Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is interviewed. "The New York Times" is
reporting that the inspector general at Transportation Department had made
a criminal referral to the Justice Department concerning former
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao`s alleged behavior after investigated
allegations that she misused her office to benefit her family`s shipping
company. Chokwe Antar Lumumba, the mayor of the great city of Jackson,
Mississippi is interviewed.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Congressman Adam Schiff of California, thank you
so much for joining us tonight.
That is ALL IN on this Wednesday night.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel. I`m on time for once.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: You know what? I will never give anybody a hard
time about being on time --
HAYES: I`m sorry, I`m being late for three days in a row.
MADDOW: -- because I`ve never been on time in my life.
MADDOW: You know what? All the more -- all the more time for me to panic
about what I`m about to say. I will never begrudge you. Thank you, my
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Where to begin tonight? Seriously, this is almost like the bad old days
again. You know, planning our coverage, planning what stories we`re going
to be covering and reporting on tonight, booking reporters and guests,
getting everything all set up, then kablooey, tear up rundown, start again.
We made a whole new plan and then we had to tear that one up too. We
haven`t had a night like this in long time but this is turning out to be
one of those nights.
There`s lots of different places that we can start. Let`s start here. If
you were a second grader, say, and were trying to show for a class project
that you had mastered a second grade level understanding of what corruption
is, what it means to be a crooked, corrupt public official. One of the
things you might conjure up from second grader`s level understanding of
that concept is that like, hypothetically, you might have a person in the
government whose job in the government was that they were in charge of road
building projects, right?
That person could not also own part of a company that was the country`s
biggest supplier of road building materials, right? If you were a second
grader trying to show you understood what corruption is, that would be
almost oversimplified example of what it means to be corrupt, being in
charge of road building while also holding a personal financial stake in
company that does road building, that stands to benefit from your actions
as public official, which means you can take actions as public official to
put money in your own pocket. That`s second grader`s understanding of
corruption, oversimplified one, right?
Except for the fact that in real life, in the Trump administration when
Elaine Chao was appointed secretary of transportation, she was told by
ethics officials that she needed to divest, sell her stake in company
described by "Wall Street Journal" as the country`s largest supplier of
crashed sand and gravel used in road paving and road building, right?
As any second grader who understands these things could tell you, as
transportation secretary, you have a lot of say in, say, roads. So, you
can`t also own a company that does road paving and road building.
Elaine Chao was advised by ethics officials that, of course, she needed to
divest from that company. You can`t be transportation secretary and have
stock in a road building company. Come on.
She was told to divest. She said she would. "Wall Street Journal" had the
scope in 2019 that Elaine Chao actually did not divest from that company,
she held on to the stock, tons of it, in fact.
Remember how the Trump administration was always declaring it was
infrastructure week, and that became a big punch line for them. I mean,
every time there was indictment of Trump friend, new scandal, worthy of
another impeachment, declare infrastructure week, even though the Trump
administration never actually did anything on infrastructure.
But American public media was first to report that one of the material
consequences of them repeatedly declaring infrastructure week is that every
time they announced it would be infrastructure week again, stock market
price would go up at that crushed sand and gravel company that Elaine Chao
stayed invested in, even while she was serving as secretary of
transportation. Nice gig if you can get it, right?
But in your hypothetical second grader project explaining to your second
grade colleagues what corruption is, even beyond the holding stock in the
road building company thing. If you don`t have faith in the second graders
colleagues, you don`t think they can grasp something even that simple, you
might conjure an even simpler example, paragon idea of what it means to be
a crooked public official. You might imagine say that in your job as a
public official, in your job as transportation secretary of the United
States, you took official action, you arranged official travel, you
arranged official government meetings and photo ops to benefit your family
Is that even simpler idea of the basic idea of corruption? Because in 2019,
"The New York Times" was first to report on a series of actions taken by
Trump transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in which she brought or tried to
bring father and other family members involved in her China-based
transportation business on official U.S. government trips and to official
U.S. government events into what were supposed to be official U.S.
government meetings, she brought her family members, or wanted to bring her
family members who run the family business.
