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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 6/3/21

Guests: Marc Elias, Matt Zapotosky


Republicans in multiple states have expeditiously passed new laws to make it harder to vote, and Democratic voting rights lawyer Marc Elias has just as expeditiously sued them for it. Today, "The Washington Post" was the first to break to news the postmaster general of the United States is under FBI investigation.


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

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.

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

President Trump`s postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, who has been trying to dismantle and sabotage the U.S. Post Office for more than a year now since he`s been running it.

Today, we learned that Louis DeJoy is under FBI investigation for an allegedly criminal political donation scheme he ran out of his business for years, before he got the post office gig during the Trump administration.

We have reported on that alleged scheme extensively here on the show. In part because it is really quite oddly reminiscent of the thing that Nixon`s Vice President Spiro Agnew did which got him indicted and thrown out as president of the United States.

Louis DeJoy is still postmaster general today. But today, we did learn today that he is under FBI criminal investigation. We`re going to speak with the reporter who helped break that story in just a few minutes.

Before we get to that big news tonight, though, I want to take a second to circle back to update you on a story that we first covered a few months ago. A story about the great state of Missouri. It was a story centered on this Republican elected official.

Her name is Patricia Derges. She went to medical school in the Caribbean. When she came back to the United States after she graduated from that school, she was not accepted to a medical residency program.

So, the consequence of that is that she is not a licensed physician in the state of Missouri. She can`t be. She was unqualified. She couldn`t get into a residency program.

That just made it all the more surprising when she, not a doctor, publicly claimed to have made a medical discovery that could literally change the course of world history and saves tens of millions of lives. It was April of last year, this woman in Missouri, Patricia Derges, claimed that she had discovered the cure for COVID-19.

Again, this is April last year. We barely knew anything about COVID-19. Cases skyrocketing, thousands of Americans dying. But she said she had the cure.

And she made this announcement of this momentous world-changing news on her Facebook page, because sure, that makes sense. She wrote on Facebook, quote, this amazing treatment stands to provide a potential care for COVID- 19 patients that is safe and natural.

According to prosecutors, Patricia Derges marketed her fake cure for COVID not only on Facebook, but also local TV shows and radio shows in Missouri. She hawked it during informational seminars that she conducted.

She described as a, quote, stem cell shot. She said a cured not only COVID- 19. She said it also basically cured everything.

It could cure tissue damage, kidney disease, COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Lyme disease, she said it cure. Erectile dysfunction, sure why not. She said it could all be cured all at once with her magic shock.

According to prosecutors, the concoction that was being marketed by this woman from Missouri not only was it not a cure for any of those diseases, it also contained zero of the magic ingredients she said did the curing. This thing she was calling a stem cell shot in fact contained zero stem cells.

Nevertheless, prosecutors say she got people to pay her $200,000 all in all, four injections of her faith stem cell cure all, which didn`t contain any stem cells and did not cure anything.

And I keep saying according to prosecutors, because Patricia Derges, of course, was indicted for selling her fake cure for COVID-19. Earlier this year, she was hit with 20 felony charges. Not just for selling her fake cure for COVID, but also for wire fraud and lying to investigators. Also multiple counts of allegedly distributing opioids and other drugs without valid prescriptions. Shocking.

She has pled not guilty. But this is not just a medical scandal, snake oil quackery story. This is a political story as well. Because Patricia Derges is currently right now, a sitting member of the Missouri state legislature.

She is a Republican state representative. She was elected in November a last year. That is after she has started selling her fake COVID cure. But a before she was indicted for it.

And State Representative Patricia Derges was first federally charged earlier this year. The House speaker in Missouri, the Republican house speaker asked her to resign her seat. Patricia Derges took that request into careful consideration and said, no, thank you, please.

She emailed the House speaker to inform him that she would not be resigning. In that email, she said, quote, my attorney is excellent and has this handled.

Turns out the situation was not handled. Since we last checked in on this story, federal prosecutors have unveiled more charges against Patricia Derges. This time in a superseding indictment, they say she also defrauded the local government out of $300,000 in COVID relief funds. Prosecutors say she misled county officials into reimbursing her for given COVID tests to patients in Missouri, even though those patients had already paid her for those tests out of pocket.

