Sidney Powell, Lin Wood & other pro-Trump lawyers are sanctioned over Michigan election lawsuit. Interview with chairman of the January 6th Select Committee, Congressman Bennie Thompson of the great state of Mississippi. Interview with Texas Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Very happy to have you here.
This is one of those news days where I spent the whole day prepping for a completely different show than the one we`re going to end up doing tonight, a lot of just tearing stuff up and starting over today, which is fine.
But there`s just a lot of important developing news, including news stories that are developing over the course of this evening. And we are going to cover a lot of different bases tonight. We are, of course, keeping eyes on Afghanistan and what is turning out to be just a massive, massive, unprecedented in size U.S. military airlift out of that country.
In recent days, we have watched as the number of people being airlifted out of Kabul climbed from a few hundred per day to 2,000 per day to 5,000 per day to 11,000 per day. Today, the Pentagon says they airlifted 19,000 people out in the last 24 hours, which is just an astonishing number. That`s one big U.S. military cargo plane full of people every 39 minutes.
"The Wall Street Journal" is also reporting tonight and this confirms what we had from the "AP" a few days ago. They`re confirming tonight that the CIA is also conducting additional operations inside Afghanistan, where they`re actually going out and picking people up by helicopter. Picking people up in Kabul outside the airport but also going beyond Kabul into other parts of Afghanistan.
Now, the Pentagon, of course, has been the main source of information for the public about these evacuation efforts in Kabul. The Pentagon has not wanted to talk about helicopters going out to extract people in hard-to-get places, but this further reporting tonight from "The Wall Street Journal" that in many instances it`s actually CIA officers who are doing those dangerous missions and not just U.S. military personnel. That sort of makes it -- makes sense that the Pentagon wouldn`t want to talk about that. The CIA has very different disclosure rules about their activities when compared with the U.S. military, and the military wouldn`t necessarily comment on anything that the intelligence agencies are doing.
So that helps us at least understand the distance between this reporting that these military -- excuse me, that these helicopter exfiltration happened and the fact that the Defense Department doesn`t really want to talk about it. That might explain that distance.
In any case, we`re going to have more on that ahead. In addition, we`re going to be talking tonight about where all these people are going when they get airlifted out and how Americans in this country are now turning out to help. Some of the Afghans are going to end up here in the United States. That`s a really interesting and important and sort of surprising next step in where this story is going, and we`ve got good detail on that ahead tonight. You`re going to want to see that.
Tonight we`ve also got eyes on COVID developments around the country. The schedule for booster shots, for vaccines, may reportedly be sped up. The initial expectation was that eight months after your last shot for your vaccine, you`d be getting your booster shot. Now it looks like it might be six months.
Plus, there`s new data today for people like me who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Today was the first news about potential boosters for Johnson & Johnson, which is interesting.
We are also, of course, still seeing increasing desperation in states where people have said no to vaccination in large numbers. Multiple states now shipping out refrigerated morgue trucks to augment the capacity of local funeral homes and local crematoriums because local facilities just can`t keep up with the aggressively mounting death toll in places like Alabama and in Texas and in Florida. That is a disturbing eventuality, given the huge numbers we`re seeing out of a lot of mostly southern states right now, but we`ll have more on that ahead.
Tonight, though, out of a federal court in Michigan, we got some unexpected, late-breaking dramatic news concerning the people who helped former President Donald Trump try to use the federal court system to call the results of the last presidential election into question, to try in fact to have the courts overturn the results of the last election.
Tonight, a federal judge in Michigan has decided that a whole slew of Trump lawyers involved in those efforts should be disbarred as lawyers, or to be specific, she has ruled tonight that they must be referred to disciplinary authorities in their home states, quote, for investigation and possible suspension or disbarment. Meaning having their law licenses suspended or being disbarred, being kicked out of the legal profession.
This judge`s order tonight applies to Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, who will be referred to the bar association in Texas for potential disbarment, Trump lawyer Lin Wood will be referred to the bar association in Georgia for disbarment.
