Former Trump Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is under scrutiny for a 2017 land deal. Arizona GOP Rep. Paul Gosar might participate in an event with a white nationalist.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta, the new book is called "Nightmare Scenario". It`s full of fantastic reporting. It`s out now. Thank you for taking time tonight.
That is ALL IN on this Tuesday night.
"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 being with us this hour.
So, he had been a slave. He was enslaved to a white man named John Emerson in Missouri, but then during the time that Emerson was holding this man as a slave, he moved several times, including moving out of Missouri. He moved to the Wisconsin territory. He moved to the state of Illinois. Both of which were not slave territories or slave states, both of which were free.
So that created an unusual situation. A white man and an African-American man he has enslaved. They start in Missouri. They traveled to and live in free territory for a time, and then ultimately they move back to slave state Missouri.
All right, when the white man died, the African-American man who had been enslaved to him, he tried to buy his own freedom from the dead man`s family, from the dead man`s widow, and the family refused to allow him to buy his freedom. The enslaved man then decided he would sue for his freedom. He would turn to the courts.
And the basis for him suing for his freedom was that time in the free territory of Wisconsin and the free state of Illinois. If an enslaved person was moved into free territory, into a free state, they`re freed from enslavement, and that is something that can`t be reversed, even if you go back to Missouri. Once free, always free.
So he sued on that basis in 1846, and it took forever, but finally, 13 years later in 1859, the case was the subject of a ruling in the United States Supreme Court. It was a decision that hands down, no argument, is considered to this day to be the worst United States Supreme Court decision of all time.
And part of that was its form. It was sloppy and flagrantly wrong on the facts and the history and the law. It was poorly reasoned. Its logic was just a broken pretzel.
But the chief justice who wrote that Supreme Court opinion apparently wanted the outcome that he wanted and he got it and that Supreme Court justice is remembered today for basically nothing else other than that terrible decision. The worst decision ever handed down by the United States Supreme Court.
Because the enslaved man who sued for his freedom in that ruling was a man named Scott, Dred Scott. And in his ruling in the Dred Scott case. It was Chief Justice Robert Taney that wrote the ruling.
He wrote not only was Mr. Scott entitled to be free, he ruled that Mr. Scott did not even have standing to sue for his freedom because as an African-American, he was not a citizen of the United States, he couldn`t be, because no African-American, in this ruling, according to Judge Roger Taney, in the Dred Scott ruling, no African-American was a citizen of the United States or ever could be a citizen of the United States because of their race.
And so none of the protections and benefits and rights enshrined in the Constitution extended to black people nor would they ever extend to black people. The Constitution was not for them and afforded them no rights and no protections.
For good measure, Judge Taney also went on to say that the political compromise, the Missouri compromise that restricted the ability of some new states to even establish slavery in the first place, he said that compromise was unconstitutional too, effectively insisting from the United States Supreme Court that slavery could persist anywhere in the United States and Congress could have nothing to say about that, and Americans of African descent were not citizens of the United States and they never could be, and the Constitution didn`t apply to them.
Dred Scott. It`s the worst thing the United States Supreme Court has ever done, the worst ruling both in substance and in form, and, of course, in effect. I mean, the Dred Scott decision arguably nearly destroyed the country when it helped lead to the United States civil war just a couple years after the ruling was handed down -- worst Supreme Court decision ever.
The ruling in the Dred Scott case, again, that was Chief Justice Roger Taney, and this is Chief Justice Roger Taney. This exact bust of him sits today in the United States Capitol.
From 1810 to 1860, the United States Supreme Court held its sessions at the U.S. Capitol. They didn`t have their own separate Supreme Court building like they did now. They sat in what`s now called the old Supreme Court chamber on the first floor of the U.S. Capitol.
The architect of the Capitol says since they moved out of there in 1860, that big room has been used as a library and as a committee room. It was even just used for storage for a while before they restored it to look essentially now like it did in the 1800s when the Supreme Court sat there.
The way you get into that chamber if you want to get in there is you go through a robing room and that is this is weird it`s a funny word but that`s still a thing even in modern courtrooms today, judges got to put on their robes somewhere, so you enter the courtroom through a robing room.
