Seventeen-year-old Darnella Frazier`s video showed the world exactly what happened to George Floyd in the days after he died, and that video sparked a worldwide protest. She testified in the trial of Derek Chauvin today. Today, President Biden took his first step toward reshaping the courts by making 11 nominations to serve on federal district courts and appeals courts. In his angry response to "The New York Times" story tonight on Tucker Carlson`s show, Matt Gaetz spun a wild tale involving an extortion plot that he first outlined earlier this evening on Twitter. When confirmed by the state assembly and senate, Rob Bonta will be the first Filipino-American to serve as California attorney general.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And I`ve -- I must say, I`ve been waiting for that kind of lawsuit out of this, including a possible huge wrongful death lawsuit by Brian Sicknick`s family directed at Donald Trump, and one of the fundamental principles of civil litigation is where are the deep pockets? Because sometimes if there`s no money on the other side of the case, you can`t really mount the case.
But Donald Trump has been accused by Congress and convicted in the House of Representatives, anyway, of creating this entire event that created all of this damage in these people`s lives. They obviously have a very direct litigation line to Donald Trump, defendant, in this situation.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Uh-huh. And we saw the strategy around that, first with a suit brought by Congressman Benny Thompson, then with the suit brought by Congressman Eric Swalwell.
We expect there will be additional suits like that from the congressional side of it, but from the physically injured parties, as you say, these officers, this is -- it`s all the more acute cause of action. Imagine what a jury trial would be like in that case. It just -- we`ll see, but it`s a dramatic development tonight.
O`DONNELL: And it is a jury trial in Washington, D.C., with a jury that voting records indicate Donald Trump was not popular in that particular jurisdiction.
MADDOW: Yeah. Yeah. And it would be difficult anywhere, but, I mean, we`ll see. We`ll see. We`ll see. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.
Well, sometimes tragedies have heroes. If the George Floyd tragedy has a hero, it is a 17-year-old girl who had the presence of mind and the bravery in the face of being threatened to hold her phone steadily on George Floyd and record video of every minute that Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into George Floyd`s neck. That video is the reason Derek Chauvin is on trial for murder.
Seventeen-year-old Darnella Frazier`s video showed the world exactly what happened to George Floyd in the days after he died, and that video sparked a worldwide protest. But Darnella Frazier does not feel like a hero. She testified in the trial of Derek Chauvin today. The judge did not allow Darnell Frazier and some of the other young witnesses today to be shown on camera in the trial.
As we heard her voice for the first time today, we heard someone who doesn`t feel like a hero, she just feels sorry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DARNELLA FRAZIER, RECORD GEORGE FLOYD`S DEATH: When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad, I look at my brothers, I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they are all black. I have a black father, I have a black brother, I have black friends. And I look at that and I look at how that could have been one of them.
It`s the nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life. But it`s not what I should have done. It`s what he should have done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Darnella Frazier is so right. It is about what he should have done, it is about what Derek Chauvin should have done. That is what this trial is about.
And there it is true beyond a reasonable doubt, thanks to Darnella Frazier`s video, that Derek Chauvin should have taken his knee off George Floyd`s neck, at least nine minutes before he did. In fact, Darnella Frazier`s video shows there was never a reason for Derek Chauvin to ever have his knee on George Floyd`s neck.
Without Darnella Frazier capturing the scene from beginning to end, there would have been lying police testimony by Derek Chauvin and others that George Floyd was resisting arrest and that George Floyd was physically dangerous when Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd`s neck. Police lies about resisting arrest always work. Always.
Unless, as we first discovered in the Rodney King case, there is video.
Like Darnella Frazier, other prosecution witnesses today reached for the words to describe not just George Floyd`s agony, but their own agony in watching George Floyd be killed before their eyes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD WILLIAMS, WITNESS IN DEREK CHAUVIN TRIAL: I believe I witnessed a murder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is Donald Williams, who is a wrestler and mixed martial arts fighter. He can be heard on Darnella Frazier`s video constantly telling Derek Chauvin to stop what he is doing, constantly trying to save George Floyd`s life just by using his voice against the deadly force being applied to George Floyd`s body.
