Prosecutor in the Trump criminal probe convenes a grand jury to hear evidence and weigh in potential charges. A year ago today, George Floyd was pinned to the ground under the knee of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): And so, I`ve --Tim come to me and answer my questions about the support he has from Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham. And again, I`m putting my faith (AUDIO GAP). This is the moment when we rise to the call history.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: We hope that you succeed. Senator Cory Booker, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time tonight. That is tonight`s REIDOUT. "ALL WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice over): Tonight on ALL IN. Breaking news from the AP and the Washington Post. A grand jury is convened in the investigation of Donald Trump and the Trump Organization.
Tonight, what we know about this big step forward for prosecutors, what we know about the Manhattan DA`s timeline. What a potential indictment means for the political party that Donald Trump still controls. And can the criminal justice system actually hold a former president accountable?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: There was nothing that happened at the Trump Organization that did not go through Mr. Trump with his approval.
HAYES: Plus, where we stand as a nation, one year after the murder of George Floyd with Jemele Hill and Adam Serwer, when ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. Well, a huge news story out tonight from the Washington Post recently confirmed by the AP, it appears, reporting that the Manhattan district attorney has now convened a grand jury that will hear evidence in the criminal case against Donald Trump. That grand jury is expected to decide whether or not to indict the twice impeached ex-president. That is according to two people familiar with the situation.
This indicates the investigation of Trump and his businesses has reached an advanced stage after more than two years. The Post reports that it also suggests that Vance believes he has found evidence of a crime, if not by Trump, then by someone potentially close to him or by his company.
Prosecutors seek a grand jury in order to present evidence and hear from witnesses, and if the prosecutor so choose, to ask for an indictment. So, they`re unlikely to impanel the grand jury without feeling some confidence about their evidence. Now, this special grand jury will meet three days a week for six months longer than a typical grand jury in New York, implying the case is large and complex.
We know that District Attorney Cy Vance`s investigation into Trump and the Trump Organization is broad. It began in 2018. You`ll remember after Michael Cohn, right, former lawyer and sort of bagman for Donald Trump pleaded guilty in federal jurisdiction federal court to charges that he paid hush money in violation of federal campaign finance law, among other things, to prevent damaging stories from coming out about then-Candidate Trump just before the 2016 election.
The Cy Vance probe then expanded after starting back in 2018, looking into the financial activities of Trump and his business before he was elected president. Earlier this year, Vance, of course, obtained eight years of Trump`s personal tax returns. That was after a long drawn out legal battle that went all the way up to the Supreme Court.
Now just last week, we learned that New York Attorney General Letitia James joined forces with Cy Vance and his team growing her office`s probe of the Trump Organization into a criminal investigation. So, that teaming up we got news of last week also sort of unexpected and somewhat rare as far as we can tell.
All of that comes amid news that Donald Trump`s former White House Counsel, Don McGahn, remember that guy? He has now agreed to testify behind closed doors before the House Judiciary Committee about Trump`s efforts to obstruct the Russia probe. McGahn was initially subpoenaed to testify in front of that committee back in 2019 but he refused at that time on Trump`s instructions.
The former president was famously furious with McGahn for taking notes about their interactions, which were featured in special counsel Robert Mueller`s report. Now, the news tonight from the Washington Post and the AP about this district attorney`s decision in New York, in Manhattan, is a good reminder that while it`s long-standing Department of Justice policy, the federal government cannot indict sitting presidents and it would be unlikely local jurisdictions could as well, ex-presidents can face all sorts of charges after they leave office, as Robert Moeller testified in 2019.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you charge the president with a crime after he left office?
ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You believe that he committed -- you could charge the president of the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Earlier today and throughout the day, you have stated the policy that a seated president cannot be indicted. Correct.
QUIGLEY: And upon questioning this morning, you were asked could that -- could a president be indicted after their service, correct?
QUIGLEY: And your answer was that they could.
MUELLER: They could.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Shayna Jacobs covers the courts, law enforcement, and criminal justice for The Washington Post. She`s the co-author of that bombshell report in the Washington Post and she joins me now. And Shayna, thank you so much for coming on short notice and congrats on this very, very big scoop.
Maybe you could walk us through a little bit of just what impaneling a special grand jury means. What happens now?
SHAYNA JACOBS, COURTS REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: So, the district attorney`s office has the ability to put together a panel of two dozen people who will sit and listen for months and months and months often about a particular -- one particular case. In this case, it seems they`re looking at a few cases, the Trump case being the main thing.
And what that means is they have sort of time and flexibility in terms of what they introduce, what witnesses they bring in, what documents they put into evidence, and they also still sort of have time to figure out where they`re going to go with it, what charges they`re going to ultimately ask the grand jury to consider if they ultimately decide that charges are appropriate.