On what would have been her first trip to China as Trump`s transportation
secretary, there on behalf of United States of America as a high ranking
government official, she tried to get the U.S. embassy in Beijing to help
her arrange meetings for her relatives who were going to travel with her on
the trip. Her relatives who run her family business that have extensive
interests in China and want additional business from the Chinese
government. She wanted the U.S. embassy, the State Department, to help set
up those meetings for her family members as part of her trip there as U.S.
And the embassy personnel, the U.S. embassy personnel in China who got
asked to do that for her family freaked out how blatantly unethical that
was, they squawked about it and ultimately, Secretary Chao called off the
trip altogether. But, I mean, come on, I mean, the Trump administration had
a lot of corruption scandals, this is the kind you can write in capital
letters and fit on a bumper sticker.
Elaine Chao, of course, is now no longer transportation secretary. She quit
the cabinet right after the Capitol attack in January. Elaine Chao famously
is married to top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.
The widespread and quite towering allegations of corruption against
Secretary Chao while she served as transportation secretary, remember in
2019, the scandals were reported one after another during her time in
office. At one point in 2019, there were like five separate corruption
scandals were raging around her at the same time, most of which dwarfed the
other concurrent Trump cabinet member corruption scandals, and that`s
really saying something given the level of corruption at the highest level
of the Trump administration.
But it`s interesting, Senator Mitch McConnell and his wife Elaine Chao
never seemed worried, never seemed to sweat any of it. McConnell, in fact,
frequently joked about it as if it was no problem whatsoever and they
didn`t have care in the world about it. Now we know why. Tonight, the
inspector general at her department, the Transportation Department, has
just released a public report on the matter, on the investigation that was
done by inspector general`s office at Transportation Department into
multiple allegations of corruption against Elaine Chao.
The public report, the letter tonight released to the public discloses that
investigators looking at these corruption allegations against Elaine Chao
actually found the allegations to be substantiated enough and serious
enough that she was referred to U.S. Justice Department for potential
criminal prosecution. Now, she is not the first Trump cabinet official this
has happened to. This is actually by my count I think the fourth Trump
cabinet official that we know of, who inspector general investigators
referred to Justice Department for federal criminal prosecution on
corruption charges after they looked into serious allegations against all
these different Trump cabinet members.
That said, spread it around thick enough, seems like nobody ever gets in
trouble for it. I mean, under the Trump Organization, see if you can spot
the pattern here. Robert Wilkie, Trump Veterans Affairs secretary, was
investigated for corruption. The investigation resulted in a referral to
the DOJ, for federal criminal prosecution. Trump`s DOJ declined to
prosecute Secretary Wilkie.
Also, Trump`s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke investigated for corruption.
The result of the investigation was that it was found to be substantive and
serious enough it was referred to Justice Department for criminal
prosecution. Trump`s Justice Department declined to prosecute Secretary
Also, Trump Labor Secretary Alex Acosta investigated for corruption. The
result of the investigation was that the allegations were found to be
substantive and serious enough that he was referred to Department of
Justice for potential criminal prosecution. The Trump Justice Department
declined to prosecute him as well.
Well, now, tonight, we know that it`s four of them at least, now Trump
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao as well also referred for criminal
prosecution, and referred to Trump DOJ in a very interesting timeline,
before they too decided not to prosecute her.
In this letter explaining the actions of their office, inspector general`s
office says they started the corruption investigation into Transportation
Secretary Elaine Chao in 2019. Based on that investigation, they decided
that some of the allegations were serious and substantive enough they
required a criminal referral to the Justice Department. They made that
criminal referral based on the findings of the investigation.
Look, they made the criminal referral December 16th, 2020, that`s when they
referred her for potential prosecution to the U.S. attorneys office in D.C.
Then, the following day, December 17th, they referred her to public
integrity section, which is essentially the public corruption section at
Main Justice for potential prosecution there as well. Waning days of the
Trump administration, during the transition, a month before Biden was sworn
in as president, the Trump Justice Department receives criminal referrals
to potentially prosecute Mitch McConnell`s wife Elaine Chao and they
quietly decline that`s prosecutions.
What other president in one term was, you know, efficient enough, effective
enough or laser-focused enough to have four different cabinet secretaries,
at least, referred for criminal prosecution for corruption? And this isn`t
like somebody writing letter say, I hate this guy, look into him. This is
like a real investigation that was done by inspector general professional
investigators. And what they found was serious enough should be a court
case. This should possibly be a criminal matter, we have to refer it.
