IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/27/21

Guests: Beto O`Rourke, Lina Hidalgo, Gary Peters, Rebecca Roiphe, Pramila Jayapal


Republican lawmakers in the Texas statehouse passed a bill that would ban elections officials from mailing absentee ballots to voters and even absentee ballots applications, unless voters specifically requested them. Interview with Michigan Democratic Senator Gary Peters, chair of the Senate Homeland Committee and the Governmental Affairs Committee. Interview with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, and a member of the Budget Committee.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": That is "ALL IN" on this Thursday night.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now with Ali Velshi, in for Rachel.

Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Good to see you. Have yourself a great night.

And thank you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel has a well-earned night off this evening.

And I kind of can`t believe I`m saying these words out loud. But in 1993, members of Congress had an ice cream party. It led to one of the greatest C-Span banners in all of C-Span history. Capitol Hill ice cream party.

It was supposed to be an opportunity for members of Congress to mingle with members of the ice cream industry to, I don`t know, promote ice cream or something. This is not a joke. This actually happened.

There was a sundae building contest. The guy on the left went on to be Trump`s director of national intelligence, then-Senator Dan Coats, building the best ice cream sundae against senators.

And this ice cream social for elected adults, it was one particular senator`s dream come true.



THEN-SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE): I need a double mint ice cream. Thanks.


VELSHI: All right. A little hard to hear but let`s freeze it here. This is perhaps the most Joe Biden thing I`ve ever seen. Delaware Senator Joe Biden at an event on the Hill, gently ribbing his Senate colleague before absolutely going to town on an ice cream cone.

Joe Biden has been a senator, a vice president and now a president himself. There is been a lot of change in his political career over the years, but the one constant is that Joe Biden really, really loves ice cream. He talks about it literally all the time.

He visited the headquarters of an ice cream company when he was vice president. He said, quote, I eat more ice cream than three other people you would like to be with all at once. I have no idea what that actually means, but I like to think of it as Joe Biden`s, I don`t know, his default mode.

No matter what`s going on. No matter if he`s a senator, or a sitting president, no matter what crisis is sitting on his plate. Just get that man a cone.


MONICA ALBA, REPORTER: What is your message to Republicans who are prepared to block the January 6 commission?

BIDEN: Eat some chocolate chip --

ALBA: Any compromise and common ground on that?

BIDEN: On a commission? I think it has been -- I can`t imagine anyone voting against the establishment of a commission on the greatest assault since the Civil War on the Capitol. But at anyway, I came for the ice cream.


VELSHI: I came for the ice cream. That was the president today, making a very on brand emergency ice cream pit stop after giving a speech on the economy in Ohio.

And I know the president really wanted to focus on that chocolate chip cone but the news out of D.C. today was so tense and so toxic that it trailed him all the way to that sweet little ice cream shop in Ohio this afternoon.

Seriously, back in Washington today, the Senate, any moment now is expected to take a vote on the January 6th commission. A bipartisan 9/11-style commission that would investigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol earlier this year to looking into how our democracy almost fell that day to make sure it can never happen again. That vote could come tonight. It`s not clear when it`s going to happen.

Senate Republicans have been signaling for weeks that they wouldn`t support this kind of investigation. The Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to shut down the prospect of a commission entirely when he, too, came out against the bill last week.

But the foregone conclusion of this vote got turned upside down today because of this woman, her name is Gladys Sicknick. She`s the mother of the fallen Capitol Hill Police Officer Brian Sicknick who died the day after he was assaulted by rioters while defending the Capitol.

Earlier this week, Gladys Sicknick asked to meet with every single Republican senator on the Hill to urge them to vote yes on setting up a commission to look into what happened that day. She said failing to do so would be a, quote, slap in the faces of all the officers who did their jobs that day.

And today, on the day they were supposed to vote on this thing, she went door to door with Officer Sicknick`s long time partner and two other law enforcement officers who were there that day basically begging Republicans to vote to set up this commission.


REPORTER: Mrs. Sicknick, very quickly, in your statement, you said it would be a slap in the face if there is not a commission. Do you think you can change minds today?

GLADYS SICKNICK, MOTHER OF OFFICER BRIAN SICKNICK: I hope so. I hope so. Brian had a work ethic like second to none. He was just there for our country and for these guys. And he was just doing his job and he got caught up in it and it is very sad.