HAYES: So, on that latter part, right, so there`s not -- it is not definitive that the result of such an impaneling of a grand jury results in a request for indictment or an indictment returned, right? Those are two distinct things that the district attorney would request one, and then that grand jury would have to agree to return the indictment.
But my general sense is that, in most cases, as a just a numerical fact about how this normally operates, that is what these tend to produce in the end.
JACOBS: I would say that`s generally correct. You will often see some sort of concrete results at the end of this. You know, in some cases, it has just been sort of a report, a public report that the district attorney will try to, you know, to release at the end of it. But yes, so this is typically the way they go about getting an indictment in a -- in any type of major case that they are -- that they are putting forth.
HAYES: Yes. And just -- I want to just do a little like real criminal justice law 101 here for folks that are not familiar, because it can get obscured. Grand jury is different than a regular jury, right? It`s the same group of people, and they`re often hearing a bunch of different cases. But they`re also there in the room. And it`s basically not a adversarial trial process, right. It has a different standard than the kind of jury process we see in a normal criminal trial when it actually goes to trial.
JACOBS: Right, the prosecutors burden is much, much lower. It is often seen as pretty easy to get an indictment if they have, you know, like just the bare minimum of evidence to present. And it doesn`t require a full grand jury vote. It`s not all 24 people that has to vote in one direction. So, it is a fairly easy process, at least, as far as it goes to get the indictment.
But it`s true that at the end of this, the DA could ultimately decide that we don`t have enough, we don`t want to put charges in front of the panel to consider. Obviously, a lot of people watching this think that if they have come this far, and if they`re putting it into this long term grand jury, they`re going to be putting a ton of evidence in, they a must have something and charges are likely whether it`s against Trump personally, whether it`s against one of the other Trump Organization executives, or whether it`s against the Trump Organization itself which is another option.
HAYES: So, you`re -- so -- and do you have a sense from your reporting what -- there`s a little bit of hedging, I mean, understandably, right, in the reporting about whether this is Trump or someone in his employ or the organization itself as a criminal entity and what the scope of this might be. I mean, I guess, do you know the answer to that question? Do you have a sense of the parameters?
JACOBS: I don`t think we know exactly how broad the scope is. But we do know, based on what`s been reported thus far and what has been made public and in certain court proceedings, that the scope is quite large. It began with the hush-money payments to women who claim to have affairs with Trump, the payments that were made during the 2016 campaign.
And it`s now looking into his company as a whole and their business practices and the way they apply the valuation of their properties to, you know, to benefit them if that`s in fact what they are doing. That`s what`s been suggested by witnesses and sources that we`ve spoken to. And in addition to that, they seem to be looking at whether Trump Organization executives inappropriately got compensation that either wasn`t reported or wasn`t properly accounted for.
HAYES: Shayna Jacobs who again is one of the bylines on that great piece of the Washington Post reporting, the scoop of certainly the day, the week, maybe the month, maybe more than that, depending on where this goes. Thank you very much.
JACOBS: Thank you.
HAYES: Rebecca Roiphe is a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan. That`s the office is now run by Cy Vance. He`s now a law professor at New York law school. And Chuck Rosenberg is a former U.S. Attorney and senior FBI official and they both join me now.
Rebecca, let me start with you as someone that worked in this office. Your reaction to the news, the significance of it, what it means.
REBECCA ROIPHE, FORMER ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, MANHATTAN: Right. So, first of all, it`s important to emphasize that there probably was a grand jury already. In order to issue any subpoena, the prosecutor needs to have a grand jury. So, what this reporting signifies at least and so far as I understand it, is that they`ve moved beyond the phase of gathering information under the rubric of the grand jury to actually presenting evidence to the grand jury.
And those are two different phases. And that`s important, because you have grand juries to investigate tons of things, and many of those end in nothing. But once you go to the phase where you`re actually presenting evidence before the grand jury, then prosecutors have an obligation. And the ethical obligation is to have at least probable cause that a crime has been committed.
But Cy Vance`s office has actually put itself forward as an office that believes that prosecutors should not even enter the grand jury unless they`re convinced that they have evidence sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone or something committed a crime. So, my understanding of the reporting, at least the way it was explained to me, is that they`ve moved on to this evidence presenting phase which itself suggests that the prosecutors themselves are convinced by the evidence that they have seen and are ready to present it to a grand jury and see if the grand jury to shares that conclusion.
HAYES: Chuck, what`s your -- what`s your reaction? How does that jive with how you`re thinking about this?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I`m so glad Rebecca is here because practice in state grand juries is slightly different than practice and federal grand juries. But I think she`s exactly right. Of course, there was a grand jury because you issue subpoenas to third parties like banks to get records. That`s part of your investigation. At this phase, a later phase, you can begin to put witnesses before the grand jury.
