Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a COVID-19 liability protection bill to protect businesses, governments, and health care providers from lawsuits and vowed to ban so-called vaccine passports that businesses could use to confirm their patrons were vaccinated against COVID-19. Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz is reportedly under investigation over a possible sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. On the second day of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, we had deeply emotional and compelling testimony from several witnesses, the youngest of whom was just nine years old. President Joe Biden announces his first set of diverse judicial nominees. Republicans feign outrage over their racist policies.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Matt Gaetz is still out there making Florida proud. Kurt Bardella, thank you very much. I appreciate you being here tonight. That is tonight`s REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEHDI HASAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR (voice over): Tonight on ALL IN.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I think what you`re seeing is the natural cycle of this. I think it`s repeating itself year over year.
HASAN: The Florida situation, COVID case is on the rise, again, while the governor says all as well again. Tonight the promotion of the virus and the attack on voters in the Sunshine State. Plus, the investigation into Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz over an alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Then, day two of the Derek Chauvin trial.
DONALD WILLIAMS, WITNESS ON THE DEREK CHAUVIN TRIAL: I did call the police on the police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you do that?
WILLIAMS: Because I believe I witnessed a murder.
HASAN: Heart-wrenching testimony about the death of George Floyd as witnesses take the stand. Then --
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): So, every time a Republican does anything, we`re racist. If you`re a white conservative, you`re racist.
HASAN: The Republican playbook, make racist policy and then complain about being accused of racism. And how vaccine passports are becoming the new masks in the COVID culture wars.
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): They want you to be required to have something called a COVID passport. Is this something like Biden`s mark of the beast because that is really disturbing?
HASAN: ALL IN starts right now.
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HASAN (on camera): Good evening from Washington D.C. I`m Mehdi Hasan in for Chris Hayes. Many of us across America have spent the last year doing our best to avoid going out, missing out on spending precious time with family and friends, and wearing a mask when we did go out to keep the people around us safe.
Some of us did this because we thought it was the right thing to do while others did it because their state or local governments or private businesses made them do it. But some Americans were never really obligated to do any of these things because they live in Florida. A state where Republicans have from the beginning of the pandemic acted like COVID-19 did not exist. Even as thousands of people were dying in that state.
Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz famously mocked the severity of the outbreak wearing a gas mask on the floor of the House of Representatives. In an unrelated story breaking tonight, Gaetz is reportedly under investigation over a possible sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. We`ll speak to one of the reporters who broke that story in just a little bit.
But first, we begin tonight with Florida`s lack of a COVID prevention strategy. In fact, the state`s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis who refused to enact a statewide mass mandate throughout the pandemic, bucking the decisions of more liberal states like, I don`t know, Mississippi and Texas, is moving to overturn local mask mandates, and basically doing everything he can to make the people of Florida even less safe.
And for those -- for those of you thinking, well, I`m sorry to hear that, but I don`t live in Florida. The New York Times reports, "Scientists view Florida, the state furthest along in lifting restrictions, reopening society, and welcoming tourists as a bellwether for the nation. If recent trends there are any indication, the rest of the country may be in trouble."
And that is because thanks in large part to the Republicans running the state, Florida itself looks like it is facing a new COVID surge. The Times says over the past week the state has averaged nearly 5000 cases per day, an increase of eight percent from its average two weeks earlier. B117, the more contagious variant first identified in Britain is also rising exponentially in Florida, where it accounts for a greater proportion of total cases than in any other state.
Miami Beach was forced to impose an emergency 8:00 p.m. curfew last week, after thousands of tourists flocked to the city for Spring Break. But despite all this, Governor DeSantis is insisting the state is open for business no matter what.
Yesterday, DeSantis signed a COVID-19 liability protection bill to protect businesses, governments, and healthcare providers from lawsuits. Today, he vowed to ban so-called vaccine passports that businesses could use to confirm their patrons were vaccinated against COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Yahoo News! reports "new research published early this month in the American Journal of Public Health argues that Florida is undercounting the number of people who died from COVID-19 by thousands of cases, casting new doubt on claims that Governor Ron DeSantis navigated the coronavirus pandemic successfully.
So, to summarize, COVID is getting worse. The governor is actively taking steps to make people less safe and businesses less responsible. And now, it looks like they`ve been lying about how bad things really are. Perhaps Governor DeSantis was a bit hasty when he said this last May.
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DESANTIS: You got a lot of people in your profession who wax poetically for weeks and weeks about how Florida was going to be just like New York. Wait two weeks, Florida is going to be next. Just like Italy, wait two weeks. Well, hell, we`re eight weeks away from that, and it hasn`t happened.
