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

Guests: Lauren Underwood, Matt Zeller


Congresswoman Lauren Underwood of Illinois is interviewed. Military veterans call on President Biden to "keep our promise" to Afghans who helped U.S. According to "The New York Times," on Wednesday, Russian hacking group REvil had a new target, a Florida defense contractor that sells space and weapons launch technology to the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and NASA.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: 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 for joining this hour. Happy to have you here.

Tonight, the first lady of the nation of Haiti is in the United States. She has arrived in Miami for medical treatment. She is said to be in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds.

She apparently was shot in her home in the middle of the night last night by armed attackers who shot and grievously injured her. The same armed attackers killed her husband, the president of Haiti.

The U.S. has apparently now told staff at our U.S. embassy in Haiti that they cannot leave the grounds of the embassy. They are closing the U.S. embassy there. Haiti, of course, has a land border with one country, the Dominican Republic. Crossings between Haiti and the Dominican Republic have been closed.

Nobody is quite sure what`s going to happen next, but chaos does seem like a good bet after the assassination of their president. Haiti, of course, is a country with very close ties to the United States. There`s a huge Haitian-American Diaspora in the United States.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. We`re their largest donor in terms of assistance of all kinds. But Haiti has been in more than its reasonable share of chaos lately. The president who was just assassinated late last night, arguably his term in office as president came to an end this past February, but he stayed on nevertheless and declared that efforts to remove him for a coup attempt. And he had his political opponents arrested.

Haiti has multiple sources of authority in their government. There`s a president and a prime minister and there`s also a Haitian Supreme Court. The head of the Supreme Court just two weeks ago died of COVID. There`s essentially zero COVID vaccination in the country, even among the elite, even among people like Supreme Court justices.

In the wake of their president`s assassination last night, it`s the prime minister who has proclaimed now that he is in charge of the country. But nobody seems quite sure if that`s true or if that`s proper if it is true. There`s also the question of who did it. How were multiple assassins able to get inside the president`s private residence to shoot him and his wife? And then how were they able to get away afterwards without a trace.

There is a hunt on for them now. There are conflicting reports as to whether there may have been arrests. But basically, it`s been more than half a day since this happened. Nobody seems to know conclusively what has become of these multiple assassins despite the fact that witnesses from that neighbor in Port-au-Prince last night where the assassination happened said this was a large phalanx of attackers heavily armed in multiple vehicles, making no effort to hide themselves or to be quiet about what they were doing. Where are they now and who were they?

The language is spoken in Haiti by and large are Creole and French. When the prime minister today announced that the president had been assassinated, he said that the assassins spoke English and Spanish, presumably implying some sort of foreign attackers carried out the assassination or mercenary forces of some kind. There is video circulates online of somebody at the scene of the assassination last night saying in what seems like an American southern accent that a DEA operation was underway, as in a drug enforcement administration operation.

Nobody actually thinks a DEA operation was underway, but who was at the scene of this presidential assassination in Haiti last night speaking in an American southern accent? And then apparently getting away afterward plus without being caught?

President Biden today released a statement calling the killing a horrific assassination, calling it a heinous act. He also took a couple of questions on the matter from reporters today. At one point, he said, quote, we need a lot more information. But it`s just -- he said, it`s -- it`s very worrisome.

Yeah, it is very worrisome. Again, the first lady of Haiti has come to the United States. She is in Miami tonight for emergency medical care to try to save her life. She apparently was shot multiple times.

But the Haitian president is dead at the hands of assassins who got inside his home. Those killers, as far as we know, have not been found. Although, again, there are conflicting reports about potentially having been arrests tonight.

Everything we know about these assassins so far is spiked with about 1,000 red flags and tons of intrigue.

So, we`ll be, you know, watching this as it -- as this story continues to unfold. You know, spare a thought for our brothers and sisters in Haiti tonight. They`re really staring into teh abyss right now.

Haiti, of course, an absolutely beleaguered country. It is just a few hundred miles off our coast. There are so many accomplished and wonderful Haitian-Americans in this country who are worried about their families tonight, worried about what is going to come next in that country. So, keep Haiti in your thoughts tonight.

It`s been an interesting day in the news tonight. Lots of news developing. Lots of very serious matters.

