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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 6/28/21

Guests: Jerod MacDonald-Evoy, Patricia Mazzei

Summary

Arizona audit leaders appear in a conspiracy theorist film about the 2020 election. Eleven now confirmed dead and 150 unaccounted for in a deadly building collapse in Surfside, Florida.

Transcript

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN on this Monday evening.

"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.

A hundred fifteen degrees in Portland, Oregon, 117 degrees in Salem, Oregon, 107 degrees in Seattle.

The nation of Canada just hit its all-time highest recorded temperature ever. The town of Lytton in British, Columbia, hit 118 degrees today. That`s like three hours northeast from Vancouver, and it was 118 degrees there today. No higher temperature has ever been recorded anywhere in Canada in all of recorded history.

That 115 degrees today in Portland, Oregon, that was the hottest temperature ever recorded in recorded history in Portland. That said, Portland`s previous record was set yesterday. And before yesterday, the previous record was set the day before that.

Today should hopefully have been the worst of it in the Pacific Northwest. But it`s quite bad, emergency rooms filling up with people sick and struggling from the heat. They have been opening cooling centers in towns all around the region, trying to give people a place to go to get away from the heat. They have been shooting water at the drawbridges in Seattle to keep them from getting stuck as the metal expands beyond anything it was ever expected to deal with before.

They shut down some lanes on interstate 5 because the heat caused concrete panels on that freeway to just crumble, just turn to dust. East of Bellingham, Washington, and up against the Canadian border, the roads there are just buckling, just falling apart and kind of melting in the heat, collapsing.

Tonight, a bunch of young people were arrested at various entrances to the White House, these are activists from the Sunrise Movement who have been trying to keep up maximum pressure to make the U.S. government act against climate change. Hundreds of them demonstrated at the White House today. They had said in advance that some of their activists would be risking arrest. We think the total number of those arrested today was 13. They did block entrances to the White House.

Specifically, they said they were fighting today to try to keep the civilian climate core in the infrastructure plan that President Biden is trying to pass. That civilian climate core is not currently in the infrastructure bill. The one at least that President Biden talked up on the White House driveway last week with slightly spooked looking Republican senators.

But the expectation on the left is that little bipartisan bill that will maybe get some Republican support, the expectation on the left, and I think widely in the Democratic Party, is that whatever it was that President Biden, whatever it is that President Biden will ultimately be able to work out with some Republican senators, whether or not enough Republican senators agree to actually pass that, the expectation is that will be just one part of what Congress passes.

The other stuff, the stuff Republicans won`t vote for, like the civilian climate core, the activists were demonstrating for today at the White House gates, the expectation is that stuff will be in a second piece of legislation that Democrats will plan to pass with their own votes alone, if they need to, whether or not any Republicans sign on.

Republicans -- excuse me, independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont just last hour confirming that with our friend Chris Hayes here on MSNBC.

President Biden tonight published a new op-ed on his infrastructure plans, conceding that the bipartisan deal he made with those Republicans, quote, is missing some critical initiatives on climate change that I proposed. He then said those climate initiatives are things that, quote, I intend to pass in the reconciliation bill. By which he means that second bill that Republicans won`t support that Democrats will try to pass on their own say so anyway. We shall see.

Anybody who told you last week that there was a done deal and a settled path forward in terms of how this infrastructure stuff gets passed was selling you a little bit of a bill of goods. There`s lots still to get settled there, but Democrats, including the White House, seem to remain committed at this point that whatever they`re able to get done with some Republican support is great. But even if all Republicans say no, they`ve got big other plans including the bulk of Biden`s climate agenda that they`re going to try to pass on their own.

That is sort of happening in Democratic politics right now. It`s interesting to see, right, to have the Democratic Party hold the White House, hold the House, hold the Senate narrow majorities in both houses of Congress, right? But to see them nevertheless getting pushed not only by the progressives among their number, groups like the congressional progressive caucus, but also by outside groups on the progressive of the spectrum, saying we know you have narrow margins, but we`re going to hold you to it and make you be more ambitious than you otherwise want to.