I mean, that happening to one high ranking government official of any kind
is a big deal. He had four in the cabinet in four years. That`s like --
that`s -- that`s well, it tells you something about the Trump Justice
Department. That`s exhausting amount of work for the justice department
alone, kyboshing and turning down all the already investigated,
substantiated serious corruption investigations of high ranking officials
in the government. It must have been exhausting turning all of those away,
one after another.
When does Merrick Garland become attorney general? What`s the plan for
dealing with improper political influence and corruption inside the Justice
Department during the Trump years? Are they going to fix that? Are they
looking for that? Is there going to be consequences for that?
But Mitch McConnell is still top Republican in the Senate. So, at least we
know in this case that if any ill-gotten gains from his wife`s alleged
corruption made way back to the family, at least we know they`re staying
close to the most powerful people in Republican governance even today. Just
We`ll actually have more on that story with one of the reporters who broke
some of the most lurid allegations against Elaine Chao for "The New York
Times", coming up, a little later on this hour.
We have been expecting tonight that the Senate right now would be taking
its first action on the big COVID relief bill. That did not happen because
of procedural delays in the Senate. But we also know now that when they do
start to debate and take votes on the COVID relief bill, Mitch McConnell
and the Senate Republicans are going to string it out as much as possible,
pull out all the dirty tricks to muck it up as much as they can, including
things like forcing the clerks to read every word of the bill out loud and
to read out loud every word of every amendment and they can offer basically
infinite amendments. So, that can take essentially infinite time.
They`re going to try to slow down COVID relief as long as possible with 20
and 30-hour marathon stunts on the Senate floor. Because it`s not like the
American people are in any hurry for COVID relief or anything. No need to
rush like the funding for vaccine distribution or funding for reopening
schools or relief checks for unemployed people right now. No need to rush,
let`s see how long we can stretch it out, maybe make it take weeks.
I mean, on the other side of the Capitol, there is a rush on a surprise
late in the day announcement from the House today that they`re going to be
staying late and taking votes tonight on their big election reform bill,
H.R.1, the For the People Act, as well as the big policing reform bill. The
decided to rush to do both tonight, essentially so that the House could not
be in session tomorrow.
The reason they decided late in the game that they do not want to be in
session tomorrow is for security concerns. It is not yet two months since
the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol by the Trump supporting mob, but
the Capitol police and House sergeant at arms and joint bulletin from
Homeland Security and FBI have all warned that same kind of attackers might
be coming back tomorrow, March 4th, Thursday, March 4th. At least that`s
what militia groups and conspiracy theory adherents have discussed
apparently, trying to attack the Capitol again, tomorrow, on March 4th,
because they`re fantasizing that somehow tomorrow will be the day that
Trump will come back to power.
Now, why did they pick March 4th? It`s the day U.S. presidents used to be
inaugurated before they changed the date of the presidential inauguration
to January. They did that I think in the 1930s.
For several weeks now, even before the Capitol insurrection, that quirk in
history has made March 4th another day of focus for the extremists and
cloud cuckoo land Trump supporters and conspiracy theorists who think he`s
an emperor or something, secretly won the election and Mike Flynn and
military are now somehow going to install him back in the White House and
kill everybody else.
Incidentally, I want to note here, random and weird as unsettling as these
conspiracy theories are about this idea that on something, March 4th for
some reason something is going to happen to reinstall Trump in power and
therefore might be another effort to attack the U.S. Capitol. For as weird
as unsettling as that is, far-fetched as it still feels after January 6th
attack, you should know that Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., does appear
to think something really special is going on tomorrow in Washington, D.C.
This was first reported by `The Washingtonian" magazine last month. But we
checked today, still absolutely true, that the Trump Hotel has marked up
its hotel rooms for tonight and tomorrow to nearly triple their usual rate.
They`re usually at $400, $500 a night. That`s what they are the nights
preceding March 4th and 5th.
That is what they -- excuse me, March 3rd and 4th. That is what they`re
going back to next week. That`s what they have been in recent days. But for
tonight, eve of the 4th and the 4th itself, Trump hotel is charging a
minimum of over $1,300 a room, then the rates go back down.
Now, why is that? Well, FBI and homeland security are warning that tomorrow
may be date of new attempted siege of the Capitol by Trump supporting
extremists, and Trump Hotel has tripled the cost for hotel room tonight and
tomorrow. Why is that?
