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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/18/22

Guests: Jamie Raskin, Maggie Hassan


The January 6 investigators subpoena top Trump allies who publicly promoted false claims about 2020 election. Interview with Maryland congressman, a member of the January 6 investigation, Jamie Raskin. Interview with New Hampshire U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: I think you can`t overemphasize the fact that we had solved the problem beforehand about how to deal with the fact that you want states to have some local control or municipalities have local control, but also some federal standards and to make sure the still is not being abused.


We had that section. The Roberts court struck it down. Republicans refused to reinstate it. And now we are here.

Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, thank you so much for your time tonight.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): Chris, it`s going to be an important day tomorrow. I`m so excited about it.

HAYES: We will keep our eyes on it.

That is "ALL IN" on this Tuesday night.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you very much, my friend.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

So, Florida`s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, has just submitted a proposed new map for congressional districts in his state. What he proposes is that Florida should cut in half the number of congressional districts that are majority black. Okay.

Texas`s largest counties are starting to report on the real world impact of the voting restrictions that Texas Republicans passed this past year. As many as half the ballot requests they are getting from voters in the largest counties are now being rejected by the state because the new voting rights restrictions they just passed requires that those ballot requests be rejected. Half the ballot requests being turned away.

In Wisconsin, where Republican legislators have been moving aggressively to restrict all sorts of voting methods, a state court judge sided with them and ruled that Wisconsin can, in fact, remove its drop boxes that people use to drop off their ballots for the election. Wisconsin`s next election is less than a month from now. So, they are rushing to rip out the drop boxes and give people fewer places to vote with less than a month to go. Got to hurry.

People found it very safe, very secure, very convenient, to vote that way, as recently as the last election. That next is coming. Quick, that must be stopped.

Today in Washington, D.C., conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin appeared before reporters -- he was wearing a gym suit, like a tonic (ph) of some kind, I`m only saying that just so you`re not jarred by his appearance in the next clip. He was at the U.S. Capitol but he was wearing this like sporty outfit. I don`t know.

Anyway, he told reporters scornfully while answering questions their questions that he and Senator Sinema working with Republicans to block federal voting rights protections that will in no way result in people not being able to vote in the next election. He said that won`t happen in the next election because the government won`t allow it.

I know you don`t know what that could possibly mean. I know you think I`m paraphrasing him in a way that`s obscuring what he must have meant. Honestly, that`s what we have got. That`s what he said.


REPORTER: Senator Manchin, what would say to voters of color who say that your inability or your obstruction of the voting rights --

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I`m not, there`s no obstruction whatsoever.

REPORTER: But there`s a lot of people out there who are saying that you`re making it so that they`re not going to be able to vote in the next election.

MANCHIN: The law`s there, there rules are there, and basically the government. The government will stand behind them so they have the right to vote. We have that.


MADDOW: The government will stand in the way. The government will do that.

What`s the exact phrase he used there? The law`s there, the rules are there, basically the government. The government will stand behind them so they have the right to vote. We have that.

Who is the government in this construction?

Senator Joe Manchin actually has it in his personal hands whether or not the government will stand behind people to protect their right to vote. I mean, right now, thanks to him, it is the government in places like Florida, places like Texas, places like Wisconsin, places like Georgia, it`s the government in those places, the state government controlled by Republicans, that, in fact, is making it so people can`t vote or can`t have their vote counted or have their vote delight diluted to such an extent that their votes basically don`t count no matter how potently and completely they and their cohort votes for their chosen representative.

The existing federal Voting Rights Act was gutted by the United States Supreme Court, by Republican appointed judges. The restrictions on voting rights we are seeing, like this in Texas. They can`t be blocked anymore by the federal government. Like this new law in Texas, that`s having the state required by law to throw out half the ballot applications, it`s law.

It is new law they made in Texas. It`s in effect.


It`s not being blocked by anything. The state government has radically rescinded voting rights there. And no one is coming to the rescue because of Joe Manchin. The federal government can only help in those instances if Congress acts, if Congress passes legislation to let the federal government step in and establish federal minimum standards in terms of voting rights in the election -- and the administration of elections.

