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

Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 8/19/21

Guests: John Sopko, David Kimberlin


Anti-Taliban protests are being held across Afghanistan. Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, independent Senate Angus King of Maine, and Democratic Senator John Hickenlooper of Colorado all announced today they have all tested positive. Within the last 24 hours, the United States is back up over 1 million vaccine doses administered per day. A North Carolina man surrenders to police after D.C. bomb threat.


ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN on this Thursday night.


Good evening, Rachel.

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

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

What a day this has been. Today not one, not two, but three United States senators all announced that they have just contracted COVID-19. Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, independent Senate Angus King of Maine, and Democratic Senator John Hickenlooper of Colorado all announced today they have all tested positive. All three of these men were fully vaccinated which just puts a spotlight on how very contagious the delta variant of this virus is, the delta variant basically makes up the exclusive variant in our country now.

It also underscores the administration`s decision to recommend that fully vaccinated Americans should get booster shots starting next month. All three senators got infected even though they were vaccinated. Statistically speaking all three are likely to be okay because they were vaccinated.

The good news on COVID today is within the last 24 hours, the United States is back up over 1 million vaccine doses administered per day. We`ve been below a million doses per day for the last seven weeks or so. But now, apparently, the message is sinking in enough that the pace of vaccination is picking back up.

Americans are deciding to get the shot over a million doses in the past 24 hours, that`s for the first time in seven weeks. I think in general, the COVID news is dire enough to change minds in many Southern states in particular right now.

We`re going to be talking tonight about new COVID developments throughout the country, but in particular an alarm bell that was just rung by the University of Alabama, and it`s an alarm bell they are ringing that I`m not sure how that state or how anybody is supposed to respond to. We`ve got that story ahead tonight.

We`ll also be talking about the utterly bizarre, but somehow also totally predictable story out of Washington today in which a man in a pickup truck pulled up on to the sidewalk in front of the library of congress, thus starting an hour`s long bomb threat standoff. This is a man with many, many incoherent but oddly self-assured thoughts about politics, including his hope and his expectation that President Biden will leave office and former President Donald Trump will soon be reinstated and all the Democrats will be in jail.

This man did not blow anything up. He is in custody tonight. We`ll have more on that story coming up as well.

Look at these images today. These are "AP" images shot by an "AP" videographer in Kabul. I did not expect necessarily to see anything like this, at least not now. This is a huge long flag they have unfurled down the street. That`s the Afghan flag, the flag of the Afghan government, the flag that was of course taken down all over the country this week and replaced with the Taliban flag.

We have seen other protests against Taliban rule in support of the new deposed Afghan government in other Afghan cities in eastern Afghanistan and southeast Afghanistan, some of those protests we have seen met with a violent response and gunfire from the Taliban, as you see here in Jalalabad. But these protests against Taliban rule today were relatively large one, and they were in Kabul, in the capital city. There was a Taliban response and gunfire at the end of this protest in Kabul today, too.

But the number of people there, the participation of women alongside men, frankly, the level of organization it took to get that gigantic blocks long Afghan flag out there into the street, it`s interesting to see, and suggests however easy it may have been for the Taliban to take over Afghanistan, and whatever deals they cut with the military and various government officials so they could basically walk into power all over the country and indeed into the capital, however easy the takeover was, their effort to rule the country now is not going to be frictionless for them. This is a clear sign that they are going to face varying kinds of resistance in varying degrees from the Afghan people.

So tonight, I have to tell you I`m not sure if this is going to work. I`m putting a lot of faith in a lot of sketchy technology to try this but I would like to try now if we could to go live to the airport in Kabul, where NBC producer Ahmed Mengli has taken his family.

Mr. Mengli`s family is flying out of the country for their safety, and he`s going to stay behind after he puts them on the plane. He`s a journalist who has worked with NBC and other Western news outlets for nearly 20 years. He told us he is not afraid of the Taliban coming to look for him now.


He told us he`s going to look for them, and indeed he has been interviewing Taliban fighters all this week, and feeding us video of scenes on the ground of Kabul since the government fell including these shots at the Kabul airport. Mr. Mengli is getting his family out now. He is at the airport right now, but he says he is going to stay in Kabul.

