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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 2/11/2021

Guest: Fani Willis, Sheldon Whitehouse�


MSNBC`s coverage of Donald Trump`s second impeachment trial.

Interview with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who`s opening

an investigation, potential criminal investigation that could result in

felony charges against the president as a private citizen, the former

president, President Trump. Interview with U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

of Rhode Island.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us and "ALL IN" on this Thursday


THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much


And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

I will tell you right now our first guest we`re going to have tonight to

somebody who you`re going to want to see. We`ve got an interview tonight

with somebody who is in an absolutely unique status as a national newsmaker

tonight. I will explain who she is, and you will want to see this interview

coming up in our next segment.

But it is -- it has been a remarkable news day today. President Biden

announced today that the U.S. government has found a way to purchase

another 200 million doses of coronavirus vaccine. This is Moderna and

Pfizer, the first two vaccines that have been approved here. They`re both

those two-dose vaccines. They`ve got 200 million more doses.

And what that means mathematically is now we`ve got sort of a horizon on

our pandemic finally. I mean at least on paper what this means, what this

announcement from President Biden means tonight is that we should have

enough supplies on hand to vaccinate every American by the end of July.

Today, we had another day of more than 2 million shots administered in a

single day. Remember then facing all that skepticism about whether they

could get to a million shots a day in order to get to President Biden`s

goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days. Well, today, we had

another day where they did 2 million -- 2 million vaccine doses

administered today.

We`re finally starting to get there. We`re going to have more on that story

ahead. It is really tremendous news. Chris Hayes talking about that tonight

on MSNBC with a lot of optimism in his voice. I share that feeling.

Alongside that, some disturbing reporting from "The New York Times" tonight

that the former president, President Trump, was actually quite grievously

ill with COVID-19 when he was hospitalized for it in October.

Now, this is "New York Times" reporting. NBC News has not confirmed it. But

per "The New York Times", the White House and the president`s doctors seem

to have quite comprehensively lied to the American public about how near

death the president was. Including an expectation at the time we`re now

learning about for the first time that they thought he was going to have to

be put on a ventilator when they whisked him off to Walter Reed that first

fight. We`re going to have more on that disturbing story tonight as well.

Plus, of course, we`re expecting the CDC tomorrow to release its new

guidelines for how to safely reopen schools. Reopening schools, of course,

is another stated 100-day priority for the new president, President Biden.

The devil is absolutely in the details in terms of how to safely reopen

schools, particularly if the best case arising for getting everybody

vaccinated is now for high summer.

But all those things are happening at once and we`re going to have more on

all those stories ahead.

At the same time, today, of course, was day three of the impeachment trial

of former President Trump, the only president to be impeached in office

twice, the only president to ever face a Senate impeachment trial twice.

Now, as we anticipated on last night`s show the prosecutors, the House

impeachment managers they didn`t use all the time allotted to them to make

their case. They gave back hours of their time.

Yesterday, they used less than 6 of the 8 hours they had. Today they used

less than 5 of their allotted 8 hours. They wrapped up around 4:30 p.m.

Eastern today.

But the prosecutors did wrap up their laying out the facts of the case.

Tomorrow, the president`s defense will start laying out their case. They,

too, of course, will be afforded the same amount of time, 16 hours over two


I`ve been wondering how they were going to handle that because of some

weird dynamics within the president`s defense team. There was that

disastrous performance by one of the president`s lawyers in particular when

they got to, you know, put the car on the track and run the first few laps

in the trial on Tuesday.

I have to say I apologize for last night saying that Mr. Castor`s

performance on Tuesday was Bart Simpson meet foghorn leg horn. That was

that -- was uncalled for. I apologize for that, but Mr. Castor did have

some real trouble.

And reporter Kaitlan Collins at CNN is reporting today that President Trump

actually considered firing Mr. Leghorn -- Mr. Castor on the spot after his

disastrous turn in the spotlight on Tuesday. President Trump decided not to

fire him. Mr. Castor is still on the team.

But Mr. Trump`s other main lawyer, David Schoen, who President Trump

reportedly didn`t dislike quite as much as he disliked the other guy, Mr.

Schoen is only available to the president`s defense team until 5:00

tomorrow and not at all on the second day afforded to make their case,

which is Saturday. For religious reasons he can`t be part of the trial any

time after Sunday or anytime on Saturday.

So, how are they going to handle that if tomorrow they`ve got eight hours

and Saturday, they`ve got another eight hours to lay out their case? If Mr.

