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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 8/11/21

Guests: Trey Martinez Fischer, Katie Benner

Summary

MSNBC`s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. Interview with Trey Martinez Fischer, one of the Democratic members of the Texas House. Former U.S. attorney testified before Senate panel about Trump`s attempt to overturn election.

Transcript

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

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

You know, the word failure is never good news. The word failure coming from a doctor, all the more so. But when you hear that word used as it was today by the clinical director of one state`s flagship university hospital and level one trauma center, when you hear that word, failure, used this specific way by this specific kind of doctor, that is not just bad news. That is national news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ALAN JONES, ASSOCIATE VICE CHANCELLOR, CLINICAL AFFAIRS, UNIVERSITY OF MS MEDICAL CENTER: So since the pandemic, I think the thing that hospitals have feared the most is just total failure of the hospital system. And, you know, if we track back a week or so, when we look at the case positivity rate, the number of new positives that we`re seeing, the rate of the testing positives, and the rate of hospitalizations based on what we`re seeing, if we continue that trajectory, within the next five, seven, to ten days, I think we`re going to see failure of the hospital system in Mississippi.

Hospitals are full from Memphis to Gulfport, Natchez to Meridian. Everything is full.

If there were, schools coming back, if there were a bus wreck of kids, we would not be able to take care of these kids at this hospital. We`re in a pretty situation. When you see federal teams coming in, it really needs to open people`s eyes to the fact that it is a -- it is a serious situation.

So, we`re hopeful that, you know, we can get people to wear masks and get vaccinated and stay away from each other, and that this rapid rate of rise that we`re seeing will plateau -- peak or plateau pretty quickly here so we don`t get into a situation where there is nowhere to transfer a patient at all. And we have to stop ambulances and some of the things that we just don`t want to do as a system.

That is our nightmare. We do not want to do that. Because we know when we do that, you know, not the COVID patients, but all the other patients, heart attacks, strokes, the things we need to take care of that have time- sensitive care issues, we`re not going to be able to take care of them. And that`s not what we got into health care for.

So, you know, I hope people can just understand, it is a very serious situation. I don`t want to say dire, and I don`t want to say that we have reached the point of failure, but we`re definitely headed that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: We`re definitely headed that way. That is Dr. Alan Jones, speaking this afternoon at a pull the fire alarm press conference convened at the flagship hospital, the leading medical center in all of Mississippi. The University of Mississippi Medical Center.

And he`s talking of course about that state`s hospitals just being swamped with sick people, with COVID. The exact quote that got so much attention today after they convened this press conference, he said, if we continue the trajectory we`re on, within the next five to seven to ten days, I think we`re going to see failure of the hospital system in Mississippi.

Republican Governor Tate Reeves of Mississippi has publicly been playing down the severity of the COVID situation in his state. Saying, literally, there`s no reason to panic. Everything is fine. There`s no panicking.

That led to headlines like this one around the state, this is from Mississippi today, Mississippi lives are at risk, our governor is hiding. Led to this headline tonight in the "Mississippi Free Press": With Mississippi hospitals near calamity, Governor Reeves leaves state for Republican political event. And that`s true, he did.

But while the state`s governor is, you know, otherwise occupied in telling everything is fine, and criticizing the use of masks, and refusing to talk about any -- refusing to talk about vaccines in a way that is designed to get everybody in the state vaccinated, he`s saying everything is fine and he`s keeping up his regular political travel.

You`ve heard Dr. Jones there mentioned, when federal teams come in, that should tell you that this is a serious situation, what he`s talking about there is that while the Mississippi state government has its own issues, the federal government of the United States has actually today answered a call for help from Mississippi`s hospitals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. LOUANN WOODWARD, VICE CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI MEDICAL CENTER: We`re in the midst of a very serious situation. I know that you have probably all heard by now that we have been part of a request for some federal assistance. So working with the Department of Health and through NEMA, the governor`s office, we`ve made a request.

[21:05:07]

We have, along with a number of other entities, have made a request for federal help. And, you know, we were not sure what that would look like, if even we were able to get any. We are glad that in fact, yes, we have gotten the notification that we will be getting some federal assistance in the way of manpower.

What we`re planning to do is to deploy the field hospital into the basement of garage "B," and to then utilize these additional personnel in that facility. As it turns out, we are getting some physicians, nurses, therapists, pharmacists. We`re hoping by Friday to be able to start seeing patients in that temporary facility.

