Former Trump DOJ official expected to testify before January 6 committee. Alec Baldwin fired prop gun, fatally shooting cinematographer on film set.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Pakistan has 12 weeks I think of leave. I just saw it today.
Robert Reich and Betsy Stevenson, thank you both. That is "ALL IN" for this week.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Have a fantastic weekend.
HAYES: You too.
MADDOW: Thanks at home for being with us on a Friday night. Happy Friday.
Here is the thing I do not get to say very often. Today was a day full of good news when it comes to whether or not, we`re going to stay a democracy in our lifetimes. We have been covering this beat pretty relentlessly for the past several years now as you know.
The Republican Party over the past several years, they have more and more overtly embraced Donald Trump`s denunciation of elections, the promotion of false claims about elections to undermine faith in them, the rejection of clear election results, the promotion of changes to election administration that would allow Republicans to subvert election results that they don`t like. It has been a bleak thing to cover, right? The news on this beat is always bad.
If January 6th was supposed to be a shock to the system that was going the reset the Republican Party away from this very dangerous course, it worked for like one day and then it really did not work. The embrace of all this very dark anti-democracy, you know, rule by force stuff in the Republican Party has just gotten worse and worse.
Even since January 6th. It is a drag. It has just been a drag to cover it, I will tell you honestly.
But today, bright spots. Not being sarcastic. Bright spots on a bunch of different fronts. Let me tell you about some of them.
First of all, in terms of accountability, CNN first to report tonight that one of the key alleged plotters with Trump in the senior levels of his Justice Department is finally going to come forward and testify.
This is Jeff Clark. Mr. Clark with Trump hatched this scheme by which the Justice Department would hold a press conference after the election and declare at that press conference that there were serious fraud problems in the election in multiple states and the Justice Department was investigating these very serious problems. He then wanted to send a letter to swing states that Biden won, a letter from the Justice Department, advising officials in those states that the Justice Department thought there were serious problems with the elections in those states, and Republican state legislators should therefore, you know, start investigating the election results or whatever. They should get to work on whatever they needed to do to not send Biden electors to the Electoral College even though in reality Biden won those states.
That was the Jeff Clark plan. We know from the Senate Judiciary Committee`s investigation of these matters. And we know that the plan, while it had a lot of detail in it and they took a lot of acts of furtherance toward it, the reason it fell apart was because the then-attorney general, a guy named Jeff Rosen, wouldn`t sign on to it.
When Rosen wouldn`t side off on it, wouldn`t allow this plot to go forward, Trump then tried to replace Rosen with Jeff Clark, tried to install Jeff Clark himself as attorney general, so the Clark plan would go ahead. Again, to have the Justice Department declared serious fraud in the election and to direct states to therefore not send their Biden electors. It was absolutely insane.
It was also a rational plan, that they didn`t just spit ball about. They didn`t just fantasize about it. They drafted the letter to the states. He did insist on the press conference to other Justice Department officials. The Justice Department officials even tried to on-board U.S. attorneys, federal prosecutors in the relevant states to back them up on these spurious fraud claims they were going to use to keep Trump in power even though he lost the election.
Just saying this, right. Like I said, news on this front has been absolutely terrible as we learned of all of the things they tried. But in today`s news a little glimmer with the news that Jeff Clark has apparently finally agreed to testify to the committee that is investigating the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.
I mentioned that a lot of the Clark plot emerged both from public source reporting, particularly in "The New York Times" but also from the Senate judiciary committee`s investigation into what happened at the Justice Department around this time.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has been investigating how Trump used the Justice Department to try to seize power and stay in office after losing the election.
Interestingly, for their preliminary report, which was released a couple of weeks ago, they had a lot of information about what Jeff Clark did but all of the information they had about him was from other people. They couldn`t get Clark to testify himself because Republican senators on the Senate judiciary committee apparently blocked the committee from giving a subpoena to Jeff Clark. They wouldn`t allow a subpoena to him to go forward.
Republicans didn`t want to hear from him, and so Jeff Clark did not speak to them. But the House Committee that`s investigating the January 6th attack, they apparently do not have that problem, and so, Clark is going to be coming in this day next week to speak to the January 6th investigation. Progress.
