Military veterans who formerly advised Senator Kyrsten Sinema now released an ad criticizing her. A Westchester County district attorney is probing whether the Trump Organization lied about golf property value.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Very rarely does a politician have to put his or her money where his or her mouth is.
I can`t remember the last time we covered a story where a politician basically made a public bet and they actually had to pay off when they lost the bet. But that has finally happened.
And look, we have the check. We have the actual check that shows the guy having to pay up the far-right, former right wing radio host, who is now the Republican lieutenant governor of Texas, his name is Dan Patrick. This is a check drawn on his campaign funds. You see in the upper left hand corner Texans for Dan Patrick. The check is drawn on his you his campaign funds. It`s for $25,000, payable to a young man named Eric Frank.
Eric Frank is a young man who you are about to meet. I almost could not believe the story was real until I saw the actual check. There is the check. It really happened. This is impossible. This is impossible. But apparently it is -- it happened.
We are going to introduce you to Eric Frank in just a moment and get the story behind that, just moments from now, just in a minute.
This afternoon in Washington, there was a bit of a surprise in the vote in Congress that Trump advisor Steve Bannon should be referred for prosecution to the U.S. Justice Department. I mean, once upon a time, the last time someone refused to comply with a subpoena from Congress and Congress voted to refer that person for prosecution because of it, the last time it happened which was way back in 1983, the vote in the House to refer that official, that Reagan administration official for a prosecution was unanimous, it was 413 to 0.
The last time the House did it, all Democrats and all Republicans in the House of Representatives all voted together that was a serious and criminal thing to do to defy a subpoena we entire House voted unanimously that Reagan administration official should be referred for prosecution.
Well, that was the last time, 1883. Today was the next time, and the House there is no unanimous vote, we don`t do that anymore I think a lot of people thought Republicans would vote all but unanimously against this prosecution referral today. That didn`t happen either.
Maybe this is the tyranny of low expectations, but it`s a bit of a surprise a total of nine Republican members of the House voted that Steve Bannon should be referred for prosecution nine Democrats and all the Democrats. But there is more than enough to get a majority of the House. And so, now, the matter of Steve Bannon defying that subpoena will be put in the hands of the U.S. attorney in Washington D.C. to decide if in fact criminal charges are warranted.
You will recall that Liz Cheney lost her post in the Republican leadership because of her uncompromising nonpartisan stance against Trump`s efforts to overturn the election. She did everything she could today to make this as hard a vote as possible for her fellow Republicans.
(BEGIN VDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): There are people in this chamber right now who were evacuated with me and the rest of us on that day during that attack people who know seem to have forgotten the danger of the moment, the assault on the constitution, the assault on our Congress. People who you will hear argue that there is simply no legislative purpose for this committee this investigation, or for the subpoena.
Mr. Bannon`s own public statements made clear he knew what was going to happen before it did. And thus he must have been aware of and may have well been involved in the planning of everything that played out on that day. The American people deserve to know what he knew and what he did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On the vote today was 229-202. That was nine Republicans along with all the Democrats, nine Republicans, including this Cheney, joining all of the Democrats in the House to refer Steve Bannon to the Justice Department for prosecution over his refusal to obey a subpoena from the January 6th investigation.
Now, as to whether or not the Justice Department is going to put him on trial, we really don`t know. The D.C. U.S. attorney could decide not to. The D.C. U.S. attorney could convene a grand jury, present evidence to that grand jury and let the grand jury decide whether not an indictment against Mr. Bannon as warranted.
One other option I believe don`t hold me to this if it`s not the case but I believe based on my understanding of how these things, work based on the type of charge this would theoretically be against Mr. Bannon, I believe the D.C. U.S. attorney also has the option to just draw up the charges against Bannon himself without going to a grand jury at all which is another way to approach this.
Regardless of how the U.S. attorney`s office decides to handle this, we won`t know anything about the process until it`s done, until the charges brought, in case that would be known. Or until the Justice Department, U.S. attorney`s office decides to release some statement about their decision not to charge Mr. Bannon. We won`t know until it`s done. We may not know for quite sometime. Attorney General Merrick Garland, the leader of the Justice Department, he today was tightlipped about what to expect about that process.
