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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 11/17/21

Guests: Sherrilyn Ifill, Jena Griswold

Summary

FBI raided home of Mesa County, Colorado, elections clerk. House voted to censure a Republican congressman from Arizona, Congressman Paul Gosar.

Transcript

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": 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 at home for joining us this hour. It was a Sunday in late February, 1965, the Audubon ballroom at 165th and Broadway in Harlem in New York City, it was a landmark big building, beautiful building, had a huge theater that sat thousands of people.

And on the second floor, there was an actual ballroom, and the capacity of the ballroom was smaller. The capacity of the ballroom for dinners and other seated events was about 200 people.

But that Sunday, February 21st, 1965, there were double that number of people crowded into that room, a packed audience, 400 people in the room, all there to hear one of the towering and most controversial figures in American civil rights history.

Malcolm X had been the face and the world-famous voice of the Nation of Islam since not long after he joined the Nation of Islam in the early 1950s. But after more than a decade as a lightning rod in that specific cause, he had made an acrimonious split from the group. He had split from the Nation of Islam the year before he took the stage in that crowded ballroom in Harlem in February 1965.

But that day his wife was there to watch his speech. She was pregnant at the time with what would turn out to be their sixth daughter. Three of their little girls were there that day too with their mom ready to watch their father speak, and as he took the stage and began to speak, the assassination plot against him began to unfold. Someone shouted from one part of the ballroom, someone threw something, a make-shift smoke bomb of some kind in the rear of the ballroom. As the commotion started with those two distracting, precipitating events, a man at the very front of the ballroom pulled out a shotgun and he fired from the hip, and the shot knocked Malcolm X off his feet on the stage. And then two other men, one of whom was armed with a 9 millimeter pistol, another armed with a .45 caliber pistol, they followed up the initial shooting. Malcolm X was on the ground, laid out by the blast from the shotgun, and the two men stood over him, the two men with pistols stood over him and fired multiple shots into his prone body.

Malcolm X was 39 years old. His daughters and his wife were there in person close up to see him murdered. And, of course, chaos broke out in the crowded ballroom.

One of the gunmen, the one with the .45 caliber pistol, he got caught. He was shot in the leg as he tried to run from the scene by one of Malcolm X`s body guards. We believe is who shot him. But he was shot in the thigh and that brought him down and then people grabbed him.

He had dropped or thrown away the .45 caliber pistol that he had used in the shooting, but somebody else recovered it at the scene outside the ballroom and handed it over. He was found with .45 caliber ammunition on him in his pants pocket. He was -- so he was caught that day. One of the three gunmen.

But what about the other two men? Again, there were three men who fired at Malcolm X that day. The man with the .45 caliber pistol, we know that`s what the gun was because that gun was found and because the ammunition was in that guy`s pants pocket. The other guy with the pistol, a different caliber pistol, we know that because of the bullets and casings that were recovered, but that second gun, the .9 millimeter pistol, that weapon was never recovered.

But what about the man with the shotgun, the guy who fired first? Three gunmen, only one apprehended at the scene. After only one of the alleged gunmen was caught that day at the scene, how is that possible, right? Given how many hundreds of people were in that room, how many hundreds of close- up witnesses there were to the killing, it is still inconceivable even after all of these years looking back at it.

But, in fact, only one of the three gunmen was caught that day, however unbelievable that seems in retrospect. But after they caught that first guy at the scene, it would take them ten days for the police to arrest two other men who they said were the other two gunmen.

[21:05:03]

One of them was picked up five days after the killing. The other man was picked up five days after that. And, ultimately, quickly, those three, the three alleged gunmen, the man who got shot in the leg who they got that day and the other two men they arrested days afterwards, those three men were all charged with murder together, all put on trial together.

They all pled not guilty. They all initially said they were innocent, they hadn`t done it, but at the trial something astonishing happened. This was the front page of "The New York Times" the morning after it happened during the trial. This was March 1st, 1966. You see the headline there, "Defendant admits killing Malcolm X."