Why would you do that? Well, for one, informs the grand jury about the matter that`s under investigation. But second, and very important, it locks witnesses into a version of events. So, if you put Rebecca in the grand jury and you ask her what color was the light when she saw the accident, and she says green, and later at trial, she forgets or lies and says it was red, you have the transcript from her grand jury testimony, the substantive proof of what color the light was when she saw the accident. And so, really important to start locking in witnesses.
And can I -- just one other point Chris that Rebecca made that worth, I think, reiterating because it`s such a good one. You don`t go to a grand jury simply to indict. I think that would be unethical. I also think it would be foolish. You ask a grand jury to indict when you believe you have evidence sufficient to convict the trial.
They`re very different standards of proof. Nothing is gained simply by indicting a case if you can`t convict the trial. That requires more proof, a proof beyond a reasonable doubt. And good prosecutors will ask a grand jury to indict when they have that higher evidentiary standard met.
HAYES: Right. So, we don`t know if that -- if that`s the ultimate places ends up when that request is made. But, Chuck, that brings me to the point here that to me is the background context of this whole thing, right? You can -- you can pull out a law book about elementary criminal procedure, right, and that is important here. But the political, social, institutional realities of what we are about to possibly go over are enormous, historic, hasn`t happened before.
I mean, Nixon was basically bailed out of facing this, it probably would have been in federal court by Ford`s pardon. But you know, if you`re sitting in that office as a line prosecutor, or if your Cy Vance, or if you`re anyone who`s been making that case, Rebecca, you know, that`s -- you`re about to, you know, bring -- if you can bring an indictment, like the biggest criminal case in the history of the country in some respects.
ROIPHE: Yes. I mean, I think first of all, we should be careful because it may not be Trump himself who they are seeking an indictment for. We don`t know whether it`s the organization, somebody else in the organization, or Trump, so that`s one thing. But you`re absolutely right. And I think that`s a reason why, as Chuck was saying, you would want even more so than usual to be absolutely 100 percent sure that you can prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt because out there are going to be these allegations that, you know, this is politically motivated.
You reported at the beginning of your segment that Attorney General James has joined this investigation or is working with Cy Vance. And she campaigned on this notion that she was after Trump, which itself can undermine the legitimacy of this investigation. So, you have to just make sure that you are able to prove this case in a way that`s just bulletproof.
And so, you know, I don`t know and we don`t know what happens at the end of this. And maybe it does end in a report. That`s unusual, but it could happen. But I would think if we`re at this phase that Prosecutors think they can at least indict somebody. And that is, as you say, of historic importance. And so if they`re doing this, that`s why again, I`m just inferring from their professional nature and the way they`ve approached these things in the past. I really doubt that they would do it, you know, just on probable cause.
I`m sure that if they are seeking an indictment of anybody, in any case, but especially one that`s so politically fraught and so politically important, they would not do so unless they were fairly convinced that they could prove their case, you know, if not, with ease, at least, completely.
HAYES: Well, and here`s -- I mean, the point I kind of want to get to here, right, is that, you know, this could be the beginning of a very, very long journey. We don`t know and we don`t know what direction it goes. But to the extent that you continue down this path, right, Chuck, you know, the American criminal justice system operates every day. It`s one of the most active in the world. We have more people incarcerated per capita than anywhere else in the world.
And 90 to 97 percent of the cases that come through criminal courts are pled out. We plea, and we plea, and we plea, and we plea. The whole machinery works that way. You can go to midnight arraignments at any city in America and watch -- and watch this happen. That`s the way the -- we`re talking about here is just in a different universe. It`s almost a difference in kind when you`re talking about the scrutiny and the pressures and the standards and the resources that will be available to the people in the Trump Org if that is where this goes.
ROSENBERG: Well, sure, Chris. But if Mr. Trump is indicted, he`s not the first defendant with ample resources to hire lots of attorneys to defend him. So, if your question is, can the criminal justice system handle a case like this? My answer is absolutely it can. It depends on a couple of things, though.
You need a really good judge. You need a judge who can control her courtroom who`s decisive and smart and who doesn`t play to the cameras. You need good advocates on both sides. And to Rebecca`s point, you need good evidence from the government because it has to prove its case by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
But if the question is, can the criminal justice system handle a high- profile defendant? Absolutely. That happens all the time. And, you know, the fact that we haven`t had a president tried before is probably due to the fact that we haven`t elected a criminal to the presidency before. So, I don`t see this as an impossible task, not by a longshot. I see it as a difficult task. And a lot will turn on those factors that I mentioned earlier, a good judge, good advocates on both sides, and a fair jury.
And when you`re talking about a city with millions of people, you`re able to put together a fair jury. It will take time. You need to be careful. You need to do it right. But can it be done? Absolutely, it can be done.