And Attorney General Merrick Garland, the leader of the justice department, he today was tight-lipped about what to expect about that process. He told a congressional committee where he was testifying today basically that the department will handle this, like he says they handle everything. They will handle this by the book, no fear, no favor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I will say what the spokesperson for the U.S. attorney`s office in the District of Columbia said yesterday or the day before. The House of Representatives votes for referral of a contempt charge. The Department of Justice will do what it always does in such circumstances, will apply the facts and the law and make a decision consistent with the principles of prosecution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We will apply the facts and the law, make a decision consistent with the principles of prosecution. In other words, I`m not going to tell what you we`re doing. We are just going to do it on our own times. We don`t take advice from anybody, so you can leave me alone about it. Which is, honestly, the right way to answer those kinds of questions.
And you know, stepping back from this, the us in worthiness of all that`s going on in Washington, the personalities involved, the drama -- I think the Liz Cheney drama is particularly piquant in terms of the sacrifice that she`s made, how would this change the way she`s viewed within her party that she has taken this stance.
But if you step back from that drama and the personalities, the discrete question of whether Steve Bannon will have to go on trial for this, it does matter in its own right. It does matter that it`s the new normal that if you`re a Trump ally, you don`t have to respond to subpoenas. You might remember Steve Bannon previously blew off other subpoenas from a committee investigating Russia`s involvement in the 2016 election, years ago. He blew off those subpoenas from Congress as well and Republicans in charge at the time decided they would just let him blow off those subpoenas with no consequences apparently because he was close to Trump and they didn`t want to bother Donald Trump about it.
That can`t be the way this is left. It matters whether or not he feels safe defying the law here. As Congressman Adam Schiff said today in the debate before the vote, if Steve Bannon is allowed to get away with defying this subpoena, he will not be the exception that proves the rule. He will become the new rule of how Republicans deal with what are supposed to be mandatory legal instructions. So it matters in its own right.
But the reason this whole fight is happening, this whole fight over whether or not Steve Bannon is going to be forced to comply with the law here, beyond the specific legal matter and the specific precedential matter at hand, the question of whether or not Steve Bannon is going to comply with this investigation has actually grown in importance over time, because of the renewed and strengthened and even more radicalized commitment on the right to the cause that brought the January 6 rioters to Washington, D.C. in the first place. A cause that Steve Bannon and Donald Trump are even more publicly committed to today than they were back then in January, which Liz Cheney spoke to as well today with sort of admirable succinctness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: The people who attacked this building have told us on video, on social media, and now, before the federal courts, exactly what motivated them. They believed what Donald Trump told them, that the election was stolen and that they needed to take action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is what this is about. Whether or not Steve Bannon gets prosecuted for refusing to comply with subpoenas from the investigation into the January 6 attack, the reason the January 6 attack happened is just exactly what Liz Cheney said there. It was that Trump told them the election was stolen and they needed to take action to remedy that.
And that part of what went wrong on January 6 -- I mean, no matter the scope of this investigation or who they get to testify in the investigation, that part of what we want wrong on January 6 is still operative, is still quite operative. Not just in Trump world, when it comes to, you know, statements and actions of the former president himself. That part of what went wrong, the belief, the deliberately-stoked belief that the election was stolen and Trump supporters need to take action to remedy that, that is alive and well not just in the immediate circle around Trump but more broadly in Republican politics today too.
I mean, just today in the news, the Colorado Supreme Court today rejected an appeal from a county clerk in Mesa County, Colorado. She`s an elected county official to run mesa county`s elections. She became a Stop the Steal promoter who signed on with the Trump conspiracy theories about the election. She ultimately offers to have handed over proprietary elections equipment and software from the county to the Trump conspiracy theorists who promptly posted all the information online including the county`s passwords for accessing its secure election software.
Beyond the county now needing all new elections machines because those are now going to be decertified, the Colorado secretary of state, Democrat Jena Griswold, started an investigation into what happened in Mesa County. The FBI started an investigation as well. Griswold decided for the safety of elections in that county, that clerk has to be removed from her job overseeing elections there.
