A paramedic testified that George Floyd was dead upon arrival. "The New York Times" is reporting that the Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex, and received cash payments, according to people close to the investigation and text messages and payment receipts reviewed by "The Times."
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
There was a strange development in Arizona today on the House of Representatives on one of these laws. Republicans pulled back. They were about to vote on it, and then they pulled away from it.
One report indicates they might not have the votes they need. They need every-Republican vote, in that House, in order to win. The secretary of state of Arizona`s going to join us, later, in this hour --
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Oh, good.
O`DONNELL: -- to give us her read of, exactly, what happened there, and what might happen there.
MADDOW: There is a lot weird going on, in Arizona, right now, in Republican politics around the vote and the election. So that`s perfect timing. Well done.
O`DONNELL: Thanks, Rachel.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Well, today, in day four of the trial of Derek Chauvin, for the murder of George Floyd, we heard from the emergency medical technicians who arrived at the scene, in an ambulance. And Derek Smith told us that, in less-than- a-minute, he knew George Floyd was dead, while he was still being held down by police.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEREK SMITH, EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIAN: I did not detect a pulse.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what did his condition appear to be, to you, overall?
SMITH: In layman terms, I thought he was dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you check the carotid pulse? And what would you expect?
SMITH: In a living person, there should be a pulse there. I did not feel one. I suspected this patient to be dead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened next, after you did those things?
SMITH: After I checked pulse and pupils?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
SMITH: I looked for my partner, and provided him, that I believe the individual to be deceased.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The police officers on the scene knew that. They could have checked his pulse. They knew how to do that.
Witnesses were urging them to check George Floyd`s pulse. First, supervising officer who arrived on the scene testified today, Minneapolis Police Sergeant David Pleoger who is now retired from the police force, testified in detail about arriving on the scene. Then, going to the hospital, where George Floyd was taken to check on his condition.
And toward the end of his direct examination by prosecutor Steve Schleicher, defense counsel Eric Nelson tried to block the final question to the police sergeant. Who had reviewed all of the video in the case? The judge sent the jury out of the courtroom to hear arguments, by the lawyers, on whether this final question could be asked.
And after a few minutes of consideration, the judge decided to allow the prosecution that one, final question, on direct examination. The jury was then brought back into the room and here is how the direction examination of Sgt. Pleoger ended.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Sir, based on your review of the body-worn camera footage, do you have an opinion as to when the restraint of Mr. Floyd should have ended, in this encounter?
SGT. DAVID PLEOGER (RET.), MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPT. Yes, sir.
SCHLEICHER: What is it?
PLEOGER: When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint.
SCHLEICHER: And that was after he was handcuffed and, on the ground,, and no longer resistant?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Remember, the opioid crisis? It became a crisis for Republican politicians during the campaign of 2016, when they discovered that white people in West Virginia and in other, Republican-voting states were dying of heroin overdoses, in large numbers. The stories Republican politicians were hearing were, chillingly, similar. A doctor prescribed opioid for a factory worker with a bad back. Those opioids had been pushed on that doctor, by Purdue Pharma, the pharmaceutical company, that has essentially been put out of business for its liabilities in creating the opioid crisis.
The white Republican voting workers, who got addicted to opioids through their doctors, ended up switching to heroin, when they couldn`t get any more opioids. And Republican politicians would listen, sympathetically, for the very, very first time in their lives, to these stories of parents who lost their sons and daughters to heroin overdoses or children, who lost their parents to heroin overdoses.
We were told that we had to understand why suffering, like that, led some voters to support Donald Trump because, in 2016, he promised to fix the opioid crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: As I campaign across this country, I hear so many stories and pleas, from women especially, about drug addiction and opioid use. We lose thousands of our fellow Americans, every year, to drugs and opioid use.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Every one of those words was from the teleprompter, not the heart or the mind of the person who said them. And when he became president, he did nothing about it.
