Georgia prosecutor investigating former President Trump hires a
racketeering expert. Democratic voting rights attorney, Marc Elias filed a
lawsuit challenging the new law in Iowa, that points directly to the irony
of Iowa Republicans trying to fix an election system that even they say is
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): So that`s what I think we should do. I`m not
saying get rid of the filibuster.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Right.
CLYBURN: If the president wants to keep the filibuster, fine. Let do it
for civil rights and voting rights.
HAYES: Congressman Jim Clyburn, thank you so much for making time. Really
That is ALL IN on this Tuesday night.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you for being on my
show last night to talk --
HAYES: Oh, it`s a delight. I enjoyed it.
MADDOW: It was great. Yeah, you really are a very, very, very critical,
strong thinker on policy in general but on COVID stuff in particularly. And
I feel like you are doing absolutely fantastic work right now, explaining
how these policy changes are going to impact people`s lives. And it`s just
-- you`re firing on all cylinders, my friend.
HAYES: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.
MADDOW: All right.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.
So, tomorrow, Democrats in Washington are going to be wearing their Sunday
best. It is a really big landmark day for them at 9:00 a.m. They`re going
to start the home stretch final debate to pass the American Rescue Plan. A
big COVID relief bill that is the first thing the Biden administration and
the Democrats in Congress put their shoulders to when they got sworn in
just two months ago.
And you know, time will tell how this legislation is viewed over the long
haul. But just at face value, it is more wide-reaching progressive
legislation than anything passed -- anything passed at least the last two
Democratic presidents. Legislatively in terms of its progressive reach, in
terms of its reach to make things better for people who need the most help.
It is definitely on par with the Affordable Care Act, with Obamacare.
But this bill, what the Senate passed this weekend, what the House will
pass tomorrow, what President Biden is about to sign, will hit a wider
target than the Affordable Care Act ever aimed at. I mean, as huge an
accomplishment as that was to reform the absolutely baroque and broken U.S.
health care system to try to improve it in a fundamental way, this bill is
bigger. It is aiming at more. It will strike what is hoped to be a decisive
blow against the pandemic in terms of funding a coherent, technocratically
skilled national response, funding everything from testing to the vaccine
rollout. We are in the middle of the largest vaccine rollout in the history
of the country. This is how we`re going to fund it.
It will cover all of that, plus basic research. Plus, the CDC getting its
act together on data and analytics and so much more. It will actually
expand the reach of Obamacare.
So, for millions of Americans, this thing that`s going to pass tomorrow, it
will reduce your health insurance premiums. And actually for the people at
the lowest end of the spectrum, people with health insurance thanks to the
Affordable Care Act, a lot of those folks are going to see their health
insurance premiums go to zero because of this bill passing tomorrow.
This bill radically increases access to health insurance in this country,
particularly for the people who can least afford it. It is expected to cut
child poverty in half in this country through direct aid to families and
through big sustained tax credits for families with kids. It`s expected to
add 7 million jobs to the economy. It`s going to direct $130 billion to
I mean, just take piece of it. Even if that`s all this piece was doing,
especially after what schools have been through this past year, just that
school funning alone, that $130 billion for schools alone would have
Democrats putting on their best twin sets and shining up their shoes
tonight in anticipation of what they`re going to pass tomorrow. Just the
school funding alone is a really big deal.
For everybody who has been waiting on the direct stimulus payment that will
come as part of this bill. If the house passes it tomorrow, and there isn`t
a delay in getting it to the White House for the president`s signature,
those direct $1,400 payments may start going out next being. People who
have direct deposits set up will see the money arrive first directly in
their bank accounts. People who are getting a check instead of direct
deposit will get it soon there after.
The White House explained that President Biden is not planning on putting
his name anywhere on the check when the checks go out. And that, you know,
probably shouldn`t be a surprise. It`s not his style really. It`s obviously
sort of a petty move for a president to do something like that.
But honestly, as I get older, as I live through more and more years of
Republican governance, I`m getting more and more petty all the time about
stuff like this. Only because Republican presidents put their name on
everything. Democratic presidents are the ones who are all modest.
If I was a Democratic president, I would put my name only check like a big
hologram on it too. So it glowed when you open the envelope. Like a
greeting card that plays a song when you open the envelope and would it
sing my name. Bling at you, sing at you. I would do anything. I would put
sequins on the thing.
