Texas Governor Greg Abbott has removed a statewide mask mandate and is allowing all businesses in Texas to be 100 percent open with no restrictions whatsoever. In Senate testimony today, Major General William Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, said that the Trump administration refused to allow him to rush his troops to the Capitol. The criminal investigation of Donald Trump by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance is now focusing on Donald Trump`s longtime accountant and chief financial officer of his company, Allen Weisselberg. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo answered reporters` questions today about the sexual harassment allegations against him and he said he will not resign. Tonight, House Democrats are set to pass the most powerful protection American voters would have in fighting voter suppression by Republican state legislatures.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
We`re going to be joined by Beto O`Rourke tonight because today was the day that the Texas governor decided, let the good times roll, forget about masks, fill up businesses with as many customers in the room as you want at the same time, all restrictions lifted. Beto O`Rourke is going to give us his reactions to what that means for Texas.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Excellent. And, you know, the thing about -- I was just speaking with the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, where the Mississippi mask mandate was also unilaterally rescinded by the governor there, too, and Jackson has got all these troubles in terms of water and everything else.
But it`s just such -- to put people who work in jobs where they have to be face-to-face with people and have no defense in terms of protecting themselves. It`s just -- it`s one thing if you want to go out to a restaurant or go out to some sort of retail place and not wear masks, and you want to, you see that as part of your personal freedom, but people where that`s their job, it`s just an impossible imposition on people`s public health. Just crazy.
O`DONNELL: And I was glad to hear your interview with the mayor, Rachel, because Texas does command the attention in this story but same stuff is happening in Mississippi, it is good to focus on that too.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Well, as Rachel said tonight, the House of Representatives will be voting on H.R.1, which is the Democrats` answer to the most important governing challenge of our time, the preservation of democracy in this country. That`s what that bill is actually about.
It is a 21st century version of the Voting Rights Act. H.R.1 is designed to counter Republican attempts to deny you your right to vote. Every bill introduced in the House gets a number, based on the order in which it was introduced. The house is also voting tonight for example on HR-1280. Rachel just described that, the George Floyd bill.
That designation means that 1,279 bills were actually introduced before that bill this year. The designation of H.R.1 belongs exclusively to the speaker. Speaker Pelosi decides which bill will be allowed to be the first bill introduced in the House and given that designation H.R.1. That`s Speaker Pelosi`s way of saying, this is the most important thing we will do, the most important thing for the future of democracy in this country.
And as the voting proceeds in the House tonight, we`ll be joined at the end of this hour by freshman Congressman Mondaire Jones with his view of what is at stake for this country and the future of democracy in the passage of H.R.1.
We also have breaking news developments in the criminal investigation of Donald Trump by the Manhattan district attorney, Andrew Weissmann will guide us through tonight`s episode of defendant Trump later in the hour.
The Senate will take up the Biden COVID relief bill tomorrow. Republican legislative jaywalker Senator Ron Johnson has promised to step in front of that legislative vehicle, to create the most ridiculous possible form of delay, he will exercise the right that every senator has but most never use once in their entire careers, the right to require Senate clerks to read aloud the entire bill.
And so tomorrow Senate clerks will be forced to read all 600 pages of the legislation aloud. That will delay legislative progress on the bill by a few hours but it won`t be enough to delay the day when you will actually receive your $1,400 COVID relief check that Ron Johnson will vote against and that the Texas Republican senators will vote against, at a time when Texans need that money more than ever. Now that many are facing utility bills of several thousand dollars for just a few days` worth of heat in their homes, thanks to the Republican designed power grid in Texas that completely failed during a winter storm.
Beto O`Rourke will join us from Texas in a moment after the very good news that the Biden administration has secured enough supply of COVID-19 vaccine to vaccinate every adult in America by this summer, by early summer. We are within sight of the finish line now of the major threat of COVID-19, the threat to our lives. If we all continue to maintain safety protocols while we`re all waiting for the vaccine, then after we get the vaccine, we can more safely return to activities that have been and remain unsafe.
But Texas Governor Greg Abbott has lost patience. With the finish line in sight, the Texas governor has removed a statewide mask mandate and is allowing all businesses in Texas to be 100 percent open with no restrictions whatsoever. The governor made that decision without consulting anyone on his team of medical advisers.
