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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 8/5/21

Guests: Aquilino Gonell, Devlin Barrett, Paul Rieckhoff, Ashish Jha, Trey Martinez Fischer


President Biden signed legislation awarding congressional gold medals to the police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. "Politico" today that indicates that the Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection has taken over a House committee`s probe of former President Trump`s pressure campaign on the Justice Department in those final weeks in office. President Biden has asked his Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, to first study whether or not the COVID vaccine should be mandatory for the U.S. military; "The New York Times" is reporting defense secretary will make his final recommendation to the president in the next few days. Interview with Texas State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer.


RINA SHAH, FORMER SENIOR AIDE TO FORMER REP. JEFF MILLER (R-FL): Chris, and this world means Republicans in elected office have to fear voters coming for them to hang them.

It just makes -- it gives me goose bumps. I`ve spent nearly two decades in politics and this is where we`re at with the Republican Party.

So the fear of voters is what Democrats do not have, and I hope they use it to their advantage.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Yes, I think -- I think the fear of political violence does diffuse a lot of it.

SHAH: Meet the moment. Do the right thing, please.

HAYES: Sam Seder, Rina Shah, thank you both. Talk to you soon.

That is "ALL IN" on this Thursday night.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now with Nicolle in for Rachel.

Nicolle, good evening.

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Hi there. Hi there. I love to see you like this. I usually watch you in my sweatpants on the couch so it`s nice to see you.

HAYES: Great to see you too.

WALLACE: And thanks to all of you at home for joining us this hour.

This statement lands the same way in my house, I know. Rachel`s on vacation but we`ll get through it together. We have so much to get to tonight, a lot of news developing today on a number of different fronts.

We start with a solemn ceremony in the White House Rose Garden this evening where President Biden signed legislation awarding congressional gold medals to the police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. One medal goes to the U.S. Capitol police, another to the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. Medals honoring the heroism of all the law enforcement officers who protected the Capitol that day will be displayed at the Capitol itself as well as at the Smithsonian Museum.

The ceremony was attended by many law enforcement officers who were at the Capitol on January 6th.

And in an emotional speech the president offered his gratitude.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, thank you, thank you for protecting our Capitol. Maybe even more importantly for protecting our Constitution and saving the lives of duly elected members of the Senate and the House and their staffs. And it breaks my heart -- breaks the heart of the nation to remember that you were assaulted by thousands of violent insurrectionists at the Capitol of the United States of America.


WALLACE: President Biden today also talked about the Capitol attack in some of the starkest terms we have heard him use.


BIDEN: Not even during the civil war did insurrectionists breach the Capitol of the United States of America, the citadel of our democracy. Not even then. But on January 6th, 2021, they did. They did.

A mob of extremists and terrorists launched a violent and deadly assault on the People`s House and the sacred ritual to certify free and fair election. It wasn`t dissent. It wasn`t debate. It wasn`t democracy. It was insurrection.

My fellow Americans, the tragedy of that day deserves the truth above all else. We cannot allow history to be rewritten. We cannot allow the heroism of these officers to be forgotten. We have to understand what happened, the honest and unvarnished truth. We have to face it.


WALLACE: We have to face it. The president`s determination there not to let history be rewritten, to face what happened that day is a determination shared by officers who have spoken out publicly in the aftermath of the insurrection. Metropolitan Police Officer Mike Fanone is featured on the cover of "Time" magazine today. Americans have heard his descriptions and seen video of his terrifying experience of January 6th being pulled into the crowd, beaten, tased and nearly killed.

In today`s article, Fanone says this, quote, "There`s people on both sides of the political I`ll that are like, listen, January 6th happened, it was bad, we need to move on as a country. What an arrogant effing thing for someone to say that wasn`t there that day. What needs to happen is there needs to be a reckoning.

"The Time`s" Molly Ball writes that Fanone is, quote, not asking to be called a hero. He just wants us to remember what his sacrifice was for. Fanone believes we can`t just keep trying to outrun this thing. We`ve got to turn around and face it, defeat it once and for all. If all we do is turn around and hope it fades, it`ll keep getting stronger until it comes back to kill us all.