She has pled not guilty to those charges as well. But like I said, Patricia Derges is still surfing as a Republican state legislator in the Missouri State House. Republicans did move off her from all her committee assignments. They also voted to expel her out of the House Republican Caucus.

And I promise I`m not making this next part up. Missouri Republicans also took away her office. They instead assigned Patricia Derges to work out of a windowless broom closet, in the state capitol. I actually don`t know what work she has to do since she`s been stripped all of her committee assignments and any caucus related duties. But that`s where her desk is now. It`s in a broom closet.

"St. Louis Post Dispatch" called up Patricia Derges, I think to try to confirm that this wasn`t some practical joke, confirming that a real life serving lawmaker really was doing official state business in a place where mops and brooms are stored.

Representative Patricia Derges did confirm the truth of that to "The Post Dispatch", telling them, quote: Yes, I`m in the closet. I`m okay with that. I`ll make it work, because I`m here to support my district. If I have to live in a bathroom, I`m going to be here for them. I love to make lemonade out of lemons.

Lemonade out of lemonade lemons. Also fake COVID cures out of salt water or whatever.

Obviously, the idea with a broom closet assignment as her office assignment was to try to make it uncomfortable enough for her to come to work, that she would eventually just quit. She won`t quit.

Republicans in the state legislature could start proceedings to expel her from the Missouri state legislature, apparently they are not interested in doing that. They are not doing that. So, she continues to serve.

Republicans did however, try one more thing. She still has a seat on the House floor, even though her office is in a broom closet. They moved her seat on the house floor, so that when she is on the floor, she had to sit next to another Republican state representative who had also been expelled from the Republican Caucus. Because the Missouri House apparently has more than one of those folks at a time.

This is the guy they put her next to on the house floor. His name is Rick Roeber. He first ran for the Missouri House as a Republican last year. During the campaign, some truly heinous allegations surfaced concerning Mr. Roeber.

Before the election, two of his adult children told "The Kansas City Star" that their father had abuse them when they were young kids. Mr. Roeber son told the paper that when he was young, his father was physically abusive towards him. His daughter said he was sexually abusive to her when she was just nine years old.

"Kansas City Star" dug up state record showing that Roeber had been investigated for sexually mistreating another one of his other children as well. He has denied the allegations but it is very ugly stuff. I`m not even begin to tell you about the animal abuse allegations against him because I think too many of you will turn off the television when I say that.

But again, this was all coming out about him before the election. And a bipartisan group of lawmakers called on Rick Roeber to drop out of that election, in light of the seriousness of the allegations against him. But Republican leaders in the state of Missouri did not sign on to that call and he refused to drop out of the race. And he won that seat.

And after he was elected to the state house in Missouri, his kids wrote a letter to the Republican speaker of the Missouri House, basically begging him to not seat him. To not let their father take his seat in the Missouri house.

Again, they were bringing forward multiple first-person claims that he had physically and sexually abused multiple kids. It turns out there was corroborating record of him being reported to authorities for abusing kids, multiple times, dating back to the early nineties. So the kids asked the Republican House speaker, please do not speak him as a state legislator in our state.

But that did not work. Instead, what they decided to do is the Missouri ethics committee in the House decided they would open an investigation into the allegations, allegations that one of their newest members had physically and sexually abused his kids. And sure enough, the House ethics committee found in their investigation that those disturbing allegations against Representative Roeber were quote, credible.

The Missouri House finally voted this April, just a few weeks ago, to finally kick him out of the legislature.

So now, at least the alleged fake COVID cure lady facing dozens of federal criminal charges, at least that Republican state representative in Missouri doesn`t have to sit next to the accused pedophile Republican state representative anymore. That`s very special succeeding corner for Republican state legislatures has, had a little bit of a turnover at least.

But look, there is anyone from last week. This is another Republican state representative from Missouri, all these people serving in the same House at the same time. He too was elected last year. His name is Chad Perkins.

Before he was elected to be a Republican state rep in Missouri, he was a police officer in that. "The Post Dispatch" has gotten their hands on an Iraq turn a report from his time as a police officer, which says he received a quote, sexual favor from an intoxicated teenager, and intoxicated teenage girl while he was on duty as a police officer in 2015.

Representative Perkins responded to the allegations saying hey, that teenage girl was 19 at the time. And the relationship was consensual. He said of his relationship with the girl quote, nothing ever happened while I was on duty.