And in this one particular robing room, in the United States Capitol, which marks the entrance to this one very specific former chamber of the U.S. Supreme Court that was inside the U.S. Capitol, in the roping room there, there is a bust, a marble bust of just one person, Roger Taney, the man who wrote the Dred Scott decision trying to spread slavery throughout the United States and declaring that black people by virtue of their race were inherently not citizens and had no rights.
It`s just him in that room. It`s not like -- it`s not like that robing room is a hall of chief justices or something or a hall of justice. It`s just him. It`s Roger Taney alone, looming over that entrance at the U.S. Capitol as of right now.
Or how about not? How about we change that? Tonight, the House of Representatives voted to not do that anymore, to swap him out, to take down from that place of honor in the U.S. Capitol the justice who wrote the worst Supreme Court ruling of all time and instead replaced him with a different Supreme Court justice who didn`t do that. How about Justice Thurgood Marshall for example? Might he work in that spot instead?
You know, the House actually passed a bill to take down the Roger Taney bust last summer. It passed in the Democratic-controlled House last July but it never went anywhere. Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell blocked it. Republicans in the Senate never took it up and so Taney still sits there in the robing room outside the old Senate -- outside the old Supreme Court chamber in the U.S. Capitol.
Now that Democrats are in control of the Senate, it`s not Mitch McConnell there anymore. It`s Chuck Schumer who is the majority leader in the Senate. Now that it`s Democrats controlling the House and the Senate, maybe, maybe old Roger Taney is finally going to get some down time? Maybe, we`ll -- we will stop that ongoing honor at the United States Capitol for him see if somebody else might now get a turn in that place of honor?
The vote tonight in the House -- for the second time in two years, they`ve taken this vote. But the vote tonight in the House to take down the Roger Taney bust that is on display in the U.S. Capitol was to 285-129. A hundred and twenty members -- Republican members the House voting no, voting to keep him up there, the Dred Scott guy.
And speaking of the idea of the Confederate flag inside the U.S. Capitol, tonight, we learned that Republicans in the House are whipping the vote, telling their members in the House to vote no on the creation of a select committee to investigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, the attack where supporters of former President Trump violently attacked the U.S. Capitol in an effort to try to stop the certification of the presidential election that Trump had just lost and yes, that attack did include parading the Confederate flag through the halls of Congress.
Republicans initially negotiated a plan for a truly bipartisan, basically a non-partisan expert, independent commission to examine the attack and what led to it. Republican even -- Republican leadership in the House and Senate then turned against that negotiated proposal, even though their own side had negotiated with the Democrats. They delegated Republicans to work on coming up with a non-partisan or bipartisan plan for an investigation, they did that, it was successful, and then Republican leadership said no don`t vote for it anyway.
Republicans voted no on a non-partisan expert commission. Even though they helped come up with the idea, they filibustered it in the -- in the Senate. So in lieu of that, now Democrats have proposed instead a select committee that will include members of Congress from both parties with a dedicated staff and subpoena power to compel the production of evidence and witnesses.
Tonight, though, we learned Republican leadership is whipping the vote to get all their members to vote against that, too. It is literally their own workplace that was attacked by a mob that among other things was shouting at the time that they wanted to hunt down and hang the vice president from their own party.
But Republicans do not want to look into it. They will not vote for any inquiry either a non-partisan or bipartisan or select committee inquiry into what happened there, they do not want to hear it.
I love the beltway press still maintains that Republicans are going to come along and vote in significant numbers for Joe Biden`s infrastructure bill or, you know, for bipartisan policing reform efforts or literally anything that Biden and the Democrats might want to do. The Republicans will not vote to investigate a crime committed against themselves, not the Democrats want it. The Republicans are not interested in doing stuff with the Democrats. Big stuff, small stuff, they don`t want it.
President Biden was in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, tonight, talking about his infrastructure plans, talking about how his plans would be the biggest investment in U.S. infrastructure since the New Deal and the FDR era, which is -- which is true. It`s true whether Democrats are going to have to pass that alone or with any Republican support that will be true.
But this is just one of those days when the past -- the past just looms, right, even as everybody`s trying to move forward in their own way. The past sticks to us.
