Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 270 months, 22.5 years in prison for the murder last May of George Floyd. The U.S. Department of Justice today announced that on behalf of the American people, it will sue Georgia to block the state`s voting law.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": That is "ALL IN" for this week.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here tonight this Friday night.
This is from the judge`s sentencing order. It says, quote: Part of the mission of the Minneapolis police department is to give citizens voice and respect. Here, Mr. Chauvin, rather than pursuing the MPD mission treated Mr. George Floyd without respect and denied him the dignity owed to all human beings, which he will certainly would have extended to a friend or neighbor. In the court`s view, 270 months is the appropriate sentence.
Today, former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 270 months, 22.5 years in prison for the murder last May of George Floyd. Mr. Chauvin has been in prison since April, since the jury found him guilty of second degree murder, third degree murder, and second degree manslaughter, all for him holding his knee on George Floyd`s neck until Mr. Floyd was rendered unconscious and then he died on a Minneapolis street corner.
Mr. Chauvin was eligible to receive a theoretical maximum sentence of 40 years in prison for second degree murder. But the theoretical maximum associated with any particular crime is put up against state base sentencing guidelines, and considering the fact that Mr. Chauvin had no criminal history, the Minnesota state guidelines for sentence in this case actually recommended a presumptive sentence of about 12-1/2 years.
Now, judges can depart from those sentencing guidelines and in particular, they can depart upward if they`re aggravating factors that make the crime worse than a sort of base level offense that that my presumptive sentence might have applied to. The judge in this case ruled there were four different aggravating factors that made this case essentially worse. That made it worthy of a longer sentence than 12-1/2 years. But it was nevertheless striking today to see the judge go a decade beyond that present have guideline here, with this 22.5 year sentence.
In the sentencing order today, the judge spelled out his reasoning for issuing a more severe punishment than the guidelines would have suggested at baseline. He said he issued the sentence because Mr. Chauvin abused his position of trust and authority. Because they treated George Floyd with particular cruelty, because children were present during the commission of the offense, and because Mr. Chauvin committed the crime as a group, with the active participation of three other individuals.
All those four aggravating factors to the judge, justified a departure from the presumptive 12-1/2-year sentence, up to the 22.5 years that he handed down.
But that last point, that last aggravating factor, committed this crime as a group with the active participation of other individuals. That is a important reminder that the legal fallout from Floyd`s murder on that Minneapolis street corner, last year, it`s not over. The three other police officers who were present for the murder of Mr. Floyd have also been charged in state court for aiding and abetting that killing. They are set to strand trial early next year.
There are ongoing legal consequences beyond that for those other three officers and for Derek Chauvin, to. Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department brought federal charges against Chauvin and those other three officers. That trial has not yet been scheduled.
But with this 22.5-year sentence today, Derek Chauvin becomes only the second police officer in Minneapolis history, excuse me, modern Minnesota history, to be put in prison for murdering someone while on-duty as a police officer. Nationwide police officer sent to prison after committing a murder on duty is less than a dozen in the past 15 years.
Yet here we are today, Derek Chauvin`s sentenced to 22.5 years.
Today in court, during Derek Chauvin`s sentencing hearing, several members of George Floyd`s family gave your are called victim impact statements, statements for people who are affected by this crime. The first of those victim impact statements came from George Floyd`s seven year old daughter who is allowed to give her statement, but not present because of her age.
It`s a cell phone video. It was played in open court today. And you can see her here. She`s speaking to someone off camera, talking about her father.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you miss most about your daddy?
GIANNA FLOYD, DAUGHTER OF GEORGE FLOYD: Well, I ask about him all the time. And that`s kind of it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. Well, when you ask about him, what are you asking about?
GIANNA FLOYD: I was asking how did my dad get hurt?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you wish that he was still here with us?
GIANNA FLOYD: Yeah. But he is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Through his spirit?
GIANNA FLOYD: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And when you see your daddy again one day, what do you want to do when you see him?
GIANNA FLOYD: I want to play with him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of games do you want to play with him?
GIANNA FLOYD: I want to play with him. How fun. Go on a plane ride. And that`s it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah.
GIANNA FLOYD: We used to have dinner meals every single night before we went to bed. My daddy always used to have me brush my teeth.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you miss him helping you brush your teeth?
GIANNA FLOYD: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you hope that the world remembers him?
