Interview with Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia. Interview with D.C.`s Attorney General Karl Racine.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: You can read more of that in "The Atlantic." That piece by Vann Newkirk.
Vann, thanks so much for coming on.
VANN NEWKIRK, THE ATLANTIC: Thanks for having me.
HAYES: That is "ALL IN" on this Tuesday night.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Are you really having Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence on your show tomorrow?
HAYES: We are. That will be interesting.
MADDOW: How are you going to approach this? Do you want to tell me off air or do you want to tell me in front much everybody?
HAYES: We had a conversation about this. I don`t -- I`ll just say it honestly here, like it`s hard to know what to make of these individuals who I think -- whose record is -- you know, puts them in cahoots with people seeking to overturn a free and fair election and drumming up of some of the most insidious Democratically corrosive lies that we`ve seen in our livelihood but who appear to be at least from what we can tell cooperating with the committee and perhaps Cooperating in ways that are effective and maybe telling some true things.
So yeah, we`ll see -- we`ll see. I don`t know how we`ll steer our way through that.
MADDOW: I mean, looking at the politico big profile of them a couple of weeks ago and then reading Hunter Walker`s reporting about it today, I just kept thinking, like -- I kept thinking when I found out you were going to have them, I was like I don`t believe anything they`re saying.
MADDOW: And I also credit them for the fact they`re saying everything we have we`re giving to the investigation. Because if you are planning on lying, if you are planning on misrepresenting or leaving something big out, then you don`t pledge full cooperation with an investigation that is as aggro as that investigation. So you have to credit them even if you don`t want to.
HAYES: That`s what tipped me over into wanting to do it, was when they`re -- if they`re going to take depositions under oath and giving over documents, then that`s a level of transparency that is what it is. I mean, it`s legally binding at some level. So I`m interested in hearing what they have to say.
MADDOW: Boy, so am I. I cannot wait to see that interview. Well done, my friend. Thank you. Thanks very much, Chris.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Boy, when it rains it pours. Perhaps the news gods are planning on taking an extra long holiday break this year so they need to cram in everything now, today before they go? Maybe the news gods were mad they didn`t get enough attention last week or as children or something, so now they`re making us pay for it? I don`t know.
But keeping up with the late-breaking news just today for whatever reason, it has been like Lucy and Ethel trying to keep up with all the chocolates flying down the conveyor belt faster and faster and faster. The news gods are -- it`s no mercy from the news gods today.
Let`s start with the vote under way in Congress tonight to hold in contempt the White House chief of staff to former President Trump, former Republican Congressman Mark Meadows.
Now, last night at this time we were reporting on a bombshell hearing from the January 6th investigation in which they voted to recommend holding Mr. Meadows in contempt. At that hearing, the January 6th investigators read into the public record all of this new material we`d never heard of before, quotes from texts and e-mails and other documents Mark Meadows had turned in to the investigators before something spooked him and he decided he was no longer going to cooperate, and he would start to defy their subpoenas.
Last night is when we got those shocking, shocking details from some of the materials Meadows has turned over, including verbatim -- they tell us verbatim texts and e-mails from prominent conservative news personalities and from members of Congress and all sorts of other people whose words we have not heard in the investigation thus far about what happened on January 6th, people who believed that not only Trump was responsible for the violence that was under way but that the violence was very serious and that only he could turn it off, them pleading with him to try to turn it off. This was very dramatic stuff from the committee last night.
The way it procedurally works out is that the committee votes to whether they`re going to hold him in contempt. Then it needs to go to the rules committee of the House. And then the full house of representatives takes a vote on holding him in contempt and referring him for criminal prosecution by the U.S. justice department.
So we had the rules committee do their thing this morning. Tonight, we`ve got the debate under way in the full house. And tonight has also been a night of further revelations. Tonight, during the debate ahead of this vote in the full House, members of the investigation didn`t just do this pro forma. They didn`t just do this referring back to all the stuff we`d previously learned from them.