Schoen can`t be there for the bulk of the time, and if the other guy

they`ve got President Trump can`t stand the sight of him, how are they

going to deal?

Well, the reporting would seem to indicate the way they`re going to deal

with this problem is just by not mounting much of a defense at all. They`ve

been allotted under the trial rules 16 hours over two days to make their

case. They`re reportedly planning on using maybe a total of 3 hours, using

none of their time on Saturday, maybe only using three hours tomorrow. They

would be starting at noon tomorrow, be done before they`d even need to take

a single break.

That is reportedly the plan, but, you know, who knows? Mr. Castor who had

that sad showing on Tuesday, he reportedly wasn`t even supposed to speak at

all on day one before he gave his master meander class that afternoon. How

can you, like, wake up on a Tuesday not knowing if you`re giving an hours-

long presentation to the United States Senate as a defense lawyer for the

president, how can you wake up on Saturday thinking that`s not going to

happen and then it happens? But apparently, that`s kind of how they`re


Today in making the end of their case against President Trump, the

prosecutors, the House impeachment managers, they covered a lot of ground

and as they said did so fairly quickly. Congresswoman Diana DeGette and

Congressman David Cicilline talked about the rioters that day saying

explicitly that they were there in D.C. because they believed they had been

invited to be there by the president.

When President Trump asked his supporters to come to D.C. to stop the

steal, to stop the certification of the vote on January 6, his supporters

took him seriously and literally. The president`s defense is expected to

argue tomorrow as they did in their written legal filings that all these

people just came to D.C. of their own accord and for their own reasons and

it really had nothing to do with President Trump. The rioters` own words

that day many of which were broadcast today in the Senate chamber for

senators to see, and the rioters` words in their legal defense filing since

they`ve all been arrested give absolute lie to that assertion because they

say over and over again that they are there for Trump, they are there at

Trump`s request, they`re there at Trump`s instruction.

The impeachment managers rebutted from the president`s lawyers that somehow

inciting the crowd to violently attack the U.S. Capitol is protected speech

under the first amendment. President Trump`s lawyers have suggested they

will make a first amendment defense. I think it seems quite clear they

will. I`m not sure how many other avenues are open to them.

But it is clear even if you`re not a lawyer that the First Amendment is

totally irrelevant as a defense since -- as a defense to the question of

whether somebody can be impeached for things they say and do as a public

official, the First Amendment is about protecting private speech from

government encroachment. If you are speaking as a public official and you

are being impeached or potentially convicted for your words as a public

official and whether or not they constitute high crimes and misdemeanors, a

violation of your oath of office, then the First Amendment is literally

completely irrelevant.

But the impeachment managers mounted that defense today as a sort of

prebuttal to what they`re expecting the president`s lawyers tomorrow to

say. Congressman Cicilline talked about the consequences of the attack on

the Capitol, including something that`s been largely visible to the public

which is the terrorization of the people who worked at the Capitol building

that day, including people who work in-house keeping staff and janitorial

staff and congressional staffers as well.

Incidentally, the letter from current congressional staffers, the open

letter from current congressional staffers to the Senate begging senators

to please think about their staff, to please consider what the staff went

through that day and please vote to convict the president so this never

happens again, it`s a letter we have previously reported on here on this

show. As of today, we`re now told it has more than 400 congressional

staffers signed onto it, again, begging senators to please convict.

Congressman Joaquin Castro talked about the consequences of the attack for

our national security, the reaction of other countries, and particularly

other countries that hate us. The public gloating in exploitation of the

attack by our enemies, countries like Russia saying the attack proves

democracy is over because look at the smoking hulk we`ve made of it here.

But I think the most jarring argument today was the argument we heard in

different ways from multiple House managers that there`s really no reason

to think the threat is over, particularly as senators vote to acquit the

former president and thereby assure there are no consequences for him for

having done this. And, of course, he`ll try it again. I mean, why wouldn`t


The country is talking about this and trying to contend with this as an

incredible tragedy, as a disaster of magnificent consequences for our

country and for our democracy, including as I said for our standing in the

world. But there`s no sign that President Trump sees it that way at all.