A judge agreed without assessment, and just today, the Colorado Supreme Court dismissed the court`s appeal and so, in fact, somebody else will have to come in and run mesa county, Colorado`s next elections, because if you leave the crazy Trump conspiracy theory people in charge of actual elections machines and software and counting processes, we can`t actually count on having real elections anymore. I mean, that was Colorado, just today.
In Texas just today, they decided, however, that they`re just going for it. Here`s the headline today in "The Texas Tribune." Governor Greg Abbott`s pick for top Texas election post worked with Trump to fight 2020 results.
Here`s the lead. Governor Greg Abbott today appointed John Scott as Texas` new secretary of state. As secretary of state, Mr. Scott would oversee election administration in Texas, a task complicated in recent years by baseless claims of election fraud from Republicans in the highest levels of government fueled by former president Donald Trump. John Scott is a Ft. Worth based attorney who represented the former president in a lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania.
On November 13, Mr. Scott signed on as counsel to a lawsuit filed by Trump attempting to block certification of Pennsylvania`s election. "The Texas Tribune" today helpfully posts a link to that lawsuit in which Trump wanted to throw out the 2020 election results. Sure enough, he`s listed as Trump`s counsel. He eventually dropped out of that case but he was Trump`s counsel to filing that case.
He literally lawyered Trump`s effort to have the results of the election thrown out. Now Texas Republicans have put him in charge of administering all elections in Texas from here on out. That`s like his qualification for the job.
This comes the same week that Texas Republicans drew up their new congressional district. You might have seen headlines about this this week. It`s quite amazing.
Texas is the only state in the country that grew so much in the past decade that the state got two new congressional seats, simply on the basis of population growth. Well, what accounts for all the population growth in Texas? Well, the population growth in the last ten years in Texas, 95 percent of it, 95 percent of the population growth in the state is people of color. The fastest growing populations in the state are non-white populations of all kinds.
The Latino population in Texas is particularly responsible for Texas` growing population and it therefore getting two new congressional seats. Latinos and white Texans are roughly equal numbers in the state now. Latinos more than anybody else account for why Texas just got two new congressional seats. Latinos alone account for about half the population growth in the entire state.
But Texas Republicans this week went to draw the maps for the new congressional districts in the state. And you can probably guess how that went.
Republicans in Texas decided they would give control of both their new congressional districts to white voters, to majority white populations. In redrawing the maps in the rest of the state, they also managed to somehow actually reduce the number of congressional districts where Latinos make up the majority of voter. They reduced the number of districts where that`s true, reduced it from eight to seven, even as the Latino population growth exploded in the state, Latinos actually now have control of fewer congressional districts and will have less representation in Congress.
The number of districts where black voters are the majority in Texas went from one before to zero now. They got rid of the state`s only district where African-Americans made up the majority of voters.
Again, population growth in Texas gets the state two new members of Congress. Population growth in Texas, 95 percent people of color. And so they make the congressional districts way more white, in response.
Things are going about as you would expect in Texas from Texas Republicans, but as I mentioned, here is that aforementioned bright spot. The week after the November election, November 10, Texas` Republican lieutenant governor, bomb thrower Dan Patrick, posted this offer of a reward. It`s all in the headline there. Patrick offers up to $1 million in bounties for voter fraud convictions.
Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick pledging that, quote, anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and final conviction of voter fraud will be paid a minimum of $25,000.
Almost immediately, somebody took Dan Patrick up on his offer. But it was assuredly not what Dan Patrick had in mind. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick`s counterpart in Pennsylvania, the Democratic lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania, John Fetterman, started finding cases, individual cases here and there of Republicans committing voter fraud in the state of Pennsylvania. Again, not like widespread systemic fraud, nothing that was going to affect the result of the election but a few people here and there who basically tried to vote twice for Donald Trump.
