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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/20/21

Guests: Amy Gardner


Israel and Hams agree to a ceasefire after a conflict that killed 230 plus Palestinians and 12 plus Israelis. Loose networks of Trump supporters push baseless fraud claims, urge audits.


HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY (via telephone): And he is the linchpin here. I think if she doesn`t get him or the combined investigation with her and the D.A. does not get him, then her particular financial crimes are not going to pan out. If she does, they probably will, at least up to a level above, not necessarily yet the former president.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC HOST: We`ll have to leave it there. Harry Litman, thank you so much for being here.

That is "ALL IN" for this evening.


Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Zerlina. Thank you so much. Great to have you here.

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

We`ve got so much to get to this hour. We`re going to jump right in.

This last 11 days of fighting in Israel and Gaza, of course, has been absolutely horrifying, and of course it is not the first time that we have seen conflict in this exact part of the world that looked a lot like this, between Israel and Hamas. Israel and Hamas fought wars in 2014. Before that, they fought another war in 2008.

Previous conflicts between Israel and Hamas and how they have ended can tonight, I think, give us some relevant context, give us reason to be both hopeful and cautious about what has just happened tonight.

In 2014, it was six days into the fighting when a cease-fire was declared. That cease-fire held for a few hours, and then within 24 hours, it was completely off. Then they declared another cease-fire after that, and that one failed too. And then they declared another and then another and then another, another, another, another, another, and then another. And then it was that one. It was the tenth one that actually finally held.

The last time there was fighting this intense in that part of the world, they declared cease-fire number one six days into it. But it was not until cease-fire number ten that it actually stuck and they got some measure of lasting peace.

But at that point it was 51 days into the fighting. There were more than 2,000 Palestinians killed, more than 70 Israelis. They tried to -- they thought they were stopping it on day 6. It took until day 51. It took ten cease-fire attempts.

Well, tonight, we have got a cease-fire. After 10 1/2 days of fighting, we`re in day 11, something that`s being described as a mutual and simultaneous cease-fire has been agreed upon. Israel and Hamas do not talk to each other directly, so this cease-fire has been brokered by Egypt. Egypt does talk to both sides.

Tonight, President Biden was careful to say that the U.S. government doesn`t talk to Hamas either. We only talk to Israel or to other entities that can serve as intermediaries indirectly to Hamas.

But even so, he credited U.S. diplomacy with contributing to tonight`s cease-fire declaration.


JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the last 11 days, I spoke with the prime minister six times. I`ve also spoken with President Abbas with the Palestinian Authority were the ones part our intense diplomatic engagement. I also want to thank the secretary of state, secretary of defense, our national security adviser, and everyone on our team for this incredible to bring this about, this outcome that we`re about to see. You know, we`ve held intensive high-level discussions hour by hour literally.

These hostilities have resulted in the tragic deaths of so many civilians, including children. And I send my sincere condolences to all the families, Israeli and Palestinian, who have lost loved ones, and my hope for a full recovery for the wounded. We remain committed do working with the United Nations and other international stakeholders to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and to marshal support for the people of Gaza and the Gaza reconstruction efforts.

We will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas, the authority, in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal. I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy. My administration will continue our quiet and relentless diplomacy toward that end.


MADDOW: President Biden tonight speaking less than two hours before the cease-fire was due to go into effect, due to go into effect at 2:00 a.m. local time, which is 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time tonight.

The president, after those prepared remarks, ignored shouted questions from reporters as he walked away. Basically all the reporters seemed to be shouting a different version of the same question, which was, do you really believe it will hold, Mr. President? Is this cease-fire essentially the real deal?

Well, joining us now live from Israel, where it is just past 4:00 in the morning, just over two hours into the start of the cease-fire, is our friend, NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. Richard has been covering this conflict from Israel and from the Palestinian territories as well.

Richard, it`s great to see you, my friend. Thanks for staying up so late. Thanks for joining us.


MADDOW: What should we be looking for? What do you expect in terms of figuring out whether the cease-fire is going to hold?

ENGEL: I think it might hold actually for a little while. I don`t think that this is the end of the conflict. I don`t think it`s going to hold for years, but it might hold for months. I think it`s one of these ones that could survive days.

