"The Wall Street Journal" published a phone call made in late December by President Donald Trump to the chief investigator in the Georgia Secretary of State`s office. Stacey Abrams, founder of the voter advocacy group, Fair Fight is interviewed.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes, and, it`s -- you know, Nicolle, I think that to focus on not only the people that we have lost, but to acknowledge that it`s okay to not let them go. There isn`t closure when you`ve lost somebody. Your families are never the same.
Your grief is never over, and it`s not a failure on your part to continue to grieve and to continue to feel overwhelmed by the loss, and that`s just -- it`s an adult way to approach it, but it`s something that we need to face collectively as a country, but we also just need to have so much heart and so much respect for all the families, for the half million plus American families who will never ever, ever be the same. It`s just we -- it`s a form of maturity to be real about those permanent losses.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: It is, and it`s something we`re still learning to talk about. Thank you for ducking in and letting us dive into your hour.
And thanks to all of you for letting us into your homes during these truly extraordinary and challenging times. We`re so grateful.
I`ll see you tomorrow for "DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE."
Rachel, we turn it over to you. Thank you, my friend.
MADDOW: God bless you, Nicolle. God bless you. Thank you.
All right. It has been a remarkable hour on MSNBC. I`m so grateful for my colleagues and for colleagues in particular like Nicolle who can handle the emotional weight of what she just did there. That was just -- what a service.
Tomorrow night here is going to be a very big deal as well, which Nicolle alluded to at the end of her hour there. As you know, President Biden is going to be giving his first prime time address to the nation on the issue of COVID on the one-year anniversary of the declaration of the worldwide pandemic.
We`re going to have Chris Hayes at the Lincoln Memorial tomorrow coming out of that speech doing a special hour of his own. Looking back at what we`ve been through the past year but also looking ahead towards us being back together again as we start to defeat this thing, hopefully as a country.
It`s -- it`s just a remarkable -- it`s a remarkable time for us as a country, and for those of us whose job it is to cover this ongoing pandemic, it`s an incredible challenge, but I am super proud of Nicolle and Chris and so many of the other -- so many of the rest of my colleagues who have done such yeoman`s work covering this in the ways that we can. I think we`ve all approached it in our own ways.
Our colleagues, you know, Stephanie Ruhle who themselves dealt with COVID, who have been sick, her and her family have talked about that with her viewers, it`s heavy stuff. But -- it`s heavy stuff and there`s no road map how to do it. You have to approach it every day newly.
So it`s been a remarkable year. Tomorrow as I said, it`s going to be a remarkable night. We will on this show have Dr. Anthony Fauci with us tomorrow night, which I`m very much looking forward to.
So, that`s all ahead. This is a heck of a time in the country and a heck of a time to be in the news business. It has as of today officially been 50 days of the Biden presidency, which means we are halfway through to that first 100 days benchmark for the presidency of Joe Biden, that first 100 days benchmark that we`ve used for generations now to mark the initial progress and priorities of a new president.
Today, we`re halfway there, 50 days in, and what a way to spend that day celebrating the passage of truly landmark legislation that a new Pew survey today says is supported by fully 70 percent of the American public. Some other new polling actually puts the number higher than that in terms of the public support of the COVID relief bill.
At minimum, we can say based on the Pew research center`s polling this bill has 70 percent support from the American public, while zero Republicans voted for it. That is a kind of ratio that usually doesn`t end well for elected officials who put themselves in that position. We`ll have more on the political aspect of that in a moment and later ahead this hour.
But substantively, aside from the politics, this is just a really, really big deal. About 85 percent of American households are about to get $1,400 stimulus checks to help dig individual American families and the American economy as a whole out of the nuclear-sized crater that COVID put in our economy. Health insurance premiums, one of the biggest monthly expenses for lots and lots of American families, health insurance premiums are about to go down dramatically for millions of Americans because of this bill.
Some people are going to see their health insurance premiums go from considerable amounts, from hundreds of dollars per month down to zero. Schools, particularly K through 12 schools are about to get the funding to make the changes they need to make so they can safely reopen. That is finally green lit at last, alongside the new federal program that aims to have every single teacher, every single school staff worker, every school counselor, cafeteria worker, school bus driver, every school maintenance worker and janitor, every child care worker in America to have at least one vaccine shot by the end of this month.
If you work in any of those jobs in schooling or child care, regardless of your age, regardless of whether you have any comorbidities, eligible to get a vaccine shot no matter what state you live in, and the pharmacies getting federal government support can get you one and they should get you one by the end of this month, which means within the next three weeks. While simultaneously as of now, the schools are going to get $130 billion to fund the upgrades and adaptations they need to get the school doors open safely.