Tonight, during the debate, before this vote in the House, the members of the January 6th investigation released yet more new material. And the reason they`re doing this is formally they`re trying to make the case to members of Congress that they should know why it`s so important that Mark Meadows speaks to the investigation, why it`s so consequential to the investigation that Meadows is now refusing to answer questions even about the material he`s already provided.
So they keep giving examples of stuff they`ve learned from the materials he`s provided, explaining that this is serious enough stuff about what happened on January 6th that they really need to be able to ask him about it. Him refusing to answer questions about it is consequential. The investigation needs this material.
So that`s formally the case that they are making. As a matter of real politics what they keep doing is dropping bombshells every few hours now in this investigation. This is tonight in the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): How did the following text from a House lawmaker influence Trump`s plans to overthrow Joe Biden`s electoral majority of 306 to 232 after Joe Biden beat Donald Trump? And here`s what that lawmaker wrote him. On November 4th, a member of this body wrote to Meadows, here`s an aggressive strategy, one day after the election.
Why can`t the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and other Republican-controlled state houses declare this is B.S., where conflicts and election not called that night and just send their own electors to vote and have it go to the SCOTUS, the Supreme Court of the United States? How did this text influence the planning of Mark Meadows and Donald Trump to try to destroy the lawful Electoral College majority that had been established by the people of the United States and the states for Joe Biden? Those are the kinds of questions that we have a right to ask Mark Meadows.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): We need also to ask him about text messages which he provided to our committee that show an official in Georgia texting Mr. Meadows during the Trump-Raffensperger call saying that they, quote, need to end this call, unquote, and emphasizing, quote, I don`t think this will be a productive -- will be productive much longer, end quote. We need to talk to Mr. Meadows about that.
REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): On January 3rd, Mr. Meadows was exchanging text messages with a lawmaker about the pressure campaign to get state legislatures to overturn the results of the election. In one text message to a lawmaker, Mr. Meadows wrote he, he presumably being President Trump, quote, he thinks the legislatures have the power but the VP has power too, end quote.
The power to do what? We could guess the power to overturn the election results. The power to reject the will of the voters. And days later a violent mob tried to get Vice President Pence to do just that.
We`d like to ask Mr. Meadows about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman P Aguilar from the January 6th investigation there citing text messages between Trump`s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and a member of Congress -- messages that appear to be about how to throw out the election results. State legislatures and the vice president, that`s how we`ll do it, right? That was the plot. That was the scheme by which they`re trying to do it.
Congressman Jamie Raskin there also describing something sent to the White House chief of staff by a member of Congress. Have Republican-controlled state legislatures just send Trump electors even if Biden won those states. Let the Supreme Court sort it out. That was the plot. And that was sent from a member of Congress to the White House chief of staff the day after the election, when the election hadn`t even been called yet.
Again, formally, they are making the case to members of Congress here, hey, there`s all this very intriguing and interesting stuff that we have learned from Mr. Meadows about the heart of our investigation, we need to be able to ask him about these materials. In real politic, what they are doing is exploding one of these every few hours, new information that in some cases can be tied directly to individual members of congress.
And with each of these things that are attributed to a member of Congress the committee has made clear they know which member of Congress it is.
Beyond that the vice chair of the investigation, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, is making crystal clear now, both last night and again today, that the turn the January 6th investigation has taken is toward criminal liability. Not just who`s going to look like a bad guy in history but who`s been caught potentially committing crimes here.
And I`ll show you what I mean. I`m going to play you two clips of Liz Cheney, one from last night, one from today. When she said this last night, prosecutors all over the country, law students all over the country, anybody who`s ever been a criminal defendant all over the country, everybody did a do-whoop when she said this. Like wait a second, what did she say there?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Mr. Meadows` testimony will bear on another key question before this committee. Did Donald Trump through action or inaction corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress`s official proceedings to count electoral votes?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Liz Cheney last night. We learned today that was not a slip of the tongue. That was not an inconsidered remark because she said it again today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress`s official proceeding to count electoral votes?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: All together now. Mr. Meadows` testimony will bear on a key question before this committee. Did Donald Trump through action or inaction corruptly seek -- corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress`s official proceedings to count the electoral votes? Says Liz Cheney last night, says Liz Cheney today.