Donald Trump forgot about the opioid crisis, and the news media, largely, forgot about the opioid crisis. But it`s, still, with us. And it was in the courtroom, today, when George Floyd`s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, testified.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COURTENEY ROSS, GIRLFRIEND OF GEORGE FLOYD: Our story, it`s -- it`s a classic story of how many people get addicted to opioids. We both suffer from chronic pain.
Mine was in my neck, and his was in his back. We both have prescriptions. But after prescriptions that were filled and we got addicted. And tried, really hard, to break that addiction, many times.
MATTHEW FRANK, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: And were you, each, aware of each other`s struggles with opioids?
ROSS: Yes, eventually, in our relationship, we shared that.
FRANK: And did you work together on that?
ROSS: Absolutely. Absolutely.
FRANK: And over how long of a period, did this struggle go on for you -- for both of you?
ROSS: Addiction, in my opinion, is a lifelong struggle. So it`s something, that we -- we -- we dealt with every day. You know? You -- it`s not something that just, kind of, comes and goes. It`s something I`ll deal with, forever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Defense counsel focused on George Floyd`s overdose of heroin, for which he was hospitalized, a year before he was killed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: You spent several days with him, at the hospital, correct?
NELSON: And did you learn what that -- what caused that overdose?
NELSON: At that timeframe, did you learn that Mr. Floyd was taking anything, other than opioids?
NELSON: You did not know that he had taken heroin, at that time?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight, Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post". He`s an MSNBC political analyst. Also, joining us tonight, Jamil Hodge, former assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C.
And, Eugene, let me begin with you, and what you saw in this testimony today.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what I saw the -- the -- the sort of blockbuster moment was when the -- the police supervisor, the - - the former supervisor -- said what seems obvious, from the -- from all the videotaped evidence. That, there was a point, at which, George Floyd was clearly subdued, was giving no resistance, was handcuffed, had been on the ground, and was only complaining that he couldn`t breathe.
And that, that was a point where -- when Derek Chauvin should have released the pressure. He should have stopped kneeling on George Floyd`s neck, in such a way that ultimately killed him. And I -- I think, that was the worst moment, for the defense, today.
And the story that Courteney Ross told of their relationship and their struggle against addiction, and their love for each other was, at times, touching. At times, very sad and -- and difficult to watch because it was so, so, so emotional. So intimate.
O`DONNELL: Jamil Hodge, what stood out for you in the testimony, today?
JAMIL HODGE, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: I pick up where Eugene left off, just really learning about George Floyd, as a person. Today, we heard his name. You know, we know his name has catalyzed a movement but today, we learned about the man. We learned about him, as a boyfriend, as a father, as a son.
And so, we got to see a little bit more about him, as a -- as a human being, and to recognize, really, how profound the loss is. Not just, again, as a catalyst for a movement but for a daughter and for a girlfriend and for brothers and family members, who are living, every day, with this, you know, untimely death.
O`DONNELL: And, Gene Robinson, you have covered enough of these cases to know, that the place where -- one of the places police always want to go, in defending themselves, is the drug use of the person who was killed. They -- they are always waiting for that toxicology report to come back to say, oh, look, there was marijuana in his system or something, anything.
And it`s all -- it`s always been something that they believe they could use effectively, in these cases.
ROBINSON: Right. Right. It is and sometimes they do use it effectively. I mean, they are kind of throwing the kitchen sink at George Floyd, making the defense lawyers attempt to put the victim on trial.
And, certainly, it`s been clear, from the beginning, that they hope to use his apparent intoxication, as the real cause of death. Remind me of O.J., you know, looking for the real killer.
But -- but clearly, I -- I -- I think it will -- it seems fairly easy to establish, certainly prosecution will try, that however intoxicated he might have been, he would not have simply keeled over, and died, that afternoon had not Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. That`s the proximate cause of death, which is -- which is enough for a murder conviction in Minnesota.
O`DONNELL: Jamil Hodge, one thing that was so striking about the medical technician`s testimony is that, within a minute, less than a minute, of the arrival, he is -- he has determined, to his own satisfaction, that George Floyd is dead. Those officers are still holding George Floyd down when he makes that determination.