According to the "Austin American Statesman", Texas` top health official said he did not speak with Governor Abbott before he announced Tuesday he would end the mask order and open Texas 100 percent. Two of the other four medical advisers also said they were not consulted ahead of the governor`s decision.
NBC`s Peter Alexander asked President Joe Biden about that today in the Oval Office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it`s a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody has realized by now these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we`re able to get vaccines in people`s arms. We have been able to move it up to end of May to have enough to get every adult American a shot.
And the last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that everything is fine, take off your mask, forget it. We won`t have everybody vaccinated until sometime in the summer. We have the vaccine to do it, get the shot and second shot, they`re going to take time.
And it`s critical, critical, critical, critical that they follow the science, wash your hands, hot water, do it frequently. Wear a mask, and stay socially distanced. And I know you all know that. I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight is former Democratic Congressman Beto O`Rourke of Texas. He is the founder of Powered by People, an organization to elect Democrats in Texas.
Thank you very much for joining us.
I want to get your reaction to Governor Abbott saying, you can forget about it, you can take off your mask. On the same day the president of the United States is wearing a mask in the Oval Office after he`s been vaccinated, received both shots of vaccinations, he is still wearing a mask in the Oval Office and calling what the governor of Texas is doing a Neanderthal mentality of Republicans.
FORMER REP. BETO O`ROURKE (D-TX): Whatever you call it, it is going to kill people. And this is in a state that`s already lost 44,000 people due to the ineptitude of our governor failing to meet the moment and the challenge and to follow the best public health advice. The very botched rollout of the vaccine, there`s, Lawrence, 254 counties in Texas, there are 254 different systems to distribute the vaccine.
In some counties you sign up on a list, in others, good luck if you can find out how to get a vaccine to save your life. It is the people who have been disproportionately impacted, black, brown, communities of color, lower income zip codes in Texas that will be on the front lines of this disaster of Greg Abbott`s making.
I was listening to you talking with Rachel Maddow at the top of show, and she said think about those minimum wage hospitality workers and convenient store clerks, Lawrence, who are making $7.25 an hour. So, they`re likely working a second and third job. They are literally going to be on the front lines of this disaster.
So, we are deeply disappointed but we are also not sitting around and waiting for this to happen to us. Many of us are organizing. Our group Powered by the People is one of them. To go canvas on the doors in those poor ZIP codes and find those who are eligible for vaccine and get them signed up. Folks who may not speak English, may not have internet in their home, may not own a cell phone, may not know the secret handshake necessary to get protected.
We are going to be there and try to help them out. As so many Texans were when they lost power, and heat, and water and saw damage from busted pipes because the government just decided they weren`t going to be there for us. As you said, he`s given up when we can see the finish line. I can see may from where I sit, where Joe Biden has promised there will be a vaccine for every adult in America.
Why you would give up now when you`re so close after having lost so many is beyond me. We can`t accept it and we must act in the face of this failure.
O`DONNELL: You know, there was a time not that long ago, it was before Texas had a senator named Cruz, where I could imagine Texas Republican senators opposing a bill like the COVID relief bill saying, you know, it`s too expensive, we don`t want to spend that much money. But then Texas gets hit with this storm, which creates the manmade disaster of the power failure. It was not a natural disaster but a man-made power failure.
Then the Texas Republican senators say, well, you know, things have changed and, you know, my constituents need those $1,400 checks now in a way they didn`t before because they suddenly have utility bills bigger than those checks, and you could imagine that Texas Republican senator coming around on this bill. But that seems impossible with the two senators you have now.
O`ROURKE: Unfortunately so. We`ve got people in government who literally believe that government is the problem and don`t believe in government at all. And in the case of our junior senator, sought to overthrow the government of the United States of America. Those are the people in positions of public trust at a moment that the state of Texas is literally failing, cannot guarantee that lights will stay on or water is running.
There are still hundreds of thousands of my fellow Texans who cannot get dependable, clean drinking water because the damage is so severe, and the help is not there. In the same state, Lawrence, it is 49th in the nation in terms of vaccine distribution. I think 6.5 percent of the 30 million people of Texas have been vaccinated at a time that the governor is calling it quits.
