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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, 6/15/21

Guests: Jackie Speier, Stuart Stevens, Ryan Goodman, Rebecca Roiphe, Nikole Hannah Jones


A new trove of documents unearthed by the House Oversight Committee proves that the former President repeatedly attempted to pressure the Department of Justice to overturn the election results. "The New York Times" is reporting the Manhattan District Attorney`s Office appears to have entered the final stages of a criminal tax investigation into Allen Weisselberg. Texas is once again facing power crisis this summer. Critical race theory was spoken on Fox News over the last few months 1,300 times. Republicans in 20-plus states seek ban on teaching systemic racism.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Well, the public, I believe, is. But I am now in the -- in the next show. I have to go and let Chris Hayes do his show. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, thank you so much.

That is tonight`s REIDOUT. Go watch Chris Hayes.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice over): Tonight on ALL IN. The Trump plot to steal the election was worse than we even knew.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One DOJ official call the conspiracy theories pushed by the White House "pure insanity."

HAYES: Tonight, the stunning email from the White House pressing the Department of Justice to help steal the election.

Then, the Manhattan DA turns up the pressure on Donald Trump`s money man. The New York Times reporting on the final stages of the Weisselberg investigation.

Plus, incredible new reporting on the moral panic machine scaring school boards across America, and Nikole Hannah Jones and the history behind it all.

And while you may see a summer sequel to the airport run of Senator Ted Cruz when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. I know my own name. I have said it before, and I`m sure I will say it again. It was not for lack of trying that Donald Trump did not steal the election. The reason that the will of the American people was respected that we had a transition of power, albeit not a peaceful one, was because of a combination of a few islands of integrity officials and judges and folks like that, some dumb luck, and the incompetence of the faction attempting to sabotage American democracy.

We have more evidence of this today. But it`s just the latest example. It has been clear since last November Donald Trump would bully, badger, intimidate anyone he could in an attempt to install himself in essentially an auto coup. We heard his phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger when he said, I just want to find 11,780 votes which is one more than we have because we won the state.

We later found out that was Trump`s second call to a Georgia elections official. He also phoned the chief investigator of the Secretary of State`s office telling her something bad happened. When the right answer comes out, you`ll be praised. He called Republican members of the Wayne County Michigan Board of canvassers, remember that, after they initially refused to certify the election results in the county with the largest population of Black residents in the state. He even summon the Republican leaders of Michigan State Legislature to the White House but not -- to convinced them to change the outcome of the election in their state.

And as a former president was doing all this, to try to overturn the election, it was fair to assume he was also probably trying to use one of the most powerful tools at his disposal, the Department of Justice. There are few, well, sort of obvious, but I`d say circumstantial clues at the time, right?

First, remember that Attorney General William Barr just left abruptly, announced on December 14th and effective December 23rd, which seemed really strange and suspicious because who leaves with one month left on the job? And it of course prompted the question, what was Trump getting up to with Barr`s replacement, Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

In fact, Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia asked Rosen that very question recently at an oversight committee hearing.


REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): Prior to January 6, were you asked or instructed by President Trump to take any action at the Department to advance election fraud claims or to seek to overturn any part of the 2020 election results?

JEFFREY ROSEN, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: Well, Congressman, as I just alluded to in your prior question, I can tell you what the actions of the Department --

CONNOLLY: No, sir. No, sir. Mr. Rosen --

ROSEN: I cannot tell you, consistent with my obligations today about private conversations with the president, one way or the other.


HAYES: Oh, consistent obligations one way or the other. Now, at the time, this seemed like a tell. I mean, obviously, if the answer to that question is no, you just say no. Well, now we have a new trove of documents unearthed by the House Oversight Committee that prove the President did, of course, repeatedly attempt to pressure the Department of Justice to overturn the election results.

This is an e-mail sent from Trump`s assistant to incoming Acting Attorney General Rosen an hour before he announced Bill Barr will be stepping down, in case you`re wondering what the point of all this was, with the subject line: From POTUS. It contains talking points and a forensics report about entirely fictitious election fraud in Michigan, claiming "This is the evidence that Dominion voting machines can and are being manipulated, and Michigan cannot certify for Biden."

There are also e-mails from Trump`s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, who by the way, was instrumental in this attempted coup and should be a pariah everywhere he goes and should be seen as essentially a traitor to the country`s democratic principles. That man should be remembered henceforth pushing utterly deranged Infowars level conspiracy theories.