All three defendants, the man arrested on the day of the assassination and the other guys they arrested days later, all three had pled guilty, all three initially said they didn`t do it, but a week into the trial one of them, the guy who was arrested on the day of the killing, the guy who was shot in the leg, the guy who had about .45 caliber bullets in his pants pocket, that guy broke down on the stand during the trial and said, "Actually, I did do it," and here comes the bigger news, "The other guys I`m on trial here, they had nothing to do with it, they had nothing to do with it at all, it was me."

He said -- he said he did it and he had help with other people, but the other two guys on trial beside him, he said they didn`t do it.

Here is how "The Times" wrote it up in that remarkable place in 1966. Talmadge Hayer returned to the witness stand yesterday and confessed his guilt and tried to absolve his co-defendants. I just want to testify that Butler and Johnson had nothing to do with it. I was there, I know what happened and I know the people who were there.

Heyer said he decided to tell the truth after brief conservations with Butler and Johnson in the bullpen outside the courtroom. He clung to his story under biting cross examination by assistant district attorney. The prosecutor asked him, what did they say when you told them that? Hayer answered, they said, it was about time. We wondered when you were going to do this.

Hayer insisted several times, in remarks that Justice Charles Marks ordered stricken from the record, Hayer insisted several times the only reason he had changed his testimony during the trial was to protect two innocent men, his two co-defendants.

Hayer was wounded in the left thigh by one of Malcolm X`s body guards as he fled from the ballroom of the killing and was taken into custody while he was being beaten by an excited mob of Malcolm`s followers. Seven witnesses identified him as being in the ballroom, three testified as seeing him with the pistol in his hand firing at the Negro leader.

The defendant admitted firing the .45 caliber pistol that was found outside the ballroom. A spare clip containing four cartridges was found in his pocket when he was arrested. Furthermore, his thumb print was found on a piece of film in a smoke-making device that was ignited as a diversion moments before the shooting.

Butler and Johnson, on the other hand, the other two defendants, they were picked up last year at their Bronx homes in the first week in March. There is virtually no physical evidence linking them to the crime.

So we have three men arrested for the same crime. There were three gunmen who carried out the assassination. We get three men arrested. They get put on trial together. One of them, who was apprehended at the scene, confesses to the crime and says the other two had nothing to do with it.

There is not only his confession that he committed the crime and his assertion that the other guys had nothing to do with it, there`s tons of physical evidence connecting him to the crime. There is no physical evidence connecting the other two men to the crime. He maintains that he did it and the other two didn`t. The other two maintain, in fact, we did not do it.

Nevertheless, all three men are convicted of the murder. All three are given life sentences.

Now, the man who confessed to the crime, who said that he did it but not with those co-defendants, he did it with other people. He ultimately served 45 years in prison. He died in 2010.

While he was in prison he twice filed sworn affidavits that asserted the innocence of his co-defendants who were convicted alongside him, and that pointed instead to who else he said actually did plan and carry out this assassination with him.

But his co-defendants also languished in prison. They both maintained their innocence all along. One was not released until 1985. His name is now Muhammad Aziz. He`s now 83 years old. The other man was released in 1987. He has since died. He died in 2009 at the age of 74. He had changed his name to Khalil Islam.

But tomorrow in the year of our Lord 2021, both of their convictions are going to be vacated formally in court because it really appears they did not do it.

Manning Marable wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Malcolm X, published ten years. It was just published just after his death. That biography among other things walked there what was so obviously wrong about the convictions for these three men, for at least two of the three men in the Malcolm X assassination, walked through what was wrong with the, you know, cut and dry, no questions asked, very tidy modern American history of that assassination.

A historian named Abdul Rahman Mohammad last year produced a series for Netflix, a series called "Who killed Malcolm X?" That series not only asked the obvious question about, you know, why these guys who really seemed like they didn`t do it were nevertheless convicted of the crime, but, importantly, why did that happen? Why did the evidence pointing to other likely perpetrators get submarined at the time by the police and by the FBI?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is very clear in here that they`ve got a reasonably good description of the gunmen who wielded the shotgun.

