Members of January 6th Select Committee meet today after first hearing earlier this week; House Oversight Committee obtains former DOJ official`s notes on Trump pressuring DOJ to overturn election results; Trump pressed Justice Department to declare 2020 election results were corrupt; Young people in Louisiana reporting more new cases than other age groups; 27-mile march for voting rights in Texas to end soon; First Afghan translators to arrive in U.S. will stay on Army base in Virginia until they are resettled.
JULIA AINSLEY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Quickly, they do talk about filing reports. They do talk about that, but there doesn`t seem to be this immediate accountability. And it`s something that they admit has happened. And so, given the fact that a manager whose trading employees knows that that has happened. It seems like we`re getting a very muted response from the administration and from Secretary Becerra.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: This is, if any of this is - again, these are allegations and there`s some documentation. But if any of this is remotely close to reflective, this is utterly, utterly, completely unacceptable in every possible way. Julia Ainsley, great reporting. Thank you very much. That is all in for tonight. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now with Ali Velshi in for Rachel. Good evening, Ali.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Have yourself a great weekend. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel is enjoying a well-earned vacation. It was the biggest story in the world. And that`s not an exaggeration.
In the middle of July 2018, President Trump met with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. This was in Helsinki, Finland. And as I`m sure you remember; it did not go well. He said Putin did not really attack our election in 2016. He said the U.S. showed stupidity for investigating it in the first place. Trump made international headlines for how poorly he represented American democracy when he shared a stage with a notorious dictator. The one in German is my favorite, it says Gipfel der Autokraten. That means summit of the autocrats. It was bad.
So bad that The New York Times was throwing around the word treason on the front page. There were stories about how this was the final straw for Republicans, who had reluctantly backed Trump. That was the other lead story on the front page of the Times that day about how Trump`s largely unshakable base had been rattled by his behavior with Putin. There`s a real open question whether a mistake this bad could have electoral implications for the president when he was up for reelection in 2020. And Trump was apparently worried about losing the presidency in the weeks after that meeting, but not because of the Putin debacle.
This was the headline at Axios right after the Putin summit, Trump fears Biden 2020, losing Pennsylvania. Now again, this was July of 2018. Joe Biden would not enter the race for another nine months. Donald Trump was spooked just by the idea. The idea of a head-to-head match with Joe Biden in 2020.
The month before Joe Biden announced he was running; Donald Trump convened a meeting at the White House to discuss with his advisors whether or not he should be concerned about facing Biden in the general election. People inside the White House said Trump was fixated on Biden before he even entered the race and on what he could do to stop him from becoming the Democratic nominee. And of course, we know how that fixation ultimately manifested itself.
On July 25, 2019, one year to the day after that first press report about Trump`s obsession with Joe Biden, Trump picks up the phone and called the president of Ukraine. In that call, he threatened to punish the president of Ukraine unless he announced the opening of a politically damaging investigation into Joe Biden, which would hurt Biden`s chances in the primary. There was in black and white in the transcript of that phone call.
I would like you to do us a favor though. The man who listened in on that phone call who take notes for the White House was a U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, this man, Alexander Vindman. I should tell you that Colonel Vindman will be a guest on this show on Monday night. I`m looking forward to that, you don`t want to miss it.
Vindman just told CBS News that after Donald Trump`s infamous phone call with Ukraine, he immediately went to speak with his brother, who also worked in the White House. He said he told his brother, if what I`m about to tell you becomes public, the president will be impeached. And that, of course, is exactly what happened.
Donald Trump was impeached for pressuring Ukraine into digging up dirt on his political opponent. And I know the story is not so distant, but it`s important context for this moment that we`re in right now. It reminds us that Donald Trump`s obsession with staying in power and winning reelection and the dramatic lengths to which he was willing to go to stay president, it all started way, way before anyone cast a ballot last November.
But of course, that was just the start. After Joe Biden actually won the 2020 election, Donald Trump`s obsession with Joe Biden morphed into a crusade to delegitimize the results of that election, and part of that crusade led to an Insurrection attempt on the United States Capitol, an attempt which is now being investigated by Congress.
Today, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack held a meeting behind closed doors, their first gathering after this week`s emotional hearing with law enforcement officers who were attacked at the Capitol on January 6th. The chairman of the committee, Congressman Bennie Thompson told reporters today that the committee will soon be sending subpoenas as part of their inquiry.
But that`s not the only investigation going on in Congress right now that could shed light on Donald Trump`s efforts to overturn the election. We know another part of the former president scheme to overturn the election was centered around the Justice Department to wield the power of the DOJ to somehow.
swing the results in Trump`s favor. There were reports that Trump considered ousting his acting attorney general and replacing him with one who would push his baseless claims about election fraud.