So, it`s the pandemic, it`s the recession, as you said, the man-made power and water outage, and everything that flowed from that. The deaths that we saw numbered in the dozens, people freezing to death in their own homes, dying of carbon monoxide poisoning, dying because their medical equipment failed without power, all because of decisions that this person made and this is what he does next, and this is what we face.
And so, I hate to say this, because I believe in the power of government, I know it`s there to do things none of us on our own can accomplish. But government has decided that they`re not going to be there for us, at least in state of Texas. So thank God for the people of Texas, neighbors checking on neighbors, volunteers stepping up to be there when government isn`t. That`s where we`re left tonight, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Let me ask you a question about the politics of Governor Abbott`s calculation today. And what I`m wondering is, did he see himself as governor in trouble because of the stories you have told about a Vietnam veteran dying in his truck because that`s where he went to try to get heat, that the power failure that he was very much a part of designing, that that has him in a tough situation in Texas, and so, he reached for a Republican kind of popularity move of saying, throw away your masks and that`s part of a way of trying to restore an appeal to that side of the politics of Texas?
O`ROURKE: Yeah, this is like a wag the dog moment, where you seek to distract attention, in the case of that movie, it was go to war in another country. In the case of Texas, it is to go to war on your own people, and to -- with all certainty because the science says so, to guarantee the deaths of those who otherwise would have been spared if we just followed the public health advice.
These masks are the best things short of a vaccine, in a state where only 6.5 percent of us are vaccinated, to save our lives and the lives of others in our lives. So you never know a man`s motive, only Greg Abbott knows, but it sure looks politically convenient to drop this news in the wake of his man-made disaster.
And, Lawrence, we haven`t heard all the stories yet. And I urge you and other journalists to follow the money. When you look at what was paid into the Greg Abbott campaign war chest, and not small checks, $200,000 checks from Oncor, seven-figure checks from the energy companies.
And then look at this, the price for megawatt-hour from $36, the average, to $9,000. Jerry Jones` company described making out like bandits, they hit the jackpot in this one.
So I think there`s a lot of corruption involved, we need to follow the money and the facts, let us not stop on this story for the benefit of the people of Texas and for the accountability and justice that we deserve.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much for helping us cover this story, Beto O`Rourke. Thank you for leading off our discussion tonight. Really appreciate it.
O`ROURKE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And coming up, there is breaking news on the Manhattan district attorney`s investigation of Donald Trump and today, Trump was served was lawsuit at his Florida hotel where he lives now for his role in inciting the attack on the Capitol. As the Capitol is under heightened security because of another threat from those people you see right there, the most deranged Trump supporters in the country are still threatening the Capitol.
Congressman Jason Crow joins us next.
O`DONNELL: Defendant Trump is living in fear tonight of being judged by juries in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Atlanta. The New York and Atlanta cases are criminal investigations. We`ll discuss those later in this hour.
Today, Donald Trump was served in lawsuit at Mar-a-Lago. Donald Trump is a defendant in a Washington, D.C., lawsuit brought by Congressman Bennie Thompson and targets Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. The lawsuit says that, quote, the insurrection was direct, intended, and foreseeable result of the defendants` unlawful conspiracy, it was instigated as part of a common plan, that the defendants pursued since the election held in November, 2020.
The threat to the Capitol continues tonight. U.S. Capitol police announced they received evidence of a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group tomorrow, March 4th. That threat forced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to schedule votes tonight instead of tomorrow. Tomorrow, March 4th, is the day on which many dangerous Trump fanatics who have lost connection to reality actually believe that Donald Trump will somehow magically become president again. That is what they believe.
Such people are incapable of rational thought and desperately in need of serious help. But until they can get that help, some of them remain homicidally dangerous as they proved on January 6th. The insane mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6th was first encouraged and incited by Donald Trump and then allowed to continue to do their damage by the Trump administration.
In Senate testimony today, Major General William Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, said that the Trump administration refused to allow him to rush his troops to the Capitol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM WALKER, DC NATIONAL GUARD COMMANDER: The secretary of the army`s January 5th letter to me withheld that authority for me to employ a quick reaction force. Additionally, the memorandum to me required that a concept of operation be submitted to him before the employment of a quick reaction force. I found that requirement to be unusual.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: General Walker detailed how the Trump administration gave the attackers of the Capitol three hours, three hours to do whatever they wanted to do, including killing a Capitol police officer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: At 1:49 p.m., I received a frantic call from then-chief of the United States Capitol police Steven Sund, where he informed me that the security perimeter of the United States Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters. I alerted the U.S. Army senior leadership of the request. The approval for Chief Sund`s request would eventually come from the acting secretary of defense and be relayed to me by Army senior leaders at 5:08 p.m., about three hours and 19 minutes later.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): So, you actually put them on the bus, ready to go but couldn`t let the buses go?