The bill, of course, funds the vaccine rollout, since we now have one as a country, the largest vaccination effort ever in American history is underway. This is finally the funding for it, and if you need further motivation along those lines, this is an unexpected place to look for motivation given the hell that these facilities have been through over the past year, but look at what is happening now with nursing homes.
Nursing homes, of course, were the first entities targeted intensively for vaccines. Nursing homes and other congregate care facilities for the elderly. That has produced such a shockingly dramatic reduction in new cases and in COVID risk overall in those facilities that today, the CDC and the -- part of the federal government that oversees nursing homes, they issued new recommendations today advising nursing homes to start easing their restrictions on visitors. For the first time since the pandemic started, and that may not sound like a huge change in American life, but those visitor bans have made nursing home life so scary and so unbearable for our seniors throughout this terrifying last year in those places that that finally now easing up is a huge, human step forward, and there`s -- listen, there`s a lot of detail to the new guidance.
The new guidance isn`t directed at members of the public. It`s directed at nursing homes in terms of how to shape new policies that can still keep their residents safe while also taking account of the progress that we`ve made in making those facilities safe and in the desperate need for people to have human contact with their loved ones. There`s a lot of nuance.
I`m not going to go into them in detail, if you are looking for a take home message as a member of the public based on these new guidelines. If your mom or your grand pop or your great aunt or elderly friend is in a nursing home, make sure that they have been able to get vaccinated, which means fully vaccinated, which means one or two doses, depending on which vaccine they can get, and then two weeks after the last shot that`s fully vaccinated, make sure they are fully vaccinated and then make sure you`re fully vaccinated, and then if nursing homes, in fact, change their rules to account for this new advice from the federal agency that oversees nursing homes, if your family member or loved one is fully vaccinated and you are, too, soon you should be able to get in there and go see them.
If we can get this together now, you`ll be able to go visit, bring presents, be prepared to give hugs. The toll on our American seniors has been so horrific. I mean, we`re the worst hit country in the world. We`ve had more deaths than any other country in the world. We`ve had the worst epidemic of any country on earth, and the people who have paid the most for it are our seniors. Nearly 1 percent of all American grandparents have died from COVID in the past year. Almost unimaginable.
We talk about there being more than a half a million deaths in this country. Well, more than a third of our deaths in this country were in congregate care facilities. Just an unimaginable, unceasing tide of death, and then we worked on it, and we made that better with vaccines because vaccines work. Death and new infections have plummeted in nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities and other care facilities like that so much so that we can start to change the rules.
It`s working. It`s working even in the worst hit parts of our country, the worst hit facilities, the places that have been through the deepest of the bottom lens. It`s working. We really can be together again if we finish out strong.
On vaccines today also on top of everything else was also the day that President Biden announced we`ll be getting another 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. And remember, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is one shot and you`re done. So the new 100 million doses means enough vaccines for another 100 million people. We`re going to be getting that vaccine from Johnson & Johnson this year. That`s over and above what we were otherwise planning on buying as a country.
And for the first time, if you do that math, this raises the prospect that the United States of America may have a surplus, maybe a considerable surplus of COVID vaccines by this summer. President Biden said today that once Americans are vaccinated first with our supply, if we do then have a surplus, we will share it with the rest of the world because he says we`re not ultimately safe from the virus until the world is safe from virus, and that is not just hippy dippy happy talk, that is true. That is math, that is virology.
If this thing does run wild in big parts of the world that aren`t vaccinated, new variants will develop in those parts the world that ultimately may defeat our vaccines and our vaccine immunity and mean that we never get out from under this thing. It really is just mathematically speaking in every country`s interest that every country around the world gets vaccinated. With a vaccine like this, you cannot have unvaccinated large population pockets around the world, no matter whether we like those countries or don`t like those countries or have good relations with them or bad relations with them, for everybody in the world including us, everybody in the world needs to get vaccinated.
And now for the first time today, it looks like we are going to be in a position to help with that finally. Here`s what President Biden said about it today. He was wrapping up his comments to reporters about this new 100 million doses, about his prime time address to the country tomorrow.
And then he took a question about this new idea that we never had before today, the idea of us having a vaccine surplus. Just watch this, and while you watch this, keep in the back of your mind that only 50 days ago, the president was Donald Trump but, boy, what a difference a president makes. Just watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow night, I`m going in prime time to address the American people and talk about what we`ve been through as a nation this past year, but more importantly, I`m going to talk about what comes next. I`m going to launch the next phase of the COVID response and explain what we will do as a government, and what we will ask of the American people. There is light at the end of this dark tunnel in the past year, but we cannot let our guard down now or assume that a victory is inevitable.