GIANNA FLOYD: Well, they help him because some people did something to him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. If you could say anything to your daddy right now, what would it be?
GIANNA FLOYD: It would be I miss you and I love you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, thank you, Gianna. I really appreciate you asking answering questions today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That victim impact statement was the first time that seven-year-old Gianna Floyd`s voice was heard in that courtroom. After her statement, the core also heard from George Floyd`s cousin and from his two brothers. They testify today in person.
And then the defense, Mr. Joe Chauvin side, call just one packed victim, Derek Chauvin`s mother. Who can proclaimed his innocence and asked for leniency on his behalf. Chauvin himself also gave brief remarks in which he offered his condolences to the Floyd family. He also said somewhat cryptically to the Floyd family`s, there`s going to be other information in the future that would be of interest. And I hope things will give you some peace of mind. He directed that to the Floyd family. I`m not sure what he meant.
The judge took all of those statements into account before handing down what is the longest sentence of any police officer in modern Minnesota history. One of the longest sentences ever handed down for police officer for use of force case on the line of duty. The case against Chauvin was initially brought, Minnesota`s Governor Tim Walz essentially took the job of prosecuting Chauvin away from the county prosecutor, who would normally have overseen a case like this in the normal course of events. Governor Walz took the case out of the traditional system that has led to so many failed indictments and negligible sentences. Not just in Minnesota, but everywhere across the country.
He took that away from the county prosecutor and he gave this case to Minnesota`s attorney general, Keith Ellison. And it was Ellison who assembled the team of prosecutors that ultimately obtain not only a conviction here, but now as of today, and historic sentence as well. Shortly after the sentence was handed down, Attorney General Keith Ellison made a statement alongside those prosecutors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: The outcome of this case is critically important. But by itself, it`s not enough. My hope for our country is that this moment gives us pause and allows us to rededicate ourselves to the real societal change that will move us much further along the road to justice. I`m not talking about the kind of change that takes decades. I`m talking about real change, concrete change, that real people can do now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison who joins us now live exclusively, in the wake of this sentencing decision, today.
Mr. Attorney General, thank you so much for making time. It`s an honor to have you here tonight.
ELLISON: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: You made remarks today talking about this being not justice, but something on the way towards justice. Overall, what do you think people in this country should think about this sentence today? Overall, how do you view it numerically in terms of the balance between what was proven and what was within the courts power?
ELLISON: Well, it was a historically long sentence for this offense. But at the same time, no matter how much time Judge Cahill gave Derek Chauvin, it would never restore George Floyd.
And that beautiful child that you just showed, her daddy won`t walk her down the aisle one day. Won`t be at her sweet 16 birthday party. Those brothers of his will now not be able to play bedwars (ph) and laugh about the old times because he`s gone.
That means to me that there`s really no sentence that`s truly satisfying. But this sentence is historically lengthy. It is a stiff sentence. It -- though the judge did not want to, and did not intend to send a message, there was a message that was sent, which is that if you commit a murder, whether you wear a badge or not, you can face a very serious consequences. And your role as a state actor is not going to shield you from responsibility and accountability.
MADDOW: It was interesting today to see the judge talk about the aggravating factors that he used to justify northward departure, an upward departure, from what had been otherwise 12 and a half year sentence under Minnesota sentencing guidelines. One of those was that he acted in a group with other individuals who were involved.
I know that the judge, that the case of the other three officers, the state charges against the other three officers, for aiding and abetting this murder -- that trial has been pushed. It was otherwise going to be an August. It has been pushed to early next year, in part because of concerns in the court that there`s essentially too much heat. There`s a desire on the part of the judge but some distance between the Chauvin trial and that next round.
What should the people of Minnesota and the people of this country expect from that next trial of the other three officers? And ultimately, what is your perspective on the federal charges that are still pending against all four of these short officers?
ELLISON: Well, Rachel, I`m a little bit limited on what I`m allowed to say. But what I will see is, those three individuals are presumed innocent. But there is probable cause for the charges of aiding and abetting the second degree murder, third degree murder and manslaughter against them. And we expect to put their case in front of 12 jurors of their peers, and present evidence and we expect that the charges that we made will be found to be true by that jury.
But that remains to be seen. They`re presumed innocent. They have -- they have the right to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. And we`re moving forward to hold them accountable as well.