Forwarding those cases to the attention of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick in Texas, John Fetterman demanded that Dan Patrick pay him the bounty, tweeting things like this. Quote, hey, Governor Patrick, it`s your counterpart in Pennsylvania. I would like to collect your handsome reward for reporting voter fraud. I got a dude in Forty Fort, PA who tried to have his dead mom vote for Trump.
This continued as Lieutenant Governor Fetterman found a second and then a third case, again, individual, one-off cases of random Republicans trying to cast two votes for Trump. You can see that December headline from "The Houston Chronicle." Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor Fetterman relentlessly trolls Dan Patrick seeking $1 million voter fraud bounty.
Through all of this, I will not speak for you or for Lieutenant Governor Fetterman, but I thought the sparring between the two governors would be the end of it, right? There would be no money actually paid out.
To my shock, I was wrong, because here is the check drawn on Dan Patrick`s campaign funds, made out to a young man in, where else, Pennsylvania. The reward actually paid out. The first reward actually issued for information leading to an arrest and final conviction of voter fraud. The reward actually was issued for one of the voter fraud cases that John Fetterman had flagged, a Republican man in Pennsylvania who voted, came in and voted for Trump, then he left the ballot station, left the polling place, then he came back, this time wearing sunglasses, and cast a ballot in his son`s name. He got caught doing that. John Fetterman picked that case as one of the ones he trolled Dan Patrick with.
The reward ultimately did not go to John Fetterman. It went to a young poll worker in Pennsylvania whose tipoff led to the guy in sunglasses being convicted of illegal voting.
Joining us now is that young poll worker, Eric Frank, from Chester County, Pennsylvania. Mr. Frank, thank you for making the time, this must be one of the weirdest moments of your young life.
ERIC FRANK, POLL WORKER: Hi, Rachel. Yeah, first of all, thanks for having me on. It`s been a whirlwind, today specifically, but this whole process has been way more than I ever expected.
MADDOW: Can you just -- leaving aside Dan Patrick for a moment, can you briefly tell us what happened when you were working the polls that day? We know -- I should say, as a matter of setting the stage, there was no widespread voter fraud, that there was no fraud on any level in any state that could have conceivably affected the results of any election in any state. That said, in Pennsylvania, there appear to have been a few one-off cases. You appear to have brushed up against one of them.
Can you tell us what you saw, how you reported it, how that went down?
FRANK: Yeah, so first off, I wasn`t even supposed to be there that day. My father, the judge of elections, asked me to help cover someone who had called out due to COVID. So I said yes, and I was the one handing out the ballots to the voters after they signed the check-in book.
Yeah, a gentleman, one of the first voters that morning came in, Ralph Thurman. He had first asked -- he put his ID out. And the one poll worker said, we don`t need to see your ID because you voted here for many years. And he then -- basically he said, well, couldn`t I come back and vote for my son?
And at that point I said, no, you couldn`t do that, that`s illegal. And he then responded by saying, well, how would you know? And I kind of just left it at that. And he went on his way and voted.
And then about an hour later, I`m in my same position, and I hear the last name "Thurman," and I look up, and lo and behold it`s the same guy, wearing a hat and sunglasses.
So I couldn`t believe that he was back after we just had a legitimate conversation about how he could not do that. So, yeah, that`s how it happened. And we reported it to the authorities. And yeah, then the case kind of took off and went to court, testified as a witness. And then a reporter from "The Dallas Morning News", Lauren McGaughy, reached out on a whim. She was the one who worked with me on the original story. And helped me apply for the bounty. And here we are.
MADDOW: When you applied for the bounty, did it ever occur to you that you would actually get paid the bounty money? I mean, I think all of us observing the sort of fighting between the lieutenant governor in your state, John Fetterman, and Dan Patrick, less fighting than Fetterman just trolling him on the subject, I think all assumed that Dan Patrick would never come through and pay any of this because it wasn`t obviously for the purpose that he intended to offer this reward, to sort of hype the idea of fraud as being something that was endangering the integrity of the whole election.
Did you actually think that you might get paid?