Which is why Mike Fanone keeps speaking publicly about what he saw that day, what he went through. He testified at the first hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol attack.

And, of course, he wasn`t alone. He testified that day alongside three other officers who were at the Capitol protecting it on January 6th.


That includes Sergeant Aquilino Gonell. Sergeant Gonell is a 15-year veteran of the U.S. Capitol police. He`s an Army veteran. He served in Iraq.

He told lawmakers that January 6th was scarier than any day of his deployment to Iraq. Here`s a bit of his compelling testimony that day which we`ve put together with video some of the scenes he describes.


SGT. AQUILINO GONELL, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: I`ve always taken my oath seriously. On January 6, 2021, I fulfilled my oath once more. The verbal assaults and disrespect we endured from the rioters were bad enough. My fellow officers and I were punched, kicked, shoved, sprayed with chemical irritants and even blinded with eye damaging lasers by a violent mob. I was particularly shocked at the scene of the insurrectionists violently attack us with the flag they claim to protect.


WALLACE: Joining us now is Sergeant Aquilino Gonell of the U.S. Capitol police.

Sergeant, thank you so much for your time. It`s an honor to have you here and get to talk to you. I know you were at this ceremony today in the Rose Garden, and I wonder if you could just tell us what that was like. Did it help?

GONELL: I was very pleased for a lot of us officers who were there, a lot of us made a lot of sacrifice just to be able to be rig recognized even though we did our job. We all signed up to be a police officer and we all know the risk to -- that the job inherits.

But it`s nice to be recognized. It`s nice to for once people beginning to acknowledge what happened. And hopefully that will change the conversation because there are still a lot of our fellow citizens including elected officials that continue to deny what happened, continue to down-play it even though some of them themselves were running for their lives or were scared that day. And it`s unbelievable the lack of support and to acknowledge what happened.

WALLACE: Sergeant Gonell, what has the last week been like since the testimony of -- your testimony alongside Officer Hodges, Officer Dunn, and Officer Fanone?

GONELL: Well, since the hearing it`s almost the same for me. I still got to go to physical therapy twice a week for about 2 hours, sometimes two hours and a half because I`m recovering still from my foot and my shoulder. That still hasn`t been resolved.

The mental exhaustion from being called by the Department of Defense -- I`m sorry -- the department of justice, the prosecutors, the FBI. That`s still ongoing. I mean two days ago I got another call relating to a case that is pending a plea deal.

The issue is that no matter what or how much I want to move on, like, so many of those people who now say nothing happened, there`s nothing to see here so therefore we all should move on, I cannot do that still even more than six months later because of those things -- the mental health, the trauma, the physical therapy, my pending surgery on my shoulder. So as much as I want to, I can`t get away from that.

WALLACE: You and your fellow officers I think did the rest of us a favor by talking about some of what you`re talking about now. I want to play some of what Officer Dunn said to his fellow law enforcement brothers and sisters in law enforcement at that hearing that day and we`ll talk about it on the other side.


SGT. HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: I`m now receiving private counseling therapy for the persistent emotional trauma of that day. I`ve also participated in many peer support programs with fellow law enforcement officers from around the United States. I know so many other officers continue to hurt both physically and emotionally.

I want to take this moment to speak to my fellow officers about the emotions they`re continuing to experience from the events of January 6th. There`s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking professional counseling. What we went through that day was traumatic.


And if you are hurting, please take advantage of the counseling services that are available to us.


WALLACE: Since the testimony that you all provided last Monday we have learned that two additional officers who responded to the January 6th insurrection have died by suicide. And I wonder if you can just speak to what is obviously ongoing and what the public can do. How can these conversations be had in a way that supports what you are all still very much going through in real time?

GONELL: It`s tough coming forward to talk about it. I know for me, my case what drove me to come forward and talk about the whole ordeal on January 6th was when I saw the family of Officer Dunn, Officer Fanone literally begging some of these congressmen and elected leaders that they provide a promise just to get them out of their hair, out of the way. And then the minute they turn around they deny everything, they gave those family members a sense of false promise.

And when I saw them doing that, it broke my heart. I started crying. My wife walks into my room because I still was recovering from my leg injury, and she saw me sobbing and I couldn`t even talk. And she asked me what was wrong with me, and I just wanted to the TV, and look what they`re doing.