WALKER: Yes, Senator. I just came to the conclusion that eventually I`m going to get approval and at that point, seconds mattered, minutes mattered, and I needed to be ready to get them there quick as possible. So I already had a D.C. national guard vehicle in front to help get through traffic lights. So we were there in 18 minutes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Returning to our discussion now, Democratic Congressman Jason Crow in Colorado. He`s a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Congressman, we all remember your story of being in the House chamber and thinking what you might have as a weapon to defend yourself against these people. And during all of that threat to you, the National Guard was 18 minutes away but the Trump administration wasn`t letting them go.
REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Yeah, you know, there was a phrase in there that stuck out to me, and that was, seconds matter, minutes matter, because in combat situations and situation of crisis like we were dealing with here, seconds seem like minutes, minutes seem like hours, and every moment matters. So, you know, we`re going to get to the bottom of this.
I have long said, Lawrence, you`ve heard me say this, we`re going to find out what happened. We`re going to piece this together. We are already doing it with remarkable speed, and there`s going to be accountability.
We`re going to get the picture of what happened and we will tell it to the American people.
O`DONNELL: One of the things we`ve been learning is that the admitted felon Michael Flynn, pardoned felon Michael Flynn, his brother, General Flynn, was actually involved in the conversations and was part of the delay.
Let`s listen to what Senator Klobuchar developed about that in a testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: The Army senior leaders did not think that it looked good, that it would be a good optic. They further stated that it could incite the crowd.
KLOBUCHAR: Do you remember who was mostly talking about the optics, the questions that Senator Peters asked you and they`re concerned about that?
WALKER: Yes, during the phone call with the District of Columbia leaders, the deputy mayor, Chief Sund, Dr. Rodriguez, who was talking about optics were General Flynn and General Piatt. And they both said it wouldn`t be in their best military advice to advise the secretary of the army to have uniformed guard members at the Capitol during the election confirmation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, Congressman, the Pentagon lied about this. They said that Charles Flynn was not involved in these discussions at all.
CROW: Well, we`ll piece it together.
But I want to make something really clear here. I don`t have any reason to believe, sitting here right now, that Charles Flynn, General Flynn, acting general within the Pentagon was doing anything incorrect here. We`ll find that out. We have an independent obligation to put the facts together.
But, you know, just because he`s the brother of Michael Flynn, who obviously is a convicted felon and ardent supporter of Donald Trump doesn`t mean that he did anything wrong. So, we`re going to get the facts.
He does have an honorable background, a service background, and we have to make sure that we are looking at the facts and not just conjecture.
O`DONNELL: Yeah, and -- but the Pentagon was concerned enough about the optics as they would put it of Michael Flynn`s brother being involved, that they lied about it. And so, that casts further shadow on Charles Flynn, who may or may not deserve that shadow, as you correctly point out.
What about tomorrow? What about the threat to the Capitol tomorrow?
CROW: Well, you know, I`ve long said, this is an extremist movement. It didn`t start on January 6th. We`ve actually been dealing with this for decades.
You know, the right-wing extremist movement has its roots in early 1990s and it`s continued. It`s dramatically increased because Donald Trump has given it license. He has romanticized it. He`s given these folks permission.
And they certainly are pointing to January 6th as a catalyzing moment in this movement. So, you know, we have to make sure we`re dealing with his.
You know, FBI Director Wray this past week said the movement is metastasizing, that it is hardening within the country right now. So we`re at a really critical juncture. We have to make sure that we are dealing with this aggressively and appropriately, and that means taking the measures we need to take to secure the Capitol, to secure our national defense, to secure the American people, but also not responding in a way that gives in to those terrorists, to these extremists.
Because what they want, Lawrence, is us to change ourselves. They want us to change our behavior and who we are, right? So, we can`t give them that power. We can`t give them more power than they deserve here.
