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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 9/6/21

Guests: Spencer Ackerman, Mara Gay, Susan Del Percio, Mazie Hirono


Senator Mazie Hirono discusses the Texas abortion ban. The select committee investigation into the January 6 insurrection continues. New backlash emerges over GOP governors fighting COVID safety measures for students, as the Delta variant surges across the South. The war in Afghanistan is examined 20 years after 9/11. President Biden approves federal aid for the New York area after deadly flooding.


YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, everybody. I`m Yasmin Vossoughian.

And we have got a lot to get you on this Labor Day Monday.

With the unofficial end of summer upon us -- I know it`s depressing -- Congress is coming back in session, and the January 6 select committee probing what led to and during the MAGA riot is moving forward and intensifying.

GOP Leader McCarthy threatening data companies if they comply with the law and send over phone and Internet records. Today, we know he`s acting on that threat, with news from the 11 GOP lawmakers the committee is pursuing, the group accidentally sending a letter to the wrong CEO in an attempt to stop data from being turned over, the letter sent to the ex-CEO of Yahoo!

Marissa Mayer was one of more than a dozen urging companies to decline the panel`s request to preserve phone records, vowing to -- quote -- "pursue all legal remedies" if they don`t.

Now, this fight leading many to ask of course, what is McCarthy hiding here?

Here was Leader McCarthy on the probe that he is not even involved with.


QUESTION: Another question that the Democrats want to know is, how deeply was the president involved with what happened that day?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Well, you know what is interesting about that? That`s where law enforcement goes. The FBI has investigated this.

The Senate had bipartisan committees and come back. And you know what they have found? That there was no involvement.


VOSSOUGHIAN: We`re going to get reaction to that, the committee`s bipartisan leadership responding pretty quickly, calling McCarthy`s Trump comments baseless.

All of this as D.C. is bracing for another far right rally scheduled for September 18. This one is dubbed the Justice for January 6 Rally. It`s in support of the 500-plus rioters charged with crimes in the January 6 insurrection.

Joining me now to talk more about this, former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal, Democratic strategist Juanita Tolliver, and Republican strategist Susan Del Percio.

Welcome to you all, guys, on this Labor Day evening. I appreciate you joining me and laboring alongside me.

Neal, I`m going to start with you on this one. And I kind of want to get a fact-check from you on what Republicans are saying as to why they issued this letter, this threat, I should say, to some companies, not even getting the CEOs right, by the way, when it comes to calling for these phone records.

And they said this: "The Republican architects of these new letters say that would violate federal law and would put every American with a phone or computer in the crosshairs of a surveillance state run by Democrat politicians."

That was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. What do you make of that, Neal?

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think the technical legal term for that argument is poppycock.


KATYAL: So, first of all, the Justice Department has secured 50 different pleas after January 6 and 600 arrests.

But anyone who has a TV and saw what happened on January 6 knows that that`s just the tip of the iceberg. There were far more people involved, including possibly people in government. And what Congress is trying to do is to say to the phone companies, preserve these records. Just don`t destroy them.

They haven`t necessarily said what they want or what they`re going to look at yet. But they`re saying, don`t destroy them. And we don`t trust the individuals in Congress not to delete their own phone records. So that`s why they`re going to the telephone companies.

Now, nobody thinks that McCarthy in this letter is right legally. It`s preposterous. There is attorney-client privilege in the law, but there`s no legislator-conspirator privilege. And the threat here is kind of like Trump`s threat against the big tech companies. It`s unserious, it`s attention-grabbing, and it`s a convenient line for a fund-raising e-mail, but, legally, there`s nothing to it.

And that`s why they can`t cite to a law that`s been violated. And, indeed, if this were the law, then you would have the inability to investigate members of Congress when they`re accused of serious wrongdoing. That`s just an insane thing, particularly for something like this, the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Is there nothing legally wrong, Neal Katyal, with going about a congressional investigation this way, threatening folks inside of a congressional investigation that are trying to subpoena information?

KATYAL: Well, nothing wrong with it if you`re a mob boss, I guess. But if you`re a member of Congress, and you believe that your job is to uphold the law, the idea that you`re so afraid of a duly authorized enforcement investigation that you won`t even turn over your phone records or let the phone companies do it, I mean, that is the start of mob rule, which is, of course, what January 6 was about.