HAYES: For the sake of historical accuracy, I`m just going to slightly dissent from the notion that we`ve never elected a criminal before. I think there may be a few. Rebecca Roiphe and Chuck Rosenberg, thank you both. I appreciate it.
There`s a lot still to get to tonight on the breaking news of a grand jury convening to hear evidence and weigh potential charges and the criminal probe of Donald Trump and or his organization and employees. Next, a look at what type of evidence would they be considering with two reporters who know the Trump Organization inside out.
HAYES: So, the workings of a grand jury are secret. You probably knew that, although sometimes there`s reports about them. But the Washington Post does offer some insight into what kind of evidence Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance might be presenting to them in his case against Donald Trump and the Trump Org according to The Washington Post.
Vance`s investigation is expansive according to people familiar with the probe, and public disclosures made during related litigation. His investigators are scrutinizing Trump`s business practices before he was president, including whether the value-specific properties in the Trump Organization`s real estate portfolio were manipulated in a way that defrauded banks and insurance companies if any tax benefits were obtained illegally through unscrupulous asset valuation.
I want to bring in two people who have spent a lot of time looking into Donald Trump`s businesses dealings and taxes. Andrea Bernstein who`s co- host of the Trump Inc podcast and author of American Oligarchs: The Kushners, The Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power. And David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and co-founder of DCReport.org.
Andrea, let me start with you. You have spent a lot of time, devoted years of your life now to sifting through this. And obviously, it was a very complex business intentionally and it`s also not a public one. So, it`s -- there`s only so much you could look at it. But, you know, what is your sense of how well known to anyone, the inner workings of this business are?
ANDREA BERNSTEIN, CO-HOST, TRUMP INC. PODCAST: Well, I suspect it`s quite well known at this moment to the Manhattan District Attorney`s Office. They have gotten these tax records. They`ve had them for months now. They have a team poring over them. They have an outside prosecutor. They have forensic efforts -- experts. As of just recently, they have assistance from experienced attorneys with the New York attorneys general -- Attorney General`s office.
So, they have been really looking into this. And by all accounts, they`ve spoken to witnesses, they`ve collected additional documents, and many former prosecutors and people familiar with the office have suggested that up until this evening, it was only a matter of time until the Manhattan DA convened a grand jury, because at some point, they need to start hearing from witnesses about the story that these documents tell.
HAYES: David, how should I think about tax law in relation to a Manhattan District Attorney investigation? I mean, my sense is that, you know, tax cases tend to be federal cases. I don`t -- I imagine there`s some state jurisdiction here, right. Because if you`re, you know, filtering on taxes for the federal government, you probably are for the state as well. You tend to use the same numbers to file them both. How does that play into how to think about an investigation like this?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, tax cases are lost and the government loses a fair amount of them on the federal level.
HAYES: It does.
JOHNSTON: When they get into the fine details and complexity instead of the fundamental issue of fraud. And when we see an indictment, and assuming that we do, it may be focused on other things. New York has a state-level racketeering law, and they might well bring the charge in that direction.
But they`re going to avoid a case where the prosecutors get up and say, well, under section -- when it links to, which I`ve actually seen happen in trials. And so, the effort is to hone the case, bring a case that an ordinary person will be able to understand that screams you knew this was wrong. Here`s the e-mail or the memo or the instruction that was given or the document.
JOHNSTON: That`s going to be the key.
HAYES: OK, so, I`m going to follow up on that and then go back to you, Andrea, because I think about -- you know, we`ve seen a decline in white- collar criminal prosecutions over time. That`s been -- that`s been documented empirically. It`s a factor by the way system works. I think that`s true for both federal and local prosecutions.
But there`s also just an inherent difficulty in some cases around intense, right? Around, oh, I underpaid my taxes by $50,000 this year. I screwed up, my bad, here. Here`s a check for $50,000 plus interest, let`s call it even. Or I was criminally -- you know, I was engaging in criminally fraudulent behavior and the difficulty of moving from wrong one to run two with these kinds of cases.
JOHNSTON: Well, one thing to watch for, Chris, is going to be whether they produce any evidence of forged documents. Let`s remember that Donald`s own lawyer testifying and his -- one of his two civil tax fraud trials some years ago, testified that Donald forged his own tax return. He didn`t file the one the tax lawyer prepared for him.
And so, there`s going to be a lot of focus on things that are very clear, like that finding witnesses that will say, Mr. Trump told me, I don`t care what the law is, that sort of thing.
JOHNSTON: That`s what they`re going to need to do. Keep it simple, straightforward, and fraud.
HAYES: And, Andrea, obviously, I mean, they have lawyers there, right? I mean, they -- I mean, the public record of his interaction with lawyers suggests that he`s -- I mean, particularly as true as President, not like, well, they lawyers say I can`t do it, I guess we can`t do it kind of guy. But presumably, there are very highly paid individuals around him attempting to keep him out of jail.
