Derek Chauvin murder trial begins as George Floyd`s death sparks police reform measures. Today, prosecutors said that Garrett Miller was plotting to assassinate a Capitol police officer. Has Dr. Deborah Birx confessed to being partially responsible, along with Donald Trump, for hundreds of thousands of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S.? With Joe Biden`s apparent blessing, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, is studying the possibility of doing an unprecedented second budget reconciliation bill this year in order to pass something that has never been included in a reconciliation package before, infrastructure spending. Fani Willis has assembled a special team of prosecutors and investigators to study possible election law violations by Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani and others on the Trump team.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Oh, you will get the vaccine, Rachel. It`s only a matter of time. Especially, according to what the president said today. Everyone is getting this vaccine -- eligible, for it, certainly, by the middle of May -- April. April. So --
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I know. But -- but a matter of time is, like, the matter of time. Exactly. Like, I just feel like -- I feel like I`m hanging by my fingernails. You know what it is? I`m really, really ready.
O`DONNELL: Once you -- once you meet the qualifications, I have seen this with many people. The minute they meet the qualifications in their state, suddenly, it becomes the most urgent thing in their lives. And many of them, the week before, thought, I`ll get it when I get it. And then, it was just instantly refresh, refresh, refresh, just like you say.
MADDOW: I`m telling you, I have become eligible in New York, apparently, tomorrow. I don`t know what time tomorrow means, specifically. They said that appointments, as of 8:00 a.m. but as if, I`m going to go to sleep between now and 8:00 a.m., really? Are you kidding me? I`m going to look like the living dead, on tomorrow night`s RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. I can tell you right now.
O`DONNELL: Well, we have the camera crew ready to go for whenever you do get that shot. We`ll record it for history. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Well, even before the first day of testimony, today, in the murder trial of former police officer, Derek Chauvin. What Derek Chauvin did to George Floyd, on video, in the last moments of George Floyd`s life has changed the landscape of policing in America, police departments all over the country, including in America`s biggest-police department, New York City.
The 36,000 members of the NYPD will no longer be protected from being sued for misconduct by the legal doctrine of qualified immunity. The city of Minneapolis has, already, reached a settlement with George Floyd`s family in their wrongful-death lawsuit, against Derek Chauvin and the Minneapolis Police Department. The settlement in the George Floyd wrongful-death case is the largest, in the history of lawsuits against police officers in America, $27 million. That is more than the annual budget of most police departments in the United States.
After Derek Chauvin`s defense lawyer made his opening statement, today, it became very clear, that this case, as presented to the jury from the defense perspective, is going to be all about specific cause of death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: What was Mr. Floyd`s actual cause of death? The evidence will show that Mr. Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia that occurred as a result of hypertension, his coronary disease, the ingestion of methamphetamine, and fentanyl, and the adrenaline flowing through his body. All of which, acted to further compromise an already-compromised heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The prosecution believes that the medical examiner`s testimony and the eyewitness testimony, as delivered on video in the courtroom today, will show that Derek Chauvin violated his police department`s own rules, in what was not a split-second decision, but a nine-minute decision. That murdered George Floyd.
Most trial observers, today, agree that the most powerful part of Assistant Attorney General Jerry Blackwell`s opening statement for the prosecution was his use of the disturbing video of Derek Chauvin`s knee on George Floyd`s neck. Some of which, I must warn you, is included in this trial video, that we`re about to show right now of the prosecutor`s opening statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE FLOYD: You will learn that, on may 25th of 2020, Mr. Derek Chauvin betrayed this badge. When used excessive and unreasonable force upon the body of Mr. George Floyd. That he put his knees upon his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him, until the very breath -- no, ladies and gentlemen, until the very life were squeezed out of him.
You will learn that he was well aware that Mr. Floyd was unarmed, that Mr. Floyd had not threatened anyone. That Mr. Floyd was in handcuffs. He was completely in the control of the police. He was defenseless.
You will learn what happened in that 9 minutes and 29 seconds. The most important numbers you will hear in this trial are 9, 2, 9. What happened in those 9 minutes and 29 seconds when Mr. Derek Chauvin was applying this excessive force to the body of Mr. George Floyd.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Of course, there would be no prosecution of the murder of George Floyd if it were not for the civilian witnesses who did their duty, as citizens, and tried to stop Derek Chauvin. Stop him, verbally. Telling him to stop.
