Congress is awaiting ruling from Senate parliamentarian on including minimum wage increase in COVID relief bill. Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington is interviewed.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Lots of anger at him for that double standard. Robyn Kincaid, and Faiz Shakir, thank you for making the time tonight.
That`s ALL IN on this Wednesday night.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.
And thanks at home for joining us this hour. Here is a change I did not see coming. You might remember that one of the classy things about the transition from the last president to this one, and I mean klassy with a K in this context. One of the real nice things with this transition, the transition didn`t really happen, everywhere from the Pentagon to the parts of the government dealing with the vaccine rollout, the outgoing Trump administration refused to do normal transition things that would have allowed the incoming administration to understand what they were walking into. I mean, how the Trump people were leaving things, what remained to be done and needed to be picked up immediately on day one by the new team.
The Trump folks just had no interest in helping keep the government going by helping the new administration hit the ground running. And so, the transition in many ways was nonexistent, and one of the consequences of that is in the month or so since Joe Biden was inaugurated as president, we have repeatedly heard from the new administration that they were surprised by things they didn`t find out were going wrong inside the government until they were in position to be running things, things they didn`t get briefed on during the transition because the Trump administration blew off the transition.
Like, for example, surprise, there`s no national plan for administering vaccines. We all thought they were doing that. We all assumed there was some sort of plan whatever the Trump administration`s plans might have looked like. But since there was no transition from the Trump folks to the Biden folks, nobody really knew for sure until they were gone that actually there was no national vaccine plan at all.
The lack of a transition also became a nice backdrop for the Republican- controlled Senate to refuse to move forward on starting the confirmation process for Biden administration nominees. In past administrations, Republican and Democrat, no matter who controlled the Senate, there was at least an effort to try to make sure that the main nominees in national security positions were in place for the new president on day one because, of course, the confirmation hearings, the vetting, the confirmation hearings, the preliminary votes can all happen during the transition, provided the Senate wants to work on those things. If that all happens during the transition, the actual confirmation votes, the final votes and the swearing in ceremonies can start to happen on inauguration day.
And so particularly for national security nominees, that was what previous senates made sure was in places for previous presidents. They would at least have their national security team, all the big ones in place day one, but not for Biden, because, no, he was not allowed a transition, and there was, in fact, only one Biden nominee who was approved on day one of his administration, the only Biden nominee approved on inauguration day was the director of national intelligence, Avril Haines.
And now, one of the things she agreed to during her nomination hearing is we think about to happen tomorrow. During Avril Haines confirmation hearing, the woman who`s now director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, promised that if she were confirmed as DNI, she would release to the public a declassified version of the intelligence community`s findings on who murdered an American journalist named Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote for "The Washington Post." Khashoggi was a vocal critic of the government of the Saudi Arabia.
In October 2018, October 2nd, he was lured to a Saudi consulate in Turkey. Turns out a hit squad was waiting for him there. He was killed and then reportedly dismembered. His body has never been found. A U.N. human rights investigation in 2019 found that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was involved in that murder, that it was, quote, inconceivable that he at the very least didn`t know about that murder plot.
Since then, the evidence has only gotten stronger that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, in fact, ordered the murder. The CIA reportedly concluded with high confidence that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia ordered the murder of Mr. Khashoggi.
Here`s the thing, only the best people in the Trump administration, right? Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, as I said, 2018, October, specifically October 2nd, 2018. The crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, he goes by MBS, he`s immediately implicated in that murder. Nevertheless, three weeks after the murder still in October 2018, MBS on behalf of the Saudi government hosts a big convention thing in Saudi Arabia, Davos in the desert, and Khashoggi was just murdered.
And immediately the man on the right of your screen, MBS, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was implicated in that murder. He host this is convention. Everybody from, you know, JPMorgan to Blackstone, to Steve Case, the founder of AOL, all these American worthies all canceled. Nobody wants to go sit in this guy`s lap, especially if the bone saw in his pocket is still leaking wet blood and body parts just three weeks after that murder.
So everybody cancels. The American treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin -- sorry, it`s Steven. Do not call him Steve. Steven Mnuchin, even he bows to the public pressure of this, the public revulsion over this murder of a "Washington Post" journalist. And Mnuchin cancels his plan to attend this Davos in the desert compound.
