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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/31/21

Guests: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sherrilyn Ifill


"The New York Times" is reporting that DOJ is investigating Rep. Matt Gaetz over alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old. President Biden is speaking in Pittsburgh today, unveiling his proposal for a nearly $2 trillion in investment in infrastructure in this country. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is interviewed. Dozens of the most prominent African-American CEOs and business leaders in the country published a full-page ad in "The New York Times" urging corporate America to take stand against the new voter suppression laws like in Georgia.


MEHDI HASAN, MSNBC HOST: That`s ALL IN on this Wednesday night.


Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Mehdi. Thank you, my friend. Well done.

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

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is going to be here with us live tonight. I`m very much looking forward to speaking with her in just a moment.

Sherrilyn Ifill, one of the highest profile civil rights lawyers in the country is here tonight to talk about what could be a big development in the voting rights fight. A development that unfolded in the surprising ways over the day today.

We`re going to start tonight, though, with a little bit of an update on that bananas story that we had to unexpectedly shift gears to cover at this time in the show last night, when "The New York Times" published late- breaking news about the Republican congressman who is probably the most high profile fanatical Trump supporters in Congress, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz.

"The Times" last night published the news that Congressman Gaetz is under criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for very serious allegations of child sex trafficking.

Now, I swear I`m not going to spend more of my life than I need to following every twist and turn in this somewhat nauseating story, but because we gave you the sort of back story and context on this last night, I feel the need to update you tonight. Because the sheer bizarreness of this story continued to advance across the court of today and tonight at what appears to be an accelerating pace. This started off weird, it`s getting deep space weird.

All right, first of all, there`s this guy, local Republican elected official in Seminole County, Florida. His name is Joel Greenberg. He`s relevant to the story because his own considerable criminal troubles appear to at least have dove-tailed with this newly reported criminal investigation into Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz.

Joe Greenberg was elected tax collector in Seminole County, Florida, in November 2016. As we discussed last night, Mr. Greenberg immediately set out upon a course of behavior that started off like a fire hose of scandal and ended up like a tsunami of scandal.

I mean, I can`t even cram all of it into another lengthy news segment here but just in rough chronological order, just looking at the high points, local investigations and audits found that starting basically as soon as he took office, he spent millions of taxpayer dollars on contracts and payments to his personal friends and some business partners, including six different people who had all been in his wedding several month before he got elected.

Six member of his wedding party just happened to get hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts and deals from the local tax collector`s office, right after their buddy Joel, the groom from the wedding they were in, took over that office. What a coincidence six people from the same wedding, huh?

A county audit found that Mr. Greenberg then spent tons of taxpayer money, like over $1 million on guns and ammunition and body armor and drones. Drones? It`s like a little tax collector army or something. He and all the team who worked in his office, under his leadership, all started wearing guns at work again. This is not like a department of the police it`s not even like an office that goes after poachers, people who keep too many fish or something.

These are literally the people to whom you pay your license fees, but they all started strapping guns on their hips at work, and also wearing badges that if you squinted they looked like sheriff badges. They weren`t. They were tax collector badges but still.

Mr. Greenberg was soon thereafter investigated for impersonating a police officer when he used his tax collectors` gun and badge to pull over a woman he accused of speeding. He put on flashing lights in his tax collector car and pulled her over because he thought she was going too fast. He is the tax collector.

And there`s a lot more. It does go on and on and on and on.

I mentioned last night, the allegation that brought federal authorities to Mr. Greenberg`s door and initially got him arrested and charged with multiple federal felonies, which ultimately led, we think, to the involvement of Congressman Gaetz -- the initial federal allegations which became the federal charges against Mr. Greenberg came after somebody in Seminole County had the nerve to run against him for tax collector in Seminole County.

Mr. Greenberg, according to prosecutors, then sent nine letters to the school where this guy worked, that who was going to run against him for tax collector. Greenberg spent nine letters purporting to be from students accusing the guy who was going to run against him accusing him of inappropriate sexual activity with students at the school where he worked. Now, the allegations were completely made up, but it ended up being not a problem for his opponent. It ended up being a problem for Mr. Greenberg, because what happened was federal authorities ended up getting brought in to investigate this.