Emily Newman, who served in the Trump administration before joining the overthrow the election effort, she will be referred to the bar association in Virginia for disbarment.
Plus, all of these other lawyers. Julia Haller will face three different states, plus D.C. Brandon Johnson, Scott Hagerstrom, Howard Kleinhendler, Gregory Rohl, Stefanie Lynn Junttilla. These are federal court out of Michigan. Only three of these nine Trump lawyers practiced solely in Michigan, but this broad sanctions and potential disbarment order from this federal judge reaches out and hits all nine of these Trump lawyers in jurisdictions all across the country.
A judge ruling that a lawyer should be referred to his or her home state bar association and disciplinary authorities for potential disbarment, this is a rare and extreme measure. Judges do this very, very rarely. In this case, the judge did it for all nine of the Trump lawyers under consideration in this case.
And what this is is the fallout from a lawsuit these Trump lawyers did file after the election in federal court in Michigan. Their lawsuit basically demanded that Michigan should be forced to give its Electoral College votes to Trump, even though Biden won Michigan and that result had already been certified.
A federal judge dismissed that case soon after it was filed. It never had a prayer. But the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit went back to the judge after the judge had dismissed the case to ask the judge to consider doing more. The state of Michigan and the city of Detroit contended to that federal judge that beyond just dismissing the case, the lawyers who brought that case should actually be punished for trying to use the court system to themselves advance a kind of fraud.
What Detroit and the state of Michigan told the court was this: Plaintiffs filed this litigation for an improper purpose. It was never about winning on the merits of the claims, but rather plaintiffs` purpose was to undermine the integrity of the election results and the people`s trust in the electoral process and in government. The filing of litigation for that purpose is clearly an abuse of the judicial process and it warrants the imposition of sanctions. Meaning, sanctions on the lawyers.
Well, this has been spooling out over a period of months. And now, tonight in a very readable, frankly sort of riveting 110-page ruling, a ruling that NBC justice correspondent Pete Williams calls, quote, blistering, the judge in this case has basically agreed with the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit on everything they were asking for. And so, now, all nine of these Trump lawyers are facing potential disbarment.
Let me read to you a little bit from the ruling. You`ll see what I mean about being riveting. Quote: This lawsuit represents a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process, meaning the lawsuit to force Michigan to give its Electoral College votes to Trump even though Biden won.
The question now before the court is whether plaintiffs` attorneys engaged in litigation practices that are abusive and in turn sanctionable. The short answer is yes. Individuals may have a right within certain bounds to disseminate allegations of fraud that are unsupported by law or fact in the public sphere. But attorneys cannot exploit their privilege and access to the judicial process to do the same. And when an attorney has done so, sanctions are in order.
Attorneys have an obligation to the judiciary, to their profession and to the public to conduct some degree of due diligence before presenting allegations as truth. They have an obligation to advance only tenable claims. The attorneys who filed this lawsuit abused the well-established rules applicable to the litigation process by proffering claims not backed by law, proffering claims not backed by evidence, but instead speculation, conjecture, unwarranted suspicion. They proffered factual allegations and claims without engaging in the required prefiling inquiry.
And they dragged out these proceedings even after they acknowledged that it was too late to attain the relief sought. This case was never about fraud. It was about undermining the people`s faith in our democracy and debasing the judicial process to do so.
Plaintiffs` ultimate goal was the decertification of Michigan`s presidential election results and the certification of the losing candidate as the winner. This lawsuit was not about vindicating rights in the wake of alleged election fraud. Instead, it was about ensuring that a preferred political candidate remained in the presidential seat despite the decision of the nation`s voters to unseat him.
Plaintiffs` counsel advanced this lawsuit for an improper purpose and will be held to account for their actions. Despite the haze of confusion, commotion and chaos counsel intentionally attempted to create by filing this lawsuit, one thing is perfectly clear, quote, plaintiffs` attorneys have scorned their oath, flouted the rules and attempted to undermine the integrity of the judiciary along the way.
As such, this court is duty bound to grant the motion for sanctions.