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HASAN: Of course, that tape didn`t age too well. And maybe some people might also want to rethink headlines like this from just 12 days ago that reads how Ron DeSantis won the pandemic. Yes. Several times on this show, my good friend Chris Hayes described the Trump administration as objectively pro-COVID because of its policies that seemed to help the virus spread.
But in the post-Trump era, Ron DeSantis who a big chunk of Republicans at CPAC recently said she`d be the next GOP presidential nominee if Trump doesn`t run again, he`s clearly Trump`s mini-me when it comes to handling the Coronavirus. He`s as reckless and anti-science as Trump was. And that makes him as popular as ever with a conservative base that does not seem to care about mass death in this country.
The Florida Governor cares more about businesses being open and safe from litigation than Americans or Floridians getting sick and dying. And so, Ron DeSantis is subjectively pro-COVID too. He`s doing everything he can to help the virus while doing everything he can to hinder democracy.
And I say that because after Georgia republicans passed a new law making it harder to vote in their state, Florida Republican supported by Ron DeSantis are pushing similar legislation, including a provision that would effectively ban giving voters in line water, something that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham admitted he did not understand. Although it`s become clear that Governor DeSantis has no problem supporting an agenda that hurts the people who live in his own state.
Florida Congressman Charlie Crist knows something about leading the state of Florida. Before he was a Democratic congressman, he served as the state`s Republican governor for four years. And he joins me now. Congressman, thanks for coming on the show tonight. What do you make of Governor DeSantis` policies on COVID, especially in recent days, that only seem to benefit the virus itself in your state?
REP. CHARLIE CRIST (D-FL): Well, that`s terribly disappointing, Mehdi. You know, as a Floridian, I`ve lived here since I was three years old. I was born in Pennsylvania. And this is a state that I love with all my heart. And to see the policies that the governor is promoting, you know, not wearing a mask, not being socially distanced appropriately, you know, it seems like he doesn`t care. And it hurts me and pains me to say that.
But when you see these policies and kind of bragging about how we`re over it, we`ve made it through. And then you watch Spring Break and see what happens, and now, as you said, from the New York Times, were experiencing a surge, about 5000 cases a day on average, eight percent more in an increased and it was just two weeks ago, it`s incredibly disappointing, it`s unconscionable, it is not compassionate, it`s not caring, and it`s not right.
HASAN: So, what can Florida Democrats, what can the average Floridian do to counter these policies on the ground given what`s coming from above from the highest office in the state?
CRIST: Well, listen to the guy in the highest office in the land, President Biden. He`s got it right. The President has been thoughtful, he`s been thorough, he`s been laser-focused and compassionate about how to handle this virus. You know, he already achieved 100 million vaccines in about 55 days on track, probably get to over 200 million vaccines in the first 100 days.
Thank God for President Biden. He is doing an extraordinary job looking out for the people of the entire country, doing what`s right and the kind of leadership that Florida needs to have right now. It`s a good thing that we don`t just rely on Governor DeSantis and his lack of leadership. We can rely on President Joe Biden and his true leadership of compassion, honesty, transparency, which is another issue here in Florida.
The Governor`s Office is dragging on requests from media outlets all over the place. He won`t give them. And now, we here tonight in your intro that there may be lying, actually happening about the number of deaths in Florida perhaps into the thousands more than they`re actually reporting. It`s disgraceful. And --
HASAN: It is disgraceful and sad. The thing is, Congressman, no matter how good you think President Biden`s policies may be at the federal level, the governor of a state like Florida has a lot of power. He`s even threatening to use his executive actions. You know that more than me. You were the governor. And he`s even threatening to use executive orders to ban "vaccine passports" in Florida.
I just -- I got to ask the question. Your old party, it`s all culture wars all the time. And you know, we`ve gone from treating a mask as a political symbol to now suddenly the idea of just telling businesses that you`ve been vaccinated via an app on your phone. That`s now the greatest assault on our liberty according to the Republican Party.
CRIST: It`s unbelievable. You know, there`s an assault on our country. And as President Biden says, we`re at war with this virus. And we`re not through this thing yet and we have to take it seriously. You know, Florida now has become the example. We have variants that are creeping up that came in from Britain.
I read an article the other day that said Florida is number one in variance right now. And they`re more deadly, and they`re more transferable. You know, it`s unbelievable to see this. You know, I went to the Super Bowl. I`m a big Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, Mehdi. And I went to the game and I`m told from news accounts the governor was at the same game in a box not wearing a mask, not providing leadership, not doing what`s right.
