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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 4/21/21

Guests: Shevrin Jones, Ann Simmons


Monday, as the jury started deliberating in the Derek Chauvin trial, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made Florida the first state in the nation to actually sign into law bills granting immunity to drivers who drive into protesters on a road. Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets today not just to protest Putin`s seemingly endless grip on power in Russia but also to support Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who the Kremlin appears to be slowly murdering in prison.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Yeah, the point about money laundering is really, really, really well said.

Ben Rhodes, thank you so much.

That is ALL IN on this Wednesday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

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

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

It was a big news day today. President Biden today announcing we just hit 200 million doses of vaccine administered. You will recall he initially said he wanted 100 million shots to be administered in his first 100 days as president. Then when he hit that really early, he doubled the goal and said, okay, not 100 million shots but 200 million shots in 100 days.

Today`s announcement means that he hit that, even that doubled goal, more than a week before the deadline. And this comes, of course, when things aren`t all smooth sailing on the vaccine front.

This comes of course as we are expecting some word from the U.S. government, from the CDC and the FDA, by the end of the week about whether or not the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine is going to come back into use. But even with the administration of that one-shot dose -- one-shot vaccine is going to come back into use. But even with the administration of that one shot vaccine still on pause for almost two weeks now, we apparently today hit 200 million doses administered anyway, which is phenomenal.

Today, President Biden also announced a new tax credit. And I know you`re thinking, why is Rachel talking about tax policy at the top of the "A" block? It relates to the COVID thing.

This is super interesting to me. He announced a new tax credit today that will fully reimburse employers who give their employees paid time off to go get vaccinated. Apparently, polls show that about a quarter of people who haven`t yet been vaccinated say they would go get their vaccine if they could get paid time off work to go get it done. They just can`t afford to not show up for a shift to take time off to go do it.

Well, this new tax credit will make that basically a cost neutral option for small and medium-sized businesses all across the country to offer them paid leave, paid time off to go get a vaccine. The IRS released the detailed instructions today for how small and medium sized businesses all across the country can claim that tax credit for their employees if they`re willing to do this for their employees. But the president made the announcement about it today from the White House at the same time he was announcing that we have hit 200 million doses administered. So, big day. Really big day today.

Tomorrow is going to be an even bigger day. Tomorrow, the president will be hosting this international climate summit that he promised during the campaign. The list of attendees for this thing includes so many leaders of major countries. It doesn`t even seem like a real thing in the real world. It surely wouldn`t be a real thing if these leaders were trying to meet in person instead of on Zoom.

But because they`re meeting on Zoom, it`s like a who`s who. And that climate summit is going to be a very big deal tomorrow. "The Washington Post" reporting that President Biden will announce a pledge that U.S. emissions will drop by half by the end of this decade, by just, you know, eight years from now, which is a very tall order. And it tells you in part why the Biden administration wants to badly to get the infrastructure bill done, and quickly, so they can start working on this stuff right away.

But cutting U.S. emissions in half by the end of this decade, yeah, that`s a big deal. And that summit is coming up. I feel like there hasn`t been all that much coverage of it as the date of the summit has been approaching. But that is going to happen tomorrow and it`s going to be a really big deal when it happens. We`ll have a little more on that coming up later in this hour.

Today in the Senate, Republicans failed in their efforts to block the confirmation of civil rights attorney Vanita Gupta to become one of the top officials at the Justice Department under Attorney General Merrick Garland. The Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell had insisted, insisted, that there would be zero Republican votes for Vanita Gupta.

But he was wrong. And it`s never a good sign for a leader in Congress when they make a public promise about what a vote count is going to be in his or her own party and then that vote count is wrong. When it came down to it today, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska crossed over and voted with Democrats to support Vanita Gupta`s confirmation.

So, Gupta was technically confirmed in a bipartisan vote even though Mitch McConnell and his leadership team on the Republican side of the Senate said that wasn`t possible, she wouldn`t get a Republican votes. In fact she did. Her confirmation marks the first time a civil rights lawyer, the first time a woman of color, would be in the number three position at the U.S. Department of Justice.