Ow! Ow. Lawyers, as I said, for Michigan and the city of Detroit brought this case, not because they were in any risk of losing, right? The judge had already dismissed the case, had laughed it out of court very shortly after it was filed after the election. They went back to that judge and asked for this additional action by the judge to persuade the judge to punish the Trump lawyers who did this for a very specific reason.
In their closing arguments to the court, the lawyer for Detroit asked the judge in this case to, quote, let the world know that attorneys in this country are not free to use our courts to spread lies and undermine our democracy. Detroit`s lawyers asked the court to sanction the Trump lawyers, require them to pay the costs of the court case, including the other side`s attorneys` fees. They asked the court to refer these lawyers for disbarment, in part as a determent against any other lawyers that might try to use the court system in the same way.
And tonight in this ruling, this federal judge agreed with every one of those points. The judge in her ruling even cited Detroit lawyer David Fink`s memorable contention that the Trump lawsuit was, quote, the dangerous product of an online feedback loop derived not from a serious analysis of case law but from the rantings of conspiracy theorists, sharing amateur analysis and legal fantasy in their social media echo chambers.
The judge quoted that from David Fink today approvingly in her ruling. And indeed, she agreed with what fink and his colleagues were asking for. The Trump lawyers have now all been referred by the court for potential disbarment in their home states. Wow.
Joining us now is David Fink. He represented the city of Detroit in this matter.
Mr. Fink, congratulations. I know this is the outcome that you were hoping for in this case. Thanks for joining us to help us understand it tonight.
DAVID FINK, ATTORNEY FOR DETROIT IN MICHIGAN ELECTIONS SANCTIONS CASE: Thank you for having me on.
MADDOW: First, let me just ask if I got any of that wrong or if I missed anything important in what the judge ruled tonight?
FINK: No. I think you did a very good job of highlighting some of the key points from the judge.
The judge did a terrific job. She really honed in on the important issues and she sent an important message. The message that we were hoping she would send. There`s consequences -- there are consequences for bad acts, and that attorneys have responsibilities. They have responsibilities of honesty and integrity and staying within the rules.
MADDOW: How serious is it when a federal judge refers an attorney for potential disbarment? I know this is a rare and extreme act. I mean sanctions of any kind for an attorney are a rare thing. This level of sanction is a big deal, which the judge took pains to explain in her ruling.
When this happens -- forgive me for not knowing this and I poked around today and couldn`t get a clear answer -- when an attorney gets referred for disbarment like this, do they actually tend to get disbarred? That would effectively kick them out of the legal profession and that would be a huge deal.
FINK: There aren`t any statistics on the likely outcome because this is so rare. It`s really extraordinary. But it was right in this case. It`s extraordinary.
The judge issued a series of sanctions, very important ones. The first one as you noted was paying the attorney fees for the city and the state because the public shouldn`t have had to pay to defend these ridiculous claims.
But that sanction isn`t the most important one. The judge also ordered these nine attorneys, every one of them, to take continuing legal education in election law, because they obviously didn`t understand election law before they filed these cases. And to take continuing legal education in the proper kind of pleadings that you`re allowed to file.
But most importantly, as you focused, the judge did something that`s very, very rare. She`s reporting all nine of these attorneys to the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission and to the disciplinary authorities of the states that the out of state attorneys came from.
This sends a critically important message. It tells lawyers that they don`t have the right to just say or do anything they want. That`s not what the privilege of practicing law is about. As an attorney, we`re subject to rules, we`re subject to statutes, and we are subject to a set of ethics and rules of civility. All of these lawyers violated these rules and those ethics and they`ll answer for it.
MADDOW: Mr. Fink, let me ask you to step back from this and take a little bit of a wider angle lens on it just for a moment. I know that you have been embroiled in this for months and fighting very hard on behalf of your client.
But what you contended, and I was fascinated to see the judge explicitly agreed tonight, was that this case was brought by the Trump lawyers not to seriously contend with any real legal issue but for a different purpose. For what you and the judge agreed was an improper purpose. The improper purpose was to -- not to try to win a lawsuit, not to try to address some kind of legal wrong somewhere, but to fuel efforts being undertaken outside the courtroom to undermine the government, to undermine democracy, to try to force Trump back into power.
