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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 7/20/21

Guests: David Kirkpatrick, Trey Martinez Fischer


Former Trump inaugural chairman, Tom Barrack, is charged with acting as a foreign agent on behalf of the UAE. Texas Democratic State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer is interviewed.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: All right. Olivia Troye, thank you for joining us this evening.


HAYES: That is ALL IN on this Tuesday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

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

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

Early on in the last presidency, on this show, we used to try to keep up with the turnover, the almost unbelievable amount of turnover in the Trump administration. We put up on screen like all together the names or the titles of each new Trump administration official who had quit or been fired. And we started off being able to do that on a single screen.

But as the number kept growing, we had to move ultimately to a large-size wall panel because it wouldn`t fit in our normal small screen. Then as we kept keeping track of this phenomenon we had to expand it to a couple of wall panels. Eventually there were so many of them, so many wash-outs and resignations and people leaving in disgust and disgrace and under mysterious circumstances we had to expand the list to one entire wall of the big studio, and then it started wrapping around the corner. I don`t even use the wall like that anymore.

But now that that one-term, short national nightmare is over, there is this other sort of tally sheet from that experience, a rap sheet, if you will, that not only do we still have to maintain now, it is still growing now. It is still the news now. And it is -- I just want to say from the outset this is not normal.

I mean like Warren Harding was a really bad president, right? Richard Nixon was bad. Lots of people do really bad things.

The Iran-Contra scandal is largely forgotten even though it wasn`t that long ago, that was really bad. People got in a lot of trouble for that, and a lot of them did.

People got in trouble during presidencies, even high-ranking people from various presidents have been in trouble in all of those eras, right, and others.

But in what universe is it possible that an American president has his campaign chairman arrested -- that`s Paul Manafort -- and his deputy campaign manager arrested, that`s Rick Gates. And his campaign manager arrested, Steve Bannon. And his national security advisor arrested, that`s Mike Flynn.

And his personal lawyer, arrested, that`s Mike Cohen. And his long-time political adviser arrested, that`s Roger Stone. And his campaign foreign adviser arrested, that`s George Papadopoulos. And his inaugural chairman arrested, that`s Tom Barrack, jut arrested today. His inaugural vice chairman arrested, Elliott Broidy.

His private company indicted, the Trump Organization. The chief financial officer of his private company arrested, Allen Weisselberg. His foundation/charity shut down as a fraud. That`s the Trump Foundation. His, quote, unquote, school shut down after a fraud suit settlement, Trump University.

And not to mention during his one single term as president, not one, not two, not three, not four, but five of his cabinet secretaries were referred for federal criminal prosecution, in one term. We just today got the inspector general report on Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and all of the details of how that investigation concluded that Wilbur Ross lied to Congress on multiple occasions to cover up what the Trump administration was trying to do to mess with the census.

And that report, again, which we just got in detail today gives us all of the details we didn`t have before on this fifth Trump cabinet secretary who was referred to the U.S. Justice Department for potential criminal prosecution.

In all five of those cases, all five Trump cabinet secretaries, it was the Trump Justice Department that refused to bring criminal charges despite those criminal referrals. But like, you know, wind the lens a little bit. Meanwhile, the lawyers who brought the cases, brought the lawsuits that the former president wanted after the election to try to get the courts to somehow overthrow the election results and somehow keep him in office, those lawyers who were acting on his behalf are all facing court sanctions and potential disbarment in at least four different jurisdictions.

His other personal lawyer, not the one who already went to prison, the other one, has just had his law license suspended in both New York and in Washington, D.C. for his role in making those same false claims before the court. Oh, and he himself was impeached twice. That`s a record.

And he`s personally facing a criminal investigation under Georgia state law for interfering with elections officials in that state. We`re also awaiting a potential second round of indictments derived from these allegations of a years-long, multi-million dollar tax fraud scheme, that`s already led to the indictment of his company that bears his name and its long-time CFO.


I mean, not only is that not normal for an American presidency, like in what country is that normal? Right?

And in what universe is that the person who you pick to be the prohibitive front-runner for the next Republican presidential nomination? Wow.

Imagine, like, you know, they`re trying to recruit people to the next Trump presidential campaign. Listen, if you play your cards right, you might become a cabinet secretary. And if the last -- the last time he was in office is any indication, it gives you only a one in three chance of being referred for federal criminal prosecution during the four years of his term.

