Army considers Purple Hearts for soldiers injured in January 2020 Iranian missile attack. Defense attorney for a man charged in death of Ahmaud Arbery objects to presence of Black religious leaders in court.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Ryan Cooper`s piece in "The Week" is great. Thank you very much.
That is "ALL IN" for this night, Veterans Day. I hope the veterans out there are having a good, healthy, happy and safe Veterans Day with people that you love.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us at this hour.
He stood 6`2", he was a handsome guy, standout athlete, a good student as well, but he was a solid multisport athlete. He played basketball and baseball and tennis. He was a particular real standout swimmer.
He graduated from high school in 1960. He went to college. He was a history major in college, graduated in 1964. And then in 1965, he enlisted in the United States Army.
Now, if you are doing the math, him enlisting in 1965, that was way before the draft for Vietnam. The draft for Vietnam didn`t start until years later in late 1969. He went in there before that by choice, he enlisted in 1965, and then in 1967, he volunteered to be sent to Vietnam. He did nearly a year in combat from the spring of 1967 to the spring of 1968.
In April of 1968, he earned the Silver Star, and there was an attack on his battalion command post. He exposed himself to enemy fire, to pull his injured colleagues to safety to give them first aid. He earned the Silver Star that day, April 1968. It was a Thursday in April.
And that Thursday that he earned the Silver Star that he went through that hell, he was actually only a few days away from going home, only a few days away from the end of his tour. But four days after that battle for which he earned the Silver Star, the Monday after that Thursday a grenade blast took him. It blew off his right arm and his right leg.
It`s a miracle that that young captain survived it. He was administered 40 pints of blood. That is more than six gallons of blood. He lost his right arm and his right leg in the blast instantly, but within an hour of the grenade going off, they had also had to amputate his left leg as well. Plus his right arm, his right leg, and his left leg. It is almost impossible to believe that he survived.
But he survived as a triple amputee. He was 25 years old. By the time, he was 28 years old, he had been elected to the Georgia state senate. The youngest person ever elected to that body at the time.
He served in the Georgia state senate. Over the course of his career, he would also serve as Georgia`s secretary of state. When Georgia Democrat Jimmy Carter was elected to the White House, President Carter appointed him to lead the Veterans Administration. He led the V.A. for four years. Ultimately, in 1996, he was elected United States senator from the state of Georgia.
I knew Senator Max Cleland just a little bit. I interviewed him a number of times, if you -- honestly, though, like, I`m not bragging, if you spend enough time with him to interview him even once, it was almost impossible not to make friends with him. He was just infectious, like he just -- you ended up becoming friends.
I interviewed him a bunch, spent some time with him. I spent a little bit of time with him in his home state of Georgia. I`ll tell you the thing that you could not escape in the presence of Max Cleland was the height, the sort of hurricane scale size of his personality.
I remember once going into a restaurant with him in Buckhead, and it was like the lights went off on every other person in the whole place. The only thing you needed to know about that restaurant for the next two hours was that Max Cleland was in it because nothing else mattered. The sheer force of him just filled every room.
As a public servant, as a politician, he got his way by making friends for sure. He was that kind of a politician, both sides of the aisle, always. But he was also just good at getting his way. He`d put his heart into things.
He led the way early on for public accommodations for Americans with Disabilities. He really led the way for post-traumatic stress to be recognized and taken seriously and treated, even after he led the V.A. on that issue, which was a transformative thing, he kept leading on that issue personally years later. He talked publicly about his own dark struggles with post-traumatic stress in a way that had a really big impact because of who he was.
After the 9/11 attacks, he served on the blue ribbon commission that investigated what happened, the 9/11 exhibition.
But the year after the 9/11 attacks in 2002, Max Cleland was up for re- election for his Senate seat in Georgia. The Republicans ran an ad against him that put his face up on the TV screen right next to sort of equal with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, an the ad sort of sneered at him that he wasn`t brave, that you might have heard that Max Cleland was courageous but you shouldn`t believe that because that was a lie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2002 CAMPAIGN AD)
AD NARRATOR: As America faces terrorists and extremist dictators, Max Cleland runs television ads claiming he has the courage to lead. Max Cleland says he has the courage to lead, but the record proves Max Cleland is just misleading.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yeah, don`t believe that this guy has any courage at all. Don`t believe that. He`s just a guy who gave both his legs and one of his arms in Vietnam for his country. Yeah, but he`s, you know, basically just the same as Osama bin Laden.
