Interview with Amber McReynolds, the newest member of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors. Joel Greenberg, a former Matt Gaetz Associate, is going to cooperate with federal investigators as party of guilty plea.
DR. PERRI KLASS, PEDIATRICIAN: -- what about your 9-year-old? What about your 7-year-old? And for the time being, those children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, we have to think of as unvaccinated. And we have to --
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Right.
KLASS: -- take precautions with them and for them.
HAYES: Dr. Perry Class, thanks so much for sharing your advice and expertise tonight. I appreciate it.
That is "ALL IN" on this Friday night.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. And happy weekend. Happy Friday night to you. Much appreciated, my friend.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday to you, as well.
All right. Here is how it worked. Here is the scheme: the guy who was taking the bribes, he liked to be paid in cash, literal cash. Green, paper money.
I think he thought it would be harder to get caught that way because it seemed like there`d be less of a paper trail, or something. But it did not work out that way.
The problem he had with wanting to be bribed in cash is that the companies that were bribing him. Honestly, the -- the companies from which he was extorting these bribes because it was as much extortion as it was bribery, these weren`t the kinds of companies that would normally tend to have a lot of cash laying around. I mean, it would be one thing, if this -- this guy, this government official, was taking bribes from retail stores, or even gambling operations, right? Something, where lots of paper cash was changing hands all the time, and so, there was a legit explanation for why there`d be a lot of cash on the books and a lot of cash in the -- in the -- at the site of these -- of these businesses.
For this corrupt official who was demanding and collecting bribes from these companies, he wanted them in cash, and the problem was that these firms that he was getting the bribes from were, like, engineering firms, and architecture firms. And in companies like that, there is just not a lot of call for there to be cash money in those kinds of businesses. In fact, it would be weird if there was a lot of cash-money laying around in a business like that.
And so, what they did was they developed a scheme. The boss at the company, who knew he needed to pay this guy the bribe, he would tap some hapless employee on the shoulder and say, you know, hey, Bob. Hey, Bob. I`m really sorry. But I`m going to give you a bonus, a big bonus. And if you worked at one of these companies, that was mixed up in this bribery-and-extortion scheme, you knew that was actually very bad news to hear from your boss, because you weren`t actually getting a bonus. You were being enlisted to play a part in the bribe scheme.
What would happen is this. Your boss would write you a check, a bonus check from the company, for X-thousand dollars, whatever your supposed bonus amount was going to be. You were then expected, as the employee, to take that so-called bonus check, right over to your bank, deposit that bonus check, from the company, into your personal-bank account. But then, you were then expected to make a cash withdrawal from your own account, in the same amount.
So, you walk into the check -- you walk into the bank with a check for, say, $2,000. You deposit that. You then walk out of the bank with $2,000 in cash, in hundreds, please. Crisp, new, $100 bills.
And that cash, your supposed-bonus money, you then knew what you had to do with it. You had to bring it right back to the office and give it back to your boss. And presumably, your boss would say, sorry, or at least give you a, you know, guilty-feeling clap on the back.
But your part in the scheme was then discharged, and your boss would then take those crisp $100 bills that you just got at the bank, and your boss would give those crisp $100 bills to the corrupt-government official, who was eagerly awaiting his bribe in cash. That`s how it worked.
And again, if these had been cash-rich businesses, maybe, they wouldn`t have been caught. But because they had to come up with this scheme, ultimately, it was, sort of, too many things that had to go right. I mean, on the surface, you can see how it might look okay, right? As long as nobody looked too deeply, it didn`t scream, this is a crime, right?
On the company`s books, they just looked like they were paying bonuses to employees. And as -- you know, as far as the official books were concerned, that`s the end of the official-money trail. Company outputs money, in the form of bonus checks to employees. And that`s it. We lose track of it, at that point.
Looking at the employees` bank accounts, well, there would be a paper trail, too. But that would look like at least on the surface was the employee getting a bonus. Job well done. And then, taking that same amount as cash because, who knows, the employee was so excited to get the bonus, he or she just wanted to blow the money out on the town somewhere. It`s cash. You can`t track it, right?
On the very surface level, none of it looked all that suspicious, right? As long as you didn`t look too hard, and as long as nobody knew where the cash was ultimately ending up. Because the cash was not ending up being spent out on the town, somewhere by the employee who just got the bonus. The cash was ending up in this scheme in the pockets of the then-vice president of the United States, Spiro Agnew.