Now, you could -- I could be proven very, very badly and embarrassingly wrong, but they are celebrating in the streets of Gaza tonight, and that is not something you had in the previous ceasefires. They are pleased with the result.

The people in Gaza, not just Hamas, but Hamas does run Gaza -- believe they achieved a great deal, and that could look strange from afar considering they are celebrating on piles of rubble. But they feel that they were able to put the Palestinian issue back on the world stage, one. But more importantly, they feel they were able to reach out to a broader Palestinian audience, that they were able to communicate directly and bring out onto the streets in a way that never happened in a previous conflicts.

Palestinians who live in the West Bank who are separated from them, Palestinians in Jerusalem, who are separated from them, and Palestinians inside Israel, who have Israeli citizenship. And that put pressure on Israel in a way that was different and unique, and that is important for the people of Gaza. And that is important for Hamas as a political party to try and claim leadership of the Palestinian cause.

And on the Israeli side, there are reasons why Israel wouldn`t want to continue this. One, the idea that 20 percent of its population, the Palestinian citizens were getting more and more involved in this. That was something that Israel was very uncomfortable with. We saw inter-Israeli mob violence start to emerge during this. That never happened in the past where you had Israeli-Arabs and Israeli-Jews fighting each other on the streets, throwing fire bombs at each other`s homes. That is a very unsettling and dangerous dynamic that Prime Minister Netanyahu repeatedly addressed and seemed to have been bothered and worried by. So there are reasons on the Israeli side for not continuing as well.

Also, Prime Minister Netanyahu is in a stronger position politically than he was before. And if this dragged on and became a full-on land assault right now, he could see his position worsen, and he`s facing charges. He`s trying to put a new government together, hold on to the government. So, his political position has been fragile, but it is stronger now than it was.

So, is it going to last the night? If I had to go out on a limb -- and I guess I just did -- I think it might. But it doesn`t address the larger issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

MADDOW: And, Richard, what about the sort of diplomatic gymnastics that have to go into brokering something like this? The U.S. doesn`t speak to Hamas. Israel and Hamas definitely don`t speak to each other.

Are there interested parties that want to play a role to try to resolve things like the European Union, they don`t talk to Hamas either. Egypt does talk to both sides. Does it help that Egypt has brokered this? Can they do anything to help assure that it sticks?

ENGEL: Well, Egypt is trying to do something and do something practical. According to the Egyptian officials, they are sending monitors who will be in both Israel and Gaza to oversee the ceasefire. So Egypt does have leverage. Egypt has long played this role as an intermediary.

You have an assertive government in Egypt under President Sisi that wants to assume the country`s traditional leadership. He wants to be very much like Mubarak. Egypt went through the Arab Spring. It had its own period of Muslim Brotherhood rule, and now I think you`re seeing Egypt try and go back to the Egypt that the world knew before as a player in the Middle East peace process.

That was something that President Mubarak was very proud of, that he had that portfolio of Middle East peace in his deck of cards.

MADDOW: And, Richard, how effective was the United States as an interlocutor. We saw the White House being very sort of careful but also somewhat transparent about their strategy, communicating publicly around this. They were saying, we are doing diplomacy. The president bragging about how intensive the effort was.

But the White House was insisting over and over again that their diplomatic efforts were quiet, they were behind the scenes, they were -- while they were applied and deliberate and consistent, they were not something we were going to see every step of the way.

Can you tell from your reporting how effective U.S. efforts were here?

ENGEL: I think quiet was key in this, and I`m not just trying to celebrate the U.S. efforts. It`s just you have to look at the alternative. Had President Trump been in office still, for example -- and you have to think about things that way -- I don`t think angry tweets or cheering from the sidelines would have helped the situation here.

Could the U.S. have been more assertive calling for a cease-fire earlier? There are many parties who thought that, and the U.S. was under increasing pressure. But quiet and sort of a gentle nudge was certainly more helpful than being sort of an inflammatory participant in this conflict.

So I would say the U.S. probably did a B, B-plus, but didn`t fail by any means.

MADDOW: Richard Engel, NBC chief foreign correspondent staying up until past 4:00 in the morning to be with us tonight. Richard, thank you so much. I appreciate it my friend.

ENGEL: Sure.