Here`s how "The Orlando Sentinel" wrote it up at the time. Quote, between October 10 and November 15th, according to the indictment, Greenberg mailed the letters to Trinity Prep that claimed to be written by students. School officials first turned to letters over to the Seminole County sheriff`s office. But investigators determined the letters weren`t written by students, they were written by an adult because the letters were delivered by U.S. mail, the case was turn over the federal investigators with the U.S. attorney`s office.

Assistant U.S. attorney Roger Handberg said in court this week that Joel Greenberg`s DNA and finger prints were ultimately found on the nine letters sent to the school where his opponent works.

So nine different letters all purporting to be from students, all purporting to document terrible, terrible sexual misbehavior by this guy who was going to run against Joel Greenberg. Joel Greenberg leaves his DNA and fingerprints all over those letters, according to prosecutors. A criminal genius at work here, obviously, if what prosecutors say bears out.

He also, according to prosecutors, set up fake Twitter and Facebook accounts in the name of the same guy running against him and in the name of other people who worked at the same school. Those fake accounts had their own fingerprints on them. They were ultimately traced back to an IP address on a computer at Joel Greenberg`s house. He used his own computer to set up the fake accounts in which he set his opponent, in which he said that his opponent was like a segregationist and a white supremacist and a terrible person, genius at work. Not difficult to trace those back to Joel Greenberg`s house, according to prosecutors.

But the problem with this criminal genius at work in these alleged crimes is that because of the way these things were done, federal law enforcement was brought to bear here. This ended up not being a local issue. This was not handled by the sheriff`s office. This is handled by the U.S. attorney`s office. These are now federal charges. There`s federal investigators involved, that all leads to his first indictment.

But then it gets way worse from there. They turn up to arrest him on the first indictment. When they turn up to arrest him, it turns out he has a whole ton of fake IDs in his backpack, in his car, in his wallet. That`s going to be more federal charges.

They ultimately charge him for stealing people`s identities, by stealing driving licenses turned into the tax collector`s office and then using them to make multiple fake IDs. What does he want to make fake IDs for? Well, that is contained in the description of the next set of charges that he faces.

After they do a search of his electronic devices, they decide what he`s using the fake IDs for is sex trafficking of at least one minor and other sex related crimes. And so, he faces multiple succeeding federal indictments -- superseding federal indictment as these charges continue to mushroom in Florida, in Seminole County.

NBC News reported today that that latter part of the tax collector guy investigation, the part where they looked at his devices and decided what was going won with the fake IDs through his office is he was using fake IDs to facilitate criminal sexual acts, including sex trafficking of underage persons. That part of the investigation into this tax collector guy ultimately led to what are now the newly reported details of this federal criminal investigation into Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, who is also accused of sex trafficking of a minor.

Now, Mr. Greenberg, the Seminole County tax collector guy and Congressman Gaetz are reportedly close. There are several multiple social photos of them together, and now, investigators are looking at whether Congressman Gaetz may end up charged with sex traffics of an underage girl.

But while we were absorbing that detail of the story here, right, not just that these two guys are -- one of them facing charges, one of them facing similar allegations that led to a criminal investigation, but the connection of the sex trafficking charges against the tax collector guy to the sex traffics investigation of the congressman, while that was singing in today that the investigation of Gaetz may have come out of what they discovered with this tax collector guy, while that was coming out today, big surprise in the story, maybe shouldn`t be much of a surprise, but it shocked me, today, that tax collector Joel Greenberg was hit with yet another federal indictment what timing.

Since he was initially arrested and charged last summer -- again, it all started with the stalking and identity thief stuff on the guy who was running against for the tax collector`s office. Since his initial arrest on those charges, federal prosecutors keep adding more alleged crimes. When federal prosecutors added three more superseding criminal indictments in that initial one, including one today for a whole new set of crimes we never heard about before, in this new indictment just filed today, the tax collector guy is charged with embezzling more than $400,000 from the collector`s office.

According to prosecutors, he used that money to buy both cryptocurrency and also autographed sports memorabilia, things signed by Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. Why?