JONATHAN WILSON, CHIEF ADMIN. OFFICER, UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI MEDICAL CENTER: We anticipate that we`ll see a disaster medical assistance team or DMAT arrive here in the next day to two days, depending on when the flights come in. But we`re deploying the state`s medical field hospital to our parking garage "B," so that we have a field hospital that we can then use the DMAT staff in to take care of patients.

REPORTER: Where are these doctors and medical personnel coming from? Because as we`ve heard, it`s been hard to find anybody to help you guys out.

WILSON: U.S. Health and Human Services. So, these are federal employees. The best analogy is similar to the National Guard. So, these clinicians have day jobs, but they`re also part-time federal employees that can be activated by the federal government and deployed in times of disaster.

REPORTER: How many people can you treat in this mobile hospital?

WILSON: The maximum is going to be 50. But that will decrease depending on acuity. Obviously, the higher acuity, the sicker the patients, the fewer the patients we`ll be able to treat.

REPORTER: You mentioned the pediatric hospital. Where is the capacity for the pediatric hospital?

JONES: So, our pediatric hospital is full. We have 21 pediatric patients in the hospital today. Six in the ICU, four on ventilators. Definitely the highest number that we`ve had through the entire pandemic. Boarding pediatric patients in our pediatric ER., I think about ten.

So, all of our hospitals are full. This asset that is being deployed potentially will be able to take care of some older teenagers, which may help some, but we are seeing a number, definitely more than we have ever before, of healthy children that are getting hospitalized with COVID.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Four kids on ventilators. Ten kids that are boarding in the emergency room waiting for hospital beds. As he said, there are more healthy children getting hospitalized with COVID than ever before.

I mean, the contingency planning they`re doing here in real time, and explaining to the press in Mississippi is stark stuff. This is end of the line stuff. They`re hoping they may be able to put older teenagers into the field hospital they`re putting up right now in the parking garage for the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

They`re hoping they can maybe have the federal disaster teams that are coming in to staff that hospital in the garage, they`re hoping maybe they can also treat older kids, even though it`s not designed as a pediatric unit. Because they have so many kids that they need space to put littler kids in hospital beds, inside the hospital. Otherwise, they`re out of space in all hospitals in the state, including for little kids who are sick enough with COVID to be in the ICU and to be on ventilators.

I mean, this is -- this is not what they`re warning might happen, this is today, it`s happening right now. The state of Mississippi is in trouble.

Again, this is not warning about what might happen, the hospitals in the state are full, including the pediatric hospitals. And the case numbers are rising every day, 6,000 and 7,000 new cases every day, that means 500 hospitalizations over the next few days, according to the state medical director.

When the flagship hospital in the state announces that every hospital in the state is above capacity, when they`re announcing there between five to ten days away from total failure of the hospital system in the entire state, this is trouble. I mean, total failure of the hospital system doesn`t mean the hospitals close, but it means, if you call 911 and you can get yourself an ambulance, the ambulance will be turned away at the hospital.

Again, that was the word today, this afternoon, from the University of Mississippi Medical Center, which is in Jackson, which is in the state capital.

Today also in Mississippi, NBC reporter Ellison Barber went about 252 miles southeast of Jackson, the Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Vaguely near Gulfport, Mississippi, right on the Gulf Coast.

Ellison went there to try to understand what this kind of situation in Mississippi means on the units, what it means for doctors and nurses in Mississippi right now, who are in the midst of what is a national level crisis, trying to hold back this tidal wave of new very sick patients, as the state exhausts its resources. I mean, part of what Ellison heard is that the fact that so many younger people are getting so much sicker now is driving a lot of how hard this is right now on doctors and nurses.

Here`s Dr. Ijlal Babar, the director of critical care at Singing River Health in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. IJLAL BABAR, CRITICAL CARE DIRECTOR, SINGING RIVER HEALTH, OCEAN SPRINGS, MS: There are often family members who want to talk to us one of the most difficult things is discussing end of life, and worsening status with family members of these young patients. So, whereas before, we were talking to children of these elderly people who were often prepared in their minds for their eventual demise. Now, we`re talking to parents. We`re talking to young spouses.

And they tell us that this patient has a 10-year-old or a 15-year-old. And it breaks our hearts. You know, when you start talking about end of life with people like this, in this age group, it`s very difficult. It`s very difficult.

And the reactions we get are, you know, some people are just dumb dumbstruck, some are angry. It just varies.