And this news comes, of course, just after the full house voted yesterday, all the Democrats and nine Republicans voted yesterday that another important witness for that investigation, maybe a subject of that investigation, I don`t know, should be referred to the Justice Department for potential prosecution for him defying a subpoena to give testimony to that committee. That criminal referral of Trump adviser Steve Bannon is now at the U.S. attorney`s office in Washington, D.C.
They will consider it independently and make their own decision about whether or not to bring charges. We are waiting to see if and when they will put Steve Bannon on trial in that matter. But, again, the prospect of accountability there, that`s a glimmer.
Those glimmers today also arrive alongside a bizarre turn today for a Trump lawyer named John Eastman. He`s an obscure figure who got famous through this whole scandal when he wrote the notorious Eastman memo which laid out the theory of the case basically behind the January 6th attack on the Capitol. What Trump demanded of the crowd at that rally January 6th, before his supporters rushed to the Capitol, what Trump demanded of them, what people like Eastman himself and other speakers that day told the mob they would accomplish if they, in Trump`s words, fought like hell that day was a specific thing. It was this scenario that was laid out in Eastman`s memo in which he said the vice president, Mike Pence, shouldn`t accept the electors from swing states that Biden won. The memo laid out how vice president Mike Pence had the right not to accept those electors, and that`s how the electoral count could be stopped, that`s how the naming of Biden as the winner of the election could be technically stopped.
John Eastman is the one who laid out the memo for how the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, which did stop the counting process for some time, he laid out the memo for how the attack on the Capitol that day could work, particularly if Pence went along with it, this is how it could work.
Well, today, bizarrely, that lawyer, John Eastman, the guy who wrote out this quasi legal theory of the case which they used to justify Republican members of Congress objecting to the electoral count which they used to try to get Mike Pence to go along with the scheme, today in "National Review", that lawyer John Eastman sort of walked it all back. He didn`t say he changed his mind. He said that was never what he meant in the first place.
He tried to pretend he didn`t write what he wrote in his memo. He is denying he meant it. He now says it was a draft, and, of course, if anybody had gone along with any of this, that would be crazy, which is insane but also in its own way is progress, right?
It would be a worse scenario if the people who tried to layout this quasi legal theory for how Trump could have stayed in power, if they were still defending that and saying that was the way elections and post-election behavior should proceed in future years. Instead, it is progress. It is a form of accountability to see the lawyer who propounded that in writing saying, that wasn`t me, that wasn`t me, it must be a different John Eastman.
Also today in Wisconsin, more progress. You know how Republicans all over the country are pursuing these reviews of the 2020 election results, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, all over the place? They`re pursuing these reviews which they`re calling audits or forensic audits. They want to make it seem like they`re running some rigorous process and investigating some kind of known crime scene.
All of these things are nonsense. They are designed simply to muddy the waters around the clear election results. Trying to make election administration seem controversial or rigged or somehow partisan. They`re trying to rarefy these vague assertions of fraud, right, of the election somehow being stolen so Republicans would be conditioned to not accept election results in the future when Republicans lose elections, right?
They are using these reviews and audits to justify perverting the election administration system so partisan figures can mess with or throw out inconvenient results in the future. These things are terrible. They are toxic. They are actively dangerous.
But interestingly, in Wisconsin, where they`ve got one of those nonsense ones, they`ve actually had two audits under way and we had really interesting and, I would say, sort of positive developments on both of them today.
The first of them is one of these nonsense, you know, Cyber Ninjas partisan things they`re using taxpayer money for, but the Republicans in the Wisconsin state legislature literally put this thing in the hands of a guy who led the stop-the-steal stolen election rallies in Michigan after the election, a guy who subsequently Trump tried to give a federal appointment to. I am sure he will be a non-partisan arbiter of this matter.
Today, there was, I think, a sign of progress toward exposing and perhaps ending that ridiculous exercise that that very partisan figure in Wisconsin is heading up on behalf of the state`s Republicans. Today, Wisconsin State Attorney General Josh Kaul asked a judge to throw out the subpoenas this guy has sent out as part of his purported investigation. He told the court that those subpoenas were sent, quote, in furtherance of an unlawful investigation focused on debunked theories about the November 2020 election.
Now, we`ll see how the courts handle this request from Wisconsin`s attorney general, but as a general matter, I think in asking the courts to evaluate the means by which Republicans are trying to carry out these fake audits is a good step toward bringing some order, some oversight, some accountability to this otherwise very dangerous, slip shod process that we`ve seen unfold in multiple states.