But that internal police report includes text messages that were allegedly sent between Chad Perkins and the girl in question, after Perkins appears to have admitted grab bag into one of his friends about his quote, relationship with her. The girl according to this report writes to Perkins quote, I`m sure you left out the part about us when you were on duty and I was drunk. He responds to that, quote, I`m sorry.

Now it`s a local police chief who was asked the Republican speaker of the Missouri House to investigate this matter. And you know, maybe that`s a nice change from the federal prosecutors bringing dozens of felony charges against one of your members, and then another viewer members having his kids come to you to tell you that he physically and sexually abuse them. Maybe it`s a nice change of pace for this third one to be just a police chief, asking you to please handle these allegations against yet another one of your members, in the same session.

This time, in the words of the police chiefs report, quote accepting sexual favors from a teenage girl well on duty as a police officer. He both apparently denies that happened while he was on duty. Claims it is a matter, because she was 19. But text messages included in the internal report shows that he basically admits to her that yes, while she was on duty and she was wrong. Underage. For drinking, at least.

Missouri Republicans, you guys okay? Because those are all Republicans state representatives serving in the state legislature this year. All of them.

Missouri Republicans, really? You guys all right? Because also will look what is happening in the governor`s office.

I want to tell you a little bit of a story about a man name Kevin Strickland in Missouri. He was convicted of capital murder in shooting deaths of three people who were killed in Kansas City back in 1978. He was convicted by an all white jury. He was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 50 years.

Kevin Strickland is 18 years old when he was first arrested in conjunction with that case. He`s about to turn 62 years old right now.

For the more than 40 years that he has been locked up in the state of Missouri, Kevin Strickland has repeatedly and consistently insisted he did not commit a crime before he was convicted. "Kansas City Star" did an in- depth investigation into his case and found that the case against him was profoundly thin.

There are two other men who admitted to be in that the scene of the crime that night. They were both criminally crime victim for their role in the shooting. They both say Kevin Strickland had nothing to do with that crime. They`re both out of prison now. He is still in for, more than 40 years he has been in prison for this.

At his trial, again when he was 18 years old, there was one key witness, the only witness to the crime. And she said Kevin Strickland was one of the shooters. One of the investigators who work on the trial said the whole case was her testimony. The case rules and fell on her testimony alone.

Well, in 2009, more than ten years ago, she completely recanted her testimony. She told police that actually, Kevin Strickland didn`t do it. She said that he did because she said that she had been pressured by police to wrongfully accuse him.

She said she wanted nothing more, now than to see him released from prison because he didn`t do it. It was her testimony that put him away. She says, her testimony was wrong and it wasn`t him.

So it`s Kevin Strickland, is the only one left behind bars for a crime he says he didn`t commit. The star and only witness to the crime said he didn`t committed. The guys who actually did participate in the crime admit that, convicted of it, they say he didn`t have anything to do with a crime.

And then, just last month, this is remarkable -- the prosecutors who put him behind bars, they also agreed that actually that`s right, and Kevin Strickland didn`t do it. County prosecutors in Missouri now telling the court that that prosecutors office maybe made the profound error in this case that Kevin Strickland actually did not commit those murders more than 40 years ago.

The prosecutor`s office is telling the court now that he should be immediately freed, that this was a wrongful prosecution. The prosecutor`s office now telling the court that keeping Mr. Strickland incarcerated, quote, serves no conceivably just purpose. Again, the prosecutors saying that.

They`re telling the court they screwed up. He`s been in jail for more than 40 years for something he did not do. He must be released.

That statement from the prosecutors was last month, on May 10th. But still though, today, almost a month later, Kevin Strickland is in prison, still in Missouri.

His lawyers, once the prosecutor said we did this wrong it`s not him, his lawyers petitioned the Missouri Supreme Court asking them to authorize his release. Yesterday, the Missouri Supreme Court declined to hear the case and they did not give a reason why. Okay. That`s the story in itself.

But there are other things that could happen here within the Missouri political system. If Missouri Republicans could just get it together, there`s ways to fix this. The Missouri legislature, despite the incredibly toxic chaos going on over there, they actually got it together enough to pass a bill that would give prosecutors a direct mechanism to ask for a conviction to be thrown out.