FRANK: No. I never thought in a million years that I would get paid. I thought this was just somebody kind of speaking too much in the hopes that it would just get them more attention. I just think it`s extremely ironic that they were -- it`s my opinion they were trying to see, you know, voter fraud on someone that was a Democrat and it turns out at least for me, for my case, that I witnessed, there was a Republican voter. So in fact I think it kind of blew up in their face a little bit.
MADDOW: In terms of the reporting on this in Texas, in "The Dallas Morning News," you, as far as we know, are the first and only person who has sought to get the money. You received $25,000. That`s the minimum amount that Dan Patrick said he would pay out to anybody who did what you did, provided information that led to a conviction in a case like this. $25,000 was the minimum amount. He said he would pay up to $1 million. Do you have any idea why you get 25 grand and not a million?
FRANK: Yeah, I was hoping for a little more. No, I wasn`t actually expecting anything, to be honest.
But I did ask the manager for Dan Patrick, Mr. Blakemore, just how they came up with that minimum amount, if I was the only one who had come forward to report. And his response was, well, we were hoping for bigger fish, to cite his exact words. I still don`t know what he means by that.
To be honest, you know, was he looking for a celebrity, was he looking for a big political group? I really don`t know what he meant by that. But listen, $25,000, I`ll take it, it will go towards a new house for my fiance and I. We`re looking to move out to the suburbs.
So I`m very grateful. And I`m also grateful that they kept their word, to be honest.
MADDOW: Yeah, remarkable turn of events. Eric Frank, Democratic poll worker from Chester County, Pennsylvania, who randomly finds himself $25,000 richer because of this weird reward from the Texas lieutenant governor, totally strange story. I`m glad to hear about your plans with your fiancee. Good luck. Thanks, Eric.
FRANK: Thank you very much, Rachel, I appreciate it.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One of the biggest grocery chains in the Northeast is called Stop and Shop. They`ve got more than 400 stores, most of them gigantic. They`ve got tens of thousands of employees.
And in April 2019, tens of thousands of employees who work at Stop and Shop walked off the job. Tens of thousands of them went on strike for better pay and benefits. The strike lasted 11 days. It was a really, really big deal in the Northeast.
It was a big enough deal that it attracted support not just from local communities and local politicians, but from people running for national office too, including a few of the major Democratic presidential candidates at the time, including the one would ultimately go on to get the nomination and become president.
And, you know, it`s one thing for political candidates to show up on the Stop and Shop picket line, stand on the picket line with workers while they`re running for higher office. It`s different thing, it lands differently if those same politicians do the same kind of thing once they`ve risen to some of the highest offices in the country.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack yesterday visited a picket line in Iowa where 10,000 workers at John Deere are striking against one of the biggest agriculture manufacturers in the country. Secretary Vilsack told the workers on the line, quote, I`m here for you. He showed one of the strikers his own union card.
We spent some time yesterday and today looking for any modern precedent of a sitting U.S. cabinet official joining workers on a picket line during a strike against a major U.S. company. We could not find any more than press modern precedent for that. Today is day eight for the strike by John Deere workers. And protests and strikes are going on at multiple John Deere facilities across Iowa.
In Davenport, Iowa, a judge yesterday sided with the company. They limited the number of picketers who are allowed to protest outside that facility, only four protesters allowed at each entry way which greatly curtails what it means to do a picket line.
Because of that, today members of the union and members of the local community showed up to support workers at the local facility. Instead of at the plant, they did it as a rally at the local courthouse.
It`s been a busy week of direct action all over the country this week. Not just on the issue of labor. This is right outside the White House yesterday. Five young climate activists say they are starting a hunger strike, demanding that President Biden basically refuse to appease centrist Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema who are trying to radically scale back and scale down his Build Back Better, includes all of his initiatives.
These protesters want President Biden to commit to leaving the climate parts of the bill intact. They started the hunger strike, the five of them, yesterday. It continued today, outside the White House. They`re taking in no food, no liquid other than water.
Outside the White House today, they confronted President Biden`s deputy climate adviser. They say they plan to continue this hunger strike indefinitely until they say their demands are met.