He reaches down. He takes that pulse. Does not find that pulse. And he knows, right away, what he is dealing with. And that was something that those police officers had over-nine minutes to do, themselves.
HODGE: Right. You know, that was critical because, also, in his testimony, what he talked about was his sense of urgency, right? He described telling an officer to get out the way so that he could get his patient into the ambulance. Calling code three for support to come from the fire department because what he needed to do to try to resuscitate Mr. Floyd would require more than him. He -- he said I was only one person.
But the urgency that he talked about, the need to which to do his job. And we contrast that, right, with officers, who are being begged by bystanders to do simple things, like check his pulse. You know? Simple things, to check on his welfare. And there was, clearly, not any urgency. But really, just a total disregard for his humanity, and what he was suffering.
O`DONNELL: Gene, it was quite striking, to me, that that opioid crisis that we were told was a white Republican voter crisis in 2016 came into that courtroom today, in a -- in the kind of context that Donald Trump never talked about. He never, once, cared about any kind of drug issue, that might exist outside of Republican-voting districts.
ROBINSON: No, no, no, he didn`t. But, of course, the opioid epidemic has -- has struck into, you know, all neighborhoods, all corners of the -- of the nation. It`s not just out in West Virginia, it`s everywhere.
And I -- I thought that was really part of the -- part of the day that -- that sticks with me because the story, as she said, it was -- it`s a classic story of how people fall into opioid addiction. That have been pushed by Purdue Pharma. And then -- and then, find themselves in -- in the situation.
It -- it -- it`s, still, not adequately addressed. I don`t think we have a sense of what happened to the epidemic, during the COVID pandemic. Whether it got worse or got better. We -- there -- there`s much we have to learn about it. But I thought we learned about it -- its texture and its day-to- day nature, today, from Courteney Ross, in a -- in a very, kind of, compelling and impactful way.
O`DONNEL: Jamil Hodge, and Eugene Robinson, thank you for starting our discussion here tonight. We really appreciate it.
HODGE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And coming up, we have breaking news in the Matt Gaetz investigation. "The New York Times" reporter, Michael Schmidt, will join us next, with his breaking-news story tonight.
O`DONNELL: We have breaking news, tonight, in the Matt Gaetz investigation. "The New York Times" reports a Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted-Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women, who were recruited online for sex, and received cash payments, according to people close to the investigation. And text messages and payment receipts, reviewed by "The New York Times."
Investigators believe Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Florida, who was indicted last year on a federal sex-trafficking charge and other crimes, initially, met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates, in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel, allowance, and according to three people, with knowledge of the encounters. Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz who, also, had sex with them, the people said. Mr. Gaetz denied ever paying a woman for sex.
And joining us now, is Michael Schmidt, Washington correspondent for "The New York Times." Also, with us, Andrew Weissmann, former FBI general counsel and MSNBC legal analyst.
Michael, this new reporting by "The New York Times," tonight, that you have done, along with Katie Benner takes this story to a new level. What are the important elements of it?
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It sort of gives a broader understanding of what was going on here. And how Joel Greenberg was going online, to these websites, and finding women, who, you know, they were bringing in, and he was connecting with Gaetz. It -- also, in our story, we report that there is a Florida associate of Gaetz and Greenberg, in Republican politics in Florida, who is, also, connected to one of these women.
And it just gives you a sense of, you know, we are just trying to peel back the onion here, little bit by bit on this thing. We -- we certainly do not have full visibility into this federal investigation. It seems like, you know, a fair amount has gone on. That at least some of the women have spoken with federal authorities, and that -- that -- that this is a particularly serious crime because if -- if you are convicted of sex trafficking someone under the age of 18, it is a minimum, ten-year prison sentence. And that is, obviously, you know, a humongous deal.
O`DONNELL: Now, your reporting says -- I am actually reading from it, as we sit here -- that the investigation is focusing on a 17-year-old girl. What more can you tell us about that particular, 17-year-old girl, in your reporting tonight?