MADDOW: I`m sorry to have interrupted you there. Before you speak to the federal charges, did you support the decision to move that trial to early next year rather than hold it at the end of the summer?
ELLISON: No. That was a decision by the court`s su puntio (ph), on the court`s own prerogatives. We were ready for an August trial. And we were getting ready for it.
But the court within its own judgment felt to -- it would be better to move it. So, we don`t -- we don`t contest that decision.
But moving on to the federal charges, there are different in nature. So, as a state, we`re vindicating our duty to make sure that people don`t have to be fearful of murder and people who do murder will be held accountable. The federal government is making sure that people`s civil rights are vindicated.
So, these are civil rights charges. They are very serious charges. And if you look at the federal sentencing guidelines, when death is a result of a serious civil rights violation, you can be facing life imprisonment.
So, those are serious charges. And beyond that, I let the federal authorities handle that. But they`re -- I think they`re proper, they`re appropriate. And I`m glad the Justice Department is taking this seriously.
MADDOW: I want to ask you about something that happened in court today that I`m not sure anybody knows exactly what it means. I`m not sure if you know what it means. But I wanted to get your reaction to it.
The defendant today, before he was sentenced, Mr. Chauvin, gave very brief remarks in which he did address Mr. Floyd`s family. He said that there is going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest, and I hope will give you some peace of mind.
It seemed both a little strange and potentially a little ominous. Do you have any insight into what Mr. Chauvin was talking about? Or alternately, do you have any reaction to what he said there?
ELLISON: Well, I only have speculation, Rachel. I mean, obviously, that was the first what he said was the first time I heard it. My team heard it and so, we obviously took our own guesses. But we don`t have any solid information on exactly what he meant.
I will say I think it is good that he offered his condolences. I think when you take a loved one away from someone, is the least you can do is say that. But there`s clearly more that could be said. But I don`t -- I can`t say that I -- definitively what he was referring to.
MADDOW: Minnesota`s attorney general, Keith Ellison, who was in the singular position of organizing this prosecution which resulted not only in the historic verdict but in today`s historically long sentence for Derek Chauvin. Mr. Attorney General, I know this has been an exhausting process and there`s lots more still to come. Thank you for helping us understand tonight.
ELLISON: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got more news ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK. So, the prosecutor starts off with some immediate trauma in the presentation. It`s one of those presentations that goes big right out of the gate, which is good provided it all rose out smoothly.
But here`s how it goes. Prosecutor stands up, adjusts the mic and says, this is a case about greed. But not greed for money. Great for power.
The judge: I`m sorry, I`m going to interrupt.
I`m sorry. I`m gong to interrupt. You need to pull the mic way up close or we`re not going to hear a word. You can start over, if you`d like, because I didn`t hear you.
The prosecutor in this case, you like skilled yourself, you`ve practiced the whole first line, right? The whole point of this part of the trial is like seize the moment, take the floor. This is a case of -- just start over. Adjust the mic.
She starts over. Prosecutor: This is a case about greed. But not greed for money, greed for power. For prestige, for importance. It`s about this man, Stephen Calk, who wanted a powerful government title and gave out millions of titles and bank loans to try and get it.
Calk was the chairman and CEO of a bank called the Federal Savings Bank. He pushed his bank to lend $16 million to Paul Manafort, a political lobbyist. Why did he do it? Calk gave out millions because Manafort gave him things that were even more valuable, a high profile spot on the presidential campaign and Manafort`s help in getting Calk a top government job.
In other words, Stephen Calk took a bribe from Paul Manafort. Manafort gave him political favor and Calk gave him bank loans. This for that, loans for influence. Ladies and gentlemen, that`s what this case is about and that is why you are here today. Because Stephen Calk, the head of a bank, took a bribe from Paul Manafort because Calk used the federal insured bank that he oversaw as his personal piggy bank to try and buy himself prestige and power.
You are going to learn in this trial that in July, 2016, Paul Manafort came to the bank and asked for a loan. At the time, he was running the presidential campaign for Donald Trump. The bank had agreed to make the loan, and Manafort put Calk on the Trump campaign.
You are going to learn the Manafort alone had all sorts of red flags at the bank but Calk didn`t care. He pushed the loan forward. You`re going to learn the bank made two loans to Paul Manafort. The first loan closed shortly after election night. Once it became clear Manafort could help Calk because Trump had won the election.
