Texas State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer is interviewed. A federal court judge in Michigan held a hearing today on whether to sanction pro-Trump lawyers who sought to reverse Joe Biden`s win in Michigan.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is all in on this Monday 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. Happy to have you here.
So the planes just landed. Late today, a few dozen Democratic members of the Texas State House of Representatives met here at a local plumbers` union building in Austin, Texas. After they all met there together they got on a bus and they drove straight on to the tarmac at the airport in Austin. They then all boarded a pair of planes to leave the state of Texas all together.
Here`s how "The Texas Tribune" headlines their trip, quote, "Texas House Democrats flee the state in a move that could block voting restrictions bill and bring the legislature to a halt."
This is a dramatic thing that has been under way this afternoon and into tonight and it is a crucial part of it happening right now as we speak. Right now, the Texas legislature in Texas is in session, right? The Republican-led House and the Republican-led Senate in Texas, they`re trying to pass legislation that would make it significantly harder to vote in Texas in a state where it`s already not that easy to vote. The ways they are trying to change the voting laws in Texas would disproportionately affect voters of colors and poor voters and with disabilities in particular.
And so Texas Democrats have bolted from the state. They left Texas entirely tonight in a last-ditch effort to try to stop this bill from becoming law. Now, those two planes I mentioned carrying Texas Democrats, those two planes have just landed at Dulles Airport just outside Washington, D.C. They`ve landed just in the last hour.
It`s 51 Democrats from the Texas statehouse onboard those two planes. We are told at least seven other Texas Democrats are making their way to D.C. as well separately.
If this sounds at all familiar to do, Texas Democrats pulling a big, tactical surprise move to try to save voting rights? It is because this is the sort of the second iteration of this we`ve seen in a matter of weeks. It was in May when Republicans in the Texas Senate jammed through an earlier version of this voter suppression bill. Republicans in the Texas Senate passed the bill in the middle of the night on a holiday weekend. It was right before the end of the legislative session.
And the fact it was right before the end of the session ended up being tactically important because it had passed the Senate very late. It still had to pass the House. And the Texas House had less than 24 hours to pass that bill through their chamber in time to send it to the governor`s desk before the legislative session came to a close.
And again, it had already passed the Senate. The Republicans who were the majority in the House, they promised it would pass the House, too. The governor had promised he would sign it. It was basically a foregone conclusion that the anti-voting rights bill would become lawmaking it even harder to vote in the state of Texas. It was a foregone conclusion that it was done -- until it wasn`t.
Again, this is what happened in May. Two hours before the deadline to get that bill passed in the Texas House, Texas Democrats quietly without any fanfare, without any announcement, one by one, started leaving the House chamber. There are 150 members of the House in Texas. According to the rules, at least two-thirds of the members, so a hundred, must be present to hold a vote. That is called a quorum. Without a quorum all house business has to stop.
And so, eventually, quietly, no fanfare, no announcement enough of those Texas Democrats left the house floor one by one that they broke the quorum. And with that walkout back in May, Texas Democrats were able to block that bill. They were able to run out the clock on the legislative session in Texas this year.
The legislative session ended that night at midnight. The Republican bill to restrict the right to vote in the state of Texas, yes it passed the Senate but did not pass the House, it could not be signed into law. They blocked it.
That was what happened in May of this year. Right away, the Republican governor of Texas promised he would haul the legislature right on back. He said he would call a special legislative session specifically so Republicans could put their voter restriction bill back on the docket and this time, they`d get it to the governor`s desk so he could sign it. That is the session we are in right now. It is the special session.
And minus a few small changes the bill Republicans put forward in this new session for all intents and purposes is the same bill they tried to pass this spring, even though they were foiled by that late, tactical maneuver by the Democrats.
This bill, they`re moving to pass right now in Texas would ban drive through voting. It would ban voting in the overnight hours. It would restrict voting by mail. It would restrict absentee voting, things that would make it harder for working people and the disabled among others to vote.
Texas already has very low voter turnout. Among other things this bill would get rid of all the innovations that happened in the last year or two to try to increase Texas turnout because Texas Republicans didn`t like what they saw when more Texans turned out to vote.
This weekend on Saturday, both the House and Senate held hearings on the voter restriction bill that is now up, and it wasn`t just Democrats giving forceful speeches against the bill, forceful speeches that would go on to gather dust on the shelves of the public record. It was Texas Democrats but also hundreds of members of the public who showed up to say don`t do this. They really threw everything they had at the bill this weekend to try to stop it, try one more time to stop it.
