The January 6 Committee unanimously voted to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt. "USA Today" just published an editorial to why they think that the filibuster needs to be changed to allow for a majority vote to protect the voting rights right now.
MEHDI HASAN, MSNBC HOST: You know, COVID is over. It`s not over and that`s part of the problem we`re not holding Trump to account because so many people just want to move on.
I`m not going to move on the story. I want to hold him to account.
Eli Mystal and Dr. Peter Hotez, thank you both for your time. I appreciate it.
That is "ALL IN" on this Monday night. I`m Mehdi Hasan. Chris Hayes will be back tomorrow night.
And you can find me Sunday nights on this network, 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel. How are you?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. I`m very good, Mehdi. How are you? Nice to see you here in primetime.
HASAN: It`s nice to be here, especially to hand it over to you.
MADDOW: Thank you, my dear. Much appreciated.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Very happy to have you with us here tonight. You know the tornadoes hit very late on Friday night and that means tonight in the dark and the cold in Kentucky. It is a third straight night, Saturday night, Sunday night, and now tonight of searching for survivors.
The death toll in Kentucky is almost unimaginable. It stands at more than 70 already. At least 13 other Americans have also had deaths attributed to the storms in Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, and Tennessee.
But even just in Kentucky, it is deeply worrying that beyond the dozens of people known to have been killed already, there are more than a hundred other people who just have not been accounted for since the storms hit. More than 100, again, unaccounted for. This is night three in the cold and the dark, searching.
President Biden will be traveling to Kentucky on Wednesday. We have eyes on law enforcement and on the governor`s office overnight tonight as the rescue and recovery efforts continue.
But this is stretching into the part of the rescue window where things start to get very dire. We`ve got eyes on that tonight. We will let you know more as we learn more over the course of this hour.
But we`re going to start tonight with some breaking news from Washington. Tonight, the January 6th investigation has voted to hold Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt. The committee holding him in contempt tonight means that tomorrow, it`ll be the full House of Representatives that will vote to refer him to the U.S. justice department for federal criminal prosecution for contempt.
Now, that`ll be the Justice Department`s independent decision but the House will decide tomorrow to make that referral of him for potential prosecution.
Mark Meadows is a special case here. White House chief of staff is a big deal. It`s a high ranking official, very close to the president throughout the incidents in question.
That said, in this investigation, he is one of nearly 300 people, 300 witnesses that have been called by the investigation thus far and asked to provide documents and testimony. And initially, Mr. Meadows seemed like he was going to comply.
Last month, he turned over thousands of pages of documents and e-mails and text messages to the investigation. Apparently something like 9,000 pages of documents and records that could help shed light on the attack on the Capitol and the overall attempt to keep Trump in power after he lost re- election by forcing the results of the election to be reversed.
Meadows started off providing documents by the thousands but then last week, a day before he was scheduled to give testimony, about those documents that he turned over, Mr. Meadows apparently changed his mind and he had been scheduled for this deposition. He decided he would not come in and sit for the deposition. He also said he would no longer comply with any further requests from the investigation.
And so, tonight, they unanimously voted to hold him in contempt all nine members of the investigation. Not only voted to hold him in contempt. They all spoke. They each gave individual remarks laying out why it was so important to this investigation that they hear from Mark Meadows. And also punctuated how gravely serious and unusual a decision this was tonight. This is the first time a former member of Congress has been held in contempt since the 1800s.
So even if tonight had been just that it would have been a big news story. But beyond that, the vice chair of the committee tonight, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, made news in her remarks.
Now, as I said, Mr. Meadows did turn over thousands of pages of documents to the investigation already before he decided he was going to stop complying with their requests. The documents he handed over include lots of text messages, both sent by Mr. Meadows and received by Mr. Meadows.
What Congresswoman Cheney did tonight was read out loud some of the text messages that Mark Meadows, Trump`s White House chief of staff, received, while the U.S. Capitol was under attack on January 6th.
These are texts she says are evidence the White House knew exactly what was going on in real time at the U.S. Capitol on the 6th.
Listen to this. This is pretty stunning stuff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): This vote on contempt today relates principally to Mr. Meadows` refusal to testify about text messages and other communications that he admits are not privileged. He has not claimed and does not have any privilege basis to refuse entirely to testify regarding these topics.
