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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, 8/6/21

Guests: Rick Hasen, Adam Schiff, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Lina Hidalgo, Dave Zirin, Kavitha Davidson


The full picture of the organized Republican plot to keep former Donald Trump in power emerges. The American right has embraced authoritarianism. Despite the CDC recommendation that all kids wear masks in school this fall to stop the spread of COVID, we are seeing right-wing politicians and pressure groups raging against school masking across the country. The only reason we don`t give it its credit as being as dangerous and as physically tough as it is, is because the faces of gymnastics that we know in the United States happened to be pretty women who wear sparkly leotards and makeup, and that doesn`t discount how athletic these women are.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Today, sprinter Allyson Felix that made her -- made history of her own, winning her 10th medal, the most for any woman in track and field history ever, taking bronze in the 400-meter. It`s her fifth Olympics, the first since she became a mother. Felix could join another tomorrow -- could win another one tomorrow in the 400-meter relay, so tune in for that.

That is tonight`s REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice over): Tonight, on ALL IN. The full picture of Donald Trump`s coup attempts continues to emerge.

RICK HASEN, PROFESSOR OF LAW AND POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA IRVINE: He has asked for state legislatures to override the will of the people.

HAYES: Tonight, election law expert Rick Hasen on the alarm bells for 2024 and Congressman Adam Schiff on what his select committee can do about it.

Then, how conservative media is grooming its base with a descent into authoritarian propaganda.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, FOX NEWS: Judge for yourself, is it working in Hungary or not? We think that it is.

HAYES: Plus, as kids go back to school, how pro-COVID governors are putting backlash politics ahead of the health of their own constituents.

GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): They have deemed me as the governor that made all the wrong decisions by letting my people have freedom.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. After a week of breathtaking revelations about the scope of Donald Trump`s failed coup plot, the Congressional investigation into that plot is now accelerating. Some news today, Politico reporting, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to interview former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donohue in the coming days.

Based on some great reporting and e-mails obtained and then released by the House Oversight Committee, it is clear those two men were pivotal in stopping part of Trump`s coup. When Trump`s ally in the Justice Department, Jeffrey Clark, proposed that Rosen and Donohue signed a letter to officials in multiple states, encouraging their state legislatures to send new electors based on non-existent voter fraud overturning the election essentially, Donahue actually responded, "there is no chance that I would sign this letter or anything remotely like it." Rosen agreed, "I confirmed again today I am not prepared to sign such a letter.

The New York Times reports that when Clark then went behind Rosen`s back and coordinated with Trump personally to replace the Acting Attorney General with Clark himself, the willing, compliant coup plotter as Acting Attorney General so that Clark himself could sign the letter, that`s when Donohue convened a late-afternoon call with the department`s remaining senior leaders laying out Mr. Clark`s efforts to replace Mr. Rosen. Should Mr. Rosen be fired, they all agreed to resign en masse.

But that coup that almost came off, right, was a product of two things, the anti-democratic flatly authoritarian dictatorial aspirations of Donald Trump which have always been there out in the open for decades, as well as his quisling abettors like Mark Meadows and Jeffrey Clark, men whose name should live in infamy. Everyone should know what these men are made of, what kind of character they have.

But also, it was part of a longer intellectual tradition that is being cultivated and revived on the right, long-standing, that comes from a contempt for the voters and a contempt more deeply for democracy. It is a refutation of precisely the principles that we claim as our national creed, self-determination, freedom, liberty, and democracy. But of course, there has been a long conservative lineage in rejecting democracy.

You`ve encountered it I`m sure, the whole it`s a republic, not a democracy talking point, drawn from the fact that indeed, our founding document has a complicated relationship to democracy to self-rule. The fact the Electoral College itself is enshrined as an institution as a check on democratic power. We do not have a popular vote for president even though we very obviously should, considering the current system has led to very clear disasters.

But now, Republicans are perfecting a new spin on the idea that people really don`t get to choose the president. The idea that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia famously explained is this. "The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electrodes for President of the United States."

As election expert Rick Hasen explains in this great piece, Article two of the Constitution of the United States provides that state legislatures get to set the manner for choosing presidential elections. Similarly, Article I, Section 4 gives the state legislature the power to set the time, place, and manner for conducting congressional elections subject of congressional override.