When I did that I saw my wife, my mom and my son doing the same thing in their position, begging for an acknowledgement that something bad happened not only to me but to the country -- to the country, to the Democratic process, to my fellow officer. And it takes a lot for people to come forward. For me I waited, I waited and waited months because I want to talk about this within a week or two after it happened, but I gave it time. I know I was not in the right mind because I was so upset and very emotional. Everything happened to us.

And I took my time. But I was also waiting for other leaders, other police officers and also elected leaders to acknowledge what happened and come forward to talk about it. Some of the people in the White House, my thing was, okay, maybe after this happened on January 6th maybe somebody is actually going to come forward and speak the truth and acknowledge that nothing was happening from the White House, that everything for five hours or more than five hours when us, Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police and throughout this whole ordeal at the Capitol.

When was the president trying to assist us? When was he -- this was some of the question that I had even when I was battling his own supporter. When is he going to tell them to stop? When is he going to tell them to -- this is not what I had in mind? And then later on I learned that three hours later into it instead of sending the help that we needed, he just send a message begging them to continue, praising them.

And then two hours later, well, everybody go home, we love you. How is that love when we, the police officers and elected leader, are put in the position that we could get killed when we try to protect and doing our job?

To me, that was unbelievable because there`s no way that he did not know what was happening. There was no way that he -- nobody at the White House at that time told him that this is bad and something really horrible is happening in our own government, in another branch of the government that he including the vice president of the United States. And he talking about if this is not a matter of national security when you have the vice president, his own vice president at the Capitol and everybody in the succession of the chain of command to the presidency is there at the same time.

When are you going to send help to help those members including the police officers, which we were left on our own just to -- you know, as a sacrifice for his ego?

WALLACE: I remember that video coming out the same way you do.


It was stunning in which he said to the insurrectionists, we love you. Sergeant Aquilino Gonell --

GONELL: It was kind of like, you know, have a good day, we had a good time, come back next Monday. And meanwhile we still are dealing with the injuries. Meanwhile I`m still dealing with all these things.

It was not a love fest like certain people want you to believe. You`ve seen the footage at the entrance. It was not a tour. It was not like a tour either.

This was horrible, and people need to acknowledge that because the danger and the severity of that moment to our democracy, to the Capitol, to lawmaker, to his own vice president, that was a sentence to death that he sent his supporter to do that. And when he says I`ll be right there with you after his speech and then he wasn`t there, he literally sent them over to do whatever he told them to do.

And now he wants to change the narrative. Now there are people who want to change and whitewash everything. It`s a complete betrayal and a violation of the oath of office, in my opinion.

WALLACE: Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, it`s a privilege to get to speak to you with the United States Capitol police. Thank you so much for being generous with your time tonight.

GONELL: Thank you for having me.

WALLACE: There`s new reporting from "Politico" today that indicates that the Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection has taken over a House committee`s probe of former President Trump`s pressure campaign on the Justice Department in those final weeks in office.

Specifically, "Politico`s" reporting that the House Oversight Committee dropped two planned interviews with Trump`s former acting A.G. Jeffrey Rosen, and Rosen`s number two, Richard Donoghue, passing those interviews instead to the January 6th committee. Rosen and Donoghue are of particular interest right now because of two developments. First the revelation the president called the acting A.G. Rosen almost daily, the days leading up to the insurrection, pushing him to open investigations that would cast doubt on the 2020 result.

And second, the proof that backs up those revelations -- notes, contemporaneous notes taken by Rosen`s number two, Richard Donoghue, showing Trump told Rosen, quote, just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and R. congressmen, Republican congressmen.

Now that Trump is no longer president and not protected by the Justice Department`s rule against indicting a sitting president, might a criminal investigation against the ex-president come next?

In an op-ed today in "The Washington Post", two former U.S. attorneys and a constitutional law professor argue that it should be. They write this: The time has come for the Justice Department to begin if it hasn`t already a criminal investigation into the former president`s dangerous course of conduct. If we`re to maintain our democracy and respect for the rule of law, efforts to overturn a fair election simply cannot be tolerated and Trump`s conduct must be investigated.