On COVID, I think today may, in retrospect, look like a landmark day for what appears to be a new phase of the COVID response in our country. We`ve been watching really worrying headlines over the past couple of weeks out of southwest Missouri, particularly Springfield, Missouri.

Missouri has 40 percent of its population vaccinated. It`s apparently even worse than that in the southwest part of the state. And that has had consequences. They`ve got a rip roaring COVID epidemic right now in southwestern Missouri, thanks to low vaccination rates and thanks in significant part to this delta variant, which the vaccines apparently do work against, but it doesn`t help you if you`re not vaccinated.

And the delta variant appears to be so much more transmissible than the initial variants of COVID were, again for people who haven`t had the vaccine. And this is a part of the country where not very many people have had the vaccine.

Multiple hospitals in the Springfield, Missouri, area started diverted new COVID patients to other facilities because they were full up and couldn`t handle anymore.

The president and CEO of Cox Health put out this public call on social media: call to arms, respiratory therapists. Springfield, Missouri, is struggling with surging COVID volumes. Our heroic respiratory therapy staff need reinforcements. If you are a respiratory therapist, you can come to our aid, please call or text. We would be so grateful.

That was yesterday at 10:30 a.m. the call to arms. By this morning at 8:21 a.m., that hospital CEO said that 14 respiratory therapists contacted his hospital offering to help. He said, thank you so very much.

By today at lunchtime, 12:30 p.m., more heartening news. The same CEO saying, quote, we`ve now had over 40 respiratory therapists respond to our request for help. Offers will go out this afternoon, meaning offers to employ them will go out this afternoon. He says, quote, this will be such a relief for our staff who will allow us to better care for our community in this surge.

Again, that`s the CEO of Cox Health in Springfield, Missouri. The surge he`s talking about there is for real and it is bad. "The Kansas City Star" reporting now just for context, a month ago, that hospital Cox Health had 35 inpatients. Now they have 95. They`ve gone from 35 to 95 in patients in one month.

The hospital says they`re admitting on average 18 patients every day now. They think they`re going up to 27 new admissions a day within the next two weeks. So, they are trying to scale up their staffing and their physical capacity to handle the number of hospitalizations they are coping with because of the COVID surge in southwest Missouri.

On top of their public call for respiratory therapists to please come from all over the country to help, they`ve already upped their staffing in the hospital. They`ve gone from their usual number of about 40 traveling nurses to 150 traveling nurses right now. And still they are struggling to keep up.

At a different hospital in Springfield, the chief administrative officer of Mercy Springfield is also publicly asking for respiratory therapists to bolster their staff. Tonight at Mercy, he said their census is 120 COVID patients. Of their ICU patients, 88 percent of them are on ventilators.

He`s been putting out these kinds of numbers daily for the last few days, along with begging the people of southwest Missouri to please get vaccinated to try to stop the surge there. This is some of the stuff he`s posted in the last couple of days.

Quote, new day, new record. Spent the night looking for ventilators because we ran out. 47 patients on vents now.

Quote, running almost 50 vents now -- on a different day. We`re expanding to a second COVID ICU and second step down. Physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists are tired. Heck, everyone is tired.

Traveling nurses coming this week. Physician support being arranged. He says, if you are a respiratory therapist, call us.

So, the situation we`ve been watching -- and there`s been public calls for help out of the health care system in southwest, Missouri, Springfield, Missouri. Now, the federal government is responding as well. They`re deploying what they`re calling a COVID surge team from the federal government to help in that part of the country.

This is personnel from CDC, Department of Health and Human Services, from FEMA. They`re apparently sending an epidemiologist and research assistants and contact tracers to get their arms around this rapid spread and big surge in Missouri.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country`s top infectious disease doctor keeps saying in public remarks these days that he thinks we are heading into a real bifurcated response now as a country, parts of the country with high vaccination rates returning to something approaching normal in terms of lifestyle and restrictions and health care utilization. While on the other hand simultaneously parts of the country with low vaccination rates are sliding back into potentially some of the worst of what we saw last year, particularly now that we`ve got the rising presence of this extra contagious variant, this delta variant that is just ripping through unvaccinated populations now.