BERNSTEIN: Right. Well, I mean, there`s an attempt to keep him out of jail, certainly. I mean, I think that there`s a sort of a couple of different ways of looking at this look. I mean, they`re -- obviously, companies commit fraud, people commit fraud, even with the advice of lawyers. Somebody that wants -- that works for the Trump Organization once told me that Donald Trump had his real lawyers and then lawyers that he went to when those -- when he didn`t want to listen to the advice of the real lawyer.
So, you know, we saw that obviously, when he was president. He manifested that kind of behavior publicly. So, we just don`t know. We won`t have insight until such time if and when the DEA decides to make an indictment, and some of these documents become part of this public record. But we know that Donald Trump is really on the hot seat now with this expanded criminal investigation with two prosecutors in New York looking at it, and now this step, which is not unexpected, but is consistent with everything we know, which is that the Manhattan DA is very, very serious about uncovering potential evidence of protracted and systemic fraud at the Trump Organization.
HAYES: Andrea Bernstein and David Cay Johnston, thanks so much for making time tonight. This --
BERNSTEIN: Thank you.
HAYES: This Manhattan District Attorney investigation, which is about to go before a grand jury, according to reporting we have tonight, has been underway for more than two years, of course since Trump was president. And it`s one of three active criminal probes that we know about that he`s facing, right, along with Georgia, Fulton County`s inquiry into Trump`s efforts to subvert the election, and the Washington D.C. Attorney General`s investigation into Trump`s incitement of the January 6 insurrection.
The twice impeached ex-president is also facing another 10 civil suits, ranging from defamation to fraud, to incitement. One of the impeachment managers who tried to hold Donald Trump accountable in his first impeachment trial, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, joins me now. Congressman, your reaction to the news first and foremost.
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Well, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was an ongoing crime scene during the four years of the Trump presidency. And so this has not surprised me. If Donald Trump was so brazen in the way that he conducted himself as President of the United States of America with all eyes on him, then it seems to me logical that he engaged in a whole host of criminal shenanigans in all likelihood when he was in the private sector.
HAYES: Do you have confidence that -- Chuck Rosenberg and I talked about this in A block that the institutions and the personnel and the American legal system, whichever venue it may be, can handle it. That basically the stress test it would be about to face were it to be about to indict an ex- president is something that can bear?
JEFFRIES: One of the more fundamental principles in our democratic republic, and we talked about this a lot during both impeachment trials, but certainly during the first one, is that no one is above the law. It`s a basic principle in American democracy. George Washington, I think, articulated in his farewell address to the nation that the Constitution is sacredly obligatory upon all. That includes the President of the United States. Certainly, it includes ex-presidents of the United States of America. And the whole system collapses if someone can function above the law, as Donald Trump appears to be inclined to try to do.
Now, I think that the DA and the Attorney General`s investigation or other inquiries that may be underway, they`re going to have to follow the facts, apply to law, be guided by the Constitution, let the truth fall where it may, but certainly they`re going to have to make sure that they are dotting every I and crossing every T before proceeding with a criminal indictment.
HAYES: I`m speaking to you tonight on the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd underneath the knee of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin who was recently convicted of that murder by jury of his peers. It is one year and there is a George Floyd Justice Act which has been passed by the House and ongoing negotiations about possible bipartisan deal in the Senate with Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina who`s been negotiating. Are there updates you have to those conversations?
JEFFRIES: Well, Congresswoman Karen Bass has been doing a tremendous job as the lead House negotiator working in close partnership with Senator Booker. And it`s my understanding that significant progress has been made. I believe that we are going to be able to find common ground on a meaningful and transformational piece of legislation that will dramatically improve the quality and justice and policing throughout America.
Now, I think it`s been no secret that there are a few issues that need to be resolved, qualified immunity, reform is likely one of them. I happen to be someone who shares the perspective that this judicially created doctrine that needs reform should be part of any agreement that`s ultimately reached.
But I do believe that Cory Booker and Karen Bass have the full confidence of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses, and that we are going to be in a position to strike a blow against injustice and systemic racism and police violence in a meaningful way hopefully, sometime soon.
HAYES: When your own constituents in the district you represent in the city of New York come to you and they say what is -- what`s better now a year after those protests and people are out in the streets and then politicians were heeding the call and various jurisdictions were talking about different ways of reimagining public safety or reforming the police specifically. But in the -- in the place that you represent, what is your answer to them of what`s better now?
JEFFRIES: All across America, people showed up, spoke up, stood up demanding justice, one, for the murder of George Floyd, and that was received. That`s very different in the city of New York than what we typically encounter. This is a city when I was coming of age, I`m going to do (INAUDIBLE) 41 shots, no accountability. Sean Bell, 50 shots, no accountability. Eric Garner choked to death by a New York City police officer in front of the entire world to see no accountability.