Then as I said, klassy with a K, Mr. Mnuchin sneaks off to Saudi Arabia anyway ahead of the Davos to desert thing, because he`s decided despite that public outcry that forced him to publicly cancel his plan to attend that big international expo, he really still wants to meet with the crown prince anyway. And so, Mnuchin made a big public showing of canceling his appearance at that conference thing, but he quietly maintained his plans to fly to Saudi Arabia.
And the day before the whole Davos in the desert conference expo thing starts in Saudi Arabia, Steven Mnuchin turns up in Saudi Arabia to meet with prince bone saw one on one. The U.S. Treasury Department somehow forgot to announce that he was going. They were very happy to announce that he had canceled his plans to attend that event. They did not announce that he was still going to go to Saudi Arabia and still going to meet with the crown prince.
Once it emerged that he was still going to Saudi Arabia and he was still meeting with the crown prince, the Treasury Department tried to not comment on that fact. It was the Saudi government that went ahead and announced that Mnuchin was there and that he was meeting with the crown prince, and they posted a picture of it on Twitter.
Mnuchin was trying to get away with this without anybody knowing about it. The Saudi government was like, oh, no, oh, no, we`re putting this out publicly to brag basically, right, that with this sucker U.S. government the Saudi crown prince can go ahead and allegedly murder and dismember a U.S.-based journalist. But don`t worry, less than three weeks later that same guy can still summon the U.S. treasury secretary to come sit on his lap. Like I said, classy.
The Trump administration went on after the Khashoggi murder to block from public release the intelligence community`s report on the crown prince`s alleged involvement in the murder, and Steven Mnuchin then kept up his frequent and regular visits to maintain his relationship with the Saudi crown prince while he and the Trump administration, as a matter of policy, gave them everything they wanted and more during the entire time the Trump administration was in office.
So now what`s about to happen? Tomorrow according to reporting from "Axios" tonight, we believe the Biden administration is going to release to us, the public, the declassified report on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and the involvement of the Saudi crown prince. What I did not see coming is in advance of that report apparently being prepared for release tomorrow, President Biden tonight would take a call with the Saudi government, and he would have this phone call specifically with the king of Saudi Arabia who you see on the right side of your screen, 85 years old.
President Biden today speaking with the king, not the 35-year-old crown prince who has been, you know, snapping his fingers to summon Steven Mnuchin and WhatsApping with Jared, right?
Getting U.S. government cabinet officials to come be photographed and meeting with him even before the American blood is dry on his hands, Biden didn`t call that guy in advance of this report being released to the American public tomorrow, he called that guy`s dad, the king.
White House spokesman Jen Psaki today explaining that this is a leader to leader kind of discussion, that the equivalent leader that a U.S. president speaks to in such circumstances is the king of a foreign country. She said, our defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, spoke with the crown prince, spoke with MBS in recent days because that`s the level at which those discussions should happen, but Biden as the president he`ll speak with the king.
So, that is happening now tonight apparently in advance of the release tomorrow of the U.S. intelligence report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the "Washington Post" journalist.
Meanwhile, look at what news "The Washington Post" itself is now breaking. Look at the headline here, Trump Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expected to launch investment fund seeking backing of Persian gulf state funds.
Dude has been out of office a month. Mnuchin has been out of office as Trump`s treasury secretary a month the, month, and he is already turning around and forming a fund in which he will reportedly ask the Persian Gulf States to give him their money.
So he spent his time in office shining up the reputation of accused murderer, the Saudi crown prince now one month later, he`s going into private business seeking investment from sovereign wealth funds in the Persian Gulf. Sovereign wealth funds are state controlled, in Saudi Arabia, it`s the Saudi crown prince who controls his country`s sovereign wealth fund.
Seems legit, sure, right? As "The Post" delicately puts it, Mnuchin`s planned investment effort coming so soon after leaving office raises concerns over whether Trump administration policy was influenced by Mnuchin`s future private pursuits. Yeah, you think? You think?
Look at this, this is priceless. This is priceless. This is priceless. As the post notes in this reporting, quote, some of the largest investment funds in the Persian Gulf region are controlled by UAE, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Two paragraphs later, "The Post" notes that this the very final days of the Trump administration where did Steven Mnuchin take his last taxpayer funded overseas junket? He went off to visit among other concerns, what`s that list again?
