Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation`s top infectious disease expert, President Biden`s chief medical adviser, is interviewed. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is interviewed.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Mehdi. It`s great to see, my friend. Thank you very, very much.
And thanks to you, at home, for joining us this hour. Happy Monday.
I have been on vacation for the last couple of weeks. First two-week vacation I have ever had, in my whole life. It was amazing.
I want to say a big thank you to the team here who held down the fort. Thank you to Ali Velshi and Nicolle Wallace and Ari Melber for filling in while I was away and doing such an amazing job.
We`ve got -- I feel like -- I feel like the news gods gave me, like, a welcome-back, like, care package. That is slightly over -- overflowing, in terms of the amount of news to process and talk about and get up to date with.
So, we are going to jump right in. Our first guest tonight is a big deal. And you are going to want to see this interview. If -- if you are serving in the United States` military, right now, as part of your service requirements, you have to get your shots, a bunch of them.
The Pentagon has long required all-U.S. military personnel to get shots to protect against things, like measles and mumps and smallpox and diphtheria. I mean, depending on where in the world you might be serving for the U.S. military, U.S. troops are required to receive up-to-17 different vaccinations before they are allowed to deploy, before they`re allowed to serve.
Well, as of today, the COVID vaccine will be one more addition to the existing, long list of mandatory vaccines for people in the U.S. military. This is a big deal. It`s a big deal for the military. It`s a big deal for the country. It`s a big deal for the fight against COVID-19.
President Biden had, previously, asked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to study whether active-duty U.S. troops should be required to take the vaccine. Today, Secretary Austin announced that, after studying the matter, he will ask President Biden, as commander in chief, to, in fact, require those vaccinations.
This affects a ton of people. The U.S. Defense Department is the largest- single employer in the whole country. In addition to the huge civilian workforce associated with the Defense Department, there`s more than 1.4 million active-duty men and women serving, right now.
So, this requirement affects so many Americans. It affects enough people, that it may, noticeably, impact the overall-vaccination rates, in this country. Especially, if this requirement means that a whole lot of people associated with the Defense Department, all, get vaccinated, all at once.
Secretary Austin said, in his announcement today, in terms of timing, that this new COVID vaccine requirement for members of the military is going to go into effect, quote, no later than mid-September, or immediately upon full FDA approval, whichever comes first. That`s a really interesting point and I`d love to get some expert advice on that, in just a second.
Right now, COVID vaccines are, obviously, approved. We have three different vaccines approved in the country. They are all approved under something called emergency use authorization. Full-formal approval for the vaccines, however, is -- is pretty widely expected to start happening within the next few weeks.
Now, going from emergency use authorization to full approval. That full approval won`t, technically, make any difference in how the vaccines work or how safe they are, but that decision, by the military, and that -- the way it was couched in terms of the timing by Secretary Austin -- Austin -- that`s a reminder, today, that full approval of the vaccines, full-formal approval, not just emergency authorization, that might make a difference, in terms of various entities and agencies and big employers feeling comfortable, actually, requiring vaccination, right, the way that schools and the military and so many other entities have required various other vaccinations for so long.
I wonder if they may also make a difference in terms of individual Americans making the decision for themselves and their families as to whether or not they are comfortable with the vaccine.
As of last week, 70 percent of all adults in our country have received at least one dose of the vaccine. That`s a big accomplishment. It did come a month later than the July 4th deadline, President Biden had hoped for, for that benchmark. Because more Americans have not been willing to get the shot, we are now seeing this disparate lived experience based on where you might live. If you live in a part of the country where not that many people have been vaccinated, day to day life right now is starting taking a time machine back to the battle days of last spring.
In Mississippi right now, in 20 -- 20 of the state`s top-level hospitals, there are zero ICU beds available, in 20 top hospitals in the state. Northern Texas, two hospitals just had to shut down their emergency rooms because of being overwhelmed by sick people with new COVID cases. ICUs in northern Texas are at 96 percent capacity.
In Austin, the state capital of Texas, all-local hospitals` ICUs are expected to hit full capacity, before the end of this month.
Again, that is in Austin.
The governor of Texas, today, Republican Greg Abbott, today, he asked all hospitals in the state of Texas to delay nonessential procedures, as COVID patients strain capacity.
