Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, member of the Senate Budget, Finance and Energy Committees is interviewed. Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman is interviewed and his new book is called "Here, Right Matters: An American Story".
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Congresswoman Cori Bush, Democrat from Missouri, thank you so much for making some time with us.
I have to say, Congresswoman Cori Bush was recently on our podcast. I cannot recommend the episode enough. She`s really an incredible person. That episode is out now. You can find it wherever you get your podcast.
That is ALL IN on this Monday night.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now with Ali Velshi at the helm.
Good evening, Ali.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Chris, it`s not just that -- she -- this is kind of authentic to her, right? Cori Bush sleeping out in the streets. She is not so distant from a person who didn`t have shelter.
VELSHI: So to her, this is real.
VELSHI: And the concept of electing people who have had the lived experience of real people is kind of amazing.
HAYES: Yes. And she is really one of a kind. Well, one of a small group up in that Capitol that have the life experience she has. Also, we got to get that money out from the states.
HAYES: It`s driving me insane.
HAYES: It`s sitting there while people are getting kicked out, rather (ph) this fight in evictions -- anyway.
VELSHI: Thank you for pushing that, Chris. Have yourself a great evening. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for joining us. Rachel is enjoying a well deserved vacation. We`ve got a lot to get to this hour. In just a few moments, I will be speaking with retired Lieutenant Colonel Vindman.
In 2019, he was taking notes on a call between President Donald Trump and the President of Ukraine. It was those notes that ultimately led to Donald Trump`s first impeachment for trying to pressure the Ukrainian president into announcing a politically damaging investigation into Joe Biden. Colonel Vindman is now sharing his full story for the first time, and I am very excited to speak with him. That`s coming up in just a few moments.
But we start with a dire story out of Florida, albeit a devastatingly familiar story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANDREW PASTEWSKI, ICU MEDICAL DIRECTOR AT JACKSON SOUTH MEDICAL CENTER, FLORIDA: We had our numbers down. We were all excited. We were very busy because a lot of non-COVID patients had been waiting for care were starting to come in. But then the delta variant came and in just a very short time, just a few weeks, it has shot up from three to 30 something patients.
It feels like it was overnight. These patients are different. They`re sick. They`re young. They get sick fast.
It used to be COVID would come in and it would take a good four weeks before his lungs would completely deteriorate if he was going to be one of those patients that didn`t do well, get on a vent.
Now, I`ve got patients deteriorating in one to two weeks. I`ve now lost a 40-year-old with a pregnant fiance. I`ve got a 49-year-old, had a 23-year- old that we referred for transplant. These are sick people. And the most frustrating and amazing part of this is not one of them needed to be here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Not one of them needed to be here. That video is not from last year. It was taken at the end of last month ago at Jackson, South Medical Center in Miami, Florida. Jackson South has eight beds in their COVID ICU. As of today, all eight of them are filled with COVID patients. Six of those patients are under the age of 50, none of them are vaccinated.
The hospitals just had to open up a second COVID ICU. The new one has more than 50 beds.
On Friday, Florida recorded the highest number of new infections ever in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 21,000 new cases. Look at the chart. Florida also broke its records for hospitalizations, look at this, the most at any given time since the beginning of the pandemic.
In Broward County, just north of Miami-Dade County, the mayor announced today that his jurisdiction has the highest break in the United States along with Miami-Dade. He says the hospitals in Broward County are becoming overwhelmed, younger people are being hospitalized.
He also described a dramatic increase in the number of children who are falling ill, with back to school right around the corner. He said, at the end of June, one area emergency room saw 36 children admitted to the ER with COVID. By the end of July, the number was up to 190 children.
The mayor there summed up the situation and the state pretty well today. He said, quote, this is horrifying.
And he`s right. It is horrifying, because like the doctor in Miami said, most of these people did not need to go to the hospital. Only 49 percent in the people in Florida are fully vaccinated, that makes half the people in the state dangerously vulnerable to the highly infectious delta variant that is ripping through unvaccinated parts of this country.
And Florida is not even at the bottom of the list in terms of the states with the worst vaccination rates. Have a look at Louisiana. Louisiana is tied for first place for the bottom, third place for the state with the small`s population fully vaccinated.
Right now, Louisiana has the highest rate of new COVID infections on the entire planet. The governor of Louisiana announced today that the state is set to break its all-time record for COVID hospitalizations.
He said Louisiana`s health care system is quote, in peril.
And then he reinstated the indoor mask mandate for the entire state, because Louisiana is worse off right now than it has ever been before, or during the pandemic.
