IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

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

Guests: Peter Strzok, William Barber, Beto O`Rourke


CNN is reporting that federal prosecutors had enough to charge Tom Barrack last year but a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney apparently wouldn`t let the charges be brought. A Selma-style march for voting rights is going to take place in Texas next week.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Dr. Collins, we`re out of time. But I would love to have you back. There`s a lot more I want to talk about, including some of the controversy over the Wuhan virology lab, which would have been the news.

So if you would come back, that would be great. Dr. Francis Collins, thank you.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, NIH DIRECTOR: I`d be glad to. Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: OK. Fantastic.

That is ALL IN for this evening.

"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.

So, here`s how it lays out in the new book by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker. It`s not a long thing I`m going to read you but fair warning, even though it is a short excerpt, there`s a whole bunch of swears here. I am not allowed to swear on TV and I am disinclined to swear on TV. So I`m going to try to kind of slalom around those cuss words as deftly as I can while trying to convey to you the forcefulness of the conversation that they report here.

OK. With that caveat, here it is. Trump had made the nation`s leaders choose: Not just whether to stay or go, but whether to preserve democracy or devolve toward authoritarian rule, whether the truth mattered or not, whether the end justifies the means. Tensions were running high.

Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the number three ranking House Republican, who had close ties to several military and national security leaders, called chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, on January 7th. She called him to check in.

Milley asked her, quote, how are you doing? She replied, quote, that F-ing guy Jim Jordan. That son of a -- word that rhymes with witch, Cheney said. She was referring to one of Trump`s staunchest allies in the House of Representatives, Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio.

Cheney described she and Jordan being together -- excuse me, Cheney described being together with Congressman Jordan during the siege at the Capitol on January 6th. Remember this conversation took place the day after January 6th.

She told General Milley, quote, while these maniacs are going through the place, I`m standing in the aisle and he said, we need to get the ladies away from the aisle. Let me help you. I smacked his hand away and told him get away from me. You F-ing did this. You bleepity bleep did this.

That book came out yesterday. The title is "I Alone Can Fix It: Donald Trump`s Catastrophic Final Year." It is the number one selling book in the United States right now.

And while that incident was never reported before Carol Leonnig and Phil Rucker put it in their new best-selling book, it is now reported. It is now on the record. Excerpts including that one from the book have been circulating in recent days.

Because of that, we probably should have seen today`s news coming. When the House of Representatives decided they would do an investigation of the attack on the Capitol on January 6th and what caused it, they first negotiated a true legit, bipartisan/nonpartisan expert commission, a blue ribbon commission that would have equal representation from Republicans and Democrats. It would be scrupulously nonpartisan, or at least evenly divided. Democrats and the leadership of the House negotiated that with the Republicans who had been delegated by their leadership to come up with this sort of thing.

Both sides came to an agreement. They worked out in detail how this bipartisan, nonpartisan blue ribbon commission would work. They put it up for a vote, and the Republicans voted against it anyway. Even though they had negotiated what it should be and what it was going to be was a perfectly nonpartisan entity.

But they voted against it, so that went away. That was weird. It was weird if you think Republicans are participating in the project of governing alongside Democrats as a good faith opposition party these days. But if in fact you believe that, I`d like to welcome you back to the land of the living after your blackout nap that you started in the mid-`90s.

It`s not that weird that they voted down the thing they themselves negotiated. They do that kind of stuff all the time.

But after Republicans voted down their own proposal for a bipartisan/nonpartisan expert investigation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she wouldn`t let the idea die. If they wouldn`t do something with the Democrats, this sort of expert commission, instead she would create in the House a select committee to investigate January 6th. And instead of external experts brought in by both sides to sit in on blue ribbon expert nonpartisan commission, it will be members of Congress who serve on this select committee.

Nancy Pelosi announced that she would appoint Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney and a short list of Democrats.


She then invited the Republican leader of the House, Kevin McCarthy, to appoint five members as well. And one of the names on his list of five appointees was Jim Jordan. How did that go on January 6th between Jim Jordan and Liz Cheney again? Put that back up.

Oh, yeah, there it is, bottom of page 491. That F-ing guy, Jim Jordan. That son of a -- I smacked his hand away and told him get away from me. You F- ing did this.

That is on the record. That is a known thing.

Kevin McCarthy, like all of us, knew that Liz Cheney was already on that committee. He also had to have known about this recent sort of blockbuster reporting about what went down between Liz Cheney and Jim Jordan inside the House as the house was being attacked on January 6th.