Meadows sent Rosen this e-mail on January 1 containing a link to a YouTube video about, wait for it, a theory that claimed Italians were using satellites to change the election results. Rosen forwarded that to his deputy who replied, and I would say accurately, "pure insanity."

Rosen wrote back. "Yes, after this message, I was asked to have FBI meet with Brad Johnson -- that would be a man pushing this conspiracy. I responded the Johnson could call or walk into FBI`s Washington field office with any evidence he purports to have. On a follow-up call, I learned that Johnson is working with Rudy Giuliani who regarded my comments as an insult. Asked if I would reconsider, I flatly refused and said I would not be giving any special treatment to Giuliani or any of his "witnesses" and reaffirm yet again, I will not talk to Giuliani about any of this."

So, when you read these e-mails, and there`s a bunch of them, OK, they bring, I would say additional clarity. But what was already pretty clear, I mean, we watched it happen, right, Donald Trump and his allies, people like Mark Meadows, for example, again, Mark Meadows, right, tried to overturn the election. They did everything in their power, and they failed because of how clumsy and vulgar and plotting the entire thing was.

I mean, obviously, the part of Justice cannot get behind a video that says Italians are using satellite technology to change votes. It`s too embarrassing. It`s too bonkers, OK. If you`re going to overturn an election, you need a more professionalized version, a laundered version of a plausible legal story to tell. And keep in mind, there were people working hard at that, like Republican Senators Josh Holley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, right, who led the charge of objections to the Electoral College results on January 6, voted against them after the mob had stormed the Capitol.

And of course, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who filed a case to the Supreme Court to block the certification of the electoral results in other states. Not because the Italians were switching votes via satellite, right? This became a Republican tactic across the board, taking the cringe- inducing insanity of President Trump`s conspiracy-mongering and then trying to turn it to some kind of plausible constitutional theory they could use.

Oh, the states changed their voting laws. Too late. And the Constitution says that the state Supreme Court can`t do that. That`s why we`re objecting, not the satellite theory. Again, though, the aim was the same. All oars were rowing in the same direction, right, across the spectrum. Overturn a democratic election and spell the end of the American experiment as we know it.

I mean, that`s it. Put the loser in power over the winner in contravention of the popular will. That`s a coup. They were trying to drive a stake through the heart of this country. They just missed barely. They`re going to try again. All of these people are still out there. They`re still dressing up attempts to subvert democracy in legal arguments, using their Supreme Court clerkships, using plainly pretextual legislation to make it harder to vote in several states, attempting to take power away from key election officials who might stand in their way the next time they want to do this.

It`s the very essence of American democracy they`re trying to destroy. I know that sounds so dramatic, but it`s true. That`s the story. They were crying then in public and private using all the means at their disposal. They failed luckily. They are trying now. They will try again.

Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California is a member of the House Oversight Committee which released those documents today, also a member of the House Intelligence Committee, and she joins me now. Congresswoman --

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): Good to be with you.

HAYES: Great to have. You as someone on that committee who unearthed these documents, what was your sort of takeaway from them?

SPEIER: I was stunned when it became known that Parler, a conservative social media Web site contacted the FBI with e-mails 50 times. And those 50 e-mails never reached the director. One of those e-mails talks about Congress has to hear glass breaking and doors being kicked in and blood being shed. This is the time to get violent. We are at war.

Now, if Parler that is this conservative Web site thinks these are alarming and sends them to the FBI, and it doesn`t get elevated, then we`ve got a serious problem within the FBI in terms of assessing intelligence. The Capitol is a target. We need to recognize that. It was shown to be a target on January 6. We need to make sure that it can`t be done again.

HAYES: Just to reset, Parler, which is a sort of social media platform that is sort of bills itself as a kind of conservative antidote to big tech, and a place where a lot of the January 6 sort of insurrection participants and plotters took place, that you`re talking about documents that your committee got a hand up -- hold up today in your -- in your questioning of Christopher Wray, the head of the FBI, that show that they were freaked out, they were flagging things, and they were sending them to Wray?

SPEIER: Except they never got to Wray.

HAYES: Right, of course, the FBI.

SPEIER: So, the question becomes what happened to those agents who didn`t recognize that this was serious, and that it should be elevated? And I think we need to find out more.

HAYES: I want to talk about the Jeffrey Rosen e-mails that were released to the House Oversight Committee, the House Oversight Committee got its hands on. You know, what does it mean that the Acting Attorney General of the United States is being pressured by the president to investigate utterly, both fictitious and sort of frankly, insane conspiracy theories in pursuit of using the department`s power to do things like stopping states from certifying electors?