The second loan was approved five weeks later. Once Calk knew that Manafort could try and help him get that top government job.
It`s a little interruption from the judge at the top, kind of steals the thunder, but then, bang right back into it. That is how the trial opened this week in a courtroom, federal courtroom in the Southern District of New York.
The allegation of the heart of this trial is that on the Donald Trump or president campaign, the campaign manager, campaign chairman, excuse me, was offering consideration for high-level U.S. government jobs in exchange for cash. In exchange for millions of dollars paid to him in the form of loans from a small Midwestern bank, loans that definitely would not have gone to him. That he definitely did not qualify for had he not -- he would not have received them from that bank had he not been offering to make the bank presidents literally secretary of the army, provided the dude coughed up the cash.
The most eye opening testimony so far in this trial has been from an employee of the bank, who explains in fine detail on the stand why in the normal course of events that there was no way that Trump`s campaign chairman would have been getting $16 million loan to him from this little bank, unless there was something else that was part of the deal here. She explains, for example, how she and her colleagues at the bank learned Manafort`s credit score had recently dropped several hundred points to a point where it was so low, quote, most lenders would not lend to someone with a score like that.
She explains her surprise at learning that Paul Manafort had an unpaid $300,000 balance on a credit card. That`s something the bank had to discover on its own because Paul Manafort didn`t disclose it to them when he went to them for his loan. In September 2016, she gets an email from somebody else at a bank that says this. Quote, just an FYI, looks like these guys are in default to Genesis.
Here`s how that went on the stand. Question, let`s start with Genesis. Did you know who genesis was at the time? Answer, I believed it was another lender.
Question, what does it mean Manafort was in default to Genesis? Answer, it means he took out alone from this other lender and did not pay.
Question, why is it relevant to your bank Manafort failed to pay a loan to a prior lender? Answer, because if they didn`t pay a loan to another lender, that makes us believe they won`t pay our loan back either.
So, surprise. Turns out credit way below what they would lend anybody for. Surprise, $300,000 on a credit card he didn`t tell you about. And surprise, actively defaulting on another loan.
She explains how she and her colleagues then learned that Manafort had proposed to put up a property that he said he owned as collateral for the loan. They were surprised to learn that there is a lien against that property, a mechanics lien because Paul Manafort had apparently hired somebody to work on that property and he didn`t pay them either.
And they found out actually he doesn`t really own that property anyway. He just neglected to mention that he doesn`t on the property outright which he had led them to believe. In fact, he has a two and a half million dollar mortgage out on that property already. Again, he wants to use this property as collateral for the loan, it`s got a two and a half million dollar mortgage against it.
Oh, but, sorry, turns out he also forgot to mention another additional million dollars he had also borrowed against that same house. Not again what is going to be the collateral for him getting millions more dollars in those from this bank. This bank that starting to figure out that this loan might not make sense on its face.
Prosecutor, question, do you understand what he`s saying here when he says what the hell? How could he be a million dollars off? Answer, yes.
What is he saying? Answer, he is saying how could he have mistaken two and a half million for -- it to be three and a half million.
Question, when you say he, who is that he who made the million dollar mistake? Answer, I believe it would be Paul Manafort.
Question, can you please read what he wrote in this message to your bank colleagues? Yes. I wrote, quote, he is so in debt.
Question, and who did you write this to? Answer, I wrote it to the head underwriter at the bank. And this email, your comment to the head underwriter positive or negative about the Manafort loans?
Are you saying a good thing or a bad thing about the loans to the head underwriter? Answer, I`m saying a bad thing. Quote, it became very obvious that this was a bad loan. The head underwriter and myself were, quote, exasperated by the amount of negative information coming in about the lone.
Question, did you have any basis for knowing the underwriter`s views other than these emails that we`ve seen? Yes, he and I spoke on the phone.
Question, do you remember anything he told you about the Manafort loans? Answer, I don`t remember specifically. We were both in agreement that this loan was not good.
Question, did he provide you any advice on what to do? Answer, yes.
What advice did he provide you? Answer, he told me to hold on to all the emails, or say all the emails because the FBI will be looking into this.
At which the point the defense pops up, objection.