And knowing that, what better way to blow up that committee than my trying to slip onto that committee that same Jim Jordan, to sit alongside Liz Cheney to get to the bottom of what really happened that day.

Congresswoman Cheney today was asked about Nancy Pelosi`s decision to say no to Jim Jordan and one other Republican member of Congress being put on that committee by the House Republicans. When congresswoman Cheney was asked for her reaction to that decision today, she did not mince words.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): At every opportunity, the minority leader has attempted to prevent the American people from understanding what happened, to block this investigation.

Today, the speaker objected to two Republican members. She accepted three others. She objected to two, one of whom may well be a material witness to events that led to that day, that led to January 6th. The other who disqualified himself by his comments in particular over the last 24 hours demonstrating that he is not taking this seriously. He is not dealing with the facts of this investigation but rather viewed it as a political platform.

This investigation must go forward. The idea that anybody would be playing politics with an attack on the United States Capitol is despicable and is disgraceful. And I am absolutely dedicated and committed to making sure that this investigation holds those accountable who did this and ensures that it never happens again. And the American people deserve that and that is what we are going to do.

REPORTER: Congresswoman, do you think you can still get that nonpartisan investigation you want given that no other Republican but yourself will participate?

CHENEY: I am absolutely confident that we will have a nonpartisan investigation, that it will look at the facts, that it will go wherever the facts may lead. There are three members that the minority leader proposed, that the speaker did not object to. She has objected to two members and the rhetoric around this from the minority leader and there those two members has been disgraceful.

This must be an investigation that is focused on facts. And the idea that any of this has become politicized is really unworthy of the office that we all hold and unworthy of our republic.

REPORTER: Did you personally -- did you personally urge the speaker to take this step?

CHENEY: I agree with what the speaker has done.


MADDOW: Did you personally -- did you personally urge the speaker to take this step? I agree with what the speaker has done. Ahem. That is a meaningful dodge.

But you know, it`s a serious thing. It`s not just that Liz Cheney doesn`t enjoy the company of Jim Jordan. I`m sure he`s a delightful dining companion.

What`s on record about how she views Jim Jordan is that she thinks he did it. That he`s culpable. That he`s part of why the January 6th attack on the U.S. capitol happened, right?

That reference that she made in the middle of those remarks there to him being a material witness to the crime in question. Listen to that part again.


CHENEY: She objected to two, one of whom may well be a material witness to events that led to that day, that led to January 6. The other who disqualified himself by his comments in particular over the last 24 hours demonstrating that he is not taking this seriously.


MADDOW: So House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did intervene today to block two of the proposed five Republicans from the January 6th Commission. The latter one described there by Liz Cheney is Congressman Jim Banks. She says that he disqualified himself by his comments over the last 24 hours, demonstrating he is not taking this seriously.

Jim Banks really did put out a statement once he was named to this committee saying that this committee shouldn`t actually focus on January 6th, it should investigate other protests against police violence and stuff. He said the only reason the House was setting up this January 6th committee was to, quote, malign conservatives.


Liz Cheney today describing those comments as disqualifying, showing that he was not taking the mission of this committee seriously. I think that`s a fair observation. But the other guy who got himself objected to by Nancy Pelosi, Jim Jordan, she`s describing him as something different. She is describing him as, in her words, a material witness to the events that the committee is going to investigate.

And that is not just a rhetorical shove at Jim Jordan, that`s a real thing. And it comes from a real place.

Look at this. This is from "Politico". On December 21st, 2020, look at the headline. House Republicans meet with Trump to discuss overturning election results. And then there`s the subhead there: Trump loyalists are planning a last stand on January 6. Reporter Melanie Zanona from describing in that article a series of three long meetings that were held at the White House that day in December.

She even got a quote from Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama. Brooks told her, quote, it was a back and forth concerning the planning and strategy for January the 6th.

Three hours of meetings with Trump at the White House to plan what was going to happen on January 6th. Quote, during Monday`s meeting at the White House where lawmakers noshed on a mid-afternoon snack of meatballs and pigs in a blanket, Trump talked with the lawmakers over an hour about how January 6th would play out.

Among the Republicans who met that day in that planning and strategy session to decide what was going to happen on January 6th, this last stand to overturn the election with their actions that day, among the Republicans there for that plotting meeting was Jim Jordan, the congressman from Ohio.

