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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 6/7/21

Guests: Eric Holder


New tape shows Rudy Giuliani pushed Ukraine to probe Joe Biden days before Trump`s call with Ukrainian president. Eric Holder, former U.S. attorney general is interviewed.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): But you want to hear something else, from a political point of view, as you well know, Chris, history is against us retaining the House and Senate.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Got to move fast.

SANDERS: In the last 21 elections, in 19 case, the opposition party has won seats. We can`t lose seats. If you want to gain control of the House and Senate, do something bold that helps working families.

HAYES: Senator Bernie Sanders, chair of the Budget Committee, thanks for making time tonight. That`s it for this solar-powered edition of ALL IN on Monday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris.

I have to say, the solar power seems to be emanating from you, from your visage, you`re a celestial body right now, just radiating goodness.


HAYES: Well, thank you. That`s very kind of you to say. I think it`s mostly the solar array. But I`ll take it.

MADDOW: Well done, my friend.

All right. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here this Monday night.

We start tonight actually with some news first broken by rivals across town at CNN. CNN today obtained audio of a 2019 phone conversation between Rudy Giuliani and an adviser to the president of Ukraine. In that conversation which again took place in 2019, Mr. Giuliani can be heard pressuring the Ukrainian government their president must publicly announce a sham investigation into some alleged wrongdoing by Joe Biden.

Now, if that sounds very familiar, that`s because then President Trump made the exact same demand of the president of Ukraine just three days after this Giuliani call happened. That was the July 25th, 2019 conversation in Trump famously told the Ukrainian president that he must, quote, do us a favor though.

Trump wanted the president of Ukraine to announce a bogus investigation into Joe Biden, who was the Democratic presidential candidate that Trump most feared running against in 2020. Until the newly elected president of Ukraine announced these bogus investigations into Joe Biden, Trump said that unless and until he did that, congressionally approved U.S. military aid to Ukraine would be put on ice. It would not come through until he did what Trump needed to make sure he was well positioned against Biden in his reelection effort in 2020.

In making this sort of extortionate play against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump also refused to grant Zelensky something he was desperately seeking at the time which was a meeting at the White House. Obviously, Ukraine was at war with Russia, both then and now. It was desperately important to Ukraine not only that they get U.S. aid but that the whole world could see that the United States of America was on Ukraine`s side and standing with Ukraine in their conflict with Russia. Trump held all that back and said no, no, no. Not unless you help me in my domestic reelection campaign by smearing Joe Biden.

That call happened between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky July 25th, 2019. The hair-raising nature of that call was alerted up the chain by an anonymous whistle blower that set motion, would end up being the first of two impeachments of President Donald Trump. But before tonight, before CNN published this today we have never before heard the call that Rudy Giuliani made three days before Trump`s call with Zelensky in which Giuliani made clear that these were the stakes. He laid out the groundwork for that call between the two presidents.

Now as I mentioned, this is not a call between Rudy Giuliani and basically the top advisor to Ukraine`s president. As I said, this call took place three days before Trump`s one-on-one call with Ukraine`s president. And this all came after Giuliani had spent months meeting with his secret sources in Ukraine trying to dig up dirt on Joe Biden himself.

The secret sources Giuliani was meeting with all that time, the U.S. government has now identified them as active agents of the Russian intelligence services. Giuliani was getting all of this dirt from the Russian intelligence services demanding that Ukraine use that as the basis for announcing that sham investigations into Biden and that he and Trump both made clear that they would get nothing from the U.S. government, nothing they needed unless they did that to help Trump out.

Such a sordid thing that we went through. And we`ve been through a lot in the last few years. But this remains like, an unspeakably craven thing. But now we`ve got the audio which speaks for itself.

Before I play, I should note the NBC is not independently obtained this audio. It`s CNN`s audio but its contents to match up with previous reporting about the content of this call as well as a previously released a transcript of it that was obtained by "BuzzFeed News". Listen.


RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP`S FORMER PERSONAL LAWYER: And all we need, all we need from the president is to say, I`m going to put an honest prosecutor in charge, he`s going to investigate and dig up the evidence that presently exists and is there any other evidence about involvement in the 2016 election and the Biden thing has to be run out.