And sometimes as a as a benchmark, you know, the biggest investment we`ve made since FDR, since the New Deal, sometimes the past comes with us on days like this in ennobling and even poetic ways, right? The moment when Roger Taney`s bust gets carefully taken down from that robing room at the U.S. Capitol to be replaced even more carefully with a new bust, right? The attorney who argued the unanimous Supreme Court case that struck down separate but equal racially segregated schools in our country, when his bust goes up in that place just as carefully, as Taney`s will come down, right?
Thurgood Marshall went on to be a justice on that court. I mean, when that switch happens in that robing room, that`s going to be something when that happens, right? No matter who tried to stop it no matter how many dozens of House Republicans tried to head it off and vote against it, no matter how long the Senate Republicans were able to hold it off. That`ll be something when that happens.
But the past is with us in today`s news, in pettier and in more distracting ways too. Do you remember Mark Sanford? Mark Sanford is a modern Republican politician with his own freighted history, right?
Stanford you will recall was serving as governor of South Carolina when he went missing. And his office initially tried to cover up the fact that no one knew where he was but they really didn`t know where he was. He then tried to get away with a cover story that he was surprised off on his own on a sudden not pre-announced trip to go hike the Appalachian Trail solo.
He was not hiking the Appalachian Trail. As you may recall, he was with his mistress in Argentina. After Mark Sanford completed his term as governor of South Carolina with that bizarre scandal following him every last day he was in office, nevertheless, the good people of South Carolina saw fit to elect him to Congress after he finished his term as governor. They elected him to Congress in 2013. He served multiple terms.
All is forgiven -- all was forgiven until he fell out with then President Donald Trump. He started being critical of President Trump. And so, in three years ago, summer of 2018, Mark Sanford was running for re-election to that seat in Congress, but he had made an enemy of then President Donald Trump and Trump jumped in to that South Carolina congressional race and endorsed against Mark Sanford, endorsed a woman who was running against Mark Sanford in the Republican primary.
At the time, this is what -- this is what Trump said. He said, quote, Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA, to make America Great Again. He is MIA, subtly referencing his previous scandal. He is MIA and nothing but trouble. I fully endorse Katie Arrington for Congress in South Carolina, vote Katie.
And, in fact, Katie Arrington on the strength of that late Trump endorsement in that Republican primary in a South Carolina House race, on the strength of that endorsement and her own criticism that Mark Sanford was in fact not pro-Trump enough to remain in Congress, Katie Arrington ousted a sitting House -- a member of the House of Representatives. She ousted Mark Sanford by beating him in that Republican primary.
The headlines were brutal. Sanford loses in stunner. Mark Sanford survived the Appalachian Trail, he couldn`t survive Trump. And all of which President Trump pounded his chest about for a good long while he was very satisfied with that, until the actual general election was held for that congressional seat, the general election.
That was just the primary, right? They still had to do the general election in November and even though this was a seat in South Carolina, Trump`s endorsed candidate lost. Katie Arrington had beaten Mark Sanford in the primary to become the Republican nominee for the seat, but then it was a Democrat named Joe Cunningham who actually won in November.
So Mark Sanford was ousted from Congress but the Republicans lost the seat.
And what became of Katie Arrington? Interesting. "The Post and Courier" in South Carolina later reported that after that election in November, where the Republicans lost the seat, right? The Democrat who won the election who won that seat in Congress, he left South Carolina to travel to Washington to go start his new job on the same day that Katie Arrington did too.
Wait, she had just lost the election, why is she going to Washington? She wouldn`t tell "The Post and Courier" at the time why she too was going to Washington after she just lost the election to that Democrat. She told "The Post and Courier" she was going to see some groups of people and would not further elaborate.
But by the end of that year, she had somewhat inexplicably found herself serving in the Trump administration in a high-ranking job at the Pentagon she got the Trump nod to oust Mark Sanford from Congress, but then apparently she got the next nod to become a senior cyber security executive at the Pentagon under Donald Trump, right away, right after the election. That`s how things went.
And we know very little about her tenure at the Pentagon since that time, but today, Bloomberg was first to report this still quite cryptic news. You see the headline there -- top Pentagon cyber official probed over disclosure concerns. Here`s the lead: the official has been placed on leave in connection with a suspected unauthorized disclosure of classified information from a military intelligence agency, according to an official document.