I went to the same game in the stands wearing a mask and it was plenty easy to watch. And why he continues to not lead and try to keep Floridians from actually voting, not only the one you cited about not providing water, also the trying to make it more difficult for people to mail-in ballot to the election day. And that`s (INAUDIBLE) really hurts our seniors particularly.
HASAN: I mean, let`s be honest, Congressman, even when you were in the Republican Party, voter suppression was a thing on the right. It wasn`t something that just started. But it`s been taken to new levels post the 2020 election. I mean, could you still define the Republican Party of the party that believes in democracy and free and fair elections?
CRIST: It`s pretty hard to, honestly. And I thought about that today independent of what I`ll be talking with you about tonight. But when I was governor, I issued an executive order to the contrary to support democracy in the 2008 election between John McCain and President Barack Obama to extend the voting hours because the lines were so long in South Florida in particular in the heat.
And now, they`re talking about not providing water for people making it harder to get mail-in ballots. You know, when I was governor, I tried to do what was right. For me, it`s never really been right versus left, it`s been right versus wrong. It`s how my mom and dad raised me here in St. Petersburg.
You know, my dad is a family doctor and always told us, you know, you have two ears and mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk and respect God`s ratio. It`s amazing what you can learn. You know that, my friend.
HASAN: Indeed. And the voting rights struggle is not about the Big D Democratic Party, it`s about small d democrats, about all of us. Congressman Charlie Crist, thank you so much for your time tonight. I appreciate it.
CRIST: Mehdi, my pleasure. Thank you, sir.
HASAN: Next, more on the stunning new reporting that Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz is being investigated by the Justice Department over a possible sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. I`ll talk with the New York Times reporter who broke that story right after this short break.
HASAN: One of Donald Trump`s staunchest allies, while he was in office, was Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, a man extremely eager to go on Fox News and fiercely defend the then-president against all critics. Gaetz is still in Congress, but this morning Axios reported that he was eyeing early retirement to take a job at far-right media outlet Newsmax.
It turns out, however, there was a lot more going on. Late this afternoon, the New York Times broke the news that Gaetz is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17- year-old and paid for her to travel with him according to three people briefed on the matter.
Gaetz told the Times he`s subject to the probe but not the target. He`s repeatedly known about the investigation for a while and told the Times that he and his lawyers have been in touch with the Justice Department, but claimed he only knew the investigation "has to do with women, and that I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward."
According to The Times, Gaetz is being investigated for potentially violating federal sex trafficking laws. He later told Axios that the charges are false and rooted in an extortion effort against his family and he was never involved with anyone who is underage, adding I`ve definitely in my single days provided for women, I`ve dated, you know, I`ve paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I`ve been, you know, generous as a partner. I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not.
Gaetz also tweeted that the extortion attempt involved a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name, and that his father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI direction to catch these criminals.
For more on what`s going on here, I want to turn to one of the reporters who broke this story, New York Times Washington Correspondent Michael Schmidt. Michael, thanks so much for joining me on the show tonight. I appreciate it. Tell us more about what exactly Gaetz is being investigated for and this whole distinction between target and subject.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: So, Gaetz is being looked at because under federal law, you cannot have a sexual relationship with someone under the age of 18 and transport them over state lines and pay -- and pay for them, you know, to move with you for that sexual act. And that is one of the questions that the authorities are examining.
Gaetz tried to make the distinction and when we spoke to him, as you pointed out between a subject and a target. And as a -- as a kick, it serves as a great example of this. Hillary Clinton in the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation was never a target. The entire investigation was about whether Hillary Clinton broke the law. It was actually so much about that, that the FBI Director took the extraordinary move of holding a press conference to talk about what they found, and laid that out.
So, the distinction between a target and a subject in that example is certainly, you know, clearly shows that it doesn`t really mean a lot.
HASAN: It`s a very good point.
SCHMIDT: So, in this case, his conduct is being scrutinized. It`s being looked at. It`s being investigated. And obviously, you know, this is something that started under Attorney General Barr which, you know, just perhaps shows the merits of what they`re looking at.
HASAN: Yes, it`s -- you know, the obvious response would be to say, this is a witch hunt by the Biden DOJ. But it`s not. It started under Bill Bar, that well-known liberal Democrat.
SCHMIDT: It`s coming. It`s coming.
HASAN: Well, they don`t like Bill Barr anymore anyway, so let`s see. How far along is his investigation, Michael, and how long has Matt Gaetz known about it? Do we know?