Imagine the frustration, the agony for Donald Williams who, as a mixed martial arts fighter, could have easily physically intervened and beaten Derek Chauvin into the ground to stop him from doing what he was doing if Derek Chauvin did not have a police badge and a gun, if he wasn`t surrounded by three other police officers with badges and guns ready to shoot and kill Donald Williams on the spot if Donald Williams used his physical skills to try to save George Floyd`s life. There was someone else watching who had the skills to save George Floyd`s life.
There was someone else watching who had the skills to save George Floyd`s life. Genevieve Hansen took the witness stand in her fire department uniform today. She was not in uniform when she went out for a walk in the neighborhood and saw what was happening to George Floyd. Genevieve Hansen is an emergency medical technician, and she immediately started telling the police that George Floyd was obviously in danger of being killed by the force Derek Chauvin was applying to George Floyd`s neck.
Genevieve Hansen at first offered her help to the police officers, and the officer, fending off the crowd, shut her down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENEVIEVE HANSEN, WITNESS IN DEREK CHAUVIN TRIAL: He said something along the lines of, if you really are a Minneapolis firefighter, you would know better than to get involved.
MATTHEW FRANK, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: What did you think of that?
HANSEN: First, I was worried that he wasn`t going to believe me and not let me help and that`s not right. That`s exactly what I should have done. There was no medical assistance on scene, and I got there and I could have given medical assistance. That`s exactly what I should have done.
FRANK: Why weren`t you able to do any of that?
HANSEN: Because the officers didn`t let me in to the scene. I also offered -- in my memory, I offered to kind of walk them through it or told them if he doesn`t have a pulse, you need to start compressions, and that wasn`t done, either.
FRANK: And so when -- well, are these things that you wanted to do?
HANSEN: It would -- it`s what I would have done for anybody.
FRANK: When you couldn`t do that, how did that make you feel?
HANSEN: Totally distressed.
FRANK: Were you frustrated?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Derek Chauvin`s defense lawyer repeatedly tried to get witnesses to describe how angry they were, that was his word, angry. Genevieve Hansen said her feeling was better described as desperate. And then she told the defense lawyer this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANSEN: I don`t know if you`ve seen anybody be killed, but it`s upsetting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Another witness, Alyssa Funari, who was 17 at the time, said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALYSSA FUNARI, EYEWITNESS: That time was running out or that it had already.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you mean that time was running out?
FUNARI: That he was going to die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Every witness said they knew they were watching someone die.
Darnella Frazier said that George Floyd knew that he was dying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRAZIER: It seemed like he knew. It seemed like he knew it was over for him. He was terrified. He was suffering. This was a cry for help. It wasn`t right. We all know it wasn`t right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Everyone in that courtroom today knew that it wasn`t right. The question before the jury now is, was it murder?
Joining our discussion now is Melissa Murray, a law professor at New York University. She is former law clerk to Judge Sonya Sotomayor when she was on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She`s also an MSNBC contributor.
Also joining our discussion, Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the national office of the Advancement Project.
And, Melissa Murray, I just want to give you an open field for your reaction to today`s testimony.
MELISSA MURRAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It was another visceral testimony. If yesterday, the prosecution created a skeleton using the video from that fateful day. Today they began layering flesh on that skeleton by providing these visceral accounts from eyewitnesses who watched Mr. Floyd and watch the interaction between him and Officer Chauvin.
It was incredibly powerful testimony. We heard another witness say they were so distressed and disturbed by what they were witnessing that they felt compelled to call the police on the police. You saw a first responder say that this was completely beyond the pale, that in other first responder situations, they would have given the individual medical treatment.