And, you know, substantively that means, wow, there`s a really accomplished civil rights lawyer at those heights of the U.S. Justice Department. That is a very big deal. Procedural, politically. It also means the Republicans in the Senate are losing count of their own members on Biden confirmations.

And that`s not a good sign for them on anything if they don`t know what their own caucus is going to do. It`s worth watching that space in particular.

Internationally, today`s news started to look like we might be seeing the start of a good sized war breaking out on the eastern edge of Europe. We have been watching for a few weeks now as Russian President Vladimir Putin has been building up a huge number of troops and tanks and military aircraft and missiles and ships and other forms of armed menace right on the border of Ukraine.

You will recall that Putin invaded Ukraine and took part of Ukraine for Russia not that long ago, in 2014. Well, Putin actually has more troops massed on the border right now than he did before that invasion seven years ago.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has given a speech to the citizens of his country to warn the citizens of Ukraine that Russia may be about to invade again, promising essentially a full scale war and a fight to the last man if that happens.

For his part, Putin gave a speech today threatening the West, pounding the proverbial shoe on the podium, saying Russia`s enemies, quote, will regret what they have done more than they have regretted anything for a long time.

I`m sure that wasn`t at all intended to portray his own upset, his own worry, his own agita over tens of thousands of Russians turning out all over that country, more than a hundred cities and towns, to shout things like "Putin is a thief," and "Russia without Putin," and to show their support for the opposition leader Alexei Navalny who Putin has jailed and who is currently apparently starving to death inside a Russian prison. Tens of thousands of Russians turning out in the street today to support him, to demand his release, to demand he be given medical care.

And I`m sure Putin`s actually quite unhinged threats to annihilate all his enemies today. I`m sure that was just, you know, par for the Putin. I`m sure he`s not at all worried about a country that may not be all that into him anymore as he maneuvers to try to hold on to power for another 20 years or so in part by trying to kill everybody who opposes him. We`re going to have more on that head tonight, as well.

Pictures from these protests today are kind of amazing given the kind of threat that Russian security services are posing to the people who they arrest at these protests. "The Associated Press" today reporting that more than a thousand people were arrested today by Russian security services.

Here at home, in the aftermath of yesterday`s dramatic guilty verdicts for the former Minneapolis police officer who killed Gorge Floyd last spring, a killing that of course set off nationwide and ultimately worldwide protests, today, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the U.S. Justice Department will start a federal investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, into whether that department as a whole engages in what they call a pattern or practice of using excessive force.

It is a serious thing for a whole police department, particularly a whole police department in a big city like Minneapolis, to come under federal justice department investigation. This sort of thing could ultimately lead to wholesale and mandatory changes for how policing is conducted in that city.

But clearly, that is something that they are contemplating already in Minnesota, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, and the trial over the killing of George Floyd, in the wake of the other police killings in Minnesota that preceded George Floyd and that have continued since.

The reason I say this is something they`re contemplating already is because here`s Minnesota attorney general, former Democratic congressman, Keith Ellison, speaking on that point in a way that I think is actually very powerful and very -- not just insightful. Thought-provoking. Watch.


KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: We need to use this verdict as an inflection point. What if we just prevented the problem instead of having to try these cases? We don`t want any more community members dying at the hands of law enforcement and their families` lives ruined. We want - - we don`t want any more law enforcement members having to face criminal charges and their families` lives ruined. We don`t want any more communities torn apart.

One way to prevent this is to get into a new relationship where we as a society reexamine the use of force and our old subtle assumptions. This verdict demands us to never give up the hope that we can make enduring change.

Generations of people said slavery would never end. Generations said Jim Crow would never end. Generations said women would never be equal to men. Generations said if you are different in any way, you could never be a full and equal member of our society.

Today, we have to end this travesty of recurring, enduring deaths at the hands of law enforcement. The work of our generation is to put unaccountable law enforcement behind us. It`s time to transfer the relationship -- transform the relationship between community and the people who are sworn to protect them from one that is mistrustful, suspicious, and in some cases, terrifying, into what that is empathetic, compassionate and affirming.