REPORTER: Does it anger you, Mrs. Sicknick, the senators who do not support this commission and what you feel when you`re confronted with that?

SICKNICK: This is why I`m here today. Usually I stay in the background and I just couldn`t -- I couldn`t stay quiet anymore.


VELSHI: Just 15 Republican senators agreed to meet with Mrs. Sicknick today. A handful of others invited her to meet with their staff. The rest, they said no. They wouldn`t meet with Officer Sicknick`s mother to discuss the creation of a commission to study the attack on January 6th.

Now, the vote on whether to investigate the insurrection attempt is expected to fail, when it finally does come to a vote with only these three Republican senators openly supporting it right now. Seven more Republicans would have to sign on to get the 60 votes it needs to pass. This is just to investigate what happened on January 6th.

For his part, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly been whipping votes against the commission. CNN reporting that McConnell that McConnell has been asking senators to vote no on the commission as a, quote, personal favor. McConnell has reportedly told his caucus that an investigation into the insurrection attempt would be bad politics for Republicans heading into the 2022 midterms which very well might be true, as long as the Republican Party continues on cling to the big lie that the election was somehow stolen from Donald Trump in 2020.

Rachel, as you know, has been doing extensive reporting about the so-called election audit in Arizona`s largest county where Republicans have ordered a recount of more than 2 million presidential ballots under the false pretenses that there was something fraudulent about the results.

That kind of bogus third party audits has now spread like wildfire across Republican-controlled states. Legislatures in Michigan and Georgia all ordering their so-called audits as an attempt to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

We just got news today about a new one of these in Wisconsin. The Republican speaker of the House in Wisconsin has just hired a group of former police officers to investigate the November election in Wisconsin last year, a state that Joe Biden won. He says the investigators will have three months and a wide authority to review any and all tips that they get about potential fraud in the election.

He said, quote, is there a whole lot of smoke or is there actual fire? We just don`t know yet, end quote.

Of course, we know. There is no smoke and there is certainly no fire. But Republicans are rubbing two sticks together everywhere they can to create that smoke and create more doubt and more distrust in Joe Biden`s legitimate victory over Donald Trump.

It is a subtle way of chipping away at the bedrock of our democracy, one that doesn`t involve using American flags as battering rams to break into the United States Capitol. Same goes for the attack on voting rights in this country. Since Joe Biden was elected, Republican controlled states have pushed a number of bills that make it harder for people to vote, particularly people of color.

The latest state to try one of these types of anti-voting bills is Texas. Earlier this month, Republican lawmakers in the Texas statehouse passed a bill that would ban elections officials from mailing absentee ballots to voters and even absentee ballots applications, unless voters specifically requested them. It would ban drive-through voting. The bill sets new penalties for people who tried to help other people vote.

It would give more leeway to partisan poll watchers who could intimidate or harassed people on their way to the polls. We`re now waiting on the final version of that bill to be released to the public, deliberations have been going on behind closed doors, we have no idea, no idea what the final bill says. Once the bill is released, it will be voted on one more time in the Texas Senate. That vote is expected imminently, as early as tomorrow or Saturday. After that it goes to the fast-track to the governor`s desk who is expected to sign that without delay.

It`s one example of the kind of bill that is going around America, the kinds of bills that are going around in America in Republican control states and legislators.

Joining us now, Beto O`Rourke, former Democratic congressman from Texas and the founder of Powered By People, a grassroots organization working to mobilize voters in Texas.

Also joining us from Houston, Judge Lina Hidalgo. She`s essentially the chief executive of Harris County, the most populous county in Texas.

Good evening to both of you, thank you for joining us.

Congressman O`Rourke let me start with you.

You have been fighting this for a long time, before some Americans actually knew this was a thing, this idea of creating an environment and support for people to vote who either hadn`t traditionally voted or have faced things that had made it harder for them to vote. People ask me, how is this racist? How is this bad? If the same rules apply to everyone, why are these changes that are being proposed in Texas is bad for voting?

BETO O`ROURKE (D-TX), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Ali, that`s part of what is so pernicious about this. This is all taking place under the guise of, quote/unquote, standardizing are elections. Who can be against that? But we might have as the same questions of ourselves 100 years ago about the poll tasks, won`t that apply to everyone equally, black white or literacy test, or how many gumballs are in the jar?