Again, the vaccines all appear to be effective against the delta variant, at least initial clinical trials -- excuse me, initial studies of the effectiveness of the vaccines versus the delta variants show that all of them are effective against delta. But if you`re not vaccinated, the delta variant is more transmissible than what brought the country to its knees last year.

And so, that`s a dangerous place to be for parts of the country that have lower vaccination rates. And if that means this is what we`re going to see now, federal surge teams fanning out to unvaccinated pockets of the country to try to stop situations like what we`ve got right now in southwest Missouri, then, indeed, I mean, it`s good that they`re innovating new responses. But, indeed, this looks like a new phase of COVID in America, a new test for our national ability to respond to COVID.

And depending on how this goes and whether this becomes the new sort of contours of the American response, we may look back on this week and even today as a sort of landmark news development for COVID and for the Biden administration`s ability to adjust and adapt and react and innovate new strategies to deal with the new problems this phase of the epidemic poses.

So, it`s a serious thing and important thing that the government is doing. We`re also seeing a big test for the administration simultaneously on the end of the Afghanistan war, on the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is now nearly done. President Biden said he wanted that done by mid- September. It`s apparently more than 90 percent done now.

And whatever that says about the end of the war overall and the pace of the withdrawal and how U.S. troops got out, there`s a lot to be said about all of those things. But in the very short and immediate term, that rapid withdrawal is putting all the more pressure and all the more urgency into the task of airlifting out of there. The translators, the Afghan translators, the Afghan citizens who worked as translators for U.S. troops during the U.S. war effort there over all of these years.

Now, we have been covering this over the past couple of weeks, but a real scramble has started to really get it done, to stop talking about it and stop implement -- and start implementing what needs to be done. And we have seen increasing pressure from Afghanistan veterans in particular, including multiple Afghan veterans who were serving as members of Congress now.

And as all of that pressure is ramping up and as time is getting very, very short in terms of the need to get this done, we`ve just heard tonight from the White House that President Biden is going to make a speech about this tomorrow about the withdrawal of U.S. troops and about this now deadly urgent mission to get the translators out of there immediately before the Taliban overrun the entire country and kill them all.

So, we`re going to talk tonight -- we`ve been following this in the last couple of weeks. We`re going to talk tonight with an Afghanistan vet whose translator saved his life twice over there. He has since been able to get his translator and his family over here to the U.S., and now they`re working to try to get all the translators out right away, right now, as U.S. troops are almost all the way gone from Afghanistan. We`re going to talk with him about what we`re expecting to hear from President Biden tomorrow, how the plan is shaping up to actually do this, and why so many Afghanistan veterans are focusing on the idea that translators from their families could be moved to a third location.

Conceivably, they could be moved to Guam, where the governor of Guam says he welcomes this idea where they could stay in Guam while their visas are processed, while they are effectively vetted for entry into the United States but they don`t have to do that waiting in Afghanistan with their lives in deadly peril every passing day. It`s a fascinating prospect, innovative, interesting, aggressive and it needs to be done immediately. So, we`re going to talk with somebody who`s intimately involved in that advocacy tonight.

We`re also going to talk tonight with Congresswoman Lauren Underwood. She`s, in my opinion, an incredibly charismatic, effective, interesting young member of Congress. We`ve been talking with her periodically ever since she was first elected to Congress in an upset victory where she ousted a long-term Republican incumbent from his seat in a relatively conservative part of Illinois.

President Biden went to Lauren Underwood`s district today. Again, it`s sort of like a bright purple swing district. President Trump liked to go to very red districts that only elected Republicans and that voted to elect him by large margins.

President Biden is proving to be the opposite of that. He has shown thus far in these first months of his presidency that he likes to go to places that are right in the middle or even places that voted for Trump. He was in Lauren Underwood`s district today, gave her a major shout-out for her effectiveness as a young congresswoman. We`ll talk to her in a moment about having the president come to her patch today and what it`s like to be serving in a swing district in this Congress with President Biden versus her first term during the Trump administration.

But, you know, today`s -- like I said, there`s a lot interesting going on in the news stay. It`s a really substantive day in the news. But it`s one of those days in the news where there isn`t that split screen quality that I think the beltway press looks for every day, that split screen quality between what`s happening on one side of politics and the supposed mirror image of how the other side of politics is approaching the same set of problems.