That`s the dynamic right now on the Democratic side of American politics. On the other side of American politics, meanwhile, today, the undisputed leader of the Republican Party had his lawyers meeting with New York prosecutors today. Trying to head off what his own lawyers and multiple news organizations now say will be a set of criminal charges brought against the former president`s business by New York prosecutors.

The president already had his Trump University shut down by New York law enforcement. He then had his Trump foundation, his Trump charity shut down by New York law enforcement. Now it looks like it`s his core business.

On Thursday, at the end of last week, Trump`s lawyers met with prosecutors to try to talk them out of filing criminal charges against the Trump organization. That apparently did not work. Today, they reportedly met again.

"The Washington Post" reported over the weekend that prosecutors told Trump organization lawyers that this meeting today would be their last chance, and if they couldn`t persuade prosecutors today, that they shouldn`t bring charges, then the charges will go forward. Well, that meeting in fact happened today.

And it doesn`t seem like anything resolved. Former President Trump today released a very upset statement about these developments. Seeming to implicitly confirm that he knows his business is about to be indicted. He called prosecutors in the case witch hunters. He accused them of prosecutorial misconduct, even though no charges have yet been brought. He said this prosecution would be, quote, devastating for New York.

To be honest, I think New York will probably be fine. The president`s real estate company probably not fine if they are in fact criminally indicted, but we shall see.

Devastating for New York? Really?

After Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked the creation of a bipartisan expert independent commission to investigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, the attack that sought to block the certification of the presidential election results, today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made good on her promise to make sure there is a thorough investigation into that attack anyway. She tonight revealed legislation that would create a select committee to investigate the January 6th attack.

Now, Congress, of course, has tons of standing committees that take, you know, foreign affairs committee, the oversight committee, the Judiciary Committee. They have all sorts of standing committees that take on all sorts of investigations and inquiries all the time. A select committee is actually a rare bird. It means Congress will create a new committee just for this purpose, just to do this investigation. It will be made up of members of Congress, not outside experts, but it will have a dedicated staff that will work just on this investigation. Its chair will have subpoena power to compel the production of evidence and to compel witness testimony.

The Republican leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, has refused to say whether he will even appoint any Republicans to serve on such a committee. But we know tonight that Pelosi will nevertheless press forward. The structure she`s planning on would be 13 members of Congress in total -- eight which she can appoint and five more than would be appointed in consultation with Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader. So, eight appointed by the Democratic speaker, five, in effect, appointed by the Republicans.

Pelosi`s office, though, is raising the prospect that when she makes her eight picks to put members on that committee, she might pick one Republican among her eight picks. That would make the partisan balance on the January 6th committee not 8-5 in favor of the Democrats but a more balanced 7-6.

Of course, the question of whether a Republican like Liz Cheney or Adam Kinzinger would do it remains to be seen. They are two of the few Republicans who have been steadfastly critical of the Capitol attack and Trump`s role in it, but either of them accepting a seat on that committee, a seat appointed by Nancy Pelosi, that would be like -- I mean, that would be like throwing a plugged in toaster into the standing partisan bathwater on Capitol Hill.

But again, we shall see. And again, it remains resolved as to whether or not Republicans will allow any of their members be appointed. Yeah, I mean, it`s not like this is a fraught issue or anything, right, that we deserve some clarity and closure on as a country. It`s not like there`s continuing efforts afoot to promote the conspiracy theories and lies about the election that led to the January 6th attack in the first place, right?

You will not be surprised to learn that former President Trump this weekend used his first big rally since leaving office to talk about how he`s not really the former president. He in his mind is still the president. He told a crowd in Ohio this weekend, quote, the 2020 presidential election was rigged. We won that election in a landslide. This was the scam of the century. This was the crime of the century.

He said he would, quote, never stop fighting for the true results of the election. He praised what he called the, quote, brave Republican senators in the state of Arizona for their so-called audit, which they have been running into that state`s presidential election results, saying he expects them to issue a report on their findings soon. He said that report will be, quote, a big deal.

And, you know, that audit that they are doing in Arizona, if you want to call it that, this torturous inquisition into the ballots cast in Arizona, whatever is going on there with all their secret technology and their secret processes, and their official pro-Trump media sponsor that is allowed to broadcast stuff and other people aren`t, like, whatever is going on there, they do appear to be finally wrapping up whatever it is they have been doing.