What we know is these are all efforts at suppressing the votes not of all Texans in our cases here in the state but of certain Texans. And historically that has been black Texans, or recently Latinos and other communities of color. We see it in big cities like the metropolitan county of Harris County where Judge Hidalgo has done an extraordinary judge of investing in access to the polls for Republicans, Democrats, independents and otherwise. That`s what`s it is a part of.

And it`s also a piece, Ali, of the big lie and what happened on the 6th of January. This effort to change the rules of our elections, to be able to consolidate the hold on power the Republicans has in states like Georgia, and Florida and Texas. The answer to this is, of course, has to be federal legislation, and the For the People Act which has passed the House of Representatives and now is pending in the Senate, all it lacks for is the full commitment and leadership from the Senate, the White House, and the American people that those in position of public trust listen to. This is our moment of truth.

VELSHI: And I want to talk about the For the People Act in the moment, but, Judge Hidalgo, good to see again.

"The Texas Tribune" talked about the number of polling places that are being cut. It reads: The voters in some areas, Democratic areas of Harris and Tarrant Counties would see a drastic drop in polling places under the Senate version of Senate Bill 7, a "Texas Tribune" analysis shows.

Let`s just explain what this means. What has changed? There used to be this idea that people should vote near their homes. When I vote, I vote a few blocks from my house, and there are also have issues because sometimes the lineups or long and stuff like that. But people vote close to their homes.

That`s not the case. It`s 2021, we got a rover on Mars and yet we are reducing the number of places people can vote at.

JUDGE LINA HIDALGO, HARRIS COUNTY, TX EXECUTIVE: Right, and the motive behind these bills becomes clear through these kinds of provisions that have been shown, as that "Tribune" article shows, to be reducing polling locations in minority neighborhoods. What it does is it micromanage the ways counties like ours can distribute polling locations and voting machines, and the end result of it is fewer locations in minority neighborhoods and long lines. We had innovated to all two eliminated lines.

Look, there are many provisions, we don`t know what is going to come out of this because it is happening behind closed doors. But irrespective of what passes, the simple idea that they are making policy based on a lie that there was election fraud on a massive scale, that in and of itself lends freedom to that lie to the point where it weakens our own voters` faith in our democracy and it weakens our democracy standing abroad.

So, when folks ask what`s worse, what`s best, really the concept itself is so dangerous and will have enormous effects in the fact that it`s not happening only here in Texas, but in so many places around the country, it needs to be a wake up call. And you can be sure us in Harris County are not going to give up even if this passes, it`s not going to be the end of the fight.

VELSHI: Congressman O`Rourke, let`s talk about the For the People Act. To some people have never had any trouble voting, it this may be an obstruction. But there are a number of things that I`m going to put on the screen that the act will address, three of them are directly about the things that you`re seeing in Texas.

Strengthening mail voting systems, preventing unreasonable wait times at the polls, protecting against deceptive practices. These are things that are meant to spread the ideas that everyone who is qualified to vote in this country should vote. We should think that`s a good thing.

And SB-1, the For the People Act would be the kind of thing that would mean that those federal rules and standards can be applied across the country.

O`ROURKE: That`s right. And if you see as we connect the dots in these 47 states, we have more than 361 voter suppression bills either passed or pending, the greatest attack on multiracial democracy sends the Voting Rights Act of 1965 -- in other words, trying to take us back to Jim Crow. And we need a commensurate response like that Voting Rights Act, and that`s the For the People. It has passed the House of Representatives. It`s pending in the Senate, has all the benefits that you`ve enumerated.

And, Ali, there is this, if like me, you are sick and tired of members of Congress choosing their votes instead of the other way around and if gerrymandering that takes place in Texas and most take states in our Union, this bill would set up independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission so that there is a fair and level playing field, fair maps to which we can choose those who will represent us.

That`s good for Republicans. That`s good for Democrats. That`s just good for Americans. It`s good for democracy.

And that`s why we have to get this past. If we fail to do this and we only really have this summer to do this work and get it passed, we don`t only lose this window this year, or this cycle, we might very well, given the threats that are already against us, that we saw on display on January 6th, we might lose this democracy forever. It`s that important.

And so, let`s all commit ourselves to doing all that we can to get this passed in urging President Biden to make this is number one priority.

VELSHI: Judge Hidalgo, Texas NAACP took out an ad on "The Austin American Statesmen" on the 21st in which it says The bills use of precinct poll watchers to harass and record voters with impunity, even being authorized to record a person`s vote or get in their personal space is designed for nothing other than intimidation of voters of color. We have seen these intimidation tactics used throughout history to keep people of color from polls and we will not fail them now.