So there`s nothing legally to this. And it`s a really dangerous idea, the idea that Congress knows best and they can commit crimes willy-nilly, and the American public and investigators can`t even find out what they did.

VOSSOUGHIAN: I mean, the whole idea of checks and balances essentially goes out the window if these corporations were to abide by what McCarthy and the other Republicans are asking of them.


Let me just play for folks. I want to remind people, Juanita, and then I`m going to ask you about it, what McCarthy said on January 13, days after the insurrection.


MCCARTHY: The president bears responsibility for Wednesday`s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.

These facts require immediate action by President Trump. Accept his share responsibility. Quell the brewing unrest.


VOSSOUGHIAN: I`m trying to figure out how this even happened, right, how this transition happens from January 13, when you got a lot of folks saying, wow, at least he`s now saying this, right? He`s now holding the president, then-President Trump, responsible, to now saying the president had no involvement with January 6.

What is the motivation here for McCarthy?


JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yasmin, I just wish that line could be played by anyone who interviews or talks to McCarthy for the foreseeable future. Just play that one line: Trump bears responsibility.

And to your question about the pivot, all it took was one trip to Mar-a- Lago, right? He went down to Florida later that same month, in January this year, and kissed the ring of Trump. And what we have seen since then has been a regular cadence of him bowing down to Trump and playing for the audience of one.

Now, we know he`s doing that for his own electoral interests, but him really lying with his entire chest in these interviews shows how far he`s willing to go and, also, as we have seen, potentially previews how he would behave if he is given the House speakership.

Now, I`m sure he`s protecting more than Trump with these lies, though, Yasmin, because we know multiple members of the Republican Conference have now recalled all of a sudden multiple calls they had with Trump. They`re also concerned about the fact that these request to telecommunications firms goes to April 2020.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Who else do you think he`s protecting, Juanita? Who else do you think he is trying to protect?

TOLLIVER: I think he`s protecting Taylor Greene, Boebert, Jordan, Gaetz, anyone who has potentially given a tour.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Some of the folks, by the way, whose names are on this letter that were sent to the corporations, just so everybody understands.

TOLLIVER: Yes. That`s exactly right, 12 Republicans who are potentially listed as having their records flagged and put and requested to not be deleted at these telecommunications firms.

And while the select committee says they`re not necessarily going to lead to further investigation, they want those records preserved, so when they have questions, they can connect the dots. Who did they talk to? Were they texting members of Proud Boys? Were they giving tours? What video footage is on their phones, right?

Like, it`s all about connecting the dots here, so that the select committee can probe even further. And I hope the select committee is emboldened by this response that we`re seeing from McCarthy and others in the GOP, because it shows they`re on the right track, and the GOP is filling the heat.

VOSSOUGHIAN: So, Susan, you have been in this position before, right, figuring out the strategy for folks like McCarthy as to how to deal with what seems to be a ballooning problem for them when it comes to the January 6 committee and the investigation into what happened on that day, right?

What is the strategy behind McCarthy doing this? So, there is obviously this consensus amongst the three of you that they are trying to hide something, right, that McCarthy, along with so many other Republicans, are trying to hide something. But what is this strategy?

Is this a P.R. strategy, for instance, ahead of the midterms? Because they know the timing of the release of the findings of this investigation could very well come right before the midterms, And they certainly want to look like they have been sullying this thing from the get-go to their supporters.

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think McCarthy has two things he has to do.

One, he has to please Trump because he wants to raise money, and he needs Donald Trump`s support to potentially take back the House in the 2022 midterms. But, most of all, I see this all as a delay tactic, trying to delay things as much as possible.

It`s exactly what Donald Trump did when he was president and in the private sector. This is to delay, delay, deny, deny, and hope that -- just keep going forward with that narrow, keep throwing things out there. Throw out big tech, because why not? I mean, they can`t even get the name of the head of one of the companies correct.


VOSSOUGHIAN: I know. That`s not great.

DEL PERCIO: I don`t have a whole lot of faith in whatever -- whatever strategy they may be trying to pursue, I don`t have a whole lot of faith in that as far as their competency.

But I think that`s all they can do, is just trying to talk a talk, and, most of all, trying to please Donald Trump. I don`t think it will be successful. I think McCarthy is driven out of pure fear. I think he knows that there`s other things besides what members may have done.

