IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, 8/26/21

Guests: Missy Ryan, James Laporta, Azmat Khan, Damon Hewitt, Eric Holder


At least a dozen American service members were killed by at least one suicide bomber hidden in the crowd just outside the Kabul airport. President Joe Biden in his speech today, vows to finish the mission and end the war. ISIS-K takes responsibility for the Afghanistan attack. The Capitol Police Officer who shot and killed Ashi Babbitt speak out for the first time in an NBC exclusive.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: And I would add that I think Haiti could use some of these as well.


REID: So, we should do this overall. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, thank you. That is tonight`s REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice over): Tonight on ALL IN.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.

HAYES: U.S. service members and Afghan nationals killed in an attack of the Afghan airport. Tonight, what we know about the bombing, what it means for the evacuation effort, and what it means for ending the war. Then --

LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Your name has been battered about on the internet, but you`ve never been officially publicly identified. Do you want to tell us who you are?

HAYES: An NBC News exclusive. The Capitol Police Officer responsible for shooting and killing Ashli Babbitt speaks out for the first time. Tonight, why he`s revealing his identity now and why he chose to shoot.

MICHAEL BYRD, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER: You ultimately hoping that your commands will be complied with. And unfortunately, they were not.

HAYES: All that and former Attorney General Eric Holder on the Republican plan to take back power when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. As you probably already know, a grievously sad day today. As we come on the air we are learning more about the horrific attack outside the Kabul airport today. An attack the U.S. intelligence have been warning about because the situation at the airport gate has been extremely chaotic making it uniquely vulnerable to such an attack.

The attack itself happened around 5:00 p.m. local time. Thousands of people are making their way through this crowded gate outside the airport. That`s where U.S. forces clear them for entry to board planes and leave Afghanistan. That`s been part of the process often quite chaotic.

That has resulted in the evacuation of, as of now, more than 100,000 people. Because so many people are trying to make their way through this gate, trying to get out, it of course creates a bottleneck. It makes it an extremely exposed target for those looking to murder large groups of people which appears to be what happened today.

Two suicide bombers struck the gate and a gunman opened fire. The attack killed at least 13 U.S. service members and dozens and dozens of Afghans. One Afghan health official said at least 60 people were confirmed dead. We are waiting more precise counts. ISIS-K, chorus on ISIS, a branch the violent Islamic group operating Afghanistan claimed responsibility for the attack.

A few hours ago, President Biden spoke from the East Room of the White House, giving an emotionally filled speech where he paid tribute to the American men and women who lost their lives, are working tirelessly exposing themselves to evacuated thousands from the country.


BIDEN: These American service members who gave their lives -- it`s an overused word, but it`s totally appropriate-- they were heroes. Heroes who have been engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others.

They were part of an airlift, an evacuation effort unlike any seen in history, with more than 100,000 American citizens, American partners, Afghans who helped us, and others taken to safety in the last 11 days. Just in the last 12 hours or so, another 7,000 have gotten out.

They were part of the bravest, most capable, and the most selfless military on the face of the Earth. And they were part of, simply, what I call the "backbone of America." They`re the spine of America, the best the country has to offer.

We have some sense, like many of you do, what the families of these brave heroes are feeling today. You get this feeling like you`re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest. There`s no way out. My heart aches for you.


HAYES: Today was the deadliest day for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since 2011. 13 Americans lost their lives in this incredible heroic effort to evacuate as many civilians from the country as possible. But the heaviest casualties were on the side of the Afghan people, of civilians of people desperate and camped out outside the airport who have lived through untold horror for decades now.

It is a tragic microcosm of the awful circumstances that the Afghan people have been facing for 20 years. Just this past May, at least 90 Afghans, many of them teenage girls, murdered in a car bombing in high school. In 2019, at least 80 civilians killed in the suicide bombing at a wedding reception. In 2017, a truck bombing on a crowded street in Kabul left 150 dead and more than 300 injured.

This is a conflict the country`s longest war, 20 years, that has killed nearly 2500 American servicemembers and tens of thousands of Afghans Billions. And nothing right now is finished. The future is very unclear. The Pentagon says it expects more ISIS terror attacks going forward. The U.S. is partnering as it has been for the last few days with the Taliban which now both controls the country is providing security to the airport and has been fighting an increasingly bloody and violent battle with its rival ISIS-K to stop them.