Also, and this is incredible, the indictment alleges the tax collector guy, after he was initially arrested and was out on bond, while he was out on bond, he committed a whole new crime prosecutors say in this indictment today on top of everything else while he was out on bond after being arrested and charged with the first slew of federal crimes, he decided that would be the perfect time to start a whole new chapter of his alleged criminal behavior, that would be the perfect time to describe someone who worked at the Small Business Administration so that person would process fake loan applications for him so he could use fake businesses to my for fraudulent COVID relief funds.

And so they charged him with that today, too. The fraud stuff and the bribery of public officials in order to get it done. Seems like a gem, right?

You add it all up, and the four successive federal indictments this guy faced since last summer and he`s now facing 33 federal felony charges.

Thus far, Mr. Greenberg has pled not guilty to the charges that he`s had a chance to plead to. His attorney has not commented on the latest ones other than to say he wasn`t surprised by them.

But as I said, this is the criminal case in Florida that appears to dovetail with what`s going on with Trumperific Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz.

We don`t know about the exact linkages between the two cages.

Again, NBC is reporting that a part of the investigation of Joel Greenberg that led to sex trafficking charges against him is the same investigation that led to a sex trafficking investigation of Mr. Gaetz. We don`t know if Greenberg is cooperating against Congressman Gaetz.

In terms of the status of the investigation into Congressman Gaetz, "Politico" today flushed out the details about Trump Attorney William Barr. Barr was reportedly briefed not once but multiple times on the federal sex trafficking investigation into Congressman Gaetz. "Politico" reporting today that part of the reason Attorney General Barr was briefed on it a lot is because he was very concerned for himself. He didn`t want to accidentally end up at an event where Congressman Gaetz might be while this investigation into Congressman Gaetz was ongoing.

"Politico" reporting today that at least one publicly announced meeting between then-Attorney General Bill Barr and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee in Congress got called off. Bill Barr pulled off it of he said publicly he would go do it and the reason he pulled out of it was because Congressman Gaetz has RSVP`d that he would attend. And so, Bill Barr decided he better not attended, because he was fully and repeatedly briefed on the investigation into Congressman Matt Gaetz for alleged child sex trafficking.

Now, as for the scope of the investigation into the congressman, ABC News is reporting tonight that -- reporting today that the investigation includes allegations that he had a sexual relationship with, quote, at least one minor, at least one underage person but maybe more than one. ABC is also reporting the investigation is looking not just at the congressman`s alleged conduct in Florida, but federal investigators are looking at his alleged conduct in other states as well.

Now, Congressman Matt Gaetz denied any sexual relationship with anyone under age. Tonight, he has continued to advance his claim that his rich family in Florida was targeted with what he says was an extortion effort in parallel with this investigation. He said his family was extorted by someone claiming it would help Congressman Gaetz survive if his rich father funded an quixotic effort to find an ex-FBI officer, Robert Levenson, who has been missing in Iran for more than a decade.

The idea was you fund the rescue effort for Levenson, if it turn out to be successful, then maybe Congressman Gaetz would look like a national hero because his family funded it, so then he wouldn`t be prosecuted for child sex trafficking? I don`t know.

The FBI is reportedly investigating that bizarre alleged extortion scheme as well as the child sex trafficking allegations against Congressman Gaetz. But these are separate matters, right? Whether or not somebody was trying to pressure Congressman Gaetz and his family over how much trouble the congressman appears to be in for the sex trafficking investigation, it really does appear, regardless of whether or not that extortion also happened, that the congressman is under serious federal investigation for sex trafficking of at least one child in at least one state.

And that investigation started months ago and was approved of and regularly briefed to the highest levels of the Trump Justice Department, including Trump`s Attorney General Bill Barr. Oh.

And just one last point on this. And this is something to watch, because I`m sure this has to change I`m sure this is a mistake. The Republican leader in the House of the Representatives is, of course, Congressman Kevin McCarthy. He today was asked about this reported Justice Department investigation into Congressman Gaetz. Kevin McCarthy said he didn`t know anything about it, hadn`t talked to the Congressman Gaetz yet.

But he was asked, if Congressman Gaetz does get indicted, if he does get criminally charged in this case, would that be cause to remove him from his committee assignments and his other responsibilities in Congress? If he gets charged with child sex trafficking, are Republicans in Congress going take him off his committees and stuff? Kevin McCarthy said, actually, he would only plan to remove Matt Gaetz from his committees and congressional responsibilities if he gets convicted of child sex trafficking.