But instead, what we saw here was Officer Chauvin continuing to persist with his line with Mr. Floyd. And again, all of this I think leaves a question for the defense as they prepare to mount their defense of Officer Chauvin. Does it make sense to have officer Chauvin take the stand in his own defense? He`s not required to do so, certainly, but perhaps it would help to humanize him and to, again, give the jurors an idea of what he was thinking during that moment and what his thinking was, why he decided to act in the way that he did, and to perhaps inject a humanizing element that would make him more palatable to the jurors going forward.
O`DONNELL: Judith Dianis, I have been marveling at Darnella Frazier since her video first emerged and I began talking about her on this program from the first night when they are video emerged. Before we knew her name, we knew her name that second night, and the strength and purpose that she showed by just holding that camera on this scene for the entire time.
I had always wondered, how did she feel during that? Did she feel threatened?
We discovered today in her testimony, that yes, she did feel threatened. She felt threatened specifically from Derek Chauvin, but she still held her spot and held that camera, and it is thanks to what she did that we`re watching this trial today.
JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT NATIONAL OFFICE: That`s right. You hit it on the -- the nail on the head, because she was very brave by doing this. I mean, here we see the police murdering someone in daylight, and the witnesses, who are not just bystanders not getting involved but trying to intervene.
I have a daughter who is the same age, and I just cannot imagine the trauma of that moment but to keep that camera fixed on the police officers who are killing George Floyd. And so, her video was everything. Her testimony was heartbreaking, to hear her say she felt guilty for not doing more.
The EMT worker said she felt guilty and wanted to intervene but the police kept them at bay. And so, everything we heard today also undermines whether or not there was reasonable force. The other thing that we know is that for black people, when we see something like this, we know that the police do not keep us safe. And who are you going to call to police the police?
O`DONNELL: Melissa Murray, we know from the defense that all we`re hearing will be discarding from them in the final argument that they present to the jury because their case will be entirely about cause of death as determined by the medical examiner`s report, and they are going to insist that the cause of death was not the knee on George Floyd`s neck.
MURRAY: That`s certainly the case. The prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Chauvin`s conduct was a substantial cause of George Floyd`s death. All the defense has to do is inject reasonable doubt that, in fact, there were other preexisting factors or intervening factors that could have also contributed to George Floyd`s death.
It doesn`t necessarily mean that the prosecution won`t be successful, they just have to substantiate beyond a reasonable doubt that there is more cause. But we are going to see over the course of the defense`s case, more medical testimony, more discussion of Mr. Floyd, his history, the past arrest from 2019, all in the service of showing that Officer Chauvin was not the main cause. We`ll also hear from Officer Chauvin acting within his scope of discretion as a police officer.
O`DONNELL: Judith Dianis, does it -- does it hurt the defense that so far, certainly from their opening statement, they are going to insist that Derek Chauvin actually did everything right. After today`s testimony and you hear Darnella Frazier say, we all knew it wasn`t right, clearly, everyone in that courtroom today knows it wasn`t right. It`s a different question as to whether it was murder.
But Derek Chauvin`s defense is not even allowing for the possibility that anything he did wasn`t right.
MURRAY: Well, I think technically what it`s not going to come down to is whether or not it was right or not, it`s going to come down to whether or not it was reasonable, and was he trained to do this, and so the defense will put on witnesses, saying that he complied with the training that he had. What we need to understand is that if he was trained to actually do that, then that goes to show that policing is all wrong and that we have a lot of work to do to change the standards of excessive use of force.
O`DONNELL: Professor Melissa Murray and Judith Browne Dianis, thank you very much for starting off our discussion tonight. A painful discussion, but we appreciate your participation.
DIANIS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And coming up, Congressman Matt Gates attacked Congressman Ted Liu tonight while trying to defend himself against a "New York Times" report that he is being investigated for possible sex crimes involving a 17-year-old girl. Congressman Liu will join us to respond later in this hour.
