Interview With Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); Kansas Health Secretary Resigns As Democratic Governor Faced Constant Friction With Republican-Led Legislature
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: This, I think, is showing us what`s to come.
Kate Aronoff, great reporting. Thanks for coming on.
KATE ARONOFF, AUTHOR: Thank you so much for having me.
HAYES: That is "ALL IN" on this Wednesday night.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.
And thanks at home for joining us this hour.
We`ve got a lot of news to cover. There`s a lot of really interesting stuff going on. This is one of those shows when it`s kind of, in terms of what we have planned to talk about, what we booked on, what we reported out, it`s like six shows in one. In part, that`s because a lot of things we have been covering for weeks, in some cases for months, for whatever reason today was the day those things finally got resolved.
For example, the bizarre story of former President Trump playing down serious battle injuries of U.S. troops, saying that it was no big deal. They weren`t really hurt, and those troops getting denied purple hearts because of it. That scandal finally has broken open, and in one sense, resolved today.
Fascinating story. Unbelievable story. It has resolved today. We`re going to have that story for you ahead.
Also, the equally bizarre story of the governor of Oklahoma, the Republican governor of that state picking a fight with the Pentagon that he was never going to win. But nevertheless the governor of that state telling members of the National Guard in his state that they should listen to him, trust him, they should not listen to U.S. military orders. They should instead follow him and the Oklahoma state government and they should not worry about having to get vaccinated against COVID, even though there`s a military rule that says all troops need to do that.
That was a bizarre fight for the Republican governor of Oklahoma to pick. That story also sort of crested today. And if National Guard troops in Oklahoma are mad at their Republican governor right now, there is a very good reason for that. We`ve got that story ahead for you again tonight as well.
We`ve also got an update for you tonight on a doctor, a public health official who we`ve had as a guest on this show several times, somebody who`s been a real asset in the fight against COVID-19, among other public health challenges in his state, he`s been blunt and unafraid to keep putting public health first, to not sugar coat it, to not excuse political actions that were going to make the COVID epidemic worse. He`s been really kind of a beacon, especially in his part of the country.
He has now been removed from his job. Told to resign. He says for political reasons. And he will be joining us tonight to explain. So that story is ahead as well.
Like I said, there`s a lot going on. A lot of stuff we have been covering for a long time, all of a sudden has sort of either come to an act of furtherance or has resolved all at once.
There`s, in fact, so much going on in the news today that today is the first day I`ve ever seen in a government document, this is the first time I have ever seen a day described as day zero. Today was apparently day zero.
One of the things we have been reporting for the last few weeks is that this week is the big Summit for Democracy that President Biden promised very early on after he was elected. In the face of rising authoritarianism around the globe, attacks on democracy as a system of government, President Biden announced very early on that he would convene a summit of democracies, he would convene 110 countries from all around the globe to sort of join forces and trade best practices and talk about defending against this rising tide of authoritarianism and talk about sticking up for democracy as a form of governance.
As we have been reporting, this summit of President Biden`s is due to start tomorrow. It`s listed on the schedule. Tomorrow is day one, Friday is day two, but apparently they had so much they wanted to get to in this summit that they decided they would start a day early, they would start today and call today day zero because they still wanted tomorrow to be day one and they needed a day before that.
Anyway, today was day zero. Tomorrow`s day one. They`re streaming the whole thing online so you can watch the sessions of this thing as it happens. Today, you could watch sessions on media freedom, and women`s political and civic participation and leadership as the life blood of democracy. That was a good one.
So, a whole bunch of stuff. It`s interesting. It`s really constructive, if you care about democracy versus authoritarianism. I watched this stuff on and off all day today.
Tomorrow, President Biden will be there himself. He will convene other heads of state on countering authoritarian authoritarianism, standing up for the free press and dissidence and for the rule of law. Secretary of State Tony Blinken took the lead in the summit today, and also wrote an accompanying op-ed at the newspaper "USA Today".
It said, quote, President Joe Biden is bringing 100 governments together, and whether you live in a country where democracy is strong or where the chance of a free and fair election is nonexistent, this matters to you.
Democracy and authoritarianism are global phenomena. They don`t stay contained within borders. Ideas spread, news travels. Autocrats see how misinformation campaigns are sham trials worked in another country, and then they try them at home. They point to divisions within democracies to make the case to their citizens that democracy an inferior system that could never deliver for them.
