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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 11/12/21

Guests: Jamie Raskin, Jackie Speier, Bill McKibben


Steve Bannon is now charged with two counts of contempt of Congress. House Dems move to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) for anime video of violence against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-AZ) and President Joe Biden.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Chris, good evening you to, have yourself a great weekend.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel has the night off. She`ll be back on Monday, however.

Here is something that is worth watching if you didn`t see it today. I`m going to tell you, this is not an exciting piece of tape. In fact, it`s so bland and normal that if we were living at any other time, we might not even bother to play it for you. But today, this is worth seeing.

This is the Republican candidate for governor of New Jersey today conceding last week`s election which he lost to New Jersey`s incumbent Democratic governor.


JACK CIATTARELLI (R), NEW JERSEY GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: To those who are disappointed that I`m conceding, to those whose faith in our election system is shaken, to those who are angry that I`m not asking for a recount today, let me say this -- I`ve worked every day and night for 22 months to become New Jersey`s governor. If you think I would be standing here today conceding if I thought I won this election, you couldn`t be more wrong.

I hate to lose. Ask Mayor DeCicco. But I`m also someone who believes strongly in our republic, in our democratic processes. Enough votes have been counted. There does not appear to be a path to victory nor the base of any recount. Nor do we know of any systemic fraud.

So, no, I see no proof that this election was stolen.


VELSHI: I see no proof that this election was stolen. The Republican candidate for governor of New Jersey, Jack Ciattarelli, conceding defeat ten days after the election, assuring voters that he lost fair and square.

He doesn`t like the outcome. You don`t have to like the outcome in a democracy. But he acknowledges that more people voted for the other guy on the left, which is how concessions work.

I mean, how many concession speeches have you seen in your life? They`re all pretty much the same. At some point we`ve all probably asked ourselves why do we have to perform this ritual after every election? It`s always the same speech. We all know who won. Why does the losing candidate even have to do this?

But hoo-boy, have we recently gotten a crash course in why concessions are important. If the candidate claims the election was rigged and his or her voters where disenfranchised and their political opponents are a bunch crooks, then eventually you get this.

And you know what Jack Ciattarelli deserves? Real, genuine praise for doing what he did today, for offering that full concession, unqualified, defending the integrity of the election. It was a small matter. But somewhere in heaven, a little pro-democracy angel got its wings.

Also, can you believe that doing that, saying at the bare minimum, my opponent won and I lost, now has to be singled out for praise when a Republican does it? What would have been a routine afterthought in an election in previous times, now it`s remarkable and noteworthy when a Republican candidate acknowledges defeat and says that elections work, because that is decidedly not where most of the Republican Party is today.

Not only is it now the central tenet of the Republican Party orthodoxy that the 2020 election was rigged and fraudulent and that Donald Trump actually won, but the violence of January 6th is now often defended as an appropriate response to that rigged election with the unavoidable implication that more violence will be appropriate in the future when Republicans lose elections.

Here`s newly-released tape of ABC News` Jon Karl asking Donald Trump about January 6th, specifically about Vice President Mike Pence, who had to be whisked to a secure location as rioters looked for him in the capitol.


JON KARL, ABC NEWS: Were you worried about him during that siege? Were you worried about his safety?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: No, I thought he was well-protected and I had heard he was in good shape. Because, I had heard he was in very good shape. But -- but --

KARL: Because you heard those chants, that was terrible.

TRUMP: He could have -- well, the people were very angry.

KARL: They were saying "Hang Mike Pence."

TRUMP: It`s common sense, it`s common sense that you`re supposed to protect -- how can you -- if you know a vote is fraudulent, right, how can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress?


VELSHI: It`s common sense, Jon. Mike Pence was supposed to overturn the election for me and when he didn`t, the people were very angry so of course they`re going to want to hang him. That is some Henry VIII stuff right there, violence as a political weapon. Do what I want and you won`t get hanged.

Democracy cannot survive under those conditions. So that`s sort of a baseline premise into the investigation into January 6th. The Justice Department has charged hundreds of people of participating in the violence that day and a special U.S. House Committee is trying to learn everything there is to learn about how that violent attack came to be, who planned it, who funded it, who promoted it, and how, because in order to further prevent violence like that, there have to be consequences for participating in that violence or fomenting it or obstructing the investigation into it.