We need to protect ourself, and do the right thing, but we also had to make sure that we aren`t changing who we are.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Jason Crow, thank you very much for joining our discussion tonight.
CROW: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Well, we have breaking news in the investigation of Donald Trump by the Manhattan district attorney. The investigation is reportedly focusing on Trump accountant and chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg to flip him to testify against Donald Trump. Former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann joins us next.
O`DONNELL: We have breaking news tonight from "The Washington Post" about the criminal investigation of Donald Trump by Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance. "The Washington Post" reports, "The investigation is now focusing on Donald Trump`s longtime accountant and chief financial officer of his company, Allen Weisselberg."
"The Post" reports that witness interviews are quote, "now led by a former mob prosecutor and one person familiar with the investigation said it is aimed at flipping Weisselberg, attempting to turn one of Trump`s longest serving and most important aides into a witness against him. The focus on Weisselberg underscores the depth and ambition of Vance`s inquiry, a criminal investigation broader than any Trump`s company is known to have faced before."
"The Washington Post" reports that investigators` questions about Allen Weisselberg have included what`s his relationship with Donald. How loyal is each person to each other. "The Post" reports Cy Vance`s investigation quote, "has taken on new urgency since the recent hiring of Mark Pomeranz, an attorney who prosecuted Gambino crime family boss, John Gotti`s son in the 1990s."
800 miles to the south, the new district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia Fani Willis is empaneling a new grand jury this week that could soon begin issuing subpoenas for documents and witness testimony in the investigation of possible election fraud committed by Donald Trump.
"The Atlantic Journal Constitution" reports that Fani Willis is investigating quote "several state crimes including solicitation of election fraud, making false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and involvement in violence or threats related to the election`s administration."
No former president of the United States has ever been charged with a crime. This could be the year when Fani Willis and Cy Vance take their place in American history as the first prosecutors to charge a former president with crimes.
Joining our discussion now Andrew Weissmann, former FBI general counsel and former federal prosecutor. He also served in the Mueller investigation as a lead prosecutor. He`s an NBC News and MSNBC legal analyst.
Andrew, the news about focusing on Allen Weisselberg who knows where all the money has come and all the money has gone in Trump world, what does that mean to you?
ANDREW WEISSMANN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Great question, it`s not surprising that this is where the investigation is headed, and this is a key person to flip to become a witness. The chief financial officer is somebody who knows where the bodies are buried, because as you said, they know exactly where the money is.
But they also tend to be somebody who can insulate the CEO. So for instance in Enron, Andy Fastow was critical to being able to go up to chain to see whether Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay had criminal liability.
So focusing on Weisselberg makes complete sense because he either is going to be a defendant and a fall guy or he`s going to be a cooperator. But it`s going to be one or the other.
O`DONNELL: And he already did cooperate with the federal investigation of what was the initial spark for the Cy Vance investigation, which is the payoff to Stormy Daniels that sent Michael Cohen to prison.
WEISSMANN: I think the jury is out on that, just how much he cooperated on that. I think that remains to be seen just how much he was integral to that. And I say that because if he was really fully on board at that time, I think the investigation would be a lot further along, and there wouldn`t be this focus on needing to flip him, meaning to have him be completely truthful about what he knows and doesn`t know.
So, you know, I think a critical thing now, and I think the main pressure on Weisselberg is that, you know, President Trump is no longer in office, so he has a lot less power, and he certainly has no ability to pardon Weisselberg because he`s no longer in office and a federal pardon wouldn`t have any effect anyway. And we can be pretty sure that the New York Governor is not going to be seeking to pardon Weisselberg.
So if they can make a criminal case on Weisselberg, there`s going to be enormous pressure on him to truly cooperate, which I think would be key to upholding the rule of law in this country.
O`DONNELL: Fani Willis is an experienced assistant district attorney in Fulton County many years, this year elected to the office of district attorney. She`s in charge now. She seems to have a simpler case. She has this phone call with Donald Trump calling up the secretary of state saying I need you find these votes, this is the number of votes I need you to find. And when you read off those list, that list of Georgia statues, Georgia laws that could have been violated in that phone call, it seems like a simpler and faster route to prosecution.