Seventeen-year-old Darnella Frazier performed a heroic service when she aimed her phone at Derek Chauvin and George Floyd, and recorded over-eight minutes of Derek Chauvin squeezing the life out of George Floyd, as the prosecutor put it today.
Assistant attorney general, Jerry Blackwell, described those witnesses today in his opening statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: They come from the broad spectrum of humanity. Different races. Different genders. You have older people, younger people.
But you will see that what they all had in common, as they were going about their business, is that they saw something that was shocking to them, that was disturbing to them, and it made them stop and take note. Stop and take note.
They tried to, first, you will learn, when you meet them, to intercede on what was happening with their voices. They tried to interject, to exhort, to please stop, to try to get into what we call good trouble just with their voices, because something was concerning to them. And when that didn`t work, you can see any number of them pulled out their cameras, to document what was happening, such that it would be memorialized, such that it would not be misrepresented, such that it could not be forgotten.
With respect to these bystanders, none of them knew who George Floyd was. They didn`t know his history. They didn`t know anything about him. All they knew was they came up on an individual, that they saw was in some serious distress, under the knees of Mr. Chauvin. And it alarmed them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And Darnella Frazier`s video of what they saw alarmed the world. Darnella Frazier`s video provoked protests against what happened to George Floyd, not just in Minneapolis, and protests not just across the United States, but protests around the world.
House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, passed through the House of Representatives, this month, a bill that she titled, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. That bill bans the use of all-neck restraints, including the restraint use by Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd. It also bans use of no- knock warrants in drug cases like the warrant used in the police killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, where police raided her home just after midnight, when she and her boyfriend were asleep. That`s where she was killed, in her home.
The bill, also, restricts the use of the qualified immunity, which protects police officers from police brutality lawsuits and wrongful-death lawsuits.
Last week, the New York city council passed a bill that the mayor has said he will sign. That eliminates the protection of qualified immunity in police brutality lawsuits and wrongful-death lawsuits against police.
Leading off our discussion tonight is Corey Johnson, speaker of the New York City Council, and Marq Claxton, former New York City police detective and director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance.
And, Marq, let me begin with you tonight and just give you kind of the open question of what did you see in the opening of the trial, today, with the first couple of witnesses that were, basically, establishing some of the radio traffic that was in the -- that was used in the -- in the -- by the police, and a video that was made by one person who was watching.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARQ CLAXTON, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE: It was just additional, did disturbing, and troubling and painful evidence and video and conversation, and urging by individuals who were witnessing the killing of Mr. Floyd. So, it was just a continuation of -- of that pain that -- that across the country are feeling every time they have to be exposed to that level of violence and that extrajudicial killing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And, Corey Johnson, New York City has had its own issues with a police department that big. Obviously, it`s going to have these kind of cases, Eric Garner and others over the years. But the George Floyd case was different, everywhere, including New York City. Probably, the largest protest you`ve ever had in New York City over police misconduct that took place somewhere else.
And how did that inform the city council approaching this qualified- immunity issue?
COREY JOHNSON, NYC COUNCIL SPEAKER: Well, Lawrence, first of all, thank you for having me. And, you know, what we saw in the Floyd trial, today. I think, is traumatizing because people are reliving the horror of watching George Floyd be murdered last May. And so, in New York City, we have undertaken a series of bills to reform policing in our city.
And I just want to mention, Lawrence, you`ve written, of course, about policing. But the legal doctrine of qualified immunity was created in 1967. And it`s important for your viewers to understand, it was created because the police were arresting 15 priests, who were freedom riders in Mississippi. That case went to the Supreme Court, Pearson versus Ray. And that is where the legal doctrine of qualified immunity was created.
It`s not in the Constitution. It`s not in any-state constitution. It`s not in any law, across the country. It was created in 1967, created out of trying to be able to arrest freedom riders in Mississippi.
And what has happened since then, as people have leaned on this, and used this. So police officers who are violating people`s civil rights, who are using excessive force, can basically say we have no liability here because of qualified immunity.