But likewise, when democracies do foster strong and inclusive economies, when they handle political disagreements without bloodshed, when they provide public safety without denying civil liberties, maintain stability with free elections and peaceful transitions of power, when they do all of those things, others around the globe see those results and want them for themselves. In other words, what we do in our own countries shapes what other countries do in theirs.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken writing today at the newspaper "USA Today" making the good point, frankly, authoritarianism does have a way of spreading. But democracy does too. Particularly when it works and when it delivers results for its people.
That said, the sort of complementary counter point to Secretary Blinken today is one that you could find not on the op-ed pages but instead here projected on the outside of the east building of the national gallery of art on Pennsylvania avenue tonight in downtown Washington, D.C. It says: Biden our democracy is crumbling, what are you going to do?
This projection on Pennsylvania avenue tonight is timed to coincide with the international democracy summit, and of course they put it up in just the right place for anybody who, say, lives on Pennsylvania Avenue, and thereby might see it.
This was put up tonight by a group called the Declaration for American Democracy, which is a very large coalition of good government and activist groups that`s trying to get the Freedom to Vote Act passed. So we stop crumbling our own democracy at home.
I mean, it is -- it is heartening in some ways that the U.S. is trying to take the whole leader of the free world thing seriously again. But we do have our own set of problems. An unusually acute series of problems right now with the political right really flagrantly turning away from democracy, really turning away from the idea of a free world at all, let alone one that we lead, both through diplomatic leadership and also through our example.
I mean, President Biden invited these hundred plus countries to the summit this week, right? Right after he had his big one on one meeting with Vladimir Putin. The purpose of that meeting yesterday was to try to persuade Putin to not invade his neighbor. To not invade the neighboring country of Ukraine again, like he did a few years ago.
Russia is a dictatorship. Russia is an authoritarian country where the permanent leader has outlawed all the political opposition, not just outlawed but assassinated and imprisoned leaders that might threaten him. He`s running a criminal gangster state where his government is merged with organized crime groups to among other things run ransomware and other criminal hacking operations that target countries and private companies and critical infrastructure and individual schools and towns, even hospitals, all over the globe, but especially in the U.S. with protection from the Russian government while they do it.
I mean, Russia`s not the good guy here. Ukraine, on the other hand, is our ally, a democratic country. It`s technically the largest country in Europe. They have been independent for 30 years since the fall of the Soviet Union, 30 years ago this month.
Not for nothing, we the United States literally made binding signed security pledges to Ukraine 30 years ago when we persuaded them they should give up the thousands of nuclear weapons that had been stationed in Ukraine when they were part of the Soviet Union. We told them in writing in a binding document, you give up those nuclear weapons, and we will accept some responsibility for your security. It`s a good thing that Ukraine gave up those nuclear weapons as did the other former Soviet states.
We helped that happen in part by promising we will take care of you. We will be your ally, we will help watch out for your security.
Now, for Putin`s part, he appears to be, you know, bored with just having Russia to play with. He apparently is feeling expansionist.
He thinks we know for sure that the Soviet Union never should have broken up. He calls that the greatest political catastrophe of the 21st century. He apparently thinks that she should have control of Ukraine even though Ukraine is a separate country. He kind of likes the idea of a little renewed Russian empire of his own to play with.
So he did send troops to invade Ukraine, and he seized part of their country, and says that`s part of Russia. That was several years ago.
He`s now threatening to do it again, and the United States does have an ally in this fight. We have an ally in this fight, and an antagonist in this fight. Russia is the antagonist, Ukraine is the ally.
Here`s President Biden trying to convene the democracies of the world which among other things means, no, not Russia, you`re not invited. He`s doing that, I think, not coincidentally at the same time that he`s brushing back Putin, and warning him not to invade our ally Ukraine again.
But again, look at what`s going on inside our own country. Look at what`s going on in the political right, right now. I mean, here`s Biden trying to say we lead the free world, right, and we want democracy to once again, you know, fill its sails and be the rising form of government on this globe. We want to leave that both as a Democratic leader and lead by our example.
And here`s the cover right now of "Newsmax" magazine on the political right in this country. Vlad the Great, post-Trump, Putin becomes master of the world, cheers, champagne. That`s Newsmax magazine this month.
