Autocratic regimes pose increasing threats to democracies. Interview with California Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): But I know that they are all like Mitch McConnell. All they care about is power and right wing judges and big tax cuts is what they live for and what they continue to do. And the voters aren`t going to buy it this time.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Senator Brown of Ohio, one of those three senators who represent those three states. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
That is ALL IN this Monday night.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. President Joe Biden gave his first State of the Union Address in April this year. He could have done it in January or February which is pretty typical for when State of the Union Addresses tend to happen these days, but he decided to wait until almost the end of April until he was a hundred days into his administration before he gave his State of the Union.
And, yes, I know it is not technically a State of the Union Address when the president delivers it in his first year but honestly talk to the hand. I mean, that is exactly what it is. There is no point in pretending otherwise.
I`ll also just say for the record it doesn`t matter if you call a group of attorney generals attorney generals or attorneys general. It also doesn`t matter if you say pled guilty versus pleaded guilty. It is all okay. We all have amnesty on all of these things I hereby declare.
Anyway. So I`ll call it his State of the Union.
In his first State of the Union Address as president this year, President Biden ended his address on what at the time was sort of a surprise note. During the course of his address he talked about COVID and COVID relief legislation and vaccines. He talked about China. He talked about the war in Afghanistan, the prospects for gun reform, immigration, voting rights, you know, the whole gamut. State of the Union Addresses always have sort of everything in them.
But of all the things that he talked about, this is where he chose to wind it up. This is where he ended.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, in closing, as we gather here tonight, the image of a violent mob assaulting this Capitol, desecrating our democracy remain vivid in all our minds. Lives were put at risk, many of your lives. Lives were lost. Extraordinary courage was summoned.
The insurrection was an existential crisis. A test of whether our democracy could survive, and it did. But the struggle is far from over. The question of whether a democracy will long endure is both ancient and urgent, as old as our republic, still vital today. Can our democracy deliver on its promise that all of us created equal in the image of God have chances to live lives of dignity, respect, and possibility? Can our democracy deliver the most -- to the most pressing needs of our people?
America`s adversaries the autocrats of the world are betting we can`t. I promise you they`re betting we can`t. They believe we`re too full of anger and division and rage. They look at the images of the mobs that assaulted the Capitol as proof that the sun is setting on American democracy.
But they`re wrong. You know it. I know it. But we have to prove them wrong. We have to prove democracy still works, that our government still works, and we can deliver for our people.
In another era when our democracy was tested, Franklin Roosevelt reminded us in America we do our part. We all do our part. That`s all I`m asking, that we do our part, all of us.
If we do that, we will meet the challenge of the age by proving democracy is doable and strong. Autocrats will not win the future. We will. America will.
Folks, as I told every world leader I`ve ever met with over the years, it`s never, ever, ever been a good bet to bet against America and it still isn`t.
We are the United States of America. There is not a single thing, nothing, nothing beyond our capacity. We can do whatever we set our mind to if we do it together. So let`s begin to get together. God bless you all and may God protect our troops.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And that`s how it ended. The autocrats of the world are betting that democracy is over. That this is the, what did he say, the sunset of American democracy.
We need to prove them wrong by showing that our form of government, democracy, still works and can deliver for our people, can make us not just competitive but can make us win the fights of our day.
He made this case that we should want that for ourselves in terms of our welfare as a country, but we should also want that so that to coin a phrase, the, you know, government of the people by the people and for the people shall not perish on this earth.
President Biden from the very beginning making this public case that the autocrats of the world not only believe, they are committed to the contention that the United States of America cannot deliver real results because of this unwieldy, cacophonous, inefficient, democratic system that we`ve got.
They`re betting on it. They are committed to our failure. So we have to show our success.
We have to show that they`re wrong. We have to prove that we can do it. That we can govern. We can deliver. We can address the challenges of our time.
President Biden has returned to this theme again and again in the course of his presidency this year. He often puts it in quite personal terms in terms of which autocrats he is talking about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I`ve known Xi Jinping for a long time. I spent hours upon hours with him alone with an interpreter, my interpreter and his, going into great detail, very, very straight forward. Doesn`t have a democratic with a small "D" bone in his body, but he is a smart, smart guy.
He is one of the guys like Putin who thinks that auto autocracy I wave of the future.
I spent a lot of time with Xi Jinping, the president of China, more I`m told than any other world leader has. He has made it really clear. He doesn`t think democracies can compete in the 21st century.