You`re going to put him on the commission investigating what led up to the events of January 6th? Really?

If you have a committee looking at the problem of like organized crime and drug cartels, do you think you could get El Chapo to sit on that one? Maybe resurrect Al Capone? I mean, they do have expertise, real familiarity with the subject.

The January 6th Commission is going to be looking at what happened on the day of January 6th and what caused it. Where`s a good place to start in terms of what caused it, right? Where`s a good place to start in terms of what led Trump supporters to believe that Trump had actually won the presidential election and January 6th would be their chance to block it? Where did they get that idea?


JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I think there are big problems with this. I think -- I don`t know how you can ever convince me that President Trump didn`t actually win this thing based on all the things you see, the 11 million more votes.


MADDOW: That was Jim Jordan after the election. I don`t know how you can ever convince me that President Trump didn`t actually win this thing. Based on all the things you see. He would make these same arguments on the House floor on January 6th as part of his argument that the election results should not be accepted because Trump won.


JORDAN: Americans instinctively know there was something wrong with this election. During the campaign, Vice President Biden would do an event and get 50 people at the event. President Trump at just one rally gets 50,000 people. You`ve got 11 million more votes than he did in 2016 and House Republicans won 27 of 27 toss-up races, but somehow the guy who never left his house wins the election?


MADDOW: Don`t believe the results of the election, certified in all 50 states, believe your gut feeling. Also believe who was better at infecting large crowds with COVID. The instinct of the American people is that Trump was robbed, so don`t certify the election results. That was January 6th on the floor of the House.

Jim Jordan making the case that the election must have been stolen, that it shouldn`t be certified. Jim Jordan spoke at stop the steal rallies. He did media interviews arguing that it was impossible that Trump didn`t win, rattling off data and statistics that to him proved that it was impossible that Biden won. He literally plotted at the White House with the president about how January 6th would go, as they plotted to overthrow the election result and keep Trump in power.

And so, yeah, the Republicans picked him to be on the commission investigating what happened on January 6th. It`s like if you wanted to investigate the rise in obesity and you appointed ten cheeseburgers and a blooming onion as your contribution to the commission of the inquiry. We`ll look into this.

After January 6th, Carol Leonnig and Phil Rucker report in their new book "I Alone Can Fix It" that White House senior staffers, including son in law Jared Kushner and national security advisor Robert O`Brien, also Vice President Pence`s national security advisor, Keith Kellogg, they all proposed to Trump an idea that they had for how the breach between President Trump and Vice President Pence could be repaired.


How they could repair relations between the president and vice president after Trump had sicced his supporters on Vice President Pence and put Pence`s life in quite serious danger.

This from Leonnig and Rucker`s book. Quote: Kellogg, O`Brien and Kushner brainstormed how to bring the president and vice president back together, short of an apology, which Trump would never give. O`Brien proposed having Trump award Pence the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation`s highest civilian honor. The others liked the idea. They thought it could recognize Pence`s work chairing the coronavirus task force but knew it would be interpreted as a post-insurrection peace treaty. The three men thought this could repair the relationship.

Carol Leonnig and Phil Rucker go on to describe the additional senior members of the Biden -- excuse me, of the Trump and Pence administration who proposed, supported and indeed worked on this idea, that Trump would give Pence the Presidential Medal of Freedom, fix things up between them. You may remember that never happened.

You know who did get the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump, though? Jim Jordan. Why did Jim Jordan get it? His contributions to wrestling? No.

After Jordan helped with promoting the election was stolen from Trump lie, after Jordan plotted with Trump in the White House about what was going to happen on January 6th, after he did try on January 6th to stop the election results from being finalized, even after the riot had been quelled, after he gave this big steam winder argument about how Trump must have won, he must have. You can just smell it. Don`t you feel it in your gut?

After all of that, Trump did not give the Medal of Freedom to Vice President Mike Pence who had after all certified the election, he gave it to Jim Jordan. And then two days later, Jim Jordan, of course, led the Republicans in opposition as the House voted to impeach Trump for having incited what happened on January 6th.

So, yeah, that was a nice try by the Republicans, but, no, he`s not going to be on the committee. And mafia dons don`t get to he to get back to the bottom of organized crime and pyromaniacs don`t get jobs as firefighters either.