Last week, they had said they would be done by Thursday. But as we reported Friday night, they were still there. They in fact still appeared to be working away at the Arizona state fairgrounds there as of this morning. But their lease on that space is up the day after tomorrow. They have to make way for a big gun show coming in next. So they do appear to be clearing out now.

But in addition to former President Trump hanging his whole fantasy of getting reinstated to the presidency on this inquisition in Arizona and whatever the Cyber Ninjas running that inquisition are going to announce, which could be at any point now, what is emerging about this stunt in Arizona, which Trump world is more and more focused on with each passing day, what is emerging about it is that whatever its announced results are going to be, and however Trump world is going to react when Arizona says whatever it was the results, whatever it is the results are of this process, whatever else happens here, it does appear clear at this point that many figures in Trump world have figured out how to make a ton of money off of this thing.

Here, for example, is a man named Patrick Byrne. He`s a pro-Trump conspiracy theorist. He had to leave his job as CEO of Overstock.com after it was revealed he had an affair with a man named Maria Butina, who was later convicted with being a Russian agent. Yeah, I know.

Patrick Byrne wrote a book about election fraud and how he thinks the 2020 election was stolen and he, of course, made a bunch of money on that book. He`s now in addition to that made a movie about the supposed election fraud. And he seems to be making a ton of money on that. This movie stars the whole cast of characters from the Arizona audit debacle. They`re all on camera explaining all of the fantastical ways in which they`re sure the 2020 election was rigged and stolen from Donald Trump.

But I said they`re making money on it because look at how they`re distributing this thing. Just to watch a livestream of the premiere of this movie, you had to pay $45. You can also pay a minimum of $500 to license it and host your own screening of it.

Patrick Byrne is also now doing a pay to subscribe blog where he just blogs about the election being stolen. He`s apparently, according to calculations by "The Washington Post," on track to make about $1.5 million himself just from people subscribing to read his blog posts about his election conspiracy theories.

I mean, between the book about the supposed election fraud and the movie that cost between $45 and $500 to watch, about the supposed election fraud, and his pay to read my blog post thing about the election fraud, dude is making enough money off these claims for election fraud that he`s now employing Trump national security adviser and convicted felon Mike Flynn. He employs Mike Flynn full-time to talk about that supposed election fraud. That`s his job now.

And you know what the worst of all of this is for Donald Trump? None of that money is going to him. We all have learned in this much time that he hates it when people make money off him, that he could be making.

Remember, he told the Republican Party, the Republican National Committee, that they couldn`t even use his name or his likeness for Republican Party fund-raising. He is the former Republican president, but he had his lawyers send the RNC an actual cease and desist letter to try to get the Republican Party not to raise money by invoking him or showing his picture because only he is allowed to do that.

But sure enough, "The Washington Post" reports that according to several Trump advisers he is, quote, annoyed at all the groups that are now raising money off his rhetoric about the election being stolen. But it really is so lucrative. Every grifter worth their salt is drawn to this Arizona circus or wherever the next fake audit is going to be.

And once the audit has become, you know, just a money making thing, because however much Trump is hanging on it, it`s not going to get him reinstated as president. Once it`s just something that`s designed to rile people up enough that they`re willing to be parted from their money, and that becomes the not just sort of side hustle here, but the main purpose of what`s going on here, as that has increasingly sort of taken over in terms of what`s happening in Arizona, there are increasingly zero qualms about just going full hard core conspiracy theory, even beyond the pale of stuff that might be conceivably marketed to even a mainstream Republican audience.

They have been going hard core, for example, on the QAnon conspiracy theory in recent days. So in the new movie about the Arizona audit, the new movie that Patrick Byrne is making all this money off of, there`s Mike Flynn appearing in the movie wearing a QAnon bracelet.

And there`s a guy being introduced before the movie launch event this weekend in Arizona who is being marketed as the new Q. Literally, he thinks he`s Q from QAnon. He claims he can time travel and his future self is sending messages to him back in time so that present day him can reveal the truth, which sounds crazy, but Q can do it.

He also happens to be recently out of prison, which you would think his future self would have warned him about so as to avoid becoming imprisoned. But oh, well. The Q works in mysterious ways.

