anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I`m joined now by the president and director council of NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Sherrilyn Ifill. Sherilyn, you`ve been working on this for a very long time. In fact, you`ve devoted much of your career to litigating on this. What`s your reaction to the governor signing and the justification he and Republicans are using for it?
SHERRILYN IFILL, PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR COUNCIL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND: Thank you, Chris. Well, I have been working on this along with the LDF team for the last month. It has been a process in which new bills have been dropped almost every day, each of them more onerous than the last.
All of this, you asked the question, Chris, why, why, why. You know, if we can go through all the provisions of the -- of this terrible bill, but it begins with the question, why was this necessary? What evidence is there of insecure elections or voter fraud that justifies these sweeping changes? There are none. There are none.
And so, we are looking at a profound and important democratic moment in our country. I dare say, anti-democratic moment in our country. It has demonstrated what I feared would happen after January 6th, The head has been cut off of the Hydra. And now each of the states who are engaged in voter suppression will enact their own legislation. We`re seeing this happen around the country.
But this Georgia legislation is so embarrassingly anti-democratic that, you know, when I hear Brian Kemp and others sound defensive about the President`s use of the term, Jim Crow, you know, what the Jim Crow people had, to credit them, is that they were honest about what they were doing.
You don`t get to cover yourself in the veneer of concern about election security, and engage in this kind of conduct that criminalizes providing water and food to people standing on long holding lines. And they`re standing on long voting lines because of the restrictions you created around early voting and absentee voting. It`s utterly despicable.
HAYES: Yes. The cynicism here I really find breathtaking. I mean, I said that before. But just, you know, they just lost these two runners, right? And they`re licking their wounds about it. So, then they just say -- decide, you know, what, we`re just going to cut down absentee ballot time on the run-offs. We`re going to make the run-off -- we`re going to make them run-off time shorter.
There`s like -- they`re not pointing to some -- there`s some problem, there was some fraud administering. No, they`re just like, we lost those two. And when we look at the numbers, we`d like to not lose any more. We think if we shorten that period, it probably gives us an advantage. Like, that`s it. It`s just bold-faced.
IFILL: Well, that`s what I think is chilling, and that I hope Americans from around the country, not just in Georgia see, is the very critical steps we are taking away from democracy. You provided some context at the top of the hour, Chris, but let`s take the context back further. Let`s take it back to last year and John Lewis, Georgia`s John Lewis on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, telling us to vote like we have never ever voted before, to keep the faith and not give up.
And that`s what voters did particularly black voters at record numbers in November and again in January. And think about you talk about -- you talk about the cynicism. Think about what it then means for the Georgia legislature to respond to that overwhelming level of civic engagement and expression of citizenship by coming out with this law and these efforts to ensure that it never happens again, to try and ensure that voters cannot engage in this level of civic participation.
This is a damage not only to Georgia, but to the entire country, and to those who last summer when this country was paralyzed with protests happening in 50 states who pledged themselves, particularly corporations, to be interested in focusing on racial justice. Where are their voices? Democracy benefits business. Democracy benefits communities. Democracy benefits everyone in this country. And we are at an inflection point, Chris. And today`s legislation demonstrates that.
HAYES: Yes. And I want to be clear here. I mean, we don`t know -- you know, we don`t know what the effects are, right? We know what the intention is here, right? We don`t -- we know what they`re trying to do. But it`s also the case, and you and I have talked about this before. People should be clear about the legacy of this. And I want to ask about the Voting Rights Act next, right, is that you`re right, obviously, that folks in Jim Crow and the -- and the folks that destroyed reconstruction, right, they were often very honest about what they were doing but they also did a lot of gaslighting.
And they also did a lot of like, well, we`re just a literacy test. I mean, you know, anyone could pass it. I mean, if you could pass it, it`s fine. I mean, what, you don`t you want illiterate voters, right? There`s multi- century history here of White politicians, suppressing Black votes under a facially race-neutral approach.
And the Voting Rights Act, a key part of that was saying, it doesn`t matter if the impact is disparate. You can call it whatever you want. And the Supreme Court gutted a huge portion of that. And if they hadn`t, Georgia couldn`t have passed this law today. Am I wrong about that? Like, this was made possible by that decision.