Not like something else is going on in D.C. to explain the hotel rates
being jacked up tonight and tomorrow. We looked at equivalent hotels in
D.C., Four Seasons or the Hey Adams, their rates are the same as they
always are. It`s just the Trump Hotel where if some reason, you`re going to
be in town tonight for something special tomorrow, they`re going to
absolutely get triple the money they usually would. So, it`s special day
for them for some reason.
The FBI, Homeland Security joint intelligence bulletin to state and local
enforcement agencies says that these Trump supporting groups have, quote,
discussed plans to take control of the U.S. Capitol and remove Democratic
lawmakers on or about March 4th. Remove Democratic lawmakers, remove them
from the Capitol, really?
Well, lawmakers it turns out are removing themselves. They`re doing these
two big votes tonight so they won`t have to meet tomorrow and don`t want to
meet tomorrow because of the heightened security status around the threats
that seem nuts and also maybe necessary, maybe how undefended U.S. Capitol
was to disastrous effect the last time the nut balls said they were coming
to install Trump by force and then they did.
Today in the Senate, they tried to get to the bottom of one of the really
vexing, worrying questions about what happened on the day of the attack.
Why didn`t the police get backup? When the Trump mob started overrunning
the Capitol, overran the police and police officers were being beaten and
gassed and having their protective equipment torn off and they`re being
dragged down the Capitol steps and stomped and beaten with flag poles and
bats, when police officials were begging for the National Guard to come in
and backstop them, why didn`t it happen?
Senate tried to get to the bottom of that today. It was remarkable series
of revelations. Today, we learned that D.C. National Guard was told the day
before the attack, January 5th, that they were going to need special
permission directly from the secretary of the army himself, personally, if
they wanted to deploy a quick reaction force in case of attack. We learned
that the next day when the attack happened, they refused to give that
permission for more than three hours while the Capitol was overrun and five
people including a police officer died. Request to send in National Guard
as backup languished for hours. For hours.
We also got confirmation believe it or not, at the Pentagon, one of the
senior officials who fielded that desperate call for help, one of the
Pentagon officials who expressed opinion wouldn`t be good idea to allow the
National Guard in to help was, in fact, the younger brother of Trump
national security adviser Mike Flynn who, of course, was a focal point and
hero of the extremists who carried out the attack, who himself promoted and
even spoke at events in D.C. that preceded the attack, who had publicly
called for Trump to use the military to overturn the election to stay in
His younger brother, Lt. General Charles Flynn at the Pentagon, was in on
the decision on January 6th to hold the National Guard back and not let
them in to help the police being overrun by the rioters as they swarmed the
Capitol. Now, Pentagon made multiple public stating explicitly denying that
Flynn had any part in the discussion. The Army lied about that. Why did
they lie about that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN OSSOFF (D-GA): Who made that statement?
MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM WALKER, D.C. NATIONAL GUARD COMMANDER: That was senior
leaders in United States army, General Piatt, General Flynn and others,
they got back to me saying -- that was on the phone call with District of
Columbia senior leaders, that it wouldn`t be their best military advice to
send uniformed guardsmen to the Capitol because they didn`t like the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senior leaders in the U.S. Army, including General Flynn and
others. Charlie Flynn, Mike Flynn`s brother. Why did the Pentagon lie and
say he wasn`t part of this disastrous decision when he definitely was?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: At 1:49 p.m. I received a frantic call from then chief of United
States Capitol police, Steven Sund, where he informed me that the security
perimeter of the United States Capitol had been breached by hostile
rioters. Chief Sund, his voice cracking with emotion indicated that there
was a dire emergency at the Capitol and he requested that immediate
assistance of as many available National Guardsmen as I could muster.
Immediately after that 1:49 call, I alerted U.S. army senior leadership of
the request. The approval for Chief Sund`s request would eventually come
from acting secretary of defense and be relaid to me by Army senior leaders
about 5:08 p.m. About three hours and 19 minutes later, I had guardsmen on
buses at the armory ready to move to the Capitol. Consequently, at 5:20
p.m., less than 20 minutes, the District of Columbia National Guard arrived
at the Capitol.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): I just keep imagining the scene, the whole
country, the world is seeing this on TV. You`ve got the police line
breached at this moment. You have -- you have smashed windows. You have
insurrectionists going through the police lines. You are on the phone,
everyone is seeing this on TV, and they`re not immediately approving your
And in your recent testimony, you just said, hey, I could have gotten them
on the buses and ready to go, is that correct?