Today, a 33-member disaster medical assistance team from the federal government was dispatched to the largest hospital in Louisiana, to assist with what the hospital is quoting the highest -- calling, quote, the highest volume of COVID patients the region has experienced thus far.
We`re in August of 2021. For the parts of the country where COVID is surging right now, this is scary stuff. It`s also frustrating for health care providers knowing that the bulk of pain and suffering that they are seeing is entirely preventable. Now that we have vaccines, in August 2020, we didn`t have them.
Now, we do seem to be trending towards improvement on that front. You will remember, early in the spring, President Biden pledged that 70 percent of the country would have received at least one dose of the vaccine by July 4th. The White House ended up missing that goal, but today, a little under a month later, we got there. Seventy percent of adults in the United States have now received one shot of COVID vaccine, inching us one step closer to that elusive herd immunity.
This chart shows how many COVID shots have been administered every day. It`s a gentle uptick in the few weeks. And yes, gradual progress is still progress, but it`s not enough because our hospitals are still being overwhelmed. We are still setting new case records. Still a year and a half into this thing, it is still affecting the highest levels of our government.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham announced today that he has tested positive for COVID. He says he has mild symptoms. He says it feels like a sinus infection and he is grateful that he is fully vaccinated for COVID. Otherwise, these symptoms could have been worse. I`m glad he said that.
Graham was reportedly at a party this weekend on Senator Joe Manchin`s houseboat, along with at least four other U.S. senators. So far, no other senators there have tested positive and no one has said whether they plan to quarantine given their exposure to Senator Lindsey Graham.
All of this is unsustainable. We can`t keep doing this. When needs to change? What are we even capable of doing differently?
Joining us now is Andy Slavitt, former Biden administrative White House senior advisor for COVID response. The author of "Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response".
Andy, good to see you.
Leadership failures, politics and selfishness continue to be detrimental to us. There are selfish people out there who are challenging those of us who are vaccinated. You`re vaccinated.
How do you address what`s going on right now?
ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER SENIOR PANDEMIC ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, look, I think we -- as we said it today, with 30 percent of adults not yet vaccinated, you have a highly contagious variant that is more contagious than the 2020 variant of COVID. You get COVID in about five minutes of exposure if you are not vaccinated.
We should take seriously at the next set of measures. And I think those next set of measures include not just looking at the governments, but having employers step up and say, time to be safe in the workplace. If you`re going to come to a workplace and expose people who will expose their kids to COVID-19, you saw the story in Florida. It`s time for you to demonstrate that you`re not going to spread COVID either by getting vaccinated nor taking a regular --
VELSHI: And we`re seeing -- we saw last week, we saw that start to happen, right? New York state, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the state of California and a number of companies, that said we`re going to do this.
Some have said they are waiting for full approval of the vaccine. It`s not emergency use approval, but many have told me, including Francis Collins from the National Institutes of Health, he says there may be a legal decision, but generally speaking everybody is in a position to do that if they want to. All employers could do that now.
SLAVITT: That`s absolutely right. Two things are important. First of all, people who try to confuse emergency use authorization with experimental are either not telling you the truth or don`t understand. There is a very high standard to get something approved for emergency use authorization. Every FDA official has gone on record saying as much.
So, number one, there is no real -- that is a falsehood. Secondly, Dr. Collins is exactly correct. Employers don`t need to wait. They can act now. They can act today.
And I think if you are working for an employer, you might want to ask them why they are not guaranteeing your safety. If you frequent a business or go to a hospital, go to a doctor, ask them why they don`t require vaccinations. Those kinds of questions will help push people along to take the step that I think they need to take.
VELSHI: So, you`re an explainer. You and I have been talking for years. So, I think you would find it a reasonable exercise to explain to people who have legitimate vaccine hesitancy, either for cultural reasons or historical reasons, or whatever the case is, but that`s only half the problem in this country.
There are people who can be talked to and cajoled and coaxed and then there are people who are spouting BS all over the place about these vaccines. Some of them work in our health care establishment. I mean, Gabe Gutierrez did a story with four nurses in North Carolina. I don`t know why they are nurses if you distrust the health care system that much, do something else for a living.
SLAVITT: Well, look, there isn`t -- there is the stress of the healthcare system that has historically been earned, not for just people of color, but for lots of people who feel left out by the medical establishment and there is a lesson in this.
But there are people who are trustworthy here. There are people who -- and if you are not sure if you should get vaccinated, talk to trustworthy people. Don`t listen to someone on Facebook. Don`t listen to a political person whether it`s myself or anybody else.
Go talk to people who have been vaccinated. They`ll understand the safety that provides them. Listen to what`s good for you and your family. And I think that those are right decisions to maybe.
