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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, September 23, 2020

Guests: Bart Gellman, Michael Waldman, Rukmini Callimachi, Sherrilyn Ifill, Desmond Meade, John Legend


President Trump said in a press briefing that he won't commit to a peaceful transfer of power. There were protests in Louisville, Kentucky tonight and across the nation after one officer was charged with a minor felony but not for the actual killing of Breonna Taylor. Activist Desmond Meade and John Legend push to restore voting rights in Florida for people who are formerly incarcerated.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Yes. She voted with her principles. So, we are out of time. Gloria Steinem, thank you so much. I really appreciate you being here. I also want to let you guys know that I'm going to be on with Jimmy Fallon later this evening if you guys are up late, so check out the Tonight Show. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you commit to making sure that there's a peaceful transfer of power?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want to -- we want to -- get rid of the ballots and you'll have a very -- you'll a very peaceful -- there won't be a transfer frankly. There'll be a continuation.

HAYES: Tonight, a five-alarm fire for democracy. Explosive new reporting at the Atlantic on Trump's vast ongoing project to steal a second term. Pulitzer Prize-winner Barton Gellman joins me live.

Then, the outrage in Louisville and across the country. Why were no officers charged directly in Breonna Taylor's death? And my interview with John Legend and activist Desmond Meade on their fight to stop the modern-day poll tax in Florida, when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York. I'm Chris Hayes. We are monitoring demonstrations tonight in Louisville and around the country as protesters react to decision today by a grand jury in Kentucky to not pursue murder charges against police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor in her own apartment just six months ago.

One officer was charged today with a relatively minor felony, but not for the shooting of Taylor herself. We're going to have much more on the protests. And that charge later in the show, as well as conversations with John Legend and many others. But we begin tonight with a chilling moment, I got to say, I don't know any other way to say it. The President of the United States is threatening violence to stay in power. It sounds weird coming out of my mouth. But that's what happened.

When explicitly asked to commit to a peaceful transfer of power today, he declined. And this was his response.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transfer of power after the election?

TRUMP: Well, we're going to have to see what happens. You know that. I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand that, but people are rioting. Do you commit to making sure that there's a peaceful transfer of power?

TRUMP: No, we want to -- we want to have -- get rid of the ballots and you'll have a very -- we'll have a very peaceful -- there won't be a transfer, frankly, there'll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control. You know it. And you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than everybody else.


HAYES: Just to be clear, if you're talking to a person, and you ask them to commit to behave peacefully, and they refuse, they're threatening violence, right? What the President is doing here is the most explicit that he has been about his plans for this election. He's plotting and open and public repeatedly, a coup to steal the election and hold on to power.

Again, it all sounds crazy to say. It is what we are seeing. Those are the plain facts as assembled before us. It's not a behind the scenes type of thing. It's happening in public, in plain view. The election is 41 days away. People are already voting. And look, a few things can happen between now and November 3rd. I mean, the polls could all be wrong.

It could turn out that Donald Trump is just much more popular than appears to be right now, even with 200,000-plus Americans dead for a pandemic, or some event could happen that changes things dramatically and Donald Trump could just win. He could win outright. He could win the popular vote and the Electoral College in a clear and evident fashion. That is a possibility.

Another possibility, one that right now polls would indicate is much more likely is that if Democrats fight and organized and the broad bipartisan, anti-Trump majority in this country comes out and votes in unprecedented numbers, that Joe Biden could sweep by eight or nine or 10 points in the popular vote as many as 400 Electoral College votes, a decisive, historic, unambiguous route. That's another possibility.

But we also may land somewhere between those two ends, where the margins are tight and the outcome is not obvious right away. And that's what the President is very explicitly planning for. Because those tight margins, that ambiguity, sets in motion his plan to steal the election.

Now, there are already attempts all over the country to make it harder for Democratic constituencies to vote. There's voter I.D. requirements. Those have been around a while. And there's plans to send Trump-friendly volunteers to patrol polling places and intimidate voters. We saw that in early voting in Virginia after consent decree that used to stop the Republican Party from doing that has lapsed.

There are also, right, as part of this kind of attempt, there are lawsuits all over the country filed by the Trump campaign Republicans. Places like Pennsylvania, right, where the Trump campaign, the Republicans sued to block voters from using dropboxes, of all things, to turn in their balance, right. That's because they don't want people to be able to vote.

And then, then there is the key tactic, the key rhetorical tactic which is what we have seen time and time again, the relentless attacks aided by William Barr's lies on legitimacy and integrity of mail-in voting while the country is still in the midst of a once in a century pandemic that has not ebbed because of the President's failures.