MADDOW: The Biden thing has to be run out. Has to be run out.

You run a political hit on my opponent and then maybe you can get your USAID money. Maybe then you can get your White House meeting.


GUILIANI: So, if he could make some statement at the right time, that he supports a fair, honest law enforcement system. And that these investigations go, wherever they have to go it`s going to be run by honest people. That would be the clearing the air really well and I think it would make it possible for me to come and make it possible, I think for me to talk to the president, to see what I can do about making sure that whatever misunderstandings are put aside and maybe even, I kind of think that this could be a good thing for having a much better relationship where we really understand each other.

If he could say something like that, like on his own in conversation, it would go a long way. It would go a long way with the president to solve the problems.


MADDOW: It will go a long way with the president to solve the problems. These problems you`re having where you`re at war with Russia and you really need to show the world that were on your side and also we really need to be on your side, we can get you some distance towards solving those problems if you do us a little favor.

So that was a call that Rudy Giuliani made to the top aid to Ukraine`s president before three days later, Trump calls Ukraine`s president, Trump ultimately gets impeached for that call as he tries to extort, sort of leverage a foreign government in interfering in the U.S. election to help him out against Joe Biden.

Of course, Rudy Giuliani is now the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in New York. That investigation is reportedly related to his dealings in Ukraine ahead of the 2020 election. We don`t know if that call that CNN has just released the audio of is implicated in that investigation or not.

Federal agents recently raided Rudy Giuliani`s home and his office. They seized 18 electronic devices from a federal search warrant and we continue to await news of what will happen next regarding Mr. Giuliani, President Trump`s former personal lawyer.

As for Ukraine, the Ukrainian president never did announce a bogus investigation into Joe Biden. They did ultimately get their U.S. military aid once Trump and Giuliani`s efforts to hold it up as an extortionist plot were exposed in front of the whole world and it sort of forced their hand. As for that White House meeting, though, Ukraine never did get that.

But the timing of this audio being released, this is a consequential thing. CNN publishing that call today, right, so we can all hear the way the previous administration basically mugged that country, the previous administration saying they wouldn`t get in any of the relationships with the U.S. They wouldn`t, for example, get a call between their White House meeting unless their president agreed to help President Trump in his next election effort, unless their government announced they were investigating these trumped up allegations against Joe Biden.

But the timing is interesting. On the day we finally get to hear the audio of Rudy Giuliani`s part of that pressure campaign, well today, President Biden was on the phone with the president of Ukraine. President Biden is about to leave on his first foreign trip as president. He`s going to Europe this week, he`s going to do a G7 meeting. He`s going to do to Geneva to have a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And ahead of him leaving for that trip the day after tomorrow, we`re now seeing the way he`s setting the stage for it. And Putin of course sees his greatest enemies in the world as us and NATO and also nations like Ukraine. Ukraine which used to be part of Soviet Union, he thinks of Ukraine as rightfully Russian and therefore rightfully his. That`s why he keeps taking pieces of it.

Putin thinks countries like Ukraine and Georgia and Belarus and, and all these former Soviet nations all should be back inside some new version of the Soviet union under his control. He`s called the disillusion of the Soviet Union, the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.

He`s talking about the 20th century so there`s a lot of competition for geopolitical catastrophes in that century. But the former Soviet states, Putin hates any inkling that A, they are not his anymore and particularly that they might ally themselves with the west. That they might want to be democracies, God forbid. He hates that they might see their future as linked to Europe in America and the Western world instead of just being dependent on Russia.

It`s kind of that`s his perspective, right? He hates and wants to undermine us and NATO and any former soviet states that don`t act like they still are to Russia to play with. Ukraine foremost among them.

And so, if you know that about that`s where Putin is coming from, ahead of this Putin and Biden meeting how does the U.S. prepare? Knowing those are Putin`s priorities. Knowing those are the things that most aggravate him and that he most wants to make mischief about in the world?

Well, for in preparation for a meeting with Putin next week, President Biden today host of the head of NATO at the White House. He hosted NATO secretary general. Hello, Putin.

President Biden today also held a call with the president of Ukraine after which the White House announced that President Biden has finally invited the president of Ukraine to come visit the White House. The thing that the Trump administration would never do for Ukraine, President Biden is going to do that now.