Nancy Pelosi did not actually draw the line against Republicans who voted against certifying the election results. One of the appointees -- three of the five appointees that McCarthy put forward had voted against certifying the election results, but one of them she said still would be okay with her being on the committee but she did draw the line on Jim Jordan and the other guy who said the committee was a terrible thing and shouldn`t look at January 6th.

After Nancy Pelosi made that decision today, the Republicans in the House decided that if Jim Jordan can`t be on the committee, then no Republicans can be on the committee. And so now the little ray of sunshine here is that there won`t be any of those five Republican appointees on the committee. There actually will be a substantive inquiry into the January 6th attack and what led into it without Congressman Jim Jordan and Congressman Banks and anybody else who was being put on with the goal of sabotaging it, derailing it and making sure it couldn`t do its work.

Instead, they`ll actually have a commission that looks at it seriously. The first hearings will be Tuesday.

Today was busy in Washington. The House and the Senate both hard at work. The Senate as expected had a party line vote on whether to debate a big infrastructure bill. All Democrats voted in favor. All Republicans were opposed, as usual.

For some reason, this has led to a burst of beltway optimism that something is actually going to pass now in terms of infrastructure. I don`t know. I`ll confess to feeling a little muddier about those prospects than most of my colleagues in the media at least. I just feel like as a political observer I`ve had my chain yanked on this enough and I`m able to observe Republican delay tactics closely enough that I`m assuming as long as Republicans keep engaging -- as long as Democrats keep engaging with Republicans on this at all, it`s never actually going to happen.

We did get more movement today on the Biden administration on the issue of evacuating translators who worked with U.S. troops from Afghanistan, including some interesting new reporting showing the State Department mobilizing its own personnel to get a move-on on this. Also, the first formal notifications going out to Afghan translators themselves telling them about the first evacuation flights out of Afghanistan apparently scheduled now for next week.

So, some interesting movement on that story today. We`re going to have more on that ahead this hour.

Also late today, the Justice Department issued new rules affirming and strengthening the bright lines that are supposed to exist between the Justice Department and the White House -- the rules that are supposed to keep Justice Department law enforcement decisions independent from White House and political pressure.


After the Trump administration sliced and diced and pureed the whole idea of Justice Department independence for four straight years. I mean, under the Trump administration, not just the practice but even the idea that the Justice Department should operate independently from the president`s interests, that was attacked mercilessly by the former president.

Well, today, Biden Attorney General Merrick Garland reissued and in fact tightened the rules that prohibit contact from the White House and the Justice Department on most matters. They explicitly confine any such contact to the highest reaches of the department, so we hopefully won`t have, again, like we did in the Trump era apparently, a president personally calling and berating individual U.S. attorneys to bring cases he likes and to drop others that he didn`t.

But along those lines, our colleagues at CNN have some sort of uh-oh new reporting tonight on the story that we led with last night. And this story is a big deal -- the arrest and indictment of the man who led the Trump inaugural committee. Long-time Trump friend, advisor and fund-raiser, Tom Barrack, who has now been indicted on seven felony counts. He`s in jail tonight as we speak in California, awaiting a bail hearing on Monday. He has been charged as -- for acting as a secret foreign agent of a foreign government in this country.

CNN is reporting tonight that the federal prosecutors who brought these charges against tom barrack yesterday for some reason, they sat on those charges for a very long time before yesterday`s indictment, even though the indictment was apparently ready to go.

Here`s CNN`s lead tonight. Quote: Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn investigating Tom Barrack, a prominent ally to former president Donald Trump for allegedly violating foreign lobbying laws had enough evidence to bring charges last year, but held off doing so until the arrival of the new presidential administration.

Prosecutors wanted to move forward on the case and believed they could obtain an indictment, one source familiar with the matter said. The source said the investigation was mostly done well before the time period when prosecutors are discouraged from advancing politically sensitive matters ahead of an election. But two sources tell CNN the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn at the time, Richard Donoghue, expressed misgivings about the barrack case. It`s unclear if he delayed the case outright or if prosecutors chose not to move forward at the time knowing the U.S. attorney wouldn`t approve it.

A spokesman from the Brooklyn U.S. attorney`s office declined. Mr. Donoghue did not respond to request for comment either. Donoghue, of course, after these decisions, was subsequently promoted by then Attorney General Bill Barr to become principal associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department. That`s a job that`s usually called PADAG-- it means you`re the operations officer for the deputy attorney general. It`s a long title and has lots of diminutive adjectives in it but that`s a big deal job at the justice department.