And so, the President has been attempting successfully in many cases to polarize views of mail-in versus in-person voting around support for himself. The goal is that the pro-Trump minority of the country, and it is a clear minority, let's be clear here right now as I speak to, that minority votes in person on election day and that the anti-Trump majority perhaps more concerned about the pandemic that they largely vote by mail.

Of course, the President's abject mishandling and politicization of the Coronavirus crisis has a lot to do with us being in this position to begin with. And the President has been explicit about why he's doing this, right. He will take advantage of something called the red Mirage where more Republican votes come in first, because those people voted in person, making it look like Trump is ahead on election night. And then he will attempt to use the courts to delay something called the blue shift, which is just the counting of more heavily Democratic mail-in votes.

They're all the same votes. They're all just getting counted at different times, right? Keep that in mind, right? There's a stack that's over here, there's a stack that's over there. If the election night stack is very Republican and the mail-in stack that gets kind of later very Democratic, there's no difference between those votes. But he will try to use the courts then to invalidate as many of those mail-in ballots in this stack over here as he can.

Remember, this is why today he refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, the mail-in ballots. Get rid of those ballots, he said. Those mail-in ballots are also the reason the president says, keep saying that he is counting on the courts, the federal courts to help him win. He's not going to wait for the ballots to be counted. He's saying it.

That is why the President and his allies like Senator Ted Cruz are also making this part of their explicit argument to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg seat on the Supreme Court. They're all out there. Mike Pence said the same thing. We should have nine justices on the bench, and odd number, to resolve the election.

Keep in mind, Republicans already have a five to three majority of the court. But apparently, they do not trust Chief Justice John Roberts to be enough of a hack to corruptly hand them the White House. So that's everything that he's doing in public. But it is even worse in private behind the scenes, especially when you think about how they might use the power of the presidency, again, to corruptly steal the election after the votes are cast.

And this, this is the subject of this new piece by Pulitzer Prize winner Bart Gellman titled "The election that could break America." The piece is nearly 10,000 words long, and it breaks down just how much effort and planning is going into stealing the election.

Now, Bart Gellman is going to be joining us in just a few minutes, but I want to take you through a piece of his reporting. Again, this is not like fanfiction, it's not like doom casting about what's going to happen, this is reporting, right. The Trump campaign reportedly actively engaged in conversations about appointing, appointing loyal electors for Electoral College in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority, with a justification, again, based on those claims of rampant fraud, right, the seeds has been sowing. Trump would then ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly.

So in this scenario, after President and his party litigate, and they delay and they fight, and they scratch, and they claw, and hopefully, they get lucky with a bunch of judges that Donald Trump installed, and they get to get them not to count as many of the mail-in votes as possible and take a long time, those votes that they suspect are largely Democratic, and the Republican-controlled state legislators would agree to discount the will of the people in their states because who can really say there's all this fraud, just listen to the president, and hand him his electors the victory in the Electoral College.

I know. It sounds like dystopian science fiction. It's just the reality we live in right now. It's what is happening in front of our eyes. We have to be honest about it the same way we had to be honest about what the virus was going to do to this country back in late February.

It is, frankly, a plan for an authoritarian power grab. Now, as you digest this, before you get paralyzed by this nightmare scenario, because part of the plan here I think is to kind of psych people into paralysis. There are even more nightmare scenarios we're going to talk about, but the key thing too important to remember is there is an off-ramp here. And it doesn't lie with Donald Trump. It doesn't really lie with Mitch McConnell or federal judges or anyone. The off-ramp, the remedy to avoid all this is just a historic mobilization of the country's anti-Trump pro-Democratic majority coming out to vote, delivering a resounding unquestionable defeat to the president and his agenda in order to save American self-governance.

And Joining me now is Bart Gellman, staff writer for The Atlantic, author of that incredibly reported and frightening piece "The election that could break America." It's a great piece of work, Bart. Thanks for joining us.


HAYES: So, you know, here's what I think we should zero in on. You hear these people say, well, Trump's not going to leave if he loses. And my thinking was no, if he loses, he will leave. He will be kicked out of the White House on Inauguration Day, January 20th. But what you're describing is actually a plan to essentially use the rules and the jacking around them to create a plausible legal victory in the absence of an actual popular one. And it starts on election night.

Let's talk about this sort of plan around an anticipation that on election night the votes are kind of polarized along in-person, mail-in voting. What does that do? What does that start to set in motion in terms of the plan the Trump folks have?

GELLMAN: So, Trump has deliberately polarized the -- that's an insight I didn't come to until very recently. His comments on mail-in voting, Chris, are designed to drive his votes to the polls in person, and Democratic votes to stay in the -- in the mail-in ballots to be safe from COVID.