Now, for the most part, we`ve interpreted this to mean state legislatures make the laws around presidential elections. But then election officials run the election,.state courts interpret these laws like other laws, right? That`s how it works. As Hasen explains, some conservatives are arguing no, no, no, no, no, no, no, the U.S. Constitution makes the legislature Supreme, even if the state legislature would otherwise be violating the state constitution as determined by the state Supreme Court. This is the independent state legislature doctrine because it proposes the legislature is supreme against all other actors that might run elections.


Now, if that sounds a little nutty to you, it is. One implication of that doctrine is that if a Republican legislature say Georgia decides it now believes the election is tainted, it can overrule the will of the voters and Georgia State law and just send its own electors. And that`s exactly what Jeffrey Clark was advocating in his letter that he drafted that he wanted to get the acting Attorney General the sign, wanted him to sign so badly he conspired with Trump to replace him to do it.

Now, this only works, right, presumably if you can get enough people to buy it, particularly judges appointed by Republicans. As Rick Hasen points out though, this is a wacky theory of legislative power, but it is one that four supreme court justices, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas expressed support for in various opinions during the 2020 elections.

This doctrine of supremacy, radical abnoxious idea that politicians should just -- can just substitute their judgment for the voters, that`s what everyone needs to keep their eyes on in the upcoming elections. Our guest, Ian Bassin last night pointed out on this show that in January, actually an Arizona state legislator introduced a bill giving the legislature the power to toss out election results.

That bill didn`t go anywhere thank goodness, but that woman, Shawnna Bolick is running to be Arizona Secretary of State to be in charge of Arizona`s elections. I mean, we all watched the insurrection whipped up, urged on by Donald Trump on January 6, devastating to the people defending the Capitol, to our democracy. Ultimately it failed. But what is being developed right now, the next attempt to overturn the election is going to be more subtle, more nuanced, more legalistic, and likely going to be far more dangerous for our country.

Rick Hasen is the author of the great piece we just mentioned titled "Trump is planning a much more respectable coup next time." He`s a professor of law and political science at UC Irvine, writer of the Election Law Blog, and he joins me now.

And Rick, I`ve depended on you for analysis in this area of law for years and years and years. And I have noticed that you have been as unnerved by the revelations about what Clark was up to, as I have been, and explain why that is.

HASEN: Well, I`ve just been -- I was worried during the period between the time we held the election and January 20, when Trump actually left office because there were so many places in which someone could try to mess with our system. It`s not just that we have an Electoral College system which doesn`t treat all voters equally, we don`t have a national popular vote, it`s that the mechanics that we use for actually translating each state, votes into those Electoral College votes gives lots of room for people to mess with the results.

And what we saw the revelations that have come out over the last few weeks involving Jeffrey Clark is that Trump was prepared to push a wacky theory that was actually had a potential to make a difference and could have, at the very least, caused a stalemate in Congress where we wouldn`t have had a president voted on on January 6 or January 7 after the insurrection. It really came a lot closer than I think any of us realized until we saw these revelations.

HAYES: And this wacky theory, this sort of state legislature supremacy notion, we should note that this is the theory -- so there`s the -- there`s the kind of conspiracy theorists of, you know, again, the Dominion voting machines were run by China or hacked by Hugo Chavez`s ghost, right? And that is so sort-of cringe-inducing that even many Republicans standard- bearers can`t quite bring themselves to say it.

The respectable version that you get from Josh Hawley and from Ted Cruz and even from Jim Jordan is essentially a version of this theory. They basically said, look, we voted to block Joe Biden`s electors because we believe the state legislature is the only authority for election rules, and those states violated the legislator and they`re -- therefore, they don`t count.

HASEN: Oh, absolutely. And you know, Trump himself in an interview that he gave to Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig said the same thing. He said, you know, put aside all the fraud, a massive fraud, he claimed, he said, even if you put that aside, you had election administrators and you had courts and governors setting rules that were not approved by the legislature. And therefore, that was reason enough to throw it to the state legislature to come up with alternatives slate of electors.

Even if -- and I make this point in the Slate piece, even if courts wouldn`t go along with that, if there had been a Republican house, the members of the House could have accepted it. And it`s not clear that the courts would have overturned it. You know, it gives enough of an air of respectability that it could have been a very thin read upon which to say that Trump actually won even though we know he lost.


HAYES: Yes, you know, when Mitch McConnell gave his speech on January 6 which was quite harsh about Donald Trump and about the election, he said, it wasn`t particularly close, I remember this -- Alex Perrine made this observation, a very, very sharp writer who said, the thesis of McConnell`s remarks was that there`s a right way to install a precedent over the will of the people, which is to come up with legal arguments conservative judges are willing to sign on to. Trump failed that and this is the sort of embarrassing stunt loser Democrats do.

