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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/18/21

Guests: Judy Chu, Adam Jentleson


Interview with Congresswoman Judy Chu, Democratic congresswoman from California and chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Advocates urge Senate to exempt voting rights legislation from filibuster.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Congresswoman Katie Porter of California, thank you so much for your time tonight.

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Thank you.

HAYES: That is "ALL IN" on this Thursday night.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.

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

In November, right after the presidential election, a postal worker in Erie, Pennsylvania, a letter carrier at that postal service, that Post Office made an alarming public claim. This letter carrier from Erie, Pennsylvania said he had overheard his supervisor at that Post Office talking about doing something really illegal, planning to do something really illegal. He says he overheard his supervisor talking to another senior person at that Post Office about changing the date on ballots that had been mailed in this the presidential election.

He said basically there were a bunch of ballots at that Post Office that had been sent in too late. They had been mailed in after election day was over, but his supervisor, he said, he heard talking about plans to doctor those ballots, to change the date, change I guess the postmarks on all of those ballots to make it look like they were sent in time, even though they weren`t.

Da da da! That is a very dramatic claim. That would be a very illegal thing to do, right?

So what did this letter carrier do with this information after he says he overheard this very damning, very concerning conversation that involved his supervisor? Well, he went the a right wing activist group, and they drew up an affidavit, a statement that he then signed swearing that what I just described is what he witnessed. Signed his name to the bottom of it, and then this right wing activist group publicly released this sworn affidavit as evidence of massive voter fraud.

This is like the sworn affidavit thing, this is one of the weird things you kept hearing about from Trump supporters and the Trump campaign, people trying to overturn the election results once Biden won. They kept saying they had sworn affidavits.

And ooh, these sworn affidavits, these were the proof they were going to expose everything, stop the steal, unleash the kraken, free Britney, all of it, whatever.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: You`re in the process of getting these affidavits. You have, for example, you brought a pile of them with you tonight?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That`s right, I did, Sean. We keep hearing the drumbeat of where is the evidence. Right here, Sean, 234 pages of sworn affidavits. These are real people, real allegations.


MADDOW: There are so many of them. You flip your papers, they make a flipping sound.

A sworn affidavit sounds like a very impressive legal thing. In this instance, what they`re talking about is just something someone has written down, any scrap of paper will do, and then they`ve signed it at the bottom saying this is me and I say this thing happened. That`s all it is.

There is nothing magic about calling something an affidavit. It doesn`t inherently have any legal standing or bear any standard of proof whatsoever in itself. But, you know, when you put them in a stack, I don`t know, maybe they get more power.

Nevertheless, Fox News and Republicans in Congress got very excited about this affidavit from this guy from the Erie, Pennsylvania Post Office. Senator Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate at the time, he released a formal statement in response to the affidavit declaring his grave concerns about the allegations it contained. On the basis of that affidavit, he wrote to the U.S. Justice Department demanding that the Justice Department open a federal criminal investigation immediately since obviously this affidavit proved that the entire election in Pennsylvania was fraudulent and the whole state was stolen for Biden.

Now reality check. Had you surveyed the landscape here a little bit at the moment, there was immediately at least some sign that there might not be that much water in the pool they were all about to high-dive into here. Not for nothing, but the perp in question, the Post Office supervisor who was supposedly overheard describing this nefarious plot to change the dates on all these ballots to make the late ballots look like they were on time, that supervisor immediately publicly responded to the allegation.

He said it was completely false. He had never had a conversation anything like that let alone done anything like that. He said he welcomed any legitimate investigation of these claims because they were 100 percent false, and he said, by the way, check the source here.

The letter carrier who has made this allegation is an employee at our Post Office who has recently been disciplined multiple times for misconduct at work. He is on really shaky ground as an employee. He has a terrible record and he has motivation to lie about his bosses who he is furious with because he has recently gotten in a lot of trouble.

That said, of course, the Post Office supervisor would say things like that, wouldn`t he? Nefarious plotter. There is a sworn affidavit that says otherwise. So obviousy.

So this guy writes an affidavit. His supervisor is like nah, dude. Investigate me, for sure. It`s okay. What are you talking about?