In the big bribery and extortion scheme that took down Vice President Agnew, that`s what we learned about how he liked his bribes. He liked his bribes in cash, from firms that didn`t tend to have a lot of cash laying around. So, the poor employees of the architecture firms and the engineering firms that he demanded these cash bribes from, those employees, were forced by their bosses to use their own personal-bank accounts as money-laundering instruments for the companies they worked for that were caught up in this overall bribery-and-extortion scheme, where Vice President Spiro Agnew was the ultimate beneficiary. He was the guy getting paid.
He first cooked up the scheme when he was a county executive in Maryland, just a local Republican elected official. But he continued it, all the way up to his time in the White House serving as Richard Nixon`s vice president. Agnew was ultimately undone by plucky, brave, young, smart, federal prosecutors in Maryland who started their investigation with, interestingly enough, subpoenas to all the engineering and architecture firms to look closely at their books, to look into what turned out to be a weird pattern of inexplicable-employee bonuses. Which, they were able to start following once they really started digging below the surface level of what was in those books.
Their investigation grew to include questions of, you know, why the wife of the local-county executive had started regularly paying the mortgage on the family home in stacks of new $100 bills. That`s a weird way to pay your mortgage, month after month, missus. Where`d she get all those crisp, new, hundred-dollar bills, month after month?
The investigation started with those kinds of investigatory techniques. It spiraled quickly to the very top of the U.S. government. Until all in one day, Richard Nixon`s vice president became a convicted felon. He resigned the vice-presidency. And he left office, that-same day. It was all at the height of Watergate, right?
You know, whoops, we lost the vice president. Okay. Now, let`s get back to work. Saturday night massacre time. It was -- it was an amazing time in U.S. history. I think it`s an amazing story. There`s so many incredible subplots and characters within the whole thing. I did a podcast called "Bag Man" about this and a book also called bag man. I am completely obsessed with this story, to the day -- to this day.
But all that to say, it`s not like a secret that this kind of scheme exists. This is the scheme that brought down Vice President Agnew. This whole thing of laundering the money through fake-bonus payments to your employees, that might have been clever, at one point. That might have seemed clever, at one point.
I mean, Agnew did get away with it for years but then he got caught doing it. And it has since become something you can kind of put in the category of notorious-illegal schemes. It`s the sort of thing that sort of you might think you would be able to get a away with if nobody ever heard of it, and nobody was looking a you will that hard. But now, that it`s sort of history, now that it`s famous, now, that it`s at least notorious, it makes it all the more amazing that we got another one of those schemes, just like that, last year, during the last presidential administration.
In September of last year, I know, there was a lot going on. But "The Washington Post" reported, in a big-blockbuster story, that a very controversial, high-ranking Trump administration official appeared to have lined himself up for that job. He positioned himself to get that high- ranking appointment using a carefully devised scheme familiar to fans of "Bag Man", in which he paid his employees what on the books appeared to be bonuses but they weren`t really bonuses. They were payments that DeJoy was steering to politicians for his own benefit.
Quote: Louis DeJoy`s prolific campaign fundraising helped position him as a top Republican power broker in North Carolina and ultimately as head of the United States Postal Service. That fundraising was bolstered for more than a decade by a practice that left many employees of his company feeling pressured to make political contributions to Republican candidates. Money Louis DeJoy, later, reimbursed through bonuses, former employees say.
Five people who worked for DeJoy`s business say they were urged by his aides or by DeJoy himself to write checks or attend fundraisers at his 15,000 square foot gated mansion in North Carolina. There, events for Republicans running for the White House and Congress routinely fetched $100,000 or more, a piece.
Two other employees familiar with the company`s financial and payroll systems said Louis DeJoy would instruct that bonus payments to staffers be boosted to defray the costs of their political contributions, an arrangement, "The Post" notes, that would be unlawful.
Louis DeJoy`s longtime director of human resources, who had access to payroll records at DeJoy`s company and is now retired said, quote, Louis was a national fundraiser for the Republican Party. He asked employees for money. We gave him the money, and then he reciprocated by giving us bonuses.
