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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, 3/31/21

Guests: Katie Benner, Cynthia Alksne, John Fetterman, Mandela Barnes


The DOJ is investigating Rep. Matt Gaetz for a sex trafficking claim. President Joe Biden unveils his $2 trillion infrastructure plan. A witness breaks down in tears on the stand in day three of the Derek Chauvin murder trial. Corporations are now condemning Georgia`s new election law. Wisconsin`s conservative State Supreme Court strikes down the Democratic governor`s mask mandate.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: If you run, please come back and let us know. I appreciate it. That is tonight`s REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.


MEHDI HASAN, MSNBC HOST (voice over): Tonight on ALL IN.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I`m not the only person on screen right now who has been falsely accused of a terrible sex act.

HASAN: The Matt Gaetz case gets even stranger. He now claims extortion as Republican leadership gets caught flatfooted by the investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I didn`t know about it. Yes, I`m surprised about it and yes, I want to get to the bottom of it. I haven`t been able to speak to Mr. Gaetz but I will.

HASAN: Tonight, the latest on the allegations against GOP Congressman Matt Gaetz and the Justice Department sex trafficking investigation. Then, an emotional day in court as witnesses recap what happened to George Floyd after Derek Chauvin pinned him down.

CHRISTOPHER MARTIN, WITNESS: George was motionless and Chauvin seemed very -- he was in a resting state, meaning, like, he just rested his knee on his neck.

HASAN: Then, as COVID cases surge in Wisconsin, Republicans shut down the governor`s masked mandate, while in Pennsylvania, infrastructure week finally arrives.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s big, yes. It`s bold, yes. And we can get it done.

HASAN: When ALL IN starts now.


HASAN (on camera): Good evening from Washington D.C. I`m Mehdi Hasan in for Chris Hayes. If you`ve been following the news today, you probably have heard a lot about the Justice Department investigation into Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz over potential sex trafficking tied to an alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl which Gaetz denies.

There have been a lot of crazy developments in this story since we first reported on it last night and we`re going to bring you all of them. But first, we thought it would be worth reminding you who Matt Gaetz was before he was under investigation in a child sex trafficking case because this guy is really something.

Gaetz is the son of wealthy former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz whose connections and deep pockets helped his son get elected to the Florida House and eventually to the United States Congress. In 2008, Matt Gaetz was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving while driving his dad`s BMW. The charges were eventually dropped but the incident reinforced his local reputation as an entitled ne`er-do-well as one local paper described him.

Gaetz quickly became a controversial figure in the Florida House mocking food stamp recipients and facing accusations of racism for questioning the intelligence of two Black lawmakers. And then he came to Washington and quickly became known as one of Donald Trump`s staunchest defenders with Gaetz gleefully trolling the former president`s critics and defending Trump`s most odious comments including on this very show after Trump denigrated the entire country of Haiti.

The U.S. Congressman gap Gaetz brought and accused holocaust denier to the State of the Union, suggested George Soros was paying Honduran kids to storm the U.S. border and hired an ex-White House aide ousted for white nationalist ties. When the father of a child murdered in the Parkland school shooting called Gaetz a liar for having the goal to tie immigration to those school shootings, Gaetz responded by demanding the father be removed from the hearing and going back to his talking points.

Gaetz wear a gas mask on the House floor last March to mock COVID concerns, and party maskless with members of the New York Young Republican Club in December near the height of the pandemic.

I could go on. There`s plenty more, but let`s end with this. In 2017, Gaetz was the lone no-vote on an anti-human trafficking bill which brings us to the federal sex trafficking investigation into Matt Gaetz. The congressman says the allegations are invented and he suggests they`re tied to an extortion scheme which is now being investigated. But it`s important to note that these are two separate investigations and not necessarily even connected even if Gaetz wants you to think they are.

Last night, the congressman went on Fox News to give his side of the story. An interview like you didn`t see because you were quite rightly watching ALL IN at the time. Gaetz no doubt expected friendly treatment from that network. That`s what Fox News gives to all Republicans. And he might have gotten it had he not attempted to throw the host of the show he was on and the host`s wife under the bus.


GAETZ: I`m not the only person on screen right now who has been falsely accused of a terrible sex act. You were accused of something that you did not do and so you know what this feels like.

I can say that actually you and I went to dinner about two years ago, your wife was there, and I brought a friend of mine. You`ll remember her. And she was actually threatened by the FBI.

I really saw this as a deeply troubling challenge for my family on March 16th when people were, you know, talking about a minor, and that they were pictures of me with child prostitutes.


HASAN: I may have watched that clip a dozen times since last night. It went so well for him. I mean, if you`re a Republican, and you can`t get Tucker Carlson on your side, you probably have a problem on your hands.


TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: You just saw our Matt Gaetz interview. That was one of the weirdest interviews I`ve ever conducted. I don`t think that clarified much, but it certainly showed this as a deeply interesting story and we`ll be -- we`ll be following it. I don`t quite understand it.


HASAN: Well, he may not have won over Tucker. But you know who is defending Matt Gaetz today? None other than Republican Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio, who used to be a wrestling coach at Ohio State and who former wrestlers say turned a blind eye to rampant sexual abuse by a team doctor who was molesting athletes, which Jordan denies. So, at least Gaetz has that going for him.

Last night, Democratic Representative Ted Lieu called for Gaetz to be removed from the House Judiciary Committee until the investigation is complete, saying he`s facing a Justice Department investigation. NBC News asked the House Republican leader, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy about that today.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): If a member of my conference gets indicted, they`ll get removed from a committee. He says this is not true, and we have a newspaper report that says something else.


HASAN: I`m pretty sure if it turns out to be the case that Matt Gaetz is a child sex trafficker, you`ll want to do more than just take him off the Judiciary Committee. Anyway, before we get to our guests tonight, there`s a couple of other things you need to know about this story. First, in that interview last night, Gaetz claimed that a former Justice Department attorney named David McGee, who`s long been in private practice, was behind the alleged extortion plot.

McGee`s law firm called the claim false and defamatory and McGee denied it to The Daily Beast speculating, "This is a blatant attempt to distract from the fact that Matt Gaetz is apparently about to be indicted for sex trafficking underage girls." We do not know if that is in fact the case.

The other name you need to know is Joel Greenberg, the former Seminole County Florida tax collector who posted this selfie with Gaetz and another man in front of the White House back in 2019. As Rachel Maddow definitely laid out last night, Greenberg is a character on this beyond belief. He was indicted on charges tied to alleged harassment and stalking of a political opponent, and allegedly used his position as the Seminole county tax collector to obtain surrendered driver`s licenses and use them to create fake IDs for himself.

He was also charged with sex trafficking of a child between the ages of 14 and 18 and alleged in an indictment to have misused the state motor vehicle database to obtain information related to individuals with whom he "was engaged in sugar daddy relationships." He is not -- he has pleaded not guilty.

Just today, federal prosecutors filed a third superseding indictment against Greenberg, which involves stealing money from the tax collector`s office to buy cryptocurrency. The investigation into Matt Gaetz reportedly stemmed from the probe into Greenberg. And now, both men are facing investigations into sex trafficking involving a child.

Back in 2017, Greenberg posted this selfie with Gaetz and Trump ally Roger Stone. And I can`t help but wonder, what their reaction would be if, I don`t know, AOC or Ilhan Omar were in a picture with a guy charged with sex trafficking of a child. QAnon would go crazy. Fox News would have a field day. And yet nobody seemed to care when Matt Gaetz did exactly that. At least not until now.

I`m joined by two people tonight with great insight in this case, New York Times justice reporter Katie Benner who first broke the story yesterday, and former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne who specialized in sex crime cases. Thank you both for your time tonight.

Katie, let me start with you. What have you learned since your initial shocking report yesterday?

KATIE BENNER, JUSTICE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: So, what we`ve learned in the last 24 hours is really more detail about the alleged extortion plot. Let`s keep in mind, the legit extortion plot is different from the allegations against Congressman Gaetz about child sex trafficking. That`s an investigation going on for more than half a year.

What happened a couple of weeks ago, his two men approached the congressman`s father Don Gaetz. They laid out a plan for him. They said, you know, in a document that that Congressman Gaetz did provide to the New York Times, these men said we are aware that your son might have legal issues, he might be under investigation by the FBI, we`re aware that this would hurt him. We`re also aware that you have money that we could use in order to do something great.

Bring back Robert Levinson, a man who disappeared in Iraq sent by somebody who the government has declared deceased but who people have been searching for a long time. They felt they had a lead on this, and that with that Don Gaetz`s money, they could bring this man back to the United States.

The hope would be -- this is a very convoluted scheme. The hope would be that the American government would be so happy that President Biden would be so happy, that Congressman Gaetz would be pardoned for any crimes. Don Gaetz, our sources tell us, felt that this was an unusual document. It was an unusual ask. He eventually contacted the FBI. He has worn a wire to two meetings with these men in at least two phone conversations.