And then we have to go and take care of these patients at the bedside. A doctor was putting a chest tube in one patient, and then going to the next tube and putting a chest tube in the next patient. Then you`re getting more calls from the ER about more people rolling in. So, it`s just constant.

You know, I wish our governor would step up and say very clearly how important the vaccines are. I think that everyone in every way they can should come out and say it, so people can be encouraged to go and get vaccinated, because otherwise, you know, until it hits you, you don`t realize what it means. When your own loved one is dying, that`s when it means something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Dr. Ijlal Babar hat is the head of critical care at Singing River Health in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, by Gulfport, Mississippi.

He went on in the interview to say that one of the challenges they`re growing into now is nurses who are working so hard and working double-time, triple-type, nurses finding that they can`t keep working in the ICU. They can`t take it anymore, these circumstances, in part because of the frustration as he put it, that almost all of the suffering could be prevented if people just got vaccinated. Frustration over that is driving nurses to leave critical care at this critical time. Also just with these relentlessly increasing numbers of very sick people, they`re also exhausted and they can`t go on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEN SARTIN, ICU NURSE: We have a solution by getting the vaccine, and wearing our masks and doing what we need to do. Nurses are so tired. It`s getting to the point where we need help.

We`ve been helping as much as we can, and we need help from, you know, our community. I respect everybody`s choice to get vaccinated or not, but it`s just going to continue to get worse. And it`s going to get to the point where it affects our kids, you know? We`re -- that`s my biggest fear. It`s going to keep mutating, and we`ve done everything in our power to stop it, and, you know, eradicate diseases like vaccine are supposed to do.

If it keeps going like this, it could get to the point where it hurts our kids. We already have kids on vents in different parts of the state. If, you know, we won`t be able to say that we did everything to protect our children. You know, the people that would take a bullet for their kid, it could be as easy as taking a shot. So, it does wear on you to feel like it`s not coming to an end any time soon.

REPORTER: Are you surprised it`s still this bad after a year and a half?

[21:20:02]

SARTIN: Yeah, yeah.

REPORTER: How do you find the strength to do this again and again and again?

SARTIN: Really, I don`t have any strength left. Honestly, I`ve given so much, I can`t keep going. That`s why I decided to move to a different department, because it`s affected me in ways that I never thought possible.

And it is not going to get better, and I have to protect myself and my family and my sanity. Because if, you know, people aren`t doing what they need to do to protect us, and, you know, we`re human. We`re not robots. We`re not machines. We can`t continue to do this forever.

REPORTER: You`re a nurse on the floor, but you`re going to leave?

SARTIN: No, I can`t, I can`t do this anymore. I`ve seen more death than I thought I`d see in my entire life. I`ve held more hands of patients in their last moments, when their families couldn`t be by their side. More than I ever thought would happen.

And I know this is the ICU, and people pass. It shouldn`t be to this level, though.

You know, we -- when I chose to be an ICU nurse, I knew this is what I signed up for. But I don`t think anybody really realized that this was going to be part of the deal, that this was going to be this exhausting. In every way.

It`s -- it`s just heartbreaking, in every way. I don`t even know how to describe it. It`s overwhelming. And I just -- I can`t. I can`t even really speak about it anymore. I`m so exhausted from the mental strain of the process of it.

You know, just, just, it`s all you hear. It`s all you see. You know, it`s this whole debate about vaccines, then coming in here and you wake up every morning. You know that it`s just going to be the same devastation as the day before. You know, there`s not really -- it`s always a win when somebody leaves and goes home. But they never go home the same way that they came in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Jen Sartin is that nurse at Singing River Health in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, speaking with our colleague Ellison Barber today, from their critical care unit, which is overwhelmed, completely at capacity, just like every other critical care unit in every hospital, full stop, in the state of Mississippi is right now.

The state health officer in Mississippi warned, with 6,000 and 7,000 new cases being reported every day now. Quote: this will translate into around 500 new hospitalizations in the coming days, while we have zero ICU beds at level 1, 2, 3 hospitals in the state, and we already have more than 200 patients waiting in emergency rooms to get a hospital room.

That has led to a new hospital unit in Jackson to be set up in the parking garage at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. That will be staffed by dozens of medical personnel being shipped in as a disaster management team from the federal government. It means the hospitals and ICUs, even pediatric hospitals everywhere in that state are totally full. And down in Gulfport, as you saw, nurses are too heartbroken, frustrated, and exhausted to keep working in the ICU. They just can`t do it anymore.