WEISSMANN: I agree. That`s the kind of case where you can build it around that tape recording. But you know, there are other witnesses who you can imagine she`s going to want to call to what I would like to say is embroider and give context and background to that investigation. But it seems pretty clear that the centerpiece will be that tape.
And you know, one nice thing is, whatever these two career prosecutors do, whether they can make the case or not, I think the public now will know that there`s been a full vetting of the evidence, and the chips will fall where they may.
If there`s enough evidence to prosecute, you can be sure they`ll do so. If there isn`t, we`ll know that rule of law applied which is that Donald Trump is treated fairly by people taking a hard look at what he did.
O`DONNELL: And aren`t going to be any Republican senators on the jury in Manhattan or the jury in Georgia if there are these juries and so verdict will be all the more trustworthy.
WEISSMAN: Yes. I`m actually a big fan of juries. You know, I love to tell the story of the one juror who spoke in the Manafort trial, was somebody who said, you know, I`m a Trump supporter and she literally said I left my MAGA hat in the car. Meaning she followed her oath of office and voted to convict and didn`t matter what her political affiliations were. She followed what it means to be an American and to sit on a jury.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And I remember that juror`s public statements vividly, and I have to agree, it was a great moment for the jury system to see that kind of objective evaluation of the evidence even though she had a political bias.
Andrew Weissmann, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
WEISSMANN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo answered reporters` questions today about the sexual harassment allegations against him and he said he will not resign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I was elected by the people of the state of New York. I`m not going to resign. I work for the people of the state of New York. They elected me, and I`m going to serve the people of the state of New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today, facing reporters for first time since a series of sexual harassment accusations were made against him beginning exactly a week ago today.
Last week in a written statement the governor denied the first accusations made against him by a former member of the staff Lindsey Boylan. But he did not issue a denial when another former member of the staff, Charlotte Bennett came forward with allegations over the weekend, or when third woman, Anna Ruch, told her story to "The New York Times" on Monday night of meeting the governor at a wedding in 2019 where she said he touched her inappropriately, including by holding her face, asking if he could kiss her.
Today in a press conference, the governor apologized.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: I fully support a woman`s right to come forward. And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable.
It was unintentional, and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it. And frankly, I am embarrassed by it. And that`s not easy to say. But that`s the truth.
But this is what I want you to know, and I want you to know this from me directly. I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Luis Ferre-Sadurni, who reports on New York state government for "The New York Times". The governor`s statement today was wide ranging. He answered several questions. How was it received by the women who made these complaints? Did we hear from them?
LUIS FERRE-SADURNI, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, thank you for having me. So we heard from his first two accusers and it`s fair to say they rejected his apology. They effectively said they didn`t buy it and that it was a non- apology.
Lindsey Boylan, who was the first accuser who said that the governor gave her an unsolicited kiss on the lips said that she didn`t find it believable that the governor thought his actions were inappropriate.
The lawyer for the second woman, Charlotte Bennett, said that the press conference was full of inaccuracies and falsehoods. And it`s worth noting the governor hasn`t denied the remarks that Ms. Bennett said the governor made.
She alleges that the governor asked her whether she slept with older men or was monogamous, remarks that she took as sexual advances. The governor hasn`t directly addressed that or denied that.
O`DONNELL: Does it appear that this will get the governor through the next what might be couple of months of this investigation that certainly will be more questions from reporters, but handling it the way he`s handled it so far, is this the model for him going forward?
SADURNI: Look, I think this isn`t a governor that`s going to resign on his own volition unless there`s enormous amount of pressure for him to resign.
So far we haven`t seen that. Republicans, not surprisingly, have called on him to resign, and a small but growing number of Democrats have also joined those calls. But most Democrats in the state, including top Democrats like Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Kristen Gillibrand have said that they want this attorney general investigation to play out before they decide what actions are appropriate.
The results of the report which could be months from now could be politically devastating for the governor. And in fact, today the leader of the New York state senate, who`s a Democrat, said that if that report were to show that the governor acted inappropriately, that he had to step down.
O`DONNELL: Yes. That`s Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (ph) who said that today on television. She said, he would have to resign if the investigation reveals that he did anything inappropriate.
This investigation is going to be -- include more than just presumably questioning the governor, It will also the governor`s staff, and what did they know, when did they know it. And so they could also face some sort of liability in this in terms of what did you do when these complaints were brought to your attention.