That basically, like you screwed this up. You did all these crazy things that got laughed out of court, and then you summoned a mob to come, you know, can`t hang my pants. There`s a way to do this. And it`s that there`s a way to do this that haunts I think all of us and informs your piece.

HASEN: Oh, yes. You know, had the election turned on Pennsylvania, and had the election been close enough that it was within the 10,000 votes that came in in the last three days after the election as ordered to be accepted by the state Supreme Court, I have little doubt that the Supreme Court would have thrown out those votes and potentially handed the election to Donald Trump, even if Biden otherwise would have won.

That is there was this respectable enough legal theory, this independent state legislature doctrine which could have served as the basis for completely changing the election results.

HAYES: Rick Hasen who`s been really, really essential reading throughout all this, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

HASEN: Thank you.

HAYES: Congressman Adam Schiff is a remember of the January 6 Select Committee which has just taken over the House investigation of Donald Trump`s Justice Department. He was the lead impeachment manager in Trump`s first impeachment. He`s the chair of the House Intelligence Committee as well. And he joins me now.

I got to say, I feel like we have a pretty full picture of a lot of the evidence, but there`s a lot more I want to learn. And it just seems like there`s a lot already for your committee to dive into here.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, that`s absolutely right. And first of all, I very much agree with Professor Hasen about how close we came to losing our democracy and not merely on the sixth through that failed insurrection but through other means.

And if you think about whether -- you know, if Clark had been successful in becoming the Acting Attorney General, those letters would have gone out to potentially all six states, like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, etcetera. Those legislators could have acted on those letters saying the Justice Department says this is lawful. (AUDIO GAP) slates of electors and who knows where we would be if we had, you know, lost a few more seats in the House and Kevin McCarthy had been the new speaker, you know, they very well might have overturn the results of the election. And they seem to be doing everything possible to lay the groundwork for that in the next presidential election.

So, look, we do have enormous amount as a committee to look into all the efforts to overturn the election in advance of the election, the efforts after the election, and the events on January 6. None of these things are disconnected from each other.

HAYES: There are two men who to my mind need to be answering questions under oath at length, Jeffrey Clark, Jeffrey Bossert Clark who was one of the key plotters with Donald Trump of what would have been a coup, and Mark Meadows who reporting shows played a close role in fomenting all this as well. These are both -- they`re both private citizens. They don`t have any, you know, I think executive privilege protections. They may try to claim them. But don`t you think we should hear from them under oath?

SCHIFF: Well, I do. Ultimately, the chairman of our subcommittee will make the decision in consultation with all of us about witnesses, but I think their testimony would plainly be relevant. They were participants in the effort to overturn the results of the election. You know, in the case of Mark Meadows, he was a very active participant in pushing out the big lie in which led so demonstrably to the attempted insurrection and the attack on the Capitol.

He`s very much in the know of what the President was doing on that day or failing to do on that day, what the White House knew in advance of January 6 about who was coming to that rally on the mall and what might likely happen. So, yes, these are two, I think, very important witnesses, but ultimatelty, we`ll make that decision as a committee.


HAYES: This question might be a bit out of your portfolio, and I don`t want to step on anyone`s toes here, but as I keep watching this, I mean, I just feel like there`s enough for Department of Justice investigation at this point. There is a crime called seditious conspiracy in the U.S. criminal code. You know, and I`ve said this before, if a Chicago alderman was caught on tape saying the exact same thing after an election that Trump said Raffensperger on that Georgia call, just the call, the U.S. Attorney would probably indict the dude by the end of the week. That`s just one data point.

What we have here is obviously a coordinated attempt to steal an election fraudulently. It just seems like if this does not lead to criminal exposure, I guess I just don`t understand the law.

SCHIFF: Well, Chris, I`m very much in agreement. And I also look at that phone call between the former president and the Georgia Secretary of State where the President is saying, you know, can`t you find 11,870 votes, a clear recorded appeal or fraud to overturn the results of the election. And you know, that, to me is the gravamen of an offense and of a criminal investigation.

What the other things that we`re talking about, the efforts to get the Justice Department to weigh in, all of these things, I think, are evidence of the President`s intent to overturn the election that would be relevant in a case out of Georgia. So, yes, I have the same question about you know, is this something the Justice Department is investigating. If it isn`t, why aren`t they? Because if it were you or me, or an alderman in Chicago, or any other city council, state legislative race, etcetera, and you have someone on the phone recorded trying to gin up a phony, you know, 11,000- plus votes, they would be under investigation.