It`s Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in the Senate who are working with Republican senators to stop that from happening. Senator Manchin says, don`t worry. He is sure the government will fix it somehow. As if it`s not the government that`s blocking people from voting, the Republican-led state government that`s blocking people from voting in these states.

And as if he is not the government. As if he is not the reason that the federal government can`t step in to fix this stuff.

A federal government could step in and fix this. It`s those two senators working with Republicans that are blocking that from happening.

In the great state of Georgia today, where the Republican leadership in that state has this past year radically restricted the voting rights of, Republicans have moved another one of their own officials into position so they can use the new powers they gave themselves to get rid of the elections boards in Democratic counties and have Republican officials oversee the vote in the Democratic areas. Today`s move by Georgia Republicans was their next major step toward taking over Fulton County, Georgia, where more Democratic votes are cast in that state than any other county.

Republicans are kicking out the local elections officials and taking it over for themselves. Why do you think they would want to do that? Don`t worry, Senator Joe Manchin said the government will help. Surely, the government won`t let this happen.

This is the government. This is the Republican-led state government of Georgia moving radically to rescind voting rights. We don`t have federal standards to block this kind of thing because of Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema working with Republican senators to make sure nothing gets in the way in whatever the Republican-led states want to do.

Today was just -- scenes from the country that is trying to save itself. We`re going to get to it tonight. It`s farce at a lot of levels when you look at the arguments being made by Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin as to why they feel comfortable siding with Republicans to prevent the government from doing anything on this issue.

Senators at this hour are still debating the voting rights protections that Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema are blocking. We`re going to check in a little later with one key moderate senator who has become passionate on this issue.

And while Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema apparently can`t wrap their heads around and what they are contending with from Republicans. The cold reality of it is shivering timbers all over the news right now.

In Michigan today, the Attorney General Dana Nessel answered questions from local reporters about her reasoning in asking the U.S. attorney`s office in Michigan to bring a federal criminal investigation of 16 Republicans who signed and submitted a forged document claiming to be the state`s electors after the last election when they in fact they were not. She reiterated the argument she made the day she made the referral to federal prosecutors saying she believes this makes the most sense as a federal investigation.

But interestingly, speaking with local reporters today, she also clarified that if the federal U.S. Justice Department chooses not to pursue a prosecution in this case, her office does absolutely believe there`s plenty enough evidence to prosecute these 16 Republicans under Michigan state law.


DETRIOT NEWS REPORTER: At this point, do you think there`s enough evidence -- if you wanted to -- to bring charges against these electors under state law?


DETRIOT NEWS REPORTER: Absolutely, okay.

And then, second question, have you interviewed -- or are any of these individuals cooperating with your investigation of what you have done so far?

NESSEL: Yeah. I can`t comment on the investigation at this point. I will say that, again, I feel confident we have enough evidence to charge should we decide to pursue that. Again, I want to make it clear, I haven`t ruled it out. But for all the reasons I stated, I think that it`s a better idea for the feds to pursue this.

But technically, it is an ongoing investigation, even though we have given everything that we have to the feds so they will have that information should they wish to pursue it. It`s not as though we have made a determination that we are certainly not going to charge.


So, I am just waiting to see what it is that they will decide to do.

These 16 individuals could be prosecuted under state law. I`m not denying that at all. I`m saying that if one of your goals is to find out who orchestrated this -- again, seemingly, there`s a conspiracy that occurred here between multiple states.

So, if what you are ultimate goal is is not just to prosecute the 16 individuals, but to find out, you know, who put them up to this? Is this part of a bigger conspiracy at play in order to undermine the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election not just in Michigan but nationally? It`s going to involve interviews and in other states and possible prosecutions in other places.


MADDOW: Michigan attorney general speaking with reporters in Michigan today, making the case that the part of the Republican plot to try to overthrow the government and keep Donald Trump in power after he lost the last election, the part of that that involves coordinated effort to have Republicans in multiple states forge documents saying they were the state`s electors when they were not, Attorney General Nessel says her office believes that can be charged as a crime under Michigan law. They have absolutely enough evidence to do so. But she said they believe the larger scheme should be pursued by the federal government because it wasn`t just in Michigan. It was in multiple states.