There`s no sign he has any problem at all with the fact he did this once



REP. JOE NEGUSE (D-CO): He didn`t react to the violence with shock or

horror or dismay as we did. He didn`t immediately rush to Twitter and

demand in the clearest possible terms that the mob disperse, that they stop

it, that they retreat. Instead, he issued messages in the afternoon that

sided with them, the insurrectionists who had left police officers battered

and bloodied. He reacted exactly the way someone would react if they were

delighted and exactly unlike how a person would react if they were angry at

how their followers were acting.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): This pro-Trump insurrection did not spring into

life out of thin air. We saw how Trump spent months cultivating America`s

most dangerous extremist groups. We saw how he riled them up with corrosive

lies and violent rhetoric. He`d seen many of the exact same groups he was

mobilizing participate in extremist violence before.

Moreover, he`s seen clearly how his own incitement to violence and praise

after the violence took place galvanized, encouraged and electrified these

extremist followers. These tactics were road tested. Jan 6th was a

culmination of the president`s actions not an aberration from them.

The insurrection was the most violent and dangerous episode so far in

Donald Trump`s continuing pattern and practice of inciting violence. But I

emphasize so far.

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): He does not say in that video, for example,

everything I said in the months prior went too far. And he does not say the

one sentence that matters. He does not say the one sentence that would stop

future political violence, the election was not stolen. He still hasn`t

said that sentence. That is why National Guard troops in full body armor

still patrol outside.

RASKIN: He knew they were coming. He brought them here, and he welcomed

them with open arms. We hear you and love you from the Oval Office.

My dear colleagues, is there any political leader in this room who believes

if he`s ever allowed by the Senate to get back into the Oval Office, Donald

Trump would stop inciting violence to get his way? Would you bet the lives

of more police officers on that? Would you bet the safety of your family on

that? Would you bet the future of our democracy on that?

President Trump declared his conduct totally appropriate. So if he gets

back into office and it happens again, we`ll have no one to blame but


NEGUSE: Senators, the evidence is clear. We showed you statements, videos,

affidavits that prove President Trump incited an insurrection, an

insurrection that he alone had the power to stop. And the fact that he

didn`t stop it, the fact that he incited a lawless attack and abdicated his

duty to defend us from it, the fact that he actually further inflamed the

mob -- further inflamed that mob, attacking his vice president while

assassins were pursuing him in this capitol -- more than requires

conviction and disqualification.

We humbly, humbly ask you to convict President Trump for the crime for

which he is overwhelmingly guilty of. Because if you don`t, if we pretend

this didn`t happen or worse if we let it go unanswered, who`s to say it

won`t happen again?


MADDOW: Who`s to say it won`t happen again? Congressman Joe Neguse there at

the end. The impeachment manager trying to make the stakes as clear as they

can be here.

That not only would an acquittal of the president after this trial

legitimize this conduct by the former president last month, it would

effectively legitimize conduct like this for hypothetical malevolent future

presidents or even for the last non-hypothetical malevolent president to

maybe try it again.

And if he`s going to try it again, if he`s knowing to try to use violence

to get his way politically again, what`s to say he`s not going to use it

for people who are hearing that argument from Congressman Neguse in that

room today. The former president knows now he`s got a mob at his

fingerprints, which can wreck infinite havoc at his say so, and maybe some

of them will go to prison for it but, you know, he golfed today.

And even all the Republican senators in that room know that Trump would

happily direct such a mob against them if it served his purposes, and he`d

do it at the drop of a hat.


RASKIN: If we don`t draw the line here what`s next? What makes you think

the nightmare with Donald Trump and his law making and violent mobs is

over? If we let him get away with it and then it comes to your state

capitol or comes back here again, what are we going to say?

These prior acts of incitement cast a harsh light on Trump`s obvious

intent, obvious intent, his unavoidable knowledge of the consequences of

his incitement, the unavoidable knowledge of the consequences of his

incitement and the clear foreseeability of the violent harm that he

unleashed on our people and our republic.

January 6th was not some unexpected radical break from his normal, law-

abiding and peaceful disposition. This was his state of mind. This was his

essential M.O. He knew that egged on by his tweets, his lies and his

promise of a wild time in Washington to guarantee his grip on power, his

most extreme followers would show up bright and early ready to attack,

ready to engage in violence, ready to fight like hell for their hero.


MADDOW: Congressman Jamie Raskin today, the lead impeachment manager

talking about the president`s state of mind, his obvious intent, his

essential M.O., his modus operandi.

Watching the managers lay out their case the last couple of days, it has

been interesting to see -- interesting to me at least. I didn`t expect

this. That one of the things that has loomed increasingly large with each,

you know, few hours of this trial that have gone by, maybe it`s gotten

bigger and bigger overshadowing this and for me at least on some days is

the question of whether there might actually end up being a criminal

prosecution here.