In Brunswick, Georgia, ICU beds, today, are completely full at two different local hospitals. You see that -- the headline there. As COVID-19 cases soar, ICU beds full. Here is Tampa, Florida. Tampa Bay paramedics wait hours in hospital bays, while patients await open ER beds. Terrifying.
Charlotte, North Carolina. Hospitals are full, doctors urge you not to go to the emergency room for your COVID-19 test.
This is Fort Payne, Alabama. ICU beds are full. Coronavirus is going to get worse.
Tonight, the U.S. passed 36 million recorded cases of COVID. That`s from the start of the pandemic.
But just to -- I think this is helpful, just to get a look at how fast the rate of infection is increasing right now. We`re at 36 million cases, as of tonight. Look at the last few million cases. We hit 33 million in mid-May. To get the next million cases, it took 64 days.
But then, the next-million cases, after that, took just 16 days. That brought us to August 1st. And here we are, just eight days after that with, yet, another million cases.
That escalation, that acceleration tells you how badly things are getting worse, right now. Just eight days to record one million cases. It was eight times that, which is -- which is eight times faster than what we are experiencing just this spring.
I would like some expert help in understanding this, and understanding the severity of what we`re looking at. How the vaccination of 70 percent of U.S. adults changes our understanding of what the severity of these massive numbers of new cases mean. I want expert help to see what we do here, what comes next?
Joining us, now, is Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation`s top infectious disease expert. He is President Biden`s chief medical adviser and, of course, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Dr. Fauci, it`s a real honor to have you with us. Thank you so much for taking time to be here tonight.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Thank you. Thank you very much, Rachel. Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about this decision for Defense Department personnel -- to now be required to be vaccinated. It seems, to me, that that affects a large number of people just because the Defense Department is such a large employer. It seems to me, also, that the hinging it on or at least citing the full authorization, the expected full authorization of the vaccines, as opposed to emergency use, may also signal a different kind of benchmark.
Are you expecting that that full authorization might mean more mandates? Might mean more Americans are comfortable getting vaccinated?
FAUCI: I think, two things are going to happen, Rachel, when you get the full authorization and -- and go beyond the emergency use. There are going to be some people who really do feel that they`re concerned that we don`t have enough information. And when you get the full -- full approval, then they would change their mind.
You know, that`s an interesting situation because, in reality, we have hundreds of millions of doses that have been given in the United States and throughout the world showing, it`s highly effective and safe. But putting that aside, there will be a segment of those unvaccinated who change their mind. But importantly, I think, the greater impact will be that you will have, at the local level, the kind of feeling of empowerment to do the things that they were a little bit hesitant to do because they didn`t have the cover, as it were, of a full approval.
You`re going to see universities and colleges saying, if you want to be here, in person, you`ve got to get vaccinated. You will, likely, see big corporations making the same decision. Either, you get vaccinated or you don`t work with us.
So, I think, in answer to your question, Rachel, we will see a lot more local mandates for vaccination as a requirement to do whatever particular function you`re talking about.
MADDOW: And mandates, obviously -- you know, we have a long history of mandates related to various vaccines, for various forms of employment and travel and attendance at school and things like that, in this country. That`ll make a difference, in terms of vaccine uptake. So might the full authorization, itself, might make some Americans feel more comfortable, as opposed to the emergency use.
I think, also, people are reconsidering -- people who haven`t been vaccinated, yet, are maybe reconsidering because of the fear of the delta virus. We obviously know it is more contagious than the wild variant or earlier variants of the virus. What else can you tell us, in sort of plain language, about the -- what else is different about -- about delta?
Is it more lethal?
MADDOW: Does it make people more sick? Does it make people sick more quickly? Is it more likely to give you long-COVID symptoms, even if you recover from it?
FAUCI: Well, we have the answer, definitively, to some of the questions, and a strong suggestion, for the others, Rachel. There is no doubt that this virus is highly efficient in spreading from human to human -- no doubt about that -- because it has taken over, to become dominant, in a very relatively short period of time. It`s pushed out all the other variants that were hanging around.
Now, we have about 93 percent of all the variants in the United States are delta, point number one.
Point number two is that, although it isn`t as definitive, we`re having a bunch of studies -- some more convincing than others -- from foreign countries who have had additional experience with delta, even before us, which indicate that it might cause an increase, relatively speaking, in hospitalizations, strongly suggesting that it might be more severe.