I know we`ve been talking about COVID for a long time now, for a year and a half now, but this is -- this is new, what we`re seeing now. The COVID disaster unfolding particularly in the South, definitely in states with low vaccination rates. It is getting to be a next level disaster.

We didn`t previously see states talking about entire hospital systems failing statewide. Mississippi thinks it`s there within the next five to ten days. I mean, you can see the strain in the states if you look closely enough. This is a bad enough situation in the states now that it`s also going to be a new test, I think, of the federal government`s ability, the Biden administration`s ability to target literally disaster resources to places in our country where the health system fails. Because that is starting in some states, and you`re seeing that with the deployment of this disaster management team to Jackson, Mississippi.

[21:20:02]

This is very stark stuff. This is not like it has been. It`s time to start thinking about what we all can do to support health workers in our lives. The first thing they`ll tell you is to get vaccinated and get everybody in your life vaccinated. That`s the best thing you can do for them.

But beyond that, doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists, and people who work on the front lines in these now increasingly swamped hospitals, over huge parts of the country, they are a group of our fellow Americans who are going to need not just, you know, recognition and thanks, but they`re likely to need help from the rest of us, given this superhuman thing we`re asking them to do. Now piled on top of it, the additional frustration and heartbreak that this could be preventable if there were greater uptake of the vaccines. Just a serious thing.

All right. So, there is a lot of news that we are going to be talking about tonight. It is one of those nights when actually a lot is going on into the evening hours. We had to change our rundown a bunch over the course of today`s production day.

First of all, you should know that a filibuster is under way as we speak, a real one, a talking filibuster, in Texas. And in Texas, while you are filibustering, you cannot eat anything, you cannot, drink anything, you can`t even lean against a thing while you are holding the floor. But that filibuster effort is being led right now in Texas by Texas Democratic State Senator Carol Alvarado. She is leading Democrats in that ongoing filibuster right now. This is in the Texas state senate, where they`re trying to stop the Republican voting restriction bill.

You remember Texas Democrats from the House fled the state capital to deny a quorum in the House. Those Texas House Democrats are facing arrest warrants sworn out for them last night. We`ll be checking in with one of those Democrats tonight to find out what their plan is and how they are coping with the threat of arrest. But again, this filibuster is under way in Austin and it looks like it may go at least overnight.

Tonight, as the Department of Homeland Security is warning about the renewed threat of political violence from Trump supporters, who believe his claims that there was fraud in the election, who believe that Trump is supposed to be re-instated sometime this month, which is part of the Trump election fraud fantasy. Tonight, we`re getting the first reporting on what happened behind closed doors today in Washington, when a former Trump- appointed U.S. attorney, B.J. Pak, testified in a closed door session to a Senate committee investigating about how Trump used the Justice Department to try to invalidate election results in multiple states to try to stay in power despite, you know, democracy.

B.J. Pak resigned as U.S. attorney in Georgia in early January under very mysterious circumstances while Trump was trying to make Georgia the first state to nullify its election results after Biden won there. The B.J. Pak resignation is under investigation by congressional committees and by the office of inspector general at the Justice Department. The Senate Judiciary Committee investigation of these matters has led some senators to suggest that the prospect of criminal charges is real here.

B.J. Pak testimony, again, behind closed doors but we`ve got Katie Benner here tonight from "The New York Times". She`s had this story by the horns since it first broke. She was the first national reporter today to report on what he said at his closed-door testimony. Speaking with Katie in just a moment.

I should tell you tonight we are getting late word that a conservative Trump appointed federal judge in D.C. has just ruled that a multibillion dollar lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Mike Lindell, the pillow company guy, that multibillion dollar lawsuit will be allowed to proceed against them. This is a lawsuit by the company Dominion which makes voting machines. They`ve been at the center of Trump fueling these conspiracy theories of how the election must have been stolen from him.

But with Giuliani having his law license suspended now, and Sidney Powell facing sanctions and potential disbarment, with this huge lawsuit now proceeding against them and Mike Lindell, former President Trump`s lawyers and his surrogates that have been pushing these trash theories for him are facing increasingly serious consequences for doing so, even as the Department of Homeland Security warns that the consequences for the country might be more political violence this month.

For President Trump, of course, there`s been no negative consequences whatsoever for soaking any of the stuff, but everybody working on his behalf as seen things get significantly more dire.

