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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 6/21/21

Guests: Ezra Levin, Jeff Merkley


Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will put the For the People Act, the big voting rights act, on the Senate floor, and there will be a vote on whether or not it gets debated. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, the lead sponsor of For the People Act, is interviewed. "Arizona Republic" reporter Jen Fifield got word that the Cyber Ninjas expect their election "audit" to be done this week.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBCH HOST: Chris Hayes, how was your Father`s Day?

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": It was utterly delightful. It was almost destroyed by a travel delay and I came very close to a like just full breakdown in the airport. I felt it slipping away from me because I was already rolling the dice, but then that got fixed and I did get to have a lovely Father`s Day dinner. It was awesome.

MADDOW: Fantastic. I`m glad your meltdown moved the world so that everything could be in place. Well done, my friend.

All right. Thanks. Good to have you back.

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

All right. So, it`s ten years ago -- it`s 2011 in the nation of Iceland and a businessman from Iceland decided to launch a brand-new venture in his home country. And he was a businessman in a very interesting position. He`s relatively young. He had retired from his previous job at the ripe old age of 43 after he got very, very, very rich from selling his previous company.

But still if had his early 40s, he decided he hated being retired, decided he wanted to get back into the business world. And for a real challenge, he decided that what he wanted to do was use his own money, all the money he made on his previous venture, to launch a brand-new business of a totally different kind. He wanted to launch a brand-new business in a business sector that he had zero experience in.

But credit where credit is due, this young Icelandic businessman may not have known very much about his new area of business. But he definitely knew something about getting people`s attention.


MADDOW: WOW Air. And credit where credit is due, it is actually kind of hard not to say, wow, when you get to the end of that add. WOW Airlines, a brand-new Icelandic budget airline. While, yes, that was the theme from "Top Gun" played by a man in a butt-hugging purple sparkle suit with a cartoon Tasmanian devil on his head, if that does not want to make you hop on a plane painted in a weird color to frolic in Iceland, I don`t know what would. How do you get better than that?

Except, well, maybe you get better than that when the airline`s operations are officially inaugurated and officially blessed by an Icelandic body builder and priest. Now, I`m not telling you that is the body builder on the right and the priest on the left. That is the body builder and the priest on the right of the photo. She is one and the same. She is both. And this is how she gave WOW Airlines her blessings, something involving scissors and diamond jewelry. I don`t know.

This is just not an everyday thing at any one of 100 different levels. But this is kind of how it went. The businessman who founded WOW Airlines told "Iceland Review" how he chose the name for the airline. He said, quote, WOW is, of course, just WOW. And we have said that we simply find Iceland to be WOW! Also, if you turn the name upside upside-down, it reads, mom, and everyone wants to be cuddled by the moms.

So, perhaps you are getting the vibe of WOW Air. Top gun, purple sparkly suit, hair band guy, priest body builder and who doesn`t want to be cuddled by the mom. Wow!

Okay. WOW Airlines founded in 2011. Eight years later, WOW Airlines went belly-up all of a sudden. It was a Thursday in March of 2019, and the airline very suddenly ceased all operations and cancelled all of its flights, leaving WOW Airlines passengers stranded all across Europe and North America, including people who were in the middle of multi-part trips.

WOW Airlines eventually went into complete bankruptcy and sold off its fleet of planes. That might have been the end of the story of little upstart WOW Air. But then six months after WOW Air abruptly cancelled its flights and left all its passengers stuck all over the place, this lady turns up, an American.

She showed up in Iceland, and she said that she was bringing great news. She was bringing WOW Air back to life. She held a press conference in a hotel conference room in Reykjavik in September 2019. She announced at that conference room that her company, which was called U.S. Aerospace Associates, she announced that they had bought WOW Air`s assets and new WOW Air flights were going to start up between Washington, D.C. and Iceland in October of 2019.

This is in September of 2019 she was holding this press conference. She was saying that WOW Air which as of that moment, no longer existed, it would be flying again in a month. In a month? Really?

And, you know, even at the time, it did smell a little weird. I mean, WOW had sold off all of its planes. This person was all by herself at this big table. Only WOW`s lawyer was there with her. And you can see they tried to make it look official.

