Interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH. After a visit to Arizona election audit, a Pennsylvania state lawmaker calls for similar audit in Pennsylvania.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Yeah, that`s a great point. It`s not that hard-to-get additional military spending.
Gideon Lewis-Kraus, you should check out his article in "The New Yorker", which is sort of the best deep dive on this I`ve read.
Thank you for your time. Have a great weekend.
That is "ALL IN" on this Friday 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 joining us this hour, this fine Friday night.
You know, sometimes when you see people being given a hard time in public life, particularly when somebody`s being attacked unfairly and they`re a public figure, sometimes if you find yourself sort of lamenting that all the good people are going to be driven out of public life and out of public service by the nonsense and unfair attacks and conspiracy nonsense they have to put up with, people get, you know, targeted unfairly for whatever reason, sometimes in those moments, I think it can be helpful to know what that particular person has been through before.
In terms of understanding what kind of effect it might have on them for them to be unfairly attacked and pilloried in public life, it helps to know where they`ve been, to know whether they`ve got what it takes to stand up to some of the unfair treatment that sometimes comes with being in the public eye.
This was "Nightly News," "NBC Nightly News," May 21st, 1990.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: This was a major day of protests by AIDS activists in this country, 1,000 of them converging on the National Institutes of Health outside of Washington, demanding more research on the disease, 81 were arrested.
NBC science correspondent Robert Bazell has more tonight on the group that`s taking the AIDS struggle to the streets and beyond them.
REPORTER: Today`s demonstration is the latest of many staged by the militant group ACT UP, which has gained increasing influence on AIDS policies.
The weekly meetings of the New York chapter attract hundreds, and the loosely-knit organization counts 10,000 members nationwide, mostly young, mostly gay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s do a big demonstration there and keep it there.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
REPORTER: The atmosphere at the meetings and at the group`s headquarters is characterized by enthusiasm and belligerence toward established institutions.
Playwright Larry Kramer started ACT UP to accelerate the AIDS drug approval process.
LARRY KRAMER, PLAYWRIGHT: What right does the FDA and the NIH have to tell a dying person what he or she can do with her or his body?
REPORTER: ACT UP members do more than demonstrate. Mark Harrington has made himself an expert on AIDS and he serves on an NIH advisory committee, even though he helped organize today`s demonstration.
MARK HARRINGTON, ACT UP MEMBER: I call that the inside out strategy. I think ACT UP does it really well.
REPORTER: ACT UP`s strategy has been enormously successful in getting the Food and Drug Administration to loosen regulations for new drugs for AIDS.
Now the activists are trying to force scientists to work faster to develop and test new treatments. In the past, scientists have strongly resisted such pressure.
ACT UP thinks the scientists can be made to listen.
Robert Bazell, NBC News, Bethesda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was May 1990. Bethesda, Maryland, at the campus of the National Institutes of Health.
And that was really something, hundreds of people got arrested. You saw people getting clubbed there by police in some of that footage.
As part of that protest, people with AIDS wrapped themselves up in red tape, as they -- marched on the NIH building, they said, we`re dying of red tape. They said the NIH is killing us. We die. They do nothing.
So, they set up those colored smoke bombs. It was incredibly dramatic and actually a quite intimidating scene.
What they wanted was more people into more clinical trials for more drugs. And they made that huge racket trying to force it to happen. In that news footage, though, there was that brief clip of an individual member of the activist group ACT UP who the voice-over said, the reporter said both helped organize that protest at NIH and was also serving on a formal advisory committee at NIH. A formal advisory committee at NIH on trying to test and proof new approve new drugs for AIDS.
That happened. Activists were brought onto those advisory groups because the top AIDS researcher at NIH made that happen. He met with activists. He cracked open the NIH to force that big scientific government agency to put actual people with AIDS on these advisory boards, including the activists who were protesting at their offices in big, loud, sometimes very intimidating protests, put those people on the advisory boards that are steering the government response.