Katie Arrington, chief information security officer for the Pentagon`s acquisition and sustainment office was informed last month that her security clearance for access to classified information is being suspended, quote, as a result of a reported unauthorized disclosure of classified information and subsequent removal of access by the national security agency, according to a memo made available to Bloomberg News.
Now, we really do not know what this is about. She has herself a high-end whistleblower lawyer who said today that she is being deprived of procedural and substantive due process and that the National Security Administration, the NSA, has yet to explain their concerns that have led to her having her security clearance suspended, and her being put on leave.
But, you know, tell me more. This could very well have nothing to do with the very weird politics of how Katie Arrington got to Washington in the first place and how she got into a high-ranking Pentagon position in the middle of the Trump administration after her sort of odd political backstory there, right? We don`t know.
It may have nothing to do with that that the weird political way she got that high-ranking Pentagon job may have nothing to do with the fact that her security clearance has been suspended and she`s now been put on leave from that job amid allegations that she disclosed classified information. We don`t know what this is about. But the fact that the Trump administration actually did staff up so many of the most important agencies in government in such weird political ways looms like every day, it is an underappreciated part of the challenge of standing up and continuing the work of those important agencies in the post-Trump era now that Joe Biden is president.
I mean, I mean -- just take the -- check the Justice Department. We have reported extensively on the proverbial hazmat suits that Justice Department officials now need to put on before they walk into Main Justice headquarters in Washington, right? They`re trying to do the forward-looking work of the Justice Department under new leadership, right? But they have to do it amid the toxic mess left behind by the previous administration, including a bunch of stuff that feels like it should be potentially examined in potentially very serious ways.
I mean, there was lots of attention in the news yesterday to an interview former Attorney General Bill Barr did with ABC`s Jonathan Karl. Jonathan Karl published an excerpt of his forthcoming book at "The Atlantic" magazine that includes apparently extensive interviews -- the book is based apparently on extensive interview views with Bill Barr.
In the excerpt published yesterday, Barr basically explains his decision to publicly admit after the election that it didn`t look like there was enough fraud in the presidential election to have changed the outcome. Barr, in fact, said that to an "AP" reporter after the election, in the Jonathan Karl reporting. We get lots more details about how mad Trump was that Barr had done that we get more detail about how that ultimately led to Barr`s resignation sort of maybe, later on, around Christmas time, before the inauguration.
Lots of news there, lots of consternation about that. There`s less attention to the fact that in this excerpt from Jonathan Karl`s book, he also documents that, in fact, after the election, when he was attorney general, Bill Barr did contact at least one U.S. attorney in Michigan in pursuit of one of Trump`s made-up conspiracy theories about how the election was conducted. One of these conspiracy theories that there were mysterious vote dumps in Michigan that weren`t real votes and that explains why it looks like Biden won even though really Trump did.
As attorney general of the United States, William Barr didn`t just listen to Trump say that stuff and absorb it and do nothing with it. He, in fact, employed the resources of the Justice Department. He contacted a U.S. attorney in Michigan with that trash. As attorney general, he did that.
Barr`s successor as attorney general after he left, Jeffrey Rosen and Rosen`s deputy, Richard Donoghue, we also know that they contacted U.S. attorneys in Michigan and in Pennsylvania and in Georgia with more of that trash from the Trump White House.
The Justice Department didn`t just get pressured and berated by Trump trying to get them to support his bogus fraud claims to get them to help him overturn the election. We now know that two successive Trump attorneys general actually did shovel that stuff out to U.S. attorneys to try to get the U.S. attorneys to deal with it.
That`s wrong. They`re not supposed to do that. I mean if you`re at the Justice Department now, obviously, you want to move forward with Merrick Garland`s agenda and with the Biden administration`s agenda. But you can`t just move forward pretending that all that didn`t just happen inside your department. You can`t assume it will never happen again if it happened there once never got investigated, never got chased down, never had any consequences. That needs to be fixed.
And that`s true all over the government right now, after what we just went through, with the previous administration. Even at a much lower profile agency, take the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the past looms today. There is stuff that may need cleaning up. In some estimations, this one may need cleaning up potentially with the help of the FBI.