SCHMIDT: So, it`s unclear how long Gaetz has known about it, and it`s unclear how far it goes back. What we do know is that it is an outgrowth, it is part of an investigation of a local tax collector in Seminole County, Florida. This is right outside of Orlando, and the feds have been looking at this tax collector who rode the Trump wave, got elected in 2016, and has been investigated and the feds have uncovered an array of corruption on his behalf.
It is in the course of that investigation that the authorities went in and executed search warrants and found some of the evidence that has led them to this Gaetz investigation. So, this is something that started as a -- as something that was just -- that was focused on this tax collector, and it has grown into something far bigger with obviously far bigger political implications than a local tax collector.
HASAN: A big time. But what is this we`re now hearing this evening from Gaetz himself about an alleged extortion plot?
SCHMIDT: Yes. So, this is what he -- you know, he laid this out to us on the phone today. At first, I didn`t follow all the intricacies of it. And I was just trying to understand what he was saying. We acknowledge, you know, that he makes this claim in our story. He has now put out these tweets about it.
You know -- you know, maybe, you know, he feels it`s just an extraordinary thing that`s going on, so he has disclosed the fact that his father was wearing a wire. That`s usually something that`s not disclosed by people that have been wearing a wire, but maybe in this case, he feels the need to lay that out.
But it certainly -- you know, that`s -- that is what he is saying. That is his argument. He`s also saying that he didn`t have sexual relations with women under the age of 18. He`s provided that example, that explanation that you played -- you had earlier about how they`re -- you know, things that he may have paid for, but that, you know, he did not do this. And, you know, it sort of remains to be seen where it heads from here.
HASAN: Yes. Well, indeed. We`ll have to see where it goes from here. Michael Schmidt, thanks so much for your time tonight. And thank you for your reporting. I appreciate it.
SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.
HASAN: Next, dramatic testimony in day two of the Derek Chauvin murder trial as witnesses took the stand including the young woman who recorded the now-infamous video. What we learned today after this short break.
HASAN: On the second day of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is facing three charges, including second-degree murder and the death of George Floyd last May, we had deeply emotional and compelling testimony from several witnesses. The youngest of whom was just nine years old. They told the jury not just what they saw that day, but why it was so disturbing and upsetting and why they each felt they had to try to intervene.
This came as the defense continued as they did yesterday to try to place the blame on anybody but Derek Chauvin, including that small crowd of witnesses who gathered as Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd`s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At some point, did you make a 911 call?
WILLIAMS: That is correct. I did call the police on the police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why did you do that?
WILLIAMS: Because I believe I witnessed a murder.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were angry.
WILLIAMS: No, you can`t paint me I was angry. I wasn`t. I was in a position where I had to be controlled, of controlled professionalism. I was angry because I think --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, Jack is nonresponsive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HASAN: The prosecution also called a young woman, Darnella Frazier, who recorded the now-infamous video of George Floyd`s fatal encounter with police. She told the jury about the connection she felt to Floyd and the guilt she struggles with to this day. We should note, because Frazier was a minor at the time, the judge ruled she could testify off camera.
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DARNELLA FRAZIER, WITNESS: When I look at George Floyd, I look at -- I look at my dad, I look at my brothers, I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they are all Black. I have a Black -- I have a black Father, I have a Black brother, I have Black friends. And I look at that and I look at how that could have been one of them.
It`s been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting in not saving his life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HASAN: An off duty Minneapolis firefighter who was also on the scene recounted the distress and anger she felt when the police officers would not let her take action to help George Floyd.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENEVIEVE HANSEN, WITNESS: The officers didn`t let me in to the scene. I also offered -- in my memory I offered to walk -- kind of walk them through it or told them, if he doesn`t have a pulse, you need to start compressions. And that wasn`t done either.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so, when -- well, is this -- are these things that you wanted to do?
HANSEN: It would -- it`s what I would have done for anybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you couldn`t do that, how did that make you feel?
HANSEN: Totally distressed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you frustrated?
I got quite angry after Mr. Floyd was loaded into the ambulance. And there was no point in trying to reason with him anymore because they had just killed somebody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANSEN: Philip Atiba Goff is the co-founder and CEO of the Center for Policing Equity, and a professor at Yale, and Channa Lloyd is a civil rights attorney and managing partner of the Cochran Firm in Orlando. Both of them join me now. Thank you so much for your time tonight.