Bingo.

It is clearly based on bureau agents interviewing whomever they could find who had been in the Audubon ballroom that day.

The source for this report was probably one of the nine FBI informants in the room when Malcolm was killed.

So it is a very detailed recounting. They say he is a Negro male, age 28, 6`2", 200 pounds, heavy build, dark complexion, wearing gray coat and believed to be assailant who used shotgun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have seen this document already. I assumed the folks investigating Malcolm`s murder had seen it, too. But I was wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wouldn`t this information have been shared with the New York prosecution?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not necessarily. No New York prosecutors would have ever have seen this document because the FBI would not release a teletype like this outside the bureau.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The man they convicted for carrying the shotgun, Thomas 15X Johnson is a light-skinned African-American. Someone in the government, whoever filed this report, certainly knew the man law enforcement was accusing of wielding the shotgun did not match this description.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Buried deep in a file that I acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request, I came across another reference to the shotgun assassin. This one based on a highly respected source.

Former member of the Nation and a leader in Malcolm`s new organization.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is incredible.

At Malcolm`s funeral, he was told explicitly by former members of the Newark, New Jersey, mosque, mosque number 25, that the man wielding the shotgun was tall, dark skinned, that he shot from the hip like he was an expert with this type of weapon.

This particular source advised that William Bradley was an officer at Mohammad`s mosque 25 and serving as a lieutenant at the FOY. So, here it is clearly, the FBI knew that Bradley was a lieutenant in the mosque.

Bradley is described, right here in their own files as dark-skinned, stocky and a lieutenant in the mosque, matching the description. The FBI even had a photograph.

So the FBI has his picture, his identity, description.

But in August of 1965, months before the trial began, this lead about the shotgun assassin being a dark-skinned lieutenant from Newark was considered RUC, referred upon completion.

Basically that`s it. They`re closing the file. Close it out for no apparent reason. Didn`t let the New York City police department know.

All of this just makes you wonder, could Bradley have been an informant working for the FBI?

Months later, Johnson, Butler and Hayer were sentenced to 20 years to life for Malcolm`s murder.

Looks like they allowed two innocent men to go to jail. That is a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) shame. You know, I mean as I`m reading it, that is a damn shame. That is a damn shame.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ironically it seems Malcolm was murdered by members of his own race, the people he was trying to help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Al-Mustafa Shabazz, formerly William X. Bradley, this burly, big, dark-skinned man, you know, a perfect description of the man that eyewitness essay eyewitnesses say fired the shotgun. They described him to a tee.

But it seems he was never questioned, never pursued, never investigated at all by any governmental agency, by any police agency, federal or state. And now I have amassed all of this evidence, all of this information, William Bradley`s alleged role in the assassination of Malcolm X. Somebody needs to do something about this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: And that`s the documentary series "Who Killed Malcolm X" which premiered on Netflix last year and led to the Manhattan district attorney`s office reopening the investigation into Malcolm X`s death, reinvestigating the convictions of two of the three men who were convicted for his killing.

The man who is described at the end of that scene there, who is described as somebody who seems to have been potentially implicated in the crime but who was never approached by law enforcement, never arrested, never questioned, he died in 2018. His lawyer maintains that he wasn`t involved in the killing. But this thing has moved now.

In advance of the release of that series the Manhattan DA`s office opened what was nearly a two-year long investigation into its conviction integrity unit to review the prosecution, review the conviction of the two men who always maintained their innocence.

It was first reported today in "The New York Times" that the results of that investigation were shocking. The investigation found that prosecutors and the NYPD and the FBI, importantly the FBI, all withheld evidence that could have led to these men`s acquittal at trial. Quote, a trove of FBI documents included information that implicated other suspects and pointed away from Mr. Islam and Mr. Aziz.

It wasn`t there was just no fictional evidence tying them to the crime, it is not just they had corroborating witnesses that testified to the veracity of the alibis, it was exculpatory evidence at the time that pointed the finger at much-more-likely assailants was not handed over to be considered in the trial. Law enforcement had it, the FBI had it. No, they didn`t allow it to surface when these men were on trial.