IFILL: You`re absolutely right. And in fact, Chris, what the Senate in 1964, 65 said in the report that accompany that particular section of the act that you`re describing, section five of the act, what they said was the purpose of section five was that they said it was to get at and protect against existing forms of voting discrimination.
And also, and I`m quoting the Senate report now, those ingenious forms, right, of discrimination that we may not have thought of at this moment. They understood that there were going to be new forms of voter suppression that didn`t even exist in 1965. And that`s what the section five preclearance regime that would have required Georgia to submit these changes to a federal authority before they could enact them. That`s what they were designed to protect against.
But a majority of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Roberts decided that this was no longer necessary, that the formula was outdated, that Congress didn`t know what they were talking about when they reauthorized section five. And so, now, it has left our democracy naked and vulnerable to the forces of anti-democracy, of voter suppression that the 1965 Congress understood very well and understood would continue to exist into the future.
HAYES: Final question for you. The provision I find the most chilling is a provision that would allow for a process for county boards of electors to be removed or essentially demoted from their duties by the state legislature. Now, the reason the context here is important is there were multiple Republican state legislatures, whether that was Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, who showed some openness to the idea of going along with the Trump plan, but couldn`t quite do it often because local election officials are ultimately the ones who are certifying.
This looks a lot like paving the way for a state legislature to reach in to say, Fulton County, where there`s a bunch of votes they don`t like, and getting up to mischief.
IFILL: Yes, it sure does. And of course, when that happens, it will -- it will be as though this is some kind of -- something that couldn`t be anticipated. This is creating -- laying the groundwork for that. It is actually, you`re quite right, one of the most stunning parts of this bill is this takeover of the local election infrastructure and process and ensuring that the Secretary of State does not really have the power and making sure that the legislature has the power over the -- over these local election practices and these what had been local election boards.
This is -- it`s unbelievable that this can go forward with barely an outcry even by members of state election boards about what this means.
IFILL: This is significant, Chris. And this is why we need -- we need federal legislation. You know, just like we needed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, we needed federal legislation to deal with the misbehavior of Alabama and Mississippi and Georgia and Florida. Now, we need H.R.1 and we need H.R.4 to deal with the misbehavior of Georgia, and Texas is coming through the pipeline, and Arizona, and Iowa, and Wisconsin, and other states that are planning to now try to ensure that they can pass local laws that sometimes I think we forget what this really means.
These are people who are suggesting that if we lose the elections, we are going to change the rules of the game -- the game so that we always win. That is autocracy. It is not democracy. We are at a powerful moment. This is as powerful as January 6th and we have to respond with power. So, we need that federal legislation.
HAYES: Sherrilyn Ifill, thank you so much. Last-minute notice for coming on tonight. I really, really truly appreciate it.
IFILL: Thank you for having me, Chris.
HAYES: These despicable voting restrictions that are now the law of the land in the same state that just sent elected -- just elected two Democrats in the Senate it`s just one of dozens of Republican attempts to squash the vote across the country.
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BIDEN: This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle. I mean, this is gigantic what they`re trying to do. And it cannot be sustained.
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HAYES: I`m going to be honest with you, I don`t really know what Jim Eagle means. But momentum is turning in Washington as Democratic senators consider once unthinkable actions to save American democracy. That`s next.
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BIDEN: I believe we should go back to a position of the filibuster that has existed just when I came to the United States Senate 20 years ago. It`s been abused in a gigantic way. And for example, it used to be you had to stand there and talk and talk and talk and talk until you collapsed. And guess what? People got tired of talking and tired of collapsing. The filibuster has broke down and were able to break the filibuster, get a quorum and vote. So, I strongly support moving in that direction.
If there`s complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we`ll have to go beyond what I`m talking about.
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HAYES: Right now, Democrats trying to pass a sweeping bill to expand voting rights to make elections more fair, H.R.1. A project that feels particularly urgent on a night the Republican Governor of Georgia signed this sweeping voter suppression bill. But the Senate filibuster means they cannot pass the bill without at least 10 Republican votes, which is basically unthinkable.
And that`s why today President Biden spoke as aggressively as he ever has really about reforming the filibuster, you saw that sound just there, as the momentum for change is palpably building day by day.