They set up little Icelandic and American flags like maybe she was some kind of diplomat or something. They also put a little tiny plastic model of the WOW airplane there with the flags. That honestly was what was left of the WOW Airlines fleet, just toys, just models, which would be hard to fly people around in even the best of circumstances.

The other sign that something might have been a little wrong here was that nobody was entirely sure of this woman`s name. Local media at the time covering this press conference, which was big news, WOW Air is coming back. Local media describing the press conference didn`t know how to describe how to name the woman who was making this pronouncement about WOW Air. They described the press conference as being held by, quote, Michelle Roosevelt Edwards, or Michelle Ballerina, as she is often known.

Oh, is she often known that way by a totally different name? Why is she often known by a different name? Which is the name?

Please meet the new owner of your novelty discount Icelandic Airline. She goes by many different names. Don`t worry too much about it. Anyway, flights will be resuming next month. Have you seen the toy?

Flights did not resume the next month or the month after that or the year after that or to this day. And, you know, if you are interested in aviation and airline deregulation and the proliferation of interactional discount airlines, I mean, this is an interesting business story about the collapse of an airline and its weird apparent, but perhaps mythical resuscitation.

If you`re in Iceland, though, it`s quite a big story. Tourism is huge in Iceland. It`s not that big a country. Here`s one whole airline, a relatively high profile airline, going under. If it`s not going to fly again, what happened there? What was that?

So, a few months ago, journalists and investigative TV news program in Iceland decided they were going to figure out what was going on. They too had trouble nailing down the name of this American woman who said she was going to revive WOW Airlines, quote Michelle Ballarin or Michelle Lyn Golden or Michelle Roosevelt Edwards, as she now calls herself.

Ultimately, the Icelandic reporters threw up their hands and decided they would just call her Michelle.

Quote: the businesswoman has operated cargo flights in Africa, owns an arms company in the United States but also a restaurant. She engaged in real estate business and ran her own investment bank, or so she says.

But when it comes to WOW Air, quote, not much has happened. WOW is not up and running or flying, although Michelle has repeatedly announced news, reported high level appointments in Iceland, Russia and Italy, discussed how WOW will also be flying from Italy and even her involvement in the restructuring of the Italian airline Alitalia.

Yes, one thing they discovered is that Michelle -- choose any of the last names you would like -- was not just doing this in Iceland. She claims to be doing something with other airlines in other countries.

From "The Icelandic Report," she claimed a large announcement of a new project was due, the restoration of the airline Alitalia and that she would be involved in the project at the request of the Italian government. An article at the Italian newspaper government this summer discussed these plans in a sarcastic way. Michelle`s representative outlined ideas similar to those she has for a new WOW.

But two months later, there was no news, and when the Italian government announced the end of Alitalia at the end of the year, there was no mention of Michelle Roosevelt Edwards or her company, USAerospace being part of the new carrier.

Meanwhile, while all that was happening, Michelle Roosevelt Edwards or Michelle whatever her name is, has been trying to convince people that she also owns a big chunk of Iceland`s other airline, its flag carrier, the major national carrier, Iceland Air. And she said that she will eventually be merging Iceland Air and WOW Air to one even bigger airline. Well, that, again, is very exciting if it bears any relationship to reality, but the Icelandic journalists found that her bid to buy shares of Iceland Air was rejected, reportedly on the claim there was no money behind the bid. Her claim to own any shares of that company appeared to be totally false.

And again, you know, maybe this seems like a weird side bar story. If you don`t have any skin in any of these games, right? But for Iceland, for that country where the whole population of that country is half the population of Washington, D.C. and its airlines and its tourism industry are an actual -- are the only lynchpin for the country, right, it`s like fishing and tourism, that`s it, right? It was sort of worth figuring out who was messing with them like this. This is a really, really important part of their national economy and indeed their international standing.

So, the journalist from this Icelandic TV news show, they started by chasing down the name of the American woman making claims about their country`s airlines. They pretty got quickly from the there`s no answer to the name question, to the closely followed on revelation that there was more than a little three-card monte going on here.