Together we`re going to get through this pandemic and usher in a healthier and more hopeful future. There`s real reason for hope folks. There`s real reason for hope. I promise you.
May God bless you all. May God protect our troops, and may God ease the pain in the heart of so many who have lost so many people in this pandemic. Thank you and I really -- we`re going to do this. We`re going to get it done. Thank you.
REPORTER: Mr. President, what do you plan to do with the surplus? What will you do with the surplus?
REPORTER: Mr. President, when will you do a press conference?
BIDEN: The surplus will -- if we have a surplus, we`re going to share it with the rest of the world. This is not something that can be stopped by a fence, no matter how high you build a fence or a wall. So we`re not going to be ultimately safe until the world is safe, so we`re going to start off making sure Americans are taken care of first, but we`re then going to try to help the rest of the world. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: But we`re then going to try to help the rest of the world. Talk about a pivot.
From the U.S. having the worst epidemic on earth, the most deaths on earth, the most poorly managed response to the crisis of any major nation on earth to 50 days later we`ve now got a brand new national vaccination program that is vaccinating our people at a rate faster than any other major nation on earth. We just passed legislation in 50 days from stem to stern that is expected to add 7 million jobs back to the economy, which COVID collapsed and which is expected to cut poverty in our country by a third.
On the strength of all, soon we are going to be in a position -- soon, I mean like within a few months, we`re not only going to be in a position -- not only going to be in a position to vaccinate all of our own people, we will then be able to help other countries get to that point, too. To help ourselves and the whole world beat it once and for all, from last in the world to world leader once again. That would be nice.
Today, American Airlines sent out this notice to all of its employees nationwide telling them because the COVID relief bill was signed today, was passed today by Congress, the 13,000 employees of American who just got furlough notices last month warning them they were going to be laid off in April, those 13,000 people can rip up those furlough notices because thanks to this bill, they`re going to be able to keep their jobs.
They sent out this letter, all across the company and then the CEO posted this to Instagram right after the bill was passed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG PARKER, AMERICAN AIRLINES CEO: I have fantastic news to share. So if you have one of those WARN Act notices we sent out in February, tear it up. There aren`t going to be any furloughs at American Airlines in April, and with vaccinations on the rise, hopefully never again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The letter that American sent out to its employees also told them if you see your local congressional representative on a flight, be sure to thank her or him for their work this past year, and for recognizing the noble work you all do every day. Which is smart, honestly, it might be worth knowing whether your local representative actually voted for this help before you thank them because, in fact, not a single Republican voted for COVID relief. But still, I understand the spirit of the thing.
I should also tell you that incidentally Mississippi Republican Senator Roger Wicker today started publicly crowing about all the good that the COVID relief bill is going to do for people in Mississippi, as if he voted for the bill. He`s crowing about what`s in the bill. He voted against the bill just like every single other Republican in the Senate and the house, but he is already publicly trying to take credit for it in Mississippi. Of course he is.
On that American airlines thing, though, there definitely is -- it`s striking. How often do you see a company of any size able to tell its employees this thing passed today. We expect it`s going to be signed into law presently by the president and so all of you who we were going to furlough will no longer be furloughed. I mean, that just doesn`t happen that definitively like that, but this is definitive, and there is targeted help in this bill for industries hit particularly hard by the pandemic including transportation companies like airlines.
Also, Amtrak has just announced they are going to be able to bring back a bunch of their employees who were furloughed because now they`re going to be able to restart service as the country gets vaccinated and people are able to start traveling again. They can restart, for example, long haul trains and the auto train and things like that, so they`re able to bring back their employees now because this bill has passed.
Restaurants as well, like Senator Wicker was bragging about as if he had voted yes for the bill, restaurants are getting targeted help. Nonprofits also will now be able to get the kind of PPP paycheck protection loans that for profit businesses got before. There are a lot of targeted elements of help here for organizations, entities and businesses.
But what is different about this COVID relief bill is than anything done before, radically more than anything done before, this bill targets help to individual American families. Because of this bill, the poorest 20 percent -- the poorest 20 percent of Americans will see their income boosted by 20 percent. Think about that for a second. We`re talking about the bottom fifth of the country in terms of income, on average their income will rise 20 percent per household because of this bill.
What else has ever been done in our lifetime to help struggling American working families that much? Families with kids in particular will start to see real benefits really soon, in addition to the stimulus payments those $1,400 checks that are about to be going out. If you have a child in your family between the ages of 6 and 17, you`re going to get $3,000 because of this bill.