Democrats, and we`ve had a little forewarning of this at the end of last week when one of the Texas Democrats came on the show and talked about the fact they were going to offer as many amendments as they could to try to slow this thing down. In fact, this weekend, we saw that happen. Democrats tried attaching amendment after amendment after amendment to try to delay this thing.
It is not nonsense amendments. They were substantive things that deserved to be considered and were germane to the legislation. Republicans voted them all down, every one of them.
Hundreds of Texans filed an official opinion of the bill with the Texas House for the lawmakers to take into consideration when deciding how to vote. Of the 484 Texans who registered an opinion, 407 of the 484 of them spoke in opposition to the bill.
Close to 300 Texas voters showed up in person yesterday to actually testify before House and Senate committees about their feelings about this Republican bill to restrict voting, 300 Texans. The vast majority of the voters who turned out were there to testify against the bill.
Stood up in front of these lawmakers and said why from their experience living in Texas this bill would be a bad thing for the state. It would be a bad thing for voters like them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MACKENZIE JENKINS, TEXAS VOTER: As a member of Delta Sigma Sorority, our first public service act was to march in the women`s suffrage in March 1913. As black women, the first 22 founders that were told to walk behind, to be the last people in that march, and I think it is important and it has really shaped my view today because I know that as a young black woman, that my vote has been one of the last groups of people who have been considered, who have been given, granted the opportunity to vote.
The history of voter suppression in this country has lasted way longer than the efforts to make sure that voters are -- eligible voters are having a fair say, have the opportunity to vote without intimidation, and I really just want you all to consider that today.
CRYSTAL CHISM, DESOTO, TX CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: I am the councilwoman of the seven in Desoto, Texas. I was recently elected this year into office. I`m a veteran. I served my country proudly for ten years, two tours in Iraq. Many of the things I`ve seen in SB-1 directly impact the people that look just like me who have similar backgrounds as I do as a veteran. I learned really quickly how important voting was to me.
So I oppose SB-1. I`m very grateful to be an elected official, too, but I know that I don`t want to choose my voters. I want my voters to choose me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Many of the voters, the Texans who showed up to testify against the Republican bill got to the Texas legislature at 6:00 in the morning on Saturday to start their waiting in line for their turn to speak. Some of them didn`t actually have a chance to testify until 1:00 a.m. on Sunday.
One committee hearing on this bill lasted almost a full 24 hours. In the end, all of the Democratic amendments were voted down by all the Republicans. Republicans did not listen to the arguments against the bill to what most of their constituents were telling them. In both the Texas House and the Senate, the Republican bill that will make it harder to vote in Texas was voted out of committee on pure party lines.
A full vote in the House and the Senate will be scheduled sometime later this week and will then be sent to the governor for his signature.
And so, Democrats are trying one more thing. That`s where the planes to Washington, D.C. tonight come in. Those 50-plus Democrats have bolted from Texas as an effort to once again deny Republicans a quorum, deny them the opportunity to pass this voter suppression bill by basically pulling out the last stop that they have.
Now, this is a little different than we saw back in May. Last time Democrats staged that walkout two hours before the end of a legislative session.
There really wasn`t any time to round them all up and force them back into the chamber in Austin. This time around, there`s close to a month left on the clock and according to Texas House rules, lawmakers at least theoretically can be compelled to come back to the state capitol if they are not present during the session.
In other words, Republicans maybe can sic the State Capitol Public Safety Office on them to track them down and round them all back up and, what, force them back to Austin?
In 2003, when Texas Democrats staged a similar protest out of state, the Texas governor ordered state troopers to go find the Democrats and bring them back to Texas. That said, Texas state troopers can`t arrest somebody anywhere outside of Texas including in Washington, D.C. neither can the Capitol Public Safety Office for that matter.
That`s why Democrats left the state. That`s why Democrats fled Texas this time, to indefinitely deny Republicans a quorum in an effort to block these voting restrictions from becoming law.
NBC News is reporting tonight that before Texas Democrats picked D.C. as their safe harbor they had originally planned on potentially setting up camp in Arizona or West Virginia. Why those two places? Because those are the home states of two conservative Democratic senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, in whose hands the fate of a national voting rights bill effectively sits.
Texas Democrats hope that might pressure those two U.S. senators to change their minds about passing voting rights at the federal level, because without federal protections, Texas Republicans are going to do what they`re going to do here.
Ultimately, apparently, the Texas Democrats felt like that might be too risky going to Arizona or West Virginia, given that both of those states have Republican governors. They worried those red state governors might somehow help Texas Republicans force the Democrats back into Texas to reestablish the quorum.
