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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 8/4/21

Guests: Marcos Mestre, Rebecca Traister, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Crystal Quade, Thomas Schueman, Zak


Florida is seeing a spike in COVID cases and record hospitalizations. In addition to nearly every major newspaper in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo is also facing calls to resign from nearly all his party, including the entire New York congressional delegation and president of the United States. Illinois Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi is interviewed.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" on this Wednesday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now with Ali Velshi, back in for Rachel.

Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Chris, good evening, to you. You have an excellent night.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel is on vacation.

And we start tonight with a man in Virginia named Travis Campbell. He`s been in the hospital for more than a week now because of complications from COVID-19.

He was unvaccinated, so were his wife and their children, all caught the virus in July.

His wife explained to NBC, quote, we thought we were invincible, weren`t going to get it. Now he`s in ICU struggling to breathe and he has this urgent warning for anyone who like him has still not gotten the COVID vaccine.


TRAVIS CAMPBELL, VIRGINIA RESIDENT: The delta strain is something else. I would ask you if you thought that you had to sit down and plan your goodbyes and funeral, or go get the COVID vaccine, what -- what would you do?

I`d hope to God that all my friends and family would not say somebody hand me a piece of paper and a pen. That`s a sobering thought of which I have done. I have planned.

Last night, my wife and I had to make a decision if I was going to allow them to put me on a ventilator, worst-case scenario. And I don`t want to be on one. But I want to live.


VELSHI: I want to live. As far as how his family is doing, gave this update on Facebook post last week. Quote: My whole family has COVID. I truly regret not getting the vaccine. I`m testifying to all my bulletproof friends that`s holding out. It`s time to protect your family. It`s not worth long-term lung damage or death, please go get the vaccine.

When I hear my kids with the rattle lung cough, when the say they`re so dizzy, they`re getting sick or that they or I are dehydrated from diarrhea, I realize I could have prevented this. I`m over the stupid conspiracies. It`s time to be rational and protective. It`s not worth being stubborn like I did.

That regret. That plea to not follow in his footsteps, that`s the common narrative emerging in many pockets of the country dealing with worst outbreaks right now. The ten states with highest cases are now highest first shots administered. That has been the trend for the past three weeks now.

Overall, the average pace of vaccinations across the country is steadily rising once again. Look at the bottom right of your screen. People are scared. Without full protection from the vaccine, they have good reason to be.

According to data kept by John Hopkins University, we just crossed the threshold of 200 million coronavirus cases across the globe. With the delta variant dominating, that number just keeps rising. The CDC now reports that the delta variant accounts for more than 93 percent of COVID cases in the U.S. That number is as high as 90 percent in certain regions of the country, like the Midwest.

In all the bad news there, at least a shred of good news too. California one of the first states where cities, businesses and venues imposed sweeping vaccine mandates and it`s working. That state has just seen a significant bump in number of daily vaccinations. The number is keeps rising after months of decline. That is what can happen when a state takes this seriously.

Also starting to witness what happens when a state does the opposite. Florida is in middle of another record-breaking week of coronavirus spread. That state`s COVID hospitalizations are 13 percent higher than the peak in July of last year, 84 percent of all state inpatient beds are full. More than 86 percent of all ICU beds are occupied. The state actually broke the hospitalization record for third day in a row.

Florida now accounts for 16 percent of the country`s new cases. It only makes up 6.5 percent of the population.

So you do the math there.


This is a state clearly in trouble. When it comes to solving the problem, Governor Ron DeSantis is having trouble balancing this question. During a press conference yesterday, DeSantis downplayed the crisis, claiming that hospitalization numbers are lower than last summer, saying the media is promoting quote hysteria around COVID.

Fast forward to today, the governor deflecting his poor performance on COVID by pointing to President Biden`s handling of migrants at the border, because in Ron DeSantis`s Florida, one plus two equals 751.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Joe Biden has taken it on himself to single out Florida over COVID. This is a guy who ran for president saying he was going to, quote, shut down the virus. What has he done? He`s imported more virus from around the world by having a wide open southern border.

So, why don`t you do your job? Why don`t you get this border secure? And until you do, I don`t want to hear a blip about COVID from you.