They started to treat the story like they had basically hit upon an American con artist. And so, this Icelandic news crew went to meet her. They flew to the United States to find her and interview and get to the bottom of this. And for their visit, she welcomed them to this sprawling estate, a historic 22-bedroom mansion on over 1,400 acres in Virginia.

She gives them a tour. She tells them it takes 11 people employed full-time just to manage the grounds. She shows them the three kitchens. She says they are all in operation and the chef is on duty.

But instead of a chef actually preparing any food that they can see, there was a guy in a chef hat setting out Dunkin Donuts coffee for them. That was what the chef did. Nice hat though.

And this woman proceeds to deflect all of the reporters` questions about WOW Air, saying things are happening soon and she can`t reveal all her plans. But flights are going to start any minute now and they`re going to be great.

And then this just absolutely remarkable thing happens at the end of the interview. Just watch this.


REPORTER: Before we wrap up because we started with the tour of your home, when I was looking over where I should go in a search engine, stuff that came up was all real estate listings and said this place is for sale. Is it for sale?


REPORTER: And how long have you been here?

EDWARDS: This is a recent acquisition for us.

REPORTER: It struck me when we were walking around, there were no obvious personal items, no pictures. You obviously have a deep love of your late husband and your son.


REPORTER: But no personal effects, no pictures.

EDWARDS: Oh, I didn`t take you into every corner of the property.

REPORTER: You took us to your bedroom.


REPORTER: You don`t have them on the mantle.

EDWARDS: No, I don`t happen to put pictures on my nightstand.

REPORTER: It`s very sort of -- it`s very formal. It`s almost like walking into a rented property.

EDWARDS: No. It`s not rented property, I can assure you.

REPORTER: So, this is where you live. This is your home. This is your property?



MADDOW: Are you sure? Are you sure about that? Are you really? Be honest.

Because this is from the "Washington Post" this weekend. This is just amazing. So, "The Post" watched that video and they went and confirmed in fact that that giant house in Virginia really genuinely is for sale and it definitely does not belong to that lady. It does not belong to Michelle Roosevelt Edwards or any of her many, many aliases.

That mansion in Virginia, quote, was then and is now owned by a company formed by David B. Ford, a retired financier who died in September 2020.

Mr. Ford`s widow said in an interview that she did not know Michelle Roosevelt Edwards. "The Post" showed her the footage of Ms. Edwards inside the property. The widow told "The Post" in response, quote, she`s in my house. How is she in my house? How is she in my house?

It turns out that Michelle Roosevelt Edwards, in addition to her many other ventures happens to be a licensed realtor in that part of Virginia. So, maybe that`s how she got in? Maybe all the realtors in that part of Virginia have to wear outfits like that for all I know. Maybe it`s a weird regional real estate uniform or something.

Reached by "The Post" about what seems to be a circumstance in which she is pretending to own a gigantic mansion in Virginia, and sort of pretending to be reviving multiple Icelandic airlines that is not reviving, reached by "The Post", Ms. Edwards declined to comment saying, quote, I am not giving media interviews at this time.

Why not? The last one went so well. We reached out to Ms. Edwards as well. We have not heard back. We live in hope.

But as far as the whole WOW airlines thing goes, it does make you feel a little bit embarrassed like nationally. If you know somebody who is from Iceland and they relayed this story to you, and especially in terms of what it means in their country, this is a sad thing to have to explain. Ah, man, I`m sorry it went this way. We have a lot of con artists in our country. I`m very sorry this happened to you. But you kind of feel a little national defense around this.

But this woman, Michelle Roosevelt Edwards, in addition to playing a bizarre role in that sort of business pages story and that international relations story, in that Icelandic journalism story, she`s a livewire in terms of something going on in our country.

Thanks to the current Republican Party, I mentioned that "The Washington Post" this weekend had done digging on her interview with the Icelandic news crew and the house that does not appear to be hers that she said she owns. Well, here`s why "The Washington Post" went digging that direction in the first place.

Quote, late last December, December 2020, as President Donald Trump pressed senior officials to find proof of election fraud, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows emailed Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, emailed him a letter detailing an outlandish theory of how an Italian defense contractor had conspired with U.S. intelligence to rig the 2020 presidential election. The letter was printed under the letter head of USAerospace Partners, a little-known Virginia company.