Which brings us to today`s big news about Steve Bannon. The former Trump campaign manager and White House strategist was indicted today by a grand jury in Washington, D.C.

Now, if you`re having a moment of deja vu, it`s not your imagination. This is actually the second time Steve Bannon has been indicted in the last 15 months. The first indictment was a doozy. You may recall, Steve Bannon was arrested at sea by none other than an armed unit of U.S. postal inspectors. Who knew the post office had a nature?

The arrest gave us such hall of fame headlines such as, quote, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was cruising the Connecticut coast on a mega yacht when federal agents charged him Thursday morning with embezzling border wall money. I give you the minute to digest that. That`s okay.

Also, there`s this one. The 152-foot-long yacht Steve Bannon was arrested on is for sale for $28 million. As far as we can tell, the yacht is still for sale, if you have $28 million in the couch cushions and you don`t mind doing business with exile Chinese billionaires or friends of Steve Bannon, this is maybe your moment. But Steve Bannon was charged with stealing money from Trump supporters to allegedly line his own pockets.

If I were Trump, I would be mad about that. But Trump pardoned Steve Bannon during his final hours in office. So, that was the end of that indictment for Steve Bannon. And until today, Steve Bannon has been indictment-free for 15 months, at least since Trump`s been gone from office.

But he`s indicted again, charged with two counts of contempt of Congress for defying the House committee investigating January 6th. The reason these kind of charges sent shock waves through Washington when they dropped this afternoon is not just because Steve Bannon himself is this major Trump world figure and a hugely influential voice in right wing politics and not even just because this indictment is a major escalation of the January 6th investigation, but because this indictment breaks new legal ground. No one claiming executive privilege, which was the excuse that Bannon gave for not cooperating with the committee, no one has ever been indicted by a grand jury for contempt of Congress for doing that. The January 6th committee subpoenaed Bannon in September, demanding documents and ordering him to sit for a deposition because Bannon had had meetings and conversations with various players including President Trump in the days leading up to January 6th.

The day before the attack, January 5th, Bannon said on his radio show, quote, all hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Bannon refused to cooperate and didn`t show up for his deposition. He said Donald Trump was invoking executive privilege over things the committee was asking for, so the committee and then the full House, even including a handful of Republicans, voted to refer Bannon to the United States attorney`s office in Washington, D.C. for criminal contempt of Congress.

Now, here`s the thing. The Justice Department isn`t obligated to do anything with that referral. The Justice Department has to look at the relevant law and the circumstances and decide whether there`s a case that they want to pursue. And as we said, no one has ever been prosecuted for contempt of Congress while claiming executive privilege.

But in this indictment today, the Justice Department essentially says to Steve Bannon, even if a former president were allowed to claim executive privilege, which he`s not, he can`t just claim executive privilege over every document you might have and every single thing you might have said. You have to lay out what you have and then he can try to shield specific things.

But also, Steve Bannon, you`re not a government employee. You`ve been a private citizen for years. On January 5th, you were a private citizen. And regardless of anything else, Steve Bannon, you just can`t ignore Congress. You have to show up and make your arguments.

It took just three weeks from that contempt vote in Congress for the D.C. U.S. attorney`s office to put the case to a grand jury and get an indictment. Steve Bannon is set to turn himself in on Monday. If convicted, he faces up to a year in prison on each of the two counts. This is the kind of speed and aggressiveness that Democratic investigators in Congress could only dream of from the Trump Justice Department when they were facing uncooperative witnesses. This is a huge step forward in terms of accountability to Congress, and by extension to the American people.

And now there are questions. Will this contempt case just drag on forever like previous attempts by Congress to force testimony from uncooperative witnesses?


And perhaps most importantly, what effect will this criminal contempt charge have on other recalcitrant witnesses in the January 6th committee that they`re dealing with?

Today, Trump`s former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also just didn`t show up for a deposition where he was subpoenaed. Will he or others now think differently about how they respond to the committee now that the Justice Department has shown it`s willing to indict on contempt charges, and quickly?

I`ve got just the guy to ask. Joining us now is the Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin. He`s a member of the select committee investigating the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6th.

He was also one of the impeachment managers when Donald Trump was impeached for his role in that attack.

Congressman Raskin, good evening to you, thank you for making time to be with us tonight.