This is one of the things we`re seeing in Texas and in other places -- tacit or explicit intimidation of voters how. Ho you overcome this if not just in fighting these pieces of legislation? How do we get voters to understand that this is your right guaranteed under the Constitution, you cannot be bullied out of your right to vote?

HIDALGO: Let me explain, the NAACP is not an exaggeration. One of the proposals under the Senate bill was to have poll watchers be able to record voters as they`re casting their votes and making it a misdemeanor for poll workers to stand in the line of sight. And so, so much of this goes beyond the pale, there are obstacles to mail ballot voting for voters with disabilities.

Right now, the fight is still on. We need that recognition that this is about democracy, the democracy we`re proud of and that makes our country what it is. When something passes, it is in the court, we`ve given authority to our county attorneys here in Harris County to file any and all litigation he needs to file to fight voter suppression bills.

And after that, and even now, it really does lend at the footsteps of the federal government. As a Texan, I feel a responsibility to continue the legacy of Lyndon B. Johnson who passed the Voting Rights Acts. But as Americans, all of us need to feel the responsibility to protect a democracy that people died for, not just during the time of MLK, but in fighting our wars abroad, that so many people have come to this country in search for.

It is not worth any political points that these Republicans are scoring, our democracy is not worth that. This is not just a partisan, political fight this needs to be able to stay above partisanship because it is about our ability to have a democracy and we can`t weaken it by making policy based on a lie.

So, right now is the time to keep fighting. It`s not the time to regret tragedies, and we got to keep pushing.

VELSHI: Our democracy is not worth that.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Beto O`Rourke, former Democratic congressman from Texas -- thanks to both of you for joining us tonight.

All right. Much more to get to tonight, we`ve got some breaking news on a criminal investigation into foreign interference to help Donald Trump`s 2020 campaign. But up next, more on the Republican`s refusal to investigate the January 6th attack on Congress.

Stay with us.



USCP OFFICER MICHAEL FANONE, RESPONDED TO JAN. 6 ATTACK: As a police officer, I`m here to support the Sicknick family and Officer Don as well and the U.S. Capitol Police. As someone who responded to January 6th, I am here to educate senators about my experiences that day. And as an American, I`m here to advocate for the commission because I want to see Congress come together in a bipartisan fashion and really get to the bottom of January 6th. I think it`s necessary for us to heal as a nation from the trauma we all experienced that day. That`s why I think it`s so important.

SANDRA GARZA, PARTNER OF OFFICER BRIAN SICKNICK: It`s been excruciating. It was very hard to deal with the ambiguity of not knowing what happened to Brian.

Facts are facts. If they look at the footage that happened, it is very obvious that that was not a peaceful day. Police officers were getting attacked, they were getting beaten, fire extinguishers were thrown at them. They were being attacked by flagpoles. It wasn`t a tourist day. It wasn`t tourist who`s passively walking by.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If January 6th didn`t happen, Brian would still be here. Plain and simple.


VELSHI: That was two of the Capitol Police officers who responded to the January 6th attack on the Capitol, speaking today, along with the life partner Officer Brian Sicknick who died the day after. He also engaged with the mob that attacked the Capitol.

That first officer you saw, Officer Michael Fanone, suffered a heart attack that day after he was pushed into the crowd, beaten and tased with a stun gun. That group was on Capitol Hill today to meet with senators they protected that day, urging them to approve a bipartisan commission to investigate the events of January 6.

The Senate will likely vote on whether to approve the commission tonight, Republicans are expected to block that.

Joining me now is Michigan Democratic Senator Gary Peters, chair of the Senate Homeland Committee and the Governmental Affairs Committee.

Senator Peters, good to see you.

You are there at Congress. What is your latest expectation or understanding about when this vote will take place in how it will go?

SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI): I think it is going to be later tonight. We don`t have a timeline. We`re also dealing with another major piece of legislation of the innovation and competitive bill. And we`re going to be working on both probably late into the night or perhaps early morning of Friday.

VELSHI: We believe that 28 Republican senators are going to oppose the commission, we believe that the Republicans are agreeing to support it. Nine have not said what they are going to do, including three who voted to impeach Donald Trump.

So, what`s your sense of hope of getting another seven senators to agree with this investigation?