We`re continuing data in -- collection, in that regard, in this country.
The issue of this virus is really striking. For example, if you compare it to the alpha variant, which is the one that anteceded this and you looked into the nasopharynx of the person who was infected with the alpha variant, and you look at the amount of virus in the nasopharynx, and now look at the amount of virus in the nasopharynx of someone who`s been infected with the delta variant, it`s up to a thousand times more.
And one of the things that`s really concerning is that, if you get vaccinated and you get a breakthrough infection, we know that happens. That`s expected because no vaccine is 100 percent effective. The good news is that, in people who have been vaccinated and get infected as a breakthrough, if you want to call it that, infection with delta that, they have a level of virus in their nasopharynx that`s equivalent to the level of an unvaccinated person.
And we know, now, that a person who`s vaccinated, if you get infected -- and that`s unusual but it does occur -- even if you are without symptoms or if you have moderate-slight symptoms, you are capable of transmitting it to someone else. So, the delta variant, even though the person who gets infected, who`s vaccinated, very unlikely will have a severe outcome. Not impossible but unlikely. That person can, still, spread it.
That is the reason for the modification of the masking guidelines, because you`re dealing with two issues -- preventing you from getting seriously ill, but also the possibility that you still might spread it.
It`s a nasty virus, Rachel. And that`s the reason why we have got to take it very seriously. And one of the best ways to do that is to get as many people vaccinated, as quickly as we possibly can.
That is the solution to this problem. And when you see the kind of surges that you put up on the screen, it`s so obvious. We have 93 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not vaccinated. We have, absolutely, got to turn those people around, and convince them that they must get vaccinated.
MADDOW: Dr. Fauci, I`m -- I`m no virologist and I don`t -- I don`t pretend to understand this stuff, as well as -- as anybody in the medical field. But I feel like, watching this, from the outside, I have been assuming that if we were able to get vaccination rates high enough, that would make us more safe from the evolution of yet more lethal, yet more scary variants.
But if vaccination doesn`t reduce the amount of virus in our noses, if vaccination doesn`t prevent us from being able to pass the infection to other people, is it still true? Should we still understand that vaccinating a larger and larger proportion of the population is our best path toward heading off the prospect of the lambda variant or other, even scarier variants that might emerge from this virus, in the future?
FAUCI: Great question, Rachel, and the answer to the question is -- absolutely, vaccination will prevent that. It will go a long way to preventing that because, remember, when you get vaccinated, even though you get breakthrough infection, the overwhelming majority of the people don`t even get infected. In those, that do get infected, that`s when you get the situation of passing it on to someone else.
But if you allow the virus to freely circulate in 93 million people, and give it the opportunity to find vulnerable targets, you give it the opportunity to mutate and form another variant.
As I`ve said, so many times, it`s very clear in virology that a virus will not mutate unless you allow it to replicate. And whatever you can do to prevent it from spreading, even though vaccines are not perfect, they`re an extraordinarily powerful tool and prevent the spread within the community. The more you prevent the spread, the less likelihood that the virus will mutate.
This brings up another important point because people say, well, I`m healthy, the chances of my getting seriously ill is very, very low. So, why do I need to worry about getting vaccinated?
And the reason is it isn`t all about you. Because if, in fact, you don`t get vaccinated and you do get infected, and you`re part of the transmission chain. And you allow it to infect someone else, you`re propagating the ability of that virus to, ultimately, mutate.
And if it does mutate to something that does evade the vaccine, then we really got a problem. We`re fortunate that the delta variant is relatively well-controlled, certainly, against severe disease by the vaccines that we use.
If you allow the virus to just completely, freely go around and go from person to person, you are giving it an opportunity to evade, ultimately, even the people who`ve been vaccinated, because if you get a mutant that is very different from delta, maybe much different and much more transmissible or much more serious, then, that impacts even the vaccinated people.
So, people getting unvaccinated, potentially, hurt themselves, their family, and the community. But it, also, helps, possibly, to make things ultimately worse for the people who are already vaccinated.
MADDOW: In terms of that simple idea, at the -- the -- the heart of -- that virological principle at the heart of this, that more replication equals more opportunity for variation and mutation. Are you up at night worried about kids going back to school in the fall? I mean, that is upon us now. That is starting to happen.