A different set of climate activists from Greenpeace today unfurled this huge banner at the marina. It`s where -- I don`t know where you call it, where you park your yacht. Senator Joe Manchin, where he parks his yacht, what he calls his houseboat, they unfurled this banner, "Joe Manchin, who will you throw overboard?"
Also this week, health care activists posted at a Senate office building to demand that President Biden and the Democrats also keep health care protections from being stripped out of the legislation as well. They set up their chairs there like it was a waiting room in a doctor`s office. They called it a care can`t wait protest.
A group of protesters from 13 different states set up these chairs to look like a waiting room in a doctor`s office. They did block access to the building. They told stories about how many of them have lost loved ones because they couldn`t afford health care. Six people were arrested at that protest yesterday. They were blocking access to the building.
Today, there was another care can`t wait protest, this one focused on a different kind of care. Parents and caregivers and a bunch of members of Congress spoke outside the capitol today about the importance of family and medical leave, paid family and medical leave, as well as home and community based care for the elderly and people with disabilities. These are more core provisions of the Build Back Better bill that are on the chopping block thanks to Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.
There was direct action this week on voting rights as well, calling on Joe Biden and Democrats from the other side of the White House fence to step up and do whatever is necessary to protect the democracy, to protect the right to vote.
Former president of the NAACP, the current head of People for the American Way, Ben Jealous, was arrested at this protest earlier this week.
And then yet more. Today, we got a different kind of direct action aimed specifically at Senator Kyrsten Sinema. As we`ve been talking about, she`s one of the two Democratic senators who is blocking what all the other Democrats and President Biden want to do, standing in the way of the Senate passing either voting rights legislation or the Build Back Better bill.
And so today, dramatically, five U.S. military veterans who formally advise Senator Sinema announced they have resigned from that advisory group in protest of America behavior. They say they can no longer work for her while she continues to be one of the, quote, principal obstacles to progress, to describe and dramatize and make clear why they`re doing what they did, they put out this video today, which I think is a pretty powerful statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVIA GONZALEZ ANDERSH, U.S. AIR FORCE SGT.: Dear Senator Sinema, as members of your veterans advisory council, we feel as though we are being used as window dressing for your own image and not to provide counsel on what`s best for Arizonans. You have repeatedly ignored our feedback urging you to act on three issues that support our veterans and protect the heart of our nation.
We must protect voting rights by passing the Freedom to Vote Act. We are appalled by your failure to address this issue. He campaigned on lowering prescription drug prices but now you`re opposing the Build Back Better Act. Are you choosing to answer to big donors rather than Arizonans?
You were a no-show on the commission to investigate the insurrection. These are not the actions of a maverick. As such, we respectfully resign from your veterans advisory council.
Sincerely, Sylvia Gonzalez Andersh.
Call on Senator Sinema to support the Build Back Better Act now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We are appalled by your failure to address voting rights. We respectfully resign. It`s a fairly stunning action. It was veterans that were part of this advisory committee to Senator Sinema. I should tell you that the veteran who narrates that video who just resigned in protest will be a guest live on "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence coming up in the next hour which you`ll want to see.
Lots of people sort of going beyond just advocacy and putting themselves on the line here. It`s a busy day. Busy day, busy week. We`ve had lots of pressure coming from all directions on decision-makers right now, particularly Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin.
We have much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: First, there was the new social media platform that Donald Trump was going to launch this past spring.
His adviser said it was going to be the hottest ticket in social media. It was going to completely redefine the game. When this game-redefining social media service launched, it turned out to be just a blog that looked like it was visiting from the 1990s.
Trump ran that for a few weeks, then he shut it down before it got to be one month old, reportedly because he could not stand the mockery over its hilariously low traffic.
Then act 2 was something called Gettr. Get who? Gettr. Gettr, a Trump social media app, not a blog, this one`s an app, launched by Trump`s former advisers. That one has been hilarious from the get-go too.
As soon as it launched, all the personal information of all its users was exposed. Hackers immediately took over the accounts of a bunch of high profile Trump world figures. It was kind of an open book.
Then, next, the entire site was overrun with pro-ISIS propaganda, like literally freaking beheading videos and stuff, that was nice, that was a nice sort of next move there.
