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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 8/24/21

Guests: Ben Jealous, John Hudson


The U.S. House advances President Biden`s jobs and infrastructure plans. U.S. House passed John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. CIA Director William Burns met with Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN on this Tuesday night which means "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

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

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

We`ve got lots going on tonight. Lots of developing news.

Over the course of this hour, we`re going to be talking about the latest from Afghanistan, of course, where the U.S. evacuation effort is both at its highest capacity yet and it is also now starting to head towards an off-ramp.

Last week, we saw the number of evacuees flown out of the Kabul airport climb from fewer than a thousand during the beginning of the week to over 5,000 per day at the end of the week. Last night, we reported they had evacuated a gigantic number, nearly 11,000 people in one day in the 24 hours from Sunday to Monday.

Now, today, the Pentagon says the latest number in the latest 24-hour period is they got more than 21,000 people out. 21,000 people evacuated in one day. That means the U.S. air lift out of Kabul overall has removed more than 70,000 people from Kabul since they started ten days ago which is an astonishing number.

But with the president planning to get U.S. troops out entirely by the initial deadline he set which is next week, August 31st, the evacuation effort will necessarily have to start to ramp down. Troops will have to start to leave. It takes time to get them out safely.

As of today, U.S. troop numbers are already dropping at the Kabul airport. What will that mean in terms of the pace of evacuations and the orderliness of evacuations and the commitment to get every American and every Afghan ally of American troops and the American people out of there?

We`re going to have a live report on that situation coming up, including the news today about the reported meeting between the director of the CIA, William Burns, and a senior Taliban official. This is the Taliban co- founder who the Trump administration got sprung from prison in 2018. They arranged for his release from prison in 2018. This is the guy who Trump had his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meet with in person last year. Today, we learned that President Biden`s CIA director met with him as well.

It`s almost impossible to imagine, but it happened. We will have more on that story coming up this hour, as well news about the Republican and Democratic members of congress, a bipartisan duo who unexpectedly caught flights and turned up in Afghanistan outside sort of official channels in a way that seems to have very much angered people involved in evacuation efforts who say that their unexpected presence in the evacuation zone led to a huge distraction and divergence of evacuations that was needed at this crucial time.

Again, a member of Congress who`s a Democrat and a member of Congress who is a Republican, each of whom is an Afghanistan veteran, from a former life, from their previous -- pre-Congress careers, that story is breaking tonight. We`ll have more on that coming up.

Here at home, National Guard troops are being dispatched domestically by two more governors in Tennessee and Georgia as the unrelenting rise of sick COVID patients continues to swamp more and more hospitals particularly in the American South. Today at the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci gave a brief scientific briefing on monoclonal antibody treatment. This treatment for people who have COVID and if you can get this treatment to people in time, it can reduce their chances of having to be hospitalized by 70 to 85 percent. It`s an astonishingly effective treatment approved for use by the NIH.

This is not one of those snake oil cures, not one of those quack cures that you read about on Facebook. This is actually an NIH-approved treatment. Even in states where vaccine uptake has been terrible, the distribution of monoclonal antibody treatment has ramped up. The federal government is pushing out more of this and it`s turning out to be a safety net option to try to save the hospitals. Not only to save lives but to save the hospitals to try to keep infected people from getting sick and having to be hospitalized. We are seeing big increases in the use of these monoclonal antibody treatments in states like Alabama, and Mississippi and Florida, so many of these deep red states, where politics and particularly conservative politicians have played a part in why people don`t want the vaccine.

Even in those places when monoclonal antibody treatment is being made available, it is starting to help. Dr. Fauci briefing on that from the White House today, it may further accelerate the uptake of that treatment which could be a silver lining. So, we`re watching that continued development.

The COVID news really does keep spiraling. The NRA, of all organizations tonight, announced they are canceling their annual meeting which was planned for next weekend in Houston, Texas. You might have seen the headlines this morning and last night that Houston just shut down three emergency rooms in the city because they can`t longer handle the influx of sick COVID patients into the hospital system through those ERs. They`re literally shutting down ERs to try and stem the flow of COVID patients into over burdened hospitals.

So, yeah, maybe not a great time for a big, undoubtedly unmasked indoor confab in the city of Houston. And nowhere to take people if anyone falls ill. The NRA canceling that major meeting.