Mr. Mengli, Ahmed, I`m grateful for you finding a way to join us live tonight. Thank you for joining us.

AHMED MENGLI, NBC NEWS (via telephone): It`s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Can you tell us what it`s -- what it`s like at the airport now? I know it`s about 5:30 in the morning or so Afghan time. Is it still as chaotic and crowded as it has been in the past few days? Is it getting any better?

MENGLI: Well, I can`t say that it is getting better. Sun rising in Kabul at the moment, as you say, 5:30 a.m., and still I can see people in queue. U.S. forces trying to keep the, you know, this discipline, and get them in queue, in line, where they can, you know, be checked with their documentations and everything.

Women, children, young men, are all standing on those queue and waiting to get on board those airplanes. Basically I`m inside, so, you know, it wasn`t easy to get in here. I came like 1:00 p.m. today, one of the gates, I just drove down a local car with my family today.

One of the gates of the airport where I was called to be and when we got there, you know, I saw there was a crowd, but I didn`t think it could have been this difficult to get to the -- into the airport. So as we started approaching to the gate, you know, the crowd got extended and extended.

At one stage, I realized that I`m having a hard time to keep my kids safe, and also my wife. Because, you know, there`s a lot of young men who`s more powerful than a kid or woman, you know, and they have been pushing each other around to get in past to the airport.

So that was a big, you know, hassle there, so luckily managed to get them all in, you know, we`re supposed to meet the Turkish forces here who are helpful to get the kids out of the crowded people, pulling out them from a wall basically. We couldn`t get them through a gate, like we showed them the passport and identification and everything, and, you know, agreed to fill them out because it was a hot, sunny day.

You know, a lot of people there. A lot of people there. It was something like, you know, I never experienced in my life before.

MADDOW: Can you tell us about the decision for your family to leave and for you to stay in Kabul? I have to tell you everybody`s worried about you, and it seems like you have the option to leave with your family if you -- as you`re getting them out, but you`ve decided to stay. Can you just tell us about making that decision?

MENGLI: Well, as you said, I have the rights to leave. I mean, as soon as this airplane comes, I`ll on board them, and I decided to stay. I can go with them but I`m not going to go because, you know, Afghanistan has been in conflict for a very long time. We have seen so much in this country, but one thing that, you know, that I want to know is like how is it going to be after this? Like are we going to have the Taliban currently who are in the streets of Kabul or is it going to change?

So in case it is changing and challenging us to stay or operate or do work here, then it`s going to be easier for me to move myself anywhere alone rather than with my entire family, so for that purpose I`m, you know, sending them out. I`m going to stay. I`m going to approach Taliban. I`ve already approached them. I`ve talked to them in the streets. I have filmed them. They are so far okay with people, with journalists. Nothing, you know, major that I can say, you know, it is risky, but we`ll see how it is going to treat us in the future.

MADDOW: Ahmed, let me ask you, as we`re looking at these scenes from across the world, and as I say, concerned about you and respectful of your decision that your family should go so you can move more easily without them, without endangering them, I absolutely understand what you`re saying and that you want to keep working.


What should we understand about the importance about how things are going to develop? As Americans, we`re so focused on the evacuation efforts right now. The question of whether the U.S. military could expand the perimeter at all around the airport to make it less dangerous to go through that gauntlet you went through, to get your family actually inside the airport.

We`re so focused on what the Americans and U.S. forces there can do, just in the very short term in order to get people out. What else do you think we should be looking at beyond that very short-term focus that we have right now as a country?

MENGLI: You know, the forces are operating inside the base or the airport. They`re not going out of the gate. Outside gate, it was Taliban when we arrived during the day, but later on, some special forces of Afghanistan that I wasn`t thinking of them being there, here somewhere, showed up and, you know, start trying to have the U.S. forces or the Turkish, Spanish forces, Norwegians, some multinational groups who are taking their citizens into the airport or people who work with them in their mission in Afghanistan.

So, outside is totally controlled by Taliban, so they are inside and they are trying to help those people, you know, in the airport.

MADDOW: Ahmed Mengli, long time NBC producer in Kabul, now at the Kabul airport with his family, who are leaving, he`s staying.