PETERS: Certainly, my hope is there, it is absolutely concessional in my mind that we do have this commission and we have to get all of the facts. You know, here we have the singular event, an attack on the Capitol. It was an attack on our democracy. It`s important for us to know exactly what happened, why and how it happened.

We want to make sure that this never happens again. But, clearly, there are many questions that people have, still unanswered. The American people deserve to have those answers.

VELSHI: You know, hearing from those officers and the family of Brian Sicknick, some of your Republican colleagues absolutely refused to meet with her, some said you can meet with my staff and a few of them did agree to meet with her.

Do you think that has an impact? Because watching it -- watching them talk not in a private setting but even to the public, you can`t help but think to yourself, do we not owe it to these people who put their lives on the line, the families of those people to at least give them investigation? We`re not predetermining what the outcome of that investigation is.

PETERS: Well, I think you`re absolutely right. I don`t know how you say no to folks, how you say no to the Capitol police officers, the rank-and-file officers who put their lives on the line, we`re dealing with incredibly violent acts by this crowd that was acting here. They certainly deserve to have answers as to what were the leadership failures, clearly leadership of the Capitol police failed, rank and file members who were heroic in defending the Capitol, the men and women who worked here, but quite frankly defending our democracy, which was a constitutional procedure that was occurring on that day.

And the American people deserve that, as the whole country was spellbound watching the events of what was happening at the Capitol, we need to have those answers. It is just about facts.

To me this is just about getting facts, doing it in a non partisan way, similar to what we did in the 9/11 Commission, which we needed to get the facts of that horrific event that everybody was glued to the TV watching that attack on the Twin Towers. Same kind of singular vent here. We just need to get the facts.

But, unfortunately, what we`re seeing from a majority of Republican senators is that they simply do not want to know the facts. And I think the reason they did not want to know the facts is cause they know the facts are not with them, and they are afraid of what those facts are going to say. It`s really a sad testament to where we are as a country right now, where we can`t come together and determine what facts were involved in a horrific attack on our democracy.

VELSHI: But there`s a way out of that for Republicans to be able to say that happened and that is not going to be our future. Strangely we`ve heard reports that Mitch McConnell has phoning people and saying, do this as a personal favorite to me, because if this thing comes out at the end of the year, we get into 2022 which is election here, and, apparently, Republicans think that this will be bad for their election prospects.

But there is a way that it doesn`t have to be.

PETERS: Well, it`s -- I think, you know, it`s about getting the facts out and finding out what happened. This should not be about politics. This is bigger than politics.

When you have a mob that descends on the United States Capitol in an attempt to basically engage in an insurrection against the government -- this is one we all have to rise above our petty politics. This is not about political power for one party or another. This is literally about our democratic republic.

And if Republicans are on willing to do that, I would certainly hope that there would be some repercussions that the American people will say, we expect more of our elected officials particularly when it comes to a fundamental question about protecting our constitution, something that each and every one of us took an oath to defend the Constitution. This is a time to say when the Constitution was attacked, we want to know why, we want to get to the facts and we want to do everything we can to make sure that it never ever happens again.

VELSHI: Senator, good to see you. We`ll watch this very, very closely tonight, in anticipation of a vote. Michigan Democratic Senator Gary Peters, who`s also the chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which means whether this goes through or not, this is a man who is going to be dealing with this matter for sometime. Thank you sir.

Up next here tonight, breaking news about a new investigation into foreign interference into the 2020 election to help Donald Trump. That much and more. Stay with us.


VELSHI: Tonight, we got breaking news about efforts to interfere in the 2020 presidential election. "The New York Times" reports that federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, New York, are investigating whether several current and former Ukrainian officials, quote, helped orchestrate a wide ranging plan to meddle in the 2020 presidential campaign, including using the former president`s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to spread their misleading claims about President Biden and tilt the election and Donald Trump`s favor, end quote.

"The Times" report that the investigation in the Eastern District of New York, which began in the final months of the Trump presidency, is separate from the Southern District of New York`s investigation into Giuliani.

As "The Times" notes, quote, while the two investigations have a similar character, and overlapping in some ways, Mr. Giuliani is not a subject of the Brooklyn investigation, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach, who met repeatedly with Giuliani and who the U.S. government described as an agent of the Russian intelligence services, is the focus of the Brooklyn investigation, according to "The Times". We`re going to continue to follow this story as it develops.