But something else is going on today we`ve been watching very closely. It`s been playing out over the last 24 hours or so. And one sign that this drama was unfolding was that President Biden was running very, very late.

President Biden today was scheduled to deliver remarks from the White House about Afghanistan and he was initially expected to deliver those remarks, scheduled to deliver the remarks around noon. He did not give those remarks at noon. Then the White House said it will be at 2:00 the president will give his remarks. Then it was almost 3:00 and there was still no sign of President Biden. Then, the White House said, okay, we`re expecting now maybe more like 4:30 for those remarks.

Now in stepping back from this for a second. People who cover President Biden and frankly people who cover almost every president, you know, grow accustomed to the fact that presidential speeches often start 20 or 30 minutes late, sometimes even an hour late. It happens. Almost no presidents are perfectly punctual.

But even for this president, which is late like all of them, 4 1/2 hours was an impressive delay for a presidential speech. What`s going on?

And with all of the moving parts around Afghanistan and all of the human drama, necessity, and urgency, all of the you know sort of unexpected breaking news out of Afghanistan, it was considered it was news -- it was circumstances on the ground delaying things.

As it turned out, at least according to the White House press secretary, the reason President Biden`s speech on Afghanistan kept getting pushed back and pushed back and pushed back was not about new developments in Afghanistan. When he gave his remarks, they didn`t reflect he had been waiting for last-minute developments out of Afghanistan. It turns out what he was waiting for was a vote in the House.

And when President Biden did finally take to the podium at the White House at the end of the day today his first remarks were not about Afghanistan. Instead, he just spoke about what happened on the House floor, including this emphatic shout-out.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank Speaker Pelosi who was masterful in her leadership on this.


MADDOW: Emphasize that word there. Speaker Pelosi was masterful in her leadership.

Today did end up being yet another lesson in one of the iron rules of today`s Washington, whether you agree with her or not, whether you are rooting for her or not. Whether you want her to win or you want her to lose, no matter what, do not under estimate Nancy Pelosi.

Here`s what went down. The center piece of President Biden`s agenda is, of course, his infrastructure, right? And it has two separate bills in Congress. There is a smaller bill, which is a bipartisan bill whittled down to a few hundred billion dollars in order to get Republicans on board as long as Democrats.

Many people, myself included, thought that Republican senators were just stringing Democrats along, stringing President Biden along just wasting time and ultimately they`d kill even that small bill. I was wrong. The other cynics were wrong. Lo and behold, earlier this month, that smaller bill did pass the Senate. And it just didn`t get the bare minimum of 10 Republican votes, it got 19 Republican votes. I was totally wrong. There is a smallish bipartisan infrastructure bill that did pass the senate. Even Mitch McConnell voted for it. So, that`s one bill.

For all the other things President Biden and other Democrats want to do including big investments in education, and climate, and health care, all sorts of other priorities, there`s a second bill. That bill is much bigger. That billion is going to be in the trillions. That`s a transformative, Great Society-sized bill. And Democrats can`t pass that through the Senate even if they get no Republican votes but in order to do that they have to have all 50 Senate Democrats have to hang together, all 50 Democrats have to vote for it.

And in the House actually, the margin isn`t that much broader. In the House, they only have a handful of votes to spare.

Now, from the beginning, the Democrats` plan for keeping their caucus together, uniting what is a fairly diverse caucus, includes moderates, and progressives and lots of people in between. The plan has been that the House would do bill one and bill two at the same time. The House said from the outset explicitly and repeatedly, they were not going to pass that smaller bipartisan bill that had all the Republican support until Senate Democrats followed through and passed the bigger more progressive bill as well.


You cannot get the smaller bill unless you get the big bill, too. That has been the plan for months. That`s been the deal, and it`s been overt and explicit. Everybody from President Biden, to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and to Senator Chuck Schumer, everybody has been explicit about this and everybody has said they`re on board.

But then a few days ago, a handful of conservative Democrats in the House decided they would try to blow up the whole plan. It`s nine House Democrats who decided they would give Nancy Pelosi an ultimatum and they would do it their way instead of her way.