Ahmed, God bless you. Thank you for your work. God bless your family on their travels they`re about to start. Be safe.

MENGLI: Thank you.

MADDOW: Again, Ahmed Mengli joining us live from the Kabul airport.

We have heard from the Pentagon they were able to fly out about 2,000 people. They have said that theoretically their capacity in terms of aircraft is they could fly out between 5,000 and 9,000 people. They have not reached that capacity.

CNN reported today based on the account of a senior administration official that President Biden has advised senior military commanders that there should not be empty seats on flights leaving from the Kabul airport, that they need to increase the flow through to get people who qualify to come to the U.S., to get people associated with the U.S. government, U.S. media organizations, U.S. NGOs, people who have a claim to be evacuated by the U.S. need to be flowing through in greater numbers and filling every seat on those planes. Certainly not happening yet but that is reportedly the president`s order.

MADDOW: Nearly ten years ago, President Barack Obama decided to put a man named John Sopko in charge of an inspector general`s office related to the war. Mr. Sopko would become the special general for Afghanistan reconstruction, which means in laymen`s terms he would be charged by the U.S. government for independently investigating what we`re spending all our money on and what we`re doing in Afghanistan. And to my mind, John Sopko was the right man for the job provided that you didn`t want anybody to give you any happy talk about this particular situation.

He had spent years as a senior congressional staffer but the kind of congressional staffers who worked mostly on investigations, specifically hard core investigations of things like organized crime and weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union and enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and international antinarcotics efforts, all the darkest, hardest stop, John Sopko worked on that for years.

For years before that, he was a state and federal prosecutor, including years as a trial lawyer and the Justice Department`s organized crime and racketeering section. He was the lead attorney in the first successful federal RICO prosecution of the entire leadership structure of the American La Costa Nostra crime family, which he proudly notes in his biography.

John Sopko is not a pushover. John Sopko is not going to tell you things you want to hear unless you deserve it. In the decade-ish that he has been the man in charge of saying what we`re doing wrong in Afghanistan basically, his assessments have often been just brutal. At least they`ve been brutally blunt.

Here, for example, is how "ProPublica" wrote up just one of his more well known findings, quote in 2008, the Pentagon bought 20 refurbishes cargo planes for the Afghan air force, but as one top U.S. officer put it, quote, just about everything you can think of was wrong.

There were no spare parts for the planes, for example, the planes were also, according to the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, quote, a death trap. So, $486 million was spent on worthless planes that no one could fly. We did recoup some of the investment, though. Sixteen of the 20 planes ended up being sold for scrap for the grand sum of $32,000. That`s 6 cents a pound. How many hundreds of millions of dollars did those cost?

John Sopko also reported without fear or favor on, for example, the $43 million that we spent on a proof of concept gas station in Afghanistan. It was a gas station that did not work as a gas station. It`s also proved no concept other than the concept that it is possible to spend $43 million building a single gas station that then does not work.

It has been ten years of this kind of brutally blunt documentation from John Sopko in this important inspector general post.

But now as U.S. forces have left and then gone back to deal with the evacuation, and as we are living day by day and hour by hour through the chaos of the evacuation or lack thereof, Sopko has just released his report on how the first 20 years of our war went overall, broadly speaking. I have to tell you, it is not a cynical document. It is not a defeatist document, but it is also as unblinking as you might expect from him, given what he`s been through.

It`s titled "What we need to learn". Not what we have learned, "What we need to learn: Lessons from 20 years of Afghanistan reconstruction".

Key point number one, 20 years later, much is improved and much has not in Afghanistan. If the goal was to rebuild and leave behind a country that could sustain itself and pose little threat to U.S. national security interests, the overall picture in Afghanistan is bleak. See, if that was the goal, the overall picture is bleak.

But look at key point number two. He says, quote, there is no doubt that the lives of millions of Afghans have been improved by U.S. government interventions over these past 20 years, including gains in life expectancy, and the mortality of children under 5, GDP per capita, literacy rates among other factors. Despite these real gains, though, the key question is whether these gains were commensurate with the U.S. investment or sustainable after a U.S. drawdown. In the special inspector general of Afghanistan`s reconstruction analysis, they were neither.