Let me give just three examples. First, President Trump`s failure to stop the violence. On January 6th, our Capitol building was attacked and invaded. The mob was summoned to Washington by President Trump, and as many of those involved have admitted, on videotape and social media and in federal district court, they were provoked to violence by president Trump`s false claims that the election was stolen.
The violence was evident to all. It was covered in real time by almost every news channel. But for 187 minutes, President Trump refused to act, when action by our president was required, essential, and indeed compelled by his oath to our Constitution.
Mr. Meadows received numerous text messages, which he has produced without any privilege claim, imploring that Mr. Trump take the specific action we all knew his duty required. These text messages leave no doubt the White House knew exactly what was happening here at the Capitol. Members of Congress, the press, and others wrote to Mark Meadows as the attack was under way.
One text Mr. Meadows received said, quote, we are under siege here at the Capitol.
Another, quote, they have breached the Capitol.
In a third, Mark, protesters are literally storming the Capitol. Breaking windows on doors, rushing in. Is Trump going to say something?
A fourth, there`s an armed stand-off at the house chamber door. And another, from someone inside the Capitol, we are all helpless. Dozens of texts including from Trump administration officials urged immediate action by the president.
Quote, POTUS has to come out firmly and tell the protesters to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed. In another, Mark, he needs to stop this now. A third, in all caps, tell them to go home.
A fourth, and I quote, POTUS needs to calm this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) down. Indeed, according to the records, multiple Fox News hosts knew the president needed to act immediately. They texted Mr. Meadows, and he has turned over those texts.
Quote, Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy, Laura Ingraham wrote.
Please, get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished, Brian Kilmeade texted.
Quote, can he make a statement, ask people to leave the Capitol? Sean Hannity urged.
As the violence continued, one of the president`s sons texted Mr. Meadows, quote: He`s got to condemn this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) ASAP. The Capitol police tweet is not enough, Donald Trump Jr. texted. Meadows responded, quote, I`m pushing it hard. I agree.
Still, President Trump did not immediately act. Donald Trump Jr. texted again and again, urging action by the president. Quote: We need an Oval Office address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far, and gotten out of hand, end quote.
But hours passed without necessary action by the president.
These non-privileged texts are further evidence of President Trump`s supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Supreme dereliction of duty. A remarkable list of Republican and conservative media figures who would later, of course, minimize both the violence at the capitol and Trump`s responsibility for that violence. It turns out the day it was happening, their texts show they knew both that it was terrible and that Trump could stop it if he wanted to.
We have talked on this show quite a bit about how the Justice Department is prosecuting the rioters who attacked the Capitol on January 6th but as far as the people who sent them there, the people who planned and encouraged the attack on the Capitol, who came up with the whole scheme that if you had a mob there pressuring the vice president and Republicans in Congress in just the right way, that could stop the certification of the election, the people who actually came up with this scheme to try to dismantle the peaceful transition of power in this country, the Justice Department doesn`t seem actively engaged on that front. They appear to be going after the rioters themselves only.
But Congresswoman Liz Cheney is making it clear tonight the January 6th investigation is paying close attention to how this all happened, and specifically the question of whether or not former President Trump himself could be criminally liable for what happened.
This is part of what the investigation wants to talk to Mark Meadows about. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: Mr. Meadows` testimony will bear on another key question before this committee. Did Donald Trump through action or inaction correctly seek to obstruct or impede Congress`s official proceedings to count electoral votes? Mr. Meadows also has knowledge regarding President Trump`s efforts to persuade state officials to alter their official election results.
In Georgia, for instance, Mr. Meadows participated on a phone call between President Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger. Meadows was on the phone when President Trump asked the secretary of state to, quote, find 11,780 votes, to change the result of the presidential election in Georgia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congresswoman Cheney saying there that the January 6th investigation is looking specifically at former President Trump and whether he corruptly tried to alter the results of the election, whether he corruptly sought to obstruct or impede Congress`s official proceedings to count electoral votes which, of course, is a crime.
Mr. Meadows is not the first person in the investigation to be recommended for contempt charges. You`ll remember first it was Trump adviser Steve Bannon, then it was Justice Department official named Jeff Clark who Donald Trump reportedly wanted to install as attorney general so the U.S. Justice Department could help in this effort to force the overturning of the election results.