Guess what? Just come back from a conference with Putin. He thinks the same thing. I got news for him. Autocracies will not succeed if we do what we must as democracies. A lot of the world is hedging their bets whether to move toward autocracy or stay with democracies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is a recurring theme he has been pounding at the year he has been president. We need to protect democracy at home from domestic enemies and use our Democratic system of government to do stuff to take care of people and fix problems that need fixing, so we can continue to show the world democracy is better than whatever strongman alternative might be muscling in.
Well, he`s been pounding away on that theme for a year -- almost a year now. And today appears to have been the day he has been waiting for because right now as we speak President Biden is having what I believe is already an hours-long teleconference, summit meeting with President Xi of China. This started after dinner time on the east coast and is likely to be a late night. Both of the leaders will be speaking through interpreters. Both of them forgive me are famously verbose. The agenda for this summit with Xi Jinping is long.
So, this is what President Biden is doing right now. It started about 7:45 eastern time tonight and is hard to believe that it is a coincidence that this afternoon right before he went into his summit with Xi Jinping there he was at a full blown crowded multiple standing ovation formal signing ceremony at the White House, celebrating the fact he has just signed into law a $1.2 trillion investment in American infrastructure. Granted, $1.2 trillion is like a rounding error in terms of what China spends on infrastructure both what they spend at home and also around the world.
The Chinese government building infrastructure projects in countries all over the place to basically buy influence and pay off foreign leaders to be pro Chinese. They are way ahead of us in terms of infrastructure spending and in terms of building for the future. But hey, at least as of today we`re finally trying. At least as of today we finally got points on the board.
And $1.2 trillion is a lot of freaking money. And it is going to be a big deal in terms of the impact it has in all 50 states -- repairing, modernizing, expanding ports and airports and the electrical grid, thank you, and water systems and systems that support the widespread use of electric vehicles and transit of all kind and rail and roads and bridges.
And, yes, this thing was bipartisan. Some of the 13 Republican members of the house and the 19 Republican members of the Senate who voted for this thing were on hand today for the photo op when the president finally signed it.
One Republican senator, Rob Portman, who is not running for re-election, even dared to say a few words in support of what this moment means.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): You`ve heard President Biden say this infrastructure bill will be signed today is going to have a positive impact on every single American. And that`s true.
This is true today. It`ll be true for decades to come. And I want to congratulate everyone gathered here today for the role you played in making this possible. This is what can happen when Republicans and Democrats decide we`re going to work together to get something done.
We`ve got a major bridge in my hometown and it is also a major bottleneck, desperately in need of replacing. We`ve been trying to do it for 25 years. But we haven`t been able to pull together the funding and figure out how to do it.
This new law finally gives us the tools we need to fix the Spence Brent Bridge and the same is true for major projects all around the country. That is why you see some of my colleagues here from every region of the country. Because they know this is going to help to create more economic efficiency, more productivity, and maybe less of a commute for their constituents.
This long term investment in our nation`s capital assets will grow the economy because of that efficiency and productivity. It will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. It`ll make us more competitive against countries like China who are investing heavily in infrastructure, much more than we have been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Republican Senator Rob Portman.
And then President Biden went from that ceremony where even a sitting Republican senator praised how much our system is delivering now for our people in a practical, bipartisan way, so that among other things we can be more competitive against China, President Biden went from that ceremony where this action was praised even by a member of the opposite party, President Biden went from that ceremony to go pound his chest a little bit on a zoom call with president xi of China.
Hey, man. How was your day? I spent mine signing off on $1.2 trillion worth of fixing things up around here so our economy can kick your butt. And so I can show off to you and to everyone what democracy looks like. A free country of diverse people with diverse aims and healthy political opposition more or less using representation government to help us all. Weird, right? Amazing what democracy can do.
If you`re wondering why things seem a little frenetic in the Trump wing of American politics, it may be that this achievement by President Biden particularly because it is a bipartisan achievement, it is hitting some people right in the buttons.
At Trump`s inaugural address, you might remember that he made all sorts of promises on infrastructure. He said America`s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation. He didn`t do any of that. None of that happened.
Even though the Trump administration kept declaring infrastructure week over and over again until it became a laugh out loud joke.