MADDOW: All right. We`re going to be keeping a close eye on the situation in Gaza tonight. The cease-fire is only a couple of hours old. Looking ahead, of course, Gaza has suffered almost infinitely in these 10 1/2, 11 days of fighting, everything from water systems, sewer systems, electric grid, hospitals, schools, and roads have all been knocked back into the stone ages, and it`s not like the situation in Gaza was unbeleaguered to begin with.

So when President Biden tonight talked about there being an international rebuilding effort for Gaza and that being something that the United States would support, that is going to be something where money and mouths will have to come together. And that talk is going to have to be met with action in the short order just so that Gaza can be livable. More than 70,000 people displaced because of the fighting in Gaza in one of the most densely populated places in the world. That will become an international cause now to try to fix that while the cease-fire holds.

So we`ll continue to bring you more as that story continues to develop through the evening. Here`s hoping for a peaceful night in that part of the world.

But as we were getting started here tonight, I also want to do what is an important and, I think -- I don`t know if it`s unexpected, but significant update to a story that we first covered last fall. This has not ended the way that I thought it was going to end. But, boy, did this make waves today when it happened.

This story started with a nurse named Dawn, who we featured here on this show. Dawn had a story to tell us that was almost unbelievable, almost apocalyptic.


DAWN WOOTEN, WHISTLEBLOWER AND NURSE AT ICE DETENTION CENTER: The ladies would put in to see their gynecologists for whatever reason they were wanting to be seen for, and they were having hysterectomies. They would come back oftentimes and question, why did I have to have a hysterectomy? I didn`t have an answer.

JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: They would ask you directly?

WOOTEN: Why did I have to have a hysterectomy? Nobody explained this to me. I didn`t know I was undergoing this. I had one lady that told me that she was a young girl. If she had known she was going to have a hysterectomy, she wouldn`t have went.

SOBOROFF: You`re quoted in the complaint as saying, that`s his specialty. He`s the uterus collector. Is that how people referred to this doctor?

WOOTEN: That`s how the detainees referred to this physician. They referred to him as -- I had a detainee ask me, what is he doing, Ms. Wooten? Collecting all of our uteruses? And I just looked at her puzzled because I didn`t have an answer.

SOBOROFF: Do you think what -- do you think what happened to the women you spoke with is going to happen to other women in the future?

WOOTEN: Me personally, if there`s not a change, there`s not going to be a change.


MADDOW: That was Dawn Wooten, an interview with Jacob Soboroff that we showed on this program last year. Dawn Wooten was a nurse here at an immigration detention facility, an ICE detention facility in Irwin County, Georgia.

And last fall, that nurse Dawn Wooten filed a whistle-blower complaint with the inspector general at the Homeland Security Department. She gave a description in that complaint of what was going on inside that facility that was so heinous, it really just felt like the world stopped spinning for a second. She alleged in her whistle-blower complaint that during her time working as a nurse at this ICE detention facility, immigrant women being held there were routinely sent to a gynecologist, who would perform unnecessary medical procedures on them, including hysterectomies, without them knowing why they were having that done to them, without it ever being explained to them that it was medically necessary, without them understanding the circumstances under which this was being required of them.

The allegation here was that this American federal facility was sending immigrant women who were in the custody of the U.S. government to a doctor who was removing their reproductive organs with no medical reason, without their informed consent.

Nurse Dawn Wooten`s whistle-blower complaint was written in conjunction with an advocacy group called Project South. They spoke to a detainee in that facility who said she knew of at least five other women who were being held there who all said they had had hysterectomies performed by this same doctor. All five women were confused, they said, about why they needed to have their reproductive organs removed. She says, quote, when I met all of these women who had had these surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they`re experimenting with our bodies.

So, you may remember us covering this story and airing that interview September of last year. In the wake of that whistle-blower complaint, dozens more women came forward who all said they were mistreated by this one doctor, this one gynecologist when they were held at that facility by the U.S. government. Many women said they had their uteruses removed, their ovaries removed, their fallopian tubes. They were sterilized by this one doctor working for this federal facility, all without their informed consent.

It`s just bloodcurdling. This is dozens of women we`re talking about.

Well, the Department of Justice opened a criminal investigation into the allegations. The inspector general at Homeland Security launched a separate inquiry. But then something funny started happening. Some of these women, the same ones making these terrifying allegations about what happened to them while in U.S. federal custody, they started getting deported by the Trump administration.