WALKER: That is correct, Senator.
KLOBUCHAR: And as you just testified in response to Senator Peters, you
believe that would have made a difference to have him at perimeter in
sooner point, and I know people in charge of Capitol security felt the
WALKER: Yes, ma`am.
KLOBUCHAR: And so you could have had them there earlier, hours earlier if
it had been approved and then you had them on the bus. And so, they were
actually sitting on the bus for a short period of time waiting because you
thought they`ve got to honor the request, is that how your head was
working, so you actually put them on the bus so they were ready to go but
couldn`t let the buses go?
WALKER: Yes, Senator, I just came to the conclusion that eventually I`m
going to get approval, and at that point, seconds matters, minutes
mattered. I needed to get them there quick as possible. I already had
District of Columbia National Guard, military police vehicle in front of
the bus to help get through any traffic lights. We were there in 18
minutes. I arrived at 17:20. They were sworn in as soon as they got there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As soon as the Pentagon finally told them, yes, it`s okay to go,
the guardsmen were at Capitol in 18 minutes. They could have been there in
Instead, the Pentagon, including Mike Flynn`s brother, after Mike Flynn is
publicly calling on the military to do what the rioters were trying to do,
overthrow the government and reinstall Trump in power, General Flynn`s
brother and other officials told them they didn`t like the idea of sending
in the National Guard.
And so, the guard was held back for more than three hours, while the
Capitol was overrun. They could have been there in 18 minutes but were held
back more than three hours while everything that happened that day happened
and five people died.
Joining us now is Senator Amy Klobuchar. She`s chair of the Rules
Committee, one of the committees that oversaw today`s hearing. She also
serves on Judiciary Committee, as well as the Senate committee on Commerce,
Science and Transportation. Her committee assignments are basically nexus
of the developing stories tonight.
Senator, you are right in middle of it all. Thank you so much for making
time to be here tonight.
KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: I felt like a learned a lot at the hearing today in terms of what
happened with the National Guard situation with that delay. I was
frustrated though to not hear from the Pentagon officials who made the
decision that the delay should happen. Do you expect we will hear from
General Flynn, from the former defense secretary, from the chief of the
army who actually made these calls?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, as you know last week, and we talked about
this, we found out the mess-ups that happened on the Capitol side. And that
was not requesting the guard earlier. That wasn`t really the Defense
Department`s fault. That was decisions made by then sergeant at arms that
were wrong. That would have made a big difference.
So, I want to look at whole picture here because our full focus, Rachel, is
on being constructive. We did this on a bipartisan basis, Senator Peters
and I as well as Senator Blunt and Senator Portman. So that`s -- those were
-- those were major issues.
We have the structure of the Capitol police board where multiple people
have to make decisions and give the go-ahead to the Capitol police, and
that has to change. Then you get to what you`re rightfully focused on, the
day off, where we heard the stunning testimony today from General Walker,
where in fact he said he was ready to go, he had a number of trained men
and women of the National Guard, who by the way are guarding us today, will
be guarding us tomorrow when we come in to do work to get the COVID package
done, and they were ready to go, and he waited and waited and waited.
And yes, this raises many other questions, and there`s many ways we can get
those answers -- additional hearings, we can have interviews, we can do
written questions. But clearly, we were left with a big fat question mark
about what the motivations were. The -- Walker, General Walker, the head of
the D.C. National Guard, who was incredible today, you know, his theory was
they were concerned how it would look. They said that they were concerned,
this is his testimony, that it could have gotten the protesters going more.
But the point was, now, wait a minute, there was moment where everyone in
the world saw it on TV. When they made that call, it was already on TV that
glass was breaking, they had breached the lines, that they were entering
the Capitol as we now know with bear spray and with stun guns and with
poles they used as weapons. And to just delay at all is what shocked the
head of the Metropolitan Police last week when he testified and this
general said the very same thing.
They should have immediately, immediately made that decision. And by the
way, if people say, well, it doesn`t matter, had already entered the
Capitol, every second mattered, every minute mattered, as you look at loss
of life of Officer Sicknick, you look at the people that were severely
injured in that insurrection.