And because the Democratic margin in the House is so small, I guess they felt like they had the power to do it. They were going to block the big bill, the big progressive infrastructure bill unless Speaker Pelosi and all the rest of the House Democrats passed the Senate small bipartisan bill right now, cleanly with no link to the larger bill.

It is genuinely unclear why this handful of Democrats, they`re like 4 percent of the House of Democratic Party, there`s nine of them, it`s unclear exactly why they wanted to do this. They couldn`t really give a coherent, like policy-based answer about why it was important to blow up this months-long plan and only pass a smaller thing. Why did they want to do that? I don`t know.

They did get a lot of free media out of it. A lot of them did get a lot of TV time out of it, and they got their names in the paper. Maybe that was it. Their plan did seem like it was mutually assured destruction.

I mean, if they had blocked the larger bill, the big progressive bill, multi-trillion dollar bill, much larger group of Democrats in the House, the House progressives, weren`t going to vote for the Republican bill, they weren`t going to vote for that small bill, and that would mean nobody would get anything. Neither the small bill would pass nor the big bill would pass and the Democratic president`s whole economic agenda would go down in flames with nothing passed.

Great plan, right? What a strategy for the midterms. Look at us. Democrats control the House and the Senate and the White House and we can do nothing because we stood up and insisted that nothing be done. Vote for me. Tough district, right? That was apparently the plan.

So, last night, the time for the first scheduled House vote arrived on the big bill, the big Democrats-only infrastructure bill. The time for that vote came and went and there was no vote. And there was no vote because the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knows what she`s doing and she does not call a vote until she assures she has the votes to win.

Just after 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time last night, Jake Sherman at "Punchbowl News" tweeted this a mostly empty Capitol hallway reporting that members of Congress were being asked to hang around just in case Speaker Pelosi called a vote. Quote: Some members of Congress are enjoying watering holes around the Capitol while sitting around drinking waiting to find out whether or not they`d be called upon to vote.

Ultimately, the House went home last night without voting. They came back today to try again and nobody knew it was going to happen and, frankly, not all that many people were focused on it. There`s a lot going on in the world and the news today. You can be forgiven for not even knowing this was happening today but this is actually the whole Biden legislative agenda or a very large portion of it for his first term as president.

And so, we`re watching Capitol Hill all day, as the president delays his speech by two hours, then four hours, then five hours. We`re wondering if we`re about to watch Joe Biden`s agenda, his legislative agenda for his presidency, we`re wondering whether it is going to collapse. Will Nancy Pelosi be able to do it?

And then finally this afternoon Speaker Pelosi did call for a vote on the big bill, giant infrastructure bill, multi-trillion dollar bill, huge priority for Democrats and President Biden, what President Biden wants to be his legacy, and she called for that vote this afternoon and every single House Democrat voted for it. Yes. Even the ones who spent the last week saying they were going to kill it.

And for all their protests and their red lines and their insistence that they would block this bill if they did not get exactly what they wanted, those nine conservative Democrats in the end got nothing.


BIDEN: I want to thank Speaker Pelosi who was masterful in her leadership on this.


MADDOW: When Speaker Pelosi walked off the floor this evening, a CNN reporter caught up with her and asked the deal she reached to get them to vote for the bill. Speaker Pelosi responded, quote, what deal? They wanted clarification about how we go forward and that`s what we did.


Oh. You think I had to do a deal with them? Oh, that`s cute.

You would think people in Washington, D.C., would have learned this by now. Do not under estimate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Whether you agree with her, disagree with her. Whether you are rooting for her or against her, do not under estimate her. When she is determined to get a piece of legislation in the House she will determine whether or not it can be done. If she can be done, she will do it, Oh, you would like some kind of deal? Let me give you a clarification.

Some day let us all be able to operate in our worlds with that kind of efficacy. Look, this is still early in what is going to be a long process of negotiation among and between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats have to hold together through a lot of these ups and downs before these bills become law, before, again, this legislation that President Biden wants to be his legacy as president, before it can get to his desk there is going to be a lot of ups and downs.

But in amidst of everything else going on today, President Biden was able to announce from the White House that his economic agenda, his giant plan, his Great Society plan to invest trillions of dollars into the American people, into American infrastructure, into American education, into fighting climate change, it is one big step closer to getting done.