Trump and his chief of staff stovepipe their election fraud claims right to the DOJ, late DOJ leadership, demanding that the department investigate the fraud to delegitimize Joe Biden`s win. Just this week, we learned just how extensive this pressure campaign was.
The Washington Post reported that Trump`s called his acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, almost every day about the so-called fraud in the aftermath of the election. The attorney general`s top aide took notes about what the former president said on those phone calls. For anyone trying to get to the bottom of whether or not Donald Trump was trying to improperly weaponize the Justice Department, to help him stay in power, it would be important to know exactly what was said on those calls. And today, we found out.
The New York Times was the first to report today on the contents of those notes about Donald Trump`s calls to the attorney general after the election. According to the Times, Donald Trump called his attorney general as well as his deputy on December 27th of last year to ask him about claims of voter fraud that DOJ had disproved. That deputy attorney general told the former president that the justice had no power to overturn an election, to which Donald Trump replied, just say that the election was corrupt, and leave the rest to me.
Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me. Since The New York Times first broke the story this afternoon, these handwritten notes have now been made public and turned over to Congress as part of a separate investigation into the former president`s conduct after the election. So, here we go.
Joining us now Katie Benner, who covers the Justice Department for The New York Times. She`s been way ahead of everyone else`s reporting on Donald Trump`s post-election attempts to pressure the Justice Department. She was the first to report on these documents from the House Oversight Committee today.
Katie, good evening. Good to see you, my friend. It would seem that the nine pages of handwritten notes released today are not the only notes taken by DOJ officials that are relevant to a House Oversight Committee investigation. It`s a committee that is likely to receive more as it investigates the Trump administration`s efforts to reverse the election. What`s the picture as you have it now?
KATIE BENNER, THE NEW YORK TIMES JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER: Sure, I think what we need to remember is that those committees, including the House Oversight Committee, and the Senate Judiciary Committee, they`ve been asking the Justice Department for both documents and the testimony of former officials. Basically, since the beginning of this year.
The Justice Department began the process of handing over documents a few months ago, but this is sort of the latest batch. And just now the Justice Department said that former officials are allowed to testify, and they`re not going to invoke executive privilege, which means that Congress now has far more access to information than it ever had during the Trump Administration, about the former president`s behavior.
We`re going to see the Justice Department allow information to flow and we`re going to see Congress to press as hard as it can to get everything it can, documents and testimony.
VELSHI: The language used by Donald Trump in his phone call to the Justice Department had similarities to the language that Donald Trump used in his phone call with president, the president of the Ukraine, I`m going to read you what he said to the call with Zelensky. I would like you to do us a favor, though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I`d like you to have the attorney general, call your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.
There`s a lot of talk about Biden`s son that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that. So, whatever you can do with the attorney general, would be great. Then he calls and leans on the attorney general of the United States, the acting attorney general of the United States. So, just come up and find some fraud, and I`ll take care of it from there.
Do we know from your notes, what happens? What Trump means by; I`ll take care of it after that?
BENNER: He says I`ll take care of it, himself and our congressman, but the note, say Republicans in Congress who are his allies, so presumably they would use that statement from the Justice Department as a cudgel to both attack Joe Biden, but to also sow real seeds of doubt into the outcome of the election.
One of the things to your point that we see it as a parallel between Ukraine and what we saw in the notes today. As a Trump understands the people like the president of Ukraine, that the Justice Department do have real credibility, credibility with audiences, he cannot reach. So, it`s essential that they carry his message, so then he can run with it.
In both cases, it was more important for those respective entities to make public announcements that it was for them to investigate. One of the things that Trump said in the notes to the Justice Department officials was, I don`t expect you to actually overturn the result of the election yourself, nor do I expect you to necessarily investigate all these things. Just say it`s corrupt and leave it to me. And again, in the - as we saw with Ukraine impeachment trial
You saw Gordon Sondland testify, the former ambassador, he said then all the conversations he had with Rudy Giuliani and others, it was always that the Ukraine president was supposed to announce the investigation. But it was never really important that he actually started or follow through with it again. It is the idea that the utterance is made that is important to Trump because he knows he can use that mantle of credibility for his own ends.
VELSHI: I want to show some of the lines from the handwritten notes in here on page two of the notes. It says people are angry blaming Department of Justice, plus for inaction. DOJ failing to respond to legitimate complaints and reports of crimes on page three. Also on page three, you guys may not be following the Internet the way I do, supposedly that`s what Trump said to the folks on the phone call. This is electioneering fraud and from your own reporting on the story.