One thing is clear. The people took to the streets to demand accountability for the death of George Floyd and we`ve received it, guilty, guilty, guilty was the verdict, I think that is a step in the right direction. And we`ve passed in the House not just once but twice, the first time with bipartisan support the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act which is transformational and the most progressive police reform bill in the history of Congress.
And now, there are genuine, authentic bipartisan negotiations underway. And that is a substantial result of the voices of the American people having been heard, including that of my constituents, over the last year.
HAYES: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thank you so much for making some time for us tonight.
JEFFRIES: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: All right, still ahead, what a potential indictment of the former president would mean for the party of Trump. Why it could be actually good news to Republican leadership. I`ll explain next.
HAYES: It`s been about three hours since the Washington Post dropped their huge story. The Manhattan District Attorney has convened a grand jury to hear evidence in the criminal case against Donald Trump, and it is expected to decide whether or not to indict the twice impeached ex-president.
Since the news broke, there has not been much reaction publicly from Republican congressional leadership. We suspect at some level they`re not hating this development. We believe that to be the case because this is what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor following Trump`s second impeachment trial earlier this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office as an ordinary citizen. Unless the statute of limitations has run, he`s still liable for everything he did while he`s in office. He didn`t get away with anything yet.
We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: You can see where McConnell deviated from his prepared remarks to make sure everyone knew Trump didn`t get away with anything yet, yet. You can see a world where Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, who never were well, true MAGA heads, can see an opportunity to have a kind of deus ex machina, descended from above, to rid them of their Trump problem.
McKay Coppins is a staff writer at the Atlantic, who`s written extensively about the future of the Republican Party, and Michelle Goldberg is a columnist for The New York Times. She wrote in February, "Impeachment offers Republicans grace. They don`t want it." They both join me now.
McKay, let me start with you. I think -- here`s my theory. Republicans can`t turn on Trump because he would take a huge chunk of the party with him and what they value more than anything are winning elections and retaining power. If something were to come along this sort of like exoticness thing to just come in and like a helicopter, like whoop, and then just deposit him off the scene of American politics, and still also fuel all of the people in the megabase with resentment and anger at the no- good liberals who are prosecuting him politically motivated, that would be essentially, I think, a kind of weird win-win for Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell. What do you think?
MCKAY COPPINS, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes, that`s the key I think the last part that you said. In a certain way, the Manhattan DA is doing the dirty work for Republican Party leaders that they`re not willing to do themselves, right?
HAYES: Exactly. Yes.
COPPINS: Like, you know, I think back to the first impeachment trial, a quote I got from a senior Republican aide in the Senate who said, if we could magically remove Donald Trump from office without any of the political blowback, most of the Republicans in the Senate would do that in a heartbeat, right?
What was keeping them from doing that was the political blowback they knew they would suffer from their base. If they can remove Donald Trump from the political stage or permanently sideline him while directing that ire away from them, that is the best case political scenario for I think a lot of Republicans.
HAYES: Yes. And, you know, it goes back to that impeachment vote they had, Michelle, which is that they did have their chance, right. They had their chance to like, to do it, to just band together and do the vote -- and vote him --
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: They had two chances.
HAYES: They had two chances. But the second one particularly when it wasn`t -- you know, the first one is, I think you can make the argument again, just like a descriptive argument, right, analytically, like, it probably would have hurt them politically. I think it demobilize the base, yadda, yadda. I don`t know if it would have not.
But in this case, just get rid of him. You can ban him for future office, and they didn`t take it. And now this is basically what they have.
GOLDBERG: Right. I mean, not only did they not take it, in the weeks and months that followed, they pulled them -- they melted themselves even more to hit right. They sort of distanced themselves briefly in the immediate horrific aftermath, and then they tried to memory whole the whole thing. And you know, soon Kevin McCarthy is down at Mar-a-Lago taking pictures with this man that a few weeks earlier he had said was, you know, partially responsible for this insurrection.
So, I agree with McKay. I think this is the best case scenario for the Republican Party because it won`t direct MAGA rage at them, and will in fact, kind of keep stoking the sense of grievance and persecution that is like kind of secret sauce of the whole phenomenon, and yet moved Donald Trump aside for somebody perhaps more electable, somebody who didn`t lose the popular vote twice in a row.
HAYES: And who`s -- you know, he`s out with a statement now. He puts these statements on his blog about everything that we used to. No one reads them. The internet traffic is nowhere. No one cares, really. I don`t even think the MAGA people care that much. And what`s so striking to me is that like, but for McCarthy bending the knee and George P. Bush and all the Republican like, elites essentially bending the knee to this guy, and dispatching with Cheney for Stefanik, like, he would be powerless. It`d be over. It`d be done. They`re the only thing keeping them in power.
Like his connection to the base, and they`re going along with it, are the things that keep them in power right now, McKay.