Nobody should shame anybody who has questions about getting vaccinated. By the same token, we have a set of people who -- immuno-compromised, or under 12, they don`t have a choice to get protected. So we need to not only as a society care about the people who have individual decisions to make, we have to care about those people that aren`t in a room and don`t get a vice.
VELSHI: Yeah, it`s a wise way to think about it, Andy. Thanks very much for joining us tonight.
Andy Slavitt is a former Biden administration White House senior adviser for COVID response -- we appreciate your time.
President Biden`s infrastructure proposals have brought into what I like to call the fox chicken corn problem. There is no logic possibly may have done in the middle school math class about a farmer who has to transport a fox, a chicken, and bag of corn across the river in a boat that can only hold him and one other thing at a time.
The problem is, left alone, the fox today the chicken, the chicken with the corn. The farmer that has to do a multi-step back and forth process to ferried them all across the river without anyone eating anyone or any one else. Congress`s got a similar order of operations puzzle to solve. And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are the farmers in this metaphor, who got us all there -- to solve it.
The Senate is finally considering bipartisan nearly $1 trillion piece of Biden infrastructure package. Debate started today with a debate on the 2,700-page bill that senators finished late last night.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says it could pass in the Senate, quote, in a matter of days. Right now, it looks like they have more than enough Republicans potentially on board to pass that bill.
Progressive leaders in the House like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have threatened they have enough votes to tank it once it gets back to the House and that they will if the Senate doesn`t pass the larger $3.5 trillion infrastructure package through budget reconciliation first.
Now, Republicans on the other hand have no particular interest the larger package. Moderates want the smaller bill first. If either pulls out, the bill has no shot of passing both Houses and getting to the president`s desk.
So Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are stuck on one side of the river with the fox, the chicken and the corn.
Now, there are huge differences between the contents of the two bills. The bipartisan one is being significantly smaller. It`s also focusing on hard infrastructure, things like roads, bridges, broadband. The larger reconciliation bill broadens out to issues like education, childcare and climate change.
But all of that only matters if either of these bills can actually get passed by both houses with reasons, moderates and progressives onboard. So how do we solve the puzzle?
Joining us now is one of the senators who could be voting on one of these infrastructure packages as soon as this week.
Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. She`s member of the Senate Budget, Finance and Energy Committees. She served as the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Senator, you told me 36 hours ago or something that don`t look too closely at how the sausages made. And I`m fine with that. I don`t think anyone wants to understand how the sausage is made, what we understand is when will we have sausage on the other side? Or like we have two sausages, is this going to get done?
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): Well, Ali, first of all, always great to be with you, whether it`s morning, noon or night. I have to tell you, as chair of the Agriculture Committee, I am trying to figure out the farmers and the corn.
So, yes, we are going to get this done. I also want to make note that this is day 1,655 since Donald Trump took office and started talking about infrastructure week. Never happened.
STABENOW: Now we have infrastructure week under Joe Biden and folks who are going to cross the aisle in the Senate.
So, yes, we are going to get it done, and, you know, as I -- I say so many times, I mean, we`re focused on the -- who is on first, who is on second, one bill, second bill.
Bottom line is what we want to do for the American people and what we are committed to doing as Democrats. So, yes.
VELSHI: You hold them both as being really important. So how do you address people like your colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or other progressives with whom we have spoken and said, no, no, I need guarantees because you -- the timeline you laid out is that, you know, you get something done, you come back from the August recess and you`ll get that reconciliation bill done. Others say I am not passing the first until the second is done.
STABENOW: Well, first of all, we`ll pass the infrastructure bill in the Senate.
STABENOW: It will go to the House and then they will determine, you know, at what point they will pass it. It will pass the budget resolution.
Bottom line, we want to fix the roads and bridges and get all of the -- rid of all of the lead pipes, Lord knows I represent Flint, Michigan, and others can talk to you about lead pipes. As well as high-speed Internet and so on.
But we know that we`ve got to address the climate crisis. We can create 10 millions doing that, or more than that, millions of jobs doing that. We want to extend the largest working class tax cut for folks. We want to help cut the cost for folks who are up at night trying to figure out what do I do about childcare and cost of medicine and cost of college.
And the great news is, we can pay for this by just making sure that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share.
So, we are looking at -- I mean, it`s a clunky process that we`re involved in right now. I agree with that. And it sort of is step by step by step. But in the end, we know what`s got to happen. We have to deal with the climb crisis.
Great news, we can create millions of jobs while doing that. And people in this country who are working hard every day need to know somebody`s got their back. They want a fair shot. And under the Republicans, what we know is the wealthy and the well-connected are going to get theirs all the time.