Jeff Clark says he intends to plead the Fifth in the investigation which, of course, has us wondering why he feels he needs to plead the Fifth, whether he thinks he might be in some kind of legal jeopardy here, whether some of what he was involved in was not only sort of Benedict Arnold-y but also potentially criminal.
Well, again, listen to what Congresswoman Cheney had to say about that tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: In the weeks before January 6th, President Trump`s appointees at the Justice Department informed him repeatedly the president`s claims of election fraud were not supported by the evidence and that the election was not in fact stolen. President Trump intended to appoint Jeffrey Clark as attorney general, in part so that Mr. Clark could alter the Department of Justice`s conclusions regarding the election.
Mr. Clark has informed this committee that he anticipates potential criminal prosecution related to these matters, and intends in upcoming testimony to invoke his Fifth amendment privilege against self- incrimination. As Mr. Meadows` non-privileged texts reveal, Meadows communicated multiple times with a member of Congress who was working with Mr. Clark. Mr. Meadows has no basis to refuse to testify regarding those communications.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Clark has informed the committee he anticipates potential criminal prosecution related to these matters and Meadows` texts reveal he communicated multiple times with a member of Congress who was working with Jeff Clark. So we learn through Meadows` production to the committee that he was, Jeff Clark was working with a sitting member of Congress on that at the time.
Mark Meadows` documents apparently show which member of Congress that is who was working with Jeff Clark on this scheme for which Mr. Clark is now anticipating potential criminal prosecution. So, now, we`re getting down to brass tacks here. This is news tonight from the January 6th investigation. News not just that they are referring Meadows for contempt but what his production has revealed to them thus far.
Members of the committee did vote to unanimously hold him in contempt. The full house is expected to vote tomorrow on whether to hold Meadows in contempt of Congress. If they vote that way in the full House, this matter will be referred to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia for possible criminal federal prosecution. And that is a very big deal.
In terms of the timeline here, we should note that after the House voted in October, that Steve Bannon should be referred for prosecution, it was about three weeks later that a federal grand jury in fact handed down the indictment of Bannon on those contempt charges. What the investigation was actually voting on tonight, what the House will be voting on tomorrow is a contempt report that investigators prepared on Mark Meadows. In that report, they laid out all the ways in which Mark Meadows failed to comply with their subpoenas, all the reasons he has to comply with their subpoenas, but also all the reasons why it was so important the investigation needed to talk to him and get access to his documents.
They say, quote: The select committee seeks information from Mr. Meadows central to its investigative responsibilities. The events of January 6th involved both the physical assault on the Capitol building and law enforcement personnel protecting it, and an attack on the constitutional process central to the peaceful transfer of power following a presidential election.
The counting of Electoral College votes by Congress is a component of that transfer of power that occurs every January 6th following a presidential election. This event is part of a complex process, mediated through the free and fair elections held in jurisdictions throughout the country and through the statutory and constitutional processes set up to confirm and validate the results.
In the case of the 2020 presidential election, the January 6th electoral college vote count occurred following a series of efforts in the preceding weeks by Trump and his supporters to challenge the legitimacy of disrupt, delay, and overturn the election results.
The upshot of the contempt report on Mark Meadows is that in those weeks preceding January 6th, Mark Meadows was neck deep in those efforts and that plot to disrupt and delay and ultimately overturn the election results. His attempts to exert some kind of executive privilege claim to say he can`t talk to the committee or give them documents because his interactions with president Trump are protected, those claims are very much undermined by, well, for one the 9,000 documents he already handed over to the investigation. He says he handed over those documents because they weren`t privileged.
Now he says he can`t answer any questions about them because they`re privileged. You already admitted they weren`t. You have to answer questions about them.
Also, his privilege claims are undermined by the publication of his recent book last week which includes descriptions of and quotes from lots of conversations with President Trump. You can`t sell a book based on your conversations with the president and then claim you cannot talk about those conversations with the president when subpoenaed to do so by the United States Congress.
Again, it is either privileged or it`s not. If you`ve already conceded it is not privileged by writing about it in your book and handing over 9,000 documents, you can`t after the fact then say those things are covered by privilege.