Another-former employee, with knowledge of the process, described a similar series of events, saying Louis DeJoy orchestrated additional compensation for employees who had made political contributions, instructing managers to award bonuses to those specific individuals. "The Post" notes, quote, although it can be permissible to encourage employees to make donations, reimbursing for -- reimbursing them for those contributions is a violation of North Carolina and federal laws.
Now, even in the, let`s say, scandal-rich Trump administration, this is when that stuck, at least for a few days in the late summer, early fall, last year. "Washington Post" did a big follow-up story actually where they spoke with a former FEC lawyer who told them this. Quote: With the facts presented, this looks like a run-of-the-mill but very illegal corporate straw donor scheme.
"The Post" also spoke with former general counsel of the FEC who said what stood out to had him in the paperwork documenting this scheme was, quote, how synchronized the donations to bonuses cycle was alleged to have been. Former FEC general counsel told the paper, quote, it`s rare to see it that blatant.
Rare to see it that blatant. But you know, that`s how things have been going. It`s a blessing and a curse of this time that we have just been through in history that you don`t exactly have to squint to see, right? It`s all caps, out loud, everything with an exclamation point. Most of the nouns misspelled. Nothing subtle.
But of all of the scandal upon scandal upon scandal and the people close to the president going to prison, right? And the horrifying irresponsibility of the way governance was handled and the malevolence and failure and the mismanagement of all that we have been through the past few years, it does, still, boggle the mind that one of the things we had to rally to as a nation, one of the things we had to rally, as a nation, to defend from what they were trying to do to it was the post office.
I mean, who has it out for the post office? Really? I mean, like, as government agencies go, it`s, like, kittens. You know? Like seriously, you`re after the mail? You`re after letter carriers?
Your friendly, little, white jeeps, how you doing, Mrs. Davis? I got your mail here. Yeah. They came for the Post Office.
Heading into the 2020 election, as President Trump started seeding the idea with his supporters that the election would be illegitimate, unless he won. He attacked states that were expanding voting by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic because, you know, presumably, that would mean too many people voting. He warned that Republicans would never win another election with all the voting by mail that was going to happen.
He then started this public crusade of attacking the Post Office like it was some sort of inherently scandalous thing, rather than something we have had in our country since literally the Constitution. The Post Office founding -- the founding language for the post office is in the U.S. Constitution.
He railed against the Post Office, like it had been something invented by Obama. He had proposed massive cuts to the Post Office`s budget just ahead of the election. He put, in charge of the Post Office, he made postmaster general, a man who had tens of millions of dollars invested in a Postal Service contractor, a man, who had spent his career before his appointment building up his fortune by running companies that contracted with and competed with the post office.
Immediately after taking control at the Post Office, Trump`s new postmaster general instituted new policies that instantly led to huge backlogs in the mail. Cutting the number of trips that mail carriers were allowed to take, forbidding them from taking any extra trips to move mail even when mail was late. Communities around the country started freaking out when they started unbolting our traditional-blue mailboxes from sidewalks and street corners, putting them on flatbed trucks and taking them away to lord knows where. What are you doing with the mailboxes?
Louis DeJoy, as Trump`s postmaster general, ordered big, expensive, in some cases, irreplaceable sorting machines that handle millions of pieces of mail, very quickly. He ordered those sorting machines removed and destroyed, stripped and left outside for dead.
The Louis DeJoy ordered backlogs in the mail were so bad, the -- the news wasn`t just about the -- the decline that you could see in the numbers, in terms of on-time delivery of regular mail and first-class mail. It was, also, like, horror-story stuff. Warehouses of late mail becoming basically hazmat sites. Food that had been shipped was rotting in these huge piles of undelivered boxes as the mail stacked up and up and up. Even livestock, animals shipped overnight, ending up dead in transit while the mail backlog built up and up and up and the packages and the envelopes just stacked up in postal-service facilities around the country, with Louis DeJoy forbidding the Postal Service to do what they needed to do to deliver them.
What is perhaps the most amazing thing about this story, though -- even above and beyond the fact that Americans had to rally to try to defend the post office? In the middle of everything else we were facing as a country last year? Really?