You write in a moment of foreshadowing, Mr. Trump said people tell me Jeff Clark is great, I should put him in referring to the Acting Chief of the Justice Department`s Civil Division, who had also encouraged department officials to intervene in the election. People want me to replace DOJ leadership. What was that comment about?
BENNER: So, we know that, Jeff Clark had been an official Justice Department. He was introduced to the president at some point by Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. We do not know when this happened. We just know that Clark really clicked with the president, in part because he too, felt that it was probable that the results of the election were not true, even though his own colleagues at the Justice Department had investigated, lots of different fraud claims and conspiracy theories and themselves had investigated and found them to be untrue.
Clark still believed them. So, he and the president had a comedy (ph). And so, when Trump is saying this to just different officials, the acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen, his deputy, Richard Donoghue, what he`s not telling them. He`s already been speaking with Jeff Clark, that he`s already been talking to Jeff Clark, about what the Justice Department can do for him. And what the two officials don`t know is that just a week later, they`re going to be back in the Oval Office fighting for their jobs with Jeff Clark in the room as the president decides whether or not to fire them all.
One of the things that Donoghue does say to the president on this call, according to the notes, is he says you should have the leadership you want, but just know, it`s not going to change the outcome of the election.
VELSHI: That is a very, very interesting point. You meddle with us, can move the chessmen around, you`re not going to get done what you want done. Katie, remarkable reporting as always. Thank you. Katie Benner is The New York Times Justice Department reporter.
Joining me now is Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, he is a Democratic member of the House Oversight Committee, which just received those notes from Donald Trump`s call with the attorney general. He`s also a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where he has also done work, investigative work into what Donald Trump has been up to.
Congressman, good to see you this evening. There is a trove of information here.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Same here.
VELSHI: Starting with the point that the president - the attorney general is not the president`s lawyer. It`s not someone who`s there to do the bidding of the president. So, there`s all sorts of inappropriateness about everything that`s going on. But it goes so much further than that. This threat that Katie is talking about replacing someone if you don`t do my bidding, the fact that you don`t actually have to find wrongdoing, you just have to say you did, call the election a fraud, and I`ll handle the rest. This is mind blowing, after four years that you didn`t think you could have your mind blown anymore.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: It`s extraordinary evidence of the extent to which that Donald Trump would meddle in the elections and have the DOJ do his bidding. But then also, how close we were to having the DOJ do his bidding, because as you rightly pointed out with Katie in the previous segment. Jeff Clark was probably tasked with doing exactly what Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue refused to do, which is to call the election corrupt.
The other part of it, which I find fascinating is the part where he says, leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressman, I don`t know what that means, Ali. I don`t know what they had in store, whether they had planned for this DOJ maneuver to take place, and then they had certain steps to follow. But that`s equally disturbing as well.
VELSHI: Who gets to the bottom of that? Is that the January 6th Select Committee or is that you on the Oversight Committee, because I would very much like to know the answers to those questions that you just asked.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think we`re going to probe hard on this. I know that I have a lot of questions, for instance about - he brought up Jim Jordan in that conversation. He brought up Ron Johnson, the Senator from Wisconsin, who he says, gets to the bottom of things. And we just don`t know what they were planning to do right after this.
However, now that the Justice Department has basically allowed the Oversight Committee and us to do our investigation unimpeded by the prospect of executive privilege, we can get the emails, we can get other documents. Now we can bring witnesses in and actually have hearings and so forth.
VELSHI: Why do you think - when we were all playing this out the way things go over the last four years, there was an assumption, certainly with me and some other people who thought there`ll be some injunction to getting these notes released that Trump`s people would act on it, and they didn`t. Is it hubris? They don`t think anything`s wrong with it. Does he not have - what do you think happened here? How do you think these notes went from being reported and leaked, and to your committee as fast as they did?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don`t know, all the behind the scenes action, but what I do know is Richard Donoghue and the authors of these notes knew exactly what they were doing and taking them because they knew that what was going on was - didn`t meet the smell test, to say the least, and likely could raise legal questions and illegality on the part of the president.
One of the things that you didn`t mention before and drawing analogies was the Brad Raffensperger call where President Trump asked Brad Raffensperger to find 11,780 votes to overturn--
VELSHI: In Georgia.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Georgia election. And in Georgia, and basically, election experts at that time did not think that folks would prosecute that particular behavior in that call under the state and federal election laws, because the evidence wasn`t what they wanted. But now the evidence is starting to pile up. And we have to ask ourselves the question, what other types of calls exist? We know about the Raffensperger call, we know about this DOJ call. Who else did he talk to? And what did he ask them to do as well?