Now, the top AIDS researcher in the government at the time made that happen, which earned him respect from the activists who he was helping into the corridors of power. It didn`t stop him from getting a hard time from them, though, in an ongoing way.
Three days after that protest at NIH, at his office, the lead AIDS researcher at NIH had been scheduled to give a talk in New York City about treatment options for people with HIV. Here is how that scene is described in the book "Against the Odds" by Peter Arno and Karyn Feiden.
They say, quote: The audience was packed with ACT UP members. The researcher equipped, I enjoyed so much the visit of some of you a few days ago. Then he fielded questions from the crowd. The mood was far from friendly and some of the threats were thinly veiled.
The drugs you`ve tested haven`t worked, shouted one man. Why don`t you try the ones we`ve been begging you for for years?
In pleading for a bolder response to the epidemic, another man warned, if you can`t find the profile in courage that I`ve seen all around me in my own community, then I`m scared of what we may have to be driven to do to make you wake up. I hope it doesn`t come to that.
The most moving moment of the evening came when one man stepped up to the microphone and asked, if you had heard promises year in and year out, if you`re still carrying the best friends you`ve ever had out of churches and synagogues in caskets, if you are scared to death of getting sick yourself, what would you do, Dr. Fauci? What would you do?
Fauci`s response was subdued. He said, quote, I would be very upset.
It was 40 years ago tomorrow that the first ever report was published identifying a weird, rare kind of pneumonia, pneumocystis pneumonia among five previously health gay men. Forty years ago exactly since that first cautious, curious report of something odd noticed in those five young men. That was 1981.
Dr. Anthony Fauci was an infectious disease doctor and researcher at the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I can remember early in the summer of 1981, when I first read in the report from the CDC, of these cases of strange infections and tumors in patients, in male homosexuals, in New York City area and in California, L.A., and San Francisco.
I had thought initially that this might be a transmissible agent, but maybe it was some toxic substance, some drug or what have you that they had ingested. But then when it became clear that such a large number of individuals on both coasts were getting it, we became rather suspicious that we were dealing with an infectious agent.
Then as soon as the IV drug users became infected, and then hemophiliacs, with the common denominator of the possibility of blood-borne transmission in addition to sexual transmission, then it became clear that we were dealing with a very special, unprecedented situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A very special, unprecedented situation.
Dr. Anthony Fauci was a rocket in his field at the time. As a young researcher he became one of the most prolific, most widely published, most influential, respected infectious disease scientists on earth. And from the very, very beginning of the AIDS epidemic, 40 years ago now, he not only worked on it as a researcher, he personally treated patients from the very beginning. And he did put activists on the advisory boards for clinical trials.
He listened to them. He created what was called a parallel track for clinical trials to get more people faster access to promising but still experimental therapies. He didn`t just get yelled at by activists and then meet with them himself. He also brought activists to NIH to meet with his colleagues who might have been less inclined to hang out with the activists who were always screaming at them. He brought activists to meet with his colleagues at NIH to expose those other government scientists and doctors to the urgency and anger of these desperate young people who were dying from this incurable thing.
He wanted the researchers and doctors he worked with to see what was motivating him and what was motivating the people who were pressuring them so hard and making their lives so difficult at times. He wanted to light a fire under the government response.
Well, now we are, as of tomorrow, officially 40 years into the AIDS epidemic. Those first five cases written up in the first journal article 40 years ago, they eventually became 32 million people dead from AIDS around the world, 730,000 Americans dead from it.
But right now, yes, there are 730,000 Americans who have been killed by AIDS, but there are 1.2 million Americans who are living with HIV right now, because treatment for HIV infection did get so much better.
They got the first drug in 1996. We got really good drugs starting in 2006. And now, you can get -- sorry, the first drug in 1986, the first good drugs in 1996, and now if you can get access to state of the art treatment, bottom line is, it`s basically not going to kill you anymore.
And that`s been the last 40 years, that`s been the life`s work of Dr. Anthony Fauci as the government`s top infectious disease doctor. The same Dr. Anthony Fauci who "Axios" tells us today is set to become the new Hillary.