In early January 2021, a second Virginia firm, the Institute for Good Governance, a partner organization, released a statement from an Italian attorney who claimed a hacker had admitted involvement in the supposed conspiracy to rig the election against Donald Trump. According to the conspiracy, which has become known as Italy-gate, people working in coordination with senior CIA officials, they used military satellites to switch votes from Trump to Biden and swing the results of the election.

That was all on this letterhead for this little known aviation company. What "The Washington Post" discovered about these two organizations, USAerospace partners, whose letter head was atop the letterhead that Trump`s White House chief of staff forwarded to the attorney general, also the Institute for Good Governance, which was putting out press releases promoting the Italy-gate conspiracy. What "The Post" discovered about both of those organizations is they are both run by Michelle Roosevelt Edwards, who was formally known as Michelle Ballarin but changed her name last year.

You`ll remember USAerospace Partners, that is the company that bought WOW Air or at least bought that little model, went to a hotel in Reykjavik to proclaim that they`ll be flying again. Apparently, that company and its founder have a side business in promoting crazy pants election conspiracy theories.

And good to know about her, and if it only went as far as her and like her Facebook friends, okay. But how did the fake mansion bow-tie lady`s letter about the Italian satellite stealing the election from Trump or whatever, how did that make it into the White House?

According to reporting from both "The Washington Post" and from "Talking Points Memo", it may have been this woman, who you see doing multiple right-wing radio show interviews here. She runs a conspiracy website who`s URL is -- I kid you not -- That`s her web address, Italy Did It.

She claims to have gone to a Christmas Eve party at Mar-a-Lago last year after the election whereupon she had the opportunity to tell Donald Trump personally and directly about the Italy-gate conspiracy. And the Italy-gate conspiracy from the lady who pretends to live in that big mansion who says she`s going to revive WOW Air. Yeah.

And, you know, at one level this is, like, the definition of ridiculous and stupid. At some point, frankly, if you`re feeling empathetic, it implicates personal concerns or stability concerns about some of the people involved.

Scams are one thing, sure. But totally delusional fantastical thinking and projections of grandiosity and all of this stuff, you kind of almost start to feel bad for people in circumstances like this. But then you see how this isn`t an isolated thing. It just makes you worry about the people involved.

Then you see how this fits into what`s going on in the Republican Party right now and what it`s done to -- the whole idea of Republican governance. I mean, these documents that were generated by these companies belonging to the realtor, you know, the bow-tie lady was pretending that the mansion was her house and she`s about to launch an Icelandic airline out of thin air in the next five minutes. These documents she created ended up getting stove- piped to the very top of the United States Department of Justice.

Those documents were sent literally personally to the attorney general by the White House chief of staff, who was telling the attorney general that the Justice Department must investigate these things. And as crazy as that is and as much of a conundrum this now poses for the people who are in charge of justice department who have to figure out how much trash in their workplace they`re going to dig out and how much can lay around stinking and maybe it`ll dissolve, the fact remains that this kind of stuff is the foundation, is what has led to this fantasy on the right and this pretext in the Republican Party that there was something gravely wrong with the election, right?

This is the same type of thinking, the same types of conspiracies created by the people and promoted by the people who are running the cockamamie Arizona fake audit, right, run by the Cyber Ninjas. And, you know, I`ll just point out one other element of this -- the lady with the fake house who said it was her house, it wasn`t her house. Remember she was Michelle Ballarin and then she was Michelle Lyn Golden and she`s now Michelle Roosevelt Edwards.

That kind of thing seems to be a thing among these folks, the adding of impressive old-timey American names to whatever they started out. The Arizona circus, one of the key people involved in that with the magic technology we`re not allowed to see that`s examining the paper, the ballots printed on to show all the fraud that you can see by looking at the paper, I mean, he`s gone through a name or two himself in recent years.

The most recent iteration of his name uses the word Pulitzer. The most recent iteration of her name in Virginia uses Roosevelt. I mean, I`m sure those things make them feel very important.

In Arizona today, it was Washington state Republicans from the Washington state legislature who were the latest officials to tour the Arizona mess in order to copy it for their own state. So, you know, get ready. There`s probably some QAnon activists renaming himself Einstein in Spokane, Washington, right now who`s going to be leading the effort up there because he`s got money and have you read my translated documents?