Today one of the men who wrote the inaugural speech for Trump, one time Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon was back in federal court on his latest round of federal charges. Today, President Trump is raging from the sidelines threatening any Republican who voted for the infrastructure bill. But lots of them did. And the legislation is really popular with the American people. And Biden got it done with bipartisan support in his first year in office.
Trump had four years to do it including two years with complete Republican control of government and never even made a realistic try at it let alone got anything at all done.
So this is a day that Joe Biden has been waiting for for a long time. Both in terms of the practical impact of what this means, also because of the political win that this represents, but, also, because of his larger vision for the purpose of his presidency. For the purpose of American governance in this time in world history, where as he said a lot of countries in the world are trying to decide whether they`ll stick with democracy or chick over to the autocratic, very efficient way of doing things.
How is that argument holding up over all? In President Biden`s own terms the reason he likes getting this stuff done because it is good for the country, our quality of life, quality of work, infrastructure building jobs, good jobs, yes, all good but he has also emphatically and repeatedly argued this is about showing off for the world what we can do. That we need to put wins on the board for team democracy, to show that democracy is a better form of government than what the Russias and Chinas of the world are offering.
How are we doing on this front? Is he right on that argument? That governing wins? Strike a blow for Team D, for the democracies of the world.
Today, Ann Applebaum writes at "The Atlantic" magazine with admirable but somewhat dispiriting bluntness and brevity, you see the headline there, the bad guys are winning.
Quote, if the 20th century was the story of slow, uneven progress toward the victory of liberal democracy over ideologies, communism, fascism, virulent nationalism, the 21st century is so far a story of the reverse. She writes about how the anti-Democratic autocracies in the world increasingly like to work together now. She says, quote, the corrupt state controlled companies in one dictatorship do business with corrupt state- controlled businesses in another. Police in one country can arm and quip and train the police in the other.
The propagandists share resources. Troll farms that support one dictator`s propaganda can also be used to promote propaganda of another. They also share themes, pounding home the same message about the weakness of democracy and the evil of America.
Quote, the centrality of democracy to American foreign policy has been declining for many years at about the same pace perhaps not coincidentally as the decline of respect for democracy in America itself. The Trump presidency she writes was a four-year display of contempt not just for the American political process but for America`s historic, Democratic allies who he singled out for abuse.
The president described the British and German leaders as losers and the Canadian prime minister as dishonest and weak while he cozied up to the autocrats with whom he felt more comfortable the Turkish president, the Russian president, the Saudi ruling family, the North Korean dictator among them. And no wonder he felt more comfortable among them. He has shared their ethos of no questions asked investments for many years.
In 2008, the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev paid Trump $95 million more than twice what Trump paid just four years earlier for a house in Palm Beach that no one else seemed to want. In 2012, Trump put his name on a building in Baku, Azerbaijan, owned by a company with apparent links to Iran`s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Trump feels perfectly at home in autocracy, inc, and he accelerated the emotion of the rules and norms that has allowed it to take root in America.
Which probably the right time in that argument for me to note that as President Biden was signing into law the infrastructure bill Trump campaigned on and never even tried to get, as that was happening today not only was Steve Bannon showing up in federal court for refusing to testify to Congress about his role in the effort to overturn the results of the election, but former President Trump himself today apparently moved toward sale of his Trump hotel in Washington, D.C. the hotel through which he was paid quite a lot of money by foreign governments and others seeking favors from his administration while he was president. Now that he is no longer president it is presumably no longer as convenient as a de facto bribe factory and so is apparently on the market.
The head of CREW, the government ethics watchdog group today said it makes sense President Trump would be selling the hotel now, quote, now that he is out of office and the grift has dried up.
Corruption and autocracy - corruption and authoritarianism always go together. If you think about it, it makes sense, right? What do you need in order to benefit corruptly from sort of the spoils of government power? Well, you need strength and power itself to prevail over the rule of law, right? You need favoritism and impunity for those in control. It is about impunity and taking things by force by dint of authority, right?
The government`s power used to enrich and benefit those who run it instead of benefiting the country and its people. Through representational democracy that actually means something.
But moving away from a pro-autocracy, dictator coddling, flagrantly corrupt anti-rule of law administration toward something else, that is not the same as beating back rising authoritarianism and autocracy in the world. It does mean resisting the pull of it here at home, but how do we achieve the sort of vision President Biden has been talking about? How do we use our, the power of our democracy, our example as a democracy to win larger scale battles, against what really seems like a rising, seemingly invincible tide of authoritarianism around the world on every continent?