Saxby Chambliss was the Republican who ran that ad against U.S. Senator Max Cleland, even some other Republicans were disgusted at the time. John McCain told "Washington Post" at that time quote, I`ve never seen anything like that ad, putting pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden next to a picture of a man who left three limbs on the battlefield. It is worse than disgraceful. It is reprehensible. That`s what John McCain said about it, and maybe so.
But those tactics against Max Cleland, they worked. Republican Saxby Chambliss ran that kind of campaign against Max Cleland, that he was some kind of traitor, some kind of coward, and Saxby Chambliss won that race and the Republicans took Max Cleland`s seat and they took control of the United States Senate. John Kerry would tell the "New York Times" later in an interview that that whole episode broke Max Cleland`s heart.
Cleland was very close to John Kerry, his fellow wounded Vietnam combat veteran. Cleland went on to introduce John Kerry in the 2004 Democratic convention as Democratic Party`s candidate for president. Cleland ran the American Battle Monuments Commission under President Obama. He wrote a book called "Heart of a Patriot: How I Found the Courage to Survive Vietnam, Walter Reed and Karl Rove."
Max Cleland died this week of congestive heart failure. He died at the age of 79.
We`re going to take a quick break right now. We`re going to come back with an update on a story that we covered last night and we got lots and lots of feedback from of people at home, a story that coincidentally since it broke on Veterans Day about something done very, very wrong by U.S. veterans in the last half of the Trump administration that appears to be getting rectified now. We`ll be right back with an important update on that story after this.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: I`m sorry about that early break that we had to take there. I know that`s not usually the way we structure the show. We had sort of technical gremlins, and I had no -- what do you call it -- camera. That pooped out. Apparently we`re back now and everything`s up and running. In any case, thank you for sticking with us.
So, today, obviously is Veterans Day. Veterans Day is a day when we celebrate America`s veterans, Memorial Day is by tradition the much more somber day. That`s the day that we are recognize Americans who have given their lives for their country. Today is a day that we celebrate all veterans who have served in any capacity.
President Biden today hosted veterans at the White House. He then accompanied them to Arlington National Cemetery. He laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is actually in its centennial year this year. Since 1948, the Tomb of the Unknowns has been guarded night and day by 24-hour military guard, and while the public can witness that from afar, none of us are allowed to get anywhere near it as a sacred site and a literally well-guarded one.
But this week sort of specially for its centennial for its 100th year, Americans have been -- just regular folks have been allowed to line up and approach the tomb of the unknowns for the first time in decades so people have been able to leave flowers or say a prayer there. It`s a very unusual thing. It`s the first time in decades.
Today on Veterans Day, the Biden administration announced new research, new resources, new support for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits during their service thanks to the inexplicable but apparently systemic practice of handling waste of all kinds at military facilities in those wars by dousing it all with carcinogenic jet fuel and then setting it all on fire in the open air right where all the troops lived and worked.
The change is announced by the Biden administration today should make it so that rare cancers and respiratory diseases and other disabilities related to those exposures can more readily be covered as service connected disabilities. It`s a whole raft of changes and new research and new rules.
The head of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Jeremy Butler said today that the changes announced today by the Biden administration are a good first step because he basically argued there are too many potential outs in the fine print of what was announced today. He explained that veterans and their supporters will keep pushing to get the research done that needs to be done, to get the rules changed that need to be changed, to get vets into V.A. health care if, in fact, they have been made sick by those burn pets.
And it is literally hundreds of thousands of American veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan who may have had that kind of exposure. It`s a very big deal, and that story is going to be bigger and bigger and be more and more consequential for the U.S. government and for veterans, and for military families over all the time that we live on this earth because of the sustained exposure of those burn pits for all of those years in both those long wars.