And, you know, we were --
MADDOW: We`re at over 100,000 cases, now, again. We were at 300,000 cases in January but kids weren`t in school. We do have a lot of people vaccinated. Masks is a whole other issue, and we could talk about that, separately.
But how worried are you about seeing large numbers of new infections particularly among young people, once people are back in school?
FAUCI: Well, I`m worried about it, Rachel, if we don`t do the right thing. So, let`s talk about that.
So, we know -- because we`ve had experience, now, 18 months -- keeping the children physically out of school has real, detrimental implication for them. We know that, the development of the children, their mental health, or what have you. So, you`ve got to balance, how do we get them to school, at the same time that we protect them to get them, safely, in school?
The first thing you do is you surround them with those people who can get vaccinated, and are vaccinated. So, anybody that goes near a child, in school, teachers, people who work in the school. If they are eligible to be vaccinated, they need to be vaccinated, right away. That`s one level of protection.
Then, also, as difficult as it is for children to be wearing masks, you got to get everybody to wear a mask in school. And that`s what the CDC recommendation is. Vaccinate who can be vaccinated. And wear masks, for others.
I know it`s difficult and it`s controversial about children and those in school wearing masks. But we don`t want to keep the children out of school for, yet again, another term. And at the same time, we want to keep them safe.
MADDOW: Dr. Anthony Fauci, our nation`s top infectious disease expert, President Biden`s chief medical adviser, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases -- sir, whenever you can be here, it`s - - we`ll have you. It`s always an honor to have time with you. Thanks for being here.
FAUCI: Thank you for having me, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We got a lot to get to here, tonight. It is -- it`s very good to be back.
Stay with us. Lots of news ahead.
MADDOW: So, what did I miss? What did I miss? Anything happen, while I was on vacation?
I go away for two lousy weeks, the first two-week vacation I`ve ever had in my life, and all HE double hockey sticks breaks out while I`m gone.
And I -- I -- I mean, take your pick. I know that is true, on climate, the world appears to be on fire, at the moment.
Also, on COVID with the country back up over 100,000 cases, a day. And the ICUs and the ERs being overrun in a whole bunch of states where the vaccination rates are low, as we were just discussing with Dr. Fauci.
It also applies, of course, to our democracy. One of the stories the team here covered while I was away was a story that I think needs way more attention, moving forward. It`s a story out of Georgia where Republicans in the state legislature are gearing up to actually use their big draconian new anti-voting law, that`s been so controversial. They are gearing up to use it to try to force out the top-elections official in Fulton County, Georgia. Fulton County, Georgia, of course, the Democratic stronghold that includes Atlanta.
In these anti-voting bills that are being passed by Republican legislatures across the country, they`re not only making it harder to vote, in every way they can, they are systematically changing the administration of elections and the way votes are counted, to give partisan Republicans control of the process.
To give them the power to oust elections officials, who won`t do what they want.
Republicans, all over the country, are giving themselves that power to subvert election results and seize the counting process for themselves. And now, they are actually starting to try to use it in Georgia. Which, I think, is a really, really big deal and deserves more national attention.
While, meanwhile, you know, Republicans are succeeding, in Washington, in their efforts to try to stop any national protections for voting rights and fair elections. Even though Democrats control the White House and the House and the Senate, Republicans in Washington, nevertheless, are still succeeding in blocking any national protection for elections and voting rights.
They are succeeding, thanks largely to Democratic Senator Joe Manchin siding with them and ensuring that nothing can be done. Republicans are going full-steam ahead in the states with this plot, while Senator Joe Manchin is blocking anything from being done in Washington to step up against it. It`s just -- just -- it`s incredible.
I -- I thought you all could sort this out while I was away. I figured I`ll be gone two weeks, two-whole weeks. This will definitely be sorted, by the time I`m back. Now, I`m back. Turns out, that was not sorted.
But, over these past couple of weeks, we did solve one longstanding puzzle that has been driving me nuts, since January. We also have started to learn the story of why attorney General Merrick Garland truly has the hardest and worst job in Washington right now. I mean, everybody in the administration, you know, dealing with COVID, dealing with the climate disaster, dealing with the attack on voting rights, dealing with the -- the harrowing job of evacuating our allies out of Afghanistan. Every -- everyone in the administration, dealing with all of those crises, and policing reform and these contested-oil pipelines, and these authoritarian nightmares that are breaking out in Belarus and in Hong Kong.