SPEIER: So, it`s very consistent with who Donald Trump is. We saw it with the Ukrainian president where he was going to withheld money that we had already authorized to be sent to the Ukraine because he wanted them to do an investigation of Hunter Biden. I mean, it`s always a quid pro quo with him. And in this case, he was threatening, I think, Jeffrey Rosen, in terms of whether or not he`d keep his job for one month, and was asking for yet another absurd review of the election.

And from my standpoint, if it`s more absurd, becomes more relevant to the Trump White House.

HAYES: The final question for you is about the next path of the January 6 Commission. There was, I guess, some thought that maybe the Senate would have another vote. They`re not going to. Today, the speaker talked about what the possible ways forward, either a special committee or we`re giving some committee jurisdiction, the task of an inquiry. Do you have a preference between those two?

SPEIER: I think it should be a select committee. And I think that we have to be clear-eyed about what our colleagues are interested in which is nothing. They don`t want to remember January 6. The video we saw today was bone-chilling. To see that kind of violence going on in the Capitol is something they want to erase.

But meanwhile, Benghazi, there was more than two years of hearings, there were 33 hearings, they spent $7 million, but somehow an attack here at home where we know by Director Wray`s own admission, domestic violence, violent -- domestic violence is a critical problem right now in this country. And we have to address it.

HAYES: Congresswoman Jackie Speier, thank you so much.

SPEIER: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: I want to bringing in Stuart Stevens, former chief strategist for Mitt Romney`s 2012 campaign, author of It Was All A Lie: How The Republican Party Became Donald Trump. And Ryan Goodman, former Special Counsel at the Department of Defense, now co-editor in chief of Just Security and professor at New York University Law School -- Law School.

Stewart, let me start with you. So, part of the thesis embedded with the monologue at the top of the show was basically that Trump was too vulgar and to kind of embarrassing in the way that he went about this plot to be effective. But that was really what it was. Like, Rosen and his deputy is saying, this is nuts. But it wasn`t that like there weren`t necessarily willing accomplices there. They just didn`t quite have the language to pull it off.

STUART STEVENS, FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST, MITT ROMNEY 2012 CAMPAIGN: Yes. I mean, I think the biggest mistake we would make is to think this is about Donald Trump.

HAYES: Right.

STEVENS: It`s not. It`s about the Republican Party. And look at what -- there`s 1tons of proof of that. What did they do right after the election? They went out and they pass these laws that give more power, in most cases, to the state legislatures, which are controlled by Republicans. So, when you don`t have consequences, and there were no consequences because Senate voted not to convict Donald Trump, this is just a practice.

And, you know, we talk a lot about 9/11 as a failure of imagination. And I struggle with this as someone who worked in the Republican Party for decades really, imagining what it has become. But it is a failure of imagination to think that Republican Party has not become powerful autocratic force in this country that it is, as you said, upfront, an opposition to the American experiment.

HAYES: Brian, it`s also, you know, at some level, again, a la Ukraine situation, right? Like, they didn`t quite get it done. The asks were kind of too -- again, they were almost too kind of, you know, gangster, right? Like, here`s a guy with a viral video saying the Italians are using satellites. Like, that`s not going to -- that doesn`t work, right? So, this -- that`s, that`s a tough one to sort of get buy in for.

But it also confirms that like, what was happening at DOJ was exactly what it looked like was happening to DOJ at the time.

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: That`s right. So, you know, we could speculate like, did people inside DOJ actually think there was any legitimacy to these concerns? And no, they`re actually just saying this is, as you said, one of them says pure insanity be Acting Deputy Attorney General. And then the Attorney General, says him back to him about another claim that comes from Mark Meadows. I`m just not going to respond, because they`re just so groundless, so baseless, there`s nothing there.

So, definitely it does demonstrate that this was absolutely nothing behind the claims. And it also, as I think you very well zoomed in on, it`s not just Donald Trump. Look at the enablers around him. Mark Meadows, who it looks like might testify before Congress is just a henchman. I mean, he`s - - he is himself acting for the president on these baseless allegations and five times reaching out into the Department of Justice to pressure them to try to overturn the election. And there shouldn`t be any communications between the White House Chief of Staff and Department of Justice.

HAYES: Yes, that`s -- this is -- your point, Stuart about lack of accountability. You know, I`m a big believer and, you know, probably because I was raised Catholic. I really believe in guilt. It`s a very productive emotion for moral formation. There`s just -- obviously, there`s no guilt here and there`s no shame, but there`s also no social sanction. Like, Mark Meadow is like, that`s Haldeman, Mitchell level stuff, right? This is like, this means like -- you`re doing this means that like, you`re sort of declaring yourself in opposition to again, the basic democratic experiment that is America. And he`s just going to walk around and bop around like just a normal guy and get back slapped at Republican functions.