Trump`s new Hillary. The new villain in chief for former President Donald Trump who apparently plans to make vilifying and attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci the centerpiece of his comeback political tour which he wants to start tomorrow at a speech he`s giving to the state Republican Party in North Carolina.
Dr. Fauci is the subject in a negative way of every hour on Fox News primetime now, where they think he can somehow be blamed for causing COVID or something, since he`s the country`s lead scientist on it. Or maybe he`s a secret Chinese communist.
I actually can`t quite follow what it is they think Fauci has done so wrong. But you know what, knock yourself out. This is not his first time swing laps in the kiddie pool.
This is from "Against the Odds" again. In January 1989, Fauci was in San Francisco to speak at an AIDS meeting being held at the St. Francis Hotel. Just before he stepped up to the podium, ACT UP members popped up from the audience and began blowing whistles.
Within minutes, they had covered the hotel conference room with a red tape that chanted, you`re killing us with red tape. With characterize bemusement, Fauci complimented them on the careful orchestration of their demonstration. Fauci had a special knack for taking barbs in stride.
He said, quote: I`ve been burned in effigy so many times it really doesn`t matter. He publicly praised the activist`s knowledge of how the system works and their persistence and success in applying constructive pressure on regulators and researchers. They in turn felt they had found a well- placed ally.
By the time the 1990 International AIDS Conference in San Francisco came around, which some activists just boycott, others attended only to boo and hiss many of the public officials who spoke, it was Anthony Fauci who got a standing ovation at that conference for his troubles.
I say this because this is the 40th anniversary of the first reports of what we would come to know at HIV and AIDS. But I also say it because Republicans and the former president and particularly conservative media, they have apparently decided again that they have some great target in Dr. Anthony Fauci. I think that is a bad choice, in part because I`m not sure anybody can follow exactly what it is they think he`s done so wrong. -- anybody outside their echo chamber, certainly. But also because he knows how to handle himself.
I will also point out, though, that aside from him, this is a weird evolution for us. This is a weird evolution for our country over these 40 years. Dr. Anthony Fauci made his bones and grew his thick skin being screamed at and protested and denounced and burned in effigy and threatened to his face by people who were doing that because they were sick and afraid of dying and trying desperately to get a cure.
And in him, no matter how much they attacked him, what they ended up with was an ally and a devoted, excellent researcher and scientist, who kept helping, who in fact invited them in, who kept working at it, who didn`t get them a cure but got them damn close.
In contrast, the brick bats he is enduring today, the people attacking him now appear to be mad at him for the fact that there`s an epidemic at all? Appear to be mad at him for having trusted expertise? They appear to be mad and desperate to undermine the fact that Americans trust him to tell the truth and to do the work of stopping epidemics and finding cures.
He`s still the same scientist. We`re the ones who have been through a very weird evolution here.
Joining us now for the interview is Dr. Anthony Fauci. Since 1984, he has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH.
Dr. Fauci, thank you so much for being here.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Good to be with you, Rachel. Thank you very much for having me.
MADDOW: First of all, let me just ask if I`m being fair. Am I building you up to be thicker skinned about this than you are? Are you actually worried about this new, sort of, re-upping of attacks on you?
FAUCI: Well, I`m concerned about that more because it`s really very much an attack on science, I think, Rachel. You know, you spoke, and I think accurately depicted, the growing extraordinarily productive relationship that I had with the activists when they came to me with legitimate concerns that the federal government, the scientists, the regulatory enterprise, didn`t fully appreciate that you needed to involve them in everything you do, because it was their lives that were at stake.
So I did reach out to them and it turned out to be an extremely productive relationship. They got my attention in a very theatrical, confrontative, iconoclastic way. But they were fundamentally good people. They were not anti-science.
What is -- the thread going through what`s happening now is very much an anti-science approach. So, that`s a big, big difference.
I mean, it is what it is. I`m a public figure. I`m going to take the arrows and the slings. But they`re just -- they`re fabricated, and that`s just what it is.