And that gives him a proxy so that his lawyers, the probably more than 1,000 lawyers he's got lined up to go in the battleground states beginning on election day, or beginning months ago, because they've been fighting yourself all year. They know which balance to target. They know which ones to accuse of being fraudulent. They know which ones to challenge signature by signature and envelope by envelope.

And the idea is to freeze the count in place on election night. It's never going to get better for Trump than on election night, because that is what he's expecting his voters to turn out, and many Democratic voters yet to be counted. So the idea is to freeze that in place to raise accusations of fraud and rigging and general chaos, to go into court, but basically, to delay any period during which Biden could be coming back or to delay any recognition that Biden is ahead.

This is all assuming that things don't go well for him, Chris. I mean, as you pointed out, he could win. He could win legit. But his plan is the plan of someone who does not expect to get the most votes.

HAYES: That -- I mean, I guess one question, right, is there are different rules in different states. And this matters quite a bit about when those ballots are counted, when they're allowed to be counted. In fact, there's been a little bit of Republican mischief around that in those states intentionally intervening to make them not counted to make it illegal to start counting them before Election Day. Am I right about that?

GELLMAN: That is right. There have been a number of lawsuits around the country that lead to the question. You've got a whole bunch of mail ballots that have come in. They're stacking up in the offices. Are you allowed to start comparing signatures? Are you allowed to say, yes, John Doe requested about? Here is the ballot. The signature matches, the address matches, all the checks they're supposed to do. And then they put the inner security envelope, which has the ballot, the actual vote in it into a place where it will be counted on Election Day.

But it's a laborious process. And if you can do that pre-processing before Election Day, then you have a chance of having same day results. Many states don't allow that.

HAYES: Some states do. I think Arizona does, if I'm not mistaken. Florida --

GELLMAN: Florida does.

HAYES: Florida does which is key. And that's why Florida ends up being key because they count pretty quickly. And because they allow that, that process starts as the balance coming in. I know this is technical, but think about this, right? Like when we're talking about the two stacks, right? There's some states where there's two stacks, and there's some states where there's essentially one stack, right?

And the states are there's one stack are the ones where the mail-in votes are coming. You're opening them. You're saying this person is a voter. It goes in the same stack as the same day votes, right. And Florida is one of those states. It's part of the reason that Florida closing fairly early and counting quickly is so key.

Now, let's talk about this idea of that timeline, right. Because I think people need to think about this. Obviously, there's a lot of people on the other side thinking about this, Mark Elias and others There's basically the constitution and statute, right, creates a deadline for states to appoint their electors in December 8th, is that correct?

GELLMAN: Right. So, December 14th is the day the electors meet in their 50 state capitals and cast their ballots. Popular misconception is that the Electoral College itself does not meet as a body.

HAYES: Right.

GELLMAN: That's December 14th. December 8th is called the Safe Harbor Day. That is the deadline for each state to appoint its electors, to certify these are the electors who are going to cast our votes. And after that deadline, they can't be sure that Congress will accept the credentials of those electors.

As long as there is no controversy about who the electors are on December 8th, then Congress respects the state's designation of electors. If there is controversy, and this is going to be key in our story here, then it's Congress that decides. If there's more than one slate of electors, for example, if there's controversy of about who counts, then Congress decides which electors, if any, to accept. And that's the key to the Trump plan.

HAYES: And that was key to the reporting here, because this -- I have thought about the scenario for a long time because it's in the Constitution, and if you sort of game it out. But you have -- I mean, I think that the chair of the Republican Party is on the record in your story saying he's discussed this. You've got sources close to the Republican Party in Pennsylvania saying, yes, we're talking about it.

And it's one plus one equals two, right? If you can get enough lawsuits that you delay, delay, delay, and then it's December six or seven, and say, oh, man, well, we haven't counted yet. We're going to -- we have to send our electors in, and it's a big mess. Us, the Republican state legislator of Pennsylvania selects Donald Trump electors for the state of Pennsylvania. Here you go.

GELLMAN: Right. So, you have to rewind a little bit. It's in the Constitution, that state legislators can appoint electors for president in any manner they choose. And the Supreme Court ruled in Bush v. Gore in 2000 that state electors could -- state legislators can take back that power from the people anytime they want.

So, we're accustomed to voting by popular vote for who's going to represent our state as state electors, but the constitution doesn't guarantee that. And the idea that some Trump people are discussing -- I'm not saying they have a plan to do it, but I know that it is coming up and they have discussed it also with the Republican Party in Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state, is that they would ask Republican legislators who control both chambers in Pennsylvania, and in fact, in all six of the most closely contested battleground states, to name Trump-friendly electors notwithstanding the popular vote, regardless of the popular vote, that it will be a claim that the count is unfinished, or that it was corrupt, or that it was rigged, or that there are still legal disputes. And so, just appoint some Trump people.