Again, that was the attorney general of Michigan, Dana Nessel, speaking with reporters today. I have to tell you, just before we got on the air, we got news that another state is investigating this matter as a potential crime. We have this federal referral from the attorney general in Michigan that she was describing there with local reporters.

As we reported here last night, the attorney general in the state of New Mexico, Attorney General Hector Balderas, he says that he, too, is referring this matter to the U.S. attorney in New Mexico for potential prosecution as a federal crime.

And now there`s this from the attorney general in the state of Nevada, Aaron Ford.

Quote: Our office has received numerous inquiries regarding some members of the state Republican Party attempting to award fake electoral votes to former President Donald Trump after the 2020 election. While we cannot confirm or deny the existence of the investigation, rest assured that this matter is on our radar, and we take seriously any efforts to rob Nevadans of their votes.

There is been a sustained effort to invalidate the 2020 election in to downplay the shocking actions that took place afterward. My office cannot and will not accept any efforts to overturn a free and fair election. Voting rights are fundamental to our democratic republic, and we will protect them.

Again, so, to recap, in Michigan, the state attorney general has referred those Republicans who signed the fact electoral documents, referred them to federal prosecutors for potential criminal prosecution. The same has happened in the state of New Mexico where the attorney general in the state of New Mexico has made a similar referral to federal prosecutors. Now in the state of Nevada, we got the statements from the attorney general saying we cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation, but rest assured that this matter is on our radar. I don`t know what that means in legal terms, but there you have it.

We do know the January 6 investigation in Congress is looking at least broadly, at this part of the plot, by which Republicans and at least five different states filled out these forged documents pretending to be electors. And those documents were sent in to Congress.

So, we know that the January six investigation is looking at it, that in fact in some way they were able to find out some reporting trails that everybody was able to follow, in order to figure out that these documents existed, they were part of a coordinated effort, and the January 6th investigation is looking at them. So we know January 6 investigators are on this, at least in some way. Now we know the U.S. Justice Department has formally been asked in at least two states to contend with it as well.

Do you remember how right after the election, President Trump`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, held a couple of election conferences? You may well remember this because these conferences were memorable for all the wrong reasons. There was, of course, the Four Seasons Total Landscaping press conference hastily arranged at a gardening business just off the interstate in Philadelphia near an adult books store and a crematorium. Why was it held there? Certain to be the subject of political science dissertations for years to come.

Mr. Giuliani at that event claimed to be investigating all kinds of election irregularities that would ultimately show that President Trump really did win re-election. The event was serendipitously interrupted by all the networks calling the actual presidential election for Joe Biden.

That was not even the craziest press conference he gave that month. Just over a week later, he held another one which would go down in political history for something entirely unrelated to the spoken content of the event.


I`m talking, of course, about the, what`s that on his face presser. The press conference at which Mr. Giuliani appeared to be sort of melting before our eyes. I know that is what you remember about that event. None of us can forget it.

But what was that event for other than to haunt our dreams, that we`re dead? That event ostensibly was supposed to be a formal presentation by Rudy Giuliani and his legal team about how the election had been stolen from Trump. Giuliani told reporters at the hair dye press conference that Trump had won Pennsylvania by 300,000 votes and Michigan by 50,000 votes, and he could absolutely prove it.

Not that he had the evidence right then to show reporters that day, but he would have the evidence soon. Everybody should get ready. Evidence of all the corruption by the big city Democrats, he knew crimes were committed. He could smell them.

Another member of Trump`s legal team, Sidney Powell, then took the podium and explained, if you can call it that, that the election had been stolen by communists in Venezuela, also Cuba, also China. The voting machines had been hacked by Hugo Chavez, even though he is dead. It`s complicated, but trust us. It works out.

Another Trump lawyer, Jenna Ellis, then got up and yelled at the media, who are there who covered their allegations. She yelled at them for not covering their allegations.

Also joining them on stage was a Trump campaign advisor named Boris Epshteyn. He`s the gentleman spot-shadowed their on the right side of your screen.

I`m pointing out these folks because this evening, not the whole crew from that cuckoo cocoa puffs press conference, all four of them, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis and Boris Epshteyn, they have been subpoenaed for the January 6 investigation in Congress.