This is just a rocket of a story today in "The Washington Post" from a reporter named Desmond Butler who we`re going to speak to in just a moment. Here`s the lead, quote, it was a curious time for Sonny Perdue to close a real estate deal. In February 2017, weeks after President Donald Trump selected him to be agriculture secretary, Perdue`s company bought a small grain plant in South Carolina from one of the biggest agricultural corporations in America. Had anyone noticed, it would have prompted questions ahead of his confirmation.
But Mr. Perdue, the former governor of Georgia, did not disclose the deal. There was no legal requirement for him to do so. An examination of public records by "The Washington Post" has found that the agricultural company in question, Archer-Daniels-Midland, sold that land to Perdue at a small fraction of its estimated value, just as the company stood to benefit from a friendly secretary of agriculture.
During Trump`s campaign, Sonny Perdue was an advisor to Trump. After Trump won, there was lots of public chatter about what jobs Sonny Perdue might get in the new administration. It wasn`t hard to narrow down the most likely choice. He was in business -- he was in the business of agriculture himself. Secretary of agriculture seemed like a good bet.
Perdue spoke to the press in early December about how he was talking with Trump about his skills and where he might be a good fit. It wasn`t exactly a mystery that that`s where he was going to end up.
A couple of years before all this, before he was in line for the agriculture secretary position, Archer-Daniels-Midland had in fact started talking with Perdue`s company about selling him this little grain plant in South Carolina, this parcel of land. They bought it in 2010 for about five and a half million dollars. When they went to him about it in 2015, they asked Perdue`s company if they wanted to buy it for four million dollars, that was 2015.
But after Trump won, as Perdue was about to become secretary of agriculture, they decided to sell it to him not for the four million dollars they had already asked him for, they decided to sell it to him for $250,000, which Desmond Butler points out was roughly five percent of the price the company had paid for it not that many years before, it was roughly of what the company initially asked Perdue`s firm to pay for it just two years earlier.
Back to Desmond Butler`s piece, quote: The timing of the sale just as Perdue was about to become the most powerful man in U.S. agriculture raises legal and ethics concerns from the narrow question of whether the secretary followed federal financial disclosure requirements to whether the transaction could have been an attempt to influence an incoming government official in violation of bribery statutes.
Julie O`Sullivan, a Georgetown University law professor and former federal prosecutor, tells "The Post", quote, this stinks to high heaven. Quote: It deserves a prosecutor`s attention, only a prosecutor with the powers of the grand jury can find out in fact whether there was a quid pro quo that existed at the time of the deal. The former head of the Office of Government Ethics tells "The Washington Post" about this case.
Quote: This may be a matter for the FBI to investigate, frankly.
Sonny Perdue ultimately sold off the company that got that sweet deal on that property. It`s not clear how much money he and his money -- how much money he and his family made off the sale after getting such a spectacular deal on it just as he was joining the cabinet.
And, of course, Sonny Perdue did make a number of decisions in the Trump cabinet that were very favorable to the interests of the company that gave him that sweet deal, very favorable to the interests of Archer-Daniels- Midland, in everything from decisions on ethanol, to decisions on the line speed at meat processing plants, to a tax credit that appears to have put hundreds of millions of dollars in Archer-Daniel-Midlands pockets.
I mean, he might absolutely have done those things anyway without his private business dealing with Archer-Daniels-Midland. Archer-Daniels- Midland insists they got no special treatment from Secretary Perdue during the Trump administration whatsoever. They say they didn`t give his company a deal on the sale at all, even though they previously asked him for four million dollars for the parcel and then they sold it to him for a quarter of one million dollars.
But the past looms here, and if you are the new administration coming in after something like this with stuff like this in all the agencies, you can`t just let it lie as history, right? I mean, you do have to clean this up. You at least have to investigate it, don`t you?
Joining us now is Desmond Butler, investigative reporter at "The Washington Post" who broke this remarkable story today.
Mr. Butler, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I appreciate you being here.
DESMOND BUTLER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks so much for having me.
MADDOW: Let me ask you if I mischaracterized any of your reporting there or if I missed out anything that`s key to the plot here.
BUTLER: No, you got it exactly right, Rachel.
MADDOW: Did Sonny Perdue have any response to these -- I mean, very serious allegations -- serious implications at least here? Did he -- did he or any of his representatives give you anything in response to this reporting?