There may be lines connecting people to following the money, to following people back into certain districts that could be very scary for him, especially as he`s looking at raising a lot of money nationally. So there`s a lot at stake here. And he is afraid.

VOSSOUGHIAN: I just want to mention, Marissa Mayer, ex-CEO of Yahoo!, who actually got one of these letters, she didn`t step down yesterday, by the way. She stepped down in 2017. That was quite some time ago, way before all of our lives changed dramatically, especially with the pandemic and the election and everything else that has happened since then.


Neal Katyal, there is this idea cited in "The Hill" about the fact that the president could feasibly claim executive privilege when calling for some of these documents. Is that a risk? The former president, I should say, by the way.


KATYAL: I mean, he can try. And he will wail about executive privilege -- he already is -- all he wants. But the fact is, he`s lost the presidency.

And the final decision under the law about who can invoke executive privilege is the current incumbent president. And seeing as that president has allowed former Trump DOJ officials already to testify in this investigation, if I were Trump, I wouldn`t be holding my breath.

But, again, I think that what was said is right. These are delay tactics. And, in some ways, it`s worth noting they have already worked. I mean, today is September 6. That is eight months to the day from when this attack on our nation happened. And we still don`t have answers to basic questions because of Republican obstruction.

They first wanted to block a committee altogether. And now they`re invoking all these fake privileges to try and hide the truth from the American people. It`ll eventually not work. But I think it`s a real shame that here we are, eight months later, we don`t know the answers to a lot of basic questions.

VOSSOUGHIAN: So, talk about January 6.

Let`s talk about September 18, right? There is this rally planned on Saturday, September 18. I`m going to be covering the rally live for folks if, in fact, it happens. And it seems as if it`s supposed to be a celebration of the insurrectionists planned by a former Trump campaign operative.

I want to play a portion of what Michael (sic) Braynard has said about this September 18 rally.


MATT BRAYNARD, ACTIVIST: We have our next rally planned. It is in the middle of September, September 18. And it`s going to be huge. And what`s going to define it is where it`s going to take place. We`re going back to the Capitol, right where it started.

We`re going to have members of Congress speak. We`re going to continue to raise the volume push back against this phony narrative and demand justice for these political prisoners.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Juanita, what do you make of this?

TOLLIVER: It really, fully aligns with the lies that we have heard from members of Congress trying to retell the story, even though we have video footage of the way that these violent attackers, because that`s what they were, violent attackers, scaled the walls of the Capitol Building, and threatened the lives of every person in that building, and as well as in the surrounding community.

And what I make of all of this is a degree of frustration, because while this organizer sees this as celebrating and marking the date, and marking the location of the Capitol, what`s frustrating to me is the trauma that was endured by everyone who was in that building and in the surrounding communities, because let`s be real.

People forget that D.C. is comprised of regular human beings trying to go about their day-to-day lives. And so I`m concerned about the trauma that individuals around the Capitol and in the Capitol will feel in even recalling what happened on January 6. But I am glad to hear that law enforcement officials and federal agencies are taking notes and taking this as a serious potential threat and taking preparations as needed.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Susan, it doesn`t seem like these people are necessarily concerned with recognizing the trauma that folks felt on January 6, when those insurrectionists stormed the Capitol.

DEL PERCIO: No. And, obviously, this is about grandstanding.

But I do have one other concern outside of the Capitol. Almost a year ago, militia were arrested for trying to kidnap and kill Governor Whitmer of Michigan. These militia groups had been growing, as we saw from last October, into the insurrection.

But now there`s also a national network of these or just within the state. So I do hope that capitols are being fortified and that there`s a lot of attention being paid to the groups in individual states, in addition to the Capitol, because I do see that as a very big potential dangerous situation for many.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Neal, can we talk about that for one moment? Because with all that has been going on in our government, right, in our country, it seems as if especially the Biden administration has been inundated, right, with so much to do when it comes to infrastructure, obviously, when it comes to the reconciliation bill, to the pandemic, to Afghanistan, and so on and so forth.

But there is this kind of pervasive problem that we haven`t necessarily talked about since January 6 or has kind of put on the back burner. And it`s what Susan just talked about, these militia groups that are that are huge throughout the country and that are growing.