But that`s the kind of drama we`re dealing with here, and that is why more than 50 Democrats from the Texas House are in Washington tonight. The flights from Austin to D.C. carrying those 50 plus Texas Democrats just landed in the past hour. They`re not only trying to throw a wrench in the works on trying to stop this voter suppression bill from passing in Texas, they picked D.C. ultimately not as a purely symbolic thing but because they`re begging for a federal response here. They`re begging for a federal backstop to voting rights that would stop a state like Texas or any other Republican-controlled state from being able to pass voting right restrictions like the ones these Texas Democrats are staring down the barrel at right now.
Joining us -- I tell you, joining us now on FaceTime from a bus with his Democratic colleagues in a parking lot at Dulles Airport just outside of D.C. and way outside the great state of Texas is Democratic State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, one of the leaders behind today`s plan. I believe he is paying for his Democratic colleagues` hotel rooms in D.C. tonight.
Representative Martinez Fischer, thank you for joining us tonight. I know this is an intense moment.
STATE REP. TREY MARTINEZ FISCHER (D), TEXAS: Hey, good to be with you, Rachel. This is an important story for the nation.
MADDOW: How was your flight?
FISCHER: Well, I can tell you, it`s a lot of emotion. I mean, you know, we`re here on a mission, the men and women of the Texas House. We have courage and we have conviction and we`re bringing our voices to the nation`s capital.
But make no mistake: we`re mothers. We`re fathers. We have jobs. We own businesses. We have a home.
And there as lot of emotion right now because a lot is on the line but that`s how important it is. We have to stand up for our democracy. And, listen, Rachel, we brought about 20 or so Democrats to the nation`s capital back in June and we made some noise, but this time, we brought reinforcements.
We have well over 50 members of the Texas house with courage and conviction and a little bit of defiance, and we`ve come here to tell our story and we certainly want to rally the nation. But, most importantly, Rachel, we want the Senate to hear us and we want them to act, and we need them to pass the For the People Act to preserve democracy in this country.
MADDOW: Do you and your colleagues have any expectations in terms of how long you are going to have to stay outside of Texas? Obviously, you are there to make your case that we need federal voting rights as you just said to pass the For the People Act, but you are also there as part of a tactical maneuver to block Republicans from passing what they are otherwise planning on passing in the state of Texas.
How long do you all think you will have to stay out of Texas in order to accomplish the second goal?
FISCHER: Well, you know, we`re dealing with a really obstinate governor who wants to I guess run his primary campaign on the backs of taxpayers at our expense. We`re not going to put up with that. I think every man and woman on this bus packed their biggest suitcase. They stuffed as much clothes as they could.
And we`re united.
We have grit. We have resolve. And we are determined to find a solution.
And we`re always willing to talk but as you mentioned in your layout, our hardworking men and women on the committee were effectively shut out of the process to even bring ideas to have some kind of normal discussion on voter suppression. There is nothing special about this session in Austin. It is a suppression session. They are trying to take away our right to vote and we`re not going to put up with it and we`re going to fight.
MADDOW: Do you expect that they will try to compel you, to literally compel you, force you back into the state of Texas? Do they have the ability to do that? Is that part of your sort of contingency planning at this point?
FISCHER: Well, those ideas lie with the rules of the Texas House, which really don`t apply in a court of law. They don`t even apply outside of the state of Texas. We are in the nation`s capital, I believe outside of the jurisdiction of the state police.
They`re welcome to come and visit the nation`s capital. But we are here as free citizens exercising our First Amendment rights to organize. And as elected officials, we`re also here to lead and we`re here to lead a discussion on voting rights in America and why we need a national solution.
MADDOW: Tell me what your plans are in Washington. You`re talking about demonstrating the urgency, the need for the For the People Act, the need for a federal backstop for voting rights. Obviously, the dramatic move you and your colleagues have made to get yourselves to D.C. really at the point of the spear here. Tell some of that story yourself.
But do you have plans, the Senate is in session this week, to take individual meetings with senators, to talk to Republican senators? Do you have plans to speak with members of the administration or anybody else you think might be -- might be key to this process?
FISCHER: Well, we are very aware that the president of the United States will address the nation on voting rights. We`re keenly aware that Leader Schumer has indicated a domestic agenda needs to happen before the August recess. Not a single member on this bus wants any one in the United States Senate to go home thinking everything is fine with voting rights in America. Let`s take a break.