BUTLER: You know, I tried to reach him every which way. I called his businesses. I sent a letter to his home. I tried former spokesman and I never, never got any response from him whatsoever.
I did get a former unnamed spokesperson to talk about part of this but he was pretty elusive.
MADDOW: Now, Archer-Daniels-Midland says this wasn`t a sweet deal. This wasn`t some, you know, special deal for Perdue on his way to becoming a Trump cabinet secretary who was going to be in a position to do nice things for that company. They say, first of all, they didn`t get any special favors from him. And second of all, it wasn`t that great a deal. They described this as an underperforming asset, essentially implying that that $250,000 price was market rate.
One of the things I found very interesting is that you did quite a bit of legwork to figure out what this sale might have been priced at in fair market value.
MADDOW: You had both -- you spoke with both the county tax assessors` office. They did a multi-million dollar assessment of that property. But you also got an independent assessor to look at it, is that right?
BUTLER: Right, that`s right. We -- we had a professional appraiser look at it and his estimation came out at about $5.7 million. We then got a second appraiser to review that and he concurred.
MADDOW: So if it was a property that is independently appraised at $5.7 million, and Perdue somehow landed it for $250,000, I understand there`s complicated issues around disclosure here, him on his way to becoming official once he was an official, but the prospect that this might have been a bribe, that this might have been a big company who stood to benefit from his favor doing him a big financial favor, who would investigate something like that? I mean, on its surface, there`s a lot that looks questionable here. What`s the proper venue for this to be investigated?
BUTLER: Well, there`s a lot of possibilities. It could be Congress. It could be the inspector general at USDA, or it could be the Justice Department.
MADDOW: Desmond Butler, investigative reporter at "The Washington Post" -- Mr. Butler, this piece is a -- it`s a remarkable window into what happened here. It raises all sorts of interesting questions, but I want to thank you in particular for laying it out so clearly and doing so much work with that team at "The Post" to put this together visually and to make it what`s otherwise very complicated and sort of deliberately obfuscated, a really clear story about potentially troubling misconduct. Thank you and congratulations on this work.
BUTLER: Thank you so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more news to get to here tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In 2003, a Republican from Iowa named Steve King started serving in Congress. He was never in leadership. He never did much in Congress, but he became very famous when he was in Congress for not good reasons.
Steve King became a famous member of Congress because of how frequently he earned negative headlines for his increasingly blatant flirtations with really out there stuff on race and white nationalism. And I mean that specifically.
Steve King would opine about birth rates, and certain populations not having enough babies, and birth control turning America into a, quote, dying civilization because, according to Steve King, white people have contributed more to civilization than anyone else. Quote, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people? Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization? We need more white babies for white civilization, right? Okay.
Steve King met with far right nationalist politicians from Europe and said things like cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end. He said, quote: We can`t restore our civilization with somebody else`s babies.
He wondered aloud to "The New York Times", quote, white nationalist, white supremacist, western civilization, how did that language become offensive? Yes, how did white supremacists become offensive language? When did that happen?
That "New York Times" interview was a couple of years ago now and at that point, the Republican Party decided that Steve King had become too out there even for them on this issue, seriously. The Republican Party in the House under the leadership of Congressman Kevin McCarthy decided they were going to strip Steve King of his committee assignments, a sort of exile within the party, within the Republican Caucus in the House where Steve King could sit around and twiddle his thumbs and take votes on the stuff once stuff got to the floor, but he couldn`t actually do any of the business that a member of Congress was supposed to do.
And in that exile, that move by the Republican Party to seal off Steve King in a kind of quarantine of crazy, that made Steve King ineffective enough and unpalatable enough to his constituents at home in Iowa that he lost a seat. He lost his seat in a Republican primary last year, after spending almost 18 years in Congress.
And, you know, time has worn out the wisdom of what Republicans decided to do with Steve King. Since he lost his seat in Congress, he sort of regularly pops up at overt white nationalist events, like this one earlier this year which was hosted by a guy who`s an advocate for a white homeland, as in a country exclusively for white people. I`ll give you one guess as to what country he thinks that should be.