Speaking to the military times last month, Sopko warned that the reason we need to learn the lessons, not lessons learned, the report is titled lessons we need to learn. Sopko warned that the reason we need to learn these lessons is because we haven`t yet, and because we are going to do this again.

He said, quote: Don`t believe what you`re told by the generals or ambassadors or people in the administration saying we`re never going to do this again. That`s exactly what we said after Vietnam, we`re never going to do this again, lo and be hold, we did, Iraq, and we did, Afghanistan. He said we will do this again.

Joining us now is John Sopko. He has served in the distinguished and unique role of the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction since 2012.

Sir, thank you for joining us tonight. I appreciate your time.

JOHN SOPKO, SPECIAL INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR AFGHANISTAN RECONSTRUCTION: It`s a pleasure to be here, and to see you again, Rachel.

MADDOW: You too. You too. First of all, and I hope this is not impertinent of me, but knowing what I know of you, I would like to give you a chance to sound off a little bit with what you know about Afghanistan, all these years studying the American project there, the American experience there. I have found myself wondering if you are frustrated now by the public finally paying attention now, by the news coverage of the departure and its consequences by how we are talking about this now as a country.

Do you feel like there are fundamental things we are missing or getting wrong?

SOPKO: Well, Rachel, you can`t have spent as much time as I did and met as many Afghans, and Americans who served over there, and Americans who got hurt and who died. And not feel something about it and it`s not a positive feeling. I`m crushed by seeing the events. I`ve spent a lot of time over the last number of weeks, and my staff has trying to get our American cigar employees out. And now we`re still trying to get our Afghan colleagues who helped us out. And it`s been very frustrating and it`s also very disturbing.

But, you know, the job of an IG is not to make friends. A good IG speaks truth to power, and I think that`s what we`ve done. We`re a bit frustrated. I`m a bit frustrated that after all of these reports we`ve written that people are now saying that they`re surprised at the outcome of the Afghan security forces. We have been identifying serious, serious problems with their capability and we have been warning our government and Congress and anybody who would listen that they were not able to function by themselves.

Now, we didn`t predict when they were going to collapse. I think we were all a bit surprised by that. But no one should be surprised by that. But no one should be surprised by this.

Now, now`s not the time really for finger pointing. I think now`s the time to obviously get all the Americans out, and get out any Afghan who wants to get out out, but I think at some point and we need to look at these lessons learned reports that we created and particularly this last one and try to make things better.

The bottom line of our report, as you highlighted so succinctly, more succinct than I can, is that we were totally unprepared for this. And we haven`t learned the lessons of Vietnam. If anything, after Vietnam, we said we`re never going to do it, and we cut all of the capabilities to do these type of reconstruction events or activities in a war zone.

And lo and be hold, we said we`re never going to do it again, we did it in Iraq. We did it in Afghanistan. We`ve done it three times in the last 50 years, and all three times it`s been pretty poorly handled.

And we`re doing something similar to this, but at a smaller scale, but as our report says, it`s a slippery slope before a small scale becomes a big scale. We`re doing it in a number of countries in Africa, and I have heard people talking about sending troops and sending massive aid similarly to a war torn or not safe country of Haiti. That may deserve it, but if we do it in Haiti or these other countries, without learning the lessons, we are going to repeat the same mistakes.

And that`s what this report is all about. It`s trying to look forward to improve how we do things like this.

MADDOW: And when you step back from your work, from what you have seen, and from all of these quarterly reports, I feel like I have read a dozen of them, at least by now, I read them every time they come out. When you step back from that, do you feel like for Americans with a short attention span, for Americans who want easier answers to things, that the conclusion ought to be the easy conclusion, which is that reconstruction never works, it never can work, and we should never try it? Or is the lesson that we need to learn that we need to scope it more carefully, we need to monitor it in more specific ways and that there are lessons to be learned about how to do it in a way that works and meets our objectives that doesn`t leave us with calamity at the end and so disheartened about the sacrifice?