And that call with Zelensky, the invitation to the White House, the hosting of the NATO chief, all happening in the immediately leading up to that meeting with Putin. It`s some of the last things Biden is doing here before he gets on that plane for that trip that will happen and with his putting needing. It`s all point to plea intended to make us clear as possible to put in that the U.S. isn`t going to do anything they don`t want and they`re going to stand by the alliances like NATO and the allies like Ukraine that Putin most enjoys menacing and undermining. Stark contrast with the previous administration, right?

On the Russian side, how are they preparing to meet with Joe Biden? What one of the things are doing to prepare for their meeting with President Biden is they`re making it clear is possible that Russia has no aspirations to democracy. That Putin will hold on to power and crushed all opposition by any means that he wants and they`re making clear that he believes he`s free to do that and even the most egregious performance provocative terms because he`s going to stop him?

Today, as President Biden was on the phone with the president of Ukraine, Russia was moving the most effective opposition politician and Russia, Alexei Navalny from a prison hospital where he very nearly died recently back to the penal colony they haven`t definitely confined him to. Just last, week time for Alexei Navalny`s birthday, Putin signed a law essentially outlawing political opposition and civil society groups in Russia.

The civil society groups Open Russia was forced to dissolve itself two weeks ago after the Kremlin designated it as essentially illegal. They then arrested the head of Open Russia. They locked him up last week. They said they`re going to keep him imprisoned for at least the next two months because he has committed the grave crime of helping run what is now described as an undesirable organization.

Open Russia, which advocates for Russia to be more open and more democratic, they`re now essentially outlawed and their leaders.

Russia authorities also arrested another promising opposition figure last week, a former member of parliament named Dmitry Gudkov. They raided his house, they arrested him and held for two days. After he got out, today, he said he had been warned that he and his family were all liable for arrest again and so he`s now fled the country. He`s gone to Ukraine.

He made a posting on Facebook explaining why he left. He said, quote, by remaining in the country, remaining in Russia, I cannot be effective and environment where essentially any political activity leads to jail terms, not only for the politicians himself before their supporters and family members.

About his decision to flee today to the Ukraine, he said, quote, this is not a defeat this is a tactical retreat.

So Russia goes to war against our ally, Ukraine. Under the previous administration, President Trump uses that as leverage against Ukraine, holds up military aid and all those other signs of support for them unless and until they agreed to cough up something he can use against or Biden with the 2020 election.

Ukraine doesn`t do it, Russia decides they will intervene in our elections again in 2020 to help Trump again but it`s not enough. Joe Biden beats Trump. And now, we`re in this incredible moment, this clarifying moment, right?

Ahead of Putin`s first meeting with Biden, Putin locks of every opposition figure in the country that he can lay his hands on. And ahead of Biden`s first meeting with Putin, Biden embraces the Ukrainian president, and invites him to the White House. Host the leader of NATO.

Just in case these two competing visions for the world were not laid out starkly enough for you, here it is black and white night and day as these two leaders prepare to meet.

President Biden has now published an op-ed in "The Washington Post" about his forthcoming trip saying, quote: On Wednesday, I depart for Europe on the first foreign travel of my presidency. It is a trip stacked with meetings with many of our closest democratic partners, including the Group of Seven nations, our NATO allies, the leadership of the E.U., before concluding with a meeting -- excuse me, before concluding by meeting with Vladimir Putin.

In this moment of global uncertainty, he says, his trip is about realizing America`s renewed commitment to our allies and partners, and demonstrating the capacity of democracies to both meet the challenges and deter the threats of this new age.

He says, quote, this is a defining question of our time. Can democracies come together to deliver real results for our people in a rapidly changing world? Will the democratic alliances in institutions that shape so much of the last century prove their capacity against modern day threats and adversaries?

President Biden concludes by saying, I believe the answer is yes. And this week in Europe, we have the chance to prove it.

Can democracies deliver real results for our people? Can they? Can the Democratic system of government show its up to meeting the moment?

President Biden has articulated this over and over again, that this is our job in the world right now to show that democracies can do, to show that democracy isn`t acquaint but defunct means of government. That`s too messy to actually do things that countries need to do in the modern age. That`s the case being made by the rising autocracies and authoritarian governments across the world, largely by Russian by China, right?