The most amazing thing about this whole story. Honestly, looking back at it today is that the dude`s still there. He`s still there. He`s still running it. Even after the country lost its mind, including businesses who were really hurt by their shipping and other mailing getting all screwed up, even after the country lost its mind over DeJoy`s deliberate sabotage at the Post Office, his deliberate slowdown and bottlenecking of all the mail and the packages, even after the conflicts of interest he had were exposed, with him maintaining tens of millions of dollars of active-investment money in a company doing business with the agency he was then running. He held on to those investments for months after he was running that agency.
Even after "The Washington Post" exposed him as the new Spiro Agnew. Literally, using that same, dumb trick, where you make the employees handle the cash, right? Through their own bank accounts and you cover it up with bonus payments to them. And hey, nobody will notice.
Even after we learned that that`s apparently how he laundered the gazillions of dollars he paid to Republican politicians, and how those donations were, in fact, how he got himself appointed by Trump to run the Post Office, and to run it into the ground. Even after all of that, right now, as we sit here tonight, dude is still there. The dude is still running the Post Office. He is still postmaster general, even after all that.
Because of the way that that part of the government is structured, President Biden can`t necessarily, just fire Louis DeJoy and be done with it. Now, if Mr. DeJoy were ever indicted for the fake-bonus scheme, would that change? Would he then become fireable under the rules that govern these things? I don`t know. It`s never come up before.
But that hasn`t happened, at this point. We don`t know. But the guy is still there. And even since President Biden has been in office, he is still proposing and enacting even more cuts to the post office than what he did last year. It`s just astonishing.
But now, happy Friday night --finally, after all this time, it would appear that the Biden administration has finally figured out how they might solve this problem, and how to save the Post Office, in the process, finally. That story is next.
MADDOW: Her name is Amber McReynolds. She used to be in local government. For years, she was director of elections for the great city of Denver, Colorado.
It was in that job that Amber McReynolds helped pilot Denver`s vote-by-mail program, one that was eventually rolled out statewide in Colorado. Every registered voter in the state gets sent a mail-in ballot delivered to their home. You`re still allowed to vote in person if you want, but most people have liked the convenience of voting by mail. And thanks to that program, in Colorado, every body got a chance to do it.
The idea here, pioneered by this local official Amber McReynolds, was just to make voting simple, easy, and accessible, to make it available, to everyone, and equally available to everyone. To strip away the barriers to voting that, inherently, come along with having to do it in person.
Amber McReynolds, ultimately, in 2018, left that job running elections in Denver to head up something called the national vote at home institute. It`s a small, but very, very influential, nonprofit. The institute is nonpartisan. It`s respected on both sides of the aisle.
Amber McReynolds, herself, is an independent. The mission of the entity, though, is to help every state do what Colorado did. And improve the numbers, in terms of voter participation by doing so. Make voting by mail or voting at home, as they like to call it, available to every-registered voter in all-50 states.
Amber McReynolds is considered to be the nation`s leading expert on voting by mail. She is considered to be the most prominent evangelist in the country for using vote by mail, everywhere, in the country. At the start of the pandemic she, unsurprisingly, started fielding phone calls from elections officials, all over the country asking for her advice and her help on how to set up vote by mail in all sorts of states so people wouldn`t have to risk getting sick to vote in person last year.
She was the right expert, at the right time, when the country turned to that means of voting because of an unprecedented pandemic that made it unsafe for lots of us to turn out in the same place, all at the same day, to do something, all together.
Well, now, in the wake of the 2020-historic election and that rapid expansion of vote by mail, and the American people liking it, a lot. Now, Amber McReynolds has a new job. Earlier this year, President Biden nominated her to serve on the U.S. Postal Service board of governors. She has just been confirmed, by the United States Senate, in that job.
The board has oversight over how the post office spends its money. How much to charge for stamps much how long the mail should take to arrive, things like that. The board also helps oversee the delivery of election mail, stuff like, applications for ballots and mail-in ballots, themselves. Very important.
Perhaps, most importantly, right now, is the job of the board of governors that didn`t used to get that much attention. But right now, it feels very important. It is the board of governors and the board of governors, alone, that has power over who serves as postmaster general of the United States.
We are currently in an era, where the postmaster general of the United States is the -- we have a never had somebody in that position, who is more controversial than the current office holder. Forgive me for saying so but from the Post Office perspective, the current postmaster general has been a bit of a human wrecking ball.
President Biden is in the process of filling all of the vacant governor seats on the Postal Service board. There is a nominee for that seat awaiting final confirmation. When that seat is filled, the majority of the seats on the Postal Service board will be held by or appointed by Democrats, including, independent Amber McReynolds.