But there`s one point in the contempt report for Mark Meadows. One set of questions the January 6th investigators say they need to ask Meadows that I think deserves particular attention. And that`s about Meadows` interaction with sitting members of the House and Senate.
I mean, here is how those interactions are described in the contempt report. This is from the transcript of the deposition that Meadows didn`t show up to. He didn`t show up but the rest of the committee showed up and the lead counsel for the investigation laid out for the record all the questions they would have asked Mark Meadows had he bothered to appear.
Quote: We would have asked Mr. Meadows about text messages sent to and from members of Congress, including text messages received from a member of Congress in November, 2020, regarding efforts to contact state legislators, because as Mr. Meadows indicates in his text messages, quote, POTUS, meaning the president, wants to chat with them. End quote.
We would have asked Mr. Meadows about text messages sent to and from another member of Congress in November, 2020, in which the member of Congress indicates that, quote, the president asked him to call Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, end quote, in which Mr. Meadows asked for contact information for the attorney general of Arizona to discuss allegations of election fraud.
Quote: We would have asked Mr. Meadows about text messages sent to and received from members of the House of Representatives and the Senate about objections to the certification of electors in certain states on January 6th.
We would have asked him about text messages sent to and received from a U.S. senator regarding the vice president`s power to reject electors, including a text in which Meadows recounts a direct communication with President Trump.
According to Mr. Meadows and his text messages, quote, thinks the legislators, meaning the state legislators, have the power but the vice president has power, too, end quote.
Remember the whole ball game here, the whole goal of the plot leading up to January 6th was to try to get Republican officials in the states to provide the means of overturning the election results in just enough states so that Trump could be declared the overall winner. They wanted Republican officials in swing states that voted for Biden to declare there was fraud and the results in those states should therefore be considered invalid. They wanted Republican legislators in those states to then send Trump electors to Congress instead of Biden electors which would have the effect of declaring Trump the winner in those states.
I mean that`s what Trump`s call to Georgia`s secretary of state was about on January 2nd. Mark Meadows was on that call. That call was all about pressuring and bullying Georgia`s secretary of state into overturning Biden`s win in Georgia.
And, you know, it`s a crime to intimidate or attempt to influence election officials in conducting their official duties. Trump is currently under criminal investigation by a state prosecutor in Georgia for that call. And for his other attempts to interfere with the conduct of the election in Georgia, his other attempts to interfere with and to intimidate elections officials around the carrying out of their official duties.
That investigation we believe includes Mark Meadows` personal visit to Georgia about ten days before that call pressuring the secretary of state. A visit to Georgia during which Mark Meadows personally showed up at the site of an ongoing audit of the results. What is the White House chief of staff doing physically, personally, looming over an audit in a swing state?
Well, earlier this month, we learned that one Trump lawyer John Eastman had personally called up the Republican speaker of the House in Arizona. He reportedly called legislative staff in Arizona as well pressuring them to go along with this plan in Arizona for Republican state legislators to overturn the election result.
The same day we learned that John Eastman had personally participated in putting that pressure on officials in Arizona, Mr. Eastman announced that he too would be pleading the Fifth rather than cooperating with the congressional investigation.
Just step back from this for a second. I mean, there is already a criminal investigation in Georgia. Pressuring or intimidating officials into messing with election results is a crime in Georgia. It is also a crime in Arizona.
Whether or not the federal Justice Department is ever going to investigate or prosecute anyone for this scheme trying to interfere in a state`s elections, trying to induce officials to mess with the election results, pressuring officials to change election results, that`s a crime in every state in the country.
And one of the things we should maybe start thinking about is whether these revelations that have been turned up by the investigation already, whether these revelations might potentially start state prosecutors looking at these things in other states just like they`re looking at them in Georgia. In many ways, that would seem like the next logical step here.
And it would be a big freaking deal particularly if it involves members of Congress. Several of whom apparently were in discussions with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows about this overturn the election plot, including facilitating communications directly with state officials who had election responsibilities so they could be pressured by the Trump White House, by members of Congress, by Trump lawyers and others into messing with the election results which again is a crime.
It`s a crime if you`re president. It`s a crime if you`re the president`s lawyer. It is a crime if you`re the president`s chief of staff.
It is a crime if you are a U.S. senator. It`s a crime if you are a member of Congress. It is a crime in every state in the country.