Up next, Joe Biden is now rushing to fill federal judgeships knowing that in a 50-50 Senate, the Democrats are always just a heartbeat away from losing the majority and losing their ability to confirm any federal judges, including a possible Supreme Court justice. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: In a 50-50 setup, the majority party is always one heartbeat away from becoming the minority party, and nobody knows that better than Joe Biden who during his Senate career attended the funerals of two senators whose lives suddenly ended in the crashes of private planes. And that is one of the reasons President Biden is, as of today, on faster phase to fill federal judgeships than any president in the last 30 years.
Today, President Biden took his first step toward reshaping the courts by making 11 nominations to serve on federal district courts and appeals courts. All three of the highest level appointees are African-American women who, if confirmed, will fill federal court vacancies.
President Obama appointed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the federal district court in Washington, D.C., and now, President Biden has nominated her to fill what was Merrick Garland`s seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which is historically been a position that frequently leads to Supreme Court nominations for both parties.
Judge Jackson is on everyone`s short list now for a possible Supreme Court nomination after candidate Joe Biden said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everyone should be represented, everyone. And no one is better than me and I`m no better than anyone else. The fact is, what we should be doing, and we talked about this in Supreme Court, I`m looking forward to making sure there is a black woman on the Supreme Court, to make sure that, in fact, they are represented.
Not a joke. Not a joke. I pushed very hard for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor and legal correspondent for Slate.com, and host of the podcast, Amicus. Also with us, Allison Harris, assistant professor of political science at Yale University.
Dahlia, let me begin with you as a Supreme Court watcher up close. The Biden pace is already faster than the Trump pace, which was disturbingly fast for people who care about qualified federal judges, but what we don`t know is when Joe Biden might get a chance to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.
DAHLIA LITHWICK, SENIOR EDITOR AND LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, SLATE.COM: There`s been a lot of pressure, Lawrence, on Justice Steven Bryer, who is 82, to step down, not today, last week, in January to give up his seat. I think there`s a sense that we`ve all learned a lesson after Ruth Bader Ginsburg who probably could have stepped down when the Republicans didn`t control the Senate and might have sort of led to a different turn of events in history.
And so, there is a tremendous amount of anxiety that Justice Steven Breyer, who is 82, not make the same mistake.
O`DONNELL: And, Professor Harris, nothing prevents a president from having private conversations with the justice about this. Barack Obama had a conversation that was around this topic with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Do you suspect that the president is thinking about when Justice Breyer might hand him that seat?
ALLISON HARRIS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, YALE UNIVERSITY: He`s absolutely thinking about it. I mean, I think a lot of people are thinking about it. But, you know, hopefully when he has this opportunity, he continues about the promise that he made during the debate, and the broader implications of potentially having a black woman in the Supreme Court.
You know, what we`ve seen in research, at least in political science is that, you know, everybody is talking about, for example, racial diversity, gender adversity in federal courts, and these things matter. They matter beyond the difference in one individual judge can make, it matter because - - you know, these types of nominations changes the context in the courts. We behave differently with a new set of colleagues, and so, having a black woman on the Supreme Court can potentially change how other justices behave on the court.
And her appointment now, or three black women being appointed to the Courts of Appeals, is going to affect not just the cases they`re on but the cases that their colleagues hear, for example, or it`s not just about their votes on any one case, but their votes and their presence on a panel can affect how their colleague on a panel decides cases and how they vote in cases. So, there`s really broad implications of these nominees beyond sort of just any individual case, that they might hear just any individual vote that might make in a case.
O`DONNELL: So, Dahlia, if we look at Judge Jackson`s elevation to the Appeals Court which will take a couple of months for her to get through the confirmation process, you would want her to serve a few months, at least, on the circuit before a Supreme Court nomination?
So if there is a grand plan here that we`re seeing the outlines of, it would seem that there wouldn`t be a Biden nomination to the Supreme Court until the end of this year.
LITHWICK: I don`t think there is a hard and fast rule. I think that there is a very, very strong impetus, as Professor Harris says, to put a woman onto the D.C. Circuit which is universally seen as a launch pad to the Supreme Court.