We are here to state our case. Those meetings are developing as we sit here on the ground. We`ve only been here minutes on the ground. You called us first.
I think we want to get to the hotel. We want to check in with our families. And we do have a meeting first thing tomorrow morning. You should expect to see us on Capitol Hill before lunch tomorrow.
MADDOW: Representative Martinez Fischer, could you -- I don`t know if you have a handheld phone or if you have laptop that I`m talking you on, is there any way you can lift it up so I can see your colleagues behind you there on the bus? I can see a few of them. I want to get a sense of -- hello, Texas Democrats.
MADDOW: It`s Rachel Maddow here. Hi.
I`ll tell you, the whole country is watching. The whole country is watching right now and what you are doing is something that could not be done without your commitment to do this in the way that you have done it putting yourselves on the line.
Thank you for helping us understand and good luck in these next few days. Good luck.
FISCHER: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you. Democratic Texas State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, I will get you on the union roster for that little bit of camera work there. I appreciate it, my friend.
FISCHER: Hey, I`m going to get (INAUDIBLE), that`s for sure.
MADDOW: Exactly. That`s right.
All right. Fascinating.
Texas Democrats, again, more than 50 of them, have left the state of Texas tonight. And it is a tactic that -- listen, Texas Democrats did this in 2003 ahead of a radical partisan redistricting of the state of Texas. And they left the state and as I said, the governor at the time sent state troopers after them and it was a huge stand-off and it was a big deal and ultimately the redistricting plan went through but the eyes of the nation were upon it.
In this case, they haven`t just fled the state because that denies the quorum. They have fled the state specifically to come to Washington because Washington is the one place this disaster in Texas and this disaster in every other state where Republicans are rolling back voting rights can be fixed. If there is a federal voting rights backstop at the federal level, then states will not have the option to bring their voting rights down below a floor set at the federal level.
It doesn`t mean that the federal government will run elections. It doesn`t mean that every state will run them exactly the same way. It will just mean there is a floor below which voter suppression will not be allowed to sink.
That is why the Texas Democrats are in Washington. Not just because they needed to get out of the state. They did, but they could have gone anywhere. They are in Washington because the For the People Act is the only answer at this point.
The Voting Rights Act has been gutted in the courts. There is not recourse in the courts. There is no political recourse for Republicans who do not care about the political blowback from this because they know the changes they are making will insulate them from Democratic repercussions.
The only way to solve this problem, senators, the only way to solve this problem is for the United States Senate to pass something like the For the People Act, to back stop voting rights at the federal level.
That`s what Texas Democrats are there for and it sounds like they`re there indefinitely. Again, they have not yet left the grounds of the airport. They say they`ll be on Capitol Hill tomorrow morning before lunch to make their case. It`s a dramatic thing and maybe the only thing that could have happened here.
All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: At the end of last week, "Business Insider" was first to report that the long time chief financial officer of former President Trump`s business, a man named Allen Weisselberg, had been removed as an officer and director from a subsidiary of the Trump business, part of the Trump business that runs one of the Trump golf courses in Scotland.
Now, this news about Weisselberg being taken off that Scottish subsidiary of Trump`s company, that, of course, follows the indictment a week and a half ago of Mr. Weisselberg and former President Trump`s company.
And it`s an interesting thing. At the end of last week, Weisselberg`s name gets taken off that part of Trump`s company. The reason that`s interesting is actually for a few different reasons. First of all, a multi-count felony indictment has consequences, right? That is a clear, material consequence of Mr. Weisselberg`s indictment as he now awaits trial.
We actually looked into whether Scottish law might have required Mr. Weisselberg to be removed as an officer and director of that company just because he was indicted. In this case, we don`t think that`s what happened. We don`t think Scottish law would have required his removal from the company. But, still, his name came down, came off it. That`s interesting in itself, sort of interesting getting to the bottom of why that happened and why that happened first.
The other reason this is interesting and potentially important for us as a country is because, frankly, the stability, the state of mind, and the increasing radicalism of the immediate former president of the United States is a matter of national concern. The big, conservative conference, CPAC, that former President Trump spoke at this weekend did a straw poll of who attendees of the conference want to be the Republican nominee in 2024. Trump had more than 70 percent of the vote in that poll.
Look at this. Look at this bar graph. Who is the front-runner? If after everything, he is still the front-runner for the next Republican presidential nomination and he is the current de facto leader of the Republican Party, then his stability, his state of mind, his current state of radicalization matters for the country. It matters in terms of what is going to happen next. It also matters in terms of knowing what is politically possible in a country where one of the two supposedly governing parties remains enthralled to him even after he was twice impeached, after it took him all of one term in office to lose the Republican Party, not only the White House but also the Senate and the House.