VELSHI: Rather than doing anything about the rising hospitalizations in his state, Governor DeSantis is using the moment to fundraise. Literally, this is fundraising email sent this afternoon.

Quote: Friend, Joe Biden wants me to get out of the way because I refuse to yield power to federal govern and strip Floridians of their liberties. Until Joe Biden gets the border secured and under control, I don`t want to hear a blip about COVID from him or his administration.

Chip in now to continue the fight. Not the fight against COVID, the fight against Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, his hospitals are creeping dangerously close to capacity. Since no amount of fundraising can help with the COVID spread from spreading.

Joining us now is Dr. Marcos Mestre. He`s the chief medical officer at Nicklaus Children`s Hospital in Miami. It`s the only free-standing pediatric hospital in South Florida.

Doctor, thank you for being here tonight.

One of the reasons we got you here is because your hospital is experiencing how serious this is. I just want to read to viewers. In Nicklaus Children`s Hospital in Miami, there were 17 patients with COVID-19 on Friday, including six in the ICU, one who need a ventilator. That`s what you told "The Associated Press". About half of the patients were under 12, Mestre said, and the rest were older and eligible for vaccine but none with COVID- 19 on Friday were vaccinated.

You are seeing this in your hospital. You`re seeing it around your state.

DR. MARCOS MESTRE, NICKLAUS CHILDREN`S HOSPITAL CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: That`s exactly right, Ali. We`re seeing up to 20 patients. We got 16 patients on the floor, six in ICU, one on the regular floor. And we have another floor, one in the emergency to be admitted to the hospital. So, we`re definitely seeing an increase in cases admitted, but also in our emergency rooms and our urgent care centers across the city.

VELSHI: And you are a children`s hospital, but we are -- we seem to be seeing at least anecdotally and statistically that there are more young people being hit by this right now. What`s your sense of how that is -- why that`s the case?

MESTRE: Yeah, definitely higher percentage of children that are affected given that older population is vaccinated and for those 12 and under they cannot be vaccinated. So, there is a greater percentage of children affected as compared to beginning of the pandemic.

But in regards to raw numbers, we`re not quite at those numbers that we saw in July of 2020. But we`re getting close. With the peak possibly lasting two to three weeks, we could surpass it.

VELSHI: What do you want to be done? What do you want authorities do? And what do you need people to do?

MESTRE: What we recommend for everybody is obviously vaccinations, that`s our way out of the pandemic. And for those children 12 and over, as father of three I understand why parents are a little cautious about.

The other thing I like to tell parents if that this is very safe. Even though there were some cases initially of myocarditis reported, they were mild and resolved with run of the mill anti-inflammatories, and effects from COVID are much greater than benefits of receiving the vaccine.

And for those parents of children that are under 12, please get vaccinated yourself to protect your child. It`s not only to protect you as parent but also to protect your child. And, finally, for those 12 and under that can`t get vaccinated and are indoors around other people, large crowds, importance of wearing masks. Those are the three points I would love to get across to Americans and your audience.

VELSHI: And mask thing is issue, some of the schools in your state have backed away from mandates because the governor is against them.

MESTRE: Sure, and again, from our standpoint, our job as experts is to recommend what`s best in terms of the safety of the children in our community.


We don`t get into politics of the issues, but recommending the safety for the kids in the area.

Perhaps earlier in the pandemic when we had been dealing with a different strain of the virus, the spread in children wasn`t necessarily a concern. This delta variant is different. As CDC, this is a different ball game. What we need to do is protect the children and those around them by wearing masks, especially while they are indoors.

VELSHI: Protect the children. That`s a good enough reason for a lot of people to put the mask on. Doctor Mestre, thank you for being with us. Thank you for the work that you and your colleagues are doing at the Nicklaus Children`s Hospital in Miami. We appreciate your time tonight.

MESTRE: Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI: So, here`s a headline from the New York Times board today. You should resign Governor Cuomo. The editorial board of Cuomo`s hometown paper, "The Albany Times Union" had already called on Governor Cuomo to resign earlier this year. They are out tonight with an inter editorial saying Cuomo is unfit for office.