Nevertheless, Senator Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the United States Senate finds this to be so compelling that he writes to the Justice Department demanding a criminal investigation into these claims by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The attorney general at the time William Barr responded immediately by in fact changing justice department policy, telling federal prosecutors all over the country that actually, they need the get in there and start opening federal investigations into all of this terrible voter fraud everywhere, even before the votes are certified, they need to get in there and open investigations now. That was a total reversal of previous Justice Department policy about how the department is supposed to behave around elections, but Barr ordered that wholesale change anyway. The head of the department at the elections actually stepped down from his position in protest.

That happened on November 9th. November 10th, then President Trump started tweeting about the letter carrier in Erie, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania affidavit guy, called him a brave patriot for telling this brave story about the conversation he says he overheard where his supervisor said he was going to back-date all the late ballots, this brave patriot coming forward to tell the story being bolstered here by the president of the United States.

Problem that same day, slight problem was that brave patriot, the letter carrier from the Erie, Pennsylvania Post Office, despite the fact that he had sworn that affidavit on November 10th, he recanted his story.

Quote: In an interview with federal agent, Hopkins, quote, revised his initial claims, eventually stating that he had not heard a conversation about ballots at all. Rather, he saw the postmaster and supervisor having a discussion and he assumed it was about fraudulent ballot back-dating.

See, I saw them talking. I didn`t know about what. I couldn`t actually hear the content of their discussion at all, but they were talking. And so I assumed, you know, they were like plotting murders and stuff. Signed affidavit. Ta-da!

Quote, Hopkins acknowledged that he had no evidence of any backdated presidential ballots, and that he could not recall any specific words said by the postmaster or the supervisor in the conversation that he witnessed.

We could hear none of their words, none of them. So, he figured, what the words must have been were we`re going to steal the election for Biden by changing all of these ballots. That`s what I made up, signed affidavit.

Also, no, I never saw any indication that any ballots were actually changed at all, but still, have you seen my signed affidavit? It is signed. Would you like to put it in a stack? The letter carrier from the Erie, Pennsylvania Post Office later said that his signed affidavit is not super- g he actually wrote.

The right wing activist group he says wrote it, and he just signed whatever it was they wrote down. But he says yeah, he didn`t actually hear his supervisor talking about anything like that. And he doesn`t have any evidence that anything like that happened.

But that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we get to the point we are in right now in 2021 where mail-in ballots are a major problem that must be stopped. That guy`s affidavit is the back story of how we got the Trump campaign and Republican claim that mail-in ballots were proven in this election to be very prone to fraud and therefore they must be stopped. It was a signed affidavit. The inspector general of the U.S. postal service actually investigated this claim, even after the guy recanted his freaking affidavit. Here is "the Washington Post" today describing their findings.

Quote, agents of the inspector general visited the Erie county courthouse to interview elections officials and review ballots processed at the local Post Office. Both the interview of the Erie County election supervisor and the physical examination of the ballots produced, and the physical examination of the ballots produced no evidence of any backdated presidential election ballots at the Erie, Pennsylvania Post Office.

So, dude having trouble at work makes allegations against his boss who he really doesn`t like. Right-wing group goes big promoting his claims as the best evidence they have in the whole country that the election was definitely stolen in Pennsylvania and probably everywhere else just like that. The guy then basically immediately admits he made up those allegations, but the then Republican-controlled Senate is already running with it. The Justice Department under William Barr changes its long- standing policies about election-related investigations in response to this troubling affidavit, prompting the recognition of top Justice Department officials in protest. The public starts publicly tweeting about it.

Even with the allegation being withdrawn, it becomes the core of the entire Republican Party embracing this weird idea that voting by mail has been proven to be a terrible fraudulent thing. And eventually the allegation is not only rescinded by the guy who supposedly made it, it`s categorically and conclusively proven false by federal investigators who actually took the time to physically track down the ballots in question and found that they were fine, nothing was wrong.

Still, though, we better crack down on mail-in ballots just to be sure, right? It was a signed affidavit.