SOPKO: It`s the latter, Rachel, and the problem is if we ignore it, it ignores the fact that at some time in the future, we will confront a country where it`s for our national security, we`re going to have to do something like we did in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam, so we should face that, and we should prepare for it. I`m not saying spend billions of dollars in creating a new entity. What I`m saying is learn the lessons, train for it, understand, collect names, get people ready. We have a whole series of recommendations in that area.

The U.K. has done something like that to some extent, a smaller extent, but that`s what we should do. Rather than saying we`re never going to do it again. You know, we`ve had too much happy talk over the last 20 years, and too much spinning, you know, and I don`t know how many generals have said we`re turning the corner, and, you know, it`s like turning -- we went 360. It`s like a top spinning.

We have to stop lying and the American people and the American taxpayer and to Congress and stop gilding the lily. Let`s face the reality of the last 20 years and the reality on the ground right now.

MADDOW: John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, sir, thank you. Thank you for being here tonight. Thank you for your unique and uncompromising service in this very lonely job.

I am sorry to hear that you are still having difficulty getting out your Afghan staffers, people who worked with the office there. I wish you luck in that regard, and anybody watching from the U.S. government right now, I urge them to take your freaking call because you have earned it, sir, thank you.

SOPKO: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a lot more news to get to here tonight.

Stay with us.



MADDOW: This is the front page of the "Acadiana Advocate" off Lafayette, Louisiana, today, "Military medical team arrives Ochsner Lafayette General`.

Here we`ve actually got the footage of the team of navy personnel showing up for that hospital in Lafayette yesterday afternoon ready to work, ready to pitch in to help the doctors and nurses there who have been inundated by COVID patients for weeks. As you can hear hospital workers greeted this Navy team with not just a sustained, but a loud standing ovation.

The Defense Department sent this team to Lafayette, Louisiana, because the hospital asked FEMA for federal help, and FEMA resource that was deployed here was a military resource. The Defense Department announced this week that they have four more active duty military medical teams like this one staffed up and ready for deployment at over run U.S. hospitals.

We don`t exactly know where the other four teams like this will be going after this team went to Louisiana.


But we do know there`s plenty of American hospitals that could use emergency help right now because the huge numbers of COVID patients that have swamped them, and that have seriously deleterious effects on the type and amount of medical care that can be provided.

For example, in Alabama, this is the front page of the "Montgomery Advertiser" today. You see here, it says, quote, ER has patient traffic jam, ER as in emergency room. Frustrated, overwhelmed exhausted Alabama emergency medical technicians say a dangerous COVID wave filling the ICU beds has triggered a cascade of issues in the state. Patients at the east Alabama medical center in Auburn are being held on ambulance stretchers while staff look for open beds resulting in huge problems, quote ambulances lined the ER bay in what hospital spokesperson John Atkinson called a patient traffic jam that keeps out of town ambulances sidelined and unable to respond to other emergencies in their own communities.

Alabama reported a net negative number of available staffed ICU beds yesterday. Negative. Which means they have no room, and there are patients waiting to get into the beds that are already filled. There are more patients than beds right now.

And here is the thing that I find most unsettling about this, and this involves some very, very, very easy math. The situation that Alabama is in right now is happening with the state having about 2,700 patients in the hospital. That is the level of hospitalization in Alabama that has led to this big crisis. 2,700.

Today, the University of Alabama at Birmingham predicted that the state`s current surge in COVID is going to peak this time next month, and at that point there will be more than 5,000 people in the hospital in Alabama. That`s almost double where they are now. Right now, the state is in gridlock, in crisis, no room for -- not an ICU bed in the state. That`s with 2,700 people in the hospital. Alabama expects it will be at 5,000 people in the hospital this time next month.

This is not a normal story about COVID, exhausting local nurses. A doctor at the University of Alabama is calling that scenario, that prediction quote potentially apocalyptic. Alabama, like a number of other states is overwhelmed right now. The Alabama Department of Public Health like Louisiana is now asking FEMA for federal help. They`re requesting federal staff, federal resources to help the unending flow of patients that gets worse every day, but at this point, yes, one hopes to see more federal resources de deployed but at this point I have a hard time understanding how facilities, how hospitals, how states like this are going to cope.