So an effort to bring the courts in to effectively police that nonsense that Republicans are trying to pull off in Wisconsin, very interesting. That court case will be important. Also today, also in Wisconsin, a totally separate audit carried out legitimately by the professional, qualified, non-partisan legislative audit bureau in Wisconsin, today that actually real audit conducted by people who know how to do audits, for whom that is their actual professional responsibility within the state.
Today, they submitted their findings of a real audit, a real review of how the election went in Wisconsin this past year, and it turns out in their findings -- again, they`re professional, qualified, sober, non-partisan find instance, what they found was actually everything was fine.
Here is the "Associated Press" on that today in Wisconsin. You see the headline there, Wisconsin audit finds elections are safe and secure.
Here is the lead. A highly anticipated non-partisan audit of the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin released today did not identify any widespread fraud in the battleground state, which a key Republican legislative leader said shows Wisconsin`s elections are, quote, safe and secure.
So, yes, Republicans in Wisconsin are persisting with their clown show audit, but it is now being forced to go through some hoops set by potentially the courts in Wisconsin, which is probably a good thing, rationalizing that process, opening it up to public scrutiny, not letting them just do whatever they want and call it an investigation. And simultaneously, today also they were forced to admit after a real audit that actually everything was fine with the election results there, right. Hello, progress. Nice to meet you.
I realize maybe this is the soft bigotry of low expectations, like maybe I am seeing silver linings in what are very, very dark clouds and I`m overplaying the silver, but after such bleak news on this front for so long those are positive developments.
Also progress today in Florida, all of the county election supervisors in Florida, a bipartisan group of them that represents the top election official from each of Florida`s 67 Florida counties, those county election officials in Florida have put out a joint bipartisan statement now, calling on all public officials in the state to, quote, tone it down and stop making false fraud claims about the election.
They say, quote, the great American experiment, our cherished democracy, is under threat. Our nation is only as strong as the faith our citizens have that their voice, their vote has a say in our government. In this hour, public trust in our elections is being systematically undermined to the detriment of all Americans. As the official trusted sources of election information and experts in our field, we continuously strive to debunk false claims and insure voters have access to accurate election information.
They continue, quote, false claims of fraud -- false claims of fraud do not strengthen our elections. Instead, they degrade confidence in the institutions and discourage citizen participation in our democracy.
During and after the 2020 presidential election, the integrity of our democracy has been challenged by misinformation, disinformation and malinformation that sows discord and undermines thrust in the process. Many have been threatened by fellow citizens who have been led astray by these deceptions.
Instead of standing idly by, we ask all candidates and all elected officials to tone down the rhetoric and stand up for our democracy. Again, that is a bipartisan statement from the Florida supervisors of elections, from all of the top election administrators in all of Florida`s 67 counties, Democrats and Republicans, all telling all elected officials to knock it off with the false claims about fraud in elections. Progress.
That is a good sign. I told you, there is a bunch of promising news on this front today, but I will close, I will leave you with one more. Sort of to me shocking, definitely bizarre collapse of a Republican and conservative media scheme in the state of Nevada to promote false allegations of fraud in the presidential election in the state of Nevada. This is an amazing story.
All right. Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in Nevada by just under 34,000 votes. Nevada is one of the states where Trump nevertheless sued to have the results overturned, to have himself declared the winner. He sued to have the results decertified. He actually asked the courts to just declare him the winner, even though the certified vote total said that Biden won.
The reason he said the election should be overturned and he should be declared the winner is because he said the Republican Party and the Trump campaign knew that there was so much fraud in the Nevada election. Specifically, they alleged there were tons and tons of dead people who voted in Nevada, which means live people voted in dead people`s names. You can`t do that. They said they had tons of proof of that.
Now, Republicans and the conservative media specifically hyped the case of one ballot that was cast in Nevada in the name of a woman who died in 2017 at the age of 52, a very sad story. She died of breast cancer. She has been dead since 2017. Her address was apparently nevertheless mailed a ballot in her name, but her husband says he never saw any such ballot, no such ballot ever arrived.
But the county, Clark County, Nevada, where he and his former -- and his late wife lived, he says the county nevertheless recorded her vote as having been cast and counted. Fraud, voter fraud.