The judge agreed with you that that`s what this lawsuit was for. My question for you stepping back from this a little bit, do you think this lawsuit and the others like it actually did contribute to those efforts? Do you think they did contributing to the violence on January 6th or any of the other frankly ongoing efforts to reinstate Trump as president even though he lost the election?
FINK: No question about it. There`s absolutely no question about it. They used the federal courts to broadcast lies. They used the federal courts to tell stories that weren`t true and to try to give credence to the hysterical rantings of those who pretended they knew something about the way the election had gone forward.
There is no question that these lawsuits and this lawsuit in particular fueled the flames, fueled the fire of the insurrection that we saw on January 6th. Absolutely, that`s exactly what happened.
And it`s very disappointing that any lawyer would do that, and it`s very gratifying that a federal judge has said those lawyers now must answer for what they did. They don`t get to just say we filed a lawsuit, we didn`t get what we wanted and now we`re going home. They did get what they wanted. They spread lies, and they gave credence to things that weren`t true.
And now, Judge Parker has sent a critically important message, not just to these lawyers, but to the whole world, that this lawsuit was a fraud, that this lawsuit perpetrated lies, and that the people who perpetrate lies like that have to do more than just pay the attorney fees for the other side. Their bar cards are in jeopardy now. Hopefully, some of these people will, maybe all of them, will suffer the real sanction of not being able to practice law anymore because, frankly, they shouldn`t be.
MADDOW: David Fink, lawyer for the great American city of Detroit, Michigan, in this matter -- sir, thank you for your time tonight. We`ll watch with great interest as all of these states, including Michigan, now field these disbarment referrals from Judge Parker. I appreciate you being here tonight, sir, thank you.
FINK: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: All right. So the lead lawyer in this ruling that we`ve just been talking about who`s facing sanctions, potentially being disbarred, is Trump lawyer Sidney Powell. You will recall the recent news as well that another high-profile Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, while he is not part of this case in Michigan, Rudy Giuliani separately has had his law license suspended in New York and also in Washington, D.C., while he do is investigated for potentially permanent disbarment, being ejected from the legal profession, because of him using the courts to try to effectuate this coup, this ability to try to force Trump back into power after losing the election.
Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell also turn up today in what amounts to a huge, a sprawling demand for communications and records from the National Archives for Trump White House documents and from seven other federal agencies about Trump`s efforts to defy the election results and to try to stay in power after he lost. This is the select committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol.
We now know that committee is taking an aggressive approach to its investigations. Today that committee`s chairman, Congressman Bennie Thompson who you see here, he`s also head of the Homeland Security Committee. Today, he sent out sprawling demands for documents and communications to all these different agencies, demands that are impressive in their scope.
For example, from the national archives, they are demanding Trump White House records and communications basically anything and everything that happened on January 6th, the day of the Capitol attack.
Congresswoman Liz Cheney, one of the two Republicans on this committee, had previewed that the committee should try to obtain records from the White House about every communication, every movement of any principal in the White House on the day of January 6th. They are indeed doing that.
But they`re also demanding records not just from January 6th but for days, weeks, and in some cases months leading up to it about, quote, planning by the White House and others for legal or other strategies to delay, halt or otherwise impede the electoral count. That`s, for example, where the -- Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani communications come in.
They want any documents and communications relating to instructions to stop or delay preparation for the transition of administrations. They wanted information about whether the Trump administration was trying to essentially stop or block the transition to the Biden administration. They want, quote, communications discussing the recognition of Joseph Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election. They want all documents and communications concerning the potential invocation of the Insurrection Act.
From the date of the election, November 3rd, until the day before the inauguration, January 20th, they want all documents and communications related to martial law. All documents and communications concerning the use of federal law enforcement or military personnel during voting in the 2020 presidential election.
I mean, the stuff that they are looking for here is breath taking. They`re looking at the whole picture of Trump trying to use the powers of his office to stay in the presidency after losing the election.