It is -- part of me struggles with, like, is it worth figuring it who all these people are and what it is they`re promoting? But then you see how it`s being used, and you sort of can`t afford not to follow it. It`s really -- it`s something to have to balance on the one hand the cheap low-rent, hilarious, bananas conspiracy, fantasy, con artistry stuff here from Italy- gate to the QAnon conferences that Mike Flynn is making money at now to the Arizona Cyber Ninjas thing to the one they want to do like that in Georgia.

I mean, it`s one thing to notice how low rent and cockamamie this stuff is and the grifters and con artist and -- forgive me -- crazy people who are involved with all this stuff. Balance that, though, with how this is being used with the Republican Party as a whole to justify a mass crackdown on voting right because of the hysteria, the vague and inchoate hysteria that`s been bolstered by all of these conspiracies about what nefarious thing happened in the election.

This is the stuff that builds that flint on which the Republican Party is building its current platform, right, a takeover of election administration procedures for their party alone wherever they can do it. A draconian and wholesale rollback of voting rights and ballot access everywhere they can control it in the states.

But as crazy as all this stuff is, that`s what it`s being used for. And the Democrats are going to take their biggest shot tomorrow afternoon at trying to stop it when the Democrats tomorrow bring their big voting rights and election protection bill to the Senate floor for the very first time. And in the Beltway press, expectations are not high for whether or not they`re going to be able to pull it off.

But it is their best shot at heading off what the Republicans are doing, even though the undergirding and the pretext for what the Republicans are doing lies in territory this insane. What the Democrats are up with with that bill tomorrow, it`s as real and as dangerous as its pretext is absolutely cockamamie and bananas. And that`s where we are.


MADDOW: This was the headline in the "Washington Post" in 2016, the day after Donald Trump was elected: Obamacare`s future in critical condition after Trump`s victory.

Within just a few months of Trump being sworn in, the Republican-led House had, in fact, voted to repeal the Affordable Obamacare Act, that same day, they took a victory lap in the Rose Garden at the White House to gloat with President Trump that Obamacare was going to be killed off. They really thought they had it in the bag. But something else was happening far away from Washington, D.C., in auditoriums and school gyms across the country.

People started showing up to town hall meetings with their members of Congress demanding answers as to why Congress was going to take health insurance away from millions of Americans.

Here`s what that looked like at one town hall meeting at home in Arkansas with Senator Tom Cotton.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can tell you three member of my family including me that would be dead -- dead -- and homeless if the it was not for ACA.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m an angry constituent. You work for us.



MADDOW: That`s in Arkansas, right? Senator Tom Cotton is like, oh, this is not how things usually go.

In the end, despite the long odds, Republicans actually failed to get enough votes in their caucus to repeal the Affordable Care Act because of that tens of millions of Americans have health insurance today, they would otherwise not have because of the law.

One big reason people started showing up in those town halls in 2017, well- organized and in big numbers was because of a grassroots group called Indivisible that sprung up in the wave of Trump`s election. What made Indivisible different from other grassroots groups at the time was that it was started by former congressional staffers who knew what kind of pressure worked on individual members of Congress because they had experienced it firsthand from the other side when they worked in congressional offices.

They started from the key insight that people should only call and contact and pressure their own member of Congress, their own senators. They help people follow the simple path of doing that, calling your member of Congress, showing up at his or her office, asking for town halls, getting lots of people to go to town halls to express themselves, writing letters and editorials in local papers.

Senators and members of Congress getting pressed hard and consistently locally by people who were definitely their own constituents. That was their secret sauce.

Now, Indivisible is trying to do it again. By now, you have probably seen the same sort of gloomy headlines we saw in 2017 about the Affordable Care Act that are being written this time about voting rights, about the For the People Act, which is coming up in the Senate tomorrow. But Indivisible is still around, bigger than ever, and they`re trying again. Again against the odds they`re calling on people to call their senators, record personal videos about voting rights, write letters to the editor in their local paper, visit congressional offices, show up at town halls and at rallies to keep the pressure on Congress.