The vice chair of the investigation is repeatedly asking that question. To make the case for how important it is to talk to Mark Meadows. She`s repeatedly asking that question about the criminal culpability of former President Donald Trump.
And I`m saying the phrase criminal culpability here because the language she is quoting there in that clunky turn of phrase which she is deliberately repeating, that turn of phrase is from a federal criminal statute, 18 U.S. Code Section 1505.
Whoever corruptly influences, obstructs or impedes the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than five years or if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism imprisoned by not more than eight years.
This is a federal crime that the vice chair of the investigation says it is inquiring about when it comes to Mr. Trump and they would like to question Mr. Meadows about whether or not Mr. Trump committed that crime. Because if somebody -- if somebody corruptly obstructed or impeded Congress`s official count of the electoral votes that`s a federal crime and crime shouldn`t pay. So whoever did it should be caught and punished.
This has basically been revealed now as the direction of the January 6th investigation. The investigators, members of the committee basically revealed last night that this is the way the direction is heading, toward uncovering and presumably referring for prosecution serious felony federal misconduct, crimes. And since this was basically revealed as the direction of the investigation last night, the thing that`s been going off like a fistful of bottle rockets inside a locked metal mailbox is the prospect that not only is former President Donald Trump in the crosshairs of the investigation along these lines but serving members of Congress may be in the crosshairs as well, including those who helped hatch the plot to falsify the election results. Here`s an aggressive strategy.
Also according to Liz Cheney, one sitting member of Congress was working with Trump Justice Department official Jeff Clark on Jeff Clark`s alleged part of the plot. Remember, Jeff Clark`s alleged part of the plot was that the Justice Department would be used to induce various states to falsify their election results. Jeff Clark himself has pled the Fifth.
As Liz Cheney described last night and again today in exactly the same language, he pled the Fifth in anticipation of prosecution along these -- in anticipation of prosecution on these matters. Well, according to the investigation, a member of Congress was working with him on that. And the investigation knows who that member of Congress is but they haven`t told us yet. They say they will, but they haven`t told us yet.
The prospect that these sort of crosshairs, potential criminal liability is in line here when it comes to the former president, and the prospect that members of Congress were implicated in what happened on January 6th, the prospect that we`re getting to the part where those members of Congress may at least be subpoenaed, those members of Congress may have possible prosecution looming against them as members of Congress, that`s maybe why things all of a sudden feel so nuts right now in Washington. It turns out this January 6th investigation is getting somewhere, somewhere apparently serious.
And this makes it a very stressful time for everyone who was involved in the plot I`m sure. One particular person who was quite key to the plot, the guy at the top, was already having a pretty miserable day before all this unfolded over the course of today and tonight. As we are going to talk about in detail this evening, "The Washington Post" has just reported that former president Trump`s long-time accountant has started giving testimony to a New York grand jury that is investigating Trump`s financial practices.
This is the investigation that`s reportedly looking at alleged tax fraud, alleged bank fraud, alleged insurance fraud by Trump and his company. This is the investigation that has already produced felony charges against Trump`s business and the chief financial officer of his business. This is the investigation that has already obtained millions of pages of financial records related to Trump from his accounting firm but now with his actual accountant responding to subpoenas and appearing before the grand jury, as the "Washington Post" puts it tonight, this grand jury is now hearing testimony, quote, from a man who could serve as a human road map to this data.
His accountant, in other words, could serve as a human decoder to the millions of pages of financial documents that that investigation has already obtained about Trump and his business.
What could be worse for Trump than learning that his long-time accountant is testifying about him to the grand jury, a grand jury that has millions of pages of documents to back up that testimony? What could be worse for Trump?