If you want to run the campaign or the inaugural though, the odds are pretty good you`re going to end up in the crowbar hotel.

Just hope that it happens soon enough for him to pardon you. I mean like the record is -- anyway, today the latest ceramic horse to fly by on the carousel of choose your own adventure alleged felonies by all of the people Donald Trump put into government and on to his campaign, the latest one to fly by is 74-year-old Tom Barrack, who used to be famous for having bought Michael Jackson`s terrifying Neverland ranch zoo thing in Southern California.

Now, Tom Barrack will be famous as just another one of the people in the top orbit of the Donald Trump presidency to face serious felony charges. Tom Barrack is a very wealthy businessman. He was a top fundraiser for the Trump campaign.

When Trump won the presidency, Tom Barrack became chair of the Trump Inaugural Committee. The financial weirdness around Trump`s inauguration has been something that stood out from the very beginning.

We covered this pretty intensively on this show. Tom Barrack raised more than $100 million for the Trump inauguration. In context you should know that`s way more than anybody has ever raised for any other inauguration. That more than doubled the previous record for what had been raised and spent on any previous inaugural, including the mammoth and historic first Barack Obama inauguration in January 2009 which brought more than a million spectators to Washington and featured just about literally every single A- list entertainer in the United States of America.

The Trump inauguration in 2017 was not that. It had like a deejay guy who played electronic drum sets that would, like, light up and do special effects when he hit them. They had a group called "The Piano Guys. I mean, yeah, the piano.

I mean, instead of A-list entertainment, it was a tractor parade and empty bleachers along the inaugural parade route because there weren`t enough people there to even fill out the parade route. Big swaths of emptiness on the national mall which famously infuriated Trump on his first day in office and ultimately set the tone from day one of him ordering people who worked in government to start lying for him, even about easily checkable, obvious and petty things.

The small size and the small crowds and the sad little events of the Trump inauguration were a story unto themselves, of course, but more importantly, there was just this huge mismatch between these small-scale events and the huge amount of money that they raised and supposedly spent on it. I mean, how do you do an event that is a sliver, a fraction of the size of the previous version of that event, but you spend more than twice the money doing it? Where did all of the money go?

In the years since "The Wall Street Journal" and other news outlets reported not one but two U.S. attorneys offices opened investigations into suspicious spending around the Trump inaugural, although as of yet, we haven`t seen those investigations bear fruit in the form of any public- facing indictments. The attorney general in Washington, D.C. is now pursuing a case against the Trump inaugural committee that alleges that -- and it was essentially used as a piggy bank to dump money into Trump`s private business, into the Trump Organization, and that suit in Washington, D.C. continues.

Meanwhile, the vice chair of the Trump inaugural, a man named Elliott Broidy, was indicted. He pled guilty to secretly working as an agent of a foreign power. Trump pardoned him. Again, he was the vice chair of the Trump inauguration. Now today it is the chairman of the inauguration, Tom Barrack, who has also been charged with being a foreign agent while he was working on the Trump campaign and for the Trump transition and for the Trump inaugural and once Trump was in office.

If this -- this type of crime sounds like it is becoming a familiar theme, it might be because you remember that Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn was also charged with being a secret foreign agent while he was working for Trump`s campaign and while he was working in the White House.


Mike Flynn was also eventually pardoned by then-President Trump, but there was that truly unnerving foreign agent case against Flynn`s business partner where prosecutors in court laid out the case that Flynn and his business partner had been on the payroll of a foreign country while Trump had them working on things like, oh, I don`t know, vetting candidates to be director of the CIA.

Yeah, congratulations, Trump`s first CIA director, Mike Pompeo, two of the guys who helped choose you for that job according to prosecutors were secret foreign agents working for another country when they picked you.

Flynn, of course, was pardoned. His business partner, who was charged in that case about the foreign agent -- the foreign agent charges, his case has been banging around in the courts for more than a year now, but we are expecting his case back in federal district court soon for a sentencing proceeding. So it may shed some further light there. Boy, is it uncanny how many people were working at the top levels of the last administration and the campaign that created the last administration who, A, were felons and, B, were secret agents of foreign powers or they`re alleged to be so by prosecutors.