VELSHI: I noticed in an article written by Katie Benner, who I`ll be speaking to in a few moments, you gave her a quote, you say, it`s great to have a Justice Department that`s back in business. Earlier you tweeted, in fact, that the indictment shows that Donald Trump and his allies are not above the law and the American justice system is back in business. You are very confident this move is significant.

RASKIN: Well, what happened under Attorney General Bill Barr was that we had an attorney general who was essentially acting like a White House counsel at best, really a personal lawyer for the president of the United States, up until the very end, when Bill Barr decided to jump off that sinking ship, and he turned against the president. But up until then, he was essentially following orders.

So it`s good to have a U.S. attorney that`s able to enforce the law against clear defiance of a congressional subpoena. And it`s great to have a grand jury that hears all the evidence and renders a judgment consistent with the rule of law. And I liked very much the statement that Attorney General Garland made where he said that he was going to adhere to the rule of law, he was going to follow the facts and the law, and he would pursue equal justice under the law.

VELSHI: I have to ask you, is it your sense, you are a legal scholar, is it your sense that the Justice Department can compel Steve Bannon to testify? Or can they simply take action against him for not agreeing to his deposition and not supplying the documents necessary? In other words, he faces a fine and potential jail time, but can they actually get him in front of you?

RASKIN: The Justice Department has the power and the courts have the power to do both. But those are separate actions. Here we pursued criminal contempt, and that`s just a crime. It was a criminal offense, he violated the law when he stood us up, when he blew off the subpoena, and he violated the law when he refused to produce the documents in and the papers we`re looking for.

But at the same time, on a parallel track, if we bring a civil contempt action against him, the courts also have the power to compel him to testify and to bring us those documents. And if he doesn`t, he can be held, again, behind bars. But he has the key to his own freedom as the contempt bar says because all he has to do is testify and turn over the documents and he can get out of jail on the civil contempt side. But on the criminal contempt side, if he`s found guilty, he could be sentenced to jail or to probation or to some other kind of diversionary punishment.

VELSHI: So the one hope, the primary hope is that you get the information that you want from him.

Steve Bannon is an important character on a lot of levels, not because an adviser to Donald Trump but in fact he did actually say on January 5th, all hell is going to break loose the next day. But he was in that war room in the Willard. He was involved in the planning of this.

So on one hand, you actually want the information and the documentation that Steve Bannon has. On the other hand, the shot across the bow here for everybody else, including Mark Meadows, a former member of congress, one of your colleagues, who has decided also not to show up and submit his information, are you hopeful that this will send a message to all of them that this Justice Department means business?

RASKIN: Well, in general, one hopes that the enforcement of law in any kind of case, whether we`re talking about sexual assault or embezzlement or obstruction of justice, will result in deterrence towards other people committing the same offense. So this is a criminal prosecution, a criminal indictment that`s been handed down. And I hope the message is sent by this, as in all other cases, that you don`t trifle with a court subpoena or a congressional subpoena. That`s an order to appear.

Now, I want to be clear, he may have had certain constitutional privileges he could have asserted. He could have come in and had some questions that he answered and other questions where he said I take the Fifth, I might be incriminating myself.


He could try his rather outlandish executive privilege claim even though he wasn`t working for the executive branch of government. But you`ve got to make it in the case of specific questions that are posed to you. You can`t just blow off the whole proceeding. I think the grand jury got that, and I`m sure that a petit jury will also take all of the facts under investment here.

VELSHI: Obviously, if you`re the actual Department of Justice, you can skip some of these things, right? If they subpoena you, or they go to investigate and question you, you can`t lie to them. Is it your sense the Department of Justice is actively pursuing an investigation that is parallel to the one that the January 6th Committee is conducting? Or are you the only game in town right now trying to get to the bottom of what happened on January 6th, who funded it, who knew about it, who organized it?

RASKIN: Well, that`s a good question. I mean, our charge under the resolution that created us, 503, is to develop a complete and comprehensive report on what took place in the attack on American democracy, which was the most dangerous attack to my estimation on American democracy since the civil war. And it could have actually led to a civil war had the inside coup been actually executed, if Mike Pence had gone along with what Donald Trump was trying to force him to do, which was to refer Electoral College votes back to the states, a power of course that he doesn`t have under the Constitution. That could have led to a real constitutional crisis and to real violence.

So, very serious problem that is presented to us. Our job is to report back to the American people to give a complete factual report but also to make relevant legislative recommendations about what we can do to prevent the return of such a nightmare any time in the future.