That means Ms. McReynolds and her new colleagues will have some very consequential decisions to make in very short order.
Joining us now is the newest member of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, Amber McReynolds.
Ms. McReynolds, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate you making the time.
AMBER MCREYNOLDS, USPS BOARD OF GOVERNORS MEMBER: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: First, let me just ask you about the going through the confirmation process. Obviously, everything is political. And no confirmation process is easy, anymore. Even for noncontroversial nominees, such as yourself.
How did it feel to get confirmed to -- to be on the board of governors?
MCREYNOLDS: It was quite the process, for sure. And I am grateful to all the senators that supported my nomination and voted for me. It -- it was a bipartisan vote.
And then, what also has been great about the process is I have been able to talk with senators from many states about the challenges that they have experienced with regards to Postal Service. And -- and their businesses and their constituents and voters. All that, you know, have expressed different challenges with regards to service.
And so, you know, getting an understanding, a deeper understanding, of -- of how senators see this issue has been an important part of the process that I have -- that I have sincerely enjoyed, as I have gone through this confirmation.
MADDOW: And you, obviously, as I mentioned, are considered to be the nation`s foremost expert or one of the nation`s foremost experts on voting from home, on voting by mail. And when so many states decided they were going to need to do that, even though they hadn`t been planning on doing it before when the COVID epidemic made that a necessity for so many states. You were one of the experts that a lot of those states turned to try to set up those processes. Sometimes, in short order.
As an expert, how do you feel those systems, especially those newly-set-up systems, performed in 2020?
MCREYNOLDS: Well, first and foremost, I mean, election officials are absolutely heroes. And I can`t say that enough with regards to the 2020 cycle. And even in election cycles before that and elections that are occurring even today.
They`ve been attacked, unfairly. Their operations and processes have been - - have been lied about and conspiracies have been flying rampant around the country for many months, now, and even almost a year on these various processes. And election officials, despite all of that, despite a pandemic, despite policies in many states, despite underinvestment in the infrastructure, and despite the many attacks that they have faced and the lies and the conspiracies and threats that are even coming in today performed exceedingly well.
And we -- we had one of the most secure and efficient elections with one of the highest turnouts we`ve ever had on record, all, because election officials are the guardians of our democracy. And are the heroes that we should be celebrating on the -- and they work on the front lines during this pandemic, and did so with grace and dignity. And we should be thanking them every single day where we have an opportunity to do so.
MADDOW: One of the things that I think was just a -- sort of a shocking turn into the public sphere last year, was when Americans across the spectrum and across the country felt like they needed to come to the defense of the Postal Service. The president, at the time, lambasting the Postal Service, denouncing it as some sort of scheme or something stacked against him, that should be done away with.
We saw draconian changes to postal-service policies that had real impact on the ground, in terms of slowing down the mail, and hurting a lot of businesses. Freaking out a lot of people in the country in terms of what was going to happen with our ballot applications and our ballots when it came to voting by mail. In addition to everything else we do by mail.
I think a lot of people in the country right now are surprised to know that the postmaster general, from that era, is still in place. And I think people are worried that his policies might have permanently sort of knee- capped the Postal Service so that it`s not going to be able, anytime soon, to get back to the levels of service that we were used to. And to it being a noncontroversial, well-supported part of American-public life.
I guess, I want to ask, given your incredibly important role now in the Postal Service board of governors, if you feel that? If you are aware of that consternation in the country? And if you can give people any assurance that these things might get better?
MCREYNOLDS: Well, I am certainly aware of it. And, you know, I think that there`s a culmination of issues that occurred. The pandemic, certainly, being one of them. I mean, the Postal Service has a frontline critical infrastructure workforce that continued to deliver mail and packages -- packages, by the way, in record numbers.
And because they`ve, you know, a lot of that equipment has been underinvested in, especially on the package front, there were backlogs. And businesses experienced that. And people experienced that with their medications.
And so, those are things that, now -- now that the ten-year plan has been - - has been put out there. Once I`m -- once I join the board and have, obviously, more access to the information that current-board members have, those are -- those are things that I`m going to, certainly, focus on in terms of service, because service has to be effective. It has to be universal.