The UAE, United Arab emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. He just decided that at the very last minute while the taxpayers were still paying for his travel, he wanted to visit all of the countries with the largest sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East. All of the countries with the largest sovereign wealth funds in the region with whom he is now planning on going into personal private business.
In fact, when the assault on the U.S. Capitol happened on January 6th, Steven Mnuchin was in the middle of that shopping spree. I mean that trip. Because of the attack on the Capitol, he got all sorts of press for sort of nobly taking action to cut short his trip, and in fact, he didn`t end up going to Kuwait after all. He canceled the Kuwait part of that trip.
But even after the attack on the Capitol on January 6th, he did keep stretching his Middle East trip out just a little while longer, as long as he conceivably could specifically so he could squeeze in at least one last trip to Saudi Arabia for what was expected to be one last visit with MBS, with crown prince bone saw.
And now, he`s opening his private investment fund with what he hopes and expects will be lots and lots of money from the people he has loyally served as U.S. treasury secretary in the Persian Gulf states. People he has loyally served as U.S. treasury secretary by which he does not mean, you know, us.
So Joe Biden is president now. He is not sitting in the lap of the bone saw guy nor sending members of his cabinet to do that. President Biden isn`t even speaking to the bone saw guy. We believe, if this "Axios" reporting is correct that President Biden and the director of national intelligence he appointed will tomorrow publicly release the U.S. intelligence community`s evidence related to the murder of this U.S. journalist in which the crown prince is reportedly implicated.
But think about the context in which President Biden is making these sorts of changes. I mean, he has -- he`s doing this. He`s releasing this report. He is making a big change with the way we deal with Saudi Arabia. He is calling out the crown prince of that country. We expect in this report in terms of his implication in the murder of a U.S. journalist, he`s doing all of that as president while this is the background noise, while literally a cabinet secretary from the previous administration is going into personal business with these guys in the gulf.
A month after leaving office having spent four years as treasury secretary giving away the store to those countries in terms of U.S. policy, particularly to Saudi Arabia. And suddenly, we spent a good amount of time talking to people trying to figure out if what Steven Mnuchin is doing here is illegal.
Can you sell your actions as treasury secretary while you were in office for future personal financial reward? Is that -- can you do that? I mean, literally in his last hours in office the night before the inauguration, former President Trump rescinded the ethics rules that might have banned something this corrupt outright from officials who served in the Trump administration. So I guess that was seen as Mnuchin`s free pass to do it.
But if Steven Mnuchin did sell out U.S. policy in a quid pro quo so the countries he sold out to would then pay him personally as soon as he was out of office, that is something that Trump killing the ethics rule might not save him from. So there`s that.
Incidentally -- incidentally as far as illegal goes, we are still watching to see what`s going to happen with the enforcement of the subpoena from New York state prosecutors for President Trump`s financial records. The former president`s accounting firm is set, we think sometime this week to hand over to state prosecutors in New York literally millions of pages, terabytes worth of financial and tax records from former President Trump.
Those state prosecutors are looking at former President Trump reportedly for potential tax fraud, bank fraud and insurance fraud watching to see if there will be any public indication about when those documents are handed over.
Today -- this is interesting -- CNN is reporting that those same prosecutors in New York state have also now issued subpoenas to financial firms linked to Steve Bannon. Former Trump White House senior adviser, Trump campaign chief, Steve Bannon was charged by federal prosecutors in a multi-count felony fraud scheme before Trump gave him a last minute pardon right before he left office.
State prosecutors are now reportedly looking at that same scheme, an alleged grift in which Trump supporters were told to send their own money to a GoFundMe page in order to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico themselves with their own private money, Bannon and his co-defendants are said by prosecutors to have pocketed a significant share of that money hence the fraud and theft charges.
Bannon`s co-defendants are still facing felony federal charges in that alleged scheme. Bannon isn`t facing those federal charges anymore because of the Trump pardon, but fraud and theft are the kinds of crimes that are very easy to charge, either at the state level or the federal level. And so, he may not be facing federal charges anymore because of the pardon, but there`s no reason why he can`t face state charges that look almost exactly the same.