But that`s by no means the only route. There is a justice on the California Supreme Court, Leandra Cougar, who is also seen as a serious consideration for the Supreme Court seat. So, I don`t think that this is a chess game that requires this one person to serve for a certain amount of time and then be elevated.
I think there is a lot of possible routes to this. I do think that it`s clear that Joe Biden is signaling with this tranche of judges today that he is very, very serious about having women and minorities represented on the courts after four years of Donald Trump judges who were overwhelmingly white men. I think his point is he wants the lower courts to look like America. That is, in and of itself, the goal.
Whatever happens next in the Supreme Court, yes, it turns out Justice Breyer, but I think the point is, he is sending out a signal, a clarion signal that this is what he values.
O`DONNELL: And, Professor Harris, the Republicans in the Senate will want to make these confirmations as difficult as possible and try to slow them down as long as possible, especially when they see potential candidates for the United States Supreme Court in this group.
HARRIS: Yes, absolutely, they will. And, you know, this is definitely a signal that the current president wants to take the courts in a different direction, but it`s not just in terms of diversity of these judges` characteristics, it`s also about diversity of their backgrounds, which their professional backgrounds, which is absolutely making a signal, and something that we might expect Republicans to also push back against.
For example, we have -- I think it`s two of the nominees to the courts of appeals have backgrounds as public offenders, right? So this is not as common the higher up we get into the federal courts, so this is definitely a signal that Biden is trying to sort of potentially swing things back toward the left.
O`DONNELL: Professor Allison Harris and Dahlia Lithwick, thank you both for joining our conversation tonight.
HARRIS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And coming up, Congressman Matt Gaetz chose to attack Congressman Ted Liu tonight on Fox while Congressman Gaetz was defending himself against a "New York Times" report that he is being investigated by the FBI and the Justice Department for possible sex crimes. Congressman Ted Liu joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Just tonight, Ted Lieu, a Democrat is calling on me to be removed from the House Judiciary Committee. And I believe we are in an era of our politics now Tucker where people are smeared to try to take them out of the conversation.
I`m not the only person on screen right now who has been falsely accused of a terrible sex act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Well, Tucker actually managed to hold onto his Tucker face while Matt Gaetz was suddenly trying to pull Tucker Carlson down to his level, accused of possible sex crimes. Tucker then clarified later by mentioning to his obvious befuddlement that Matt Gaetz was apparently referring to a 20-year-old accusation against Tucker Carlson that most of us knew anything about until Matt Gaetz brought it up tonight to use as a shield against a stunning story broke in "The New York Times" this evening about Congressman Matt Gaetz being investigated by the FBI and the Justice Department quote, "over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to three people briefed on the matter.
"The Times" reports that the investigation was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under the supervision of Attorney General William Barr. The investigation began after a friend of Matt Gaetz, Joel Greenberg, was indicted last summer on charges that included sex trafficking of a child.
With friends like Joel Greenberg, who was a political ally of Matt Gaetz in Florida, these kinds of things happen. Mr. Greenberg is also friendly with Roger Stone.
In his angry response to "The New York Times" story tonight on Tucker Carlson`s show, Matt Gaetz spun a wild tale involving an extortion plot that he first outlined earlier this evening on Twitter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GAETZ: It is a horrible allegation and it is a lie. "The New York Times" is running a story that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman. And that is verifiably false. People can look at my travel records and see that that is not the case.
What is happening is an extortion of me and my family involving a former Department of Justice official. On March 16th, my father got a text message demanding a meeting wherein a person demanded $25 million in exchange for making horrible sex trafficking allegations against me go away. Our family was so troubled by that, we went to the local FBI.
And the FBI and the Department of Justice were so to concerned about this attempted extortion of a member of Congress that they asked my dad to wear a wire, which he did with the former Department of Justice official.
Tonight I am demanding that the Department of Justice and the FBI release the audio recordings that were made under their supervision and at their direction which will prove my innocence, and that will show that these allegations aren`t true. They`re merely intended to try to bleed my family out of money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California. He`s a member of the House Judiciary Committee. And Congressman Lieu, I just want to note for the audience that the FBI and the Justice Department have had no comment tonight on the challenge issued to them by Congressman Gaetz.