The United States, under President Biden is trying to be not only the loudest voice against authoritarianism in the world but the best example of why the authoritarian model is wrong, and not as good as democracy at delivering for its people. The problem with this is we do actually need to be a good example of governing ourselves in order to win this argument. Our democratic system of government actually has to do stuff that`s good for the country, in order to win this argument the world. And that is not necessarily happening right now.

Here`s how national security adviser Jake Sullivan put it today at the White House briefing, right after President Biden had made his call to the president of Ukraine.


REPORTER: Question on voting, on the For the People Act. If it is not passed, is it a national security issue?

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I would say the basic notion of democratic reform and voting rights in the United States is a national security issue. We are in a competition of models, with autocracies and we are trying to show the world that American democracy and democracy writ large can work, can effectively deliver the will of the people and to the extent that we are not updating, refurbishing, revamping our own democratic procedures and processes to meet the needs of the modern moment, then we are not going to be successful making that case to the rest of the world. To China, to Russia, or to anyone else and so, there is a national security dimension to this today.


MADDOW: There is a national security dimensions to this. The United States is in a competition of models with autocracies. We are trying to show the world that American democracy and democracy at large can work effectively to deliver the will of the people.

There`s a national security dimension to this. China and Russia, the authoritarian and autocratic regimes out there are basically offering the world themselves as with a claim is a better model for how governments should work. They`re saying democracies are failures, democracies can`t get anything done, their weak, and slow. Elections are just theater. They don`t actually give people a saying that government despite all the talk about that.

They say democracy is basically a fraud, elections are a joke. You want to get something done, you want a country that`s actually going to meet the moment, you should just have a dictator. It`s quicker, it`s easier, it actually works. That`s their case.

Us making the counter-argument that democracy is a better way for humans to govern themselves is a noble thing. And I think an ennobling idea for thinking of our place in the world but when the rubber hits the road, in terms of us setting a good example, we have a couple of real challenges for that here at home. The first and most obvious one is that former President Trump and his supporters increasingly his party as a whole, they`re making it their whole purpose in life right now, the whole -- main focus of what they`re doing in politics to undermine the last election, to undermine the idea of elections as definitive statements of the will of the people at all.

Their most important task right now, the litmus test for support for Republican politicians by the former president is that they promote this fiction that the former president, President Trump, wasn`t really voted out of office. It`s an interesting when CNN posted that video today of Giuliani`s call to the Ukrainian government, reporters Matthew Chance and Marshall Cohen at CNN said, quote, the Giuliani call was one of the opening salvo in the years long quest by Trump and his allies to subvert the 2020 election and damage Biden by soliciting foreign meddling in the election, by lying about voter fraud, by attempting to overturn the election results, and by inciting the deadly January 6th assault on the capitol.

Right, yes. It`s all part of the same thing. I mean, if we`re trying to show the world that democracy works, free and fair elections are the rightful and righteous way for the free people to express their political views and to choose our political leaders and the direction of their nation, then it`s a problem. One of our two major parties and this country decides they reject and deny and defy election results if they don`t produce their desired result.

And after an election that produces not their desired result, they not only seek to overturn the election results and delegitimizes it, they set about partisan efforts to take over the election process themselves whenever and wherever they can to make it not a technocratic good government thing as we do as a country, to make it something that Republicans control so that they can deliver Republican wins.

President Trump gave his big return to politics speech this weekend in North Carolina, at that speech he called the 2020 election a crime. He got a big ovation for that.

Simultaneously, in Georgia, that`s the Republican Party held their convention this weekend to and booed and booed their stage Republican Governor Brian Kemp. They passed a censure resolution against their Republican secretary of state all because they didn`t a seed to Trump`s demands that they overturn the election result in that state after he lost to Joe Biden in that state.

So that`s one of the challenges here at home for us making the case to the world for democracy and voting rights and free and fair elections that we all agreed to abide by. That`s the challenge on the Trump Republican side. Republicans aren`t so sure they`re on board with democracy in that way anymore.