Now, it`s also the case, of course, that the Department of Justice is engaged in prosecuting the literally hundreds of criminal offences that took place on January 6th, from the most simple kinds of offenses like disorderly conduct and trespass all the way up to certain violent offences. I think the first plea bargain took place for a violent offender who assaulted a federal officer and was just sentenced to 41 months, 3 1/2 years, in prison. And they`re going to be working their way up, as I perceive it, to other violent offences, and then all the way up to those people who were actually perpetrating a conspiracy against the United States to try to interfere with the presidential election and really overturn the government.

But again, that`s a guess on my part. I have no idea what charges are forget coming. But in most organized crime prosecutions, they work their way up from the most simple offences to the most complex ones.

VELSHI: As far as guesses go, I`ll take yours, because weeks ago we were discussing this very topic and you suggested this might end up being something serious.

Despite the fact that this hasn`t happened before, your guess was correct.

Congressman, good to see you as always. Thank you for joining us this evening.

RASKIN: Great to see you, Ali.

VELSHI: Thank you, sir. Congressman Jamie Raskin is a member of the House Select Committee on January 6th. He was impeachment manager in the second impeachment of Donald Trump.

Joining us now, Joyce Vance, former United States attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, and Katie Benner, the "The New York Times" Justice Department reporter whose writing on this story today is required reading.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

Katie, who is looking into this, where is the corpus of information going to come from? As he mentioned and as you reported on, the Justice Department is prosecuting lots and lots and lots and lots of people. The folks being prosecuted for disorderly conduct and trespass are not going to get us all the way down the road of who started this, who fomented it, who funded it, who organized it, who perpetrated it.

Is there a bigger investigation going on at the Justice Department that mirrors or parallels the one that this congressional committee is undertaking?

KATIE BENNER, NEW YORK TIMES: Sure. So first I would say that your question is also being echoed by judges here in the district. We saw the Chief Judge Beryl Howell say that the Justice Department`s approach to this investigation, she called it schizophrenic. She said, you`re calling this one of the worst domestic terrorist attacks perpetrated on American soil, yet I`m seeing lower level charges that don`t make these kinds of statements.

What she`s essentially saying is, where are the people who support the kind of case that you come before me with? We do know that the Justice Department investigation is ongoing at the U.S. attorney`s office in Washington, D.C. The U.S. attorney, the Senate-confirmed U.S. attorney, Matt Graves, has just begun. It was very unlikely that any sort of very political, very fraught charge was going to be brought until the Senate- confirmed U.S. attorney was in place and now he`s there.

And this is when we can start to wonder whether or not the department is going to bring the kinds of charges that Chief Justice Howell said would match the rhetoric that the government has been, you know, presenting in court.

VELSHI: And, Joyce, it`s an interesting conversation, because there are a lot of discussions, you`ve been with me for them, so has Katie, about the fact that some people say you can`t participate in an insurrection and get away with it, we need to throw the book at these people. But most of these people were do you spell. Whether or not you agree with what they did, ten years ago these were people who never would have said I`m going to participate in an insurrection and be involved in what we saw at the Capitol.

We do need to get beyond just them. Is this the best way to do it? Is what we saw today, the arrest warrant for Steve Bannon, is this getting us closer to the heart of the matter?

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So I think it`s really impossible to say whether this is an omen of anything else to come. This is the Justice Department enforcing a subpoena for Congress, fulfilling its obligation in that regard. DOJ has shown something today that I think we have had questions about up until now, and that`s their ability to conduct an investigation and put together an indictment without any word of it leaking out. I don`t think anyone had any idea that this was coming today.

So, is DOJ running a parallel investigation looking at the criminal sort of equivalent of what Congress is looking at in its work? We don`t know.

But, Ali, I`ll tell you, there`s a very interesting question here as to whether or not there is some sort of a conspiracy. We`ve seen DOJ prosecute low-level participants. Now they`re beginning to prosecute people who were more violent, people who attacked police officers and committed other felonies. And the real question is whether this turns into what prosecutors would call a hub and a spoke conspiracy, a wheel conspiracy, where there are a hub of people at the center who have spokes going out along the wheel, who are directing people or organizing people or bringing people to Washington.

I would be very surprised if DOJ wasn`t giving those sort of issues consideration without having committed to any specific prosecutions.