But the 15-count indictment a week and a half ago, his business, and its long time chief financial officer, that has different kinds of consequences for him than all the political consequences he lived through as president. Especially if it means that Trump`s companies can no longer be run by the low key, started as an accountant guy who has been make go-to trains run on time at that company since 1973.
I mean, if Allen Weisselberg can no longer run things at the Trump Organization because of these felony indictments, who else is going to run the place? Don Jr.? The blonde son? The other one? Really?
Allen Weisselberg has been running that company from the back office for decades. If he is now out and Trump`s busy trying to be president again, it`s going to be the kids? As I mentioned, "Business Insider" was first to report last week that Allen Weisselberg is now no longer an officer or director of the Trump organization subsidiary in Scotland. It was "The Wall Street Journal" and then "The Washington Post" that matched that reporting today.
"The Washington Post" further reporting that actually the day after Allen Weisselberg`s name got taken off of the subsidiary in Scotland, the next day on Friday, the Trump organization removed Allen Weisselberg from 40 other companies, 40 other Trump subsidiaries based in the state of Florida.
In most instances, Allen Weisselberg appears to have been listed as some combination of director, treasurer, vice president, and/or secretary of each of these subsidiaries. Now, he is out of all of those titles and the kids are in, instead. What could possibly go wrong? Did I mention that Allen Weisselberg has been running the actual business part of that business since 1973?
I`m sure Don Jr. and the blonde son will be fine with it, though. They`ll do great. Definitely nothing to worry about. Definitely nothing to freak the freak out about I`m sure. If you have any stake in that business, let alone a quite large stake.
As I said, as far as we can tell, there`s no reason to believe that Weisselberg`s indictment legally forced him to be cut off from the Trump Company in Scotland or from these other Trump companies in Florida. We`re trying to figure out if it might be a banking requirement, trying to figure out if any of the terms of the financing that the Trump Organization uses might require an indicted official to step out of a director role, executive role.
So far, honestly, we`ve started looking down that lane and haven`t found any sign of that either. But for whatever reason, Mr. Weisselberg is out. His name is being taken off. His controlling role in all of those companies, after having played the key behind-the-scenes role in doing that and actually running the place for the last 48 years.
Now, in terms of the effect of that on the stability, psyche of the former president? I don`t know. We don`t know for sure. But the dynamic at work with him and around him right now in the Republican politics is one of his increasing radicalization and increasing devotion to him among the Republican ranks.
I mean, the president`s speech at CPAC this weekend included an on screen disclaimer from the Fox News Channel about his false claims about the election. Fox wasn`t trying to undercut him. They were broadcasting the speech after all, far from that. It is just a practical thing now that anybody broadcasting his remarks, anybody broadcasting his insistent false claims about the last election has to worry about their legal liability in showing that.
As the Justice Department continues releasing new video of police officers being hit with metal poles and flag poles and stomped on and dragged by their body armor and helmets into surging crowds that beat them and stomped on them on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, as the Justice Department keeps releasing additional footage like this, Trump proclaimed this weekend about the January 6th rioters, quote, these were peaceful people. These were great people, the love in the air. I`ve never seen anything like it.
He claimed this weekend that the state of Georgia deleted 100,000 votes in the election. And then in the same breath, he said that Georgia found 35,000 new votes. Both of those things at once I guess? Maybe he forgot which number he was making up and whether he was supposed to say that was a minus or a plus, whether those votes were lost or found. Anyway, he decided to just use both.
I mean, it`s unhinged stuff even on the sliding scale of him. I think it`s becoming and forgive me sort of increasingly unhinged stuff and maybe some has to do with the pressure and desperation he is feeling on the business and personal side of his life. But it manifests in real life because of his hold over the Republican Party and right wing politics.
I mean, there he is waxing rhapsodic about how great the January 6th rioters were and simultaneously this weekend here were Trump supporters on the steps of the Florida Capitol this weekend demanding that all the people who attacked the Capitol and got arrested for it should all be freed because they`re all political prisoners and innocent freedom fighters, right? And there`s all the Proud Boys lined up in front all giving the white power symbol with their hands. Because why not?
We reported last week on an incumbent Republican U.S. senator, Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma who is facing a primary challenger in his run for re-election this year. Lankford`s primary challenger his whole campaign is based on the fact that Senator Lankford didn`t vote in the Senate to overturn the presidential election results to try to keep Trump in power.