In the case of Tom Barrack, who was arrested in California today, arrested -- excused me, arraigned this afternoon in federal court in California, Tom Barrack is pleading not guilty. His lawyer says he is not guilty. Tom Barrack will be held in custody for the next week or so until he has another bail hearing next week on Monday in court in Los Angeles.

But it`s interesting. In this Tom Barrack case with the indictment unsealed today, the prosecution here appears to derive still after all of this time from the Mueller investigation.

Thanks to an epic spree of Freedom of Information Act prying from "BuzzFeed" reporter Jason Leopold, we actually have the FBI notes from the interview Tom Barrack did with investigators from the Mueller team back in January of 2018. It was a wide-ranging interview that he did with them. The notes covered, like, 19 pages, single spaced.

But if you read all the way through it there on page 18 of 19 is Tom Barrack telling the Mueller team`s investigators about a campaign speech that Trump gave on the issue of energy while he was running for president in May of 2016. Tom Barrack tells Mueller`s investigators that he provided his own draft comments, or his own comments on the draft of the speech that he was provided, but before he gave his comments the notes from this FBI interview show that Tom Barrack, quote, shared the draft with -- redacted, redacted, redacted. Barrack asked each about the tone and technical aspects of the draft speech.

Before you give comments on a speech that this candidate was going to give on energy, you showed it to blankety, blankety, blankety, blank. Why is that still redacted?

Well, those are the records from the Mueller investigation. Those parts that are redacted. We got that through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Then last -- excuse me. Two summers ago in the summer of 2019, "The New York Times" reported that whatever it was that was behind those redacted boxes, something about the Mueller team`s interactions with Tom Barrack during their investigation. Something about what he told them when he interviewed with them for their investigation led Robert Mueller`s team to refer Tom Barrack for potential prosecution, specifically to refer him to the Justice Department, to prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York for potential criminal prosecution as a foreign agent.

"New York Times" was first to report that in the summer of 2019. Well, now almost exactly two years later it is, in fact, that U.S. attorney`s office in the Eastern District of New York that has, in fact, brought a prosecution today against, in fact, Tom Barrack for, in fact, allegedly being a secret foreign agent.

I don`t know why it took two years for Mueller`s criminal referral of Tom Barrack as a potential foreign agent to produce an unsealed indictment to that end, but two years almost to the day since that was first reported, here it is. And in the indictment unsealed today, prosecutors allege that the people Tom Barrack showed that draft speech to during the Trump campaign might have been redacted in his FBI notes from the Mueller investigation, but in the indictment they spell it out.

They say the people who he showed the draft speech to were representatives of a foreign government, representatives of the government of the United Arab Emirates.


They allege that Tom Barrack would go on to run the Trump inauguration and to be one of Trump`s biggest fundraisers. They allege that he essentially let a foreign government write portions of that speech to their own liking and for their own purposes.

It is a 45-page, seven-count felony indictment unsealed today, and it names two defendants other than Tom Barrack. It`s Tom Barrack but it is also somebody who work for him at his company, Colony Capital, a man named Matthew Grimes, and also a businessman from the United Arab Emirates, Rashid Al-Malik. Tom Barrack and the other guy from Colony Capital, they were both arrested and both arraigned today.

But third defendant in this indictment, the other guy from the United Arab Emirates, he was not. Prosecutors say he is still at large. They are seeking thinks arrest in connection with the indictment. They say Mr. Al- Malik was questioned by FBI agents in conjunction with this matter in 2019 and thereafter he left the United States, just a few days after that interview with the FBI and he has never been back in the United States since.

After Tom Barrack spoke with the Mueller investigators himself, we know that he spoke with the FBI again in June of 2019. Four of the felony counts against Mr. Barrack are for him allegedly lying to investigators during that second round of questioning. The indictment unsealed today says he lied to investigators when he told them he was never asked to do anything on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. The indictment says he lied to investigators when he testified he got a phone and a specially encrypted app to communicate with officials in the United Arab Emirates. They say that indictment says he lied when he denied putting then-President-elect Trump and other U.S. officials in contact with officials from the United Arab Emirates.

And again, Tom Barrack has pled not guilty to all of it, the four lying to investigators count, the foreign agent count, the conspiracy count, the obstruction of justice, he has pled not guilty to all. But here`s the thing I want to know about -- what the indictment of Trump`s inaugural chairman Tom Barrack makes clear is, again, first, wow! A lot of people from the Trump administration and the Trump campaign have been arrested and, wow, a lot of them are either alleged or confessed secret foreign agents. That remains unsettling, right? That can happen once, it can presumably happen again, but also what damage was done there?