Look at our friends at the Fox News Channel. Look at the lower third chyron on the screen here. Why should we be responsible for Ukraine`s safety?
This one, NATO only exists to torment Putin. Oh, poor Putin. Or this one, Putin just wants to keep his Western border secure.
Listen, I know you`re calling it an invasion, but, you know, look at it from his perspective, he just needs a little slice. Russia wants to keep invading neighboring countries and taking over pieces of them, I mean, come on, the guy`s hungry.
Look how big and strong he is. Strong like bull. He needs protein.
He`s so great. Let`s see if our other allies might taste like tasty snacks to him. That will appease him. Let him have bits of other countries it`s fine: it`s understandable he wants them. He`s strong like bull, very hungry.
I mean, all of those pictures of Putin shirtless we got from the Fox News Channel because they show them like on a loop because they got a thing for him. I mean, that`s weird. There is a weirdness around this on the political right, right now.
This aggressive expansionist dictatorship is threatening to invade one of their neighboring countries, it`s a country we happen to be allied with and the conservative media in this country is all for it and wants us to root for the invader if and when it happens.
That side of American politics is hard to square with the whole concept of us sticking up for democracy, defending democracy against authoritarianism.
On the political right, right now, particularly in the conservative media, they`re just on the opposite side of that. But then you look internally, domestically, and it`s the same problem. The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU today put out a new practical guide, and it is very down to earth, very nuts and bolts, very how to. So, therefore, it shouldn`t really land with a real emotional punch. It`s sort of a how-to guide, like I said.
But the reason for this guide, the practical problem they are now giving advice about is enough to send your stomach plunging into other parts of your body. The title of their new report is quote addressing insider threats in elections. There`s an active effort to recruit rogue election officials to sabotage elections across the country.
Quote: Election officials were some of the biggest heroes of the 2020 election. After a grueling year that saw a pandemic, unprecedented disinformation efforts and the highest turnout in over a century, elections officials stood up to pressure for political actors, seeking to overturn or cast doubt on the election results in key states. This collective bipartisan effort helped avoid a constitutional crisis last year.
But following the threats, harassment, intimidation, political pressure, disinformation and general exhaustion that many election officials faced in 2020, many are accusing to leave the election administration field all together. In many cases, the people seeking to fill the positions are those most activated by the conspiracies surrounding the 2020 election, and the most determined to abuse their authority to ensure a different outcome in 2024.
At least ten candidates running for secretary of state and eight running for attorney general have received the backing of former President Trump because they backed his false claims that the 2020 election was illegitimate. What happens if such people are entrusted with administering our elections? Lawmakers and election officials should act now to prevent such attempts to sabotage election administration in 2022 and 2024.
And then they give a big long list of practical steps that we ought to take now, things we never thought we would have to do before because there is this active and growing insider threat inside the machinery of our democracy, people who the Republican Party has put into election administration jobs specifically so they can sabotage future elections.
And it`s all this practical advice. Election officials should receive funding to install key card access at facilities that hold voting systems, which would create a record of who enters the area. Voting systems and ballots should be under 24 hour video surveillance allowing for review and comparison with access logs in the event of unauthorized activity.
An individual should only have access to critical systems both physical and digital if the access is necessary for the individual to perform the official responsibilities of that job. People should go through background checks before receiving access to critical systems.
Officials and workers who actively undermine election integrity should be removed and prosecuted. States have different processes for removing election officials. In some cases, the entity that appointed an official may simply fire that person. In others, state officials may hold power to remove election administrators or stripping them of their responsibilities.
Officials may seek permission from the courts to do so. State and local officials as well as their attorneys should be familiar with the removal options available and be prepared to take steps necessary to protect our election infrastructure from insider threats. Where appropriate, law enforcement officials should pursue prosecution against election workers who tamper with or allow unauthorized access to voting systems and election materials. State laws may consider updating for this process.
Again, it`s a laundry list of really practical security stuff that can be put in place now. It`s all very practical nuts and bolts stuff. The fact that this is needed, the fact that we need to do this now because of the systematic effort by the former president and his party to stuff people into elections administration specifically because they are pledging that they will overturn election results for them unlike the people who wouldn`t do it for him in 2020, I mean, that moment is upon us, addressing the insider threats in elections.