On the Democratic side, there is all that stuff I just described going on with the administration today. Below the federal level, at the state level today, we just got really interesting new law in New York state passed by the Democratic legislature in New York state, signed by that state`s Democratic governor. It`s a new law that would allow individual communities in New York or the state attorney general in New York to sue gun makers, to sue gun manufacturers for the horror that is caused by the illegal use of guns, the criminal use of guns in New York state.

Again, this new law just signed in New York. This is something that is definitely going to go to court. But there is a federal law that`s not that old that was passed by a Republican congress, signed into law by a Republican president. There`s this federal law that is designed to shield gun manufacturers from lawsuits, that this runs right up against. And arguably that federal law has really never been properly tested.

Here`s blue state New York today going on offense to say, hey, we`ll test it. We want to be able to treat gun manufacturers like the tobacco companies got treated or any other company that makes products that kill people, that society has to otherwise clean up after without their help. That innovation, that policy innovation, which, again, will definitely be tested in the courts, coming today out of New York right on the heels of something from the West Coast. San Jose, California, the biggest city in Silicon Valley, enacting a new regulation by which local gun owners in San Jose will be required personally to get liability insurance because gun ownership has proven to be something that inherently poses a risk to others, they want gun owners to have to buy liability insurance.

They also want an annual tax for gun owners to defray local expenses in dealing with gun crimes. That too will end up in court. But that`s the community of San Jose, California, relatively progressive community in progressive state going on offense on gun violence, trying to innovate some kind of policy solution to something that is so intractable and so intolerable in so many American communities, a problem for which Republicans have blocked every proposed reform or advance of any kind at the federal level.

Phillip Atiba Goff, who is a Yale scholar and an advocate on guns and policing issues, Phillip Atiba Goff and California Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter wrote this week in "The New York Times" about trying to promote nationally an innovative idea to reduce police shootings. When people call 911 because somebody is in a mental health crisis or because they need a safety check-in, somebody behaving irrationally, somebody, for example, posing a threat to hurt themselves.

If somebody calls 911 for that kind of a crisis, the first responders dispatched in response would be trained mental health workers. That`s who would get there first, not necessarily armed police officers as the first response, but people instead specifically trained in mental health and substance abuse issues to defuse the situation, deescalate, try to get some help there.

You might have heard this discussion for a different approach to 911 calls for people in crisis. This is a new approach that is being piloted with considerable success in multiple places around the country right now, basically progressive communities around the country. So far, the initial responses to these pilot projects show that it`s good for police.

It`s good for people in crisis not getting shot by police. It`s good for the people trained for this work to be able to do it at the tip of the spear where they can do the most good and save the most lives for people in the most dangerous part of mental health crisis. It`s being tried out in parts of the country and initial indications are that it`s working out where it`s being tried, which is interesting.

Congresswoman Katie Porter trying to get a national grant program now for communities everywhere to try that approach if they are interested in that kind of approach, to apply for a grant, to put into effect that kind of pilot program to see if it works for them. Places that are trying it are having good success. How about a national grant program to allow communities all over the country to try it?

Constructive, right? Innovative at least. Policy ideas, new approaches to hard problems. And, you know, trying to withdraw safely and ethically after 20 years of war in Afghanistan and dispatching new federal, multidisciplinary COVID expert surge teams to unvaccinated pockets of our country that are starting to get overwhelmed with COVID cases again, and frankly wrangling with these Russian organized crime groups and Russian state hackers that keep mounting increasingly brazen cyber attacks on U.S. targets, including apparently the national Republican Party hit this past week. Handling this as a national security matter, as a legal matter, now as a new foreign confrontation with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin.

We`ll have more on that story tonight as well. It`s all this hard work of governing, right, thinking and working our way out of and around hard problems here on Earth one.

And on earth two, how`s things today? People say that there`s a split screen -- you can always take a split screen approach to American politics. Whatever the problems are in the country, the Democrats will have an idea of how to do it, the Republicans will have a different idea and then we`ll have a fight as a country and maybe we`ll come down somewhere in the middle.

That`s not what our lives are like right now. That`s not what our country is like right now. What I just described is what`s happening on Earth one. That`s what Democratic Party politics are wrangling with in the contours of the kinds of problems they`re trying to approach right now. That`s earth one.