So, like I said, a lot of news still unfolding over the course of the night tonight. There is lots to get to.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:28:57]

MADDOW: In the fight over voting rights, things have taken a dramatic turn in Texas. Last night, the Republican speaker of the Texas House signed arrest warrants for 52 Democrats in the state legislature. The warrants are for the Democrats of the Texas House would have been camped out in D.C. for the last few weeks in an effort to deny Republicans back home the quorum they need to pass an anti-voting rights bill.

Back home in Austin, the Texas House sergeant at arms this morning went door to door at the state capital with those arrest warrants in hands looking for those missing Democrats at their offices, so they can arrest them.

Meanwhile, this is live footage of the Texas State Senate right now, where Democratic State Senator Carol Alvarado is leading a filibuster tonight, against the Republican anti-voting bill, this time in the Senate. The Texas Senate has one of those old school filibuster rule were not allowed to stop speaking or sit down or lean on something while you filibuster, or it`s all instantly over.

Senator Alvarado is allowed to take questions from her fellow legislators. That is some of what we are seeing right now, other Democrats rise to ask question, and get to effectively contribute to the filibuster that day.

[21:30:06]

Senator Alvarado has been at it for more than two hours now. We don`t know how long it`s going to go. We talked with Senator Alvarado this afternoon before the filibuster started. She told us, quote, this is a tool we have at our disposal, and I`m going to use it. The House Democrats are doing their part, everyone is doing their part, this is my contribution.

Joining us now is Trey Martinez Fischer. He is one of the Democratic members of the Texas House, who led the effort in D.C. to stop the Republican anti-voting bill. He`s still in D.C. this evening.

Representative Martinez Fischer -- thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate you taking the time.

STATE REP. TREY MARTINEZ FISCHER (D), TEXAS: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: So, we`re watching all these moving parts. We have seen a handful of Democrats leave D.C. and go back to Texas. We have seen these arrest warrants sworn out by the Republican House speaker. We`re not seeing this effort, dramatic effort tonight in the Senate to slow things down there, to actively filibuster the anti-voting bill in the Senate.

Give us the lay of the land and tell us how you`re doing, and how you see these moving parts?

MARTINEZ FISCHER: Well, you know, in a word, I mean, just Texans are fed up. I mean, you see what`s happening in the Senate. We applaud Senator Alvarado for doing her part. We have been doing this for a month, in the Texas House.

We now have warrants out for arrest. That is not going to deter us. That is only going to make a stronger. That is only going to give us more resolve. And we will continue to fight.

And then you also see things like our mayors in county judges, in our school districts are also suing the governor because he won`t protect them and get out of the way and let our local officials provide public health. So, really, Texas is on the brink. The only way we know how to demonstrate our disappointment is to have this sort of disobedience to walk out of the chamber, to file lawsuits, to fight and push back and we hope the country is watching.

And I hope they know that you can only push so much in the state of Texas, we are going to come back and we`re going to fight back and protect our rights.

MADDOW: Of course, it`s not an accident that when you all left Texas, you came to Washington, D.C. We`ve talked about this multiple times, you`ve been able to be with us on the show about the effort to turn this crisis in Texas into an incentive, impetus, catalyst in Washington to pass a national voting rights law that will stop states like Texas from doing this and stop states everywhere from taking voting rights down below of floor that the country knows we can`t go safely -- go below.

Last night, we did have some development on that front, late at night, I think it was close to four in the morning, as the Senate finished up its work to pass the big infrastructure bill over the House, they tended one last thing before they went on recess, they took a procedural vote that sets up a voting rights vote as the very first thing they will do when they come back just after Labor Day.

Now, that is not the same thing is passing a voting rights bill, but I have to ask if that`s at all encouraging to you?

MARTINEZ FISCHER: It absolutely is. We woke up to a 4:30 a.m. email with a consolation for a meeting we had with our good friend, Senator Amy Klobuchar, who`s been dynamic, has been a leader on this issue, to tell us that we will cancel the meeting, she will be flying back home, but we were hoping to be there in the Senate when they took this vote. Of course, it happened at 4:00 a.m.

I think it`s important to note that the unanimous consent was blocked by none other than Texas Senator Ted Cruz and I guess every generation has its Strom Thurman and I guess Senator Cruz wants to play that part. But we are hardened that Schumer said make no mistake when the Senate resumes in September, the very first item they will take up will be the voting rights bill, it will be the for the people act and I think it`s important for everybody in this country during this recess to make sure that we are being very vocal, that we do not let our guard down and we continue to fight, not only for this bill but to make it very clear that if Republicans don`t want to be bipartisan or pragmatic, we are not going to let a tradition in the U.S. Senate get in the way of our constitutional rights to vote, and we need the Senate to act and we hope they act in September just like Leader Schumer predicts or said.