Missy Ryan is a national security reporter for The Washington Post covering the Pentagon. And she joins me now. And Missy, I got to imagine it is a very brutal day over at the Pentagon and for the U.S. Armed Forces.

MISSY RYAN, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, yes. As you say, it`s a very dark day for the by the administration, and obviously for the Pentagon, the largest loss of life in Afghanistan of military personnel in a decade. And it really does feel like a shocking moment, but perhaps not altogether unexpected given that American officials have been warning about threat, intelligence that they`ve detected suggesting that the Islamic States Afghanistan branch would attempt to strike the United States and the Western nations that, you know, kind of our city in target at the airport as they try to evacuate their own citizens and then Afghan allies.

But you know, I mean, it still is something that I think has not shaken the Pentagon`s resolve in terms of continuing with the operation in the coming days. We heard that from General Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command this afternoon when he said that they would continue to conduct the evacuation operation, which you`ll recall has just less than a week to go.

So, you know, we think that there will be some continued evacuation flights of Afghans and foreign nationals. There are at least 500 Americans that are believed to remain in Afghanistan who may want to leave. But you know, it potentially could have the impact of further decreasing the capacity of the military and its, you know, risk tolerance to go out and have these very close interactions that President Biden and General McKenzie were talking about today, referencing the vulnerability of the Marines, the soldiers, and the sailors who were killed.

This is something that cannot be done from afar. They need to be up close in order to screen and talk to the Afghans who are trying to come in to the airport. And we heard sorrow from President Biden, certainly from the military commanders. But you know, I think that they are somewhat, they`re disappointed, but they`re not surprised because they knew the intelligence was there.

HAYES: I think something that is a little hard for people to get their head around and I think it`s worth just sort of stressing here is the role the Taliban is playing, and the fact that it does not appear to be the Taliban that did this. And in fact, it`s possible that they had guards or fighters who were in the blast area. We don`t know that as of yet.

But essentially, you have a situation in which the Taliban has somewhat warily as I understand it, not wanting to get to crosswise of the Biden administration. They think they`re on their way out. There have been back channel and face to face negotiations to sort of secure the airport. And the attack is from essentially a kind of rival to the Taliban, a kind of flank,that has been waging an increasingly bloody battle with them. This is the ISIS group.

RYAN: That`s right. So, you know, it`s this very surreal situation where after 20 years of fighting the Taliban, U.S. military officials are now conducting coordination with the Taliban to secure this Western evacuation effort. And what`s happening is that you have, you know, thousands of American military personnel, some other NATO nations whose troops are there on the ground who are they`re sort of forming the first ring of defense in taking all of these Afghans and the foreigners who want to get in the airport. And then the external perimeter is guarded by the Taliban, which has a series of checkpoints.

And so you know, the United States, to some extent, is reliant on the Taliban to guard those entry points and to make sure that the kinds of attacks that happened today don`t happen. And you know, certainly the Biden administration is saying it doesn`t trust the Taliban. But it`s also recognizing as Biden himself made the point today, it`s a sort of mutual self-interest.

It is certainly in the interest of the Taliban for the United States to get out quickly. And so, to the extent they`re able to facilitate that, they`re going to do so.

HAYES: Missy Ryan, thank you so much for that update. I really, really appreciate it.

RYAN: Thank you.

HAYES: Azmat Khan is a contributing writer of The New York Times Magazine, who has written a lot about the U.S. and the war on terror, wrote an expose a back in 2015 on promises broken by the U.S. to Afghanistan titled "Ghost students, Ghost teachers, Ghost schools." James Laporta is an investigative reporter, one of the very best of the Associated Press, a Marine Corps infantry veteran of the war in Afghanistan. And both joins me now.

James, let me just start with you. And I guess I just want to take a moment to say that -- to pay tribute to the Americans that lost their lives today in this war where I think the question of what the mission is has been so unclear for so long.

The mission today that those U.S. service members died for was very clear. It`s to get Americans and allies out of the country. And they gave their lives for that mission today.


JAMES LAPORTA, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yes. Those -- there were gates to peace. There were gates to perhaps a better life. I`m sorry. Excuse me.


LAPORTA: And those servicemen were facilitating those Afghans to a better life and deprives the life of peace. It`s a very -- excuse me. I`m sorry. It`s a hard day.