If your child is under the age of 6, it`s more than that, it`s $3,600. It will come in monthly installments, which means you`re going to see a difference every month in what your family is taking in. If you`re a working class or middle class family with let`s say two small kids, say a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old, you will get several hundred dollars a month every month as a check from here on out in addition to the $1,400 stimulus payment that`s going out right away.
That is going to help a lot of American families, and it is going to help them a lot directly right away in a very uncomplicated way. You want to deal with the root causes of poverty, give people money, and having more money will make you less poor. And as a matter of policy, I often treated as much more complicated than that, but from the perspective of an individual American family that does not have enough money to make ends meet, many of them because of this COVID crisis, this bill will give you more money than you had before, and it will send it to you every month.
You will get a chunk with the stimulus payment upfront, and if you`ve got kids you will get a check for several hundred dollars every month from here on out to help you. And that is the most direct way to alleviate child poverty and poverty. This -- if you want to think about this bill in the very big picture, this bill spends the same amount of money that Republicans spent on the tax cuts during the Trump years, and what did that do?
The vast majority of that spending -- again, it`s the same amount of spending as this bill -- the vast majority of that was targeted to the people who are already among the richest people in the country, the top 5 percent, the top 1 percent. This bill that just passed today spends the same amount of money as Republicans did on the top earners needing tax cuts under Trump. Except this time we`re spending the same amount of money, but we are targeting it to 85 percent of Americans.
We`re only excluding the very well off, and we are especially helping the people who need the most help including American kids growing up in poverty. This bill will cut child poverty in half in this country. It will cut poverty overall in this country by one-third, and they did it in 50 days.
And now, the Biden administration will set out to promote the benefits of the bill. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki saying there will be plentiful travel by the president and vice president and their spouses and cabinet officials to promote the new plan.
NBC News is reporting that the president himself may spend enough time doing that that his first State of the Union Address, his first address to a joint session of Congress might be pushed back all the way to April.
Jen Psaki also interestingly said today that president Biden will likely pick a point person to be in charge of the implementation of this bill, and you might remember that when he and President Obama started their administration in 2009 and the Democratic controlled Congress passed their much smaller stimulus bill to deal with the financial crisis, President Obama picked a point person to oversee that stimulus bill, and he gave that point person job to vice president Joe Biden.
Now, this time around, there`s no sign one way or the other as to whether it might be Vice President Harris who takes point on implementing the American rescue plan, whoever they pick, it does make sense to have a highly influential person with direct connection to the president who can run point on a big initiative like this, troubleshoot stuff, force through implementation of this big new set of policies that are designed to help. We`ll see who he chooses.
Now, in terms of the politics here, I mentioned that one of the big changes people are going to see from this bill -- and it hasn`t received a lot of attention, but it`s going to make a really big difference to people`s bottom line, particularly working families, lower middle class, middle middle class families, a big change people are going to see is that health insurance premiums are going to go way down for millions of people, for quite a few people health insurance premiums are going to go to zero for the first time.
Also, if you have ever lost a job through which you had health insurance coverage, you may know that there`s this program called COBRA that lets you keep paying for the health insurance that you had through your job even after you have lost that job. COBRA has been around for a long time, and it does help keep people from going uninsured after they`ve lost their jobs, but if you`ve ever had to use COBRA, you know that it is wicked, wicked expensive. Well, one of the things this bill is going to do is make COBRA way less expensive for people who find themselves in that situation.
So the bill overall does a ton to make it easier to get health insurance in this country, makes it easier to keep health insurance in this country, and it makes it easier, much easier to afford it, all of which is going to be really popular. All of which is going to have a big economic impact on a lot of families, and it`s all going to be really helpful given the COVID crisis, which is after all a health care crisis, and a lot of American families have health expenses related to their people in their family suffering from COVID.
Here`s the thing, all of those health care provisions, all that stuff about health insurance, it`s all set to expire in two years, which means two years from now, the house and the Senate will be taking up the question of whether to extend that, whether to continue to make health insurance easier to get, easier to keep, and cheaper. Or whether those provisions should expire, which will jack up everybody`s rates suddenly and throw millions of people off their health coverage. They`ll be taking up that debate in 2022, right around the time of the 2022 midterm elections, which means right around the time of the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans are going to be faced with a difficult choice of whether they, in fact, want to throw millions of Americans off their health care and jack up health insurance rates for millions of Americans or maybe do they want to have a change of heart so they support these programs the next time around.