What CNN is reporting here is that federal prosecutors had their case last year. They had enough to charge Barrack last year. But this Trump appointed U.S. attorney apparently wouldn`t let the charges be brought.

Then he was brought to Washington and given a big promotion and made a senior leader at Main Justice. Only after a new president took over and the Trump appointees got out of there was the case able to go ahead. But reportedly it`s unchanged in character since the time they first put it together, it was just delayed and for a long time.

I will take -- I credit CNN for this reporting tonight and we`re doing what we can to match it. We haven`t at this point. I will take issue with one way that they characterize the indictment yesterday against Tom Barrack. And this is a characterization I`ve seen a lot of different news organizations make, but it`s not actually technically right. And I think it`s technically incorrect in a way that might be important to understanding the significance of this case.

As CNN put it, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn investigating Tom Barrack for allegedly violating foreign lobbying laws. It wasn`t really a lobbying case. This case was brought against Tom Barrack specifically under the federal statute that names him as an alleged agent of a foreign power. It`s closer to calling somebody a spy than it is to calling them a lobbyist.

This is the same section of the penal code under which Maria Butina was charged. Remember her? She was charged as acting as a secret foreign agent in our country, but specifically at the direction of senior Kremlin officials. Similarly, Barrack is charged not just with being an unregistered lobbyist, he`s charged with acting in this country secretly at the direction of senior foreign officials, or a foreign government, working as their agent at the direction of their government, secretly in a way designed to change U.S. policy.


And what the indictment lays out against Tom Barrack is that he was able to do that in lots of ways. He was a consequential agent, according to prosecutors, changing the behavior of the U.S. government, statements by the U.S. president, and indeed major foreign policy orientations of the United States government to ally with his handlers in the government of this country and the government of the United Arab Emirates.

So, that`s what we`re going to talk about next tonight -- the combination of the consequential nature and seriousness of these charges against Tom Barrack, right? All the U.S. policy changes the indictment ties to this alleged foreign agent scheme, the combination of that and what`s being reported tonight as the long delay in bringing the charges, because Trump appointees wouldn`t let it happen.

It has me thinking about this case not just from a criminal perspective in terms of the ultimate fate of yet another person in Trump`s high orbit, who ended up getting himself indicted on multiple felony charges, it has me thinking about this from a counterintelligence and national security perspective, too. If in this instance and in others foreign governments had their agents operating at the highest levels of the U.S. government and when the U.S. Justice Department knew that they were told to sit on it and not move forward with an effort to stop it and indict the behavior, what was the damage done here? Especially with the delay in prosecuting it?

I have just the person to ask, and you will be surprised to see him. That`s next.



MADDOW: The chairman of President Trump`s inaugural committee was arrested yesterday and indicted on seven felony counts. He`s charged with acting as a foreign agent of the United Arab of Emirates. We`ve had subsequent word that Trump appointees at the Justice Department may have blocked this indictment from going toward while Trump was still in office.

There`s someone in particular that I`ve been looking forward to asking about the significance of this news. He served over 20 years at the FBI as the top counterintelligence agent. He eventually rose to the rank of deputy assistant director of the FBI`s counterintelligence division, excuse. That`s the number one counterintelligence position in the FBI.

It was in that role that he was assigned to lead the FBI`s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Since leaving government, he`s written a book titled "Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump."

The book recounts not only his time in law enforcement and the Russia investigation but also the agonizing process of having been relentlessly, relentlessly demonized and attacked for his role in the Russia investigation.

His name is Peter Strzok and it is an honor to have him here tonight.

Mr. Strzok, thank you so much for being here. I`m really glad you are able to be here.

PETER STRZOK, FORMER FBI AGENT: Hey, Rachel. It`s great to be with you.

MADDOW: Do you think that there is a national security and counterintelligence way to look at the Tom Barrack indictment? Is that part of the way that we should understand the significance of this case?

STRZOK: It absolutely is. And let me frame it this way. If you look at the indictment in April of `18, Al-Shahi, one of the three individuals from the UAE -- or one of the three who was indicted, he`s interviewed by the FBI. Three days later, according to the indictment, he flees from his home in California where he`s been living, goes overseas and never returns to the United States again.

Now, he is intimately involved with not only Mr. Barrack but also a very senior high ranking officials within the Emirati government. The moment he returns, it stands to reason that he is going to tell everybody he`s been working with exactly what went on, what he was asked about by the FBI, the nature of the questions about his relationship with Mr. Barrack, the nation of the interactions between the White House and Mr. Barrack. And everybody that matters that he`s been working with at the UAE knows what happened.