More specifically in this case though, the picture that is laid out in the indictment, it is a really -- usually would, like, read from the court documents here. I`m not doing that at length because the indictment is really, really dense. It is a little bit like reading math in some cases.

But if you read -- if you can read all of it, it is worth reading, it is 45 pages, it is not that long. You kind of sit with it for a second, and you get this kind of scary overall picture, which is that what prosecutors are saying happened here with this secret foreign agent operating at the top of the Trump campaign and the Trump transition and the Trump inauguration, what prosecutors are saying here is that this was a really successful operation. This worked, very well for the United Arab Emirates and for Tom Barrack. It was a very successful, very lucrative thing for both sides right up until the handcuffs moment for Mr. Barrack today.

I mean, as laid out in the indictment, the United Arab Emirates got a lot out of having this guy, highly placed source in this highly placed part of the U.S. government. They got a heads up on who the new administration was picking for its top foreign policy and national security positions. They got to exert influence over who was considered by the Trump administration to be ambassador to United Arab Emirates. They literally got to script language from this advisor to the new president that he used in all of his media interviews around the campaign, praising Emirates and its leaders in total boot-licking terms. They love that. They wrote the language for him to use in those interviews.

From him they got, according to prosecutors, they got insider help turning the United States in an abrupt U-turn, an abrupt 180 against a country that is their rival, Qatar. They turned us against Qatar, even though the U.S. has a long-standing relationship with Qatar, and a giant U.S. military base there. Prosecutors allege that Tom Barrack as the sort of inside man for this foreign country got the Trump administration and the U.S. government to do that.

They got language they wanted from Trump in that big energy speech that he did on the campaign, the one for which Tom Barrack sent in his notes on the draft. They got insider help inside the Trump administration, scuttling a Trump administration plan that there should be a big Camp David meeting involving the warring Gulf States.


United Arab Emirates didn`t want that. According to the indictment they got Tom Barrack to get it called off.

Over and over again, they got what they wanted because they had a highly placed source at the very top of the U.S. government. They got what they wanted. It worked for them.

And Tom Barrack, it worked for him too, of course, "The New York Times" reporting that in the three years after Trump became the Republican nominee for president in the summer of 2016, in the three years following him getting the nomination, the UAE and their close ally, the Saudis, collectively shoved $1.5 billion into Tom Barrack`s company, $1.5 billion over three years. Nice work if you can get it.

According to the portrayal in this indictment, Tom Barrack, the head of Trump`s inauguration, was a great investment for a foreign power, and they appear to have been a great investment for him -- again, up until the moment that the handcuffs snapped on him this morning.

Because they have that man on the inside, because this was so successful, because for the last months of the Trump campaign, they had this guy, you know, working for them on the inside, getting them everything they wanted, showing them draft speeches, running language by them, doing interviews where he would say exactly what they wanted to be said by a guy who was working as a top adviser to the presidential candidate for the Republican Party, because it was working for them, because they had according to prosecutors a secret foreign agent working for them inside this presidential campaign, was that a sweet enough situation for them that it made them want to try to ensure that Trump actually got elected president? That he wasn`t just the candidate and they weren`t just exerting influence in the campaign, did it make them want to go the extra step to try to get him elected?

I mean, if you have got someone secretly working on your payroll, secretly working for your country right at the top of a presidential campaign in another country, that`s great in itself. But think about how much greater it would be for you in your country if that candidate actually won and took power. And that`s sort of the cliff that this story runs up to at full speed, because in May of 2018, "The New York Times" reported that the United Arab Emirates made the Trump campaign an offer that they would run a multi-million dollar expert, secret social media manipulation campaign to ensure that Trump was elected in 2016. And this is on top of and separate from what Russia was already doing to try to elect Trump.

"The Times" reported that it was never clear if that election interference campaign that was being offered to the Trump campaign in that meeting, it`s never been clear whether or not it happened. But we now know from today`s indictment from Tom Barrack that on the same day that meeting was happening in Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr., that same day, Tom Barrack was overseas meeting with senior officials from the United Arab Emirates about what prosecutors now say was their scheme for him to serve as their secret foreign agent within the Trump campaign, doing the bidding of that foreign country at the top echelons of the Republican nominee for president of the United States and presumably in the administration of that candidate if and when he was elected president.