A federal indictment for sex trafficking that would not be a big enough deal. They would leave him in his committees, keep being a congressman and all that stuff. Really? I think that might be a mistake. I would not be surprise if Kevin McCarthy cleans that up in coming days.

For what it`s worth, we do have quite a bit of experience of congressman being indicted while in office. Hi, Congressman Collins. Hi, Congressman Hunter. You can make a list of all the congressman who have been indicted while in office because Trump pardoned them all before he left office as president.

Because we`ve got a lot of recent experience with this, the standard in the Republican Party used to be that once you got indicted, well, now, you`re under federal criminal indictment. You get taken off your committees, get relieved of congressional responsibilities even if they don`t at that moment expel you from Congress.

Apparently, that is how they`ve dealt with other Republicans who have been indicted. But according to Kevin McCarthy, that`s not the plan if Matt Gaetz gets indicted for child sex trafficking. Apparently, that`s fine with Kevin McCarthy if and when that happens, just have to wait to see if he gets convicted.

I can`t imagine he meant to say that but we`ll see. We`ll cross that bridge when we hopefully never come to it.

So, like I said, I feel responsible to update you on how that story has evolved from last night. I didn`t think it could get weirder, but it is a truly bizarre story evolving with accelerating weirdness over the course of the day today. If it gets weird an over the course of this hour, I will try to ignore it unless I have to.

Also today, "The New York Times" broke the news that state prosecutors in New York subpoenaed the personal bank records of a man named Alan Weisselberg who for decades served as chief financial officer at the Trump Organization both while it was run under President Biden and when it was run by his father, Fred Trump, before him. Alan Weisselberg appears to be under intense pressure in New York state prosecutors to tell them what he knows about the allegations of tax fraud, bank fraud, and insurance fraud that that prosecutor`s office is pursuing against President Trump and his company.

"The Times" also reporting that state prosecutors are looking at the hush money payments scandal, the campaign finance felonies for which Trump lawyer Michael Cohen went to prison and in which Trump was described by SDNY prosecutors as individual number one. According to "The Times" tonight, state prosecutors in New York are investigating how those payments were laundered through the Trump Organization`s books and whether any such laundering might itself be a prosecutable crime.

That reporting today from "The New York Times" just adding to the increasingly tall pile of legal worries faced by the former president as we reported here last night, former President Trump is now facing not one, not two, but three federal lawsuits for him allegedly inciting the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, the latest one filed by two U.S. Capitol police officers who were injured in the attack.

Also within the last day, a New York state court let a defamation case against the former president go forward. This is the defamation case brought against him by a former contestant on "The Apprentice," a woman named Summer Zervos who said he essentially assaulted her. The president, because that case is going forward in New York state court, the former president may end up having to be deposed under oath in that case. The case was stalled for a while. It is now moving a once again.

Also in the last day, the former president lost a high profile bid to enforce nondisclosure agreements that he made all his campaign staff sign in 2016. A former Trump campaign staffer named Jessica Denson made sexual harassment and discrimination claims against the 2016 Trump campaign. As a separate matter related to that, she litigated the validity of the nondisclosure agreement that she and other Trump campaign workers were made to sign in 2016.

Well, she won that part of it. A federal court has now said that the NDA is not binding on her. So, Katy, bar the door in terms of what that means both in that individual case and for other people associated with the Trump campaign and potentially even the Trump White House who want to talk but fell bound by that nondisclosure agreement. If the federal courts decided those things are toilet paper, that is going to open up a whole new chapter of potential -- guess what in terms of the former president.

That`s just, like, the last 24 hours. The last 24 hours of news from Trumpville. How`s the post presidency life going for the president and his most loyal minions? I mean, man.

And then for contrast, there today is the new president, President Biden, unveiling what he hopes and expecting to be the signature legislative accomplishment of this presidential term, a huge new investment in American infrastructure, one of the most popular issue areas among the American public -- investing in the stuff we all use. What Biden is proposing is a $2 trillion investment -- roads, bridges, airports, ports, school buildings, the electric grid, water systems, broadband nationwide and more.