Now, it`s not surprising perhaps for a rabid Trump supporters to be primarying a U.S. senator for that purpose. But perhaps it is surprising that the Oklahoma Republican Party chairman is endorsing that challenger against the sitting Republican senator from Oklahoma.
The chairman of the state party is endorsing the challenger. The challenger is challenging Lankford specifically because he didn`t vote to overturn the election. And the state party is onboard with that. Lankford`s got to go.
This weekend, it happened again. Sitting Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski up for election in Alaska facing a primary challenger from a Trump supporter who says Lisa Murkowski shouldn`t have voted to convict Trump in this impeachment trial over the January 6th attack and Murkowski should have voted to overturn the election results in the Senate to keep Trump in power.
And again, perhaps it is not surprising that Lisa Murkowski is facing a Trumpy primary challenge like this in Alaska, but this weekend try to retain the ability to be surprised, the state Republican Party in Alaska just endorsed that challenger, against their sitting Republican senator. Because the state party now endorses her challenge to Murkowski which is on the basis of the fact Murkowski ought to have voted to overthrow the election results to keep Trump in power.
I don`t know what is personally driving the former president and actually I don`t really care to know. But, you know, I`m watching closely the legal jeopardy that he and his family and his business appear to be sinking in, under I think a reasonable impression that desperation and personal circumstances might manifest as sort of signs of strain in the former president`s public pronouncements.
But for whatever reason, while these signs of strain are very evident in him, as he is getting more unhinged and definitely more radical in his claims both about the country and his proposed prescriptions for what the country ought to do about the things he says are wrong.
I mean, he is demanding that the Republican Party purge those who betrayed him. He demanded today that Michigan Republican state senators who debunked the lies about the Michigan election being stolen, those Michigan Republicans must all be primaried out of office as he praises the January 6th Capitol attackers and each new day makes up whole new, brand new lies about the election that he can`t even keep straight while he is saying them.
As he is going around the bend a little bit right now for whatever reason, the Republican Party is just clinging to him tighter and tighter and tighter -- in Oklahoma, in Alaska, at the CPAC conference this weekend where they all want him to be president again. The last CPAC conference he got like 55 percent of the presidential straw poll. Now he is up to 71.
We`re seeing simultaneously increasing radicalization from him and increasing commitment to him the further around the bend he goes. Where does that spiral end?
Today, in a Michigan federal courtroom, we finally got one news development that might, maybe interrupt that spiral that might at least make it painful or consequential for his supporters who are willing to do the worst for him. Maybe. That story of accountability is next.
MADDOW: There were multiple shouting matches between the lawyers and the judge. At one point, one of the lawyers was reduced to tears. Another lawyer at one point shouted at the judge, quote, "I am not a potted plant. I am not a potted plant." He said it twice.
There was so much yelling and people interrupting each other that the beleaguered court reporter actually had to interject and ask everyone to please stop talking over each other so she could accurately document the proceeding. Spare a thought for the poor court reporter tonight because that was pretty much how it went for six hours today as a federal judge in Michigan grilled a whole bunch of pro-Trump lawyers, including Sidney Powell, one of Rudy Guiliani`s partners in spreading Trump`s invented fantastical conspiracy theories about election fraud in the weeks after the presidential election.
Also today`s hearing was Attorney Lin Wood known for showing up at QAnon conferences and telling people that Trump is actually still the real president, as in literally the military would call Trump right now if they needed nuclear codes because Lin Wood doesn`t just want Trump to be president he maintains that Trump secretly is and the military knows it and Biden is like an understudy or actor or something?
So, it`s Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, it`s nine pro-Trump conspiracy lawyers in all, all in a hearing today. This federal judge in Michigan is deciding whether all the lawyers should be sanctioned, whether they should be punished by the court for the laugh out loud lawsuit they brought last November demanding that Michigan should be forced to give its electoral votes to Donald Trump even though Biden won the election there. This is the same federal judge who already dismissed that lawsuit several months ago in a ruling so hot it could peel the wall paper off in any room you put it in.
But after that judge tossed the lawsuit, the state of Michigan went back to the judge and basically said having a lawsuit dismissed wasn`t enough in this case. The behavior of the lawyers in this case was so egregious, it requires something else. Michigan filed a motion asking the court to sanction the pro-Trump lawyers who brought that case. They argued, quote, plaintiffs` claims of fraud in Michigan`s election were unsupported by any credible evidence and their legal claims were without merit. Plaintiffs` counsel knew or should have known this to be the case.