The same day he was meeting with them about that scheme, United Arab Emirates sent an emissary to Trump tower to offer them an interference campaign to get Trump elected, and we do know that after Trump was actually elected the firm that had come to Trump Tower that day to offer to mess with the election on Trump`s behalf, that firm was paid millions of dollars by the guy who represented the UAE in that meeting.

We`re never going to escape this guy, are we?

We`ve got more ahead. Stay with us.



MADDOW: In 2018, "The New York Times" was first to report that in the run- up to the 2016 election, former President Donald Trump`s son, Donald Trump Jr., met with a man deeply connected in the Middle East. He was there as an emissary of two powerful princes from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. According to "The Times", that emissary from Saudi and UAE told don Jr. That those two countries, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, were both eager to do whatever they could to help Donald Trump get elected president that November.

Also at that meeting with Donald Trump`s son was, according to "The Times", a, quote, specialist in social media manipulation. "The Times" reports that his firm had drawn up a multi-million dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort that could be used secretly, covertly to manipulate the electorate to help Donald Trump get elected. It was ground-breaking reporting from "The New York Times" back in 2018 and, of course, we never found out for sure whether or not that social media manipulation plan ever went into effect, whether Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates actually did end up supporting or enacting or funding some sort of covert plan to help manipulate social media in the U.S., to help change voter views and voter behavior, to help Donald Trump become president.

A lawyer for Don Jr. denied that he had ever seriously entertained such an idea. The man who is described in "The Times" as the social media manipulator, he denied it all, too. But today we can add an interesting new data point.


We learned from today`s indictment of the Donald Trump inaugural -- inaugural chairman, we learned that Tom Barrack was allegedly working with the UAE at that time to influence both the Trump campaign and U.S. policy.

According to the indictment Tom Barrack flew to Morocco on August 3rd, 2016, to present this major proposal to his friends in the UAE in terms of a new strategic alignment between that country and the United States. That date ends up being sort of important in retrospect because on that exact same date, that Trump Tower meeting was under way where a representative from the United Arab Emirates was offering to help Donald Trump get elected with a multi-million dollar covert social media campaign on his behalf.

What was going on there between the Trump campaign and his advisers and the United Arab Emirates? Yet another Trump adviser now indicted as a secret foreign agent. Tom Barrack accused by prosecutors of secretly working essentially on the UAE`s payroll to affect foreign policy and the behavior of the campaign.

But does today`s indictment get us closer with how we were messed with by foreign countries, both in terms of secret foreign agents but also interference in our electoral affairs in 2016 and beyond.

Joining us is David Kirkpatrick. He`s national correspondent for "The New York Times". He`s one of the reporters bylined on the story about the meeting in Trump Tower first reported in 2018.

Mr. Kirkpatrick, it`s a real pleasure to have you here. Thank you so much.


MADDOW: First, let me know if I have any of this wrong. I feel like I have learned all of this stuff as it has come out over the months and years and then you never know which part you will have to go back to and learn again and remind yourself who`s connected to who and who`s been indicted already and who has been pardoned.

Let me ask you from your understanding if I screwed any of this up in the way that I told it.

KIRKPATRICK: Yes, I think you got it pretty right. It is pretty confusing. I have to say I`m going to add one more confusing part of this. You know, you`ve outlined a couple of parallel influence operations, one that went through Tom Barrack, Trump`s best friend, a businessman who has done business with Trump and also with these Persian gulf princes. Then there`s another one which is George Nader, an emissary from the UAE who subsequently has been convicted of pedophilia who was in there, in Trump Tower trying to set up the social media manipulation scheme.

You got to add to that another leg in this, which is it turns out that Muhammad bin Zayed, the prince who was working through Barrack and Nader was also working with Nader to try to play match maker between the Trump campaign and the Russians. So, MBZ and George Nader were setting up a meeting for Erik Prince to meet with Kirill Dmitriev, an emissary from Putin in the Seychelles, also around the time all of this was going on, which is one of the elements that have drawn it into the scope of the Mueller campaign.