They`re all sort of unabashed now about it. In terms of how far out there they`re getting. I mean, to make this new Arizona audit, the election was stolen movie, they really did hire the guy whose last movie was based on the claim that it was aliens that did 9/11. Last movie was aliens did 9/11. Current movie is Trump`s going to be reinstated as president because of the Arizona audit.

Apparently, his next movie is going to be about the guy who says he`s Q who says he`s traveled here from the future to warn himself about the election being stolen but not to warn himself about how to avoid not going to jail.

I mean, here`s the thing, though. Apparently, no matter how crazy and out there this stuff is getting, and it`s an interesting question as to the former president`s mental state as to whether or not he really believes this is going to reinstate him as president or whether he`s just riding this for the grift now, too, but however weird this is getting, Arizona Republicans really are right there for it. They are all in.

I mean, the guy the Arizona state Senate Republicans hired to lead the audit, to run the audit, the head of Cyber Ninjas, the guy they said they hired to perform a nonpartisan objective fair recount of the 2020 ballots, he`s in the new conspiracy theory movie made by the aliens did 9/11 guy. I mean, there he was on in the movie on Saturday night talking about how the CIA has been running a disinformation effort around election fraud or something.

He was hired by the president of the Arizona state Senate, Republican Arizona state Senate Karen Fann. She`s said over and over again that she doesn`t necessarily believe the election was stolen, the audit she launched is not about Trump, not about overturning the 2020 election. It`s just about restoring voter confidence in elections.

But guess what, this weekend, Senator Karen Fann herself attended the big launch event in Phoenix for the new election was stolen conspiracy theory movie. She and a bunch of her fellow Republican state senators there in person. The Arizona Senate president, one of the highest ranking Republican officials in the state at the event, lending her authority to this crazy QAnon thing.

Things are getting wild in Arizona, and you know, we could find out what the supposed results are that they have come up with any day now. They appear to finally be stopping doing whatever it was they were doing in calling their audit. But here we are.

I mean, life on earth one, where President Biden is trying to pass an infrastructure bill and he`s getting pressured from young activists on the left to make sure it`s ambitious on climate while not coincidentally, the planet cooks like it has never cooked before. I mean, life on earth one where Democrats want a bipartisan review of violence at the Capitol after we blew the peaceful transition of power for the first time in our nation`s history.

Life on earth one is hard enough. These are real problems that need real solutions. That stuff is hard enough.

But on earth two, Republican Earth, where Trump thinks he`s still president, I mean, that really is where the Republican Party is still stuck. Even as he, you know, is now starting leading political rallies again. Even as he`s the undisputed leader of his party, even as he girds for potential criminal charges coming as soon as tomorrow. What a world. What a worlds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Earlier this month, when a trailer came out for a new conspiracy theory movie about the Arizona audit and how the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and a giant conspiracy. A number of people who had been covering that Arizona audit were struck by the familiar sound of one of the voices. Someone credited in the trailer as anonymous and shielded from view in the trailer, nevertheless, sounded an awful lot like a man named Doug Logan, who was the head of Cyber Ninjas. Doug Logan and Cyber Ninjas, that`s the company performing the supposedly nonpartisan objective audit in Arizona.

Why would that guy be featured in an insane conspiracy theory QAnon movie about the audit made by a guy who usually makes movies about aliens taking over the Earth? Doesn`t seem like a good look for people interested in defending the quality of the audit, right?

A reporter from the "Arizona Mirror" named Jerod MacDonald-Evoy, who has been doing some of the most granular reporting on what is happening in Arizona started tracking the evolution of that trailer for that film as the filmmakers apparently kept trying to change the voice and replace bits of the trailer so people wouldn`t know that the guy actually running the Arizona audit participated in this conspiracy theory QAnon adjacent film. It`s weird.

But this weekend, that reporter went to the premiere of this new film, and it was no longer a secret. There were no longer trying to disguise his voice or spot shadow him or keep him in silhouette. When they finally showed the movie this weekend, the guy running the Arizona audit is proudly revealed as an enthusiastic source for this crazy pants movie.