Is this government doing enough?

KATYAL: Well, I do think the White House is doing a lot.

With respect to the militia stuff, they appointed Josh Geltzer at the National Security Council to run this. And they have had -- they have extensive work being done in this area. So I`m actually pretty happy with the White House and how they have reacted.


KATYAL: I`m a little worried about Congress and the security there.

I was just talking to just a college intern yesterday. And I asked him, what was the most surprising thing about your internship over the summer? And I thought he`d answer like Ben Sasse or something like that. He said the lack of security at the Capitol.



KATYAL: He said he can just walk around there, go anywhere. They barely check his I.D.

I mean, this is eight months after January 6, so I`m very worried about that and what`s going on in terms of security at both the U.S. Capitol, and then, as was said before, also state capitol buildings.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Yes, I have heard that as well.

Neal Katyal, Juanita Tolliver, thank you, guys.

Susan Del Percio, I`m going to see you again at the top of the next hour, so thanks for sticking with us.

Coming up, everybody, new backlash over GOP governors fighting safety measures for students, as the Delta variant surges across the South.

Plus, the Biden Justice Department stepping up to protect women`s rights after that anti-choice law in Texas. We`re going to explain.

And then later on, a big update on the criminal probe into the Trump Organization.

Stay with us.



VOSSOUGHIAN: Welcome back, everybody.

Let`s talk about the pandemic, the U.S. surpassing 40 million total COVID cases this weekend, as millions of kids are heading back to school.

A lot of students in the South, they have already been in classrooms for weeks now. In Texas, for instance, where Republican Governor Greg Abbott just lost his legal fight to ban mask mandates in schools, more than 40,000 students are being affected by school closures in at least 45 districts.

Philadelphia`s La Salle University just canceled all in person classes this week amid a startling rise in cases, despite having nearly 90 percent of the campus fully vaccinated. And then you go to Florida; 15 Miami-Dade County school staffers have died from COVID in just 10 days.

And then, nationally, a pillar of the COVID safety net ending this weekend, expanded unemployment insurance expiring, leaving millions in limbo heading to the fall, with so much still unsure.

And to the head of the American Teachers Federation lashing out now at some governors.


RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: We got to get these governors to stop their madness, stop their irresponsibility, stop their moral -- they are morally reprehensible for not allowing and for making us have these fights about mass mandates.


VOSSOUGHIAN: All right, right, joining me now is Mara Gay with "The New York Times" editorial board and Dr. Natalie Azar, an MSNBC medical contributor.

Mara, I`m going to have you weigh in first on what we just heard from Randi Weingarten, essentially saying -- and she`s talking about, right, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis politicizing the mask mandate.

I mean, they`re getting so many cases in those states, so many children hospitalized now, schools closing, do you think this could come back to bite them politically, especially as we get further, further into the winter season?


I think, unfortunately, as people continue to get sick, to suffer, to see their loved ones die, I do believe that you will eventually see a sea change even in some more conservative areas about the vaccine or at least about mask mandates and other safety precautions.

But, as per usual, unfortunately, these Republican governors are playing the short-term game and thinking of their own short-term political self- interests. They also don`t want to become the target, right, of right-wing campaigns against them.

And I think that is a factor that should also be considered. Now, that that`s not to give them credit. They should actually just do their job. But that is the environment that we`re living in.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Dr. Azar, let`s talk about the science of all this, right? I`m about to send my kiddos back to school September 13. That`s when near New York City public schools are back in session.

I`m worried. And I think a lot of parents are worried. When you look at the American Academy of Pediatrics saying one in five new COVID cases just in the last week of August, they were in kids. How worried should parents be right now?

DR. NATALIE AZAR, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I wish that I could give you reassurance about the statistics, Yasmin, but as long as we have a pandemic that`s out of control in adults, we`re going to see that filter down into our kids.

The hospital rates have also increased fivefold in the last couple of months in children. And there appears also to be an inverse relationship to those hospitalization rates and E.R. visits with the rates of vaccination in the community, so, not surprisingly, again, that the adults in the room need to do their part and become vaccinated.

And to your point specifically about those kids who are too young to be vaccinated, that, of course, is the biggest concern.