And the worst example, Lawrence, that we are seeing right now is the New York state attorney general, Letitia James, has brought a lawsuit against the New York City Police Department for the excessive force used against protestors last summer. The protests that we`re seeing on TV, right now.
And the New York City Police Department and the law department, which is representing the police department in New York City, is saying none of those cops, who used excessive force last summer, should be held liable because of qualified immunity. I mean, protestors that were protesting the death of George Floyd, the murder of George Floyd. Now, we`re saying those cops are exempt because of qualified immunity.
We passed a bill, on Thursday, saying there is no -- or limited qualified immunity for violations of the Fourth Amendment, search and seizure, and the 14th Amendment saying you no longer have that right. New York City is following the states of Colorado and Connecticut. New York City is larger, population wise, than Colorado and Connecticut.
And we hope that other police departments in cities and in states, across the country, follow our lead to end qualified immunity. It is a broken legal doctrine that never should have been created in 1967. And it`s time to abolish it, now.
O`DONNELL: And, Marq, what Speaker Johnson is stressing for us is the importance of civil litigation, here, which, for observers, like you and me, was kind of the only litigation we saw for decades. People -- police officers, simply, were not getting criminally prosecuted for cases like this, the way Derek Chauvin is now.
And the protest movement has definitely moved beyond the stage. Where civil litigation or even civil awards like that $27 million is a satisfactory outcome in cases like this. And so, a lot rides on this criminal trial, in Minneapolis.
CLAXTON: Yeah, definitely. And -- and in regards to qualified immunity and the decision in New York. It`s hugely impactful, for two reasons. One reason is because, as the speaker indicated, and what he`s hoping for, is that it`s replicated throughout the nation. Other entities, other departments, other cities, decide to follow this lead.
And the second reason is because police officers will definitely respond to the elimination of qualified immunity. Not just the limitation of it, as other jurisdictions are -- have done. But the actual elimination of qualified immunity really exposes individual police officers. And police officers will respond, in one way or another.
And -- and their response may shift, according to the time. Because, quite frankly, it -- it should be expected that the knee-jerk reaction for police officers, when you are talking about exposing them to the possibility of additional civil liability, personally. The knee-jerk reaction is going to be for them to withdraw, to pull back while they recalibrate and determine their options, while they do a self-assessment of a risk-cost analysis, if you will.
So, it is quite probable that activity, from the police, will decrease, for at least a short period, now. But the long-term impact is so positive, because you will now have -- you now have legislation that can actually change the course of conduct of individual police officers, which is hugely significant when you are talking about trying to shift the police culture, and specifically, toxic-police culture. So when you hit police officers in their pockets, increasing their civil liability, they will respond. And begin to recalibrate their actions. And that leads to a better, more professional-police agency.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to leave that discussion, here, for tonight. We will be coming back to it. We really appreciate it.
Marq Claxton and New York City Council speaker, Corey Johnson -- thank you, both, very much for starting off our discussion tonight.
JOHNSON: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And coming up. We have breaking news, tonight. On the prosecution of the Trump mob that attacked the Capitol. A new brief by federal prosecutors, today, details one of the attackers and -- is accused of threatening to assassinate Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, on Twitter, while he was right there in the Capitol.
O`DONNELL: Tonight, we`re following breaking news on the investigation of the Trump mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6th. Last week, Donald Trump said that they were kissing Capitol police officers, after they invaded the Capitol.
Today, prosecutors said that Garrett Miller was plotting to assassinate a Capitol police officer. In a brief, filed today, arguing that Garrett Miller should not be released from custody pending trial, federal prosecutors said, quote, after the riots, Miller returned to Texas but was consumed with identifying the United States Capitol police officer involved in the fatal shooting of a rioter, Ashli Babbitt, on January 6th, 2021.
On January 10th, 2021, Miller asked, on Instagram, about the officer, how could he execute an unarmed woman, feet away? His execution must be televised.
Later, in the conversation, Miller states, I`m threatening justice on criminals. And sent a picture of a rope tied to a noose. He, then, stated, about the officer, whom Miller believed to be African-American, he`s a prize to be taken. And he will swing. I had a rope in my bag on that day. Meaning, January 6th, 2021.