If President Biden is committed to this vision of the world, how does President Biden use days like today, accomplishments like this to show off democracy? And thereby push back?
Here is Ann Applebaum`s conclusion today at "The Atlantic". She says, quote, nature abhors a vacuum and so does geopolitics.
If America removes the promotion of democracy from its foreign policy, if America ceases to interest itself in the fate of other democracies and democratic movements, then autocracies will quickly take our place as sources of influence, sources of funding, sources of ideas. If Americans fail to fight the practices and habits abroad, we will encounter them at home. Indeed, they are already here.
Joining us now is Anne Applebaum. She`s staff writer at "The Atlantic". She`s the author most recently of "The Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism".
Ms. Applebaum, it`s a real pleasure to have you this time tonight. Thanks for making time to be here.
ANNE APPLEBAUM, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, in this fight, what do you think of President Biden`s contention? In the fight you have done so much to document and have argued for so elegantly, in terms of rising authoritarianism, pull of authoritarianism, pull of autocracy as you describe it, is President Biden right in your estimation that it matters how we govern here at home, that the power of our example, the ability of a democracy to deliver makes a difference?
APPLEBAUM: He is absolutely right. I wrote a piece about autocracy, I wrote about foreign countries, China, Iran, Venezuela, Belarus.
But really one of the points of the article was that one of the main things we can do to push back against these autocracies is to heal our system at home. It is the same battle so making American democracy work means we make American democracy work better for our allies, set a better example. Eradicating kleptocracy at home, so making it harder for example for people to buy anonymous companies to buy apartments in Trump buildings so they are effectively paying bribes to the president while he is president, eliminating the kinds of laws that make that possible. That`s fighting against, you know, anti-democratic action at home and also fighting against it abroad because many of those anonymous companies represent foreign leaders, foreign kleptocrats.
The same is truly with finding ways to deal with and push back against waves of disinformation. There isn`t really any difference between the tactics the Russians use and the tactics that would-be authoritarians use here in America. So understanding what the problem is here at home is going to help us fight it abroad but also I think defining it abroad will help us at home.
I think this is really one story and it is really important that Biden understands that but also important that he takes the next steps to make that really, put it at the center of American foreign policy.
MADDOW: We`re in this unusual moment right now where the president, former president`s campaign manager who was his White House senior adviser was back in court on yet more criminal charges today, in this case related to his resistance to testifying to Congress about his role in the January 6th attack on the Capitol. We`ve also got the former president himself facing multiple criminal inquiries in Georgia, in New York, and potentially other jurisdictions as well. This is a very unusual thing for us as a country.
And I feel like a lot of fair minded people including people who appreciate your type of analysis about these dynamics, I think, worry about us moving into this new place wherein former officials, former politicians, do have to face potential criminal accountability for what they`ve done. I don`t think people are concerned about that because they don`t think people like Bannon and Trump committed crimes but they are worried if we become a country that prosecutes former political figures and political leaders that is a different type of slide toward the way that other countries that are not democracies have handled transfers of power.
I wanted to get your reflections on that.
APPLEBAUM: Look, the French president has recently been indicted. A Brazilian president went to jail. This is not something that is actually all that unusual in other democracies even in other healthy democracies.
Former officials, even former high leaders have been before courts and sentenced. Actually, you made a point in your monologue that I think is really, really important, which is the profound link between autocracy and corruption, because one thing autocrats do is push back against anybody that can hold them accountable whether that is the media, the courts, sometimes prosecutors, inspector general, you know, whichever institutions it is in the civil service or the legal system they push back, mock them, make fun of them, take away their power, precisely because they would like to get away with breaking the law themselves.
And they are simultaneously undermining democracy and also the rule of law. And it`s not an accident those two things go together and pushing back against those practices, forcing even the highest leaders, even, you know, even our presidents, our former senators, even former members of -- former cabinet members, forcing them to face the consequences just like other people is part of what it means to be a democracy.
MADDOW: As President Biden speaks tonight with the Chinese presidents one of the things you look forward to in your piece today at "The Atlantic" is the fact that President Biden is planning to convene a sort of summit of democracies early next month. We don`t exactly know what that means but he has talked about the idea the democracies of the world should work together toward protecting Democratic, protecting democracies but protecting Democratic ideals and the things that make democracy possible all over the world.