Hence, the American Academy of Pediatrics has urged what they refer to as layered mitigation. So, anyone who is eligible for vaccination, including staff and teachers and everything like that, and kids over the age of 12, need to be vaccinated. And all the other things need to be done, mask mandates and ventilation and frequent testing and all the stuff that we have talked about now ad nauseum.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Ad nauseum, right. We felt like it was over, this type of conversation. And, suddenly, here we are once again at the beginning of the school year. We thought we were going to catch a break for a moment.

I found what Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, said really interesting. And I want to read it to you, Dr. Azar.

He said this: "It is really important that we convey that success does not equal no cases." He was telling Politico this in an interview: "Success looks like very few people in the hospital and very few dying."

I see this two ways. And I want to kind of get your assessment. But the way I`m seeing it is, A, we`re going to see more and more breakthrough cases is what I`m hearing from him here. And, B, we`re going to live with COVID for a long time.

AZAR: Yes, and I think both of those things are true.


I think we have all now sat back and had a moment to think about the impact of the extraordinarily effective and high efficacy numbers that we quoted for both the mRNA vaccines very, very early on when they rolled out. And that seemed to sort of equate with an expectation that, if you were protected 95 percent against symptomatic infection that you would never get a sniffle.

And I have this conversation very frequently now even with my own husband, as well as patients. When we talk about the third dose, rather than calling it a booster -- we`re trying to sort of switch the nomenclature a little bit to say perhaps that we need a third dose to complete the series for COVID-19 vaccination and say, how much more protected from hospitalization and death do you need to be?

If it`s greater than 90 percent right now, that`s really, really good. And I think we all do need to get comfortable with the idea that we might experience a flu-like illness with COVID-19, but we won`t end up in the hospital.

Now, there`s a lot of nuance there, right? Because if you`re living with someone who`s immunocompromised or an elderly parent or grandparent, that mild, mildly symptomatic infection, of course, has -- holds much more significance.

But yet I think it is important to start shifting the idea of how we -- what our relationship to COVID-19 is when and very likely will become an endemic infection and a part of our lives.

VOSSOUGHIAN: So, Mara Gay, then you have this raging Delta variant right now. There is this new variant that we`re going to talk about in just a moment. The Mu variant that seems like it`s coming on the horizon is now a variant of interest. I`m going to ask Dr. Azar to weigh in on that in a moment.

You have got the end of unemployment benefits in certain states, some of them cutting them off earlier than others. You have got this news out of CNBC saying 26 states ended federal unemployment benefits. But the data is suggesting it is not getting people back to work, right? There was this theory that the second they cut off extended unemployment benefits, folks would get back to work. Well, that`s not what happened.

And I`m wondering if there is a sense that this is also just a fear factor, because we are still in the throes of this thing.

GAY: You know, I don`t believe that the persuasion campaign to get Americans who are unvaccinated vaccinated should end.

I do think that there is a majority of Americans who are saying to themselves, I am not going back to work or to school, necessarily, unless I know that those around me are vaccinated and are taking COVID seriously. And I think, in some ways, this is part of what is driving those numbers that you`re talking about.

A majority of Americans do actually fear this virus and understand the science. They respect it. They have taken steps to protect themselves and their families, and they have a healthy fear. And I think part of what needs to shift is, we need to understand not only the anxieties of those who are vaccine-hesitant or resistant.


GAY: But we also have a healthy respect for everybody, first of all, but also for the lives and health of everybody else, because I think people have a right to be protected from the unvaccinated.

And we are not really talking about that. That is a serious concern for millions of Americans.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Dr. Azar, last word to you. And I just kind of want you to give us really the ABCs of this new variant, what we need to know, how worried we need to be at this variant that could possibly evade vaccines.

AZAR: Right.

So, remember that when a variant becomes a variant of interest or a variant of concern, it`s displaying that it`s doing a couple of things or one thing at all, increased transmissibility, causing more severe illness, or evading the protection from a vaccine or from natural immunity.

The combination of the mutations that they`re seeing in the new variant is concerning for evasion of protection, as you mentioned, Yasmin. But a very, very important thing to remember is that we have not seen that yet in real life.

This is something that they`re just sort of studying the biology of this very, and this is what they are seeing. This is how it starts. And it`s something that Dr. Fauci has assured all of us that they`re watching very closely.