VELSHI: Katie, obviously, there are a lot of people wondering about the politicization of the Justice Department or the depoliticization of the Justice Department, depending on where you are in the matter.

Merrick Garland, you included his quote in your article, in which he said: Since my first day in office, I promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law, and pursues equal justice under the law. Today`s charges reflect the department`s steadfast commitment to these principles.

You and I talked about this earlier, about the fact that the Justice Department needs to be careful not to be seen to be the Democrats` Justice Department and Joe Biden`s Justice Department because the prior Justice Department had no qualms about being Donald Trump`s Justice Department.

BENNER: Absolutely. For people who want to see an impartial Justice Department, the antidote to what we saw in the previous administration is not for Merrick Garland to be Joe Biden`s Justice Department. It is to follow the facts and the law. Now, this investigation, if he follows the facts and the law, people could still walk away very dissatisfied. I reported much earlier this year a story that there was a controversy inside the U.S. attorney`s office in Washington, D.C. in which some career prosecutors really wanted to make a list, an association list, who was a member of the Proud Boys, who was a member of the Oath Keepers, and investigate them.

Now, we know in the United States of America being a member of a group like the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys is not something that`s illegal, you can`t run an investigation like that. So there are other career FBI agents, career prosecutors, other officials at Justice in D.C. who pushed back on that approach, saying that is not what we do in the United States.

So unless they can build from the ground up, unless they can show by doing what Joyce said, looking at the folks that they`ve already charged in making those firm connections, moving higher and higher and higher toward a centralized locus of control, where they can actually prove there was intent to attack the Capitol, not just to arrange a protest, which is, by the way, First Amendment protected activity, we`re all allowed to fund people to protest, it`s not against the law. Unless those things can be proven, it would be really difficult.

And we have to keep in mind that Merrick Garland is dedicated to following the facts and the law. He`s not dedicated to outcomes.

VELSHI: Joyce, I want to ask you, you are a great legal mind and analyst and writer and professor for us, but you`re actually a prosecutor. I want the prosecutor hat for the moment.

The January 6th committee is considering holding Mark Meadows, according to "Business Insider," in criminal contempt because he didn`t show up for his deposition. Do you have a sense that this move by the Justice Department is a double-edged -- is a two-pronged thing, to let Steve Bannon give his information.


And two, let everybody else who is dodging the committee to know, we`re serious?

VANCE: That`s always my goal as a prosecutor. There are principles that animate our criminal justice system. One of the major ones is deterrence. We want to deter people generally from violating the laws. And we want to deter specific people from violating the laws.

So yes, to the extent that the Steve Bannon prosecution sends a message to other potential witnesses, both in this investigation and other congressional inquiries, then that would be a deliberate step, a deliberate goal of the prosecution that I would have as a prosecutor.

VELSHI: Thank you to both of you for your insight tonight. Former United States Attorney Joyce Vance for the northern district of Alabama and "The New York Times" Justice Department Katie Benner, we appreciate it. Thank you.

While Steve Bannon faces the consequences of his action, Democrats in Congress took a big step today to punish one of their Republican colleagues for something he did this week. The woman leading the effort, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, joins us live, next.



VELSHI: The news we just got about President Trump`s long-time adviser and strategist Steve Bannon now facing two counts of contempt of Congress, each one with the potential of up to a year in jail, has got me wondering if Republicans across the board might wake up to the fact that there are consequences for their actions. In the entire history of the House of Representatives, only about two dozen congressmen, not members of Congress, because they`ve all been men, have been given the formal punishment of censure for their actions.

Censure is a very public shaming. The first ever congressman to get such a punishment was Congressman William Stanberry in 1832, this guy, who was guilty of the adorable sounding crime of accusing the speaker of the House of having presidential ambitions. I think you`re going to run for president. No, I`m not.

Despite that origin, censure is actually a very serious punishment. It`s been used to reprimand congressmen for all sort of things including physically assaulting another member of congress, making statements supporting the Confederacy during the civil war, selling military academy points, and sexual misconduct.

Today. a group of Democrats in the House submitted a resolution to use this punishment once again to reprimand Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar. This past Sunday, Congressman Gosar tweeted a video depicting an anime version of himself killing Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of course, was one of the highest profile targets of the very real and very violent attack on our capitol less than a year ago. Now, Gosar has had all week to apologize for the video. But he hasn`t. Instead he`s put out memes mocking Democrats for caring about it.