And it wasn`t a one-off or an isolated thing. "The Associated Press" reported last November -- remember, we first covered this in September. By November, "The Associated Press" reported that at least six women who said they`d undergone forced gynecological procedures were very soon after deported. Six of them? Six of them who had spoken up?

When one of those women spoke to federal investigators about what had happened to her, she was told by ICE that she would be deported imminently. They told her that just hours after she told investigators what she had gone through. She came forward to tell them what was happening. Hours later, you got to go.

Remember there`s an active criminal investigation going on into what was happening to these women. These women were coming forward to say that they were victims of this thing that was being investigated as a criminal matter. And as they came forward, the Trump administration tried to ship them all out of the country before they had time to talk to investigators about what they knew.

Eventually, the Trump administration agreed to stop doing that, to put a pause on deporting the witnesses, deporting these women who said they were sterilized against their will. But since then, we have not heard that much else about this story, about the status of that ongoing criminal investigation, about what ever happened to that doctor.

We do know that same facility has had other serious problems too. Like most prisons and jails and detention facilities in this country, that ICE facility in Irwin County, Georgia, had a real problem with COVID among its detainees.

"The New York Times" reporting last year that early on in the pandemic, those detainees weren`t given masks to try to mask up. They made themselves masks out of scraps of clothes or from broken, disposable meal containers that they tried to fashion into masks to protect themselves.

We talked to one man who was detained in the facility around this time. His name is Nelson Beharana (ph). He`s originally -- excuse me, Barahona (ph). He`s originally from Honduras. He lived in Georgia for 20 years before he was pulled over and got a DUI.

That resulted in him being put into ICE custody. He was held by ICE for about a year till he was finally let out last November. He`s at high risk for COVID. He has several underlying health conditions.

It was not safe for him to be in a facility where detainees had to MacGyver PPE out of lunch trays. He went on a hunger strike to try to pressure ICE to release him because he thought this was going to kill him.

He sent us this video telling us what it was like inside that Irwin County, Georgia, facility last year.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I experienced one of the most frightening moments of my life. I found myself in a place where the conditions was dangerous, and it was impossible to protect yourself from COVID. We experienced poor sanitation in a place where social distancing was impossible. Masks, hand sanitizers, soap, and gloves are some of the things that we never -- they were never provided to us. We asked for these things, but they were denied.


MADDOW: Mr. Barahona, Nelson, is one of the signatories on this letter, which was sent to President Biden earlier this year. It`s signed by dozens of people who had previously been detained at that one ICE facility in Irwin County, Georgia, and also some other facilities like it across the country.

And what Nelson and the other people who signed this are asking for, after his time spent detained at Irwin, what they were asking President Biden to do was to shut down that facility in Irwin County, Georgia. Technically the signatories on this letter are asking for all ICE facilities across the country to be shut down, but they specifically talk about the facility that Mr. Nelson Barahona was at, the facility where detainees fashioned masks out of food containers while COVID was spreading rampantly, the facility where dozens of women were allegedly sterilized against their will and where the Trump administration started rapidly deporting them once they came forward as witnesses in an open criminal investigation into those forced sterilization claims.

Well, like nurse Dawn Wooten said, if there is not a change, there is not going to be a change. Again, we started covering that story in September. We have been watching it and all these different developments over the years -- excuse me, all of these months. Well, today, there was a change. A big one.

Today, under the Biden administration, the Department of Homeland Security announced they are closing the ICE facility in Irwin County, Georgia, along with a separate ICE facility in Massachusetts that faced its own allegations of abusive treatment toward immigrants.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas told ICE today to stop detaining immigrants in the Irwin County facility, quote, as soon as possible.

And there`s one other very important piece of news here. I mentioned we have not heard beep about that criminal investigation into what happened at Irwin. Dozens of allegations of forced gynecological procedures, forced sterilizations on women detained there without their consent. The Trump administration trying to deport those women in the middle of an active criminal investigation. As I mentioned, it has been radio silence on that investigation since the fall.

Well, NBC news did some digging on that part of it today, and here is what they found out. According to a source familiar with the federal investigation into that detention center in Irwin County, Georgia, that source tells NBC News today that not only is the facility the subject of a criminal investigation here. They report tonight that the doctor, that doctor, the doctor who allegedly performed these procedures, that doctor is under active investigation too. And "active" is the key word here.