If we start to see significantly increased transmissibility with this variant, then you have got two out of the three problems happening, and that becomes much more of a concern. If it kind of burns out, then it won`t really make a big difference, but it`s certainly something that the experts are watching very closely right now.

VOSSOUGHIAN: I feel like everybody who is watching took as big of a breath as I just did in listening to you with this latest variant.

Sometimes, you just kind of go, whew. It`s going to be OK. It`s going to be OK.

Mara Gay, Dr. Azar, thank you, guys, both. Appreciate it. Happy Labor Day, by the way. Thank you for joining us.


Coming up: Saturday marks 20 years since the attacks on September 11. What does the future of Afghanistan look like now?

Also today, on this holiday, Attorney General Garland made major news on protecting women`s rights, all that and news on the Trump Org criminal case.

Stay with us. A lot more coming up, folks.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Welcome back.

The Texas law demolishing women`s legal rights in Texas is facing a national fight. Today, Attorney General Merrick Garland releasing a statement vowing federal law enforcement protection when an abortion clinic or a reproductive health center is under attack.

The feds in Texas and across the country, they`re on notice with Congress coming back, Speaker Pelosi vowing a vote on an abortion rights bill. The question is, how can this move in the Senate? And what about those GOP lawmakers supporting this Texas law as they demand no mask mandates to fight COVID? Where are they on the rights and freedoms for women?

This issue just one of many hugely important pieces to President Biden`s agenda coming into focus as the summer break ends.

Joining me now is Senator Mazie Hirono, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us on this Labor Day. We really appreciate it.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Good to see you, Yasmin.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Great to see you.

First give me a reaction to the attorney general`s statement that he released today on the Texas law.


HIRONO: Well, I`m glad that he`s saying that there better not be any kind of violence or any other kind of efforts to stop women from getting other health care services.

But there`s been such fear and the chilling effect and the chaos that`s resulting in Texas as a result of what they`re doing over there, followed by other states that want to follow suit, by the way. This is an attack on women`s health care. That`s how I see it.

VOSSOUGHIAN: It seems as if the Supreme Court decision -- the majority at the Supreme Court decision basically said, listen, they found a loophole, right? Texas found a loophole. And other states, as you mentioned, will likely be following suit, other conservative states.

But Laurence Tribe wrote today in an op-ed that it seems as if the attorney general did not go far enough. He didn`t necessarily say that in his op-ed.

But Laurence Tribe wants to go further, saying this: "The need to disarm those who cynically undermined constitutional rights, while ducking all normal avenues for challenging their assault on the rule of law, becomes paramount."

He cites Section 241, Senator, of the criminal code, making it an even more serious crime for two or more persons to agree to oppress, threaten or intimidate anyone in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States.

Does the attorney general in his statement go far enough in protecting women`s rights in the state of Texas?

HIRONO: One, I`m really glad that both the president, as well as the attorney general, is looking at using whatever tools that they have.

Until Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, women`s right to an abortion should still be protected. So I`m hopeful that Merrick Garland will use whatever he can.

At the same time, there is another case that is before the Supreme Court that is going to give them the chance to overturn Roe v. Wade directly. And I would like the attorney general to weigh in. I think he should intervene in that case and argue against whatever the state is doing.

I think it`s Mississippi and their restrictive laws.


HIRONO: So there are things that we can do.

At the same time, what should be happening is that every state should be codifying Roe v. Wade, as Hawaii did a number of years ago, because these restrictive laws are being enacted by state legislatures all across the country. And that`s where we need to take the fight, in addition to, of course, clarifying the Roe v. Wade in the federal law.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Let`s talk about codifying Roe v. Wade in the federal law.

And I just want to mention, you`re talking about the state of Mississippi, the case that is on the Supreme Court docket banning abortion after 15 weeks. Obviously, the Supreme Court will be hearing that case in the fall. And we will see where they land on that.

Codifying Roe v. Wade, when it comes to federal law, obviously, Speaker Pelosi saying she`s going to bring this thing to a vote, right? What is the likelihood, though, that it could get through the Senate at this point? I think that`s what a lot of folks that are in support of making this law, that`s what they`re worried about.

HIRONO: This is yet another reason that we should get rid of the filibuster, so that we don`t have to have a supermajority to get anything important done in the Senate.