SCHMIDT: As we report, tonight, this 17-year-old girl that they are looking at in terms of Gaetz is the same one that they have looked at in terms of Joel Greenberg, this local tax collector. And this may sound all a bit confusing. But Greenberg is the -- sort of, the origination of this case. He is the original person who was charged.
And in August, he was indicted on sex-trafficking charges, for someone between the ages of 14 and 18, and who he had some sort of relationship with. And as -- as we say tonight that person, that girl, is the same girl who, you know, they are looking at on Matt Gaetz. It`s the same 17-year- old.
O`DONNELL: And, Andrew Weissmann, as Michael`s reporting shows, that -- that "The Times" has actually seen the receipts from Cash App, mobile- payments app, Apple Pay, of payments from Matt Gaetz and Greenberg to one of the women. There`s more, in the reporting here, about taking ecstasy, an illegal hallucinogenic. That says -- and Michael`s reporting indicates that Matt Gaetz is reported as having taken the ecstasy, along with these girls, according to some of these witnesses.
Andrew, what is Matt Gaetz facing in this Justice Department investigation of this material tonight?
ANDREW WEISSMANN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, reading the great reporting from "The Times," this is time for Matt Gaetz to make sure he has a very good criminal-defense lawyer. You read these allegations. And it`s clear. There are people cooperating. There are going to be records that are clear. There -- clearly, the women are, also, talking, who are the victims of this scheme.
So, you have a real panoply of hard-physical evidence that, I think, means that there -- this case is not one where you think, I wonder if the government`s going to make this case. It seems very clear, that they are going to make a case on sex trafficking. And it could, also, include campaign finance and lesser charges, including state crimes.
So Matt Gaetz is facing a host of -- a host of legal problems.
O`DONNELL: And, Michael, you report that Matt Gaetz told the women to say that he had paid for hotel rooms and dinners, as part of their dates. That is something we`ve heard Matt Gaetz say, publicly, that he has done that. And he was trying to claim that he was being persecuted, somehow, for being generous.
SCHMIDT: Correct. He is saying that, you know, maybe, you know, someone is going back and looking at his generosity, differently than they did before, someone who he may have had a relationship with. That, you know, he -- he did -- did pay for things for them. You know, having admitted that.
And then, he, you know, created this giant distraction, which some of the media has gone along with, about this -- this whole scheme, that he says, about people that are targeting him and his family for millions and millions of dollars, in exchange for, you know, trying to get this investigation to go away.
That scheme, that he depicts, has nothing to do with the underlying crimes that are being alleged here. They`re two separate things. Whatever the validity of -- of this scheme, that he has laid out.
The one thing that I just -- just -- I found remarkable, just in -- in reporting this. Is just sort of the blatantness that they did this with, the fact that they were willing to pay from Apple Pay or to use ATMs in the hotels that they were in. There was not -- not great efforts here to hide this.
And I think that has made it particularly -- I don`t think any federal investigation is easy but it has certainly created a significant paper trail. Some of which, we -- we had a chance to see in reporting for this story.
O`DONNELL: Yeah. I want to read another passage in your reporting, tonight, Michael, about the evidence that you have been able to see. It says, in encounters during 2019 and 2020, Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg instructed women to meet at certain times and places, often at hotels around Florida, and would tell them the amount of money they were willing to pay, according to the messages, and interviews.
And -- and so, Andrew Weissmann, as a prosecutor, when you look at that, there is evidence in the messages. There`s -- there are interviews being conducted of people willing to provide this information.
SCHMIDT: So I think mike has it exactly right. The brazenness of this scheme is, to me, it`s -- it`s emblematic of, frankly, the last-four years, where there was a sense that people were untouchable. But now, there`s been an administration change. And there, clearly, is a paper trail. And a witness trail.
And whatever Matt Gaetz is claiming now, in the court of public opinion, about some alleged extortion, a claim that doesn`t make any sense, to me. That`s not going to play in an actual court.