That will benefit everyone including police officers who deserve to serve in a profession that is honored in departments where they don`t have to worry about colleagues who don`t follow the rules. Now that work is in your hands. The work of our generation is to say goodbye to old practices that don`t serve us anymore and to put them all behind us.

One conviction, even one like this one that creates -- even one like this one can create a powerful new opening to reset old practices.

I do hope that people step forward and understand that nobody can do everything but everybody can do something. You can do things like help pass the George Floyd Justice and Accountability Act. It`s in your hands. Let`s get the work done.


MADDOW: The work of our generation is to say goodbye to old practices that don`t serve us anymore. We have to end this travesty of recurring, enduring deaths at the hands of law enforcement. The work of our generation.

Smart remarks, and I think Attorney General Ellison said those in the immediate wake of the verdicts yesterday and they`ve sort of been rattling around for me ever since, this idea of possibility, of something practically doable even as it feels endemic and something we can`t root out no matter how hard we work at it. This idea of renewing not just hope but a sense of possibility and an ability to put one foot in front of the other to get rid of something that no longer serves us.

We are -- we are at this inflection point, as he said there. Today especially, the day after the verdict, really not knowing as a country if this ordeal we have just been through has been enough of a shock to the system, right? If there -- if there is enough momentum that is practical enough and concerted enough and dedicated enough that we could actually start to do things differently, right, that we could undo some of the stuff that we`ve got that we don`t want to make something new instead. Maybe starting with that national bipartisan reform bill named for George Floyd.

But today in Minneapolis, it is also the eve of the funeral for Daunte Wright, 20 years old, black, shot in the chest by a police officer during a traffic stop. Shot in the chest and killed during the trial of the officer who killed George Floyd just a few miles from the courthouse. Daunte Wright`s funeral is tomorrow in Minneapolis.

And today, all over the country, all day long, in prepping for this show, in reviewing the news of the day, we watched police press conferences today all over the country, police press conferences, one after the other after the other, about police officers killing black Americans.

And this didn`t all happen today because of the George Floyd trial verdict yesterday. This is just another day. This is just what the news is in our country on a Wednesday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our goal is to provide as much information and as quickly as we can, provide the information that we have access to. Again, the state of Ohio, the attorney general`s office, BCI is conducting a criminal investigation into this incident. But we know it`s important to let our community know the facts that we know and the facts that we can share. Today, we`re going to increase the number of body worn camera video that we can show you today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is indeed a tragic day here in the Pasquotank County. What we are looking for at this time will be accurate answers and not fast answers. We`re going to wait for the full and complete investigation.

REPORTER: Sheriff, do you have an expected time when you will release the body camera footage?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not at this time. Again, like Special Agent Rogers stated, it is tremendously early in this investigation. But all these questions you`re asking, and I know you want all the answers to them, they will come out. They will come out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because this is an officer involved shooting is the reason we`ve prioritized and focused on getting this out. This shooting happened inside a school. This shooting involved a child. Those are all reasons to cause me to prioritize this case and make it a very quick and thorough turnaround.

But I also want to tell you, one of the reasons that I have responded so quickly is because it is just my response to this community. There have been media, there have been community leaders, there have been politicians, and there have been activist groups that have all demanded answers, which they are entitled to. You`re all entitled to it. But everybody has demanded those answers right now.


MADDOW: Knoxville, Tennessee, today, about the police shooting of 17-year- old Anthony J. Thompson Jr. 17.

Before that is Elizabeth City, North Carolina, about the police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr.

Before that was Columbus, Ohio, about the police shooting of 16-year-old Ma`Khia Bryant.

That`s all just today. And yes, today does happen to be the day after the George Floyd trial verdict in Minnesota. But honestly, this is just Wednesday. This is just what`s in the news on a weekday in America, and the relationship between police departments and black communities in this country.