HASAN: Yes. And that was -- the wire was what Matt Gaetz revealed on Twitter and then in his Tucker Carlson astonishing interview. Cynthia, just to be clear, if somebody is wearing a wire in an ongoing investigation, it`s not wise normally to out that person in the wire, especially if they`re your dad, is it?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: No, it`s not wise. But nothing is happening wise. It`s not wise to go on Tucker Carlson and accused him of other sexual peccadilloes. It`s not wise to go on Tucker Carlson and instead of denying that you had anything to do with the child -- with child sex trafficking, just denied that you traveled on interstate or, you know, you`d cross state lines, not that anybody was under 18. It doesn`t make any sense to do a lot of things that he`s done.

He mentioned oh, it was -- the people are saying that there are pictures with -- pornographic pictures with me and child prostitutes. It`s not really wise to bring that up, but that`s what he`s doing. And so, wisdom is not driving the day for Matt Gaetz.

HASAN: And, Cynthia, just to be clear, as Katie mentioned, the alleged extortion plot is not necessarily tied to the sex trafficking investigation, right? They`re two separate things.

ALKSNE: Yes, they`re totally unrelated. I mean, the extortion plot from what we understand is relatively recent, and the investigation into the Seminole County tax assessor has been going on for quite some time. And I might add, that in that investigation, they are upping the pressure and upping the pressure. He had 12 charges against him. And today, they filed 21 more. They are putting the pressure on him.

And what that means is, he is in more and more trouble and needs desperately to get some help. And the way to do that is to roll on somebody else. So, it`s a -- it`s a big concern for Gaetz that this man is in bigger and bigger trouble, because he may very well want to talk about Gaetz in order to save himself.

HASAN: Indeed, he may. So, let me ask you this, Katie. In your reporting, what have you discovered in terms of the connections between Matt Gaetz and Joel Greenberg, because we`ve seen the photos, we just put them up outside the White House with Roger Stone. I believe even in endorsed him for potential congressional run. Gaetz did of Greenberg.

BENNER: Yes, and we know that Greenberg has been really public about his friendship with Gaetz. It seems that Greenberg has almost flaunted it. He`s been very proud of it. Gaetz also, to your point, has been publicly supportive of Greenberg, but maybe a little bit more low-key about how close they really are.

We also know from our reporting that the two of them were known in Florida to spend a tremendous amount of time together, a lot of social time together. They were at bars. They like to frequent hotel bars, and also that they like to be at parties together. So, they were really close social companions and that they were known to have a very active social dating life.

HASAN: And, yes, so I`m sure we`re going to discover more in the coming days. Let me ask you this, Cynthia. You have prosecuted crimes in this field. Talk to us about what this DOJ investigation not just into Greenberg, who was indicted, Matt Gaetz who was not indicted, but talk to us about what potential crimes we`re talking about, what laws are being broken, what the penalties are.

ALKSNE: The penalties are pretty severe. It depends on exactly what the age turns out to be. But the penalties are basic. Probably from what it sounds like, it`s a 10 year felony, which is to entice a person, a child under the age of 18, to cross state lines, to have sex with them for anything of value. And that could be paying them, it could be paying for their hotel, it could be paying for plane tickets.

And oddly, in Gaetz`s statement, he said, well, you know, in prior times with prior girlfriends, you know, I was very generous, and I did pay for plane tickets. It`s kind of an odd thing to say given that those are the elements of the crime. So, again, this is a person who needs to exercise his Fifth Amendment right and remain silent and get a lawyer.

HASAN: Matt Gaetz is not known for remaining silent. Let`s be honest about that. Katie, one last question to you. The lawyer Gaetz accuses of extortion, David McGee, said he did speak to Gaetz`s dad telling the Washington Post Don Gaetz called me and asked to talk to me, though would only say of their talk, it is a pleasant conversation of a dad concerned about his son and the trouble his son was in.

A lot of this revolves around the extortion part of this, involves around that conversation. McGee sounding very confident thing. Yes, if Gaetz wants to release the tapes, released the tapes if there are tapes.

BENNER: Yes, I think that we know of that conversations is they discussed the document that I mentioned earlier, which was this plan whereby they could, you know, find a missing American and bring him home with great triumph. I don`t -- I don`t get any indication from that conversation that any explicit asks were made, that anybody explicitly talked about a quid pro quo.

And so, while that -- the details of that investigation continue to emerge, you`re right, Mr. McGee does sound very confident. He himself did work at the Justice Department. He would have probably a firm grasp on his own legal liability. And so, we`ll have to see what happens.

HASAN: Yes, good point. Good point, Katie Benner and Cynthia Alksne --

ALKSNE: And Mehdi --

HASAN: We`ll have to leave it there. Thank you both so much. We`re -- unfortunately, we`re out of time, but thank you so much for your insights tonight. You helped us understand a very complicated story. I appreciate it.