What is your reaction to Congressman Gaetz defense so far?
REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): Thank you Lawrence, for your question. During that entire bizarre interview, Congressman Matt Gaetz does not deny the existence of a federal investigation against him that is looking at whether or not he had sexual relations with a 17-year-old girl and that she traveled across state lines and was induced by him to do so with payments or hotel stays and so on.
That by itself is a very serious charge. And if it`s true, if he, in fact, had sexual relations with an underage minor, I know that Florida law also makes it a felony to do so. So Matt Gaetz is facing very serious charges right now. And his defense is bizarre and it doesn`t shield him from these investigations.
O`DONNELL: The defense, if we can call it that -- I don`t know if we can call it that, because I think you`ve pointed out quite clearly what I was saying and what he was saying is I didn`t ever hear in anything he has said today the specific denial of such a relationship.
In fact, he brought up to Tucker Carlson that he was out to dinner with Tucker Carlson a couple of years ago with another girlfriend. Let`s listen to that.
I guess we don`t --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GAETZ: Actually, you and I went to dinner. About two years ago your wife was there, and I brought a friend of mine, you`ll remember her. And she was actually threatened by the FBI, told that if she wouldn`t cop to the fact that somehow I was involved in some pay for play scheme that she could face trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And there`s going to be some trouble corroborating that because Tucker Carlson then said he had no memory of that dinner or meeting that person. But the tale just gets wider and wider as Matt Gaetz talks about it.
LIEU: Basically what Matt Gaetz just did is he made Tucker Carlson a witness --
O`DONNELL: Yes he did.
LIEU: -- to this investigation now. I also note that Matt Gaetz has, in the past, spun wild tales about a variety of different subjects, so it`s not surprising that he would spin this wild tale.
But again, the fact that someone, even if it`s true, in March tried to extort him or his family to allegedly make this case go away, doesn`t change the fact that there is a case. There is a very serious federal investigation opened under the Trump administration. And I`m a former prosecutor. They don`t just do this out of nothing.
There`s got to be a factual predicate, and the Department of Justice is going to be a whole team of federal agents and prosecutors investigating Matt Gaetz. So he`s in some deep trouble and that`s why he needs to be removed from the House Judiciary Committee.
O`DONNELL: Yes. He`s saying that the extortion plot started just a few weeks ago on March 16. And it was started by someone who no longer works in the Justice Department was an assistant U.S. attorney in Florida under the Trump administration.
That person no longer working in an investigation that`s currently going on would, of course, have absolutely no power or influence over that investigation. Matt Gaetz said that this person has said that Joe Biden would pardon Matt Gaetz. That was part of what he threw in to his discussion with Tucker Carlson tonight.
LIEU: The tales that Matt Gaetz spins get crazier and crazier. There is no evidence that a former Department of Justice official somehow would have any linkage to the president or why the president would even conceivably pardon Matt Gaetz.
And right now we have this situation in Congress where you have a sitting member of Congress, Matt Gaetz, on the House Judiciary Committee that has oversight of the very department that`s investigating him.
That`s an untenable situation. And Matt Gaetz either should leave the Judiciary Committee voluntarily or he should be removed until the investigation is completed.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Ted Lieu, thank you very much for joining us on this breaking news tonight.
LIEU: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Up next, a former federal prosecutor, Cynthia Alksne, will join us on where this criminal investigation of Congressman Gaetz might be going.
O`DONNELL: In its reporting on Congressman Matt Gaetz tonight, "The New York Times" says a variety of federal statutes make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value.
Joining us now is Cynthia Alksne, a former federal prosecutor, who specialized in sex crimes and is now an MSNBC legal analyst.
Cynthia, I truly do not know where to begin on this one. This one is a head spinner --
CYNTHIA ALKSNE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: It`s a doozy.
O`DONNELL: -- and Matt Gaetz just makes the head spin even more. What are the legal jeopardies here?