So, if you are putting it under the umbrella of foreign countries trying to influence the Trump administration, you`ve got to look at several different UAE paths and the possibility there was some sort of overlap between what the Emiratis were doing and the Russians were doing. Sorry it is confusing, but I didn`t make all this up.

MADDOW: No, it`s sort of just confusing enough to give me lots of follow- up questions to ask you. I mean, it has always stuck out for me that we know -- if you just say, let`s only look at the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee, even if you don`t want to look at what Mueller did, that the U.S. government has unequivocally and in a bipartisan manner determined that Russia did mount an operation to try to influence the electorate in Trump`s -- to Trump`s benefit in the 2016 election.

You and your colleagues reported on a proposal to do something that sounds very much like that, that was being organized and sort of offered by a guy in a private business context, presumably maybe the idea was that the Emiratis and the Saudis would pay the cost of that if the Trump campaign agreed to let it go forward. They just sound so similar. Obviously they were aiming at the same thing.

We know the Russian operation happened. In the years that have passed have we ever gotten close to figuring out if the other operation that was offered at that Trump Tower meeting, that maybe the Emiratis and the Saudis were going to pay for, have we ever got any close to figuring out if that happened?

KIRKPATRICK: I don`t have any information that it did. All we know as you suggested before is that money was still changing hands between George Nader who was working for Muhammad bin Zayed and the Emirates. Money was still changing hands between him and Joel Zamel who was the social media expert from Israel who was involved in the pitch all the way up through the campaign.


Joel Zamel was in during the transition showing some kind of slides or PowerPoint presentation to the Trump team, but what went on, I don`t have any reason to believe, I don`t have any evidence that anything was actually done on behalf of the Trump campaign by the Saudis, the Emirates or anything like this.

Now, but then you`ve got to -- you got to look at the bigger picture here. What is happening is from Muhammad bin Zayed, the head of the Emirates, the richest man in the world, he`s got $1.3 trillion in sovereign wealth funds, he was unhappy with the Obama administration. He very much wanted influence with the new team coming in.

The Trump team coming in takes what the Saudis described as a transactional mindset. So, here are people in charge, Trump, Kushner, who have all of their lives been real estate developers and sellers in the real estate market, and over on the other side, in the Emirates, you got the Emiratis and the Saudis who for decades have been some of the biggest buyers for major real estate assets.

So hovering over all of this business being done, all of this political and policy business being done between the Trump White House and the Saudis and Emiratis are also the awareness that when the Trump administration is over, now they`re going to go back to their other roles where Trump and Kushner are real estate developers and the Saudis and the Emiratis are real estate buyers. And that created a kind of sweetness, if you will, around the whole relationship.

MADDOW: David, I know that you have covered Tom Barrack closely and covered his importance to the Trump campaign and his relationship to that world you were just describing. I have to ask you if you were surprised to see him get indicted today? There`s been reporting on him being under investigation and scrutinized by prosecutors for a long time.

Did it shock you today when you found out he had been arrested?

KIRKPATRICK: It sure did. Boy, did it. I have got to say that guy could sell snow to the Eskimos. If you read the indictment, one of the things that comes through is how unbelievably ingratiating he is to the people he deals with, both in the Trump administration and on the Emirati side.

I mean, you used the word suck-up I think. He really for a guy who is 74 years old and himself a billionaire, he really knows how to be humble and kind of ah, shucks. And he has lied and lied and lied.

If it was this indictment is saying is true, then his lies about his role with the Emiratis and the things that he did for them have been just tremendous. I think it was really hard for me to believe that he could lie like that if he knew that people were out there or messages were out there that could eventually hang him up as they appear now to have done.

MADDOW : David Kirkpatrick, national correspondent for "The New York Times" -- I was so hoping that I was going to be able to get you here on the show to talk about this tonight. Thanks so much for making time.


MADDOW: All right. As we continue to absorb the sort of implications of the Trump inaugural chairman being indicted as an alleged foreign agent, we`ve got other stories we are covering here tonight including some important stuff that`s happening right now on COVID.

We have lots more ahead tonight. Stay with us.



MADDOW: It has been eight days since Texas Democratic legislators walked out of their state capital and walked out of their beloved home state as a last-ditch effort to block Republicans back home in Texas from passing draconian new voting restrictions. The Texas Democratic legislators have been in Washington ever since. They`ve been taking every meeting they can get with federal lawmakers, with White House officials. They`re pleading for national voting rights legislation to block what Republicans are trying to do in their state and other states around the country. It has been eight days for them in Washington thus far and probably weeks still to go before they can go home again.