And I`d also analogize this, in some ways, to Eliot Spitzer, the former governor and attorney general of New York, where the allegations, and what he was accused of, and ultimately admitted, was far-less serious than what Mike and his colleagues and "The New York Times" are reporting tonight.
O`DONNELL: One more piece of your reporting, Michael, that I want to quote. In some cases, Mr. Gaetz asked women to help find others, who might be interested in having sex with him and his friends, according to two people familiar with those conversations.
How much of the evidence, that you have in your reporting tonight, is in possession of the Justice Department, already?
SCHMIDT: I don`t know. But as reporters, we don`t have badges and guns, or the ability to subpoena people or execute search warrants. And the people that do usually end up with a lot more than we do.
So, we are usually, sort of, the second wave when we come along. And the feds, often, have mountains and mountains of more evidence than us. And so, my sense is that this is just a small sliver of a more -- much-more larger collection of evidence.
If you sit and read the docket on Joel Greenberg, the local-tax collector, in Seminole County. It is a -- there is mountains and mountains of evidence against Joel Greenberg. Joel Greenberg is currently sitting in jail. He faces nearly-three-dozen counts, on a range of different corruption.
The government has immense leverage over him. And, you know, he -- he has intimate knowledge of what went on with Matt Gaetz. And as we -- as we sit here tonight, Joel Greenberg is in -- is in jail, awaiting trial in June. And, you know, facing a -- many, many, many years in prison.
O`DONNELL: Michael Schmidt, stunning reporting tonight. Thank you, very much, for joining us on this breaking-news story, with your breaking-news report. Really appreciate it.
And, Andrew Weissmann, thank you for adding your experience, as a prosecutor, to this discussion. Really, appreciate it. Thank you, very much.
And up next, very bad news for defendant Trump. A judge has ruled that the nondisclosure agreement Donald Trump forced his campaign staff to sign is invalid. The latest lawyer to beat Donald Trump in court, and get that nondisclosure agreement ruled invalid will join us, next.
O`DONNELL: A Trump dam just broke. A federal judge ruled this week that a nondisclosure agreement that the 2016 Trump-presidential campaign required its staffers to sign is invalid.
The judge`s ruling said that the, quote, "nondisclosure provision`s vague, overbroad, and undefined terms also render it unduly burdensome. It is difficult, if not impossible, to know whether any speech might be covered by one of the broad categories of restricted information; whether that speech might relate to one of the several hundred potential subjects of the nondisclosure provision. Or whether that speech may relate to a matter that President Trump will determine is confidential.
Because the effect of these burdens is to chill the speech of former campaign workers about matters of public interest, the nondisclosure provision is harmful and not -- not only to them but also to the general public."
And joining us, now, is one of the lawyers who convinced the court that the Trump nondisclosure agreements are invalid, attorney David Bowles. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Mr. Bowles.
So, you join that winners` circle of lawyers who have beat Donald Trump in court. These -- the nondisclosure agreement that I saw in the -- in the -- used in this -- in this case that you are working with -- seems to be lifted directly from the Trump company -- their regular business nondisclosure agreement. What made you think that could be invalidated, as applied to campaign workers?
DAVID BOWLES, ATTORNEY: Well, thank you for welcoming me to the winners` circle but also it wasn`t just me. It was a big team effort and we do appreciate that.
What made me think that it could be invalidated is that if you read it, as an attorney who reads contracts and litigates contracts, it is obviously, massively, ridiculously, overbroad. The terms are undefined.
For example, one of the terms that defines confidential information in the agreement is anything Mr. Trump says is confidential. As an attorney, as a human reading a contract, you can`t possibly know what that means.
One of the judges of the 1st Department Court of Appeals said this thing has holes in it, you could drive a mac truck through. And he is right. And that`s exactly what Judge Gardephe said in this recent opinion.
O`DONNELL: What do you think this is going to mean? This was for an -- for one individual plaintiff. Will it apply to everyone who worked in that 2016 campaign?