I mean, everybody in the administration has got a hard job, right? The world is, obviously a mess, in lots of ways. But there is only one member of the Biden administration, who heads to work, every day, with the heavy work on his shoulders of, you know, needing to do the work of the agency he runs. In this case, the Justice Department.
But he is the only one who, also, has to contend with the fact that, as he goes to his office every day, his office is a crime scene, right? I mean, only Merrick Garland, the attorney general, has to contend with the fact that in the post-Trump era, like every day, at least every week, brings some, new revelation about how former officials at the Justice Department did it. How they were complicit.
They went along. They acquiesced. They did their part, in the corrupting of the Justice Department that happened under the last president, right? It`s -- it`s one thing to break the law. That`s -- that`s its own set of challenges, right? It`s another thing, to have created a generation of bent law enforcement officials, right?
What does Merrick Garland do with this continually accreting evidence of Justice Department officials having gone along with these schemes? You can`t just be look, whoo, glad they are all out of here. Let`s make sure we behave differently, now.
I mean, you have got to come clean what happened. You got to tell the truth. Find the guilty parties. Name them. Give them a chance to defend themselves and explain themselves, yes. But there has to be some accountability, or this stuff just happens, again.
And we are starting to learn it. And it is hideous. And some of the worst of it has been revealed over these past couple of weeks, while I was trying to learn to catch striped bass from the shore. Don`t worry, they were all safe from me.
First, we get the Justice Department, under Merrick Garland, advising Trump`s last-attorney general and his last deputy attorney general and other senior officials from Trump`s last days that they are, in fact, allowed to testify to Congress. For Congress`s ongoing investigations into how Trump tried to overturn the election results and stay in power.
So, Justice Department okayed former-Trump officials` testifying to the congressional investigations of those matters. Then, the Justice Department handed over to those congressional investigations, the oversight committee in the House, Judiciary Committee in the Senate, handed over to them a bunch of documents from the Justice Department from that time period. Those documents include notes from the Trump deputy attorney general, Richard Donoghue, from a call on December 27th. These notes showing Trump complaining, in that call, that there must have been fraud, everywhere in the election. And the Justice Department should do more to promote and legitimate his claims of fraud.
The notes say, President Trump told the attorney general and the deputy attorney general, in that call, quote, just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.
And that, obviously, landed as a bombshell and got a ton of attention over the past couple weeks since those notes were first published, first released to the public by the house oversight committee. But here is the other part of those handwritten notes that made me, basically, swallow my tongue when I -- when I printed out the whole set of notes on vacation and read them. It`s just a single line, on page four of these handwritten notes. This is, apparently, again, quoting Trump. Most of these notes are just quoting Trump on this call.
And according to the notes, Trump says in this call, December 27th, says to senior Justice Department officials, the attorney general and deputy attorney general. He says to them, quote, Georgia legislature is on our side.
The reason that is so bad, that single line is such a doozy, is because of what we now know happened, the very next day. That call, where Trump says say the election`s corrupt and leave the rest to me, and Georgia legislature is on our side. That call was December 27th.
The very next day, there was a letter. ABC News was first to publish this letter. It`s dated the day after that call. After that call with Trump saying just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me, the call where he says the Georgia legislator is on our side. The very next day, December 28, we now know, an apparently very Trumpy senior figure at the Trump Justice Department, man who ran the civil division, a man named Jeff Clark, drafted this letter that was to be sent to the governor of Georgia, the head of the state assembly there and the head of the state Senate there.
Dear Governor Kemp, Mr. Speaker, and Mr. President pro temp. Quote: The Department of Justice is investigating various irregularities in the 2020 election for the president of the United States. The department will update you, as we are able, on investigatory progress. But at this time, we have identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election, in multiple states, including the state of Georgia.
The next paragraph of the letter is him, then, linking to the -- the moon bat Rudy Giuliani fake hearing in Georgia in December that was so bonkers, it ultimately contributed to Rudy Giuliani having his license to practice law suspended in multiple jurisdictions but that`s what Jeff Clark cites as the evidence for these terrible revelations of corruption in Georgia.