With subpoenas reportedly going out now to GoFundMe and to another bank that was allegedly used in this scheme, it looks like Mr. Bannon might eventually be looking at potential state charges in New York for that we fund the wall fraud scheme, and that of course would mean state prison time if he is convicted.
In addition, the president`s eldest son Donald Trump Jr. was reportedly deposed today by the office of D.C.`s attorney general. That`s part of the corruption probe of the 2016 Trump inaugural where prosecutors allege the inaugural committee, which operates as a nonprofit, the allegation is that they dramatically overpaid the Trump organization, the president`s family business for inauguration related frills. If true, that of course would have the effect of the president and his family effectively stealing from a nonprofit to funnel money to themselves and their family business. The president`s eldest daughter Ivanka Trump has already been deposed in that case, now Donald Trump Jr. has as well.
The Trump hangover continues as well at the U.S. post office where delays we`ve never really seen before have persisted and in some cases gotten even worse since the election under the wrecking ball leadership of Trump Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. DeJoy appeared quite truculently before the House Oversight Committee today. He basically promised that, yeah, even now, even now he has plans to make the mail even slower than it is right now, and to make it more expensive as well.
Louis DeJoy basically reveled, kind of chortled at today`s hearing at the fact that President Biden can`t directly fire him. Based on the rules of the way the Postal Service is governed, he can only be fired by the Postal Service Board of Governors. Basically to call that question, basically right as that hearing was ending, President Biden announced, OK then, three new nominees to the Postal Service Board of Governors, here they are.
The Postal Service Board of Governors will absolutely be able to fire Louis DeJoy as soon as they are in the majority, which won`t be long now that Biden has announced these nominees.
And breaking news late tonight, MSNBC`s Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff are reporting that of the more than 600 kids who were taken away from their parents at the southern border by the Trump administration, of the more than 600 kids who were known to still be separated from their parents at the end of the Trump administration, of those 611 kids, Julia and Jacob report tonight that the Biden administration has already been able to find the parents of 105 of those children. Now, it is -- that`s less than 20 percent, but it is something. The parents of 105 separated kids have been found since January in the month that the Biden administration has been in office.
That means the parents of 506 separated migrant kids still haven`t been found, but they are working on it at least, and they have found -- they have located members of more than 100 of these families. You`ll remember that one of the early Biden executive orders was to set up a task force including the secretary of homeland security and the secretary of state and other cabinet officials to try to find those team members and get those kids reunited.
While President Biden still tries to get his cabinet confirmed, including nominee Neera Tanden at the Office of Management and Budget, whose nomination is effectively being blocked now by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who has decided he doesn`t like her tone even though he was happy to vote for many Trump nominees who all had much worse tone and much worse records on the form of partisan statements and civility than Neera Tanden ever got near.
With Joe Manchin blocking Neera Tanden`s nomination at this point, we`re now, nevertheless, getting into the nitty-gritty on the Biden administration`s first big legislative leap, which looks like it may start to move and pass the House. It may even get close to passing the Senate before the full Biden cabinet is confirmed.
The first big legislative effort, of course, is the COVID relief bill. It is steaming ahead. It`s looking more and more like it`s going to get zero Republican support, despite the bill`s wide support by the republic -- excuse me, by the public, by Republicans and independents and Democrats who support this bill by a large margin. It is Republicans on Capitol Hill who appear uniform in their opposition to it. That means that it will likely have to pass with only Democratic votes. That is possible as long as Democrats are able to pass it through a process in the Senate that`s called reconciliation.
Well, that process has some limits. There are rules within the Senate as to what type of policy is allowed to be passed under that process, and tonight, we are still waiting on word as to whether or not the COVID relief bill will be allowed to incorporate a rise in the minimum wage.
President Biden and Democrats have called for a $15 an hour minimum wage. That would give 27 million American workers a raise. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, including its chair, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, have prioritized this. They have led the fight to keep that minimum wage hike in the relief bill, to keep that minimum wage hike at $15 an hour.
We are waiting -- we thought we would know by now. We`re literally waiting tonight expecting at any moment to find out the ruling of the Senate parliamentarian as to whether or not that minimum wage rise is going to be in this bill, which the Democrats can pass alone without Republican support.
