Criminal tax investigation puts pressure on former President Trump`s CFO Allen Weisselberg. The Manhattan District Attorney has convened a special grand jury that is now expected to decide whether to indict former President Donald Trump, his associate, or his business should prosecutors present the panel with criminal charges. A Proud Boy says he voted in the censure of Nevada Secretary of State. Republicans are expected to filibuster the January 6 Commission to investigate the Capitol attack. President Biden orders intelligence report on COVID origins in 90 days.
MONA HARDIN, MOTHER OF RONALD GREENE: I always have hope. I always have hope even at my worst times. My kids are like world, mom would always say.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Yes.
HARDIN: I have to hold on to that.
REID: Yes, absolutely.
REID: Well, we wish you deepest condolences, ma`am. Thank you for your time. Mona Hardin and S. Lee Merritt, thank you both.
That`s tonight`s REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice over): Tonight on ALL IN. Is indicted a former head of state really that rare? Tonight more details on the Trump grand jury in New York and a reminder the criminal precedents are indeed a thing.
GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our long national nightmare is over.
HAYES: Then new reporting on the undermining of democracy in Arizona and beyond. And did a member of the Proud Boys really participate in the censure of a Nevada election official? I`ll ask Jon Ralston.
Plus, on the eve of the big Senate vote on a January 6 Commission, the two Democrats holding up the investigation. And today`s remarkable statement from the White House about the two theories of the COVID-19 origin story when ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. One true test of a nation`s legal system is whether it can actually dispense impartial justice to the most powerful people in the country. Often those people are former leaders facing charges for things they may have done before, during, or after they were in office. And across the world and all kinds of places and legal systems, they do successfully mete out justice to those people.
An example, right now in France, former President Nicolas Sarkozy is facing a year in jail for corruption. He has been convicted of trying to bribe a judge. Former Korean President Park Geun-hye is currently in prison serving a 20-year sentence for corruption and abuse of power. In 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted on three corruption charges. His trial is still ongoing. And in fact his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, served 16 months in prison after being convicted of bribery and obstruction of justice.
There`s, of course, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, perhaps the closest contemporary analogue to former President Donald Trump, was convicted of tax fraud in 2012. He received a four-year prison sentence which he did not actually end up having to serve. And yet, here in the United States, over more than 200 years of history, we have never tried or convicted a former president, not once. We have not tested our justice system in that way.
Some might argue, well, America, what a great country. That is American exceptionalism for you. We have just never really had a leader who is a criminal. I would point them to, I don`t know, then- Vice President Aaron Burr shooting and killing Alexander Hamilton in 1804 when dueling was definitely illegal in both New York and New Jersey.
We can also say maybe our justice system has not been up to the task. I mean, the closest we came, of course, was back in 1974 when it was basically understood that President Richard Nixon would be indicted after he left office for his role in the Watergate scandal among other crimes.
Then, just one month after taking office, his successor, President Gerald Ford, Nixon`s Vice President, the man who assumed at the White House having never actually been elected, right, made what turned out to be an extremely unpopular decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORD: After years of bitter controversy and divisive national debate, I have been advised, and I am compelled to conclude that many months, and perhaps more years will have to pass before Richard Nixon could obtain a fair trial by jury in any jurisdiction of the United States under governing decisions of the Supreme Court.
Therefore, I Gerald R. Ford, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article two, section two of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full free and absolute pardon on to Richard Nixon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was it. That was a moment. That`s basically Gerald Ford saying, no, no, no, that`s my dude. That`s my homie. He`s a Republican president. It won`t be fair. He won`t get a fair trial if we try him now. So, he gets to get off. A lot of people argued at the time that Ford`s pardoning of Nixon was an inflection point for the ability of the American justice system to apply accountability to those who are in the highest offices.
And 30 years later, we saw literal war crimes committed under the Bush administration in the war on terror. Torture ordered and applied and no one was ever prosecuted. And so, that is where we find ourselves one day after this report from the Washington Post, revealing the Manhattan District Attorney, an ordinary, almost mundane dispenser of justice, right, has convened a special grand jury, a panel of ordinary American citizens that is now expected to decide whether to indict former President Donald Trump, other executives at his company, or the business itself should prosecutors present the panel with criminal charges.
Today, we are seeing the ripple effects of that report. A Trump adviser telling Politico "There`s definitely a cloud of nerves in the air." That advisor added, "The Manhattan DA`s case feels different than the typical barrage of legal issues surrounding Trump because there`s pressure on the Trump organization`s Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg to flip."