But of course the post election claims from President Trump and his supporters were not just about some mythical Pennsylvania backdating supervisor. They were also about Venezuela and dead Hugo Chavez and Cuba and China and all sorts of other foreign countries that seemed leftist if you squint at them. All these countries somehow inserted themselves into the voting machines and took all the Trump votes and turned them into Biden votes. This was the nonsense you heard from the Trump and the Republican side after the election about Smartmatic and Dominion voting machines. You heard so much about this from the president himself, from Rudy Giuliani, from other lawyers acting on behalf of the president. Republicans in some states are still clinging to this one as they use these claims as part of their pretext for the more than 250 bills they are pushing in more than 40 states to try to roll back voting rights.

Now this week I know there has been a lot going on, so this didn`t get that much attention. But this week, the Department of Justice and the Homeland Security Department put out a joint report on, here`s the title, foreign interference targeting election infrastructure or political organization campaign or candidate infrastructure related to the 2020 U.S. federal elections. You put a title that that`s awkward on something when you have to produce a report like this in response to a law that directs that you do it.

And we actually got two reports required by law at basically the same time this week. We got that report from the Justice Department and Homeland Security. Much more high profile release of a report at basically the same time from the director of national intelligence. And the national intelligence report was about what foreign adversaries did to target this election.

And these reports came out at the same time for a reason, because the report from the director of national intelligence explicitly said when it laid out its scope at the beginning of the report that they were only -- the intelligence community in the United States only assessed the behavior of foreign adversaries. They only looked at what foreign adversaries did and tried to do to us during our election, because the intelligence community is focused on other countries and not on us, they explicitly and purposely didn`t look at what effect the actions of those foreign countries might have had inside the United States on our election. They just looked at what the foreign entities did.

Because of that limitation in the intelligence report, there was also this companion report released, and this wasn`t from the intelligence community. It was from Homeland Security and the Justice Department. And they were charged at looking at the domestic impact, what impact there might have been on our election in our country from foreign efforts to target us and to target our election.

So those two reports this week came out as companions. One looking at what foreign adversaries did. One looking at what the effect was of foreign interference efforts in the election.

And that latter report got much less attention, largely because what they found out was the effect was negligible. Whatever foreign adversaries did to target our election, it didn`t do much. And in some cases claims about what foreign adversaries did to target our elections, those claims were totally made up.

Look at what they found. This is so blunt. Government reports are never written like this. This is so blunt, it lands like a punch.

Quote, we are aware of multiple public claims that one or more foreign governments including Venezuela, Cuba, or China owned, directed or controlled election infrastructure used in the 2020 federal elections, implemented a scheme to manipulate election infrastructure, or tallied, changed or otherwise manipulated vote counts.

Following the election, the Justice Department, including the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security investigated these public claims and determined they are not credible. Quote, we have no evidence, not through intelligence collecting on the foreign actors themselves, not through physical security and cyber security monitoring of voting systems across the country, not through post election audits, not through any other means that a foreign government or other actors compromised election infrastructure to manipulate election results. No evidence, none.

All of your fantasies and all of these claims and Trump lawsuits about dead Fidel Castro and dead Hugo Chavez, and maybe it`s the Chinese, maybe it`s them somehow rigging the election through the voting machine, right? Attorneys acting on behalf of president Trump really did try to litigate this in real U.S. courts, and they were laughed out of every court they tried it. But here is the official U.S. government of claims, and the answer is no, you are insane. None of that happened, and we looked at it from every possible angle.

As I said, that didn`t get a lot of attention this week. That report came out as a sort of companion report at roughly the same time that the director of national intelligence put out its report on that office`s report on what foreign adversaries did try to influence the election and how they did it. And this one got a lot more attention because this was a real attack on our country that was pitched at an alarming target, and that hits a lot of buttons in our politics.

Key judgment: We assess that Russian President Putin authorized and a range of Russian government organizations conducted influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden`s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump and undermining public confidence in the electoral process. Russia came back and did it again in 2020 after they did it in 2016.

Also this, which ends up being almost just as important. Quote, we assess that China did not deploy interference efforts and considered but did not deploy influence efforts intended to change the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.