I mean, this is a court of impeachment. This is not a criminal court, and

the president doesn`t have to be found guilty of a crime that`s in the

penal code in order to be convicted by the impeachment court.

But what about the prospect of him being criminally prosecuted? I mean it

didn`t happen that the president`s defense counsel went there right on day

one which I`m sure did not help with the whole President Trump wanting to

fire him there on the spot right then and there probably.


BRUCE CASTOR, TRUMP`S IMPEACHMENT LAWYER: After he`s out of office you go

and arrest him, so there is no opportunity where the president of the

United States can run rampant in January at the end of his term and just go

away scot-free. The Department of Justice does know what to do with such



MADDOW: You know, go ahead and arrest him. Y`all thought of that? That is

the defense lawyer for the president. Nice job.

The article of impeachment approved by the House which is the basis for

this trial now in the Senate, the charge of incitement for insurrection

which former President Trump is being charged in the Senate right now, in

addition to the events of January 6th, the article mentions just one other

specific event.

Quote: President Trump`s conduct on January 6, 2021, followed his prior

efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the

2020 presidential election. Those prior efforts included a phone call on

January 2nd during which President Trump urged the Secretary of State of

Georgia, Brad Raffensperger to find enough votes to overturn the Georgia

presidential election results.

President Trump threatened Secretary Raffensperger if he failed to do so. I

know that that thing in Georgia, that little episode of attempted election

interference by Donald Trump has been swallowed up by history already. All

right, this phone call was eclipsed by the violent attack on the U.S.

Capitol just four days later. It`s like how the resignation of Vice

President Spiro Agnew got swallowed up in history because Watergate forced

the resignation of President Nixon right after.

And so, when I wrote -- the podcast and wrote a book about Spiro Agnew,

people were like, who`s that guy? You wouldn`t believe what a big scandal

that was for a minute until a much bigger scandal eclipsed it and made us

all forget the earlier one. When a really, really life changing thing

happens, it tends to blot out the memory of a lot of really bad stuff that

might have happened before that.

And so, it is with this Georgia call. But there`s a reason this Georgia

call, this January 2nd phone call is the one other specific event that the

authors of the impeachment resolution decided to include in their charges

against former President Trump. It`s because before the January 6th violent

attack on the U.S. Capitol members of Congress were already considering a

second impeachment of President Trump just for that call.

Because at that point before the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, his

hour-long phone call to Georgia`s secretary of state pushing and

threatening that Georgia official to try to get the election results

overturned there -- before the attack on the capitol that was president

Trump`s most egregious and blatant act of trying to apparently criminally

alter and mess with the election results to try and hold onto power. And he

not only did it, it was all on tape.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: So what are we going to do here, folks? I

only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.

You know what they did and you`re not reporting it. That`s -- you know,

that`s a criminal -- that`s a criminal offense. And, you know, you can`t

let that happen. That`s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. That`s

a big risk.

It`s not fair to take it away from us like this, and it`s going to be very

costly in many ways. And I think you have to say that you`re going to

reexamine it, and you can reexamine it but reexamine it with people that

want to find answers not people that don`t want to find answers. You can`t

let it happen and you are letting it happen.

You know, I mean, I`m notifying you that you`re letting it happen. So,

look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes.


MADDOW: I want you to find exactly enough votes to declare me the winner of

the election in your state. And if you don`t, that`s a big risk to you. I`m

notifying you. I`ll call that a criminal offense by you. Say you have

reexamined it and I actually won or else.

And when President Trump made that call on January 2nd, four days before

the attack on the U.S. Capitol, he had already called Georgia`s governor to

pressure him to overturn the state`s election results, too. Trump had

personally called a lower level official in the secretary of state`s

office, the guy in charge of election investigations and spent a long time

personally pressuring that guy, to quote, find the fraud that would result

in overturning the election results in Georgia and declaring Trump the


While Trump was making all these calls personally, the top federal

prosecutor in Atlanta, the U.S. attorney in Atlanta resigned under direct

pressure from the Trump White House because President Trump felt and

communicated to that U.S. attorney that he was not doing enough to find

that nonexistent fraud that would somehow allow the overthrowing of the

election results.

One of the things that made this series of escalating interventions in

Georgia`s election so remarkable is that it was just all so blatantly

illegal, right? Not just impeachable but illegal, like go to jail illegal.