It`s a procedural thing in D.C., and its origins are both baroque and stupid, but it has incredible material consequence for Americans. If you think about what kind of economic relief might make the broadest impact on Americans who need it the most, how about Americans at the lowest end of the wage scale, 27 million of whom would get a not just sustained, but permanent wage increase by this hike in the minimum wage. We are waiting tonight to find out if that is possible.
Meanwhile, we`ve got Congresswoman Jayapal from the Congressional Progressive Caucus standing by. We`ve got Richard Engel standing by with his incredible and super scary scoop that he broke tonight on NBC "Nightly News."
We`ve got a lot to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, tonight, we`re still waiting on a decision that sounds like a little thing that could have a huge impact on tens of millions of Americans and how much money they make. It`s a decision from the Senate parliamentarian. It could come any time now. What we`re waiting on is her determination as to whether or not the big COVID relief bill that`s going to pass the House and the Senate, it`s going to be signed into law by President Biden, whether it can include an increase in the minimum wage.
Democrats are trying to use something called the budget reconciliation process to pass their bill so they can pass it with 51 votes instead of needing 60 votes since Republican senators aren`t going to support this bill at all. What that process means is that only items related to the budget get to be in the bill. The person who gets to decide what is and isn`t related to the budget is the Senate parliamentarian, and we are waiting on her rulings. It`s sort of an almost legal like process.
Last night and early this morning, Senate staffers presented arguments before the parliamentarian like they were lawyers going before a judge. Democratic Senate staff argued that the minimum wage could be kept in the bill. Republican Senate staff argued that it had to be stripped out, that it has nothing to do with the budget.
We don`t know what she`s going to rule. Even if Democrats do manage to get approval from the parliamentarian that they can increase the minimum wage, it`s still not a done deal. They still got to get approval of their caucus, and that is, you know, never easy with Democrats herding cats et cetera, but so far the forces within the Democratic Party that support a $15 an hour minimum wage have really been a force to be reckoned with. I think they have been underestimated as a political force, especially given the public popularity of this position.
Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington. She`s the chair of the Progressive Caucus in the House.
Representative Jayapal, thank you for being here tonight. It`s nice to see you come back.
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): It`s so great to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So what`s your expectation? Do you know when we`re going to hear this ruling? Do you have expectations about what the ruling`s going to be?
JAYAPAL: Well, I don`t know exactly when. We`re all waiting with bated breath, but I will tell you that this reconciliation process was used to kick tens of millions of people off of health care by the Republicans and the parliamentarian did allow that to happen. Now, it was done in a kind of a wonky way, but when Republicans have used reconciliation to kick people off of health care, to pass the $2 trillion tax cut where 85 percent of that tax cut went to the wealthiest, I think that we feel good that it should also then be allowed for Democrats to use reconciliation to pass minimum wage increase for 27 million workers across this country and lift 1 million minimum wage workers out of poverty.
So this is really, really important. I did want to make a clarification, though, the parliamentary parliamentarian issues an advisory opinion. Once the parliamentarian issues that advisory opinion, it is up to the chair of the Senate to decide whether or not to incorporate that opinion. It`s a small technicality, but I do think that we`ve got to use every tool in our toolbox here, whether it is reconciliation, whether it is, you know, ultimately reforming the filibuster.
We`re going to need to deliver on our promise to raise the wage for 27 million Americans.
MADDOW: And do you make that clarification about the parliamentarian`s opinion being an advisory matter because you think that Democrats in the Senate should use their 50 votes and potentially the tie breaker vote of Vice President Harris, I guess, to overrule the parliamentarian if she says, no, this can`t be in reconciliation. Do you think they should go that far?
JAYAPAL: I personally do, and I`ll tell you, it`s because either -- I mean, Democrats made a promise to people across this country, that we were going to raise the minimum wage. That we were going to put money in people`s pockets. It`s been 12 years since we`ve raised the minimum wage, and if we`re going to make those promises, we have to be able to deliver on them because, I`ll tell you what, in two years, Rachel, when people vote in the midterms, you`re not going to be able to say, well, I`m sorry we couldn`t raise the minimum wage because the parliamentarian ruled that we couldn`t do it. That`s not going to fly.
So whether it`s overruling the parliamentarian or whether it is reforming the filibuster so we can actually pass a minimum wage bill, I think it is important that we use every tool in the toolbox. One thing, though, the House is going to pass this reconciliation bill with a $15 minimum wage raise in it, so we want to be very clear the house is going to do our jobs, now the Senate needs to do its job.