And then as soon they wrapped that vote, House Democrats moved onto the other major plank of their legislative agenda, without which in the long run they couldn`t do nothing, and that is voting rights. Just within the last couple of hours, the House passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act which would provide more tools for voters to fight state level voting restrictions that are being enacted hand over fist right now in Republican led states coast to coast.

The John Lewis Voting Act would essentially restore some of the protections that the Supreme Court has gutted from the Voting Rights Act in twin decisions this year and back in 2013. But just like with the Democrats have the big voting rights bill, the For the People Act, the thing standing in the way of the John Lewis Act is the Senate. Republicans in the Senate filibustered the For the People Act. They will certainly filibuster the John Lewis Act too.

The only way forward in terms of protecting the right to vote remains what it has always been from day one of this Congress -- Senate Democrats not only have to agree to support and defend voting rights, they have to agree to do something about it. And because Republicans will not support them on voting rights, in order to do something about it they will have to at least carve an exception out of that filibuster rule. At minimum, they will have to make a carve out in the filibuster for voting rights legislation and that has been true and obvious from the beginning.

And for all that is going on in the world right now, and all of the pressures, including the time sensitive pressures on this administration, all the things that have to be handled, if voting rights really a top priority for this White House and for their Democratic -- and the White House`s Democratic ally in Congress, they either get this done or they don`t.

If they don`t get this done, Republicans in the states will continue to put more severe restrictions on voting rights than we have seen in more than a generation.

So Democrats are either going to not fight back and let Republicans run the table on voting rights or they`re going to get it together. The pressure is on in terms of trying to get them to get it together, to commit to do what`s necessary to move ahead on it.

And we have seen over the course of the summer, we`ve covered this intensively. All of these arrests including members of Congress, these dignified acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, by members of Congress like Joyce Beattie, and Hank Johnson, and Sheila Jackson Lee, all three members of Congress arrested at the very powerful, peaceful, civil obedience demonstrations, at Senate office buildings. We`ve seen Democratic state lawmakers in Texas flee their state in order to temporarily block Republicans there from passing draconian new voting restrictions in Texas.

Where did those Texas Democrats go? They went to Washington. To beg for federal help, to beg the United States to act because they can`t do it on their owns. They can`t do this without federal help, and only Senate Democrats can do it, only Senate Democrats have the power to actually do what`s necessary to fix it and pass voting rights and get it done.

We saw activists embark on a multi-day 27-mile march in the summer heat to the Texas state capitol. This was modeled on the Selma to Montgomery march of 1965, again to try to move the United States Senate to act on voting rights.

This weekend, this upcoming weekend, we`re expected to see a whole bunch of marches in Washington and multiple cities all across the country, all aimed at ratcheting up the pressure on the White House and the Senate to get this done.


Again, the John Lewis voting bill passed the House tonight. It`s in the hands of the Senate.

Today, outside the White House, there was this -- a protest just outside the White House from two big well known advocacy groups targeting President Biden specifically asking him to do even more to make the Senate do the right thing, to use every power he has to persuade the Senate to do what they can do and what they so far lacked the will and gumption to effectuate. Under the banner of no more excuses, voting rights now, activists ordered by People for the American Way and the League of Women Voters, were there to call out President Biden to ask him to do more, to do more, to do more, to do everything he can to change the filibuster rules so that Democrats can protect voting rights.

At the White House fence, People for the American Way president Ben Jealous called through a megaphone, quote: It`s time to step up. It`s time to step up. He led protesters in a chant of, hey, Joe, the filibuster`s got to go.

Joining us now is Ben Jealous. He`s president of progressive group, People for the American Way, which is one of the groups leading today`s protest outside the White House. He`s the former president and CEO of the NAACP.

Mr. Jealous, Ben, it`s really nice to see you, my friend. Thank you for being here tonight.


MADDOW: Tell me about today and tell me about your strategic thinking behind trying to -- behind what you did today and how this demonstration was targeted.

JEALOUS: You know, we have for months, as you said, we`ve pled, we`ve petitioned, we`ve protested the Senate, the Congress. What`s become clear is that the Senate is not going to pass a bill unless the president of these United States himself demands that they do whatever they have to do to pass it.