HAYES: It`s just -- it`s a brutal day. And I really appreciate you coming on. And I think what you said that they were gates to peace is really important. And Azmat, I want to hear your perspective on today. I mean, the awfulness here, again, 13 U.S. service members, dozens of Afghans killed. That sort of -- that kind of violence has been the rule in Afghanistan now for 20 years. And you hear people already saying, well, now we have to stay, we have to stay longer. And I wonder what -- how that hits your ears?

I`m not sure if Azmat -- Azmat, can you hear me?



KHAN: No, it`s -- you know, it`s really fascinating because it begs the question, you know, the United States has spent so much money and 20 years in Afghanistan. And in so many ways, we`re actually in a worse position than we were back in 2001.

You know, today, the United States would give anything to have the kind of deals that were offered to it back in 2001 by the Taliban, by other groups. We -- it really makes me wonder, you know, what would more time and effort yield? You know, that`s not to say that this withdrawal has been, you know, a failure. A failure of leaving behind American partners, a failure of planning -- you know, this -- in so many ways, this evacuation mirrors how the war has been going, right?

And we`ve seen, unfortunately, really, sadly, 13 U.S. soldiers, service members died today, and dozens -- we don`t know the full number of Afghans who died today. But this has been happening not just in Kabul, but especially in rural areas around the country for the last 20 years, right?

This is, you know, three-quarters of Afghanistan`s population is rural. And I would say that most of the war has been happening in about 30 percent of the country, these rural areas. And it is -- it has been brutal. There are children and young people who have never known a day of peace in their lives. They`re used to massive aerial bombardment, Taliban attacks, night raids by Afghan security forces, kidnappings.

You know, they`ve lived with this war and long wanted a deal, right? And if the Afghan government had started coordinating or negotiating with the Taliban sooner, there are many who say that, you know, that actually, they could have fought off ISIS-K more aggressively earlier together, that an earlier coalition government would have been able to do that.

HAYES: One of the head spinning facts we find ourselves with, James, now is -- I remember reading some great reporting by Dexter Filkins of The New Yorker about the early days of the U.S. assault in Afghanistan, in which there was a back channel coordination with of all people, Qasem Soleimani, who has since been killed by U.S. forces and the Iranians who had a shared enemy in the Taliban.

That Alliance fell apart. And we will now 20 years later find ourselves on the way out in essentially a de facto alliance with the Taliban against ISIS, who we had also been fighting in Iraq alongside the Iranians. Like, the way this has played out is almost impossible to get your head around.

LAPORTA: Right. And we have to remember that the peace deal that was signed on February 29, 2020 between the United States and the Taliban excluded the Afghan government. They were not a part of that deal. And there was a whole bunch of red -- you know, there`s a whole bunch of caveats that that the Taliban had to adhere to honor that deal.

And I don`t -- I may be mistaken on this, but I don`t know of one. I know one of them was that they had to do ounce their association with al-Qaeda. They have not done that. And in fact, there was a Defense Department inspector general report that was released just this month that they still enjoy a casual link together.

So, the Taliban have not held up to that February 29 deal. And in terms of the Afghan government, they weren`t even a part of it.


HAYES: Azmat, the sort of -- the absence of the Afghan government is to me the kind of defining feature of all this. I mean, it`s its corruption the fact that it was unable to hold the country, that it was seen, I think, widely perceived among Afghans as just wildly predatory and corrupt. Was wildly predatory and corrupt, I think, is a fair assessment. The -- what is the -- I guess, what is the sort of equilibrium of stability at least for the next week here in the -- in the aftermath of this with this very tenuous kind of partnership between the U.S. and Taliban?

KHAN: Right, I mean, just to respond to what was just said. You know, the Taliban has actually been fighting ISIS-K in Afghanistan for quite a while. In fact, the United States was even providing air support to them. They were not having direct talks to coordinate that air support. But just to give some context I think to what was just said, perhaps gives a clear picture of what the Taliban may be able to do in the Pentagon right now, or where their motivations might lie. You know, they`ve been fighting this group.

But to get back to your question to really think about, you know, what it means for different Afghans and what the Afghan government had represented to them, it really depends on the urban-rural divide that permeates the country.

So, if you live in Kabul, there are probably many people who for a long time benefited from this government, felt it was responsive to their needs. You know, you`ve seen a whole elite urban class, develop education, lots of progress, incredible progress for women and girls, especially.