"The Buffalo News" editorial put it in these terms, AG`s report document misconduct that Cuomo cannot overcome.

Thanks to the decline of local media, "The Ithaca Journal" and "The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle" are now owned by the same company that saved some and can use the same headline in both papers, quote: The report is in and it`s clear, Governor Cuomo must resign now. In the whirlwind 24- plus hours since the New York attorney general released a blistering report, accusing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexually harassing 11 women.

He disputes the allegations and denies wrongdoing. In addition to nearly every major newspaper in New York, Cuomo is also facing calls to resign from nearly all his party, including the entire New York congressional delegation and president of the United States. Just today, the head of the New York state Democratic Party, a long time Cuomo ally, joined the chorus calling for the governor to step down.

A new Marist poll conducted last night after the news broke found 63 percent of registered voters in New York think the governor should resign, including a majority of the Democrats. And the "Associated Press" reports that a majority of the New York state assembly members now support impeaching the governor if he doesn`t step down first.

But the governor is facing more than just political pressure. Today, prosecutors in Manhattan, Nassau and Westchester counties have requested information from the New York Attorney General Tish James`s offices, a sign that criminal investigation may soon be under way.

Those requests come on the heels of Albany District Attorney David Soares announcing that he has already opened a criminal investigation into Governor Cuomo`s alleged behavior in the capital.


DAVID SOARES, ALBANY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The allegations early on surely led myself and other prosecutors with concurrent jurisdiction to believe that criminal activity, in fact, had taken place. But we`ll conduct independent investigation and we`ll be done expeditiously.


VELSHI: In addition to that criminal investigation, a lawyer for Cuomo`s first public accuser, Lindsey Boylan, told "The New York Times" that she plans to, quote, sue the governor and his close advisers for the retaliatory actions they had taken to discredit her, end quote, after she came forward.

With the public, political, legal pressure now mounting on Cuomo, will he resign?

Joining us now is Rebecca Traister, writer at "New York" magazine who`s been covering the Cuomo saga.

Rebecca, good to see you this evening.

"The City" newspaper Rebecca is saying, it is no longer a matter of time if he will resign, but when. Several political observers who have known Cuomo for years told the city on the condition of anonymity.

It`s an interesting statement, Rebecca, because Andrew Cuomo is combative. He has said repeatedly he will not resign. Yesterday after these findings came, out he pushed back hard. What do you think is happening here?

REBECCA TRAISTER, NEW YORK MAGAZINE WRITER: Well, I will be very fascinated if his stance has changed. You are absolutely right that his initial reaction to this report, which is an extensive document, 168 pages, over 1,000 footnoted sources, corroboration, I think something like 74,000 documents that the attorney generals office made reference to, almost 200 sources who they went to for a testimony.

His immediate response to this kind of astonishingly robust investigation was a swift and aggressive and I believe dishonest set of denials and the indication that he wasn`t going to go anywhere.

It is been his nature to try to retain his power by refusing to budge. And so, if the amount of pressure that is being brought to bear by the press and his fellow Democrats a strong enough to get him to budge and to step down, that`s going to be a remarkable story.

VELSHI: But tell me what that`s like because, he has built up a remarkable set of allies in the state and around the country.


He was a federal -- he was a secretary in the administration at one point.

The president asked for him to resign, other governors have called for. And everybody in the New York assembly, Democrats have, everybody in the New York delegation. The polling indicates that people want him to resign.

So, what does support for Andrew Cuomo look like right now?

TRAISTER: Well, I think it looks like Andrew Cuomo. I mean, Andrew Cuomo`s relationship to powers with so many of these allegations are about, right? He has a kind of very old-fashioned grip on power. He`s the governor son of a former governor.

He has a classically white patriarchal, literally patriarchal grip on power. He believes in top down power. A lot of the allegation, some of which are about sexualized aspirant in a couple cases of his, so a lot of which are other reported again legation`s about bullying and abusive professional practices, within his office and the executive chamber.

Then, of course, a whole other set of reporting about the cover-up of nursing home deaths. A lot of this is about a very old-fashioned approach to power -- intimidation, fear, threat, fostering, the kind of loyalty that he would count on, in a moment like this. And, of course, what you`re seeing, what you are describing, is the entire -- all of political allies giving way at the face of this incredibly damning evidence.