STEVENS: Yes. The Republican Party is what the Republican Party wants to be. And we should understand that.

HAYES: Right.

STEVENS: The party (AUDIO GAP). And we look at the Republican Party, and in many ways, we`re horrified. We should understand, they like this. This is what they want. And it`s not a coincidence that someone like Mark Meadows could be accepted. How did Mark Meadows -- he came out of Congress for Christ`s sake. So, it is really important to realize what they want.

And it is anything that we say at the beginning of this, and this is just the beginning. He`s going to seem alarmist, like you were saying upfront. But I can promise you at the end, it`s going to seem inadequate. And that`s the reality that we have to come to grips with and the battle that we`re in.

HAYES: And Ryan, you made the point about Meadows possibly testifying. Jerry Nadler has launched an investigation, the House Judiciary Committee. Again, it always feels a little like swimming upstream, right? Like, there`s lots of things the Democrats want to pass. They have a limited amount of time probably with unified government. So, like --but all this stuff feels very important because unless we reinforce these structures, someone is going to take another run at it.

GOODMAN: I completely agree. And I also agree with the way (AUDIO GAP) described accountability. That accountability must be not only legal accountability and accountability from Congress, but also socially. The fact that he`s well accepted in certain companies on the Republican side of the equation is devastating. This is, as you said, somebody who should be treated like a pariah. And, you know, this is just part of the avalanche of information that`s now coming out because we have a new administration that fortunately provided this information to Congress, which shouldn`t be overlooked.

HAYES: It`s a good point.

GOODMAN: I think probably they did that in part because it`s so outrageous. It was just a request like (AUDIO GAP) and they turned over the information. So, I think Congress is forced to have to kind of grapple with it.

HAYES: Yes, it`s a very good point for all this sort of flack that Merrick Garland has gotten. And I think a lot of it fair, that this was in place for the DOJ could have fought that and they didn`t. That`s why -- that`s why those documents are in the hands of Congress. Stuart Stevens and Ryan Goodman, thank you so much.

STEVENS: Thank you.

HAYES: All right, some breaking news tonight. New reporting the investigation to Trump`s money man, Allen Weisselberg is wrapping up, and there could be charges in a matter of months. And they have his taxes. What that means for his boss, Donald Trump, next.


HAYES: Some big breaking news tonight on the investigation into Donald Trump and his company in the Manhattan District Attorney`s Office. Prosecutors there now appear to have the tax returns of Trump`s main money man and could be close to charging him.

The New York Times reporting the Manhattan District Attorney`s Office appears to have entered the final stages of a criminal tax investigation into Donald J. Trump`s long-serving Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, setting up the possibility he could face charges this summer according to people with knowledge of the matter. The prosecutors have obtained Mr. Weisselberg`s personal tax returns, people said, providing the fullest picture yet of his finances.

Rebecca Roiphe is a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan in that same office who worked in the very office that is investigating Weisselberg and the Trump Organization, now a law professor at New York Law School, and she joins me now. Rebecca, first, just your sort of top line takeaway from the Times reporting today.

REBECCA ROIPHE, FORMER ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, MANHATTAN: I think this is a really huge story. You know, there are two possibilities here. One is that you know, and I think this is probably a pretty off chance, and that`s that Weisselberg is a rogue actor and he`s embezzling from the company. And if that`s the case, then again, I think that`s probably not the case. But if that`s the case, then, you know, he`s not loyal to the company. He`s not loyal to Trump and he would flip in a second.

Now, far more likely that -- than this is that look, this is the Chief Financial Officer of this company. And so, you know, you said in the last segment, you were brought up Catholic. I was brought up Jewish. This is like the chief rabbi being caught eating pork. What does that say about that congregation as a whole?

HAYES: What?

ROIPHE: Like, clearly this is something that much more likely is run throughout -- this is the way the company does business. And if this is the way the company does business, then the Manhattan District Attorney`s Office is not planning to stop at the CFO. They`re planning to look at the organization as a whole and likely to Trump himself who runs this organization.

So, you know, I think this is huge news and you know, really worrisome news if you`re former President Trump.

HAYES: That`s -- so that`s a great point, right? The CFO -- I mean, you know, people can screw up their taxes, people can find themselves in hot water over taxes, right? But we`re talking about the guy who`s the actual - - the bookkeeper, right? The person who should be the person most sort of read in, and most scrupulous about this. It`s not like, oh, I didn`t know any better.