And then rural areas, you know, you can see a very different story. People who`ve been desperate to leave the country to seek economic opportunity elsewhere. And then in these battlefield provinces, areas where the war has been raging, incredible death tolls, you know, becoming coming face to face with a lot of the corruption that we`re talking about.

My own reporting really revealed how embedded within everything the United States and the Afghan government was doing in many of these areas, even if it was something as seemingly noble as education or building health clinics could be permeated by some of the same problems, you know, allying with really dangerous warlords who isolated the local population from the Afghan government.

So, it really depends on who you`re talking to. And that rural-urban divide is really not focused on. There`s so many reporters who come to Afghanistan stay in Kabul, and that`s where majority of their sources -- where their sources are.

HAYES: Azmat Khan, James Laporta, two people whose work I`ve really depended on and admired throughout this. And James, thanks so much for coming out on a very difficult night. Both of you, I really appreciate it.

LAPORTA: Thank you. Thank you.

HAYES: Tonight, for the very first time, the Capitol Police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt during the assault on the Capitol speaks out in an NBC News exclusive interview with Lester Holt. Lieutenant Michael Byrd shares his story of what during the attack and during the threats he`s injured since.


HOLT: Given the nature of the threat so you describe, do you have any concern about showing your face and identifying yourself?

BYRD: Of course, I do. That is very vital point and it`s something that is frightening. I believe I show the utmost carriage on January 6, and it`s time for me to do that now.


HAYES: Hear Lieutenant Byrd`s firsthand account, his response to former President Trump as we air the entirety of that exclusive interview right after this. Don`t go anywhere.



HAYES: January 6 was one of the worst days for law enforcement since 9/11. Around 140 members of the Capitol Police and the D.C. Metropolitan Police were injured. So, despite the Blue Lives Matter flag being carried by many of the insurrectionists, they beat and badly injured police officers by the dozen.

And what transpired in the aftermath is that you know self-avowed law and order Republicans and Fox News hosts set about the task of attacking and vilifying the officers who tried to defend the Capitol on that day. One of the insurrections, Ashli Babbitt, was tragically shot and killed trying to jump through a door barricaded by Capitol Police. And it happened at this moment when the officer was standing on the other side of that door standing between a crowd of screaming violent rioters and members of the House of Representatives. And in that moment that officer fired one shot.

Now, the identity of the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt has become the subject of conspiracy theories and online outing and doxxing with even the disgraced former President Donald Trump himself contributing to it.

Tonight, for the very first time, the Capitol Police officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt during one of the most perilous fraught moments of the January 6 attack is coming forward to publicly identify himself and tell his story in an exclusive interview with my colleague, Lester Holt.


HOLT: Your name has been bantered about on the internet, but you`ve never been officially publicly identified. Do you want to tell us who you are?

BYRD: My name is Michael Byrd. I`m a lieutenant for the United States Capitol Police.

HOLT: For months, he has lived in hiding, he says, over this moment, his decision to use deadly force against a rioter as she climbed through a barricaded door that leads to the House chamber. In the month since, he has been the target of threats.

HOLT: Can you give us the nature of some of those threats?

BYRD: They talked about, you know, killing me, cutting off my head. You know, very vicious and cruel things.

HOLT: Racist things?

BYRD: There were some racist attacks as well. That`s all disheartening because I know I was doing my job.

HOLT: Given the nature of the threats that you describe, do you have any concern about showing your face and identifying yourself?

BYRD: Of course, I do. That is very vital point and it`s something that is frightening. I believe I show the utmost carriage on January 6, and it`s time for me to do that now.


HOLT: Responsible that day for securing the House Chambers, Byrd couldn`t see what Americans were witnessing on their TVs. But he could hear it in the pleas from other officers.

We were afraid that day?

BYRD: I was very afraid.

HOLT: What are you hearing on your radio?

BYRD: I`m hearing about the breaches of different barricaded areas, officers being overrun, officers been down.

HOLT: Did you ever hear a call or a report of shots fired during any of this?

BYRD: As a matter of fact that day, there was reports of shots fired through the House main door onto the floor of the chamber.

HOLT: Later, those reports would prove to be false. This video captures Byrd instructing members of Congress to dawn gas masks.

BYRD: We`ve had disbursement of tear gas in the rotunda. Please be advised there are masks under your seats.

HOLT: He says officers barricaded the door on what he considered the last line of defense.

BYRD: I had been yelling and screaming as loud as I was, please stop, get back, get back, stop. We had our weapon drawn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a gun. There`s a gun.