But this week that battle over voting rights crashed head first into America`s battle against the coronavirus. Several of the Texas Democrats have now tested positive for COVID-19 in Washington. Last night just as we were getting on the air, the number of Democrats from Texas who tested positive since they`ve been in Washington rose from five to six. Today the entire Texas delegation is quarantining in their respective hotel rooms as a precaution.

One of the Texas Democrats who contracted COVID is Trey Martinez Fischer. You will remember us speaking with him on this show from a bus on the tarmac at the airport the night he and his colleagues arrived from Texas in Washington. He and the other five Texas Democrats who have tested positive all say they are fully vaccinated but they nevertheless had these breakthrough infections.

All of the Texas Democrats in Washington have been continuing their work to try to make the most of their time in D.C., to try to get this thing done, even if -- even if they only can do it on Zoom from here on out.

I thought if we could we should check in with them to see how it is going. Luckily we have been able to get in touch from his hotel room with Texas Democratic State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer.

Representative Martinez Fischer, thanks for taking the time. I`m sorry for what you`re going through.

STATE REP. TREY MARTINEZ FISCHER (D), TEXAS: You know what? It`s okay. It is for democracy so it`s worth it.

MADDOW: Let me ask you first how you are feeling. I know that you said publicly that you were fully vaccinated so this is a breakthrough infection. Obviously everybody is hoping that you are fine. Technically, if you get a breakthrough infection, once you`ve been vaccinated, you are must less likely to have a serious bout of the illness, but how are you tonight?

FISCHER: You know, Rachel, it is a little surprising. I tested positive on Sunday morning. I woke up early, had my routine. I exercised. I drank coffee, I read my newspaper, and then right before a staff meeting I took a rapid test and had a positive result.


And I couldn`t believe it. Like I actually waited 15 minutes and tested again because I felt terrific and, in fact, you know, in the days since I`ve been quarantining I`m dealing with a low-grade fever, maybe, you know, a little sinus from time to time, but it really goes to show you that this vaccine has really gotten in front of this variant. And even though I`m positive, I`m not undergoing like significant symptoms like other people would if they were not vaccinated.

MADDOW: In terms of the work that you and your colleagues are doing, obviously there`s no normal right now. You guys are in such extremist in terms of the lengths you had to go to, to try to block the voting restrictions at home, to try to awaken the nation`s conscience and the sense of urgency around federal protections for voting rights.

How does this change your plans? What does -- what do the days ahead look like in terms of your continuing efforts to try to sound this alarm?

FISCHER: You know, in a way, we`re kind of getting more done because we`re virtual and you`re not, you know, going back and forth from the hill or running from meeting to meeting, running the risk of being late. This morning, we had a very, you know, intense strategic conversation with Majority Whip James Clyburn and he shared with us his thoughts on voting reforms going forward, multiple strategies, multiple conversations and told us a lot of things we did not know.

And, of course, we`ve had other motivational speakers join us from Dr. Bernice King to Delores Huerta, you know? So we are actually able to cover more ground and at the same time, you know, make sure we`re not running any health risk to anybody else until we can ride this out in the next, you know, five or six days.

MADDOW: In terms of that conversation with Congressman Clyburn or any of the other conversations that you have had around strategy about voting rights, can you tell us of anything that you have heard that makes you feel more hopeful? Makes you feel there are more paths available to a potential advance on this issue than we might see on the outside? I think a lot of Americans watching this and feeling anxious about this issue feel like it is just an impasse and there`s no way around it right now. Are you hearing things that are making you feel more optimistic?

FISCHER: Well, the one thing I heard were my ears perked up this morning is when, you know, the majority whip said, there`s plenty of time. That`s what we keep hearing over and over again, that we`re sort of running into this August 6th recess. You know, with Clyburn, seemed to suggest we have the time to do this. You know, there is a way to do this if we can only build up the will, and I think that there are multiple conversations taking place, you know, sort of echoed some of the remarks of Senator Klobuchar about Senator Manchin sort of evolving on this issue, them looking at multiple paths from, you know, maybe putting some voting reform in the infrastructure bill to, you know, maybe rolling in parts of HR-4, John Lewis Act, into S-1.