MADDOW: Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, Democrat in the Texas State House who is in D.C. right now on a mission, along his fellow Democrats. His Republicans back home threatening with arrest and worse -- sir, thank you for keeping us apprised. We hope to have you back soon. Thank you.

MARTINEZ FISCHER: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. Much more news to get to here tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:38:49]

MADDOW: Today we had a few more answers to a mystery that has been bothering me since the very beginning of this year. January 4th this year, the Trump appointed U.S. attorney for the northern district of Georgia, a man named B.J. Pak, suddenly resigned. Sent to email to colleagues in which he cited unforeseen circumstances as in his reason for leaving.

The timing of that resignation has bugged me ever since like a mosquito buzzing around my bedroom at night. I can`t sleep. I`m so annoyed, I need to know.

I mean, here`s the U.S. attorney in Georgia, one of the pivotal states in the 2020 election, right? He resigned January 4th. That means he resigns right after "The Washington Post" published audio of that call where Trump was pressuring Georgia election officials that they needed to overturn the election and proclaim him to be the winner. It was the day after that that the U.S. attorney resigned.

It was two days before the January 6th attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters. It was a day before the U.S. Senate runoffs were due to happen in Georgia, which would ultimately decide, control of the United States Senate. He resigns right in the middle of all that and it is just for unforeseen circumstances and that`s it?

Within a week of B.J. Pak resigning, it was "`The Wall Street Journal" that reported that he was forced to resign by the White House, but the nature and circumstances of why he was forced to resign at whose request, what his resignation was supposed to accomplish has always remained murky.

[21:40:17]

Groundbreaking reporting by "The New York Times`" Katie Benner revealed B.J. Pak`s resignation was preceded by contentious meeting the night before in the Oval Office. This was a meeting in the Oval January 3rd, and at that meeting Trump`s Attorney General Jeff Rosen, and another top Justice Department official named Jeff Clark, a Trump guy who was trying to cast doubt in the election results, along with Trump, they fought it out in what was described as an "Apprentice" style Oval Office meeting with Trump.

They argued over which of them should lead the Justice Department, whether Rosen should stay the attorney general or Trump should replace him with this Jeff Clark guy.

They argued about whether the Justice Department should falsely legitimize Trump`s claims about the election being stolen which Jeff Clark seems like he might have been willing to do.

Going into that meeting, several Justice Department officials were so worried that Trump that was going to go ahead and do it, that he was going to do it, that he was going to take Rosen out as attorney general, and put Jeff Clark in there instead. They were so worried about that they agreed they would all resign on mass if that occurred. Very hair-raising stuff. There will be movies made about this someday.

But the reporting about that meeting suggested that when the dust settled and the attorney general was not replaced, Rosen stayed in his position, one senior official wrote at the time, it sounds like the cause of justice has won. Presumably that means that Rosen got to stay in his job and not be replaced by this Jeff Clark guy.

But something else happened after that meeting, which doesn`t, still, to this day, make sense to me. We have these documents that were recently released by the House Oversight Committee, and they show us that after that meeting was over, when everybody was like, did justice succeed, is Rosen still attorney general or is Clark guy going to take over?

While that is being settled, something else happens on a totally separate track. One of the participants of that meeting, the deputy attorney general, Rich Donoghue, sends an email to B.J. Pak in Georgia, to the U.S. attorney in Georgia, at 10:09 p.m. Eastern Time. So, this is after the Oval Office showdown, and the tells Pak to call him ASAP. By 7:41 a.m. the next morning, B.J. Pak had resigned as U.S. attorney. Within a few hours, Rich Donoghue was sent an email thanking him for resigning, and calling him a class act for doing so.

Why was Donoghue thanking him for his -- first of all, why did Pak resign? Second of all, why did he get this urgent call from the number two official in the Justice Department that apparently led to his resignation? Why did that happen right after this Oval Office meeting? And why after the guy resigned did he get thanked by the number two official in the Justice Department?

When somebody resigns, you thank them for it if they did it at your request. Why would he have asked this U.S. attorney to resign?

So what happened here?