When they look at the United States and they see absolute silence, they see no investigation, they see no arrest, but they know that there`s something going on, they know that there`s something really horribly politically damaging if it gets out, well, guess what? That gives the Emiratis leverage over not only Barrack, keep in mind, but all the folks he`s been dealing with in the White House.

And guess what? Communications are no longer anywhere in this world where it`s just between the two people who are talking. So if say, the Saudis were listening in on those conversations, if the Qataris were listening in on those conversations, if the Russians were listening in on the conversations, everybody who was aware of what was going on, suddenly by virtue of that information has leverage to be able to influence the actions of President Trump, the people around him and certainly Mr. Barrack and those people who allegedly were involved in the scheme with him.

So you can`t think of this just as a law was broken and are we going to prosecute it or are we not. You have to look much more broadly about the ways in which that makes the United States vulnerable, the ways it makes President Trump vulnerable and think of all the things we still don`t know because we haven`t yet done a really thorough look at all the different things that were going on by the administration from a counterintelligence perspective.

MADDOW: Well, that also in this specific instance puts a real bull`s-eye on this new reporting that sort of tracks with what we understand about the case, which is that this was ready to go and there was apparently a long delay and the Justice Department wouldn`t allow this indictment. The Justice Department under Trump wouldn`t allow this indictment to go forward until Trump was out of office and Biden was in office.

If one of the things that you`re describing there is that there`s a blackmail risk, there`s a coercion risk for every moment that passes from when that questioning happened in 2018 when this case is a known, live case with this foreign agent to when actually charges are finally brought, all of that delay, at least some of that delay is on the Justice Department and may have been politically motivated. That increased the counterintelligence risk, the national security risk to our country and our government.

STRZOK: Without question. And it was part of a pattern of behavior by the past administration.

You look at this but don`t look at it in isolation. Think about the intelligence community whistle-blower who came forward and had concerns about the quid pro quo conversation that Trump had with Ukrainian President Zelensky. That`s something DOJ looked at and said this doesn`t even merit investigation. It was sufficient enough to impeach Trump over.

Think about Rudy Giuliani and the search warrants that were served on him well in advance of this year, if media reporting is to be believed that the grand jury and investigation is really picking up steam. Those were actions that Giuliani was having with people not only in Ukraine, but in Ukraine related to Russia.

So time and time and time again, we see these various investigations, which have a significant foreign nexus, which have a foreign nexus to hostile nations in many cases. And you have the Department of Justice turning a blind eye, delaying, saying we`re simply not going to do anything. Every minute they do that is a minute that somebody in the administration is exposed to being vulnerable through exactly what you said -- through blackmail or other sorts of coercion because they don`t want this information getting out because it`s going to damage them politically.

MADDOW: Yeah. And the solution to that is not just to say, forgive me, the solution is not just to say we`re not going to do that anymore at the Justice Department. Those things were consequential decisions that have potentially ongoing national security implications. To just let that stuff ride when the Justice Department was a hand maiden to some of this harm, I find it -- I find it very frustrating.

Thank you for talking with me about this. Peter Strzok served as deputy assistant director of the FBI`s counterintelligence division. Mr. Strzok, I look forward to having you back again soon. It`s nice to see you.

STRZOK: Sure. Thank you. Look forward to it. Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got two guests coming up next that I`m very excited to talk with. Beto O`Rourke is here and the Reverend Dr. William Barber is here as well. You`ll want to hear what they`re about to announce here on our program. That`s next.

Stay with us.



MADDOW: Eight years ago, 2013, Republicans gained control of the whole government in North Carolina and they immediately passed one of the most restrictive voting laws in the country. In response, the head of the North Carolina NAACP at the time, the Reverend Dr. William Barber, he started leading weekly protests outside the state capitol in North Carolina. They were called Moral Mondays.

And they started small. But every week, these protests grew and grew. They turned out a remarkably broad coalition of people from all walks of life in North Carolina. They started making national news.

Less than a year after the first Moral Monday protest, a moral march to the North Carolina state capitol drew tens of thousands of people. That was the largest civil rights rally in the South since the Selma march in 1965. The Moral Monday movement spread to other states.

You can see its influence among other places in the social justice protests that swept the country last summer in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd.