But on the other side, the challenge is whether Democrats are going to be able to do anything about it, whether Democrats are going to be able to get something done in this part of governing, whether they can actually do something, whether they can effectuate something, whether they can deliver reforms to protect democracy against these internal threats, reforms to protect democracy and protect voting rights.

Here`s something new, something you haven`t seen before. This is exclusive to us. It`s about to start airing on TV tomorrow with a big ad buy, a seven figure ad buy. This is from the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. It`s their effort to try to build up support for that voting rights bill, the Democrats are having such a hard time passing.


NRAF POLITICAL AD: This is power. So is this. You recognize it.

But for the corporate special interests and billionaires buying our elections, dark money is power. Billions spent manipulating elections, gerrymandering partisan congressional districts and restricting our freedom to vote. Exactly why we need the For the People Act, HR-1, to finally ban dark money, and sure fair congressional districts and protect our freedom to vote because the real power is you and it`s time for the people to win.


MADDOW: It`s time for the people to win. "For the people" being the operative term there. That`s the bill.

Again, that ad is exclusive to us and it`s going to start airing tomorrow. That sort of a sneak peek at that.

We`re going to speak with former Attorney General Eric Holder in just a moment, he`s working with that redistricting committee on the effort to try to get the voting rights bill passed.

Conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, he`s the only Democrat in the Senate who is not signed on to sponsored voting rights bill and this weekend said he doesn`t support it. He made that as clear as he ever has in an op-ed that he published this weekend in a West Virginia paper.

And it`s interesting, Senator Manchin is not actually making any substantive case at all against voting rights bill. It`s not like he`s laying out the things in the bill that he`s against. He says he`s against it purely and only because there aren`t Republicans who will vote for it.

I mean, Republicans wouldn`t vote for COVID relief either and he supported that but, apparently on voting rights, Republicans saying no, regardless of why they`re saying no, that`s reason enough for him to say no to. Here`s something else though, that I don`t think you`ve seen. It`s something Senator Manchin probably very much should see.

This is new polling that was just done for a group trying to pass the For the People Act, a group called End Citizens United. They`re specially trying to get anonymous dark money out of politics.

They polled West Virginia voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4. 0. Look at what they found. This is Joe Manchin`s constituents.

On the COVID relief bill with Joe Manchin voted for, that bill is wildly popular among West Virginia voters. COVID relief has 64 percent support in West Virginia, that`s huge.

Then they polled on Biden`s infrastructure bill, the American Jobs Acts. Incidentally, that`s another bill that Manchin says he won`t vote for unless Republicans vote for it to regardless of why they`re voting no.

The infrastructure bill is even more popular amongst West Virginia voters. COVID relief sees a huge number in support, 64 percent. The infrastructure bills even higher, and West Virginia that has 68 percent support for the infrastructure bill, the jobs bill.

But now look at this. The third piece of legislation they polled on in West Virginia is the For the People Act, the voting rights bill. It is more popular than COVID relief. It is more popular than the infrastructure bill. They had 64 and 68 percent for those two things.

The voting rights bill has 79 percent support among West Virginia voters, 79 percent. Support among Democrats, 81 percent. Support among independents is 79 percent. Support among west Republicans in Virginia 76 percent.

More than three in four West Virginia Republican support the voting rights bill, the for the people acts. More than three and four Republicans. The senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, says he`s against it.

By 21 point margin, West Virginia says they`ll be more likely to support Joe Manchin if he supports the voting rights bill. But he says he`s against it.

Every component of the bill, everything from making voter registration easier to stop partisan gerrymandering to the limiting amount of anonymous donations from special interest and corporations, all of it is very popular. All of it has way over majority support among West Virginia voters, but Joe Manchin says he won`t vote for it because Republican senators won`t vote for no matter why. No matter what their reasons for that are.

He also says he won`t change the filibuster rules so that Democrats can pass that bill and others with a majority vote, even in the minority party, the Republicans oppose it.

The West Virginia poll also shows that Joe Manchin is against the tide of his own constituents, his own voters on that. A majority of West Virginia voters say the filibuster should be eliminated or changed or they don`t care either way. Nevertheless, Joe Manchin says that he won`t vote to change it at all.