Earth two? Here`s the other party. Here`s the headline in "The Philadelphia Inquirer," quote, key Pennsylvania Republican asks counties to hand over ballots and election equipment for an Arizona-style audit in Pennsylvania.

Here we go. Eight months after the 2020 presidential election, Republicans in Pennsylvania are starting up their own inquisition, summoning ballots and the voting machines and the tabulators because they, too, just like the Republicans in Arizona, just like the Republicans in Wisconsin, just like the Republicans in Georgia insist that their real work as elected officials right now is to ferret out the infernal machinations of the Illuminati and the deep state and the Jewish bankers and the dead communists who tricked the world into believing that the lord emperor Donald Trump is no longer president when clearly he is poised to be reinstated after the fraud is revealed.

I mean, in Arizona today, here`s the headline in "The Arizona republic." it`s about a couple more weeks. Headline in "The Arizona Republic" is how their inquisition is a few more weeks. They`re enjoying themselves, playing with all the millions of ballots and all the election equipment they used their power as Republican legislatures to get.

They know they said it would be over by May but it`s July now. And as of today they said they`re not planning on actually it being done any time soon. It`s really working out for them. They`re enjoying it.

And Pennsylvania Republicans really are as of today starting up their own version of what`s going on in Arizona. They`ve started in the Pennsylvania legislature. They started with a voluntary request from this Pennsylvania Republican legislature, voluntary request to three Pennsylvania counties. But they`re threatening that subpoenas, mandatory demands will follow if and when the counties say no.

And might the counties say no? I don`t know. What would you say if you were a Pennsylvania county and this was the list of things this guy just demanded you hand over? All the ballots from the presidential election, the mail ballot application, the mail ballot envelopes, voting machines, ballot scanners, vote counting equipment, ballot production, the poll books, all computer equipment used throughout the process.

In all 45 different categories of material, they want handed over in full to the Republicans and legislature who will have a look-see.

In Arizona -- this mess in Arizona has been one county. This inquisition in Arizona and the Cyber Ninjas, it was supposed to be done in May. Now it`s June. Now it`s July.

It`s going to be done last Thursday. Now, we think we`ll take it until August. We don`t know. We`re doing ourselves.

In Arizona, that was one county and it`s been going on since April. In Pennsylvania, they are starting with these demands to three counties, including Philadelphia. And then say after that initial response, they`ll make the same demands of more counties. So, hey, maybe they`ll be able to keep theirs going on for years.

There is no split screen. There are two different worlds. There is a party that is trying to use electoral politics and the democratic process to make policy about problems that the country faces.

There is another party that is trying to end the use of electoral politics as an objective way of deciding who has power and how questions get resolved in our country.

The two parties are engaged right now in fundamentally different projects. One of them is engaged in the political cogitation around solving problems. The other one is engaged in cogitation about ending democracy, right?

On Earth one, there`s serious stuff going on right now. A presidential assassination in a nearby troubled country that we are inextricably entwined with, ending a 20 year war, trying to save our allies there while we`re on the way out the door. Innovating new approaches to a rapidly approaching COVID challenge, innovating new approaches to long-standing intractable, deadly, only in America problems like mass gun violence.

On Earth two, it`s like, dude, oh, look, Rudy Giuliani just lost his license to practice law in D.C., too, as well as New York because he`s the president`s personal lawyer and he`s been doing lots of lying about whether the last Republican president actually lost the election, because maybe he didn`t because maybe communists or something.

Which is something apparently we`re going to be litigating full-time now in multiple states wherever Republicans have power, as the only detailed project rising Republican officials and candidates want to work on full- time, aside from anything they can do to make it harder to vote and to pick on trans kids.

One of these things is not like the other. I keep waiting for the Beltway press to catch onto this here.


MADDOW: Our last president really, really liked to hold rallies in the deepest red pockets of the country, the places where he was already really, really popular. And who wouldn`t want to do that, right? I`m sure it`s fun to visit places where people love you more than they love fresh air, they love you more than beer, they love you more than the smell of fresh cut grass. Who wouldn`t love to bask in that?