All four have been directed to produce documents to the investigation by the first of next month. They`ve all been ordered to appear for depositions a week later, because as ridiculous as they`re quasi-legal efforts seem at the time, as ridiculous as they seem even now in retrospect, the January six investigation is subpoenaing them, not because of they`re joke, but quite the contrary.

I mean, from the perspective of the investigation, these clownish folks were allegedly involved in the very worst of what was being plotted to overthrow the government and keep Trump in power even after he lost the election. As with so many things related to the Trump era Republican Party, it`s simultaneously a clown show and a deadly serious threat.

Giuliani and the rest of the guys technically were Trump`s legal team. And they did bring a number of lawsuits alleging election fraud and malfeasance and they were laughed out of court at every turn. In fact, Sidney Powell, the one with the, you know, communist plot by dead Hugo Chaves, she was actually sanctioned by one court and referred for disbarment by the judge because the election lawsuit she brought before that court was so baseless and full of obvious lies. Mr. Giuliani had his own trouble with his own legal license around the same matters.

But it doesn`t appear the January 6 investigation is subpoenaing this group because it`s interested in those legal efforts such as they were. Judging by the letters accompanying the subpoenas tonight, the investigation is interested in Mr. Giuliani and the legal team because of the ways those guys supported and facilitated the broader plot to try to overturn the election, even beyond the courts.

I will show you what I mean. This from a letter to Mr. Giuliani tonight.

Quote: The investigation has revealed credible evidence that you publicly promoted claims that the 2020 election was stolen and participated in attempts to disrupt or delay the certification of the election results based on your allegations.

Remember, disrupting or delaying those certification of the results on January 6th, that became the main goal of Trump and his allies -- if nothing else so that they could buy time to overturn the election, either through the courts or, more likely, given how the legal challenges were going by the dozen, more likely some other way.

The letters for the investigation tonight specifically mentions Mr. Giuliani`s attempts, often accompanied by Jenna Ellis, to convince Republican legislators that they should falsify the elections in their states and say Trump won when he didn`t. He did this road show in the weeks after the election, trying to get Republican legislators in swing states to declare the election invalid and instead sends slates of Trump electors to Congress.

The investigation also claims to have witnessed testimony about Mr. Giuliani, quote, urging President Trump to direct the seizure of voting machines around the country after being told that the Department of Homeland Security had no lawful authority to do so.

Also, quote, according to public reporting, on January 6 and in the days prior, you were in contact.


This is a letter to Mr. Giuliani -- you are in contact with then-President Trump and members of Congress regarding strategies for delaying or overturning the results of the 2020 election.

We know that Mr. Giuliani was on the phone with Republican U.S. senators on January 6, even after the mob had stormed the Capitol, still trying to get them to stop or delay the certification of election. They were still that night, even after the mob attack on the Capitol, trying to find a way to falsify the election results and keep Trump in power.

The investigations letter to Jenna Ellis specifically mentions two legal memos she prepared, purporting to explain who Vice President Pence should reject or delay accepting the electoral votes from certain states, states that had submitted alternate slates of electors, false slates of electors.

They never did succeed in getting Republican state legislators in states Joe Biden won, to send in official alternate slates of electors for Trump. But as we have been reporting in the show, nevertheless, Republicans in multiple states did sign forged documents claiming to be the real electors for their state, claiming that they were the duly elected electors from their state and that Trump had won, which was all bullpucky and may be prosecuted in multiple jurisdictions now as a crime.

But it all appears to have been part of the same broad plan. The Trump allies subpoenaed today were, according to the investigation, all over ever aspect of it. Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis trying to get state legislators to falsify the election results in the states. Ms. Ellis writing legal justification for Vice President Pence to overturn the results and not accept the electoral count.

If that didn`t work, Giuliani and Powell were trying to get Trump to seize voting machines around the country and overturn the election himself with some sort of claims of military or executive power. Boris Epshteyn was at the Willard Hotel, at the so-called command center on January 6, allegedly talking by phone with President Trump about how they could stop certifying the election that day, somehow, one way or another. They were determined to make it happen.