Again, we`ve got former Attorney General Eric Holder here tonight to talk about the effort to pass the voting rights bill. Attorney General Holder will also be here at a time after we just learned about the Trump Justice Department apparently violating rules that were sent during Eric Holder`s tenure as attorney general about not pursuing reporters to try to find their sources. We`ll talk to him about that.

He`s also here after "The New York Times" story this weekend that Trump`s White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, pressured the Justice Department personally and directly that they needed to go investigate the conspiracy theories about supposed election fraud after Trump lost in 2020. There is clear, black letter Justice Department policies that expressly prohibits the White House pressuring the Justice Department on something like that.

That`s a policy that was set in writing but Eric Holder when he was attorney general. It`s supposedly still in place today, despite the Trump White House apparently violating the heck out of that to try to get the Justice Department on board with their efforts to undermine the last election. A lot to talk to him about.

Eric Holder is our guest here next for the interview tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Joining us tonight live for the interview is Eric Holder, former U.S. attorney general, he`s now the chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee which among other things is supporting efforts to pass the For the People Act, try to bolster voting rights across the country.

Mr. Attorney General, it`s really great to see you. Thanks for making time to be here tonight.

ERIC HOLDER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, thanks for having me, Rachel. It`s always good to see you.

MADDOW: How`s private life treating you these days?

HOLDER: You know, not bad. I missed a few things. I missed my comrades at the Justice Department.

I missed my airplane. That was a kind of nice thing. I was never late. Plane always had to wait for the attorney general.

MADDOW: One of the few things you don`t really think about when you think about high level public service, do you get a plane?

HOLDER: Now I`m just like everybody else now.

MADDOW: The For the People Act, your organization has this big ad buy starting tomorrow supporting the For the People Act. Joe Manchin would seem to be the main problem that the Democrats have. Senator Manchin for West Virginia in terms of whether or not the ultimately are able to get this past.

Do you see a path? Do you think that that bill ultimately becomes law?

HOLDER: Well, you know, I disagree a little bit with what you said. Senator Manchin, there`s issues there that have to be worked out, but the main problem is that we have a Republican Party that is intense on changing the laws, the election laws in our country to benefit them so that they maintain power.

Now, you know, the Affordable Care Act was pronounced dead on any number of occasions for lack of bipartisan support which is now the law of the land. I`m hoping between now and the vote is actually taken at the end of June, that Senator Manchin will understand that this is beyond a partisan issue. This is beyond the reelection prospects of anybody. This is about what kind of a democracy and kind of form of government are we going to have.

And I think I would amplify what Jake said, quite well. You know, if you look at the 20th century, we saw the rise of fascism and communism not because the democracy -- not because it was strong, but because democracies were not protected. Not defended as strongly as effectively as they should be and we should take that history to heart and do all that we can to defend our democracy.

MADDOW: It seems to me that there is a number of sort of clear and present danger, points of clear and present danger right now for our democracy. Obviously, and Republican controlled states everywhere in the country, we`re seeing very, very aggressive efforts to rollback voting rights. Also quite worryingly to put partisans in control of key parts of the voting process, including opening up new possibilities for challenging her overturning election results, and putting that power in the hands of partisans.

We`re also seeing this I think unprecedented interest on the Republican side with having these partisan third-party sort of sham audits and recounts where they are accessing real ballots in real voting machines and essentially going back over them without any of the controls they`re supposed to apply to our real voting system, essentially to cast doubt on the results.

Should the Justice Department -- whether or not those reforms are passed -- should the Justice Department be involved as a sort of backstop trying to stop any of those three components of what we`re up against right now?

HOLDER: Yeah, I think the Justice Department has got to be involved and has to be aggressively involved. That "fraudit" that`s going on in Arizona now might seem for whatever reason is something Republicans might want to support more short term game, I don`t know exactly what it is.

But it clearly will do long-term damage to our democracy if it races in the minds of people in this country doubts about the effectiveness and the integrity of our electoral system. Let me be clear, there`s absolutely no indication that the last election was conducted in anything other than an appropriate way.

Record numbers of people got to the polls had the ability to express their views. Those votes were counted in appropriate ways, but Republican state officials responsible for the counting of the votes did their jobs well. Trump`s, you know, attorney general who I have lots of problems with indicated that there was no fraud in the election.