HOLT: Byrd, only his hand and gun visible, targeted a figure trying to climb through a window. He fired a single fatal shot hitting Ashli Babbitt. She was 35 years old, an Air Force veteran, Trump supporter, and QAnon follower.

We see your arm out there for a considerable amount of time. Were you wavering?

BYRD: I was taking a tactical stance. You`re ultimately hoping that your commands will be complied with? And unfortunately, they were not.

HOLT: When you fired. What could you see? Where were you aiming?

BYRD: You`re taught to aim for center mass. The subject was sideways, and I could not see a full motion of her hands or anything. So, I guess her movement, you know, caused the discharge to fall where it did.

HOLT: And what did you think this individual is doing at that -- at that moment.

BYRD: She was posing a threat to United States House of Representatives.

HOLT: But an attorney for Ashli Babbitt`s family disputes that. He did not respond to our request for a comment, but in a previous statement said Babbitt was not brandishing a weapon, not in close proximity to members of Congress, and was not an imminent threat of death or serious injury to anyone.

Her family points out that she was not armed.

BYRD: That`s correct.

HOLT: The fact that you weren`t aware whether she was armed or not. Did that alter the decision-making?

BYRD: It did not?

HOLT: What should we make of the fact that there were other officers in other potentially life-threatening situations who didn`t use their service weapons that day?

BYRD: I`m sure it was a terrifying situation. I can only control my reaction, my training, my level of expertise. That would be upon them to speak for themselves.

HOLT: Former President Trump has talked about you and this -- and this incident. He says she was murdered. What does it feel like to hear that from a former president?

BYRD: Well, it`s disheartening. If he was in the room, or anywhere, and I`m responsible for him, I was prepared to do the same thing for him and his family.

HOLT: Would you have his back today if you were so assigned?

BYRD: I sure would, because it`s my job.

HOLT: As I said, your name is -- has been on the internet for some time and in an unofficial way, a lot of rumors, a lot of accusations, one of which is that you had some sort of political motive. You were -- you were a political operative.

BYRD: I do my job for Republican, for Democrat, for White, for Black, red, blue, green.

HOLT: A few years ago, you were investigated for leaving your service weapon in a bathroom. And that`s been brought up by those who were questioning your competency. You want to respond to that?

BYRD: Sure. It was a terrible mistake. I acknowledged it. I owned up to it. I accepted the responsibility. I was penalized for it and I moved on.

HOLT: Multiple investigations have now upheld Byrd`s actions on January 6.

Capitol Police in their press release after exonerating you said your actions potentially saved members and staff from serious injury and possible death. What was it like to hear those words, to see those words?

BYRD: Those words meant to live because that`s exactly what I did on that day. That was my mission. That was what I prepare for. And it`s rewarding and refreshing to hear that.



HAYES: Several of Lieutenant Byrd`s Capitol Police colleagues know who they are blaming for the January 6 attack. And today they filed a lawsuit against former President Donald Trump. We`ll tell you all about that after this.


HAYES: Tonight, seven U.S. Capitol Police officers are suing former President Donald Trump, Roger Stone, and members of white supremacist organizations accusing them of coordinating the attack on the Capitol on January 6.

The suit says the defendants participated in "an unlawful effort to use force, intimidation, and threats to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. This is at least the four lawsuit filed against Trump related to the January 6 insurrection.

Tonight, I`m joined exclusively by one of the attorneys representing those seven police officers. Damon Hewitt is the President and Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Damon, great to have you.

Can you lay out the sort of -- the legal foundation for this lawsuit? Under what law are you suing them? What are you suing them for?


DAMON HEWITT, PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE LAWYERS COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS UNDER LAW: Well, look, we`re calling this exactly what it is, Chris. This is an inherently racist attempt to subvert democracy and to do so by force. And there`s a very old federal statute, the Ku Klux Klan Act designed to address exactly this type of situation.

And in case viewers are wondering, no, you don`t have to be wearing a disguise or a robe or what have you, or hood for this kind -- of kind of crime. If you use, as you said, force, intimidation, threat to stop an officer from conducting -- of the United States conducting his or her do job and duties, either because of who they are, or to do it while they`re trying to carry out their jobs, then that is a violation of federal law.

But more so you can`t just stand back and throw your hands up and say, we didn`t have anything to do with it when you were part of the conspiracy all along. If we know what`s about to happen, you see it happening, and you don`t do anything to stop it, that`s a crime as well. And those are the two main statutes that we`re using under federal law to file those lawsuit.