Conservative and Republican groups held a big press conference in Nevada the week after the election, saying that this case proved that the election in Nevada was lousy with voter fraud. Sure, there was just this one example they had to talk about, but surely if there was this clear case of a ballot being cast and counted from this woman who was dead, then there must be hundreds, there must be thousands. The whole election in Nevada must be thrown out for all the dead people voters. Look at this one case, it is clearly an exemplar of what must be many, many, many of these cases.
They held up that big conference about it, very well-attended, very well- covered in the media. Then in the national media, over on the Fox News Channel, they went hog wild with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: So was there voter fraud last week? That`s a question we`ve been working on since election night. We have tried to be careful and precise as we report this out. In moments like this truth really matters more than ever. False allegations of fraud can cause as much damage as the fraud itself, and the last thing America needs right now is more damage.
So we want to be accurate. What we`re about to tell you is accurate. It is not a theory. It happened and we can prove it.
Other news organizations could prove it, too. They`ve simply chosen not to. A former elementary school teacher called Rosemary Hartle.
According to her 2017 obituary, Rosemary Hartle was fun, loving, sarcastic in a powerful way, relentless and inspiring. Sadly, now, she is gone but her voter registration remains. She is still on the rolls.
Someone received Rosemary Hartle`s ballot in the mail and then cast it. Who did this? We don`t know who did it. We wish we did. We should know.
It`s fraud. It is a threat to our system, and it is being hidden by a news media totally vested in a Joe Biden presidency. Again, we have a right to know. We have an obligation to know much more about this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Again, that case being used to tell Americans writ large whatever you have heard about voter fraud in the election, about there being massive fraud in the election, this case proves it. This case shows you that the Democrats stole it, and the extrapolation from this one case to try to prove that there was widespread fraud was quite overt.
I mean, no doubt excited by the kind of press they were getting on the Fox News Channel on this one, the Nevada state Republican Party just hyped this individual case relentlessly.
They hyped this over and over again as all of the evidence you need that there must have been tons of fraud in the election, that the whole Nevada election should be thrown out. That Biden definitely didn`t win because look at this woman`s case. That hyping by the state Republican Party in Nevada included this sort of morbid tweet in which they actually posted the woman`s obituary alongside their statement. Kirk was surprised to find that his late wife, rosemary, a Republican, cast a ballot in this year`s election despite having passed away in 2017. The media needs to understand we are finding concrete cases of voter irregularities they must expose.
Again, they showed the screen shot of the woman`s obituary scolding the media on this. In another tweet hyping the same case they linked to video of Kirk, of the woman`s husband, in this case speaking with a local station in Clark County, Nevada.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD "KIRK" HARTLE, HUSBAND: It was disbelief, just it made no sense to me. But it lent to credence to, you know, what you have been hearing in the media about these possibilities and now it makes me wonder how pervasive is this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He was shocked. Disbelief. It just made no sense to me. Shocked to find out a ballot had been cast in his dead wife`s name. Shocked, it made no sense. Now that he knows it happened, he just went there, this obviously lends credence to all these claims you are hearing about, about all of the voter fraud in the election. There must be tons of it. It just makes me wonder how pervasive this is.
Now that man, the husband, has been charged with two felony counts of voter fraud because according to prosecutors, according to Nevada state attorney general`s prosecution division, he is actually the one who cast the ballot in the name of his dead wife in addition to his own ballot, which means if the prosecutors in this case are correct he probably wasn`t all that shocked. Shocked and in disbelief to learn that her ballot had been cast since he`s the one who cast it.
But he nevertheless put himself out there to become the poster boy for these false claims of fraud that Republicans and the conservative media used and are still using to claim that the election was stolen. He`s an executive at a company that had taken a very positive and public pro-Trump stance and actually hosted an event for president Trump in Nevada just before the November election last year. He`s been charged with these two felony counts. He is facing up to eight years in prison. He will have his initial court appearance next month in Nevada.
This beat, this effort by Republicans and the conservative media to make Americans not belief in election results anymore, it is still a depressing beat and we will stay on it because it is the most important story in modern history. But some days, you know, some days, even as this beat is relentlessly depressing and it does feel like it just keeps getting worse, some days are good days.
Some days schemes get exposed. Schemers get caught. Good people stand up, bad guys are caught and the real facts come out. Some days are good days.