And so all the things that they`re doing now are counterproductive and without basis and they will hurt, they will harm our hard-won democracy.

MADDOW: But isn`t there something beyond that though? Knowing that they`re hurting our democracy, knowing that they are inappropriate and unwise in the way that you described is a criticism of them for doing it, but shouldn`t there be somebody who stopping them?

It occurs to me that when Pam Carlin who`s acting as the civil rights division of the Justice Department sent a letter to Arizona warning them that what they were doing in that "fraudit" as you described was illegal, was a violation of federal law in terms of the way that ballots and voting machines are supposed to be handled, that should have been followed up with some sort of action. Otherwise, it`s essentially the case that they`re flouting federal law without paying any sort of price for it.

HOLDER: I mean to the extent that there are violations of federal law or suspicions that there are violations of federal law, given the nature of what it is they`re trying to do and the consequences from what they are trying to do, the Justice Department has got to be aggressive. Sending a letter is an extremely important. You know, that kind of sets the parameters for how the Justice Department could become involved if the Justice Department is of the view that there is a violation of federal law or there`s something that needs to be investigated, it should be investigated and it should be stopped to the extent of the Justice Department has that ability.

And, you know, the DOJ is one of those rare agencies that has the ability to protect our democracy in any number of ways. This is one of those times when the Justice Department, as I said, has got to be aggressive. They have to be forward leaning and trying to make sure that what`s going on in these different states if it violates federal law needs to be stopped. Letters are fine but it has to be followed up with action.

MADDOW: Our guest tonight here for the interviews former Attorney General Eric Holder.

Mr. Attorney General, if you just hold on for a moment, I have a lot more I want to ask you to stay with us for a quick break.


MADDOW: We`ll be right back with former Attorney General Eric Holder right after this.


MADDOW: Joining us once again for the interview, is Eric Holder, former U.S. attorney general, now chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

Mr. Attorney General, thank you again for sticking with us.

Today, I spent sometime with some elegant writing by you in 2009, in which you authored a memo for the Justice Department setting up binding Justice Department policy that controls communication between the White House and Justice Department. You say the legal judgments of the Department of Justice must be impartial and insulated from political influence. You then lay out in detail what that means, and as other attorneys general before you have done, laid out restrictive rules about the very restrictive number of people that can communicate from the White House to Justice Department in matter of pending or potential criminal investigation.

As far as we understand, that memo is still policy at the Department Justice. It has not been rescinded. But yet, this weekend, there`s "The New York Times" headline, Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows pressed Justice Department to investigate election fraud claims. "The Times" first to report this weekend that the Trump White House had their chief of staff calling the Justice Department, calling the attorney general, telling him to chase rabbits, telling him to go chase rabbis, to go chase down some of the craziest conspiracy theories about how Trump was supposedly robbed of his rightful election result in 2020.

I just have to ask your reaction to that given your role and directly shaping the policy that supposed to block that from happening.

HOLDER: Well, let me just say it clearly, that story is appalling. What you -- the memo you`re talking about, that`s what`s called a context policy. You`re right, it really limits the number of people who have the ability to interact with people at the Justice Department.

The Justice Department given its law enforcement abilities, the ability to take property from people, in person people, it has to be seen as acting in a way that is nonpolitical, in fact, has to act in a nonpolitical way.

One of the ways you wall off the Justice Department from potential White House influence is have very clear lines who can contact the Justice Department with any issues. Story if correct and no reason to believe it`s not, clearly a violation of that contacts policy, both with regard who was contacting Justice Department and substance of what Mr. Meadows was trying to get the Justice Department to do. That really goes against everything that every Justice Department has tried to have in place since the Watergate era, and this Republican attorneys general as well as Democratic attorneys general. It is simply appalling.

MADDOW: What is supposed to be the consequence when it`s broken? I feel like one of the things we ran up against in the Trump administration is policies, norms, standards and expectations not only violated but flagrantly trampled and then us learning hard way as country that there`s no real consequences for people who violate those things.

In this case, this is a -- this is a fundamental tenet of what the Justice Department is supposed to be but I don`t know anything will happen for this flagrant violation of it?

HOLDER: Yeah. You know, one of the things the Trump administration did expertly was simply to trash norms, trash policies. There is no criminal sanction for the violation of the contacts policy, but would hope that people who are involved in government at executive branch would respect these norms.