The source telling NBC news today that both investigations, the one into the facility and into the doctor, have been, quote, reactivated and are now ongoing inside the Biden Justice Department. Reactivated was the word from the source, which would imply that at some point those investigations that did start during the Trump administration, they were deactivated at some point because otherwise, why did they have to be reactivated now? Reactivated and ongoing is the word tonight.

Like Dawn Wooten said, if there is not a change, there is not going to be a change. On this story, there is finally, after all these months, we can tell you there is finally a change. New administration makes a big difference. Elections have consequences.

Busy news night tonight. Lots to get to. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Transition from one president to a new very different president, I`m sure, is always a heavy lift. Think about what the transition has been like at the EPA, right? President Biden`s EPA chief is like the guy who ran the state version of the EPA in his state before this.

And before that he worked at the actual EPA in Washington. He`s a pro. He`s an environmental expert. He`s been doing this work his whole life.

Contrast him to the guy he took over from, from the Trump administration, who had that same job. The guy who was running the EPA in the Trump administration was literally a coal lobbyist. That`s got to be kind of an abrupt transition, right? That`s got to be a kind of a change in course there.

President Biden`s director of national intelligence, she`s a lifelong national security professional, former deputy director of the CIA, now running intelligence in the U.S. government. She took over from Trump`s guy, who was a former Texas congressman with no intelligence experience at all, who in fact lied and said he was a terrorist prosecutor when he had actually made up that part of his resume entirely.

Yeah. Wow, what a difference. Transitions between really different presidents are hard, and in some of these agencies, it must be like night and day.

But even with that stark contrast everywhere, imagine you`re at the Justice Department right now. I mean, from the last Justice Department to this one, just today we learned that before Trump left office, his attorney general, William Barr, secretly obtained phone records from longtime Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr at CNN. We`ve recently learned that under Barr, they did that to three "Washington Post" reporters who had been reporting on Trump in Russia as well.

The Justice Department now is no longer doing that, and they`re letting it be known that the last Justice Department did this, and it was all approved under Bill Barr and not under the current administration. But they have to let that information be known now and they have to clean up after it with news organizations who are obviously very angry that it happened.

We also learned this week that under Bill Barr, the Justice Department subpoenaed Twitter to try to obtain the identity of someone who had been sending insulting, funny tweets about a pro-Trump Republican congressman named Devin Nunes. Congressman Nunes has tried multiple times to use lawsuits to go after people who have publicly criticized him. It really bothers him.

But apparently before Trump left office, under Bill Barr, the U.S. Justice Department decided that they would enlist themselves to help him out, to demand that Twitter tell them who was being mean to Devin. The Justice Department -- I mean needless to say, that is not what the U.S. Department of Justice is built for.

And now that it`s the Biden administration, they`ve let it be known that they are dropping that and Twitter does not need to answer that subpoena.

The previous administration left behind also a dangling criminal investigation of former president Trump`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. A document unsealed in that case today reveals that the FBI seized 18 different electronic devices from Giuliani`s home and office when the FBI executed a search warrant against him last month.

The lawyer for the previous president facing potential criminal indictment, having all his electronic devices seized by search warrant, that is not a normal thing that most Justice Departments have to deal with. Just tonight, since we`ve been on the air n a new court filing, SDNY prosecutors say about the search warrants they executed in the Rudy case, quote, these searches were the result of an ongoing multi-year grand jury investigation into conduct involving Rudy Giuliani, Victoria Toensing, and others.

An ongoing multi-year grand jury investigation into the president`s former lawyer. This is not the kind of thing that, you know, new administrations usually have to clean up after, but cleaning up after this last batch of good fellas, it has been different. I imagine it is not just hard work. I imagine it has been weird work.

And I don`t envy anyone there their job right now. But one of the things we have been watching for and wondering about is whether the Biden Justice Department in this weird time when they are cleaning up all of the stuff left from the Trump era -- whether they would get involved to try to protect election infrastructure and even the ballots in various states and localities. And I don`t mean in future elections. I mean the existing election equipment, existing voting machines, and existing, already cast ballots from the last election in 2020 where Joe Biden beat Donald Trump, because one of the weird things about the last administration is even though Donald Trump is no longer president, Republican fans of him and he, himself, and Republican elected officials who still think of themselves as answering to him, they really are pursuing, not relitigating, but recounting or uncounting the presidential election results from 2020.