But that`s -- I mean that`s just a portion of what they`re asking for in terms of White House records. Look at what they want from the Pentagon. And this is just a sliver of it. All documents and communications related to instructions to stop or delay the administration of activities to prepare for the transition of administrations. Did he try to rope the Pentagon into that kind of planning?
All documents and communications related to the potential use of military power to impede or ensure the peaceful transition of power between the time of the election up through and including the inauguration of President Biden. All documents and communications concerning possible attempts by President Trump to remain in office after January 20th, 2021. From Election Day, November 3rd, to January 20th, all documents and communications related to the possibility of invoking the Insurrection Act, including but not limited to documents and communications concerning that possibility with respect to preparation for the events of January 6th.
All documents and communications on January 6th relating to the employment of law enforcement personnel or military assets to the U.S. Capitol. Oh, yeah. Why didn`t law enforcement and military personnel get to the U.S. Capitol sooner? Why don`t we know more about that? And why did the army tell an untrue story about the number of people and one particular person who was apparently involved in those discussions?
Well, Chairman Thompson and the committee are planning on getting to the bottom of that. They`re asking the Pentagon as of today for all documents and communications relating to the initial denial by Pentagon officials that Lieutenant General Charles Flynn, Mike Flynn`s brother, participated in meetings on January 6th related to the response to the attack.
On January 6th, as Mike Flynn had stoked crowds, right, had stoked Trump supporters into believing that they could do something on January 6th that would stop Biden from becoming president and keep Trump in office, his brother, Charles Flynn, was part of Pentagon discussions that day as to whether or not overrun Capitol police and D.C. police at the U.S. Capitol would get backup, and those hours and hours and hours of delay, during which 140 police officers were injured. Those hours and hours and hours of delay, which ultimately proved fatal. Those hours and hours and hours of delay remain unexplained and it remains unexplained why the Pentagon initially denied, absolutely lied, denied that Charlie Flynn had anything to do with those discussions when in fact he did. Finally somebody is trying to get to the bottom of that.
And I mean those were just slivers of the requests about Trump White House records and the Pentagon. That`s just two of the eight agencies who are fielding these kinds of requests as of today. That`s not even counting, for example, the request to the justice department about Trump trying to get justice department officials to overturn election results in certain states and what they were trying for was overall.
So these demands for communications and documents have gone out as of today, and they have gone out like a carpet bombing effort. The anxiety in Trump world and in the Republican Party about there being a real investigation of January 6th, including the actual expectation by those mobs who attacked the Capitol that somehow Trump was going to ending up staying president if they just played their part right, that anxiety about there being a real investigation and real efforts to keep Trump in power despite the fact that he lost the election, their anxiety about that actually being investigated thoroughly was probably warranted anxiety. It was warranted if the former president did try to use the power of his office to break our democracy and seize power by force.
That`s something that isn`t just a record we`re going to need for the history books, it`s something we need to know now, particularly in terms of who helped him and how they did so.
Chairman Bennie Thompson of that January 6th Commission is apparently going full steam ahead with that investigation in the most aggressive possible way. And he joins us live here, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS), JAN. 6 COMMITTEE CHAIR: We need to understand how and why the big lie festered. We need to know minute by minute how January 6th unfolded. We need to understand how the rotten lie behind January 6 has continued to spread and feed the forces that would undermine American democracy. And we need to figure out how to fix the damage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Chairman Bennie Thompson last month opening the first hearing of the select committee that`s going to investigate the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Today, his committee sort of made its first strike, making clear that they`re investigating not just exactly January 6th and the election lies that led to it, but also, importantly, the various concurrent schemes by which President Trump appears to have tried to use the federal government to try to overturn the 2020 election results, to try to keep himself in power by hook or by crook even though he lost the election.
The select committee today issues demands for documents and communications from multiple government agencies, including the Justice Department and Defense Department. They issued a very large demand to the National Archives, which is the agency that now holds all the records from the Trump White House.