And, you know, the justification for police shootings in almost all these cases, and cases like them, is that the person ended up shot because there was a perception that they posed some kind of threat, threat to other civilians on the scene, more often a perceived threat to the police officer responding to the scene, a threat, real or perceived, that was enough to justify or at least explain why this African-American person was shot to death by police because of their perceived dangerousness, because of the perceived threat that they posed.

What about that idea of threat to police?

Today in Washington, D.C., a federal judge revoked the ordered release of one of the January 6th defendants. In his ruling, Judge Emmet Sullivan summarized what the defendant is accused of having done on January 6th.

This is how he summarized it. Quote: As Officer A.W. lay on the ground, Mr. Whitton began striking at the group of officers with a metal crutch. As D.C. police officers attempted to defend themselves against the members of the mob who were converging on them with various weapons, Mr. Whitton climbed over a railing, kicked at officer A.W. while standing over the top of him, grabbed a different officer, officer B.M., by the head and helmet, pulled him over officer A.W. and dragged him face first down the U.S. capitol steps into the violent mob.

Approximately 20 minutes after those attacks on Officers A.W. and B.M., Mr. Whitton allegedly engaged in another round of assaults against D.C. police officers.

Per prosecutors, body worn camera footage, and U.S. Capitol surveillance footage confirm that at around 4:48 p.m., Mr. Whitton walked up to a police line. He was confronted by a protester who told him and others to stop. Mr. Whitton retreated but then ran back to the line of officers, kicked them, and yelled, you`re going to die tonight.

Now, that is a threat to police officers. That text is from a court ruling ordering that man to be jailed today, because even though those are the allegations against him, that`s what he was arrested for allegedly doing at the U.S. Capitol. The day after he was arrested, he was ordered released from jail.

He is facing multiple felony charges including assaulting a police officer with a dangerous weapon which means he`s up for a 20-year prison sentence on just that one charge. There is body camera footage and surveillance camera footage supporting prosecutors` charges about this. He`s also talked publicly about his participation in these assaults, expressing among other things no remorse.

But boy, did he get -- did he not get shot in the course of doing any of that. That was not a risk for him. After what prosecutors say he did on January 6th, participating in those multiple attacks on police officers, including dragging one down the stairs, face down, face first, to throw him to a mob, hitting another one with a weapon, with a metal crutch, telling police officers they were going to die that day, after prosecutors say he did those things that day, what happened to him that day? He went home.

He was only arrested a few weeks later, did one day in jail before a judge in Georgia ordered that he should be released. Only now, weeks after his initial arrest, did this federal judge in D.C. look at his case and say, basically, my God, how is it that a judge in Georgia ordered that this guy be let out of prison? How do we handle threats to police in this country?

Nobody believes that police officers should put themselves in more danger than they need to be in in the line of duty. Nobody believes, as Attorney General Austin said, that police officers aren`t entitled to work in departments and to work in a profession that is honored and that is as safe as it can be. But it is the idea of threat to the police that undergirds so many police shootings that are the wallpaper for daily churn in the news in our country.

But real threats to police, including concerted attacks by police -- on police, they are not all met with bullets from the police. My God. Certainly not in this country. Certainly not in this year in which it seems like everything is just getting clearer and clearer with every passing day.

Whether or not we get any sort of substantial policing and criminal justice reform in this country in the wake of those verdicts in the George Floyd trial yesterday, in the wake of the nationwide protests that followed George Floyd`s killing, whether or not we get any substantive, lasting, big-deal reform, that remains to be seen.

What do you think the prospects are? Fifty-fifty? Twenty-five, seventy- five? In the Senate, do you really think the Republicans are going to help out with this in the end?

But I`ll tell you, when they want to do stuff, they get it done. Where Republicans are in control around the country, they have taken action already. This week, lightning-fast, to make it, among other things, a crime to protest when things like this happen. To make it not a crime to kill you while you are protesting something like this happening. Man, what a time we are in.

We`ve got more on that specifically and much more on this busy news day ahead this hour. Stay with us.