Joining us now, one of the authors of that piece, Barbara McQuade, the former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, currently a law professor at the University of Michigan, and Devlin Barrett is here, "The Washington Post" national security and law enforcement reporter.

Thanks to both of you for your time tonight.

Barbara, it`s a great piece. For our viewers detail the crimes Donald Trump could be and should be investigated for?

BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, at this point, of course, DOJ should just begin investigating. There`s enough evidence I think in the public domain to suggest any number of crimes that have been committed. Number one, conspiracy to defraud the United States. This sometimes is referred to as a crying conspiracy, and it`s one of the things Robert Mueller charged against the Internet Research Agency, obstructing the administration of government. In this case Congress in certifying the vote.

Number two, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. That is a charge that has been laid against some of the protesters there that day. Possibly even RICO, which is the organized crime statute, using the president`s office as the machinery to engage in other crimes that are called racketeering acts. Those could include extortion, and the RICO statute permits both federal extortion acts, could be these pressures on Rosen as well as state crimes. So it could be these pressures extended against the secretary of state of Georgia.

The big kahuna would be seditious conspiracy or inciting insurrection. I don`t know whether the evidence will go that far. And then there`s some smaller charges like voter fraud and commanding a federal employee to violate the Hatch Act.


But all of those things need to be investigated so that prosecutors can decide whether the evidence is there. And to let it go for political reasons we argue would be a grave mistake.

WALLACE: You know, Devlin, it`s such a sign of the ethical and legal potential monstrosities of the ex-president that Barbara McQuade mentions illegal voter fraud and hatch act violations as the smaller things in the list of seven. I wonder if you can speak to the fact that Donald Trump has brazenly flouted norms slash laws for five years. And the impediment was always that you could not indict a sitting president. Robert Mueller describes five or six acts of what sound like criminal obstruction of justice and a whole lot of joint missions with the Russians.

But there was never a serious conversation about investigating and charging him because he was president. Has that changed behind closed doors at the Justice Department?

DEVLIN BARRETT, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: To my knowledge, it hasn`t changed yet, but you have to remember there is a constant collection of evidence. And, you know, in theory could that view change? I think we have to see. I think one of the big things we have to see is what does Jeffrey Rosen say specifically about his conversations?

We have the notes and obviously they`re quite damning. But I think it matters a lot what Jeffrey Rosen actually says in front of a microphone. And I think the same holds true for Richard Donoghue and a handful of other senior Justice Department officials who wrestled with this in real time.

And so I understand Barb`s argument here. She`s a very smart lawyer, but I do think there`s a lot more to the picture that needs to be understood before you can make any kind of determination about criminal activity here.

WALLACE: And, Barbara, I`m sure that`s your understanding as well, that as we start to see these pieces come into public view, it makes your argument stronger.

MCQUADE: Yeah, of course. And I agree with Devlin that I don`t think they`re ready to indict today, but there is enough already in the public domain to serve as what`s known as predication. That is, you know, non- frivolous facts, that there was a crime that occurred here.

And so I think that would merit those additional investigative steps. And when prosecutors investigate, they can get text messages. They can get e- mails. They can put people into the grand jury and ask them what happened.

I think one of the most damning things that has come out in addition to those notes you reference, Nicolle, is the draft letter from Jeffrey Clark that we saw that in mine mind lays out the road map of what the end game here was and the conspiracy. That letter was to be addressed to state of Georgia telling them what to do about their own election, telling them the legislature under federal law can come in and substitute its own vote for the vote of the people.

Here it is. It seems to me he lays out what could be the game plan if Congress could throw out enough of these election results and fail to certify the election, it then gets thrown to the House where the majority of delegations were Republican. There was a path to victory for Donald Trump as long as people believed the big lie.

WALLACE: And it`s amazing. It puts his phone call in different light, too, when you read that letter from Mr. Clark.

Barbara McQuade, former east attorney for the district of Michigan, Devlin Barrett, "The Washington Post" national security and law enforcement reporter, to be continued. Thank you again both so much for your time tonight.

Coming up for us, will the U.S. military be stepping up its efforts in the fight against the war on COVID? More on that just ahead.