It is also a federal crime although the U.S. Justice Department appears to be preferring not to notice that. Georgia prosecutors are already looking at the commission of this crime in Georgia. What we are learning is that there are multiple other states where state prosecutions appear to be possible.
Joining us next is "The Washington Post" reporter who has been on this story from the very beginning and who has been a one-woman scoop machine in terms of reporting details of the January 6th investigation ahead of many of her colleagues.
She joins us live here next.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Unnamed lawmakers were in, talked about text messages to Mark Meadows saying they were sorry it didn`t work out. Who were they?
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Well, they were revealed to us in the information that we received from Mr. Meadows but I can`t give you the names.
REPORTER: Are those names going to come out yet?
THOMPSON: They will come out. The information we received has been quite revealing about members of Congress involved in the activities of January 6th, as well as staff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Some information we have received has been quite revealing about members of Congress involved in the activities of January 6th as well as staff, presumably by which he means congressional staff. That`s the chair of the January 6th investigation, Congressman Bennie Thompson speaking with NBC`s Leigh Ann Caldwell tonight. That`s right after Chairman Thompson and his colleagues voted unanimously that Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows should be held in contempt for refusing to cooperate with the investigation.
This is the first time I believe, I think it`s the first time a former member of Congress has been held in criminal contempt or has been held in contempt of Congress since the 19th century.
Joining us now is Jackie Alemany. She`s a political reporter for "The Washington Post". She`s been all over this story of the investigation and what it`s turned up thus far.
Ms. Alemany, thank you very much for being here. Appreciate your time.
JACKIE ALEMANY, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So tell me what you make of these references to members of Congress. Some of this struck me as new tonight. Members of Congress described as being in communication with the White House chief of staff basically about several different parts of the plot. One described as working with Jeff Clark at the Justice Department on his part of the scheme. Another described as telling Mr. Meadows he was sorry that January 6th didn`t work out.
This does seem like new information about the involvement of members of Congress. Is that true?
ALEMANY: That`s exactly right. It was a blockbuster night for the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. And I think two things really stood out to me that were notable. One that Mark Meadows is clearly at the center and heart of this investigation. He is someone who was there first hand in those hours from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the White House with President Trump, has a first-person account and has already provided almost 9,000 pages of what I believe Chairman Thompson said worth of information to the committee of which they presented some of those findings, little bits and pieces tonight.
And then secondly, the role that other lawmakers played as you noted. We`ve known all along that certain members were in touch with President Trump and that they were also involved with a lot of the outside efforts to overturn the result of the election. We don`t know exactly who and we still don`t know to the extent that they were involved.
But today, I think it showed that these members were right in former President Trump`s ear. They were texting in real time with Mark Meadows and actually trying to implement some of the various conspiracy theories and proposals to overturn or at least delay the certification of the 2020 election.
MADDOW: Part of the reason that seems like such a blockbuster news is that it does feel that over the past couple of weeks, the investigation is not only talking about getting to the bottom of what happened and telling the American public the truth of what happened, they`re talking about crimes.
I`m just looking at Liz Cheney`s remarks tonight. Did Donald Trump through action or inaction corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress`s official proceedings to count electoral votes? That`s not something that you want to find out through idle curiosity or to correct the historical record. She is using language that implies they are discovering crimes.
And she is talking explicitly about crimes, alleged crimes by the former president. She raised the prospect that some members of -- some witnesses in this investigation who have been asserting their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination are doing so because they are anticipating criminal prosecution. And in describing members of Congress as having taken part of those parts of the scheme that are potentially criminal, it seems like they`ve opened a whole -- it seems to me as an observer like they`ve opened a whole new can of worms in terms of potential criminal liability for not just former officials but currently serving members.
ALEMANY: Yeah, and you`ve already seen some people actually being prosecuted for real crimes. I think we forget that because at this point, it is such a common parlance. Mark Meadows is the third person to be held in criminal contempt in this investigation. But that is not a line as one GOP lawyer said to me that you want in the first sentence of your obituary.