HAYES: We should say that Mark Caputo, Politico got some on the record comments from political state reps in Florida today saying, no, we won't do that, which was good. It's good to have that on the record. Although --


HAYES: Yes, of course. Joni Ernst was also saying there's no way we're going to confirm a judge -- a justice in an election year. So, like, I'll take that for what it's worth. All right, Bart Gellman thank you so much. The pieces is available at the Atlantic. People should read it. Again, in the same way, when I spoke to you in late February about the virus, we should just be clear eyed about what the possibilities of the future. So, thank you, Bart. I really appreciate it.

GELLMAN: Thanks so much for having me.

HAYES: OK, now, still to come, if you're watching this, you're wondering, what options do you have to make sure your vote is protected and what to do about all this? Do not go anywhere because we're going to talk about that next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transfer of power after the election?

TRUMP: Well, we're going to have to see what happens. You know that. I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand that, but people rioting. Do you commit to making sure that there's a peaceful transfer of power?

TRUMP: No, we want to -- we want to have -- get rid of the ballots and you'll have a very -- we'll have a very peaceful -- there won't be a transfer frankly. There'll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control. You know it. And you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than everybody else.


HAYES: By the way, that's flatly wrong. The ballots are not out of control. We're in the midst of a once in a century pandemic that's killed 200,000 people and sickened seven million. We're amidst cascading and overlapping crises, tens of millions of people out of work, a historic crisis for the country in terms of the strength of our democracy. All of us as democratic citizens are being called upon to do what we can to avoid a catastrophic blow to our system of government.

There are going to be battles fought in the courts and various things the campaigns are going to be doing. There are also small things you can do to play your part in this. Obviously, voting is one of the key essential necessary tools as well. But in a pandemic, it's unclear how to do that safely.

The Brennan Center for Justice Studies, among other issues, studies, among other issues, election integrity and security. It's been issuing reports on topics that include how polling site consolidation affects turnout and the racial disparity in wait times at the ballot box. And joining me now, Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and public policy Institute at NYU Law School that has -- that program has aimed at protecting the vote.

OK, let's talk about what people can do about voting. First, obviously, you need to make sure you're registered and there are registration tool. We have Plan Your Vote tool at How are you talking to people about how they should think about their vote plan?

MICHAEL WALDMAN, PRESIDENT, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: Well, this year, of course, because it's unlike other years, the pandemic changes a lot of things, all of us as citizens have to do a bit more to make sure that we can be registered, that we can vote, and that our vote counts.

So the first thing is make sure you're registered. There are ways to do that online. Then, if at all possible, vote early. Whatever way you're planning on voting, whether it's vote by mail, or in person with absentee ballots -- excuse me, with in-person early voting or on Election Day, the most important thing is if you can vote early enough to have your vote counted with confidence, then people can know that they'll be able to have their vote passed and have it matter.

HAYES: This is -- this is key here. And I want to make this distinction between mail-in ballots and voting early in person. Because I think early in-person is also a really good option. There are fewer crowds, there's more space, generally because it's not Election Day, right? You tend not to have big long lines.

These are the states. You can -- you can do early voting or what's called in-person absentee in all of the states that you see up there, which is a lot of them. If you can take advantage of that, again, we talked about this strategy of kind of polarizing mail-in voting versus in person, this is a way of doing it.

You can vote -- do we have that graphic? This is a way you can do it. We vote early in person in many states. Check your state to see if you can do it.

WALDMAN: Well, and you can also check to see if your ballot went in. In a lot of states, there are ways to track it online. Look, already in this country, one out of three people vote before Election Day in a typical year, whether in person or absentee. And this time, it'll probably be more, you know, probably closer to half or above that.

But Trump's diabolical streak here is taking something that never was particularly controversial, and making it seem like some horrible disaster. There's another thing that can be done that's important that is another positive thing. States need money and Congress provided $400 million but that's not enough. But the good news is the private sector is actually stepping up.

I don't only mean philanthropy actually providing funds, but businesses. There's a coalition called Time to Vote of 1,000 big companies giving people time off and encouraging them to be poll worker, younger people to go staff the polling places. Those kinds of things make a big difference. Making the stadiums available as polling places as the NBA and the NBA Players Association have made it happen. There's kind of a civic upsurge to try to help the election to happen notwithstanding Trump.

HAYES: Right. So, you can -- you can volunteer to be a poll worker, particularly if you're young, you're someone who maybe has antibodies, a relatively low risk. You can -- we're going to need poll workers. We saw what happened in Milwaukee in that primary, not enough poll workers, so they had to close locations, you get big lines.

So, you can work to be a border worker. If you're in a state that can vote early absentee in person that's relatively safe, relatively empty, relatively spaced out, it means that vote goes into that pile the count tonight pile, right, which is key. And then a key thing here, Michael, I think that's worth talking about is tracking your mail-in ballot.