And what we`re saying is make the tax code work for working people. And then let`s to really important things to lower the cost of childcare. I want to have Medicare cover the cost of eyeglasses and hearing aids and the cost to go to the dentist for our seniors.
There is so many pieces here that need to get so people feel like somebody sees them, hears them, understands what they`re struggling with every day, and that they`re on their side. And that`s what we`re doing as Democrats.
VELSHI: You have a lot of work to get done in the Senate now and after the recess. Unfortunately, one of your Senate colleagues has contracted COVID, Senator Lindsey Graham. I`m glad that he tweeted out that he is feeling all right, feels like sort of sinus infection, and he says he was glad he was vaccinated because that`s a message that people need to here.
However, they were on house boat with Joe Manchin the other day. The Senate doesn`t allow proxy voting. So, I`m hoping everybody -- look, I`m generally hoping everybody is healthy. Does this affect anybody`s schedule?
STABENOW: Well, we are proceeding. Folks that were on the boat have gotten tested. No one else so far has tested positive and we`re just going to keep going step-by step by step. You know, it`s -- the legislative process, first of all, is one where there is never an absolute -- I shouldn`t say never -- oftentimes, not an absolute deadline. So, you have to create deadlines, which Senator Schumer is doing in a really important way. He is exerting incredible leadership saying we`re staying, we`re not going home until the whole thing is done.
So whether, you know, no matter how that comes together, we`re not going home until we deal with the physical infrastructure needs of our country and we deal with the things that keep people up at night, including extending and most important middle class tax cut we have done in a generation. And Lord knows we have to address the climate crisis.
And as I said, good news is, it creates millions of jobs. Good news is we can pay for all this by simply saying, you know, I say all the time, Republicans say we`re trying to raise people`s taxes. I say you know what? If you are asking a billionaire to pay more than zero, I don`t call that a tax increase.
VELSHI: Senator, good to see you. Thanks for joining us. Senator Debbie Stabenow of the state of Michigan, we always appreciate your time.
All right. Coming up, it was the bombshell that set often the first impeachment of Donald Trump but it also had life changing repercussions for the man who reported it to authorities. I`m excited to say that Alexander Vindman, the man who appended the first asterisk to Donald Trump`s presidency will be right with me in the studio after this.
VELSHI: All right. From his new book, "Here, Right Matters" by retired Army Colonel -- Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, quote: I was set to testify to Congress on Tuesday, October 29, and had to prepare an opening statement. Reviewing all of the previous witness depositions that had been made public, I saw that while each had made a persuasive professional case for their views on foreign policy, they hadn`t attempt to connect -- they hadn`t attempted to connect on a more personal basis with the ordinary Americans who were following the impeachment hearings on TV.
As I had a personal story to tell, I decided to begin my statement with my career of service and my immigrant family`s American dream. I thought if I provided that context there was a chance that a lot of Americans would understand why I had to do what I was doing.
My wife Rachel and I huddled upstairs in our daughter Ellie`s room on Monday, the day before my testimony, to go through the final draft word by word; then I sent it to my legal team for their final approval. When Ellie got home from school that day, I helped her do her makeup for her Halloween costume and then we went to Girl Scout Halloween party.
During the event, I called my legal team one more time. Everything looked good. They then sent my opening statement to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Rachel still remembers the drive home from that Halloween party. We chatted about the logistics of getting me into D.C. the next morning for the testimony.
We picked up my dress uniform from the dry cleaner. Looking back, we can see that those were our last couple hours of normalcy. Today in our life as a family, there`s before impeachment and after impeachment, end quote.
Well, that night when that opening statement became public, all of us for the first time met Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, who was at the time the top Ukraine expert on the White House National Security Council. His decision to testify to impeachment investigators about he heard on a phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine would irrevocably change his life. It would change the Trump presidency. It would change the country.
Colonel Vindman was the first impeachment witness who actually had listened in on phone call at the center of that inquiry, the phone call in which President Trump pressured the Ukrainian president, Zelensky, to announce investigations into Joe Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for American support that Ukraine desperately needed against Russia.
The phone call in which Donald Trump infamously told Zelensky, I would like you to do us a favor, though.
And the reason I wanted to start with that particular passage from Colonel Vindman`s new book with the wonderful human details of a normal life about to be upended is it gets at reason his testimony was so powerful and so effecting, why it is -- why it is probably the best remembered testimony of the entire impeachment hearings.
The way Colonel Vindman explained it in his testimony, his decision to report what he heard and to testify about what he heard was inseparable from his life history as an immigrant and as a soldier.
He hoped to connect on a personal basis with ordinary Americans watching the impeachment on TV. He succeeded.