MADDOW: One of the reasons that I think your power and the power of people who agree with you on this is being underestimated is that I feel like what never gets factored into the beltway press treatment of these issues is how the public feels about. The idea of raising the minimum wage, particularly since you say because it hasn`t been raise instead 12 years, and even the reddest states that put it on the ballot, it wins as a ballot measure, raising the minimum wage wins by huge margins, everywhere people have a chance to have a say in it.
I feel like the beltway press calculation never factors in what the American people actually have as policy preferences on this subject. But I feel like you and your colleagues have been pretty rigorous trying to keep that back in the center of the frame, to try to make a public appeal and make sure that the public preference on this issue is factored into the Capitol Hill politics that would otherwise, I think, prefer to ignore that.
JAYAPAL: That`s totally right. This is not a radical idea, maybe ten years ago when fast food workers first went on strike calling for $15 in 2012, maybe it was considered radical back then. It is mainstream today.
You know Florida voted for Donald Trump and yet passed with two-thirds majority a minimum wage hike to $15.
So across the country, this is the policy that independents, Republicans, and Democrats are calling for, and it is also what we promised, Rachel. If we are going to say that Democrats are going to make a difference when we have the House, the Senate, and the White House, then we are going to have to deliver. It is not going to be sufficient for us to just say, well, we tried, sorry. We`ve got to go to the mat with every tool in the toolbox.
MADDOW: We are going to have to deliver. I am putting in the order for the bumper sticker right now.
Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, again, we`re still waiting for this ruling tonight. There`s a lot of politicking, a lot of work to happen after that ruling comes in. But thank you so much for helping us understand it tonight. It`s good to see you.
JAYAPAL: Thank you, Rachel. Great to see you, too.
MADDOW: All right. As I mentioned, NBC`s Richard Engel is here tonight. He had a scoop tonight on NBC "Nightly News" that has skeeved me out in a way that has made me worry about my ability to sleep tonight, but it is worth seeing, worth understanding and absolutely defies an emerging revisionist history on the right on Capitol Hill right now. It`s important truth- telling journalism.
Richard Engel joins us with that next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is 22-year-old riley Williams from Pennsylvania in the Capitol on January 6th according to the FBI.
RILEY WILLIAMS, 22-YEAR-OLD: Go, up the stairs, go.
ENGEL: Upstairs is Speaker Nancy Pelosi`s office, inside a female voice the FBI believes to be Williams seems excited.
WILLIAMS: I`m in Nancy --
ENGEL: On the desk is Pelosi`s HP laptop. The same voice tells others to treat it carefully.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dude, put on gloves.
ENGEL: According to the FBI, a witness claims Williams stole the laptop and intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia to be passed to Russian intelligence.
Williams turned herself in to authorities shortly after the Capitol assault.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: NBC News`s Richard Engel reporting tonight on the case of Riley Williams, one of the most confounding cases, I mean, from the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Well, tonight, Richard brings us brand new exclusive reporting that adds a whole new layer to our understanding of this strange part of the Capitol attack on January 6th, including the laptop stolen from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi`s office. Richard has teamed up with the online investigative group Bellingcat. They`re probably best known for tracking down and unmasking Russian intelligence agents involved in assassination attempts overseas. Bellingcat turned their investigative skills to the Capitol attack into the specific case of Riley Williams, and the stolen laptop from Pelosi`s office.
After someone sent them a video that they believed showed Riley Williams pledging allegiance to Adolf Hitler. I`m going to show you this video.
Again, this has not been seen on television before tonight. It is very short. It is not graphic in any literal sense, but I will warn you it is disturbing. It will stick with you, and it is definitely, definitely, creepy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hammer was right all along. There is no political solution. All that is left is acceleration. Heil Hitler.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And then the video just continues for a while like this with this flashing image and the negative color filter and the music.
Like I said, very creepy. But you can see the obvious obstacles to a definitively identifying the woman in this Heil Hitler video as the same woman who stormed the Capitol on January 6th and allegedly helped to steal Pelosi`s laptop.