But, you know, she was right. The FBI did ultimately end up looking into this, and the emails are handy. You know, it`s something to have the employee from this bank, they are on the witness stand saying, I did not believe that the borrower, Paul Manafort, had the ability or the will to repay the loan.
She said given the prospect of what this means for Stephen Calk, though, I understood wit my life experience that no matter what this loan would be made. She said, quote, I believe that the bank making this loan would result in Stephen Calk receiving some kind of appointment or advantage with the Trump administration. Quote, I believe there was no way that Stephen Calk would not make this loan because that would mean he would not get a position within the Trump administration.
This case is underway now in the Southern District of New York. Again, banks are federally insured. There is a federal government interest in making sure that banks don`t get ripped off by people who are using banks as piggy banks to pay for government jobs which are not supposed to be able to buy. If you are supposed to buy, then you shouldn`t be able to buy them by giving them money to Paul freaking Manafort. But that was the Trump campaign.
One of the things the former presidents now pardoned campaign chairman said by federal prosecutors to have done is he allegedly bribed this bank CEO with a dangle of a high ranking job in the Trump administration for the low, low cost of $16 million, in otherwise, totally indefensible loans he never should have gotten and never would`ve qualified for.
But the guy who he was offering, federal government positions to, if the guy would only pay Paul Manafort, the guy put in writing what exact jobs he wanted, in exchange for his bank`s money, which she was stuffing in Paul Manafort`s pockets. He made a list.
Quote, ambassadors I would like in rank order. Number one, United Kingdom, number two, France, number three, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, Ireland, Australia, China, United Nations, the E.U., Portugal. Portugal after the E.U.? Come on.
He also in addition to the ambassadorships he would like in rank order, he also had a whole list of what he labeled prospective rules in the Trump administration, which goes to show you for one thing, the man could spell neither the word prospective nor the word roles.
Nevertheless. He thought paying Donald Trump`s presidential trend campaign chairman millions of dollars would mean that he`d be qualified for not only any one of those 12 different ambassadorships. He thought his number one perspective role was that he should be the top civilian official in charge of the United States Army.
In fact, after the dude of greed to pay up, the Trump transition in fact interviewed him to potentially be secretary of the army. We got that confirmation on the witness stand from a very well-known witness. Do you remember Anthony Scaramucci? The Smooch.
He spent like five minutes as White House communications director one summer. He testified this week in this bribery trial as a witness for the prosecution. Scaramucci testified this week that that "perspective rolls" bank CEO guy, who was shortening the lifespan of all the employees at his bank by sending all the banks money to Paul Manafort, he is so in debt.
Scaramucci testified that he did take lots of communications, calls, texts and emails about getting Stephen Calk, that job. And in fact Mr. Calk did interview to be secretary of the army, although his name was never put forward as a nominee for the position. Mr. Scaramucci did kind of offer that the dude could be undersecretary of the secretary if he would be good with that.
Mr. Scaramucci on the witness stand, this week, in the Southern District of New York, is reading text messages for the court prosecution. December 21st, 2016, 7:46 p.m. Scaramucci writes, and he`s reading out loud his text message in court. Quote, would he take undersecretary of the army? Are we double sure? And he says, if so, I think we can get it done.
Prosecutor says if you cannot read this response from Mr. Manafort starting with the time and the message. Scaramucci says, December 21st, 2016, 8:15 p.m., quote, yes, he will def take it.
Question from the prosecutor: Will Mr. Manafort goes, yes, he will def take it, who did you understand him to be referring to? Scaramucci says, Stephen Calk. Stephen Calk, the guy who just grabbed his back by the proverbial ankles, flipped it upside down so all the money would fall out of its pockets and unto Paul Manafort`s pockets. Yeah, Paul Manafort pulled the necessary strings.
I mean, Scaramucci didn`t know, as far as we can tell, right, that Manafort was getting paid by this guy. But this is the way the Trump campaign work. Manafort was the campaign chairman. So he`s going to make this guy undersecretary of the United States army. Sure, why not? Because that`s what the Trump campaign brought to the table.
In addition to Mr. Scaramucci, who served as communications director, also served in the Trump transition, another Trump transition official this week testified about how the vetting process worked around this guy who is involved in the alleged bribery scheme with Manafort.
Honestly, in normal administrations, I think former officials will sometimes have little reunions, little get-togethers. You know, how is your family? He still living in D.C.? Let`s catch up.