And that is exactly what`s happening to Steve Bannon and now potentially Jeffrey Clark and Mark Meadows. It is a serious charge. And the committee is revealing new pieces of potentially incriminating information with every deposition, interview, and document they receive. And what we still have yet to uncover is exactly what the president might be criminally liable for in those hours. That is why you see the committee focused on Mark Meadows and what exactly he was doing, who he was communicating with, and now we`re seeing these new conspiracy theories that Meadows was actively considering and engaging in and peddling quite frankly to some of the lawmakers.
We asked lawmakers though right after the hearing who these lawmakers are exactly. We don`t know yet. Of course, we do know people like Congressman Jim Jordan, who is very close to Mark Meadows, was on the phone with former President Trump on January 6th. There are a few others who have also confirmed they were in communications.
But to the extent they were involved with the planning, the legal conspiracy potentially around the January 6th insurrection, that still remains unknown. It is amazing how much we still do not know about this day earlier this year.
MADDOW: Jackie Alemany, political reporter for "The Washington Post," thank you very much for being here. As you say, sort of a blockbuster night for this committee and I have a feeling it is going to be a pretty intense next few days in response to some of these revelations. Thank you very much.
ALEMANY: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead here tonight. Wow. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Here`s one more you are not going to believe me. You`re going to be like sure, Maddow, sure, but if that was happening surely, I`d have heard about it from everybody else too. Surely this would be all over the newspapers. I wouldn`t just be hearing it from you.
You are not going to believe me. But here it is. It is happening, fact check me. This is a real thing.
There is a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives as you know, although it is a narrow majority. The Democrats do have Nancy Pelosi as their speaker and she knows how to pass things through the House even with the slimmest possible margin.
So, you know, Nancy Pelosi wants something to pass, and there is any conceivable way on earth to conjure enough Democratic votes to pass it, it will pass in the House.
In the Senate, though, Democrats also have the majority there barely. It is a 100-seat Senate. There are 50 senators on the Democratic side, 50 on the Republican side. If everybody votes party line and there is a 50/50 tie, the person who breaks the tie in the Senate is the vice president. She is a Democrat. So that gives the Democrats effectively 51 votes so that`s the narrowest possible Democratic majority but it is a majority in the Senate.
The problem for the Democrat is that even though stuff can pass the House, thank you slim Democratic majority. Thank you, Nancy Pelosi.
Democratic bills by and large can`t pass the Senate because even though Democrats have their own slim majority in the Senate, it isn`t enough there. There is a Senate rule that says a majority isn`t enough. You don`t need 50 votes or 51 votes. You need 60 votes to pass stuff in the Senate.
And frankly, there aren`t 60 senators who would vote to declare today Monday, let alone 60 senators who would vote to pass most important legislation. Republicans just won`t do it.
And even on things like voting rights, the foundation of our democracy, there is like one Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski who says maybe she`ll vote with Democrats maybe on one voting rights bill. But even that doesn`t matter. With that Senate rule in place, that says you need 60 votes you`d need ten Republicans to join all the Democrats. Not just one or two, and you`re never going to get ten of them.
All of this you know, right? That has been our year together thus far in 2021. All year long, we have been looking at versions of the same headline. Will the Democrats change that Senate rule? Will they find a way to carve out some exception to that 60-vote rule, that filibuster rule, so at least they can pass voting rights if nothing else?
We`ve been looking at that issue and that question and those headlines all year long and the answer all year long has been no. No. They won`t do it. They can`t do it.
Conservative Democratic senators like Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona keep saying how much they love voting rights. They revere voting rights. They`re really willing to fight for voting rights, but it would be so terrible to change the 60-vote rule, to change the filibuster rule, to carve anything out from that precious rule that, sorry voting rights.
We just have to cave. We just have to let Republicans strip voting rights nationwide and, you know, mount partisan takeovers of the administration of elections all over the country. We have to let them do that.
We have to let them absolutely knee cap our democracy because any change to that 60 vote rule, any change to the filibuster rule, that would be the real catastrophe for the country. That would be way worse than letting our democracy do a fast, irrevocable swirly down the toilet. Right.
That`s what we`ve been hearing and where we`ve been stuck all year. Changing the filibuster at all even for one bill for one topic, that would be such a disaster the 60-vote rule must be kept in place. That`s where we have been stuck.
Okay. Here`s my question. Tomorrow, Tuesday, the United States Senate is going to vote to raise the debt ceiling, the world`s most boring thing. Right? This has to happen every now and again, and it`s important.