It would be all about remembering which party made this happen and which
party all voted against it. But like I said, as I develop an increasingly
severe case of the O-L-D, I`m getting catier and pettier with each passing
day and Biden is not doing that. It is why somebody like him is president
and nobody asked my advice on these things.
Get petty for once, OK? This is a big F-ing deal as someone once said.
But tomorrow is going to be a really big day. And while Democrats prepare
for that big, big day tomorrow, as President Biden plans his big prime time
speech on COVID on Thursday night, which should also be a big deal,
Thursday will be the country, our country and every country, marking the
one-year anniversary of the global declaration of the pandemic.
As we head towards that on Thursday, as more Capitol rioters get arrested
every day, including two in the last two days who spent the morning of the
Capitol attack with former President Trump`s friend and political adviser,
Roger Stone, of course, who Trump pardoned for multiple federal felonies to
the men he spent January 6th with, who have been arrested for their roles
in taking part in the Capitol attack.
As one of the appointees of the State Department was today ordered by a
federal judge to remain in custody awaiting trial because of what the judge
described in court today is that man`s leadership role in directing Capitol
rioters in attacking Capitol police that day. As President Biden`s new
attorney general, Merrick Garland, is finally, finally is slated to be
confirmed tomorrow, so the proverbial autopsy can finally begin as to what
the Justice Department under Bill Barr. So someone can take the helm of the
sprawling January 6th Capitol attack investigation and start once again
informing the public where things are going with that.
With all of these things simultaneously underway, today and tonight and
into tomorrow, we are keeping our eyes on all those things. There`s been a
lot of developing news over the day and the evening. I`m not sure how the
show will go because we are expecting continuing breaking news throughout
But even as we`re keeping an eye on that, there is something else that I
want to direct your attention to, because to me, this is something that was
already shocking at a lot of levels. But it has just veered off in a quite
unexpected direction. One that I thought was farfetched at first glance
which I thought was not nearly as farfetched as I thought.
All right. The year 2000, there was a sheriff`s election in DeKalb County,
Georgia. DeKalb County is a really big county in Georgia. It includes a big
part of the Atlanta metro area. On the east side, the county seat is
Decatur, they elect their sheriffs there.
And in 2000 in the sheriff`s election in DeKalb County, the incumbent
sheriff was voted out to the relief of a lot of people. The incumbent
sheriff who lost that election, his name is Sidney Dorsey. I say it was a
relief when he got voted out because he was widely perceived to be very
corrupt. He was under investigation for a bunch of corruption allegations
at the time.
Having his sheriff`s deputies do not only personal work for him and his
family but making his deputies moon height for his personal security
business on the side. There were investigations into the contracts that he
had doled out for the gigantic DeKalb County jail that he ran, and whether
he had corrupted those contracts, too.
So he was a sheriff with a terrible reputation under investigation for a
lot of things. He was up for re-election if 2000 and he lost. He lost to a
guy who specifically ran against him on anti-corruption platform. His
opponent saying he would clean it up, fire deputies involved in these
alleged schemes of the existing sheriff. It was a close race in 2000 in
DeKalb county but the incumbent guy lost to challenger one.
And then after the election, before the new sheriff was sworn in, actually
three days before the new sheriff was due to be sworn in, the new sheriff,
the anti-corruption crusade here had won the election and ousted the
incumbent sheriff, he was walking up the driveway of his house in DeKalb
County. It was his wife`s birthday. He was carrying a dozen roses for her
in the house. She heard him drive up. She knew he was home and she heard
what sounded like fireworks in the driveway.
When she went out to see what was happening, there was her husband laying
in the driveway dead. He had been shot 12 times, murdered in an ambush
attack three days before he was due to be sworn in to start his new job as
the elected sheriff of DeKalb county. And the sheriff who he had defeated
is the person who was indicted for arranging his murder.
The outgoing sheriff who had been under investigation anyway for all those
charges, he was hit with charges of felony murder, theft, violations of
oath, and racketeering. Racketeering, under Georgia state law.
Ultimately, he was convicted and the sheriff got life without the
possibility of parole for the felony murder charge. But then on top of
that, life without possibility of parole, there is nothing on top of that
really but they added additional years on top of that. The violation of
oath charges and the racketeering charges of which he was also convicted
put an extra 23 years on his sentence in addition to life without parole.
Now, racketeering is something we associate with the mafia, right? With
prosecutions of impossible bosses and big ongoing highly structured
organized crime outfits. That`s what we think of as racketeering.