"I think the Weisselberg involvement and the wildcard of that makes a particular situation more real, because there`s no sort of fluff and made- up fictional circumstances around the guy. The fact that they`re dealing with a numbers guy who just has plain details makes people more nervous."
Now, Weisselberg who is also under criminal investigation by the New York Attorney General -- Attorney General`s office, in connection with his personal taxes, is now at the center of it all. He`s under pressure and he knows if the reporting is accurate and many people`s statements to this fact are accurate. He knows everything about the Trump Organization`s finances. And so will he turn? Will he turn on his former boss, the twice impeached ex-president?
Jane Mayer, Chief Washington Correspondent of the New Yorker, wrote a definitive piece on that question this month, and she joins me now. You know, Jane, when this news broke yesterday, I remember the last conversation we had after your article came out and I remember talking to you from this very set where I said, one to 10, how serious is this? And you said, really quite serious. You appear to have been correct.
JANE MAYER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Well, it`s not entirely unexpected if you have been in touch with people close to the DA`s office in Manhattan. But at the same time, it is very momentous, since as you said in this country, we haven`t had a president who has been charged with a crime. And we don`t know that we will have one here. Just because there`s a grand jury that`s been impaneled, it doesn`t mean that they will bring charges against former President Trump.
But it`s certainly, if I were he, I would be very nervous about this. I mean, I think it has this sort of feeling of like, of the quicksand getting thicker.
MAYER: And, you know -- and so, it`s certainly the next serious step in this thing. And it was interesting to me that the grand jury is -- that has been impaneled is supposed to be impaneled for the next six months, which is basically the stretch of time during which the current DA in Manhattan, Cy Vance expects to serve out his term.
And I think he wants to be the one who makes the decision about whether to bring charges. So, this is going to overlap perfectly with his tenure.
HAYES: Now, let`s talk about -- to me, the black box here is Weisselberg because there has been -- you reported quite a bit in your story about him. It`s been clear that there are -- you know, prosecutors have been looking into him, they`ve been looking into to some transactions around his family, presumably in an effort to get him to cooperate. That`s how these cases are often made.
I want to play a little bit of Michael Cohen talking about the centrality of Weisselberg to the operation that maybe you can tell us what your own reporting indicates. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: In the office with me was Allen Weisselberg, the Chief Financial Officer of the Trump Organization.
I was at the time with Allen Weisselberg. The bottom signature, I believe is Allen Weisselberg`s.
Allen Weisselberg, Allen Weisselberg, Allen Weisselberg, oh, it`s Allen Weisselberg on the check.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there other people that we should be meeting with?
COHEN: So, Allen Weisselberg.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Always Allen Weisselberg on the check. How and how important is he and how make or break, I guess is my question, is his cooperation do you think?
MAYER: Well, I mean, I think it`s probably incredibly important. He knows where -- you know, he knows the numbers. He knows it whether -- I mean, if this is a fraud case, one of the most difficult things about bringing a fraud case is the prosecutors have to prove a guilt that that there was intentionality to commit a crime. And the person who would know that would be the numbers man, the chief financial officer who dealt with Trump who could say I told him, he knew what he was doing, and he did it with his eyes wide open.
Because otherwise, Trump is going to say, I had no idea. My accountants just did this. I paid them a lot and it`s their fault. So, he`s very important in parsing that.
HAYES: There`s also this question of sequencing to me, right, in terms of you know, what we saw happen with Michael Cohen, for instance, was Cohen was indicted. He was searched and then he was indicted. And after he`s indicted, he was defiant. He was -- he was not going to betray Mr. Trump, and then he did. He cooperated.
You know, we don`t have any word about Weisselberg`s status. We don`t know if the man has, you know, committed any crimes. I should be very clear. I have no idea if he has. But in terms of the sequencing, do you think that`s noteworthy or not?
MAYER: Well, yes. I mean, I think he`s very much -- he is being put in a vise. There`s so much pressure on this man. He has two sons who`ve also worked for the Trump Organization or near and one of them directly for it and the other in a company that`s provided loans to the Trump Organization.
And so his sons, his whole family is in this soup. And the people who know Weisselberg, Cohen and Weisselberg`s former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg have said, you know, he`s not going to let his boys go to jail, and he`s not going to really want to go to jail himself to protect Donald Trump. Yet, this is a man who`s been made by Donald Trump and he`s been incredibly loyal to Donald Trump. So, he is an incredibly tough spot and huge amounts of pressure being put on him clearly.
HAYES: Jane Mayer, writer for The New Yorker. Go back and check out if you have not read that piece on Cy Vance`s investigation. Thanks so much.
MAYER: Thank you.
HAYES: I want to bring in Adam Miller who served as Deputy Bureau Chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau in the Manhattan District Attorney`s Office, same office that`s investigating Donald Trump and now convene the grand jury.