If you are going to vote early -- if you're going to vote absentee, if you're going to use a mail-in ballot, you will see that the vast majority of states allow you to track it, which means you -- it can be complicated, right? We talked about the naked ballots in Pennsylvania. There's two envelopes. You got to sign it. Make sure you follow the rules. And then make sure it gets counted by using your state's tool to track the ballot.

WALDMAN: It's like tracking a UPS or FedEx package or their overnight mail. We have those tools. We're all used to using them. And fortunately, it's something that's available now for our democracy. I will mention one last thing that can be a vaccine to inoculate against the virus of the misinformation about this election, and that's the news media.

We know that it is as you've covered, it shows that it's likely that it's not going to be some big reveal at 11:00 on East Coast time when the polls are closed in the West, and now we know and we're going to tell you who won. Probably not, it might be. It's probably going to be several days. And that is not a problem. That is not chaos.

HAYES: Right?

WALDMAN: That is not fraud. It just means people are carefully counting the ballots. And I think we all need to get used to that and T.V. and other media institutions have a big responsibility too.

HAYES: I could not agree with you more. Michael Waldman of the Brennan Justice Center, thank you so much. Next, protests in Louisville tonight after a grand jury announced no murder charges in the police killing of Breonna Taylor. The president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Sherrilyn Ifill joins me to react to this decision right after this.


HAYES: There were protests in Louisville, Kentucky tonight and across the nation in a number of cities after one officer was charged with a minor felony in connection with the death of Breonna Taylor not for her actual killing, rather for endangering the lives of other neighbors with the reckless gunshots that he fired.

This is the scene in Louisville tonight where the police have declared a state of emergency. Federal buildings are close to the public. Barricades were put in place downtown. The National Guard has also been deployed the city. The mayor has issued a curfew. It starts in less than an hour at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Tensions have been high throughout the day. In fact, a gang of cammo-clad gunmen, civilians with weapons were seen marching in downtown Louisville this afternoon and refused to identify themselves to a reporter. Scuffles broke out between police and protesters not long after today's announcement was made.

Now, police have already started rounding up and arresting protesters, declaring some protests even though they were non-violent, unlawful assemblies. We're seeing protests happening across the country tonight is the scene in Washington D.C. They're also protests in Chicago and New York and L.A. as Americans take to the streets to express anger and frustration over what they see as the lack of justice for Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, an aspiring nurse who was killed in March when officers executing a so-called no-knock warrant broke down her door as part of a narcotics investigation.

She was in her apartment with her boyfriend who said he believed the couple was facing a home invasion. He fired his gun once at the front door injuring an officer police fire back hitting Taylor at least five times and killing her. Two of the officers involved were not charged in the announcement today. They remain on the force on administrative leave.

A grand jury recommended charges for single officer. That would be Brett Hankinson who was fired back in June. He was not charged with murder or manslaughter but first-degree wanton endangerment because some of the shots he fired blindly into Breonna Taylor's apartment entered the apartment of a neighbor.

That former detective faces up to five years in prison for each of three counts. Legal experts say he could potentially qualify for pretrial diversion, which would potentially keep him out of prison. The officers who shot Breonna Taylor remain free.

I'm joined now by New York Times Correspondent Rukmini Callimachi who was in Louisville tonight. Rukmini, you've been reporting on this and done some amazing reporting on Breonna Taylor's life before this moment. Talk us through what happened today in terms of what evidence was presented the charges and what the reaction has been.

RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: You know, Chris, the difficulty with this case is that there were a domino effect of decisions that were taken before the officers even got to her door, which in many ways set in motion the events that led to her death.

The three officers who showed up at her door were not part of the investigation that led police there in the first place. That intelligence was already flawed. There have been questions about the warrant that was issued in the case of her -- of her apartment. But once the raid was in motion, the three officers who were at her door did have a warrant that had been signed the day before by a judge, so they were there legally.

According to at least one witness, they did announce themselves as police. They beat down her door. And once they got inside her apartment, they were fired at. So, what the Attorney General explained is that according to Kentucky's statute on self defense, they were within their rights to fire back.

Hankinson, Brett Hankinson, the detective that is the only one who is being charged here, broke the formation at the -- at the door, the stack of officers who were there getting ready to go in. He ran outside into the parking lot. And from the parking lot without any line of sight, he began blindly firing into her patio door and into her window.

Those bullets passed across her. They did not hit her. This is why she -- this is why he is not being charged with her death. But they went into an apartment behind hers where there was a pregnant woman, her husband, and their five-year-old child. Thankfully they were not hurt. But that's where that charge is coming from, the reckless endangerment charge for the neighbors who were behind.