It is against the law in Georgia to solicit someone to commit election

fraud. Threatening state election officials to find you exactly the number

of votes you need to turn the election result the other way, threatening

elections officials that they need to change vote counts in your favor or

else would surely seem to fall under that statute.

Well, now even as Donald Trump`s second impeachment trial unfolds in the

U.S. Senate -- and what a spectacle it is -- and that trial unfolds on an

article of impeachment that specifically references Trump`s threatening

call to Georgia`s secretary of state. Well, now, a high-profile state

prosecutor in Georgia, the district attorney of the largest county in the

state, Fulton County, has now opened a criminal investigation that centers

on that phone call.

The district attorney there has sent this letter there to Georgia`s

secretary of state, governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general,

instructing them all to preserve any and all records related to the 2020


Quote: This letter is notice that the Fulton County district attorney has

opened an investigation into attempts to influence the administration of

the 2020 Georgia election. This investigation includes but is not limited

to potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of

election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local

governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office

and any involvement in violence or threats related to the elections


Quote, this matter is of high importance. Excuse me. This matter is of high

priority. The next Fulton County grand jury is due to convene in March.

This office will begin requesting grand jury subpoenas as necessary at that


Again, this is a criminal inquiry in Georgia. Soliciting election fraud can

be a felony in the state of Georgia that can put you in prison for a year.

And while this new investigation centers on that phone call that president

Trump made to the secretary of state on January 2nd, the same one that`s

mentioned in the impeachment article, it`s also broader than that. A state

official telling "The New York Times", the Fulton`s D.A. inquiry will

include all those other calls Trump made to Georgia officials to try to

lean on them to overturn the election.

It will also look at the U.S. attorney who was forced out by the Trump

White House for not pursuing Trump`s bogus fraud claims. Whatever happens

in this Senate impeachment trial which is still under way and I think we`re

about to get to some of the really good stuff, and whatever President

Biden`s Justice Departments decides ultimately about potentially pursuing

any federal criminal charges against the former president, Donald Trump as

of this week is now looking at potential criminal liability in two states.

Remember in New York, state prosecutors there continue their investigation

of Trump`s finances, whether he may have committed tax fraud and bank fraud

and insurance fraud. And now in Georgia, this new criminal investigation

into Trump`s efforts to overturn his election loss in Georgia by pressuring

Georgia state officials with responsibility for elections to do his


Former presidents it should go without saying have no immunity from

prosecution anywhere. They just get tried like regular citizens. And it

looks like that may really happen potentially with prison time on the line

for President Trump.

The Fulton county district attorney who has just announced the opening of

this investigation, she is going to join us live for her first national

interview since taking this step. She`s here live with us next.


MADDOW: In addition to the events of January 6th at the U.S. Capitol, the

article of impeachment against Donald Trump also highlights something that

happened four days earlier, Trump`s phone call with Georgia`s secretary of

state in which Trump spent an hour trying to alternately coax and threaten

that state official into overturning -- into overturning Joe Biden`s

election win in that state.

Trump told him, quote, I just want to find 11,780 votes. He told the

secretary of state that he should tell the public he has recalculated the

vote tallies in Georgia and discovered that Trump actually won. And we know

this is what President Trump said because the whole thing is on tape.

Well, now, a Georgia state prosecutor, the district attorney in Fulton

County, has opened a criminal investigation centered on that phone call.

It`s a crime in Georgia, potentially a felony to solicit someone to commit

election fraud.

Here`s one other thing worth understanding about this, sort of wild about

the situation in Georgia when it comes to investigating this matter. One of

the reasons the Fulton County district attorney has decided that she should

be the person to pursue this as a criminal investigation is that every

other investigative agency in the state that could conceivably have

jurisdiction over a crime like this, every other one is potentially

compromised by being a witness to the crime.

This is what I mean. This is from the letter announcing the investigation

that the D.A. sent to Georgia`s governor and lieutenant governor and

secretary of state and attorney general. She says this, quote: It has come

to our attention via media reports that contacts were made with subjects of

the investigation with other agencies that could be investigating this

matter, including the secretary of state, the attorney general and the U.S.

Attorneys Office for the northern district of Georgia.

As such this office, the Fulton County district attorney`s office is the

one agency with jurisdiction that is not a witness to the conduct that is

the subject of the investigation.