Everybody expects the president`s part to lose seats in the first midterm elections after a new president is seated. Well, that may yet happen. History suggests that the Democrats are likely to lose seats and given the tight margins in the House and the Senate, that`s a fraught prospect. But in this bill among everything else in this bill, there is a time bomb in this bill for Republicans on an issue that is consistently the most important issue for voters when they head to the polls which is health care. That is a bomb that they will either set off or diffuse right before voters go back to the polls the next time.
So it`s a big day. Republicans, interestingly, are largely ignoring the bigness of the day. In conservative media and in the most sort of public facing elected -- among the most public facing Republican electeds in Congress, they have spent the time where the Democrats have been considering this bill, the Republicans in conservative media have instead serially been focusing on perceived slights to Mr. Potato Head and Dr. Seuss, also a new initiative unveiled today by leading House Republicans to try to focus their talents on hearings involving something related to the pop star Britney Spears.
Throughout the consideration of the COVID relief bill, Republicans have been -- and conservative media -- have been laser focused on whatever the common thread is between Mr. Potato Head, Britney Spears and Dr. Seuss.
Meanwhile, at the top of Republican politics, today was day five of a saga I almost can`t believe is happening, let alone happening along side Democrats passing the most important legislation in a generation, right?
The former president, Mr. Trump, is demanding formally that the Republican Party stop using his name. He sent them a cease and desist letter. He`s publicly demanding repeatedly now that people who support him should not give any money or support to the Republican Party. They should instead make all of their political donations to him. Make their political donations at his website to his PAC, don`t support the Republican Party, just support me.
The Republicans in Congress are like Britney Spears and Dr. Seuss only. The Republicans at the top of their food chain are like give me all your money.
"The New York Times" noting helpfully today, quote, that the sort of PAC that Donald Trump has been soliciting donations for, quote, has no meaningful restrictions on how it could spend its money. Quote, the former president could, in theory, pay himself and his family members salaries from the money raised at that PAC. Trump`s actions could give him a stream of money at a time when his private company is struggling under the scrutiny of investigations with some discussions of whether properties need to be sold.
So the Democratic Party is passing the most meaningful paradigm shifting legislation in a generation, the immediate former president from the Republican Party is telling his followers to not give the Republican Party any more support, to instead just give him their money at his website and then if he wants to, he literally could just pay that money directly to himself or his kids at a time when investigations including multiple criminal investigations are circling.
We will have more on that in just a moment. Stay with us.
MADDOW: On the historic day in Washington, as Democrats alone passed their massive COVID relief bill, Republicans really are trying to avoid talking about it altogether, and the most important figure in Republican politics appears to be sliding into considerably more trouble.
"The Wall Street Journal" today reporting new details on subpoenas just issued by New York state prosecutors in conjunction with an estate north of New York City that may have been used for a multimillion dollars Donald Trump tax scam. New York prosecutors are looking at former President Trump, reportedly for potential bank fraud, potential tax fraud, potential insurance fraud. We now know about multiple subpoenas circling yet another Trump property long suspected to be the center of a Trump tax cheating scheme.
So that was reported by "The Wall Street Journal" this morning. Then a few hours later, "The Wall Street Journal" also broke this news. "The Journal" tonight reporting on another aspect of the criminal case involving the president, not in New York state, but in the state of Georgia.
You`ll recall that prosecutors in Georgia announced an investigation into whether crimes were committed by president Trump or his associates when they repeatedly pressured Georgia state officials to change the results of the Georgia presidential race to claim that there was some sort of previously undocumented fraud and that the fraud is the only reason why it looked like Joe Biden had won, really Joe Biden didn`t win. President Trump did.
That investigation was announced after a tape emerged of President Trump berating the Georgia secretary of state by phone, telling him to announce that he had recalculated the results of the election and that actually Trump had won. Well, now tonight "The Journal" has published the audio of another call president Trump made in December to another Georgia state official trying to accomplish the same aim.
The tape "The Journal" has published tonight is of a phone call made in late December by President Donald Trump to the chief investigator in the Georgia secretary of state`s office. He tells her in the call that she must find voter fraud in what was then an ongoing audit of mail-in votes in Cobb County, Georgia.
Now, the existence of this phone call had previously been reported in January by "The Washington Post," but tonight "The Wall Street Journal" obtained audio of the six-minute call in which Trump puts the pressure on this woman and tells her that she must declare that she found fraud.
Now, I`m going to play the beginning of the call now. You`re going to hear that Trump starts the call by talking about Mark. Mark in this -- in this case is his chief of staff at the time, Mark Meadows.
We had reported around the teem that this happened that it was a surprise thing on December 22nd that Mark Meadows, the president`s chief of staff, had surprise, turned up in person at the location in Georgia where an audit of mail-in ballots was actually underway. He was not allowed into the facility to where the audit was taking place, but he spoke with officials.