So, that`s what we ought to be pursuing, yet another reason. Voting rights and so many other issues are being stymied in the Senate because of the need for a supermajority. That means that we have to get 10 Republicans to vote with the Democrats on these issues.


HIRONO: And that ain`t happening anytime soon.

So, filibuster reform is once again -- yes, that should be on our agenda.

VOSSOUGHIAN: So you`re talking about filibuster reform. Obviously, this was talked about when it came to voting rights as well.

Senator Joe Manchin coming out, Kyrsten Sinema coming out and saying no, no, no, no, filibuster is staying in place, the president even supporting the filibuster is staying in place. Are there phone calls being made? Are there conversations being had? I know, there`s a lot of conversations being had with Manchin when it comes to the reconciliation bill and this most recent opinion that came out over that.

Are those conversations happening when it comes to the filibuster now riding on voting rights and this Texas bill?

HIRONO: I certainly hope so.

And I expect that these conversations are happening because the Democrats want to get these issues addressed, if we want to do the American Families Plan that`s going to enable women to get back to work and that`s going to expand Medicare. So we want to get these things done.

And my hope is that, at some point, Joe Manchin will also say, yes, we got to get these things down, and we can`t wait around for the Republicans to see the light, because they are not going to see the light. They are going to do everything they can to stop these bills from being enacted.

That`s so clear. Everybody, get it?

VOSSOUGHIAN: Have you ever had a conversation with Senator Joe Manchin about this?


VOSSOUGHIAN: And do you think he will change his mind?

HIRONO: Still working on it.


VOSSOUGHIAN: A political answer from a senator, to be expected on this Labor Day.


Senator Mazie Hirono, thank you, as always, for joining us this evening.

HIRONO: Thank you.

VOSSOUGHIAN: We appreciate it.

HIRONO: You`re welcome.

VOSSOUGHIAN: All right ahead, everybody: residents in New York and New Jersey mourning loved ones lost in unprecedented flooding. What to expect from the president`s trip there tomorrow.

But, first, as we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a sobering view of the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. We got a special guest on that coming up next.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Welcome back.

So, this Saturday will mark 20 years since the September 11 terror attacks. It is the first since the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan. And it is the first since 9/11 on which the Taliban flag will fly over Kabul.

The war in Afghanistan cost $2.3 trillion and over 20,000 U.S. troops were wounded or killed. Joe Biden finally ending the war after what critics say was a chaotic withdrawal, a war that spanned four presidencies.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States military has begun strikes against al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.


The war against terror will be long.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This war distracts us from every threat that we face and so many opportunities we could seize.

It is in our vital national interests to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not repeat the mistakes we have made in the past, the mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth president.


VOSSOUGHIAN: I wonder if then-President George W. Bush knew just how long.

Joining me now is Spencer Ackerman, correspondent at The Daily Beast and author of his new book, "Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump."

Spencer, thank you for joining us on this.

My first question to you is, do you think the United States learned its lesson that nation-building just does not work?

SPENCER ACKERMAN, THE DAILY BEAST: No, the United States is determined to learn absolutely no lessons of Afghanistan, even if we`re going to say that`s the lesson of Afghanistan. I don`t think that`s the lesson of Afghanistan at all.

I think the lesson of Afghanistan was never to have fought the war in Afghanistan.

VOSSOUGHIAN: So, what do you...

ACKERMAN: I also want to say one other thing.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Go ahead. Yes, please.

ACKERMAN: In the Chyron you put up when you talked about the costs of the war...


ACKERMAN: ... another important measure that very frequently gets ignored is that the war killed, by a conservative estimate, 160,000 Afghans.

And we must never remember that -- we must never forget that.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Yes, you`re absolutely right. It is not just the loss of Americans that served overseas there, but the countless innocent lives, Afghan innocent lives that were lost as well throughout this 20-year war.

Spencer, I want to read a quote from your book, because I think it`s very telling as to what we`re dealing with right now. And you write this: "Trump recognized the 9/11 era`s grotesque subtext, the perception of non-whites as marauders, even as conquerors, from a hostile foreign civilization was its engine."

We`re seeing this type of thing that you write about play out nationally, locally, politically in Washington. We`re seeing it in board of education meetings as schools are getting back.