The governor of Missouri, Republican Mike Parson, has just left that bill sitting unsigned on his desk for weeks now, despite the Kevin Strickland case and everything else. Just today, Governor Parson issued a whole bunch of pardons observing people of criminal charges. He issued pardons to 36 different people today, Kevin Strickland not one of those people. Even though the witness, the people who did commit a crime, and the prosecutors all say Strickland is innocent.

Governor Mike Parson apparently does not feel motivated to do anything about that. As so, still tonight, Kevin Strickland in prison, after more than 40 years, of where everyone agrees was him being wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he didn`t commit.

You might think -- there is nobody on the other side of this case. You might think the Republican governor of Missouri could get around to doing something about that. I mean, Missouri Republicans, well, I don`t know what`s going on that state right now. But from the governor on down, they`re waiting chin deep right now and just disaster and mess of their own making.

There`s so much cleanup to be done in Missouri right now. So much work to do. But I will tell you, Republicans in the Missouri House, in the legislature, to their credit, they have realized that they do have a bunch of work to do. And they have asked the governor to call the legislature back into special session, to keep working on the story`s problems.

Well, specifically, to keep working on one thing. With all they`ve got plate right now, with all of the scandal and sort of moral torment that Missouri Republicans are sort of waiting in right now, there is only one thing they want to work on right now. And that is they want a special session of the legislature, specifically so they can pass a bill to make voting harder in Missouri. They want to rescind voting rights in the state.

Missouri Republicans had asked the governor to let them have a special legislation -- so they can work on an anti voting bill, like either one staffer Republican control still state. With everything going on there in that state right now, this is their priority. I know Republicans are working on bills like this everywhere they are in control. But just looking at what is going on in the state of Missouri among Republicans, oh my gosh, do they have other things to worry about right now.

But apparently, none of that is pressing to them at all. The only thing they want to work on is making it harder to vote.

Listen, I feel like I have to get this off my chest so I`m just going to say. There`s two tracks on which this Republican 2020 election fraud fantasy is playing a. And one of them is completely ridiculous, right? It`s like science fiction fantasy, with all the joy and surrealism. And in the even the fantastic costume that come.

Without that first truck on wishes fantasy is playing out is in Trump land. It`s this idea that Trump secretly won reelection in 2020. That he`s actually the real president. Joe Biden is a fraud who appears to be in the White House, but he really wasn`t elected. So he shouldn`t be there.

After Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn and a becustomed (ph) Trump lawyer named Sidney Powell went to a QAnon conspiracy theory convention this weekend in Texas, and said Trump actually won the election and he`s going to be reinstated as president this summer, Flynn said we should have a U.S. military takeover, a military coup in this country to bring about the reinstatement of Trump as president.

After that happened this weekend, "New York Times" Trump whisperer reporter Maggie Haberman reported earlier this week that Trump believes it. That Trump really is telling people that he believes he will be reinstated as president by August, this summer.

After that reporting from Maggie Haberman at "The New York Times," a pro- Trump columnist at a conservative magazine today confirmed Haberman`s reporting, saying that, indeed, Trump believes he is going to be reinstated as president. He earnestly believes it. He`s telling people that. He`s also telling everyone that Republicans senators who lost in November, they will be reinstated, too. Martha McSally in Arizona, and David Perdue in Georgia, they will get their Senate seats back. Just as soon as the whole election is thrown out and he`s put back in power, and all the Republicans get, you know, un-ousted.

"The Washington Post" now confirming this basic reporting as well. That Trump insists he is going to be reinstated as president. It`s insane, right? It`s publicly insane.

But it`s also working for them right now. It is working for them among Trump supporters and among Republicans. Most of whom do now believe that the 2020 election wasn`t real. It was fraudulent and Trump was actually reelected, even though Joe Biden is in the White House.

It is objectively nuts. But it is real enough to them, because they prefer that to reality. And importantly, because Trump keeps seeing saying it`s real. And because Republicans in states from Arizona to Georgia, to Wisconsin and beyond, they keep backing him up. Saying there was something wrong with the election in those states, something wrong that needs to be audited a recounted or investigated.

And as nuts as it all is, it is basically the agreed upon reality among Trump supporters coast to coast, now. So, we`re about to enter into a particularly volatile time with this. Because Trump is going to give a speech to the North Carolina Republican Party the day after tomorrow.

In a fund-raising email about that speech, he is billing it as a presidential address. Because he is pretending to still be president. He sent out fund-raising text today, calling that speech an official presidential speech, as if he is still president.