And so, it`s no surprise that the January 6 investigation wants to talk to them, plans to compel them to talk by subpoena.

Meanwhile, like I said, today is scenes of a country trying to save itself. There is new reporting from CNN -- and I should tell you right up front that NBC News has not confirmed this reporting. This is CNN`s story alone. So, I`m going to tell you what they report without vouching for it.

But CNN is reporting tonight that the January 6 investigation has also subpoenaed the phone records of Donald Trump`s son Eric and the phone records of his other son Don Jr.`s fiancee, Kimberly Guilfoyle. CNN noting that this appears to be the first time the January 6 investigation has issued a subpoena targeting a member of the Trump family.

Quote: The phone records obtained by the committee are part of a new round of detailed records subpoenaed from communication companies. These records provide committee with logs that show incoming and outgoing calls, including the date time and length of calls. The records also show a lot of text messages but not the substance or content of the messages.

The newly obtained records include the cell phone number used by Eric Trump, according to sources familiar with the number. The committee is interested in Eric Trump due to his involvement with the events of January 6, including fund-raising efforts related to the Stop the Steal effort. Eric Trump spoke at the January 6 rally as well at the ellipse.

Eric Trump says in a statement to NBC News tonight, quote: This partisan committee is welcome to review my phone records. I have nothing to hide.

The January 6 investigation is the unnatural outgrowth, what Democrats had to force into being the outgrowth of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and the effort to overthrow the U.S. government, that that violent attack was the capstone for. I say it was an unnatural outgrowth because Republicans did everything they could to stop there being a full-scale investigation of these matters, both the January 6 attack and the broader plot.

We are now seeing the broader plot exposed by the January 6 investigation and by public reporting and by the states looking into this on their own terms. Where this resolves is anybody`s guess. Part of where it resolves is in the United States Senate where Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin have to decide whether they are going to stand -- continue to stand with Republicans to block Republican legislatures all over the country from rescinding voting rights in the name of this big lie about mass voting fraud which motivated the effort to overthrow the election.

Part of where it`s going to get resolved is potentially in courtrooms around the country, not just for the people who entered the Capitol and comported themselves in more or less violent terms on January 6, but also in terms of whether or not the actual plotters of the attack will be brought to justice in the criminal justice system.


It may resolve in courtrooms around the country, federal courtrooms and state courtrooms as people part of the plot end up facing the music in their way, including the electors -- the false electors who signed on to this forged documents purporting to be somebody who ought to be counted in the Electoral College.

Where this will all resolve -- it won`t be this one place and we won`t know for a long time. But what`s driving almost all of the developments at heart is the aggressive, comprehensive, wide ranging -- sort of brave investigation of the January 6 attack that is being conducted by the committee in Congress that`s been charged with that path.

Joining us now is Maryland congressman, a member of the January 6 investigation, Jamie Raskin. He`s also the author of the very recent book called "Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth and the Trials of American Democracy."

Congressman Raskin, I appreciate you talking time on this busy night. Thank you for being here.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: So, I have tried to sum up a number of developments today. It`s one of the days that feels like a whirlwind. Can you tell us -- first of all, correct me if I got any that was wrong. Can you put in your own words what the importance is of the four new subpoenas? Mr. Epshteyn is complaining about the fact that these subpoenas are two lawyers -- we have Eric Trump complaining this is a partisan investigation and he has nothing to hide. Can you tell us about the importance of the subpoenas from your perspective?

RASKIN: Well, lawyers, first of all, are not exempt from having to obey the law. Neither are family members of presidents or former presidents. We don`t have royal families here or former royal families that occupy any privileged constitutional position. So, everybody is subject to the law and to congressional subpoenas and orders to turn over information about a relevant investigation.

And what could be more relevant than examining an attack on the democracy itself and figuring out how to prevent it in the future?

But what these four subpoenas have in common is that these four individuals were all apostles of big lie. They were spreading the big lie in public. They were spreading it in courtrooms. They were spreading it in official and unofficial ways.

And remember, our committee is not a criminal investigatory committee. Our committee is an investigative committee for American people to figure out what happened to us and how did we get set up for a situation in which we almost lost our democracy. And we know that this big lie was the humming engine behind the whole attack on the Congress and on the peaceful transfer of power.