But in state law, in Georgia law, particularly, it is applied to a much
wider set of crimes than you might think. It is, I`m oversimplifying here a
little bit but it is basically applied to crimes where prosecutors think
they can prove a pattern of linked criminal acts. Not just one off offenses
that are not leading toward any particular aim.
And I am oversimplifying that and I am not a lawyer. Do not cite me on your
defense if you`re picked up on a RICO charge. But you can see the way the
RICO charges are used in a place like Georgia, in the headlines, when there
are high profile cases, and those are charges brought. The murder of the
new sheriff by the corrupt outgoing sheriff, that he had defeated in the
election, that was prosecuted, as I said, both as a murder and also as
racketeering, convictions on both fronts.
The prosecutor who litigated the case, a man named John Floyd, defended
that conviction of that Georgia sheriff, all the way to the Georgia Supreme
Court, including the racketeering charges, defended it all the way to the
top level in Georgia state law and the case stood up. And that disgraced
sheriff and now convicted murderer Sidney Dorsey is still in prison for
that crime, convicted murderer, convicted racketeer.
You see racketeering charges brought in Georgia in also the kinds of cases
that maybe seem more intuitive. There was a big set of arrests in Georgia
in October. They called it operation caged doves, which seems a little
melodramatic, but 46 people were arrested. And a huge big long string of
charges brought against all of them.
Between them, there were four charges of felony murder, four charges of
kidnapping, 24 charges of aggravated assault, three charges of heroin
trafficking, three charges of meth trafficking, three charges of various
times of financial fraud. But look up at the top, 92 charges of
racketeering. They rolled up this whole street gang.
And charged them with lots of individual crimes and then charged all of
them with violations of the RICO act, the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt
Organizations Act. So, it is still, you should think of it as a mafia
thing, something that is used against gangs but it is more than that.
In December in Georgia, there were racketeering charges brought against a
budge of officials, including a sheriff`s captain in what was alleged to be
a sprawling, corrupt, illegal gambling ring, centered at convenience stores
and mini marts in Georgia.
In 2019, there was this tidy little thing. Racketeering charges brought
against three people in the town of White, Georgia. The police chief, his
son-in-law and his wife.
Charges were brought against the police chief and his son-in-law who was
the town`s only other police officer, and his wife who was also the town
manager. They were, the allegations were that they were basically involved
in a planned scheme to give people bogus citations, radically overcharge
them for those citations, and then pocket the money. It helps to have the
patrol officer of the chief of police and the town manager all in a scheme
like that. They were brought up on racketeering charges for that.
Racketeering charges, it`s a pattern of criminal acts all leading toward a
criminal purpose. And that charge is a really serious one in a state like
Georgia. Like 20 years in prison serious. But that charge turns up in cases
of all kinds, including lots of cases involving allegedly corrupt public
Perhaps the most surprising and most high profile case that they turned up
in was one that you will remember. The Atlanta school`s cheating scandal.
Do you remember this? This was national news, the top of the national news,
when 11 educators were convicted in Georgia state court in that cheating
scandal in April 2015.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From NBC News world headquarters in New York, this is "NBC
Nightly News". Reporting tonight, Lester Holt.
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Good evening. It`s bad enough when kids
cheat in school to get ahead. But the teachers themselves, today, in
Atlanta, nearly a dozen former educators were convicted on racketeering and
other charges for their part in one of the nation`s biggest cheating
scandals. Prosecutors say it was a massive conspiracy to make sure students
passed standardized tests, even if it meant giving kids the correct
The scandal dates back a decade. It involved dozens of schools and a lot f
grown-ups who apparently failed one of the first lessons we were all
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nearly a dozen former educators convicted on racketeering and
other charges. Racketeering charges there, too. They were not a gang.
I mean, these are educators. Corrupt educators, as was proven in court. But
this is 12 teachers and other educators put on trial. The sprawling case,
accusing them of basically a systematic form of cheating on standardized
One of the 12 teachers put on trial was acquitted. But 11 of the remaining
12 were convicted -- convicted among other things on, racketeering charges,
all of them, with that harsh penalty looming for all of them of up to 20
years in prison.