HAYES: Yes, I agree. Congressman Adam Schiff, you guys really have your work cut out for you. I hope you`ll come back soon. Thank you very much.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

HAYES: Coming up, you may have thought that conservatives think America, this land of ours, is the single best country on Earth, but you`d be wrong. Apparently, it`s Hungary. That`s next.



HAYES: The conservative movement in this country is radicalizing against democracy. It`s being urged on by a lot of prominent voices on the right who are propagandizing for a form of government that is at best, a liberal and at worse, probably authoritarian. And the nationalist fanatic tropes of their cult have suffused the rhetoric of the most popular and powerful right-wing media outlet in this country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On one side, you have the enemies of everything this nation has ever been in that. And on the other, you have the Patriots, the Americans, the men and women who will do anything to preserve it, because they know what civilization requires.

You are the heart of a nation that has slept for so long. But now, at last, you are wide awake. So, now I asked you again, what are you willing to do?


HAYES: All right, the people in that and those like the filling host they`re desperately auditioning for the job seem to think they`re being very clever when they don`t just come out and say you should commit violence against your political enemies. What exactly do you think the implication is they`re in that little peroration?

Meanwhile, they`ve got another host attending a dinner getting fed headed by a foreign leader, you know, with the waiter in the background and everyone clinking their glasses, conducting an embarrassingly funny interview with the Prime Minister of Hungary who proudly calls his own country and illiberal democracy, described as the American rights favorite strong man, Zack Beauchamp said in Fox -- on Vox.


CARLSON: I`ve noticed in the last few nights in Budapest, I`ve run into a number of Americans who have come here because they want to be around people who agree with them, who agree with you. Do you see Budapest as a kind of capital of this kind of thinking?

VIKTOR ORBAN, PRIME MINISTER, HUNGARY: The capital of that kind of thinking or one of the capitals because the other central European countries are also very competitive and producing very nice ideas and organizing that kind of communities of conservative and Christian Democrats thinkers as we do.


HAYES: Yes, Hungary, the shining city on a hill that Americans are fleeing to away from the battle of U.S. I guess. Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a professor of history in New York University, the author of Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present. She also publishes a newsletter called Lucid where she wrote this week about how Tucker Carlson and Viktor Orban plan our fascist future.

Ruth, I know this is your area of expertise. I mean, you began your academic study on Mussolini. First, I want to start with this rhetoric that you`re hearing a lot about like enemies, domestic enemies, these people are enemies, you hear it a lot on the right. I find it very awful, unnerving rhetoric, and obviously, like I have a platform to and I`m careful about the words I say. Am I right to be wigged out by the -- by the enemies you`re now awakened, what are you going to do to take the country back from your enemies?

RUTH BEN-GHIAT, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Oh, I`m wigged out too because polarization is just the start. And what we see from so many areas of the right in America now is trying to get people into the kind of survivalist mode. You know, it`s our way or the apocalypse. And in the contribution of January 6 is that violence is now a viable way of doing politics and moving history forward.

So, when the speaker says, what are you going to do about it, this is, you know, baiting people, right? And so, we see it from retired military who start talking about, you know, our nation is in peril. And this is kind of coup talk, right? Every single coup I have studied and a third of my book Strongman is about coups, they were all justified as saving the nation in a moment of peril from the apocalypse.

So, getting people to buy into the idea of violence and especially assigning violence of patriotic value, that you are a patriot if you`re going to do anything necessary to save the nation is part of this.

HAYES: You know, I find that -- I find the Hungary of sort of flirtation equal parts, you know, unnerving and pathetic. And I should note that, you know, American conservatives have a time, long history of, you know, humping the leg of various authoritarian governments. You know, they love Franco. They were very into the South African apartheid state for a while, you know, defended them, were you know, going down there for conferences, they were super into it. This isn`t that new.

And yet, you know, the biggest voice in that universe saying, hey, look, this is the model strikes me as significant.


BEN-GHIAT: It`s really significant, because here`s the thing. Orban is like the poster child for the new way of being a strong man. Today, you don`t shut down elections, you just manipulate elections so you get the results you need to stay in office. You leave a pocket of opposition so the conference at which Tucker Carlson spoke had a couple of Orban critics so that you can`t say -- he says, well, I`m not a dictator. You know, I have the elections, I let critics. But in fact, the nice ideas that the Hungarian person quoted are ethnonationalism, virulent anti-semitism, anti- immigrant.