God forbid anyone be concerned that a sitting U.S. congressman is fanning the flames of an already violent moment and their animosity toward one of their own colleagues. Again, it doesn`t matter where Congressman Gosar`s head is on this, because it`s not his call whether his actions have consequences.

Joining us now is the Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier, co-chair of the Democratic Women`s Caucus, and one of the lead sponsors of today`s resolution calling for the censure of Representative Paul Gosar.

Congresswoman, thank you for being with us tonight.

You know, you and I have a lot of conversations over the years. We haven`t really talked about the fact that you`ve actually been a real victim of violence, in 1978. You were shot several times on the tarmac in Jonestown. You take this stuff -- everybody should take this seriously, but this is not a moment in time that seems appropriate for anime cartoons depicting the killing of a member of Congress.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA) : Ali, thank you for raising this issue tonight, because silence equals tacit approval. And the fact that the minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, hasn`t spoken up, the fact -- and condemned it, the fact that Paul Gosar has not apologized, speaks volumes about how there`s been such a degradation in the House of Representatives that you can actually suggest killing a member of Congress and going to battle with the president, physically, and somehow that`s okay.

And having been a victim of violence in Guyana 43 years ago, having had to wear body armor because there were threats against me when I was in the state legislature, having had someone actually convicted more recently of having made threats to me, convicted in a court case, I am not unfamiliar with this. And certainly, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez has been the butt of so much of this and has had security details for a good part of her time in Congress because of the threats that have been seen as serious against her.

So to have Paul Gosar do this is deeply troubling. And at some point, we`ve got to say, this crosses the line. And by introducing this resolution, now with 72 co-sponsors, we are seeing this crosses the line and we condemn this and we are going to call on the congressman to have to speak to it.

VELSHI: You are also a very clear voiceover the over the last few the discussion of sexual harassment and sexual violence. Part of the resolution speaks about the particular effect that women, particularly women members of Congress face. It says, whereas a 2016 survey by the inter-parliamentary union found that 82 percent of women parliamentarians have experienced psychological violence and 44 percent received threats of death, sexual violence, beatings or abductions during their term.

For a lot of people out there, a lot of our viewers, and a lot of men in Congress, it wouldn`t be clear to them, the extra burden that comes with being a woman, let alone a high profile woman, in Congress these days.

SPEIER: Well, that`s true. And we are oftentimes the target of a lot of this abuse. And I can tell you that when we were concerned about then- candidate for vice president, Kamala Harris, I spoke with Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook and pointed to 20 incidents where there were cartoons that were crass and gross and that violated the terms of use of Facebook, and asked them to be much more aggressive in shutting that kind of conduct down. All we need to do is light a fire, and you can have a firestorm if we`re not careful.

VELSHI: Congresswoman, good to see you. Thank you for joining us this evening. We appreciate the time you`ve taken on this important issue. Congresswoman Jackie Speier.

We`ve got much more to come tonight. Stay with us.



VELSHI: There is an extremely high profile and high stakes trial under way in Charlottesville, Virginia where 24 neo-Nazis, white supremacists and organizers of the 2017 unite the right rally are currently on trial after being sued by people injured that day. Today was day 15 in that trial. I have to tell you, there`s something really odd that happened this week.

Because there are no cameras allowed in federal court, there is a public dial-in number where anyone can call in and hear the arguments live. It`s supposed to be a listen-only line. It`s allowed several hundred people to dial into a federal courtroom this Charlottesville. But this week, during a one-hour lunch break in the trial, some people were able to unmute their lines where the public can listen to the arguments to say some truly vile things.

Here is the BuzzFeed report. Quote, one shouted "make America great again" and promoted a white supremacist podcast on which one of the defendants has regularly appeared. Another chimed in with "Read Siege" which is a reference to a manifesto written by a neo-Nazi. A third man wanted to make sure what he was about to say could be heard by the hundreds of people on the line. In "testing, testing," he said, uttered the "N" word three times and hung up.

Moments after that public dialing was hijacked with hateful messages, over on the messaging app Telegram, some listeners were thrilled about their efforts. On a messaging platform, on the channel that was run by a support and friend of one of the one of the defendants, the neo-Nazis took credit for spewing those horrible comments.