But this news comes as new reporting from "Mother Jones Magazine" shows that Donald Trump`s longtime money man and CFO, Allen Weisselberg, already in the crosshairs of the Manhattan district attorney`s criminal investigation, also appears to be tied to a separate civil investigation in D.C. The magazine reports the previously unnoticed emails attached to a court filing last year show that Weisselberg is also involved in the Trump inauguration case that`s currently being investigated by the Washington, D.C. attorney general.

The crux of that investigation is whether Trump`s presidential inaugural committee and the Trump Organization coordinated to use inauguration funds to enrich the Trump family by grossly overpaying for advent space at its D.C. hotel. Emails show Weisselberg was called in to oversee the inaugural committee`s internal audit after media story started questioning the huge sums of money raised and where the money could`ve been spent.

As to why Weisselberg would be involved in the inaugural internal audit, given that he was the CFO of the company allegedly benefiting from the grift, inaugural committee chairman, Rick Gates, you remember him, replied that Weisselberg was, quote, great with numbers.

Of course, Weisselberg`s fluency with Trump`s finances as one of the reasons why there is a cloud of nerves hovering over Trump world, since news broke Tuesday that the special grand juries being convened in the Manhattan D.A.`s criminal investigation. Said one Trump advisor, the fact that they`re dealing with a number of guys who has plain details makes people more nervous.

Now, as far as we know, Weisselberg`s involvement in the inaugural investigation is not a line of inquiry that`s currently being pursued by investigators in the Manhattan district attorney`s office. But he certainly appears to be feeling the squeeze as the main focus of prosecutor`s inquiries.

Today, Weisselberg`s ex-daughter in law who had supplied the D.A.`s office with boxes of documents told another network that Weisselberg has served her and eviction notice after she`s continued to speak out about what she knows.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has there been any backlash or retribution?

JENNIFER WEISSSELBERG, ALLEN WEISSELBERG`S FORMER DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: Yes. Yes. Allen Weisselberg is on my lease. Yesterday, I was served to leave my apartment, within the next seven days. So, that`s a threat. It`s a threat. It`s definitely tax fraud. There`s definitely tax evasion.

And, you know, I think that -- there`s just a lot of -- for the first time, I seemed really nervous.


VELSHI: That news today comes as former prosecutors and legal experts tell "Politico" that Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance could be considering a criminal charge that says that the Trump Organization is a corrupt enterprise under a New York law resembling the federal racketeering statute known as RICO. That New York law called the enterprise statute, and sometimes called Little RICO, can be invoked with proof as few as three crimes involving a business or other enterprise and can carry a prison term of up to 25 years, along with a mandatory minimum of 1 to 3 years.

ABC News and CNN have already reported that several witnesses have already been contacted about potentially appearing in front of the new special grand jury with at least one told to be prepared to testify. One of the people quoted in "The Washington Post" Tuesday night scoop about the existence of that special grand jury was Rebecca Roiphe, former district attorney in Manhattan who said prosecutors in her former office were unlikely to take this key step, without evidence and probable cause to believe that someone committed a crime.

Joining me now is Rebecca Roiphe. She is a professor at New York Law School who`s previously served as an assistant district attorney in the Manhattan office.

Ms. Roiphe, thank you for being with us. We have a lot to sort of pick apart.

First of all, telling me with the idea of the special grand jury, people being invited to talk to them, and one reportedly being asked to be prepared to testify. That means testify beyond and outside the grand jury`s deliberations?

REBECCA ROIPHE, FORMER ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, MANHATTAN: Right, exactly. This just shows that investigation has proceeded beyond the early phase when they were just gathering information and sending out subpoenas, there was obviously a grand jury then. But now, this grand jury is convened to hear actual evidence from witnesses.

And, you know, in New York, the grand jury isn`t using quite the same way as in federal practice, so at this stage it really indicates that they`ve moved on and are hopefully thinking about charging somebody at the end of it, which means that they know that they have an in criminal case.

VELSHI: What do you -- what do you make of where that criminal case could be going? We`re seeing evidence about Weisselberg. We`re seeing -- we assumed that Weisselberg has been invited to participate in this process, whatever that means.

Who is the target? And how were they -- how do you think, or how does your experience suggest to you that they`re working towards their final goal here?

ROIPHE: Right. I mean, you know, it`s a dangerous business to try to read tea leaves into this kind of thing because grand jury practice is so complicated and it`s also all secret. So, I don`t really know.