We saw President Trump demand that the Senate change the rules so that he could pack the Supreme Court. Joe Biden can certainly do the same thing to make sure that we save our democracy, demand that they change the rules. It shouldn`t be easier to fix roads and bridges than it is to ensure that our democracy works.

MADDOW: What would it look like to you if President Biden was doing everything that could be done on this score? You`re asking him to step up, to do more, to make this priority one, to bring all the powers of the presidency and all his personal powers of persuasion to bear on this. Tell me what that would look like, the signs -- if this effort was successful, how you`d know, what you would see from the president that would convince you he was there?

JEALOUS: You would see the president publicly call on the Senate to remove the filibuster as an obstacle to passing the voting rights bills that must be passed if we`re going to stop our elections from being stolen. Right now, Georgia, Texas and Arizona have all empowered their politicians to overturn the decision of the people of that state. If they don`t like the way the next election goes, they`ve actually said their state legislature can install a different governor. It`s insane.

The only way we can stop this is to actually ensure that this bill passes, that the For The People Act passes, that the John Lewis Voting Rights Act passes the Senate and what that requires is you`ve got to get the filibuster out of the way.

We`ve done that for roads and bridges. Trump did it to pack the Supreme Court. Joe Biden can do it to ensure that our democracy is preserved.

MADDOW: Ben, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you about this is that the struggle for social justice and the struggle for civil rights is a lifelong commitment of yours, both in your scholarship, in your life, in your activism -- and I feel like you think deeply about how tactics fit into overall strategies here. You know, the easy way to think about this is having inside and outside tactics working towards the same direction.

I feel like there`s been a lot of -- a lot of wind and a lot of ink expended talking about what the options are for voting rights proponents in terms of getting this done and it just doesn`t seem like anything is budging.

Do you think that direct action is the key to unlocking this? Do you think it`s --

JEALOUS: Absolutely.

MADDOW: -- one of a multiplicity of strategies? How do you see that working?

JEALOUS: My fear is that Joe Biden thinks he`s called to be the FDR of this moment when he`s actually called to be the LBJ of this moment. Yes, you have to lead in the economy and you have to deal with wars overseas, you also have to step up, President Biden, and ensure that the voting rights of your fellow Americans are protected.

And he`s a master of the Senate like President Johnson and he knows what the problem is.


So, just call it out, Mr. President. Tell your former colleagues in the Senate they`ve got to get these bills through and if that means changing the rules, so be it. He knows they`re not written into the Constitution. There`s nothing sacred about them. There`s multiple ways to do it.

So, he just needs to make it clear. The end of the day the person who can put the most pressure on Joe Manchin, on Kyrsten Sinema, and encourage Senator Murkowski is Joe Biden.

MADDOW: Ben Jealous, president of People for the American Way, the former president and CEO of the NCAAP -- Ben, thanks for joining us. I know it`s been a day -- an intense day out in the hot sun. Thanks for being here tonight to help us understand.

JEALOUS: Thank you. Always good to see you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more to get to here tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: It`s a lead story on the front page of "The New York Times". This was February 2010, dramatic headline.


Secret joint raid captures Taliban`s top commander, right? A1, front page headline in "The Times." U.S. says Pakistan cooperated to bring in group`s second most influential man. This February 2010, the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, arrested a man named Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Baradar was a founding member of the Taliban, widely considered to be the mastermind of the Taliban`s military operation both as kind of a wide angle strategist but also as a day-to-day commander of Taliban fighters.

His leadership was so important to the Taliban`s success on the battlefield, that "The Times" said at the time of his arrest that him being captured could cripple the Taliban`s military operations. They did get him in 2010. Of course, that was only halfway through America`s long war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. But Mullah Baradar was in 2010 put into a Pakistani prison.

It was a joint operation between U.S. intelligence and Pakistani intelligence, they pick them up, and in practical terms, that means ultimately he was locked up in Pakistan, essentially at the request of the U.S. government. The CIA directly assisted the raid in Pakistan that put him behind bars.

Which is why ten years later, ten years after his imprisonment after the request of the government, it didn`t take your breath away to see this very same guy, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, co-founder of the Taliban, standing side by side, with American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, welcomed to that same ceremonial honorific way that the U.S. welcomes its allies.