MADDOW: After yesterday`s guilty verdicts in the Chauvin trial, the family of George Floyd came out to speak to the press. And one after the other, it was interesting, they expressed gratitude to all those who made the verdicts possible, the prosecutors who presented the case, the people who supported them throughout the last year, and in particular they all thanked Americans who protested, people who took to the streets in the weeks and months after George Floyd`s death, who thereby kept George Floyd`s name alive, who demanded justice in response to his killing.

The family, one after another, credited those protests for ensuring there would be some measure of accountability for his murder, which is why you might put it in the category of shocking but not surprising to see this headline in "The New York Times" today. Quote, GOP bills target protesters and absolve motorists who hit them.

Here is the lead of the story, quote: Republican legislators in Oklahoma and Iowa have passed bills granting immunity to drivers whose vehicles strike and injure protesters in public streets. A Republican proposal in Indiana would bar anyone convicted of unlawful assembly from holding state employment, including elected office. A Minnesota bill would prohibited those convicted of unlawful protesting from receiving student loans, unemployment benefits, or housing assistance.

The measures are part of a wave of new anti-protest legislation sponsored and supported by Republicans in the 11 months since Black Lives Matter protests swept the country following the death of George Floyd.

But while Democrats seized on Mr. Floyd`s death last year to highlight racism in policing and other forms of social injustice, Republicans responded to a summer of protests by proposing a raft of punitive new measures governing the right to lawfully assemble. Republican lawmakers in 34 states have introduced 81 different anti-protest bills. And it is Florida, blessed Florida, that is really leading the way here.

This week, Monday, as the jury started deliberating in the Derek Chauvin trial, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, flanked by an all white crowd of fellow Republican officials, made Florida the first state in the nation to actually sign into law one of these bills granting immunity to drivers who drive into protesters on a road.

Florida law now basically gives you a get out of lawsuits free card if you run your car into protesters, provided the people that you hit with your car were engaged in a riot at the time. Now, you may ask what exactly does "riot" mean in this circumstance? When does a protest become a riot?

Well, helpfully, this new bill also massively expands the definition of what it means to riot in the state of Florida. It now only takes three people to make a riot now in Florida. The law also creates a whole new felony category of rioting.

It creates a whole new crime called mob intimidation. It makes the crime of blocking a highway a felony offense. And just for good measure, the law denies bail to arrested protesters and it creates new protections for confederate monuments, because it wasn`t on the nose enough already.

Harsh new penalties for protesting, new protections for confederate monuments, it`s a felony to block a highway, and immunity for drivers who plow into protesters. Florida Democrats tried in vain to stop this bill. They pointed, among other things, to the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed while protesting against the white nationalist neo-Nazi gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

Would the neo-Nazi guy who drove his car into protesters there and killed Heather Heyer, would he have been protected by this new law? Which is terrifying, right?

That`s the whole point, to make protesting feel like too much of a risk, not only because you could be arrested and charged with a felony for all sorts of stuff that doesn`t seem like a felony, but also because drivers who might be hostile to you for whatever reason or just scared of you, will know they have special legal protections if they deliberately run you down with their car.

A federal lawsuit today filed against Governor DeSantis and other Florida officials claims that this new law is unconstitutional for exactly that reason, because it redefines protective First Amendment speech as riot. It uses the threat of excessive penalties to hinder free speech. We`ll see if this law survives in the courts. It`s probably an important indicator that it`s already been the source of -- the subject of a lawsuit when it was only signed two days ago.

But just step back from this a little bit. Think about where we are as a country right now, what we have just been through with this gut-wrenching trial for the murder of George Floyd, this collective sigh of relief among so many Americans that there was a guilty verdict in this case. Everybody from George Floyd`s family, to activists, to faith leaders, to elected officials, up to and including the president talking about the need for racial justice legislation to we can stop the cycle of these things constantly happening, in our generation we can stop it somehow. We can stop telling ourselves it`s inevitable, we can take action to stop it.

And then Republicans across the country have decided that what their priority is in this environment is to crack down on protesters and protect people who ram their cars into them.

This bill in Florida was House Bill 1. It was their first priority, the very first bill that Republicans worked on in this session. It was the top of their agenda. After Florida`s governor signed the new law, Democratic state lawmakers held a press conference on their own on the steps of the state capitol.