The only thing that could be worse is learning that his long-time banker is talking about him too. And indeed, "The Washington Post" was first to report tonight that Rosemary Vrablic, Trump`s long-time banker at Deutsche Bank who has handled hundreds of millions of dollars in facially inexplicable loans to Donald Trump through the years through Deutsche Bank, "The Post" reports tonight that she is also talking to prosecutors now in the Trump case, his long-time accountant, his long-time banker. One of them appearing before the grand jury, one of them just speaking directly with prosecutors in that ongoing criminal investigation of Trump that has already resulted in felony charges against his business.
And all of that news for Trump broke tonight before we got this new ruling later on this evening from a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruling that in fact, yes, Trump`s tax returns must be handed over to the House Ways and Means Committee. This was a Trump-appointed federal judge who made this ruling, for what that`s worth. But the law here appears to be kind of a black letter no wiggle room situation.
Trump will certainly appeal this ruling. And the judge`s order that the tax returns have to be conveyed to the house. That ruling is on hold while the inevitable appeal goes ahead. But like I said, kind of a bad day already for individual one, right? With his long-time accountant and his long-time banker both involved in the criminal prosecution of his -- the ongoing criminal prosecution and investigation of him and his company in New York, an adverse ruling against him in terms of handing over his tax returns to the ways and means committee that`s been investigating that along a number of different lines.
It comes as his White House chief of staff is being referred to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution in conjunction with what we now know is a great guns investigation that is openly talking about Trump in relation to at least one serious federal felony charge that brings with it a five- year prison term. Yeah, how was your Tuesday?
Here`s the thing, though. It`s worth widening the lens a little bit I think particularly when a whole bunch of stuff happens at once. What are the implications of this, not just for the individuals involved, for personal accountability, what are the implications for us, for the country?
We`ve got Georgia U.S. senator, the Reverend Raphael Warnock, joining us live tonight in just a couple of minutes. And the reason he is joining us is because as this January 6th investigation turns to the bigger picture, right? Not just the immediate violent acts in the capitol that day, but the plot that the capitol attack was part of, as the January 6th investigations -- the January 6th investigation turns out to go sort of root and branch after the whole big plot to use fake fraud claims as a pretext for rejecting the election results, for toppling the U.S. government and installing a losing candidate as president.
As the January 6th investigation is moving away from the simple idea of incitement to violence, incitement to riot and it turns instead to uncovering this months-long complex plot that involves not just the president and not just multiple administration officials but apparently multiple members of Congress as well, there is this incredible new level of drama and anxiety in Washington over the question of whether these guys might not get away with it any longer.
If they participated in a criminal plot to falsify results in the states, to block the administration of the election at the capitol, to thereby illegally overthrow the government, there is new urgency to the question of whether or not they personally are going to get away with it. This newly urgent question.
I mean, the investigation, yes, is having people prosecuted, is seeing people prosecuted for contempt.
But its members are naming even more serious crimes that are in the bullseye of this investigation. We now do have in newly urgent question as to whether the people involved in that plot are going to get away with it personally.
But also, will they get away with it politically? Because the effort to overthrow the election relied at the sort of nuts and bolts level on false claims of election fraud. And those false claims of election fraud have been cited as pretext in every Republican-controlled state in the country as a way to gut voting rights. Politically getting away with it means politically getting away with that.
And Senator Raphael Warnock called the question on that today in a really compelling way -- and he joins us here next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The last few days, we have been covering this strange story you think would be getting more Beltway press.
It`s a story of how the Senate agreed, just agreed to create an exception to the filibuster so they could pass the debt ceiling today.
Are you asleep? Did you fall asleep there for a second? Did that get very boring very quickly? I know, I know.
But there`s one part of this that is worth waking up for, whether or not you care about this stupid debt ceiling. The question is, if they can carve out an exception to the filibuster for that why can`t they do it for anything else? Why couldn`t they do it for, say, voting rights? So, voting rights protections could pass the Senate with a simple majority. In the Senate that would mean that voting rights could pass with just Democratic votes since Republicans definitely won`t do it.