VELSHI: Yes, you`re right, in that there are similarities that call as well. Play this out for me. And let`s say he had called Rosen, at the Department of Justice and Rosen had done his bidding, or someone had done his bidding or Trump put his guy in place and did there - what would the effect of that be, end of December 2020, Department of Justice comes out and says what Trump wants him say, the elections were corrupt. What do you think happens in an instance like that?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: That would have been disastrous, Ali. Basically, what it would have done is thrown the whole election aftermath into even more chaos. And it would have been the prelude for basically going to each of the state capitals, which they already were doing, the Trump folks and basically asking them to basically undo the decertification or decertify their elections. And of course, it would have provided more grist for what they were doing on January 6th.
To me, it`s almost like Donald Trump, if this were a bank heist, Donald Trump was basically telling people, OK, Justice Department, you drive this car, crash it through the windows of the bank window and the vault, and I`ll take it from here. So much damage would have happened had the Justice Department carried this out. I shudder to think of what more would have happened on January 6th, a day that I lived through as well as my colleagues and the whole nation lived through and a lot of people remain traumatized as a consequence.
VELSHI: Congressman, good to see you tonight. There will be some interesting reading for you and your fellow committee members, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes, sir.
VELSHI: All right. We have got much more to get here on this Friday night, including a live conversation with Beto O`Rourke and Reverend William Barber. But up next, we`re going to be talking with an emergency room doctor from one of the state`s hardest hit by COVID right now. Stay with us.
VELSHI: The biggest hospital in Louisiana is breaking records. Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge has more COVID-19 patients yesterday that it had an any other point in the entire pandemic. 140 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, 50 of them in the intensive care unit. It may be the biggest hospital in Louisiana, but it`s not alone in being hit by a new surge in Coronavirus patients.
Louisiana has the highest new daily case rate per capita of any state in the country. Governor John Bel Edwards held a press conference today in which he was not shy about how bad the situation has gotten or what he thinks is causing it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BEL EDWARDS, LOUISIANA GOVERNOR: We are very unfortunately in a position that we had hoped that we had pray that we`ve worked very hard to avoid. But quite simply, the Delta variant is an absolute game changer, superimposed as it is in Louisiana on a state that is not sufficiently vaccinated. As of today, 45 hospitals in Louisiana requested additional assistance with staffing capacity, just as a point of reference to sort of show where we are and how quickly the COVID situation has mushroomed.
In Baton Rouge right now, there are more people in the hospital with COVID than there was in the entire state just a month ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: 83.7 percent of the cases across Louisiana right now are from the Delta variant. The governor stressed the importance of getting vaccinated and masking up not only because of how much faster the Delta variant is spreading, but because of who was spreading it. The number one age group spreading the virus right now in Louisiana is the 18 year olds to 29 year olds, followed by people under the age of 18.
The average age of a hospitalized COVID patient in Louisiana last month was 64. Today, it`s been dragged down to 54 years old and not because of a flood of middle aged people. Going back to Louisiana`s biggest hospital for a second. Our Lady of the Lakes Children`s Hospital had 11 children hospitalized with COVID yesterday, six of them in the ICU
That has made all the more concerning for Louisiana and the nation by the new revelations from an internal CDC document. The Washington Post was first to report on last night, which shows that the Delta variant appears to cause more severe illness than earlier variants and spreads as easily as chickenpox. maybe most importantly, the CDC presentation said that although vaccines make vaccinated people eight times less likely to get the Delta variant, if a vaccinated person does get a breakthrough case of the Delta variant, they can spread it as easily as an unvaccinated person.
To echo Louisiana`s governor, the Delta variant has been an absolute game changer. No one is seeing the impact of that more firsthand than the doctors and nurses in Louisiana right now.
Joining us now is Dr. Mark Laperouse, he`s the Emergency Room Medical Director for Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Dr. Laperouse, thanks for joining us tonight after what I can only assume has been a very long day for you and your colleagues.
Of the people you are seeing, of the people you are treating, are they mostly unvaccinated? Are any of them vaccinated? Are you seeing breakthrough cases?
DR. MARK LAPEROUSE, ER MEDICAL DIRECTOR OUR LADY OF THE LAKE: Yes, well, thanks for having me. We`re seeing breakthrough cases. But 80 percent of the patients that are being hospitalized right now are unvaccinated. And as you all said before, it`s a younger group, it`s 50 percent of these are under 50. A third of our patients are in the ICU.
These last two weeks have been a nightmare. They`ve been way worse than any two weeks combined of the original part of the pandemic, this Delta variant is spinning out of control.
VELSHI: Obviously, you know this and your colleagues know this and state officials know this. Is the public registering this, are they saying, well, something`s very different? When you`re saying that you`ve got more people hospitalized that at any point in COVID. Or that these are the worst two weeks in the last 18 months. I`m wondering whether that will trigger people to either take things seriously, maybe mask or get vaccinated if they haven`t done so.