ROIPHE: Exactly. I mean, that`s the whole point. This is supposed to be the gatekeeper. This is supposed to be the person who`s making sure that things are running properly. If this person is doing this, if he`s receiving these payments, there are two possibilities, a rogue actor, I really doubt that. Much more likely, this is just the way the company does business. In which case, it`s not just him. It has to be lots of people. In which case, this is the organization itself and probably goes all the way up to the top.

HAYES: So, this is a jurisdictional question but it`s -- I think of tax cases often being brought through the federal government, right, through the Department of Justice, the FBI, and there`s a criminal tax division there. I guess the Manhattan DA`s office has tax case -- I mean, there`s intimations in the piece saying this revolves around taxes. Like, Is that a thing that`s normal? Is that rare? Where is that?

ROIPHE: Yes. I mean, of course, you know, New York State, prosecutors go after people for evading taxes. It`s not, you know, a usual thing. I mean, as the, you know, experts in that New York Times article suggested, you know, these kinds of fringe benefits, these perks, they`re not normally brought as criminal tax cases.

But that`s kind of missing the point here, as I was saying before. It`s not about this as an isolated case. Obviously, that`s not what they`re looking into. They`re looking into a far broader, you know, pattern and practice of the way the company is doing business. And if this is the way the company is doing business, this is a big deal. And the Manhattan DA`s office has the jurisdiction to bring it just as the federal government would.

So, the final part of this is just it looks -- I mean, people who watch movies, right, about organized crime, and, you know, the leaning on people not to cooperate or cooperate, I mean, really looks like there`s a ton of pressure being put on Allen Weisselberg however way you read it, right? I`m not -- that`s clear.

ROIPHE: I mean, definitely clear. And look, you know, he has reporting, at least through public reporting, he has held out for a long time and not been willing to cooperate with the prosecutors here. But that also is really not all that unusual. I think, you know, in a lot of -- in a lot of cases, you`ll have witnesses unwilling to flip, unwilling to cooperate until the very end. And so, you know, that could be where we`re going here. And it may be that he never does, but it certainly is increasing the amount of pressure and as you say, leverage on him to cooperate.

HAYES: All right, Rebecca Roiphe, that was great as always. Thank you so much for making time for us tonight.

ROIPHE: Thank you.

HAYES: Still ahead, incredible new reporting about the pressure campaign targeting school boards about so-called critical race theory. The founder of the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah Jones is here. Plus, somebody checked the airports for Ted Cruz because the Texas power grid is facing another crisis. That`s next.


HAYES: Perhaps no one that better embodies a state of the contemporary unserious Republican politics right now than Congressman Dan Crenshaw and Senator Ted Cruz. Two politicians from Texas who seem way more interested in producing hot takes and meme content than anything resembling policy.

You may remember Congressman Crenshaw from the series of action movie political ads he made which culminated with him jumping out of an airplane to attack Antifa and save the Georgia Republican senators from losing to Rafael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. I don`t want to spoil the ending, but well.

Then, of course, there`s Senator Ted Cruz who`s super focused on his podcast right now. I mean, really, who isn`t, pumping out a new episode every few days despite having a full time job representing nearly 30 million people and sitting on five Senate Committees. Ted`s still makes the time.

Last year, you may remember, the state of California was experiencing power outages and urging people to ration consumption. Public servants, Cruz and Crenshaw, jumped up to rub it in with a series of hot tweets, basically blaming Democratic policies on renewable energy, mocking California requests that people curb their use of air conditioning by say, putting the thermostat to 78 degrees.

Now, when this February the Texas power grid infamously failed, right, amidst a winter storm, days of freezing temperatures, left millions of Texans without power or water for days, killed as many as 700 people across the state, Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw leapt into action to tweet about how it was all the fault of windmills, which it was not. Well, Ted Cruz very famously decided to flee the state and country to Cancun for a vacation with his family.

Now, it`s summer and there`s trouble with the Texas power grid again as it struggles to keep up with high demand in the summer heat. There are outages across the state and Texas which again, has its own independent energy grid, ERCOT, had to issue the same exact warnings California had to make last year including asking Texans to set their thermostat to 78 degrees or higher.

So, how old are Texas heroes respond to this latest energy crisis in their own backyard? Well, Congressman Crenshaw is running a Fourth of July party with a Blink 182 cover band, a drone light show and a live DJ. Senator Cruz has posted a new video and this one he stands right next to an American flag and boldly recites the Pledge of Allegiance because the closer you are to that flag, the more that pledge for it (INAUDIBLE).