WALLACE: So the biggest employer in the country is the United States military. The Department of Defense employs 1.4 million active duty men and women, plus a civilian work force of more than 700,000, which is why as private companies have started to require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID, all eyes have been on the U.S. military to see if the nation`s largest employer would mandate vaccines, too.

President Biden has already required all federal employees get vaccinated and many service members are already required to receive certain vaccines. But the U.S. military has a complicated history with mandatory vaccines after it required all service members to receive an experimental anthrax vaccine in the `90s. President Biden has asked his Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, to first study whether or not the COVID vaccine should be mandatory for the U.S. military.

"The New York Times" is reporting defense secretary will make his final recommendation to the president in the next few days.

Joining us now is NBC News Pentagon correspondent Courtney Kube. Also joining us is Paul Rieckhoff, he`s the founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, who`s also the host of the "Independent Americans" podcast.

It`s great to see you both.

Courtney, tell me first where this stands and if you have any tea leaves you can read about what Secretary Austin is inclined to recommend.

COURTNEY KUBE, NBC NEWS PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: So he`s inclined to make this mandatory for U.S. service members and I think we`ll see that in the next literally couple of days that that announcement will come out. So, I mean, it`s -- he`s already telegraphed that by the way. And President Biden said last week, he wanted the Defense Department to look at this.

You know, you mentioned in intro that the DOD has a complicated history and that`s the real -- with vaccinations, mandatory vaccinations, and that`s the real crux of this issue right now. All along we`ve been hearing from people close to the Pentagon and specifically from people close to Secretary Austin they did not want to make this mandatory because of the military`s history with vaccines like the anthrax. There`s been this reticence to make anything with authorization mandatory for the military because they don`t want to make it look like they`re using the military as guinea pigs for a new or experimental medicine.


But this is different. We already have millions of people around the world who have taken these vaccines, including many military members themselves. More than 65 percent of them have gotten two doses, when you look it across the services.

So that`s I think what changed the calculus here for the military. We know now that Secretary Austin is open to this. They`ve looked at it. We`ve been told even after the president made the announcement last week, we were told it would happen quickly within a matter of days, so we should expect that announcement to come very soon, Nicolle.

WALLACE: Paul Rieckhoff, I was trying to find a tweet you put out tonight. You`ve listed the vaccines already required for men and women in the military and I ask you to do that again for us. Obviously the anthrax history is recent, and I believe we should give credit where credit is due.

I believe right now today as of August, where are we, the 5th, the military is vaccinated at slightly higher levels than the general population. But come at this however you see fit tonight.

PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: This is coming. This needs to happen, and frankly it should happen already. We can`t afford to have 30 percent of our military unvaccinated. We can`t afford to have Navy SEALs and fighter pilots and other people in the military on the front lines of all our global conflicts coming down with COVID. They`re on barracks, they`re in vehicles, they`re on ships.

We`ve already had the USS Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier, have to come back to shore because they had an outbreak in the fall of last year. This is about national security. This should transcend politics and really cuts how dangerous this anti-vax rhetoric and agenda has become. It`s endangering our national security.

To have hundreds of thousands of American men and women in uniform at risk for virus is something our enemies are celebrating. Putin loves this. Kim Jong-un loves this. ISIS loves this. And every day that Biden waits, our enemies are celebrating.

So I think it should have happened already and I hope it happens soon.

WALLACE: Well, you and have had a lot of really frank conversations about the military as a reflection what`s going on in the rest of our broken, badly damaged politics. I mean, how much of this is a reluctance to step in and something that we all know has been highly politicized, Paul?

RIECKHOFF: All of it. Biden needs to -- all of it. Biden needs to bite the bullet here and do what`s right for our national security and do what`s right for our military.

When I was in the Army, I got more stuff put in my arm that I can remember. And I`d never gotten an option. You can`t decide you`re not going to wear body armor when you go out on patrol. You can`t decide you`re not going to wear a helmet.

These things are designed to protect you and so is the vaccine. So if you`re not going to take the vaccine, get out of the military. It means you`re not a team player. It means you`re not willing to be a leader. It means you`re putting other people at risk.