LAPEROUSE: I sure hope so. I`m not seeing it out in public, I still see people filling up restaurants and grocery stores. I`m not seeing the diligence with the masks and the hand hygiene that we were seeing early on, when everybody was forced to stay home and they were kind of sneaking out of their house to go to the grocery store.
People are being pretty casual out there. The vaccination is absolutely important. But until everybody is vaccinated, we have to be really serious about the mask wearing, about social distancing, about small group settings, about getting back to virtual meetings. This thing is attacking the hospitals right now. We`re the biggest hospital in the state. And if we can`t - if we`re at capacity, we can`t support all the little hospitals around the state in the region that we typically do. So, they`re holding patients in their emergency departments, which is very uncommon for them.
VELSHI: This is a really interesting point, right? In rural America, one of the things is, if a hospital is sort of beyond its capacity in being able to treat someone or there`s better treatment at a sort of a fully functional center like your own, typically they will transport the patient to a place like your hospital. But when you`re full that affects other people`s lives.
LAPEROUSE: Absolutely, it`s called capacity. I said it on the news last night when a hotel has no vacancies, they have no vacancies. We have no vacancies at the hospital right now. We are at capacity, which means we are not allowed to accept anybody from another hospital. And so, we have to say no, that`s a sad thing to say. We know some of the resources that they don`t have at these facilities, they`re critical access. And that`s something that we`ve always prided ourselves on is to be able to take care of the rest of the state.
And right now, we`re struggling to do so, because we can`t even take care of our own community.
VELSHI: What do you need? You`ve requested state and federal health, in what form does that come? Through the course of last year, we knew when it was PPE or when it was ventilators that people wanted? What is it that you need now?
LAPEROUSE: Right now, we need people to behave, we need people in the public to behave, we need people to understand that just because you have been exposed to COVID and you might have a mild cough, you don`t need to come to the hospital, you don`t need to infect a lot of other people along your way. If you can`t breathe, obviously, we need to see you here. If you`re having bad chest pain, we obviously need to see in the emergency department. If you have severe abdominal pain, absolutely come to the emergency department, stroke like symptoms, yes.
But if you have something minor, call your doctor, try a virtual visit, do everything you can to stay away from other people. Because this thing is extremely contagious. Anybody that you see and come close to is going to get it and then they`re going to give it to someone else. And it`s exponential. So, we can`t control this. It`s spinning out of control, as I said. We`re seeing so many more cases, we`re doubling our hospitalizations each week.
We started off last week with 75. This week we`re over 160 now as of today, we`re admitting a patient an hour or more with COVID-19. These are really sick patients. These aren`t the ones that are walking around coughing around our waiting rooms.
VELSHI: The governor stopped short of enacting a mask mandate today. He says he is going to think about it over the weekend. What do you think he should do?
LAPEROUSE: I`m wearing my
Mask everywhere I go. So, I`m leading by that example. I think that the governor has got a tough decision. But I think that everybody should realize that wearing a mask is a simple thing to do. It`s a courteous thing to do. This is now definitely; people should feel this as the pandemic. Before we were scared. We didn`t really know what was going on last March and April. Now we see what`s happening in front of our eyes. These numbers aren`t lying. The masks are something very simple that you can do and take your mask, put it on and go to the nearest vaccination center.
VELSHI: Doctor, thanks for joining us. Dr. Mark Laperouse is the emergency room medical doctor for Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I did not think at this point, in this pandemic, that we`d still be having conversations with people like you and your staffs, who are working around the clock in full hospitals because you are getting more COVID patients that you can handle Godspeed in your continued work. Thanks for being with us.
Up next here tonight, Reverend Dr. William Barber and Beto O`Rourke will join us live from Texas as they try to pressure Congress to do something. Anything really to stop Republicans from rolling back voting rights. Stay with us.
VELSHI: Earlier this week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order that would have allowed Texas State Troopers to pull over and, in some cases, seize vehicles suspected of carrying immigrants from the southern border to their final destinations in the United States. Now the order would have prevented nonprofits and other private contractors relied on by the federal government from transporting migrants inside the U.S. as their legal cases wind their way through the courts.
The Biden Administration immediately threatened federal action with Attorney General Merrick Garland calling Abbott`s order dangerous and unlawful. Now this evening, the Justice Department has followed through suing the state of Texas to try to stop that executive order from going into effect.
This federal intervention is a positive sign for Texas Democratic legislators who are hoping that the federal government will aid them in their quest to fight back against attempts by Texas Republicans to push through a restrictive voting law.