But our current president has taken a different tact. The politics newsletter "Punchbowl News" points out today that President Biden lately has been traveling to Republican-held districts and also to swing districts that are only narrowly held by Democrats.

Today, President Biden headed to a historically red congressional district inside the blue state of Illinois. This is a district that went for Trump in 2016. It`s since been very narrowly blue since electing a Democrat to Congress in 2018.

But that specific member of Congress may be part of why President Biden went there today.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This woman here, hang on to her, man.


BIDEN: Hang on to her. She knows what she`s doing. She knows what she`s doing.


MADDOW: That woman there is Democratic Congresswoman Lauren Underwood. She and President Biden today visited McHenry County College, a community college in Underwood`s district. The president promoted his legislation to invest in child care, education and health care.

The president went out of the way several times to praise Congresswoman Underwood who is a big Democratic success story in a previously red corner of that state. Lauren Underwood is an RN. She`s a registered nurse. After Trump was elected and she watched her Republican congressmen in her district vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, she decided she would run against him.

She was 32 years old. She had never run for anything before but she ran a flawless campaign and she won. She turfed out a four-term Republican incumbent congressman. In so doing, she became the first woman and the first person of color to represent her district.

She, of course, also immediately became one of Republicans` top targets in terms of trying to flip that district back to red, back to the Republican Party. And her re-election race last year, 2020, she was seen as one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the entire Congress. And she did have a very close race, but she won again.

We have been checking in with Congresswoman Underwood periodically ever since she was first elected, in part because she has such promise and she`s such a good campaigner. She`s so obviously talented and so focused on her district and so perfectly suited to her district even though it`s not an easy place for Democrats to win.

To have the president there today after this hard-fought re-election battle is -- seems like sort of a benchmark moment both for her and for where the Democratic Party is going.

So, I wanted to check back in. Joining us now is Congresswoman Lauren Underwood of Illinois.

Congresswoman, it`s really great to have you back. Thank you so much for making time. I know it`s been a big day.

UNDERWOOD: Thank you, Rachel. I`m so delighted to be speaking with you.

MADDOW: So, tell me about having the president come to your district today. How much of a surprise was it? What do you make of his decision to be with you today?

UNDERWOOD: It was a complete surprise. We found out on Saturday that he would be coming here to northern Illinois to a community called Crystal Lake. This is a community at the intersection of suburban and rural areas here in my congressional district, and it`s a politically competitive area.

And so I was excited to be able to welcome the president to talk about this American families plan and his ideas to move our country forward in this pandemic recovery period.

MADDOW: One of the things that was so remarkable about your first term in Congress is not only that you won it but also that once you were there with President Trump as president, you authored four different pieces of legislation that got signed into law my President Trump. You have been a remarkably effective young member of Congress and first term member of Congress. Now you`re in your second term.

I was interested today to see President Biden shout you out for something in the American Families Plan, this issue of maternal health. And part of that legislation that you`re essentially spearheading. I wanted to ask if you could talk about that a little bit.

UNDERWOOD: Yes, I am so excited. In 2020, in the spring of 2020, I introduced a bill called the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act with then- Senator Kamala Harris as our Senate lead. This is a comprehensive legislation. Nine bills at that time. Now we`ve introduced it. It`s 12 bills to end our nation`s maternal mortally crisis.

In our country, in the United States, in 2021, black women are three to four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications that their white counterparts. And this is a disparity that`s been around my entire lifetime. And for every day, we have 70 -- 7-0 -- near misses.

But guess what? The majority of these deaths are preventable. So, I am so pleased that we have the opportunity to reintroduce the Momnibus this year with new partners, Senator Cory Booker. We`ve expanded it to 12 bills to reflect this COVID environment that we`re in, and we know there are significant disparities when it comes to COVID diagnosis, COVID deaths and pregnancy-related complications.

And President Biden believes in this work and this opportunity to save moms` lives and so has carved out $3 billion in the American Families Plan to address maternal health of which the Momnibus is being included. So, we are so excited to be able to partner with the president of the United States to do this important work.

MADDOW: Let me ask you all, you`ve been so focused on health care, that legislation you are talking about -- I love it is called the Momnibus. It`s fantastic.