This is a good day.
MADDOW: Let me start here by saying this is not a typical story that we cover on this show, not our usual thing. But it is a compelling story and it is all right. It is a legitimate mystery and I want to tell you it connects with something we`ve been covering intensely recently.
Recently in the show, we have been covering how Americans are going on strike all over the country, more than 10,000 people who work at the John Deere company are in their ninth day of their strike against that company for better wages and benefits, 1,400 Americans working at the Kellogg`s Cereal company are in the third week of that strike in multiple states. Tens of thousands of people who are health care workers at Kaiser Hospital System in California, Oregon and Hawaii, they may also go on strike. I mean, that would be tens of thousands of people. That would be huge. That decision could come at any time.
This week 300 flight attendants working for a subsidiary of American Airlines voted to authorize a strike. In Philly, we learned that transit workers there may strike. And in Hollywood, another huge one. It was last week when 60,000 stage crew workers in Hollywood came within hours of launching what would have been the biggest strike in that industry since World War II.
The union IATSE represents the vast majority of Hollywood stage crew, everybody from makeup artists to camera and microphone operators to stage hands of all kinds. Last week just hours before the 60,000 people were due to walk off the job, the studios did offer up an improved deal for those workers. Whether it is a good enough deal, those workers are still going to have to decide, still going to have to vote on whether they`re going to accept the new terms. Until they do, the threat of that historic strike still looms.
But that is turning out to be part of the relevant backdrop for this truly bizarre and terrible story that we all woke up to this morning that nobody in the country seems to be able to avoid talking about all day long. By now you have seen the headlines.
Yesterday on the set of a western filming in New Mexico, the actor Alec Baldwin fired a gun that was supposed to be a prop in a scene. The resulting shot killed the film`s cinematographer, 42-year-old woman named Halyna Hutchins. She was considered to be a rising star in her field. Again, she was the cinematographer.
The film`s director was injured in this incident. He has since been released from the hospital. When it comes to figure out how it could happen, the questions to the fore are mystifying. How does a prop gun result in a real shooting?
In some cases, a prop gun is something that`s not a gun at all, it has no working parts, just made out of rubber and plastic designed to have a gun shape. But if you are watching a movie or TV show and you see somebody actually fire a weapon, you hear the bang, you see the flash, chances are that is either special effects or that could be a real gun firing a blank bullet.
What is a blank bullet? This is a diagram "USA Today" posted today which I think is useful. For an actual piece of ammunition, one that is designed to shoot someone, there`s several parts. There`s the casing, the primer, the powder, gun powder, and the bullet which is at the tip of the projectile. That`s the thing that`s supposed to be able to kill you, right.
The primer and the powder are the things that make the bullet propel out of the gun. That`s the stuff that goes bang and lets off the flash, but it is the bullet that is the actual projectile that`s fired out of the end of the barrel.
Now, if a gun is loaded with a blank, that just means it has all of the other component pieces that a real piece of ammunition has minus the bullet itself, minus the projectile designed to actually kill you. Just because they`re blanks though doesn`t mean they`re not dangerous.
I mean go back to that diagram showing the blank for a second. Can we pit it back up? You see where it says "wad sealed with plastic or paper, released like a projectile." there isn`t a chunk of metal on the end, a bullet, but you need to stick something in there to seal in the gun powder. They use wadding or paper, it poses less danger than a bullet but if fired at close enough range a blank can injure or kill someone.
It is technically missing the bullet but even a blank can be dangerous, even a blank can be deadly. It happened on movie sets before. In 1984, an actor named John Eric Hexum was joking around on the set of a film with a real prop gun that was filled with blanks. He shot himself in the head at close rang. The force of that blank fractured his skull and he died.
There`s also the potential to misload a gun. This happened on a movie set in 1993. The actor Brandon Lee, the son of the great Bruce Lee, was starring in a movie where his character was supposed to get shot in the stomach, but when another actor fired a real prop gun in his direction, the prop gun loaded with blanks, turns out the gun had been misloaded. It hadn`t been checked properly when it was loaded with blanks. There was an actual bullet, a real bullet accidentally lodged in the chamber of that prop gun. When the gun went off, it did fire a blank but it also dislodged the real bullet which hit Brandon Lee in the abdomen and killed him.