So this is what the director of national intelligence published this week, a declassified report for public eyes about what they learned and concluded with high confidence about the 2020 election, which is that Russia did it again, like they did in 2016. But China, no, they didn`t do it. They thought about it. They didn`t do it.

This is the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community. And not the U.S. intelligence community under President Biden.

Interestingly, this report was actually concluded while Trump was still president before the inauguration. This was concluded the first week in January. All the Biden folks did was declassify it.

So that means the intelligence community, even under Trump knew this, knew that Russia interfered on his behalf again in this election, and China didn`t do anything that is what they knew, which makes it important that that is the exact opposite of what they told us, the public.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it Russia again?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russia, China, and Iran, which is the most assertive, the most aggressive in this area?



BARR: China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: China more than Russia right now?

BARR: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you say that?

BARR: Because I`ve seen the intelligence. That`s what I have concluded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attorney General Barr said earlier this week that he feels China is being more aggressive in meddling in the election than Russia is. Do you agree with that assessment?

O`BRIEN: I agree with him 100 percent. The Chinese have taken the most active role. But the Russians and the Iranians and other countries are involved as well. When it comes to elections and what the intelligence committee has made very clear, first you have China, which has the most massive program to influence the United States politically.

JEFFREY ROSEN, TRUMP ADMNISTRATION ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: Some foreign governments have preferences about our elections and have taken our planned malign activities in support of their preferences, including efforts by China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: China is using a massive and sophisticated influence campaign that dwarfs anything that any other country is doing.


MADDOW: That is all horse hockey. None of that is true. None of that was true when they said it, and they knew it.

I mean, the intelligence community under Trump concludes Putin authorized and a range of Russian organizations conducted, and we assess that China did not deploy interference efforts. But nevertheless, there`s the attorney general under Trump, the deputy attorney general under Trump, Trump`s national security adviser Robert O`Brien, Trump`s director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, all just shoveling that bull. I`m not worried about Russia.

We now know that when they said they were looking at the intelligence, what the intelligence said was exactly the opposite of what they told us the public during the election. What the intelligence said was that Russia was attacking the 2020 election again to help Trump again, and China wasn`t. That`s what the intelligence said, but all of those Trump officials told the American public exactly the opposite.

Which is not only lying to the American public, it also has a nice added benefit of covering up for what Russia was at that moment doing, targeting us.

And what do we do with that? I mean this is more than the usual mess. This stuff can`t just drift off into the ether, right like oh, yeah, that was a bad time. Hope that doesn`t happen again.

In some ways, it`s clear that it`s not going to drift off into the ether. Russia, federal express, is very, very upset that they have been identified in the United States as having attacked our election again. It was much nicer when the other guy used to cover up for them. Now, President Biden is not covering up for them.

After President Biden`s interview with ABC news this week in which he criticized Russia directly and said Russia and Putin will play for interfering with our election again in 2020, Russia got very upset with that. They recalled their ambassador to the U.S. this week, they said for consultations in Moscow.

The Biden administration this past week also laid down new sanctions against Russia aimed at their chemical and biological weapons programs. This is after President Biden declassified U.S. intelligence about Russian intelligence agencies being behind the nerve agent assassination attempt against Russia`s leading opposition figure, Alexey Navalny. Biden laying down sanctions against them for trying to kill Navalny with a nerve agent. Russian is very, very upset about all that too.

According to "The New York Times" today, Russian state TV is now going hog- wild with claims that Joe Biden is senile and unwell and unhealthy. So, watch for those themes in American right wing media and Republican politics coming forward. You will know where they got them from.

But the consequences here of these recent revelations are not just things that are going to matter for foreign policy and how we get along with other countries, right? Russia now knows they`re at the end of the sharp end of the stick when it comes to this administration not letting them get away with stuff that the previous administration both welcomed, excused and actively covered up for whenever they had the chance.

But there is more in terms of how this resonates here and how this isn`t going to go away here and how this isn`t just the usual mess left here. I mean, in the report from the director of national intelligence about Russia interfering in the election in 2020, one of the named agents in that report described by the director of national intelligence as having carried out the Kremlin`s attack on our election this year is a guy named Andriy Derkach. The report names him, says he was, quote, under the purview of Russian President Vladimir Putin for the purpose of this operation targeting the election to try to hurt Biden and help Trump.