The Biden administration and the indeed the president himself today in a major speech in Pennsylvania calling this the biggest investment in infrastructure in this country since World War II. And it looks like they`ve got a path to get it passed, and it will be even more popular than the COVID relief bill that they have passed, which is not only wildly popular among the American people left, right, and center it`s driving 70 percent plus approval ratings for the this president on the issue of COVID specifically, which is driving record high approval ratings for this president overall.

That`s what the Biden administration learned from the first big thing they got through Congress. That A, you can get it done, and B, the American people don`t care that much by the process by which you get it done as long as you are passing something that takes a big, bold, practical approach to everything in common. Turns out the American people like that.

What they`re going back for now as they go for their second legislative lift is something more popular than the COVID relief bill was when you break it down into its constituent parts, but it`s a big ask.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is going to join us on that next.

Stay with us.



JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s not a plan that tinkers around the edges. It`s a once in a generation investment in America, unlike anything we`ve seen or done since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago. In fact, it`s the largest American jobs investment since World War II.

It will create millions of jobs, good paying jobs. It will grow the economy, make us more competitive around the world, promote our national security interest and put us in a position to win the global competition with China in the upcoming years. It`s big, yes. It`s bold, yes, and we can get it done.

I`m convinced that if we act now, in 50 years, people are going to look back and say, this was the moment that America won the future.

Historically, infrastructure had been a partisan undertaking, many times led by Republicans. It was Abraham Lincoln who built the Transcontinental Railroad. Dwight Eisenhower, Republican, built the interstate system. I could go on.

And I don`t think you`ll find a Republican today in the House or Senate, maybe I`m wrong, gentlemen, who doesn`t think we have to improve infrastructure.

I truly believe we`re in a moment where history is going to look back on this time as a fundamental choice having to be made between democracies and autocracies.

You know, there`s a lot of autocrats in the world who think the reason they`re going to win is democracies can`t reach a consensus anymore. It`s a basic question -- can democracies still deliver for their people? Can they get a majority?

I believe we can. I believe we must.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I believe we must.

President Biden speaking in Pittsburgh today, unveiling his proposal for a nearly $2 trillion in investment in infrastructure in this country.

And most of the first day stories about this newly revealed plan are talking about the price tag and the politics of how it can get done, and also the big ticket headline items here -- roads and bridges and school buildings, and a sturdy electric grid for the first time in our country`s history, and a half million electric vehicle chargers around the country.

But even beyond that stuff, there`s other pieces inside it that we found today are being celebrated by people who are actually surprised and delighted to find their needs being addressed as a big part of this bill.

For instance, $45 billion in this bill to replace all of the lead pipes around the country in our water systems. You know more than viewers of any other show about the lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan, where there`s lead pipes and lead service pipes all over the country. This would replace 100 percent of the nation`s lead pipes and service lines.

Also, a $400 billion investment in expanding access to what`s known as home or community-based care. And in layman`s terms, that means, like, home health aides or a room in a group home if you`re an elderly or disabled person.

Right now in this country, we have a gigantic backlog for those kinds of services. The wait list is 850,000 people long, which means right now, elderly and disabled Americans face waits as long as five years to get the services they need.

This would not only expand that access, it would increase pay and improve working conditions for the people who work in this incredibly critical, critical, but under-funded and often out of sight, big portion of the American economy.

We reached out today to one of the country`s foremost disability activists -- disability advocacy groups, The Arc, to ask just how much impact this kind of an investment could have. Their senior director of public policy there told us, quote: It is major -- with major in all caps, and two exclamation points.

Them thinking that would make this big of a deal, that group in particular, that means it`s a big deal.

Biden`s plan also includes $20 million to redress historic inequities in transportation infrastructure. That means in blunt terms, undoing wrongs that were committed in the creation of a previous generation of infrastructure, things like tearing down predominantly black neighborhoods to build highways there instead. This would be $20 million earmark in the Biden`s plan to reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments in infrastructure.

Biden`s infrastructure plan is a big plan. It is full of big ideas. But a lot of the most interesting stories are in the granular details.

But again, this is just his opening gambit. This is what he`s asking for. What happens to it now is going to be in the hands of the Congress.