Joining us now is Dr. David Kimberlin., He`s co-director of the pediatric diseases at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Dr. Kimberlin, I really appreciate you being here tonight. I know what an intense time this is.

DR. DAVID KIMBERLIN, U. OF AL DIVISION OF PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASE CO- DIRECTOR: I appreciate the chance to be with you tonight, Rachel, thank you.

MADDOW: So, I`m just looking at this from the outside, and I`m a layman here, and I`m appreciative of the strain on hospitals and health care workers right now. That math scares me in terms of how strained Alabama hospitals are right now, and the prospect that numbers of hospitalized patients, people who need to be hospitalized might nearly double within a month`s time.

Let me ask if that looks any different to you close up than it seems to me from here?

KIMBERLIN: You know, from the inside, it looks even worse. I use this word carefully. I think we may be looking at a collapse of our health care system throughout the state of Alabama. As you pointed out, we had a net negative ICU beds yesterday, that`s for adult and pediatric ICU beds.

Today, Alabama surpassed Florida in terms of rates of pediatric hospitalizations with COVID, and this was not just, you know, the surge with the delta variant of COVID. That`s what`s putting the obvious strain on the system, but in addition to that, everyone else, we still have people having heart attacks, we still have people having strokes. We still have people with major trauma from automobile accidents and they have to have a place to go.

And in Mobile today, what I was told by a colleague down there, they had no ambulances. There were no ambulances to go out and pick up people. We are really at a teetering kind of break point here and I`m very scared that we might not be able to get through this without catastrophic kind of consequences.

MADDOW: And I don`t mean to push you on that because I think you`re speaking very bluntly but it sound like if there`s no ambulances right now in Mobile, and there`s no ICU beds to move people into them when they need intensive care, and there aren`t hospital beds to move people into from the emergency room who already need them, that already feels like it`s starting to be a collapse.


But you`re expecting that as more patients crush the system, as more very sick people crush the system, there`s something on the other side of this that is even more bleak in terms of what people`s lived experience is.

KIMBERLIN: That -- I mean, none of us have a crystal ball, and I would love to be wrong on this, but that is the real possibility, the barrel of the gun we`re looking down right now. I think you`re exactly right in the way you phrase that.

MADDOW: Tell me about resources being brought to bear to help. We have seen HHS dispatch teams to operate a field hospital in the parking garage at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. We saw a small navy team dispatched to a hospital in Lafayette. They are going to be able to staff 16, 18, 20 beds maybe.

Tell us about the match between the magnitude of the problem that you`re living through and what kind of external resources might make a dent, might help.

KIMBERLIN: Well, I think right now, we do need help from outside, no doubt about that. And we have a phenomenal leader of our Alabama Department of Health, Scott Harris who was in meetings all day today with the White House representative, a vaccine coordinator, leader from the White House who`s here in Alabama, and this was one of the lead issues that they were discussing throughout the day today. He`s going to be here tomorrow as well.

We welcome the input from the White House and from the national level to be able to try to get us the resources that we need. And in addition to that, I will say this in a somewhat hopeful kind of a way, we have seen this play out maybe not to this extent in our part of the country, but we`ve seen it play out over and over again across the last 18 months in other regions of the United States, and to some extent here as well back in January.

And so we have an idea of what to do. We know how to take care of patients better who have COVID. We have adequate PPE supplies for the most part. We aren`t struggling with some of the same dire challenges that we were facing last year. We just now have too many patients in this hyper transmissible delta variant, it`s not giving us any breaks here.

And until people put masks on when they go inside, and get more vaccines into arms with sleeves rolled up, I think we are going to just be looking at this event over and over again, even after we do get through this crisis. We will get through it, it`s just what it`s going to look like in the meantime.

MADDOW: Dr. David Kimberlin, co-director of pediatric diseases at the University of Birmingham, an excellent institution, and flagship research institution in the state. Thank you for speaking so bluntly, sir, and good luck to you and colleagues, please come back to us and keep us apprised. We will keep covering the story, and bring whatever national attention to it we can to help.

KIMBERLIN: We really appreciate that. Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. More to come tonight. Stay with us.