Witness and informant accounts that might have cleared them, that might well have led to them being acquitted, they were not disclosed, kept in the files all this time. How come? How and why did this case get mishandled like this? Where does the surviving defendant here go to get decades of his life back? How do we write this new history, this new truer history of the slaying of one of the titanic figures in modern U.S. history, equally controversial and influential?

Vacating the convictions of the guys who didn`t kill him is one step toward correcting that history, but they didn`t stumble into this story themselves. Why were they, appears, framed for it? Who did that? Where is the accountability on that side, on the government side?

This shock to the system today, this new plink for a storied moment in American history, it comes at what is a very fraught time for us now. Tonight we are spending another night preparing and another night bracing for the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial in Wisconsin, the young man on trial there for the murder of two people and the shooting of a third person during protests against the police shooting of an unarmed black man named Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Today, outside the trial a Republican U.S. Senate candidate stood outside the courthouse waiting important the verdict like everyone else, except he was posing for pictures with guys making the white power sign while he was waiting for the verdict.

Today in Charlottesville, Virginia, we got one day closer to the end of the civil suit brought under the 150-year-old Ku Klux Klan Act to try to hold account this rogue`s gallery of the country`s most virulent, most pungent white supremacists and neo-Nazis. We are at the point of the trial where the neo-Nazis are testifying in their own defense, trying to avoid a verdict against them that would financially hold them to account for the violence that they organized at their big white supremacist march in Virginia in 2017.

[21:20:06]

Today, African-American leaders and clergy were arrested in huge numbers, literally I think there was something like 200 arrests right out in front of the White House today in a massive direct action protest, 200 arrests is a very large number of arrests for a protest outside the White House. But it was a direct action protest for Congress to please act to protect voting rights.

Today in Oklahoma, kids walked out of school, the capital rotunda was filled, pastors chained themselves to the fence outside the building to try to avert the planned execution of Julius Jones tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. There are serious questions about his trial and literal guilt or innocence. The Oklahoma state pardon and parole board has twice voted twice that he should be spared from execution. The Oklahoma`s governor -- Oklahoma`s Republican governor has thus far not been moved. People moved their feet today in Oklahoma to try to get him to call that execution off.

Today, we got closer to the end of the trial in Georgia where three white men are being tried for chasing down an unarmed black man named Ahmaud Arbery, chasing him down in trucks and shooting him dead for the grave crime of him jogging near where they lived.

Today, one of the defendants took the stand in his own defense. He neglected to mention he had intended to citizen`s arrest Ahmaud Arbery. That had been his defense thus far but he forgot to bring it up when he described how he spent the day that he killed Ahmaud Arbery.

The defense counsel on that case has returned multiple times now on his arguments to the judge that African-American pastors showing up at the trial to support Arbery`s family are intimidating and must be kept out and away from the trial. The Reverend William Barber, who was arrested today protesting for voting rights at the White House, he also today published this op-ed in "The Washington Post." quote, my skin color should not prevent me from attending the trial of Ahmaud Arbery`s accused killers.

When Ahmaud Arbery`s parents reached out to me to invite me to attend the trial of the men who chased and killed their unarmed son in Brunswick, Georgia, I agreed to come because I`m a pastor. After my visit to the court house last week, defense attorney Kevin Gough asked the judge to bar any more black pastors from attending in trial. In an argument the judge said he found reprehensible, Gough asserted that the presence of black pastors could be intimidating to jurors.

Barber continues, quote, the Christian church, the Disciples of Christ, did not ordain me to be a black pastor. I am a pastor, called to serve all of God`s children without regard to race, creed or culture. When Gough argued that the presence of black pastors is intimidating, his words suggested that blackness itself is a threat.

This is telling because to me it teams the three men on trial found Arbery`s blackness intimidating as well. Though Arbery was an unarmed jogger, they say they assumed he was engaged in criminal activities and pursued him with weapons. One of them recorded the group and one of them shooting the young black men.