And so what does that look like for Andrew Cuomo? He does not have a lot of that loyalty that he would have counted on for a lot of his career. But on the other hand, we have contemporary models, including Donald Trump, including Ralph Northam and Justin Fairfax, governor and lieutenant governor in Virginia, who a couple of years ago also had members of their own party calling on them to resign, in the face of their own scandals. And they just did not. They kept their jobs.


TRAISTER: Donald Trump was impeached. He kept his job.

So, there are models for how you paddle through this, and keep your job. In fact, Cuomo did that in the spring. He had his party and the senators from New York calling on resign back in march. And he is still a governor.

There is a model for him having tufted out already this year. This is a very different story. This is an attorney general`s report.

VELSHI: We`ll continue to cover this as well you, Rebecca. Thank you. Rebecca Traister, "New York Magazine" writer, we always appreciate your time.

Well, Donald Trump might not be the president anymore about the courts and the rest of the country are still living on the loose threads of his legal issues. We`ll have that on coming up.



VELSHI: This morning, Donald Trump`s lawyers went to court to prevent the Treasury Department from handing over taxes to Congress. You`re not watching a rerun. This is not a news report from 2017.

As president, Trump, of course, managed to keep his taxes secret unlike every other president in modern history.

But with new administration in place, it looked like Congress was finally going to get access to the returns they`ve been after for years. But now, Trump and his lawyers may be able to tie it in court for months longer.

Donald Trump`s presidency may be over, but there remain many trailing ends hanging out there need to be dealt with some way.

Here`s another thing that`s not over, finding out how close we came to the Trump White House actually intervening to overturn the 2020 election, actually using the power of the executive branch to change the results of the election.

ABC News got hold of letter drafted by a senior Trump Justice Department official at the end of December addressed to Republican governor of Georgia and legislative leaders in the state. The draft letter would have told those Georgia officials that the Justice Department, the United States Justice Department believed that election results in multiple states were in doubt and instructed the Republican leaders to call a special session of the legislature to overrule Biden`s rule and appoint a slate of presidential electors for Trump instead.

When Trump`s acting attorney general refused to sign off on the letter, Trump wanted to replace him with the guy who drafted the letter telling Georgia to overrule its voters. It`s only a threat of mass resignation from the Justice Department that actually got Trump to back off and tonight, we know that threat was not abstract. "Politico" today published a draft resignation letter from another senior official in Trump`s Justice Department, wrote on January 3rd when Trump summoned acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, to the White House.

During that meeting, in which everyone assumed Trump was going to fire the acting attorney general and replace him with the election conspiracy guy, this other senior official back at the Justice Department wrote a resignation letter, ready to hit send. This evening after Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen over the course of the last week repeatedly refused the president`s direct instructions to utilize the Department of Justice law enforcement powers for improper end, the president removed Jeff from the department.

Rich Donoghue, and that`s the number two in command of the Justice Department, Rich Donoghue and I resign from the department effective immediately, end quote.

But the acting attorney general survived that White House meeting. So, the resignation letter was never sent. The reason we`re learning this now as their ongoing active congressional investigations, into those final weeks in the Trump White House.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is investigating Chairman Dick Durbin -- the chairman of the committee told my colleague Ari Melber last night, they will be calling witnesses in the coming days and weeks, in the House Oversight Committee reportedly spent several hours yesterday, interviewing that top justice official, who drafted the resignation letter.

What more can we expect to learn?

Well, joining us now is a member of the House Oversight Committee, Illinois Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.

Congressman, thank you for joining us.

You and I have talked about some amazing things over the last few years. But this is really out there.


There was a senior official of the Justice Department, fully expecting his two bosses to get fired, because they would not agree to Donald Trump`s request to call the election corrupt or to somehow undermine the election. He was ready to hit send. It was even a surprise to him that Jeffrey Rosen didn`t get fired.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): That`s, right that shows you how close we were to a calamitous results in the Justice Department, this gentleman, Mr. Hovakimian, a fellow member of the complicated surname club, decided that basically it`s very possible that his boss and his bosses boss were about to be fired, for not calling the Trump election corrupt, and basically not trying to overturn the elections. That goes to show how close we were to a Donald Trump getting his way. .