The Postal Service is one of our most admired institution -- institutions. It connects businesses and commerce to people and customers. It connects government to people and services and vice versa. And it ensures that people can access their medication.
And in some parts of the country, like Alaska, and I just spoke to Senator Murkowski about this, people rely on the Postal Service as their grocery store, their hardware store, their bank, and everything else. Their -- their vote-by-mail ballots and election information and that Post Office is a lifeline to many communities around the country.
And so, it has to be effective. And it`s in the constitution that it needs to deliver a universal service. And so, service is one of my key priorities. It`s been my priority in the election-administration world.
The parallels between the Postal Service and election administration are very obvious. There`s been a lack of investment in technology and innovation, over time. There is often funding issues, which is the same in election administration. There`s seasonal workforce issues, so, the -- the sort of expansion and retraction. Both of those things are -- are parallel in both of those worlds.
And then, of course, there`s policy issues. There`s policies that have tied the Postal Service to not being able to -- to keep up financially. And we have to address those things.
And I look forward to joining the board to think about these things in a creative and strategic way. And certainly, bring my expertise, from the election administration world, because I truly believe there`s a whole -- a whole host of opportunities for the Postal Service to further improve their operations in partnership with local and state government, especially on the elections front. And there`s huge opportunities to do that going forward.
MADDOW: Well, this is a -- this is a part of the government that, until, like, now, was an incredibly low-profile part of the government. I do think that the admiration that the American people have for the Post Office and the amount that we all depend on it means that we really, as a people, got our backup to see the Postal Service attacked over this past year. You and your new colleagues on the Postal Service board of governors, I think the country`s really going to be looking to you with a lot more attention than you are used to getting in terms of turning things around.
Good luck to you, Amber. And as -- as you settle in and as things get going, please, come back and keep us apprised. We will have eyes on you the whole time you`re there.
MCREYNOLDS: Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We got much more to get to tonight, including a very, very dramatic plea deal that could be very bad news for a Republican congressman today.
Lots ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In March of this year, March 2nd, police in Seminole County, Florida, showed up to arrest a local-Republican elected official, the local county tax collector.
And the arrest was not an easy one. It didn`t end up in gunfire or any other kind of tragedy but did veer toward the dangerous for a while. And it definitely veered into territory that you would call messy. Here is how the arresting officer described what happened in the official-arrest record that day, when they turned up to arrest the local-tax collector.
Quote: Upon my arrival, contact was made with Joel via phone. Joel initially advised he would exit the residence after a short period of time and surrender himself. After that time came and passed, Joel continued to negotiate via phone. During the negotiations, Joel made suicidal comments stating at various times that he would take pills, utilize firearms, and that he had improvised explosive devices.
Joel also stated that he had hidden several items in his anal cavity. Joel opened the front door to the residence and threw a bag full of medication out into the driveway, before retreating back into the residence and closing the door.
That`s kind of the flavor of the arrest here. That was March 2nd. They did take him into custody that day. He was already under indictment but after that arrest, federal prosecutors would actually go on to file multiple- additional charges, and superseding indictments against him. Ultimately, this local tax collector would end up facing 33 different federal felony charges.
And now, that local official, who is the subject of that very messy arrest when authorities finally tried to take him into custody back in March, right now, that local-Republican official in Florida presents a sort of good news, bad news situation for Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz. The bad news, of course, is that, that local Republican official, the county tax collector, Joel Greenberg. He is a close associate, a close friend, apparently, of Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz.
Joel Greenberg, according to news reports, he has reportedly been telling prosecutors, for months, about how he and Congressmen Gaetz have paid young women for sex. And about what he alleges to have been considerable drug use, in conjunction with those encounters.
And most worryingly, he has reportedly told prosecutors about congressman Gaetz`s own-alleged sexual involvement with an underage girl, apparently, the same underage girl who is cited in the felony child sex trafficking charges that Mr. Greenberg, himself, is facing.
Now, Matt Gaetz has consistently denied all of those accusations but that`s the bad news about him and his long-standing friendship with Joel Greenberg and what Joel Greenberg has reportedly been telling prosecutors. That -- that`s the bad news.
The only good news here for Congressman Gaetz is that Joel Greenberg has all the markings of a not-super-fantastic witness in any courtroom, right? In terms of his believability, his credibility, his overall gravitas. I mean, as mentioned, he has been charged with 33 felonies, including multiple counts of fraud, one charge of making false allegations against a political rival.