So, we want to know the mechanisms by which this lie was told, who was involved in it and what ways can we fortify ourselves against lies when we know American citizens are allowed to lie in some context. You can`t lie in court, which is why Rudy Giuliani`s law license has been suspended in New York and in the District of Columbia.

You know, a five-judge panel found in New York that he had been telling falsehoods. He had basically been committing a fraud against the court. You can`t do that.

So, we`ve got to figure out what places -- like in courtrooms -- we can fortify ourselves against these lies that are meant to sabotage democratic process itself.

MADDOW: I want to ask you about something that CNN is reporting tonight. As I mentioned, this is CNN`s reporting. I can`t vouch for it. I`m doing the reporting right here, right now, for which I apologize.

But they are reporting that the committee has obtained -- subpoenaed and obtained phone reports for phone records for Eric Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle, who`s the fiancee of Donald Trump Jr., both of whom spoke at the January 6 rally before the attack on the Capitol.

Can you confirm with us whether or not that`s true?

RASKIN: No, because I don`t know. I`m not being coy. I literally don`t know whether or not they`ve been served with subpoena process. But I will say, again, that I think our committee is unanimous that anybody who has evidence relevant to the attack on American democracy is going to have to turn it over, and we don`t create special, magic exceptions for people related to former presidents or anything like that.

So, you know, speaking for myself, I would have no problem sending such a subpoena. If we have reason to believe that Eric Trump has evidence relevant to the inquiry.

MADDOW: One last question for you, Congressman. It does appear absent a court order tomorrow, the National Archives is preparing to release four pages of Trump White House records that the former president tried to block from being released. Is there anything we should know in particular about the importance of those records?


RASKIN: Well, we won`t know for sure until we go through them all. But I think that what we are seeing here is a basic precept of democracy being vindicated, which is that when someone goes in a public office, what they do is a matter of public concern. And in a democracy, the people have the right to arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives, as James Madison put it.

In other words, we can`t govern ourselves if the people who get into office keep everything secret and stole it away like it`s private property. So, the system is working in that we are going to get all that was information. We are going to be able to look and see what kinds of activities was the executive branch involved in? To what extent was there official involvement in these various attacks on our democracy?

You know, I have divided it into a riot, an insurrection and a coup. I think we need to find out to what extent the executive branch of government was involved in each level of this attack on America.

MADDOW: Maryland congressman, member of the January 6 investigation, Congressman Jamie Raskin, sir, thank you, as always. Thanks for your time tonight.

RASKIN: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. We have more ahead tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Right now, the Senate is in hour ten of its marathon debate over voting rights. All day, Democratic senators have been making impassioned cases for their voting rights legislation, which would set a floor in terms of what states are allowed to do.


It would counter anti-voting measures being passed in Republican controlled states from coast to coast. All 50 Democratic senators support that voting rights legislation. All 50 Republican senators oppose that legislation, which is why Democrats have been arguing just as passionately about the need to reform Senate rules, which requires 60 votes for some legislation to pass.

Almost all Senate Democrats now support changing the rules to allow voting rights legislation to pass with just a majority. Almost all of them do. Of course, Senators Joe Manchin and Sinema do not.

Tonight, Senate Democrats huddled privately to try to pitch those two senators on a new plan, a new approach to change the Senate rules to try to get voting rights protections passed. This new plan, a plan for the so- called talking filibuster, is based specifically on the kind of narrower Senate rules change that Senator Manchin said he supported a few months ago. Heading into that meeting it talk about doing it, he said, he changed his mind, and actually, he no longer supports that change even though he did before.

New Hampshire`s U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan is a moderate, practical, swing state senator who is up for reelection this year. As recently as a few months ago, Senator Hassan also opposed creating a carve-out in the Senate rules for voting rights, although she did say she was open to some kind of narrower reform.

Last month, you may remember here on this show, Senator Hassan came on the air with us to talk about her decision that voting rights was too important, that voting rights should be allowed to pass with a simple majority, that it`s too important for the country to let it go.