But the time warp problem here for the Republicans is that while now former Congressman Steve King is there at the white nationalist conference as a living embodiment of the party sort of, you know, showing its ability to cope with and confront and excise their own members who have this particular problem -- look, at that same event, that same white nationalist, let`s have a white homeland event, Steve King was there alongside somebody who is right now a serving member of Congress. Steve King spoke at that event, yes, the white homeland event, but so did Republican Congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona. He actually gave the keynote at that conference hosted by the white homeland guy.
And now that appears like it wasn`t a fluke. According to this invitation that went out on a right-wing social media channel, Congressman Paul Gosar is doing some kind of fundraiser on Friday with the turn America into a white homeland guy. The event claims to be authorized by Paul Gosar`s campaign. It`s got a link to donate to his campaign even though the link does have a typo so Paul Gosar will not actually get any money if you go to that link, oops.
Also, the congressman appeared to defend the fundraiser event via tweet. I`m not sure why anybody`s freaking out. That said, when asked about it today, Congressman Gosar told reporters, quote, I have no idea what`s going on. There is no fundraiser scheduled for Friday.
It`s kind of a weird response when you`re asked whether you are holding a fundraiser with a white nationalist, not like, I wouldn`t hold a fundraiser for a white nationalist. I`m not a white nationalist. Why are you associating these people and he just says, no, I actually don`t see I have anything on my calendar. Does that mean it`s just not on this calendar for Friday? Does that mean it`s scheduled for a different day?
Paul Gosar is not being coy about where his sympathies are with this stuff. So what`s happening with him in the Republican Party? We know from the Steve King experience only a couple of years ago that the Republican Party, this Republican Party, Kevin McCarthy is still the Republican leader in the House, they can effectively kick out people who have this particular problem that manifests in this particular way. In the case of Paul Gosar, though, they appear to have lost the will.
We have more on that in just a moment. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Laurie Roberts is a columnist for the "Arizona Republic" newspaper. I want to show you the title of her latest column today. This is about Republican Congressman Paul Gosar and new indications that he has planned a fundraiser at the end of this week with a white nationalist, literally with a far-right activist who advocates for the creation of a whites-only homeland.
Robert`s latest column is titled: Paul Gosar is going full-on white nationalist and the Republican Party`s silence is not surprising.
Laurie Roberts joins us now from Arizona.
Ms. Roberts, thanks very much for your time. I really appreciate you making time to be here.
LAURIE ROBERTS, REPORTER, ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Hi. Good to see you.
MADDOW: I feel like a lot of us looking in from the outside at this phenomenon and what`s going on with Republicans in Arizona right now are seeing two things. One is the audit, the so-called audit of the presidential election results, which seems to be having a -- it`s sort of a -- it`s having certainly making national waves.
There`s some interesting polling out today which suggests that voters in Arizona may themselves be quite turned off by that. But then there`s also this emerging story about Congressman Gosar. We do have a direct parallel.
Previous Republican congressman, former Republican Congressman Steve King who was effectively drummed out of the party for stuff like this. Yet, Congressman Gosar hasn`t seemed to face any consequences for this stuff at all. From your perspective in Arizona, do you have an explanation for those of us as in a national audience as to as to how these things fit together and how they`re going to work out?
ROBERTS: Other than to say this is Arizona, it`s very difficult to say. Congressman Gosar is from our most conservative district in the -- in the state. He -- but he flies under the radar a lot because he`s from a rural area and he really doesn`t have a whole lot of power in Congress. So I think that they`ve been able to sort of ignore him for a while.
But I think it`s becoming increasingly difficult. First, he appears as you as you said as the keynote speaker, the only sitting member of Congress to do so. Then he tries to form a American first -- America First Caucus with Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, which he backed off of once we found out that that was going to be about saving America one Anglo-Saxon at a time.
Now, we have the fundraiser which he`s saying isn`t true, isn`t happening, but Nick Fuentes certainly thinks that it is. He was on his podcast or a live stream whatever it is last night saying that we`ll it will be on Friday as a part of his white boy summer tour, it lists as you -- as you mentioned -- how to donate to Representative Gosar`s campaign.
So, you know, as my mom once told me, you`re known by the company you keep.