VELSHI: Congressman, the other thing we were looking at is this Justice Department drafts, that was going to go to Georgia election officials. Again this is, we know about the phone calls to Brad Raffensperger, we know about Donald Trump asked Brad Raffensperger to find 11,000 votes, and we know he said he asked for a favor, he told the Justice Department, you don`t have to actually find anything, you just have to say this and leave the rest to me.

We now know that they actually wanted Georgia Republicans to basically throughout the election, to basically elect a slate of pro-Trump members of Congress. In the context of everything that`s going on today, with the voter suppression, laws this brings it all into sharper relief.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: It sure does. It turns out this guy Jeff Clark was writing and drafting these types of, letters to all six states, that ended up going for Joe Biden. I think that what we see is the beginning of the effort to overturn the election, and I think that what we see now, in terms of voter suppression efforts, is just a continuation of those efforts. And unfortunately, probably what we are going to see more of it in the run up to 2024. It`s all the more reason why we need more transparency, as to what happened in the aftermath of the 2020 election as well.

VELSHI: You know, I`m pleased that we`ve seen an example in the Justice Department in this letter of someone who`s willing to stand up to the injustice. We now know that Jeffrey Rosen was willing to stand up to Donald Trump. On Monday night, I interviewed Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman who said there`s other people in the government like him, prepared to stand up and do the right thing.

But how do we -- how do we assure ourselves that this kind of thing can`t just happen? A corrupt president cannot just try to corrupt the Justice Department and overturn democracy.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think that`s a great question, Ali. I think at this point, here we have to realize that we can`t just trust that there`s going to be people of integrity in these high offices, including the presidency, so what needs to be done at the Justice Department, to put into place reforms, to prevent it from being used as an instrument for overturning an election by the very president who lost.

Those are the types of questions we have to ask now. In all the more reason I would say that we need to put into place whatever reforms are necessary to shore up our democracy and to protect it, for the next elections. Let me put in a special plug for HR1 and S1, the For the People Act. We need that right now.

VELSHI: We are seeing evidence that is more and more important.

Congressman, good to see you again. Thank you as always for joining. Illinois Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi is a member of the House Oversight committee and the Intelligence. Committee.

We have a new development in the story that Rachel has been following very closely. I`m going to tell you more about when we come back.



VELSHI: I want to tell you the story of two Missouris. The first one starts with this man.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you do? How do you start over your life at 62?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I`ve -- I kind of jokingly talked about that recently with a friend of mine, I guess I can be a cardboard box and get up under the bridge somewhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s how you`re going to start, you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do I have? I mean -- I mean, if they were to tell me right now they would take this chair. I had to crawl out the front door. I would have nothing.


VELSHI: That man`s name is Kevin Strickland. Strickland has spent more than 40 years behind bars in Missouri for triple murder he maintains he did not commit.

What makes Mr. Strickland`s case unique is that everyone else involved in his case also believes he`s innocent.

The case against him was based primarily on a single witness who recounted her testimony. At the two other men convicted in conjunction with the crime also say Strickland had nothing to do with it. Perhaps most importantly, the prosecutors office that convicted struggling in the first place thinks he is innocent. That office called his conviction the result of a quote, profound error.

Why is Kevin Strickland still in prison?

To answer that, you have to look forward. It`s two one person in Missouri with the power to free him and anytime with the stroke of a pen. Missouri Republican Governor Mike Parson. Governor Parson is no stranger to the pardon power. We went back and checked.

And since prosecutors stated there believed that Mr. Strickland was innocent, Governor Parsons has issued three rounds of pardon. He has pardoned 66 people. He has commuted the sentences of two others. Kevin Strickland, however, never made the cut.

When asked about Mr. Strickland`s case back in June, Governor Parsons said Mr. Strickland`s case was not a priority, and that he shouldn`t be able to quote, jump in front of the line.


Shouldn`t be able to jump in front of the line?