So we`ve been following those stories today this Veterans Day. I also want to tell you that CBS news today had an important advance, a big story on something that we told you about last night. This is something that we got a lot of feedback on from you guys. We heard from a lot of viewers last night and today.
After -- on last night`s show, we covered this story that starts with an attack, a major attack against U.S. troops in January of last year, January 2020, here`s some of the coverage from the time that attack happened led by NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Iran has confirmed that it has launched what is a conventional strike firing it says more than a dozen ballistic missiles from inside Iranian territory at bases that house American personnel here in Iraq.
Iranian state TV posting video of ground to ground ballistic missiles roaring toward Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops and claimed Iran`s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, had personally overseen the launch in the control room.
Iranian TV posted more video of what they said was the impact around 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Each of the missiles was packed with a thousand or 1,600 pounds of explosives. Military officials told NBC News enough to shred this row of bunk houses and throw shock waves as powerful as truck bombs.
One of the missiles landed here and because the ground is a little softer it created a very deep crater. It`s about 15 feet deep, probably twice as wide. So you can see these were powerful missiles just by the fact that they were able to displace this much earth. Many soldiers were taking shelter near where the missiles exploded. Some were in bunkers, others out guarding the base.
So you could feel that, the push of the blast wave on your body?
U.S. SOLDIER: Yeah, 100 percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Out guarding the base when those ballistic missiles landed. This was the Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. U.S. troops were hit there in January of last year, so just under two years ago now.
And we now know that was the largest ballistic missile attack ever launched against U.S. troops, 13 missiles, each with an explosive payload of between a thousand and 2,000 pounds. These are missiles the size of trucks.
We have the footage of the missiles hitting Al Asad base, we have footage of the aftermath at Al Asad. How much damage did they sustain?
The U.S. soldiers on base at the time of the attack, many of them were sheltered in sandbag bunkers, which indeed may have saved their lives, but it certainly did not save them from injury. Dozens of American soldiers at the base were wounded. A couple dozen of them were medevaced out in the wake of the attack.
Interestingly, CBS News is reporting now that the only soldiers -- that it was only soldiers who were medevaced out who were awarded Purple Hearts for their injuries in that attack, which is unusual. There were dozens of other soldiers who were injured in that missile attack, but they apparently either never heard back after they sent in their nomination paperwork for Purple Hearts or according to the "USA Today`s" new reporting, they were discouraged from filing paperwork in the first place, in order to apply for the commendation.
Why would troops have been discouraged from applying for a Purple Heart? Why would troops who actually applied for a Purple Heart or who were nominated for a Purple Heart not hear back and let those -- and have those packages, those nomination papers just languish now for almost two years?
Well, something weird happened at the time of the attack politically, which apparently has resonated through this entire process and has resonated through the lives of these dozens of wounded soldiers who have been never - - who never have been recognized, who have not yet been recognized for wounds they sustained.
At the time this attack happened, in January of last year, for whatever reason the then president Donald Trump decided he did not want to admit that American soldiers were wounded in that attack. It was one of the stranger presidential proclamations in a presidency with lots of competition for that title, but let it not be forgotten, he really did say this about American troops wounded in battle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, a question on Iran. Initially you said repeatedly to Americans that after Iran retaliated for the Soleimani strike, no Americans were injured.
We now know at least 11 U.S. servicemen were airlifted from Iraq. Can you explain the discrepancy?
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: No, I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things, but I would say -- and I can report, it is not very serious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s not very serious. Not very serious. That`s what he said. And he stuck to it.
We now know that thereafter from reporting at CBS News and "USA Today", that after the president made those public utterances, dozens of Purple Heart applications from soldiers who were seriously wounded in those attacks, they just languished. Other wounded soldiers were discouraged from filing the paperwork at all to get a Purple Heart.
A Purple Heart is a sacred commendation. It`s also a practical thing. Among other things it entitles you to priority medical care at the V.A. It streamlines your ability to access all sorts of other really practical benefits.