These Republicans who are so eager to jump all over California for the energy problems which itself was gross, right, like, people are suffering, are now doing these kinds of gimmicks as their people in their own state suffer.

There`s one thing that`s abundantly clear, right? It`s not a Texas problem or a California problem. The entire nation`s energy grid and infrastructure are unprepared for the era of climate crisis. That`s the headline takeaway. That is why it is so concerning that the bipartisan group of senators and maybe with the assent of the White House could remove key climate proposals from the White House`s infrastructure plan because that`s the necessary stuff. We`re watching it play out. America`s infrastructure needs desperately a climate upgrade because climate change is not a California problem or a Texas problem, it is an everywhere problem.


HAYES: All right, I`m about to show you a chart and it is not a chart of some massive breakout of COVID somewhere though it does feature exponential growth. This graph represents the number of times the words critical race theory were spoken on Fox News over the last few months, 1300 times, growing every day. Look at that.

Critical race theory, as a sort of technical term is basically a set of analytic tools that academics in some fields used starting in law for studying systematic racism in our society. The right has rendered the term meaningless rule over deployment making an injured cultural war a rallying cry. Since February, month over month, the mentions the term have more than doubled.

The entire right-wing media machinery has become obsessed whipping up a moral panic almost entirely among white people that their children are being taught toxic truth about America`s long history of racial oppression hierarchy.

Now, the history of race in the U.S. is obviously an extremely complicated subject. All kinds of scholarly historical debates about the proper emphasis, stuff I tend to get into myself. But this is really not a debate about all that. Instead, we are seeing just a classic mobilization of right-wing backlash politics that`s really meant to punish and intimidate teachers and educators, administrators, school board members who would deem to discuss racism and white supremacy.

Our colleague Brandy Zadrozny co-authored an incredible piece today on about how one disgruntled parent in small-town Maine launched a relentless campaign against school administrators with the help of a national right-wing organizations and Fox News. In an e-mail to the school superintendent last month, he wrote, "This is just the tip of the iceberg on media coming your way and national support aligned with our cause to fight CRT." The next day he appeared on Fox News` Tucker Carlson Tonight.

Brandy Zadrozny is senior reporter for NBC News, one of the authors of that article, joins me now. Brandy, just tell us about this town and how this all got started.

BRANDY ZADROZNY, MSNBC SENIOR REPORTER: Well, first of all, I think we`ve watched over 100 hours of school board meeting. So, I`m going to tell you this crazy story. But this is in no way central to this place. It`s in Maine. There was a -- there was a parent who saw that the school board had sent a letter after the murder of George Floyd saying basically we denounce white supremacy. And that single action led this parent on a crusade against what he coins critical race theory against wokeness, against reverse racism, against all of these sort of invented ideas by conservatives that, you know, teachers in schools are indoctrinated -- indoctrinating children and causing, you know, white kids to feel like they are oppressors or somehow endangering them in that way.

And so that that`s what happened in Maine. And it just turned into this insane thing where now the police are involved, somebody set up a billboard on front of his lawn with school board members. And what it`s really indicative of is that people, school boards, teachers, like you said, are really being targeted by conservative, provocative or is by parents who maybe are filled with misinformation and by people who want to really sit on the school board. And they`re being targeted for this thing that again, doesn`t truly exist.

HAYES: Right. So, in this case, there was no change in the school curriculum. It was just this letter that used the term white supremacy in the wake of the George Floyd murder. There was I think -- there`s then followed all these FOIA applications up to 50, I think. And that`s where it takes this interesting turn, which is at this one parent who was sort of launching this struggle was getting help from a national organization that is just helping do this everywhere and help file these FOIAs to try to get at these scoreboards.

ZADROZNY: Yes. So, it`s hard for me as a reporter because I don`t want to put FOIAs in a bad light, right? Freedom of Information Laws are wonderful things. But it is in fact, a tactic of national and just hyper -- and fast- growing local organizations to use onerous public records request. So, we see what we saw in Maine is asking for all of these records requests of, you know, how much money did you spend on anything involving race. And then that is used to sort of frame, again, the school board as being -- as paying for CRT, which, again, is just not the case.

And so, that`s what happened there. In Nevada, we saw, again, this local group called Nevada Family Alliance, who was really known for trying to get drag queen story hour stocked at the local libraries, and now she -- one activist there told me that this was the opportunity she had been waiting for.