ALKSNE: Well, they`re pretty serious because sex trafficking is taken very seriously. And the penalties range somewhere between 10 and 15 years. So it`s a serious crime.
What`s interesting about it, I mean we don`t know a lot yet, right. But we do know that it came out of this investigation of the tax assessor in Seminole County.
That guy has a bunch of sex trafficking charges, fraud charges, theft charges, making up driver`s licenses charges, and he`s going to trial this summer.
And he is buddies, buddies with Matt Gaetz. In fact Matt Gaetz has invited him to the White House.
So you -- if I were Matt Gaetz, I might spend a little less time reminding Tucker Carlson that he`d been accused of sexual harassment and a little more time racking my brain, trying to remember what this guy Greenberg knows about me because Greenberg needs to make a deal. And if he can make a deal on Matt Gaetz, then he`s in good shape and Matt Gaetz is in big trouble.
O`DONNELL: So the federal law on this seems to ignore state age of consent laws. It`s just anyone under the age of 18 no matter what state they`re traveling to or from.
ALKSNE: Right. Well, of course, Florida`s consent age is 18. But yes, that`s right, the federal law trumps. There is no sort of Mississippi exception to the federal sex trafficking law.
If you`re under 18 and you`re taken across and enticed across state lines in return for something of value and for sex, you have violated the federal trafficking law.
O`DONNELL: And as a federal investigation, if this was just a case of Matt Gaetz being involved with someone 17 years old in Florida, that wouldn`t -- that -- there would be no federal offense there. Somehow a state line has to be crossed.
ALKSNE: Right. That`s exactly right. And you know, depending on the relative ages, cases are looked at differently. Matt Gaetz is 38 years old. If he took somebody across state lines who was under 18, that`s a serious case and those cases have been prosecuted over and over and over and over.
And certainly they`re being prosecuted in the Greenberg case. So, yes, it`s a serious problem.
O`DONNELL: In the various statements he`s made today, he has admitted to elements of this investigation. He said to Axios, that yes, sure, I paid for a lot of plane tickets and things like that for girlfriends. So he admits to elements of these things, he just is not admitting to this combination that one of the people is 17 years old and he`s flying her across state lines.
ALKSNE: Right. So they`re very sort of weird denials there. Well, I`ve been very generous with my ex-girlfriends and yes I paid for hotels, and yes I paid for plane tickets. The thing about it is, is that he`s obviously learned something from the Trump playbook which is just to distract with wild and crazy accusations.
But it`s all going to come out. I mean everything he said is verifiable about whether or not there`s an FBI investigation, where his father was given a wire -- I find that hard to believe. But that`s going to be completely verifiable whether anybody demanded $25 million. And it`s also going to be verifiable whether the age of this person when -- if, in fact, they did travel, her age and exactly what happened. It`s all drip, drip, drip -- it`s all coming out.
O`DONNELL: Where does it lead the FBI and the Justice Department tonight with a congressman making these statements about the FBI and the Justice Department and demanding that the Justice Department and the FBI make public statements?
ALKSNE: Well, the Justice Department is not in the habit of responding to demands by people who are subjects of their investigations. My guess is they will stay quiet until it serves them to do something differently.
Let`s just remember, all these started if they`re -- you know, all this things that happened came from the Trump Justice Department, not the Biden Justice Department, and they will say nothing.
O`DONNELL: Cynthia Alksne, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
ALKSNE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Coming up, the next attorney general for California will join us in his first national interview. He will discuss the reforms in police work that he has already brought to California.
O`DONNELL: Joe Biden created big vacancies in the California political offices when he was elected president. California Senator Kamala Harris moved up to vice president of the United States and California`s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, became Joe Biden`s Secretary of Health & Human Services. Governor Gavin Newsom appointed California`s secretary of state, Alex Padilla to the United States senate thereby creating another vacancy in statewide office. Governor Newsom appointed Shirley Webber to be the secretary of state. And last week the governor appointed state assembly member Rob Bonta to be California`s attorney general, the head of the largest justice department in the country outside of Washington, D.C.
