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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/9/2021

Guest: David Cooke, Marc Elias�

Summary:

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

not broken.

Transcript:

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

appreciate it.

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

U.S. schools.

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

the hour.

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.

Racketeering.

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

officials.

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

answers.

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

taught.

(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

tests.

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

charge.

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

side there.

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

conviction.

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

Georgia law.

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

mind-blowing though.

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

you.

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

investigated.

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

matters.

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

late.

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

legislatures.

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

places.

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

close? Really?

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

case.

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

law.

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

there.

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

legislatures.

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

example.

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

about it.

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

5th.

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

recognize.

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

see.

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

Democratic presidents.

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

BE UPDATED.

END

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