Captain Geoffrey Hansen was an officer at the Al Asad base at the time of the attack. He himself was wounded in the ballistic missile attack. He tells CBS News for their reporting today that he and other officers were told to stop inquiring about the soldier who is had applied for Purple Hearts and hadn`t received them or who had been discouraged from applying for them at all.
He told CBS, quote: the messaging I was getting was just the political situation wasn`t going to support more approvals.
The political situation wasn`t going to support more approvals of Purple Heart awards?
That has been the situation. That has been life for these wounded service members and their families for nearly a couple of years now since that unprecedented massive attack on the Al Asad base.
Well, now, apparently, it perhaps in response to press inquiries from CBS News, the U.S. military now finally says, the army now says finally it is going to review additional nominations for the Purple Heart from soldiers who were wounded that day. Expectations are now that dozens more wounded U.S. soldiers may finally receive that commendation that they earned the hardest possible way. It`s been a remarkable saga.
Joining us now is former Army Captain Geoffrey Hansen, who`s one of the leaders of Taskforce Scarecrow, which is the army unit attacked by those Iranian ballistic missiles. He along with several soldiers under his command were injured that day.
Captain Henson, it`s a real honor to have you with us here on veterans day in particular. Thank you for being here.
CAPT. GEOFFREY HANSEN, FORMER ARMY TASK FORCE COMMANDER: Thanks for having me. This has been really exciting that we`re reporting on this.
MADDOW: Well, it`s exciting because it feels like it is turning around. It is harrowing to know what it is turning around from.
Let me just ask you, I`m summarizing reporting from "USA Today" and from CBS News here, and from what we know of the attack that happened at the time. Let me just ask you if anything that I said strikes you as wrong or if you think I`m getting any of that the wrong way around.
HANSEN: No, I think you`re spot on. I think we submitted 59 packets originally. We brought those packets through a full medical review. We had the doctors that were on the ground sign off on them, meeting both a TDI diagnosis and the severity to merit a Purple Heart. And like you said, only 23 of those were awarded.
MADDOW: Does it make sense to you that the 23 who were awarded were all soldiers who were medevaced? There were dozens and dozens and dozens of soldiers wounded that day. Some of them were medevaced, some of them were not in the immediate aftermath of the attack. It does seem like -- it seems like more than a coincidence that that seems to be the distinction that at least thus far had made the -- had been determinative as to whether or not the Purple Heart was awarded.
HANSEN: I definitely agree, I definitely think that those are probably very causational that a medevac a Purple Heart in this situation, which isn`t the regulation and isn`t how it`s written as an entitlement within the Army regulations.
MADDOW: When you told CBS News the messaging I was getting was just the political situation wasn`t going to support more approvals, I was hoping you could just explain what you meant by that. You and other officers were advocating for soldiers who had been wounded to receive this commendation. You were inquiry about soldiers whose packages, Purple Heart packages had just been sat on and they hadn`t heard anything back.
What sort of messaging did you receive that made you conclude that the political situation wasn`t going to support more approvals. What does that mean?
HANSEN: When the word came down who was going to get the Purple Hearts and not, we asked, you know, what the criteria was and who was going to get them and who wasn`t going to get them, and the message we got back was don`t ask any more questions.
You`re going to get what you`re going to get, and be happy that you`re getting what you`re getting.
MADDOW: It does sound like thanks to inquiries, I -- it seems from CBS News reporting on this that the army has changed tack. That whatever political pressure there had previously been that was interfering with the application process for these Purple Heart commendations, that political situation has changed enough that they are now going to start looking at these again.
What do you understand about the change and what are you expecting? I know that it`s not just soldiers who are serving under your command, but you yourself who were wounded that day.
HANSEN: Yeah, what I understand from the change is they`re going to go back through and they`re going to re-evaluate all the packets from scratch, and they`re going to talk to the surgeons that were on the ground that treated us during that attack, and they`re going to do a comprehensive review, which is exactly what we wanted.
I don`t necessarily expect they automatically award all 59, but I think they need to do an in-depth look on what the criteria is and whether or not they met that criteria or not.