Jeff Clark`s letter continues, quote, in light of these developments, the department, meaning the U.S. Department of Justice, recommends that the Georgia general assembly should convene in special session to take additional testimony, receive new evidence, and deliberate on this matter. The purpose of the special session, the department recommends, would be for the assembly to evaluate the irregularities in the 2020 election, determine whether those violations show which candidate for president won the most legal votes in the election. And, number three, is determine whether the election failed to make a proper and valid choice between the candidates, such that the general assembly could take whatever action is necessary to ensure that one of the slates of electors cast by the state will be accepted in -- by Congress on January 6th.
So again, this is a letter to Georgia dated December 28th. This is Jeff Clark, head of the civil division in Trump`s Justice Department writing this letter. Essentially, telling the state legislature in Georgia that they should consider the election corrupt, because the Justice Department has looked into it, and found all sorts of significant corruption. And therefore, the state legislature should take matters into their own hands to replace the state`s Biden electors with Trump electors. And do it before January 6th, when the Electoral College votes would be counted.
In the letter, Jeff Clark even spells out that, although it looks, on the surface, like only the governor of Georgia could call the legislature back into such a special session like this, he says it is the opinion of the U.S. Department of Justice that the legislature can call itself back into session, even without the governor doing anything. They can do that, on their own authority.
And remember the note. Remember that line, on page four, from the call that happened the previous day. Trump assuring the attorney general and deputy- attorney general, quote, the Georgia legislature is on our side.
So, the -- the problem here, the problem that emerges. How dare this happened on my vacation? The problem that emerges is that this wasn`t some cockamamie fantasy where, like, the pillow company guy says the whole Supreme Court will rule 9-nothing that Trump is the lord emperor, right? This isn`t like the QAnon Cyber Ninjas in Arizona, being like we found bamboo chutes in the bathroom trash and, therefore, Biden magically isn`t president anymore.
This isn`t Giuliani being like, oh, there`s 8,000 dead people who voted. I mean -- I mean, 16,000 dead people who -- I mean, a million dead people who voted.
And therefore, Biden isn`t president. This isn`t some of that nonsense, like we have seen, in the months since the election from the president`s supporters and people working for him. This is an actual plan, right?
The letter has places for three signatures at the bottom. The attorney general, Jeff Rosen at the time. Deputy attorney general, Richard Donoghue, at the time. And the guy who wrote it, Jeff Clark, the head of the civil division, at the time.
Had Rosen and Donoghue agreed with Clark that they should sign this and send it, think about what that would have meant. There, of course, would have been a national clamor that the U.S. Justice Department had declared the election to be corrupted, potentially fatally so.
The Georgia Republican legislature, if Trump was right -- if -- if Trump was right that they were onboard with this, they`re on our side. And they - - if he was right, they would have tried to call themselves into special session to -- to, what, try to recall the state`s Biden electors from the Electoral College. Instead, consider whether the other slate, meaning the Trump slate, should have been sent, instead.
So, Jeff Clark sent over this draft letter, dated December 28th. He also sent over an e-mail, accompanying the letter, to the attorney general and the deputy attorney general. In that e-mail, he spelled out exactly that the plan was to do this, not just in Georgia but, in multiple states.
He says, quote, the concept is to send it to the governor, speaker, and president pro temp -- he says temp, it should be president pro tem -- of each relevant state to indicate that in light of time urgency and sworn evidence of election irregularities presented to courts and legislative committees, the legislatures thereof should each assemble and make a decision about elector appointment in light of their deliberations.
So, they`re going to -- they`re going to send this thing to Georgia, saying that the Justice Department has found serious irregularities. You all should convene yourselves in a special session and look at your slate of electors, you know what I mean?
They are going to send this thing to Georgia. They believe Republicans in the Georgia legislature are on our side. And will act on it, will actually do it. They`ll replace the election results in Georgia with their own choice of Trump electors. And they plan to do the same thing in multiple, other states where, again, they think Republican legislators will act.
And, of course, they`d be much more likely to do that, if Georgia went ahead, first. Especially, if they have this backstop from the U.S. Justice Department talking about all this fraud in the election and that could be used to justify their actions.
So, it would be Georgia, first. But then, presumably, it`d be Pennsylvania and Michigan and Arizona and Wisconsin and Nevada. Everywhere they believe that Republicans in control of the state legislature would go for it. If Georgia went first and did it, would Republican-state legislators in those other state do it, too, if they had backup from the U.S. Justice Department. If they had this explicit pretext? This explicit request from the U.S. Justice Department that they should do it? You think they wouldn`t?