Three days ago, former Texas Congressman Beto O`Rourke and civil rights activist Reverend Dr. William Barber set out with about 100 other activists on a march to protest Republican attempts to rollback voting rights in that state.
Throughout March, they have made clear what they think the only that they think that`s the only way to protect voting rights in Texas. And it`s for lawmakers in Washington to enact new federal voting rights legislation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. REP. BETO O`ROURKE (D-TX): We are at the end of day three. So just did about 10 miles. The last stretch from Georgetown to Austin, which in total is 27 miles. Tomorrow is literally the last mile of the whole march, making sure that we end the filibuster, and certainly at a minimum change it so that you can pass voting rights legislation. That`s what we`re marching for. That`s what we`re rallying for tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That`s what we`re marching for. This march through Texas is the latest in a series of direct actions from activists across the country to try to pressure Washington lawmakers to pass major voting rights legislation by any means necessary and so far, they`ve at least succeeded in keeping it on the Democrats agenda.
This afternoon House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate leader Chuck Schumer met with President Biden to discuss a path forward for federal voting rights legislation. But what does that path forward look like? And what will activism like we have seen in Texas do, to force Democrats to find a solution in Washington.
Joining us now are former Texas Congressman Beto O`Rourke and the Reverend Dr. William Barber. Gents, thanks very much for being with you. Congressman O`Rourke, I want to start with you because you`ve been in Congress. And you have your Texas state representatives who have been testifying, talking to, meeting, having Zoom meetings with, begging, pleading, cajoling, your federal colleagues, members of the House of Representatives in particular, senator, save us, we can be the tip of the sword here, but we need backup. It`s like the Alamo, you`ve got to come and help us, we can`t hold out forever.
O`ROURKE: You`re right, these Texas Democratic legislators have done more than we could have ever asked them to do. They`ve now left their offices in the capital. They`ve left their families, sometimes with very young children. They`ve left their homes, and they`ve taken this fight to the one place that can be won, our nation`s capital, specifically, the U.S. Senate and if they - when they come back, they potentially face arrest.
So, now that Texas has done so much, and thanks to the Poor People`s Campaign, and Bishop Barber in this march that key and 40 allied organizations have led and what we`re doing in this state right now, Texas has done its part and it`s now time for the president and those Democrats in the Senate who have a political majority to do theirs, amend the filibuster at a minimum and allow an exception for voting rights legislation so that we can pass every single provision of the For the People Act that rolls back voter suppression in Texas and Georgia and Florida and so many other places. And it opens up our elections to every eligible voter, that`s not a Democratic Party position or Republican Party position. That should be an American democracy position. And that`s why we`re marching and that`s what we want folks to join us in Austin tomorrow at 10 AM in front of the Capitol.
We`ll be joined by impacted people and Willie Nelson who will be giving one of his first concerts since the pandemic there. So, big day tomorrow in Austin.
VELSHI: Reverend Dr. Barber, I think in the last few weeks you`ve been arrested at least a couple of times. Doesn`t scare you, doesn`t scare the Texas representatives who are under threat of arrest. They`ve done nothing criminal, but the governor has implied that they could be arrested. That`s what the summer of actions turning out to be, people marching, people putting their bodies on the line, doing what they have to do to remind people that this is the kind of energy that is required, very reminiscent of the Civil Rights
Movement. If you`re going to get something done, you`re going to have to raise public awareness and sort of force politicians to do what they have to do.
REV. DR. WILLIAM BARBER, THE POOR PEOPLE`S CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIRMAN: And not some other action. Over 200 people have now been arrested, 100 women a week ago, 39 people in front of Sinema`s office, but we had 125 max on who could march because of COVID, we could have had thousands of people who had to turn them back.
But listen, we`ve got to protect this democracy. You have infrastructure for bridges, but then you allow the infrastructure democracy to be torn down, you`re not going forward, you`re going on backwards. We need to not only just for the fall, we need to end the filibuster, we need to fully pass every provision of the John Lewis For the People Act, that`s the one he wrote, the Voting Rights Act hasn`t been written, restoration when it is past that. And then we need 15 now and we need to protect our immigrant brothers and sisters that you believe in those things fully. Then you need to come to the rally.
66 million people voted from mail out ballots last time. 56 million people voted on times other than election day that helped poor and low wealthy people. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants to control our elections. ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange group wants to control. We can`t allow that to happen. 65 percent of Texans either want to keep the access they have, and they had during the last election or expand. And so, we need to understand if you want access to the ballot, come to this rally. If you want living wages, come to this rally. If you`re one of the 12.6 million poor low wealth people come to this rally, you want to hear poor and low wealth impacted people of every race, creed and color cry out come to this rally.