I`ve been kind of tearing my hair out and hollering about this over here at the kids` table for a little while now, but today somebody who knows how to talk about these things much better than I do, he finally put it the way this ought to be put. Senator Raphael Warnock of the great state of Georgia is one of the best orators the United States Senate has seen in a very, very long time.
Watch him on this today. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): Democrats have tried again and again to engage our Republican friends in a discussion on this issue, one that lies at the foundation of our democracy, and time and time again because of a lack of good faith engagement, the rules of the Senate have prevented us from moving that conversation forward. We could not imagine, we could not imagine changing the rules. That is, until last week, because last week we did exactly that.
Be very clear. Last week, we changed the rules of the Senate. To address another important issue, the economy.
This is a step, a change in the Senate rules we haven`t been willing to take to save our broken democracy but one that a bipartisan majority of this chamber thought was necessary in order to keep our economy strong. We changed the rules to protect the full faith and credit of the United States government.
We`ve decided we must do it for the economy but not for the democracy. So, Madam President, I will be honest. This has been a difficult week for me as I`ve pondered how am I going to vote on this debt ceiling question we`re about to take.
I feel like I`m being asked to take a road that is a point of moral dissonance for me. Because while I deeply believe that both our democracy and our economy are important, I believe that it is misplaced to change the Senate rules only for the benefit of the economy when the warning lights on our democracy are flashing at the same time.
Madam President, in light of the conniving methods of voter suppression we have seen enacted into law since the January 6th attack on the Capitol, I come to the floor today to share with the people of Georgia and the American people the message that I shared with my colleagues over the weekend, and earlier today during our caucus meeting. I said to my Democratic colleagues over the last several days, number one, unfortunately the vast majority of our Republican friends have made it clear that they have no intention of trying to work with us to address voter suppression or to protect voting rights.
While we cannot let our Republican friends off the hook for not being equitable governing partners, if we are serious about protecting the right to vote that`s under assault right now, here`s the truth. It will fall to Democrats to do it.
And if Democrats alone must raise the debt ceiling, then Democrats alone must raise and repair the ceiling of our democracy. How do we in good conscience justify doing one and not the other? Some of my Democratic colleagues are saying but what about -- what about bipartisanship?
Isn`t that important?
I say of course it is. But here`s the thing we must remember: Slavery was bipartisan. Jim Crow segregation was bipartisan. The refusal of women`s suffrage was bipartisan.
The denial of basic dignity of the members of the LGBTQ community has long been bipartisan. The 3/5 compromise was the creation of a putative national unity at the expense of black people`s basic humanity.
So when colleagues in this chamber talk to me about bipartisanship, which I believe in, I just have to ask, at whose expense? Who is being asked to foot the bill for this bipartisanship? And is liberty itself the cost? I submit that that`s a price too high and a bridge too far.
To my Democratic colleagues, I say while it is deeply unfortunate, it is more than apparent that it has been left to us to handle alone the task of safeguarding our democracy.
The judgment of history is upon us. Future generations will ask, when the democracy was in a 911 state of emergency, what did you do to put the fire out? Did we rise to the moment, or did we hide behind procedural rules?
I believe that we Democrats can figure out how to get this done even if that requires a change in the rules, which we established just last week that we can do when the issue is important enough.
Well, the people of Georgia and across the country are saying that voting rights are important enough. I think that voting rights are important enough.
Once we handle the debt ceiling, the Senate needs to make voting rights the very next issue we take up. We must do voting rights, and we must deal with this issue now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia. Amen. Senator Warnock joins us now live.
Senator, thank you so much for being here. I know this has been a big and busy day already, sir.
WARNOCK: Thank you so very much, Rachel. It`s always great to be with you.