MADDOW: If, in fact -- and this may be -- I ask this question knowing that you may not want to answer it. I know that taking these concerns public is not -- was not your first choice talking to the news media about this is not something that you relish. So feel free to opt out of this question.
HANSEN: Thank you.
MADDOW: But if the Army looks into this, as I believe they should, and it is determined that Purple Heart awards were not -- were either delayed inexorably or were not issued because of a fear within the Army that that would undermine -- or undercut the public messaging from the president who was denying the severity of these injuries at the time, how should that be fixed? How serious is that?
I mean, the messaging coming from the president at the time was bizarre for us as civilians watching that. If it, in fact, resulted in the delay of benefits and the delay of earned medals to soldiers, including yourself and those who served under you, for all of this time, what`s the right way to fix that? What`s the right remedy?
HANSEN: Honestly, I`ll be happy, you know, that they`re doing this thorough review and they`re going to go back and give it a good look and award those that they think are deserving. I think that`s enough to go back and say this is, you know, this is the right way to do it and to go back and take care of the soldiers.
MADDOW: U.S. Army Captain Geoffrey Hansen -- Captain Hansen, thank you so much for being here and for letting us know that this was happening. I think you and your colleagues letting people know that it`s happened led to the media asking questions, which put a different type of pressure on the military here. It couldn`t have happened, I think, without you being willing to speak about it publicly. I know that was uncomfortable for you, but it really made a difference. Thank you.
HANSEN: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So we, like everybody else, we`ve been following several high profile criminal trials that are happening all simultaneously around the country right now. All of those trials center around big questions about racial justice in America, and they have all been incredibly dramatic and, frankly, transfixing.
Something like what I`m about to show you has happened in only one of those trials, and I will say at the outset here that, you know, there`s a reason why it is controversial -- why it is a controversial question as to whether or not you can have cameras in the courtroom. There are good arguments on both sides, you know, transparency is good. Public accountability is good. There is grave public interest, especially this trials like these.
Also, things can be taken out of context and people can misconstrue things that are happening when they only see, you know, bits and pieces of what after all are long and complex highly structured proceedings. And so, in that case maybe public understanding of what`s happening can be undercut by having cameras in the courtroom depending on how proceedings are covered. I get the arguments on both sides. I take both sides seriously.
But there are cameras in the court in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial in Wisconsin, for example, and for good or for ill because of that the country will never be able to unsee what those cameras have shown in terms of the judge`s behavior inside that courtroom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The court left the door open.
JUDGE BRUCE SCHROEDER: It`s me, not for you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My understanding is --
JUDGE SCHROEDER: You should have come and asked for -- for reconsideration. I was astonished when you began your examination by commenting on the defendant`s post-arrest silence. That`s basic law. It`s been basic law in this country for 40 years, 50 years. I have no idea why you would do something like that.
I had heard nothing in this trial to change any of my rulings. So why --
UNIDENTIIED MALE: That was before the defendant`s testimony.
JUDGE SCHROEDER: Pardon me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was before the defendant`s testimony.
JUDGE SCHROEDER: Don`t get brazen with me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My good faith was you had left the door open a little bit, now we had something new and I was going to probe it.
JUDGE SCHROEDER: I don`t believe you. When you say you were acting in good faith, I don`t believe that, okay?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder, who is presiding over the case of Kyle Rittenhouse. He`s accused of murdering two protesters and shooting and injuring a third during the protests over a police shooting of an unnamed black man -- excuse me, an unarmed black man named Jacob Blake.
All of those screaming outbursts from Judge Schroeder and it`s been more and others, there have been more of them.
They`ve all been directed solely at the prosecution, at the prosecutors who are trying to convict Kyle Rittenhouse of those killings. The judge has done nothing like that at all, nothing near it towards the defense.
Today, the judge asked the courtroom to applaud for military veterans. This was moments after he discovered that the only veteran in the room was the next witness being called for the defense. He asked the witness what branch of the military he served in. Then he directly turned and asked the entire room including the jury to clap for veterans.