Well, today, B.J. Pak gave his side of the story to the Senate Judiciary Committee, behind closed doors. "The Times`" Katie Benner reports that his testimony lasted more than three hours. "The Times" reports that Pak told investigators questioning him at the hearing that his resignation had been prompted by Justice Department officials warning him that President Trump intended to fire him, for refusing to say that widespread voter fraud has been found in Georgia. As "The Times" put it, quote, resigning would preempt a public dismissal.

Pak also told the committee that Trump had been dismayed that his office had never investigated allegations of fraud in Fulton County, Georgia -- excuse me, had investigated allegations of fraud in Fulton County, Georgia, and not found any evidence to support those allegations.

So, Pak resigned rather than be publicly fired, and so it also seems like he resigned at the request at the number two official in the Justice Department. Why would you ask somebody to resign so they could avoid being publicly fired? It just doesn`t make sense.

Joining us now is "New York Times" justice reporter Katie Benner, who has had this story by the horns since the very beginning.

Katie, thank you so much for being with us tonight, I know it`s kind of a big night.

KATIE BENNER, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Let me ask first if I am asking the right questions. I feel like Mr. Pak`s resignation has been mysterious from the beginning and potentially important from the beginning because of its timing.

Resignations happen for a number of reasons, you resigned because you want to spend more time with your family. You resigned because you`re asked to do something unconscionable, you resigned in protest. You resigned as a favor to somebody, you resigned in order to stymie some plot whether or not you`re going to speak out about it.

I don`t know what category of resignation to put B.J. Pak`s resignation in yet. Do you feel like you know?

BENNER: I think there is some context we can bring to bear to the resignation. If you look what happened in other department officials in the Trump administration in the several weeks leading to the January 6th attack, you saw officials who refused to comply with Trump, officials who pushed back on the idea that Trump had one, including former Attorney General Bill Barr, they were publicly scurried by the president and his allies would descend and attack, they were ripped apart in conservative media, and it was very difficult for them.

And this is something all sorts of different officials spoke to reports about on background and off the record at time, saying it was not a fate that anybody wanted, especially if you were still young, and you wanted to get another job perhaps in the conservative politics, perhaps within the Republican Party. It was considered a fate that you wanted to avoid.

And so, as you laid out in your introduction, you have a situation where officials go into the Oval Office late on a Sunday, they realize that not only does President Trump really, really want somebody in Georgia to say the election was fraudulent, he`s obsessed with Georgia, and he complained it throughout this very strange argument that his officials were having about who would run the Justice Department.

So, I`m told in his testimony today, Pak discussed this and he said he felt that he knew he was going to leave either way, through either be fired or he would resign, and that Rich Donoghue was giving him an opportunity to make a decision of how he wanted to leave the department, but that he was most certainly leaving.

MADDOW: When Mr. Donoghue responded to B.J. Pak`s resignation by sending an email which we`ve seen, it was released by the oversight committee, sending an email that thanked him for resigning and called him a class act for resigning. I feel like the cast that put retroactively on Mr. Park`s resignation seem to suggest that Mr. Donoghue wasn`t giving him a choice as to whether or not he wanted to jump, rather than be pushed. It seemed like that Donoghue suggested to him that this was the right thing to do. Or ask him to do this, essentially, as a favor, or the right thing to do for the country or us something that would have positive consequences. Am I reading that wrong?

BENNER: Yeah. No, I think you`re probably reading it correctly and if you think about it from the point of view of the Justice Department officials who lived through a very long set of weeks, including a very long evening, they saw a situation in which the president was extremely volatile. They felt they were on the brink at any moment of an utterance being made that would throw the election results into complete chaos, and mollifying Trump is the route that they chose.

We can debate whether or not it was the correct thing to do, but it is what this group of officials chose to do. And part of mollifying Trump is getting rid of things that are going to trigger him or make him react or make him upset. One of those things at that moment was B.J. Pak. So, I don`t think you are reading things incorrectly. Again I think it`s going to be up for debate and will be a question for the history books as to whether or not it was the right thing to do for these officials to stay mum and try to push back on the White House quietly amongst themselves, or if they should have been public about what was happening.

MADDOW: Well, there`s also the consequence, too, that once B.J. Pak does resign, whether or not it is that the direct request of the senior officials or whether he did it because he wanted to avoid getting yelled at by the president or whatever it was, there was an effective in terms of the Georgia plot which is at the White House then handpicked another official, they went outside the line of succession and in B.J. Pak office, picked someone else and installed him there, who presumably thought would be more amenable to these concerns or at least would be least of burned to the saddle of the president who was obsessed, as you report, with Georgia at that point.