And that guy Derkach didn`t just shovel Russian intelligence disinformation to Rudy Giuliani, which is something that has been well documented and raises all sorts of interesting questions about what`s reported to be an ongoing criminal investigation of Mr. Giuliani, which was kyboshed in part by Bill Barr`s Justice Department when they blocked prosecutors at the local level from pursuing a search warrant for Giuliani`s electronic devices.

Beyond Derkach feeding all of this stuff to the president`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as part of an attack on our election, last summer, Democrats on the intelligence committee in the House learned that same guy, Derkach, had mailed a stack of unknown materials to a Republican congressman named Devin Nunes who is the top Republican on the intelligence committee to this day.

Andriy Derkach is sanctioned by the U.S. government as a Russian agent. He is singled out by name by the director of national intelligence as someone under Vladimir Putin`s direct purview who helped run this organization targeting our election last year. Congressman Nunes accepted a package from him. What was in it?

Congressman Nunes has refused to answer questions about what he has received from Andriy Derkach. He has refused to show the package to members of the intelligence community. He has refused to hand it over to the FBI which is what you should do if you get something that is sanctioned by the U.S. as a Russian agent.

Still, the Republicans have kept Mr. Nunes on as the top Republican as the top Republican on the intelligence committee. How does that stand? How does that stay a thing?

And I`ll leave you with one other point here. The director of national intelligence in this report also singled out as a success in the Russian operation last year targeting our election, singled out as a success the placing of an anti-Joe Biden documentary on U.S. television.

It was this supposed documentary. It aired on one of the rabidly pro-Trump and perhaps incidentally pro-Putin news networks. Again, this documentary is cited by the director of national intelligence as one of the great successes of the Russian intelligence operation targeting our election this year. And that documentary is not something that was hosted by Rudy Giuliani. I think a lot of people have been getting that wrong since the intelligence director`s report came out this week. This wasn`t the Giuliani thing, although the Giuliani things were troubling enough.

This is a documentary that was hosted by a man named Michael Caputo, and it aired in January 2020. He hosted this documentary, which again the U.S. intelligence committee is now describing as a great coup for Russian intelligence. Michael Caputo hosting that documentary to stovepipe the Russian intelligence operation disinformation to the U.S. public.

Michael Caputo is his name. He is the same Michael Caputo who within a matter of months Donald Trump would install as the top spokesperson at the Department of Health and Human Services as the COVID-19 pandemic really got going.

Michael Caputo would eventually find himself there embroiled in a massive scandal for censoring and altering CDC scientific documents to try to play down the threat of coronavirus and undermine COVID efforts. That guy.

I mean, this is not your usual mess. Yes, we are reckoning now with how to build up a national COVID response from the wreckage that was left behind by the Trump administration, but, I mean, what is this wreckage?

One of the things we learned just this week from the intelligence director that part of the disastrous Trump COVID response is that Trump put in a key COVID response role, one of the people who helped Russian intelligence with its 2020 election attack. I mean, how do you even begin to unravel that? How do you even begin to get accountability for that? And when does the Justice Department start knocking on people`s doors about this stuff?

I mean, this is not a normal level of stuff that needs fixing. This is -- this is nutty stuff. This is nutty.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: Today was supposed to be the first scheduled court appearance for the man accused of murdering eight people at three spas in the Atlanta metro area, three spas predominantly staffed by people of Asian descent. Police say the man`s already confessed to the killings. His first appearance in court was cancelled today after he waived his right to appear.

Six of eight people he is accused of killing are of Asian descent. Police in Cherokee County, Georgia, where four of the murders took place inexplicably told the public that the suspect doesn`t appear to have been motivated by race, despite the fact that he targeted three workplaces predominantly staffed by Asian Americans. A police captain in Cherokee County also publicly described the killer`s motivation as him having a bad day. So take from that what you will in Cherokee County, Georgia.