I mean, this wasn`t a fantasy. This was an actual plan, an actual thing that they tried. And for one, it solves an actual mystery, a thing that has been bugging me since January.
Just before the attack on the capitol obliterated all other news, on January 6th, we learned that the top-federal prosecutor in Georgia. So effectively, the top DOJ official in the state of Georgia, had suddenly resigned his position. U.S. attorney in Georgia his name was B.J. Pak.
We covered it intensively at the time. Why is B.J. Pak resigning? Particularly, when it emerged that Trump had been calling elections officials in Georgia, personally, pressuring them to declare the election a fraud. Why did the U.S. attorney in Georgia resign, in the middle of that kind of pressure from the president?
Well, as -- as Katie Benner of "The New York Times" reported while I was trying to teach myself new fishing knots, that U.S. attorney in -- in Georgia, B.J. Pak, he was reportedly told about this plot from Trump and Jeff Clark at the Justice Department. He was told about the plot that they were trying to launch, starting in Georgia.
As the top Justice Department official in Georgia, U.S. attorney B.J. Pak, a Trump appointee, would presumably had to go along with that or get out of the way, right? I mean, the plot underway that Trump was working on with a senior Justice Department official, who he then tried to install as attorney general, what he was working on was to have the Justice Department declare Georgia`s elections to be corrupt, and then tell Republicans and the legislature to go ahead and convene themselves and declare Trump the winner. To pick a Trump electoral slate to replace the Biden slate.
The U.S. attorney in Georgia, B.J. Pak, at the time, would have had to back that up as a Justice Department official, or he would have had to quit and get out of the way. Well, we now know, after he got a call from the deputy attorney general, Richard Donoghue, late on the night of January 3rd, he quit, early in the morning of January 4th.
And we now know that, that deputy attorney general, Rich Donoghue, and the attorney general, Jeff Rosen, they didn`t sign their names on the bottom of that letter to Georgia in the space that had been left for them to sign. And it looks like, that deputy-attorney general, Rich Donoghue, warned the U.S. attorney in Georgia about this plot. This actually-rational, conceivable plot to overturn the election using fake-fraud claims in Georgia, backed up by the U.S.-Justice Department, and backed up and effectuated by Republicans in the legislature of those states who would be willing to go along with it.
And now, here we are. B.J. Pak, that U.S. attorney who resigned is due to testify, we think, this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as part of their investigation into what happened inside the Justice Department to help Trump try to overthrow the election results, and seize power. In the last few days, both Richard Donoghue, the deputy attorney general, and Jeff Rosen, the attorney general, have raced into that same Senate judiciary committee to give their testimony, as well, before Trump, basically, can get it together to try to stop them from testifying by asserting some executive privilege claim.
Donoghue raced in, and testified on Friday. Rosen testified on Saturday, for nearly seven hours. Both of those rounds of testimony were behind closed doors.
Senator Richard Blumenthal was one of a handful of senators there for all of the testimony. He came out and called it quote, graphic, dramatic, and chilling. He also said quote, as a former-U.S. attorney and state attorney general for 20 years, there is a real potential for criminal charges here. They should be seriously considered.
I go away for two weeks, and all heck breaks loose. Next time I take a vacation, I insist no attempted coup to overthrow the U.S. government be revealed during the time that I am away. Just -- just wait until I`m back.
The Rich Donoghue and Jeffrey Rosen testimony happened in a rush on Friday and Saturday. We are awaiting the transcript of that testimony, which we believe will ultimately be released to the public. U.S. attorney B.J. Pak, whose mysterious resignation in January, has finally been at least partially explained. His testimony is due, in the next few days, fascinated to know about that, too. But the story is -- is -- is, finally, spilling out.
Senator Richard Blumenthal joins us, next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Over the weekend, Jeffrey Rosen, the last man to serve as attorney general under former President Trump, he testified on Saturday for about seven hours, before the judiciary committee in the Senate. He testified about President Trump`s attempts to pressure him and other top Justice Department officials into, basically, overturning the results of the 2020 election.
Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut was there for that close door testimony, on Saturday. He joins us, now.
Senator, it is great to have you here tonight. Thanks for making time.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Thank you, very much, Rachel. Welcome back.
MADDOW: Thank you.