OK, that`s Missouri number one. Missouri number to reward this kind of behavior. This is Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the couple who became famous in June of last year by pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters on the front of their St. Louis mansion. Those actions led to an invite to speak at the Republican National Convention and then to U.S. Senate campaign for Mark McCloskey.

Earlier this summer, the couple pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including harassment and fourth degree assault. Far from showing remorse, Mark McCloskey pledged to quote do it again faced with same circumstances.

So, here`s the thing, yesterday, Missouri Governor Mike Parson pardoned both Mark and Patricia McCloskey, neither facing jail time to begin with. They jumped to front of the line, while Kevin Strickland, jailed for 40 years for crime he and state says he didn`t knit.

Think about that for a second.

Joining us now is Crystal Quade, Democratic minority leader in the Missouri House of Representatives who spoke about forcefully, about this double standard of justice.

Representative Quade, thank you for joining us. Thanks for being with us.

What do you make of this? Governor Parsons saying Strickland can`t jump the queue, but this other couple gets a pardon?

STATE REP. CRYSTAL QUADE (D), MISSOURI: Yeah, first of all, thank you so much for having me.

Btu what I think about this, it frankly is disgusting. We have been discussing Kevin Strickland`s case in our state for sometime. As you mentioned, the prosecutor`s office, along with the eyewitness and the victim have recanted the situation. The prosecutor is saying he needs to be released and he is innocent.

Then the governor says it`s not a priority. A very few minutes later, he`d then pardons McCloskey who would jump the line. And it`s pure politics and it`s just nothing new from our governor here on our state.

VELSHI: One of those on the outside here missing? If there are these many people in the case, who say this guy didn`t commit the crime and he`s been in jail 40 years, what is the governor`s patients that he needs? The slow down and not rush this thing. What`s behind that?

QUADE: The only thing I could say is politics. We have a contested race here in Missouri where the Senator Roy Blunt who has been in office for quite sometime is not seeking relation. We have a disgraced governor, our attorney general running, and we have, of course, Mark McCloskey running. Governor Parson jumping in and doing this and completely disregarding innocent men in person like Kevin Strickland, and another high profile case Mark Johnson.

He`s completely ignoring these individuals and moving through the McCloskeys. As I said, it`s pure politics. In terms of his reasoning, he once got a question if this is an endorsement from the governor himself.

VELSHI: That was the next question I would ask. Is the governor weighing in on the fact that McCloskey, who he`s pardoned, Mark McCloskey. He`s running basically on this wacky fame that he got from pointing a gun at these protesters.

QUADE: He hasn`t actually said anything specifically about an endorsement. During Governor Parsons`s own election campaign last year, he said right out the gate that he planned to parted them as soon as he was reelected. And so, in my opinion, I know a lot of folks here in Missouri, this is essentially an endorsement. He saying he supports these folks and that he believes they are more important than these innocent individuals them we have a price weighted.

VELSHI: What is justice for Kevin Strickland even look like right now?

QUADE: You know, I don`t know we can even quantify that. This man has been in prison for over 40 years. In our state without DNA evidence, and there is not financial benefit that he could receive. I believe, had this, point just let the men love his life.

Everyone who`s been involved in the case say he shouldn`t be in prison. When a state we are trying to do criminal justice reform, the governor himself once upon a time said that he was trying to get more folks out of prison. That fact that this is still a discussion is just shameful.

VELSHI: Let`s talk about what else can be done for him. Obviously, pardon would be good, but what else is happening with Kevin Strickland? What else can be done to get him out of jail?

QUADE: Yes, fortunately, this legislative session we did pass some legislation that will go in effect at the end of August, that will allow the prosecuting attorney in Jackson County, Jean Peters-Baker (ph), to file a petition of the court, where a judge can then release him based on that petition. And so, we are hopeful that once the law does go into effect at the end of the month, she does intends to move forward with that and hopefully will be able to get some justice.

VELSHI: Crystal Quade, good to see you. Thank you for joining us tonight. Crystal Quade is the Democratic minority leader in the Missouri House of Representatives. We appreciate your time tonight.

Well, we are just weeks away from the United States completed withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Bu the fate of thousands of Afghans who worked with United States remains uncertain.