And Adam, I wanted to talk to you because of your experience specifically. You know, I think big white collar cases I`ve covered before have emanated out of U.S. Attorney`s Office, federal prosecutors more often. You know, something like Enron, for instance, which is a sort of big example.
But these are -- talk to us a little bit about the process and the difficulty. These are, my understanding, can be hard cases to make.
ADAM MILLER, FORMER DEPUTY BUREAU CHIEF, MAJOR ECONOMIC CRIME BUREAU, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY`S OFFICE: Sure, and the Manhattan DA`s office has a proud history of bringing large, complex financial crime cases. So, while in other jurisdictions, it may be more of the bailiwick of the federal prosecutors dating back several years. The Manhattan District Attorney`s Office has taken on cases of extraordinary proportion.
And that being said, they`re very, very complicated, but the DA`s office has a unit which is exclusively looks into economic crimes, and there was one obviously major economic crimes. And it seems that this investigation would fall within that bailiwick.
HAYES: What is the process of, in your experience, of these sorts of cases before a grand jury, right, before you`re actually either recommending charges or not when you`re just be bringing witnesses before a grand jury to get them on the record and under oath?
MILLER: Well, what`s very interesting about the state system grand jury is that witnesses that are called to give actual testimony get immunity. So, the district attorney`s office in any major white collar criminal prosecution or investigation is extremely careful about who they put into the grand jury because they are immunizing that person unless that person is just a record keeper and is going to authenticate the books and records of an institution.
So, unlike the federal system, in the state system, you are conferring immunity on someone if they are testifying there under subpoena. So, they`re very careful about who they immunized and how they gather their evidence in that way. The preference, generally, is to speak outside the grand jury and find out what the witnesses have to give.
But some witnesses will not speak outside the grand jury. And so then, the DA`s office is left with a very difficult decision of, do I put this person in the grand jury and thus confer immunity?
HAYES: That`s fascinating. I had -- I actually had not encountered that wrinkle before. What is the -- walk me through the process or the meetings in that office about making a decision about whether to request charges from our grand jury?
MILLER: Sure. So prior to even going in the grand jury, probably, the DA`s office has already written out what they believe would be contained in the indictment. And the grand jury is just going to flesh out that evidence. Very rarely are they going into the grand jury without an idea of what the indictment is going to look like, and what charges they`re going to bring.
Now, there may be witnesses that have refused to speak to them that speak in the grand jury and, you know, quite frankly undermine a charge or enhance a charge. But before the grand jury, they basically know, are they going to be charging falsification of business records, are they going to be charging a theory of larceny? Does the Martin Act apply?
And they have thought of what charges apply and generally what evidence will be presented to support those charges before going into a grand jury.
HAYES: How much in your experience -- again, I`m just asking you to speak from your experience as someone who worked -- you know, making these kinds of cases in this specific office, right? This is independent of what the facts may be here. But in your experience, you know, this question of A, the complexity and what you can sort of communicate to a jury seems like one issue always. And then the second is this question of intent people spoken about, right?
So, there are -- if there are complex financial instruments, if there`s money moving around certain ways, there`s money that`s unpaid that say in taxes or something like that, the difference between some civil infraction like oops, and fraud or theft, right, is intent. And how much -- how do you go about establishing that?
MILLER: Sure. It`s paramount, the intent. It`s what does the individual that is under investigation have to gain, generally speaking. Are they falsifying this business record for a reason? You know, what is that reason? Is it to mark down an asset? Is it to inflate an asset? Is it to have shareholders believe that the company has more in its coffers than it does?
So, you`re looking as to whether or not this is a, you know, a mistake, it`s a -- or a accounting principle that could be questionable, but not criminal, or whether there`s real criminal intent here. Essentially, am I trying to fool someone?
HAYES: Adam Miller who worked in the Manhattan District Attorney`s Office, thank you so much for making time and sharing your expertise and I got a lot out of that.
MILLER: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: All right, tonight, the rot of the sham Arizona edit audit is spreading. The latest efforts to undermine the election now in Wisconsin, plus, Nevada punishes their Secretary of State for saying the election wasn`t stolen. But now, the Republicans in that state have a Proud Boy problem. Jon Ralston is here to explain next.
HAYES: -- covered on this show the place to watch, the anti-democratic vanguard of the American right is in state Republican parties and Republican held state legislatures. Well, today, the Republican Speaker of the House in Wisconsin announced he`s hired retired police officers to "investigate the 2020 election." And those investigators will have "a broad mandate to spend about three months reviewing all tips and will have subpoena power."