How serious is the set of circumstances that`s being described to you, by people like Jeffrey Rosen and Richard Donoghue, in this recent testimony?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, Rachel, we`ve seen a lot over these last four and a half years of Donald Trump. And nothing, in my experience, was more serious than this attempt to overthrow a lawful election -- corrupting and weaponizing the Department of Justice, absolutely horrifying.
And the graphic, dramatic detail that Jeff Rosen described made it all the more real, to us. He conveyed what it was like to live through it, in real- time.
And anybody standing up to the president in the Oval Office, given the weight of that office and the importance of that historic moment, really, had a very important role in history. And I must say, the seriousness of it was conveyed very, very importantly during that interview.
MADDOW: Obviously, this is important for history. In terms of accountability, both, at the Justice Department and for potentially the former president -- I guess, there`s the question of what happens to this information? We expect that, presumably, your committee will release these transcripts. We expect, from Chairman Durbin that there may be some report, at some point.
But I was struck by the fact that, this weekend, after sitting through some of that testimony, you said that you see the prospect for criminal charges here. Does that mean you`re expecting your committee to make a criminal referral? Or that the -- the Justice Department might, itself, move ahead on these matters, already?
BLUMENTHAL: First, we have to go forward with our investigation. And, of course, Chairman Durbin will decide what witnesses ought to be pursued. As you`ve just said, B.J. Pak will testify on Wednesday. But there are a great-many others, who had positions of public trust. And Donald Trump`s pattern has been to use acolytes and sycophants in those positions of trust, whether in the White House or in the Congress, as well as in the Department of Justice where he enlisted Jeff Clark, an underling, with threats to replace Jeff Rosen.
I think, the facts, already, adduced in this investigation and reported publicly, as you`ve just done, warrant fair consideration for referral to the Department of Justice. I think that there are very important evidence that have to be considered by the Department of Justice in an investigation of criminal lawbreaking. But the important word -- you`ve just used it -- is accountability.
If anybody engaged in lawbreaking, they need to be held accountable. We want to know what happened so it never happens, again. And that has to be our common purpose here. Find the facts. Follow them and the law, wherever they go, and get all the witnesses that will voluntarily testify to provide us their truth just as Jeff Rosen did very credibly.
MADDOW: Senator Blumenthal, just briefly so I understand, when you say that -- when you talk about the prospect of criminal behavior potential criminal referral, are you talking about the Justice Department officials who allegedly participated with the former president or are you talking about the former president?
BLUMENTHAL: I am talking about what we know right now which is at least one of the Department of Justice officials engaged in conduct that could be regarded as law breaking and certainly the pressure brought to bear on Department of Justice officials warrant consideration for possible prosecutions. But we need to know a lot more fact. What I`m saying is that the Department of Justice has to take a fair look at these facts and what they constitute in the way of law breaking.
MADDOW: Connecticut senator, member of the judiciary committee, Richard Blumenthal -- sir, kind of you to make time to be here tonight. Thank you so much.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, the U.N.`s prestigious international panel on climate change released a blistering report that they are calling, quote, code red for humanity. The report effectively says humans have pumped so much carbon into the atmosphere we can no longer stop the planet from hitting benchmarks scientists have been warning of for decades now.
What they are calling for new urgency, they`re calling for human civilization to get it together to drop carbon emissions dramatically starting right now or face an unlivable planet in the foreseeable future. Right now in the United States, the vehicle by which the Biden administration is trying to take its first great leap forward on climate and carbon emissions is the big $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill Democrats likely have to pass on their own without Republican help.
You`ve seen a lot of headlines about the infrastructure bill. It`s the smaller one, the bipartisan one that doesn`t do much for climate at all that is due to pass about 11:00 tomorrow in the Senate. After that happens tomorrow morning, they will immediately start working on the big one, the one that includes among other things the biggest climate initiatives the government has ever undertaken.
After they are expected to pass the initial resolution for the big bill this week, the committees will then start working on it. By the middle of next month we may start to see the first meaningful votes that will tell us whether the big bill is going to pass or not.
But as the IPCC reminds us today, they do not have not only a single vote, they don`t have a single minute to spare.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: I`m back from vacation one day and have already eaten 20 seconds of "THE LAST WORD" -- already back to my terrible habits.
That does it for me tonight. I`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD" where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Ali, and thank you for filling in so ably while I was away.