I mean, just take one high profile example. There`s been a lot of political coverage this week over former President Trump endorsing Republican David Perdue to run for governor in Georgia.
The reason he wants somebody else to run for governor in Georgia even though the Republican governor there standing for reelection is because the Republican governor there Brian Kemp certified the Georgia election results, which were that Joe Biden beat Donald Trump there in 2020. So Donald Trump wants somebody to unseat Brian Kemp as Georgia governor because Governor Kemp certified the election results.
David Perdue reportedly didn`t want to run for governor. He apparently doesn`t particularly want to be governor of Georgia but Trump wants him for that job. Trump pushed him into that race, and then he endorsed him in that race, and then of course naturally today, David Perdue proclaimed out loud if he were elected governor, he will be an insider threat in that state`s elections.
He told "Axios" today flat out, that had he been governor last year, he would not have certified the election results in Georgia where Biden beat Trump. He wouldn`t have certified those results. Which means presumably the reason Trump`s promoting David Perdue for governor is if Perdue gets the governor`s job this time around, he really truly won`t certify the election results in Georgia if and when Joe Biden beats Trump there again in 2024.
So, yeah. We`re the leader of the free world and we`re hosting the summit for democracy, and we`ve got our own challenges on that front, both in terms of whether or not, you know, half the governing -- one of the two governing parties, and its supportive media in this country actually sports democracies around the world against authoritarians that want to invade them, and whether or not the same governing party and conservative media that supports it believes that U.S. elections should be continued to be carried out over the centuries, right?
Whether or not U.S. elections, U.S. small D democracy should be a technocratic nonpartisan thing. Today in the January 6th investigation, the investigation into the violent attack by Trump supporters on the U.S. Capitol in January to try and stop the election being certified. Today, former President Trump`s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, he declined to appear for testimony that he had been subpoenaed to give this morning. The investigation says that Mark Meadows is therefore likely to be found in contempt. He`s potentially going to be criminally prosecuted for contempt.
But Mr. Meadows ended the day today by suing the committee that`s conducting the investigation in what appears to be an effort to drag this thing out, to slow it down. On top of that, in another surprise today, we also learned that before Mr. Meadows decided to bail on his subpoenas and sue the investigation, he did hand over some materials to the committee that they find useful for their investigation.
In a letter to Mark Meadows` attorney from the chair of the investigation, Congressman Bennie Thompson today, he writes this, quote, despite your broad claims of privilege, Mr. Meadows has produced documents that you agree are relevant, and not protected by privilege, including an e-mail from November 7th, 2020, discussing the appointment of alternate slates of electors as part of a direct and collateral attack after the election. Also, an e-mail dated January 5th, 2021, the day before the attack on the Capitol, regarding a 38-page PowerPoint briefing titled election fraud, foreign interference and options for the 6th of January that was to be provided quote on "The Hill".
Also, among others, an e-mail dated January 5th about having the National Guard on stand by. In addition to those documents, oh, wait, there`s more. Chairman Thompson also describes, quote, the text messages you did produce to the investigation, including a November 6th, 2020 text message exchange with a member of Congress, apparently about appointing alternate electors in certain states as part of a plan that the member of Congress acknowledged would be highly controversial and to which Mr. Meadows apparently said quote, I love it.
So a text message with a member of Congress three days after the election about a plan to appoint alternate electors in certain states, alternate electors, meaning that`s having states declare that Trump won when in fact Biden won. Meadows, the White House chief of staff at the time says, quote, I love it, as in I love that plan.
Also, an e-mail exchange the following day on the same topic, calling that sort of plan a direct and collateral attack after the election, a direct and collateral attack on the election results, having a Republican controlled state, to declare that Trump won in states he didn`t win. This is a few days after the November election.
We already know that mark meadows made a surprise visit to Georgia in December to look in personally on that state auditing and counting its votes. We know he also hosted the January 2nd conference call in which Trump repeatedly badgered and pressured Georgia secretary of state that he needed to find exactly enough votes to declare Trump the winner in Georgia even though Georgia is a state that he lost.
Meadows repeatedly pressured Justice Department officials that they needed to open investigations into bogus and truly bizarre conspiracy theories about supposed fraud. He did that in late December and January.