When confirmed by the state assembly and senate, Rob Bonta will be the first Filipino American to serve as California attorney general. In the California assembly, Rob Bonta passed legislation to ban for-profit prisons and Rob Bonta coauthored the new law that requires the state`s attorney general`s office to, quote, "investigate incidents of an officer involved shooting resulting in the death of an unarmed civilian".
And joining us now for his first national interview, California`s next Attorney General Rob Bonta. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
What we see today in Minnesota is what you`re anticipating for California. We`re seeing the state attorney general`s office conduct that prosecution of the officer accused of the murder of George Floyd. In the aftermath of that killing of George Floyd, that`s when you decided the state attorney general`s office in California should be involved in these cases.
ROB BONTA, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Good evening, Lawrence. Thanks for having me. It`s an honor to be with you tonight. I`m honored to be nominated to be the next attorney general for the state of California and the next step in the process is confirmation.
But yes, the summer of George Floyd, the racial justice reckoning really continued to motivate California to do what we`ve already been doing, which is to pursue criminal justice reform, infuse our system, which is broken in so many places, with more justice, more humanity, more fairness and more safety.
And AB1506, the bill that you just referenced, which is the law which requires an independent, thorough outside investigations by the attorney general`s office of officer-involved shootings that result in the death of an unarmed Californian was multiple years in the making.
I worked with my incredible colleague, assembly member Kevin McCarthy on that bill and last year, we got passed and signed and turned into law.
O`DONNELL: What is your reaction now, on the verge of becoming California`s next attorney general -- watching this trial in Minneapolis, knowing that this kind of case in Minneapolis could come your way.
BONTA: Well, I mean the file is full of trauma and pain and anger and frustration. The emotions and the forces that helped fuel the change of our systems and our structures that is needed. And we`re still turning that moment into a movement.
But I look forward to the opportunity to help build more trust between our law enforcement and our communities, a trust that is not always there. And I think the vast majority of law enforcement personnel want to earn and build and sustain that trust.
But police accountability is an important part of it, not the only part of it but an important part of it and AB1506 will help create the perception and the reality of police accountability.
But we also need to do more. We need to invest in improving our culture and best practices, and changing our systems, providing training, resources, support for our law enforcement so that we can have real de-escalation policies, remove implicit and explicit bias from policing.
And make sure -- it`s so important now, Lawrence that we are responding adequately to the rash in AAPI hate violence.
O`DONNELL: There`s been all sorts of different eruptions in our culture just over the last few weeks, including what you just mentioned, this problem that we`re seeing with Asian-Americans and the vulnerability that they feel. How would you speak to that as attorney general?
BONTA: I would say to the AAPI community: I see you, I value you, I am you. From my own lived experience as a Filipino-American, born in the Philippines, came here as a two-month-old, who has felt the sting of hate and discrimination over the course of my lifetime. I stand with you.
And I will stand by your side and fight with you to make sure that justice is done, that victims are given the support and healing that they need, that perpetrators are held accountable and that we improve our systems to prevent hate violence from happening in the first place. And if it happens, that we have adequate systems to heal and bring the perpetrators of hate to justice and to account.
O`DONNELL: Do you consider the attorney general to be in a cooperative relationship with local prosecutors or more of an oversight relationship?
BONTA: Both. I think collaborative. Collaboration is part of my approach to all things that I do. Working with our district attorneys throughout the state of California who are elected in their own right have critically important jobs. I want to work with them. I want to work in concert to make our criminal justice system more fair, more just, and more safe.
The constitution does also provide a direct supervisory role for the California attorney general over sheriffs and district attorneys. But I want to and will seek collaboration, coalition-building, solution-oriented approaches as much as possible to move our states where we need to be.
O`DONNELL: California`s next attorney general Rob Bonta, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
BONTA: Thanks for having me, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: That`s tonight`s LAST WORD.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.