You know, in 2020, the year that Orban now rules by decree, so he is a dictator formally in that sense. They ended legal recognition of intersex and transgender people, so it`s a repressive state. He doesn`t poison people like Putin. And in fact, Tucker Carlson is the perfect propagandist for this because he himself, his positions line up with a century of fascist thugs, but he always wears a suit and a tie, and he looks very clean cut. So, Orban is the kind of non-Putin that people can buy into, and it`s all very dangerous.

HAYES: There`s also this -- I mean, this sort of -- the idea of moving to the forefront to this argument against democracy, against even liberalism, right? I mean, this is -- again, this has always been a strain of right wing thought. In fact, it`s the original strain of right wing thought to the extent that you could identify our modern right. It is literally born in opposition to democratic revolutions. But to sort of revive and resuscitate that and to and to cultivate it at this moment, it just seems like there is a thing happening in a small part of the intellectual sphere of the right, if you can call it that, that is pushing on -- pushing on that door.

BEN-GHIAT: Oh, absolutely. And you know, Orban has long said as has Putin and back to Mussolini, that liberal democracy has failed. Every generation of right-wing authoritarian says liberal democracy has failed, and I have the solution, right? But we`re seeing this now for many, many quarters in our country.

And what they`re trying to do, which is so dangerous is, you know, the GOP, let`s be frank, it`s left democracy, it has embraced an authoritarian political culture. So that, you know, all of the values of democracy from tolerating political opponents, having a free press, the journalists don`t get beaten up or arrested when they ask questions, all of that is going out the window.

What they need to do now after January 6 is get people to buy into violence, that violence is patriotic, and that`s why there`s the uptick in this kind of last-ditch survivalist rhetoric. It`s us or the apocalypse. And it`s a very -- that`s why I say it`s a very dangerous moment.

HAYES: Well, Ruth, call me old-fashioned or just ignore me, but I think America is great country. I don`t like political violence. And I like liberal democracy. I think those are my -- those are my takes. Ruth Ben- Ghiat, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

It`s been a year since one of the most infamous super spreader events of 2020. Guess what`s back and bigger than ever. The start of Sturgis 2021 next.



CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Today is the first day of the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Despite rising COVID cases and the very transmissible Delta variants, 700,000 people are expected to attend. Some going to great lengths to do so.

The Associated Press interviewed one motorbike enthusiast who made the trek all the way from Hungary, who said he managed to evade U.S. tourism travel restrictions on Europe by spending two weeks in Costa Rica before making his way to South Dakota.

And last year, nearly half a million people said the hell with masking and social distancing, they made the trip to Sturgis. Perhaps that`s partly because South Dakota`s Republican Governor Kristi Noem basically told everyone they had nothing to worry about.


GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): We`ve had several big events in South Dakota already. We had the first spectator attended professional sport. The professional bull riding was held in South Dakota. We had the July 3rd event and saw no increase in cases because of that crowd that gathered to celebrate our country`s freedom and independence.

People have been gathering. We`ve been back to normal for over three months here in South Dakota. So, we know we can have these events, give people information, let them protect their health but still enjoy their way of life and enjoy events like the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. We hope people come. Our economy benefits when people come and visit us.


HAYES: Now, in retrospect, there`s some pretty good data that suggests that Sturgis wound up being one of the most catastrophic pandemic events of the year. Research team, the CDC said it had many characteristics of a super spreading event. It`s what happens when hundreds of thousand people gather in tight spaces, like bars and restaurants and concert venues in a small town over the course of 10 days amid a once-in-century pandemic.

Studies have found there was a spike in cases after Sturgis. As you can see, a majority of those cases concentrated in the upper Midwest.


HAYES: In fact, in the weeks after, if you look at the map here, those dark areas in the map show that places like the Dakotas, along with Wyoming and Minnesota saw a spike in cases after Sturgis. The Dakotas became a kind of epicenter of the pandemic in a way that made no sense except when you remembered Sturgis.

So, what do you think`s going to happen this year, with the highly transmissible Delta variant tearing through the country?

You know, last month, more than a thousand people tested positive for the virus after partying in the small town of Provincetown, Massachusetts. And the CDC studied that and found that three-fourths of those folks were fully vaccinated.

Fortunately, those cases were overwhelmingly milder, asymptomatic and crucially, no one died. Meaning that vaccines in Provincetown passed the stress test. But it`s also a testament to how dangerous the Delta variant is.