Next week in Wisconsin, the pillow company CEO Mike Lindell is hosting another of these Trump is the real president convention things. The one he is hosting in Wisconsin started off with this promotional flyer. But then on Tuesday this week, a flyer changed to reflect the fact that Trump himself will be making an appearance at that event. They are billing him, as you can see there on the fire as a, quote, real president, our real president.

This is one of the two tracks on which the Trump Republican 2020 election fraud fantasy is playing out. It is, in fact, absolutely ridiculous. There`s no provision in our country for a former president be reinstated.

Joe Biden won the election by kind of a lot. Republican members of Congress try to start to stop the certification of the votes from states that Biden won. But that effort failed. Then on that same day, armed and violent Trump supporters try to force the stopping of the counting of the Electoral College results in Congress, right, on January 6th.

We saw what they were willing to do to try to make it not so, that Trump lost the election. But Trump lost and Biden won. And Biden really is president.

At the same time that Biden is president though, we are in this unprecedented situation where they really is a former president out there, earnestly pretending that he is still the rightful president, telling that to everyone who will listen to him. And even telling it to those who don`t want to listen to him anymore. He is doing right wing radio shows now where he says about Biden, how do you govern when you lost?

As nuts as it seems, months after the election, the guy pretending he is still president has actually succeeded in getting Republicans to cast doubt on the clear and certified election results in Arizona. And soon, in multiple other states including Georgia and Wisconsin.

He`s telling people he is the rightful president. That he will be reinstated. He`s about to start piece speeches to that effect, and a series of rallies to that effect as well.

My question to you is this, think about this in a quiet moment. What is the endgame of that? Where does that go? What does that ultimately spark among his followers?

I mean, the way that first track of the Republican election, Trump Republican election fraud fantasy is playing out in Trump land, it is as ridiculous as it is dangerous. I mean, seriously, for the foreseeable future, there`s no scenario now in which Republican Trump supporters are going to accept election results anywhere in the country if that election doesn`t produce the results they are demanding. That damage is done. Republicans are not just, you know, against Democrats now. They are against democracy now.

A significant number, if not majorities of Republican voters will denounce and disbelieve the results of elections. They will treat elections as crime scenes and hoaxes unless they win, for the foreseeable future. That I think is baked in already. That is a crisis for our country.

Beyond that though, I think it`s also worth thinking about what the logical next steps are for our fellow Americans who truly, earnestly believe this nonsense, who really take it into the hearts and believe that Trump is still the rightful president. That Joe Biden is an impostor president in the White House, who somehow stole power and taken over the U.S. government illegally.

Trump wants to be reinstated as president. He thinks he can be. He will tell his supporters that they must demand that. That they must fight for that.

How will they try to do that? What exactly do we expect them to do? What wouldn`t they do? What does this lead to?

When a major political party starts indulging this kind of stuff, it doesn`t end in, like, you know, let`s have a better get out the vote effort in 2022. It doesn`t end up with, you know, how do we up our outreach to Latino voters.

This doesn`t end and anything that looks like politics. Not when you`re telling people that there is a tyrant who lost the election, whose stolen power, who is claiming to be the president. And he`s not and the former leader must be reinstated by the people.

That is something that doesn`t and a political place. That is a road that ends a very bad place, and we are we down that road already. And I`m not trying to be scary about this. But I find the place that we are in here to be scary.

That`s track one, for the Trump Republican election fraud fantasy 2020. There is a second track though, on which that fantasy is also playing out. And that is the one you can see track its way through the considerable, considerable mud that is all over the floor of for example, the Republican- led Missouri state legislature, with all of its problems. The one thing they want to work on.

It`s this opportunistic pretext. Well, if Trump is going to raise doubts all over the country about how elections are run, and how votes are counted, then Republicans can use that as an excuse to not just fantasized great excuses for their losses. To not just stoke suspicions of democracy and elections among their supporters, but they can use that as pretext to pass real loss to make voting hard, to make voting as hard as possible, to take away voting rights, to make sure small D democratically inclined voters in their states have as many hurdles as possible thrown into their path on their way to voting booth.

And it does not look like there is going to be federal cavalry writing to the rescue on this. Not unless conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin changes his mind on voting rights -- and maybe not even then.