State Senator Shevrin Jones opened the event by talking about priorities.


STATE SEN. SHEVRIN JONES (D), FLORIDA: Show me where you place your time and energy and I`ll show you your priorities. Our response to injustice in this country is protest. But their response is to criminalize it when the recourse for us is to turn to the streets to make our voices heard in this unjust system.

Governor DeSantis` actions today goes to show he`s not concerned about the lives of black and brown people who so happen to be citizens of this diverse state that many of us call home. He ignored us today and our cries from the Senate floor and also from the House floor. If he was concerned, he would have addressed the killings of black men by the hands of police officers.


MADDOW: That was Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones who joins us live now.

Senator Jones, thank you so much for making time to be here tonight. It`s real pleasure to have you here, sir.

JONES: Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: So, first, let me ask you if I`ve gotten anything wrong the way I`ve described this new law in your state or if there`s anything I`ve missed that we should know about this. I`m obviously looking at this from outside, considering it in the context of a lot of other states seeming to follow Florida`s lead. Did I screw any of that up?

JONES: No, you did not screw any of it up. I would also like to add the bill also hinders a local government from having the ability to be able to alter any of their public safety budgets, which definitely ties the hands. So, now you`ve put nonpartisan bodies, their decisions, in the hands of a partisan governor, which is unfortunate.

And because -- because of this, many of our cities and municipalities have spoken out against this, saying how do we alter our budgets if we need to put dollars in another silo? We can`t. Now, we have to go to the governor`s office to try to do that. So you were spot on.

MADDOW: So, public safety budgets in local communities around the state are now restricted by order of the governor, local authorities are not allowed to make changes in their budgets around safety issues without getting essentially permission from him?

JONES: That`s correct. And he also said in his press -- with Laura Ingraham on Fox News yesterday that anyone who was against this legislation, these were the same individuals who want to defund police. Well, by my view, let`s be extremely clear about something. In the district which I represent, it was the largest black district within the state of Florida, the third largest in the country, there is -- there is serious concern when these cities have to alter their budgets to be able to put dollars in other silos.

And I`m sure there are other cities across the state of Florida who fall into this category. Yes, what the governor has done, he`s literally preempted the ability for cities to be able to alter their budgets and they have to go through him.

MADDOW: One of the things that is I think so -- that is most shocking about this bill, and you saw that it made the headline in "The New York Times" today, is this idea that this Republican bill, and now state law in Florida, singles out people who use their cars to run over protesters for a specially designated form of immunity. I mean, you know, the freaking al Qaeda magazine when it used to exist, used to advise al Qaeda adherents that a great way to terrorize lots of Americans is to use a readily available large tool, namely a car or a truck, to run down Americans as a way of committing terrorist attacks in this country.

By putting such a spotlight on that and singling it out for immunity, are there concerns that this is creating a clear and present current public safety threat around that type of way of hurting people?

JONES: Absolutely. It does create a threat. That situation happened in Miami last year, during the demonstrations of the George Floyd riots, someone drove their car in Miami through a crowd of demonstrators. Under this current law we`re looking at right now, that individual can ask for immunity in that.

So, and let`s be extremely clear, that the governor has created a piece of legislation that no one has asked for. Instead of the governor doing what needs to be done to protect the lives of black people within this state who is included within the 22 million people in the state of Florida, to begin to create these penalties that do nothing but create more individuals in our criminal justice system and to continue to clog up our jails. So it does nothing.

MADDOW: Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones -- sir, thank you so much for joining us. I`m glad this is getting national attention. It will be interesting to see how this fares in the courts with this lawsuit against it already. Sir, thanks for being here tonight.

JONES: Thank you so much, Rachel, I`m looking forward to this going to the highest courts to call the governor out on his solutions (ph).

MADDOW: I think you can count on it.

All right. We`ve got much more ahead here tonight. Do stay with us.


MADDOW: Not every president is a great public speaker. And frankly, being a good public speaker doesn`t necessarily make you a good or bad president. But when you are really good at it, it can matter in important individual moments. Watch this.