But you`re right, that the public reporting makes it look as if Weisselberg is at the center of all of this and it also makes it seem as if statements that Michael Cohen has said, his former lawyer and fixer, have make -- made it seemed as if this is the key person who knows everything, he knows where all the bodies are buried. So, one possible strategy they could have is to charge him and charged him with a lot, putting a lot of pressure on him to then cooperates and give up, you know, somebody else, and really, there`s nobody else that he could be giving up other than Donald Trump. So, that is one possibility. But again, it`s really unclear and it`s hard to know.

VELSHI: What do we -- you know, there was a time when we all knew about RICO stuff. We would talk about gangsters and mafia and political corruption. What do we need to know about this New York law and this so- called Little Rico?

ROIPHE: Yeah. I mean, you know, so one thing just a backup a second, one thing I think that I think people are speculating that there might be bringing this kind of case, because New York -- New York`s criminal laws having to do with white collar crimes are a little bit different from the federal ones and are imperfect in some ways. So, the ones that are easier to prove in cases like this carry lower sentences.

So, I can see why people are thinking, well, they must be putting together some kind of case that would carry a higher sentence and that RICO charge would carry something like 25 years rather than four years which is, you know, the falsification of business records or scheme to defraud, those are easier to prove.

So, you know, the RICO statute is not dissimilar from a federal RICO, but it wasn`t designed for the situation and you can kind of imagine what draw backs would be in drawing something like that, because, you know, if you bite off more than you can chew as a prosecutor you lose credibility.

And so, there`s a problem that maybe they`re going to charge something like this and the jury might look at them and think, you know, are you serious? You`re saying all of Trump Organization is criminal. He`s our former president, is that possible?

And you don`t want to play in the hand of this -- you know, his rhetoric which is that this is politically motivated. So, I don`t know how I would split that baby, because, you know, it`s true also that you want to build as good a case as you can.

VELSHI: And that is what we continue to hear from people like you who`d had experience with this stuff, that the prosecutors dealing with this are not going to be motivated by politics, if they do not have the ability to bring this case and likely succeed in that case, we`re not going to see a case. So, we`ll watch this closely with you, Rebecca. Thanks you for being with us.

Rebecca Roiphe is a professor at New York Law School and former Manhattan assistant district attorney. Thanks so much for a time this evening.

Well, still ahead, Democrats and Congress try to decide just how much longer they`re going to allow Republicans to stand in the way of some very popular proposals before they and the president decide to go at it alone.



BIDEN: My Republican friends in Congress, not a single one of them voted for the rescue plan. I`m not going to embarrass anyone, but I have here a list of how back in their districts, they`re bragging about the rescue plan.


VELSHI: President Biden in Cleveland, Ohio, today, highlighting the last big piece of legislation he passed, the COVID relief bill which she passed without a single Republican vote, which was so overwhelmingly popular now Republicans can`t help but pretend they actually had something to do with it.

At the same time, President Biden is planning to continue negotiating with Republicans on the next piece of his legislative agenda, his multitrillion dollar infrastructure plan, blowing through his own self-imposed deadline of wrapping up negotiations by Memorial Day.

And here`s something puzzling to me about that. Senate Republicans unveiled a counter-proposal. The sticker prices $900 billion, less than half of what Biden`s original proposal called for. It takes out a bunch of the most popular parts of the bill.

And that sticker price is sort of an illusion. More than $600 billion of those dollars are already in the federal budget and scheduled to be spent on infrastructure projects, bill or no bill. So, Republicans are only proposing $257 billion here which is not at all close to the $2 trillion Biden originally proposed.

They`re also completely swapped how the plan would be paid for. A poll last month out of Monmouth University found 64 percent of Americans supported Biden`s plan to pay for the bill by raising taxes on corporations, and 65 percent supported his plan to pay for it by raising taxes on individuals making more than $400,000 a year.

Instead of doing that, Republicans want to redirect funding from the COVID relief package. The same package many of them are currently bragging to their constituents about, despite having all voted against it.

To top it off, by lowering the spending this much, they gutted a lot of the most popular parts of the plan, like dropping any mention of the care economy which would fund things like group homes and health aids for the elderly and disabled, and which 74 percent of likely voters support, or dropping most of the proposals around clean energy, which 64 percent of likely voters support.