MADDOW: The way it ended was without explosion, with nobody hurt but it spun out over five exhausting and maddening hours. Today, a man from North Carolina parked a pickup truck outside, just outside the library of Congress in D.C., which sits directly adjacent to the U.S. Capitol building. The man said he had a bomb on his lap, and he threatened to blow up himself and his truck and the 2 1/2 surrounding blocks of Washington, D.C. unless he was allowed to talk to President Biden. He said he had more explosives, tons of explosives, hidden in his truck`s tool box.

Naturally, he streamed the entire thing live on Facebook because why else do we have Facebook, his live stream included his long form ramblings about his support of president Trump, he called for Democrats and the U.S. government to step down, and then they`d be jailed, and then President Trump would be put back in office, and then don`t worry, President Trump would pardon everybody who participated in the revolution which was starting right there with him. He said other, quote, patriots had joined him in his effort today, and they too had bombs and other vehicles scattered around D.C. There was no sign that was true.

In the end, again, after five mad maddening and exhausting hours, the man surrendered, he was taken into police custody. Police say as of tonight, there`s no evidence he had any accomplices at all, nor did he have a working explosive device. Police say they did however find bomb making materials in his truck, so maybe he really was trying to be a mad bomber, but he was actually just a bad bomber because although he had his stuff, he couldn`t figure out how to make real bombs.

Again, nobody was hurt, but this was an active threat, another one. In the United States capitol, and it comes just two weeks after the Department of Homeland Security sent an alert to law enforcement agencies all over the country warning of an increased threat of politically motivated violence this month specifically tied to rampant pro-Trump conspiracy theories around the election, and this fantasy among pro-Trump extremists that former president Trump will somehow be reinstated as president this month.

That was part of what this guy was ranting and raving about that he could blow up two blocks of Washington, D.C. Is this the kind of violence we were warned about, and should we see this as link to broader threats or should we see these things as random, sad, lunatics who should be treated as individuals and not as part of some larger ideologically motivated thing.

Joining us now is Ben Collins. He`s a senior reporter for NBC News. He specifically covers disinformation and extremism, which means Ben`s daily beat is pretty dark.

But, Ben, this was a different kind of dark. Thanks for being here tonight.


MADDOW: I specifically wanted to talk to you tonight because when we started, you know, when this ended today, when we knew it wasn`t going to be a bomb story, it was going to be a bomb threat story.


And we started to learn more about what this guy was apparently motivated by, I found myself wanting to ask you if it`s a good idea to report on what motivated this guy, whether we should report on what was in his live stream, whether we should report on what he thought he was doing or whether that has the potential to make this worse?

COLLINS: You know, it`s a double edged sword. I think, you know, posting all five or six Facebook live videos that he streamed that were just ramblings for a lot of the time, I think that`s useless. I don`t think that helps anybody.

But I think there`s something here. This guy was complaining -- the one through line is that his life was in shambles because he didn`t have health care, and that his wife needed a surgery and could not get it, and then by the time she got it, it seemed to disfigure her in some way, and he was still paying for it.

And then, you know, at the end of that, you would think, hey this guy should care about health care, he cares about health care, right, whatever, but that`s not what happened. The very next sentence he said, now we see all of these Afghan immigrants, we call them illegal immigrants from Mexico, and Afghanistan and they`re going to get the free stuff that we don`t have, free health care.

And what I realized is that this is just going to keep happening, you know, there is this sort of fascist authoritarian elements that pinpoints immigrants as the cause of all the problems. This is not a new concept but the idea that as things gets worse and worse through the pandemic or climate change, this is just going to keep happening. The problems are not going to get solved but they are going to be pinned on people who are not from this country.

MADDOW: Do you think that this was -- was this a modern event in the sense that do you think that this is, like you say, these are not new tropes, these ideas of scapegoating immigrants, and blaming the other, particularly the other of another color for what is definitely a homegrown problem, and putting the anxiety on the external rather than on the internal. Those aren`t new ideas but the way that he`s -- the way that he was talking about his grievances, I`m thinking about the DHS threat or alert to law enforcement agencies a couple of weeks ago, the theory behind that is that there`s something more virulent and more potentially motivating to people who are inclined to commit political violence to have stuff like this channeled through disinformation channels, through social media, and through extremist media in a way that sort of validates and encourages people who think this way.