Just last week, Senator Dianne Feinstein, formerly a staunch defender of the filibuster said she was open to changing the rules in order to pass big important legislation like Voting Rights Bill. But some Senate Democrats remain firmly opposed like Joe Manchin, who is now, I have to say on his back foot a bit, releasing this statement today calling for a bipartisan solution to passing the voting rights package saying in part, "Pushing through legislation of this magnitude on a partisan basis may garner short term benefits, but will inevitably only exacerbate the distrust that millions of Americans harbor against the U.S. government."
I have to say, personally, I`ve been covering this battle for 12, 13 years. I`ve been watching this issue. And right now, the wind is at the back of the reformers more than it ever has been. Former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin has watched the trajectory of this issue, the filibuster, since his time in the Senate. He`s currently president of the American Constitution Society. And he joins me now.
Let me -- let me start there, Senator, in terms of the trajectory of this. Do you agree that there`s more momentum now, there`s more unanimity among the caucus something has to change than there ever has been before?
RUSS FEINGOLD, FORMER WISCONSIN DEMOCRATIC SENATOR: Well, there is. And it isn`t because of the caucus, it`s because of the monstrous things that are being done that you just brilliantly reported on in Georgia. When you have a situation where a 92-year-old woman has to wait in line for hours and can`t even get some water or food in the voting line, there`s a sickness as the President said. There`s something despicable going on.
And the Senate has to be able to respond to that. So, as a Senator Warnock of Georgia said apparently on the floor, he said, the notion that you`re going to protect the rights of the minority at the -- in the Senate, at the expense of the rights of the minorities across the United States is absurd. So, it is time for reform at a minimum of the filibuster, or at least an exception with regard to voting rights because these voting rights are foundational to our democracy. They are more foundational to our democracy than the filibuster ever has been or ever will be.
HAYES: So, let me -- let me sort of play out the argument here. And I want to argue on the other side and get your response to it, right? So, let`s say the filibuster goes away. The next time Republicans have their version of a trifecta as a Republican president, House and Senate, narrow majority, they essentially pass something like a national version of the Georgia law. They put in a bunch of restrictions. They say to states actually -- you can`t do no-excuse absentee unless you do X, Y, and Z. Are you worried about a sort of back and forth battle over this basic kind of access to the franchise?
FEINGOLD: I`m not actually advocating necessarily the complete elimination of the filibuster. If that was absolutely necessary, so be it. But what can be done is to create exceptions at this point or sunset exceptions for critical things like voting rights. But to be honest with you, I don`t think people should be intimidated by Mitch McConnell`s threats, because you know what, he`ll do it anyway.
Just because -- just because you sort of play nice or don`t make any changes now, that won`t stop him as he demonstrated in the most outrageous way with the theft of the United States Supreme Court that he did with regard to the Scalia and Ginsberg nomination. So, it would be crazy for people to not do something strong now and make sure voting rights are protected out of some kind of a fear of what Mitch McConnell would do in the future.
HAYES: You wrote about this. You said today, Republicans and Democrats do not agree on what the problem is, let alone the solution when it comes to critical issues including voting rights, labor rights, climate change, and immigration. Keeping the filibuster in its current form will not change this. It will almost certainly prevent any legislation on these issues from passing.
And I think this speaks to a deeper point about the fact that there`s just -- the old way the Senate work has broken down to the extent that it ever did work, right? I mean, you just don`t have like gangs of six coming together, and they, you know, horse-trading, and they get some legislation that could pass 90 to 10, except on the omnibus bills. But for anything else, it just doesn`t happen anymore.
FEINGOLD: It`s changed. Look, John McCain and I were able to start off with a Republican and a Democrat. And we did one Democrat and one Republican, and we did that in the context of the filibuster. But the filibuster was in our way. It wasn`t what promoted bipartisanship, it was the opposite.
And so, the idea that this works now is absurd because people don`t have to even talk as the President was pointing out, and even worse, it`s become partisan. The founders of this country did not believe in political parties. They`ve called it faction. And now the filibuster is used not to make preserve the idea of unlimited debate in the Senate. They don`t even really debate. It`s used to simply support purely partisan voting.
And that clearly was not the intent with regard to the founders. And it clearly can`t sustain itself in the 21st century when you`re going back to what is -- what can only be described as a revival of Jim Crow tactics in Georgia.
HAYES: How much confidence do you have that the reformers have a way of getting to those holdouts in the Democratic caucus? I mean, you have served in a Senate Democratic caucus that a lot of conservative members. In fact, the Senate has changed a lot. And there used to be a ton of, you know, Nebraska and South Dakota, and, you know, states that were very -- could be quite conservative. How much -- how much persuade ability is there to your mind?