MADDOW: The Arizona audit that we`ve been covering, lots of people have been covering from a national perspective, I was interesting to see this new polling that was released today. It was written up at politico.com, showing that among Arizona voters broadly, a politician supporting that audit actually loses their chance of being elected or re-elected. That by - - I think it was an 11-point margin, Arizona voters would be less likely to vote for a politician who`s in support of that audit than they would be for somebody who`s not in support of that audit.
I have to wonder if that is going to have a sobering effect at all, if that is going to be --
ROBERTS: No, because if you`re a Republican running for office in this state, you must support the audit. You must support Donald Trump, and if you don`t, you`re not going to get out of a Republican primary. The fact that you`re not going to win a general doesn`t seem to matter to these people whether they`re in denial or it just doesn`t matter. The money keeps coming in, the red meat keeps going out, they`re all becoming more well- known.
Kelly Ward, our own state Republican Party chairwoman, is now a national figure. They`re all getting something out of it. But I think there`s going to be a huge blowback for the Republican Party, a huge reckoning coming in 2022.
MADDOW: Laurie Roberts, columnist for "The Arizona Republic", thank you for your time and your perspective on this tonight. I feel like we`re all very, very much dependent on you and other close observers of these phenomena in Arizona to make sense of it at the national level. I`m grateful for your time.
ROBERTS: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Just a matter of weeks, almost all U.S. forces and NATO forces are going to be out of Afghanistan. President Biden announced earlier this year in April that all U.S. troops would be gone out of Afghanistan by September 11th. But now, it`s looking like U.S. troops are going to be out even sooner than, that potentially by early next month.
And as you`d expect, there`s been lots of debate about the wisdom of that decision, right? Just today, the top commander of U.S.-led forces in the region said after the U.S. withdrawal, some kind of civil war is basically inevitable. Lots of people are sounding alarms about how much strength the Taliban is showing as the last of the U.S. forces leave.
I mean, as thing stand, lots of Americans will find things to disagree about, why we went to Afghanistan in the first place, how long we were, how the mission an involved, whether it`s a good idea to leave now in the current circumstances and how. I mean, all of those are legitimate questions and up for debate, and good people will continue to debate those things.
But one thing is not up for serious debate is whether America should keep its promises to the people who helped U.S. service members there at great risk to themselves. The question whether we should make sure that Afghans who helped us there are left to be abandoned and massacred by the Taliban when U.S. troops depart.
When U.S. troops leave the country, Afghan interpreters and drivers and clerks and security guards and lots of other people who have worked for and helped the U.S. military in Afghanistan all these years, they are legitimately will be killed by the Taliban once U.S. forces are gone.
There are thousands of Afghan special immigrant visa applications that are backlogged. The need to fix that slow process in Congress, though, is something that both sides of the aisle seem to be agreeing on, mostly.
There`s a little worry on this front when last week Senator Rand Paul argued that the U.S. should not speed up the visa process for Afghans who are now facing this imminent danger because of our departure. He said those Afghans should stay behind.
He said, quote, you can say the people in Afghanistan helped us, but you can also say we helped liberate them as well. That`s what he a said, so they should be left to fend for themselves regardless of any promises we made to them.
Senator Paul may still try and get in the way of the process moving forward, but today, the House voted to expedite the visa process for Afghans, by waiving for example the required medical exam, which was something that was slowing things down. The House voted yes by a very large majority, a convincing majority ultimately of 366-46.
So that passed the House today. The Biden administration says they have a plan to get potentially thousands of Afghans who helped us, along with their families out and to safety as the U.S. force there is start to leave. House today voted to facilitate that.
We shall see whether Senator Rand Paul decides to block that in the Senate, we`ll see if he wants all of that blood on his conscience and on America`s moral conscience, thanks to him. But at least as far it came to the House today, it got through. Now it goes to the Senate.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: All right, that is going to do it for us tonight, but before I go, it has come to my attention that I said the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court -- the worst Supreme Court case of all time, the Dred Scott case was 1859. It was not, it is 1857.
I actually thought that I had said `57, and we had 1857 up on the screen. But apparently, when I squeezed the words out of my big dumb face, I said 1859, not 1857, which I don`t even know how that happened. I apologize for the inescapable error. I hope you will forgive.
I will endeavor to do better when I see you again tomorrow night.
Now it is time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.