HAYES: Yes, the Ku Klux Klan Act which is from the Reconstruction Era 1871, of course, when the -- when the Klan was using violence, intimidation, terrorism to disrupt democracy, multiracial democracy in the south. As you allege in the lawsuit, defendants, meaning the folks that you are suing, violated the Ku Klux Klan Act which was designed to prevent precisely the kinds of politically and racially motivated violence they caused and committed on January 6. What`s the burden you have to show here about their involvement?

HEWITT: Well, look, what we have to show is that there was actually a conspiracy among these individuals. And I think the paper trail shows that. A lot of this is available, frankly, in the public domain because a great reporting like yours and your colleagues. But we`ve also conducted a very thorough investigation, and demonstrate throughout the complaint how all of this aligns.

It aligns through the tweets from Trump and the like. It aligns from the public statements from these individuals, leading up to the event of January 6, the insurrection, but also long before that as well. All of this falls in line. All these actors were working in common. They may not have been in the same meeting, huddling together, but they`re all related in all of a piece.

HAYES: I want to play for you some of the emotional testimony from one of the officers who was there that day, Harry Dunn, who testified before that committee on its inaugural day, and then asked you about the officers that are part of this lawsuit and how it came together. Take a listen.


HARRY DUNN, PRIVATE FIRST CLASS, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Once the building was cleared, I went to the rotunda to recover with other officers and share our experiences from what happened that afternoon. I sat down on a bench in the rotunda with a friend of mine who was also a Black Capitol Police officer and told him about the racial slurs I endured. I became very emotional and began yelling, how the blank could something like this happen? Is this America? I began sobbing. Officers came over to console me.


HAYES: I know the officers involved in this have been -- many have been wrestling with the aftermath both physically and emotionally and psychologically. And I also know that there are -- there are folks who are very much wary of being perceived as political actors. How did this lawsuit came about? And why did these seven officers decide to join those two?

HEWITT: Well, look, first, to be clear, these officers are just regular folk. You know, they`re long-timers on this Capitol Police Force. They`re not fly by nights. You know, a couple have over 30 years of service. Some of them are military veterans, some of our parents, come from, you know, a diverse set of backgrounds. So, they`re stalwarts at doing their jobs, just like Lieutenant Byrd said and is.

But these individuals have been waiting and waiting for the usual processes to work. They`re waiting for legal processes to work. It`s slow and it`s a grind in terms of criminal prosecutions. They waited for political processes to work, and those are slow as well. But if you believe some of the politicals, there was no insurrection at all.

So, really, frankly, Chris, they`re just fed up. They`re fed up with having sacrificed, having stood on that line and not being appreciated. They`re fed up with the notion that this could all happen again because the story, the narrative is being subverted before their very eyes. They want Americans to know the truth about what they endured, but more importantly, they want Americans to know the truth about how fragile our democracy is and what it takes a defend it.


HAYES: All right, Damon Hewitt, one of the lawyers representing those officers in this lawsuit, thank you very much.

HEWITT: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Coming up, right now in states across the country, Republican lawmakers are redrawing congressional lines in an explicit attempt in some cases to take power back from Democrats. Former Attorney General Eric Holder is fighting back. He`s here tonight to talk about how.


HAYES: We are 18 months into the pandemic, about six months since safe and effective vaccines became widely available. And yet in the state of Florida, things are worse than they have ever been before. More people in Florida are catching the Coronavirus, being hospitalized, and dying of COVID-19 now than at any previous point in the pandemic.

Yesterday, the state hit a record of more than 26,000 cases in one day. The surge in hospitalizations has been so devastating the mayor of Orlando is now asking residents to conserve water in order to limit the stream on the city`s supply of liquid oxygen which is needed to treat COVID-19 patients. There are so many people dying in Florida that funeral services are overwhelmed


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a new intensity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These days, people working in funeral homes don`t have time to talk. They`re overwhelmed with families trying to bury their loved ones in numbers like they`ve never seen before. Sometimes they have to delay funerals because they don`t have the staff or vehicles to do them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are at capacity to where we`ve never been before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At Westside Crematory in Winter Garden, they`re also overwhelmed. The area where bodies are stored prior to being cremated is stacked to the ceiling. We were there when a funeral home brought a body to be cremated. Sometimes they tell us there`s a line four vans deep, and there seems to be no end in sight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re at the point where we`re hoping that the state will step in and supply some refrigeration.