It was hard for me to sort of read between the lines and the way you wrote about it to see if you are cynical about that or optimistic about it. It strikes me as at least a new idea for an American president to be convening that as an American Democratic summit and asking other countries to join with us.
APPLEBAUM: No, I`m not cynical. I don`t think it is the wrong idea. I worry that it won`t go far enough and fast enough. One of the other problems we have now, and you`ve also hinted at it and it is outlined in the article as well is that where is once upon a time the dissidents of Venezuela were just up against their own dictator, or the dissidents of Belarus were just fighting one man and one system.
Now the autocracies of the world are industry linked. They help one another. They come to one another`s aid. The president of Belarus who is a really vicious tyrant is kept in power by the president of Russia, by investments from China, by his friendship from the Cubans who speak on his behalf at the U.N.
This is now a networked group of people. Interestingly, totally non- ideological. So they are theocrats and communists and nationalists who all work together now in very common ways, partly because they all share the same interest which is staying in power and getting rich.
To fight back against this, we may very well need new kinds of democratic institutions. Some of the old institutions are really not fit for purpose anymore. Our way of reacting in a kind of surprise when rules are broken once again, when the Russians murder somebody in London or whether the Belarusans hijack a plane out of the sky. We have the knee jerk reactions and call for sanctions.
It`s really time to stop doing that and to have a much more systematic way of thinking about these kind of trans national crimes, thinking about how we`re going to react as a group of the allies. I`m glad they`re having a summit.
I worry a little because it is an online summit. There have been a lot of arguments about who should come and what should be done there. You know, I worry that it hasn`t been thought through and that it could wind up being kind of an announcement of principles and niceness and we are past the moment for that. We are now at the moment where we need real changes.
MADDOW: Anne Applebaum, staff writer at "The Atlantic", author of "Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism", a really important piece in "The Atlantic" today, particularly important given President Biden`s commitment to the idea of governing at home as a bulwark against the rise of authoritarianism. Anne Applebaum, thank you so much for your time tonight.
All right. We`ve got much more ahead here tonight. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: We`ve defended other nations` borders while refusing to defend our own, and spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America`s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We will build new roads and highways and bridges and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yeah, how did that go? How did that go?
That was the speech where when he finished, this is inaugural address, when he finished, former President George W. Bush reportedly leaned over to someone next to him and said, and I quote, that was some weird bleep.
Well, that weird bleep, the American carnage speech, was written by Trump`s two Steves, Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon. It was a speech about American carnage. He used the word carnage. That`s nice.
But it had one practical part about infrastructure. Trump promised to be the president who was going to do a big infrastructure plan. That was going to be his signature policy.
As you may have noticed, he never did it. Never did anything at all on the subject. It became a running joke during his presidency that the Trump White House was constantly declaring it was infrastructure week but they never actually did anything on the subject at all.
Well, today, President Biden actually did. He signed into law the biggest investment in decades in roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. Meanwhile, one of the authors of the Trump inaugural speech, Steve Bannon was at court today turning himself, in on criminal charges. He is going to be arraigned Thursday morning on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress for failing to respond to a subpoena in a deposition order from the January 6th investigation.
Someone helpfully showed up for Bannon`s appearance today with this sign that says "coup plotter". You know, just in case you need quick cliff notes on why Steve Bannon is of interest to the January 6th investigation. Coup plotter.
For legal representation in this matter, Steve Bannon has chosen this lawyer. His name is David Schoen. If he looks familiar you might recognize him from recent history. This is David Schoen representing Donald Trump in Trump`s second impeachment trial.
Trump was inevitably acquitted by the Republican Senate -- thank you, Mitch McConnell -- but a majority of senators including seven Republicans did vote to convict him. Trump`s defenders got him the most bipartisan Senate vote to convict a president in American history.
David Schoen also represented Trump ally Roger Stone when Stone was charged with seven felony counts of lying to congress, obstruction, witness tampering in the Russia investigation. Roger Stone was convicted on all seven of the felony counts. That didn`t work out great even if he did later get a Trump pardon.
David Schoen was also taken on the case of convicted child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein until Epstein killed himself in prison. So, Steve Bannon`s new lawyer has quite the track record. That is one thing to know as this case goes forward.