A majority of Republican voters across the country believe that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. This ridiculous exercise in Arizona is their best source of hope for believing that. And it is crazy enough to be looking in at that from across the country, knowing that this is the long, weird tale of the last presidency.

But from close up, covering it from close up, covering it from Arizona, it`s definitely even crazier.

Joining us now is Jerod-MacDonald-Evoy. He`s a reporter at the "Arizona Mirror". His coverage of the Arizona audit and the cast of characters surrounding it has been indispensable for understanding what is happening there.

Mr. MacDonald-Evoy, thank you very much for being with us. I appreciate your time tonight.

JEROD MACDONALD-EVOY, REPORTER, ARIZONA MIRROR: Thank you. Thank you for having me on.

MADDOW: Is this exercise in Arizona over? It`s been a little hard to tell. We thought they might be wrapping up last week. It seems like maybe now they`re wrapping up now.

MACDONALD-EVOY: Well, honestly, it`s hard to tell. It`s been very much a moving target from the get go. When it comes to this audit, a lot of things are constantly changing. When it comes to the procedures or when it`s going to wrap up, I mean, earlier this year, we were told that things would end at a certain time, but then things got extended again.

We saw what happened when the lease, we had issues with the lease and what happened when graduations happened and there was kind of that hubbub that happened there. So, When it comes to this audit, nothing is kind of -- a lot of things are always up in the air. We never really quite know what`s going to happen.

As for us reporters in Arizona, it keeps us on our toes of what`s going to happen. But as far as we know from official channels, we have been told that it`s going to be wrapping up, and it has ended here soon, and they finished the counting, and they`re finishing up what`s called this paper examination portion of the audit.

MADDOW: We have seen that it has been sort of a hallmark, there have been these repeated touchstones among those who believe in the president`s conspiracy theories around the election, that the election was stolen from him or there was some sort of fraud nobody has been able to prove but was definitely there. We have seen these films happen. We saw Mike Lindell do a film and then do another film. There`s a whole universe of YouTube devoted to this stuff, but there was also this new film that was premiered in Arizona, Phoenix, which seems to have unusual access to the audit itself.

I will say, reading your coverage of it today, the thing that was most surprising to me was to learn that the state Senate president and other Republican lawmakers were there. It seems like sort of something that would be more for the, like, die-hard true believer rabble rather than for the officials that are going to have to be defending whatever the results of this audit is pretty soon.

MACDONALD-EVOY: It was a little surprising to see that there were some lawmakers there, but at the same time, it wasn`t. Some lawmakers that were there, like Representative Mark Finchem and Sonny Borelli have been very involved in what I call this alternative media that is out there. We have a lot of that here in Arizona. This alternative media that has been deplatformed or has had issues because the election fraud issues they spread or the QAnon issues that they spread. Finchem and Borelli, they frequently appear on alt-right channels and alt-right or alternative media type QAnon type channels.

For example, Representative Finchem was on a channel called red pill, I believe 76. It`s a channel that is primarily dedicated to QAnon content for the most part, and has spread a lot of unfounded conspiracy theories around the Arizona audit like saying there was a spy plane that was sent by Biden to spy on the Arizona audit, but it was actually a Phoenix police plane that had nothing to do with the audit.

It was circling nowhere near the audit, but that was a show that Finchem appeared on. So for people who have been following a lot of these lawmakers very closely, it wasn`t incredibly surprising to see they did show up at this event, considering that it hit on a lot of the key fraud claims that a lot of these lawmakers have been bolstering to their supporting ranks in the past few months.

MADDOW: Jerod, as things have gotten weirder, like those kind of allegations you were just describing, Biden sending a spy plane, famously, the hunt for bamboo fibers in the paper, the more outlandish, unbelievable, and in some cases laughable claims that have undergirded his supposed need for the audit and the things they`re investigating, as things have gotten weirder and weirder, has that undercut the seriousness with which Republicans are treating this? Or the anticipation in Republican circles as to what the supposed audit is going to find?

I mean, usually, in rationalist terms, when stuff gets weird, you expect it to appeal to a smaller base. In this case, I can`t quite tell if that`s happening or not in Arizona.