FEINGOLD: I think there is. I think -- I think this is, as you suggested, Chris, this is an exceptional moment. And when people, even conservative Democrats see the horror of what`s being done to voters. I mean, this is a sacred right of every American. The lack of respect for voters, and there are voters in every state, including West Virginia, who are vulnerable to this kind of thing.
I believe a public pressure will cause a reform or changing the filibuster at a minimum to make sure that a new voting rights bill will get through. I guess I do feel optimistic because what is being done is so monstrous and so extreme that I think even a number of Republican supporters, not necessarily senators, but a lot of Republicans with a conscience are going to say, wait a minute, this is just wrong. This has nothing to do with political party.
HAYES: Former Senator Russ Feingold who`s now president of the American Constitution Society, thank you so much.
FEINGOLD: Thanks, Chris.
Coming up, the single biggest issue on the minds of Americans was treated like old news at Joe Biden`s press conference today. What that tells us about this president, the last president, and the press next.
HAYES: On the 65th day of his presidency, President Joe Biden held his first press conference. It`s the subject of a lot of impatient finger- tapping from other press who rightly noted it had been a while, longer than other previous presidents. You would think the pandemic which continues to alter almost every corner of American life would be at least a focus the questions the inpatient press corps would take the chance to ask. But it apparently wasn`t a big enough story today. In fact, there wasn`t a single question about it.
President Biden gave opening remarks on it. He announced some major initiatives that I`ll get to you in a second. And the press moved on and focused on other important stories. There are a lot of hard questions about the pandemic to be clear, not like softballs. Like, how we`re going to vaccinate the two-thirds of Americans who have not yet gotten a single shot? How we`re going to vaccinate the rest of the world?
There was not one single question on that. Not a single question on the $1.9 trillion rescue package the Democrats passed that could cut child poverty in half. There`s some follow-up questions on how that`s going to be administered. There were more than a dozen questions about the border, just to give an example.
You know, for better or worse, this is a part of the structure of news in this country. We cover controversy. We cover conflict. We cover places for the opposition parties critiquing the party in power. And the situation at the border is absolutely an important story.
Just yesterday, 455 children were apprehended at the border, placed in CBP custody. These are kids seeking asylum. 450 kids, that`s -- you know, each of them a life, hopes dreams, right? Keep in mind, yesterday in America, those 455 kids were apprehended, 1300 people died of COVID. Yesterday, dead, gone forever, their family is now in mourning.
We`ve all just gotten used to it. I mean, I don`t know what to do. It`s human nature, right? We all chalked it up. The thing grinds on the background. We`re all hoping to turn the corner and hoping for vaccinations. Think about how nuts it is. The 65th day of Biden presidency, the first press conference, there were more than a dozen questions about the border and not one about the pandemic.
Part of the reason for that too is that the administration has been pretty competent about handling the pandemic. In fact, they made news today when Biden announced he was increasing his goal from 100 million shots in the first 100 days to 200 million shots doubling his initial target. When they first set the goal of 100 million shots at the time when the President was sworn in, we said on this program it was insufficiently ambitious.
I said I hope they were under-promising and we`re going to over-deliver. And in fact, here`s what Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw, a huge Biden critic said.
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REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R-TX): If the Biden administration wants to impress us, you know what, double the goal. Say 200 million vaccines in 100 days. I will be impressed. I`ll go on the record right now and say that I will be impressed if you can do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: All right, well, there`s a very good chance we`re going to get 200 million shots in Biden`s first 100 days, so we can all be impressed. We`re vaccinating better than any big country in the world right now.
I get reporters do not want to ask questions about success. We don`t cover the planes that land safely. That`s -- again, that`s part of how news works. But let`s not just turn the page too quickly on this. This devastating virus is still out there, OK. Look what`s happening in Brazil where in more than half of the country`s 26 states, ICU occupancy rates have hit 90 percent or above.
There have been numerous reports in Brazilian media on social media platforms with patients dying while waiting for beds, shortages of medicines and oxygen, bodies being dumped in hospital corridors. This is happening more than a year into the pandemic in a place with warm weather.
And while things are getting better in the U.S., getting from where we are now with less than 20 percent of all adults who`ve gotten two doses to herd immunity with somewhere above 70 percent of population fully vaccinated. That`s still a big logistical task. Let`s not get bored of it.