There was never any White House explanation for what the White House chief of staff was doing there on site while the signature audit was underway, but you`ll hear the president talk about mark meadows and his trip to Georgia to look in on that audit at the start of the call.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Hello, Frances, how are you?
FRANCES WATSON: Hello, Mr. President. I am actually doing very well.
TRUMP: Good. Well, you have a big fan in our great chief, right? Chief of staff, Mark.
WATSON: I did. I met him. I -- it was a pleasure to meet him yesterday.
TRUMP: He`s great. He`s great. It was a big successful. He was a great congressman and then when you lead by 35 points, it`s hard to get people out of there, but I tried for two years, we got him, and he`s done -- he`s done a fantastic job.
I just wanted to thank you for everything. He told me you`ve been great, and you know, look, this country is counting on it, and I won Georgia, I know that, by a lot, and the people know it, and you know, something happened there. I mean, something bad happened, and I hope you`re doing that because if you`re -- you know, I hope you`re going back two years as opposed to just checking, you know, one against the other because that would just be sort of a -- a signature check that didn`t mean anything.
But if you go back two years, and if you can get to Fulton, you`re going to find things that are going to be unbelievable, the dishonesty that we`ve heard from --
TRUMP: Just sources, really good sources, but Fulton is the mother load, you know, as the expression goes. Fulton County and ---
WATSON: Well, Mr. President, right. I appreciate your comments and I can assure you that our team and the GBI, that we`re only interested in the truth and finding the information that`s based on the facts and, you know, we`ve been working 12, 16-hour days --
WATSON: -- and we`re working through it, so I can assure you that, and I do appreciate you calling. I know that you`re very busy, very important man, and I`m very honored that you called. And you know, and quite --
TRUMP: What you`re doing --
WATSON: -- and quite frankly I`m shocked that you would take time to do that, but I am very appreciative.
TRUMP: Yeah, Mark asked me to do it. He thinks you`re it great. You have the most important job in the country right now because if we win Georgia, first of all, if we win, you`re going to have two wins. They`re not going to win right now, you know, they`re down because the people of Georgia are so angry at what happened to me.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: I won Georgia by a lot. Something bad happened. You have the most important job in the country right now. If we win, you`re going to have two more wins because otherwise right now they`re not going to win because people in Georgia are so angry at what happened to me. In the call weirdly, president Trump also references the previous Democratic Party leader in Georgia, Stacey Abrams.
I mean, it`s -- why he brings Stacey Abrams up in this context, we don`t know. Trump clearly seems to be asking this investigator, Frances Watson, whose number he was provided by his chief of staff Mark Meadows to investigate fraud in Cobb County and also in Fulton County. Trump references Stacey Abrams here without saying why he`s talking about her, just sort of floating her name as a boogeyman to let this state investigator know what exactly he thinks is wrong with the Georgia vote and what he wants her to find.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: You know, they dropped ballots. They dropped all these ballots. Stacey Abrams, really, really, terrible I mean, just a terrible thing. I will say this, if and when -- I mean, hopefully this will show because if you go back two years or four years, you`re going to see it`s a totally different signature, but hopefully, you know, I will -- when the right answer comes out, you can trace -- I mean, I don`t know why, you know, they made it so hard.
They will be praised. People will say great because that`s what it`s about, that ability to check in and to make it right because everyone knows it`s wrong. There`s just no way. You know, they had people in Georgia, for instance, that won, and I was way ahead of them, and they won because of me, and they say there`s no way I beat you by 15 points. We`ve had plenty of those calls, too.
So anyway, but whatever you can do, Frances, it would be -- it`s a great thing. It`s an important thing for the country. So important. You have no idea, so important.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Whatever you can do, it`s important. You have no idea how important. When the right answer comes out, you will be praised. You will be praised.
The Georgia state prosecutor in Fulton County, Fani Willis, launched a criminal investigation into President Trump last month. He is being investigated for having pressured Georgia election officials to pervert the results of the election to declare him the winner.
In addition to Trump, the investigation is also reportedly looking into efforts to try to overturn the election by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and by the president`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
It now seems a possibility we can add one more name to the list, Mark Meadows, former white how far chief of staff, because she was named yet and for lots of other reasons.
We will be joined here live next by Stacey Abrams of Georgia. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden won the state of Georgia in the 2020 election. He did not beat Donald Trump in Georgia by a lot, but he did definitely and decisively beat him there. One of the places in Georgia that helped put Biden over the edge statewide was Hancock County.
Hancock County has one of the highest proportions of black voters of any county in the country. Joe Biden won Hancock County, Georgia, by a 44-point margin. Look at that.