In Atlanta today, where the rest of the murders took place, police say they`re not willing to rule out any motive while they continue their investigation. Atlanta said nothing`s off the table, including characterizing the murders in their jurisdiction potentially as hate crimes. There was a congressional hearing today on the rise of violence and discrimination against Asian Americans. The hearing was actually scheduled before the Atlanta shootings. It was meant to address the alarming uptick in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans in the last year.

The good part of the testimony today was spent trying to illustrate the landscape in which the shootings in Atlanta happened this week. The horrific recent rise in violence, randomly unprovoked violence against Asian-Americans.

Here is Congresswoman Judy Chu of California.


REP. JUDY CHU (D-CA): Many of the victims have been older and vulnerable, like Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man in San Francisco who was killed in an unprovoked assault while on his morning walk.

In New York, 61-year-old`s face was slashed from ear to ear with a box cutter in the subway, requiring 100 stitches.

In Oakland`s Chinatown, a camera captured a 91-year-old man being thrown to the ground by an assailant. In my own congressional district, a Chinese American man was attacked at a bus stop in Rosemead with his own cane, causing him to lose part of his finger.

This has become almost a daily tragedy and has had a chilling everything affect on our community.

It is time that we continue to push back against xenophobia every time it rears its ugly head. Asian-Americans must not be used as scapegoats in times of crisis. Lives are at stake, and it`s critical that Congress takes bold action to address this pandemic of discrimination and hate.

I yield back.


MADDOW: Joining us now is Congresswoman Judy Chu, Democratic congresswoman from California. She is the chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Congresswoman Chu, thank you so much for being here. I know this has been a really intense day.

CHU: It has been, most certainly.

MADDOW: The hearing today was emotional in lots of ways. I`m not sure why I didn`t know to expect that, but I was struck by it in watching the hearing. This is the first congressional hearing on this subject in more than 30 years. I just have to ask if you feel like it was effective, if the right things are being talked about, if the right audience is listening.

CHU: It was a major step forward to have this hearing. We are finally getting attention to this terrible rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, something that`s been happening for a year now. And in fact, for a year we the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus have been try getting to a meeting with the Department of Justice to address this issue, but under President Donald Trump, we were totally ignored.

This has been the situation for this entire year, and it didn`t change until President Biden took office, issued his executive order, and directed his Department of Justice to meet with the Asian American community to come up with solutions for combating anti-Asian hate crimes. So it is a completely different scenario right now.

MADDOW: In addition to those actions that you have praised from the president and from the administration, I know you have talked about wanting to see bold action from Congress to address not just the violence, but also discrimination toward Asian Americans that we have been seeing. What are you looking for from Congress?

CHU: I am looking for legislation, for the passage of bills like the no hate act and the COVID-19 hate crimes act. These are bills that would fix some great deficits in this country. For instance, the collection of hate crime data is very, very flawed in this country. In 1990, there was a federal law that mandated the collection of this data.

But actually, the FBI has to rely on local law enforcement, and many of our local law enforcement agencies do not collect this data. At least there is tremendous inconsistencies in how they collect it. Actually, three states don`t even have a hate crimes statute.

So the No Hate Act would provide uniformity for this collection of the data, and it would also provide for grants so that local law enforcement could actually start a hate crime program, get training for their law enforcement officers, and finally do outreach to the community. It also provides for state hotlines so that the community can immediately call an enforcement agency who could help them with their hate crime or hate incident.

And finally, there would be oversight by the U.S. attorney general who would look on an annual basis at where we are with hate crime reporting as well as hate crime programs that are in these states to see whether they are effective or not. And they would provide that report to Congress.

MADDOW: This is such a moment of grief and anger and catharsis I think in some ways to finally be able to talk about this stuff. But the responses you`re talking about are all about channeling this in a way that is trying to make tracks and get ahead of this.

Congresswoman Judy Chu, Democrat of California, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus, thank you for being here again. It`s such an incredibly scary time for the Asian community, for the Asian American community. It`s an honor to have you here. And keep us apprised as this moves forward.

CHU: Thank you so much.