And in addition to that, I have to say, I for one, I am not going to let go of the fact that the previous administration was so resolutely incompetent and almost criminally negligent about this disease, so insidious of their lies and their denial that hundreds of thousands of people in this country died who did not need to. This is what Trump was saying exactly a year ago, yesterday.
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TRUMP: Look, Eastern is a very special day for me. And I see it`s sort of in that timeline that I`m thinking about. And I say, wouldn`t it be great to have all of the churches full?
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HAYES: All the churches full in Easter 2020. That ridiculous moment was just one example the colossal failure of leadership by the reality television host who was our president. And that failure cost us, according to a new study released this week, an unthinkable number of American lives. We`ll talk about that next.
HAYES: A new study by UCLA economist estimates that 400,000 people in this country died of COVID who could have been saved if Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and the government have implemented a more effective health strategy. 400,000 people who are dead who do not have to be.
That`s not in the distant past. It`s not some remote historical anecdote. It`s just a few months ago. I mean, it`s happening day after day. There are people still dying every day in the hospital. To get a sense of the difference in how the pandemic is being handled now compared to then, Biden comes in and says we`re going to try to get 100 million jobs in 100 days and then announces today we`re actually going to double that. Here`s what Donald Trump was promising a year ago.
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TRUMP: I think Easter Sunday, and you`ll have packed churches all over our country, I think it would be a beautiful time. And it`s just about the timeline that I think is right.
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HAYES: Trump said the country will be open for Easter 2020, packed and beautiful. A year later, over 1,000 people are dying every single day still. I am just imploring everyone, and believe me, I want to forget about it and move on as much as anyone, but let`s not forget about COVID, OK. We are not done with it yet. We aren`t. Do not just assume we have the vaccines rolling so we can move on to the next crisis.
I`m joined now by two journalists who`ve covered the politics of COVID as well as anyone, New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Michelle Goldberg. Her most recent column is titled The Johnson and Johnson Shot Was My Ticket Out Of Hell. Mehdi Hassan, host of "THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW" which airs on MSNBC on Sundays at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and streams Monday through Thursday on Peacock at 7:00 p.m.
Michelle, I got to say, I mean, again, you know, we don`t cover the plains that land, which is the sort of newsroom saying, and I get that. It`s just part of the structure of news. But I was really struck that there -- that COVID was absent from the exchanges in that room today.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, OP-ED COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, look, I mean, I think that you know, progressives have this long critique of the White House Press Corps that everybody sort of forgot about during the Trump years because suddenly journalists were heroes to the "resistance."
But there`s always been a problem with kind of a certain sort of Washington insider journalism that is very easily worked by Republicans that, you know, kind of both sides journalism that is completely focused on partisan conflict and, you know, winning the morning. And I would have thought that some of that would have fallen away just because of the scale of the crisis that we`re all living through. But you know, old habits die Hard, right?
So, Trump is gone, the pandemic is not resolved but at least resolution is in sight. And so, you see old habits reasserting themselves.
HAYES: I mean, to me, Mehdi, it`s like, I don`t -- I don`t think anyone should be asking softball questions. Like, no one should be like, how are you doing such a great job of vaccination? Like, there`s also hard questions to ask about. You know, like Alex Green wrote a great piece about opening up intellectual property and patents to let other countries use some of the IP.
Like, there`s things to press on, but you got to press on -- this stuff is still going on. I do worry that it reflects a sort of societal lapse where we`re all like, haven`t run through the tape on this thing.
MEHDI HASAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean, we could have asked -- journalists could have asked the President about the issues of vaccine equity. That`s still a massive issue in America. Is the vaccine going out in a fair and equitable way to marginalized communities? Big question mark about that too rich and poor.
He could have -- you know, a journalist could have asked the president, what is he doing about that? I would have asked the president, is there going to be a COVID Crimes Commission. Just listening to you speak there, reminding us of the death toll, the avoidable deaths, the preventable deaths. Is there going to be a 9/11 style commission into COVID? If not, why not? For the highest death toll in America since the Civil War, are we just going to walk away from the fact that for the last year, Trump and his cronies allowed tens of thousands of people to die every week? I would have asked him about that.