They`re kind of low key high impact activism and organizing has been very effective over the past few years. Whether your senators or your members of Congress are with you or against you on the issues, according to Indivisible, the key is to stay focused on the people who have listened to you because you are their constituent.

The headlines right now say that Democratic effort to backstop voting rights for the For the People Act is about to fail. It`s about to hit a brick wall and there`s no way over or under or around that on either side.

But, you know, here`s President Obama and Eric Holder holding a town hall on it today called "All on the Line." Here`s "The Washington Post" editorial board who`s been quite conservative on this issue, saying actually if the voting rights bill doesn`t get Republican support and can`t pass that way, Democrats should change the filibuster to pass the voting rights bill with only their votes. That is not a "Washington Post" editorial board kind of position, but they feel like they`re up against the wall.

And here`s indivisible again pulling out all the stops asking people to turn up the pressure in every state in the country, again targeting your own senators, your own member of Congress. They have been effective at changing the course of Congress in the past against the odds. Effective enough that tonight, on the eve of Senate finally taking up the voting rights bill, it`s worth checking in with them to get their sort of prognostication on how this is going to go.

Joining us now is Ezra Levin, cofounder of Indivisible.

Mr. Levin, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for making time.


MADDOW: What do you think is going to happen tomorrow?

LEVIN: I think we`re going to see us get off to the races tomorrow. Look, we are not headed towards a brick wall. We`re headed towards a little bit of a speed bump, but this is all part of the plan.

So, we`ve got to put tomorrow in context. There were several steps to the legislation coming out. First, the For the People Act had to pass the House. It did that. Then it had to go through the Senate process, go through the committee process, go through markup, go through vote. It`s done all that.

Now the next step in this process is we have to debate whether there will be a debate. That is what the vote is tomorrow. The vote tomorrow is not the For the People Act. The vote tomorrow is whether the Senate consider the For the People Act.

And here`s what we are pretty darn sure is going to happen -- Mitch McConnell and the entirety of the Republican Caucus is going to say, nope, we don`t want to debate voting rights. We do not want to debate voting rights despite the avalanche of voter suppression happening across the country, we don`t want to debate that. And that`s the filibuster. They`re going to use the filibuster to kill it.

Now, we do not expect the filibuster tomorrow. That is not what we expect. Instead what we expect is for the bill to tabled then. The Democratic caucus is going to go into a room by themselves, talk to each other, then they`re going to go on recess.

They`re going to go on congressional recess. They`re going to go back home to their districts over the Fourth of July holiday. And then they`re going to figure out what they`re going to do when they come back.

And, look, politicians have a very scientific method for figuring out what they`re going to do. They lick their finger, they stick it up into the air, and they see which way the wind is going to blow. And that`s how they`re going to determine what happens in July.

And if we are successful in changing the way the wind blows over the course of July 4th recess, they are going to take this up again. They`re going to amend the filibuster and they`re going to pass these voting rights reforms.

MADDOW: The discussion about whether Democrats can find a way to pass this, as you say, is about whether or not they can amend the filibuster rule so they can pass this with a majority vote. They can pass it with 50 Democratic votes.

I feel like the coverage of that is often sort of black and white, light switch on or off. You`re either going to have the filibuster or you`re not. It does seem like if this is going to happen, the more likely outcome is more of a dimmer switch than on and off light switch. They could find a way to strengthen the filibuster or reform the filibuster or alter the filibuster or have some sort of carve-out for the filibuster in the way they`ve done on nominations, judicial nominations and other things in the past, specifically to protect voting rights.

Do you think that is the way this will likely go if it does go forward, that they`ll find a narrower path to doing this?

LEVIN: I think that`s exactly right. They`re going to debate how they can, quote/unquote, strengthen the filibuster in order to have this vote. I think there are a lot of ways to skin this cat, Rachel. We`ve seen proposals to lower the voting threshold from 60 down to 55 down to 50. We`ve seen proposals to allow a carve-out just for democracy bills.

There are a lot of ways you can make amendments. It`s really not black or white right now. But ultimately, the guide for whether or not this reform to the filibuster will work is does the majority -- does the Senate majority have the ability to call an up-or-down vote on a piece of legislation or does Mitch McConnell and the Senate minority have the ability to straight up veto as they`re going to do tomorrow or do they have the ability to delay for months and months and months and effectively veto?