COLLINS: Yeah, I mean, I will say that the forums that were there before January 6th that were posting all of this stuff, they`re still around. They`re still posting crazy stuff. In fact, there was, I would say, a five or six month cooling off period where people didn`t know if they were being watched by the fed, didn`t know how explicitly, they realized Donald Trump isn`t going to be the president anytime soon, and all of the audits aren`t cut and dried, in fact, it`s probably a sham, they`re starting to realize that people have to, I guess, take up arms.

That`s what they keep saying in the space. When are you going to do something? That`s what everyone keeps saying in these spaces.

I guess the difference is there`s no date. January 6th, there was this two- week leading up. It was like wrestle-mania for these people, they were waiting to go. Now everyone is like, where do we go, what do we do, that`s how you get lone wolf terror.

I do want to say really quickly, there were two QAnon terror attacks last week. There were, you know, a guy killed his kids and described it to QAnon, and the largest mass shooting in the U.K. in decades, and that guy was a Trump supporter who believed himself to be an American at heart, and he viewed that to be like gun touting and believing in QAnon and the idea that the government is filled with pedophiles or something.

So lone wolf terror is something to be worried about here in part because there is no organizing event that these people can meet up and, you know, maybe those things would diffuse these things, but in they`re lone wolves, they can do it themselves.

MADDOW: Ben, one of the things we`re watching for in coming days, we are expecting, you mentioned the audit from the 2020 election. We`re expecting that we may finally get some kind of report, some sort of conclusion, some sort of the announcement from the Cyber Ninjas who have doing the BS audit in Arizona. I`m warning you on TV, when that happens, we`re going to bring you back to talk about potential implications of what we ought to be watching for in terms of how people are going to react to that.

COLLINS: I`m excited, that`s not the word, I`m something, Rachel, but thank you.

MADDOW: This is the for mad libs. I know what you mean.

Ben Collins, senior NBC reporter, focusing on disinformation and extremism -- Ben, thank you.


Invaluable to have you here tonight. Thank you.

We`ll be right back. Stay with us.



STATE REP. DADE PHELAN (R), TEXAS HOUSE SPEAKER: Members, according to the journal clerk, pursuant to role 5, section 10, all members will please register. The clerk will ring the bell.

A quorum is present.


MADDOW: A quorum is present. That bang of the comically enormous gavel in the Texas State House this evening marked the sudden end of Texas Democrats` effort to stop the Republican-controlled legislature in Texas from passing a bill that will make it much harder for people in Texas to vote in upcoming elections.


Their tactic to try to stop Republicans from doing this was that they left the Capitol so the Texas House couldn`t pass anything. Most of the House Democrats were actually still holding out and still trying to work that strategy as of tonight. But a handful of them had decided to return over the last few days. And then today, three more House Democrats all from Houston broke ranks and went back and that was apparently enough to restore the quorum.

Once they got their quorum back after gaveling in the first session in weeks, Texas Republicans got the bills working again. The bills include their anti-voting rights bill.

Now, Democrats, as we`ve been reporting, they tried to stop the anti-voting rights bill in the Senate, in the Texas Senate, with 15-hour talking filibuster. But after she made it through 15 hours of that, Republicans still passed it. Moments after her filibuster ended.

On the House side of the Texas state capitol, they tried to stop it, of course, by denying the quorum with all those House Democrats going to Washington, D.C. that did work for weeks to slow things down, but now, as of tonight, that`s over. The bill has already been scheduled for a hearing in the House this Saturday, 8:00 a.m. local time.

As for the three Houston house Democrats whose decision to return was determinative here, they issued a statement they felt to come back to address the COVID surge. They said they were proud of what Texas accomplished by breaking quorum in the first place, now we continue the fight on the House floor. On the House floor, they are outnumbered, but they have proved very resourceful over these past few weeks and months.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight on this fine Friday eve. We`ll see you again tomorrow when undoubtedly the news will be better, won`t it? Won`t it?


Good evening, Lawrence.