Alexander Vindman`s new book, "Here, Right Matters", is an exploration of how he found himself at that pivotal moment before impeachment, after impeachment, and how he came to make the decisions that he did at the time.
He writes, quote: I wasn`t born with any special degree of courage or some especially firm moral compass. Nobody is. We become the people we are by learning.
And in Colonel Vindman`s telling, everything in his history was at work the day he was on the call with President Trump and the Ukrainian leader. From his own family`s history of adversity in the Soviet Ukraine, to his widowed father`s decisions to immigrate to America with Alexander and his brothers so they could pursue a better life, to the values he learned in the Army where he received a Purple Heart after being injured in an IED attack in Iraq.
By Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman`s own account, there was nothing special about him. He was just a military officer and a government national security official doing his job. He saw wrongdoing and called it out.
And one of the things we learned from the years of the Trump administration is that there are plenty of government officials who will not do that, who will keep their heads down and try to please the president no matter what the president wants.
But we also learned that the government is full of people like Alexander Vindman, people who discovered that their particular sense of patriotism and duty is exactly what is needed in that moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN (RET), U.S. ARMY: Dad, my sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol and talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry. I`ll be fine for telling the truth.
REP. SEAN MALONEY (D-NY): And why do you have confidence that you can do that? And tell your dad not to worry?
VINDMAN: Congressman, because this is America. This is the country I have served and defended, that all of my brothers have served and here, right matters.
MALONEY: Thank you, sir. I yield back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: And joining me now is retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. His new book is called "Here, Right Matters: An American Story". It comes out tomorrow.
Colonel Vindman, it`s an honor to have you here. Thank you for being here.
VINDMAN: Thank you for having me, Ali.
VELSHI: You said there, here, right matters, dad, I`ll be okay. And then you were forced out of your job at the White House, and then you were refused a promotion to full colonel and you were forced to retire from the Army.
Is that okay?
VINDMAN: It`s not. But that`s not why I took the actions I did. I took the actions I did because I saw that there was corruption and I had a duty to - - doesn`t make a difference who it was. The president of the United States or not, I had a responsibility to make a correction to speak to the right people, to see if we could fix the issue.
VELSHI: You knew immediately that you had to do something. You went directly to your brother`s office, who also worked at the White House.
And you said to him, if this gets out, the president is going to be impeached.
Did the sense of weight and consequence come to you at that time?
VINDMAN: Absolutely. I was aware of the import of that moment. I had no idea how it was going to change my life. I knew that there were -- there was a significant amount of risk I was taking on my shoulders and that probably I had jeopardized my position at the White House.
But I also knew that the situation was much, much bigger than me and that I had sworn an oath to uphold -- and to uphold that oath, I had to report what I had observed.
VELSHI: What did your brother tell you? He worked there too. He knew this was going to come down heavy.
VINDMAN: He looked at me. He -- he`s my twin brother. He knows me more than just about anybody else in this world. And he -- he immediately recognized the severity of the moment.
I quickly told him that, you know, we need to go report this to the right authorities. Thinking was very straightforward that these officials had both a duty like I did, which they, unfortunately, failed to fulfill, and an access to the president to get him to recognize that he was engaging in a corrupt enterprise. And that`s exactly what I did.
VELSHI: So, let`s go back. You start your book with that phone call. But let`s go back to before that, late 2018, early 2019. The president`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had been floating this false narrative about Ukraine having been responsible for hacking the 2016 election and trying to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
You write that this, quote: strange political scheme was unimaginably remote from anything I was working on for high-level global U.S. strategy. To use us in the policy community, Giuliani`s move -- sorry, to us in the policy community, Giuliani`s moves were bewildering but also, at first, a lot more noise than signal. People who have read the retrospective reporting have a better sense of what was happening than I or my colleagues could have had at the time or would have necessarily wanted to have.
This was really weird. You`re a policy expert. You know that part of the world. You speak Ukrainian. You speak Russian.
This is -- what Giuliani was talking about had nothing to do with anything. It was complete falsehood.
VINDMAN: It was a political errand and to serve the interests of a corrupt president, a president that was seeking to tip the scales in his favor in an upcoming election. And for me, I probably didn`t calculate all that at that very moment. What I did calculate is -- that this was wrong, this is not the way our system is supposed to work, and that the very foundation of our democracy is based on free and fair elections and the president was looking to upend that.
VELSHI: And it was completely outlandish. Were you even worried? Because when Giuliani started talking about this, me with my limited sort of understanding what goes on in that part of the world, even I knew it was ridiculous.