So, she files these onerous FOIA requests, gets them, and then translate them in a way that`s just not correct or accurate in a way to suggest that, again, the school board is coming for your children and teachers are specifically teaching kindergarteners -- white kindergarteners that they`re somehow oppressors. It`s just not really true.

So, onerous FOIA request, school board meetings being showing up in mass and yelling at school board members, all of this is sort of a tactic. And it`s being left up on by national organizations from the Heritage Foundation, to ALEC, to other groups that have popped up after the Trump presidency to sort of push this American first agenda. And it`s also being, you know, roundly embraced by news organizations, like you mentioned, like Fox News, Breitbart, other right-wing organizations who are just covering this stuff en mass when it`s really a local issue.

HAYES: Yes. And that e-mail basically, from that one parent in Maine being like, here it comes and then appearing on Tucker Carlson, like, that is the threat. Like, it`s explicitly like, oh, now we`re going to come for you. This is Jeff Porter, the superintendent of schools in Cumberland, Maine. "I was very naive at the beginning of the year. I thought it was a concerned parent who had taken it a little too far. I didn`t understand this until recently. These are tactics from national organizations to discredit the entire districts."

So, you`ve got these like local officials who have now ended up the crosshairs of big national media and organizing, and it`s like, they`re now public enemy number one. Again, not even -- there was no substantive curriculum change in this place. There wasn`t a thing that happened that prompted this, right?

ZADROZNY: Not a thing. No, not at all. It was just someone with a direct line to Tucker Carlson and his producers. And then you can see how long it takes by after -- by that evening, you know, you`ll be on his cable news show sort of promoting this lie. And again, like you said, really targeting and endangering the school board members.

HAYES: Brandy Zadrozny, excellent reporting. You should check it out at thanks for making time tonight.

All right, don`t go anywhere. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose work inspired this entire national reckoning is Nikole Hannah Jones. She joins me next.


HAYES: The first really big legal challenge to affirmative action that made it to the United States Supreme Court was 1978. A 35-year-old white man named Allan Bakke who had twice been denied admission the University of California Davis Medical School claimed he had been unfairly rejected because of the school`s racial quota system.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Supreme Court ruled today that Allan Bakke must be admitted to a school which turned him down in a case of reverse discrimination. Bakke was not admitted to the University of California Medical School at Davis because he is white. The place he might have had was given to a minority applicant with lower test scores than he had. The court said that was wrong.

But the court also said that race can be a legal factor in a school admission program. The court was deeply divided five to four, and the various opinions ran to 40,000 words.


HAYES: You hear that reverse discrimination right. We`ve heard that term a ton since then. It`s basically the concept that was used in the argument the Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts made in 2007 in an opinion in a school desegregation case that he famously wrote, "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

OK, the whole race-neutral colorblind shtick as exemplified there as a means of defending entrenched disproportionate racial inequality is the central argument that mainstream conservatives deploy to combat targeted attempts to address and redress racist harms. So, it is not surprising to see a recently proposed Republican bill in the North Carolina State House announced that it aims to ensure dignity and non-discrimination in schools, while putting strict limits on what schools can teach when it comes to race, including a ban on promoting "The belief that the United States is a meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist or was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex."

The idea that meritocracy can be elevated to sacrosanct American civics under force of law is just insane to me. First of all, obviously, the word is nowhere in the constitution or our founding documents. It was invented by a leftist British sociologist Michael Young in the 1950s to describe what he conjured as a dystopian and unjust future society where all positions in society were mercifully determined by high stakes testing. That`s the origin of that term.

I literally wrote an entire book critiquing meritocracy and saying in some ways it is kind of racist, or at least it leads to indefensible, radically unequal outcomes and entrenches racial hierarchy. I guess they can`t teach my book in North Carolina schools if the bill is passed.

What`s also insane is the second part of that clause in the North Carolina bill about not teaching kids the nation was founded by a particular race or sex. I mean, have you seen the paintings of the Constitutional Convention? It really was quite literally all white men. We have their signatures. It`s just a plain fact about it. Now, they want to ban it from North Carolina public schools? I guess. I mean, I guess a charitable reading is like, the four part -- like, for the express purpose also applies to that clause. But I don`t know, that just gives up the game, doesn`t it?

Nikole Hannah Jones is a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine where she created the 1619 Project which was an examination of racism and slavery in this country, and its centrality to the spine of American history. For that, she was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. And she joins me now.

Nikole, part of what is so nuts about this entire debate or discourse, it`s just the malleability of the terms. Like, when you look at the actual legislative text, this is like intensely regulating basically a set of like, substantive conceptions about America`s goodness and innocence inherently, more than anything else.