Garrett Miller is, also, charged with threatening to assassinate Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, on January 6th, during the attack on the Capitol. When the congresswoman issued a one-word tweet during the riot, which said, impeach. Garrett Miller replied to her with, "|assassinate AOC".
When Garrett Miller was arrested, prosecutors say he, quote, was wearing a T-shirt with a photograph of president Trump that said, take America back. And I was there. Washington, D.C., January 6th, 2021.
Writing your confession on your T-shirt is the new level of criminal stupidity we`ve come to expect from the Trump mob. Five days after the attack on the Capitol, Garrett Miller sent a photograph of himself inside the Capitol rotunda, to a friend, saying, quote, just wanted to incriminate myself a little. LOL.
Joining us now, Glenn Kirschner, former federal prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst. Glenn, this is really a striking filing by the prosecutors, about these two assassination ambitions of this guy. One, congresswoman. The other, a Capitol police officer, who he wants to track down and find and -- enlist people in trying to find that Capitol police officer.
To assassinate that Capitol police officer, this same person is asking to, let me out of -- of -- of jail while I`m awaiting trial. I`m not a danger to anyone.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: And the good news is he remains behind bars, at this moment. And given the filing from the federal prosecutors, I`m fairly confident, Lawrence, he will remain behind bars pending trial.
But, you know, this really does frame what we heard from Donald Trump. Donald Trump says that, you know, my supporters, that they were hugging and kissing the police when, perhaps, Donald Trump misspoke. They were really hanging and killing the police or at least aspiring to.
So, you know, but -- I -- I hope, Lawrence, that we don`t lose sight of the forest for the conspiratorial trees because we are looking at what Donald Trump`s foot soldiers did on January 6th. And whether it`s the Proud Boys or the Oath Keepers and we want to know, you know, where does Garrett Miller fit in? Is he part of a conspiracy? All of which is important and I`m confident the prosecutors will sort that all out.
But we should remember, and blast out, every day, that they were doing the work that Donald Trump put them up to. He`s the one who encouraged. He organized. He, in a very real sense, incited this attack on the U.S. Capitol. And, Lawrence, every one of these defendants, who is getting locked up, the ones who choose to speak to the police. You know what most of them are saying? I was only doing what my president told me to do.
You know, this is like a call-and-response conspiracy where Donald Trump put out the call, and all of his supporters, his minions, his insurrectionists, followed his command. That`s why this case must build to Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: Glenn, this is another defendant who, where the evidence shows that gun control works, because there`s information here about him being -- bringing a grappling hook, obviously, for scaling the walls,. bringing all this equipment that he planned to bring. And he specifically says, in evidence that they obtained, that he wasn`t going to bring his gun in -- any of his guns -- into the District of Columbia, from Virginia, because they are illegal there.
And so, he lived in fear of the gun-control laws in Washington, D.C. and that`s one of the reasons that he and a lot of his friends did not go running into the Capitol with guns firing.
KIRSCHNER: You know, fancy that, Lawrence, that when there are gun laws in place or background checks in place, or bans on assault weapons or high- capacity magazines in place, those laws can actually have an impact on the thinking of somebody, who might, otherwise, want to take up a gun and do some harm with it.
So, you know, if we have learned nothing, courtesy of the mass shootings, perhaps, we should learn from these insurrectionists. Who are actually saying, you know, I did take D.C.`s strict-gun laws into account, and I decided to leave my gun at home. I only brought my rope and my, you know, Trump flag with a spear on the end of it.
O`DONNELL: Glenn Kirschner, thank you, very much, for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
KIRSCHNER: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And coming up, last year, in the first few weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, watching Deborah Birx, Dr. Deborah Birx, was disconcerting because she seemed knowledgeable, and she seemed to have the respect of all of her colleagues. But she, also, seemed to be trying, in every way that she could, to help shield Donald Trump from criticism. And then, came the moment, about a year ago, where she told a grotesque lie, on TV, when she said that Donald Trump was a careful student of the medical literature.