Quote, Abolitionists who insisted on the full humanity of black people were seen as intimidating and disruptive to the social order. White or black, they were often portrayed as dangerous radicals as those who accepted slavery were seen as reasonable defenders of social order. Though slavery is in our past, the racial order it created is not.

That`s the Reverend William Barber arguing today in "The Washington Post." In the midst of this, as I say, fraught moment for us as a country, wrap your head around this.

Tomorrow, two men convicted in 1966 of killing Malcolm X will have their convictions vacated formally in court. The history of that day in 1965 in which he was killed, that history will be rewritten while we are still in the middle of writing our generation`s racial history right now.

There is no turning from it. There is no turning away from it. There is so much to be done.

Joining us now is somebody who has been doing the work for decades, Sherrilyn Ifill. For the past eight years, she has been a movement as president and director counsel of the NAACP legal defense fund. Today, Sherrilyn Ifill announced that she will be stepping down from the role next year.

Ms. Ifill, thank you so much for being here tonight.

I had -- when I heard it was possible we could get you on the show tonight I couldn`t believe it. It is an honor to have you here on this night of all nights.

SHERRILY IFILL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: I very much wanted to be here with you tonight, Rachel.

MADDOW: First of all, before I talk to you about some of the things going on that I just described, I do want to ask you about your decision to leave the NAACP legal defense fund, talking about -- I mean we have talked over the years so frequently about your work and how much remains to be done, and I know the amount of work that you are capable of and how much you have done over these last eight years in that leadership role.

[21:25:15]

Tell me about the decision to move on.

IFFILL: Well, you know, this is life`s work for me. I started my career, you know, first with a fellowship at the ACLU and then at the Legal Defense Fund. Which I left the legal defense fund the first time to go into academia, I didn`t leave behind being a civil rights lawyer. I worked with my students and started clinics on environmental justice.

I started one of the first clinics on the rights of formerly incarcerated persons. I started clinic on reparations. I wrote a book about lynching. I headed up a foundation that supports civil rights organizations, and then I returned to LDF. Whatever I am doing, this is the work.

The decision to step down is really about what is right for an institution, and I have been unapologetic about my love for LDF, and I will say, Rachel, especially seeing what has been revealed in this country over the last five years about the need for black institutions to be strong. I have worked very hard to make LDF strong and to help Americans see that civil rights institutions and civil rights work is critical, not just for the citizenship and dignity of black people but for the health of American democracy.

In order to keep those institutions strong, we have to nurture leadership, which is kind of my thing which I love doing. I love doing it teaching. I loved leading our young lawyers. I loved working with my deputy, Janai Nelson, who I hoped would succeed me and who will succeed me.

So, it is kind of sobering because everything you described in the lead-in demonstrates what those of us who have been doing this work for a lifetime know. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done. Sadly, what you described, even in Malcolm X`s case, could be described any week around this country where men and women, if they are lucky, are released from jail for crimes they didn`t commit after having their lives taken away from them in prison.

Every week, law enforcement officials who don`t hand over information that might be exculpatory, this is what the American criminal justice system looks like. So my commitment remains strong to doing this work, but my commitment remains strong to my institution and to making sure it has terrific leadership for the years ahead.

To be honest, 2024 is coming very quickly, and I want to make sure that the next leader is fully in place and prepared for that. I am looking forward to see what is the next way I`m going to contribute to this work. I didn`t know what it would be fully when I left the legal defense fund the first time.

This time I`m going to write a book about some of what we have just been talking about, and then I`m going to figure out what is the next chapter for me. But it always will involve this work I have committed my life to.

MADDOW: Do you feel -- I imagine it is complex, but do you feel overall optimistic, hopeful? Do you have a sense of possibility about this moment that we`re in right now?

I realized in reading "The New York Times" coverage this morning about the reinvestigation of the Malcolm X assassination that that is something -- that`s a, you know, a case I`m very familiar with. The short comings of the convictions of those men, something I was very familiar with.