MADDOW: All right. More ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Last night, we had Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock here on the show live. While he was here speaking on the show about what he says is the necessity of passing new voting rights legislation, Senate Bill 1, for the people act to head off all the voter suppression bills being pushed by Republicans at the state level.

Well, we were talking with Senator Warnock about that here on the show last night, Republicans in his home state of Georgia were at that moment introducing yet another 93-page comprehensive voter suppression bill. This is the headline in "The Atlanta Journal Constitution" about it. Quote, surprise, sweeping new election bill makes late session appearance. Surprise!

The head of steam on this among Republicans is crazy. Not just in Georgia, but in basically every state where Republicans are in control, they are charging ahead with hundreds of bills to make it harder to vote as quickly as possible. And Senator Warnock and others are out there making the case about how critically important it is to pass this big national voting rights bill this the Senate to hold off all these new Republican restrictions at the state level.

And Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer keeps saying they will get this thing passed. They will find a way because failure is not an option. Failure is not an option. He keeps saying it, failure is not an option.

But you know what? From the outside, just looking at what we as American citizens can see right now in terms of how the Senate works, it seems like failure is not only an option, but it`s likely what`s going to happen.

I mean, the only path to getting voting rights legislation through the Senate when Republicans are uniformly opposed to voting rights now is to get rid of the filibuster, or somehow make the filibuster in its current form not apply to this bill. That currently does not seem like that`s going to happen.

But, but at the same time, some of the people who follow this issue most closely, who have been long-time years-long advocates of fixing the problem in the Senate, those people have never sound more optimistic that something is about to change. Why are the experts then subject so freaking sunny right now? Why are their glasses half full? What do they know that I don`t?

That`s next.


MADDOW: Adam Jentleson was deputy chief of staff to Harry Reid when Harry Reid was the Democratic leader in the Senate. Mr. Jentleson wrote a hit book this past year about the Senate, specifically about how the modern filibuster has basically destroyed it. He has been a clarion voice not just in explaining why this filibuster should be eliminated, but based on his years navigating the Senate, how the filibuster could be eliminated, or at least reformed.

With everybody else in the country lamenting that the Senate isn`t going to be able to pass anything else, including voting rights, that the filibuster is going to be the death knell for anything else an passing at all in terms of the Biden agenda, Adam Jentleson, who is an expert on exactly this, he`s actually feeling pretty good about it. He tells "The New York Times" today that progress is, quote, light years ahead of where I`d hope we`d be. There`s a long way to go, but we`re ahead of schedule.

Tell me more. I want to believe. Tell me more.

Joining us now is Adam Jentleson, former senior Senate aide to Harry Reid, the author of "Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy."

Mr. Jentleson, it`s a real pleasure to have you here tonight. Thanks so much for your time.

ADAM JENTLESON, AUTHOR, "KILL SWITCH": It`s great to be here, Rachel. Thank you so much for having me.

MADDOW: When I say that I don`t have much hope that anything else is going to get through the Senate and that the filibuster is going to stand and it`s going to block the ability of Democrats to pass anything else, do you think that I -- there`s something important that I`m missing because you don`t seem quite as cynical about those prospects.

JENTLESON: Well, Rachel, you know, I look back at 2013 and where we were in March of 2013. And of course in November of 2013, we did go nuclear and reform Senate rules to lower the threshold for confirming nominees. And I feel like we are way ahead of schedule.

What we have right now, you know, if you had told me earlier this year that by this point in march, we would already have had President Biden shift his position and Joe Manchin shift his position, I would have told you to get out of town.

I think you`ve got a caucus that is overwhelmingly pro-reform. You`ve got sort of an outer circle of reform curious senators who are sort of soft opponents but would probably get there if Republicans continue to obstruct. And then you`ve got a small number of senator who are sort of hard opposed, but even some of those have already started to shift.

I think the one thing you can count on is that Republicans will continue to obstruct, and that is making Democrats` case for us. And I think that is going to continue to bring along some of these senators who are showing reluctance and showing a bit of recalcitrance because very quickly, they`re going to realize the only choice they have, as you set it up, is to reform the filibuster or essentially give up on President Biden`s agenda. And I have confidence that when they`re faced with that acute choice, they`re going to choose reform over failure.