This is not an isolated incident or a fluke. Supporters of these neo-Nazis and white supremacists have launched a coordinated effort to essentially use the trial to spread their hateful beliefs. Vice News reports that supporters of the defendant and neo-Nazi Jason Kessler, quote, launched a coordinated effort to call into the trial en masse, forcing it to its 500 capacity limit effort in to exclude media and researchers from listening in.

It`s not just supporters who are using the trial to amplify their hate. One of the neo-Nazi defendants, Christopher Cantwell, who is representing himself in the trial, went on a right wing podcast last week to celebrate his performance in the courtroom. He said of the court proceedings, quote, I consider this a spoken word performance, and I take this kind of thing seriously, especially once I found out people were going to be able to listen in. I thought there was a tremendous opportunity both because of the cause at hand and because I knew the world was listening. I looked like a star.

The headlines this week about the trial say it all. Neo-nazis are trying to hijack the unite the right trial and turn it into a horrible podcast. Why the Nazis are treating their trial in Charlottesville like a joke. It`s part of the strategy. Perhaps even the ideology. And white supremacists find a new platform to spread hate. A federal courtroom in Charlottesville.

A new platform to spread hate. I cannot remember ever seeing something like what is happening in that Charlottesville courtroom happen before. As Rachel likes to say, watch this space.

We`ll be right back.



VELSHI: The nation of Tuvalu is halfway between Hawaii and Australia. Scientists have warned that unless drastic action is taken to stop climate change, all of Tuvalu will become uninhabitable in the next 50 to 100 years, something its foreign minister was determined not to let foreign leaders forget when he spoke this week at the climate summit.


SIMON KOFE, TUVALU MINISTER OF JUSTICE, COMMUNICATIONS AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS: In Tuvalu, we`re living the realities of climate change and sea level rise as you stand watching me at COP26. We cannot wait for speeches when the sea is rising around us all the time. Climate mobility must come to the forefront. We must take bold, alternative action today to secure tomorrow.

Fafetai lasi, Tuvalu.


VELSHI: Pretty dramatic. And fafetai lasi, by the way, which he said at the end means "thank you" in the Tuvalu language.

Today was supposed to be the final day in that big international climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. But the negotiators from 97 countries are going into overtime to try and reach a deal for the fate of the planet. Not reaching a deal bit official end of the Congress is sort of a tradition at these big climate summits as diplomats try to hammer out key provisions at the last minute.

As veteran climate activist Bill McKibben points out, the 1997 climate conference, Kyoto, did not end until the workers came in to set up stalls for a children`s furniture convention that was set to take place in the same space.

But the push to continue these talk is also a sign that world leaders are not yet ready to give up, and neither are the activists who are pushing them for change. Today, hundreds of climate activists staged a dramatic walkout from the conference, demanding bold, immediate solutions to the climate crisis. You can hear them there chanting "we are unstoppable, another world is possible."

With the fate of humanity hanging in the balance, what should we expect from these 11th hour negotiations?

We`ve got just the person to ask. Joining us now is in fact Bill McKibben, veteran climate activist and the founder of He`s been one of


He`s been one of the leading climate change activists in America, in the world really for decades. He was among one of the first social movement leaders to build grassroots political support to push political action on climate change. His organization led the years long campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and he`s been to every one of these summits since 1997.

Bill, good to see you. Thank you for joining us this evening.

BILL MCKIBBEN, VETERAN CLIMATE ACTIVIST: What a pleasure to be with you. You know, I was in Glasgow last week, and I`m back home back now, but I have great, great affection for those activists who are trying to keep this thing going and make it come out in as good a place as possible.

VELSHI: You wrote -- you filed a long article. It`s 11 pages. And I was reading through it and as I read through page one I was devastated. It sounded so sad about what you were talking about. I`m going to pull a couple lines here. It`s gone from talking about phasing out coal to phasing out unabated coal, from talking about ending fossil fuel subsidies to ending inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. And on the deepest question how much and how fast we`re planning to cut emissions heating the planet there`s been no real advance.

Are you optimistic? Because this sounded -- the start this, and I know there`s a lot to it than to start it, it sounded very pessimistic about what we`ve all achieved although in theory it is a climate crisis.