Joining us is one of the most influential members of that body, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Congresswoman, it`s great to see you. Thank you so much for making time to be here tonight.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Of course. Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: So, as I know, you saw the president`s speech today, and we`ve all been reading about and learning about what the president is asking for in this American jobs plan, what do you think of it?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: You know, I think that the vision that President Biden and the administration has laid out, you`re right, has surprised a lot of us in a positive way, and in the detail and the thought that`s here, the scope of it is really encouraging -- except I think the how. That $2.2 trillion, $2.25 trillion over eight years, I have serious concerns that it`s not enough to realize the very inspiring vision that Biden has advanced.

And so, I believe that those of us here, especially as progressives within the Democratic Party, we know that there is so much more opportunity here, and in order for us to realize this inspiring vision, we need to go way higher. And that`s what`s going to help us actually deliver on this really promising and inspiring vision that the president laid out today.

MADDOW: And when you say that it should be bigger, do you want the numbers associated with the things the president says he wants done just to get bigger, just do more of the things he`s saying he wants to do, or are there whole new categories of policy that you`d like to see folded into this bill that aren`t there now?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think there`s -- there are a couple of areas there. One is that, first of all, you know, this is $2.25 trillion over eight years. For context, because these huge numbers are hard to understand, for context, we passed an almost $2 trillion COVID relief package. That`s supposed to last us one year with some provisions lasting up to two years.

So, the $1,400 stimulus checks, that big package that we felt in our lives were deployed on a shorter timeline. So, I think that we need to really have some shorter timelines, some urgency, greater urgency in this package, and I think some of the investments need to be greater.

So, for example, let`s take public housing. This plan, this Build Back Better plan, it advocates for a total national investment of $40 billion in public housing nationwide. Sounds great, right?

Except when you consider the fact that the New York City public housing system needs $40 billion alone just to get up to code. During the wintertime, people run out of heat. They don`t have hot water. They don`t have electricity sometimes. There are holes in people`s walls.

The New York City Public Housing Authority needs $40 billion alone just so that its residents can live in dignified housing because they have been under-invested and starved frankly by Republican Congresses and Republican administrations for so long.

So, for us to actually invest in national public housing infrastructure, we need to do way more in order for us to deliver on this promise in terms of a price tag there.

Now, in terms of scope, I think, again, I really do have to commend some of these investments that are in here. And some of these details, like exclusionary zoning, are things that progressives have been talking about for a long time. So there is a lot of credit there.

But on climate, we can also go more, we can go deeper, and we can have a more integrated approach in how we push on this issue.

Again, I do commend the administration in its scope, but in order for us to meet that vision, I don`t -- I have real concerns that $2.2 trillion isn`t actually going to get us there, so we`re going to have to make deeper investments to actually renew public housing, to repeal the Faircloth Amendment, to increase our housing stock in the United States, you know?

And this -- at the end of the day -- is one of the greatest sources in income inequality in the country. It`s rooted in housing and real estate.

MADDOW: In terms of how this is going to move. Obviously, this is the Biden administration`s second big legislative lift, and I think we have to think of them as a living breathing organism that learns lessons along the way.

Clearly, I think a lot of what was going on with the COVID relief bill is they were thinking about things they wish they had done better or handled differently under the Obama administration. Now, I think they`re going to be approaching this infrastructure bill, learning the lessons that they just learned for what happened with COVID relief.

And it was I think a surprise to many in the Beltway when Joe Biden said for COVID relief, he wanted $1.9 trillion. Everybody assumed that would get whittled way down and some much smaller package would ultimately pass, it didn`t. It did get cut down a little bit, but not that much it was basically a $1.9 trillion plan.

Sounds to me like what I hear you saying tonight that on this one, what may happen, is that President Biden may listen, today, in Pittsburgh, I want $2.2 trillion over eight years, but when it lands in the House, you and your colleagues may say, $2.2 trillion is a starting point, but this needs to be a bigger bill, this needs to get larger before the Senate even gets a look at it.

Is that a fair way to expect that may be the way this goes?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Absolutely.


You know, if we could wave a magic wand and progressives in the House were able to name any number and get it through, which obviously isn`t the case, but if we`re looking at ideals and what we think is the actual investment that can create tens of millions of good union jobs in this country, that can shore up our health care, our infrastructure, our housing, and doing it in a way that draws down our carbon emissions to help us get in line with IPCC standards, we`re talking about realistically $10 trillion over ten years.