MADDOW: Is this something that you think is going to resolve, that there will be further inflection points on this because of confrontation with Republicans, because of things that all the Democrats will believe really ought to pass and the obstruction from the Republicans seems intolerable to them, or do you think that the inflection point here will be a non-public process in which Democrats are talking amongst themselves, in which they negotiate amongst themselves to provide things for one another or to trade things to one another to make these more recalcitrant Democrats feel like they`ve got a reason to move?

JENTLESON: I think it`s going to be a combination of the two. I think that what you`re going to see in the coming weeks is going to be a series of bills that are brought up on the Senate floor, things like HR-1, the For the People Act, things like the Equality Act, possibly an increase in the minimum wage, possibly the Dream Act. And unless there`s some big flourishing of bipartisanship that we don`t see coming, these things are probably going to get blocked because they can`t get ten Republicans to vote for them.

So, that`s going to create a body of evidence. It`s going to cause Democrats to see that they have a clear choice between reform or failure. On the other hand, you can never quite tell what it is that brings senators over the line at the end of the day.

Senator Reid used to like to tell the story that he didn`t have the votes or reform for going nuclear in 2013 until one day, Senate Republicans were on the floor in November of 2013 making fun of him because he didn`t have the votes, and he kept acting like he had the votes, but he didn`t actually have them. And it was that ridicule that enabled him to go to the caucus and get the votes for reform. So sometimes it`s some intangible that just sort of tips the balance over.

You have to have sort of structural factors that are set up to create those conditions. But you never quite know what it`s going to be that is the thing that finally tips people over. But when you have conditions like this, you know, that are set up for that resolution, you`re in pretty good shape.

MADDOW: Adam, one of the things that we`re also expecting is an infrastructure bill, and infrastructure is one of those things that in theory Republicans and Democrats agree on, but in practice what we will find is that Republicans are not going to vote for anything that starts on the Democratic side, and that seems to advance a Biden initiative. That is something that they can do, avoiding the filibuster in some ways, using the budget reconciliation rules, the same rules they used to pass the COVID relief bill with just 50 Democratic votes.

When that happens, is that going to actually delay progress or advance it because they are going to be able to get something done likely on infrastructure, which will be popular for the country and which will likely be expensive, using some -- their sort of one last path around the filibuster without changing it.

JENTLESON: Yeah. I have a few concerns about infrastructure, and specifically doing it through reconciliation. One concern is what you mentioned, the fact that, you know, if you get a lot done, maybe it sort of takes some of the steam out of reform. I do think that probably less is going to get done through infrastructure than we think it`s going to be. I think if you look at the experience of minimum wage and seeing that get struck from the first reconciliation package, I think a lot of priorities are going to go the way of infrastructure and people are going to think they`re going to get passed but they`re not going to because the parliamentarian and going to strike them.

But the other thing that`s dangerous about infrastructure is that you could end up delaying any serious discussion over filibuster reform past the holidays. Infrastructure once you engage in it will probably take you through the summer, potentially past Labor Day, and you could quickly find yourself up against Thanksgiving before we`re having a serious conversation about getting the filibuster reformed so that we can pass things like voting rights.

So I think it would be wise for senators as we go through next weeks, there`s going to be a period here where things will be coming up on the floor. I think it would be wise for senators to start thinking very seriously about whether or not we should just go ahead and do the reform now because what are we waiting for? We don`t need any further proof that Republicans are going to obstruct, assuming they do obstruct these things. You might as well get it done and spend the next year and a half passing popular things that are good for America and that you can run on in 2022.

MADDOW: And that would allow all sorts of people to vote without undue interference in the next election in 2022, if they can save voting rights that way.

Adam Jentleson, former senior aide to Senator Harry Reid -- thanks for talking me down. It`s good to have you here, Adam.

JENTLESON: Always a pleasure, Rachel.

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


MADDOW: I have intruded into Lawrence O`Donnell`s real estate. I will henceforth creep out silently and try not to take up too much more room.

See you again tomorrow night.


Good evening, Lawrence. I`m sorry I`m in your show.