But in the absence of something like that For the People Act passing into law, the For the People Act would protect voting rights in every state nationwide, in the absence of that passing, Senator Manchin, the fight to protect the right to vote for, it comes from this crazy place that has also led Trump to pretend to be a shadow president, but it has led to concrete action and state after state.

And the fight to preserve the right to vote in the absence of any federal help, it`s happening right now state to state, law by law, one after the other, Democrats fighting Republicans over this stuff in the state legislatures. And if they can stop it in the state legislatures, those things passed into law, the fight moves into the courts, state by state, one after the other, all over the country. That`s all we`ve got right now for voting rights.

I mean, track one of the Trump Republican election fraud fantasy, brings the country to the brink of madness. But track two, in the states, brings us to what is now a fully joint, full time, urgent, state by state fight for democratic rights.

It`s just as insane. That story is next.


MADDOW: After the 2020 election, the first Republican controlled state to pass a big voter suppression law was Iowa. They did theirs on March 8th. The next day, March 9th, a lawsuit was filed against that anti-voting rights bill in Iowa, with the help of Democratic voting rights lawyer Marc Elias and his organization Democracy Docket.

After Iowa, then there was Georgia, March 25th. Georgia`s governor signed into law his state`s anti-voting rights bill, signed it in a room with six other white men standing by, while they all stood underneath a painting of a sleeve plantation. It was very subtle.

That same day, Georgia got is self sued over that new law, again, with the help of Democratic lawyer Marc Elias.

Then after that, it was Florida. Florida`s Republican governor signed his states anti-voting rights bill, live on Fox News. Also very subtle. Florida soon found itself sued over that law, also again with the help of Democratic lawyer Marc Elias.

Over and over again, and all of those states, in Montana, in Arkansas, now most recently in Kansas, Republicans have expeditiously passed new laws to make it harder to vote. And Democratic voting rights lawyer Marc Elias has just as expeditiously sued them for it.

Marc Elias clearly is on it. But he`s also sounding a public alarm that in his words, lawyers alone, and these lawsuits alone are not going to solve this problem.

Joining us now to explain why is Marc Elias, Democratic voting rights attorney. He`s the founder of Democracy Docket.

Marc, it`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here.


MADDOW: I think a lot of people look at your track record over the course of a career, but your track record particularly in the past year, and they feel confident knowing that you are fighting these laws. And that you are bringing these lawsuits. And they have a lot of faith in your ability to back down some of the worst of this stuff.

Why are you trying to signal to people that actually, these lawsuits and other good lawyers like herself, it`s not enough?

ELIAS: Really, for two reasons, Rachel.

The first is that it is not realistic to assume that every provision of every bad law is going to get struck down by a court. We won more they`d we lost in 2019 and 2020. We did better than that in the post-election. But you can`t assume that went state after state after state throws the kitchen sink at voters and makes restricting voting rights of a top priority, that the courts are going to be there to back them all back.

But the second reason goes frankly, to the point you made in your introduction. And it is so important, which is, we have a culture problem in the Republican Party, which is that right now, rather than solving the problems of their citizenry. Rather than solving the problems of COVID, a reemerging economy, they are using their precious time and state legislature after state legislature, to pass voting restriction laws targeting black, brown and young voters.

And if that culture doesn`t shift, then we win lawsuits and they passed new laws. And then we win lawsuits and, they will pass new laws. At some point, this is only going to change if the Republican Party is able to change. And right now, that doesn`t look likely.

MADDOW: What do you think is both doable and the best sake case scenario for trying to turn that ship around? Obviously, there`s things that we wish you could turn people`s hearts. You wish you could make people see the world in a different way. It`s hard to do that in short order.

I know that you have been a very vocal, very impassioned supporter of the For the People Act in the Senate. We don`t know if Democrats are going to find a way to get that bill to Joe Biden`s desk.

What is the best hope that you think is out there in terms of trying to turn this around?

ELIAS: Yes. So, look, I view my role to buy time for democracy. We have -- if we can buy time by fighting off the worst of these provisions and give the political process an opportunity to rationalize itself, have Congress passed the for the people act, that`s great.

If we can buy time for our democracy and maybe have some shift within the Republican Party, that is stops viewing people voting as an existential threat to the party. Rather, they start to do view participation of all Americans as a goal we should expire to, then maybe we`ll succeed.