It`s the latest and trend of local Republicans starting investigations in order to cast doubt in the 2020 election results, to backfill the facts to fit the big lie about it being stolen when it wasn`t. And in Arizona, that farcical and dangerous audit is once again underway after a pause to allow previously scheduled high school graduations in the audit space.
And the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee just stripped the Democratic secretary of state of any role in elections related litigation. They pass those powers on the state`s Republican Attorney General for the remainder of her term.
Next door in Nevada, the local Republican Party censured their own Republican Secretary of State for not finding any evidence of widespread voter fraud. And the censure vote happened at a Republican Party meeting last month. And we have now learned that an avowed member of the far-right, street-brawling group the Proud Boys was invited to that Republican Party meeting and help cast the deciding votes to censure the Secretary of State.
As always, we need to make sense of what is happening in Nevada politics, I want to bring an MSNBC Political Analyst Jon Ralston, the editor of the Nevada Independent. Thank you for being here, Jon. All right, let`s -- walk me through the chain of events here. You`ve got a Republican state elected leader, a state -- a Secretary of State who somewhat like Brad Raffensperger in a sort of less vocal terms vouch for the integrity of an election that was actually free and fair and got flack for it. Is that right?
JON RALSTON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That`s an understatement, Chris. She was sued several times, she was vilified by Republicans that they had before -- right after the election, Trump sent Rick Grinnell and Matt Schlapp out here with the former Attorney General Adam Laxalt to spread all kinds of lies about voter fraud. And Barbara Cegavske who is, as you mentioned, the only statewide elected Republican in Nevada, stood up to them as she was under immense pressure, of course, as the overseer of the elections to do something.
And the person who was standing next to all of these folks throughout this was the chairman of the state Republican Party -- I`m trying to bring this to what`s going on now, Chris, Michael McDonald, who is the person who has been accused by the local Clark County party of allowing these Proud Boys into the Republican meeting. And they are now boasting, although it is not clear to me that their votes are true that they were the decisive votes in censoring Cegavske.
By the way, Chris, that vote was very close. It was a, I believe, 126 to 112. It almost didn`t pass. And that`s another reason I think that the Proud Boys are boasting that they were the decisive --
HAYES: Right. So, the Republican state party under the leadership of Michael McDonald convenes a meeting in which they consider a censure resolution directed. And we`ve seen this in state party after state party, right? State parties censuring Republican officials who did not overturn democracy and overturn the will of voters, right?
So, in Nevada, you`ve got this one where Michael McDonald convenes. It`s a close vote. So, it`s not like the party is sort of split on this. And the information we have now is that this individual, Matt Anthony -- and I want to sort of read a quote of his. Most of the average people out here are starving for some kind of old school tactics that used to go down in this city, because that`s what we need right now. We need toughness, we don`t need keyboard warriors.
We should note that Proud Boys have involved in physical assaults in a number of places. That guy and his maybe associates were actually at that meeting and the question is, who invited them there?
RALSTON: That is the question. And McDonald denies having anything to do with it. But as you mentioned, these guys as the Proud Boys are everywhere, are creeps and thugs and they always want to act like the other the big man on campus. And so again, Chris, they may be boasting of this.
RALSTON: This is also -- you know, there are many layers to this. The reason that that vote was so close is emblematic of what`s going on in this country inside the Republican Party where you have the adherence to Trump fighting with the people who say wait a second, let`s move beyond this. This is not a good brand for the Republican Party.
And yet the state Republican Party led by Michael McDonald, even after Biden was inaugurated, was still filing complaints with the Secretary of State, with Barbara Cegavske. They brought boxes of what they called evidence of 20,000 or so spoiled ballots and all this other nonsense which Cegavske, again, to her credit, Chris, took weeks to investigate, and then essentially came out and said, this is utter nonsense.
The state Republican Party is still pushing this. And part of what`s going on is there are people in the Republican Party, in the Clark County Party which is last Las Vegas, who want McDonald gone because they think he is going to prevent them and what they -- he is doing is going to prevent them from winning elections. And there are two very important elections in Nevada as you know next year, Chris, one for governor and one for U.S. Senate.
And the Republicans, the smart Republicans are very worried about all of this going on now. And a continuation of the Michael McDonald, Trump, Proud Boy influence on the party.
HAYES: Yes, this dynamic where you have the state party leader basically targeting for pressure, condemnation, censure, elected Republicans in office. This has been repeated in state after state after state. In Nevada, it`s one -- you know, you can get away with it a little more in a state like Texas, right, where you`re not -- you`re not in this sort of perilous position of really fighting over these three or four percentage point margins in statewide elections where Republicans have been close, but not going over the hump. But there`s a bigger cost to pay in your state.