Coming up, it`s infrastructure week in America. No, for real, this time, it`s infrastructure week. Pennsylvania`s Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman was with the president for the kickoff in Pittsburgh, and he`s here to talk to me about this next step in American relief and the looming battle it sets up in Congress. Don`t go away. We`ll be back after this short break.



BIDEN: What I`m proposing is a one-time capital investment of roughly $2 trillion in America`s future, spread largely over eight years. It will generate historic job growth, historic economic growth, help businesses to compete internationally and create more revenue as well.

Failing to make these investments adds to our debt effectively puts our children in disadvantage relative to our competitors. That`s what crumbling infrastructure does. And our infrastructure is crumbling.


HASAN: During the presidential campaign, Joe Biden promised a new infrastructure program worthy of an FDR or an LBJ. And today, in Pittsburgh, in an attempt to make good on that promise, Biden unveiled a national rebuilding program that would return government investment in research and infrastructure as a share of the economy to its highest levels since the 1960s.

The $2 trillion program focuses on traditional infrastructure like roads and bridges, as well as combating climate change. But is $2 trillion enough, particularly when it comes to what is an existential threat to humanity? Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez says it isn`t nearly enough, and voters agree.

A new Politico Morning Consult poll out today shows registered voters by two to one margin would back a $3 trillion infrastructure bill. Someone who was in Pittsburgh with the president today is Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who`s now a candidate for the U.S. Senate, and he joins me now.

Thank you so much for coming on the show. $2 trillion is a good start, a great start. But when AOC and other progressives point out that that`s over eight years, and so, it`s not enough money to rebuild American infrastructure given the challenges, they have a point that they?

JOHN FETTERMAN, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA: Sure. I mean, I would like to see it go bigger too. However, we are looking at a situation, as far as I know, is that there isn`t one single Republican that`s willing to bite and vote on it as it currently is right now in its current size and scope. So, it would seem that this would be the size that the Democratic coalition can hold together, and they would go proceed through reconciliation. That`s what it seems to me.

But of course, if we -- I mean, to me, that`s just one more reason to get rid of the filibuster. But my point would be bigger would be better, right? But at the same time, though, you know, $2 trillion is still pretty sweet. I mean -- I mean, that`s, that`s going to be a lot of roads and bridges and a lot of, you know, millions of jobs. But without a doubt, it could go bigger.

HASAN: Yes. And I think we`ll both agree, and most people watching will agree that $2 trillion is a great start. But can we go bigger? And given, you know, climate change, for example, it`s a huge challenge. Hundreds of billions just doesn`t cut it.

Recently, Senator Ed Markey was pushing for a $10 trillion green infrastructure plan. And I think, you know, when you look at the 10 trillion, and then the two trillion, everything`s relative in life, I know, but you think we could go bigger if we really want to take climate change seriously.

FETTERMAN: Yes, absolutely. And without a doubt, climate change is an existential threat. And we do need to address it. However, when we won`t get a single Republican vote with it currently right now, and if this is the maximum the Democratic caucus can maintain -- to maintain their 50 vote and Vice President Harris breaking the tiebreaker and proceeding through reconciliation, you know, I`m going to be ultimately OK with that, because this would be a first down payment on infrastructure.

As far as I`m concerned, Joe Biden is living up to his promise. He promised infrastructure weekend, today in Pittsburgh, it was infrastructure week.

HASAN: So, talk to me about what this bill, this proposal, as it currently stands, will mean for Pittsburgh and for Pennsylvania more broadly.

FETTERMAN: I mean, it would mean everything. I mean, it`d mean everything. My gosh, I said this earlier today. It`s like, if infrastructure is Elvis, Pittsburg in western Pennsylvania, is Graceland. And that`s why Joe was here. He understood that. He was born in Pennsylvania. He gets it. He knows Pittsburgh, and Pennsylvania`s contribution to our original infrastructure, which made us a great industrial power. So, he knows that.

And this plan, again, of course, we`d all like to see it bigger as Democrats and we could make that case. But if the votes aren`t there and if this is the maximum that our caucus will allow, I`m going to be OK with $2 trillion because I know firsthand the number of bridges, roads, water systems, all kinds of infrastructure improvements that red and blue county Pennsylvania use.

And this is going to be a boon for the union way of life, millions of new jobs and investment and a downpayment on the next wave of American prosperity that original investments and infrastructure produced in which my children who are now young will be able to partake and benefit from.

HASAN: So -- indeed. And so, as we mentioned a moment ago, the poll show, it`s a very popular thing to spend money on, popular with Democrats and Republicans, the public at large, infrastructure spending. Here`s a tweet from Ed Mortimer, the vice president of Transportation Infrastructure. "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce just a few weeks ago saying our members are willing to stand behind elected leaders in both parties who will vote to do the right thing and make those needed investments."