That`s one that I -- that`s when I knew that she would lie for Donald Trump and I said so here, at that time. And now, she is admitting that the lies that she supported killed hundreds of thousands of people. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Deborah Birx has confessed to being partially responsible, along with Donald Trump, for hundreds of thousands of deaths from COVID-19 in this country. In an interview last night, Dr. Birx said there was nothing they could have done about the first 100,000 deaths but the next 450,000 deaths could have been greatly reduced.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. DEBORAH BIRX, FORMER COORDINATOR, TRUMP CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially, if we took the lessons we had learned from that moment. That`s what bothers me every day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Dr. Birx lied for Donald Trump last year. March 25th of last year was the first time we saw her blatantly lie for Donald Trump. And we called that a lie on this program at the time. It`s the first time I used that word in relation to her.
The presidential campaign was in full swing. Joe Biden was well on his way to locking up enough delegates in the primaries for the Democratic nomination. The nomination was no longer in doubt. We were deep into the Trump versus Biden presidential campaign.
And Dr. Birx went out to the White House lawn for an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, and she basically campaigned for Donald Trump`s re-election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. BIRX: He`s been so attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data. And I think his -- his ability to analyze and integrate data that comes out of his long history in business has really been a real benefit during these discussions about medical issues.
Because in the end, data is data. And he understands the importance of the granularity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And in that moment, there was no difference between Dr. Birx and Kellyanne Conway. That was a loathsome lie. And now, we know, by Dr. Birx` own admission, it was a homicidal lie. It was the kind of lie that she now says led to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths.
Donald Trump is a functional illiterate. Everyone knows that and Deborah Birx actually went out there, and said to us, he`s been so attentive to the scientific literature. And on the day that Dr. Birx told that lie, willfully told that lie on that day, we had suffered 906 deaths from coronavirus. 906 deaths from coronavirus.
What if Dr. Birx had decided to tell the truth, starting then? Instead, Deborah Birx was doing full-throttle lying like that for Donald Trump. And because of the Trump -- those Trump lies, enabled and supported by Dr. Birx, as of tonight we have 552,399 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus.
Today, President Joe Biden announced that 90 percent of adults in the United States will be eligible for COVID vaccination by mid-April. As of tonight, more than 52 million people in the United States are now fully vaccinated.
Here`s what the president had to say about the vaccination progress today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JBIDN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last week, we set a goal of 200 million shots by day 100 of our administration. Double the original goal that I had set.
And to make that progress, over the last three days we`ve had a record number of shots in arms with over 10 million shots recorded in the weekend. Over 10 million shots in three days -- that would have been inconceivable in January.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
Dr. Jha, we heard the president today talking about vaccination progress. He also issued a warning to people. Be very, very careful. We`re not safe yet.
In fact, let`s listen to what CDC director said today about how she`s feeling right now, including using the words today, "impending doom".
Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: I`m going to lose the (INAUDIBLE) and I`m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. We have so much to look forward to. So much promise and potential of where we are. And so much reason for hope. But right now, I`m scared.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Dr. Jha, are you scared?
DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Lawrence, first thanks for having me on.
You know, I have known Dr. Walensky for years, not decades. She does not use words like that lightly. We are in a pretty tough place, right? We have infections rising pretty quickly. Vaccinations are going great. But unfortunately, a lot of states are opening up. I expect spikes in cases.
I don`t think we`re going to see the kinds of horrible hospitalizations and deaths we saw in December and January largely, because we`ve vaccinated so many high-risk people. But this is definitely not a time for complacency.
O`DONNELL: Is -- is the vaccine the solution? Is it capable of catching this rise that we`re seeing and turning it around?
DR. JHA: Yes not easily and not if states do what they`re doing, right? There are a lot states that are fully opening up their restaurants and bars. Getting rid of their mask mandates. That is really -- you know, we talk about a race between variants and vaccinations. The slot of those states are coming down on the side of variants, on the side of the virus. That`s not helpful.
And eventually we will win this. We will get enough people vaccinated to extinguish this. But the question is, how many unnecessary deaths are we willing to tolerate? It just feels all so ridiculous right now, given how close we are to a point where, you know, majority of Americans will be able to get vaccinated in the next month or so.
O`DONNELL: Is there a phenomenon going on here in public health that perhaps we have seen before? I don`t know, where because we are putting out all this news about how so many people are getting vaccinated, other people who are not vaccinated might feel safer because of that and might feel like, well, I can get on a plane because everyone on the plane`s going to be vaccinated even if -- if I`m not.