Plaintiffs filed this litigation for an improper purpose. This is amply demonstrated by plaintiffs` filings and the manner in which they litigated the case. It was never about winning on the merits of the claims, but rather, plaintiffs` purpose was to undermine the integrity of the election results and the people`s trust in the electoral process and in government. The filing of litigation for that purpose is clearly an abuse of the judicial process and warrants the imposition of sanctions.
It is the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit that are asking now that at the very least, the pro-Trump lawyers should be forced to pay the state`s legal fees in this case, but the judge in this case could also decide to recommend that they be barred from practicing law in her district in Michigan or she could even refer them for disbarment entirely.
Rudy Giuliani`s law license has already been suspended in New York and D.C. for his pushing these false claims about the election in court. Today, you saw Lin Wood furiously try to distance himself from the Michigan lawsuit, claiming in court today that his name must have been put on it by mistake. He says he definitely never worked on any of that.
Another of the lawyers in court today claimed that she had barely been involved in the suit at all. Maybe she spent a couple of hours working on it. Her lawyer said it was de minimis involvement.
Not to mention the other Trump lawyer who got choked up and upset in court and cried, arguing that she hadn`t done anything wrong.
But based on what the judge in Michigan had to say at today`s hearing, the Trump lawyers look like they may be in trouble. We don`t have a full transcript because it was more than a six-hour hearing. That is a long hearing. That`s a lot of words. We`re hoping to have one by tomorrow.
But we do have some verbatim quotes from what happened in the courtroom. The judge for example told the Trump lawyers, quote: There is a responsibility. There is a duty that counsel has to ensure that when you`re submitting a sworn statement in support of your case that you have reviewed it, that you have done some minimal due diligence.
The judge at one point pointed to an affidavit these lawyers have submitted as evidence of alleged fraudulent collusion between Democratic election workers and Post Office employees.
This is how "Bloomberg News" summed that up, quote: The affidavit was signed by a man who claimed he saw a young couple deliver several large plastic bags to a postal worker who he said appeared to be waiting for them. There were no markings on the bags or any indication of what was inside but the witness said it was odd and that it, quote, could be ballots.
This was the judge`s response, quote, I don`t think I`ve ever really seen an affidavit that has made so many leaps. This is really fantastical. My question to counsel here is, how could any of you as officers of the court present this type of affidavit?
The judge pulled up another of their affidavits in which a woman said she believed some workers at the vote counting center in Detroit were changing votes. She believed that.
The judge asked if any of the attorneys at today`s hearing ever asked this woman if she actually saw anyone changing votes. Crickets.
The judge said, quote: Let the record reflect that no one made the inquiry.
Sidney Powell tried to argue in court today that the very act of collecting and submitting these hundreds of garbage affidavits to the court was due diligence because the lawsuit was, quote, so massive and so detailed. The judge replied, quote: Volume certainly for this court doesn`t equate with legitimacy or veracity.
The federal judge hearing this matter has not ruled yet but it seems like this is one of those circumstances in which there might actually be some accountability. There might be some consequences for what happened here. And we`ve got more on that ahead.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: At the close of today`s hearing in a federal court in Michigan, where Trump attorneys, pro-Trump attorneys who brought one of the postelection lawsuits are facing potential sanctions from a federal judge for their involvement in that case, a lawyer for the city of Detroit made this as part of his closing argument. He said, our motion for sanctions was filed on January 5th, one day before the insurrection.
We argued, as part of our brief, quote, by undermining people`s faith in the Democratic process and their trust in our government, this lawsuit is being used to delegitimize the presidency of Joe Biden. They argued that in their motion for sanctions, January 5th.
David Fink said, quote: One day later, that sad prophecy came true. To a great extent, because of the lies told in this lawsuit, millions of Americans came to believe the big lie that Joe Biden is not the duly- elected president of the United States. Because of those lies, people died on January 6th. And many in the world came to doubt the strength of our American democratic institutions.
Fink continued, quote: Nobody can undo what happened on January 6th, but this court can do something to let the world know that attorneys, in this country, are not free to use our courts to spread lies and to undermine our democracy. Today, we ask this court to issue the strongest possible sanctions against every one of these attorneys. The taxpayers should not have to bear the burden of the cost of this litigation, so these attorneys should pay the fees resulting from their abuse of the legal system.
Secondly, these attorneys should be punished for their behavior. Third, a strong sanction would serve as a deterrent for other attorneys. And fourth, these attorneys should never, again, be allowed to appear in a court in our jurisdiction or, frankly, anywhere else.