And as you say, though, not a single Republican is fighting for it, though. And today Mitch McConnell said that Biden called him yesterday to talk about the new infrastructure plan. And yet the GOP leader signaled his opposition to the proposal, pointing to the tax hikes. Have a listen.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): My advice to the administration is you want to do an infrastructure bill, let`s do an infrastructure bill. Let`s don`t turn it into a massive effort to raise taxes on businesses and individuals.


HASAN: How do you think that kind of rhetoric and the general negativity of the Republican Party, first to the American Rescue Plan, now for this infrastructure proposal. How is that going to play on the ground in states like Pennsylvania, a swing state?

FETTERMAN: Yes, of course. I mean, let`s be honest here. Leader McConnell is being grossly disingenuous. This isn`t about raising taxes. This is about recalibrating a corporate income tax that never should have been lowered the way it was under the Trump administration, much lower than even the corporation`s themselves ask for.

So, right off the bat, that`s disingenuous. They`re not raising any taxes on individuals and he knows that. So, that`s just the negative spin, you know. And if Mitch McConnell is for something, chances are I`m going to be against it. But this is just one more example of the Republicans and the filibuster holding back America from big plans that a majority of Americans want.

So, to me, I think it`s like if the $2 trillion is as big as we can get right now, I think we need to be -- hey, that`s, that`s pretty good. But it also should be a lesson and a roadmap in eliminating the filibuster.

HASAN: And on that note, it`s easy to attack Mitch McConnell, I agree with you, if he`s on one side of the issue, better to be on the other. And yet, you have Joe Manchin in your party, a senator from West Virginia who doesn`t want to get rid of the filibuster, who thinks that 21 percent corporation tax right now that Biden wants to raise to 28 percent, he doesn`t want to go to 28 percent. He wants somewhere in the middle. So, he could be a block on a lot of the stuff you want to do and your party wants to do. What`s your message to Joe Manchin?

FETTERMAN: I would say, that`s disappointing, absolutely. Joe also doesn`t think that a single mother that works full time shouldn`t bring home at least $31,000 a year with a $15.00 an hour minimum wage. And that`s one of the issues that he and I fundamentally disagree on.

And my understanding is he was one of the impediments to including a $15.00 an hour living wage in the American Rescue Plan. So, this is that this is the point I`m trying to make. If we`re going to get tripped up by one or two outlying members like Senator Manchin, and if two trillions as big as we can get, but it`s just one of many number of areas that Senator Manchin and I disagree on right now.

HASAN: Yes. So, on that note, one last question, very little time left. Let me just throw this at you. You`re running for the Senate in Pennsylvania. The Senate is using reconciliation to get legislation through because of the filibuster. It`s messed up in many ways. So, I would ask you, how dysfunctional is the chamber that you`re trying to become a member of?

FETTERMAN: I just would say relax, it`s much worse than you think, you know, and it`s -- like, the way it is right now, it just is dysfunctional. And but I can promise you, if I`m lucky enough to be elevated by the people of Pennsylvania, you`re going to have a solid, progressive voice for a $15.00 an hour minimum wage, eliminating the filibuster if that`s what it`s going to take to get rid of these impediments, common sense gun control reforms.

I mean, all these things, and a real infrastructure bill, I mean, beyond what we already have in front of us. Republicans impeding progress, it`s going to all come down to, unfortunately, the filibuster and making sure that we put a Democrat in Pat Toomey seat coming out here in Pennsylvania for 2022.

HASAN: Well, we`ll have to leave it there. Thank you so much for that. Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, I appreciate you taking time out for us tonight.

FETTERMAN: Thanks for having me on.

HASAN: Still ahead, another gutting day in the Derek Chauvin murder trial, and our first real look at the police bodycam video. Former Prosecutor Paul Butler has been watching every minute of it and he joins me next.


HASAN: The third day of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin brought even more absolutely gutting testimony. Today, we heard from 61-year-old Charles McMillan, one of the only witnesses to see the full encounter between Chauvin and his fellow officers and George Floyd.

Prosecutors showed McMillan and the jury footage taken from the officers` body cameras, depicting the moments where the officers removed George Floyd from the police car and put him on the ground where Chauvin holds his knee to Floyd`s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

In that video from the officers` point of view, you can clearly hear George Floyd pleading with them, telling them he can`t breathe, and calling for his mother. That`s what`s happening in the moment we`re about to play for you, the moment that led to this outpouring of emotion from Mr. McMillan.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. McMillan, do you need a minute?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that this is difficult. Can you just explain sort of what you`re feeling from this moment?