So, yes, they are prop guns of various kinds used in various ways, but these things are so dangerous a lot of productions don`t use them at all anymore. The show "Mayor of East Town" that was on HBO earlier this year, Kate Winslet plays the police detective, it is not a spoiler but a lot of guns are fired on that show. Kate Winslet is a cop and on "Mayor of East Town" for that whole show they decided every firing of every gun would all be CGI, it was all special effects.
They didn`t use prop guns loaded with blanks. They, you know, maybe lost the authentic recoil and the live muzzle flash that they would have gotten from using blanks, but they decided it wasn`t worth the risk. They added in all of the effects after the fact, and a lot of productions do that now.
But a lot of movie and TV sets still use real guns. The prop master who handles all props for all purposes on the set, if there are guns being used, that person can sometimes be assisted by a specialist, an armorer, somebody who specializes in weaponry for film and TV sets.
Now, as you can imagine, the entertainment industry has really strict rules for using firearms onset. This is some of the -- from the industry wide labor management safety commission, these are some of the safety bulletins they`ve put out about guns onset. Look what this one says right at the top in all capital letters, blanks can kill. Treat all firearms as though they are loaded. Then it is pages and pages of rules trying to head off any tragic accidents like the one we saw yesterday in New Mexico.
Number one, refrain from pointing a firearm at anyone including yourself. If it is absolutely necessary to do so on camera, consult the prop master. Number two, never place your finger on the trigger until you`re ready to shoot. Keep your finger alongside the firearm and off the trigger. Number three, know where and what your intended target is. This goes on and on and on.
To state the very obvious, clearly something broke down on this film set yesterday in New Mexico when a crew member was killed and another seriously injured when an actor discharged a prop gun. We don`t know where the breakdown of safety protocols occurred, but how did it -- how could it have happened?
Just in the last hour, we learned from the "AP" it was the assistant director of the film who reportedly handed the prop gun to Alec Baldwin before the incident happened. According to court documents obtained by the "AP", the assistant director did not know the weapon contained a round, a live round. I should tell you in movie speak a live round can also mean a blank. For the purposeless of being on a movie set, anything that can be fired out of a gun, blank or bullet, is considered to be a live round.
In terms of what killed the cinematographer and injured the director, we don`t even know if it was a blank that was discharged from the weapon. Could it have been an actual live bullet as was the case with Brandon Lee? It is being investigated now by the Santa Fe County Sheriff`s Office.
But let me bring it back to the beginning now. Beyond the immediate tragedy here and the absolutely flummoxing mystery of what went wrong and how it could have gone wrong, this story does also intersect in an interesting way with the story we`ve been watching unfold over the country in recent weeks, right, where American workers of all kinds in all sorts of different industries have been advocating for changes in their workplace, advocating for, you know, better pay, better benefits, but also safer and more sustainable working conditions. Like I said, this activism has included the entertainment industry just this past week. It has only been a couple of days since tens of thousands of workers in Hollywood`s biggest union threatened to walk off the job for better and safer working conditions.
We are learning tonight and getting information this dynamic of workers all over the country demanding better working conditions, that dynamic was on play on this movie set where this happened and it was at play hours before the fatal incident occurred. "The L.A. Times" is reporting tonight just hours before this incident where the cinematographer was killed and the director was injured, just hours before, half a dozen camera crew workers walked off that same set to protest working conditions.
Quote, the camera operators and their assistants were frustrated by the conditions surrounding the low-budget film, including complaints of long hours and complaints about getting their paychecks. So, the morning of the incident, the camera crew arrived for their 6:30 a.m. call time but according to "The L.A. Times", they packed up their gear and walked off the set.
One crew member telling "The Times" that the cinematographer that was killed had been using her clout onset to advocate for better working conditions for her team. One of the camera crew workers left the set in protest -- excuse me. Once the camera crew workers left the set in protest yesterday, "The L.A. Times" reports that the film production brought in nonunion crew members to replace them and ordered all remaining union workers to leave for the day.
Now, typically, onset the prop master, the person in charge of making sure guns are handled and used safely, traditionally that itself is a union role but today the local union covering the prop master says no member of their union was onset at the time of the incident. It gets more worrying.