And I know that may be an eye-popping figure for some people, but we need to understand that we are in a devastating economic moment. Millions of people in the United States are unemployed. We have a truly crippled health-care system, and a planetary crisis on our hands, and we`re the wealthiest nation in the history of the world.

So, we can do $10 trillion. That is a thing of political imagination. However, when you break it up into those two parts, what`s important to remember is that this actually isn`t a progressive versus a moderate issue. You have some of the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus, like Joe Manchin, that have even signaled support for a $4 trillion infrastructure plan which is double in the numbers.

And so, I think that there`s some key dynamics that have changed here, which explains some of this. One is that there is genuine built power in the progressive caucus, within the Democratic Party, but also just progressive ideals in general in the country that, you know, that power has built very significantly, and we are in a fundamentally different political moment.

But on top of that is that even when you look at more at what -- what comprises more moderate views in the caucus, you know, economic populism that works and centers working class people is popular.

And I think Republicans kind of run on that aesthetic and I think Democrats, you know, they talk about it, but we actually are about it. So, but I think that the country shift -- people really I think are starting to understand that these issues are no longer fringe progressive demands but they are consensus builders.

And so, we need that direct investment. We need to build the housing stock. We need to stop making it just an investment for corporate -- you know, for corporations to gobble up our housing stock and an actual thing that we use and live in and enjoy and don`t have to fear that our kids won`t be able to afford a home, a place to live, and make a family.

And so, those kinds of investments, that`s what this is about, not to mention rural broadband, not to mention roads, bridges, mass transit, and a national -- truly national system of EV vehicles and a full electric -- federally electric fleet.

MADDOW: New York Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, it is a real pleasure to have you here. Thanks for helping us understand. Really happy to have you here.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Of course, thank you so much.

MADDOW: All right, much more ahead tonight. Stay come -- stay with us.


MADDOW: Look at this. Today`s printed edition of "The New York Times" included this full page ad, a letter, public letter signed by dozens of the most prominent African-American CEOs and business leaders in the country. Their letter urging other CEOs, urging the rest of corporate America to stand up against the new anti-voting law in Georgia, and the dozens of laws like it under consideration in other Republican-controlled states.

And maybe it was that full page ad, the public letter, maybe it was the threat of boycotts of big Georgia companies for not doing enough to stop the voter suppression law before it passed, but today was a day of big shifted. Today we saw an abrupt change in tune of some of the biggest corporations in Georgia.

The CEOs of Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola both came out and called the Georgia anti-voting law, quote, unacceptable. Delta`s CEO wrote a letter to employees saying they did work with the legislation to make it less bad but said he now realizes the law enacted is, quote, wrong, and, quote, based on a lie about voter fraud.

Georgia`s Republican Governor Brian Kemp responded today that Delta never raised these objections before Kemp signed the bill into law. Kemp said, quote, today`s statement by Delta CEO stands in stark contrast to our conversations with the company, like, oh, they`re super against it announcement they didn`t tell us that when they talked about it before I signed it.

Here`s the question -- with Delta and Coca-Cola and these other CEOs and companies now belatedly stepping up, belatedly acknowledging that they didn`t understand the magnitude until the Georgia bill was passed, does that mean these companies are alerted now to the danger of this kind of legislation that they are ashamed now enough about their late reaction in Georgia, that they`re going to be willing to play a role to get voting rights protections passed in Washington?

Because that`s how you could actually make a difference in Georgia right now. There is a live bill in D.C. right now to protect voting rights, including to block some of the worst provisions in the Georgia bill. But that voting rights protection bill in the U.S. Senate needs help getting through the U.S. Senate right now, and some of those biggest corporations in the country, if they have now got religion on this issue, their help could potentially really make a difference in getting that thing passed. Will they now work to do it?

Hold that thought.


MADDOW: This morning, when dozens of the most prominent African American CEOs and business leaders in the country published a full-page ad in "The New York Times" urging corporate America to take stand against the new voter suppression laws like this in Georgia, Sherrilyn Ifill, the head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, responded on Twitter by saying, quote: Trust me, this is huge.