Now today is Veterans Day. It is a day when you should thank U.S. veterans for their service, but a judge encouraging an impartial jury to applaud a witness for one side of a legal dispute before him was seen by many legal observers today as highly out of the ordinary.
Also, there was this joke? I think this was a joke that the judge made as the court broke for lunch today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE SCHROEDER: Let`s hope for 1:00. I don`t know, the -- hope the Asian food isn`t coming -- isn`t on one of those boats at Long Beach harbor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hope the Asian food isn`t coming in on one of those boats. Not clear what Judge Schroeder was trying to imply there.
As we head toward closing arguments in the case of -- in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, we`re also now waiting on whether that same judge will grant the defense a request for a mistrial with prejudice, which would mean that Kyle Rittenhouse would be released without a second trial on the charges.
Meanwhile, we`re also closely watching the very high profile murder case in Georgia, the case against three men who admittedly chased down and killed an unarmed African-American man, a black jogger named Ahmaud Arbery.
Today in that case, we saw some shocking comments, not from the judge, but from the lawyer for one of the defendants who decided that he objected to the victim`s family having the Reverend Al Sharpton accompany them to the trial of the man who killed their son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN GOUGH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR WILLIAM "RODDIE" BRYAN: And the idea that we`re going to be bringing these people in to sit with the victim`s family one after another. Obviously there`s only so many pastors they can have. Their pastor`s Al Sharpton now, that`s fine. We don`t want any other black pastors coming in here, Jesse Jackson or whoever was in here earlier this week, sitting with the victim`s family trying to influence the jury in this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We don`t want any more black pastors coming in here. You see the other people in the room blanch, like did he really just say that?
Again, courtroom cameras cuts both ways in terms of whether this advances public understanding of the legal system and how it works in cases of high public interest. In this case, an interesting strategy in the defense`s case to say the least, but the man about whom those comments were made in court today, the Reverend Al Sharpton is going to join us here to respond next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: Not only do folk in Brunswick and Georgia are watching and are concerned, we are here from all over the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s right.
SHARPTON: Because not only are those three on trial, but Georgia law is on trial. Have you grown from the days of Lester Maddox? Have you grown from the days of lynching? Have you grown from the days where people can because of who they are and what they are can be tried by a posse, and then they turn around and say they`re defending themselves.
Talking about he was afraid for his little 5-year-old. What about the 5- year-olds that are afraid now to jog in Brunswick? What about the young black kids that are now saying that if they kill me, they`re going to stack the jury and walk? That`s why we`re in Brunswick.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yesterday the Reverend Al Sharpton held a press conference and then a prayer vigil outside the courtroom where three men are on trial for killing Ahmaud Arbery. Mr. Arbery`s family invited Reverend Sharpton to lead that prayer vigil and then they invited him to sit in court to watch the proceedings which are open to the public.
Today remarkably one of the defense attorneys for one of the defendants took issue with Reverend Sharpton`s presence in the courtroom, and he did so in a shocking way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOUGH: And the idea that we`re going to be serially bringing these people in to sit with the victim`s family one after another, obviously there`s only so many pastors they can have. If their pastor`s Al Sharpton right now, that`s fine, but then that`s it. We don`t l want any more black pastors coming in here or Jesse Jackson or whoever was in here earlier this week sitting with the victim`s family trying to influence the jury in the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We don`t want any more black pastors coming in here. You see other people in the courtroom react when he says that. It does not seem to have been a slip of the tongue. He carries on. He`s making this deliberate argument.
We don`t want any more black pastors coming in here, Jesse Jackson, whoever it was. How can you tell, right? We don`t want any more black pastors.
The judge responded, quote, everybody complied with this court`s rulings on sitting in this courtroom and listening to the evidence. I don`t hear a motion, and I will tell you this, I am not going to blanketly exclude members of the public from this courtroom, let alone have some sort of no Black pastors rule as the defense attorney would ask the judge to enforce.
Joining us now is the Reverend Al Sharpton. He`s president of National Action Network. He`s, of course, the host of MSNBC`s "POLITICS NATION."
Reverend Sharpton, Al, it`s great to see you. Thanks for making time to be here tonight.