HAYES: We should note that Breonna Taylor's boyfriend says he did not -- they did not say police and he did not hear them. There is one witness who said they did hear that. The police say they did announce themselves. He says that he's -- it's night and people barge into his door and he think he is being -- he's being assaulted.

He is -- there are no drugs on the premises. Nothing is found. There is no reason to think they're doing anything criminal whatsoever. He is a lawful gun owner and he is protecting his domicile.

CALLIMACHI: Right, right. A couple of points, Chris. So number one, according to a former instructor at the Police Academy here in Kentucky who taught the course on what is called dynamic entry, which is this type of raid when you burst into somebody's house, you have to knock and announce very loudly. You're supposed to announce so loudly, he said, that you wake up the entire neighborhood.

By all accounts that did not happen. I was able to find -- after taking apart that apartment complex, I was able to find a single witness who I believe was the same witness that the Attorney General and their investigation spoke to, and he was outside his apartment. He was a truck driver who was coming home late from shift, and so he was on the landing outside and heard the police shouting police and crucially, he heard it only once.

So, it's possible that both sides are telling a version of the truth here. It's possible that the police announced themselves, but not -- but not sufficiently. And it's possible that Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend did not hear them through multiple walls in the bedroom where she was asleep, and he was getting ready to fall asleep.

Now, regarding the investigation, the family and the legal team have pointed out that no drugs and no cash were found at the premises. The investigators that I've spoken to have pushed back really hard against that. And they point out that no search was actually conducted once she was killed. Once she was -- she was killed, the search was called off.

I was skeptical of this claim until I was able to get access to hundreds of pages, now thousands of pages of police documents. And I did find among those documents, a document that said warrant canceled, and it was issued before all of the -- before all of the protest about Breonna Taylor, so that point remains inconclusive.

But you're absolutely right. If you're asleep in your home in the middle of the night, why would you hear police that shout at most "police" once?

HAYES: Rukmini Callimachi of The New York Times who's down there in Louisville as folks react to this announcement today. I want to bring in Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. And you know, something that I've seen a lot of people say today is that the law as constituted, gives police tremendously wide latitude to use lethal force against people, and this is the system that we have.

SHERRILYN IFILL, PRESIDENT AND DIRECTOR COUNSEL NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND: Well, I have talked for some time, Chris, about what I call the regime of impunity that protects police officers and the entire apparatus from accountability and we're seeing some of that today. I insist, Chris, on reading something to you. Based on my observations and supervision of this officer for the past calendar year, I would not recommend him for reemployment at any time in the future due to his actions in violation of standing orders, refusal to accept supervision, and general poor attitude towards the division of policing and its commanding staff."

That was written by the former supervisor of Officer Hankinson when he worked at the Lexington Police Department, written a year before he joined the Louisville Police Department. So, one area of impunity is the ability of officers, unfit officers to go from department to department. Since he's been in Louisville, he's been the subject of multiple disciplinary actions. He is currently under investigation for multiple charges or claims by women of sexual assault.

This is the person that they had go to serve, "serve this so-called warrant at Breonna Taylor's home." So, it begins, first of all with just the personnel. And then we know all of the mistakes that happen, the sending away of the ambulance that is supposed to be outside when they engage in this kind of action.

I want to know more though, Chris. This is why I want to see the grand jury transcripts. I want to know how this case was presented to the grand jury. The idea that they would come forward with only one set of charges, none of them having to do with Breonna Taylor herself is quite alarming. And I would like to know how this case was presented to the grand jury.

HAYES: You know, it's striking to me as we saw that footage of a number of men walking through the streets openly carrying their weapons, sort of dressed up like some kind of, you know, proto-military, paramilitary gang, that, you know, Briana Taylor's boyfriend was a lawful gun owner who was using his weapon in service of the thing that people who celebrate gun rights in the NRA say is the sacrosanct reason that we need guns, the sacrosanct reason that has to be defended to protect your home from invaders. That is precisely what this man thought he was doing in the night when people barge in his home. And Breonna Taylor is dead and there's no recourse for him.

IFILL: Because black people don't have Second Amendment rights when they are in encounters with white people or in encounters with law enforcement. That's the reality. And that's what's so chilling and so frightening. One of the MSNBC guests said earlier today, Marq Claxton, he said, you can't put together the castle doctrine that a man or a woman can protect their home with no-knock warrants, right?

HAYES: Right.

IFILL: So, this encounter happens. And remember, the boyfriend is charged with attempted murder before all of this came to light. We are only learning about this because of the activism, the protests, the refusal of people to forget Breonna Taylor and to insist that we say her name.

And after all this time, what we've gotten out of it, are these charges, these wanton endangerment charges against an officer who never should have been on that police force, let alone assigned to execute a warrant under these kinds of -- this kind of high tension situation. There's a lot more to learn about what happened and what has been happening in the Louisville Police Department.