In the Trump administration, they`re all just going to meet up at all the criminal proceedings they`re going to be witnesses now. A, haven`t seen you since the Rudy disbarment hearing. Hey, you`re going to be at the grand jury next week? You are in there to? Let me know how it goes with a subpoena. I know. It`s so hard to keep in touch. I keep having to get new phones, too. Darn FBI. Taking all my stuff.
I mean, the Trump administration - being an ex-Trump administration official is a busy thing in a way that isn`t true for other recent administrations going back to Watergate.
Other than Anthony Scaramucci, the other Trump transition official who testified in this Trump campaign bribery scandal trial this week, his name is Kory Langhofer. He at least now is still working in politics. He now works for the Arizona Republican Senate leader who said at the scam audit of the Arizona presidential election results, which I guess is another kind of work these folks can find for themselves, questioning the election results from 2020.
Today, "The New York Times" was first to report that lawyers for the Trump Organization, the president`s business, had been informed by New York state prosecutors that criminal charges are now being considered against Trump`s business and they may come very soon.
You will recall that Trump University was pursued as a criminal fraud scheme by New York prosecutors. Trump University was ultimately shut down and Trump had to pay $25 million to settle that matter.
Then it was the Trump`s foundation, Trump`s fake charity that was pursued also as a fraud scheme. It, too, was shut down by New York prosecutors and Trump was forced to pay millions of dollars.
Now it`s the Trump Organization. It`s his core business, and as early as next week, the Trump Organization itself looks like it may be criminally charged, as well as potentially individual employees or executives of the Trump Organization.
Now, whether or not the former president ever faces potential criminal charges himself in this matter -- and there`s no sign of that at this point -- what this nevertheless represents is the very real prospect that the former president will be forced out of business with criminal charges that could come as soon as next week.
And think about how that arrives right now, think about the sort of mind set that may be at play here, right? This word that the -- the Trump Organization`s lawyers met with prosecutors yesterday, as Trump Organization`s lawyers re trying to talk them out of filing these criminal charges, prosecutors apparently made it known to them that criminal charges are likely and soon, in a matter of days.
And that news arrives with a day of the president`s personal lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, having his license to practice law suspended in New York state for what a New York court found were his repeated knowing lies to the public and to the courts about Trump`s fantasy that he somehow didn`t lose the last election.
That news arrived yesterday, within a day of Michigan Senate Republicans publicly debunking Trump and Giuliani`s claims about the election being stolen in that state as well.
Last night, we learned about the effort to, quote, audit the election results in the state of Georgia. That effort is getting turned back by a state court in Georgia. Looks like the Trump supporters` fantasy of doing to the presidential vote in Georgia what they`re doing to it in Arizona. Looks like that won`t happen thanks to a judge`s ruling yesterday.
Today, we learn that the U.S. justice department is suing Georgia for voting restrictions that Republicans passed into law on the basis of all the supposed fraud that Trump has been proclaiming happened in that state in the election which he lost.
That Justice Department decision to sue Georgia over that law, it is a huge deal. We`re going to have more on that coming up in just a couple of minutes on the show.
But like I said, take these things together, right? Put these things together as bricks in the same wall. Things are not going well in Trump world right now, in a way that is I think worse than anything since the first week in January.
I mean, from the Trump campaign criminal bribery trial in that New York courtroom this week, which is turning into a little reunion of former Trump officials appearing as witnesses for the prosecution, to the brick walls that Trump is starting to hit with his election fraud fantasy about him somehow being reinstated as president.
It`d be one thing if he was quietly nurturing that hope. He`s been crowing about it for months as it starts to become impossible and humiliating, his public statements that he will be reinstated are things he`s up against himself in terms of having to reconcile those to his supporters.
Ever hear him say, oh, I was wrong? Turns outs that`s not going to happen. Really?
I mean -- and then there`s the cold hard consequences that Trump world is starting to bash into in court, from Rudy losing his law license, to these potential criminal charges against the Trump Organization next week which really could shut down his business. This is all quite bad if you are Donald Trump. Putting business out of business? I mean, this is existentially challenging stuff to him.
And all of this stuff is piling on top of each other in fairly short order. And I put these things together -- I can`t predict the future and neither can you. I know I said this one other time this week. I feel like it is worth having a heads-up on this.