That trial in the Atlanta cheating scandal was the longest jury trial in
the history of the state of Georgia. And I`m not talking about the overall
proceedings from the first arrest to the first court hearings to the trial
to the sentencing and all the rest of it. I don`t mean how long the whole
thing took to be resolved. Just the trial itself. The day after day, in the
actual courtroom fighting it out, the trial itself took six months. There
is never been a longer trial in the state of Georgia with a dozen
defendants there, incredibly complex, with this incredibly ambitious
The prosecutor who led the team, who got those convictions in the Atlanta
cheating scandal was at the time, an assistant D.A. named Fani Willis. Here
she is, and some tape that we`ve got from that time. The elected D.A. is at
the microphone leading the press conference. But you see Fani Willis there
on the right side of your screen. She led the prosecution team on the right
And interestingly, when they decided to pursue that case that way, when
they pursued those charges against the teachers and principals and
administrators all caught up in this cheating scandal, the prosecution team
under Fani Willis brought in a specialist, an expert, a special prosecutor
specifically to help them make the racketeering case, to make the case for
that specific, very serious felony charge and to see it through to
That`s the man, the specialist who they brought in there, the guy on the
left. His name is John Floyd. Whose name I just said a moment ago because
that`s the same John Floyd who obtained the conviction, the racketeering
conviction against the crooked sheriff Sidney Dorsey in that case where
Dorsey murdered his would be successor after beat him in an election in the
year 2000. John Floyd is the one who got that conviction, including the
racketeering conviction and then defended it to the Supreme Court, tacked
20 plus years, tacked 20 years on to a sentence that was already life
without parole because of that racketeering conviction.
Years later, Fani Willis was leading the teacher scandal in Atlanta, she
went to him. She brought in the state`s racketeering prosecution expert.
She brought in John Floyd to get the racketeering convictions against the
teachers. In case, too, and it worked.
However unlikely it might have seemed to have those kinds of charges. In
kind of case, he did it and it stuck and it worked.
And now not that many years later, Fani Willis is the elected district
attorney herself in the largest county in Georgia, in Fulton County. And
Fani Willis has announced the opening of a criminal investigation into
efforts by former President Donald Trump and others to corrupt the results
of the presidential election in Georgia.
She said when she announced the opening of that investigation, that
racketeering was one of the crimes she was potentially investigating in
question, efforts to corrupt the election results. And now, "Reuters" is
first to report, and Willis` office has confirmed that Willis has gone back
to the same guy. She`s gone back to John Floyd who has had a hand in the
highest profile and most unlikely seeming RICO prosecutions in recent
John Floyd who has since gone on to successfully prosecute RICO cases under
state law. This is his book. He literally wrote the book how to prosecute
RICO cases. "RICO State by State: A Guide to Litigation Under the State
Racketeering Statutes," that`s his book. He literally wrote the book on how
to prosecute and get convictions on state racketeering laws.
"Reuters" reporting that Fani Willis has, quote, enlisted the help of
Atlanta lawyer John Floyd to provide help as needed on matters involving
racketeering, including the Trump investigating.
The dean of Mercer University law school in Macon, Georgia, says about this
higher quote, it`s not a stretch to see where Fani Willis is taking this.
If President Trump engaged in two or more acts that involved false
statements that were made knowingly and willfully in an attempt to falsify
material fact like the election results, then you can piece together a
violation of the Racketeering Act. It is a felony and it can carry
penalties up to 20 years in prison. The dean says: There are not a lot of
people who avoid prison time on a racketeering offense.
It is honestly a shocking thing that the immediate former president of the
United States is facing multiple live criminal investigations. By New York
state prosecutors, by Georgia state prosecutors.
CNN and "The Wall Street Journal" and other news organizations have
recently reported even more Trump properties and developments and financial
entanglement that`s have been subpoenaed as part of a New York prosecution.
The New York investigation has itself brought on and experienced mob
prosecutor as a special prosecutor to help them with their work this.
But if Georgia is looking at a potential racketeering case against the
former president, now with the help of a specialist prosecutor who does
this for a living, who has already successfully brought super high profile
racketeering prosecutions in that state and earned convictions on those
charges, this just feels like a different level of the sort of drama and
risk stratosphere here. So, a lot going on in the news right now. This is
Joining us now is David Cooke. David Cooke is the former district attorney
for the Macon Judicial Circuit in Georgia. Mr. Cooke has known Fani Willis,
the Fulton County district attorney for decades. He`s also known John
Floyd, the attorney who will help in her investigation of Donald Trump as a
special prosecutor on racketeering matters.