NBC News is reporting this evening among the safety concerns raised by the workers who walked off the set yesterday were concerns over the fact that the prop gun involved in this incident, the same gun, had reportedly misfired multiple times previously on this set. "The L.A. Times" has further reporting on this tonight. I will quote from what they just posted. Baldwin`s stunt double accidentally fired two rounds on Saturday after being told the gun was cold, lingo for a women that doesn`t have any ammunition including blanks. That`s according to two crew members who talked to "The L.A. Times" about it.
One crew member telling "The Times", there should have been an investigation into what happened, there were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn`t happen again. All they wanted to do was rush.
Again, according to "The L.A. Times" tonight, one colleague was so alarmed by the prop gun misfires he sent a text message to the unit production manager saying, quote, we`ve now had three accidental discharges, this is super unsafe.
Look, there`s so much we do not know right now. We have no idea where or when or why the breakdown in gun safety protocol happened, we don`t even know the basics of what was fired out of the prop gun. We know there was trouble onset preceding the incident, as recently as the morning before it happened with crew members complaining about safety conditions onset including around that gun. We don`t know if that played an immediate role at all in how things fell apart here, fatally.
What else can we know at this point about exactly what happened here?
We`ve got an expert on hand to help us out with this next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: This was a picture that Halyna Hutchins posted to her Instagram account last week. It is a picture of the cast of the movie "Rust" and it is captioned, standing in solidarity with our crew here in new Mexico on "Rust." Again, "Rust" was the name of the movie.
When she is referencing solidarity was the labor action by the film and television workers union who were at the time threatening a massive strike in Hollywood, the biggest strike since World War II among -- over among other things what they saw as inadequate workplace safety for film crew members.
We still don`t know if IATSE is going to go on strike, that labor action is sort of still pending while its members decide whether or not they`re going to vote to accept new terms they received from studios last week. But this has a whole different cast now.
Halyna Hutchins died on the set of that movie yesterday after a prop gun that shouldn`t have been able to hurt anybody fired a projectile of some kind which shot and killed her while she was working on set.
It is a set that reportedly had labor problems of its own, including a walk-off by some IATSE members as recently as yesterday morning before the incident happened. We are learning more tonight, that there was reportedly a series of issues with the prop guns on set that were cause for safety concerns among crew members before yesterday.
Still lots of unanswered questions here. Joining us is Steve Wolf. He is a weapons safety expert for films. He was involved in the investigation into the accidental shooting death of Brandon Lee during a movie seat in 1993.
Mr. Wolf, it is a pleasure to have you with us tonight. Thank you.
STEVE WOLF, WEAPONS SAFETY EXPERT: Rachel, it is a pleasure to be with you. I almost feel like you don`t need me. You`ve really got this.
MADDOW: Well, let me ask if I explained any of this wrong when I was talking about blanks and the difference between blanks and bullets, that`s the way it is supposed to be explained?
WOLF: You nailed it. You could have done, you know, ten times the job that was done on the Baldwin set.
MADDOW: Well, let me ask you about this.
WOLF: This is --
MADDOW: Go ahead, please.
WOLF: This is the thing that would be a blank round, just a casing and some gun powder. This is live ammo , the thing used to shoot at things. So, you know, hard to get these wrong, which is which.
One issue though has been referring to this weapon as a prop weapon. A prop is anything that an actor touches. If an actor touches their cellphone, you know, this is a prop.
Well, if I touch this gun it is a prop. That doesn`t make it a prop gun though. It is a gun that`s being used as a prop. A prop gun has been modified so that you cannot introduce live ammo to it.
Live ammo simply -- sorry about that. Live ammo simply won`t go into a prop gun, only blanks will go in. So it is not that they were killed with -- you know, he was killed with a prop gun. He was killed with a real gun, and presumably now what we`re hearing, you know, actual live ammo .
Also, when we say going live onset as you said, going live doesn`t mean we are using live ammo. It means we are about to do something noisy, that we`re really doing the real thing. We`re going live, we`re going to blow up the car. We`re going live, we`re loading the gun with the blanks.
You know, it doesn`t mean we are putting real ammunition, bullets into guns capable of firing them and then handling them onset.
MADDOW: Steve, because of all of the safety protocols that are used including as you just described, like making sure you are using a realistic looking weapon that is operable but it can`t be loaded with live ammunition, the kind of safety rules that I just showed that are standard in terms of what people are -- how people are trained to work around these kinds of firearms onset because of what we know about this sort of industry standards around safety briefings for everybody involved in a shoot that`s got a firearm involved in it in any way, it just seems very surprising given the current state of how these things are handled in the industry that this could happen. It seems like there`s so many safeguards this should be impossible.