What do you make -- can you expand on this a little bit for me and how so much of the war Afghanistan fit into that as well?

ACKERMAN: More than the war in Afghanistan, the war on terror in general was a doorway to the most violent, the most nativist and most racist currents in American history, given the cover of patriotic emergency and rushed into power after 9/11, and staying there throughout.

Among the things that power grab enabled was the transformation and disfigurement of the American security structure that violated the law and the Constitution in order to construct an apparatus of surveillance, indefinite detention, torture, and immigration suppression.

All of those currents, particularly as the wars became more and more obviously disastrous, created in those, particularly on the right, who believed that America was omnipotent this very volatile condition of feeling at neither peace nor victory.

And Trump came along and recognized that the subtext of the war on terror was all that was really necessary to harness that feeling and use it for his political benefit. And as long as the war on terror remains, as long as the authorities remain, the tools remain, the operations perhaps not necessarily so central, then that danger to our democracy is going to remain.

There will be more Trumps. They will be more competent. They will have more opportunities, and they will grow in ambition.

VOSSOUGHIAN: So how do you change the cycle?

ACKERMAN: You have to break the war on terror entirely. You have to, as Colin Powell once set of the Iraq army, cut it off and then kill it.

You have to organize and force real political pressure on politicians into a binary choice between maintaining power and maintaining the war on terror.

VOSSOUGHIAN: It`s interesting, though, because we talked first about nation-building, right.

And the United States has been guilty of nation-building for as long as I can remember and much before that as well, and they continue to be in this bad cycle, right, of continuing to make the same mistakes over and over again.

So, who`s to say the cycle of the war on terror can also be broken, considering the history?

ACKERMAN: Well, just because history exists and weighs upon us and shapes our reality doesn`t mean that it`s destiny.


And I think to resign yourself to the idea that the war on terror truly is forever is to resign...


ACKERMAN: ... yourself to a future of repression, of the erosion of democracy, and the mass death of so many millions overseas.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Spencer Ackerman, thank you. Great conversation. I appreciate it.

And, again, the new book is "Reign of Terror."

Coming up next, everybody: Biden approves federal aid for the New York area after deadly flooding. We`re going to have that report coming up next.


VOSSOUGHIAN: All right, so to the ongoing recovery efforts in the New York City area after Hurricane Ida, at least 45 dead in the New York City area.

Gabe Gutierrez is in Queens ahead of President Biden`s visit tomorrow -- Gabe.

GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yasmin, this is one of the hardest hit neighborhoods in Queens, where residents are still cleaning up.

And the death toll here in New York state has actually gone up now to 18; 13 people died here in the city of New York. And we`re also starting to get a clearer picture of how horrifying it was for some of these residents inside some of these basement apartments.


The NYPD putting out a video showing its officers desperately diving into a flooded basement, trying to find a family that was inside, but they actually had to wait because of live electricity and rising water. They had to wait for a specialized rescue team from the fire department. By the time that team got there, it was too late, and three people drowned.

Now, today, the mayor toured this neighborhood in Queens, as well as other politicians. And some residents were upset that they didn`t get more warning about this storm, that officials weren`t better prepared for the storm, they say, and they wonder what will happen next, the next time the next time a major storm hits, that rebuilding and retrofitting these buildings to withstand these types of floods, that the cost is astronomical.

We spoke with one woman, Dinette Rivera (ph), who says that she desperately tried to survive and was trapped inside her basement as the water was rising. She barely got out alive when her son, who happens to be blind, actually yanked her out through a window.

Take a listen to what she had to say.


GUTIERREZ: Did you think you were going to make it out of there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When the water was still up under my chest, I did. When it started to go above my head, I thought I was going to die.


GUTIERREZ: President Biden has just approved a major disaster declaration for several counties in New York state, as well as several counties in New Jersey.

He is set to tour this region and see some of this devastation tomorrow -- Yasmin.

VOSSOUGHIAN: All right, thank you to Gabe Gutierrez for that.

Ahead in our next hour, everybody, stick with me.

The Trump Org criminal probe is intensifying, with reports on new tax- related crime charges; also, on this Labor Day, the massive wealth gap and what the president is pressing to even the playing field.

And what is going on here? We`re going to explain this Trump Mount Rushmore sculpture.