Mr. Cooke, I really appreciate you making time to be here tonight. Thank
K. DAVID COOKE, JR., FORMER DISTRICT ATTORNEY, MACON, GEORGIA JUDICIAL
CIRCUIT: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So, I am not a lawyer. I`m not an expert in famous Georgia public
corruption cases. So I want to give you a chance, if I explained any of
that wrong or if I blurred something that should be sharply defined there.
I just want to give you a chance to tell me I`m wrong.
COOKE: No, you pretty much hit the nail on the head, especially when it
comes to John Floyd. You know, having John Floyd on your team in a
racketeering case is kind of like having the teacher write your term
payment or having the author of the book, having the author of the textbook
help you study for the test. You know your racketeering case will be done
right if you have him on the team.
MADDOW: Should we see it as a sign that D.A. Willis is going to pursue
racketeering charges that she has brought on John Floyd? Or will Mr. Floyd
be brought at this point in the process to assess whether or not that`s a
realistic process -- a realistic prospect?
COOKE: So based on the letters that I`ve looked at, that she sent to the
governor and other public officials that you`ve referenced before, I think
she`s already seen the signs. Because of that, she`s brought in Attorney
Floyd to help her make sure everything is done right. To make sure every
"I" is dotted and every "T" is crossed.
Also, knowing D.A. Willis as long as I`ve known her, she is used to being
the starting quarterback. She`s used to being part of a top team. So
knowing her, I think this is part of her larger effort of making an all-
star team for the office, and if needed for this case, as it is
MADDOW: When you say an all-star team, do you mean that she is pulling
together the sort of best in class prosecutors and advisers in terms of
doing this work?
Obviously, being an elected D.A., it is a very high profile position. She
has taken this on. It has a huge national spotlight on her. We`ve been
talking many detail about Mr. Floyd being brought on on the racketeering
From what else you know about how she`s working this case, who else she`s
brought into her office, do you feel like she`s assembling a formidable
team for Georgia, of Georgia lawyers?
COOKE: I know she is. In fact, another sign of that is that she just hired
Mike Carlson to be one of her top assistants. Mike Carlson is the author,
along with his father, of the definitive book on Georgia evidence. You
know, he gets to make the best argument of any lawyer I know which is
judge, as I said in my book, have been, and you know, every judge in
Georgia has that book sitting on their bench because it is the definitive
guide to Georgia evidence.
But Mike is not only a scholar and noted for his appellate ability. He is
also that rare academic, also a street fighter in the courtroom. So it is
evident to me that D.A. Willis is putting together the best team possible
just seeing those two hires and the movement that`s I`ve heard that she`s
making and putting her office together.
MADDOW: What do you think we the public should expect in terms of public
facing actions? We know from the other public officials in Georgia that she
intended to take this matter before a Fulton County grand jury and ask for
subpoenas to documents and witnesses. We know from public reporting that I
think two different grand juries were convened in Fulton County last week.
We therefore suspect she may be bringing grand juries as well to get
subpoenas for witnesses and documents.
But the grand jury process is secret. Is this something that you think we
won`t see any public signs of for months? Or do you think there are things
that we should look for in order to keep track of what`s happening here?
COOKE: I don`t think we will know exactly what is happening until the
arrests are made or the indictments are handed down, if any. Knowing Fani
the way I know her, I think D.A. Willis is in addition to putting together
the best team possible, she is going to follow the evidence wherever it
leads and make sure every best practice is followed. So this case, if a
case come together, it will be tight. It will be done as well as any D.A.
could possibly make it.
And it will be obvious that it is based on the facts and the law and not on
personality or any other factors.
MADDOW: David Cook, former Macon, Georgia district attorney -- somebody
has personal connections to a lot of the people involved. Thank you for
helping us understand this.
As we do get further, any sort of public signs about what`s happening,
within the office or within this case, I hope you know that I`ll call you
back to help explain it to us.
COOKE: Thank you so much. I would be honored.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Right after the great state of Iowa held its primary elections
last summer, this is what the secretary of state in Iowa sent out when the
results came in. Good job! Good job, everybody! Well done. Literally,
fireworks. Good job!
And it was well done. It was a good job. Iowa broke all turnout records for
a June primary. There were no problems. Everything worked. All systems go,
broke the record.
The way that Iowa broke that turnout record for the primary is that they
sent everybody an application for an absentee ballot so everybody could
easily vote absentee, vote by mail if that`s what they wanted to do. That`s
it. That`s what they did. That was the big change.