But now, today, these new revelations showing that Meadows was knee deep in the deepest end of this stuff, trying to get states to send alternate electors declaring Trump the winner when Biden had won. He was knee deep in this stuff in the immediate aftermath of the election.
Joining us now is a leading member of the January 6th investigation, California Congressman Adam Schiff.
Congressman Schiff, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for making time. I know it`s a busy night.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): It`s good to be with you.
MADDOW: What do you make of the fact that Mr. Meadows is not only not cooperating with the investigation, defying subpoenas from the investigation but he`s now suing members of the investigation including each of you individually, in addition to the whole committee?
SCHIFF: Well, it`s a frivolous effort to try to delay matters or to appease the former president. As a former member of Congress himself, he knows he can`t bring lawsuits against medical examiner of Congress under the speech and debate clause and that his lawsuit will be dismissed as unmeritorious.
But, you know, I guess this is part of his decision to try to go back to being in the good graces of Donald Trump, who`s apparently upset by the book or upset that he`s cooperating or who knows what will account for this about face. But as you point out, there`s no way to sustain the argument that I can`t come in and testify because that would be privileged but here are all of these documents on this very subject which I admit are not privileged.
I can`t comment and testify before Congress, but I can write about it in my book. You can`t have it both ways. And so we will proceed, and I believe hold him in criminal contempt, refer to the Justice Department as we did with Mr. Bannon.
MADDOW: Do you have any sense of what the timing would be on that? Obviously time is of the essence here. It seems like a lot of these tactics are delay tactics of various kinds, hoping to stretch this out as long as possible, hoping to run out the clock on the investigation.
If there is going to be a contempt vote for Mr. Meadows, potentially a contempt referral for him to be prosecuted, how soon would that happen?
SCHIFF: I think it will happen very soon. We are mapping out how quickly we can produce the committee report recommending the course of action of criminal contempt, when we can take that up we are in the last days of this year, and there`s still some vital work that has to be done on raising the debt ceiling, so we know we`ll be here for part of next week, and I think we want to get this done right away because as you say, they`re trying to delay, we`re trying to get to the truth.
We`ve had one violent attack on our Capitol. We don`t want another, and getting to the full ground truth of who was involved, the president, members of Congress, the chief of staff, whoever was involved, they`re trying to overturn our election, we need to get to the bottom of it, and make recommendations to protect the country.
MADDOW: Congressman, one thing we have covered recently on this show is an assertion in a recent deposition by an investigative council working for the committee that this document that Justice Department official Jeff Clark sent trying to get Georgia to essentially overturn the election results there. It was a very controversial document from Jeff Clark, something obviously the committee has shown great interest, talking to Mr. Clark about. It would put the justice department, put its gravitas and authority behind the effort they need to tell state officials they need to change the results.
It appears from a discussion in the recently deposition that there was White House metadata on that letter to Georgia officials suggesting that the letter to those Georgia officials might have originated in the White House, that this might not be just a Jeff Clark problem, it might be a Trump White House problem.
Is that your understanding of that situation? Are those the implications of that meta data? Do we have this the right way around?
SCHIFF: I think that you do on the basis of what the committee has disclosed about the questions we posed to Mr. Clark, that there was metadata indicating a White House role of some kind or communication through the White House of some kind.
This is exactly why we need these witnesses to testify so we can understand what part of this plot to overturn the election was the White House involved in, what part was the president personally involved in, what expectation was there that the last ditch effort might involve violence against the Capitol to delay or obstruct the certification of the electors. And I`m so glad you previewed the segment with the analysis of the democracy efforts abroad because when this stuff comes to light and we see at the highest levels of the justice department and a deep potential involvement of the White House in trying to overturn the election in Georgia, as you say appoint electors who don`t represent who actually won, you see how much vacillating there is at home even as we try to champion democracy abroad.
MADDOW: California congressman, member of the January 6th investigation, Congressman Adam Schiff, sir, again, I know it`s a busy anything. Thanks for joining us. I really appreciate it.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead tonight. One of those shows that`s like 10 pounds of show in a 5 pound bag. Lots to get to.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: All right. I want to bring you an update on a story we reported here a few weeks ago that was infuriating and seemed to resonate with a lot of you at home. We heard from a lot of you after we did this story. It`s a story that started January of 2020, January of last year, the U.S. launched a drone strike that killed a famous general in Iran`s Revolutionary Guard, a few days after that, Iran retaliated against us. They launched a missile attack on U.S. troops stationed at air base in Iraq, a base called Al Asad.