I realized I was shocked, like literally shocked, actually kind of thrown back in my chair by this sense that it might be undone, that there are not just current indignities and injustices that, you know, I don`t feel hopeful about in terms of the way they`re going to resolve, but these historic ones that we have lived with our entire lives, the idea that they might be revisited, that those things might not be set in stone, that we could fix those things, it shocked me.

I don`t know if it makes me feel more hopeful or not, but it made me want to ask what kind of touchstone it is for you.

IFILL: Yeah, I have to say, this is a very difficult time. It feels awful in many ways, but I don`t see it that way. Again, with the lens of a lifetime of doing civil rights work, I am always -- I always feel best and most hopeful when the truth is being surfaced. It is the periods when the truth is being denied, when people are saying racism isn`t a problem, when people are not recognizing the truth about police violence or problems with our criminal justice system, when people would tell me when I first started this job, you have a black president and a black attorney general, we don`t need the legal defense fund anymore, we don`t need civil rights work, what is voter suppression.

Those were the darkest days. The days when we are surfacing the truth, the days when we are recognizing the truth about lynching, about historical murders, about papered-over and covered-over incidents, about histories people didn`t know about whether it is the Tulsa massacre or Elaine, Arkansas.

[21:30:05]

That time, those incidents make me feel hopeful. It is not pleasant. It doesn`t feel joyous, but it does feel like we are finally getting to the root of the thing. I frequently, you know, paraphrase Malcolm X who talked about the purpose of surfacing the tension. Civil rights work and activism doesn`t create the tension. It surfaces the tension that exists below the surface.

Yes, what we`re going through right now this week with just these three different trials, you know, is incredibly sobering, but the truth is those trials are happening. I think we all know there was a period of time in which they wouldn`t have. We found out about happened to Ahmaud Arbery because of his mother and because of intense activism. There have been many times where young white men have killed people and have not been held accountable for it, and Charlottesville is something that to watch the dream team of lawyers that are holding those individuals accountable is so important.

So, yes, this is encouraging for me, even if it feels difficult. I can see that we are in a moment of reckoning and I`m very excited to figure out how I`m going to work in that moment, but it is a moment in which we are confronting things that have long been denied or ignored.

MADDOW: Well, even though you haven`t written the book yet I have preordered it in my mind and I can`t wait to see what you do next.

IFILL: My publisher will be thrilled to hear that.

MADDOW: Insert title, preorder filed away already.

Sherrilyn Ifill, the soon to be former director counsel for the NAACP legal defense fund. Thank you for joining us. Congratulations on this move. I really can`t wait to see what you do next. Thank you so much.

IFILL: Thank you so much. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: I will tell you, this morning hearing the news that Sherrilyn Ifill was moving on from LDF, I think who among us didn`t go through this like scenario in our heads where it is like, oh, okay, she had a little sit-down with Justice Breyer, justice Breyer and Barack Obama and Sherrilyn Ifill, she is leaving LDF, and getting her ducks in a row. Didn`t it cross your mind?

I can`t be the only one, right?

All right. Much more ahead here tonight, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:31:32]

MADDOW: In August in South Dakota, the CEO of a pillow hosted what he called a cyber symposium. This guy as you may know is called MyPillow. And ever since the 2020 election the My Pillow guy has spent a suite of conspiracy theories about how the election was stolen from Donald Trump.

At his big cyber symposium thing, the My Pillow promised that he was finally going the reveal the proof, the proof! The proof! That Joe Biden wasn`t really president, and the proof would be so overwhelming, so incontrovertible everybody would stop arguing about it, everybody would stop scoffing with him, everybody would just agree that Trump really was president and Biden wasn`t elected and he would have no choice but to hand the White House back to Donald Trump.

To provide this proof to show how voting systems were rigged to flip votes from Biden to Trump or whatever, at his cyber symposium, there were these long presentations where supposed cyber experts dug through election software. Specifically, they dug through election soft wear from Mesa County, Colorado.