COPPINS: I think that`s right. But I should note that I think the scenario we`re laying out assumes that Donald Trump is somehow indicted and maybe convicted, or at least that the -- what happens, the legal proceedings are so damaging that they do permanently sideline him. I think there is another possibility where the kind of -- the process of this does regenerate MAGA sympathy, and ire, and rage, and they -- a lot of the base rallies around Donald Trump again, and it actually propels him forward in the Republican primaries, right?
COPPINS: Let`s say he doesn`t actually get convicted, this might be the launching pad for his 2024 campaign. And that could end up being the worst case scenario for the Republican Party.
HAYES: Michelle, what do you think of that? There`s a lot of wisdom there, I think.
GOLDBERG: Yes, I think that`s absolutely true. Although, you know, kind of knowing nothing of the internal workings of this, you`ve just got to think that Cy Vance, the attorney for New York, doesn`t convene a criminal grand jury unless he`s got something pretty solid.
HAYES: Yes. Although, again, these are uphill climbs, right? I mean, you know, defendants with lots of money, and very fancy and expensive lawyers and powerful people who also have like, weirdly operated in this sort of Mafiosi gray area of wink, wink, nudge, nudge and kind of always walking up to the line. You know, that -- he`s been doing that for 40 years.
You know, it`s not like -- I think the bar is pretty high and I think the outcome here is extremely undetermined in a million different directions.
GOLDBERG: I mean, of course, it is. But I also think that Donald Trump has probably done a number of things over the course of his career that had people been paying close attention. He`s been under close scrutiny. He would have been probably indicted many, many years ago. It`s just that people weren`t really looking. Now they are.
HAYES: McKay, what do you think of the developed -- the weird developments of these last, say, the last month where it just seems like water flowing to its lowest point, the lowest point being Mar-a-Lago, like in the Republican Party. Like watching it all go back to that as if that`s where the gravitational pull is, because I think that`s where the energy of the party is.
And that`s where like -- you know, we`re watching this day by day. You know, you`ve got people that are being elect -- running for local office or people that are now the Republican Attorney General on the, you know, board of the RAGA group, which is a Republican Attorney General, you know, marching to the tune of like stolen election and things like that. The way that`s become canonical is really unnerving to me.
COPPINS: Well, it`s not just unnerving the way that it`s become canonical. It`s a nerving that people who are seen as rising stars in the party are fully bought-in to this lie, right? Especially, I think we were going to talk about this earlier, but especially the degree to which people who are actively working to overturn the election are dead, right, are now trying to install themselves as the overseers of the next election, running for Secretary of State in various states. That is -- that is alarming and something we need to keep an eye on as well.
HAYES: McKay Coppins, Michelle Goldberg, thank you both.
On this night of breaking news, it`s also the day we mark the one year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd as the nation reflected today. This instantly iconic photograph was taken of a young black girl entering the West Wing of the White House, as a U.S. Marine holds the door for her.
That girl is Gianna Floyd. She`s the seven-year-old daughter of George Floyd who told the president of the United States "My daddy changed the world." One year later, how far have we come? Jemele Hill, Adam Serwer will be here next.
HAYES: A year ago today, George Floyd was pinned to the ground under the knee of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin while distraught bystanders begged him to get up because he was killing him. Floyd beg for his own life before it was snuffed out. And all of it was captured on cell phone video by a very brave young woman who was walking her cousin to the store.
Those indelible images gave rise to street protests and unrest in dozens of cities with millions and millions of people in the streets. It was a cultural and political moment in which it seemed even many of the central institutions in American corporate life, from NFL brands, the NFL that suddenly signed on at least in word or performance to a simple but genuinely radical demand for racial equity and truth-telling.
But was it just a cynical branding exercise or a strange? Did the cultural moment that arose from volcanic rage and anguish of watching George Floyd killed by the state mobilize the kinds of structural changes to those institutions, institutions of the state itself that produced the circumstances of his death?
Jemele Hill is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and hosts the podcast Jamele Hill is Unbothered and Adam Serwer is a staff writer for The Atlantic and they both join me now.
You know, Jemele, I was glad that we got a chance to talk to you tonight because you have navigated these waters in many different ways all going back through, you know, trying to talk about race and sports and social justice in various platforms. And as you watch that happened last year, you watched where we are now, I wonder where you think -- where do you think we are a year later in the midst of the sort of rawness that was there and all these institutions rushing to say the words and what has been deliberate upon since then?
JEMELE HILL, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, first of all, thanks for having me. And good to see you as well, Adam. It depends on who you mean by we. Because I think if we`re talking about what we`ve seen some of the courageousness, the boldness, the fearlessness that we`ve seen from a lot of athletes and coaches, clearly, I think that that change is not just lasting, but it has been very impactful.