BOWLES: It will, ultimately. You are right that this only applies to our main-class leader, Jessica Denson, right now. But this is a class-action lawsuit. The purpose of this lawsuit is to unwind all of these NDAs for every-single person in the Trump campaign who signed one.
Now, our best information is every single person that worked for the Trump campaign, from the highest senior adviser to the lowest volunteer, signed the same agreement. Now that the judge has done the hard part -- 36 pages to invalidate Jessica`s NDA -- it`s almost certain -- almost certain that the NDA will fall for all the other campaign workers and that ultimately is our goal.
O`DONNELL: Do you have any sense of what stories we might then learn when everyone working in the 2016 campaign realizes, legally, those nondisclosure agreements are meaningless?
BOWLES: I don`t yet. But just imagine this. Let`s say, we don`t know, yet, how many of these things were signed because we are still working on that in discovery.
Let`s say, it was 500. Let`s say that 10 percent of those people have a story to tell. That`s 50 stories, and I want to hear them, and I`m sure you do, too.
O`DONNELL: David Bowles, we want to hear those stories as you collect them. And thank you very much for joining us here tonight. We really appreciate it.
BOWLES: Thank you so much for having me.
O`DONNELL: Now, we are going to turn quickly to Tim O`Brien, an authority on all Trump business matters.
Tim, I`ve read this nondisclosure agreement. And it -- it seems like they just lifted the -- this agreement right out of the Trump company, handed it to people in the campaign. And -- and David Bowles is so right. It`s the most absurd document you could read legally.
TIM O`BRIEN, AUTHOR, "TRUMPNATION": Well, the -- the big issue around Trump right now is he can`t control the flow of information anymore, Lawrence. He has tried to intimidate people historically, either financially or legally, to get them to quiet down. And he no longer is in charge of that information stream.
And between the kind of -- of financial information that`s coming in potentially into the public record ad people from his campaign who can also speak publicly, it has to worry him.
And Donald Trump, cornered, and Donald Trump unable to control the flow of information, is Donald Trump who becomes more radically inept and -- and unwired. And -- and I think, this is only going to get more unspooled as this goes on.
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump throughout his life, as you`ve reported, has been sued for all sorts of things he`s done in business. He always tried to wear the other side down with increasing legal bills.
He is now being sued by two Capitol police officers for the injuries they suffered in the attack on the Capitol. They are -- if they can survive the procedural challenges that all civil suits face in order to get to a jury, actually get it to a jury in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. is going to be offered the opportunity to visit an unlimited amount of punitive damages on Donald Trump for the attack on the Capitol that injured these police officers that will -- there are more of these lawsuits coming. I see a world, in which he could be bankrupted by the lawsuits that just come out of the attack on the Capitol.
O`BRIEN: Well, the first thing to remember is he could be -- he`s already in severe, financial pain because of COVID-19. The core -- the source of Donald Trump`s wealth is urban real estate. And urban real estate is getting savaged by COVID-19.
So -- so the things that he`s relied on historically to fund his ability to weaponize the courts is already under duress. In addition to all this, now, he`s got lawsuits coming at him from all sorts of directions. And he is going to have to pay up for those suits.
Will he be able to continue to fund those suits? I think, probably yes. Will he pay his lawyers? I think, probably that`s in doubt because he`s got a long history of stiffing his lawyers.
But again, I think this adds to all the pressure he is experiencing legally right now that`s going to probably unwind him.
O`DONNELL: And he needs more lawyers than he`s ever used before -- from Georgia to Washington, D.C. to New York -- it`s endless.
Tim O`Brien, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
O`BRIEN: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up Arizona Republicans suddenly stopped trying to pass a voter-suppression bill in the Arizona House of Representatives today because they might not have all the Republican votes they need to pass it.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs joins us next.
O`DONNELL: Today, Republicans in the Arizona House of Representatives abruptly ended consideration of a bill designed to suppress voting in Arizona. The Associated Press reports "Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers did not explain his decision to abruptly cut off debate. But it suggests at least one Republican was not going to support the bill. With a slim 31-29 majority the GOP must be united to pass legislation without Democratic support.