Also, from what the police described as the situation when they arrested him back in March, it also seems like he is just a little unhinged. That doesn`t help. None of that makes for a great witness in terms of the credibility of his testimony against a sitting congressman or against anybody.
But now, today, prosecutors today submitted to federal court in Florida a proposed-plea agreement that they have drawn up with Joel Greenberg. And in that, they basically explain the safeguards they want to put on him to make sure he is a truthful witness. And those are considerable and that`s really interesting.
But the plea agreement they filed for him today, also, including all the stuff that he is pleading guilty to as part of this plea agreement. And the description of those things is long and detailed, and also very gross. Here`s some of it.
Quote, Joel Micah Greenberg was elected as Seminole County tax collector in 2016. He started in office on or about January 3rd, 2017. During his tenure as tax collector and after his arrest in 2020, Mr. Greenberg committed multiple federal criminal offenses.
Mr. Greenberg paid for commercial sex acts. In particular, Greenberg was involved in what are sometimes referred to as sugar daddy relationships where he paid women for sex, but attempted to disguise the payments as school-related expenses or other-living expenses.
Greenberg had an online account at a website that advertised itself as a place where sugar daddies could find sugar babies, ew. Greenberg used an account at that website to identify women whom he later paid to engage in commercial sex acts with him and others.
Greenberg used at least four different accounts to pay for commercial acts. His personal Venmo account, his personal American Express account, his American Express account at the tax collector office. That`s nice. And his personal bank account from December 2016 to December 2018. He used those accounts to conduct more than 150 financial transactions totaling over $70,000. All of which, involved Greenberg paying for women for -- paying women for commercial-sex acts using those accounts.
One of the individuals who Greenberg paid for commercial-sex acts was a minor under the age of 18 for part of the time when Greenberg paid her to engage in commercial sex acts. Greenberg engaged in commercial sex acts with the minor in the middle district of Florida at least seven times while she was a minor. During these commercial sex acts, Greenberg would, also -- excuse me, often would offer and supply the minor and others with ecstasy. The drug, ecstasy, which Greenberg would take, himself, as well.
Oftentimes, Greenberg would offer to pay the minor and others an additional amount of money if they took the ecstasy. Greenberg also introduced the minor to other adult men who engaged in commercial sex acts with the minor in the middle district of Florida. Other adult men, plural.
Now, these are all statements by the prosecutor`s office that don`t really count as allegations, anymore. These are all things that Joel Greenberg is explicitly admitting to. He has initialed every page of this proposed plea agreement. And at this point in the agreement, prosecutors go on to describe lots of corroborating evidence. They say they have to support Greenberg`s claims, including, records of his communications with this underage girl and other stuff.
They also, basically, nail him to the wall in terms of what his time is going to be like, now. Now, that he is turning state`s evidence. I mean, listen to this. In terms of Matt Gaetz thinking about whether or not Joel Greenberg is going to truthfully and authoritatively testify against him -- listen to this: Defendant agrees to cooperate fully with the United States and the investigation and prosecution of other persons and to testify subject to a prosecution for perjury or make a false statement fully or truthfully before any federal court proceeding or federal grand jury in connection with the charges in this case and other matters. Such cooperation to further include a full and complete disclosure of all relevant information, including production of any and all books, papers, documents, and other objects in defendant`s possession or control and to be reasonably available for interviews which the United States may require.
The defendant may be prosecuted for any perjury or false declarations, if any committed while testifying pursuant to this agreement, or for obstruction of justice. The United States may prosecute the defendant for the charges, which are to be dismissed pursuant to this agreement, if any. And may either seek reinstatement of or refile such charges and prosecute the defendant, thereon.
So, this is not good, for Matt Gaetz. This part of the agreement is not good, because this is Matt Gaetz`s friend, Joel Greenberg. He has reportedly been telling investigators about him and Matt Gaetz, both, paying for sex, including with an underage girl. He has been facing 33- felony charges.
But today, he pled guilty to six of the 33 felonies. He signed this binding document agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against other people. If he lies to the prosecutors, affirms here, in this agreement, that he will face perjury charges or obstruction-of-justice charges. He also affirms that if he lies or leaving anything out in cooperating with prosecutors, the other 27 felony charges against him, those are coming back.