So, this is really about the core of not just the vaccination effort across the country but our national security globally. So I hope Biden will bite the bullet here, step forward, take whatever political flack he has to do because lives are literally at stake.

WALLACE: And, Courtney, it seems as your reporting suggests, that that is the view from the top of the Pentagon. What is the process? Is it simply due diligence, is it they`re had a chance to ask internally what would happen. Or is this really as Paul is suggesting because of the political moment?

KUBE: So I mean the secretary did -- he wanted to consult with medical professionals before they made this mandatory and there actually is a process they have to follow. President Biden has to issue a waiver because this is emergency use authorization medication. He has to issue a waiver before they can make it mandatory for members of the military. So, that`s expected that`s going to happen.

And, you know, I think we`ll hear when they make this announcement that it will be mandatory for all active service members I think we`ll hear the word readiness a lot. The military needs to remain a ready force. It`s exactly what Paul was just talking about. That we have these people who are deploying all over the world, you know, in places where there are a lot of vaccines and where there are outbreaks of COVID.

And it`s a matter of keeping those men and women ready to fight at all times. And that`s going to be the argument that I expect according to a number of defense officials that I`ve spoken with, that I expect Secretary Austin to make here for why he made this decision.

WALLACE: We`ll keep watching with both of your help. Courtney Kube, NBC News Pentagon correspondent, and our friend, founder of IAVA, the host of the "Independent Americans" podcast -- thank you both so much for being here with us tonight.

Coming up for us, as the rest of the America remains largely divided on ideological lines between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, is there anything that could break through and persuade those skeptics? That conversation is next.



WALLACE: Today the number of coronavirus cases thin U.S. reached a six- month high. The average daily cases are now nearly five times what they were just one month ago. Half of all new COVID cases and hospitalizations this past week come from seven states, Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.

Those seven states also happen to be the seven states with the lowest vaccination rate. See a pattern, folks?

Meanwhile the Biden administration is reportedly developing a plan to require proof of vaccination for all foreign visitors traveling into the U.S. And just tonight, "The Washington Post" is reporting that the administration is considering withholding federal funding from certain institutions in an effort to spur more vaccinations. As vaccine mandates become a reality of daily life in places where vaccination rates are already high, what can be done to slow the spread of the deadly virus in the rest of places in our country?

To help us answer that question one of our favorite people to turn to, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

Dr. Jha, I will admit that I now wake up and search Twitter for whatever you`ve said and weighed in on because it`s not a spin on the day`s news but you do cut through and get to the bone.


And I wonder if you can do that with what seems to be happening as the delta variant has made that it sees simply unvaccinated states, right, not red states, not blue states. But in this country those happen to be red states.

If we move toward vaccine mandates, are we simply going to get less and less COVID in the places that are wearing our masks and getting our vaccines and having mandates? If the rest of the country doesn`t follow suit, will it really help the whole country?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, Nicolle, first of all, thanks for having me on.

It`s a great question. I would say two things. First of all even in a lot of the blue states there are pockets of unvaccinated people. And so, everybody has work to do.

This is not just a pure red state or blue state problem, though obviously as you pointed out, seven states are reel driving so many of the infections across the country.

Second is I think this is a time for people to step up, people who were apolitical. University presidents have to step up in all states and say they`ve got to mandate vaccines. The American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association have all come out said that every hospital need to step up and mandate vaccines. That should happen everywhere in America.

So if we see civil society stepping up, we can get rid of this blue state and red state stuff and just get people protected.

WALLACE: Can you tell me -- I mean a lot of what I think people flock to your feed for is the science. Can you tell -- can you explain what is happening with the delta variant? It feels like we have an out of whack -- and I know the White House feels this way, too -- almost disproportionate reaction to the phenomenon of breakthrough infections while most of the danger is still for unvaccinated adults who are still vaccine eligible young people.

JHA: Absolutely. So, if you think about it these vaccines really are terrific, right? We`ve said they have great efficacy at preventing any kind of infection and then they have superb efficacy at preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

But when you have this much infection spreading in the country, 800,000 Americans getting infected, you would not be surprised, even if it`s an 80 or 90 percent vaccine, if 5,000, 10,000 Americans are having breakthrough infections every day. Why are there that many? Because they`re surrounded by so much virus because of the outbreak really focused on unvaccinated people, it`s spilling over into the vaccinated.