MACDONALD-EVOY: I think I would say yes and no, there are some sets of conservative belief out here in Arizona that see some of that as evidence of further wrongdoing, of further, you know, evidence of there being issues in the election. They see it as further evidence to support that there is, you know, something going on nefarious going on in the election or something nefarious going on in, you know, the audit or the people in the orbit of the audit.

But then there are Republicans that have been coming out and saying no, this is not right. We`re seeing a lot of misinformation and disinformation. There have been Republicans who have spoken out like very publicly and such as Maricopa County recorder Stephen Richer or the board of supervisors which is mainly Republican, Maricopa County board of supervisors which is mainly Republican. They have come out very strongly against it. That`s been a big sticking point between the Arizona senate. They have been fighting back and forth between the Arizona Senate, Maricopa County board of supervisors, which is primarily Republican.

So they do have this kind of divide between certain types of Republicans within the state who some no matter what happens, they see it as some sort of evidence towards more fraud or you have the others that are kind of saying enough is enough with some of this stuff.

MADDOW: It does feel like at times a little bit of something that tends toward mass hysteria, this idea that any countervailing evidence is just more evidence for how right you are. I will tell you, just covering this from the outside, I do find your work and the work of your colleagues at "The Mirror" and "Arizona Republic" and some other outlets to have been incredibly valuable.

I also know that you guys have been working triple time in order to keep the country informed as to what`s been going on, and it has been hard to follow and it`s a challenge, so I want thank you and commend you and the mirror and all your colleagues for doing all this hard work, Jared. It`s -- the country needs you and you guys have been doing great work.

MACDONALD-EVOY: I really appreciate that. Thank you very much.

MADDOW: All right. Jerod MacDonald-Evoy is a reporter at the "Arizona Mirror".

Again, I will say, part of me doesn`t even want to anticipate, let alone sort of talk about the fact that there`s going to be some result announced about the Arizona audit because, I mean, they have been there, you know, basically playing with toe jam for all these weeks and we don`t know, there`s no reason to believe there`s going to be any actual information, anything real that comes out of the audit.

However, we have to pay attention to that just as a benchmark for the country because when they come out and they inevitably say oh, yeah, it was the Chinese and the aliens and the people out to get Mike Flynn that all, like, rigged the election for Trump, it`s going to have an impact in Trump world because Trump voters, Trump supporters, and certainly people around the president himself, want to believe that there was something wrong with the 2020 election, and whatever comes out of this garbage process in Arizona will be seized on to start a whole new chapter, and then trying to solve the fact that Joe Biden wasn`t legitimately elected.

Having to pay attention to this is both infuriating and sort of enervating, but also I think prudent because it`s -- this is not getting any less nuts over time.

All right, we have much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: In Surfside, Florida, makeshift memorials are springing up now to people lost and the people still missing since Thursday, when a part of a 12-story condo complex collapsed. No warning. 136 total units in the building, 55 of them crumbled within seconds in the middle of the night.

Family members have been posting photos of their missing loved ones, hoping someone has seen them, hoping they somehow weren`t in that building when it came down.

Today is day five since the collapse. And the search for survivors continues desperately, but with more bad news tonight. For all of the families and all of the people who are worried about those who they haven`t heard from. Authorities announced tonight that another victim has been pulled from the rubble. That makes it a total of 11 people who are now confirmed dead in the building collapse.

Even more horrifying than that, though, is the total number of people still unaccounted for, even with 11 people known to have been killed, there are another 150 persons still unaccounted for, and that prospect that the unaccounted for number may soon become something approaching a death toll is almost impossible to get your head around.

Rescue crews on site are systematically going through the massive piles of rubble in the hopes of finding life. Their work has been delayed by rain, by fires on site, by the imminent threat of further collapse of remaining parts of the building. Teams have tunneled into the site. They have used dogs and sonar and specialized cameras. There`s teams from Mexico and Israel that are part of the search. Those are teams that are skilled at finding survivors of catastrophes.

The core mystery, though, alongside the tragedy is what caused the building to collapse. And it`s still speculation, but it`s speculation that will be at the heart of ongoing investigations. The discussion right now focusing on an inspection report from three years ago, from 2018, where a local engineer warned, about, quote, major structural damage below the pool area at the condo complex, and quote, abundant cracking in other parts of the building.