So the Senate with just the 50 Democratic votes has the ability to change that rule. They can change it to whatever they want. And over the course of the 4th of July recess, we don`t need to get into the weeds of this reform or that reform.

What we`re calling for is American democracy to continue functioning. We`re calling for a voting rights reform that is wildly popular, that 70 percent, 80 percent of Americans in some states support.

So, for you going out to your senator`s town hall or your senator`s congressional office this weekend, next weekend, the weekend after that, you don`t need to get into the details of procedural rules in the Senate. You just need to say are you going to pass democracy reforms or not? If not, why not?

And don`t talk to me about procedural vote issue. Pass this bill. I`m going to be watching you.

That`s important whether you`re in a red state, whether you`re in a purple state, or whether you`re in a deep blue state. We need every single senator to be hearing from their constituents, to be feeling that fire from their constituents. That`s how they change their minds.

So, that`s why the deadline for democracy is so important. That`s why the events, not just Indivisible, but pro-democracy groups around the country are holding. And we hope everybody is going to join. This is not professionals doing all this work. This is schoolteachers, iv technicians, nurses who are standing up saying I guess I`ve got to do this. That`s exactly right.

It`s up to all of this to do this in this moment. This is the moment. That`s why it`s called the deadline for democracy.

MADDOW: Ezra Levin, cofounder of Indivisible, as Ezra, thank you for your time tonight. Keep us apprised over these next few crucial weeks. We`ll be watching tomorrow closely. But we`ll speak to you soon, my friend. Thank you.

LEVIN: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. Joining us next is the lead sponsor of the For the People Act in the Senate. That`s live next. Stay with us.



SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Reducing polling hours in polling places. How is that about election integrity? How does that reduce voter fraud? Mandating that every precinct, no matter how large or small, have the same number of ballot drop boxes. A county of a million and a county of a thousand, the same number. How does that reduce fraud?

Don`t give them water. Don`t allow them to have a drink as they`re waiting in the hot sun in lines to vote. Yeah, what does that have to do with voter fraud?

It has to do with cruelty. It has to do with nastiness, and it has to do with suppressing the vote.

Removing student IDs from the list of valid forms of identification, that`s election integrity? Bunk. We know what you`re doing. You don`t want students to vote.

Yeah. Don`t let students vote. Turn them off to the whole process and make America even more alienated.

Delaying the hours of Sunday voting until the evening, which, coincidentally or not so coincidentally by these Republican legislatures, makes it harder for black churchgoers to participate in voter drives after Sunday services. How despicable.

Does that sound like Jim Crow, my Republican colleagues? It sure does to a lot of us.

I challenge my Republican colleagues -- I challenge you, Republican senators -- come to the floor. Defend these policies. Tell us how they secure the vote.

We know what you`re up to. America knows what you`re up to. And not to debate this, are you afraid to debate it?


MADDOW: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer today on the House floor. Tomorrow, he will put the For the People Act, the big voting rights act, on the Senate floor, and there will be a vote on whether or not it gets debated.

Joining us now is Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. He is the lead sponsor of For the People Act.

Senator Merkley, I really appreciate you being here. I know it`s a big night.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Thank you, Rachel. Good to be with you. It`s a significant event tomorrow.

MADDOW: What are you expecting to happen tomorrow in the Senate?

MERKLEY: Well, I anticipate and I hope that we will have 50 votes to proceed. I want Democrats to be united.

We`ve had engagement from every member of the caucus and engagement from Joe Manchin, working hard to lay out a vision of how we protect these fundamental values in our Constitution, the right to vote, the ability to keep billionaires from buying elections, the ability to keep politicians from gerrymandering districts to attack equal representation, how to make sure there aren`t conflicts of interest so public servants serve the public -- four core values in this legislation important to every American.

It`s why this bill has such bipartisan support across the country, everywhere except in the Senate.

MADDOW: I`m struck by the very high levels of support in public polling for the legislation both as a whole and when you break it down into constituent parts. Our previous guest was talking about how it gets, you know, 70 percent and 80 percent support in some states around the country. Nowhere is it unpopular.