If you don`t do it, if you let the U.S. hit the debt ceiling, we default on the loans we`ve taken out. Our credit rating goes down. It costs us billions and billions and billions of dollars for no good reason. If you don`t raise the debt ceiling, if you don`t pass the debt ceiling thing when it comes up time to time, it is a huge, stupid, self-inflicted economic wound.
So they`re going to pass the debt ceiling thing through the United States Senate tomorrow. How are they going to pass it through the united state Senate? They`re going to pass it with 50 votes from Democratic senators, 50 votes, because the Republicans don`t want to have to vote to raise the debt ceiling. They want that to be just the Democrats who are on the hook for that.
And so, both sides agreed, well, when they take that vote on the debt ceiling tomorrow that is only going to take a majority vote. Not 60 votes, 50 votes will be fine. They decided they agreed that for the raising the debt ceiling tomorrow, there needs to be an exception from the filibuster, an exception for passing the debt ceiling tomorrow. So Republicans can make Democrats vote to pass it and Republicans won`t have to vote for it, too.
Tell me again how the filibuster is totally sacrosanct and must never be changed and must never have exceptions or the Senate will explode and the sky will fall and that will be the end of the country. They are passing the debt ceiling thing tomorrow because they gave it a special exception from the filibuster.
And a week and a half ago, they did it another time. They agreed to another exception to the filibuster.
Grandstanding Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah wanted a vote on some pointless amendment, what they call a messaging amendment last week. He wanted a vote on that so bad that they agreed to make an exception to the filibuster for that random thing Mike Lee wanted to pass the week before last. They agreed there would be an exception from the 60-vote rule, an exception from the filibuster for that amendment. It would just be a majority vote.
Mike Lee`s amendment still failed even with the 50 vote threshold. But that means twice in the past two weeks, the United States Senate has agreed to carve out exceptions to the filibuster for specific votes. Once on a pointless amendment that didn`t pass anyway and once to raise the debt ceiling. That vote is tomorrow.
How is it that we have spent a year of carpet-bombing Beltway press coverage about how the Democrats can`t overcome this filibuster hurdle, how this filibuster rule is totally insurmountable and it means that President Biden`s agenda can`t get passed. Voting rights legislation can get passed. Nothing can get passed. Sorry. The filibuster is absolutely stuck where it is no exceptions.
How is it we`ve had a year carpet-bombing beltway press coverage about how senators like Joe Sinema and Kyrsten Manchin are fundamentalists on this issue, how they`re dead set against any changes to the filibuster for any purpose? Well, over the last two weeks, neither of them peeped. Neither of them had any problem whatsoever with not one but two exceptions to the filibuster rule that have slid through the Senate without anyone minding one bit least alone them.
The Senate did not fall apart. The sky did not fall. Nobody even really complained.
It turns out the United States Senate can carve out exceptions to the filibuster for individual votes. They will do it happily tomorrow to pass the debt ceiling, I swear, even though you haven`t heard beep about it.
The people hunger striking for voting rights around this country? The people marching and getting arrested doing civil disobedience, demonstrating, pleading desperately for the protection of voting rights all over this country, you have been told that we can`t have voting rights protections because they won`t make any exceptions to the filibuster rule.
We`ve been told that all year long. Well, now that has changed. They are now making these exceptions to the filibuster rule happily. So, what next?
That`s next. Stay right there.
MADDOW: "USA Today" just published this surprising editorial. You see the headline, "Democracy in the balance: Revise Senate filibuster to protect elections and voting rights". This is the editorial board of one of the highest circulating papers in the country devoting this editorial to why they think that the filibuster needs to be changed to allow for a majority vote to protect the voting rights right now.
Quote: Our view, America is facing a take no prisoners assault on fair elections that can be defeated by elements of the Freedom to Vote Act pending before Congress.
And what`s interesting is that the editorial board goes out to their way to say that they have never previously been in favor of setting aside the filibuster for any reason until now. They explain we are now in, quote, extreme circumstances. Our nation now faces such a circumstance with democracy itself in the ballots and a lot to protect our democracy, possible only if something is doe about the filibuster.