Iran launched 13 missiles that were huge. Each had an explosive payload of a thousand to 2,000 pounds, missiles that were the size of trucks, and they landed more than a dozen of them on this one base. It`s the largest ballistic missile strike against U.S. forces in world history.
And it was clear from looking at the aftermath at Al Asad how much damage the base had sustained. The U.S. soldiers at the base at the time of the attack, they sheltered in bunkers. Dozens of soldiers at the base were wounded. Many were diagnosed with serious traumatic brain injuries from those blasts.
But for whatever reason, the president at the time, President Trump, decided that he didn`t want to admit that American soldiers were hurt in the attack. He wanted to play down and even denigrate their injuries. Even for a president for whom we were used to hearing shocking things, it was kind of a sickening display.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, a question on Iran. Initially, you said repeatedly to Americans that after Iran retaliated for the Soleimani strike no Americans were injured. We now know at least eleven U.S. servicemen were air lifted from Iraq. Can you explain the discrepancy?
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: No, I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things, but I would say, and I can report it is not very serious.
Not very serious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Not very serious. Just some headaches. I don`t know what all the bellyaching is, oh, they wanted rides on airplanes, they wanted rides on helicopters, why?
That`s what President Trump said at the time, not very serious. Not serious.
Amidst those repeated just astonishing claims from the president about those battle injuries, CBS News reported last month that the dozens of U.S. soldiers who were injured in that attack either never heard back after they sent in their paperwork for Purple Hearts or, according to reporting from "USA Today" they were quote discouraged from filing the paperwork to apply for a Purple Heart. Wounded soldiers discouraged from filing the paperwork at all to get a Purple Heart.
Purple Heart is a solemn, sacred commendation for the U.S. commendation from the U.S. military. It comes with practical benefits, including priority medical care at the V.A. It`s an important, important thing.
Captain Jeffrey Hansen was an officer at the base at the time of the attack. He himself was wounded in the attack. He told CBS News last month quote, the messaging I was getting was just the political situation wasn`t going to support more approvals. Meaning more approvals of more Purple Hearts.
We spoke with him here on this show last month on Veterans Day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPT. GEOFFREY HANSEN, FORMER ARMY TASK FORCE COMMANDER: When the word came down who was going to get the Purple Heart we asked, you know, what the criteria was and who was going to get them and who wasn`t going to get them, and the message we got back was don`t ask anymore questions, you`re going to get what you`re going to get, and be happy that you`re getting what you`re getting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As I said, when we covered this story a few weeks ago, we heard from a lot of you because it was just galling, right, what a shameful chapter in our history. We talk about supporting the troops, how about supporting the troops wounded in battle by a foreign enemy attacking them for being U.S. troops.
Well, here`s the update. Tonight, we can report that thanks in large part to CBS News really breaking this story wide open, today the U.S. Army has announced that it is awarding the Purple Heart to 39 more American soldiers who were injured in that attack. Purple Heart nominations for an additional eleven U.S. soldiers are also being considered.
When we heard the news today, we called Captain Hansen who we had interviewed last month and asked him for his response. He told us this tonight, he said, quote: I am extremely grateful for the army leadership who conducted this review in such an expeditious manner. The numerous leaders who worked tirelessly to make this happen are validation that we take care of our soldiers above all else.
Again, he himself was wounded in that attack. It has taken nearly two years. Today something astonishing and astonishingly cruel that was done to dozens of wounded American service members is finally getting undone.
MADDOW: Last summers Democratic governor of the great state of Kansas signed a mask rule, a mask requirement to try to stop the spread of COVID. Almost immediately the Republican controlled legislature in that state stripped the governor of her ability to enforce that mask requirement. So a statewide mask rule didn`t really happen. Only a handful of Kansas counties decided on their own that they would keep a mask rule in place.
So, thanks to that action by the Republican legislature, you had most counties with no mask rule, some counties with a mask rule, and among other things, that created an opportunity for research, an opportunity to compare the performance of those counties. Do mask rules work?
Well, after a few weeks, the secretary of the health department in Kansas put out this chart, tracking the spread of COVID across the state. The line in orange represents the handful of counties in Kansas that were requiring masks. The line in blue was everywhere else, everywhere without a mask rule.