WOLF: Yes. It is to the point where you can`t hurt somebody by breaking a rule. You can hurt someone if you break multiple rules. So when you use an unmodified firearm that can accept live ammo.
When you put that live ammo in it, when you point the gun at a person, you have now broken three rules that lead you down the road towards accidental homicides. Any one of these things -- you know, let`s say you have a live gun and put real ammo in it but when you pointed it and observe the rule you don`t point guns at things you don`t want to put holes in, there wouldn`t have been a fatality. A bullet whizzing past everyone`s head, oh, my God, it is an unsafe set and I`m leaving, but no one would have been killed. You have to break a bunch of rules.
Also, talk about the gun misfiring, when a gun misfires it doesn`t go off. So, the gun didn`t misfire on the previous days. It was accidentally discharged.
I`m not sure how it can accident -- you know, having had guns around my whole life, I have never seen a gun go off by itself. Guns go off when you -- let me check it is clear. Guns go off when you press the trigger. It is an intentional act, and so we shouldn`t confuse intentional acts from accident.
The gun didn`t accidentally go off. The gun was put in the hands of a person, the person did not check if there was anything in it, and then they pressed the trigger twice. That`s why the gun went off.
WOLF: It was unsafe handling and unsafe supervision.
MADDOW: And the supervision and the labor conditions here are going to dovetail in terms of consequences of this act are, but we should keep in mind --
MADDOW: -- we should keep in mind first and foremost right now, there`s a police investigation into what happened here, and we expect that the Santa Fe Sheriff`s Office will let us know more than we know now.
WOLF: Yeah. From what I`m looking at now, you know, I believe that charges should be filed. To introduce live ammo with bullets in it to a movie set is absolutely unconscionable. It put that into the hands of an actor and not tell the actor, under no circumstances should you point this at anyone unless you intend to commit murder.
I`m pretty sure that Alec Baldwin, had he been told that, would not have pointed the gun at anyone. No one told him that, and if they did, they weren`t watching to see he was following directions.
So, we have all the safety meetings (ph) you want, but if we`ll are going to break the rules, then those meetings mean nothing, and the rules mean nothing. Simple common sense, don`t bring live guns on set. Don`t bring live ammo on set. Don`t point guns at people that you don`t want to put holes into. It`s not much more complicated than that (INAUDIBLE)
MADDOW: Steve Wolf, professional stuntman, film weapons safety expert, spelling this out in a way that is very, very clear. Steve, thank you for helping us understand tonight. I really appreciate it.
WOLF: Rachel, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The Supreme Court of the United States is not a vehicle that is built for speed. Deciding whether to take a case, setting a date for arguments, eventually ruling, it`s like cold molasses, even on urgent issues, except today.
Today, the United States Supreme Court did something quite remarkable. They agreed that they`re going to hear the Texas abortion ban case, okay? But they agreed that they`re going to hear it a week and a half from now. That`s lightning for them.
Law professor Steve Vladeck pointing out today he can`t think of any recent precedent except for Bush v. Gore where the court acted so stunningly fast.
The arguments are going to be on November 1st, which is very, very soon. Still the court deliberately allowed the Texas abortion ban to stay in place while they consider the matter, and they didn`t have to do that.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor offering a blistering dissent, saying in part today, the promise of future adjudication offers cold comfort for Texas women seeking abortion care who are entitled to relief now. These women will suffer personal harm from delaying their medical care and as their pregnancies progress, they may be even unable to obtain abortion care altogether because every day the court fails to grant relief is devastating both for individual women and for our constitutional system as a whole. She says, quote, I dissent.
Abortion rights on the chopping block this term for the high court and very, very fast.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: All right. That is going to do it for us tonight. I do want to mention before I go that MSNBC has a new documentary that`s going to air this weekend on Sunday night. It`s called "Civil War, or Who Do We Think We Are?"
It`s really good, really well done, really thought provoking. The executive producer is Brad Pitt, if that tells you anything. That is going to air right here on MSNBC this Sunday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time. You should watch it.
That`s going to do it for me tonight.
It`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Ali Velshi filling in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Ali.