You know, they say when the things get weird, the weird turn pro. When things get quite this bad, things also tend to get weird and radical. I`m not sure anybody can predict what`s going to come next out of Trump world given all the pressure they`re facing on all these different sides.
We do know that former president is planning some kind of political rally in Lorain County, Ohio, tomorrow. We do know one of these crazy election conspiracy theory movies is going to be released this weekend. The big Cyber Ninjas audit that Trump supporters have been running in Arizona, it was supposed to end yesterday, but it`s still happening they`re apparently still keeping it going and nobody knows why or exactly what they`re doing, even as Trump and his supporters claim that the vote will be certified and he`s reinstated as president.
They said on their own term that they would be done in April. Then they said it was done yesterday. They`re not done. They`re still doing something, and nobody knows what.
None of this is good. But with this much treasure on Trump world right now, I do sort of think that anything`s possible. I`m hoping for a very boring weekend. I always am. But heads up.
MADDOW: Today`s 22.5-year sentence being handed down former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd was also a reminder of all the ways the federal governments, specifically the U.S. Justice Department, has stepped up so far on policing issues since the Biden administration started. The federal investigation a pattern in practices investigation with the whole Minneapolis police department. The federal charges brought against Chauvin and three other officers on a trail yet to be scheduled.
Another pattern and practice investigation in Louisville where Breonna Taylor was killed. Federal hate crimes charges brought against three Georgia men believed to be involved in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.
I mean, before today, it`s interesting. We have seen a lot of action by the Justice Department when it comes to policing, civil rights issues and around policing. But before today, we had seen comparatively little action from the Biden Justice Department when it comes to the other major responsibility of its Civil Rights Division which, of course, is protecting voting rights.
You will remember the Justice Department sent a stern letter to Arizona Republicans last month warning them that their so-called audit of the presidential election results in Arizona might violate federal laws. They sent a stern letter, but no follow-up action besides that letter itself.
A couple weeks ago, Attorney General Garland gave a speech in which he said the Justice Department would look at restrictive voting laws around the country as well as these crazy audits and threats to election officials. That was just a speech.
Today, we did finally see some action. First memo from the deputy attorney general announcing the creation of what appears to be a quite substantive task force inside the Justice Department that will respond to and look to threats against election officials and workers around the country. That`s a substantive thing. That matters.
But also landing like a cannonball in the deep end of the pole today, was the Justice Department announcing a major lawsuit against the state of Georgia for its recently passed bill to dramatically scale back access to polling places in that state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Today, the Department of Justice is suing the state of Georgia. Our complaint alleges that recent changes to Georgia`s election laws were enacted with a purpose of denying or abridging the right of black Georgians devote on account of their race or color in violation of section two of the Voting Rights Act.
KRISTEN CLARKE, HEAD OF DOJ CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION: Our complaint challenges several provisions of SB-202 on the grounds they were adopted with the intent to deny or a bridge black citizens` equal access to the political process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Here is the government complaint referenced there by Attorney General Garland and by Kristen Clarke, the recently confirm head of the civil rights division of the Justice Department`s. It`s a substantive complaint, 46 pages, very readable.
The thing that leaps out even if you are not a lawyer is the Justice Department is saying here about Georgia is not only have they taken these draconian and unjustified steps to radically restrict the ability of some Georgians to vote, the very serious allegation here is that it wasn`t incidental. It was done with intent.
As a complaint of the lawsuit states plainly, quote, passage of Senate bill 202 was motivated by discriminatory purpose. The Justice Department lists the ways in which the Georgia law harms voters of color disproportionately.
And they say this, quote, Georgia legislator enacted Senate bill 202 with knowledge of the disproportionate effect that these provisions both singly and together would have on black voters` ability to participate in the political process on an equal basis with white voters. With knowledge of the disproportionate effect, the Justice Department really mincing no words when it comes to going directly at the discriminatory intent of Republicans in Georgia when they passed that bill the Justice Department.
But the Department of Justice`s lawsuit today on the first to accuse Georgia of exactly that. And the question I asked what happens when this big Justice Department action going after the state, and all the other entities that have already started suing Georgia over this exact fact.