DR. JHA: Yes, absolutely. There is a -- there`s a tightrope here because on one hand these vaccines are terrific. So we don`t want to understate them or suggest that they`re not a big deal. They are a big deal.
But right now, 15 percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated, as you said. Another way to say that is 85 percent of Americans have not. A vast majority have not gotten the vaccine. And they will, over the next month, six weeks. But we`ve got to hold on, until then. We can`t do what we`re doing right now.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Ashish Jha, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. We always learn something when you join us. Thank you very much.
DR. JHA: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And coming up Ezra Klein will join us on the new, Democratic strategy that Joe Biden seems to have hatched with Chuck Schumer about how to get the Biden legislative agenda through the United States Senate and around that 60-vote threshold.
Ezra Klein joins us next.
O`DONNELL: During most of Joe Biden`s 36-year career in the Senate, senators were virtually unanimous, in both parties, in their support for senate rules including the 60-vote threshold for forcing an end to debate and the budget reconciliation rules that allowed budget bills to ignore that 60-vote threshold.
And so, during the Democratic presidential primaries, Joe Biden was slow to join the chorus saying something had to be done about the Senate`s 60-vote procedural threshold if the next Democratic president was going to get anything done. But now Joe Biden is on the verge of becoming the most creative manipulator of senate rules in the history of the presidency.
With Joe Biden`s apparent blessing, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, is studying the possibility of doing an unprecedented second budget reconciliation bill this year in order to pass something that has never been included in a reconciliation package before, infrastructure spending.
The loose outlines of the Biden infrastructure plan, as we currently know it, would be the biggest infrastructure spending bill ever passed by the congress. And it just might make congressional history to be the first one passed in a reconciliation bill with only 51 votes in the United States senate.
Today, White House press secretary Jen Psaki gave the standard-presidential answer whenever asked about senate procedure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The White House and the president will leave the mechanics of bill passing to Leader Schumer and other leaders in Congress. Our focus is on proposing an agenda, ambitious agenda, to invest in infrastructure, to help caregivers across the country, to ensure that we are doing more to help Americans get through this challenging period of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Ezra Klein, opinion columnist for "The New York Times" and host of the podcast "The Ezra Klein Show".
Ezra, it looks like, as we have known all year, something is up with the Senate rules. And the idea of just doing this infrastructure package through reconciliation is, in and of itself, revolutionary in terms of the way the senate does this kind of business.
EZRA KLEIN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Maybe. Can you ever bring me on for something easy to explain?
So what is happening in the Senate --
O`DONNELL: Take your time. Take the rest of the show.
KLEIN: I think I`ll need it. Majority Leader Schumer -- budget reconciliation bills can be done once every fiscal year. So, Majority Leader Schumer has been looking into the rules, or his staff has probably more to the point. And they found a provision, that basically says those bills can be amended.
And I`m kind of paraphrasing things here. But what they are saying is that the amendment of that bill can be understood as a separate budget reconciliation bill, which would be a second budget reconciliation bill each year.
So then, they have to convince the senate parliamentarian this is true. And the reason I bring all this up is that these rules - all of them, all of them. The filibuster, budget reconciliation, anything, can be changed with 51 votes.
So what is happening right now is that Schumer is going to try to convince the senate parliamentarian of the somewhat-weird interpretation of an already-weird rule because Schumer`s own members will not just say the filibuster is a paralysis and a problem in the Senate and just get rid of it or rewrite the rules in a sensible way.
Instead, we are doing this unbelievable Talmudic approach to senate rulemaking and infrastructure design. It -- it`s -- I`m glad he is trying to do it and being creative. But it`s wild that we have to have this conversation, at all.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And it seems to be part of the Schumer campaign to get to 51 votes because I`m now thinking of it as a campaign, Ezra, because the way I have listened to Chuck Schumer carefully about the way he says this. You know, one night he said to me here, failure`s not an option, when I asked him about, you know, what about the 60-vote threshold? He just kept saying failure Is not an option.