It just seems to me that they are looking at any and all paths to try to provide an opportunity for the Senate to get a successful vote on this thing, and it was very, very reassuring.

MADDOW: It`s good to hear it.

Texas Democratic State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer -- I know you said, sir, your symptoms are light, but, you know, a low-grade fever is still a fever and the sinus stuff is still sinus stuff. I hope your symptoms don`t get any worse. I hope they resolve and you can get some rest.

And come back soon. We love to -- keep us apprised as you go through this journey.

FISCHER: Happy to do it. Thank you.

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



MADDOW: Missouri`s Republican Governor Mike Parson had this to say online today, this constructive comment from Governor Parson. He said, quote: Vaccination continues to be the best method for COVID-19 prevention, we encourage anyone age 12 and up to get vaccinated to help protect themselves and those around them.

True. Good. But Missouri is one of the states struggling the most in the country with a new aggressive surge of COVID cases and a hospital that is getting overwhelmed because of it.

The governor today also retweeted the new state hot spot warning which today adds three more to Missouri counties to the list of those that are experiencing steep surges of COVID infections in the last two weeks, they put out six new hot spots advisories in Missouri in less than two weeks. The first worst hit in the southwest corner but spreading cross the state of Missouri from there. The epicenter where it started worse in the area around Springfield, Missouri, even as it is spreading across the state, it`s not letting up in that epicenter.

Green County, Missouri, is now recording new all-time record number of people hospitalized for COVID going back from the very beginning of the pandemic.

Here`s a headline about that in the "St. Louis Post Dispatch" today, quote, COVID-19 hospitalizations in southwest Missouri surpassed winter peak. A doctor named Rachel Keech, she was treating patients at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis told "The Post Dispatch" today, quote, there`s so many COVID patients that are on so many units, they`re everywhere.

Dr. Keech was sent to Mercy Hospital in Springfield last week to help with the overwhelming number of patients there. According to the paper, quote, when she arrived, she said there was so little space patients were staying in the emergency room for long periods of time and staff had just opened COVID-19 unit and we`re discussing opening yet another.

Local health officials in Southwest Missouri have been sounding the alarm about the fact that they`re at capacity, that they don`t have space for the growing number of patients that is not letting up. They`ve been explicitly asking for help for about a week now.

We covered this last week on the show, you might remember. Last Wednesday, hospitals and health officials in Springfield, Missouri, explicitly asked Governor Parson, asked the state to set up an alternative care site in Springfield to help them cope with the huge uptick in COVID patients because they`re at capacity in all of the hospitals there.


The requested site would give them a place to move patients who are stable enough to transfer, so they can treat most critical patients in the COVID units they`ve got now.

When we reported on this last week, again last Wednesday, the state hadn`t yet answer. They hadn`t given the Springfield Green County health department an answer to their request.

Well, yesterday, "The Springfield News Leader" went to Governor Parson to ask whether they`re going to pony up the money for that alternative care site, whether he`s going to say yes, this corner of the state after asking for help. His answer was, probably.

Governor Parson said, quote: We`re in the process of kind of going through that now and the state will, for the most part, probably fulfill the request.

Springfield Green County health department today still haven`t got an up or down answer to their request from the state but they`re trying to work it out even though the state won`t tell them. Meanwhile, cases and hospitalization keep going up, Green County remains an absolute hot spot epicenter. And the state is now adding more hot spots every week, it`s spreading in Missouri, more hospitals are going to need more space for patients, starting in Springfield, that is asking for help. They said they needed help within days, tick, tock, still not even an answer from Governor Mike Parson.


MADDOW: That`s going to do it for us for tonight. In terms for tomorrow`s news, though, you`re going to keep an eye on things in Washington around 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time. That`s when we`re expecting the first procedural vote on infrastructure, on the infrastructure bill that Republicans are kind of sort of pretending to support just so they can drag out negotiations as long as possible, waste as much as time as possible, and then in the end, they`ll vote against it anyway. Tomorrow at 2:30 Eastern will be the first real vote on that.

As you can tell, I do not have high expectations for what`s going to come of that vote but hey, take comfort in knowing just how often I am completely wrong about things like this. We shall see. We`ll talk about it tomorrow night.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Ali.