MADDOW: You put in words today something that I have been sort of inexpertly and ineptly struggling with over the past couple of weeks. This revelation that it is possible to carve out exceptions to the filibuster, we don`t need the filibuster rule for everything, we didn`t need it for an amendment that Senator Mike Lee sought a couple weeks ago. We apparently didn`t need it, they didn`t want it to apply today to the vote to raise the debt ceiling.
But yet Washington discourse appears stuck on the idea that it can`t be used for something substantive, for something important, for something as you put it today foundational like voting rights. I imagine your aim today was to try to puncture that Washington discourse and turn it around. Am I right in seeing it that way?
WARNOCK: Well, like you, Rachel, I`ve been struggling with this issue and struggling deeply. And as I said to my colleagues and to the American people on the floor of the Senate, this was a weekend of anguish for me because we did just that last week. We changed the rule. And we changed the rule because we think that it was important to do in order to protect the economy. I agree with that.
But if it`s right to protect the economy, it`s also right to protect the democracy and it`s a contradiction, it is sheer hypocrisy to say otherwise, to change the rule in order to raise the debt ceiling while the ceiling of our democracy is crashing in all around us. I think history`s going to judge us for this moment.
And be really clear. I`ve been focused during my year now almost in the Senate on a whole range of issues. I`ve been focused on getting Medicaid expansion, for example, in Georgia, where we have 646,000 Georgians, 4.4 million Americans, in the coverage gap. I`ve been focused on child care, on expanding the child tax credit, on jobs, infrastructure.
All of these things are important. But even as we push forward infrastructure, we`ve got to deal with the infrastructure of our democracy. And that`s the question confronting us right now. And the issue for Democrats is what are you going to do?
Sadly, our Republican counterparts have already made their decision. I`m not about to let them off the hook. If they are the party of Lincoln, then they ought to stand up for liberty. And I`ll continue to make that case.
But we just can`t afford to wait given all that`s going on. Voter suppression bills introduced in some 49 states. Dozens of provisions to subvert the will of the people. Our democracy is in a 911 state of emergency. We must put the fire out.
That means we`ve got to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and we must build a fire station to handle future fighters -- future fires. We have to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. That`s the most important work we can do this Congress.
MADDOW: Senator, you said in your remarks today that you have spoken with your Democratic colleagues about this, and that point you were making that Republicans have flooded their trough on this and they shouldn`t be let off the hook for it, they should be held to account but when it comes to acting it`s never been more clear that it must be Democrats who act.
Now that there have been these two exceptions made in the past couple of weeks on the filibuster rule, now frankly that the January 6th investigation has revealed so much terrible backstory in terms of how serious the plot was to overthrow the election and to pervert the administration of the election in 2020, do you sense any movement, any shift among your Democratic colleagues to your way of thinking on this?
WARNOCK: We`ve been having some encouraging conversations. I`ve been talking to many of my colleagues including Senator Manchin, and I`ve been talking to Leader Schumer, others throughout the weekend. And I`m going to continue to make the case because again, I think this is the most important thing we can do this Congress.
We make a terrible error of judgment if we became as if these are ordinary times. These are no ordinary times. And if we don`t do something to protect our democracy, here`s my fear, Rachel. I fear that we may well have crossed a Rubicon that will make it difficult for us to get become what we imagine -- what we take for granted as a democracy.
Democracies don`t die all at once. It`s a little bit at a time. And anybody who`s paying attention right now ought to be concerned.
The good news is we have the power to act. We can do something about it. We proved it last week because why? If we didn`t act, the economy would be in crisis.
And I thought seriously about voting against raising the debt ceiling but I was thinking about the people back home. I was especially thinking about the most vulnerable members of our community who are not resilient, who would suffer loss that perhaps is unimaginable if we didn`t do the responsible thing.
Well, I shudder to think what would happen to our democracy if we don`t defend it. We changed the rule last week. We ought to do the same, live up to our duty.
You know, politicians make a lot of promises when they`re running for office. But the one thing that I swore to do when I put one hand in the air and the other one on the Bible, I swore to defend the Constitution. And I`m determined to do that. And I hope my colleagues will live up to this moment.