NIKOLE HANNAH JONES, CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. So, one, we should just think about that these laws are prescribing a patriotic education. Well, what does that mean? If you read My opening essay in the 6019 Project, it`s actually probably the most patriotic thing I`ve ever written because it says that even though Black Americans weren`t intended to be the recipients of these majestic ideas, they actually believed in them and fought to make them true for all Americans, which is the highest calling of patriotism.

But then you have to ask yourself, what is the purpose of an education? Is the purpose of an education to help us to understand, to become critical thinkers, to teach us to, you know, be able to discern a wide range of ideas? Or is it to indoctrinate us into ideas of nationalism and patriotism and the belief that America is an exceptional nation that could do no wrong.

So, they`re not really fighting for an accurate education. They`re not arguing that we need to teach the truth about our history. What they`re arguing is that we need to teach a history that doesn`t ever make anyone uncomfortable, which I was talking to some of my black friends about this just earlier today and saying, wow, you know, we spent our entire K 12 education feeling uncomfortable, feeling really left out of the story, feeling demeaned by the story, and there were no laws against that.

But now, the laws are being passed to really stop us from confronting the truth of our history. And the language, Chris, as you pointed out, is very important, because the language tells you what these laws are actually about.

HAYES: I should note that that essay for which you won the Pulitzer, if I`m not mistaken, I think the opening of it is your father raising the flag outside your house, very memorable about his sort of solemn patriotism as represented in that flag, just as a sort of factual note here. You know, the other thing about this -- so this is a little bit adjacent to it but look, this is not the first curricular moral panic that I`ve watched happen, right?

I mean, when I was growing up in New York City, the superintendent of schools put a book on a curriculum called Heather Has Two Mommies, and people were like, this was like a huge -- again, huge right-wing backlash. Like, how dare children be taught about this?

But what`s crazy here is like, there are already curricular processes for all this. Like this state legislator stepping into this, it`s not like it`s just some free for all the curricular level in American schools across the board. They already have a ton of control. Like they`re already controlling the textbooks in Texas and Louisiana, etcetera.

JONES: Right. Well, this isn`t really about determining what is being taught in the classroom, and at the classroom level.

HAYES: Right.

JONES: This is about stoking white resentment. So, we need to be really clear, as I`ve said. The same states that are passing these laws are also passing laws have tried to suppress the vote of Black Americans and other marginalized groups. So, it`s not really a practical thing. Are you going to ask every teacher to submit their lesson plan? Are you going to really have body cameras? That`s not really a practical thing.

HAYES: Yes, that`s a good point. Like, there`s -- this is essentially a kind of -- it`s playing a sort of expressive function rather than like a strictly illegal one. When you say, well, like, you know, you can`t in North Carolina if this bill was passed, and it`s not going to be, I don`t think, but you can`t say that meritocracy is a racist idea in like a North Carolina School. It`s like, you know, what, what are we talking about how that could ever be enforced or even like, you know, adjudicated?

Do we have Nikole or did she freeze? I think we did just lose Nikole Hannah Jones. Nikole Hannah Jones, of course, got the Pulitzer Prize. Are you there, Nikole? Do we have you? I think we have you.


HAYES: Yes, we got you.

JONES: I don`t know what`s going on with my internet connection right now.

HAYES: Oh, it`s all right. You just -- you just unfroze. Just the point that like, it`s not an actual law to actually be adjudicated. It`s an expressive function of people that have state power to say this is what we believe, this is our creed, and this is what children should be taught to believe.

JONES: Yes. And there`s a reason why this is happening in schools, right? I mean, schools have long been kind of this central place of the culture wars. When we look at some of the most kind of visceral opposition to civil rights, that it took place in the schools, the sense that you can really stoke a lot of hysteria when it comes to people`s children and people being worried about what`s happening to their children.

It`s all part of this really right-wing thought that schools are in public schools, which they`re calling government schools are indoctrinating our children. So, there`s a reason that they`re targeting schools. And there`s a reason why this is being so effective. And I wouldn`t say that there`s no chance of the North Carolina law being passed because we`re seeing these laws being passed in similar Republican-led states all across the country. But it is clear that it`s very difficult to, if not impossible to enforce, but it sets these communities in opposition with each other.

And what they`re really trying to do is divide this really cross racial -- cross-class coalition that we saw coming out of the George Floyd protests and race has always been since the Bacon`s Rebellion, the way that you can divide a kind of populous movement.

HAYES: Nikole Hannah Jones, thanks for making time tonight. I really appreciate it.

That is ALL IN on this Tuesday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.