Election software from Mesa County, Colorado, was also handed out on thumb drives at the event. It was also posted online for anyone to download, along with the passwords to Mesa County, Colorado`s actual election equipment. That was unnerving and also bizarre.

I mean, this is supposedly secure elections material. This is sensitive stuff. How did it end up at this crackpot conspiracy conference in South Dakota?

Well, interesting story it turns out. One of the special guests joining the MyPillow guy at his cyber symposium was the elected county clerk, the Republican county clerk of Mesa County, Colorado, the woman who ran elections in that county.

Like the pillow poobah, she said she too was convinced the election had been stolen. She said she had been trying to get to the bottom of it in her county. There she was in South Dakota on stage with the pillow guy joined by the campaign manager for far-right Trump-supporting Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, which I think we have here. Yes, that`s her on the left there.

And as they were all gathered there in South Dakota, local authorities back in Colorado were simultaneously raiding the office of that Mesa County clerk because they had reason to believe she was behind the security breach that led to all of this secure election software being passed around and posted online, including the passwords. What investigators discovered was that late one night the Mesa County clerk had gone to the warehouse that stores critical election equipment in that county.

The surveillance cameras were inexplicably turned off at that time. She took some guy in there with her, a guy who was unauthorized to be there, and they apparently copied the hard drives and election management software from voting machines. And then wouldn`t you know it? All of that stuff ended up posted online by pro-Trump conspiracy crackpots.

This Mesa County clerk claimed she had no idea how that happened, definitely just a coincidence.

After her office was raided she went into hiding. After she -- the South Dakota cyber symposium thing was over, she did not go back to Colorado from there.

[21:40:02]

The pillow CEO claimed to be flying her around the country to various safe locations where she could be a regular guest on his web streamed conspiracy TV show. Colorado Secretary of State Gina Griswold was forced to decertify all of the voting machines in Mesa County, Colorado, because they had not only been tampered with but their software and passwords have been posted online. Mesa County had to get all new voting machines at taxpayer expense.

Secretary of State Griswold barred the Mesa County clerk from administering any more elections and a judge agreed. That might have been the whole, end of the whole sorry saga until yesterday when a truly, truly remarkable development happened in this story. That`s next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Over the past several weeks we have been following this bizarre offshoot in the Trump election conspiracy story in which election software and passwords for secure elections equipment in Mesa County, Colorado, has been circulated widely among Trump conspiracy theorists and posted online for anyone to have access to.

[21:45:17]

It has resulted in all sorts of practical consequences. The Mesa County, Colorado, election system has been certified. They have had to buy all new equipment because they couldn`t use the stuff that was spoiled by the stuff exposed as it was. An investigation was opened in the state as to whether or not the elected official in charge of elections in Mesa County, the elected Republican county clerk, essentially might have facilitated the security breaches.

Well, yesterday in Colorado the top election official in Mesa County, the elected Republican Mesa County clerk and the campaign manager for far-right Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, yesterday both of them had their homes raided by the FBI and by the state attorney general`s office and by the local district attorney`s office. Federal, state and local authorities working together searched their homes.

The local DA telling the news outlet "Colorado Politics" that the search warrants were carried out, quote, to gather evidence in connection to an investigation into the Mesa County clerk and recorder`s office.

After yesterday`s raid, the Mesa County clerk went back on the livestream webcast, podcast thing hosted by My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, who has now made a full-time job of promoting Trump`s election conspiracies.

What she told them the Lindell livestream podcast thing was that government is coming down as part of a cover up and she is going to keep fighting because it is about our country and stuff. It is awkward because this is the pillow guy`s webcast, so even when they`re fighting for the soul of our democracy the whole lower third of the screen you can see there, don`t forget to use promo code B66 at mypillow.com to save up -- that`s literally the lower third of the livestream the whole time she is doing the interview.

Of all of the election conspiracies and fake election and stop-the steal we have covered on the show which is not going away, this might be the most bizarre story of them all, and the first one that has resulted on an FBI raid on at least four sites in a single state for what appears to be a quite serious federal, state and local investigation into what these folks are up to.