MCKIBBEN: Yeah, look, this particular conference here in Glasgow could have turned out differently. I think we lost that chance right at the beginning and it was largely due to American politics. Joe Biden came over at the beginning of the conference, and the plan was for him to come over in his back pocket this Build Back Better bill filled with really strong climate provisions.

But Joe Manchin prevented that from happening. He stripped the toughest provisions out, and he`s delayed the passage of that law. And so Biden was sort of there with, well, really with nothing. And it took theory out of negotiations right at the start. The Chinese didn`t show up. The Russians didn`t show up. The Brazilians didn`t show up.

Civil society showed up, and they pushed hard, and they`ve gotten some important things done. But truthfully this is not what people had hoped for. We`re not catching up to the physics of global warming at this pace.

VELSHI: That`s the question. And that`s what you address in this paper. In fact, you say the computer modelers estimate the new promises have knocked about a tenth of a degree off the ultimate warming trajectory leaving us headed for about 2.5 degrees Celsius, which is way too much. And that`s what the argument seems to be. For folks who don`t think this is existential, we`re making progress. We`re making better progress we`ve had since you got involved in this.

More people agree on it. But -- but better progress doesn`t matter if the earth is going to flood and burn.

MCKIBBEN: Here`s our problem, Ali. Most political questions that we talk about we solve at some level by compromise. And the problem with climate change is it`s not quite like that.

The real debate going isn`t Republicans versus Democrats, or industry versus environmentalists or American versus Chinese. Those are all important subtexts. But the real underlying degree is humans versus physics.

And the problem with that debate is physics is immature. It refuses to compromise. It doesn`t know how to negotiate at all. It just does what it wants to do.

And our job is to meet this challenge. The scientists have told us if we wanted to meet those temperature targets we set in Paris which are a bare minimum for, you know, civilizational thriving, then we have to cut emissions in half by 2030. That`s possible. Scientists and engineers have done a great job in lowering the costs of solar power, wind power and batteries to the point where it`s the cheapest energy on planet earth.

But we still have to overcome both inertia and the vested interests in the fossil fuel industry, which is on full display again in Glasgow.

There are 500 fossil fuel lobbyists there. That`s bigger than the delegation of any country brought to Glasgow.

VELSHI: Important analysis you`ve provided both here and in this paper that you published today. We appreciate it, bill. Good to see you. A veteran climate activist and the founder of Appreciate your time tonight.

Well, more than 125 years after perhaps the worst Supreme Court decision in American history, the man whose name has become synonymous with the segregation era phrase separate but equal might finally have his conviction cleared.


That`s next.


VELSHI: On June 7th, 1892, a Creole man boarded a train in New Orleans and took a seat in the whites only car on the east Louisiana railroad. His name was Homer Plessy. He took that seat deliberately. It was part of an effort by local civil rights activists to test Louisiana`s Separate Car Act, a law that required railways to have separate but equal accommodations for black and white passengers.

Mr. Plessy was asked to leave. When he refused he was arrested and placed in the New Orleans Parish jail. His lawyers argued in court Louisiana`s mandate segregation of the railroad violated his rights. But the judge presiding over the case, a man by the name of John Howard Ferguson, ruled the state was free to make those laws.

That case, Plessy vs. Ferguson, eventually made its way to the Supreme Court. And in a landmark 7-1 ruling, the court found that separate but equal facilities did not violate the United States Constitution. That ruling allowed segregation to continue for another 58 years. It made discrimination legal in nearly every aspect of daily life -- buses, schools, drinking fountains, restaurants and hotels.

That is until 1954 when the Supreme Court made a unanimous decision to overrule it in the Brown vs. Board of education case. But Homer Plessy never got to see that victory. He pled guilty to violating the Separate Car Act and was fined $25. He died in 1925 with that unjust conviction on his record and the knowledge that Plessy vs. Ferguson, separate but equal, was the law of the land.

Today, we got proof that even though history might take a while to write itself, it usually does, and sometimes, in some very surprising ways.

An unlikely duo has been working together to clear Mr. Plessy`s name. They`re the descendants of Homer Plessy and Judge Ferguson, the judge who ruled against him all those years ago.

Both sides joined together and petitioned to Louisiana board of pardons to clear Plessy`s record, and today, almost 125 years after his conviction that board voted unanimously to do the right thing. The pardon now goes to the governor for approval. And finally, justice that`s been a long time coming.

That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back on Monday.

Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD." My friend Jonathan Capehart is in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Jonathan.