RALSTON: There is a much bigger cost. And what I`d say to people and what a lot of people realize is that if Adam Laxalt of who I mentioned is the leader of the big lie campaign in this state, the former Attorney General, ran for governor. If he had been governor, a lot of different things might have happened if the Republicans had actually had any influence in Carson City in the legislature. This might have been a difference (AUDIO GAP) which is really frightening, Chris.
HAYES: That`s right. And Adam Laxalt, attorney -- former attorney general which syncs up perfectly with what we`re going to talk about next. John Ralston, as always, thank you.
All right, so to that point, I`m going to tell you a story about another attorney general. This one, the Attorney General of Indiana, and why his new job is the embodiment of the threat to American democracy right now. Stay with me. It`s a good one.
HAYES: All right, so there`s a new member of the leadership board of the Republican Attorneys General Association, otherwise known as RAGA, which may seem like a fairly minor bit of news. But it also says everything you need to know about where the Republican Party is right now, as well as the truly existential threats to American democracy that we continue day by day to face.
Now, state attorneys general are the top legal officers in their states. And they can propose legislation, they can enforce state and federal law, they can represent their state in local and federal courts. There`s a lot of latitude, a lot of power. After the 2020 election, a majority of the country`s Republican attorneys general played a really insidious role in attempting to overthrow the election results.
17 of the 25, all right, two-thirds, state attorneys general signed on to a completely meritless election lawsuit filed after the election that intended -- attempted to throw out all 20 million ballots in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia to overturn election Joe Biden won in order to install the loser Donald Trump over the winner, not to mention invalidating these other states votes.
I mean, can you imagine? Like as an attorney general suing to disenfranchise the citizens of another state because you don`t like who they voted for President? Now, this was just a different strategy for achieving the same goal as Donald Trump when he, you know, called and asked the Georgia Secretary of State to find the votes he needed to win. And it`s the same goal that the Trump mob wanted to achieve when it violently stormed the Capitol on January 6.
Now, the Republican Attorneys General Association is also sort of who`s who of up and coming Republican stars. You`ve got, for instance, Texas` Ken Paxton who started that lawsuit to disenfranchise more than 20 million Americans who voted away he didn`t want them to vote. And he was actually indicted on felony securities fraud charges nearly six years ago, but still has not gone to trial.
You`ve got Kentucky`s Daniel Cameron, who Mitch McConnell is reportedly trying to install as a successor. And in the 2020 election, the Republican attorneys general were the point of Trump`s spear. They were some of the most vocal, high profile Republican state leaders pushing, pushing, pushing to overturn the election, to parrot the big lie, right?
Well, now, the executive board of the Republican Attorneys General Association, RAGA`s board has a new member. His name is Todd Rokita. He is the Attorney General from Indiana. He`s going to fit right in. You see, Todd Rokita has made a journey not that different from a lot of Republicans including the new Republican Conference chair, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York. He was basically just like a classical Republican loyal soldier, all right. He was in charge of Indiana`s elections for years as Secretary of State before he got elected to Congress.
And in fact, in 2005 -- you want some continuity between the old and new Republican Party, Rokita help pass a state law requiring voters to show photo identification, which at the time was very controversial, one of the strictest voting laws in the country. In fact, it ended up going all the way to the Supreme Court.
In 2016, Rokita supported Senator Marco Rubio, (INAUDIBLE) Republican for the Republican presidential nomination. He called Donald Trump someone who is vulgar, if not profane, which is sort of humorous because like, yes, that`s true, but really the least of it. And then of course, Todd Rokita made the turn that almost every elected Republican has made, right. He went full MAGA.
Even though he`s not a part of the lawsuit to overturn the election, since he himself was just elected, right, he praised the lawsuit two days after the January 6 attack on the Capitol. After the attack, right? After we watched Trump invite the mob down to the Capitol, after he watched Donald Trump tweet about Mike Pence while the mob was ransacking and chanting hang Mike Pence. Two days after that, he tweeted I will always be for our President Donald Trump.
On Valentine`s Day, he tweeted a meme reading, "You stole my heart like a 2020 election," featuring a big picture of dear leader. It`s so funny. And then in March, Todd Rokita testified against the Senate voter access bill arguing that the 2020 election had undermined people`s faith in the system.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD ROKITA, ATTORNEY GENERAL, INDIANA: And all this resulted in shaking confidence in our electoral system and a profound unease, if not outright this trust about the results. Americans saw mountains of mail-in ballots being processed and cavernous central count processing centers, tens of millions of mail-in ballots overloading the processing capacity of a system in many states, turning the tabulation of those into weeks` long process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Mountains of ballots are being tabulated. So, clearly, something is up, right? This is the cowardly bad faith that these people do, the way these people do this, right? So, as a reward for all this, Todd Rokita has now want a leadership position in the Republican Attorneys General Association, the vanguard of an increasingly anti-democratic Republican Party where he will fit in perfectly.