The engineer`s report said failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially. Again, identifying bad concrete deterioration already, saying failure to do major repairs would cause the concrete deterioration to spread.

The report also said that the waterproofing had been laid on a flat structure which hadn`t been sloped to drain, calling it a major error by the developers, by the builders. The engineer added that this was causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas. Again, this was all from 2018, all in black and white, all quite explicit and quite urgent.

The surviving residents of that tower that collapsed told NBC News they never heard about any of this. In fact, residents say town officials told them in a 2018 meeting that the building was, quote, not in bad shape.

Joining us now is from Surfside, Florida, is Patricia Mazzei. She`s Miami bureau chief for "The New York Times". She`s been covering this from the very beginning.

Ms. Mazzei, thank you so much for taking time to talk to us tonight. I know this is an exhausting story.

PATRICIA MAZZEI, MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Happy to be here to tell people`s stories about it.

MADDOW: Help me understand where we are in the process. The thing that is gut-wrenching here is not only the known loss of life already but the very large number of people who remain unaccounted for, and the fact that this is day five. Obviously, the first 72 hours is seen as the sort of golden period, that sort of best window for hopes of finding people alive. Day five, it is starting to feel like a very, very scary situation.

MAZZEI: Yeah, I think over the weekend especially, after the sort of initial frustration from the families about not knowing exactly what was happening, they were able to see up close. They were taken as close to the site as they could get to sort of witness the search efforts themselves.

And they saw the hundreds of people who are working near the pile. They saw this labyrinth of tunnels and machinery that is now working there, and they were able to sort of have a private moment there to grieve. So I think that has led to officials starting to ease them into the idea as horrible as it is, that this is going to be a long, pain-staking process and what they might find are human remains, but it`s going to be very difficult.

The rescue workers I have spoken to talk about just the enormity of it being very different from anything they have had to work before in terms of the number of possible fatalities. And they describe really harrowing situations where they find one floor just barely a couple feet from another floor. Normally, there would be about ten feet between the ceiling and the floor of one story of the building. Now we`re talking about maybe two feet, one foot of spacing. So, it`s just really terrible, everything we hear coming out of the site.

MADDOW: Can you tell us a little bit about how officials arrived at this, as I said, this sort of terrifying number, there may be as many as 150 people who are unaccounted for now, five days into this? How confident are they in that number? Obviously, it looms as a theoretical potential death toll when this is all over.

MAZZEI: They still call it a very fluid number. They have not been willing to release the names on it because they fear it`s not entirely correct yet. They have depended on families to come forward and report their loved ones missing. And file formal paperwork, saying that.

And so the question is, you know, there`s a big international community in south Florida. Have they reached everybody who might be abroad, in other countries? Are there language barriers? But it`s really been a process of relying on the families to come forward and just yesterday, they were saying they didn`t think they had heard from all the families of the missing yet, and they wanted their information. They wanted their DNA to be swabbed so that they could make comparisons with any remains they find. It`s sort of a slow process, and one that they don`t have, you know, complete confidence in being completely correct. I think we would all love to think that a lot of these people are sort of on vacation somewhere and not following the news, but I don`t know that that`s the case.

MADDOW: In terms of the ongoing efforts, the rescue and recovery efforts, it`s been interesting to see international teams come in, teams from other countries, and teams from around the United States, that have specialized expertise, specialized equipment.

Can you give us any sense of how dangerous the rescue and recovery efforts are? Obviously, these are specialized teams and they know what they`re doing, but some of the pace of it, I think, obviously, like you said, they have got an enormous -- the enormity of the task is daunting. But are they themselves at risk for potential further collapse while they`re on site, on the pile?

MAZZEI: That was of particular concern early on. It still is, but early on, they really had no idea what they were facing, and they were going through the bottom, through these tunnels because they thought that was the best chance that they would have to find what they called voids, which are empty spaces where they might find life, and so they started at the bottom, drilling through bit by bit, and shoring up the concrete so that the rescue workers themselves wouldn`t be injured.

We did hear today, which is a frightening thought, of one of the rescue workers kind of falling down the mound 25 feet. We were also told there were no serious injuries, but the teams travel with trauma surgeons, in large part to protect the workers because it is very dangerous, because they don`t know if there`s going to be a secondary collapse. And when there were those conditions of fire and thunderstorms and rain and sort of things that could destabilize the pile, that was of extra concern.