VELSHI: Did you just dismiss it as rantings of a --
VINDMAN: I did early on. But then Ambassador Yovanovitch was removed from her position and it starts to interfere with the work that we were doing in the White House, including canceling Vice President Pence`s participation in the trip.
It was basically directly related to the fact that Giuliani wasn`t getting the play he needed with the Ukrainian government and the president, President Trump, pulled the plug to signal that this is where he wanted the Ukrainians to act. He wanted them involved in this investigation.
VELSHI: You -- I want to read another passage where you describe what happened after you told your brother and how you decided to report it up the chain of command.
Once the responsible people up the chain of command, the people with proper clearances and need to know, learned of the president`s actions, we in the broader policy community could act. We could figure out how to advise the president on the gross error in judgment, walk back and cancel his inappropriate demand and continue to move toward stabilizing relationships and executing a cogent foreign policy.
If it was my duty to report the president`s misconduct, that it was our collective duty to assess the damage, manage the fallout, have the wayward president`s most senior counselors rein him in and get our jobs done. That was the process I planned to start.
VINDMAN: That`s exactly right.
VELSHI: Didn`t unfold that way entirely.
VINDMAN: It didn`t. But it culminated in something close to the accountability. It culminated way outside of the scope what I would consider at the moment. But it certainly unfolded where address Congress took action, investigated the president`s wrongdoing and impeached him.
And ultimately, the American public did hold the president accountable, even though the Republican leadership at the time didn`t. They failed in their responsibility. They failed to live up to their oath. But the American public did.
For that, for that corruption, for the ineffective management of a pandemic that resulted in some 600,000 deaths, for an economic catastrophe, the American public held voted and held the president accountable. And I think that`s an example of here right mattering.
VELSHI: There is a lot of stuff in this book that`s about what happened in that room and subsequently in the impeachment process. There`s also a lot of stuff about you and who you are and how you were formed and your history, and I want to talk about that when we come back.
Our guest is retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. His book, "Here, Right Matters", comes out tomorrow.
We`ll be right back after this.
VELSHI: All right. We`re back with retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. His new book is called "Here, Right Matters: An American Story". It comes out tomorrow.
Colonel Vindman, thanks for sticking with us.
You and I were talking about this earlier. It`s never rewarding to be a whistle-blower. And you couldn`t have thought at the time that it was going to be rewarding. You were motivated by other things. You say, "Here, right matters", and you spend a lot of time in the book talking about your father and decisions he made for your family and how you became you.
There are people out there who are wondering whether they should report things that are not right.
What do you have to tell them?
VINDMAN: Well, there is a sense of idealism that I still carry with me to this day. I think it helps -- helps me be resilient and about bounce back.
But in reality, things are not that easy. There were -- there were trials and tribulations throughout the kind of persecution from the White House, and then in the period after I left the White House, try to determine if I had a military career.
That`s the way things really are in life. The question is, what do you do with that? Do you let that push you down and do you -- do you crumble or do you bounce back?
And what I try to tell is the story of my family doing this repeatedly throughout the years and the tools that assembled as a young man, maybe a little misguided at times. I talk about that.
And then as an army officer, there is tools I assembled all coming together both to navigate that very difficult affair, unprecedented army officer challenging the president of the United States, because the president was not acting in accordance with the Constitution. And then everything that happened afterwards, rebuilding, starting from scratch and figuring out what I wanted to do next.
VELSHI: You talk about your dad who also rebuilt and started from scratch. He actually didn`t leave the Soviet Union because things were bad. Things were good and he left and came here and started from scratch, an engineer who ended up lifting furniture to pay the bills in America.
You talk a lot about him and about the lessons he taught you. But he wasn`t sure you were doing the right thing here. In fact, he was a Trump supporter.
VINDMAN: He was. And he left at 47 from a very comfortable position. But they were bad in that there were possibilities for his children were not there and his wife, my mother that was dying of cancer, wasn`t going to survive in the Soviet Union.
But yes, he was a Trump supporter. And I think that`s a common vein amongst immigrants, especially from that Soviet era, that have this rejection of anything left, liberal and overcorrect and heed to the right. And he certainly -- that was his mindset.
But there was more to that when he counseled me to kind of figure out a way to reconcile with the president. He had a deep fear of what might happen to me, the consequences of my actions, for my career and maybe even channeling some of his views of what happens to somebody in Russia. He -- I would have not survived that.
VELSHI: And when you told him what you were going to do, first of all, you thought he might have misheard, but he was also very worried because he was -- had images of what someone like you in Russia pulling that, what would happen to them, including jail and possibly death.