This arising from "USA Today" today, at the same time that the Senate has very quietly just carved out two new exceptions from the filibuster for individual pieces of legislation over the past couple of weeks. Exception from the filibuster, the exact thing they told us was impossible do in order to get voting rights legislation passed.
Joining us now is Ezra Levin. He`s the cofounder of Indivisible.
Mr. Levin, it`s really nice to see you. Thanks for making time.
EZRA LEVIN, COFOUNDER, INDIVISIBLE: Great to be here.
MADDOW: So, as a former congressional staffer and somebody who has won working for the past five years really hard to get progressive priorities passed in Washington, I have to ask you if I am wrong about this, if I am looking at this recent action in the Senate, if I`m wrong to see that as sort of this happening now -- the prospects for reforming the Phil filibuster for passing voting rights, they seem real now.
LEVIN: No, you are exactly right. This is great news for everybody saying the filibuster is always going to be exactly what it is right now, as much as we`ve been telling them that no, there have been dozens of changing to the filibuster over the past several years, now we see it, right in front of us. Congress has done it twice.
Mitch McConnell agreed to two changes to the filibuster under Donald Trump to expedite his nominees and to appoint new Supreme Court justices. That`s how Trump got three Supreme Court justices without 60 votes. We see it right now. They`re able to change the filibuster when they want to.
So, it is good enough for Donald Trump to appoint new Supreme Court justices, if it`s good enough for a green light for an escapade from a senator to offer an amendment that`s doomed, if it`s good enough to prevent the global economy from crashing, isn`t it good enough to change the filibuster and protect our democracy? That`s the argument we ought to be making right now.
MADDOW: Ezra, I`m struck by the fact that the media by and large has ignored this, even as they have done a lot of reporting on the filibuster and the seeming sort of stalemate over the filibuster all year long. I`m also struck by the fact that Democrats have been -- Democratic senators have been very quiet about this.
I wonder if you see that as them sort of avoiding the strategic implications of this or are they playing chess where they`re trying to keep this a low-profile thing while also working behind the scenes to use this to get voting rights done?
LEVIN: Look, I think -- I don`t know what game folks are playing and I think it`s dangerous to get too much into seven-dimensional chess about what people are playing. We`re playing checkers. We want them to represent us, to pass this change, we want them to pass voting rights reform.
And so, we have tools at our disposal. This isn`t just us watching from the sidelines hoping that Joe Manchin comes to the right decision, or Kyrsten Sinema does, or that any other Democrat does. We can push them. In fact, we`re about 60, 70 years Democrats have been meeting every Tuesday for a lunch discussion. Every single Tuesday, that`s happening tomorrow.
And what do they discuss on those lunch meetings? They discuss the business of the day. They discuss the debt ceiling. They discuss the Build Back Better agenda. They could be discussing filibuster reform.
So, if you`re sitting there watching this and you`re saying, gosh, I wish my senator was fighting for this, give him a call tomorrow morning and say, hey, I want you to bring up filibuster reform in that Tuesday luncheon that`s happening, call them before the meeting and ask them to bring up and then call them next Tuesday and say, hey, did you bring that up? I want -- I want a readout.
Go to invisible.org and get script or call them up directly. Make sure that they are fighting for this.
MADDOW: Ezra Levin, the co-founder of Indivisible -- Ezra, this is a -- this is a fascinating infliction point that we are at right now. Thanks for helping us get some context here. Much appreciated.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One last piece of late breaking news before we go. Congress has just added a big piece of business for their calendar for tomorrow. At 9:00 a.m., the Rules Committee in the House is going to meet to take up this resolution recommending that Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows be held in contempt. This was added to that committee as calendar late tonight, shortly after the January 6th very long voted unanimously to make that contempt referral.
So, the Rules Committee will hear that at 9:00 in the morning. Once that resolution clears that committee, then, sometime tomorrow, the full House of Representatives will vote on whether to refer Mark Meadows to the U.S. Justice Department for potential criminal prosecution.
The last time the House did this, it took the Justice Department about three weeks to file a criminal indictment against Trump advisor Steve Bannon, but those wheels will be put in motion for Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows tomorrow morning starting at 9:00 a.m. Whew.
That`s going to do it for us tonight. Wow, what a night in the news. See you again tomorrow. Presumably, it will be another one then.
Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.