But we`ll just have to do our jobs, Rachel. My job was to make a vaccine and use my instituted and these talented scientists that we have there and that we fund in the various universities to get a vaccine that was highly safe and highly effective and we succeeded.
That`s what I do. All the other stuff is just a terrible, not-happy type of a distraction. But it`s all nonsense.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about, actually, the point about developing a vaccine. Forty years into your work on HIV and AIDS, does the development process and the success with the COVID vaccines give us -- should that give us any new hope for an HIV vaccine?
FAUCI: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that`s a really good question, because the technologies that were developed, the mRNA technology, the success of using a very elegant techniques of the conformational correct form of the immunogen and the right form to engage the immune system to optimally make a good response -- you know, it was back and forth, Rachel. What was done with HIV early on, although unsuccessful with the vaccine, went a long way to make success for the COVID-19 vaccine.
And the technologies that have now been perfected, particularly the mRNA technology and other vaccine platforms that were perfected and used in COVID-19, I believe strongly we`ll go back and really be able to forward and advance the HIV effort. In fact, there are scientists right now, even as we speak, that are using what the COVID-19 effort has inspired us to do to start working on that for HIV.
So it`s just science at its best. You know, contributions back and forth, with the fundamental core of it being the investment that one makes in basic biomedical research, which is really the resounding success story of the scientific approach to COVID-19 vaccines and has resulted in already saving millions of lives.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about trying to bridge some of the sort of politics and nonsense and some of the science that you are talking about. One of the reasons that there is this new uproar on the right -- and again, I will be honest in saying I don`t totally understand it -- but there`s a real focus on what the origin story is for where COVID-19 came from.
And there are these conspiracy theories that rather than being a virus that crossed from animals into humans like other viruses have, that there was some, you know, purposely, diabolically created virus that was purposely generated in a lab to unleash on the world as a bioweapon. That seems to be some of what`s going on in the right, right now, and targeting you.
But scientifically speaking, is it key -- is it a key scientific factor in coming up with cures, in coming up with vaccines and curing up -- coming up with a final sort of solution to COVID-19, to know where it came from, to understand the origins of the virus?
FAUCI: Well, to understand the origins of the virus, Rachel, rather than being contributory to the development of drugs or vaccines, it`s more to prevent this from happening again, to understand the origins so that you can be able to be prepared, whatever the origin is. You know, there`s this concern, is it a natural evolution, or is it something that happen out of a lab, an accident or what have you? It is important to understand that.
But it is being approached now in a very vehement way, in a very distorted way, I believe, by attacking me.
I think the question is extremely legitimate. You should want to know how this happened so that we can make sure it doesn`t happen again.
But what`s happened in the middle of all of that, I`ve become the object of extraordinary, I believe, completely inappropriate distorted, misleading and misrepresented attacks which, you know, it is what it is, but it`s happening, and that`s unfortunate.
MADDOW: And it`s happening at a time when this is not over.
I mean, the last time we spoke, Dr. Fauci, was in March, and at that time, I think the seven-day average of U.S. deaths was about 1,500 per day. Today, it`s less than 500. New cases back then were over 50,000 a day. Today, it`s around 15,000.
Obviously, all that progress is due to vaccinations and due to all the hard public health work that has happened in order to get us this far.
But are we -- are we where you expected us to be, given the progress on vaccine development? Are we going slower or faster than you expected in terms of the hopefully final resolution of this?
FAUCI: Well, the implementation is moving along very well. The science really got us the rapidity with which we went from knowing the sequence of the virus to actually getting a vaccine into the arms of individuals. It started -- our group started working on it in very early January in collaboration with the pharmaceutical companies. In December of that same year, highly effective vaccines went into the arms of individuals.
That was really very, very rapid, unprecedented, because of the prior investment in basic biomedical research and the investment, for example, in Operation Warp Speed which put a lot of money into pre-buying and pre- manufacturing the doses.
However, what`s going on right now is the implementation of that result, is getting the vaccine into the arms of people.
So, right now, today, we have about 50 percent of the adult population is fully vaccinated. And a little bit over 60 percent of the adult population has received at least one dose.