What Bellingcat was able to do with this video is twofold. First, they sort of decode it. For those of us who are not familiar with modern neo-Nazi ideology and iconography in the dark corners of the Internet where this stuff thrives. So, for instance, when the voice in the video says there is no political solution. All that`s left is acceleration. Bellingcat explains that`s a reference to a particular white nationalist neo-nazi ideology that calls for accelerating, quote "accelerating", the collapse of society as a pathway toward establishing a genocidal white supremacist state.
When she references the Hammer, well, that appears to be a social media challenge -- social media channel, excuse me, that promotes that same ideology. The skull mask she`s wearing on the mirrored sunglasses that she`s wearing as well as the icon on the hat that she`s wearing, those are all symbols adopted explicitly by adherents of that social media channel and other Nazi groups.
Even that negative color filter used at the end of the video, it echoes an aesthetic that is popular in white supremacist propaganda right now, and there`s other clues, too. She`s got a book about the Waffen-SS, that`s visible and the negative color profile at her feet in the Heil Hitler video. There`s other things you can see there.
But beyond just those things that you can see and notice, you might recognize if you`re familiar with this stuff, the other thing Bellingcat does is they go about gathering evidence that the woman in this video is indeed Riley Williams, who`s been charged in the Capitol attack. They discovered several of her social media accounts on which she has posted racist and anti-Semitic screeds along with neo-Nazi ideology and symbolism seen in that video. They painstakingly matched photos and items of clothing and pieces of furniture you can see across multiple social media postings in order to place Riley Williams in that same room, in that same dress as the woman in that Heil Hitler video.
Her lawyer tells Richard Engel tonight the Heil Hitler video was meant as a joke. I don`t think it`s that funny. I don`t know, maybe that`s just me. Interestingly, her lawyer would not confirm or deny that that was, in fact, his client in the Heil Hitler video.
But, you know, in addition to this being just a very interesting piece of investigative work, this report from Bellingcat and NBC News is a jarring reminder of how much we still don`t know about what went down on January 6th, particularly as the conservative media and some elected Republicans in Congress claim that the people who took place in that attack on the Capitol weren`t that bad and there really wasn`t that many extremists and there certainly weren`t white supremacists.
It tells you how much we have yet to expose about what organizations and affiliations brought folks to that attack and to what degree they were coordinated. Congress held its first hearing on the Capitol attack yesterday. They`re holding a second one two days from now. There`s just a ton of pressing, outstanding questions we still don`t know the answers to.
I mean, how do we still not know how Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died? Basic facts about what caused his death.
How about the allegation that members of Congress were giving reconnaissance tours to people who came back as rioters? That allegation was leveled by other members of congress. Where are we on that?
Why did the Pentagon slow walk the deployment of the National Guard that day? The chief of the D.C. police testified to that today. Why did the Pentagon slow walk the National Guard deployment? Did President Trump have any role in personally delaying the National Guard response?
What was disgraced Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn`s brothering it at doing a Pentagon taking part in that decision just days after Flynn had called for Trump to use martial law to overturn the election, why did the Army lie about Mike Flynn`s brother`s involvement in the meetings and the decisions as to whether and when to deploy the National Guard?
Why were six Capitol police officers suspended from duty for their actions during the attack? What`s the status of the more than two dozen other officers who are reportedly under investigation for somehow having behaved inappropriately in relation to that attack? How many guns and other weapons were found among rioters that day? Who placed the pipe bombs that were diffused outside the DNC and the RNC the day of the attack? Was that -- were those pipe bombs, those operational pipe bombs definitively connected to the Capitol assault?
The former Capitol police chief testified yesterday he thinks the pipe bombs were connected with the attack, but we don`t know for certain, nor do we know who did that, which means somebody capable of creating operational pipe bombs and placing them and concealing them in D.C. is still on the loose. Why are we not getting any briefings on the cases the government is bringing against the Capitol rioters? We haven`t heard squat from any senior Justice Department figures about the investigation in weeks.
The only guy we have heard from, the acting U.S. attorney in D.C. hasn`t given a briefing on Capitol rioter arrests in nearly a month. And by the way, where`s Nancy Pelosi`s laptop? Riley Williams has been arrested in connection with her alleged actions at the Capitol on January 6th. Part of the allegations against her is that she took part in stealing it. She apparently claims to not have it now, but it has still not been found. FBI affidavit filed in conjunction with the charges of her case suggests that she wanted to give it to someone who was going to provide it to Russian intelligence. Where is it?