And because the secretary is a state whose directly supervise the elections held the line, by and large, defended our democracy across party lines in ways attorneys general did not, guess what? Now, Republican state legislators are looking to move power away from that office. So, in Georgia, right, the voting restriction bill that was passed in March explicitly took power away from Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after he famously stood up to Trump.
And as we just mentioned earlier, in Arizona, Republican state legislators stripped Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, of her ability to defend election lawsuits. And it gave the power to who? Well, exclusively to the Attorney General, a Republican.
We are watching essentially a slow motion insurrection being carried out by Republicans in suits and ties and states all across the country. They are putting the pieces in place to do in the next elections what the mob failed to do on January 6.
HAYES: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has started the process of forming a vote on the -- forcing vote on the establishment of a commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Now, that vote could come as early as tomorrow. But here`s the thing. If you watch the show, you know this, right? It`s not going to go through reconciliation. It`s filibusterable, which means it needs 10 Republican senators to sign on or it is dead in the water.
And as it stands now, there are fewer Republican senators on board with this commission than voted to convict Donald Trump in his second impeachment. The thing is, if Democrats eliminated the filibuster, they wouldn`t need any Republican votes to pass a bill to investigate an attack on our democracy. But you might remember this too. Two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have already said publicly, they are against removing the filibuster and they are holding line.
You remember when the new majority -- Democratic majority was trying to begin implementing their agenda back in January and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell refused to let anything move forward until Manchin and Sinema promised they would not vote to kill the filibuster, right, public assurances that they won`t do that.
So, now, those two senators are begging Republicans to provide enough votes to get them over the filibuster on this commission bill which perfectly exposes the rot of the whole problem of the filibuster and bipartisan compromise. The compromisers now saying please throw us a bone here. How are we going to explain to people we need to keep the filibuster if you filibuster the January 6 Commission.
Adam Jentleson knows the filibuster`s ability to sync an agenda as well as anyone. He`s the former deputy chief of staff to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, the author of The Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy, which we talked about on my podcast, Why Is This Happening? You should check that out. And he joins me now.
Adam, I thought of you when I saw this headline, right, because, you know, again, I don`t want to psychologize Manchin or Sinema. Whatever their reason is for hewing to this, they`re hewing to it, right? They want to keep the filibuster. But then begging to be like, you got to give us the votes to get this thing over is such a perfect iron.
ADAM JENTLESON, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER HARRY REID: That`s right. And I think you know, the big question that none of us know the answer to but we`re all waiting with bated breath to find out, is are they hewing to this position? Where they are going to defend the filibuster come hell or high water, or are they building a record that will allow them to provide a rationale for shifting their position down the road, or is it somewhere in between? And maybe they don`t know which one it is yet, which I think is probably the most likely answer.
I think that Manchin and Sinema would love nothing more than for 10 Republicans to come forward and give them the votes to move forward with this bill. And that, you know, that combined with maybe getting some cooperation on voting rights, you know, might be the end of filibuster reform because they will be able to show that there was bipartisanship.
But if there isn`t any bipartisanship on these critical issues, then I think they face a really difficult choice which is whether to give up on these issues that they care about or find a way to move towards some version of reform.
HAYES: Well, and I think there`s this interesting -- you have this counterintuitive take on this that I`ve thought about a lot about the filibuster actually hurts bipartisan compromise rather than helps it because if something`s going to pass, there`s more incentive to get in there and try to affect the final project. And we`ve seen this with a whole bunch of these Omnibus spending bills that no one pays that much attention to. I mean, they do on the Capitol Hill, but not in like the day to day press where they pass by pretty bipartisan majorities. And they are -- they do have some of that, you know, sausage making horse trading flavor, right, that there`s some deals that are struck.
You`ve got Collins now saying that she wants to propose these changes to the commission basically on staffing and to wind it down 30 days earlier. And it seems to me like OK, well, these are fine commissions. But again, it`s all a question of like, are there 10 votes or not?
JENTLESON: Right, right. And this is -- you know, we`re seeing how the filibuster stifles bipartisanship right before our eyes, right. If this was a majority vote situation, this bill would come to the floor this week. And it would pass on a bipartisan basis because you would probably get to vote of a few Republicans Collins, Romney, and Murkowski. The filibuster is stifling bipartisanship because of this arbitrary threshold of 60 votes, you could get three or four Republicans but you`re not going to get 10.