And the P town outbreak happened in the county that at the time had 67 of the residents fully vaccinated. Compare that to Meade County where Sturgis is and only 37 percent of residents are fully vaccinated.

So again, what do you think is going to happen?


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, you know, if you have an outside event that`s a moderate number of people, you`re having a large gathering, you know, maybe 50, a hundred people outside, no problem.

But when you have a half a million motorcyclists coming to a town in the Dakotas, then you really got to be careful because you are probably walking all over each other and are very, very close.


HAYES: Now, let`s hope everyone gets lucky here. The future is uncertain, and COVID sometimes zigs when you think it`s going to zag.

But Dr. Fauci knows what the danger is. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem on the other hand doesn`t seem the least that concerned. She`s even planning to attend the rally herself. And she has been out there touting her pro-COVID bonafides for months.


NOEM: We`ve got Republican governors across this country pretending they didn`t shut down their states, that they didn`t close their beaches, that they didn`t mandate masks, that they didn`t need to issue shelter in places. Now, I`m not picking fights with Republican governors. All I`m saying is that we need leaders with grit.

Demand honesty from your leaders and make sure that every one of them is willing to make the tough decision. South Dakota did not do any of those. We didn`t mandate. We trusted our people. Issued and told them that personal responsibility was the best answer.

What we did in South Dakota is what conservatives have always said they believed, we just did it. And we proved that it works. That it works for families, it works for businesses, and it works for this country.

So, we will continue to make the tough decisions to make sure that we`re an example.


HAYES: Governor Noem is not alone on her attitude towards the disease that has killed over 600,000 Americans so far. More and more Republican politicians seem to be doing everything they can to make things less safe. Just as kids are ready to head back to school, that`s next.



HAYES: Kids are getting ready to go back to school in the fall. But if they are under 12, they still can`t get vaccinated.

Now, personally, having covered this now for over a year and a half, I think it`s clear we have to do whatever we can to get kids back to school in person. That seems a consensus, thankfully.

But what that means is that adults working those schools need to get vaccinated. The schools need to take steps to minimize transmission among the children.

Yet despite the CDC recommendation that all kids wear masks in school this fall to stop the spread of COVID, we are seeing right-wing politicians and pressure groups raging against school masking across the country.

In fact, they took a judge to stop a ban on mask mandates in schools in Arkansas, because the Republican legislature wouldn`t repeal the law despite pleas from their own Republican governor who said he regretted it.

Mask mandates are also under threat in Florida schools thanks to an executive order from Governor DeSantis. Governor Abbott band mask requirements in Texas schools too and get this, the Texas Education Agency just took their COVID policy to a whole other level. They issued new guidelines saying that schools are not required to notify parents if there`s a COVID case in the classroom.

For context, Texas schools are required to notify parents within 48 hours if a kid in the classroom gets lice.

I`m joined now by Lina Hidalgo who serves as the judge and chief executive of Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, the largest public-school district in the state.

Judge, it`s great to have you. Let`s just start on this one. I mean, I want to say this is an innocent mistake or something. But I saw the Texas Education Agency put this out today on Twitter. And I just couldn`t believe what I was seeing. Am I -- am I nuts? Am I missing something? Like, how could it not be a requirement you let a class parents know if a kid in the class has COVID?

LINA HIDALGO, JUDGE AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: Yes, look, it`s not a puzzle just to you and me. It`s a puzzle to the superintendents across the state. I`ve been in touch with a 20 plus superintendents of the school districts we have here in Harris County. And they`re very concerned about the way the state is making it hard for them to keep kids safe.

There`s something of an unwritten contract with every parent of every child that says that school districts and teachers and administrators will do everything they can to protect kids under their care, certainly that they will do no harm. And this is the opposite of that. Especially for the children under 12 who aren`t even eligible for the vaccine. They`re defenseless and so, there is this huge sense of frustration and confusion that then turns into tragedy really.

HAYES: Yes, I just got to say, as a parent like, you damn well better sure be letting me know if there`s a COVID case in my kids` class. Just going to say that as a parent, like, I think most parents probably feel the same way.


HAYES: Now, in this case, I know the superintendent is sort of oversees these in schools, and this isn`t -- this is the sort of floor, not the ceiling, right, of policy. It`s not like they`re banning schools from telling them.

But on the mask question, Governor Abbott has attempted to stop schools from requiring it. And then Houston Independent School District said this last night during tonight`s agenda review meeting, Superintendent announced he will propose a mask mandate for students, staff and visitors at all Houston Independent School District schools, buses and facilities to be voted on next week by the Board of Education.