I would have asked him what is the federal government doing to protect the people of Texas, for example, from a governor who does not care about their health and has just rescinded a mask mandate? Is there anything -- is there anything President Biden can do to protect America citizens living in Texas?
So, there`s a fair few things that could have been asked. And you know, we journalists often talk about how, oh, Congress is broken because they can`t pass bills that are popular in the country. Maybe we should ask about whether the media is broken if we can also reflect the concerns of our viewers and our readers and our listeners who say in polls that COVID and the economy are the top two issues. And those are the two issues that didn`t come up today.
HAYES: Yes. And I will say that, you know, again, the questions -- a lot of the questions themselves are good questions. Like, there`s a lot of good questions at the border. And, you know, he should be pressed on that. It`s just that in the aggregate, it gives you a sense what, I think, what you`re saying, Michelle, about the sort of where the news cycle is, as nature heals itself to sort of use the joke, right, in the post Trump era.
There`s also -- the other thing that struck me today is the opposite attentional approaches of the previous president and this one. I mean, Joe Biden`s whole thing is, like, don`t pay a lot of attention to me. They did the first press conference weeks after the, you know, precedent, and they did it at 1:00. Like, Joe Biden is not looking to make news. Joe Biden is not looking to like be the big megaphone. They have -- the very clear tactical sense on this that the less the better in that respect.
GOLDBERG: And, you know, I think -- look, I think the criticisms of Biden for waiting so long to hold a press conference are completely legitimate.
HAYES: Yes, I agree.
GOLDBERG: A leader in a democratic society should go out and address the public and answer questions. At the same time, there`s something sort of useless about these things. They`re not really designed to impart or elicit information. They`re designed to create very momentary headlines to catch somebody in a gaffe or a contradiction.
And so, you know, you can sort of understand why the administration says, you know, this isn`t a priority. And there has to be a way to hold the president to account, right, to not let him off the hook without just making these things an occasion for letting -- you know, for kind of rehashing dishonest Republican talking points or framing.
As you said, the border -- the border is a legitimate issue. The idea that the border crisis is the overweening problem facing this country, the idea that it dwarfs everything else is, you know, is a complete political fiction and shows how easily this kind of (INAUDIBLE) working works on the Washington Press Corps.
HAYES: Yes. That -- the sense of perspective there, Mehdi, who`s also you and I have both been covering the border quite a bit, right, but that sense of perspective. And also, I think, this question of like, there`s a lot of people looking around saying, like, what do we do with this from a news perspective? There`s this addiction that happened to the adrenal impulse of like the constant attention-seeking of this completely bizarre anti-social doofus that was president?
HASAN: Yes, very much so. I mean, the Trump shadow has cast over everything. And immigration allows journalists to say, yes, we can go back to being oppositional or doing both sides, as Michelle put it, because there is definitely stuff to push Joe Biden on. The problem is, you know, you said the immigration questions were pretty good. Maybe. I might disagree with you.
I think a lot of them did imbibe a lot of the right-wing framing that Michelle mentioned, and Joe Biden rightly pushed back on some of that. This constant idea that it`s because he`s too generous or open in his rhetoric that people are turning up, not true. This idea that Trump policies, canceling them affected the numbers, just not true, being debunked again and again.
And even this whole idea about the border crisis, do we call it a crisis? Calling something a crisis is not something -- it doesn`t have some objective definition in politics, nor is it something only Republicans get to do. We the media decide if something is a crisis if we call it a crisis, if we treat it as a crisis, if we give over our A blocks and our front pages to it. We 0-- you know, we story-tell, we frame stories, we -- you know, we agenda-set. The idea that we`re neutral bystanders is absurd.
HAYES: Michelle Goldberg and Mehdi Hasan, always great to talk to both. Thank you very much.
GOLDBERG: Thank you.
HAYES: Up next, this is the scene outside the Capitol today. Don`t worry, that`s not really Mark Zuckerberg dressed up as a Q shaman, but the role Facebook and others played in January 6th was a topic of conversation. We`ll explain after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZUCKERBERG: I don`t think anyone wants a world where you can only say things that private companies judged to be true, where every text message, e-mail, video and post has to be fact checked before you hit send.