She`s not alone in this shift. Several other moderate senators have had similar evolutions over the past year. All saying they now support passing voting rights with a simple majority because it`s too crucial. We are in too much of a bad place in terms of protecting our democracy as a country. We need to do this to protect who we are.

Most Democrats want to move forward on voting rights and doing what it needs to take to pass it. As of tonight, Senators Manchin and Sinema continue to stand in the way of any changes that would allow voting rights legislation to pass. But as I said, they are in the middle of the debate right now. It`s hour ten as I speak.

Joining us now is New Hampshire U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan. She has spent the last few hours president over the Senate as they debate this legislation.

Senator Hassan, I appreciate you taking the time. I know it`s been a long time already and it`s along ahead.

SEN. MAGGIE HASSAN (D-NH): Well, thanks, Rachel. It`s really good to be here.

MADDOW: Let me first ask you if you could just share with our audience your expectations, what you think people should be watching for here and what do you think is going to happen at the end of the day?

HASSAN: Well, Senate Democrats are united in supporting this critically important voting rights and election protection legislation. And one of the things we are focused on is, this is the fourth time this year that be have tried to have this debate. And in the past three times, Republicans have blocked the effort.

We found a procedural way to start debate without their support. That`s what we are doing right now. We will continue to make the case for these bills. I, as you know, am particularly concerned about the accelerated attempts at the state level to subvert our elections, to interfere with the fair count and certification of free and fair elections.

And so, that was part of my evolution because what is at stake is, of course, our democracy. So, we will have this debate tomorrow. And if the Senate Republicans continue to block us being able to actually vote by majority on this critical legislation, we will then propose a relatively modest and limited change to our rules so that the Republicans, all of whom are trying to block this legislation, will need to come to the Senate floor and explain their reasons to the American people.

MADDOW: When you say a modest and limited change to our rules, can you give us a preview of what the change might be?


Is that still in flux? Is it being worked on? Or do you know what the proposed rule change will be?

HASSAN: Well, the proposal as I understand it -- and, of course, there`s room for tweaks and last-minute adjustments. But we would return to the talking filibuster. And we would use the talking filibuster only for voting rights. This is saying that this is such a foundational issue for our country, free, fair, impartially administered elections, that it is important that if a group of senators decide to block even a debate on the issue, and then a final vote on the issue, they need to come to the Senate floor and they need to explain why.

And, historically, the Senate rules say that every senator has a right to speak twice, but when the speaking stops, you can call the question, and then you have a straightforward majority vote. Now, there are details and permutations between the beginning of a debate and when the speaking stops. But that`s what this proposal is intended to do.

It`s intended to say, if you are going to block a vote on critical legislation that affects the foundation of our democracy, the access to the ballot and the impartial administration of the election process, then you need to come to the floor of the United States Senate and explain yourself. And that`s really what we`re trying to do here is have the kind of debate that the filibuster was supposed to encourage, but over the course of the last several decades, has had the opposite affect.

MADDOW: New Hampshire Democratic U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan, right in the middle of it, tonight, as I said, presiding over some of the debate tonight -- and as you were describing, it will go on through tomorrow. We are expecting that modest and limited rules change to be proposed, debated on out loud so we can hear history happen.

Senator Hassan, thank you for being here tonight. I know this is a kind of fraught, high pressure time in the Senate. Thanks for helping us understand your perspective.

HASSAN: Well, thanks so much. It`s really important that all of us come together to protect our democracy.

MADDOW: Boy, I hear you. No argument here. Thank you, Senator.

We got more news ahead tonight. Stay with us.



MADDOW: tonight is reporting that tomorrow, the Biden administration is going to make a big announcement about masks to protect against COVID-19. The administration reportedly plans to distribute hundreds of thousands of free N95 masks from the government`s strategic national stockpile. These masks will be distributed through pharmacies and through community sites. N95 masks are obviously much more effective than other kinds of unregulated masks, homemade masks. The CDC made that guidance about improved masks, made that official within last few days.

This sure seems like the logical next step once the government has proclaimed that there are masks that are better than others. It`s making high quality masks available again through the sites I described, community sites and pharmacies.

So, again, reporting that the mask distribution announcement is coming tomorrow. There`s also a big fresh development today on COVID tests.