We don`t have answers yet to any of these questions, almost all of which we had the day after the attack. We still don`t have them answered.
Fortunately, though, we are getting new information about the people who stormed the Capitol that day and their affiliations including with explicit neo-Nazi groups. That`s thanks to investigations like tonight`s from Bellingcat and Richard Engel. Richard joins us live here next.
MADDOW: Joining us now is NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, who along with an investigative group Bellingcat has broken the story tonight one of the women arrested for the Capitol attack in her case helping to steal allegedly Nancy Pelosi`s laptop out of her office is the same woman seen in this video saying Hitler was right, espousing Nazi ideology and giving a Heil Hitler Nazi salute.
Richard, thank you for making time to be here tonight. I tell you, I feel like you`ve definitely already rob me of at least one night`s sleep. I find this to be incredibly unnerving stuff.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It is a very disturbing video, and I think that`s part of the idea behind making video like this. They`re meant to be intimidating but also fun for their own community.
If you look at these alt-right websites or neo-Nazi websites or chat rooms, they`re full of stuff like this where they`re talking to each other, they`re wearing the costume. They`re playacting, but what we saw at the Capitol wasn`t playacting. So these people brought their fantasy Nazi worlds and brought them to the Capitol. And you had this explosion of a very dark mentality, and now we`re trying to put the pieces together to figure out who was in the Capitol, how did it get organized, and basically what is their back story? What brought them there?
Because still even though we all saw this happen and even though they were clearly wearing things like Camp Auschwitz t-shirts or posting videos doing Heil Hitler there`s still this narrative out there this was a bunch of innocent people that got swept up in the moment or that this was Antifa or it wasn`t what we all think it`s what it was.
So, unfortunately, we have to keep digging and digging and trying to prove this as definitively as we can and piece together what happened, because we`re not getting the answers. We`re not getting the answers ability the laptop, why there was a tremendous break down of security that day. Why when everybody saw this coming, the cavalry wasn`t there and didn`t come for a long time.
MADDOW: And, Richard, we are getting a sort of revisionist history already from elements of the conservative media, virtually from some of our prime time colleagues at Fox News advancing this idea that, you know, nothing too bad and no one too bad was at that attack. We`re hearing that from some elected Republicans as well, like Senator Ron Johnson at the hearing yesterday.
Do you think there`s more stuff like this down the road that`s going to disabuse people of those revisionist histories over time? Are you -- are you doing further reporting with Bellingcat and other ways of looking at this that may make more of this emerge?
ENGEL: Yes, we are. This was the first of our cooperations that we brought out today, and it takes a lot of time. We had to piece together a puzzle, putting together sort of a collage of images. And a lot of these activists, which is good for journalists` sake, left a lot of bread crumb. They were very active on social media, some of it encrypted, some of it not encrypted, sometimes using their real names, often using false names.
But when you line up all the videos together and use the metadata to figure out their chronology, then you can start to see parallels and similarities and clues. In this case, for example, Riley wore the same glasses often in the many of the videos. She wore the same clothing. She has distinctive tattoos.
Once we were able to identify these tattoos and identify the clothing, identify the glasses, then you can start placing her in different locations. And ultimately it was a light in the room we were able to use to pinpoint this particular video of the Heil Hitler.
So, yes, we`re going to be doing more of this. It takes time because you have to lay out all the videos and do a tremendous amount of compare and contrasting to try to narrow it down. I think it`s important because this false narrative is continuing to be pushed out there.
MADDOW: NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, congratulations on this, Richard. And thanks for making time to help us understand it tonight. It is deeply unsettling and deeply important stuff. It`s good to see you, my friend. Thank you.
ENGEL: Sorry if I`m going to leave that image in your mind for the night, but aside from that, we`ll also be watching Khashoggi tomorrow.
ENGEL: Fascinating stuff.
MADDOW: Indeed, indeed, indeed.
All right. Thank you, my friend. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I feel like so much of today`s busy news day was basically an on- ramp toward later tonight and tomorrow. We`re expecting that important ruling on the minimum wage. We`re expecting the potentially the intelligence community`s declassified report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. There`s a lot going on tonight and still ahead, too.
But that does it for me for now. I`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END