VINDMAN: More than likely. I mean, certainly in various periods in the Soviet era, it wouldn`t just be me. It would be my family. And we saw some reflections of that in the Trump administration when my brother was walked out. It was some sort of a punishment that extended to family members also, totally unacceptable in the United States.
VELSHI: How do you feel about this now? I mean, given all the ups and downs of it, how do you feel today?
VINDMAN: I have no regrets about my actions. One of the most important things is the fact that I could both -- I could live with may actions and I could look my daughter in her eyes and not have to equivocate, not try to rationalize, not try to explain away some misdeeds that I did, falling short, and that makes me very proud that I can do that.
And I also have that deep confidence that my father had coming here to the United States rebuilding that I will end up being fine. I`m working on a doctorate at Johns Hopkins. I`m at a think tank, doing all sorts of interesting things, having wonderful conversations with people like yourself.
And these things would not be afforded to me -- I would have had a easier go if I would have stayed in, kept quiet, like so many of the people, but that wasn`t my --
VELSHI: You would have been a full colonel.
VELSHI: Your title of the book is "Here, Right Matters." You believe that still? Here, right matters?
VINDMAN: I do, but not in the very simplistic notion that everything works out exactly as -- as one would hope. "Here, right matters" really matters only if we make it matter, if we`re active in the process, if we`re engaged, if we`re trying to drive the things that are important us to.
In my case, as soon as I left uniform -- I got out of uniform, I didn`t want to be a political actor but I spoke out against President Trump. I tried to have an impact, speaking out against President Trump, talking about his corruption. And I hope that was -- I hope that was impactful.
And I`m going to continue to do that, advocating for public servants that don`t have a voice while they are in service. I am going to do that by advocating for national security and I am going to make it matter.
VELSHI: Thank you for your service, sir.
VINDMAN: Thank you.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, his new book is "Here, Right Matters." It is out tomorrow.
We appreciate your time.
VINDMAN: Thank you.
VELSHI: It`s been three weeks since Democratic state legislators left their state in Texas for Washington, D.C., in a desperate attempt to save voting rights for their constituents. They`ve held press conferences and protests, pushing Congress to act on national voting rights legislation and now, they are bringing in reinforcements.
Much more on the summer of direct action when we come back.
VELSHI: Today saw a lot more unrest on Capitol Hill as the poor people`s campaign continued its season of nonviolent direct action to put pressure on lawmakers on issue of voting rights. Today`s rally in Washington, D.C., culminated in a march to the Senate office where they chanted and sang, which side are you on?
More than 200 people are arrested by U.S. Capitol Police for crowding and obstructing offenses as they demanded action from Congress on voting legislation. Among those arrested were civil rights leader Jesse Jackson Jr. and the co-founder of the progressive group, Indivisible, and the friend of this show, Ezra Levin. As you can see other people there too all waiting in line to be cuffed.
The co-chair of the Poor People`s Campaign, Reverend William Barber, was also arrested again. Poor People`s Campaign are ramping up the number of rallies and marches to call attention to four demands they want lawmakers to address of the end the filibuster, pass all provisions of the For the People Act, fully restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act and raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
They are not the only ones trying to spur change this Washington. Today, more than 100 state legislators from 29 states traveled to D.C. to stand in solidarity with the Texas Democratic lawmakers who fled their state to block that restrictive voter bill.
They plan to hold a rally outside the capitol tomorrow at noon to urge Congress to pass voting rights legislation. They will also hold private meetings with members of Congress.
Joining us is Florida State Representative Anna __ , who is spearheading this effort to bring state legislators to the nation`s Capitol.
And Texas State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, one of the Texas lawmakers who fled the state to stall a restrictive voting rights bill.
Thank you so much to both for joining us tonight.
Representative Eskamani, you are trying to make the point that you are trying to stand in solidarity with these Texas lawmakers, but you want to draw attention to the fact that this is not just a Texas problem this is happening all over the country.
STATE REP. ANNA V. ESKAMANI (D), FLORIDA: Absolutely. I mean, here in Florida, we are inspired by the Texas Democrats watching members of the Texas legislature step up and step out. And say we`re not going to play this game of voter suppression with you, really set the tone for other Democrats across the legislatures in this country.
And in Florida, we watched our governors sit behind a voter suppression bill to a Fox News only audience, which further amplified how this was a political attack on the right to vote, an effort to pander to his political base.
So, here in Florida, we are suffering the same efforts of voter suppression, and we have to stand solitary with their Texans, but also fight to push for action in Congress.
VELSHI: Representative Martinez Fischer, talk to me about how this feels to you. You are getting this summer of action. You`re getting these people who are marching in Austin, the march to Austin this weekend. Now you have people joining you there, in more civil action, you have all individually made the case to Congress that you need them to put their back into this thing, you can`t hold out forever.