HAYES: The situation is dire across the south. And Mississippi, the state with a second lowest vaccination rate in the country, hospitals are dangerously stressed. One Hospital in Gulfport had to cancel brain and heart surgeries because COVID patients are taking up all of that hospital`s ICU beds. An emergency room nurse at a small rural hospital told NBC about the horror that she is seeing a daily basis.


KIMBERLY JONES, EMERGENCY ROOM NURSE, KING`S DAUGHTERS MEDICAL CENTER: It`s been a nightmare. We`re seeing very sick patients. We have -- we don`t have enough staff to take care of these patients. Were having to double them up in rooms. We`re running out of supplies. I`ve never in my life thought I`d be where I`m at and seeing the things that I`m having to see.

We were to the point where hard decisions were having to be made on who got a ventilator. I just couldn`t imagine bringing my family here. And nothing could be done because we didn`t have it. It`s not something that should happen. And it`s all -- I think it`s all preventable.


HAYES: Yes. What makes all of this even more tragic, more maddening is that most of what we were seeing could be prevented just by getting a vaccine, a free, safe, effective and a widely available vaccine. So, please, please, if you`re watching this, if you or someone you love still hasn`t been vaccinated, if you`ve been putting it off, there`s never been a better time than now.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder joins me next.



HAYES: The fate of American politics for the next decade is being determined right now in the next few months. What I mean by that is the redistricting process is already underway. State houses across the country are using the newly released 2020 census data to carve out congressional and state legislative districts that could cement political power for the next decade.

And with the blessing of Chief Justice John Roberts Supreme Court, which ruled in 2019 that federal judges do not have the power to step in and stop partisan gerrymandering no matter how extreme, Republicans who need to flip only five congressional seats win back the House can be as aggressive as they want to be on pure political grounds.

Just a few days ago, the Republican Chair of Hamilton County in Ohio, a guy named Alex Triantafilou, sent out a now deleted tweet that read this won`t be my most popular tweet, but Republicans should look out for Republicans in drawing the lines for apportionment. We won. Obama taught us elections have consequences. This is a red state. Treat it as such. Voters value a spine.

See, it`s not really about good legislation or convincing voters you`ll make their lives better or anything like that. No, it`s just about manipulation of the rules of the game.


REP. RONNY JACKSON (R-TX): We have everything working in our favor right now. We have redistricting coming up. And the Republicans control most of that process in most of the states around the country. That alone should get as the majority back.


HAYES: That alone. Eric Holder is a former Attorney General under President Barack Obama. He now serves as chairman of the National Democratic redistricting committee. And Mr. Holder, thank you so much for joining us on a very -- on a very rough, and dark, tragic day. I appreciate you coming on.

ERIC HOLDER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes, this is a tough day. I mean, my heart breaks. You know, the mission in Afghanistan was never one that was clearly defined, nation building, perhaps not something we should have engaged in. But those young people, those young soldiers today who gave their lives or who were injured, had a very defined mission.

You know, they were trying to help people get freedom, get Americans back to this country. And it`s -- so my thoughts and prayers are with the people who survived the attack and with the relatives of those who died.

HAYES: You`ve been working on this issue of gerrymandering for a while, and now is the time. And I`m not sure people realize like what`s happening right now. Even just who just started a basic factual level just descriptively. Like, who`s doing this? What -- the fate of the country is going to be figured out by people are going to draw a bunch of maps. Who is drawing the maps and how are they doing it?

HOLDER: It depends on the state. In certain -- in most states, the state legislature will be drawing the lines in some states like in Colorado, Michigan now, Arizona, California, independent commissions will be drawing the lines. And that`s why this is such an important thing. It`s such an important thing to keep the public engaged in this process, especially where you`ve got the legislature involved in this, so that there is transparency, so that there is citizen involvement, so that people have the opportunity to see the maps that are being considered as they are being considered.

HAYES: I think this is a really key point. If you`ve got a state with the Republican control, the one checked is a public that`s watching them. And we use that Ohio official in the intro from Hamilton County, and there are hearings in Ohio and Ohioans have actually been encouraged to go out to these hearings, because there is essentially no check on what that the Republicans in that state can do unless they show up.

I want to play you a little bit of them showing up at these hearings and demanding transparency. Take a listen.