I mean, we go through what the NBA -- what the WNBA, what they were able to accomplish. And it`s so fitting that we`re having this discussion on a day where the NBA and WNBA and their players unions have come out and demanded that the Senate support the George Floyd Policing Act. That`s a bold and brave and lasting step for them to make. And they`ve kind of been there in this conversation throughout.
Now, where we are as a society. Well, that`s a different kind of we. Because in many ways, it feels like there has been regression. It feels like we`ve taken some steps back. I think certainly you can look back at the insurrection of the Capitol as evidence of that. So, I think there`s just been a lot of stops and starts and some of the concerns about whether or not this was a movement or just a moment. I think we`re still debating that.
HAYES: Yes. There were such. You know, it did seem in the wake of Floyd`s death and the street mobilization around it, there were really new horizons being opened up, Adam, conversations about reimagining public safety, abolition of the current version of the criminal justice system. You know, a reckoning with America`s history in a sort of really, really like, true deep way. Where have those projects gone you think in the last year?
ADAM SERWER, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I think, you know, one lesson we probably should have learned from the Obama presidency is that every prominent example of racial progress contains a backlash. That was true after reconstruction. It was true after the Civil Rights Movement. It was true after Obama. And I think it`s, you know, probably happening now.
We had a moment of enlightenment and history says that these moments are profound and things can really change. But then there`s a backlash where people retrench, where people -- you know, the established hierarchy seeks to reassert itself.
Now, that said, I think, you know, in some ways, some of these changes that have happened in people`s consciousness as a result of the aftermath of the Floyd protests, you know, they may not be as vulnerable as people think. I mean, we`ve seen in some cases, you know, people like Larry Krasner won their elections. The backlash to criminal justice reform efforts hasn`t quite been as broad as maybe you might have assumed based on that history.
I mean, you could still -- you still have, you know, Republicans or Democrats on the table as far as the George Floyd and policing act. But another reason why this is hard to measure is that so many of these fights are really local, when it comes to law enforcement, you know, that it takes some time to really see the results of what activists on the ground are pursuing. And so, you know, it`s hard to say one way or the other.
But we do know that there has been a backlash. There`s always a backlash. It`s just the way public opinion works. And I think it`s a little too early to assess what that means for these reform efforts and for this moment.
HAYES: Yes, that point about the two things that to me that have really been enduring. One, the sort of hot breath of reaction, sort of breathing down everyone`s necks so you could feel, right? I mean, you felt it obviously then, but you can feel it now just in some parts of the discourse, particularly. But also the consciousness change, Jemele, that you`re saying, like in the case of athletes.
But a lot of people, like, there was -- people had real moments of their consciousness being shifted. And that I think, applies folks of different races and ages and from different life experiences where something did change that has carried with them in what the work they`re doing or what they`re trying to achieve or how they see this country in the world.
HILL: Yes. I think that`s definitely true. There was a seismic shift, and just how we had conversations about race, and I think that`s still the case. And even though we`re seeing other very dangerous examples, you know, with all this nonsense conversation around critical race theory, and obviously what happened to fellow journalists, Nikole Hannah Jones at the University of North Carolina, we`re seeing these dangerous examples of there being an assault on truth. But we`re also seeing a great amount of resistance to these things.
And I think that that`s the part that has been probably encouraging about the last year is that while you certainly have people who needed to be drugged into the conversation, people left the conversation, but I still -- I still sense that very earnest sense of purpose that a lot of people have, and have seen it a lot in sports in particular and other avenues where I still think that there`s a lot of people willing to fight.
HAYES: Yes, Adam, the -- Jemele`s point about Nikole Hannah Jones who was - - whose faculty voted to give her tenure based on her tenure package, the UNC. Then that was blocked by higher-ups, apparently, because of folks that didn`t want her to get that. And, you know, she has been very targeted by the right for her -- for her reporting and the work she`s done.
But your point about the sites of this stuff is always contested. Like it`s never -- no one ever -- there`s never some supreme victory there about what the history say of race in America means or the structures of racial hierarchy are.
SERWER: Yes. I mean, look, how you understand your past shapes how you understand your present. And education has long been a battleground in the sense. I mean, you can go back to the 60s and John Hope Franklin trying to write school textbooks and there being a huge reaction, specifically to his inclusion of black history in a non-racist, non-paternalistic way.
And here, you know, it is -- it is fine to argue about history. It is fine to criticize each other`s interpretations of history. I think what`s dangerous about this particular example with Nikole Hannah Jones is what you`re starting to see is that the right regards what it refers to is critical race theory, but what can really be described as any in-depth examination of the role of racism in American history, you know, from a Black perspective as so dangerous that it needs to engage in state censorship to suppress it. And I think that`s a real problem.
HAYES: Jemele Hill and Adam Serwer, thank you so much for coming on tonight. That is ALL IN on this Tuesday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.