I mean, legal -- legal terminology aside, this is how pervasive President

Trump`s pressure campaign to overturn the election was in Georgia. I mean,

the Georgia secretary of state`s office has opened its own investigation

into Trump`s call, but that means investigators there are in the awkward

position of investigating a phone call that involved their own boss and one

of their coworkers.

If they find anything criminal, they can refer it to the attorney general`s

office but guess what? Trump called and pressured the attorney general,

too. Well, how about the federal prosecutor there? Oh, right Trump forced

the U.S. attorney, the federal prosecutor out of office for not pursuing

his bogus voter fraud claims.

And so, the Fulton County district attorney says she`s going to have to be

the one to figure out whether any crimes were committed here because she`s

the only relevant jurisdiction -- she`s the only office of relevant

jurisdiction that wasn`t actually implicated or targeted by this potential


That district attorney`s name is Fani Willis. She was elected last year

after beating a sixth-term incumbent D.A. who also happened to be her boss.

And now, she has launched what will be one of the most watched and closely

scrutinized criminal investigations in the country.

I`m very pleased to say the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis

joins us now for the interview. This is her first national TV interview

since opening this investigation.

District Attorney Willis, thank you so much for your time tonight. I really

appreciate you being here.


having me.

MADDOW: We have, of course, limited visibility into the actions of your

office. We know what we know from the letters that have been made public,

from the statements from your office and from other public source

reporting. I feel like I need to just ask you at the outset if I`ve gotten

anything wrong or if there`s anything that I`ve misconstrued in terms of

explaining the actions of your office thus far.

WILLIS: Actually, while I was listening to you, I thought you got it

exactly right, that you understood what I was trying to express in that

letter. So, no, there`s nothing I heard that you got wrong.

MADDOW: Oh, good.

Well, the way your investigation has been reported in the press as I

understand it is that it is centered on but not limited to this phone call

that former President Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad

Raffensperger. Is that a fair way to understand it?

WILLIS: Absolutely. I`ve been in this business now for 25 years, 19 of

those years have been spent as a prosecutor. What I know about

investigations is they`re kind of like peeling back an onion and as you go

through each layer, you learn different things. To be a responsible

prosecutor, you must look at all those things in investigation to be fair

to everyone involved. This is very important matter as you`ve already


And so, yes, the investigation seems that it will go past just this one

phone call that we`ve discussed and that you played for your viewers.

MADDOW: The phone call is obviously a unique piece of evidence because the

whole country has heard it and because it has caused such political -- such

a political uproar. When it comes to the question of whether or not it --

people heard on that call may be implicated in a crime, either as victim or

perpetrator, is state of mind, intent, a key part of determining whether in

fact a crime was committed in a call like that?

And I`m asking because the real thing I`m curious about is whether or not

you are going to expect to for instance depose the former president to try

to understand what his state of mind and his intent might have been behind

that call.

WILLIS: Well, two things. First of all, in criminal law, we don`t do

depositions -- in very, very, very rare occasions. So that`s not something

we could use.

Obviously, if one is charged with a crime, they`re a defendant and so they

have a right to remain silent. And so, no, there would be no intent to


Now, someone that you`re investigating, you can inquire about an interview

and certainly, they can voluntarily come in and give an interview. But to

depose them would not be a correct word.

The other thing you said is a concept in the law and it`s mens rea, and you

said it`s the state of mind of the individual important? Absolutely, when

any prosecutor throughout this country is interviewing people and trying to

determine if a crime was committed and if they understood what they were

doing, the mens rea is always important.

And so, you look at facts to see did they really have intent, did they

understand what they were doing?

Detailed facts become important like asking for a specific number and then

going back to investigate and understand that that number is just one more

than the number that is needed. It lets you know that someone had a clear

mind. They understood what they were doing, and so, when you`re pursuing

the investigation, facts like that that may not seem so important become

very important.

MADDOW: You mentioned in your letter -- and first of all, thank you for

setting me straight whether deposed is the right way to think about this.

I`m not a lawyer and I don`t pretend to be. I don`t even play one on

television, so thank you for that.

But if you could further educate me on the grand jury process a little bit,

you did mention in your letter that the next Fulton County grand jury is

due to convene next month and your office will begin requesting grand jury

subpoenas as necessary at that time.

Can you just walk us through what that -- what that means, what`s the work

you`ll be doing leading up to the grand jury convening, what circumstances

might cause you to request or not request subpoenas at that point?