But at the same time, we also don`t want misinformation to spread that undermines confidence in vaccines, stops people from voting, or causes other harms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Here`s the strange thing about American discourse in the year 2021. A huge percentage of it is funneled through a handful of tech companies. And basically, like no one in America seems happy with the current arrangement. You know, those on the right are convinced the tech companies are censoring conservatives that are in the pocket of liberals. The left have voiced its own criticisms that tech companies are platforms that serve to massively propagate not just right-wing propaganda, but dangerous disinformation. They profit off it.
For example, there`s a study out today that links a dozen social media accounts to most of the anti-vaccine contents currently circulating online. And all this was on full display at a hearing today before the House to some of the biggest names in tech testifying.
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Democrat from Illinois who chairs the House Committee which co-sponsors to the hearing -- today`s hearing joins me now.
Congressman, I watched parts of the hearing today. What was -- what was the plan? What was the intent of today`s hearing?
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D-IL): Well, first of all, let me thank you so much, Chris, for having me. I`m a big fan. So, the purpose really was, from my point of view, to make sure that the tech companies understood that the day of software regulation is really entered, and that now it is time for us to regulate and that we intend to, that we`re going to regulate, we`re going to legislate, and they are going to be held accountable for what`s on -- what`s on their web --
HAYES: So, I will -- I will confess to you that I have -- I feel very cross-pressured about this set of issues, right? At one level, I don`t love -- I don`t love the fact of a few tech companies and their boards of directors and CEOs making these monumental decisions about content, the flow of information, who can and can`t get a platform.
At another, I`ve -- we`ve seen the insidiousness and toxicity of some of the misinformation that spread on those platforms. And then I`m also wary of like, any kind of speech regulation. Like, how do you think about regulating in a way that that sort of gets rid of the bad stuff, but balances all those equities?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, let me give you an example, Chris. If MSNBC decided to put on an ad to take money for an ad that was completely false, misleading, and hurt the election. For example, there was an ad that said that Joe Biden was endorsed by Maduro of Venezuela that was said in Spanish on Facebook. You wouldn`t be liable for that falsehood. And why should not platforms also be liable them?
And so, you know, there are instances, of course, that we want to protect freedom of speech. No question. But you know, when they are spreading -- you`ve been talking about the -- about the virus and all of the misinformation that they are putting out on their Web sites is just not right.
HAYES: So, I want to -- you had an exchange about ads with Mark Zuckerberg today. I want to play a little bit about that and then -- and then follow up. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHAKOWSKY: Do you think that when you take money to run advertisements that promote this information, that you are exempt from liability? Yes or no?
ZUCKERBERG: I don`t know the legal answer to that. But we don`t allow misinformation in our ads. And any ad that`s been fact-checked is false, we don`t allow it to run as an ad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So, I wanted to -- it was interesting to me, you were focused on the ad part of it, right? Because there`s two aspects here, right? There`s all the user-generated content, and then there`s the stuff in ads. You were very focused on the ad part. A, do you think that what Zuckerberg saying is true? And B, how would you propose to regulate them?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, first of all, trending on Twitter today was the fact that he lied to me. Because actually, when it comes to political speech, pretty much anything goes. They don`t check every ad, so that was not right.
But I think when you -- when they are making money, and they are hand over fist making plenty of money, that they have to be accountable for the messaging that they are putting out there. And it can be very harmful messaging that not only hurts elections, that is putting out bad information about the -- about the virus, but it is actually kills people.
Facebook was very much involved, and Zuckerberg admitted to it, or Facebook did a couple of years ago, for the genocide that took place in Myanmar, of the Rohingya people. That`s how it was really organized through Facebook.
HAYES: Right. And -- but there`s a case where we get to the more -- to me the throne of your question, right, which is that genocide, the worst thing that`s probably ever been organized on Facebook, and they -- you`re right, they fest up to that. That was done through people coordinating on the platform, not ads, right?
So, then the question becomes like, what those sort of content moderation policies look like, and the degree to which the government is specifically prescribing them?
SCHAKOWSKY: Yes, so I -- but I do think that there -- are have to be some limitations, not just on advertising but the kind of thing that were -- I mean, they have -- Facebook has housed QAnon for many, many years. And certainly, on the sixth of January, that was coordinated.
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, people died.
HAYES: Yeah. We`ve got -- and the coordination in fact showed up yesterday in some of the court filings actually in which Facebook messages in which one of themselves called an insurrection. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, thank you so much for making time tonight.
SCHAKOWSKY: It`s been a pleasure. Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: All right, that is ALL IN on this Thursday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. I appreciate it. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.