This is not in English. It`s subtitled, so you do have to watch it. But still, even with that, and that sort of speaks to the power of it, you can get the drama here, you can get the grave power of this moment. Watch.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (translated): Does Ukraine want a war? No. Is it ready for it? Yes.

Our principle is simple: Ukraine does not start a war first, but Ukraine always stands to the last man. Ukraine-12 understands all possible scenarios and know what it will do in response to any developments. We are not afraid, because we have an incredible army and incredible defenders.

Is the world ready to solve complex problems? Will it stop hiding from unpleasant issues in the event of large-scale aggression by the Russian Federation?

Our citizens need clear signals that on the seventh year of the war, a country that is a shield for Europe at the cost of the lives of its people will receive support not just from partners from the stands, but from players of one team, directly on the field, shoulder to shoulder.


MADDOW: Shoulder to shoulder. That was president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, as Russia continues to mass this gigantic military presence on their border.

President Zelensky is essentially telling the people of the country in this speech that a war is coming and he`s calling on the rest of the world to not just stand by and say, oh, we support you, but to actually help, to stand together, as he said, directly on the field, shoulder to shoulder, as Ukraine tries to hold off another attack, as that country tries to, as he says, shield the rest of Europe from Russia.

On the heels of that very dramatic, very well-delivered speech from the Ukrainian president, the president of Russia spoke today as well. Putin gave his annual address to the Russian Federation in which he seems a little alarmed. He warned of swift and harsh consequences for any Western country that dares to cross Russia`s red lines. And he said explicitly that he`ll define what the red lines are.

It is a threat that is hard to ignore right now, because Russia does appear to be inching closer and closer to starting something in Ukraine. It was also hard to ignore today this. This was eastern Russia today, the city of Vladivostok, protesters there chanting, "Russia with no Putin, Russia with no Putin." This was directly outside the Kremlin today. They were chanting, "down with the czar, down with the czar."




MADDOW: Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets today not just to protest Putin`s seemingly endless grip on power in Russia but also to support Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who the Kremlin appears to be slowly murdering in prison.

And these protests were not just happening outside Putin`s office window. They really were all over the country.

This was central Moscow tonight, people with their phones lit up, the flashlights on their phones lit up, while chanting, "Get a doctor to Navalny, get a doctor to Navalny."

They chanted for Navalny in the streets of Saratov. They held up signs for him in Novosibirsk. This one says, "One for all and all for one." They carried the call for him all the way to Siberia, "Free Alexei Navalny, free Alexei Navalny."

Joining us live from Moscow where it is ungodly hour right now is Ann Simmons. She is Moscow bureau chief for "The Wall Street Journal," who among other things covered some of these protests today.

Ann, thank you so much for staying up late for us. I appreciate having you here.

ANN SIMMONS, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Thank you very much for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: What was it like among the protesters today? What did -- what did you see and how would you compare it to previous protests?

SIMMONS: Protesters were really excited today. They were out on the streets in support of Alexei Navalny. They were chanting that they wanted Mr. Navalny to be able to see a doctor.

The opposition figure is currently hospitalized within the prison system. People were putting on their flashlights on their phones. They had basically defied police orders not to come out because it was an unsanctioned rally.

But people said enough is enough, we`re here, and we should be allowed to peacefully protest without any repercussions.

MADDOW: "The Associated Press" reported earlier today that they believe there were more than a thousand protests today. And while that is not necessarily a surprising number given the size of the protests today, there`s obviously grave concern about what happens to people after they get arrested at protests now. That has to be -- there has to be a little bit of a fear factor among protesters, given the way that people arrested in previous pro-Navalny, anti-Putin protests have been treated once they`re in custody.

SIMMONS: Yes, for example, earlier this year, Rachel, there were massive protests when Mr. Navalny returned from Germany, when he was basically recovering from a poisoning attack, and those were the largest protests in about a decade in Russia. And there were thousands detained.

And what happens after that is lots of people are released, but then there are repercussions. There are fines. Other people are sent to court to be tried.