Joining us now is Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. What is going on in the House of Representatives?
KATIE HOBBS, ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, this is to be expected if they think that they`re short of a vote. Putting a stop to the proceedings would allow the bill to continue at a later date if they are able to persuade whoever might be holding out to vote for it so -- so that the bill doesn`t end up dying.
So we -- we know that nothing is ever dead in the legislature until they adjourn for the session. So you know, there is a likelihood that the bill will come back.
O`DONNELL: And this is one of those bills to purge the voter rolls, if you haven`t voted frequently enough. And there are some interpretations that indicate, you could get knocked off the rolls if you miss voting in a single election.
HOBBS: Well, let me clarify. It`s not knocked off the rolls entirely But it`s knocked off what has been a wide -- widely-supported, permanent, early-vote list in Arizona. So if you want to vote absentee in every election you can sign up for this. 75 percent of our voters are signed up.
But they also have the option to not utilize that mail-in ballot and go to the polls and vote instead. And this bill would allow them to be purged even if they -- if they voted but just didn`t use their mail-in ballot.
O`DONNELL: What other threats to voting are you seeing in Arizona?
HOBBS: Well, another bill that`s very concerning would put additional requirements on the affidavit that voters sign in their -- in their ballot by mail. So right now, the affidavit is on the outside of the envelope. So there is not an extra piece of paper that you have to include that could increase the likelihood for error and ballot rejection.
And so, this bill would require that affidavit to be on a separate piece of paper and also, require an additional identification number to be placed on that ballot, that is either the driver`s license or the voter ID number. Not allowing a tribal ID number, which is a perfectly acceptable form of voter ID and so it would again, end up allowing -- not allowing a lot of people who are -- who currently vote by mail, to vote by mail. Or end up increasing the ballot-rejection rates.
And -- and I want to really reiterate, this is not solving any problem that exists at all with voting by mail in Arizona.
O`DONNELL: Knowing the voting patterns as you do in the state, what voters do they seem to be targeting with these bills?
HOBBS: Well, it would -- what -- what we saw in 2020 was that a lot of early voters didn`t want to wait until their ballot came in the mail. They were very excited to vote or they wanted to just get it done. And so they showed up on the first day of early voting in person and voted that way instead of voting by mail.
And we have the option to do that. And so it -- it -- you know, the -- the permanent early voter list purge would limit the choices that voters have. But the -- the -- the restrictions on mail-in voting seem to be targeting elderly communities, tribal communities in particular, who -- folks who might not have a driver`s license and I don`t know how many people actually have their voter ID card so that they could find their voter registration number. But it`s a pretty onerous requirement to require that when up until now the signature on your ballot has been sufficient to verify the identify of you as a voter.
O`DONNELL: Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
HOBBS: Thanks for having me.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And coming up, President Biden held his first cabinet meeting today and it was very different from the clownish Trump cabinet meetings in which every member of the cabinet was required to offer public praise of Donald Trump.
During the cabinet meeting -- during today`s cabinet meeting, the president gave five cabinet members, the not-so-easy job of passing the biggest infrastructure bill in history. Democratic Congressman Conor joined President Biden in Pennsylvania yesterday when he unveiled his infrastructure bill. And Congressman Lamb joins us next.
O`DONNELL: The cabinet room is too small. It`s never been too small before, but it is now. The cabinet room is too small for a cabinet meeting if you maintain proper social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, which the Trump cabinet never did.
And that`s why Joe Biden`s first cabinet meeting today was held in the huge East Room. It is the first cabinet meeting held since Donald Trump spent four years debasing his cabinet by forcing them to publicly debase themselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t thank you enough for the privilege that you`ve given me and the leadership that you`ve shown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you`ve given.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mike, would you like to say a few words?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mostly, Mr. President, I`ll end where I began. And just tell you, I want to thank you, Mr. President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Trump cabinet meetings were sometimes televised in full which assured that nothing resembling governing actually took place at one of those meetings.