And the thing is, this is how the Senate used to work. This idea that it takes 60 votes is a recent phenomenon. It`s something that is only developed in recent decades. For more than 200 years, the Senate was a majority rule body. And so, things that got, you know, large super majorities like Medicare and Social Security, they didn`t have to clear a supermajority requirement. They were actually fought tooth and nail until they were able to secure a majority.
There`s a famous memo -- famous to people like me, memo from LBJ`s top legislative aide to LBJ congratulating him and saying that he was assured that Medicare would pass because he was able to count more than a majority for support on Medicare in the Senate. Of course, Medicare eventually passed with about 70 votes. But that was because once it was clear that it could secure a majority, a bunch of people jumped on board for the reasons that you said, because they wanted to affect the outcome, or they just wanted to take credit for something that was going to be popular.
So, you know, fighting tooth and nail until it gets to secure a majority was the way the Senate used to work and I think is the way it should go back to work.
HAYES: Yes, such a good point that right now, without the filibuster, you would have a bipartisan majority, Democrats and Republicans coming together to have a commission. And instead, what you have is a party line minority that will block it, right? So, it`s -- the bipartisanship is being killed here. What do you -- what do you think about the status of these negotiations happening on the reconciliation track on the big jobs plan which is the, you know, next big -- really big agenda item for the -- for the agenda and doesn`t need to go through the filibuster because it is in this reconciliation channel with a majority vote?
JENTLESON: Well, it seems like the infrastructure bill probably is going to be able to pass mostly through reconciliation, so it won`t -- so we`ll be able to bypass the filibuster and pass on a majority vote because of the reconciliation rules.
Listen, if I had to predict it now, I would say I think it`s unlikely that it is going to get 60 votes. So, I think reconciliation will have to be the way it goes if it`s going to pass it all. But you never know. But you know, what I keep coming back to is that there are larger structural forces at work here that are causing Republicans to not want to deal with Democrats.
It`s not that, you know, left to their own devices, they wouldn`t want to cut a deal with Democrats on infrastructure spending, which is probably popular in their states. The fact is they want to deny Democrats victories.
JENTLESON: They want Biden to fail just like they want (INAUDIBLE) Biden to fail because they want -- that makes it easier for them to take back the majority in 2022.
HAYES: Yes. I mean, the thing I would say here, no one cares about process. No one cares about process. In either direction, people care about whether the lives are better, do whatever, we`ll get you the substantive best policy you can get whichever way you got to go. That`s the way to do it. Adam Jentleson, thank you very much. All right, next, a really remarkable statement about the two theories behind the origin of COVID-19 and why investigating every single aspect of the pandemic, its origin, and our response is so important, after this.
HAYES: The Biden administration has just joined the growing number of credible voices calling for a full investigation into whether the coronavirus pandemic was in fact the result of human error at a lab in Wuhan, China. In a rather remarkable statement today on the origins of the virus, the President said the U.S. Intelligence Community has "coalesced around two likely scenarios, but has not reached a definitive conclusion on whether it merged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident."
Biden also added, "He wants another report in 90 days on that question." Now, where the Coronavirus came from is one of many things that really should be investigated about the pandemic, the response to it, like, why was the testing botched by the CDC so early? Why was the mask guidance so bad in the beginning and so confusing? Why did it keep changing? Why did the CDC keep clinging on to the idea the virus was transmitted primarily by direct contact from surfaces or large droplets instead of airborne spread. Why did they changed their position on that until this month?
Those questions will hopefully be answered by the investigation currently underway in the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus crisis. But there were a lot of mistakes that were made up and down from our government across the board. Most of them, the most serious ones, the most cruel and sadistic and reckless ones were by Donald Trump and his administration, but not limited to that. So, I for one want a full audit.
Dr. Ashish Jha is Dean of Brown University School of Public Health and Zerlina Maxwell is host of her own news programs, Zerrlina on Peacock, and they both join me now. Dr. Jha, let me start with you just on this sort of question of getting our arms around what`s happened because I do worry. I can feel the pull of memory-holing this whole thing.
I can feel myself. Like, I get why no one talked about the flu after 1918. Let`s just -- let`s pretend that never happened. I get that. But that would be incredibly dangerous. And Donald Trump was so singularly horrible and acted in such a malevolent fashion. He blocked out other things that happen that we should also get to the bottom to, and I think that there`s a lot of accounting to be done. What do you think?
ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, absolutely, Chris. So, first of all, thanks for having me back. I think there are two key issues here that you highlight. One is anytime you`ve gone through a horrible trauma like our country has, the last thing you want to do is think about it some more. Yyou want to put it behind you. And that`s fine. I get that notion. But as a nation, we cannot put this behind us. We have to learn.
And the second is we`re tempted to blame Donald Trump. And let`s be very honest and clear. The Trump administration really, really botched this, but our federal agencies failed, the federal state structure failed. A lot of things went wrong. We`ve got to fix those things. We`re still seeing the remnants of that even under the Biden administration.
We`ve got to -- we`ve got to get a 9/11-like commission to do a deep dive into this and really understand all the things that went wrong and what we need to fix.
HAYES: Yes, that thing you just said, you know, which connects to this fight we`re having Zerlina over the January 6 Commission. I keep thinking like, we should -- I don`t know if the Commission is the right vehicle, but there needs to be some real full audit of this as well.
JHA: Yes, absolutely.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right, because this is the one --
JHA: I`m sorry. Go ahead.
MAXWELL: Oh, sorry.
HAYES: You go ahead, Zerlina.
MAXWELL: No, this is a once in a generation pandemic. And so, you`re in a moment where you have Donald Trump politicizing and essentially corrupting the information flow of scientific information from the beginning. And now, you`re in a place where essentially opening the door to saying maybe the Wuhan theory with some caveats has merit, or at least should be seriously looked at.
And you don`t want to seem like you`re aligning yourself with Donald Trump who nicknamed this virus something racist. And so, I think, you know, he conflated sort of the bio weapon theory with the lab accident theory, if you will. And I think what -- at the end of the day, people just didn`t want to seem aligned with the man who told everybody on TV to inject bleach.
HAYES: Yes. And I think you`re -- when you say, infect, I mean, in some ways, the information stream was so polluted from the beginning that was -- that it was very, very difficult to make judgment. I mean, hydroxychloroquine is a great example. It`s like, I don`t know, maybe the malaria drug works. I`m not running any clinical trials. Like, I hope it does. I just -- but everything that is being channeled through this fog of disinformation is going corrupt our ability to perform judgments on it, Dr. Jha.
JHA: Yes, absolutely. And that`s the hardest part of our job in front of us is to look through that fog and look at what is -- what is right not. There are things that Trump administration got right for instance. I think they got a lot of Operation Warp Speed and building the vaccines, right. The problem is, if we look at this in an excessively kind of political way, we`re going to be stuck. And what we want to do is really understand what went right what went wrong and then move forward building a federal system that can respond to future pandemics like this.
HAYES: The other aspect of this that -- among many, Zerlina, that I think merits real focus and has been throughout coverage is just the disparities and who got hurt by this and particularly racial disparities. We`re seeing those play out now even as we -- as we get into vaccination. This is chards on black residents in D.C. are now accounting for more than 80 percent of COVID cases in the district. And you can see that divergence happening there. And that`s a divergence born of divergent vaccination which just re- inscribe the divergence as we saw in earlier parts of the pandemic.
MAXWELL: Yes, Chris. And one of the things that I think is so important to understand is that those comorbidities that, you know, doctors like Dr. Jha were laying out as this virus was coming to the United States, and everybody was sort of trying to wrap their heads around what it meant for them, you know, the existence of those comorbidities is the result of the same systemic issues that we talked about in other contexts.
So, poverty, lack of education, lack of health care, lack of access to healthy food. If you live in a food desert, your -- you know, your heart is likely not going to be quite as healthy as somebody who has access to organic fruit and vegetables every single day. And so, I just think that it`s important for us to look at those systems very closely because that`s a piece of it too even with the vaccine, which is a miracle of science, by the way. You can`t get the shots in the arms, unless you have all of the pieces together and you want to make sure that everybody has that correct scientific information from the beginning, so that by the time you get to the vaccine, it`s not too hard to convince them to take it.
HAYES: And finally, and quickly here. You know, there`s things we did wrong and things we`ve done right, right? So, on the vaccine front, like it is a miracle to Zerlina`s point. I love this headline of Ohio when you know Mike DeWine had the Ohio lottery. And I was kind of like, look at that. And then the numbers say that boosted 45 percent. Like, there`s good lessons to draw here too, Dr. Jha.
JHA: Absolutely. And at this point, we just need to get people vaccinated. We got to get information to them. We got to make it easier. And if it`s lotteries and beer and doughnuts, I`m all in. Like, whatever is going to get Americans vaccinated, that`s what we need to be doing right now.
HAYES: Yes. I saw some stats today that the new MTA subway program in New York City has got 11,000 shots in arms which again, go to where people are. Dr. Ashish Jha, Zerlina Maxwell, thank you for making time tonight.
That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.