These attorneys have dishonored our profession. It is not enough to sanction them with monetary penalties. We ask this court to refer each of these attorneys to their respective state bar associations for appropriate discipline.
Joining us, now, is David Fink. He is the attorney for the city of Detroit representing them in this matter as these pro-Trump lawyers face potential sanction from the court.
Mr. Fink, thank you for your time tonight. I know it`s been a very long, very busy day.
DAVID FINK, ATTORNEY FOR DETROIT IN MICHIGAN ELECTIONS SANCTIONS CASE: Hopefully, it`s been a productive day.
MADDOW: Well, tell me about your aims, here. Obviously, these lawyers did not succeed in what they, ostensibly, were trying to do, which was to get the state of Michigan to overthrow the election results to proclaim their electors for Trump, instead of Biden. The judge threw that out, handily. Not long after they filed it.
What made you, what made the city of Detroit, decide that that wasn`t enough? That they should face sanctions for bringing the suit, in the first place?
FINK: Well, if this case had actually stopped on December 7th, maybe, we wouldn`t have come for sanctions. But it isn`t quite accurate, to say that these lawyers didn`t get what they were trying to get, or accomplish what they were trying to accomplish. Any lawyer, looking at the facts and law, in this case, would have to come away understanding that there was no way they were going to win the case. It was not possible, from the beginning.
So, it served a different purpose. And what was that purpose? And it appears, pretty strongly, that the purpose was something they`ve accomplished.
One, of course, they wanted to raise money, which they did. But, two, and much more importantly, they wanted to undermine Joe Biden`s presidency. They wanted to undermine faith in our democracy. And they succeeded, at that.
And if they`re not held accountable, this will happen, again. And that is what this is about. It`s about accountability. And frankly, it`s about stopping these lawyers from ever coming back to a courtroom to play these kind of very, very dangerous games.
MADDOW: There were two things that surprised me, in today`s proceeding.
First of all, surprised by the length of the proceedings. Substantive, I`m looking forward to seeing the full transcript.
It surprised me to see several of the lawyers representing the Trump campaign or representing Trump`s interests try to distance themselves from their involvement in this and say, oh, that really wasn`t me. I only did a little bit of work on that or I -- my name shouldn`t have been on it, in the first place. I wanted to know if that surprised me.
Also, wanted to know if it surprised you that one of the Trump lawyers seemed to have broken rules, under which the court proceeding was hailed today when he broadcast a portion of it, he posted online a portion of it that had apparently been taken from somebody`s Telegram channel.
That was very much against the rules of how this proceeding was held.
FINK: I`d like to say I`m surprised by what Lin Wood did this evening when he broadcast, in direct contradiction of the court`s order, but I can`t really be surprised because he has consistently flaunted the rules of our court. He has, consistently, failed to follow any of the rules in our court. He never even got himself admitted. And now, today, he claims he had nothing to do with this lawsuit.
On the other hand, when the Delaware court was considering rescinding his permission to continue to practice in that court, his lawyer bragged to the court in Delaware about his participation, Lin Wood`s participation, in the Michigan case.
FINK: But everybody`s running from it. The people who signed the pleadings say they`re not responsible because they didn`t draft the pleadings. The people, who drafted the pleadings say, they`re not responsible because they didn`t sign the pleadings. Somebody`s responsible and the answer is all nine of them are, because every one of these attorneys, every one of these attorneys used their bar card, the privilege to practice law, to tell lies, to spread lies, and to persuade millions of Americans of the big lie, that Joe Biden wasn`t duly elected. Of course, he was, and everything in this lawsuit was nonsense and they have to pay a price for it.
MADDOW: David Fink, attorney for the great city of Detroit -- thank you so much for helping us understand what happened today. We will continue to follow these proceedings, closely. Thanks for your perspective.
FINK: Thank you for having me on.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: That`s going to do it for us tonight. But in terms of tomorrow news, we are going to be watching for President Biden`s big speech on voting rights tomorrow around 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
This is a message from President Biden that was, already, going to be urgent and fraught. Even before more than 50 Texas Democratic legislators fled the state of Texas tonight to try to save voting rights in their state. Those Texas Democrats, who we spoke to at the start of this hour, they`re going to be on Capitol Hill pleading for federal help, starting early tomorrow. The president will be speaking on voting rights, at 3:00. It should be a big news day tomorrow.
I will see you again, here, tomorrow night.
But now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.