The stark contrast with it having zero Republican support, no Republican senator saying that he is or she is going to vote for it or potentially even vote for a motion to debate it. Does that surprise you since you debate -- since you first introduced this back in March that it hasn`t picked up any Republican support?

MERKLEY: It hasn`t surprised me too much in that we`ve seen this Mitch McConnell play before. It`s kind of that split between principle and power politics. On the principles, Republicans across the country supermajority embrace this. They believe in this. They believe in defending the ballot box, they defending in billionaires not buying elections.

But in the Senate, Mitch McConnell is all about winning the next election. And the next election will be funded by dark money, so he wants to defend dark money. He wants to have gerrymandering in place so that the House is more likely to be a Republican House rather than a Democratic-controlled House.

And he certainly wants to get his members elected. And that means putting obstructions and barriers in the way of folks who tend to vote Democratic. Black Americans, communities of color, maybe American tribes and college students. And this really is horrific.

This is pre-1965. This is undermining the most fundamental vision of citizens participating in their democracy. So, it is shameful. And I would hope that a number of my Republican colleagues would like to vote to say, yes, we should have this bill on the floor. But they`re facing the intense power politics of Mitch McConnell and they`re wilting under that pressure.

MADDOW: Senator Jeff Merkley, the lead sponsor of the for the people act getting that first key vote tomorrow afternoon in the Senate -- good luck to you, sir. We would love to have you back soon to talk about next steps once we see what happens in that important vote tomorrow. Thank you.

MERKLEY: Thank you very much, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got more ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Since April, with a brief break to accommodate some high school graduations, a one-man band, pro-Trump conspiracy theory promoting company called Cyber Ninjas has been pawing through ballots and even the voting machines from Arizona`s 2020 presidential election.

Today though, intrepid "Arizona Republic" reporter Jen Fifield got word that the Cyber Ninjas expect to be done this week. They expect to be done by Thursday.

The company says they have come to the end of their ridiculous slipshod counting method for the most of the 2.1 million ballots they were given access to. These are the things they`ve been spinning on different colors of lazy Susans, and nobody knows why this is a recount. Right now, apparently, they`re taking pictures of all the ballots for whatever reason. OK.

But the Cyber Ninjas say they`re going to be done with that by Thursday as well. So all the stuff happening on the floor of the convention center, this arena in Arizona will stop. And then at some point, Cyber Ninjas, again, a one-man band, will present his, its, their report of, you know, all the spinning lazy Susans and all the ballot pictures that tell us whether the election was legit or not. Guess what they`ll say.

Today, a spokesman for the so-called audit Jen Fifield to expect the Cyber Ninja`s Arizona election report in late July or early August. Remember, August is now when former president Donald Trump is saying he will be reinstated in the presidency. I`m sure that`s just coincidental timing, right?

Meanwhile in the great state of Georgia, there is a court case we`ve been keeping an eye on adjacent to this. It`s about absentee ballots that were cast in Fulton County, Georgia, in the 2020 presidential election. Trump lost Georgia by about 12,000 votes. Fulton County includes most of the city of Atlanta. That`s where Democratic votes come from and it has been the focus of election fraud fantasy for months now. They`re sure that the votes out of Fulton County shouldn`t count and they can figure out a way to say.

That last month, a judge actually agreed that these conspiracy theory- promoting Trump supporters should get to have a look at absentee ballots from Fulton County. He ordered that they be allowed to look at the images of the ballots and even to inspect the original, physical ballots. Although unlike Arizona, Fulton County would not be allowed to just hand the ballots over them.

Well, that was the initial ruling. Today, the judge held a hearing in which election officials tried to get him to dismiss the case before it goes any further. The judge heard arguments for about three hours. He did not rule. He said he needs time to think about it but will rule as quickly as possible.

The reason we`re watching this is that, you know, maybe soon, we`ll hear that this judge shut the door completely on Republican fantasies trying to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia already. Or maybe he will let them have their so-called audit of those ballots and the Cyber Ninja people will move over there, too. We shall see.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight on this, the longest day of the year. I`m going to head straight out of the studio and see if it is still light enough to go fishing. I`ll see you again this time tomorrow night.


Good evening, Lawrence.