Interesting future here. Hold that thought. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: In March, the Republican governor of Georgia signed a new law to radically restrict voting rights in Georgia. Just four days later civil rights groups like the NAACP`s civil defense fund and the ACLU sued the state over the law. In their lawsuit, they argued, quote, the restrictions in that Georgia law have a pronounced disparate impact upon voters from historically disenfranchised communities, a result so clear that it can only be intentional. It can only be intentional.
Well, now, almost three months later those groups are being joined by a heavy. The U.S. Department of Justice, which today announced that on behalf of the American people, it too will sue Georgia to block that law.
Joining us now is Janai Nelson. She`s associate director counsel of the NAACP`s Legal Defense Fund.
Ms. Nelson, it`s real pleasure to have you here tonight. Thank you so much for making time.
JANAI NELSON, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: It`s a pleasure to be here.
MADDOW: So, I hear the echo in your lawsuit from March and the Justice Department`s action today, talking about intentionally targeting voters of color, that language in your lawsuit. Today, the Justice Department saying that the law was motivated, meaning the intent was discrimination, motivated by discriminatory purpose.
For us non-lawyers, can you help us understand the gravity of that charge and how important it is to whether or not this law is constitutional?
NELSON: Absolutely. To allege that a law is intentionally discriminatory requires you to prove that the legislators acted with intent, that they were aware of the consequences of their actions, and they intended for those consequences to be so. We know that in the case of Georgia, the particular provisions of this 90-plus page law that evolved over time from something that was just a few pages to this tome that ultimately is one of the worst voter suppression laws that we`ve seen, is the result of legislators effectively examining what worked for black voters in this last election where there was historic turnout in both the November 2020 election and the subsequent runoff election.
And then crafting a suppression bill that addresses the very ways in which black voters were able to exercise their fundamental right to vote so robustly. So what we see in this 90-page law is a restriction on the time in which you can request an absentee ballot. We see restrictions on the ability of election officials to voluntarily send out absentee ballots to eligible voters, to enable them to vote through this well-used mechanism that people have used across the country for many decades without incident.
It limits the ability of people to cast ballots outside of their designated precincts and have those ballots counted for the races that have nothing to do with where that precinct is assigned. There are just particular ways, if you look at the exact provisions of this law, you can see a roadmap to how black voters were able to exercise their right to vote and now how that right to vote will be fundamentally denied and abridged.
MADDOW: Do you expect that the justice department may intervene in your lawsuit or that in some other way we`ll see these lawsuits essentially become joined? Obviously you`re aiming at the same target here.
NELSON: Well, Rachel, there are seven lawsuits, and now with the Department of Justice, one additional lawsuit. Many of the lawsuits overlap in their claims.
But we represent individual plaintiffs and groups that have distinct interests. So the Department of Justice is operating, as we know, on behalf of the United States government. And the United States government has a distinct interest in ensuring that our elections are free from racial discrimination.
We also have a distinct interest as an organization that has worked for over 80 years to protect the rights of black voters to ensure that they can exercise the franchise free and fair of discrimination. So we have brought claims of intentional discrimination. We`ve brought claims about the effects of this law on black voters, and especially voters who have disabilities.
Let`s not forget that many of these provisions affect individuals who may face particular challenges in light of the pandemic and in light of limitations that they may face, and that these restrictions make it much more difficult for persons with disabilities to exercise their right to vote.
So we represent a very broad class of plaintiffs that is distinct from the interests of the U.S. government. But we are delighted that they have filed this lawsuit, that they are bringing their artillery to this fight. We need all hands on deck.
And I think the number of organizations that have sued on this law is a reflection of how deleterious and offensive it is to our general norms and expectations about how we should treat the right to vote in this country. The fact that so many groups are alleging racial discrimination should be a real signal as to how clear it is to so many of us who care to deeply about the right to vote.
MADDOW: Janai Nelson the associate director, counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, thank you for giving us that perspective. I hadn`t heard it put in those terms in terms of the different suits and how they speak to different aspects of this. Thank you so much. Keep us apprised.
NELSON: You`re very welcome. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Did I tell you I`ve been doing this for like 13 years now and I`m still absolutely terrible at it? I just barreled through I think two, maybe three commercials. Like, that`s totally illegal in cable news but I just did it. Like, I`ve never done this before, 13 years of this. I apologize. But I do it all the time. Sorry.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again on Monday provided I still have a job.
Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.