Phillip, let me start with you. The witnesses talked about how they see themselves in their families in George Floyd. What does it mean for the case and for the jurors to be hearing testimony that not -- that`s not just a personal but rooted in identity?
PHILLIP ATIBA GOFF, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, CENTER FOR POLICING EQUITY: Yes, it`s -- I have to say, it`s difficult to listen to because what you`re getting in the testimony of particularly Miss Frazier, it`s the pain of the full community. It`s reminding people that we saw hundreds of days of protest of cities on fire because of all that, that happened right there right in front of the Cup Foods in Minneapolis.
And I think it`s going to be difficult for a jury to hear that and not remember the outrage that they felt, and that communities around the world felt when officers intervened not to keep people safe, but to make sure a man died, and he was deprived of an EMT who was right there to try and save his life.
It`s distressing to hear about that there were so many opportunities for this tragedy to be averted and law enforcement took every one of them and turned it away.
HASAN: Yes, yes, indeed. Channa, how is the defense doing on day two, given the strong and very compelling testimonies from these witnesses?
CHANNA LLOYD, MANAGING PARTNER, THE COCHRAN FIRM: The defense right now is taking a bit of a beating. We have to remember that this is the state`s case. These are their most integral important witnesses that they`re going to bring first because they want to put a framework in which you receive all other information.
So, these are the weakest points in the defense`s case. So, right now they are going to be suffering a bit as you listen to these testimonies, because they are powerful and impactful.
HASAN: I mean, that`s without a shadow of a doubt. And I think you`re right to point that out where we are in this trial. Phillip, it`s astonishing to see multiple witnesses so far in these two days saying they had to call 911. They had to call the cops on the cops.
GOFF: Yes. I mean, to hear them say, I call the police on the police, because he felt like he was watching a murder. I mean, it`s astonishing (AUDIO GAP) when the state is doing such damage to somebody. What can people do? What are the other alternatives in the midst of this? And you`re also seeing -- they say the law of horizontal injury without a remedy. But everybody who`s going on the stand left that scene injured.
There are communities that are hurting as a result of this, and there will be no remedy for that. I think that the weight of the obligation that the jury is going to feel that`s part of both the prosecution strategy, and it`s part of what we all need to wrestle with, because there are so many folks injured by these kinds of holes punched through communities with no remedy, other than to call the people who did it to us in the first place.
HASAN: Yes, that`s the great irony that we`ve seen over the last few days from multiple people, including employees, a dispatcher yesterday, and an off-duty paramedic today -- a firefighter, sorry.
Channa, let me ask you this. How hard is it for prosecutors to prep kids, including a nine-year-old child for court testimony in a murder trial?
LLOYD: Kids are hard to prep because you want to be sure that you`re not coloring their testimony or changing it. But they can be some of the most significant and thoughtful witnesses because they`re going to give it to you exactly as they saw it. They don`t color it. They kind of just give it to you as it is. And that kind of raw emotion from a young child is very significant and very memorable when you`re talking about a jury such as the one we have seated it.
They`re not going to forget that. They`re not going to forget the words that she said and how she conveyed those emotions. Children can be very impactful on juries.
HASAN: Yes. And it`s a jury, which of course, I should remind everyone, it just takes one juror to, you know, to prevent a conviction. That`s all the defense needs.
Phillip, you mentioned the trauma and the pain, and that`s what`s driving a lot of this. What was so powerful today was not just hearing the witness statements, but hearing about their lives since. These young children are saying, they can`t bring themselves to go back to that store where they`d gone for snacks or for a phone charger, because of what they witnessed in that one nine-minute period.
GOFF: And how many street corners, how many corner stores, how many locations within our communities have that same kind of trauma for other folks, other deaths, other beatings. Like, you don`t have to be traumatized only by killings. You can be traumatized watching somebody getting beat by law enforcement. And it`s the same element.
I got to say, part of what I`m hearing, right, what I`m seeing and what I`m hearing from folks who are watching the trials, who were experiencing this, from the folks we work with law enforcement and from activists in the communities, it`s a callback to a time that it`s so easy for us collectively to forget of how ugly this was to be staring at it in the face.
And there are so many of these injuries that we haven`t decided what we`re going to do. Because since the summer, when we said we want to justice for George Floyd, we want to justice for Breonna Taylor, the work hasn`t stopped. The coverage sometimes has, but the work hasn`t stopped. And so, what we have is an unfinished mission.
And we`re talking about justice for -- I want to be clear, it`s not coming for George Floyd, because justice would have been he`s still alive. The hope is that we get justice for the country and for those who are still living with that trauma.