MADDOW: Senator, it`s been a little bit jarring today to see that
testimony, to look at what happened that day, to get new information about
what happened, and also to see these warnings about another threat from the
same types of folks pinned to tomorrow and conspiracy theories about March
4th. I didn`t -- I haven`t known how much attention to pay to them, how
much frankly to talk about them on television, didn`t want to amplify them
more than they deserve, but there has been dramatic movement tonight.
We`re seeing the House deciding basically to not be in session. They
changed their voting schedule. They`re there late tonight so they don`t
have to be there tomorrow. We`ve seen security advice that members of
Congress and senators should use underground tunnels and have staff
teleworking tomorrow if possible just in case there is -- there is more
What`s your perspective on that?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, we are all listening to the acting police chief. We also
have the acting sergeant at arms, and, of course, we have so much more
security than we had, it`s not even a comparison, and so much more
intelligence coming our way. There were issues before the insurrection
where raw intelligence was put out, didn`t get in the right hands. We think
there have been improvements there.
And so, the Senate, really Rachel we`ve got to get this COVID package done,
and Ron Johnson, Senator Johnson, has decided as you rightfully pointed out
on your show, that he`s going to make the parliamentarians read the entire
bill into the record. Read it out loud. That he`s going to make the Senate
And that`s his choice. Anyone could read the bill, it`s been out there a
while. He could read it at home or out loud himself if he would like. But
that`s one of the things we have to do tomorrow, we have a vote and that`s
going to happen, then we`ll go into the week.
We don`t think the American people can wait. If he wants to delay them
getting direct checks, people who need the help. Or he wants to delay that
money and rest of the Republicans want to delay the money going out to pay
for vaccine distribution -- we want to get the shots in the arm and want to
follow through on President Biden`s incredible news yesterday that there`s
going to be shots available for every adult by May.
Well, we`ve got to make sure the distribution is in place. We`ve got to
help our schools. So, we are staying in until it gets done.
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Rules Committee, again, right
at heart of all the things happening all at once right now. Senator, it`s
good to see you, thanks for making time.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
MADDOW: As I mentioned, one of the things the House is voting on is the
For the People Act, H.R.1, election reforms, trying to ungerrymander the
country, trying to bolster voting rights. When that goes over to the
Senate, it will be Senator Klobuchar and her committee that will be helming
that as that heads toward a big filibuster standoff in the U.S. Senate.
We`re watching that vote tonight in the House, the vote on the George Floyd
policing Act, Policing Reform Act.
It`s big night, lots still going on. Stay with us.
MADDOW: As I mentioned top of the show, we`re following developing news
tonight concerning allegations of potential criminal activity by Trump
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who also happens to be the wife of
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
"The New York Times" was first to report tonight that the inspector general
at Transportation Department had made a criminal referral to the Justice
Department concerning Chao`s alleged behavior after investigated
allegations that she misused her office to benefit her family`s shipping
The I.G. said, quote: We concluded that a formal investigation into
potential misuses of position was warranted.
We also learned from the I.G. tonight that Trump Justice Department gave
that criminal referral on Elaine Chao to the Justice Department -- sorry,
the inspector general gave that criminal referral about Chao to the Trump
Justice Department on December 16th and December 17th, of 2020, so during
the transition between the Trump and Biden administrations. The Trump
Justice Department declined to take up the investigation. They`re not
pursuing Chao, despite the referrals.
In 2019, it was "The New York Times" that was first to break the story that
Chao had been using her role as secretary of transportation to boost the
profile of her family`s company. Now we know what that reporting sparked.
Joining me now is someone who`s bylined on both of those stories I just
mentioned, "New York Times" investigative reporter Eric Lipton.
Mr. Lipton, thanks very much for making time to be here tonight.
ERIC LIPTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you.
MADDOW: So the inspector general has described that office`s investigation
of what you and your colleagues reported at "The Times" and other
allegations against Chao.
Did you learn anything from the inspector general`s disclosure tonight
about Chao`s behavior or about the seriousness with which it was
LIPTON: Yeah. I mean, in fact, we learned that there were many more
examples of her intervening in ways that were to benefit her father an at
times her sister. Her father was one of the founders of the shipping
company which largely operates out of China and her sister currently has
been chief executive there. And so, there were many more examples of her
taking actions that was helping elevate the sort of -- the promotional
aspects of the company, particularly as her father, who`s now retired but
still associated with the company was promoting a book and was being
described in Chinese media as being, you know, a major player in the
shipping industry in China.