You want to see Lucy Baines Johnson, the daughter of Lyndon Baines that come to this rally and make Washington hear us and say, Mr. President, you must act and act now, get in the room, make those Democrats come together and pass these things. Now, we need action from the president and Senator Schumer and the Democratic Caucus.
VELSHI: Congressman O`Rourke, you`ve heard, of course that the Senate - you talked about this, they`re working on a narrower bill, another voting rights bill, Joe Manchin is involved in that. And activists would like to see that brought up and dealt with quickly, not because they want a narrower bill on voting rights, but they think it won`t pass either. And then it`ll increase the pressure on the president and Kyrsten Sinema and the Joe Manchin to do something now, along the lines of what you were talking about, carve out voting rights from the filibuster.
So, if you all want to keep your filibuster, because you think it`s all bipartisan and great, knock yourselves out. But you can`t let States abridge people`s legitimate constitutional right to vote.
O`ROURKE: That`s absolutely right. And I am very grateful, for senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, who I think has been instrumental in bringing the party together, including Senator Manchin, and it`s really good news. And it`s a sign of progress. And I think, frankly, it`s a sign that what Bishop Barber, Poor People`s Campaign, and others who are willing to take direct nonviolent action across this country, that what they`re doing is actually working. It`s bringing the parties to the table, they`re feeling the pressure, and they know that they need to move forward.
I would argue and agree fully with Bishop Barber that as important as the physical infrastructure of our country is, if we do not save the infrastructure of our democracy, and protect the right to vote and guarantee free and fair elections going forward, we will very well lose it forever. And then nothing else is possible, raising the minimum wage, expanding access to health care, confronting climate change, legalizing 11 million hardworking undocumented immigrants in this country, all those things that we want to do only become possible when we bring all voters into the polling place and ensure that their votes are counted and their voices are heard.
So, I hope that Senator Warnock and others who really believe in this continue to drive a hard bargain and maybe say look, if you want my vote on infrastructure, if you want my vote on this budget, if you want my vote on something else, I`m going to have your leadership and your vote on passing democracy bills like the For the People Act.
I think we need to be tough on this one and we cannot we cannot be Charlie Brown with the football one more time. We`ve got to drive the hardest bargain possible. We cannot take no for an answer. Failure is not an option. Pass the For the People Act.
VELSHI: Reverend Barber how many miles you`ve got left to walk tomorrow? When do you guys start and how many miles?
BARBER: We`ve got one mile to the Capitol, then we`re going to D.C. on Monday with over 1000 pastors and clergy and low wage workers. But I want to say this also, we don`t need a narrower bill. We need the constitutional bill; we need what is right. We need - don`t settle for just anything. Let this pressure happen because if it doesn`t happen by August, the 6th, the sixth anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, we`re going to state capitals, all over this country starting in West Virginia.
I am tired. We are tired of poor people
And low wealth people and black people and brown people in this age of people and Native people and Asian people and women and elderly people are being treated like things and corporations being treated like people, they get - when they ask for trillions, they get every trillion, when we want something that`s constitution is always narrow. We have to stop doing this. We can make - we can break that filibuster; they break it when they want to break it.
We need to play hard, but I love what my brother Beto O`Rourke had said, you can`t have one vote on infrastructure, on anything until you deal with the infrastructure of this. You do both at the same time, but do not sell this democracy short? Because we`ll be right back here two years from now. If Democrats don`t meet this moment. This Lyndon Baines Johnson FDR, Abraham Lincoln moment on voting rights, you will probably lose in 2022 and 2026, because you will have allowed states` rights to overturn constitutional rights and suppress the vote. It should not be, let`s do the right thing and let`s do it now.
VELSHI: Gentlemen, we`ll be following the last mile of your walk very closely tomorrow. Stay safe, please and thanks for the work you are doing on behalf of democracy. Former Texas Congressman Beto O`Rourke and the Reverend Dr. William Barber. Thank you for joining us.
All right, time for some good news. The first group of translators who fought alongside American troops in Afghanistan have just arrived in the United States. We`ll talk with one of the people who has been pushing to bring them here and save their lives.
VELSHI: Overnight after a long journey from Kabul, an airplane carrying the first group of Afghan translators and their families landed at Dulles Airport, just outside of D.C. About 200 people were on that flight. They were then bused to Fort Lee, an army base in Virginia to get medical screenings and complete their visa applications. They are expected to stay at the base for a week before they are permanently settled somewhere in the United States. their arrival is the first wave of a relocation program that the Biden Administration is calling operation ally`s refuge.
President Biden released a statement today calling it an important milestone. He also thanked them for standing with the United States and said he was proud to tell them, welcome home. This group is just a small subset of the tens of thousands of people facing retaliation, possibly death from the Taliban for their work helping American troops and diplomats in Afghanistan over the past two decades.