But look, I`m not overly optimistic. All I can do is every day, wake up and try to protect democracy by showing up in the courtrooms around America, and telling judges that it`s not right, it`s not fair, it`s not legal, and it`s not constitutional to target black, brown and young voters and disenfranchise them.

MADDOW: Marc, let me ask you about another piece of this, which I think has moved in the public consciousness from something that was an object of interest and in some cases an object of fun, because it is so ridiculous. These postelection audits or recounts, these third-party interventions where partisan groups and inexperience, uncertified groups are being given access to voting machines and to ballots, in order it seems, plainly, to cast doubt on election results and to make partisans feel like the results that they wanted could have been the real results of the election, if not for some magic pixie dust that had been sprinkle there.

I am starting to see those efforts in a darker light than I think I initially did, because I do think they are having their desired effect. Is there a legal case to be made there, that there are violations of federal law potentially of state law, in terms of the handling of voting machinery and ballots in the way those audits and recounts are being handled?

ELIAS: Yeah, first of all, I think you`re entirely right. I`ve been trying to scream about this as best I can at the top of my lungs.

You know, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the former Soviet dissident, wrote in 19, I think, 71, that in the former Soviet Union, the lie had become not just the moral category, but a pillar of the state.

And the big lie has moved from a political category, something that Trump and his allies were saying for political purposes, and it is now turning into a pillar of the state. It is becoming a part of state policy. And that is really dangerous.

And one of the ways it is doing it is through these audits. Because it is giving the veneer of a official official-ness. It`s been done through state legislators, through state officials.

And it is allowing the big lie to have the imprimatur of the state. And what happens is, when they do these processes -- and by the way, these are not audits, these are recounts. I`ve been involved in more statewide audits and recounts probably than any other person alive or dead.

And I can tell you, these are not genuine audits or recounts. What is happening is they are spoiling the ballots. They are ruining the equipment -- literally the state of Arizona is going to have to throw away voting machines based on this.

And so, yes, do I think it violates federal law? Yeah, I do, because federal law requires that the ballots and the election be kept for 22 months after the election. And these ballots have essentially been tinted.

Do I think it violate state law in some of these states? Yeah, I think it does. And I wish the judges would view this with the seriousness of democracy being a threat rather than just feeling like if they humor these crazy people, they`ll go away.

Because we know when you humor these crazy people, they don`t go away. They just keep repeating and making worse.

MADDOW: Marc Elias, Democratic voting rights attorney, founder of Democracy Docket -- Marc, I know you`re credibly busy. Thanks for taking time to be with us tonight.

ELIAS: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right, much more to come here tonight. Stay with us.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you pay back several of your top executives for contributing to Trump`s campaign by bonusing or rewarding them?

LOUIS DEJOY, POSTMASTER GENERAL: That`s an outrageous claim, sir, and I resent it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m just asking a question.

DEJOY: The answer is no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you did not bonus or reward any of your executives - -

DEJOY: No, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyone that you solicited for contribution to the Trump campaign?

DEJOY: No, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, all of our --

DEJOY: I`m fully aware of legal campaign contributions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, what if your --

DEJOY: I resent the assertion. What are you accusing me of?


MADDOW: I resent the assertion. What are you accusing me of?

That indignant man is named Louis DeJoy. Since the Trump administration, he has been in charge of the United States Post Office. In that job, as best as anyone can tell, he`s been working hard as he can to sabotage and screw up the beloved U.S. Post Office.

But what he was indignant about with that testimony was an allegation he had run an illegal campaign donations scheme where his employees made political donations in their own name, but DeJoy basically reimbursed them with bonuses paid through his company. If that happened, that`s illegal. That`s really illegal. CEOs have gone to prison for schemes like that.

Last year, "The Washington Post" reported that for more than a decade, over 100 individuals at Louis DeJoy`s company contributed over 1 million dollars to Republican candidates on his behalf. Many of the same employees had never previously donated and didn`t donate again after leaving his company. Employees reported feeling pressured to donate, in order to please the boss.

DeJoy`s longtime director of human resources told the paper, quote, he asked employees for money. We gave him the money and he reciprocated by giving us big bonuses.

One former FEC lawyer told "The Post" it appeared to be a, quote, run-of- the-mill but very illegal corporate straw donor scheme. Another added, quote, it`s rare to see it that blatant.