The committee`s requests are both broad but also really detailed. They`re seeking records about the run-up to January 6th, communications within the Trump administration on that day as well as records about, for example, Trump`s attempts to install loyalists in key national security positions across the government after the election. Also, communications about potentially using the Justice Department or even using the military to try to overturn the election results or to try to block the transfer of power to the new president.
Joining us now live is the chairman of the January 6th Select Committee, Congressman Bennie Thompson of the great state of Mississippi.
Mr. Chairman, it`s kind of you to make time for us tonight. Thank you very much for being here.
THOMPSON: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me just ask -- I`ve tried to sort of put in a nutshell the grand scope, the large scope of these requests that you and your committee have made today.
Is there anything that I`m misunderstanding about it or anything that I`m sort of misconstruing in terms of its importance?
THOMPSON: No question you`re right on point, Rachel. As you know, House Bill 503 charged this committee to get to the facts and circumstances behind January 6th. That means we need to find out what caused it, those individuals who participated in it, and then create a model to protect this democracy so that nothing like this will ever happen again. So, we have a weighty mission. We have a mission committed by eight patriots on it to make sure that we do just that.
So the letter you`ve referred to, it is exhaustive. It goes into great detail. The detail that we will need to do our job, the information we need to do our job, because clearly a lot of us at this point feel that had January 6th been successful, this democracy would not be what it is today.
So we came real close. And so by getting this information, we think it will provide the necessary direction for us to correct it so that the military or no other branch of government can be used against American citizens.
MADDOW: In terms of the expected response to these requests, I was very interested to see that as you noted today with this request, some of these agencies that are getting these requests today, they are reiterated requests from other documents, similar documents that were made by other House committees back in January, in some cases back in March. That implies that those agencies were asked for documents like this and they didn`t turn them over.
Now, I would assume that under -- if this were the Trump administration still in office, I would assume that you`d have a huge fight on your hands in terms of no agency wanting to give you anything. But under the Biden administration, I would expect less of a fight in terms of handing over these documents that are properly within the remit of your investigation.
Do you know why those agencies didn`t respond to those earlier document requests, including the ones in March once the Biden administration was firmly in position?
THOMPSON: No, we don`t, Rachel. And that`s why we referred to the request in our letter. And that`s why we gave them two weeks to fulfill the request.
They`ve had since March to get a lot of this information. The additional information we requested, they can do in two weeks. The other information by and large should already be somewhere in their possession. So we look forward to getting it.
But again, this is how this committee will get its work done, by getting the information. We`ve already talked to the Department of Justice. They have assured us that they will cooperate with the production of various documents that we request, that they will not stand in the way of our committee doing our job.
So, with Joe Biden as president and Democrats in charge, actually receiving the information that we will need to do our job should not be as difficult as it would have been had Donald Trump been re-elected president.
MADDOW: Mr. Chairman, I have to ask you about one thing that I noticed looking at all the different requests to these agencies, the different categories of information that you`re looking for. I noticed some different timelines.
In a lot of instances, you`re asking for, you know, information about a ton of different people and a ton of different things they were doing, but the time frame is really narrow. It`s, you know, just on January 6th itself.
For other categories of information, though, you`re asking for different time frames. The time period between November 3rd, for example, and the January 6th attack or -- and the inauguration.
And in some cases, you`re asking for information going all the way back specifically to April 2020. Requests for information about basically planning to try to undermine election results going back as far as April 2020.
I just have to ask you, what was going on as far back as April 2020 that you want records from that early?
THOMPSON: Well, we have information that I can`t share with you at this point that individuals were planning in anticipation of the election not going their way. By getting access to this information, we`ll be able to prove it. Clearly, the things we cited in our letter kind of lay out the predicate for what occurred. If this happened, we`ll do this. If this happened, we`ll do something else.
So, there was always a plan A, B, C, D in this process. And so, there were a lot of people involved.
We want to find out from the people who took out the permits for January 6th, the march. We want to make sure that those individuals who financed individuals coming here, that we talk to them. There are a lot of information that we will need, and that`s why we did a significant wide net casting effort with this first letter which I anticipate -- to be very honest with you -- there`ll be some other letters forthcoming also, because we need access to all the available information.