Congressional oversight I think is something that`s one way in which they needs to be brought up. I would hope with all the other things Congress is in progress of considering, would find time to hold hearings of what actually happened here. What was Meadows trying to do with the Justice Department? What was the Justice Department`s reaction to what Mr. Meadows did? Why didn`t the Justice Department surface that the White House was trying to do?

You simply can`t have people telling you in the White House what you should be investigating and not react to that in some very strong, negative way. So I`d like to see what happened within the Justice Department.

MADDOW: Let me ask you about recent reporting from the "Washington Post" and CNN and within the last few days from "The New York Times," all similar contours we learned very end of the Trump administration in 2020, reporters at all three news entities had their sources essentially sought by Justice Department action. When their phone records and email records were sought and obtained by Justice Department, it appeared to be looking for their sources.

You, of course, at Obama era Justice Department were involved in controversial efforts to root out leaks, things involving reporters. Those ended up with you setting a new policy for the Justice Department that pretty severely restricted the circumstances under which Justice Department can use its power to seek information about reporters and their sources.

I wonder if you have followed that current reporting and whether or not you feel that the policy you left the Justice Department with, which we thought was still in effect, was similarly violated there in the last days of the Trump administration?

HOLDER: Again, reading the story as it appears, policy we left in place was probably violated. I put that policy in place because I thought in our pursuit of leak cases, we had gone too far and concerns raised by the media were, in fact, valid ones.

What we said in the policy, what I said in the policy is that if you want access to records related to reporters, you should first go to the publishers, people who run newspapers, people who are in charge of the television stations, tell them you`re seeking this information so that you can negotiate something or so that people in media have the ability to go to court to try to frustrate what the Justice Department is trying to do, to try to oppose what the Justice Department is trying to do.

It doesn`t appear on basis of what I read and wouldn`t surprise me if, in fact, they simply ignored the policy that we left in place, and it was a good policy, because it struck a good balance between the needs of law enforcement and protection of the press. It seems they have violated that policy. I`m not surprised by that.

MADDOW: Eric Holder, former U.S. attorney general, now chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee which is doing all it can to try to build support for the People Act, the voting rights bill -- sir, it`s an honor to have this much time with you. Thanks very much for making time. Come back anytime you want to be here.

HOLDER: All right. Thanks. Take care, Rachel.

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


MADDOW: It was a month ago today that an organized crime group based in Russia shut down the largest oil pipeline in the United States with a cyberattack. Now, we`ve known for weeks that he company that runs that pipeline paid ransom to the attackers to try to get the pipeline back up and running, but what we didn`t know until today that the company paid that ransom in conjunction with the FBI, so the FBI could follow the money to find the bad guys.

This is from the Justice Department today. Quote, on or about May 8th, the pipeline company advised the FBI it was instructed to send ransom payment of $4.3 million to cryptocurrency address -- a million digits. With the FBI`s knowledge, the company sent the money and in this court document released today shows how the FBI carefully tracked that payment as it was traded from one unpronounceable cryptocurrency address to another to another to another, and split up, and recombined over and over again, until most of the money eventually stopped moving about a week and a half ago.

Well, today, the FBI seized that money, and in doing so, they got most of the ransom money back.

Now, part of the reason the FBI released this information today is because the number two official at Justice Department, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco wanted to say at this press conference that it helps if you tell the FBI early on. She said, basically, look, we were notified immediately about this attack. Because of that early notice, we were able to do something about it, including getting back most of the ransom money.

So, all the other companies hit by ransomware, if you see something, say something and say it right away, we can help.

FBI is not saying how they got the money back after they tracked it down. They need to protect their tradecraft, but even without knowing that, this is advancement in terms of understanding what our government is able to do around these kinds of crimes.

Question is can they keep doing it? Can they consistently do it? Can they steal back our lunch money, everyone`s lunch money as it keeps getting taken over and over again by these crooks?

Watch this space.


MADDOW: All right. I`m standing on Lawrence`s real estate at this point. So that`s going to do it for me tonight. I will see you again tomorrow night.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with the aforementioned Lawrence O`Donnell.

Good evening, Lawrence.