You know what, maybe the third effort`s a charm here. Now Mr. Trump says he`s launching a new social media service, not the blog, not Gettr. Now it`s some other thing.
But from the moment he made the announcement last night, it`s kind of felt familiar. For one thing, this supposedly new social media platform appears to be him just taking somebody else`s off-the-shelf software and calling it a new thing. It`s literally run on free open source software that anyone can use to build a thing that kind of looks like Twitter but isn`t Twitter.
Also when Trump made his big announcement last night, his team apparently forgot to do anything to protect or prepare the test version of this thing that was just sitting online. "The Washington Post" I think quite ably described what happened next. Quote, within hours, pranksters found what appeared to be an unreleased test version and posted a picture of a defecating pig to the Donald Trump account.
The site`s early hours revealed lax security, rehashed features and a flurry of bizarre design decisions, an open sign-up page allowed anyone to use the site shortly after it was revealed, sparking the creation of the Donald J. Trump account and the defecating pig posting. A "Washington Post" reporter was able to post under the account name "Mike Pence" without any stops in place, although thankfully, the Mike Pence account left the pigs alone.
Anyway, this is going well. It only matters if Donald Trump ultimately intends to launch a social media network. What he`s actually done so far is announced he`s raising money for this venture through what is essentially a shell company, a company Trump insists with a straight face is worth $1.7 billion, with the pig video alone, come on. He`s happily accepting donations, I mean, investments, from any and all of his supporters who would like to invest in this obviously very profitable business with him. I`m sure it will be nothing like any of the other grifts that he has marketed to his fans and supporters over the years.
Speaking of alleged scams, as we reported last night, it does look like there is another criminal investigation into the former president and his company that is newly under way. This one by a New York state prosecutor in Westchester County just north of New York City. The district attorney there, in developments first reported by "The New York Times," has apparently subpoenaed records from Trump`s golf course in Westchester county as well as records from the town where that golf course is located.
This appears to be an investigation into whether Trump and his company lied to tax authorities in order to reduce the property tax bill associated with this golf course. We showed you last night what this might look like, in this example from just one year, 2016. In that one year, the town assessed the value of the Trump golf course at $15 million for tax purposes. The Trump Organization said no, that`s ridiculous, it`s worth less than a tenth of that, it`s worth $1.4 million, that`s all that we should be paying taxes on.
Meanwhile that same year, Trump on his financial disclosure form as a presidential candidate decreed that the golf club was worth over $50 million. And, you know, lying is one thing, but lying to tax authorities for the purpose of reducing your tax burden is a crime. And that appears to be what`s under investigation by yet another state prosecutor, even as the Trump Organization is already under felony indictment by another prosecutor in New York state for alleged tax evasion at his business in Manhattan.
Joining us now is Danya Perry. She`s former deputy chief of the criminal division in the southern district of New York. She also served as a deputy attorney general for the state of New York. As such she is very well- positioned to help us understand the significance of these investigations.
Ms. Perry, it`s really nice to see you, thanks for being here.
DANYA PERRY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: So I`ve laid out the very, very basics of what we know about this investigation so far. Look at those basics, given what you know about New York state law and what a district attorney might pursue in a case like this, what potential crimes do you think this prosecutor might be looking at, what do you see as the potential scope here?
PERRY: Well, from the reporting that we`ve seen so far, I think it was quite carefully worded, according to the sources in "The New York Times," what the Westchester district attorney`s office is looking at is whether or not tax officials in Ossining were misled by some of the valuations that the Trump Organization provided in the assessment of its property taxes for many years, I believe from 2015 on.
So the question is not, I think, going to be, you know, ultimately -- let me back up for one moment, excuse me. The town ultimately settled after years of litigation with the Trump Organization and they came to a negotiated number that was far less than what the town had assessed but far, far more than what the Trump Organization had been pressing.