That is not within your governing purview, but do you support that decision?

HIDALGO: Absolutely. I absolutely support superintendent in that decision, superintendent house and in any other school districts in Harris County across the state that are considering doing this.

But you do have to ask yourself, what is the point of banning masks in public schools? What is the point? There is certainly no medical reason for it. It has to be purely political.

And we were just hearing -- you know, there seems to be a competition among the Republican governors to see who can politicize this the most ahead of the 2024 presidential elections at the expense of our children.

And I think we`re putting these superintendents in a very difficult position, they receive funding from the state, they receive guidance from the TEA, the Texas Education Agency, but again, unfortunately, they`re going to have to step up. And all of us are working doing everything we can to keep these kids safe.

HAYES: What tools -- I mean, Texas has not quite seen the spike that we`ve seen in say Louisiana and Florida, but we`ve seen elevated cases there. I guess the question is what tools do you have on a policy level at your disposal in trying to stop or mitigate the levels of community transmission in Harris County?

HIDALGO: Well, we are seeing very concerning numbers. And you know, the good news here in Texas is we started from quite a low level, but in terms of the increases in cases, hospitalizations, positivity rate, they are increasing faster than they`ve increased at any point during the pandemic.

And so, very quickly, for example, my public hospital system here in Harris County, we`re having to make decisions about which patients to treat. The private hospital CEOs are telling me if things keep going in this direction, they could run out of space. So, it is a very concerning situation.

My hands as a local official are now tied, I can no longer require masks, I can no longer require implement any kind of public health intervention per state edicts. And so, I`m just communicating very directly with the community.

Just yesterday, I ordered a threat level to go to red, the highest threat level, the clear recommendation, everybody obviously needs to get vaccinated, we`re doing everything to lower the barriers to vaccinations.

You know, sending teams all over the county, incentives, scholarship programs, you name it. And then, asking everybody wear mask and those who are unvaccinated, you just stay home and avoid all contacts. Because they`re putting the entire community at risk, making it vulnerable to variants.

And of course, our children, you know, you just have to picture these classrooms in schools with a 1000, 2000, 3000 students, nobody wearing a mask or few wearing a mask. You know, these kids that can`t have a vaccine, as sure as you and I are talking here, there`s going to be cases and all of those can be avoided.

HAYES: We should say that Texas has seen vaccinations go up. The Texas State Department of Health sit today saying that daily vaccinations are at 15 percent from last week, 30 percent from two weeks. Texas administered over 512,000 doses this week. 363,000 were first doses.

You oversee a county that is extremely diverse and large. Dozens of languages are spoken. You have all kinds of different communities in Harris County. What are you finding success in in getting those vaccination numbers up?

HIDALGO: Most importantly, going into each community, partnering with organizations, leaders in the community that know sort of what works, what`s a convenient place in terms of assuring vaccinations.

But definitely, you know, we were seeing (INAUDIBLE) African American community have lower rates. We have seen the good news as an increase over the past two weeks and we`re going to continue to do everything we can.

HAYES: Lina Hidalgo who is the county judge for Harris County in Texas, thank you so much.

HIDALGO: Thank you.

HAYES: Still ahead, the unprecedented 2020 Olympics finally starting to wrap up now in August 2021, that`s next.



HAYES: Well, it`s been one of the most improbable, certainly unprecedented and extraordinary sports events in modern history. The 2020 Olympics finally came -- would finally come to a close this Sunday, a year late and in the middle of a global pandemic which is ongoing.

More than 11,000 of the world`s greatest athletes gathered in Tokyo to compete against each other. It was touch and go about whether it was even going to happen. The Olympics without fans in the stands with mandatory masks and daily COVID tests and there are already a few troubling signs of a COVID spike in Tokyo which would not be that surprising. Japan`s Prime Minister denies a link between the games and the surge.

In spite of all those challenges for the millions of people tuning in around the world, I have to say, I`m one of them, it was a joy to watch to see athletes excel at their sport, to experiencing something approximating normal.

I`m joined now by two people who have been watching the games as closely as anyone Dave Zirin sports editor of The Nation, author of the upcoming book The Kaepernick Effect and Kavitha Davidson, sports and culture writer at The Athletic, author of Loving Sports When They Don`t Love You Back.

I am -- I have always been a real Olympic gym junkie. I felt this way about the Olympics, the way that I felt last year about the NBA bubble, which was like a very weird and artificial but I was just like, yes, just give me some basketball. Like, give -- I`m watching.