Now, this year, though, the state that is currently trying to pass the nation`s most restrictive voting law is Texas. And as Democratic Texas state legislators continue to block the passage of that law by staying out of their home state, they have been remaining in D.C. to advocate for a national voting rights law.

One of the most prominent voices leading the charge back home against the restrictive voting law in Texas has been Beto O`Rourke, the former Texas congressman and presidential candidate who has become a full-time voting rights advocate, barnstorming across the state of Texas holding rallies in something like 20 different cities trying to build momentum from Texas for a federal voting rights backstop that will stop Republicans from what they`re doing in Texas and stop them from doing it across the country.

Well, now, Congressman O`Rourke is teaming up with Moral Mondays founder, William Barber. They are making a big announcement today about upping the game to try to get something done on voting rights and what is already being called a Summer of Direct Action to Support the Right to Vote.

Joining us now are the Reverend Dr. William Barber, he`s president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People`s Campaign. Also, Beto O`Rourke, former Democratic congressman from Texas, the founder of powered by people, a grassroots organization working to mobilize Texas voters.

Gentlemen, I`m honored to have you both here tonight. I know you`re in the middle of tons of organizing and tons of work. Thank you both for being here.

Reverend Barber, I`d like to start with you. If you could just talk to us about what it is that you have planned. The announcement that you and Congressman O`Rourke have made today about what your next steps are.


And you know, we won in North Carolina. We actually took that mobilization, took into the court and we beat back the worst voter suppression bill since Jim Crow. We announced today that we`re going to have beginning in Georgetown, Texas, on July the 27th, ending in Austin, Texas, on July the 31st a moral resurrection and a march from Georgetown to Austin similar to the march from Selma to Montgomery.

It is time to nationalize what`s going on in Texas and in this particular march from Georgetown to Austin, 27 miles, four days of marching, we`re demanding four things. End the filibuster, pass every provision of the For the People Act, which is actually the bill John Lewis wrote. Pass the Voting Rights Act restoration and pass $15 an hour living wage because we`ve got to connect voting to economics and recognize this is not just a black issue.


It`s not just Jim Crow. It`s James Crow, esquire.

We`re going to walk with our feet, put legs on our prayers, nationalize this and make a cry from Texas. People of all races, creeds and color, because it`s time. It`s time. We have to demand these things and we can`t have a little piece here and a little piece there and all of this negotiation. We need four things to happen.

And the fifth thing we`re going to add to it is we must protect our immigrants, in particular those DACA students. All of this is connected to the protection of voting rights.

MADDOW: Congressman O`Rourke, let me ask you about that basic idea of nationalizing the fight in Texas, as Reverend Barber just put it. You obviously have been straddling the different parts of your political power, your political base as a national figure in the Democratic Party, as a Texan, somebody who`s gone home to essentially barnstorm the state while Texas Democrats are in Washington trying to get federal help.

Tell me about that idea of nationalizing the Texas fight.

FORMER REP. BETO O`ROURKE (D), TEXAS: Well, those Texas legislators in D.C. have already begun the important work of doing that, providing that moral pressure and leverage on the U.S. Senate and President Biden for that matter to pass the for the people act. That is the last best hope for voting rights not just in Texas, but Georgia, Florida, and about a dozen other states that have passed voter suppression and voter intimidation measures.

But because Texas is the toughest state in which to vote, and it`s about to get a lot harder if these new voter suppression bills pass, these are the front lines in this battle. That`s why I`m so grateful that the Poor People`s campaign and bishop barber have made this the center of their attention, because he`s absolutely right.

Voting is not just connected to our democracy, as essential as that is. It`s connected to the fact that Texas still has a $7.25 an hour minimum wage. It`s connected to the fact that we`re the least insured state in the country, where people still die of diabetes and the flu and curable cancers because they can`t see a doctor. Seven million eligible Texans did not vote in the 2020 election and it was not for lack of love of democracy. It`s the voter suppression obstacles placed in their way.

So, Bishop Barber`s efforts here in Texas, the march that he`s helping to organize, the people who will come out on the 31st, Saturday, at the capitol in Austin, we`re going to help the United States Congress and our president push through the For the People Act and get some democracy in Texas and throughout the rest of the country.

MADDOW: Reverend Barber, let me ask you about the big picture here in terms of tactics, in terms of moving people. Your history in North Carolina in particular, but also the national reach of what you did, what you started in North Carolina with you and the coalition that you built there. I think reignited for a lot of people the idea that direct action works.