MCMILLAN: I can`t him. I`m helpless. I don`t have a mama either. I just (INAUDIBLE)


HASAN: Prosecutors also showed video of an interaction McMillan had with former officer Chauvin after the ambulance left the scene. McMillan is arguing with Chauvin expressing his distressed about what he saw happen. And Chauvin tries to justify his actions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s one person`s opinion.

MCMILLAN: No, I know. I got an opinion. I got an opinion --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got to -- we got to control this guy because he`s a sizable guy.

MCMILLAN: Yes. And I got --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it looks like -- it looks like he`s probably on to something.


HASAN: Paul Butler is a former federal prosecutor and the author of Chokehold: Policing Black Men. He joins me now. Paul, thanks so much for coming on the show. Did the testimony we heard today hurt the defense?

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. Mehdi, the whole world has seen the video of George Floyd dying. Today, the jury got to see him alive, laughing, and joking and having a conversation about football versus baseball. He looks relaxed and easygoing.

Contrast that with a defense opening statement that presented Floyd as this big, violent dude, who was high on drugs, committing a crime, and had this brute strength that not even three officers could subdue. That`s not what the video showed, Mehdi. Today, you can see how Floyd got his nickname. They call him The Gentle Giant.

HASAN: Well, let`s just play some of that body camera footage that we saw today. Here`s one portion.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take a seat. Sit down for me.

GEORGE FLOYD, MURDER VICTIM: Thank you, man. Thank you.


FLOYD: Thank you, man. God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sit all the way down.

FLOYD: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. I will. Hey, man. Please, please, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got an ID on you?

FLOYD: I got one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, what`s your name?

FLOYD: George Perry Floyd. I think -- I don`t know what`s going on. Man, it is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spell that for me.





FLOYD: Floyd, F-L-O-Y-D.


HASAN: You see George Floyd there, Paul, speaking in that video to the police in that body camera video, their perspective. Do you think that humanizes him to a jury and how important is that in a trial like this?

BUTLER: It`s crucial to convict Chauvbin of murder. Prosecutors have to prove that he used unreasonable and excessive force. And that Chauvin`s knee on Floyd`s neck is what killed Floyd and not the drug overdose as a defense claims.

So, every witness has to establish one of those points. So, Christopher Martin, the young clerk, let the jury know that George Floyd was under the influence of drugs during the time of his fatal encounter with the cops, the prosecutors want the defense not to be the first people to let the jury know that. Trial judges always want to -- trial lawyers always want to be the ones who tell the jury their bad facts, so the jury doesn`t think that they were trying to hide something from them.

But then, the video shows Mr. Floyd looking quite coherent and in control. He doesn`t look like a man who`s about to O.D. on meth. And Martin also helps the prosecutors establish your case about excessive force, Mehdi, all this over a $20.00 bill that Floyd probably didn`t even know was fake.

But the officers approached Mr. Floyd like he`s public enemy number one. Within seconds, a cop was pointing his gun at Mr. Floyd. And then he`s on the ground in handcuffs. If what the cops are doing looks over the top, the prosecutors want the jury to know that they can believe their own eyes.

HASAN: You said they approached him like he was public enemy number one. And we`ve seen that in many cases involving unarmed Black men. You`ve written a book about the policing of Black men. What do you think about how race is being talked about or not talked about in this trial so far?

BUTLER: You know, Mehdi, to the world, this case is about race and it`s about whether a police officer could ever be held accountable when he kills an African-American man. But race in these cases usually doesn`t come up explicitly in the courtroom. So, the judge will try to focus the jury on the evidence and treat this like any other murder case.

At the same time, the defense opening statement again, presents Mr. Floyd as this big, huge Black man committing a crime, high on drugs, with superhuman strength. They`re trying to establish that Chauvin`s use of force was reasonable, but there are concerned that they`re also invoking racist stereotypes.

Mehdi, that defense strategy worked 30 years ago to put the officers who beat up Rodney King. I don`t know with this jury in 2021 if that strategy will have the same impact.

HASAN: It`s a very good point. Times have changed. This is a rare prosecution of a former police officer for murder. It`s historic. And you`re right. It will be very interesting to see what happens next. Paul Butler, we appreciate you coming on and giving us your insights. Former prosecutor Paul Butler, thank you much.

BUTLER: It was a pleasure.

HASAN: Tonight, could the growing backlash to Georgia`s horrific voter suppression law prevent other states from following suit? Is this a sign that pressure works? We`ll talk about that after this short break.


HASAN: Who says activism is a waste of time? Who says calling for a boycott doesn`t have any impact on corporate America? You`ve probably heard about the new law Republicans passed in Georgia that makes it harder for people especially Black people to vote, and that President Joe Biden called it Jim Crow in the 21st century.