Sure enough, a few hours later, huge Georgia-based corporations like Delta and Coca-Cola were feeling their oats on this issue for the first time, coming out slamming the Georgia voting law for the first time, late, frankly, since the bill already passed, but they absolutely have now moved on the issue, something really did shift today on this front in the battle against these voter suppression laws.

Joining us now is the clairvoyant Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Ms. Ifill, it`s really nice to have you here. Thank you so much for making time.


MADDOW: Why was this -- why did you see that letter from black CEOs and business letters as huge. And what do you make of the impact it had just today?

IFILL: Well, a number of advocates, local advocates in Georgia, had been pressing these corporations over weeks, Black Voters Matter, the Georgia NAACP, the New Georgia Project, really pushing these local corporations to take a stand against what was clearly going to be a disastrous bill. And, you know, these are corporations that are synonymous with the state of Georgia. Coca-Cola is synonymous with Georgia.

So a number of groups on the ground had been pushing. I had been in conversations with these corporations asking them to stand against these provisions. We felt it was important for the business community to speak up, including the Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Chamber and the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

And it is true that they were behind the scenes hoping they could make the bill better, I think, and I think, actually, at the end, they think that what they did, at least they thought what they did, was sufficient, that there was some terrible provisions that were removed from the bill. But the bill that passed is still terrible and their failure to speak as themselves, as Georgia corporations, they were beginning to feel the heat.

And when these CEOs came out this morning, these are heavy hitters, Rachel. These are not people who are silly, who are fly-by-night. These are men and women when they call, you take the call, and business leaders across the country know that. They know these names.

So when this came out this morning, a full-page ad, A7, in "The New York Times" and you saw the CEOs on CNBC and the other channels that people in finance watch in the morning, it was clear to me that this was a game changer, and I think that with the pressure from the local groups and, of course, there have been threats of boycotts, it did make a difference

MADDOW: Do you think that this may translate -- that this will remain focused on Georgia, or do you think this may translate to these CEOs, these corporations, others perhaps who may find themselves in the same frame of mind, that they might work to pass S-1, the federal voting rights protection and the John Lewis bill as well that would afford federal protections it that would neutralize some of the worst impact of these state bills like the ones in Georgia?

IFILL: Yeah, I know that`s an explicit ask of local groups, an ask that they stand up in other states, where copycat bills are being planned. I mean, I did say to the CEO of Coca-Cola, people drink Coca-Cola in Texas, too, and Texas is setting about trying to pass some of these bills as well. But HR1 and HR4 are critically important.

And local groups are have been make that request to these very companies, including the companies that switched their position today, to understand the importance of seeking a federal solution we are playing whack-a-mole across a variety of states. We are seeing these laws proposed in Florida and Texas and Michigan and states around the country.

And so, we really need that federal legislation. It`s going to be a test to see whether corporations are willing to stand up. These are corporations willing to stand up against anti-LBGTQ legislation, which is vitally important. They have spoken out on climate change they have spoken out on gun violence. Now we need them to speak out on this race issue.

It`s a democracy issue and I have been really distressed over the last few weeks, concerned that the business plan of many American corporations appears to be agnostic about democracy. When you try to deny citizens the ability to vote and participate in the political process and punish them for turning out in record numbers as the Georgia legislature did with this bill, you are engaged in anti-Democratic actions. That`s a space where corporations in my view are compelled to speak because they benefit from our democracy.

And I think after January 6th, we recognize that we need all of the segments of our society to stand together to protect democracy.

MADDOW: Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, it`s really good to see you. Thank you for being here. It`s an exciting day today to watch this unfold. Thanks for helping us understand.

IFILL: Thank you, Rachel.

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


MADDOW: I said earlier tonight that Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, could not have meant it when he told Fox News this morning that Congressman Matt Gaetz will only be removed from his committee assignments in Congress if he is convicted of child sex trafficking, that potentially being indicted on the charges wouldn`t enough. That is what Congressman McCarthy said this morning to Fox.

It turns out late this afternoon, he did change his mind on that, as I thought he might have, and he gave comments this morning to NBC`s Leann Caldwell in which he made clear that, yes, if Congressman Gaetz does, in fact, get indicted for child sex trafficking, that will be enough to remove him from his committee assignments. I thought that sounded wrong when he said it this morning turns out he cleaned it up late this afternoon and I am glad to hear it.

That`s going to do it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.