The other thing to watch, though, is how aggressive it appears Steve Bannon is planning to be on this matter. He told reporters today he is going on offense against the January 6th investigation and he is going to take down the Biden regime. I mean, easy to say on day one but it does raise interesting questions in terms of how the January 6th investigation is going to handle not just this recalcitrant witness, one willing to defy subpoenas and the rest of it but one who more or less has decided he is going to declare war on the investigation from the courthouse steps today.
Bannon trying to string this out, delay it as much as possible, him also being super aggressive about fighting back against this thing. What does that mean for the January 6th investigation? Part of the issue about prosecuting Bannon is to get him to comply with the committee`s subpoena as a, what is the phrase, coup plotter. The other part is to demonstrate to other people who might be considering defying subpoenas and resisting the investigative tools of the investigation that they ought to go along with it because they might get prosecuted like Bannon.
If Bannon does everything in his power to turn this into a circus and declare his own personal war on the investigation does that in fact pose any threat to the investigation and its goals? I have just the person to ask. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon surrendered himself to federal authorities. He did so after being indicted on two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions or produce documents to the January 6th investigation.
Now, as usual Mr. Bannon did his best to make a circus scene outside the courthouse. Inside he and his lawyers seemed focused on dragging the legal fight out as long as possible. But here is the other thing going on in the background. The same day Bannon`s indictment was announced on Friday we learned at the same time Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was also a no show for his subpoenaed appearance before the January 6 investigation.
Presumably the hope of those conducting the investigation is that the Bannon indictment would encourage Mark Meadows and anybody else to rethink a decision to defy subpoenas from the investigation. If that doesn`t work though, if that desired effect is not achieved, Congressman Adam Schiff predicted over the weekend the committee would, quote, move quickly to also hold Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress.
Should we expect that more indictments are coming?
Joining us now is California Congressman Adam Schiff. He`s chairman of the Intelligence Committee. He`s also serving on the investigation into the January 6th attacks.
Sir, thank you very much for joining us. Nice to see you.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Good to see you.
MADDOW: It was not much of a surprise given what we know about his turn through public life that Mr. Bannon was very pugnacious outside the courtroom today. He said he was going to take down the Biden regime. That is what he works on every day. Basically declared war on the January 6th investigation. That sort of bluster from him again not surprising.
It does appear strategically though he and his counsel will do everything in their power to slow down the proceedings and drag them out. Is that what you and your fellow members of Congress on this committee conducting the investigation, is that what you were expecting?
SCHIFF: Yes. In the sense that when Steve Bannon decided he was going to essentially ignore the law, ignore the committee`s subpoena, that he wanted to make a political issue out of this, to delay and drag it out as long as possible. Once again prove his loyalty to the former president.
But look, he had four years in which he was given the impression apparently that he was above the law. He was brought into the Congress before our committee when it was chaired by a Republican, refused to answer questions during the Russia investigation. Republicans refused to hold him accountable and then later he was indicted for stealing money from Trump supporters to build a wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for but of course didn`t and Donald Trump pardoned him.
So no wonder he feels like he is above the law. That`s run straight into a Justice Department no longer under Bill Barr but one that is devoted to equal application of the law. And I`m glad to see that is the view of the Justice Department. It is so important.
MADDOW: In terms of Mr. Meadows and whether or not he is going to find himself ultimately to be in the same predicament as Mr. Bannon, are there differences in the circumstances for these two witnesses?
Have they handled the requests from the committee differently? Is Bannon defying the committee`s authority, the investigation`s authority in a way that`s more serious than what`s happening with Mr. Meadows, or are they essentially taking the same strategy and therefore Mr. Meadows should expect the same kind of treatment even potentially by the Justice Department?
SCHIFF: Well, they`ve taken the most significant step in identical fashion. That is they refuse to even show up. And there are broad categories of questions for both of these men that don`t go for example to any communications between them and Donald Trump. There are communications between, for example, Steve Bannon and members of congress, between Steve Bannon and the planners of the January 6th rally on the mall. None of that is even conceivably covered by any kind of privilege.
So in that sense, both men have the same fundamental position, weak position, that is they simply fail to show up and there is no right to do so. There are differences in the sense that Meadows was a current White House staff member. Steve Bannon hadn`t been in the White House in years.
So, there are differences but ultimately, those differences don`t affect the fact there is no immunity to simply say I ain`t showing up and that is probably the most significant factor when the committee decides what step is next.