You`re not going to want to miss this. I will be joined by a former Afghan translator from inside Afghanistan right after this.


VELSHI: It was October of 2010 and fighting the between the Taliban and U.S. troops was intense. In a small district in Helmand province, in Afghanistan, over 100 U.S. and British troops died inaction. It became known as the battle of Sangin.

Marine Major Thomas Schueman (ph), a Chicago native, believes this was fiercest battleground in the entire war in Afghanistan. He knows, he was there during the worst of it. He and his platoon stared death in the face on multiple occasions but, they had a secret weapon against the Taliban, an Afghan interpreter.

Major Schueman calls the interpreter, Zak. That is not his real name. Zak was just a young man when he teamed up with the U.S. troops in the battle of Sangin. Very few interpreters ventured to do that because that particular area was so dangerous.

Day in and day out, Zak risked his life to help the U.S. troops. On one occasion in November 2010, Zak overheard a radio conversation that the Americans had intercepted featuring a Taliban commander. He learned enough together where the enemies were hiding.

Schueman told them, they dispatched a unit as soon as they could but Zak knew he couldn`t wait long so he crossed the field on his own and tackle the Taliban commander. He saved many lives that day.

In another instance, Zak picked up the rainfall of a wounded American soldier, that assisted U.S. troops and battle. Zak work for the U.S. Marines for nine months before going to work for about two years with a contractor who provided services to the U.S. Army.

Despite all of his work, Zak has been denied a visa to come to the U.S., since the threshold to qualify for a special visa is two years of service, the U.S. government wants back to verify the time he worked for that contractor. But the contractor is no longer active. Zak can`t find them. Neither can Major Schueman.

Zak applied for the visa in 2016, five years of now past, but he has heard from the Taliban. The group sees Zak as a traitor who protected the Americans. They want him dead. They send him letters, asking him to surrender, to pay a ransom or die.

He received a last letter two weeks ago. Since then Zak has been in hiding. Well he awaits official recognition from the U.S., Major Schueman has been helping him in his individual capacity, as an active duty marine, who wants to keep his former interpreter alive.

He`s not the only one who is helping Zak. About two months ago, Senator Dick Durbin questioned Secretary of State Antony Blinken, specifically about Zak`s case.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): I`m going to send you from the articles -- Thomas Sherman, Schueman rather, he talks about the fact that it interpreter who risked his life to save this Marine Corps officer, is now at risk himself.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: I saw that, I read that article.

DURBIN: Can you give me your insurance as you`ve been asked by Senator Leahy and, others that this will be a high priority to protect those men and women and their families, whose lives are at risk because they were willing to stand up on our side?

BLINKEN: Yes, absolutely.


VELSHI: That was June 8th. That was almost two months and there`s still no answer, which sadly means that the situation for hundreds of Afghan nationals, who fought alongside our troops, are currently in limbo, now that U.S. forces are departing the country.

They don`t ask for much -- just a U.S. visa, for risking their lives in support of the U.S. effort.

Joining us now is active marine officer, Thomas Schueman, founder of Foundation that helps veteran communities across America. He served two tours in Afghanistan, also with us tonight is Zak, who worked as an interpreter for the United States government in Afghanistan. He`s awaiting these approval, to come to the United States. Zak is not his real, but we are protecting his identity and his location, for security reasons.

Gentlemen, welcome to both of you.

Zak, thank you for being here. I would like you to tell as in please tell our viewers, with the threat to you is right now. The Taliban knows your phone, number they know things about you. They know where you lived. And they have pretty much made it clear that they will kill you and your family.

ZAK, FORMER AFGHAN INTERPRETER: Thank you, sir. I appreciate you to put my words to the world. The Taliban knows things about us, because they are looking for the people who has done the work for the U.S. forces. And they are looking to target them and kill them.

Now with the help of Major Thomas Schueman, I have my promise now, and I`m living in Kabul, in an apartment for leaving (INAUDIBLE), and it`s all the situation. And still, (IAUDIBLE) want me to send updated the chart, the commendation later, but I don`t have that. And I don`t have contact with my army, the team with which I worked with. I don`t have contact.