And the most dramatic of these, of course, has been in Arizona, where they`ve been trying to uncount the presidential election result there so they can declare that maybe Trump secretly won somehow. Well, we did see the U.S. Justice Department a couple of weeks ago write to the Republicans in the Arizona state Senate warning them about what they were doing, warning them about the way the audit was being conducted was in violation of federal law.

For 22 months after a federal election, ballots have to remain in the custody and control of elections officials. In Arizona, they have not done that. They instead gave roughly two-thirds of the actual ballots cast in the last election to a random contractor that calls itself Cyber Ninjas. Federal law says you can`t do that. You can`t do that with a normal contractor, let alone the ninjas, right?

Arizona was just warned about that by the U.S. Department of Justice in a sternly worded letter a couple of weeks ago. But they brushed it off. They apparently don`t care.

Is the Justice Department cool with just being brushed off like that? They alerted them to potential violations of federal law. If those violations have not been remedied, are they going to enforce federal law? Will the Justice Department do anything else besides their one sternly worded letter to the Arizona state senate, which has been blatantly ignored?

We don`t know. We haven`t seen them do anything else yet, at least nothing publicly visible.

But now here`s news. Today the secretary of state in Arizona, top elections official in the state, Katie Hobbs, today she conveyed some bad news to Maricopa County, the county that had all its ballots and voting machines taken by the Republicans in the Arizona Senate so they could then be given to these Trump conspiracy theory, QAnon-promoting, total rando Cyber Ninjas with no election experience.

This is what Katie Hobbs said to the county today. She said, quote: I am writing to express my concerns about Maricopa County`s elections equipment which was turned over to the Arizona Senate and then to their agent, Cyber Ninjas. I understand Cyber Ninjas has begun returning the election equipment to the county. I have grave concerns, she says, regarding the security and integrity of these machines given that the chain of custody, a critical security tenet, has been compromised, and election officials do not know what was done to the machines while under Cyber Ninja`s control.

Indeed, according to the Department of Homeland Security, such loss of custody constitutes a cyber incident to critical infrastructure, an event that could jeopardize confidentiality, integrity or availability of digital information or information systems. Therefore my office consulted with election technology and security experts, including at the Department of Homeland Security`s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, CISA, at Homeland Security, regarding the appropriate next steps.

Each unanimously advised us that once election officials lose custody and control over voting systems and components, those devices should not be used in future elections. Rather, decommissioning and replacing those devices is the safest option as no methods exist to adequately ensure those machines are safe to use in future elections. As such, my office is urging the county not to redeploy any of the machines that it turned over to the Arizona Senate in any future elections. Instead, the county should acquire new machines to ensure secure and accurate elections in Maricopa County going forward.

This is a multi-million dollar letter here, right? Arizona`s secretary of state telling Maricopa County, sorry, but you`ve got to throw all this stuff out now. Your election machinery, your voting machines, your tabulators, all this stuff, they all have to be replaced now. You can`t reuse them again because they`ve been tampered with.

Quote: We cannot be certain who accessed the voting equipment and what might have been done to them. Unfortunately after a loss of physical custody and control, no comprehensive methods exist to fully rehabilitate the compromised equipment or provide adequate assurance that the equipment remains safe to use.

So, sorry, but involving the Cyber Ninjas here and giving them control of the actual ballots, the actual machines, means that everything they touched can never be used in an election again. I mean, from a federal law perspective, the ballots should never have been touched by them, at least not for 22 months. From the perspective of the secretary of state, consulting with the Department of Homeland Security, none of the machines they touched can now ever be used again. She says later in the letter that if Maricopa County does intent to try to reuse those machines, she essentially says those machines will be decertified by her office so they can never be used in an Arizona election again.

Ah, well. So that`s how this is going. Well done, Arizona Republicans. Anything else you`d like to touch and thereby destroy?

The other interesting thing to me, and maybe I`m the only one who cares about this, is that she is talking about the federal Department of Homeland Security here helping out. The federal Department of Homeland Security, CISA, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at Homeland Security, provided advice to the state`s top election official as to how to mitigate the harm from this mess and how to protect the equipment that has been tampered with by this stunt the Republicans have been pulling.