But, also, I want to ask about COVID and vaccine uptake and vaccine hesitancy and skepticism in your district, which, again, is a very mixed political district and we know there`s a lot of interaction between political leanings and vaccine hesitancy. I wonder how -- if you feel with your health care background and that being such a priority for you, if you`ve been able to approach that in an innovative way or a way that might be -- might give lessons and help to other parts of the country that are struggling with that?

UNDERWOOD: One thing that we`ve seen is the power of local leaders stepping up, validating and normalizing this idea of vaccination. One of the things that we know is a core value in our community here in Illinois is respecting data, respecting science. We have a community filled with people who are educated, who vaccinate their kids. And quite frankly who want to move on from the pandemic. And they recognize that vaccination is the key to doing that.

So, across my congressional district we do have variation in vaccine rates. But by and large, over 50 percent of eligible adults are vaccinated, fully vaccinated. And I get a daily report on our COVID diagnosis numbers, our vaccine numbers, and we`ve been doing this, tracking this in my office every single day since the pandemic began.

And we`ve seen some variations. But we`ve largely seen uptick. There are areas of concern, our communities of color, an area of concern. Our very, very, very rural communities that didn`t have great health care access to begin with remain areas of concern. You know, those areas that are more remote.

So, I do think that we have some more work to do as a country to make sure that we`re talking to people, having these conversations door-to-door. And that`s what I heard in the president`s new plan, is that he`s interested in putting resources to those outreach efforts to embrace these communities that have been a little bit more reluctant and make sure that they have the opportunity to get their questions answered and to get vaccinated.

MADDOW: Congresswoman Lauren Underwood of Illinois, it`s such a pleasure to have you back on the show, Congresswoman. Thank you so much for your time tonight.

UNDERWOOD: Thank you very much.

MADDOW: She`s just -- I don`t know why Congresswoman Underwood doesn`t get more national press. She`s an honest to goodness star in the Democratic Party. Practical, effective, excellent communicator representing the swing districts, perfectly tuned and timed to the needs of her district, running a great office, doing effective work at home and Washington, getting bills signed as a freshman.

She`s a star. She`s an absolute star.

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


MADDOW: This is from the group Human Rights First, which just came out with this today. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am a veteran.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I served in Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I served in Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m alive today because of my translator.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My translator chose --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chose to fight for our country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My translator is as much of a veteran as I am.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thousands of our wartime allies --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Remain left behind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our nation made a promise --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To ensure no one is left behind.


MADDOW: President Biden, keep our promise, evacuate our Afghan allies.

One of the vets featured in that ad is Matt Zeller. He`s captain of the Army when he served in Afghanistan, alongside this Afghan translator, who`s standing with him here. His name is Janis Shinwari.

Two weeks after he arrived in Afghanistan, then Captain Zeller was caught in a Taliban firefight. He thought he was going to die. He says it was his translator Janis who saved his life. Since he left Afghanistan, Matt Zeller personally lobbied to bring Janis and his family. Janis is now a naturalized American citizen.

Mr. Zeller has extended that advocacy work to all the other translator who still there as U.S. troops pull out of Afghanistan rapidly now. President Biden`s expected tomorrow to address this now very pressing crisis.

Joining us now is Matt Zeller. He`s actually Major Zeller now with the individual ready reserve, with his interpreter, Janis Shinwari. He cofounded the group No One Left Behind, which advocates bringing Afghan interpreters safely to the U.S.

Major Zeller, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate your time.


MADDOW: What are you hoping to hear from president Biden tomorrow, and do you have any expectations about what you will hear?

ZELLER: I hope he says the words we`re going to get them to Guam. Guam is the best place to bring these people. The island stands ready to receive them. It has a historical precedent having been used in other evacuations at the end of the Vietnam War. In 1996, we actually moved a contingent of 6,000 of our Kurdish allies there for a couple months.

So, we want to say take them to Guam. What we don`t want them to say is we have to move them to a third country that we have to negotiate a refugee camp that might, you know, end up being there in perpetuity. We want them on U.S. soil where they belong in safety so we can process their asylum cases without them having to worry about the Taliban death squads that are hunting them right now.

In fact, when I get off this interview, I`m going to be interviewing a guy for our podcast called "Wartime Allies" who had a grenade thrown into his house last week. They killed his brother. They`re hunting these people down one by one systematically and it`s for a purpose. They`re trying to convince future partners that American friendship is a death sentence.

