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
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.
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
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
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
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.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
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
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
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.
FANI WILLIS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: No, thank you for
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
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