Republicans are hardly negotiating here, and we know from their track record, they will vote against the bill in the end and take credit for it anyway. So, why is Biden still at the negotiating table?

Joining us now is Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, a member of the Budget Committee as well.

Representative Jayapal, good to see you. Thank you so much for taking time to be with us tonight.

I put that whole question to you. They`re not really negotiating. It doesn`t look like Republicans are looking for a bipartisan bill with the Relief Act, the rescue plan, the same thing happened. There were negotiations that occurred and still no Republicans voted for it.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Yeah, that`s right, Ali. And, you know, this was an embarrassing counter-offer from the Republicans when they proposed it today, it`s alll smoke and mirrors.

Could you imagine if you are bidding on a house and you put in an offer that was 17 percent of what the asking price was? You would be laughed out of the street.

So, I think this is a situation where the president has wanted to show, and to be, frank needed to show for some of the more conservative Democrats in the Senate, that he is making an effort with Republicans. But the reality is, they`re going to drag this out for a long time. They haven`t budged. They`re not proposing anything so far that is even remotely close to what the president has said he wants to do.

And so, I think the time has run out. We need to move forward quickly. All of the polling that you showed was very similar to what we saw for the rescue plan, which got more and more popular as time went on. And it`s extremely popular as people get shots in their arms, money in their pockets, their kids are going back to school. There`s, you know, some light coming in to their homes.

Well, here is another place where the American Jobs and Families Plan extremely, extremely popular, and we are also pushing to make sure that we have really important and populist things in there like expanding Medicare eligibility, extremely popular across Republicans, Democrats, and independents. But none of that moves forward if we don`t quickly say to the Republicans we are done negotiating, you haven`t produced anything in good faith. We need to deliver for the American people. They expect us to and it`s urgent.

VELSHI: So, here`s the question -- as they inch toward each other, at this pace it will take many, many months to get anywhere close to a deal. If as you say the president decides this isn`t worth it, we`re taking up too much valuable stuff from this bill, does he settle at the last White House proposal, or do we go back to what the original proposal was in the case of the jobs plan, the infrastructure bill? How do they approach it at that point?

JAYAPAL: No, this was a mistake actually that was made during the Obama administration where they negotiated with Republicans that came down significantly, and then at the end of the day, no Republicans went along and voted for that either. And, you know, and then I think we saw that that package was far too small to do what we need it to do to jump-start the economy.

I do think that the president has learned from that lesson, and certainly, the people around him have learned from that lesson. He has said, multiple times, the problem will not be that we go to big. The problem will be as we go too small.

And so, I think we go back to the original proposal, and, of course, we progressives are calling for an even bigger proposal than what the president proposed, and we combine the Jobs and Families Plan, we do it as a once in a generation investment that gets care to people, that gets infrastructure in all of its forms to people, that fixes our schools, our water systems, so much more, and we give hope back to the American people as we create jobs and we allow families to thrive and survive.

VELSHI: Congresswoman, thanks for joining us tonight. We always appreciate you. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington is the chair of the House Progressive Caucus. Always appreciate your time. Thank you.

One more story to get to tonight. Some very welcome good news. We`ll be right back with it.


VELSHI: As we head into Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, the clock is ticking on President Biden`s goal to get at least one shot of COVID vaccine into the arms of 70 percent of adults by the 4th of July. Ten states have reached that goal so far. Ten more are close behind, when more than 65 percent of that demographic having one shot of the vaccine.

In an effort to raise their numbers, various cities and states are coming up with all sorts of incentives, a free beer in New Jersey, and $100 savings bond if you`re between the ages of 16 and 35 in West Virginia. A pound of free crawfish if you`re in New Orleans, or in Ohio, a chance at winning 1 million dollars or a four-year full rights scholarship to any state college or university.

In Ohio`s case, it looks like it`s working by the way. The Department of Health reports that vaccination rates among residents 16 and older jumped by 33 percent in the week after the governor announced this lottery. There`s no way to know from this data all of these people were persuaded by the cash but the state says this incentive is, quote, changed the trend line in Ohioans starting the vaccination process. And rather than a decline, the trend is moving upward, end quote.

And, honestly, if the promise of a life-changing amount of money gets more people to get vaccinated, we are all winners.

That does it for us tonight. Now, time for "THE LAST WORD WTH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Lawrence, we are on the cusp of something potentially bury important tonight at the United States Senate.