MADDOW: Patricia Mazzei, Miami bureau chief for "The New York Times", who`s been covering this for the last few days -- just an absolutely gut- wrenching story. Thanks for giving us some context. Thanks for helping us understand.

MAZZEI: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead here this Monday night. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: The story struck a nerve last week when we covered it. I just want to give you an update tonight. The name of the last pro-democracy paper in Hong Kong is "Apple Daily." As China has started closing an iron fist around Hong Kong, and in particular around pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong, the free press there has paid a very dramatic price.

And last week, "Apple Daily" was force to do shut down. Police officers raided "Apple Daily`s" office. They froze the paper`s assets, so they couldn`t pay their staff, they couldn`t pay for operations. But then the police started arresting the staff of the newspaper. Five executives at "Apple Daily" and a columnist were rounded up and thrown in jail.

Amid that increasingly impossible pressure, that last newspaper announced that they were shutting down for good. They published their last issue on Thursday.

We cover that here on the show. People in Hong Kong woke up before dawn to stand in line at news stands to grab a copy. For the last issue, "Apple Daily" printed, instead of their usual like 80,000 copies, they printed 1 million copies. They were also that across the state a day before a 9:00 a.m., the last print edition of the last pro-democracy independent newspaper in that great city.

And it`s obviously an upsetting story for democracy, for freedom of the press, for creeping authoritarianism around the world. It`s especially horrible for all the journalists who work there, who thought the only way to stop their colleagues from getting thrown in jail was to stop printing newspaper and go out of business. But apparently, even that was not enough.

Last night, a senior journalist who used to write for "Apple Daily" before it shut down last week, was trying to board a plane to leave Hong Kong, trying to board a plane from Hong Kong to London. He was arrested in the airport. Police say they arrested him for, quote, conspiring to collude with foreign countries while foreign sources to endanger national security.

That crime, it`s new crime in China that -- this new crime that the pro- China government has been using to crack down on pro-democracy forces of all kinds in Hong Kong, that is a crime that is punishable by up to life in prison.

Hong Kong Journalist Associations put out this statement today, quote: We reiterate that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are both Hong Kong`s core values. If the writer`s pen is forbidden, Hong Kong will hardly be regarded as an international city.

The pro-democracy paper he wrote for does not exist anymore, but they arrested him anyway, as he was trying to leave the country. Presumably just so they could.

This was the headline over at "Bloomberg" this weekend when it happened. Quote: Fear grips other Hong Kong media after China crushes "Apple Daily." Indeed.

Watch this space.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: If you`re wondering why sales of Pepto-Bismol are up at the bodega just outside the Kremlin, it`s because Ukraine and NATO have just launched really big military drills together on the Black Sea. These drills are called Sea Breeze 2021, but don`t let the wine cooler name fool you.

They`re expected to last about two weeks. They involve about 5,000 military personnel from the U.S., Ukraine, and NATO member countries. This is about 40 aircraft, about 30 warships taking part in these drills, among them the USS Ross which is a guided missile destroyer.

The Navy says these exercises will focus on things like amphibious warfare, land maneuver warfare, air defense, anti-submarine warfare.

Now, the U.S. and Ukraine have been doing joint military exercises somewhat like this since like 1997. But they have never before done anything at this scale.

In a tweet today, the U.S. and Ukraine said quote, Sea Breeze 2021 is nothing new except that the number of countries is bigger than ever and the scenarios are more complex.

Ukraine says that they are taking part in these drills, with all these manpower, all this machinery to gain experience in these kinds of joint activities but the subtext is clear -- Ukraine wants to join NATO.

And Ukraine having a close alliance with the United States and with NATO also sends a very clear message to Russia.

As you would expect, Moscow is feeling quite dyspeptic over these exercises. The Russian Defense Ministry said that they will react if necessary to protect their own national security. Last week, the Russian embassy in D.C. called for these exercises to be canceled.

But they are going ahead, starting today and for the next two weeks.

Watch this space.

That`s going to do it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.

Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."

Good evening, Lawrence.