HAYES: You know, one thing that I've learned from Radley Balko's great work in his book The Rise of the Warrior COP is the insane overuse of no-knock warrants. I mean, this is an extremely dangerous tactic, extremely high leverage that is used indiscriminately by forces across the country of barging into people's houses and causing mayhem and violence and destruction and mistakes a shocking percentage of the time.

IFILL: Yes, a mistake that results in a loss of life. So, one positive that has come out of this in Breonna's name is that Louisville no longer uses no-knock warrants, and they have been outlawed, which is -- which is wonderful. There is a provision that would bar no-knock warrants in the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act that was passed by the House and that sits in the senate yet untended to.

This has to be addressed. But this whole warrior mentality of police departments, which is why I'm sitting here nervous, Chris, because LDF filed suit against the Louisville Police Department in July because of the tactics they used against protesters in May and July using live projectiles, excessive force, and so forth. And so, we are hoping tonight that the police will exercise restraint as protesters have exercise their first amendment rights in response to today's announcement.

HAYES: Sherrilyn Ifill, it is always such an honor to get to talk to you, particularly these very fraught moments. Thank you so much for carving out a little time for us.

IFILL: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: Tonight, major developments in the fight to restore voting rights to Florida residents with felony convictions. John Legend will be here live with Desmond Meade. Don't go anywhere.


HAYES: So, there's one thing we know about Florida and the election is that Florida is going to be very, very close. We got some polls out today that shows how much that's always the case and continues to be the case. CNBC had a new poll out. It shows Joe Biden up by three points over Donald Trump among likely voters in Florida. Then there's an ABC News-Washington poll that shows Trump ahead by four.

Remember, in 2016, Donald Trump won the state by just over 100,000 votes or a bit over one percent. And the FiveThirtyEight polling average, to give you a sense for Florida, has Joe Biden just up by 1.6. So, again, razor-thin now. Republicans know how close the state can be, and they have undertaken this staggering assault on people's access to the franchise precisely for that reason.

On our show, we've covered this incredible grassroots effort to restore voting rights to some of the felons in Florida who had the paid their debt to society. Now, Florida used to have this among the strictest felony disenfranchisement laws in the country. But two men, a Republican and a Democrat, white and black, both convicted of felonies, organized a Florida constitutional referendum and people voted in index sharply divided state.

Look what the results were in 2018. This is a 50-50 state, right? Look at those results. 65 percent voted yes, 35 percent voted no in favor of democracy and reintegration of the formerly incarcerated, incredible victory. Well, the Republicans got to work on that. And the Republican legislator moved to pass a law that would stop former felons from voting until they pay their fines, even though that's nowhere in the text of what people voted for back in 2018, but it would disenfranchise those same people all over again.

The Republicans in the legislature passed it and the republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed it, and now perhaps the 775,000 people cannot vote unless they come up with money. That's right. They have to pay money to vote. If that sounds like a poll tax, a federal judge agreed writing, "The 24th amendment precludes Florida from conditioning voting in federal elections on payment of these fees and costs."

Now, with the voter registration deadline looming on October 5th, less than two weeks away, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, this grassroots groups working on this, has raised more than $20 million, with a recent contribution from Michael Bloomberg, to pay those fines in time to make sure every eligible voter in the state can cast a ballot this November.

Joining me now are two people instrumental to this project, Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, who had his right to vote restored by Amendment Four in 2018, and author of the forthcoming book, Let My People Vote: My Battle to Restore the Civil Rights of Returning Citizens, and John Legend, a major fundraiser for the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, who has also written and produce a few hit songs that you might have heard of.

Let me start with you, Desmond about where things stand right now. There's a -- this has been such a struggle, and so many two steps forward one step back, and federal lawsuits. How would you characterize where things stand right now in terms of formerly incarcerated folks in your state having access to the ballot?

DESMOND MEADE, PRESIDENT, FLORIDA RIGHTS RESTORATION COALITION: Well, Chris, first of all, thank you for having me on again. It's great to see you. Let me -- let me start by saying this. You know -- and I know you mentioned something about Bloomberg, but this thing is far beyond that.

You know, I think that I'm happy, I'm smiling, because I'm seeing something amazing. Over 44,000 people across the country have been standing up the freedom to vote in Florida, that believes that a person should not have to choose between putting food on a kid's plate or voting. They shouldn't have to choose between paying a random mortgage and voting.

And so, this is an amazing display of people just standing up to defend on creating a more inclusive democracy. So where do we stand? I'm going to tell you where we stand. That we have 1.4 million Floridians who benefited from Amendment Four, and out of those 1.4 million, there's 774,000, who have some type of outstanding financial obligations.