The idea that when you run up against political power, concerted political power and special interests that are standing against you, one of the ways around it is not just by building similar political power to compete within the formal electoral system, but putting boots on the street, putting people on the ground in a way that calls out to the conscience of anybody who sees what they`re doing.

How do you see direct action working, in what feels like an impasse right now on this issue?

BARBER: Well, for direct action to work, first of all, it must be a moral fusion direct action. It can`t just be something you do one day. It`s got to be broad, it`s got to be deep, it has to include all people.

But then you have to have a legal strategy. Then you need to have a legislative strategy. And then you have to have a way of framing issues and a moral reform that allows people to see their connections.

In the poor people`s campaign and national call for moral revival, it was the Texas Poor People`s campaign that invited us to Texas. They said, look, in Texas we`ve got 13 million poor and low wealth people in this state, 5 million people who don`t make a living wage. In Texas, it requires 101 hours of work a week if you work $7.25 at a minimum wage.

We have to find a way to bring all of those people together and help them understand that the same forces that promotes systemic racism and push poverty and ecological devastation and now with healthcare and the war economy, and the false (INAUDIBLE) religious nationalists are the same people. If they are cynical to be together, we have to be smart enough to come together. And we have to stay there long enough.

You know, Moral Monday in North Carolina went on for three years, plus we fought a court battle for four years. But we also have to say in this moment states cannot do this by themselves. We have to have federal legislation. If we don`t get this For the Peoples Act, then that means that you are for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the United States Constitution. You want dark money over public money. You want to end same- day registration, early voting and opportunity to vote.

And what you want is a narrow opportunity for -- narrowing the opportunities for people to vote.


And the -- we can`t do this state by state. We need federal legislation. We also can`t have people just saying, well, let`s just get the Voting Rights Act. No, that protects you after the fact or in preclearance, before the fact.

In order to deal with what`s happening right now, we have to have the For the People`s Act. But when you mobilize, Rachel, you have to connect the dots. And too often what happens is we get black people over here and white people over here and brown people over here and Latino people over here and that`s -- silos are important sometimes, but in this moment when we`re talking about these kinds of attacks on our democracy, we have to have a coming together, and that`s what you`re going to see.

In fact, on the stage on the 31st, the only people who are going to speak are poor and low-income people, moral leaders and activists. That`s who`s going to be talking to the nation that day.

MADDOW: Reverend Dr. William Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach and the co-chair of the Poor People`s Campaign, Beto O`Rourke, former Democratic congressman from Texas, the founder of Powered by People -- gentlemen, thank you for helping us understand this tonight and talking us through it. I really appreciate you taking the time.

O`ROURKE: Thank you.

BARBER: Thank you. Thank you.

MADDOW: Again, the march that they`re announcing will be held July 27th through July 30th. It starts in Georgetown, Texas. It ends in Austin, Texas. They`re describing it as a Selma to Montgomery-style march. It is a 27-mile march from Georgetown to Austin. They`re going to do that over the course of those four days.

And then the day after that, July 31st, a rally at the Austin state capitol, all designed to nationalize the voting rights fight in Texas for federal voting backstop protections.

We`ll be right back.



MADDOW: Today the website Newsy reported that the U.S. State Department is now staffing up to process new applications from Afghan translators to get evacuated out of Afghanistan as U.S. troops leave that country after 20 years of war. The State Department today asked its employees for worldwide volunteers to sign up to work 12-hour shifts for 24/7 logistical support for the evacuation effort that`s about to get underway.

Newsy also reports that the U.S. embassy in Kabul has sent out the first notification letters to the first group of Afghan translators who are eligible to be flown out with their families. The administration said today that those first flights out from Kabul are going to start next week.

So this is happening. The next thing to watch here, though, is actually in Congress.

Tomorrow, the House will take up a bill sponsored by Congressman and Army Ranger Jason Crow, which would increase the number of these visas that are available to these translators. It would also reduce the bureaucratic hurdles to the approval of those visas, so that stuff can go even faster.

But this is all happening now. It is now finally getting underway. We`re going to be on this story every day from here on out until they are out of there.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: That`s going to do it for us tonight. I will see you again tomorrow, which as you know, is Friday eve. Tomorrow is.

Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD". Now, wait a second. Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight?

This is a surprise to me.

Good evening, Ali. I was, like, not going to believe my eyes until they gave me a split screen, but there you are. Sorry, my friend.