We have been watching closely the Justice Department to see if they were going to step in at all. We still don`t know what`s going to happen there. But elsewhere in the federal government, Homeland Security appears at least to be on it, and that may be increasingly important in the days ahead now that what just happened in Arizona is about to start happening in other states and cities and counties across the country that have the misfortune of true believer conspiracy theorist Republicans being in control.

This Arizona mess is the most high-profile one thus far and it is a catastrophe, but they are going to try to take it nationwide, in which case maybe we do need some federal, federal help here to try to protect voting systems nationwide, to try to protect voting equipment nationwide, and to try to protect cast ballots nationwide from the way these Republican- controlled entities are now starting to mess with them.

We have more on that ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW: The board of supervisors in San Luis Obispo County, California, opened the phones to public comment at their meeting. What they got is hours of callers who wanted to talk about the 2020 election in their county, the one from November, and specifically about the county`s chief elections official, a man named Tommy Gong.


CALLER: From the evidence I`ve seen, I believe this machine was used to alter the vote counting in this county, and we need an independent forensic audit to verify its accuracy. Tommy Gong is using every excuse available to prevent an audit, giving his assurance that the count was 100 percent accurate. A similar machine was audited in Antrim County, Michigan, and found to have so many problems that the auditors declared that the election should never have been certified.

CALLER: Why isn`t he concerned? In Michigan, the judge ordered the forensic audit of the Dominion machines be made public. The audit proved Dominion machines are designed to be manipulated. Modem chips are embedded in the computer motherboard, which means there is hidden Wi-Fi access to change votes.

In Windham, New Hampshire, an audit showed their Dominion machines were all preset through the USB sticks.

CALLER: I have lost confidence in our election process, partly due to the voting machines. We want Tommy Gong to remove them and also have them audited. If not, we need to have Tommy Gong removed.

CALLER: Is Tommy Gong in any way in relationship to the Chinese communist party?


MADDOW: We want the voting machines audited. We want a forensic audit because of the modem chips and the mother boards, planted by China because our county clerk is a secret member of the Chinese communist party. We need him gone too.

For the record, the county clerk, San Luis Obispo County`s top election official is a third-generation American citizen who has worked in the county clerk`s office for more than 15 years. But here`s Trump supporters in San Luis Obispo County, California, saying they suspect he must be controlled by the Chinese communist party because, you know.

You notice these other callers talking about all these other places where the audits have uncovered all this fraud, Antrim County, Michigan, Windham, New Hampshire. It`s all bullpucky, right? It is a sign of how the fake audit clown show Republicans are running in Maricopa County, Arizona, is spreading across the county. Trump supporters across the country are trying to copy it, trying to cast doubt about voting machines or voting results in any place they can so as to create some sort of fog of uncertainty about the election everywhere.

Take Windham, New Hampshire, in a race for state rep there, there was a genuine discrepancy discovered between the machine count and a hand recount. It does occasionally happen. But when the town board gathered to plan for a real, genuine audit to make sure the final count was accurate, using real auditors who have experience, certified in these sorts of things, hundreds of Trump supporters descended on their meeting and saying stop the steal, and demanding instead that the town do not use, that the town should not use experienced auditors. They instead should have it audited by a failed inventor and self-proclaimed treasure hunter, who has been working on the Arizona Republicans` fake audit, getting him to use his ridiculous fraud detection technology that he says measures kinematic artifacts.

Those folks were egged on by Donald Trump himself, former president, congratulating the great patriots of Windham, New Hampshire, for their incredible fight to seek out the truth on the massive election fraud which took place in New Hampshire and the 2020 presidential election.

The chairman of Windham`s local board of selectmen told "The Washington Post" that it, quote, appears that some activists are more interested in discrediting the machines than in getting to the bottom of the counting irregularity. Their goal, he said he realized, is if there`s an error found in the machines, you could extrapolate that to all the machines in New Hampshire. Then it could go nationwide.