That`s why it`s a little bit awkward that the Hancock County county attorney also happens to be a Republican state representative named Barry Fleming. Barry Fleming is also the primary Republican sponsor of the big voter suppression bill that the Georgia House passed last week.
Well, today, protesters gathered outside the Hancock County courthouse to protest the fact that their county`s attorney is leading effort to roll back voting rights across the state. Shortly after that rally, the Board of Commissioners in Hancock County voted 4-0 to end Barry Fleming`s tenure as their county attorney, to oust him from that position.
Republicans in Georgia are still working to advance 12 different bills that would make it harder to vote in the state, including the bill that the Hancock County attorney sponsored.
When it comes to pushing back against voter suppression in Georgia, the person who has led that fight is the organizer, former gubernatorial candidate, Democratic Party leader, Stacey Abrams.
She rose to national prominence by shining a spotlight on what Georgia Republicans were doing to try to tilt the playing field, change election rules in order to keep themselves in power.
Well, now, Abrams is sounding the alarm about what Georgia Republicans are doing now. She`s focused both on how Georgia can fight back to try to keep its voting rights intact, but she`s also making it clear that there needs to be national action from Congress, arguing that Democrats should change the rules in the Senate so that voting rights bills should be able to be passed with a simple majority vote. That a filibuster by a minority party shouldn`t be able to stop voting rights bills even if they still can use the filibuster against other things.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
STACEY ABRAMS, FAIR FIGHT FOUNDER: I believe that we need to offer a narrowly tailored version of the filibuster that is grounded in the constitutional principle that there are certain responsibilities that only Congress can meet. And I think that`s the underpinning for existing exceptions. The judicial appointment exception, the cabinet appointment exception, the budget reconciliation exception are all grounded in this idea that these are constitutionally prescribed responsibilities that should not be thwarted by minority imposition, and we should add to it the right to protect democracy.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is Stacey Abrams. She`s founder of the voter advocacy group Fair Fight, and she, of course, has been at the center of the voting battles in Georgia for some time now.
Ms. Abrams, it`s a real pleasure to see you tonight. Thank you so much for being here.
ABRAMS: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: I think a lot of people are looking at what`s happening in Georgia now, especially given what happened in the lead up to the gubernatorial race that you narrowly lost to Brian Kemp after so many people were disenfranchised in that race, and I think people are concerned and want to do something and feel a little bit helpless about defending voting rights in Georgia and in Iowa and in Arizona and in all the other states that Republicans are acting right now to roll things back.
Do you identify at all with that sense of helplessness and frustration, or do you feel like there is a path ahead to try to stop these things?
ABRAMS: I understand why people may feel adrift because the hope was that the 2020 election and the absolute debunking of the lie of voter fraud would have solved the problem. But unfortunately, what we`re seeing instead is the aftermath of January 6th where an insurrection that sought to overturn an election by removing voters and by removing those who would allow those voters to be heard, when that failed the action moved into state capitols.
But what I want people to remember is that we did show up in 2020. We showed up and we demonstrated that we would not have our voices silenced by a Republican Party that across the country has a singular intention on suppressing the right to vote. We fought back by defending absentee ballots, by proliferating ballot drop boxes so people could safely participate, by expanding the access through early voting, and what we have to remember is that we`ve done it before. That time and again when voter suppression has taken hold of our nation, we have found ways to fight back, most recently through the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
And so, yes, I understand the sense that we are alone, but that`s one of the intentions of voter suppression. It`s designed to make it feel like an individual`s responsibility to fix an entire system. But we can fix the system because we already put the pieces in place by electing a Congress that can pass HR-1, SR-1, and HR-4, the For the People Act, and the voting rights -- the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that together will not only defend our democracy, but protect it for another generation.
MADDOW: What do you imagine would be an effective national campaign to get HR-1 and HR-4, as you mentioned, the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, what would an effective national campaign look like that would result in President Biden signing those laws?
ABRAMS: Well, it first begins with defying the assumption Republicans have that they can satisfy their issues at the state level. We`ve started a website, stopjimcrow2.com. We need people to go to that website, because while Georgia is unfortunately a remarkable example of the resurgence of voter suppression, it is not the only state. There are 253 bills in 44 states. And so, we`ve got to fight back at the state level to show that we are in this.
And we know it can work because in New Hampshire, a bill that was designed to disenfranchise Democratic and Republican young people by saying they have to pay in-state tuition in order to vote in elections in New Hampshire where Maggie Hassan won by just 1,000 votes in her last election and where she`s up in `22, they were able to get that bill tabled until next year.