HASAN: Justice and accountability. I wish we could continue this conversation but we`re out of time Phillip Atiba Golf and Channa Lloyd, thank you so much both of you tonight.
LLOYD: Thank you.
HASAN: Coming up, Democrats may control the House and the Senate, but some of their biggest battles will play out in the courts that are now stacked with Trump-appointed judges. Today, President Biden made his first move to try and undo that legacy. We`ll talk about that next.
HASAN: I cannot describe to what it means to me to go from living in an America where a president banned Muslims from entering to living in an America where a president just nominated the first Muslim judge to the federal branch.
Judge Zahid Quraishi is Biden`s nominee to serve on the district court in New Jersey. He`s one of 11 nominees including three Black women who were up for Appeals Court vacancies. One woman who could become the first female federal judge of color in Maryland and another who could become the first Asian-American woman on the U.S. district court for the District of Columbia.
Some on the right will almost certainly say this is nothing but a box- ticking exercise, identity politics. But actually, while representation matters, these are supremely qualified individuals unlike many of the 234 judges that Donald Trump managed to pack into the courts in his term in office. 85 percent of them were white, 76 percent were male, and many of them were rated as literally unqualified for the job by the American Bar Association, the ABA, but Senate Republicans confirm them anyways.
Joining me now is a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat of Texas. Congresswoman, thanks so much for coming on the show. One of the things Trump did so successfully with Mitch McConnell`s guidance was to confirm hundreds of new judges, right-wing judges, unqualified judges. Is this slate of diverse judicial nominees from Biden today the first step of a pushback by Democrats do you think?
Congresswoman, you might be muted because I can`t hear you. I`m not sure if our viewers -- I`m going to jump in and say do you want to check if you`re muted?
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): I`m checking and here I am. Can you hear me? Can you hear me now?
HASAN: I can hear you now. You can -- we can hear you now. Go for it.
LEE: Thank you so very much. I started to say that lady justice is smiling. She might even be doing a dance tonight. What an amazing group of women and diverse judges selected by the Biden administration. It is a push back for justice. Can you imagine 220 judges selected by the Trump administration who argued wrongly and ignorantly, if I might say that, that they could not find a qualified minority judge your judge of color or a Muslim judge, they could not find anyone that represent the vast diversity of America.
So, I don`t know if i would say again push back as much as I would say embracing, recognizing the vast talent of lawyers across America, civil rights lawyers, public defenders lawyers and others who have a commitment and passion for justice and a knowledge of the law.
HASAN: They did appoint a handful of minority, of people of color. The vast majority as we put up on screen a moment ago were conservative white men with hard-right philosophies. And some would argue that the Republicans spent years creating a pipeline of these right-wing judges to fill vacancies. They kept seats vacant during the Obama era, really focused on the courts while Democrats didn`t.
Some would argue your party was late to this. And now you have a supreme court which is two-thirds conservative and you have more than a quarter of currently active federal judges who are Trump appointees.
LEE: Well, you know, it`s never too late to come to the party one would say. You`re absolutely right though on the strategy that the Trump administration utilize and that is when he was campaigning, you`ll recall, one of the cards that he used was to tell everyone either the kind of judges he would nominate and even to the extent the names and the kinds that would go to the Supreme Court. And that was a selling card for his election.
Democrats through us, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Tri-Caucus are finally waking up. We push the issue of the importance of judges. We have been involved and engaged in meetings to emphasize the importance of diversity. We know that the law is the law. You have to read the law as the law is. But you have the ability as a judge to be able to render judgments that bring the law in the matter of interpretation that fits the facts in a more fair manner.
We`ve seen that in the civil rights era where the civil rights participants, the soldiers if you will in the civil rights movement, dependent on the federal courts. That was their lifeline. Unfortunately, over these last years, how the Trump administration and the lack of Democratic judges have promulgated the courts, we have seen that the courts have not been a lifeline. In fact, they have pulled the rug from underneath justice, civil rights, and equality in many of the cases that have gone before the courts.
I am grateful now that we have the opportunity to, in quotes, intermingle these nominees to be just as balanced as any other person could be on the court.
HASAN: Well, thank you for making the case for why diversity matters in our judiciary. Before we run out of time, less than a minute left, I`ve got to ask, what do you make of growing chatter on op-ed pages here in Washington D.C. that Justice Breyer should retire so that we don`t get another RBG situation, so that Joe Biden will get a Supreme Court nomination and not the next perhaps Republican president, the last one appointed three in four years.