So what I think is going to be the rub here is not what -- there`s no such thing, I think, here as an objective value of the property, because the town signed off on it, a judge signed off, the school board signed off, the assessor signed off. It`s really, were there any false or manipulated inputs, I think, on the value that the Trump organization put on the property. I think what investigators in Westchester are going to be looking at is, how did the Trump Organization come to this valuation, what did they tell the town, and were there any objective metrics that were monkeyed around with, for lack of a better word.
So, I think that`s what it sounds like it`s starting with. Of course it could branch out into falsification of business records, for sure. If there were false statements made in that court case, of course, there could be obstruction or perjury charges. And so I think it will flow from the question of what the inputs were and how that valuation was arrived at, and how that settlement was come to.
MADDOW: One of the things "The New York Times" reported about this investigation is that a longtime former SDNY prosecutor, again, this is a state case that we`re talking about, but a man named Elliott Jacobson who according to "The Times" spent more than three decades as a prosecutor at SDNY, came out of retirement to take on working the public corruption bureau in this D.A.`s office, also taking on this Trump golf course investigation specifically.
You as a former SDNY prosecutor, I just wonder how that resonates to you and how we should understand the importance of the fact that somebody with that kind of a record as a federal prosecutor has come on board, has indeed come out of retirement specifically to helm something like this.
PERRY: I think it`s significant. Elliott served as a prosecutor for I believe over three decades in the Southern District of New York. He was a state and local prosecutor before that. So he comes with decades of experience, particularly in the white collar space, public corruption, and tax fraud investigations.
And he`s known as a meticulous investigator, someone who is anything but the kind of knee-jerk hot-head, looking to go on a witch hunt that is being portrayed. He is going to build this case, if he does, brick by brick. And, you know, federal prosecutors are trained differently, I would say, than local prosecutors. They typically build out investigations that are proactive rather than reactive.
And so the fact that he`s on board, has come out of retirement for this, is I think significant, that this is something that they`re looking at quite seriously. He`s also local. He`s lived in Westchester for I think his whole career. And this is very much a local issue, at the end of the day.
It seems, you know, there were protests and there was a lot of upset because there was a very large tax refund at the end of the day that was issued to this luxury golf course that literally came out of the pockets of, you know, the local school meal programs and school supplies and the like. And so this seems to me like there were no doubt complaints and those were listened to, and someone with the skill set and the experience to build that case was probably brought on board very, very carefully.
MADDOW: Danya Perry, who previously served as deputy chief of the criminal division of the SDNY -- Danya, thanks for helping us put this in context tonight. I really appreciate your time.
PERRY: Thank you. Good night.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Election Day is less than two weeks away in the great state of Virginia.
A former governor of the state, Democrat Terry McAuliffe is up against a Trump endorsed Republican named Glenn Youngkin. Youngkin is running as a Trump candidate through and through while simultaneously trying to get media coverage suggesting he`s not, but he`s hitting all the right Trumpy notes including demanding an audit of Virginia`s 2020 presidential election results as if there was something wrong with the election in Virginia. Biden beat Trump in Virginia by ten points, but, you know, sure, knock yourself out.
Somewhat amazingly, though, for a state where Biden beat Trump by ten points, latest poll from Monmouth University shows that the race between Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin is a dead tie, 46-46. This is the same poll that had the Democrat Terry McAuliffe ahead by five points just last month.
Well, this new poll showing the race deadlocked has Democrats sounding the alarm. You might have seen this headline today at politico.com. Everyone should be very worried. Democrats seek wake-up call as Virginia goes to the wire.
Democrats are urging the party to pull out all the stops to try to keep this governor`s seat in Democratic hands, including ramping up donations and bringing on more volunteers, bringing in Democratic firepower. Vice President Harris is going to hit the stump tonight at a campaign rally for Terry McAuliffe. Former President Barack Obama has cut a new ad for Terry McAuliffe. He`s going to appear in person with him in Richmond, Virginia, on Saturday.
President Biden is going to hold a second campaign event for McAuliffe on Tuesday in Arlington, Virginia. Democrats really are throwing everything they`ve got into this closer than expected race.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: It`s Friday eve, which means tomorrow`s Friday. That`s going to do it for us tonight. I will see you again tomorrow when it will be actually Friday.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.