It was a meeting that would`ve been impossible had it not been for unusual intervention by the Trump administration two years prior in 2018. In 2018, the Trump White House quietly arranged for Baradar to be released from prison in Pakistan. So he could participate in talks, so he could be at the Afghan peace talks between the Taliban in the United States government, under the Trump administration.

They are the ones who spring him from prison, and that is how we got the remarkable image of America`s most senior diplomat and the cofounder of the Taliban standing there shoulder to shoulder. It was also the reason that he was able to re-enter Afghanistan last week for the first time in over a decade, as the de facto leader of Afghanistan, now that the Taliban is taking control. Washington Post reporting that he was escorted into the country in a fleet of way SUVs. He was treated to a fireworks display on his road back to power.

The Trump administration letting Mullah Baradar out of prison also paved the way for this remarkable scoop today in "The Washington Post". That the director of the CIA, William Burns, held a secret meeting in Afghanistan, with Mullah Baradar yesterday, and what "The Post" notes was a meeting with tinge with irony, considering it was the CIA, that picked him up and helped put Baradar in prison, 11 years ago.

Joining us now is, John Hudson. He`s national security reporter for "The Washington Post" who first broke this remarkable story today.

Mr. Hudson, thank you very much for being here. I appreciate your time.

JOHN HUDSON, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s great to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: First, let me ask you if I got any of that wrong, and if it`s tinge with irony is the right way to explain it, this must be a sort of sort of a, an unsettling moment for the CIA and its leadership.

HUDSON: That was a perfect way to characterize what was an extraordinary event on Monday, it`s hard to imagine more of a full circle event, where you have a man who literally spent eight years in a Pakistani prison, because of the CIA, the spy agency that works with the Pakistanis, to arrest him, as you said, see him standing next to the top director of the CIA, as equals, meeting and hashing out the future of Afghanistan.

It is important to remember, there were many times in which the United States could negotiate with the Taliban over 20 years of war in Afghanistan. But in this meeting, this was not a place where the U.S. had leverage. It`s after the Taliban came in and took over the country with maximum leverage.

That`s an incredible full circle event, where you go from being locked in a Pakistani prison, to then meeting with the director of the CIA, as your equal, and a diplomatic meeting.

MADDOW: Yeah, it is remarkable, and of course that happens at this moment where time is very short for U.S. forces. And the United States is trying to do, trying to accomplish a huge thing in a very short remaining period of, time in terms of the ends of this airlift in the evacuation effort.


I mean, Bill Burns is a very seasoned Foreign Service officer and diplomat.

Should we see this meeting today as a means of trying to keep open a high- level channel of communication? In part to facilitate these next few days in Afghanistan, with what the U.S. is trying to do in its evacuation efforts?

HUDSON: Yes, I think you should see it that way, I think we should see this as a sense of urgency and importance for which President Biden has taken the issue in getting Americans and getting Afghan allies out of Afghanistan. He is relying on the one individual in his cabinet who has been most decorated, foreign service officer veteran, experienced diplomat, in generations, before when he became confirmed as director of CIA, he`s deputy secretary of state, he`s been U.S. ambassador to Russia, he served over multiple administrations for Republicans and Democrats, and he`s almost university well liked in Washington, not because he plays the game and is overly obsequious with people, because he is extraordinarily intelligent, extraordinarily competent.

So, it is interesting to see Biden reach out to him in this moment, because for sure this is a diplomatic capacity, negotiating over this evacuation. It`s unusual for a CIA officer to be in that position, and a CIA director. But that`s what he`s using for. But he does really go to his strengths, over so many years of government service.

MADDOW: There are not many other people who can call on that kind of experience that he has, for having that kind of bizarre sort of generous meeting.

John, let me also ask you about some new reporting union colleagues published in the last hour or so, a remarkable story, two U.S. congressmen, a Democrat, Congressman Seth Moulton, and a Republican, Congressman Peter Meijer, made an unauthorized trip to Afghanistan.

Now, both of these congressman are combat veterans. A spokesperson for them set a point of the trip was to gather information about the withdrawal effort to increase their ability to provide oversight as members of Congress, but the criticism of them is just damning.