You know President Biden has made as a goal that by July 4th, we get 70 percent of the adult population vaccinated with at least one dose. I believe that`s a doable goal. It`s challenging. I believe we`ll get there. But we even have to go beyond that.
One of the things I`m concerned about is that a core of people who don`t want to get vaccinated. We can crush this virus and really put it in the rearview mirror because we have a spectacular tool that`s highly, highly effective. And you know there are people in different countries of the world who are begging for vaccines.
We have as much or more vaccine than we need. And that`s the reason why now, for the next month or two or three, we`ve really got to get people who are pulling back on wanting to be vaccinated, to understand why it`s important for their own health, for that of their families, and also, Rachel, for the community, because, you know, some have the attitude that, I`m a young, healthy person, the likelihood of my getting a serious outcome from infection is certainly less than if I were elderly or if I had an underlying condition. Therefore, you might get the attitude, so, so what? I don`t want to get vaccinated, who cares if I get infected?
But really that`s not the appropriate or safe or correct attitude for the following reason: one, young people can get seriously ill. And often, even if you have a mild illness, you can get what`s called long COVID or prolongation of the persistence of symptoms. But there`s another point in there that`s important. If you get infected, being unvaccinated, and you don`t have any symptoms, it isn`t all over, because what you might inadvertently and innocently do is be the vehicle for the transmission of someone else who might actually get a severe outcome.
I don`t think anybody intentionally wants to be the vehicle for the propagation of the chain of transmission. You want to be a dead end for the virus. And the best way to be a dead end for the virus is to just get vaccinated.
So you`ve got to think more, not only of your own protection, but being part of the community response to solving the problem. And that`s the point we`re trying to get across right now because we really want to get more people vaccinated.
MADDOW: It`s funny, it`s hard to ask people to sort of love themselves and take care of themselves enough to do something for themselves. It`s actually an easier thing to ask people to, you know, love your family, love your friends, love your neighbors, love your elders, love the people in your life. Those are the people you need to do this for. In some cases, that`s an easier sell.
On vaccines, do you think that we will need booster shots this year? Do you think that is something on the distant horizon? Or do you think that`s something we should be thinking about in 2021?
FAUCI: I don`t know. To be quite honest with you, Rachel, I don`t know. I believe that sooner or later, we will need a booster, because the immunity might wane and start to trickle down. But I don`t know right now. None of us know whether it`s going to be a year from now or longer or a little bit less.
What we`re doing is we`re following two elements. The first is the correlative immunity -- in other words, the laboratory data that indicate that if this is the level that you need, and you are up here, how long does it take for you to start going back down and getting below the protective level? That`s called a correlative immunity.
The other element you follow is if you start to see more breakthrough infections among people who are vaccinated. In other words, not as much protection as you were getting. Whether that`s going to be a year from now or 18 months, we don`t know.
But the one thing we are doing, Rachel, we`re taking it very seriously, and we`re doing the clinical trials right now to determine the best approach to a booster. And whether we do that booster 18 month, a year, or whatever, we still are doing the study now to stay ahead of the game.
MADDOW: Dr. Fauci, I know you`re vaccinated, and I know a lot of people trust you personally in terms of the way that you think about yourself and your family on these things. As a vaccinated person, would you feel comfortable getting on an airplane right now? Would you feel comfortable even traveling abroad by air right now?
FAUCI: Yeah, yeah, I would feel comfortable getting on an airplane right now, because when you`re vaccinated, you`re really quite safe. The airplane now, that the rule is to -- people should be wearing masks, which would add, yet again, another added element of protection.
But being fully vaccinated, people should really feel safe, particularly if you are in an environment in which the level of infection is really very low. But in any event, that`s one of the things you tell people.
It was really very interesting, Rachel, because somehow, some of the people who don`t want to get vaccinated, they don`t want any restraints, they don`t want to wear a mask, they want to get back to normal. Everybody wants to get back to normal.