President Biden allowed cameras in the room for a total of two minutes and 37 seconds before the real meeting began. And he said this about his infrastructure plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today I`m announcing that I`m asking five cabinet members to take special responsibility to explain the plan to the American public. Working with my team here in the White House, these cabinet members will represent me in dealing with Congress, engage the public in selling the plan and help work out the details as we refine it to move forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The five cabinet members assigned to advancing the infrastructure plan are Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
President Biden and Vice President Harris then spent two hours in a closed- door cabinet meeting concentrating on the infrastructure plan which marked yet another return of professionalism to the White House.
Yesterday President Biden announced his plan in Collier, Pennsylvania a suburb of Pittsburgh represented since 2018 by Democratic Congressman Conor Lamb. Donald Trump won that congressional district by 10 points in 2016 and 2020. Joe Biden won it by three points.
Joining us now is Congressman Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania. He`s a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
And Representative Lamb, this legislation is coming your way in that committee.
REP. CONOR LAMB (D-PA): Excited for it. You know, this is really what we ran on, trying to help areas like mine in western Pennsylvania get up off their feet, you know, not just after the pandemic but after 40 years of job loss and the collapse of the steel industry.
We know that you have to make these types of investments in order for us to be competitive again, not just competitive against Ohio which has been our longtime foe, but against China. I mean that`s what we have been (INAUDIBLE) for centuries. So we`re excited for this bill and I think we`re going to get it down.
O`DONNELL: There`s a big difference between this legislation, obviously and the relief plan that was just passed, that you helped just pass, where immediately people were getting $1,400 delivered directly to them.
You passed an infrastructure bill and people in your district might not see something happen for years and they might not know that the reason that fix is happening to that bridge is what Congressman Lamb voted for a couple years ago.
LAMB: Well, that`s on us to first of all be practical about the bill and make sure we include things in it that can be done in the first year. That`s actually something I have worked on a lot with Republicans, by the way. We`re trying to give state Departments of Transportation the money they need to get projects on the roads and on the bridges this year. They all had projects that they canceled because they didn`t get their gas tax revenue last year. If you think about it, most people were not driving around as much as they usually did.
And so you have all these projects that are actually permitted, ready to go, the workers were planning to be out there and it got canceled at the last minute due to lack of revenue.
So we`re going to have things like that in the plan, that will give us things to talk about and show right away. And then we`ll continue selling this over the long term.
But I can say just from talking to people living around here, everyone knows our infrastructure is out of date. You can physically see it. I mean, the bridges are rusty and cracked and you hear about it all the time and everybody experiences the roads and the washouts every spring with the rainstorms.
And so people believe in this and they believe that it`s necessary. And I think we`re going to be able to make a strong case.
O`DONNELL: Infrastructure might not be the first thing that comes to voters` minds when they`re talking to you. Maybe for some, it is. But when you do get it to that subject, what do people in western Pennsylvania tell you they want to see in something like this?
LAMB: They want us to be practical. You know, everyone knows that there are long-term challenges having to do with climate change and, you know, many of the other kind of social aspects of this plan that President Biden has talked about. But the number one thing people care about is jobs and what is this doing for our local economy.
So we are in an area where outside of the city of Pittsburgh a lot of people still make things and do things with their hands. They drill for natural gas. They make and manufacture plastic. They make steel and specialty metals.
And so people want to know what impact does this have on our industry. Well, a huge one, because we`re going to have the strongest "Buy American" provisions of all time in this package and it`s going to drive manufacturing and transportation business, not just the building of the infrastructure itself.
But to your first question, the point you`re really making is we need to make sure that that is direct, that it hits the economy quickly, that we know how to explain it and point to specific examples. And we have those but, you know, the bill needs to be designed in such a way that it actually fixes the problems that we have here. And I`m going to be part of that. That`s my job.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Conor Lamb, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
LAMB: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Conor Lamb gets tonight`s LAST WORD.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.