MADDOW: Reverend Raphael Warnock of the great state of Georgia, United States senator from that state -- sir, thank you for making these remarks today. Artful and eloquent as always when you put pen to paper, but on such -- on an issue that needs explaining. And you did so in a beautiful way today. Sir, thank you. Thank you for your service.
WARNOCK: Thank you. Keep the faith.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead this very, very busy news night. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It was only three weeks ago that nine citizens from the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, won a big and very expensive legal victory over the white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups that descended on their town for that terrible far right white supremacist rally they held in Charlottesville in 2017. The plaintiffs won that victory by taking on those far right groups in civil court.
The jury found for the plaintiffs. The defendants will have to pay more than $26 million in damages for the deadly violence that those groups brought to that community. Well, as we have covered quite a bit here on this show, that strategy of bringing civil lawsuits against hate groups that organized violence, that has a long history. It`s been used in the past to bankrupt neo-Nazi groups and white supremacist groups in different parts of the country, to essentially sue them out of existence by extracting big financial penalties, holding them accountable for the kind of violence and harassment that they plan.
But now here`s something new. This plan of action is now being used by an American city that was besieged by violent right-wing organizations. This time, it`s against groups who allegedly helped plan and carry out the attack on our nation`s capitol in January.
But it`s being brought not by private plaintiffs but by the actual city of Washington, D.C. Today, D.C.`s Attorney General Karl Racine announced he would bring a civil lawsuit against the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, two of the far right organizations whose members took part in the attack on the Capitol alongside all the other Trump supporters.
As "The Washington Post" points out, the suit is the first effort by a government agency to hold individuals and organizations civilly responsible for the violence at the U.S. Capitol.
Here was D.C.`s Attorney General Karl Racine announcing that lawsuit today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL RACINE, ATTORNEY GENERAL, WASHINGTON, D.C.: Restitution and recompense, those are American values, and in this case, the defendants` unlawful actions caused the district to deploy unprecedented resources to repel and defeat an attack on our country`s capitol. And we will through this lawsuit seek to impose severe financial penalties on the organizations and individuals responsible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The district was forced to deploy unprecedented resources to repel and defeat that attack. The D.C. attorney general in this suit aims to recover those resources, to recover those dollars, those financial resources from the far right groups that are accused of plotting the violence that happened that day.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine joins us live here next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It`s from the lawsuit. Over the course of several weeks, the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, their leadership and certain of their members and affiliate, motivated by a desire to overturn the legal results of that planning, the January 6 attack at the Capitol, was not a protest or a rally. It was a coordinated act of domestic terrorism.
While the costs to the district are still being investigated and tallied, the district has preliminarily estimated that the D.C. metropolitan police department incurred millions of dollars of cost during the week of January 6th alone.
The District of Columbia has today filed a civil suit to try to extract financial penalties from far-right Trump supporting militia groups that took part in the planning and execution of the January 6th attack on the Capitol. The Justice Department, in many cases, is looking to jail the members of the groups. This lawsuit if succeeds would likely bankrupt therapy as well.
Joining us now is D.C.`s Attorney General Karl Racine.
Mr. Attorney General, it`s a pleasure to have you with us tonight. Thank you for making time.
RACINE. Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me ask I`ve got any of this wrong around, or I`ve explained the basics of this correctly thus far.
RACINE: I think you`ve been exceptional and descriptive and accurate.
MADDOW: Tell me about the decision to bring this as a civil case, as the attorney general in D.C., you certainly have the power to bring criminal charges in cases where that is warranted. Why -- why did you choose to go this route in this case?
RACINE: Well, actually on the criminal side, the District of Columbia, as you know is not a state. So our jurisdiction criminally is limited to misdemeanors. While there is an incitement of riot and misdemeanor, which we continue to investigate, we determined that we might as well strike where the wrong has occurred. And there`s been a civil wrong of a great magnitude here.