SHARPTON: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: What should we understand about the dynamic at work here? I think the sound bite itself, there are cameras in the courtroom. The sound bite itself from that defense attorney has more than gone viral, has rocketed around the country. I think a lot of people are just jaws dropped at it.
Can you give us context and tell us what`s going on here, what led to that and what you think this means?
SHARPTON: Well, I think, first of all, what led to it is soon after the killing of Ahmaud Arbery the family and the attorneys talked with me, both the father and mother did "POLITICS NATION," my show, even before the videotape came out because that`s the kind of work we do. That`s not only my activism, that`s my ministry, and we`ve been supportive of them. Just three weeks ago I preached at a church in Savannah, Georgia, both the mother and father came, and we had prayer, and they publicly asked that I come to the trial.
And I did, and I had a prayer vigil. I made my statement outside of my concern about the racial makeup of the jury in a city that`s 55 percent black there`s only one black on the jury of 12, less than 10 percent of the jury is black. And I raised that concern, and then the family`s allowed one person in with them, one with the mother, one with the father, and I assume the defense families who are seated in front of them in the court bring in who they want.
They brought me in with them as well as the one other person with the -- who came in with the mother. And then today this outburst.
I think what is striking about it is the kind of arrogant insensitivity that the family has the right to choose who they want to sit with them. You must understand the setting. They`re sitting in a courtroom looking at the three men that killed their son and the families of those men sitting there. That is a very tense and trying situation for a mother and a father to sit with.
And if they want a minister there, someone to console them, someone to be there with them that`s been with them since the incident started, that is their choice.
But he didn`t just say that he didn`t want a public figure or something. He said black pastors. So if it was white pastors? Is it all right? How do we know pastors are not sitting with the defendant`s family?
I think he was very telling in his specifying Black pastors, and I think this is an outrage, and I think it is absolutely insulting to all people regardless of their feelings on this case for him to say that in a court of law given this kind of case is startling but also revealing.
MADDOW: Rev, we also had a defense lawyer in this case tell the Atlanta Journal Constitution, even after -- I mean, the jury, as you said, it`s a 12-member jury. There`s one non-white person on the jury, there`s one black person and 11 who are not, despite the racial makeup of the community from which this jury was drawn.
Nevertheless, we had a defense counsel, defense lawyer in this case tell the Atlanta Journal Constitution that this jury needed more, quote, Bubbas or Joe six-packs which would also seem to be something that had a racial implication in terms of what he`s asking for, even with he said blue collar Bubbas or Joe six-packs, other jurors who look like Bryan, who look like one of the white defendants.
It does feel like this is -- like this is sort of saying the quiet part out loud, and given how blunt the defense counsel is being here in their sort of racial appeals, I have to ask you if you think it is affecting the jury, if you think it is affecting the judge, if you think it is affecting the conduct of the trial?
SHARPTON: I think it should. I do not know what is affecting the jury, but certainly I think anyone should say what are you saying here? Clearly the actual killing, three white men take it upon themselves to try, convict, and execute a young man they claim they thought was engaged in a robbery.
He`s jogging. You clearly could see he`s unarmed. He definitely was unarmed, but they took it upon themselves to take his life, not to arrest him, not to call police to arrest him and try to hold him until they get there. They shot and killed him.
So there`s race all the way through this, and I think it is telling when he says we need more bubbas on the jury. The jury`s 11 to 1 white to black in a town that is majority black with a black mayor, and now he says specifically, I want to ban Black pastors from coming in.
It is -- if there`s racism front and center, he certainly made the case. We want to see justice. And I think that justice will be what we hope and we pray for. But to set a precedent, and I salute this judge for not feeding into it either way so far, but it set a precedent that you can exclude people based on their race, black pastors, and what they are there for, I think it`s something that should be alarming to people all over this country that go to court seeking justice and balance and want to see the victims` families to be able to choose who they want to console them, whether they are nationally known or not.