A couple nights later, he said exactly the same thing to Rachel. And so, if he means that, then he means he has a way and a plan of getting to 51 votes in the senate, dispensing with the 60-vote threshold. And that might mean going through various exercises, like a double-reconciliation bill. Torturous things that, eventually, soften Joe Manchin, to the point where he says, ok. I -- I see what you need to do.
KLEIN: Yes. That last bit is the key, though. So, maybe, he has a plan that can get Joe Manchin there and Kyrsten Sinema there and maybe he doesn`t. We are just going to have to see.
The -- the key thing here, as you say, there`s been an extraordinary amount of movement, on the part of Senate Democrats around the filibuster. And around senate rule -- senate rulemaking and law making, in general. And that is all built on the idea they do not believe they can get Republican votes for anything, and that is true, by the way.
If you want to know who ultimately killed the filibuster, it is 100 percent Mitch McConnell because he disabused every single Democrat of the belief that you can pass anything with 60. You can pass anything in a truly bipartisan way.
But Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema, who understand this on some level. They are trying to walk a tightrope between saying they want to keep the senate as it is. Saying they want to make sure there is a voice and space for the minority party. And also, saying they want to get things done.
So, what they`ve basically decided to do is, if you can justify doing something under the existing rules even if it is a new interpretation of those rules, they will sign on. So that makes the senate parliamentarian very, very important.
But I do want to keep banging this drum. It would be much better if Manchin, if Sinema, if whoever the other hold-out Democrats are, just dispensed with this because then we could pass -- I`m sorry -- infrastructure bills in the way they have passed for almost the entire history of the senate until the past decade or two which is with 51-or-more votes.
It just simply is not the way that we`ve run this country traditionally that you need a supermajority to build a bridge and that is part of the reason that our infrastructure, in recent years, say nothing of things that are more difficult to pass in reconciliation. Like care work, like, you know, structures of pre-k and other things have fallen into such disrepair, recently.
I really wish Senator Schumer, Majority Leader Schumer, all the success in the world with this. But I really, really wish Senators Manchin and Sinema would do their duty, and make the senate functional, again.
O`DONNELL: Well, I mean, Chuck Schumer does stay in very close contact with Joe Manchin on this with his leadership group that he has. He -- he puts in a room, every week, this amazing meeting. It`s the one meeting in Washington I`d love to be in where Bernie Sanders is at the table, Elizabeth Warren`s at the table, Joe Manchin`s at the table.
There is about ten of them as Chuck Schumer has described it. And it`s every week, and this has to be, basically, the subject every week.
KLEIN: Yes. Absolutely. And it`s worth really emphasizing what you were saying. What Schumer is doing is holding together a -- a caucus that ranges from a Bernie Sanders on the one side, a Democratic socialist from Vermont -- all the way to Senator Joe Manchin, who is one of the Trumpiest states in the country -- who represents one of the Trumpiest states in the country. And so far, he`s done it.
And not just done it but Manchin to his credit and Sinema and others, have voted for the American Rescue Plan. And Manchin does want infrastructure. That is somewhere where he agrees with the broad sweep of the Democrats.
So far, Schumer`s done a pretty remarkable job. I don`t think he is floating this for no reason. I think there is a real chance, if they can persuade Manchin and others -- I`m sorry, if they can persuade the senate parliamentarian, that Manchin and others will sign on.
But again, at some point, we are going to have to fix this because one of the things I do worry about this and we saw this, by the way in the American Rescue Plan. Even if the parliamentarian goes along with it in its broad strokes, a lot of things that are in an infrastructure bill, particularly care work as press secretary Psaki was talking about will be ruled out of reconciliation.
I just did an interview on my podcast with Bernie Sanders talking about some of these other issues, also democracy promotion issues like H.R.1, the For The People Act, and the John Lewis voting rights act. He was saying, you know, well, we think we have some way of doing it.
But we saw this with the minimum wage. If it gets ruled out of reconciliation, they don`t. And so really it really is important that we don`t -- we can`t ultimately do the things in politics that`s going to botch a reconciliation.
We also need to be able to strengthen our democracy, maybe it possible to care for elders, et cetera, et cetera. And that is a choice senators are making every single day.