Just a few days ago, Delta Airlines, one of the largest companies based in Georgia put out a ridiculously mealy-mouthed statement where they glossed over the restrictive parts of the new law while lauding other parts of the bill. "The legislation signed this week improved considerably during the legislative process."

Coca-Cola, another big Georgia-based company also issued a cautious statement that did not outright condemn the legislation. But the backlash to the new law was so severe that today Delta CEO released a statement saying, and I quote, "I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta`s values. After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the Black community, it`s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. That is wrong. The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections. This is simply not true. Unfortunately, that excuses being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights."

That is quite a pivot from the legislation improved during the process. A few hours later, the Coca Cola CEO appeared on CNBC to say this.


JAMES QUINCEY, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, COCA-COLA: Let me be crystal clear and unequivocal. This legislation is unacceptable. It is a step backwards and it does not promote principles we have stood for in Georgia around broad access to voting, around voter convenience about ensuring election integrity. And this is -- this is frankly, just a step backwards.


HASAN: These CEO pivots happened because activists have been successfully putting pressure on the corporations. Today, 72 Black executive signed a letter calling on companies to take a stand against efforts to make voting harder. Former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault who is Black told NBC News, "It`s not enough to issue a general statement and say we believe in fair elections. The issue is what do you say in Georgia, Florida, Indiana. You have to publicly oppose and you have to bring your resources to bear to try to effectuate the right outcome."

Now, some people might say too little too late, and that`s true. The bill is now law in Georgia. On the other hand, as we reported on this show yesterday, this is now a nationwide voter suppression attempt by Republicans. And if the backlash in Georgia prevents other states from going through with it, that`s a good thing. So, it`s important to keep up the pressure.

Remember, democracy is at stake. Free and fair elections are on the line. Many of us have not surprisingly focused on that odious part of the bill that bans people from giving water to voters waiting in line. It naturally grabs our attention. (INAUDIBLE) But it`s not the worst thing in the bill. The worst thing in the bill is that now the Republican-controlled legislature in Georgia basically is in charge of elections there and it`ll decide which votes count in Georgia and which don`t.

Let`s be very clear. If this law had been in existence in November of 2020, Donald Trump would have won Georgia, and Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff would not now be members of the Senate. It`s as blatant and undeniable as that.

Now, yesterday, we also did a deep dive into Florida`s utter failure at keeping residents safe during the pandemic, where under the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, Republicans have spent the last year basically pretending that the Coronavirus isn`t a big deal. Well, tonight, we`re going to talk about what`s happening in Wisconsin, which has a Democratic governor whose COVID precautions are being completely undermined by Republicans, even as cases are on the rise. That`s next.


HASAN: COVID cases in the state of Wisconsin are pretty worrying right now. After sliding earlier this year, the seven-day daily case average is moving back up, now at 470 as of today. So, how are Republicans in that state responding to the resurgence of the deadly Coronavirus? By getting rid of the Democratic Governor`s masked mandate via the courts.

In a type four-three decision, conservatives on the Wisconsin State Supreme Court struck down the statewide mask mandate today ruling the Democratic Governor Tony Evers basically cannot issue another health emergency for the coronavirus pandemic without approval from the Republican-controlled legislature, even though as Evers argued, the nature of the pandemic has changed and he should be able to issue multiple health emergencies as a result of that.

I want to bring in someone who is trying to fight the COVID epidemic in Wisconsin, even as Republicans and the courts are tying his hands, Wisconsin`s Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes. Thanks so much for coming on the show tonight.

Lieutenant Governor, let me start with a very simple question. Are people in your state going to die because of this clearly partisan decision from the State Supreme Court?

MANDELA BARNES, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF WISCONSIN: I`ll say that the unfortunate result of decisions like these do impact the health of people across the state of Wisconsin and all across the country. You know, as has been reported, we could have been a lot better across the entire United States of America if we`ve taken the lessons that we`ve learned after the first 100,000 deaths.

You know, the amount of death that we had in this state was unnecessary in the first place. If only people were taking the necessary precautions. And that means Republican legislators taking this pandemic seriously, they still seem to think it`s a joke for whatever reason, and the Supreme Court has acted as a partisan arm of the Republican-controlled legislature.

So, people`s health and safety will tremendously be impacted. People decide that they don`t want to follow proper guidance from the CDC or proper health guidance that has already done a miracle up until the vaccine in mitigating this crisis.

HASAN: So, you mentioned the state Supreme Court and it`s linked to the Republican-led state legislature, something that caught my eye today. The Wisconsin State Journal reports that "The case in this particular example was brought by major Republican donor Jerry Fabick. In 2016, Fabick gave $20,000 to conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley. How on earth is that OK, Lieutenant Governor? Shouldn`t Justice Bradley have recused herself from this case which was decided by one vote?