And as you indicated earlier, it`s important to hit the defendants where it matters. And that`s in their purses and in their wallets. And history shows when civil suits have been levied against these hate groups, guess what? They run, they scatter, and they hide. They disappear.
And that`s what we`re seeking to do. To bankrupt these groups who would take our freedoms away.
MADDOW: I don`t know enough about the finances and organization of these two entities, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, to know whether as organizations, they`re sitting on any sort of core amount of money. Is the idea that the organizations themselves have resources that could potentially be seized if your lawsuit is successful or, perhaps in addition, is it possible that the individual members of the entities that are found to be potentially responsible for the conduct you accuse them of, that the mid members could also personally be financially on the hook for the damages that you`re seeking?
RACINE: Indeed. It`s all the above.
RACINE: And as you know, through a civil discovery suit, civil lawsuit, we`re able to go right through discovery. We`re able to find out where the assets are and indeed who was funding these attacks.
It may be that the funders of the attack are not named in the lawsuit. But when we find out who funded the attack, we`ll have the factual basis if appropriate to add those defendants, additional defendants.
We know, Rachael, that the insurrectionists didn`t walk here. They didn`t sleep outside. They stayed in hotels. They planned. There were obviously thousands of them.
This is not a free operation. We`re going to go out and we`re going to find out exactly who financed these matters and we`re going to make them pay.
Police officers were injured. Police officers are suffering trauma. Police officers killed themselves because of that trauma. These defendants must pay for that wrong.
MADDOW: Karl Racine is the attorney general for the District of Columbia - - Mr. Attorney General, this is a ground breaking approach. But as you say, one that is -- comes against the context of a lot of history about far right groups facing financial ruin for these kinds of lawsuits.
Please keep us apprised, sir. I know this is going to be a really interesting case as it develops. Please come back and talk about it as it proceeds.
RACINE: We will.
MADDOW: Thank you, sir.
RACINE: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I want to show you something amazing. One year ago today exactly, December 14th, 2020, this was the headline of "The New York Times." Trump allies eye long-shot election reversal in Congress, testing Pence. You see the headline, the sub-head there, quote: Some House Republicans plan to try to use Congress` tallying of electoral results on January 6th to tip the election to President Trump. The attempt will put Republicans in a pinch.
I think they may regret the in a pinch phrase, but aside from that, yeah. Again that, was three weeks before January 6th happened. That was a year ago today, December 14th. "The Times" sending up a very prescient red flag, you know? Hey, we think they`re going to try something super nutty on January 6th. That was a very prescient story a year ago today in "The New York Times."
In that same print edition of "The Times", though. This was the actual lead story. This was column 1, A-1. The first COVID-19 vaccination in the country. Our country`s vaccine rollout began a year ago today, starting with a critical care nurse in Queens named Sandra Lindsey. She got the first shot in the country.
And the year since our year with vaccines, it has been -- it has been a lot of things. But, you know, one year on today`s news, actually does have its own nice bright spot in it.
Today, Pfizer released more clinical trial data on its antiviral pill. This is a treatment that you can take if you get infected with COVID-19. This is phase two and three clinical study data that shows the pill is like earlier studies show, it`s 89 percent effective at keeping high risk people who catch COVID-19 alive and out of the hospital.
More than 2,000 unvaccinated study participants, nobody who received Pfizer`s antiviral pill died. And you do need people to get this pill pretty soon after they start having symptoms. If you take the pill within five days instead of three days, the pill`s effectiveness starts to drop. But it is still up in the high 80s in terms of the percentage reduction in people needing to be hospitalized.
Pfizer also says that lab studies show the pilling he is effective against the omicron variant. According to "The Times", the FDA might approve this Pfizer antiviral pill within the next few days, which means people who need it could be getting it by the end of the year.
Again, it has been a heck of a year. But that little piece of good news about that antiviral from Pfizer today is something to hope for.
That`s going to do it for us tonight. See you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.