The New York Times reports that groups of Afghans will start arriving by plane roughly every three days, as ramped up timeframe comes as President Biden faces growing pressure from veterans and lawmakers to evacuate these allies before his deadline to withdraw U.S. troops from the country, which is at the end of August.
One of the people pushing the Biden Administration to do the right thing by tens of thousands, more Afghans is major Matt Zeller, whom Rachel has talked to on the show before. Major Zeller`s life was saved in Afghanistan by his translator, he was one of the people tracking the first group of Afghans to be evacuated and was there at Dulles Airport early this morning.
Joining us now is Major Matt Zeller, U.S. Army veteran, co-founder of No One Left Behind. Major Zeller, thank you for being here with us. What a big day. How`d it feel to - I know it`s a small subset? I know there`s many more to come. But how did it feel to welcome this first group?
MATT ZELLER, AFGHANISTAN WAR VETERAN: Well, thanks for having me. I`ve been thinking about this all day, I`ve gotten very little - I`m exhausted, I`ve been up - I was up basically all night. I`ve got about two hours of sleep. And I`ve been thinking about this, and it occurs to me, I`m so glad that this war is over. It needed to have ended a long time ago. That`s a good thing that it`s over. But how we end it is what now matters most. And this flight is that first promise kept. I`m really proud of the team that we`ve been able to put together of all the advocates who fought so hard to make this work.
But let`s be honest now, it represents 0.3 percent of the total of the Afghans who are waiting for evacuation. The other remaining 99.7 percent that`s around 88,000 people are currently left behind hoping we`re going to keep that promise for them as well. And we`re not going to stop fighting until we`ve done that for every single one of them.
VELSHI: So, Congress passed a bill and funds it. The president is on it, the goal is to get a shipment of people - planes full of people every three days before the U.S. is fully out of Afghanistan. Now, the U.S. is mostly out of Afghanistan already. These people are already in peril. Some of them they don`t all live in the center of Kabul. Some of them can`t get into their cities, because they`re surrounded by Taliban.
Do you believe the intent is there now to do right by them? Do you believe we`ll get it done?
ZELLER: I don`t know. Look, that`s the big unanswered question. It`s the one that I asked anyone who has a voice or a pathway to the president to ask. How are we going to save the people outside of Kabul, the Afghan Military can`t do it? They`re currently losing the country to the Taliban; the Afghan people can`t make the journey. If they do, they`re likely going to die. Those who have already attempted it have been murdered. So that leaves it up to us. And it really comes down to this. Do we have the courage and conviction to do what`s necessary here and I fear what`s necessary, maybe we may need to have to send back in military forces and retake airfields and territory that we held mere weeks ago?
And that is hard to swallow for a lot of us who wanted to bring this war to a conclusion. But we have to end it honorably. And that means we`ve got to save these people`s lives. We should never have left in the first place without taking them with us. And we still have the means to save them. There are still lives, but we can`t save them once they`re dead. That`s how it comes down to. Are we going to let them die?
VELSHI: In fairness, there are a lot of people I mean, one of the failures of the way we think about this, there are a lot of Americans who don`t know their own brothers and sisters fighting in this war, let alone that there are these translators who were helping Americans. What do they face? If you`re a translator who helped American troops or diplomats
Or you were in some other way useful to the American presence there, and you`re not inside Kabul, what do you have to do to get out?
ZELLER: You can`t get out. The second largest city in Afghanistan is a place called Kandahar, if you go on Facebook, or just YouTube and Google what`s going on there right now just live video from Kandahar, you see running gunfight on the scaling. These people are surrounded. If you work for the Americans for even a day, the Taliban consider it to be a death sentence. They consider you to be a traitor to Islam. It is their religious duty to kill you and your entire family. They`re going to murder these people. I`m not being hyperbolic.
We have the ability to save them. But I`m going to tell you right now, they don`t have the ability to save themselves. It`s up to us.
VELSHI: We will continue to cover this story so that the pressure is on to get every last one of them out there safely and save them from death. Major Matt Zeller, thanks for the work you do. He`s the U.S. Army veteran, and he`s the co-founder of the group, No One Left Behind. He has been working very, very hard to make sure that there is a good outcome to the story. Thanks for being with us. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
VELSHI: That does it for us tonight. But I will see you tomorrow and Sunday morning from 8 to 10 AM Eastern on my show Velshi. I`ll take you live to Texas to talk to Obama Cabinet Secretary Julian Castro as he joins the final leg of the Voting Rights March and rally on the Texas State Capitol and to Washington D.C., to talk to Texas Democratic State Representative.