LEE: And as a member of the Judiciary Committee, in fact, one of our subcommittees just last week had a hearing on diversity. I`d make the argument that it is not my position to speak to the retirement of Supreme Court Justices. But it is important to make the point that the court is long overdue for the appointment of a Black woman, which President Biden has indicated that he would be interested in doing.
And so, I`m going to be waiting patiently. And as well, I happen to be one of those that believes that the court would not be hurt by expanding the court. Let`s see what will happen.
HASAN: Well said. Well said. Court expansion is a topic that needs to be discussed more. I`m glad you raised it. Sadly, we`re out of time. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, thank you so much for your time tonight. I appreciate it.
LEE: Thank you for having me. I`m glad you heard me now. Have a good evening.
HASAN: I did. Oh, we heard you. We heard you, Congresswoman.
Today, we got a preview of the latest manufactured culture war that Republicans are peddling. Say goodbye to the battle over masks and hello to vaccine passport hysteria. I`ll explain after this short break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOMI LAHREN, HOST, FOX NATION: The idea of a vaccine passport is un- American. It`s likely unconstitutional.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An unprecedented undemocratic power grab.
NAOMI WOLF, AUTHOR: This is literally the end of human liberty in the West.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It really is, I think, an unprecedented threat to our freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That is the new battle cry from the right. Vaccine passports are basically Nazi-ism or Satanism or some other very terrible ism. Rick Grinnell posted a picture of a fictional Nazi to suggest the government wants to round up the unvaccinated. Madison Cawthorn said proposals like these smack of 1940`s Nazi Germany. Marjorie Taylor Greene called vaccine passports Biden`s mark of the beast. Justin Amash, who is generally pretty reasonable, characterize them as dystopian. Tucker Carlson, who is anything but reasonable, call them Orwellian.
Seriously, what on earth is this Orwellian, Nazi, Satanist proposal that has them so afraid? Well, a so-called the vaccine passport which would allow Americans to prove they`ve been vaccinated against the Coronavirus as businesses try to reopen and would be free and available through applications for smartphones which could display a scannable code similar to an airline boarding pass. People without smartphones could print them out.
The idea is to help businesses get people back into bars and concerts and restaurants, to move back towards normalcy. A lot of countries are also working on something like this. Israel, the Republican Party seemingly favorite foreign country has already done it. Now, getting something like this done in the U.S. is a challenge. And there are some legitimate privacy and equity concerns here, just as there are in many things we already do every single day.
But the right would have you believe that a vaccine passport is effectively Big Brother coming for you and your family. And it just isn`t. We already require people to prove they`ve been vaccinated for things like yellow fever to travel to certain countries. Indeed, there`s even a passport you can carry to prove your vaccinations.
And it`s not just travel, as America is more than 63 million parents with kids under 18 though, all 50 states with some exemptions require proof that kids have been vaccinated to go to school. Here`s the immunizations required for kindergarten and sixth-grade entry in South Dakota, which includes vaccinations for measles, polio, tetanus, and a whole lot more.
Even that states far-right Governor Kristi Noem realizes how important this is. After state lawmakers tried to pass a bill that would prevent schools and colleges from requiring vaccinations, Noem opposed it saying she couldn`t support the bill in good conscience because vaccinations save lives. And yet, Noem is now very offended by the idea of proving you`ve been vaccinated for COVID, calling a vaccine passport one of the most un- American ideas in our nation`s history and saying we should oppose this oppression.
Yes, it`s pure bad faith opportunism from someone who`s clearly and cynically positioning herself for a potential 2024 GOP presidential run. The same kind of opportunism we`re seeing from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who`s vowed to ban "vaccine passports" in his state. This is what the Republican Party is now. It`s not a party of ideas or reasonable debate. It exists to play up fears and push ideas of right-wing victimhood. It`s the only thing they`re really good at these days.
Take for instance, that new Georgia voting law which will hit Black people disproportionately hard. In a recent piece in The Washington Post, columnist Paul Waldman argues that what just happened in Georgia was a double victory for the GOP. Republicans got their law passed and they also got the opportunity to renew the sense of racial victimization they have so carefully cultivated among their constituents for years.
And Washington Post Columnist Paul Waldman joins me now to talk about all this. Paul, thanks so much for coming on. Is the Republican Party now basically just old culture wars all the time?
PAUL WALDMAN, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, that is really where a lot of the key figures in the party see that they can, you know, tap into the anger, the sense of kind of dislocation that they think is going to be to their political advantage. And it really is kind of remarkable that in many ways, they`ve sort of seeded the playing field on policy issues.