WILLIS: Yes, ma`am.

So, one of the things I did when I took office is that I made a commitment

to the citizens of this county, which is the largest in Georgia as you

mentioned, with over a million people, something the prior administration

did is they bragged about having this process of indicting and charging

people within 45 minutes. I don`t think you need to be a lawyer to know

that that is probably an unjust process both for the victims of crime as

well as the people that are investigated.

So when I took office on January 1st, I met with the chief judge, and I

told him that I did not -- there was no need to bring a grand jury in the

first term of court, which for my jurisdiction, terms of courts are two

months. So the term of court would be January and February because I needed

to reinstruct my staff that we were going to investigate these crimes, and

any crimes that we were going to present to the grand jury for charging or

indictment would come up in the next term of court, which would be the

March, April term.

The grand jury, though, is a tool that is used to issue a subpoena. And so,

I can write a nice letter to someone and say, hey, will you please give me

this. But if they don`t give it to me, there`s no legal consequence.

So the way to formally ask for an indictment that is compelling as opposed

to just a lovely request is to issue a subpoena. And so, what I was doing

as a courtesy to people that I respect very much is simply putting them on

notice that when a grand jury convened, which would be in March, that they

could expect to receive subpoenas.

And that I would just ask that they as also members of the law enforcement

community inform and educate their staff to not destroy anything, to make

sure that things were preserved because we would be coming to ask for them,

and to make sure those people we needed to talk to as witnesses would be

forthcoming, as we suspected (ph), none of them as being the target of an

investigation, but just people that we needed to be truthful and

forthcoming while we investigated this matter.

MADDOW: A very important point that as yet, there`s no indication that any

Georgia official is a target of the investigation.

Madam District Attorney, would you mind if we took a quick break and we

came back? I have a couple more questions I`d like to ask you about this.

but we just have to take a quick -- a quick breather.

WILLIS: Thank you. No problem.

MADDOW: All right. Fani Willis is the district attorney of Fulton County,

Georgia. Her office has just announced a criminal investigation of efforts

to influence the election administration, the general election in Georgia

this past fall. And you know what that means.

I`ll be right back with her after this. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Yesterday, in the midst of the impeachment trial in Washington, a

state prosecutor in Georgia, the district attorney in Fulton County,

Georgia, announced the opening of a criminal investigation into attempts to

influence the administration of the election in Georgia.

With reference to what is included to the impeachment article against

President Trump, a call to pressure the Georgia secretary of state into

changing election results for that state.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis joins us once again for "The

Interview". This is her first national TV interview since opening this


D.A. Willis, thanks again for sticking with us.

I wanted to ask you about the impeachment element here, this phone call

between then-President Trump and the secretary of state in Georgia is

mentioned in the article of impeachment in which President Trump is being

tried right now.

Did the impeachment and that process have any bearing at all on your

decision to open this investigation or how you look at your

responsibilities here?

WILLIS: Zero. None whatsoever.

MADDOW: So, a completely independent process, okay. We have --


WILLIS: Yeah, it`s a -- I mean, if -- if we watched -- I just want to be

clear, if we watch that trial and witnesses come forward that are relevant

to my investigation, certainly, we will do our due diligence and interview


But whether there was an impeachment or not an impeachment would not change

the fact that something occurred here within my jurisdiction that may be

criminal. And if that is the case, it needed to be investigated.

MADDOW: I will mention impeachment in one other context here. Just because

we have all as a country watched for 2-1/2 days now as House impeachment

managers have laid out this evidence about how the former president incited

his supporters to violence against his perceived enemies. We`ve seen these,

you know, videos of Trump supporters menacing and intimidating state and

local officials they perceive to be anti-Trump.

I just have to ask if you are -- I mean, obviously, you are a law

enforcement professional and you have been doing this for more than two

decades, 19 years as a prosecutor and you obviously stand on firm ground

and know what you`re doing.

But I have -- I have to ask if it`s crossed your mind if you`re worried

about your own safety and that of your staff if opening this investigation

could make you targets?

WILLIS: Oh, absolutely. Since we`ve opened this, we`ve gotten -- my

security has doubled. We`ve gotten a lot of comments. Interestingly enough,

the comments are always racist, and it`s really just a waste of time and

foolishness. It`s not going to stop me from doing my job, and I don`t think

it`s an insult to remind me that I`m a black woman.

So, it is a waste of their time, but we do understand that some people are

unstable. Some people think the nerve of me to actually do my job.