Surprise, very clear results, the infection rate was way lower in places where people were required to wear masks, because, hey, look, science. Masks work.
When the Kansas health secretary presented these findings to the public last summer, he bluntly explained how this worked. He called it a natural experiment in Kansas.
That Kansas health secretary is a physician trained in family medicine. His name is Dr. Lee Norman. Dr. Norman took the top public health job in Kansas in 2019. He`s led the state`s COVID response since. He stood alongside the governor during her COVID press conferences. He did his own daily briefings.
In those briefings, Dr. Lee Norman became known for and respected for being a blunt talker, a straight shooter. When the Republican led legislature in Kansas, for example, undid the governor`s ban on large gatherings early on in the pandemic, Dr. Norman released a statement blasting the lawmakers for having knee-caped the pandemic response.
Nothing fun, nothing fancy, whatever Kansas legislatures do, doesn`t reverse what the public needs to do. Stay home so we can beat this scourge, despite what leaders of the legislature say, we are so close, and they are doing politics, don`t fall for it. I`m so angry. Shame.
That was the kind of guy Kansas had in charge of their COVID response, unafraid, blunt talking, no politics, let`s just talk about the pandemic and public health and what needs to be done. Here`s the evidence. That`s what he`s been doing. Until now.
Dr. Lee Norman has now been pushed out, told to resign from his job as secretary of health in Kansas. According to e-mails obtained by the "Kansas Reflector" newspaper, the governor`s office told Dr. Lee Norman that his blunt talk about COVID that he had been so admired for, that was apparently exacerbating tensions with Republican lawmakers in the state. His public remarks were making it harder for the state governor to persuade Republican legislatures to okay policies to try and keep the pandemic under control.
Too much straight talk.
Dr. Norman told KCUR radio in Kansas City, he believes the tension between the governor`s office and the Republican legislature is the reason he was asked to resign. He said he feels like he was, quote, Fauci`d out of his job.
Joining us now is Dr. Lee Norman who until recently was secretary of the Kansas Health Department.
Dr. Norman, thank you very much for being here. I`m sure this has been a tough time for you.
DR. LEE NORMAN, FORMER SECRETARY OF KANSAS, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT: Thank you, Rachel. Always good to see you again, even under these terms.
MADDOW: Well, these are unusual terms. I`m sorry that you have been asked to leave your job. All I know about it is what I have been able to follow in the local press and to the extent you have been able to do local interviews about it. Let me ask if I misconstrued any of that, and why you think you were told to leave.
NORMAN: No, you pretty well nailed it there, Rachel, and I have always been a rather frank talker when it comes to things that I think the public needs to know, and I think that is at the origin. I loved working in the Kelly administration, I must say. And I just think that it was hard for me to not disclose and be transparent about the things that I thought the public needed to know. Even if we needed to give them early information today and whether it`s tomorrow or a month or a year from now to correct that information as we got more information in, but I like to put it out there and really speak the truth, and I think it was poorly received in some quarters, needless to say.
MADDOW: And to be clear, it doesn`t sound like you and Governor Kelly had strong differences of opinions of what needed to be done in Kansas to hold the pandemic at bay, to try to mitigate the devastation of the pandemic. It sounds like the issue was your sharpness of tone, your acuteness of tone that was a diplomacy issue, not policy differences. Is that fair?
NORMAN: Well, it`s really fair to say that I`m not a politician. I`m many things. I`m a doctor. I`m an Army Colonel, and many things, but politician I`ve never been accused of being that.
And I don`t think it`s really about sharpness of tone, although I have to say that when people misrepresent the facts very deliberately, and they put the public in jeopardy because of their misrepresentation, then my retorts might be -- might hurt their feelings a little bit.
But it`s really not about people`s feelings when it`s legislators, for example, and we need to correct misinformation to protect the public. This isn`t about egos of politicians, this is about what do we do to help get our public through this pandemic.
MADDOW: Dr. Norman, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you tonight is because I wanted to hear from you what happened here, particularly because we have been following your leadership in Kansas. It has been a beacon, but it`s also -- what`s just happened to you in terms of you being pushed out of this job also feels like a story about this country right now.