Worked like a charm. There was no drama, no scandal, no problems, and
record turnout. That election was on a Tuesday, of course. And I kid you
not. Before that week was out, Republicans in the state legislature had
already drafted a bill to stop the state from ever doing that again.
Why? Because it made it easy and safe for people to vote and people liked
voting that way and they did vote that way in very large numbers without
any problems. And so, Republicans apparently believed, it must be stopped.
Despite Iowa Republicans` efforts, the secretary of state, the guy who had
been so proud of Iowa voters for breaking those turnout records, he did
manage to send out absentee ballot applications to everyone in the state
again for the general election in November. And guess what? Iowa voters
liked that. And they broke turnout records again, another wildly successful
election for Iowa.
Over three quarters of registered voters in the state cast a ballot in the
November election which is huge. Well over half of those voters voted
early. It was smooth and no hick-ups. No problems. So it must be stops.
Iowa`s successful display of robust, easy, participatory democracy appears
to have driven the Republican Party batty. They have decided that had too
many Iowans voted last year and they won`t let it happen again. Iowa`s
Republican governor has now signed a law which bans the secretary of state
or anyone else from mailing out to everyone these applications for absentee
ballots. That`s what made it so easy for people to vote by mail.
If do you vote by absentee ballot in Iowa, your ballot will no longer be
counted unless it is received by the time polls close on Election Day. Even
if it is not your fault, it is the postal service`s fault that it got there
And polls will close an hour earlier for same day election day voting in
Iowa. Why did they shave an hour off the time people are allowed to vote on
Election Day? No idea.
The law also cuts over a week off the early voting period, when more than
half the votes were cast in the last election. Their cutting nine days off
the early voting period. Why?
If any local elections official takes any steps to make voting easier in a
county, that election official can be charged with a felony.
This is really what Republicans are doing. They really did look at the most
successful highest turnout in Iowa`s history that had no problems and they
said to. They, how can we make sure that never happens again?
While Iowa may be first across the finish line here in terms of getting a
voter suppression law actually passed out of the legislature and signed
into law by the governor, there is a very big line of Republican
In Georgia, they have passed no fewer than a dozen different voter
suppression bills would limit absentee voting, early voting, more voter ID
requirements, specifically limit Sunday early voting when black churches
like to bring souls to the polls events right from church to polling
In Arizona, Republicans in the state legislature are batting around all
kinds of head spindling ideas, from giving themselves, giving the
legislature itself, the power to overturn any election results it does not
like, to tossing out any absentee ballots that aren`t post marked by the
Thursday before the Election Day? Even if the ballot arrives before polls
Republicans are working hard on this in state after state after state.
They`re doing everything they can to make it as hard as possible to vote.
As I said, Iowa is the first over the finish line on this. The new Iowa
anti-voting rights law is officially on the books, including the threat to
local elections officials that if they do anything to make it easier to
vote, they`re going to prison.
And pretty much as soon as Iowa`s governor finished signing that, one of
the country`s most celebrated, relentless and successful voting rights
litigators filed suit to stop it. Marc Elias successfully litigated dozens
of bogus Republican challenges to the 2020 elections, and Republican
efforts to make it hard to vote in those, too. Can he stop this new wave of
voter suppression laws? Or does he have other ideas about how they can be
stopped besides in court?
Marc Elias joins us next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: In 2020, Iowa saw its highest turnout for any election despite the
pandemic. There is been any credible allegations of voter fraud from the
Iowa election, or even really non-credible ones. There`s never been any
major allegations of fraud, even made up bogus ones. I mean, Trump won Iowa
in 2020. So did beleaguered Senator Joni Ernst.
Because Republicans won in Iowa in 2020, that is presumably why they never
had to endure one of those weird Rudy Giuliani sideshow press conferences
and hearings that happened in all the swing states that Trump lost.
Nevertheless, despite the record turnout and no claims of fraud, Iowa
Republicans have made it their mission to enact a new sweeping bill to
restrict voting rights. And the Iowa Republican governor just signed it
into law last night.
Today, Democratic voting rights attorney Marc Elias filed a lawsuit
challenging the new law in Iowa. That filing today points directly to the
irony of Iowa Republicans trying to fix an election system that even they
say is not broken. This is actually really good.