STATE REP. TREY MARTINEZ FISCHER (D), TEXAS: That`s right, we are moving this needle inch by inch day by day. It is a shot of adrenaline to have lawmakers from across the country, stand with us. Number one, we`re honored. Number two, we`re humbled. Number three, it`s just that important.
This is a now or never moment for our democracy in this country. And we are going to keep pushing the U.S. Senate, to give us, just one standard order when it comes to voting in this country and that is an American standard.
We do not need voter suppression. We do not need states to have their voices across this country. We need the Congress to act. And when 100 lawmakers come together, men and women who have put everything, you know, on the line, that we need to convey the message that it`s now or never. We need to have voter reform in this country.
VELSHI: Representative Eskamani, what do you say to say people, including Joe Manchin who just talked about the fact this weekend, he said that, the For the People Act would divide the country further. He and a few others are holding to this idea that if this is not bipartisan, and everybody is not on board with this thing, it`s not going to work. But it doesn`t look like Republicans are going to be on board with it.
ESKAMANI: Well, we have to remember that these are the same Republican members of Congress that voted to not investigate the January 6th insurrection. So I mean, with all due respect to Senator Manchin and others that are opposed to this effort, we have to remember that we are in this situation with an insurrection taking place at the Capitol, is because of voter suppression. Because of his status quo approach in politics that is pushed out different voters, including voters with disabilities, black and brown people, working class people, from being able to have their voice heard, to be able to have representation that reflects them in their values.
And so, it`s really important we stressed all members of the U.S. Senate, that voting is, it doesn`t have to be a partisan issue. This is about the people of this country, not politicians. And we need a push to make sure that every person`s access to fair elections.
VELSHI: Representative Martinez Fischer, your governor, Greg Abbott, tweeted, I will keep calling special sessions until we address every emergency item including funding for posture care, property tax and bail reform. The Democrat`s decision to break quorum inflicts harms on the very Texans, who elected them to serve.
MARTINEZ FISCHER: My response is the governor had 140 days of a regular session to take care of the people`s business. And he failed to do so, that`s the responsibility he`s going to have to bear.
And make no mistake: we are not going to get steam rolled when it comes to voting rights in our state of Texas. We are going to stand up, we are going to pushback, we are going to say no, we are going to rally this country like we have been, and like I said, we are honored to stand with 100 men and women from across this country, rallying tomorrow at 12 noon Eastern, right outside the Russell Building, of the U.S. Senate, and we want everyone to come and join us because it is a now or never moment for this country.
VELSHI: And Representative Eskamani, are you heartened by the fact that there are people literally willing to put their bodies on the line. They are literally lined up today waiting to be cuffed.
ESKAMANI: It`s inspirational, Ali. It really is. It is speaks to this nation`s history of one that cares about voting rights, one that cares about democracy -- one where people are willing to sacrifice their own livelihoods and put their bodies on the line to do what`s right. And we are committed as lawmakers across this country to do the same.
VELSHI: Thanks to both you for being with tonight. Florida State Representative Anna Eskamani and Texas State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, we appreciate your time.
Up next we have an update on the story Rachel`s been following very closely. Stay with us.
VELSHI: Secretary of State Antony Blinken, today, announced the arrival to the United States of a second flight from Operation Allies Refuge. That`s the coordinated effort to relocate, to the United States, thousands of Afghan nationals who assisted American troops and diplomats during the war in Afghanistan, and who are now being targeted by the Taliban as retaliation. The 200 or so passengers in this flight are part of a group of 2,500 Afghans who qualified for special-immigrant visas. Another group of about 4,000 Afghan nationals are to go to third countries to complete their visa paperwork, before being resettled in the United States.
Over 20,000 Afghans have applied for special visas, and many can`t come to the U.S., yet, because they haven`t initiated the paperwork -- paperwork process or completed the security screening. Advocates are calling for the Biden administration to bring them here, regardless. Another concern is what to do with the Afghans who do not qualify for those special visas.
On this front, the administration delivered some much-needed news. Blinken said today the U.S. also plans to expand resettlement eligibility to all those who do not meet the strict criteria of the current-visa program. They are calling it a priority-2 designation, without a doubt, a welcomed effort but, yet, far from perfect.
"Politico" is reporting that, quote, these newly eligible Afghans must receive a referral from a current or former employer before the State Department can begin processing their cases. They are also responsible for getting themselves and their families out of Afghanistan and into a third country, without U.S. assistance.
We are going to continue to keep you updated on this important story.
And that does it for us, tonight. We will see you, again, tomorrow.
It`s time now for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."