And then others have had their homes raided, they`ve had problems at their jobs. They have had police or security forces coming to their offices. So there certainly is this aspect of intimidation and fear.

But that has not prevented people, as you said, from coming out across the country, because there were thousands of people out on the streets in various Russian cities today.

MADDOW: It makes it, frankly, as an observer looking from the outside, it makes it very moving, given what you`ve described, to see people holding up signs today that said, Navalny is not afraid, we are not afraid, because clearly, there`s reason for fear both for him and for the people who are coming out to support him.

One of the things we talked about a couple of days ago, Ann, was the prospect of whether or not Vladimir Putin and his government feel any pressure about the treatment of Navalny and him potentially dying in prison. Obviously, countries around the world, including the United States, including Germany, including countries that have important relationships with Russia, have been pressuring the government about Navalny`s treatment. There is this new kind of pressure now too, as evident in the streets.

Do you think they have any concerns about internal pressure, about repercussions among their own people if Navalny dies?

SIMMONS: Well, Mr. Putin and the Kremlin and the government in general are concerned about keeping up the level of support. There are upcoming parliamentary elections in September, and the government certainly wants to make sure that the ruling party wins enough seats.

But Mr. Putin came out talking tough today. He was talking about foreign policy, obviously, but also sending a message to his own people that Russia is strong, we`re not going to back down in the face of any kind of challenge. Mr. Putin definitely feels that he realizes that he wants the support of his people and that to do that, there has to be some kind of social measures taken, financial help.

And his speech today was predominantly one based on domestic policy. He promised financial aid to women who are pregnant, for example, because Russia is trying to increase the number of its population and its dwindling birthrate. He promised help to struggling families. He promised to put funding into infrastructure development.

Now, this is important because over the years many people have complained in Russia about falling living standards. In fact, last year, real incomes declined by about 10 percent compared to 2013. So many Russians are struggling. And many feel that the social contract that they had with the government, which basically says if we support you we will be taken care of, they feel that social contract has been broken.

So Mr. Putin does need to do something in order to encourage people to still support him. I should add, however, Rachel, that his approval ratings, the approval ratings of the Russian president still remain quite high compared to other leaders in other countries and also his trust rates. So he does have this level of support among a certain segment of the population.

MADDOW: Including an odd question of the large portion of the population that has never known another ruler at he`s been in office since the turn of the century, and shows no sign of leaving anytime soon.

Ann Simmons, "Wall Street Journal" Moscow bureau chief, thank you so much for being here, particularly given the time difference. I really appreciate your time.

SIMMONS: Thank you, Rachel.

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


MADDOW: Starting tomorrow and continuing into Friday, 40 heads of state are going to gather at a summit organized by the White House on the issue of climate. This event, this virtual event has quite the line-up.

It includes as I said the leaders of 40 countries including China`s president and the prime minister of India and the aforementioned President Vladimir Putin of Russia which is awkward. Today he`s promising to annihilate the West if anyone crosses his red lines and he`s amassing an army on the edge of Europe. Tomorrow, he`s Zooming in on the White House climate summit.

This is interesting though. Until a little while ago tonight, we also expected Pope Francis would be there. He was among those who`s scheduled to speak tomorrow. That said, in the past few hours, the State Department website has dropped Pope Francis as a scheduled speaker for tomorrow. He`s no longer on their schedule. We`re not exactly sure what that means, but we are currently trying to find out.

At the summit, President Biden will reportedly announce plans to cut American emissions in half in less than 10 years by the year 2030. The summit will be live streamed starting tomorrow 8:00 a.m. Eastern. It`s going to run for a big chunk of the day both tomorrow and Friday. It`s going to be like the zoom calls you have to do for work except they`re going to have like the Pope and Putin and the king of Saudi Arabia.

Place your bets on who won`t realize they`re on mute. Right.

We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Thanks for being with us on this busy news day today. I think it`s going to be busy news day through the rest of the week. I will see you again tomorrow night. We`ll see you then.


Good evening, Lawrence.