Let's not lose sight of the fact that that still leaves five to 600,000 returning citizens who can register to vote right now today because they don't have those barriers. But we're not forgetting about American citizens, one of which who just died last week and her dying wish was to be able to cast a ballot before she did pass away. But unfortunately, she was unable to do so.

And I know that there's so many American citizens in that 774,000 that wants to experience what I experienced just a few weeks ago when I voted for the first time in over 30 years. And what that experience was goes beyond partisan politics. We letting those legislators legislate and the litigators litigate, and we're going to let the politicians do what they do to try to divide this country, but at the core of what we're doing is bringing people together from all walks of life, all political persuasions to experience the American dream of being able to stand up in the voting booth and say that I am, I exist and I count.

HAYES: You know, John, what Desmond is speaking to there about the sort of -- the sort of indefatigability of this effort in this movement, I mean, you know, you organize -- you get this 75 percent -- 65-35 outcome in a divided state. It's amazing. Then, the legislator comes back and tries to bar these people. And I've just watched as people said OK, whatever it takes. What does it take right now? What is this fundraising movement looking to do?

JOHN LEGEND, SINGER, SONGWRITER, ACTIVIST: Well, we're going to literally pay off some of these fees and fines and free the vote for thousands more people. And we believe this is a moral imperative to include as many people as possible in our democracy. We believe it's a moral imperative because the people of Florida, as you so eloquently said, voted 65 to 35.

Since when the Florida vote anything 65-35? It's been a divided state for such a long time. And the requirement for that amendment to pass was a supermajority, 60 percent. And we exceeded that supermajority by five points. So, the idea that the state legislature would then turn around and try to basically repeal what the people voted for is so unconscionable for so many Floridians and so many Americans.

So, we're all coming together to say, well, let's erase these fees and fines by paying them off for people who need the help, and that's what we're doing.

HAYES: Desmond, you've had quite a week last week. You were named as one of the Time's 100 most influential people. You also were denied your application for a full pardon from the governor, from Governor DeSantis. I think that denial happen today or yesterday. Your reaction to that denial.

MEADE: Yes. And I look at it, Chris, as justice delayed is justice denied, and I was actually denied the decision. But that experience really speaks to why we launched the amendment four campaign to begin with. When you -- we have a situation here where it was purely arbitrary. Clemency hearings are designed to look at what a person does after they have committed their crime, how they have rehabilitated themselves, how they become an asset to the community. And it's very laid out.

My track record is very clear. The work that I do with the homeless, the work that I do with returning citizens, the work that I've done even in responding to COVID-19 in prisons and jails, and I've had all kinds of accommodations from being named Floridian of the Year and Central Florida of the Year, and even Time's 100 most influential in the world. And if that is not enough to show rehabilitation and a commitment to giving back to the community, then what is?

And it just speaks to the arbitrariness of this clemency process that we've been talking about for many years, and that was the purpose. How could we let for politicians just rule arbitrarily to decide which American citizen get to vote and which don't? Amendment Four created an alternative pathway, so that American citizens who have done their time, who have paid their debt to society, and just want to move on with their lives and choose whether or not they want to participate in democracy have that opportunity to do so.

And that is what we're fighting about because at the end of the day, it's about people, real people from all walks of life, all political persuasions, that just want to move on and feel like they're a part of this country.

HAYES: John, I want to ask you since I have you here, and obviously on this sort of somber day when we got this announcement out of the state of Kentucky about charges for one of the officers involved in the shooting and death of Breonna Taylor. I know you wrote an op-ed on her birthday. You've been very vocal in looking for some kind of accountability and justice for Breonna Taylor, and for people that are feeling frustrated or angry or disappointed or upset. I wonder what you want to say about your own reaction today to that announcement.

LEGEND: I'm angry. I'm frustrated. I'm grieving for Breonna and for her family. I'm grieving for so many other families that have had these interactions with the police, that have had these killings caused by the police that have gone with no accountability. It continues to happen. The system is not broken. It's working exactly how it was designed, so we need to change the system.

And part of the way we do that is through our election process. Part of the way we do that is by voting for different attorney general's, different district attorneys who will adjudicate and make decisions in a way that's more progressive and more in tune with what's happening in the community and protecting the lives of all the citizens of the community instead of being in collusion with the police force and the police unions to protect them.

We need to make sure we're voting so that we have a say in all those local and state officials that make these decisions that far too often side with the police, believe the police's account without taking into account the value of the lives of the police's victims.

HAYES: All right, John Legend and Desmond Meade, gentlemen, both, thank you so much for making time tonight. I really appreciate it.

LEGEND: Thank you.

MEADE: Thank you so much, Chris.

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

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We've got a lot to get to tonight.


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