Louis DeJoy has denied doing anything improper but fast forward to today and "The Washington Post" now reporting his political fund-raising and a remarkable number of his employees who seemed to help with that, that is now the subject of an FBI investigation.

According to "The Post", FBI agents in recent weeks have interviewed current and former employees of DeJoy and the business asking questions about political contributions and company activities. Prosecutors issued a subpoena to DeJoy himself for information.

A spokesman for Louis DeJoy confirmed the existence of the investigation but insists DeJoy did nothing wrong. Again, he`s still running the U.S. Postal Service right now.

The reporter who broke this news joins us next. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Today, "The Washington Post" was the first to break to news the postmaster general of the United States is under FBI investigation. Louis DeJoy is the man who took a wrecking ball to the U.S. Post Office in the run-up to last fall`s presidential election. He`s working now, even now, to slow down the mail even further.

The FBI is reportedly investigating what "The Post" described last year as a fairly blatant alleged scheme by DeJoy to funnel illegal neighs to politicians.

Joining us now is the reporter who broke the news today, "Washington Post" reporter Matt Zapotosky.

Mr. Zapotosky, thank you so much for being here. Congratulations on the scoop.


MADDOW: Do we know when this investigation began?

ZAPOTOSKY: We don`t know exactly when it began. I sort of suspect it began after my colleagues back in September reported on this possible scheme that Louis DeJoy was involved in, essentially reimbursing his employees for political donations. At least that`s what a couple of them alleged to us.

What a lot of times happens in these cases like is the FBI, the Justice Department seized public reporting of a straw donor scheme. We have seen this in many other cases, say, we do want to look at this.

But we do know, in the last couple of weeks, the FBI decided to do what they would call taking this thing over. In other words, they went out and talk to witnesses in the world who could tell their friends or reporters what happened, and, you know, that led to DeJoy finding out, DeJoy himself was subpoenaed, we reported and that led to us reporting.

MADDOW: Do we know if Mr. DeJoy is cooperating with the investigation?

ZAPOTOSKY: He says that he is. We know he was served with a subpoena, and he`ll have now some time to turn over documents or not. He insists he didn`t knowingly do anything wrong.

Some of the conduct at issue, frankly, is from the time period of 2000 to 2014, which might be past the statute of limitations in a straw donor case, which is five years. There`s other conduct that runs more recently. Obviously, the FBI wouldn`t investigate if they thought there wasn`t any way they could bring charges.

But the short answer to your question is, Louis DeJoy has signaled that he intends to do that. He`s also signaled that he`s done nothing. That he believes he`s done nothing wrong.

MADDOW: Now, interesting point about the statute of limitations and how long he did this, if he did carry out a scheme, how long it was going for. One of the things that "The Post" has reported extensively was how much money DeJoy was able to funnel to Donald Trump in terms of donations.

Is there any evidence that those donations to Trump in particular might be under investigation? Obviously, some of those depending on when they were might be a solution to any statute of limitation problems for earlier donations.

ZAPOTOSKY: Right, so the campaign legal center has done some of their own investigation on this, and they`ve found that kind of the same patterns that occurred between 2000 and 2014, which we identified, which are employees donating to the same person in the same amount on the same day. Those patterns kind of continued into the Trump era, when -- the Trump running for office era/in office era when DeJoy as you on the board for this company he had run, retired and served on the board.

Additionally, the Campaign Legal Center sort of found that sometimes employees` donations would match up in amount in recipient to donations made by DeJoy`s family members. So, there`s certainly threads there in the Trump era that the FBI is very likely to pull on. You know, it remains to be seen sort of what DeJoy`s role in all of that is.

What we had back in September was actual former employees saying, hey, this is how it happened. We were reimbursed for donations. And that`s just clear as day for the FBI.

We don`t necessarily have that strong evidence yet coming into the Trump era, but we do, according to Campaign Legal Center, have the same kind of suspicious patterns that are worth pointing out.

MADDOW: Matt Zapotosky, covering the Justice Department for "The Washington Post" -- thanks for your time and, again, congratulations on breaking this story. It`s a remarkable thing. Thanks.

ZAPOTOSKY: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: All right, that is going to do it for us tonight. Happy to have you here this Friday eve. I`ll see you again tomorrow when it is actually Friday.


Good evening, Lawrence.