MADDOW: One of the things that this brought home to me is the sheer number
of times we`ve now learned that Trump Justice Department got a criminal
referral for a serving member of the cabinet, then declined to take up the
case. From your reporting in your long career of reporting on public
corruption and bad behavior by public officials, is it a surprise that they
didn`t take up these referrals either in terms of the U.S. Attorney`s
Office in D.C. or the Public Integrity Division?
LIPTON: Not really, I mean, these are not matters where she was taking
actions that brought her direct financial benefit or that there was
allegations of money being exchanged or anything like that. I mean, I think
what the inspector general found were instances that appeared to be ethics
violations and they made a referral to the DOJ and made a referral after
DOJ didn`t take it up to office of the general counsel at the Department of
Transportation. What they got back from DOJ was that we don`t see grounds
for criminal case but we`re not adjudicating on whether there were ethical
violations here, that`s up for administrative process for the Department of
So, I`m not surprised that that was the outcome. What I was surprised was
how many examples there were that this report documented a dozen different
cases where the Department of Transportation staff were used to help
promote her father`s interest or her sister`s interests, particularly as it
pertains to their face to China which is where their business operates
MADDOW: Eric, quick last question for you. Obviously, Secretary Chao is
out of office but her husband is Republican leader in the Senate. Is there
any indication that any family benefit that accrued to the Chao family
through the actions of Secretary Chao might have made its way home to
Secretary Chao and to Senator McConnell themselves? Any indication he might
have benefitted from ill-gotten gains?
LIPTON: Nothing direct. I mean, I think the benefits would be that she
used her staff and her office to help elevate her father and at times her
sister who are executives -- her sister still executive at prominent
Chinese largely -- New York-based but building ships in China and
delivering freight in China, and then a company that`s gotten financial
backing from government of China to build its ships there. So, I think her
work helped continue to elevate his stature in China and that could
potentially bring the family company some benefit but nothing that directly
benefitted financially her or Mitch McConnell.
MADDOW: "New York Times" investigative reporter Eric Lipton, thank you so
much for helping us understand this story tonight, and congratulations
being there beginning and end of this arc. I really appreciate your time.
LIPTON: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. More ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Barbara Howard is professor at Jackson State University in
Mississippi. This picture taken this week on Professor Howard`s back porch
in Jackson. She left that silver pan outside overnight to try to collect
rain water, because like tens of thousands of Americans in Jackson,
Mississippi right now, Professor Howard has no running water.
She told "The Clarion Ledger" newspaper it`s getting complicated running
all over town, trying to schedule water pickup so she can do basic things
like filling up toilets so they can be flushed. So, she started collecting
rain water instead. She said, so far, this is easier.
This woman here spoke to the local news in Jackson. She`s showing them all
the bottled water from the store. She said she spent $13 and the supply
that might last her two days max. Unlike Professor Howard, this woman says
she does have the water coming out of the taps, it`s just not clean to
drink. And so, the bottled water.
Jackson is the largest city in Mississippi. It`s capital of the state.
Today is the 16th day in a row that the entire city of Jackson is without
safe drinking water.
A cold snap last month knocked out aging pipes and water treatment
facilities for Jackson. Sixteen days after that, tens of thousands of
people in the city still have no running water. The whole city remains
under a boil water advisory, which means you can`t just drink anything out
of the tap.
And today, it actually got worse. The city`s public works director gave a
press briefing to update everybody on how things are coming along, and
trying to fix all the broken water mains and all the pipes knocked out by
the storm. This is how that press conference started.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. CHARLES WILLIAMS, JACKSON, MS PUBLIC WORKS DIRECTOR: Try to be as
transparent as possible. Today was not a good day for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Today was not a good day for us, he says. And reason is water
Yesterday, the water pressure in Jackson was around 80 pounds per square
inch. For context, needs to be about 90 pounds per square inch to generate
the force to push through everybody`s pipes. So, yesterday, it wasn`t 90,
which is what it needs to be. It was 80.