Listen. It says, quote: The bill sponsors do not deny that Iowa`s elections
are secure. Instead they`ve said additional measures are necessary to
reassure Iowans who turn out in record numbers in 2020 that this is the
But to the extent any Iowans are concerned about the security of the
state`s election, it is the result of efforts to plant and sow baseless
mistrust. Not because there`s any evidence that the integrity of the
state`s elections are legitimately in doubt.
Joining us now is Marc Elias, Democratic voting rights attorney. He`s the
founder of Democracy Docket. He brought this case against Iowa`s election
Mr. Elias, it is nice to see you. Thank you for making time.
MARC ELIAS, DEMOCRATIC VOTING RIGHTS ATTO RNEY: Great to see you again.
MADDOW: Let me just ask you first if I`ve screwed any of this up in the
telling or if it is the lay of the land with the challenge that you filed
and with the new law.
ELIAS: As usual, you`re exactly right. The Republicans have gone out in
search, finding a problem that doesn`t exist. They`ve passed a suppression
law that no matter what else, they call it a suppression law.
MADDOW: Have you received any response from the state since filing this
lawsuit? What should we anticipate in terms of Republican facing back and
forth now that you`ve joined this fight with them?
ELIAS: Yeah. We haven`t heard anything back from the state yet. At some
point, I assume they will respond to the lawsuit. And then we`ll go from
The fact is, that Iowa had good clean elections this November as they have
in the past: and without any reason other than to make voting harder, Iowa
made voting harder. And that`s the bottom line. In doing that, they have
disadvantaged our clients and they have disadvantaged the voters of Iowa.
MADDOW: Marc, one of the reasons I wanted to talk with you tonight is
because I feel like you have been impassioned in the last few weeks about
the real threat, the severity of the threat coming from all of these
Republican controlled states that are passing one after -- at least moving,
one after another after another after another, bills to make voting harder.
And I know this is a fight that you have committed yourself to for your
whole career and this is something in which you`ve had a lot of success.
But I feel like I`m reading in your public facing statements, real alarm
about the amount of damage that can be done to the democracy right now by
all the states pursuing all the different paths.
ELIAS: Rachel, it`s just different this time. This is not to say that
there are not other problems in the world. I recognize that there are other
stories that have to be covered.
But I am begging America and the media to pay attention to this. Right now,
we are facing an avalanche of voter suppression that we have not seen
before. At least not since Jim Crow, in state after state. It`s not just
Iowa, it`s not just Georgia, it`s also Montana, it`s also Missouri, it`s
also Florida, it`s also Texas. The list goes on and on.
Donald Trump told a big lie that has led to, that led to an assault on
democracy in the Capitol on January 6th. The assaults we`re seeing going on
now in state capitals with the legislatures may be less deadly and less
violent but they`re every bit as damaging to our democracy.
MADDOW: If this is a national avalanche of voter suppression as you
describe it, is there a national response warranted from people who want to
fight against this voter suppression? Obviously, you`re taking this on at
the granular level. When Kim Reynolds in Iowa signed this bill, that became
the first of the voter suppression laws signed into law despite all the
ones that are moving in other states, you were Johnny on the spot filing
instantly against it.
You are fighting granularly. You are fighting on those front lines. What
can happen nationally, or what can happen at the state level by non-
lawyers, by citizens who care about these things?
ELIAS: Yeah. So two things, first at the federal level, we need H.R. 1,
and we need the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, the John Lewis
bill. We need them and we need them soon.
At the state level, what people can do is they can stand up. They can tell
their neighbors and their friends that this is not okay. They can`t avoid
the hard conversation when their crazy uncle says something crazy. They can
confront it. They can go to town halls and confront their local and state
Now is the time to stand up in public and be heard in the town square and
say we demand our democracy be protected.
MADDOW: You say that we need H.R. 1. That we need the voting rights, the
restoration and advancement of voting rights represented by that bill and
by the John Lewis bill. The reason that there is cynicism that those will
ever become law, evil as H.R. 1 has passed the House, is because of the
existence of the filibuster in the Senate and the resistance of some
senators to get rid of the filibuster, even if they were only to sort of
tailor the filibuster so it couldn`t be used to block voting rights
legislation. It couldn`t be used to block civil rights legislation, for
I wonder if there is something that you would say to an Arizona senator,
Kyrsten Sinema, for example, in terms of the stakes in Arizona, and how
that passing H.R. 1 by hook or by crook might save the country.