I have to put this quote here, one senior White House official telling you their trip is, quote, as moronic as it is selfish. They are taking seats away from Americans and at risk Afghans while putting our diplomats and service members at greater risk, so they can have another moment in front of the cameras. Another diplomat telling you, quote, it`s one of the most irresponsible things I`ve heard a lawmaker do, absolutely deserves admonishments.

OK, both their decision to take this trip and this vituperative reaction against them for doing it, I just have to ask you to elaborate and explain.

HUDSON: Yes, Rachel, to put this in context, this is one of the most historic airlifts in American history, it`s logistical feat that the Biden administration is trying to undertake right now. In that context, with which you have thousands of U.S. military officials, you have diplomats, you have counselor officers, you have civil servants working in an airport, where the threat of an ISIS attack has already been warned in broadcast by national security adviser.

You are working under an extremely difficult situation, on August 31st, deadline trying to get as many people as they can out of Afghanistan. Now from the perspective of these officials, Pentagon officials, State Department officials, White House officials, people that I talked to today, it they were absolute irate anger. From their perspective, they`re doing everything they can to try to fill every seat they can, to use every resource they have on the ground, to get people out.

And having lawmakers, who, come with their own sort of baggage, you know. There is a concern about their safety, them being a target and creating targets for people around them. It caused an incredible amount of heartburn and anger. Lawmakers, they say they didn`t take up any, seats they were working in their oversight capacity.

But the reality is, this was an unauthorized CODEL, that`s a Washington term for congressional visits abroad by a lawmaker, it`s made people at the State Department did not want to, happen and they have immediately expressed their fury at having to spend any resources towards lawmakers and take them away from their main mission, which we can all realize is absolutely sizable airlift that has not been carried out in history.


MADDOW: Yeah, ever in history. That quote alone, as moronic as it is selfish, I`ve never seen a quote like that from an administration official about unidentified target, at least in living memory. John Hudson, national security reporter for "The Washington Post", breaking news on both these stories today and tonight. John, thanks. I really appreciate.

HUDSON: It`s good to be with you.

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


MADDOW: So this ended in a way that is sort of unexpectedly satisfying or at least tidy, maybe just is the word I`m looking for, I don`t know. What do you think?

October last year just before the presidential election, we reported in detail on one of the worst instances we know of in modern times, of what appeared to be really blunt, really obvious, really, really racially targeted voter intimidation efforts directed at black voters on a large scale.


They were robocalls, and we first learned about them going ahead of the election targeting voters in Detroit, Michigan. We would soon learn that they didn`t just go out to black voters, they went out to thousands of black voters, tens of thousands of black voters in multiple swing states.

Now I`m going to play the call in question for you, because you should know how bad this was, but I will also just, say for the record in case it`s not obvious, that everything you`re about to hear in this call is total bullpucky. None of it is true. This is made-up stuff just designed to try to scare African-American voters into not voting. Here it is.


ROBOCALL: Hi, this is Tamika Taylor from Project 1599, the civil rights organization founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl. Mail-in voting sounds great, but did you know that if you vote by mail, your personal information will be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants and be used by credit card companies to collect outstanding debt? The CDC is even pushing to use records for mail-in voting is to track people for mandatory vaccines.

Don`t be finessed into giving your private information to the man, stay safe and be where a vote by mail.


MADDOW: Don`t give your information to the man. Beware of voting.

That call, all of the claims made in that call our horse hockey. That call, we learned a few weeks before the presidential election had gone out to thousands of registered voters in Detroit Michigan, that`s the first place we found out about it. The Michigan State Attorney General Dana Nessel actually came on the show right after her office filed felony charges against the two men named at the top of the call, two Trump supporter, conservative activists who were alleged to be behind that voter intimidation effort.

Attorney General Nessel told us on the show that night so that her office had worked cooperatively with attorneys general from a number of different states to track down the perpetrators of that voter intimidation effort and how it was carried out. Again, this thing went out to thousands of black voters in Detroit, and it turns out it went out to tens of thousands of black voters in multiple swing states.

Same call, all these places telling them all these lies about if you vote the police will come for you, and credit card companies will come for you, and authorities will come to your door and force you to take on an approved vaccines, if you vote by mail, make sure you don`t vote. Don`t be tricked, we are civil rights organization warning you not to vote. Yeah. Just disgusting stuff.