MADDOW: Let me also ask you about a recent revelation about what happened on and leading up to January 6th that have been published in ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl`s new book, which is yet to come out but apparently is a jackpot of news even before it gets formally published. The latest revelation from Mr. Karl`s reporting is that there was yet another memo I guess we`d call it, another legal-ish argument put to vice president pence and his staff essentially directing him to overturn the election results to keep President Trump in power even though he had lost the election.
We know about one of those from John Eastman who has been subpoenaed by the committee. We know of another by Mr. McEntee who was working in the White House who made that argument to Mr. Pence. But now, a Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis apparently put this sort of pressure on Vice President Pence telling him, giving him an instruction manual, to overturn election results and keep Trump in power.
Were you and the other members of the committee previously aware of that or is that news to you the way it was to all of us when Mr. Karl wrote his book?
SCHIFF: I can`t go into specifics about what we knew and when we knew it but I can say we have learned a lot from very good investigative journalism that has supplemented what we know and helped form many of our questions and even the choice of witnesses. So these kind of reports that are being published now can be really useful to us and our investigators and shows how much there is to expose to the public.
For those who say don`t you know already, the answer is no. There is so much we don`t know about what went into the pressure campaign against the vice president to try to call on him to force him to ignore his constitutional duty. We want to know what internal conversations and discussions there with about the bogus nature of these legal arguments to show the willfulness of these efforts to in an un-constitutional and corrupt way overturn our elections.
If we`re going to protect the country going forward all of this has to be exposed to the light of day.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the intelligence committee, member of the January 6th investigation. Congressman, thanks so much for your time. It`s good to have you here.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Here`s a heads up on a story that`s getting a little bit of pick up around the country. It`s worth putting this on your radar and recognizing this might be a big bad deal very quickly.
This was of the head of the National Guard in Oklahoma. Last month. Doing the kind of thing that leaders are supposed to do in a pandemic. Major General Mike Thompson very publicly getting vaccinated, using his position and influence to show how easy it is.
He says in this post: Happy to get the booster shot. Five minute process. Well done.
That was just last month. Now he has been fired. Just last week. He was very suddenly canned by Oklahoma Republican governor. The general says he found that out through social media that he had been replaced.
Oklahoma`s Republican governor interestingly last year was the first governor in the country to contract COVID. Last week, he gave the head of the Oklahoma National Guard the boot with no explanation as to why. Now we have a strong hint as what was going on there.
On the new guys first day, the person who the Oklahoma governor has newly appointed to head up the Oklahoma National Guard after he fired the old guy, on his first day on the job he made it his first act on the job to send out a memo saying that members of the Oklahoma National Guard don`t have to get vaccinated.
Quote: I hereby order no Oklahoma guardsman be required to take the COVID vaccine, notwithstanding any federal requirement.
Notwithstanding is doing a lot of work in that sentence.
President Biden is commander-in-chief of the United States military. He has ordered that all members of the United States military need to be vaccinated for COVID-19, just as they need to be vaccinated for all sorts of things. The members of the Oklahoma National guard and the National Guard and all the states the members of the U.S. military. That applies to them, saying we`re in Oklahoma, so we don`t believe it applies to us.
That doesn`t work in federal law and civilian life. It really doesn`t work in the United States military.
Well, today, the department of defense didn`t mince words about how the vaccination status of Oklahoma national guards men is not the states call. Pentagon spokesman saying the secretary of defense has the authority to require these vaccines for all members of the force, quote, including the National Guard. Quote, it is a lawful order.
So, again I want to put this on your radar because this may become a big deal and a worrying deal very quickly. How does this get resolved? Both sides are armed, right? If both the Oklahoma National Guard and the Defense Department refuse to back down on this, how does this resolve? What happens after that? Especially when all the other Republican governors are around the country decide they are going to do this and defy lawful U.S. military orders.
House does that resolve? Do we have history with that in the country?
Watch this space. This is going to get messy.
MADDOW: One last thing before we go. Today, the prosecution in the defense both gave their closing arguments in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused of murdering two men and wounding another, during the protests over the police shooting of an unarmed Black man named Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year.
Jury deliberation in the case is going to start tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. Central, 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Ahead of a potential verdict in the case, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers has already put several hundred Wisconsin National Guard troops on standby to respond to any potential community unrest that could result from the verdict.
We do not know how long the jury is expected to deliberate, let alone what they are going to conclude. Just be aware. We could have a verdict in the case as soon as tomorrow.
All right. That`s going to do it for us. See you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.