ELIAS: Here`s what I say. There is a line from a Supreme Court decision of
several decades ago that said the First Amendment is not a suicide pact.
Neither are the Senate rules.
The Senate rules are there to allow for minority participation and debate.
It is not a suicide pact by which democracy gets destroyed.
So, I don`t know the right mechanism. But one way or another we need to
have Congress vote on H.R. 1 and the John Lewis bill because whatever else
is at stake, without a functioning democracy, we won`t have anything else.
MADDOW: Marc Elias, Democratic voting rights attorney, the founder of
Democracy Docket -- Marc, keep us apprised on this Iowa case and on the
story in general. We won`t let go, but we would love to keep talking to you
ELIAS: Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. One quick programming note on this line, speaking of
voting rights, tomorrow night we`ll be joined exclusively here live by
Stacey Abrams, former Democratic leader in Georgia, former gubernatorial
candidate in Georgia, and national voting rights leader. Stacey Abrams have
been warning specifically about Georgian Republican attempts to crush
voting rights for years.
Now that they are moving ahead with what is described as the most
aggressive voting rights roll back since Jim Crow, she is going to be our
exclusive guest here tomorrow night.
Have more ahead tonight as well. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So this is interesting. I did not know this was coming. The FBI
today released more video. Fairly high resolution video of the suspect they
say left two pipe bombs near the Capitol on January 6th. One near the
Republican national headquarters, one near the Democratic national
headquarters on the eve of the attack on the Capitol, the night of January
The FBI has been able to get very specific about the clothing the suspected
bomber was wearing. They know the exact shoes the person had on, the exact
time the person unzipped their backpack to place the bombs.
But they still do not know who the person is. And so, the FBI is asking
people to watch the new video they just released, hoping it might jog
somebody`s memory, hoping that somebody might be able to ID this person by
their body language, their mannerisms, the pieces of clothes you might
They are offering a $100,000 reward to anybody who provides information
that leads to this suspect being identified.
Now, it has been more than 60 days now that this person has been at large.
This person who had the means and knowledge to make operative pipe bombs,
and who placed them at political targets. It has more than 60 days this
person has been at large.
And all this time later, that is especially all we know about the status of
the investigation into the mad pipe bomber in the Capitol attack who is
still out there. Federal investigators and prosecutors handling the
investigations have been radio silent for weeks. Honestly, I don`t know why
this is but the FBI and the D.C. U.S. attorney`s office they have not
briefed the public on the subject since the week of the inauguration.
Why is that?
Among other things, that means we still have open questions about why the
person who placed the pipe bombs is still at large, but also about how the
overall prosecution of these case is being handled. There`s a lot of
interesting questions, hard questions that I think need to be asked about
the number of people the FBI asked information about, who the FBI has
suggested of people who`ve been involved in serious crimes that have
resulted in public tips, back to the FBI, and journalism flushing out the
tips, finding these people, and explaining them, in some cases,
broadcasting or recording confessions from these people.
But those things haven`t resulted in any law enforcement activity to those
persons. Questions need to be asked about those things.
We also don`t know whether the overall investigation has been hampered or
slowed down by the fact that new leadership hasn`t been taken over at the
Department of Justice. There is still a holding pattern.
The last point, at least, we may get clarity. President Biden`s nominee to
lead the Justice Department, Attorney General designate Merrick Garland is
scheduled to have this final confirmation vote in the Senate tomorrow. On
the day that he is sworn in, Merrick Garland will take ownership of all of
these open cases and active investigations in to what happened on January
6th and everything else.
And maybe that will mean a new strategy. We`ll see. We hope it will mean
more public facing information about the status of the on going
investigations. Because the refusal to talk to the public is not good, and
so far that is happening during the Biden administration, and maybe it`s
because Merrick Garland isn`t there, but once he`s there, no more excuses.
More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, tomorrow really is going to be a huge day. Nine a.m. Eastern
tomorrow, the House will gavel in for the final debate on the Biden
administration`s big COVID relief bill, the American Rescue Plan. We have
no reason to believe there will be drama there. Democratic leadership says
they have the votes. Biden has he will sign it. It looks cooked but we`ll
At least at face value, this thing is going to happen tomorrow, more wide
reaching and progressive than anything passed by at least the last two
We`re going to have full coverage of that tomorrow, plus, Stacey Abrams
with us here live tomorrow night. I will see you then.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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