Joining us now is Colorado Secretary of State Jana Griswold.

Madam Secretary, thank you for joining us tonight. I really appreciate your time.

JANA GRISWOLD (D), COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE: Thanks for having me on, Rachel.

MADDOW: This story started off as something that seemed small and awkward and maybe not worth figuring out the details of, but it has metastasized and become not only very serious but also sort of riveting in its -- in the way it has unfolded. Let me just ask you if I missed any important parts of this or if I said any of it wrong.

GRISWOLD: Well, you got the my pillow guy, you got QAnon, unauthorized access. The only thing that I would add on is the entity that leaked the passwords and then the images of the server of the voting equipment is the guy who is allegedly Q of QAnon. So this is My Pillow guy plus QAnon plus election deniers, compromising voting equipment to try to prove conspiracies.

MADDOW: Can you explain what you mean by compromise there? Like what is dangerous about what was exposed here? Obviously we think of election software and elections equipment as needing to be kept secured and there`s the reason there`s things like passwords and all of that, but what kind of compromise was this? Why did Mesa County have to get all new equipment?

GRISWOLD: Well, just the fact that an unauthorized person accessed the voting equipment and that passwords, which can only be used in person, were leaked, compromised the equipment. But, in fact, when we went and investigated the equipment, we saw that settings were changed on that equipment. So either way, I was put in a position to just decertify it. Mesa County replaced the equipment. We, of course, asked a judge to bar that clerk, which the clerk was barred.

I will tell you, Rachel, we just had elections and they went great in Mesa County, but this is an emerging threat to our democracy. The same conspiracy theories being pushed to set the table for voter suppression are causing insider threats to election administration.

MADDOW: Can I ask you what you can tell the public about the involvement of Congresswoman Boebert`s campaign manager here? I think that we had seen her as a sort of adjacent figure in this scandal thus far, but now it appears her home was one of the places raided yesterday, or that search warrants executed yesterday.

[21:50:03]

Can you tell us at all what her involvement might be?

GRISWOLD: Well, I can`t fully comment on an ongoing criminal investigation. But what I can say is that election administration positions are really important positions. These are people at the local and state level that are entrusted in making sure that Americans have their voices heard and free, safe and accessible elections and the extreme right knows that.

We have been seeing people like Steve Bannon, people close to the former president encouraging extremists to take local election positions. We are seeing at this point in every swing state someone who is either at the insurrection or spreading the big lie running for secretary state, that`s the chief election administrator.

So, we need to make sure that the extremist on the right are not successful in compromising these key positions in that Americans continue to have people run their elections that believe in their voice, their vote and their democracy.

MADDOW: Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, thank you for your time tonight. I know this is an on going investigation. I have a feeling we`ll be talking about this in the future as this develop, thank you.

GRISWOLD: Thank you so much.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It`s a cartoon, relax, he said. Really? A cartoon? Relax?

I`m entitled to speak to the people and to do so in a manner that is engaging he said. Really? Is it engaging to depict killing a colleague?

And yes, you have a right to speak and so do we have a right to react to what you are saying when you are threatening the lives of members of Congress and the president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking on the floor today just before the House voted on a motion to censure a Republican congressman from Arizona, Congressman Paul Gosar. Now, a motion of censure against a member of Congress is not as far as expelling them from Congress, but it`s something more than a reprimand. It`s sort of like really hard slap on the wrist and only happened a grand total of two dozen times in U.S. history.

Today, it happened in response to Congressman Gosar posting online an anime video that he altered to depict himself killing Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also attacking President Joe Biden with swords.

The final vote to censure Paul Gosar was 223-207. All Democrats voted to censure Paul Gosar. Only two Republicans joined them, Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney.

Gosar is both censured formally and he`ll be stripped from both his committee assignments. There is one said he didn`t want to prejudge the matter because he`s on the ethics committee which raises the question whether the ethics committee is taking this up, as well.

Watch this space.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: All right. That is going to do it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."

Good evening, Lawrence.