I have an email. When I email them, they say this email is not exist in the system. The work I have done with Marine Forces in Helmand province, district, I had their HR, and recommendation, but and fortunately they did not accept, that because it is for nine months and --

VELSHI: Just so our viewers understand, the U.S. requires that you work for two years.


You had nine months with the marines, you spent extra time with this contractor. This is the person you`re emailing and you`re trying to get a letter or confirmation of the work that you did, but you cannot find him. In the U.S. is not authorizing you because of that.

ZAK: Yes, the email which I work with the army in our province, but this email is not working now. When I contact them or email them, they say this email is not in the system. That`s why (INAUDIBLE) wants to meet to work with the army, to prove. And I don`t have it. The email is not working.

I`m wondering how to contact them, and still I just started my SIV process in 2016, and there is still nothing, no progress. I just give my promise.

VELSHI: Major Schueman, this is a remarkable situation. Can you a test for the purposes of our viewers and four Americans were wondering about this. Can you attest to what`s exacted with your team?

MAJ. THOMAS SCHUEMAN, U.S. MARINE CORPS INFANTRY OFFICER: Yes, sir. Zak undoubtedly risked life and limb, Zak undoubtedly went above and beyond his duties as an interpreter. Whether that was running through a minefield, to detain an enemy, or picking up a rifle after one of my marines got hurt, to help to provide covering fire, Zak has made more sacrifices for this country, and risk more for this country than most of our citizens.

He has nine months of verified valorous honorable service with the Marine Corps. During the most lethal battle that the marines fought in Helmand Province, and you would think that nine months would be sufficient, it is not. And we have not been able to push his keys forward for over five years, because nine months apparently is not sufficient.

VELSHI: You have advocated for him, Senator Durbin has advocated for him. They are in the province where you both work together, the Taliban has made great advances there already. There is real danger to these interpreters who are left behind on what sounds like technicalities.

But for people like Zak, Mr. Schueman, this is a matter of life and death for him in his family.

SCHUEMAN: Absolutely, the capital is under attack. My thoughts and prayers are with the soldiers there that are fighting. Zak, the province that Zak is in is now overran by the Taliban. I had to support Zak with about $9,000 over the last, week to be able to transport his family safely out of this province, because it takes a lot of money to get through some of these checkpoints. And get all the way to Kabul.

Even with that, Zak is still not safe, and Zak is still potentially not going to be evacuated, when the evacuation finishes. The thing is that, we are fortunate that were able to assist Zak. But many interpreters, you say hundreds, I would say thousands are in this case and they don`t have the same support right now. It`s something that needs to be addressed.

VELSHI: Zak, people are curious about this story. They care about these interpreters, and others who helped American troops in the area. What message do you have right now? For the president of the United States, and for Americans, about the situation that you and others like you face?

ZAK: I, first of all, say to the President Biden, we are respecting you, because you are the leader of America. We were your allies on the field, and the mission of the United States, we help the mission of the United States, now it is your time, our American friends, our American partners` time, to help us, and get us out of this crisis because the enemy are looking for the people who worked with American, and who worked for the American mission, and they will kill them and kill their family.

And now I just I ask, Mr. President, to please, help us and rescue our lives. Take us out of this crisis now. To help us please. This is my message to Mr. President. If he can find a way to take us out of this crisis.

We cannot stay. Yesterday one of our former interpreters in Herat (ph) province that Taliban attacked, killed him, also in the future, maybe target us and kill us. When we go out and we cannot go safely, we just get our vest and go get some food for our children, in the town in the city because we are interpreters of Americans. We were working for them, for the American mission.

Now, please, President, it`s your time to help us, and take us out of this crisis.

VELSHI: It is our time to help you Zak, as an American, we would be honored to have you, and people like you as our neighbors.

Zak worked as an interpreter for the U.S. government in Afghanistan, Marine Officer Thomas Schueman and others are working to bring him and others like him to America.

Thank you both gentlemen for your time. Zak, we`ll keep working for your cause.

More ahead. Stay with us.


VELSHI: That`s it for us. We will see you tomorrow. It`s time now for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".