In the end, it was not just Michigan but also the state of Ohio that filed felony criminal charges against these two men, Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman for allegedly making those calls. The two were also sued in federal court by real civil rights groups.

A group called the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law then asked the FCC, the Federal Communication Commission, to please investigate this matter since they regulate telecoms. Now I don`t know if the name of that civil rights organization brings a bell for you but the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is an esteemed, really accomplished civil rights group and until not long ago, they were led by a crackerjack attorney with an incredible resume, and an incredible record that has gravitas from here up to the ceiling, they were led into recently by a lawyer named Kristen Clarke.

You might recognize Kristen Clarke for having been a guest on this show. Will Kristen Clarke ran the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law until earlier this year. She ended up giving up the leadership of that organization when she became President Biden`s nominee to run the Civil Rights Division at the United States Department of Justice, which is the position that she now holds.

But her group`s request from back in the day to the FCC to please investigate these racially targeted, disgusting voter intimidation calls that went out by the tens of thousands? That has now led some were quite spectacular. The FCC ended up taking up that complaint and investigating. They ended up working interestingly with the attorney general from the state of Ohio, one of the attorneys general that pursued this matter.

And again, Ohio was one of the states where Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were also facing felony charges relating to these calls. As for the FCC doing anything, nobody had high hopes that anything would come out of an FCC investigation, the FCC is one of those federal agencies that has been deliberately handed strong by Republican politicians and conservative presidents who don`t regulatory agencies to be able to function.

It`s one of those agencies that`s always hopelessly deadlocked, it`s always two to vote on the FCC. They never agreed to do anything, the two Democrats a two Republicans always cancel each other out. It`s where complaints go to die.

But today, on this, they agreed. All four commissioners came to a unanimous agreement about what to do. The FCC releasing this surprise statement today announcing that in this case, these racist robocalls, they are proposing the largest single fine ever levied by the FCC for a robocall violation of any type. They want a $5 million fine levied against Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman. And that of course would be in addition to any penalties those to face if they are convicted on felony charges in the two phase to states where they`re facing them.

The acting chair of the FCC said in a statement tonight, quote, today, we propose a fine of more than $5 million for robocalls a clearly violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. I appreciate the unanimous support of my colleagues in this effort.

Unanimous, add a hopelessly deadlocked agency that never does anything because they did luck on anything, and on this they are unanimous, they`re proposing the largest fine ever.

This is one of those horrifying stories that sort of by definition can`t and we`ll, right? Those calls did go out, and we will never know if the ongoing intimidation effect they did have on voters to receive them on voters who heard about them. But once that damage is done, if there is an outcome to hope for, I guess, it`s that, number one the people who did this sort of thing get the book thrown out them, and number two, I guess what you would hope is for everyone, for both parties, I guess you would hope for everyone to unanimously agree that the book should in fact be thrown at those people. That never happens, but it happened here.

Pinch me.



MADDOW: While we continue to await the report that may or may not ever come, from Arizona, from the bizarre Republican specific theory audit of the presidential election results in Arizona, where President Biden beat former President Trump. But Republicans refused to accept. While we continue to await whether or not there will ultimately be a report from that month some Arizona audit, today, we learned where that Republican conspiracy road show is traveling next.

Today, the Republican leader of the Pennsylvania Senate, the Pennsylvania president pro temp, of the Pennsylvania Senate, says that his state will be next. He is starting a quote, forensic investigation, of the presidential votes in Pennsylvania. They call it forensic to make it sound like it was the scene of a crime.

He says hearings will start this week. It is not an auspicious thing to note that president pro temp of the Pennsylvania announced that this investigation will be started during an interview with a right wing talk radio host. He also made sure to tell that radio host that former President Trump has been kept up to speed on the plans to go ahead with this investigation, and Trump is good with it. Oh, good.

There are no credible reports of election fraud in Pennsylvania from the presidential election. All counties in the state have already had their results audited. But sure. Why not? Gravy train still moving. Better get on before it gets to its final stop.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: All right. That is going to do it for us tonight. Thank you for being here. I will see you again this time, this place tomorrow night.


Good evening, Lawrence.