So Mr. Pak resigning didn`t throw a wrench in the works of this Georgia plot. It seems to have, if anything, facilitated

BENNER: Well, it did and it didn`t it`s one of the really interesting things about that twist you mention. You are right, Pak was replaced by a man named Bobby Christine who was thought to be somebody who is a close ally of President Trump `s. But, interestingly, several days after Christine gets to the office, audio of a meeting he has with the staff there is leaked to "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution". And in that audio, Bobby Christine says, I now look at these cases myself. I am not seeing fraud. I expected to comment and find a lot of fraud based on things I`ve been reading and things that I`ve heard, but in fact, I got here and I found the exact same thing that B.J. Pak found.

So, indeed, while people were worried that Bobby Christine was going to come in and do something dramatic for Trump, instead what he did is he came in, said nothing, and suddenly this interesting audio leaks out where he himself says there is no fraud once again, reiterating what B. J. Pak had privately said. What Jeffrey Rosen had privately set and would Bill Barr has said privately and publicly. We are not finding the widespread fraud that would impact the results of this election whatsoever.

[21:50:00]

MADDOW: Last question for you on this, Katie. I -- we believe that the Department of Justice inspector general is looking at Mr. Pak`s resignation and the circumstances they`re in as part of the investigation as to what happened with the White House pressuring the Justice Department around trying to overturn the election results.

We`ve also seen some senators come out of earlier testimony in this ongoing investigation and say they think that there may be criminal charges implicated here in terms of some of the behavior that they`ve heard testimony about. The further understanding we are developing about B.J. Pak, do you think that materially impacts the Fulton County criminal resignation of Trump, or the potential inspector general investigation, the seriousness of it, any potential criminal charges?

BENNER: Sure. Well, based on the reporting I have coming out of that meeting, it does sound like people who are listening to Mr. Pak`s testimony indeed felt that there were bigger questions that needed to be asked about whether or not anybody could be held criminally responsible for the kind of efforts that were being undertaken to basically overturn the results of the election.

Keep in mind, the idea of criminal charges, criminal case, that is such a slow-moving animal. This is such a politically-charged situation that there is a feeling within the Justice Department it would be better if the inspector general ran his course, fully investigated, and decided whether or not it would be appropriate to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department. That is a slow process and an IG report usually takes about a year.

So, I`m not thinking this is going to result in criminal charges anytime soon if at all. Again, this is going to be the most methodical investigation. It is going to be the most careful because it involves a senior former Justice Department official and involves people who are working in the White House including people who were probably helping President Trump try to overturn the results of the election. And that is what these committees are trying to get to the bottom of. It`s what they`re asking.

And the Justice Department officials who spoke so far and the justice department in general have only provided so much information for them to really understand what was going on with Trump`s efforts to overturn the election and whether or not there is criminality criminal behavior they need to speak to people who were working at the White House, who had the full picture.

MADDOW: "New York Times" Justice Department Katie Benner -- Katie, it`s a real pleasure to have you here. Thank you for your clarity on this as always. I really appreciate it.

All right. We`ve got more ahead tonight. Stay with us.

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[21:56:37]

MADDOW: Tomorrow, the government is going to release the results of the 2020 census. At least going to release the parts of it that tend to make people the most crazy. "The Washington Post" previewed a slice of that data this week with this headline that made the hosts that Fox News primetime should coffee out all their collective noses all at the same time.

We are seeing a marked increase in diversity in our country. Population growth is driven entirely by people of color. The number of white people declining for the first time in this country`s history.

That was just a preview earlier this week, again in "The Washington Post". But, tomorrow, we will get all the definitive details on how the country and how specific neighborhoods have shifted in terms of race and voting age and other things.

State legislators will use the official data we are getting tomorrow to redraw districts for the next ten years of elections. So, tomorrow`s data is going to be a really big deal. I know just the president I`m going to want to talk to you about all this. The former attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, is now chair of the National Democratic redistricting committee. He is going to be here live tomorrow night to talk about that data and more. You will not want to miss it.

Be right back. Stay with us.

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MADDOW: All right. That is going to do it for us tonight. Thank you for being here. You know tomorrow is? It`s Friday eve, what?

See you again tomorrow night.

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

Good evening, Ali.