The easiest way for this country and our community to get back to normal is to get vaccinated, because when you get vaccinated, the virus is going nowhere. I mean, we have within our power, we have the resources, we have the vaccine to do it. We could crush this if we do that.
MADDOW: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the NIH -- Dr. Fauci, it is an honor to have this time with you. Thanks for being here on a Friday night and thanks for your work.
FAUCI: Thank you very much for having me, Rachel. It`s a pleasure to be with you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead here tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Ii want to read you a couple of quotes and you guess who said them, okay? It`s Friday, indulge me, all right?
These are real quotes. These are statements about the pro-Trump mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6th. Your challenge here is to figure out who said this.
Quote: These are not looters or of thieves. These people came with political requests.
Hundreds of people have been arrested in the Capitol attack, quote, based on what? Has anybody informed us about that? No.
People who have participated in the Capitol attack were all slapped with, quote, very harsh charges. Why is that?
I mean, after all, quote, nearly half of U.S. voters believe that that election was unfair.
Those are all quotes from one person speaking today. And this is sort of familiar stuff to us now, at this point you expect this kind of language from lots of American political figures in the Republican Party who support Donald Trump.
But those quotes today did not come from an American at all. They came from -- Uncle Vlad. President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who decided to take a significant chunk of time in a presidential appearance today to wonder out loud about the persecution of the January 6th Capitol attackers here in the United States who after all were only coming to the Capitol with what he called political requests.
He defended their actions at length. Off the top of his head, Putin rattled off the number of people arrested in connection with the January 6th attack. He rattled off the number of people still being held in prison. He said they were being harshly punished for purely political reasons.
It is a remarkable thing to see Russia`s head of state take on the cause of the January 6th attack by Trump supporters who were trying to block the counting of votes in the last election because they didn`t want it to be so that Trump lost. It`s kind of remarkable to see a foreign head of state to take up that cause too. It`s especially wild to see him do it and then within hours to see former President Trump pumping out statements about how he was the victim of a rigged election in 2020, talking about what he will do, quote, the next time I`m in the White House.
And, of course, Trump is also now plugging that speech he`s going to give tomorrow to the North Carolina Republican Party, plugging that as a, quote, official presidential speech, because he is increasingly maintaining in increasingly explicit terms that he is still the rightful president of the United States, making Joe Biden some sort of usurper and pretender who of course must be ousted.
I actually think the best headline on all of this came from "Business Insider." Quote, Putin tries to amplify Republican efforts to whitewash the deadly Capitol attack, saying the insurrectionists weren`t just a crowd of robbers and rioters. Putin amplifies Republican -- yes, yes, everybody is reading from the same hymnal here. It`s in Cyrillic this way and in Roman - - no.
The -- what do you call it, the Putin/Trump initiative, right, to un-effect the election of Joe Biden, how is that going? The election is rigged and Trump is still president and the January 6th attackers were brave, persecuted protesters who were arrested in a political putsch and Vladimir Putin will hold fake President Biden`s feet to the fire over it because he was on the side of those patriots who were just trying to defend Trump`s honor.
And the mechanism for manufacturing the supposed evidence for this world view, the grist that feeds the belief that Donald Trump is the real president is, of course, these state level election recounts like the ongoing ridiculous Cyber Ninjas exercise in Arizona, designed of course to cast doubt on the results of November`s election. Even as that one in Arizona rolls on in all its insanity, Trump and his allies are turning their sights on a new target. They have picked a new state that they want to be the next one of these.
That said, the people who are actually in charge of the legal system in that state are pushing back quite hard on this. And that is next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So far, Arizona has been ground zero in the Republican effort to try to uncount the 2020 presidential election. Former President Trump is reportedly obsessed with trying to undo the 2020 election in states that he lost. He has been somewhat desperately making the case that all the other states he lost in must also do what Arizona is doing to cast doubt on his loss in those states.
To that end, this week, three Republican state lawmakers from Pennsylvania took a guided tour of the Cyber Ninjas Arizona recount site complete with, apparently, step by step instructions for how they could do this at home. Since Biden won in Pennsylvania too, so that must be clouded somehow or have suspicions cast on it somehow, the way they`re trying in Arizona.