There have been 33 felonies pending against him. He is pleading guilty to six, so they`ll drop the other 27. If he is not a good cooperator, they`re going to hit him with those other 27, as well as the six he`s now pled guilty to.
One of the charges he`s pleading to, in this agreement, the child-sex trafficking charge, carries a mandatory-minimum prison sentence of ten years. So, even with this cooperation agreement, it`s not like the guy is skating. But the question is -- the question that we can see, in this plea deal, is whether that same kind of charge and its ten-year-minimum prison sentence is now credibly looming over Republican congressman Matt Gaetz.
One of the lead reporters covering this story is going do join us, next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One of the increasingly disturbing sideshows in the ongoing story of the Republican Party staying under the sway of former President Donald Trump is the high ick factor ongoing federal criminal investigation into the Trumpiest Republican congressman of them, former Republican Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz.
Well, today, his long time associate, Joel Greenberg, a former local Republican elected official in Florida, he entered a plea deal with federal prosecutors for a whole host of crimes, including sex trafficking of a child.
Mr. Greenberg is offering to cooperate with prosecutors and testify in other cases in order to try and reduce his own sentence for the six felonies he`s pleading guilty to. But are those other cases in which he might end up testifying ones that include potentially Congressman Matt Gaetz?
Here`s "New York Times" reporter Mike Schmidt on that today. Quote: Greenberg initially wanted to fight the charges but around the end of last year as he confronted the possibility he could face decades in prison if convicted, he began cooperating with federal investigators. In meetings with investigators, he divulged details on the array of crimes he`d committed and explained how he, Congressman Gaetz and others frequently paid women for sex.
Joining us now is Michael Schmidt, Washington correspondent for "The New York Times".
Mr. Schmidt, it`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So I`m trying to sum up the sort of state of play here. Have I missed anything important in terms of the consequences, the implications of this plea agreement today?
SCHMIDT: No, I think the thing that stood out to me the most was the amount of additional documentation and information in the agreement that was sort of -- that backed up Greenberg but was not reliant on him. It was the Venmo payments. It was the amount of text messages, the amount of meetings they had, the specific dates.
What I saw there is -- I don`t know what the government is thinking and we`re not omnipotent, but you can see the government sending a signal saying, look, it`s not just Greenberg. We`ve been working on this investigation for a long time. Here are all of the details of every single interaction that Joel Greenberg had with this 17-year-old girl.
We know other are investigation in this. We know Gaetz is. And here was the government saying here is this additional evidence, here are these things. This was an 86-page plea agreement, the longest plea agreement I`ve ever seen.
MADDOW: And, Mike, do you know from your reporting whether there are other potential witnesses or other potential, you know, alleged coconspirators, people potentially charged here who could be in the same boat as Joel Greenberg? Do we know anybody else who might be implicated as a potential witness here?
SCHMIDT: So, as we`ve reported, there are others in the Florida Republican political circle whose conduct is being examined in connection with this investigation. But you raise an interesting question in point, which is Joel Greenberg is the only person that we know who has been publicly charged in this investigation, but we do know others are under investigation and we do know the government has talked to some of the women and the government looks like they`re casting their nets wide here and really want to move forward and bring other types of prosecution. They`ve just signed this guy up to essentially do that.
The thing that I`m wondering about is, will they move up the ladder as if they were moving towards Gaetz? So I think there`s sort of a feeling, well, maybe they`ll go ahead and indict Gaetz some time soon here. But maybe they`ll just go to the next person in the group that was doing this to see if they can build out the number of witnesses.
Because as you were laying out there are some questions, obvious huge questions about Greenberg`s credibility because of his behavior and because of his criminal exposure. But if you have other cooperators and other witnesses, then that bolsters his credibility. It gives the government a stronger hand as they move towards a high profile target and someone who certainly Trump supporters would look at very, very favorably.
MADDOW: Michael Schmidt, Washington correspondent for "The New York Times" -- I both thank you and apologize to you for you having to cover this because it`s so gross, but we`ve learned a lot from what you`ve been able to dig up. Mike, thanks for being here.
SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: That`s going to do it for us tonight. I hope you have a fantastic weekend. I`ll see you again Monday night.
Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" hosted by the great Ali Velshi, who`s in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Ali.