Thankfully, most vaccinated people are not getting very sick. They`re not dying. And so, while break through infections are problem, they`re not driving this pandemic.

At this point, it is a pandemic of the unvaccinated being driven by unvaccinated people. And unvaccinated people are doing most of the suffering, unfortunately, as well.

WALLACE: Can you look at any other country that had the delta variant attack their unvaccinated populations before we did and project out what the next few days and weeks are going to look like for our country?

JHA: Yeah, absolutely. There are a lot of countries that have dealt with the delta wave. The U.K. really started about two months before we did. So they gave us a head start. We`re told they gave us a peek into our future. In June and July, when we many of us were warning that this wave was coming, unfortunately, a lot of governors and leaders ignored it.

The good news from the U.K. is not the infection has really turned after two months of pretty horrendous increases they have turned. I think that`s going to happen here in the United States as well. So if that holds as we get sort of to the end of August into September, I`m hopeful we`re going to see infection numbers turn more quickly in the vaccinated states because it has more immunity. But I`m hoping everywhere in the country we`re going to see that.

WALLACE: One of the more compelling things I see as I`m consuming news in my regular life are the horrific tragedies of deathbed pleas for people to get vaccinated. Just on the messaging side or anecdotally in your own life, do you hear those messages of people who were the in camp of vaccine skeptics having terrible sicknesses or losing loved ones? Is that breaking through?

JHA: I think it is breaking through. And it is actually heart breaking to see those. Because I know people love to sort of beat up on the unvaccinated. I have a lot of sympathy for people who have been bombarded by misinformation and only at sort of their most critical moment of their life when they`re very, very ill that they`ve come to realize they`ve been fed a lot of disinformation and they`re suffering because of it.

So we`ve had to keep up our work on countering that misinformation by getting good information out there to people. It`s a very tough situation, but I hope the political leaders also step in here and amplify the good science people need to hear.


WALLACE: Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, one of our favorite people to ask all these questions to, thank you so much for making some time for us tonight.

Coming up for us, signs of movement on federal voting rights legislation as run away Texas Democrats hiding out in D.C. face brand new pressures at home. We`ll tell you about it, next.


WALLACE: When Senate Republicans blocked the For the People Act earlier this summer, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer described the fail vote as, quote, the starting gun not the finish line. He promised that Democrats would not let the fight for voting rights legislation die. Now more than six weeks later it appears Senate Democrats are closing in on another vote.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that key senators have been working behind the scenes trying to tailor a narrower bill that could rally Democrats and even bring some Republicans to the table. Democrats say they expect a deal within days that could setup another vote before the summer recess next week.


Meanwhile, more than 100 state legislatures from across the country are in the nation`s Capitol. They`re joining Texas Democrats who spent the last three weeks in D.C. pushing members of Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation.

They would stay out of Texas until the end of the special legislative session there to block Republicans from passing Texas`s restrictive voting bill. That session ends tomorrow.

But, today, Texas Governor Greg Abbott called a second special session with new agenda items starting the very next day.

Joining us now is Texas State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer.

Representative Martinez Fischer, thank you so much for spending time with us tonight.

First, I want to get to the U.S. Senate and the legislation there. It seems like you have really helped focus and narrow. But I want to ask you what is happening in Texas. Are you going back or staying?

STATE REP. TREY MARTINEZ FISCHER (D), TEXAS: You know what? I am not going back. As long as Congress is working and it looks like they are working very hard, I will be here and we`ll see this come to a head and hopefully see a vote in the U.S. Senate before the end of next week.

WALLACE: I first heard your colleague Jasmine Crockett talk about loving what was in the federal legislation but just needing an inch, saying -- making the argument publicly that something albeit narrow would be better than nothing.

Tell me how those conversations have changed the deliberations in Washington.

MARTINEZ FISCHER: Well, absolutely. First and foremost, I don`t think the U.S. Senate really understood just how high the hurdles are in Texas when it comes to voting. Texas, by and through Republicans, have done a good job of making voting pretty much a crime in the state of Texas.