Today, it tanked all the way down to 50, which means some people who had
regained water pressure to get running water back in their houses in the
last few days have since lost it again as water pressure dropped again from
80, all the way down to 50.
Public works director did say the city is making some progress on fixing
all the leaking pipes. There`s about 20 broken water mains throughout the
city that are still spilling water into the streets instead of taps. He
said today he expects all those leaks to be -- those broken pipes to be
fixed by end of the weekend, which is good news for people who don`t have
any water in their homes right now but doesn`t change the fact that the
water itself still isn`t safe to drink.
The city as of yet has no guess as to when Jackson`s water will be
drinkable, if and when people get it back in their faucets and running out
of their taps. Sixteen days of this. How much of this can Jackson take, and
what can the rest of the country be doing to help?
The mayor of Jackson joins us live next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Clams, mussels, other fish and other items. That was the official
tally of what was clogging Jackson, Mississippi`s, water intake filters
today, filters that raw intake water has to pass through on the way to the
treatment plant and then eventually into people`s pipes. That debris and
trouble with the filters caused water pressure to plummet today again in
In the midst of this crisis, tens of thousands of people without water, the
entire city under boil water notice, which means the water is not safe to
drink. More than two weeks with a great American city, a capital city,
having no drinkable water. When is it going to end?
Joining us is the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, Chokwe Antar Lumumba.
Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for being here, I know it is a critical time
and I really appreciate you being here.
MAYOR CHOKWE ANTAR LUMUMBA (D), JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI: Thank you for having
MADDOW: How are your constituents, how are your residents holding up? This
is a lot to ask even of the very resilient people of Mississippi.
LUMUMBA: Well I think your package describes it accurately, it is
critical, you know, not only do people depend on the water for the ability
to drink and to cook, to bathe, but we`re in a critical hour as we`re
fighting a pandemic. So, quite literally, it`s a protection mechanism, to
wash their hands and keep themselves safe.
As you can imagine, residents are frustrated. Residents have questions and
they deserve to know why this is the case. And so, we have been working day
in and day out to get the system back running. We are operating from one
piece of aged equipment to the next. And this is on account of years of
neglect, years of insufficient investment, and that`s not just simply on
the local level, that`s on the state level, that`s on a federal level,
understanding we have legacy cities that are grappling with this.
That`s why you`re seeing the same narrative from Texas to Mississippi and
beyond. And so, you know, we are fighting in every way to get this system
back running. My most recent report from public works director is the issue
we suffered from today has fortunately been resolved, and we`re hopeful
that overnight, the gains we sustained over last few days we can revisit
early in the morning.
MADDOW: Do you need more help at federal level than you`ve had thus far?
We`ve been showing images of National Guard, for example, distributing non-
potable water in some places in the city. You talked about this being a
problem at state level and federal level in terms of what Jackson needs for
this to never happen again and to try to build out of it. But in terms of
immediate assistance to your residents, do you need something that you are
not getting right now and that you`re trying to get?
LUMUMBA: Absolutely. The city of Jackson like most cities is under-
resourced and not capable of making these corrections, you know, based on
our own budgetary ability. So, I penned a letter to the governor because it
takes state to activate federal resources coming to cities. I think in the
midst of this challenge, we have to consider how we create a direct
pipeline, no pun intended, for resources to go directly to cities.
It is cities where the rubber meets the road, it`s the cities where we see
the efficacy of the investment of our federal government. I think we`ve
been having this discussion concerning a large infrastructure package from
the federal government for quite some time. It is beyond time that we leave
the discussion phase and really truly implement something to help American
MADDOW: Chokwe Antar Lumumba, the mayor of the great city of Jackson,
Mississippi, thank you so much for being here tonight to help us understand
and please keep us apprised, sir. I know this has just been an incredibly
difficult thing for the residents of your city to be through, to have gone
through. Keep us updated as you dig out and let us know what the country
needs to know.
LUMUMBA: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: As we mentioned top of the show, House is taking votes late into
the night tonight, planning not to be in session tomorrow for security
reasons. They are voting tonight on their big For the People Act, democracy
and election reforms.
Also the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act which has just passed. Their
initial reports that one Republican voted for it, which itself would be
news. It turns out one Republican voted for it by accident and is going to
change his vote. Oh, well.
That`s going to do for us for now. See you again tomorrow.
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
Copyright 2021 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the