BARNES: It`s not at all -- it`s not at all OK? It`s emblematic of a corrupt system that we have when so much money is allowed to flow into elections. And I`ve already talked about the fallacy of non-partisan force. That is a joke. And we see it played out time and time again, because they had -- this isn`t the first time they`ve challenged the governor`s ability to issue an emergency order.

But with situations like this where the Supreme Court is able to just make decisions at will mostly with a partisan lens, the fact that a Republican donor brought the case in front of her donated the maximum amount for an individual, it raise a corruption.

But this is the type of stuff that people across Wisconsin -- all over Wisconsin and all across the country are upset and frustrated about because not only is government been involved, but we see Supreme Court decisions that impact people`s health and safety being paid for and is right out there in the open.

And I guess given the last four years of Donald Trump, people just think anything is acceptable. And that`s where we find ourselves.

HASAN: That`s a very good point, a very depressing point, but a good point. So, what do you and Governor Tony Evers do now? Do you just throw your hands up in the air, concede defeat, give up because this is the highest court in the state.

BARNES: Never. Giving up is never an option. We were elected for a reason. We were elected to make sure that we keep the health and safety in mind of people all across the state regardless of what your political affiliation is, regardless of what part of the state you live in, you deserve opportunity. You deserve to live a happy, healthy and prosperous life.

So, it`s important for us to make sure that we continue to do whatever we possibly can. I`m proud to say that we`re number one in getting shots in people`s arms. That is a great sign. But until we reach herd immunity, it is important for people to still wear masks. The mass requirement, like I said, it was the thing that got us to where we are up until vaccines became available. It`s what, you know, prevented even more mass casualty across the country.

So, no, we`re not giving up. Why would we ever give up? We weren`t elected to give up. We were likely to continue to fight.

HASAN: Question, the state Supreme Court has shut down the emergency powers of the governor and the mask mandate with it. What does this mean for local mass mandates? Can local areas, can counties in Wisconsin still do it even without a statewide mass mandate?

MANDELA: Yes, I would -- so, I`ve talked to a couple people who are -- who are ready to keep their orders in place because they are the last line of defense. Local government is ultimately -- and I`m not going to say the last line of defense because like I said, we`re not giving up. But until we make our next step, it`s important for local government to fill in the gaps as they have been doing for so long in the face of Republican opposition.

So, I applaud the local leaders who are going to do the right thing because they know that businesses can stay for real. We can`t go back to normal if people are sick, if we`re seeing tremendous loss of life, if we`re overwhelming our hospital system as was the case just a few months ago.

HASAN: Yes, exactly. What does this mean for food aid for vulnerable people in Wisconsin? Because the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that quote, the decision by the court could also cut off $50 million a month in federal food assistance to low-income people.

Since last year, Congress has agreed to dramatically increase funding for food programs in states that have emergency orders in place. You`ve lost your emergency order, thanks to your court. Does that mean you lose $50 million a month for low-income people in Wisconsin?

BARNES: Republicans in the legislature and the Supreme Court knew this is going to end, and they still did it because they quite frankly don`t care. I wish they did. There are so many people who are hungry. We`re not back to the employment levels that we have before. I mean, people are, you know, across the country where some seven, eight million people are now find themselves in poverty, food insecure.

It`s a total slap in the face and it`s a disregard to our -- it shows a blatant disregard for the most vulnerable people in our society. We don`t have -- there aren`t adults that are -- that are making these decisions. It`s purely partisan and it`s ignorant of reality.

HASAN: Last question, I got 30 seconds left, but I`m going to ask you this. You probably won`t answer but I`ll ask anyway. I just interviewed another Lieutenant Governor in Pennsylvania who`s running for the Senate. If Ron Johnson steps down in your state, a very controversial Republican senator, are you`re going to make a similar Senate run?

BARNES: What I will say is what Ron Johnson does has no -- has nothing to do with what my decision will be.

HASAN: OK, that`s interesting. It`s not a denial. So, you are considering a Senate run.

BARNES: Well, I`ve talked to a lot of people who`ve brought it to me and I am truly appreciative of the encouragement. And this is a moment where we do need leaders, but I haven`t made up my mind yet. We still have so much work to do to bring relief to people across the state.

We have our Badger Bounceback agenda, which is our state budget. It`s going to provide relief to our schools, to our communities, to our small businesses. There`s more enough work to do right here at home and maybe one day I`ll have an answer for you.

HASAN: OK. Fair enough. I had to try. Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, thank you so much for making time tonight.

BARNES: Thank you.

HASAN: That`s ALL IN on this Wednesday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now. Good evening, Rachel.