And I can recall my conversations with Senator Manchin`s team just to understand just how easy it is to vote in West Virginia and how hard it is to vote in Texas, at some point I said you know what? We`ll take the West Virginia standard because it is a lot easier to vote in West Virginia than in Texas.

But as it relates to the national conversation, I mean, clearly, anything that can be done to make voting easier would be an improvement in Texas. Anything that can be done to have an almost no excuse absentee voting program would be good. Expanding voter ID to provide more provisions and documents you could use to prove you are who you are.

There are a number of things in the federal proposal that would really open up voting in the state of Texas and be refreshing but we recognize that when it comes to voting rights in America, we should only have one standard and that is the American standard.

WALLACE: When you look at the -- it is hard to describe it as successful because it is so malevolent, but the Republican-backed voter nullification campaign has been one of the most wildly successful state by state legislative pushes in my career. I mean, they have proposed I think almost 400 voter suppression laws in 49 states, 22 of them have been passed into law.

Do you feel like at the national level, the Democrats are on their high game to meet that lethal threat to voting rights?

MARTINEZ FISCHER: You know, I think it is becoming increasingly clear the Republicans want to hijack elections right? We saw it with the big lie and now we`re seeing states moving to change the way you vote in your state. You know, this is a tremendous set up for the 2022 elections where you can effectively lose an election yet have some rigged process through Republican lawmaking that might nullify and overturn results.

So, yes, I think Democrats are waking up. Here in Texas we saw this coming when we saw the voices being silenced in Georgia and in Florida and as we spent a lot of time with lawmakers from other states the last couple days they were giving us praise and encouragement for our stand.

We made it very clear we were prepared because we saw what happened in their states and so, yes, state by state Republicans are just rolling over, silencing the voices of voters, and somebody has to push back. Somebody has to say no. Right now, it`s us here in Texas and we hope that by rallying this nation and making voting rights a top talking point in the domestic policy agenda that we just might see another vote in the U.S. Senate before the end of next week.

WALLACE: A lot of the coverage centers around the intractable nature of the debate around the filibuster that Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema are quite devoted to as this president.

Do the conversations behind closed doors have that baked in the cake? Or are you pressing Joe Manchin to reconsider his position on the filibuster in your private meetings?

MARTINEZ FISCHER: Sure. That is a great question. I`ve been a lawmaker for 20 years and I understand my House practice.


And I understand our rules and our procedures. You know, and there is an identity to the institution and you want to -- you want to be loyal to the institution but at some point, there comes a time when you recognize you may have a rule or tradition that is actually impeding our constitutional right and, really, we should not have a tradition or a rule or a relic of Jim Crow, you know, actually take center stage for our voting rights and our U.S. Constitution.

So, look, I understand the need to work and try to find a pragmatic and bipartisan response. I understand, you know, if and when this bill gets filed that there are a number of provisions that may have been put in and taken out to invite bipartisan support. And I hope there is support.

But in the event there is not then we have to recognize that Democrats have done all that they can do and our democracy is on the line and so Republicans are fighting like they have everything to lose. I think we need to do the same thing because it is that important to our country.

WALLACE: What awaits you in Texas? Do you fear retribution or charges? Do you know?

MARTINEZ FISCHER: I mean, for me, I hope it is a beautiful wife and two lovely daughters is what I`m looking forward to. Yes, of course, there is this fear of arrest and fear of retribution. And, listen, you know, we take it serious. I also take this job very seriously. The governor can call as many suppression sessions as he wants.

We`re going to stay here and defend democracy and I think at this juncture everybody knows we`ll put all of our tools on the table. We know how to use them. We`ve used them effectively and Republicans know we mean what we say.

We are not going to just bow down when it comes to taking voting rights away from our fellow Texans. So, you know, come what May, we are here to defend the country and voting rights and won`t be intimidated by a threat of arrest.

WALLACE: Texas State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, we really appreciate you taking time to talk to us tonight. Thank you so much, sir.

We`ll be right back.


WALLACE: That does it for us tonight. Thank you so much for watching. We`ll see you again tomorrow.

I will see you again tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 p.m. eastern for "DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE".


Good evening, Lawrence. How are you?