So we know if we show at the state level that we`re fighting back, that`s step one. Step two is calling your Congress person, both your House Representatives but also your U.S. senators in expressing your belief that regardless of the institutional nature of the filibuster, that protecting our democracy has to take precedence, and that conversation has to be had right now.
MADDOW: Stacey, what do you think about the prospect of some of this fight happening in the courts? We had Marc Elias here last night and while he`s an incredibly effective litigator, he showed some passion talking about this subject last night, something I`ve never seen from him in many interviews with him over many years talking about essentially a fear level for what a tsunami of anti-voting rights activism and legislation there is right now in states -- in Republican controlled states all over the country.
He obviously is taking point on litigation against the first of these voter suppression bills to be signed into law in Iowa. He`s already filed a suit there.
Are the courts likely to be an ally in -- in waging some of these battles?
ABRAMS: Some of the courts will be, and we will make it to the Court of Appeals level on a number of these, but we are unfortunately facing a U.S. Supreme Court that has shown a strong disinterest in protecting the right to vote for minority members in our country. Unfortunately, we saw that play out last week when that hearing was held, when the Republicans said boldly that this was necessary -- that their evisceration of the right to vote in Arizona was necessary in order for Republicans to win, and that seemed to be a persuasive argument to the body that is charged with protecting our rights.
And so, I think that Marc Elias is going to put up a good fight as will so many others. The Lawyers Committee, the NAACP legal defense fund, so many groups that have a nonpartisan interest in defending the right to vote.
But we cannot hope that the courts will save us. We know that this has been a 20-year effort by the Republican Party to succeed through removal instead of succeeding through redemption and through revocation and through changing the way they engage the people. Rather than becoming a party that actually speaks to the needs of the people, they have been intentional, thoughtful and strategic about how they can strip us of the right to vote and defend that stripping of the right to vote through the court system.
I think Marc and others will do an amazing job in the courts, but we`ve got to use ever lever at our disposal, and that`s the courts, that`s Congress and that`s the White House.
MADDOW: Stacey, in the fight in Georgia specifically, there have been a few little flutters of embarrassment maybe, flutters of perhaps conscience. The lieutenant governor, the Republican lieutenant governor at one point refusing to preside over the bill to dramatically curtail absentee voting.
We`ve even heard from Brian Kemp some reticence perhaps about whether or not he`s going to support this mass roll back in Georgia.
Do you think it`s possible that there are Republicans, even specifically in Georgia who may find it hard to swallow what their party is doing here, that there may be a little bit of an upsurge of conscience here that might slow these things down at least?
ABRAMS: I`m a person of faith, so miracles do happen. But I will say this. We know that these are people who have known they were wrong before, but the existential crisis facing their party tends to lead to amnesia and silence. And we watched this play out for four years on the national level, and we should expect no different at the state level.
When Republicans look at the changing demography of Georgia, they see the future of our nation, and they see that in competitive elections their only guaranteed route to victory is suppressing the right to vote, stripping voters of automatic registration, removing days from early voting, eliminating weekend voting or making it so curtailed it`s impossible to rely on, shortening the amount of time in the places where drop boxes can be out. Doing all of the things necessary to eviscerate access to the right to vote.
Barry Fleming is the architect of it because he`s done it before. This is the man who`s county attorney for Hancock County, the county you just referenced. As county attorney, he suborned having deputy sheriffs follow black men home during a time of a municipal election to terrify black men into getting off of the rolls so they didn`t risk their freedom.
This is not a party that in the state of Georgia has demonstrated that they will put conscience over their party power. I believe they can, and I`ve worked with these men, and it`s mostly men. I know they`re capable of more, but I believe that we have to, you know, do our best to win anyway. I can`t rely on that as the backup plan.
MADDOW: Stacey Abrams, the founder of Fair Fight and Fair Count who among other things lives rent-free inside the addled mind of the former president. We now know from him complaining about you again incoherently on tape. That`s not exactly an honor, but it`s weird, Stacey. And it is a real honor as always for us to have you with us tonight. Thank you so much.
ABRAMS: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It is a busy time right now in politics and in the country. Three new cabinet officials were confirmed today by the United States Senate. A new secretary of HUD, new attorney general, new EPA administrator.
Tomorrow night, President Biden will deliver the first prime time address of his presidency. We, of course, will take that live here on MSNBC 8:00 p.m. eastern.
As soon as that is over I`ll join my friend Chris Hayes for special night of coverage that he`s doing live from the Lincoln Memorial looking back on this incredible year we`ve had and looking forward to what is coming next.
This hour, 9:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow I`ll be joined live by Dr. Anthony Fauci. Like I said, lots going on. I will see you then.
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