SADURNI: Yes. This investigation which is being overseen by the New York state attorney general, but spearheaded by an outside law firm yet to be hired, will have broad subpoena powers to request records, text messages, emails and to compel witnesses to testify under oath, including the governor.
And it was sparked by these accusations that we know about, but it could be broadened out to include any other sexual harassment allegations that might surface as investigators are doing their work.
Now, that`s going to take months. These sort of investigations take time. Privately, however, some state lawmakers speculate that if one or two other allegations were to surface in the meantime, that could be a final straw for the governor, and that could build enormous pressure on him politically for him to resign.
O`DONNELL: Luis Ferre-Sadurni, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
SADURNI: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And coming up, tonight House Democrats are set to pass the most powerful protection American voters would have in fighting voter suppression by Republican state legislatures. This is the most important ongoing political story of our time. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Tonight the House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, a major police reform package. The George Floyd Justice and Policing Act would prohibit racial profiling and ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants. The bill would also create a national police misconduct registry and end immunity from lawsuits.
The vote took place just five days before former police officer Derek Chauvin`s trial is set to begin for the murder of George Floyd.
Also tonight the house is voting on H.R.1, which is titled the For The People Act. H.R.1 is intended to ensure eligible voters the right to vote and prevent Republican state legislatures from restricting voting rights.
Joining us now is a Democratic Congressman Mondaire Jones of New York. He is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Ethics Committee.
Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Congressman Jones. And I want to focus for the moment on H.R.1 and its importance for everything that the Democrats in the House and in the Senate will be trying to accomplish now and in the future.
The voting rights that it attempts to preserve: the preserve the right to vote by mail, make voter registration sensible, easy, automatic in many cases, and very much control how Republicans decide to erase people from the rolls. It goes on and on.
It really is kind of a 21st century voting rights act based on the behavior you`ve watched Republican legislators bring to these issues.
REP. MONDAIRE JONES (D-NY): Well, this is as you just described, transformative stuff. I mean we have a democracy that has been under assault. And I think that assault has been clarified for people especially in the wake of what happened on January 6th.
That violent insurrection that I and others lived through and that Americans everywhere watched on television, that began as a big lie about mass voter fraud.
And of course that allegation was never meant to be substantiated by my Republican colleagues. Rather it was meant and is meant to lay the foundation for another decade of racist voter suppression.
The modern Republican Party, the party of Donald Trump is not interested in competing on the merits of its policy ideas but rather in winning elections through disenfranchising primarily black and brown people in southern states and also young people.
And so we have to make sure that we pass H.R.1. The House in fact is doing that tonight. I just voted for it. I`m so excited about it.
And then we have to pass it in the senate. We have to do things like automatic voter registration, which is in this bill, independent redistricting commissions so that people like Marjorie Taylor Greene and other Qanon conspiracy theorists cannot coast to victory in general election contests.
And of course, getting big money out of politics, the corrosive influence of money has led to things like people questioning the need for $2,000 survival checks. So this bill would setup a system of public campaign finance.
O`DONNELL: And we`ve seen some model of redistricting commissions around the country in certain states that have already adopted that, and it really has taken the crazy politics out of drawing congressional borders and state legislative borders.
JONES: It has. I mean independent redistricting commissions have worked elsewhere including in places like California. We have in this upcoming cycle in the state of New York where I`m a representative.
And so we have to make sure that we do this in every state in the country because that is how we are going to get to a place where Republican- controlled legislatures are not diluting black votes and packing black voters all into one district or scattering them around.
You know, this bill contains a requirement that independent redistricting commissions keep communities of interest together and also that these independent redistricting commissions comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
And then of course, later this year we need to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act which would revise that crown jewel of the voting rights act that was gutted in the Shelby decision in 2013. Of course, now we have to a Supreme Court that is even further to the right than we had in that Shelby case. And so we have to do our due diligence by creating a record.
And I`ve got to tell you, I don`t think anyone in good conscience can look at what has happened over the last year alone and say that the record is not replete. That we need a modern-day voting rights act because voter suppression is rampant.
And it`s just going to get worse if we don`t do things like pass H.R.1 tonight.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Mondaire Jones, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
JONES: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Mondaire Jones gets tonight`s LAST WORD.
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