O`DONNELL: Ezra Klein, it`s always fun to watch how much you hate talking about complicated things. Thank you very much for joining us. We`ll look for a simpler subject next time, Ezra. Thank you very much.
KLEIN: Thank you. I appreciate it.
O`DONNELL: And coming up, in tonight`s episode of "Defendant Trump", Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis in Georgia says subpoenas will be coming in the criminal investigation of Donald Trump`s election interference. In her words, the way she put it, in the very near future. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: In an interview with "The Daily Beast", the Fulton County district attorney in Atlanta, Georgia said "Donald Trump could be receiving subpoenas from a grand jury very soon." Fani Willis said this about the grand jury issuing subpoenas in the investigation of Donald Trump`s interference with the election, quote, "I suspect that`s in the very near future."
The "Daily Beast" reports that Fani Willis has assembled a special team of prosecutors and investigators to study possible election law violations by Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani and others on the Trump team.
Donald Trump is also under criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney in New York City, but the Georgia case -- in the Georgia case, the public has already heard what might be the most damning evidence that the grand jury considers, and that is Donald Trump`s phone call to the Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger on January 2nd, in which Donald Trump asked him to find 11,780 votes while Secretary Raffensperger was recording the hourlong phone call.
Joining us now Michael J. Moore, former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. Mr. Moore, thank you for joining us again tonight. When you hear Fani Willis saying in an interview subpoenas very soon, it sounds like we`re going to see some real movement.
MICHAEL J. MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes. I mean that`s about like (INAUDIBLE) clear their throat before the national anthem, you know. But what`s interesting is that the D.A. under Georgia law controls the grand jury.
And so by and large, she knows the timing, she knows when she`ll move forward and ask that the subpoena is being issued and so I think she`s just laying out her game plan. I`m interested -- there`s two grand juries meeting. My guess is one will be about Trump and some documents, and the other might be about other players that she`s intimated at least that she`s looking into.
O`DONNELL: And one of the things that is a violation of law in Georgia is lying to Georgia officials about an election. Let`s listen to what Gabriel Sterling who works in the secretary of state`s office said about exactly that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GABRIEL STIRLING, SECRETARY OF STATE`S OFFICE, GEORGIA: From my point of view, they intentionally misled the state senators, the people of Georgia, and the people of the United States about this. To cause this conspiracy theory to keep going, and keep a disinformation going which has caused this environment that we`re seeing today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you saying they lied to the Georgia State Senate?
I`m saying that Rudy Giuliani looked him in the eye and lied.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And a lot of this is on video.
MOORE: It is. I`ll tell you that if we`re going to start locking people up who lie to legislative committees, we`re going to have to build more jails, at least in Georgia.
The senate passed about a year a provision that said you couldn`t lie when you testify before the Senate or to a committee. They`re a little bit circumspect on whether or not that would apply to the legislator but the penalty for that was not a crime. We`ve been hearing about the possibility of a felony being charged for lying to the senate committee.
But the penalty that they put forward at least under their own rules was for a ban on your ability to come back and testify for a period of time. I think it`s about a year.
So the question in the main will be whether or not they can actually move forward because of somebody lying. Again you`re going to have people -- lobbyists, you`re going to have legislators who testify in certain committees. You`re going to have, you know, interested people. The public can come in and testify.
And I think there`s going to be some hesitancy to make that a felony just because somebody lies. His lies were egregious. They did nothing but stir up problems. they`ve continued to sort of spur on this election conspiracy business nonsense. We`ve heard its results again bad log being passed in Georgia and other places.
But I don`t know if we get to a felony. My hope is, we talked about this before, my hope is that the D.A. will look at this and sort of make a rifle shot on a readily provable offense, and not try to go too broad. I think when you do that, you give the naysayers and sort of the Trump supporters too much oxygen to talk about this being a political persecution, and not a legitimate prosecution.
And I think that`s a danger. I think what you want to do is you want to say, what can I prove beyond a reasonable doubt? What is readily provable by the evidence that I have and you mentioned about this taped confession which is really a key piece, and the key piece of evidence in the case. And move it forward on something like that.
O`DONNELL: Michael J. Moore, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. Always appreciate it.
MOORE: Great to be with you. Thank you for having me.
O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.