HAYES: So, I felt the same way with the Olympics, which is weird for a lot of reasons and a little conflicted about whether should it be happening and what the public health risks were.

You know, one of the weirdest things about this Olympics was this kind of culture war thing which you guys have both written about. Watching conservatives like root against the U.S. as a weird kind of like badge of right-wing honor, that this -- Breitbart had this tweet about like Americans who love -- who love the United States are celebrating the defeat and human humiliation of the woke leftist Olympians.

And Kavitha, I got to say, like, I never in a million years thought I would find myself in this place where like, the right was rooting against American athletes in Olympic Games, but I guess that`s where we are.

KAVITHA DAVIDSON, SPORTS AND CULTURE WRITER, THE ATHLETIC: I mean, I guess we`re at a point where the most patriotic thing is un-patriotism. I don`t really understand what this -- what this is about.

This also comes after former President Trump released some statement about the U.N.`s -- the U.S. women`s national team and about this rejection of woke Olympians. I have to say that Olympians are Olympians no matter what their politics are. They represent our country. They`ve all done a phenomenal job and it is very bizarre to see people on the right-wing denigrate people who have worked their entire lives to represent our country.

HAYES: Yes, and this -- and there`s this like weird narrative that`s been spun up, you know. I think this is part of a broader thing, Dave, where we`ve seen like, you know, the idea that like wokeness has infected everything from like the U.S. military is a bastion of wokeness to, you know, the Olympic Games. It just seems paranoid, but it`s like everything that used to be the things I thought were like flag and apple pie, have now in the minds of its critics been turned into some symbol of leftism.

DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, THE NATION: Well, they`ve ruined the word woke, and they`ll probably ruin apple pie too before it`s all said and done.

But the problem -- what`s so hilarious about this whole thing is that they`re really talking about the United States women`s soccer team, which has been such an inspiration to people all across the world. And Megan Rapinoe, this person who grew up working class in Redding, California, 36 years old, has had this amazing 20-year career playing for U.S. teams who now seems to live rent-free in the head of Donald Trump at all times. And if you don`t think that`s because she`s a woman, proudly LGBTQ, then, if you don`t get that, then I don`t know what to say to you.

But what I find about this that`s particularly galling and hilarious in its way is that the U.S. women`s soccer team, you know, they were in the bronze medal game because in the main game, was Canada was playing that famously unwoke nation. They were taking a knee before the game.

So, what are we really talking about here? Wokeness or politics, it`s about -- it`s about trying to take down these incredibly brave women who`ve inspired people politically in the United States.

HAYES: You know, my favorite part of the games is watching obscure sports listening to commentators talk about those sports with like incredible sophistication and talk about technique.

And I thought of that -- in the -- in the arc of the Simone Biles narrative, which I felt like was one of the main stories of the game. Of course, Simone Biles, you know, she has a really -- an almost catastrophic vault, she takes herself out of the all-around team competition. She then sits out all the events until during the Balance Beam in the end.

And you know, at first the story was mental health and mental health is important, which was true, but also not really the story, Kavitha. And I found that the actual story about the sort of complex connection between physical and mental performance in a gymnast and the danger of not being locked in and the way she described what happened, I learned so much and appreciated so much more what she and other gymnast do from that episode than I would have if it had never happened.

DAVIDSON: Absolutely, I`m with you on loving the obscure sports. Every four years we all suddenly become dressage experts but with Simone Biles, it has been really interesting to see the education that the American public has gone through over the intricacies of gymnastics. The way that you described, you know, the way that the physical and the mental are so connected. We all learned what the twisties actually are. They`re not just the yips.

And I think that one of the things that we need to take away from this is that gymnastics is such a dangerous sport. And really, the only reason we don`t give it its credit as being as dangerous and as physically tough as it is, is because the faces of gymnastics that we know in the United States happened to be pretty women who wear sparkly leotards and makeup, and that doesn`t discount how athletic these women are. And I think that`s a message that we need to take away from this.

ZIRIN: And Chris, if I could add one thing, Simone Biles is the greatest athlete in the history of the United States. Boom, full stop.

HAYES: Wow, that`s a bold claim. That`s -- we can do three hours on talk radio -- talk sports radio tomorrow on that, so I`m going to put a pin on that one.


HAYES: Dave Zirin, Kavitha Davidson, thank you so much. (INAUDIBLE)

That is ALL IN for the week. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now with Ari Melber in for Rachel. Good evening, Ari.