MADDOW: Reverend Al Sharpton, president of national action networks, host of "POLITICS NATION" -- Rev Al, thank you for making time to be here tonight. I know you are working 28 hours a day at this point. Thank you.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So it was September 29th aren`t 2:00 a.m. and a man was caught on this security footage breaking a window. This was the headquarters for the Travis County, Texas, Democratic Party, the headquarters is in Austin, Texas.
And the man drops what appears to be fireworks and then a Molotov cocktail through the glass that he just broke, and you see from the interior security cameras that you have a clear view of it starting to smoke inside the Democratic Party headquarters. That smokes and fills up the place with smoke, frankly. A few minutes later the man appears to throw another firework through the window and that time it sets off an explosion. Democratic Party headquarters in Austin, Texas.
With the fire burning as you see from the interior camera the man flees into the night. We covered this story after it happened, you might remember. We showed some of that surveillance footage. The man was caught soon thereafter.
The Travis County Democrats told investigators it that in addition to the explosion, in addition to the fireworks and Molotov cocktail and the rest of it, the man left a threatening, very political note. Leaving no doubt as to what the motive was. He said the explosion he set off was `essentially a warning shot and this would happen again if Democrats continued to do Democratic Party stuff, if they continued to, you know, run for office and support candidates for office in Texas.
A few days later a suspect was arrested and he is currently facing state charges and also federal charges in connection with this firebombing of the Democratic Party headquarters in Austin.
Well, tonight here`s your unexpected update on that story. The man is now out of jail. He has been released on $2,500 bond, $2,500? He does have an ankle bracelet. He was actually let out a few weeks ago. Remember attack only helped September 29th.
He was let out of jail a few weeks ago. The people who set on fire only out a few days ago. They recently reached out to the FBI looking for an update on the case and when they asked about the dispensation of the suspect the FBI wouldn`t say where he was. So the Democratic Party had their lawyers poke around and they ultimately found the paperwork outlining the conditions of his release and the fact that he was released.
The Democratic Party in Travis County telling us tonight that they are upset that they weren`t informed before the man who set off a Molotov cocktail in their offices and threatened it was just the start of his war against them, they are disturbed he was released on bail without them ever being notified.
The chair of the Travis County Democratic party told us today, quote, after assurances that the suspect would not be bond eligible given the nature of his crime, it is very disheartening to find he made bond at $2,500 and was released without our knowledge.
Well, here is another update. Now the Travis County Democratic party has filed a civil lawsuit against that man who is suspected of firebombing their offices who is also facing criminal charges, they say they are filing this civil suit to hold the man, coat, accountable for his violent acts and prevent future domestic attacks on our voting institutions.
They said tonight, quote: The threat of radical extremism and violent behavior from the far right persists.
And, you know what? There is good evidence they are right about that particularly in Austin, Texas, right now. In addition to the Molotov cocktail and the fireworks, the attempted arson -- well, the arson, the attempted burning down much the Democratic party headquarters in Austin, Austin has since suffered a spate of right-wing and really explicitly anti- Semitic attacks.
Halloween night somebody set a synagogue on fire in Austin. Luckily, no one was hurt, but there was significant damage. Security footage caught a man walking the grounds holding a 5 gallon can of gasoline. That man is now in police custody. He was just arrested.
About a week before that attack students at a high school in Austin showed up to school one morning to find swastikas and racist slurs painted all over their parking lot. The next day a dozen people displayed this banner over a highway overpass in Austin while they made the Heil Hitler Nazi salute. The banner says "Vax the Jews."
Members of that same group then reportedly traveled to a different part of Austin with different anti-Semitic posters, starting walked up to Black people and Hispanic people on the street to tell them hateful things about Jews.
Then, this week, these anti-Semitic and racist posters and stickers were found at an Austin park away from the synagogue set on fire. You can see that one poster says, learn about the one white racial religion.
This Sunday, in response to all of this there is going to be something they are calling a rally for kindness on the steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, trying to rally in solidarity around the Jewish community that has been a target of this ugly, disturbing anti-Semitic attacks in the last few weeks. We will keep an eye on this and lots else in Austin.
Watch this space.
That is going do it for us tonight. We`re going to see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time, though, for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.