But I took an oath. I made a commitment to the citizens in my community,

and I`m going to do my job.

MADDOW: Fani Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Georgia, I am

sorry that you are getting those threats already. I have incredible

confidence in your ability to handle anything that comes your way, but I`m

sorry that is coming your way in that way already.

Thank you for helping us understand this investigation, and good luck to

you and your staff.

WILLIS: Thank you so much.

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


MADDOW: As the impeachment trial of the former president heads into day

four tomorrow, his defense, starting tomorrow. As the president is also

facing criminal investigation for his efforts to mess with the election

results in Georgia, joining us now is a very experienced former prosecutor

who is now U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Senator Whitehouse, it`s great to see you tonight. Thank you so much for

making time.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): Thanks for having me on.

MADDOW: I wanted to -- if you don`t mind, I think you were able to just see

my interview with Fani Willis, with the -- D.A. from Fulton County, Georgia


WHITEHOUSE: Yeah, right.

MADDOW: -- who is opening this criminal investigation into an element of

the impeachment. I just wanted to get your reaction to that, if you didn`t


WHITEHOUSE: Well, I`m super jealous because if this case ever goes to

trial, she`s going to have a real jury, and when she presents her case, if

she is convincing, as damning in her presentation as the House managers

were in the impeachment, she could very well get a guilty verdict.

But we`ve got a very different jury, and they`ve predetermined there`s

going to be no guilty verdict -- at least of many them.

And so, it`s kind of nice to see the process of justice work the way it`s

supposed to or at least see the opening days of that begin, in a way that

ends up in front of a real jury and not a compromised Senate.

MADDOW: We are expecting to see the start of the president`s defense

tomorrow. There`s reporting that suggests that they`re going to go very

short. That they`re not going to use anywhere near even half the 16 hours

that are allotted to them. I wonder at this point in the process, do you

feel like there should be witnesses?

Part of the reason people said there shouldn`t be witnesses is that this

thing was going to go on for too long. But it now seems like a lot of the

hours that were set aside for the trial are not going to be used by the --

either the impeachment managers on one side or the defense counsel on the


WHITEHOUSE: Well, you know, it will be interesting to see what the defense

wants to do. I think that they know that they`re just in a terrible

position. They`re in the position where if this were a regular trial, in

front of a real jury, they`d be running to the prosecutors and saying, cut

me a deal, please. Whatever it takes, get my guy out of here. You`ve

crushed us.

So I think they`re just going to want to get out of there and rely on the

fact that, you know, Trump`s sway over the Republican senators is going to

get him acquitted. But if they do raise something that puts a fact, an

issue, and there`s a witness who could bring that to light, then I think

there`s still the opportunity for the managers to move to try to make sure

they have that chance.

But at this point, I think the managers have just put in a really great

case. I mean, just sitting there as a lawyer, as somebody who`s done a

little bit of this stuff, they were very, very good. They were all very,

very good. And Raskin was fabulous.

So, this is a great case. They don`t need to try to (INAUDIBLE) now with


MADDOW: There`s been some controversy tonight with some of the Republican

senators apparently meeting with the president`s defense counsel tonight, a

long meeting on the Capitol grounds. That feels a little improper.

Is that actually improper in this context with them effectively being

jurors meeting with one side of the -- one side of the table?

WHITEHOUSE: Well, you`ve -- particularly the case when the president`s

lawyers have objected to the very well-regarded and widely respected Pat

Leahy, sitting in the sort of nominal position of presiding over the Senate

through this trial, on the grounds of that is a conflict of interest. I

guess in a kind of wrong analogy to a criminal trial, but even if the

analogy were correct, you sure as heck as the defense counsel don`t meet

with your jurors.

So the -- yeah, it`s -- it`s bad behavior. And it`s particularly bad

behavior after the defense counsel have made those kind of silly

accusations against Senator Leahy.

MADDOW: Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse -- sir, it is always a

pleasure to talk to you, particularly in the midst of all this super

interesting legal stuff. Thanks for being here tonight. Appreciate it.

WHITEHOUSE: Of course.

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


MADDOW: That is going to do it for us for tonight. I told you, you were

going to want to see who my first guest was tonight. Fulton County District

Attorney Fani Willis -- again, opening an investigation, potential criminal

investigation that could result in felony charges against the president as

a private citizen, the former president, President Trump. Just astonishing


Anyway, see you again tomorrow night.


Good evening, Lawrence.




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