Those Republican state legislators in Pennsylvania came back home excited to try to mount the same sort of thing in their home state. You`ll obviously be able to get who else loved the idea, the former president today put out a statement praising those Pennsylvania lawmakers by name, calling them great patriots, calling out other Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania state government by name, demanding that they too gay to start one of these fake audits or fake recounts in Pennsylvania, actually threatening their reelection prospects as Republican state legislators if they don`t go along with this plan.
Pennsylvania`s attorney general is a Democrat named Josh Shapiro. He responded to this today by something that has the technical political term of calling bullpucky on it. He said today, quote, Donald Trump lost the 2020 election not only at the ballot box but dozens of times in court and his lies won`t change that. If he and his crew of dangerous Harrisburg Republicans try to pull this B.S. in Pennsylvania again, they will have to go through me. And they will lose. Again.
Joining us now is Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
Mr. Attorney General, thank you for taking the time tonight, I appreciate you being here on a Friday night.
JOSH SHAPIRO (D), PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good to be with you. I didn`t know you could say bullpucky on cable news, but I`m glad to know you can.
MADDOW: I`m willing to endure the fines. I`m willing to do it in order to give the technical term for what you have done today.
Let me ask about what you meant by two things you said. Number one, you called this a crew of dangerous Harrisburg Republicans. What did you mean by dangerous and what did you mean by they`re going to have to go through you?
SHAPIRO: Look, I don`t think we can simply dismiss these folks as fringe. This is who the modern GOP is, certainly who the modern GOP is here in Pennsylvania. Heck, one of those three people who went down there is the leading Republican candidate for governor.
These are folks who are dangerous. These are folks who are trying to undermine our democracy. These are folks who have no respect for the rule of law. And these are folks who are in charge right now in the legislature.
MADDOW: In terms of the prospects for what they are trying to do, as you say, this is a fringe idea, and a radical thing they are trying to do. But they`re not necessarily fringe figures within Republican politics.
What are the prospects for the state legislature actually trying to do this?
SHAPIRO: Look, let`s go through the law and then let`s go through reality, okay? The law affords some state lawmakers and some committees the opportunity to issue subpoenas. But subpoenas aren`t fishing expeditions. Subpoenas need to be tied to a specific and legitimate legislative purpose.
And simply following an order or being the errand boy for Donald Trump is not a legitimate legislative purpose. But were they to go forward and trying to issue subpoenas, and put on the sham audit like what we`re seeing in Arizona, they would have to go through me? And my track record of defending the voters here in Pennsylvania and standing up to this bullpucky, whatever you called it, is pretty darn good. Every time we`ve gone to court, we`ve won and protected the voters in Pennsylvania, and I`ll do it again if I have to.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the strength of feeling and the strength of commitment on the other side of this among Republicans who want to do it. American Oversight, which is sort of an ethics watchdog group, today they published hundreds of pages of emails they got from a public records request from the Arizona Cyber Ninjas recount thing they`re doing there and it included -- the documents they got included emails from the Republican Senate president there who has orchestrated this whole thing, bragging to a constituent about her personal contact with former President Donald Trump who has been personally calling her and thanking her for doing what they`re doing in Arizona.
She`s not only received that direct pressure from Donald Trump, she is talking about her direct contact with the former president, bragging about it to her constituents.
I mean, how much sort of heft can be brought to bear, how much pressure can be brought to bear simply by the former president singling out these Republicans by name, making a public show of this, and pushing them to do it?
SHAPIRO: Well, clearly, Donald Trump holds the strings of the modern-day Republican Party. And certainly, the leadership of the Republican Party here in Pennsylvania, at least those who aspire to statewide office, and those who still have the power within the legislature. I will tell you that Donald Trump`s conduct here is highly unethical but that`s nothing new for the former president.