You talk to KCUR about this, the hostility toward public health officials, this is not unique to Kansas, not unique to you, we saw it at the national level, targeting public health officials, including Dr. Fauci, but we`re seeing it in a lot of states around the country and even with local county officials. Now that you have been on the receiving end of it, do you have any ideas or suggestions about what the anecdote might be, so more people like you aren`t forced to resign so that people who speak bluntly and clearly on public health matters without regard to the politics are protected.
NORMAN: You`re absolutely right, Rachel, there`s been hundreds of public health officials that have been retired, resigned, fired, you pick the word, even step down, and I think the public health is always political, you know, whether it`s around contraception of sexually transmitted illnesses or many of the things we`ve talked about in the past, but it`s never been so partisan.
And I think the hardest thing, particularly in a state like Kansas, many other states where there`s such bitter partisanship, and especially in a state like Kansas where the governor is one party and both houses of the legislature are the other side, then it really gets partisan, and I think what gets lost in this is the fact that we should put people`s health first, and I think a lot of times partisanship is Trumping public health, and it should be absolutely the other way around.
And I think the only way we can do that is to try and find the common ground in the middle, and I think there is common ground, and that is we`re both afraid. People who don`t want vaccines are maybe afraid of the side effects or the long-term effects of that.
People that get vaccinated are afraid of catching the illness.
If we can start talking about fear and meeting in the middle, then maybe we can have some productive dialogue, otherwise we`re going to be very divided.
MADDOW: Dr. Lee Norman, former secretary of the Kansas Health Department, recently pushed out of that job in his words, Fauci`d out of that job. Sir, thank you for your service in the Army. Thank you for your service to Kansas, and thanks for being here.
I know you`re nowhere near retiring and you`re not the type. We expect to have you back here soon, sir. Thank you.
NORMAN: Thank you very much, I appreciate it, Rachel. Good to see you again.
MADDOW: You too. Take care.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The governor of the great state of Oklahoma is a man named Kevin Stitt, you have probably never heard of him. He would like to change that. He would like to be more famous in Republican politics.
I say that because recently he picked a fight, an ill-advised fight that really appears to have just been designed to raise his political profile in Republican circles.
He decided he would claim it doesn`t matter what U.S. military orders are, it doesn`t matter what the pentagon says, as far as he the governor of Oklahoma is concerned, members of the Oklahoma National Guard don`t have to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Now, I have to emphasize he has really truly been grand standing on this. He`s held press conferences on this, tried to squeeze as many conservative political points on this as he can, when all is said and done, though, he won`t be the one to pay the price. He won`t be the one who has to cash this check that his mouth has been writing.
It`s all the members of the Oklahoma National Guard who might have been listening to him and following him down this path because today, the Pentagon made very crystal clear that if National Guard members in Oklahoma follow their governor on this, it will cost them their careers. This is the policy the air force laid out today in detail, outlining exactly what refusing to follow the vaccine requirement will mean if you`re a member of the Air National Guard.
Quote, excluding members with pending or approved exemption requests, Air National Guard members that haven`t initiated a vaccination record, may not participate in drills, training or other duty conducted under Title 10 or under Title 32. Those with remaining military service obligations will be involuntarily assigned to the individual ready reserve.
Now, to unpack that a little bit, I`ll tell you first, the individual ready reserve is part of the military that doesn`t train or drill which means they don`t get any pay or benefits, so involuntarily reassigning people to a part where they get no pay or benefits means they don`t get paid anymore, and they don`t get any benefits anymore.
That reference to Title 10 and Title 32, that`s the two different ways the National Guard is activated. Most of the time, they operate under state jurisdiction, but sometimes they also act under federal authority.
What the Pentagon made crystal clear today, it doesn`t matter for these Oklahoma guards men and women when it comes to vaccine status. If the governor has about sandbagging against rising flood waters or operating a vaccine clinic or the president sending them to a war zone under federal authority or if they`re training under either of those things, under state or federal authority, they have to be vaccinated or they`re out with no pay and no benefits.
The governor of Oklahoma has been telling guards men and women in their state otherwise for a month now in what appears to have been a political stunt. What he has been playing with is their careers leading members of his own national guard off a cliff on this one. We know the edge of that cliff will be at the end of this month.
Well done, Gov.
MADDOW: All right. That is going to do it for us for tonight. I will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with the great Lawrence O`Donnell.
Good evening, Lawrence.