And (INAUDIBLE) for all of this is that in addition to having a moral obligation that we made a promise that if they serve with us, we`d take care of them, we`re going to have to stand to them, suffer higher casualty rates in future wars if we don`t take care of these people now because no one`s ever going to believe us again. And our nation`s veterans are going to suffer a profound moral injury too if we don`t keep this promise.

MADDOW: Help me understand the fight here because this is so urgent and so timely. This is not some prospective thing that we`re spelling out as some sort of hypothetical or some sort of war game. This is right now. As you`re saying, people are being hunted down right now as U.S. troops withdraw.

As far as I can tell from here from here, veterans serving in Congress, people who served in Afghanistan and are now veterans who are now members of Congress think that Guam is a good idea. Veterans advocacy group think that Guam is a good idea. There is reporting that the White House thinks Guam is a good idea.

The governor of Guam and the people of Guam appear to be in favor of this and as you say, there is historical precedent for playing this kind of role. Given I don`t see anybody lined up on the other side of the argument, what is the hold up here?

ZELLER: We`re told it`s Department of Homeland Security. We`re told it`s career officials who want to do the whole, oh, we can`t bring them here. They might be bad people.

This program has existed for over 13 years and not a single nefarious individual has snuffed through. These people had to be vetted to work with us overseas so they`ve gone through extensive vetting just to be able to serve alongside U.S. forces. And the reality is the Taliban does not care about our standards of vettings who gets visa and doesn`t. If you worked a day with us, they`re going to kill you.

And it should be a national security imperative to now saving these people`s lives. You`re right. As you point out, we built a bipartisan coalition that could prevent a human rights disaster in the making. We call this a never again moment in the making.

This is an administration that champions itself as a defender of human rights. Well, here it is. Here is one of those moments that we were all raised on as children. If we fail to do this, mass murders are going to take place and we have all the means to prevent it. We just now need courage and conviction to do the right thing.

MADDOW: Matt Zeller, the co-founder of No One Left Behind, veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Major Zeller, thank you for being here. I have a feeling that we are going to hear significant news from the White House tomorrow. I`m not saying I`ve heard anything. I just have a feeling they wouldn`t announce the president would make remarks on this unless he had something significant to say. We`d love to be back in touch with you and have you back on the show to assess as this moves, hopefully, in a rapid way.

ZELLER: I will come back any time you`ll have me, Rachel. Thank you so much.

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


MADDOW: Today, President Biden said some things to reporters as he was a walking out of the White House to get on board Marine One. It was hard to hear because of the helicopter whir. We have it from the official White House transcript.

Reporter one, quote, Mr. President, these cyber attacks keep happening. At what point does the United States respond and take action? Reporter two, quote: What`s your message to Putin on cyber? Any message after your briefing on cyber from your officials?

President Biden responds to the two reporters, quote: I will deliver it to him. Meaning that`s his message to Putin.

We don`t remotely know what his message is to Putin on cyber attacks that are originating out of Russia. That was President Biden this morning saying he has a message for Putin on that and he intends to deliver to him, deliver it to Putin himself. That was about an hour after President Biden had a Situation Room meeting today with national security officials on these ongoing cyber attacks out of Russia, including the one on Friday hit somewhere between 800 and 1,500 businesses around the world. One of the widest reaching ransomware attacks ever. That is being attributed to a group called REvil that operates out of Russia.

The National Republican Party looks like it was also hit this weekend, an attack that both Bloomberg and "New York Times" describe as originating from the Russian intelligence services.

Well, now, just within the past hour, breaking news from "The New York Times" there has been yet another Russia-based cyber attack on an American target today. According to "The New York Times," quote, on Wednesday, meaning today, REvil had a new target -- a Florida defense contractor that sells space and weapons launch technology to the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and NASA.

The Biden administration`s line on Russia has been that they want things to be predictable and stable between us and Russia. Right now in this cyber stuff, maybe this is predictable but this is not stable. This seems to be escalating rapidly.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight. It looks like tomorrow is going to be a big day in the news, so I will sure to see you here again tomorrow night.


Good evening, Lawrence.