It would be unbelievably unethical for a lawmaker who takes an oath of office not just to the Constitution of the United States but also the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to use their authority as a lawmaker to carry out Donald Trump`s wishes, to try and perpetuate the big lie and to do so not just on the taxpayers` dime but on the taxpayers` time.
This election was won by Joe Biden. It was lost by Donald Trump here in Pennsylvania. And Rachel, we`ve already had two legitimate audits. Audits that comported with the laws here in Pennsylvania and audits that showed the results that I said before. If they were to go forward with this sham audit, they would have to go through me. They will not succeed. And they will be violating their oath of office and I believe also committing some very serious unethical conduct.
MADDOW: Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, thank you very much for joining us. It will be interesting to see how the sort of churn on this continues to develop. I expect over the course of this weekend it`s probably going to get worse. But you`re drawing a pretty bright line here, sir. Thanks for helping us understand.
SHAPIRO: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Up next here, today there was testimony in Congress from someone who Congress has been trying to get to testify for more than two years. It plays a remarkably important role in what is potentially going to happen to the former president. That story is next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, the attorney general recused himself from the case. This guy was told to stop the attorney general from recusing himself from the case.
Robert Mueller was hired as special counsel to investigate the case. This guy was ordered to facilitate the firing of Robert Mueller as special counsel. This guy was later directed to deny that firing order ever took place. He was even told that he needed to create a false record covering up the fact that the president had ordered him to fire Robert Mueller.
If you`re looking for a bottom-line summary of what his life was like working as Donald Trump`s White House counsel, we have a direct quote from him that makes it very clear. Former White House counsel Don McGahn said that President Trump had asked him to do, quote, crazy stuff. Except he did not say stuff. He said a different short word that starts with "S."
Don McGahn was the top White House for the first lawyer. It was shocking when he learned he was the star witness for the Mueller report, the key describer of many of the alleged acts of obstruction of justice committed by the former president when he was trying to end or otherwise trying to monkey wrench Robert Mueller`s investigation.
Well, today, finally, Don McGahn was in Congress testifying under oath for the very first time about what he saw, about what it was like being told by the president to shut down lawful, legal processes to fire people, to cover up the fact that he was being ordered to do those things.
There was a two-year legal battle that led to today, but in the end today, Don McGahn was questioned for nearly eight hours by members of the Judiciary Committee in the House and staff from that committee as well. It all happened behind closed doors.
According to CNN`s reporting today, quote, the interview had a few mildly heated moments. The committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, spoke to reporters mid-way through proceedings and said Don McGahn was being cooperative, but then he reappeared 15 minutes later to see don McGahn was being, quote, somewhat difficult, and that he was only cooperating some of the time. That was only 15 minutes later.
But apparently, Mr. McGahn told the committee what he knows, and at the conclusion of today`s testimony, Chairman Nadler told reporters that Don McGahn shed new light on several troubling events.
Another of the few lawmakers that was present inside closed-door session today confirmed that Don McGahn detailed the repeated pressure he got put under by former President Trump and the obstructive acts that he witnessed. Those were laid out in the Mueller report as potential instances of felony obstruction of justice.
Mueller said in the presentation of his report under questioning from Congress that no currently sitting president could be prosecuted, could be indicted for those crimes, but a former president could be indicted for crimes like that. That was part of the reason why the record had to be created in the Mueller report of Trump`s behavior, including witnesses` recollections of his behavior so that that could be preserved in case of future prosecution.
Well, the statute of limitations on those potential crimes laid out in Mueller`s report have not run out. In the event that today`s testimony from Don McGahn results in a referral to the Justice Department for a potential prosecution of the former president, the statute of limitations would not be problem as long as it happened fairly soon.
We should not fairly soon what Don McGahn told the committee as part of his deal for appearing today. Both sides yesterday a transcript of today`s interview would be released publicly within seven days at the most. At that point, we will all be able to see what Mr. McGahn said under oath in his own words. We expect that transcript next week, and then the question of next steps will become a very, very interesting one.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: Thanks for being with us on this Friday night. That`s going to do it for us for now, but I`ll see you again here on Monday night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" where the great Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Ali.