Because, you know, when the president of the United States invite people to come on a particular day and in that invitation says it`s going to be wild, that causes the committee and a lot of other patriotic Americans real concern because in America, we`re supposed to settle our differences at the ballot box. Not with an insurrection or anything like that. We`re not a tinhorn dictatorship. We`re the United States of America.
MADDOW: Congressman Bennie Thompson, chairman of the January 6th Select Committee -- sir, thank you for your time tonight. We`ll stay on this closely. As you say, we anticipate more letters like this going out soon. We`ll ask you back when that happens, sir. Thank you.
THOMPSON: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We got much more ahead here tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Eighty-two thousand people as of 3:00 a.m. Eastern Time this morning, that is the astonishing number of people who have been successfully airlifted out of Afghanistan in just the past 11 days, 82,000.
Just in the past 24 hours, 19,000 people evacuated. And those monster numbers of evacuations that we are seeing on a day-to-day basis now, it points to the likelihood that we do not have many more of these evacuation days left as the U.S. edges closer and closer Tuesday`s deadline by which President Biden has pledged the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan will end full stop.
Now, the 80,000 plus people who have been airlifted out in this week and a half long effort, some of them are Americans. They have obviously been top priority for the American government. A large number of them, though, are our Afghan allies, men and women who assisted the U.S. war effort. People who cannot stay in their own country for fear of being killed by the Taliban simply for having supported the U.S. forces.
And not all of the Afghans who have been evacuated out of Kabul are going to relocate permanently to the United States. Many of them will go to other countries. But for Afghans who will find their new permanent home here, one of the questions that remains is how the American people can help, what they might need -- whether it`d be community sponsorship for Afghan families, donations of money, donations of food or clothing or furniture or even toys and school supplies for kids. What are they going to need and how will that be organized?
We have already seen a lot of interest in Americans here at home offering to help any way that we can.
We talked to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby on the show earlier this week and he specifically brought this up. He told us, for example, at the military base at Fort Bliss in Texas, where a number of Afghans are staying before they`re permanently settled in this country, the commanding general at Fort Bliss says he has been deluged with phone calls and emails from people who just live near Fort Bliss. People wanting to know what they can do to help, where they can send supplies.
That question is on the minds of members of Congress too. Congresswoman Veronica Escobar represents the district that encompasses Fort Bliss. Today, she visited the base housing refugees to see the start of the resettlement operation firsthand and she joins us now.
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, Democrat of Texas -- Congresswoman Escobar, it`s nice of you to make time. I know it`s been a long and tense day already. Thanks very much for being here.
REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX): Rachel, thanks so much for having me.
There`s such an incredible, positive, hopeful story to tell, and I`m so happy to be on your show to tell it.
MADDOW: Well, tell me about what the American people should know about what`s happening at Fort Bliss, what you saw and sort of the scale of the operations there.
ESCOBAR: I literally just got home about an hour ago. And what I saw filled my heart with tremendous hope and pride. I had the opportunity to thank a number of soldiers, troops whose mission it is to clear land, to do everything within their power to provide humanitarian support for who they are calling their guests, the refugees who were allies to us and partners to us in Afghanistan. They have built makeshift soccer goals so that the kids can play, and every single soldier that I spoke to today who I expressed my gratitude to told me that they were grateful, that they felt honor and pride to be able to participate in this mission.
I also had the opportunity to speak to Afghan families. And that was incredible. In reflecting on it once I got home, I will tell you I was overwhelmed by emotion. Those families thanked me. They thanked our military leadership. I spoke to an interpreter who fled with his wife who is a journalist.
These are people who are filled with gratitude and who are finally safe and sound. It is now our turn as Americans to ensure that we do everything that we can to help support them.
MADDOW: Obviously, the journey that a lot of these folks have been through in the immediate sense has been harrowing, not just in the big picture in terms of the decades of war in Afghanistan and difficult circumstances at home, but just the immediate journey. I mean, the incredible security challenges now increasing the sort of desperate security challenges at the Afghan -- at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan. We`ve also heard very difficult reports about bad conditions on the ground in Qatar, which was the first U.S. military base that was used as the first weigh station before it was essentially overfilled with evacuees from Kabul and they started spreading them around to other weigh stations and other first stops.