It`s not that there aren`t plenty of conservatives, think tanks, and who have, you know, plans to reform welfare or to decrease taxes. Those things are there but they`re really kind of pushed to the side within the party. The people who are really are driving the party forward, they`re not, you know, arguing that much about what their next tax plan should look like.
It`s more about how can I kind of tap into all that anger and how can I do it through things like telling them that you know they`re sort of oppressed because of their race and that liberals are coming after them, that cancel culture is coming for them, that you know, the specter of a transgender girl playing on her middle school softball team is going to be the end of life as they know it.
And so it`s something like these vaccine passports which I should say are not something that the government is going to be issuing to you. That really kind of taps into a lot of those fears of oppression that they`ve spent so much time cultivating.
HASAN: And some of the fears from the leaders are totally cynical. As I mentioned, Kristi Noem was fine with vaccination certificates for schools in South Dakota last year. Suddenly, they`re the most oppressive thing in modern American history.
You mentioned race and races where almost all our conversations come back to. This was Lindsey Graham`s response to the Georgia voting bill. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): They had the highest turnout in the history of Georgia. We had 150 something million people vote. So, every time Republican does anything, we`re a racist. If you`re a white conservative, you`re a racist. If you`re a Black Republican, you`re either proper Uncle Tom. They use the racism card to advance a liberal agenda and we`re tired of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HASAN: They`re tired of it, Paul. They`re the real victims. In your piece, you cite a poll from the public religion research institute which found that although 52 percent of Republicans did say Black people face discrimination, 57 percent said White people face discrimination, which for me it kind of sums it up really. It sums it all up.
Waldman: Yes. And if you`re not kind of tuned into the Republican main universe, you may not be aware of this. But one of the central themes on Fox News, on conservative talk radio, is that first of all, there are malevolent forces of racial reckoning that are coming for you. In its latest iteration it`s Black Lives Matter.
But also, that the only kind of real racism that exists anymore is white people being unfairly accused of being racist. This is a constant theme that anytime you enter a discussion that even cuts remotely around race, that that liberals are going to accuse you of being a racist and it`s an unanswerable charge.
This is something that that conservatives talk about all the time and they -- and they very, very firmly believe it. And it`s not that there aren`t sometimes excesses where some liberal really does, you know, issue an unfair accusation of racism. But conservatives feel like this is something that they are constantly being accused of and I think politicians like Lindsey Graham really use that to kind of activate White identity to say that like this is -- this is sort of at the center of the political conflict in America is liberals who are going to kind of come after you because you`re White.
You know, we saw that when Barack Obama was president, and every single policy thing that he did was described as reparations that they were going to be grabbing from your pocket to give it to unworthy Black people.
HASAN: But Paul --
WALDMAN: And we saw it last summer where, you know, if you watch Fox News or listen to conservative talk radio, you`d have thought that half of American cities had burned to the ground because this murderous Black Lives Matter --
HASAN: Let me just jump in before we --
WALDMAN: (INAUDIBLE) massacred people left and right.
HASAN: Paul, I`m just going to jump in. I completely get what you`re saying, but you do make the argument that this is good for Republicans. It`s a strategic move by them. I just want to push back a little bit and say Mitch McConnell looked very defensive and unsure of himself when he was trying to push back against the filibuster being a tool of Jim Crow. Calling the filibuster racist doesn`t really help the Republicans. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Yes, actually, historians do not agree. It has no racial history at all, none. So, there`s no dispute among historians about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HASAN: So, I get what you`re saying, they`re definitely using it for their own self-interest, but it does hurt them too. I thought McConnell looked very defensive on the whole filibuster racism issue.
WALDMAN: Yes, it`s a tricky line they want to -- they want to walk. Because on the one hand, they really need to sort of activate White identity to keep people in their base agitated and worked up, and on the other hand they want to kind of tell a story of their own racial innocence.
You know, they`re always saying how this is the party of Abraham Lincoln, even though, of course, you know, back then Republicans were the liberal party. But this is -- this is sort of that what the kind of two-step is. And on the one hand, they want to insist that we`re not racist and nothing we do is motivated by race, but on the other hand, they want to do things like pass all these voter suppression laws and then tell their voters when it comes -- time for the elections that, you know, liberals and the Black people that they -- that they serve are coming for you and that`s why you have to get out and vote Republican.
HASAN: That is indeed their message and it`s a dark one. Paul Waldman, thank you so much for making time tonight. I appreciate it.
That`s ALL IN on this Tuesday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.