BEVERLY GOTTLIEB, INTERESTED PARTY: I`m here to describe how gerrymandering has diluted my vote and the votes of others.

LARRY CLARK, INTERESTED PARTY: When these districts are drawn, it has to be drawn in such a way that urban areas are represented in proportion to the population that resides in those urban areas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ohioans overwhelmingly support fair district rules for the state legislator. Meaning, we are saying with our voice and our vote that we will no longer live in congressional districts that are drawn to red line Ohio voters` choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our great state cannot undertake another decade where a radical few have over -- have taken over the ability to create policy that impacts all of us.


HAYES: Do you think public pressure works as you think it`s effective and makes a difference in how these maps get made?

HOLDER: Well, I think it`s interesting in Ohio that they`re holding these hearings. These hearings are held during the day, during work hours, so they don`t make it easy for people necessarily to get there. And then beyond that, they have not shared any of the maps at this point.

The first maps have to be revealed on September the first, and nothing has been shared with the public at this point. And I do think that if you share maps, if the public has the opportunity, as those four citizens have the ability to get up and talk about the principles that undergird the redistricting process, if you share the maps with people, they will have the ability to comment.

And Republicans know that. And that`s why they don`t want to share the bad maps that they`re undoubtedly going to try to draw. Ohio is a kind of Republican state, but they have a congressional delegation that is 12 Republicans, four Democrats. 75 percent of their congressional delegation is Republican. That is all as a result of gerrymandering. And that`s the kind of thing that we have to protect against. And we need the people, the public to be -- to be involved.

HAYES: Yes, that`s amazing when it`s three quarters Republican in a state that, you know, is probably a plus eight, plus nine Republican state. What are the recourses? So, you got public transparency, you got -- you can -- you know, you can petition your government, you can show up these hearings. What are the other resources here?

I mean, one of the things that the for the people act, was to actually put some federal guidelines, create statutory processes by which you would have non-partisan gerrymandering. That`s not going to happen in time it looks like. So, what are the recourses here to make sure that we don`t see this essentially anti-democratic, you know, power grab?

HOLDER: Well, I`m not given up on the For the People Act yet. I mean, it can be passed and can be passed relatively quickly, relatively soon. Most of the states will pass -- half the states will have their master drawn by the end of the year, so that if you get Congress to pass that bill, get it to the to the President by the end of September, you can have -- you can have an impact.

And what`s important about the bill is that it puts -- it bans partisan gerrymandering in drawing lines for congressional districts. Beyond that, we will have the ability to file lawsuits. You`re right, the -- as your intro, you said that the Supreme Court, I think, disastrously said that you can`t bring these cases in federal court. But we can bring the cases in state courts using state constitutions. And we have been successful in bringing those cases in Pennsylvania, in Virginia, as well, as well as in North Carolina.

And so, you know, we can bring up cases based on racial gerrymandering, on the basis of partisan gerrymandering in state courts. You can bring racial gerrymandering cases in federal courts. And there`s a congruence between racial gerrymandering and partisan gerrymandering. What is a racial gerrymander? They will now claim it to be nothing more than a partisan gerrymandering given what the Supreme Court has said.

HAYES: Right. Yes. And we should be clear. I mean, the for the people act, right, would essentially stop this kind of arms race. There`s no -- it`s a symmetrical process, right? The For the People Act wouldn`t say -- because Democrats, right -- I mean, this is Kathy Hochul today saying, do you plan to use your influence to help Democrats expand the House Majority through the redistricting process? Yes, she says. I`m also the leader of the New York State Democratic Party. I embrace that.

Now, there`s a lot of people who think, look, you can`t unilaterally disarm. I know, you feel a little differently than that. But the whole point is, the For the People Act would take away that from both sides and would produce these independent commission which have worked well in places like Colorado and Iowa.

HOLDER: Yes. You know, it`s -- I`m for fairness. And if the maps are drawn in a fair way, Democrats and progressives will do just fine. Now, in New York, we should follow the population trends. New York City, a Democratic component of New York State has increased in population. The rural areas in New York state have lost population.

And so, if you`re going to pull out a district for people -- you`re going to decrease the number Representatives, they probably ought to come from a rural area which is probably means, you know, a couple of Republican seats there.

HAYES: Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, thank you as always for making time tonight, sir. I appreciate it.

HOLDER: Thank you for having me.

HAYES: That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.