Right before Christmas, at the beginning of the huge omicron surge of COVID, the administration announced plans to buy a half billion -- 500 million home testing kits, at-home rapid test kits, tests that could be delivered to American homes for free. That announcement came as Americans were waiting for hours in line, waiting in the cold for hours in line trying to get any tests they could find that would tell them whether or not they had the virus.

Well, the Biden administration finalized the first contracts for those at- home tests about a week ago, but it wasn`t for a half billion tests. They actually doubled the order, placed the order for a billion tests instead. They also said they would put up a website where everybody could order them. You could have those tests sent to you at home for free.

That website was set to launch tomorrow. There`s been a change in those plans, surprise. They went early. The government website where you can order your fee set of rapid COVID tests for your household, the website is up now.

It`s up a day early. The site is, which is easy to remember. You can see in big letters there, get -- this is the wrong graphic. You can see at the site -- do we have the right graphic there? Do we have it? I will give you a dollar.

Hey, thank you. Sending the dollar by mentality it right now.

You see in big type there, get free at home COVID-19 tests. So, you know you`re on the right spot when you go to

And the fine print is also pretty simple. Every household, every home can get up to four free at-home COVID tests by ordering on the site. Go to You click that button, order free at home test button. Click that blue button.

That sends you to a U.S. Postal Service site that takes your name and your shipping address. You enter your info there. And then you click the check out now button. Your tests will be on their way for zero dollars and zero cents.

Once you place that order, they say shipping will take seven to 12 days. So, that means households should receive these test kits at the end of the month or early next month.

And strategically, if you think about the tools that we have had to contend with this pandemic as a nation, a lot of things have been within our grasp.


Whether or not to get vaccinated, whether or not to get boosted, whether or not to follow the appropriate public health guidance on social distancing and masking and quarantine, and all of those things. But for the first time, this should wholesale across the country put this matter of testing in all of our own hands, privately, at home, under our own, in a way that has never been true before.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: Today the U.S. State Department made the announcement that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was off to Ukraine. There`s been a ferocious upswing and U.S. diplomatic efforts in recent days, to try to head off a new war that everybody is suspects but nobody actually knows is about to start in that part of the world, thanks to Vladimir Putin and Russia.

"The New York Times" last night reported on the latest provocative move by Russia to signal that it really, truly is about to invade the nation of Ukraine again.


Russia has been making a public show out of removing from their embassy in Ukraine the spouses and children of Russian officials who work at that embassy. They`re trying to create the impression that the Russian government knows there is about to be violence in Ukraine. So they have to move to get these Russian families to safety, ahead of that.

That could be a false impression that they`re just trying to create. Of course, it could be a real impression, that they`re really trying to create or it could be both. I mean, they could be trying to fake it, just to take everybody else, but if you taken up fake deliberately provocative actions. Hey, look, you might just end up provoking a real reaction.

Russia`s military buildup on Ukraine`s border has been unswayed, uninterrupted, by all of the discussions and summits and diplomatic exchanges that have been initiated by us and other countries, trying to stop Putin from yet another invasions of one of his neighbors. We just saw a bipartisan group of seven U.S. senators travel to Ukraine, to show solidarity with that ally of ours in this very dangerous time. Today, we saw the U.S. secretary of state fly to Ukraine as well.

Now we are told that on Friday, Secretary Blinken is due to meet with his Russian counterpart yet again, to try to stop Russia from starting this war that they are threatening.

But again, nobody knows Russia `s real intentions, I mean, other than the fact that we definitely know they`re loving the attention, loving the uncertainty and upset that they are causing, and, of course, they`re loving the way that they are trying the way that there are terrorizing the Ukrainian people and their allies into expecting Russian tanks to start rolling at any moment.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: So tomorrow is one year. Tomorrow is the 365th day of the Joe Biden presidency. In an anticipation of the beginning of year two of his presidency, President Biden will hold a major press conference tomorrow. This will be his first one of 2022.

I will be here on MSNBC for our special coverage following that press conference, alongside my friend and colleague Nicolle Wallace. It all starts with the president tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 Eastern. I`ll see you there.


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