Exactly. Because the point of this is not to, you know, flip a state rep seat somewhere. The point of this is not to have Republicans run more effectively against Democrats or to improve election administration, right? It is to turn Republicans against small "D" democracy as a thing that is trusted, so Republicans don`t believe any election results that don`t produce their favorite outcome. And they try to convince the country that no election outcomes can be trusted really anywhere because all of the machines and all of the processes, they`re all, all smoky, so there must be fire.

Arizona is the test case they are really going for, but it is also Windham, New Hampshire. It is also Michigan. It is also Georgia, they`re trying for. It is also San Luis Obispo, California.

Joining us now is Amy Gardner. She`s a "Washington Post" political reporter. In her latest piece of hers is headlined: Inspired by Arizona recount, Trump loyalists push to revisit election results in communities around the country.

Ms. Gardner, it`s great to have you here. Thanks for making time tonight.


MADDOW: I was really struck by that comment from the local official in New Hampshire, who said that he came to realize over the course of this local controversy that it wasn`t actually about figuring out what might have gone wrong with a small problem in that locality. It was about trying to create a sense that there is something deeply wrong with elections full stop.

I have to ask if that was sort of the impression that you got from all of these efforts that are happening in so many different places now.

GARDNER: Well, I mean, I think that there are so many, you know, hundreds of residents in these communities around the country, as we reported, Michigan, New Hampshire, California, Arizona, who really do believe that there was something amiss in the election. But they`re being told this. They`re being told it by former President Trump, and they`re also being told it by actors in their local communities, Republican Party officials. You know, the head of Cyber Ninja was a big proponent of conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact that the election was stolen.

I think the Windham, New Hampshire, case is sort of a case study because the board of selectmen chose an auditor with a track record, with a history of doing this kind of work. But because that auditor had said critical things about Cyber Ninjas, the company that you have explained as doing the audit in Maricopa County, that caused all of the folks who want an audit to say, no, we ca have him, we can`t have them, we have to have our own chosen person.

So that`s the fact that caused that chairman of the board of selectmen in Windham to say, now I get it. I don`t think this is about getting to the bottom of what was a real mistake with the machinery that we`re trying to figure out and fix. This is about perpetuating a narrative about the 2020 election that they want to spread around the country.

MADDOW: And, Amy, did you get any sense that this is an organized multijurisdictional effort. It did strike me from listening to hours of tape from that San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo hearing that people were talking with a script and that script came from a lot of different people.

GARDNER: I got that same impression. There was an integrity project in California that was working in concert with local Republican officials, the local county Republican committee, to send out information and talking points about what they think went wrong with the election without evidence, it needs to be stated.

None of these concerns were raised during the canvas period in the days and weeks after the election. This all has been happening in recent weeks, and it does seem coordinated and it`s very similar language, not just from person to person on that recording that you listened to in San Luis Obispo, but also very similar language in Putnam County, Michigan, up on the upper peninsula, and Sheboygan County, Michigan, on Lake Huron, and Kent County, Michigan, and in Windham, New Hampshire.

So, we`re seeing a pattern around the country. Today, we learned it`s happening in Georgia, too. There are efforts to try to get folks at the local level to demand from their local county officials to do audits just like what`s happening in Arizona.

So the language is being copied and repeated around the country.

MADDOW: Wow. That`s excellent reporting. And we`ve been following a lot of these individual dots but we had not connected them in the same way you were able to for this piece of "The Post."

"Washington Post" political reporter Amy Gardner, thank you for helping us understand this really invaluable work. Thanks.

GARDNER: Thank you, Rachel.

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


MADDOW: One more thing you should note tonight on this disastrous so-called audit of the presidential result in Arizona, Republicans are fighting Republicans there over the Trump fantasy that somehow the election can be undone. Things there are already really at a boiling point.

Which, of course, means a great time for this to happen. Tomorrow, Republican Congressman and Congresswoman Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene are coming to Arizona to hold a Maricopa rally tomorrow to support the audit. They recently sent a letter to the Justice Department parroting Trump`s claim that there was a smoking gun actually found, that election officials had deleted a database. Even the auditor of the Cyber Ninja people had admitted that didn`t happen, oops.

But them turning up to rally in support of the audit tomorrow in Arizona. That ought to turn the temperature down and make things much more sane.

Worth watching for.

I`ll be right back.


MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight. I`m officially on the real estate of another TV program. I`ll see you again this time, well, 23 hours from now.


Good evening, Lawrence.