We know that people have had to deal with a lot on the way here. But it sounds like from what you`re saying as least when they get as far as a place like Fort Bliss, conditions are good and people are being held in circumstances that are not only sanitary and safe, but positive.
ESCOBAR: That`s absolutely right, Rachel. And, you know, the mission, of course, has evolved. What is happening in Afghanistan is the administration is doing everything possible to save lives essentially, to get as many people out. What they have done in terms of the number of flights and the number of people has been nothing short of impressive.
And then the next part of their journey once their lives have been saved is to make sure that upon their arrival, they`re provided with the health care and the safe sanitary security of a place to stay. And so they`re all getting COVID tested along the way. In fact here at Fort Bliss, of the 1,200 guests that have arrived at Fort Bliss, only one has tested positive for COVID. They`re getting vaccinated for COVID.
A baby was born just last night at our local hospital, university medical center. There are a range of guests from infants all the way to elderly Afghans. And they are finally safe and sound and grateful.
You know, it is -- it is -- there was a moment there as I was -- right after I spoke to a family and the military leadership was walking me through the base and showing me the various tents and facilities where the NGOs are housed and all of those spots along the way. I saw a group of kids playing.
And, Rachel, there is nothing more hopeful than the resiliency of those kids and seeing them playing under the southwest sun.
MADDOW: Texas Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, whose district includes Fort Bliss -- thank you for telling us about what`s happening at Fort Bliss.
Again, the Pentagon press secretary went out of his way to talk about the community interest in your district and being helpful to those folks at the base right now. So it`s good to get your firsthand report, Congresswoman Escobar. Thank you so much.
ESCOBAR: Thank you, Rachel. Appreciate it.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are at capacity to where we`ve never been before.
REPORTER: At West Side Crematory in Winter Garden, they`re overwhelmed. The area where bodies are stored prior to being cremated is stacked to the ceiling. The staff is working day and night to honor the dead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, you don`t want to turn anybody away, these are their loved ones. They`re already mourning. We`re at the point where we`re hoping that the state will step in and supply some refrigeration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`re hoping the state will step in and supply some refrigeration. A staff member at a crematorium in Winter Garden, Florida, where I`m sorry to say bodies are literally piling up because of the huge upsurge in COVID- 19.
A number of headlines like that today, not just Florida, Alabama has started distributing refrigerated morgue trucks around that state because they, too, cannot keep up with the pace of COVID deaths.
The COVID surge right now, particularly in the South, remains unrelenting and almost entirely preventable if people were willing to be vaccinated.
On the vaccine front, Pfizer announced today they do intend to submit their COVID booster shot, the third shot for FDA approval this week. Today also, Johnson & Johnson released the first data that indicates that people who got that single-shot vaccine may also ultimately get a booster dose as well. It would be a second shot of J&J.
This all comes as "The Wall Street Journal" reports that the Biden administration is likely to approve COVID booster shots starting six months after a person was first vaccinated, six months instead of the eight months previously expected, which is interesting.
As lawmakers and health care providers are working overtime to inoculate people against this virus and treat this virus, they are right now contending with a new and bizarre challenge that is coming from people misinformed by right-wing media and online disinformation. Disinformation about quack cures for COVID that are actually themselves putting people in the hospital right now.
And yes, it is nice to no longer have somebody standing in the White House briefing room telling people they ought to inject disinfectant. It`s nice that the Lysol Corporation no longer has to put out statements debunking quack medical advice for treating COVID from the president of the United States.
But to this day, right-wing media, broadcast media, online right-wing conspiracy theory disinformation is leading a whole lot of people to try other totally bananas dangerous stuff that is hurting them. And on that subject, we are going to have a special report on tomorrow night`s show, you will want to see.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: All right. That is going to do it for us for tonight. But I will see you again here tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORLD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.